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DATE News (chronologically)
Button clashes with Branson over girl  Jenson Button had a run-in with Richard Branson over approaches to his supermodel girlfriend Jessica Michibata, according to the News of the World.

Branson, 58, boss of new Brawn GP sponsor Virgin, is married but flirted openly with Michibata, 24, the paper said.

"Richard was clearly very, very drunk and took a shine to Jessica during the evening. But there was a misunderstanding and Jenson became angry," a source reportedly said.

"The whole thing got very, very heated. Richard thought Jenson was overreacting, and gave as good back. Both of them were livid." More ...
Pit road shakeups for Roush?  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Roush Fenway Racing driver Carl Edwards said small changes made this week to his NASCAR Sprint Cup pit crew were designed to help his No. 99 team be able to compete for the Cup title this year. Edwards said Friday at Nashville Superspeedway, site of Saturday's Nashville 300 Nationwide Series race, that one crew member was replaced, and a team spokesman said it was front tire changer Corey Quick. Edwards was leading last weekend's Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway when he came in for his last pit stop. A lugnut was knocked off a wheel stud, and Edwards later restarted 11th. He finished 10th. "Hopefully, it's better," Edwards said. "It's definitely very tough. All the guys are great guys. Hopefully, what we're doing now prepares us for the Chase For The Sprint Cup, so we're in the best position we could be to win a championship." SceneDaily.com

04/10/09 Could there be a few shakeups in the pit crews at Roush Fenway Racing? Officials haven't said anything, but co-owner Jack Roush spent a lot of time in meetings this past week trying to figure out why his teams are having so much trouble on pit road. That usually means changes for the man known as "Cat in the Hat." Carl Edwards went from first to 11th after a crucial mistake on his final pit stop with about 30 laps remaining in Sunday's race at Texas Motor Speedway. Greg Biffle believes pit road mistakes, at least one by him, has cost him a shot at two wins this season. Even Matt Kenseth had problems at Texas. He was second coming onto pit road on lap 252, but left in 15th after a lug nut problem on the right rear tire. Nobody is publicly blaming anybody as Kyle Busch did in a Nationwide Series race last month when a pit road mistake cost him a victory. But there are concerns. ESPN Insider
Rusty Wallace Inc considering move into Cup Series  UPDATE NASCAR Nationwide Series car owner Rusty Wallace said he hopes to move his two-car team to the Sprint Cup Series in 2010. But the situation would have to be perfect.

“Ideally, if all the moons lined up, I’d start in 2010,” Wallace said at Nashville Superspeedway, where the Nashville 300 will be held Saturday. “Two cars. I’d want Stephen and Brendan to go right in.  I’d definitely be looking at doing some type of technology merger with a team, and the one that makes the most sense is Childress,” Wallace said. “That’d be a quick way to get going.”

“I think we’ve got the facilities,” Wallace said. “We’re a little tight on square footage compared to some of the big shops. But when I talk to people and they look at our place, they go, ‘Oh, my God. You could run two Cup teams out of this shop so easy it’s unreal.’  I want to move up,” Rusty Wallace said. “My goal was to get Stephen up to speed. Looks like the crashing has finally stopped. The good finishes are happening. We’ve got all this year of Nationwide to go.

“Then I think it’s time, instead of getting stalled out in one series, to move up and do something different. I don’t care if people agree with you or don’t.”

02/16/09 The union of two families with passionate racing backgrounds has led Rusty Wallace to seriously consider a 2009 Sprint Cup Series debut with his own team, and a possible full-time venture in the near future. In the offseason Wallace did a deal with Las Vegas businessman Michael Gaughan, whose family excelled in off-road and Truck Series racing. The deal put his son Brendan Gaughan, 33 -- an eight-time Truck Series winner and Wallace's former Cup teammate at Penske Racing -- in RWR's #62 car. "I do want to run some Cup races with Stephen this year, I do. And probably my best avenue to do something with that would be with Richard Childress. I'm a Chevy team; Richard builds all our motors [Earnhardt Childress Racing Technologies] -- it just kind of makes sense." Rusty Wallace said. "I never had a whole lot of desire to drive in the Nationwide Series," Gaughan said. "I liked the Camping World Trucks, and I wanted to get back to Sprint Cup, but on my own terms, and Rusty really has me excited about this. Doing this with Rusty is probably the only way I'd be this excited. He brings that out of me and out of all his guys. "I'm looking at this and saying, 'Yeah, I want to get back to Sprint Cup one day, on my terms, but I know that Rusty wants to maybe go Sprint Cup racing one day on his terms, with his team so if I can do well and me and [Steve] can work together and get it to where we both can run, then maybe I've found my home on my terms with a family organization that likes me, wants me and we can make a long future with. NASCAR.com
Overheard in St. Pete - 2 (Prosecutors say Castroneves guilt clear)  UPDATE #3 Closing arguments have wrapped up in the Miami tax evasion trial of Brazilian race car driver Helio Castroneves and two co-defendants.  The next step would be for the 12-person jury to deliberate in the six-week trial.

04/09/09 Indy race car driver Helio Castroneves, his sister and his lawyer engaged in an intricate "pattern of deception" to avoid paying U.S. income taxes on millions of dollars over a five-year period, a prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared Dwyer, said Thursday in closing arguments at the trio's tax evasion trial.

"These defendants attempted to skip out on taxes that all must pay, regardless of how rich, regardless of how famous, " said Dwyer. "We have proved that beyond a reasonable doubt."

"Castroneves and the others tried to conceal his control of a Panamanian shell company called Seven Promotions and lied to tax lawyers and accountants about his true income," Dwyer said. "Since 1999, the defendants have engaged in a pattern of deception."

04/06/09 Although some media outlets think Helio's tax evasion case is going well, AR1.com readers know that may not be the case.  Using informed sources, AR1.com broke this rumor in the St. Pete paddock this weekend and reported it on Saturday (see below).  Now the Miami Herald newspaper has picked up on it and reports - The Miami trial of Indy 500 champ Helio Castroneves has spotlighted his alleged failure to pay taxes on a $5 million marketing deal with Penske Racing.

But evidence that he may have skirted his tax obligations on far less income from a Brazilian sponsor poses another threat to his career -- and his freedom.

Federal prosecutors are painting the picture to the jury that Castroneves is a chiseler, who avoided paying taxes on more than just the $5 million
Castroneves, a U.S. resident in Miami since 1997, received $530,000 from a Brazilian trading company that sponsored him just before he hit the big time a decade ago as an IndyCar driver with Penske.

But Castroneves, who owns a Coral Gables mansion, paid U.S. taxes on only $50,000 of his total earnings from Coimex Internacional -- income that he diverted to his Panamanian shell company's bank account in New York and then to a Swiss bank with help of his sister, according to prosecutors and court records.

That would mean the Brazilian race car star allegedly avoided paying taxes on $480,000 from Coimex in addition to the $5 million from Penske. Bottom line: He owes $2.3 million to the Internal Revenue Service -- ''everything that should have been on the tax returns but wasn't,'' IRS agent Joann Levitt testified in March at Castroneves' tax-evasion trial.

Castroneves' lawyers maintain he owes no taxes on the Coimex earnings because the payments were made to his father, who lives in Brazil and once supported his son's career. As for the racer's Penske income, the money went to a Dutch annuity account -- income that Castroneves will start receiving next month, when he intends to pay his taxes.

The Coimex sponsorship in Brazil, which predates Castroneves' relationship with Miller and Penske, was orchestrated by the driver, his father and sister, prosecutors say. That contract, signed in March 1999, presents perhaps a greater challenge for Castroneves.

Under the deal with the Brazilian trading company, Castroneves was paid $600,000 less $70,000 in commission for a businessman who brokered it, according to court records. Castroneves, who received the sponsorship income in 1999, 2000 and 2001, wore a Coimex logo on his racing uniform in those seasons.

Castroneves paid taxes on only $50,000 in 1999, the rest -- $480,000 -- going to a Swiss account that his father said he controlled under a different corporate name from Seven Promotions.

But there's another troubling issue hanging over the Brazilian race car driver: Assistant U.S. attorneys Matt Axelrod and Jared Dwyer have introduced bank records showing that his Coimex contract was really for $2 million in each of the three years.

They accuse Castroneves and his sister of kicking back $1.8 million of that income yearly to Coimex executives at a New York bank.

The prosecution's portrayal of Castroneves as a chiseler could undercut his charismatic profile -- he's also known for winning the Dancing With the Stars reality TV show -- in the eyes of 12 federal jurors. As his trial wraps up this week, they will soon decide the fate of Castroneves, 33, his sister/manager, Katiucia Castroneves, 35, and his attorney, Alan R. Miller, 71, of Michigan.

They're charged with conspiring to evade paying taxes on $5.5 million in income between 1999 and 2004. If convicted, they could each face five to 10 years in prison.

In addition AR1.com hears that if Helio is convicted here, the Brazilian government will have to pursue him because it would make them look foolish and preferential to the wealthy.  We hear that if he gets off here, the Brazilian government will not likely pursue anything, even if there might be cause, because in fact, the wealthy do get preferential treatment...they just can't be blatant about it of course.  However, perhaps Emerson Fittipaldi, who maintains he was screwed by Castroneves and Miller when Helio signed the Penske deal, is very influential in Brazil and may see to it that the government goes after Castroneves, regardless of the outcome in the USA. 

Maybe they can make a soap opera out of all this someday, but it may give crooks some good ideas.

04/04/09 We hear that longtime racing reporter, and all around nice guy, Mike Harris of AP, is retiring in July after 40 years covering the sport.  We wish him well........Word in the St. Pete paddock is that regardless of what happens to Helio Castroneves in the USA tax evasion case he is currently defending himself against, the Brazilian government is going to come after him next for money laundering.  Coimex, his longtime personal sponsor may be involved, but we're are not privy to the details......We hear Helio's excuses might now be in trouble because his defense team, led by Roy Black, went on record at the beginning of the trial saying Helio was going to pay taxes on the money all along and would do so this coming May when the annuity comes due.  However, yesterday his father testified that he set up the Panama company that the money was supposedly being laundered through, so if his father owns the company and Helio put the money there to pay back his father for helping him with his career, why does he owe taxes on it?  They'll have to explain that one.....Word is that Roy Black charges $500K per week to defend these high profile cases and with the 6 week trial, Helio is already out $3 to $4M regardless if he wins or loses - in other words that $5M he may have been putting away to avoid taxes is being eaten up at a fast rate.  If the Brazilian government goes after him next, that defense may wipe out his life savings.  And the $5M is not the only item the federal government is charging Helio with not paying taxes on.  Apparently there were free first class airplane tickets for many years from Trans Brazil and a rumored to be annual $20K in Hugo Boss personal sponsorship since 2000 that the USA government says he never paid taxes on......And why did the USA government wait until March 2nd to start the 6-week trial?  We hear because April 15th (6 weeks from March 2nd) is the tax deadline for filing and the government, in their closing arguments, is going to remind the jury that they all have to pay their taxes by April 15th yet Helio didn't think he had to....Word is that Helio's sister is in even more trouble than he is, because she moved monies from the Panama account to the Swiss account......And the last rumor we heard on this case is that other drivers that attorney Alan Miller represents might be the subject of close scrutiny by the USA government next.
USGPE team may use Cosworth power  Team USF1 (USGPE), which plans to be on the grid at the start of next season, is 'seriously' evaluating using the standard Cosworth engine in 2010, AUTOSPORT reports.  Although team chiefs Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor said at the launch of their outfit in February that they would approach every manufacturer on the grid, it has now been revealed that a deal with Cosworth may actually suit it better than alignment with a car maker.

"The engine decision is part of the whole rebirth that F1 is going through right now," sporting director Windsor told AUTOSPORT.

"The Cosworth engine is certainly an attractive proposition. It is homologated, those guys were doing a great job with Red Bull Racing when Red Bull suddenly switched to Renault.

"A lot of people who were at Cosworth have left, but equally there are a lot of good people still there too. That is a really interesting thing for us. Apart from anything else, Cosworth is now owned by an American, Kevin Kalkhoven, and that is a nice little link for us as well.

"The idea of working with a small specialist company is kind of in-tune with the way we are operating as a race team as well."

When asked if Cosworth was Team USF1's preferred option, Windsor said: "I wouldn't say preferred, but it is definitely an option we are looking at very, very seriously."

Volt can't save GM now that Tesla has Model S  UPDATE The new London facility is the first of three European stores that Tesla Motors is planning to launch in 2009. Tesla is scouting sites in Munich and Monaco. Tesla will also open a new store in Chicago in spring 2009.

Tesla has said that it will begin delivering cars to European customers in late June 2009. Tesla is finalizing site selection in Manhattan, Miami and Seattle and is scouting sites in Washington DC.

Elon Musk, CEO, chairman and product architect of Tesla, said: "We expect that Tesla sales will eventually be split evenly between the US and Europe. Opening three Tesla stores in Europe this year is a critical part of that plan."

03/30/09 Word is that the Volt can't save GM now that Tesla has announced a vastly superior car for just $10K more money.  While the Volt will get just 40 miles on its batteries between recharges, the Tesla Model S, which is larger, better looking, more luxurious, and at 120 MPH top-end is much faster, will get 300 miles between recharges, 7.5 times more that the Volt.  $40K for the Volt, $50K for the Tesla.

Game-Set and Match.....GM fails again.

Related story - The Chevrolet Volt will not save General Motors Corp., the U.S. government said Monday in its Viability Summary of GM.

"While the Volt holds promise, it will likely be too expensive to be commercially successful in the short-term," the report said.

The electric car "is currently projected to be much more expensive than its gasoline-fueled peers and will likely need substantial reductions in manufacturing cost in order to become commercially viable." More ...

RPM to add more races for Allmendinger  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  AJ Allmendinger picked up a sponsor Wednesday that will keep his Richard Petty Motorsports entry running at least until September.  Hunt Brothers Pizza will sponsor six races and the All-Star event, ensuring the No. 44 will stay on the track at least through the Sept. 12 race in Richmond, Va.

A.J. Allmendinger
Richard Petty Motorsports is close to extending #44-A.J. Allmendinger's schedule beyond the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24. "If you had told me last year that I'd be 15th in points right now, I would have laughed at you," Allmendinger said. "But we're in striking distance of the top 12." With Allmendinger so close to the top 12 in points, RPM needs to decide whether it is committed to moving forward with the driver and the team before another organization snatches him up. According to multiple sources, Joe Gibbs Racing has already inquired about the driver's status. While RPM is currently securing additional sponsorship (potentially with Hunt Brothers Pizza) nothing will guarantee Allmendinger and the #44 Dodge's success faster than a revamped pit crew. Allmendinger inevitably loses positions every time he enters pit road. RPM has an Aug. 15 deadline to pick up Allmendinger's option for 2010. FoxSports
Gillett could sell NHL team, could NASCAR team be next?  UPDATE It seems that Montreal Canadiens owner George Gillett is ready and willing to sell the famed hockey franchise.  Sources have told the Journal de Montreal that preliminary offers to buy the team were to start coming in on Wednesday.  Though there has been no public confirmation that Gillett has decided to sell, it is believed that the parties interested in making an offer have been poring over the team’s books for the last two weeks, a process facilitated by a consulting firm hired by the hockey club.  The would-be buyers were all required to sign a confidentiality agreement, sources said, adding that the meetings were to provide the exclusive group with information and documentation to help them prepare their offers. Slam Sports

03/24/09 There are no indications yet that the financial troubles apparently plaguing George Gillett will force him to sell part or all of his interest in Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM). ESPN.com reported on Monday that the 24-time Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens owned by Gillett could be sold in order for Gillett to divest some of his properties. Gillett also is the majority owner or RPM, the English Premier League soccer team Liverpool as well as several ski and golf clubs. Two people close to RPM and its ownership are not aware of any plans to put the Sprint Cup organization on shopping block. That doesn't mean it couldn't change as the economy worsens. Gillett purchased Evernham Motorsports from then-owner Ray Evernham two years ago and renamed it Gillett Evernham Motorsports. Evernham still is a minority owner. Gillett recently purchased Petty Enterprises owned by seven-time Cup champion Richard Petty and renamed it RPM. ESPN Insider
Jeff Gordon involved in Niagara Race Track  New details surrounding a proposed $200-million, 65,000-seat international motor speedway in Fort Erie [Ontario, Canada] have surfaced. An article published in the inaugural edition of Professional Motorsport Circuit, an international trade journal, says NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon is involved with the project. Gordon's name has been tagged with a signature speedway and a driving school that's part of the proposal. The article was written by Aznar Mohammad - executive director of Emirates Consulting, a Toronto-based subsidiary of Kuwaiti-based investment bank Bayt Al Mal Investment Co., that is financially backing the project. Mohammad could not be reached for comment Tuesday. "After carefully studying the pitfalls and successes of motor-sport initiatives in the North American market for almost two years, (Bayt Al Mal Investment Co.) assembled a high-profile team," the article states. "The team was spearheaded by multi-NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon, flanked by Paxton Waters Architecture, Derek Daly Design, and Philips Engineering, and supported by a host of local and international strategic partners." Last October, plans were announced for a motor speedway on lands near the QEW, between Gilmore Road and Bowen Road. Bayt Al Mal, which has been assembling more than 600 acres of land for the project, has done numerous environmental, planning and engineering studies to support its application and has invested several million dollars. The proposal is working its way through the Town of Fort Erie's planning department. Fort Erie Mayor Doug Martin confirmed there has been talks with Gordon's representatives. "We have met with them at the region, they have been here," Martin said Tuesday. "Through the proposal that's obviously coming on, we were aware that (Bayt Al Mal) were in talks with Jeff Gordon's (people)." Niagara Falls Review
Ron Dennis may be forced out of McLaren  
Was Ron Dennis behind 'lie-gate'?
Ron Dennis' future as CEO of the McLaren Group is reportedly under serious threat after the team were summoned to appear before an extraordinary meeting of the World Motor Sport Council. McLaren will answer five charges of bringing Formula One into disrepute in Paris on April 29 after Lewis Hamilton was found guilty of deliberately misleading the stewards after the Australian Grand Prix.

The scandal has already cost Dave Ryan his job as sporting director while Hamilton was subsequently excluded from the Australian GP classification.  And now Dennis' role in the scandal has also been thrust in the spotlight.

'The crisis has placed the spotlight on the actions of Martin Whitmarsh, the new team principal, but also increasingly on Ron Dennis, the chairman, whose role in the background of this latest trauma to affect his team has never been clarified.

'The Times requested information on two critical issues concerning Dennis yesterday. First, whether he spoke to Ryan in between the protest hearing in Melbourne and the second one four days later in Kuala Lumpur, where Ryan and Hamilton repeated the untruths they uttered in Australia. Second, whether it is the case that Dennis was strongly opposed to Hamilton making a formal apology in front of the massed ranks of the media.'

The report also added that: 'According to some paddock insiders, a deal may be reached whereby Hamilton stays at McLaren but Dennis either leaves or formally renounces any involvement in future Formula One activities and leaves the running of the team entirely in Whitmarsh's hands.' Planet F1

McLaren fate to be known Wednesday?  McLaren are facing the possibility of being excluded from the World Championship after they were summoned to appear before an extraordinary meeting of the World Motor Sport Council.  The Woking outfit are facing five charges of bringing the sport into disrepute after World Champion Lewis Hamilton was found guilty of "deliberately misleading" stewards after the Australian Grand Prix.

The last time McLaren appeared before the WMSC, they were handed a record £49.2million fine following the 'spy-gate' scandal involving Ferrari in 2007.  If the team are found guilty at the latest hearing on April 24 in Paris, they face a number of punishments.

Besides another heavy fine, Hamilton and McLaren could be suspended from the Drivers' and/or the Constructors' Championship. Alternatively they could be exclusion from both Championships or suspended from a number of grands prix.

With the team already struggling for pace in the opening two races of the season, suspension from a few races could all but end Hamilton's hopes of retaining his title this year.  Planet F1

Toyota to reorganize in USA  Toyota Motor Corp. is considering a major reorganization of its U.S. operations, bringing sales and manufacturing under one powerful executive, in an effort to keep closer tabs on its American business, which traditionally has been Toyota's biggest source of profit but is now losing money.

The Japanese automaker's top managers are expected to decide how to structure the U.S. operations this month, say people familiar with the situation. A decision would be formalized in June, at the same time that Toyota will anoint a new president in Japan, Akio Toyoda, the grandson of the company's founder.

The prospect that Toyota may install an executive in the United States with over-arching powers appears likely now that the management in Japan has taken the unusual step of rehiring a former top executive with U.S. experience. Yoshimi Inaba, who retired abruptly in 2007, is returning to take a position with Toyota in the United States.

Toyota officials would not comment on possible changes in the North American operations because discussions are ongoing.

Toyota's main North American operations -- its sales subsidiary based in Torrance, Calif., and its manufacturing arm in Erlanger, Ky., now report to sales and manufacturing managers in Japan.  Detroit News

VW to overtake GM  General Motors has barely had enough time to settle into its new position as the world’s second largest automaker by volume, but it looks as though the U.S.’ largest automaker will be slipping yet another spot. Following Toyota’s ousting of General Motors from the world’s top spot last year – a position GM had held for the previous 76 years – Volkswagen will likely take over as the world’s second largest automaker by year’s end.

According to R.L. Polk Germany, VW is poised to take over as the world’s second largest automaker this year, knocking GM down to the number three position.

'Lie-gate' rolls on, Hamilton to Brawn?  (GMM)  The names Brawn and Ron Dennis have entered the 'lie-gate' saga, as McLaren prepares to face an FIA hearing following the Bahrain grand prix later this month.

With his reputation in tatters, a furious Lewis Hamilton and his father Anthony are said to be seriously considering leaving the team.

"They may not have much money yet, but Hamilton's pulling power would soon see to that and the proposed budget cap for next year would put them on a more level footing with the manufacturer teams," an article in the Telegraph read, referring to speculation that 24-year-old Hamilton might switch to the dominant Brawn GP team.

Other British newspapers, including the Daily Mail, are raising questions about Ron Dennis' involvement in the saga, as current boss Martin Whitmarsh weighs up his own future in charge of the team. More ...

Almirola to lose ride  UPDATE #2 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing has suspended operation of the No. 8 NASCAR Sprint Cup team while the organization continues to look for sponsorship for the car and driver Aric Almirola, according to sources familiar with the situation.

04/04/09 Chip Ganassi said the No. 8 Chevrolet Sprint Cup program of Aric Almirola is currently “week-to-week” after five races with no sponsorship secured for the 25-year-old Tampa native. Almirola qualified 41st on Friday at Texas Motor Speedway with Guitar Hero Metallica on the car. Almirola said he is unsure if he’s made his last attempt for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.

“I’ve put so much in my heart and soul and focus that I have going on right here, I don’t have a Plan B,” Almirola told NASCAR scene. “I haven’t walked around and worked on a Plan B yet because I’m so focused on Plan A. That’s what I’m really worried about and concerning myself with.” Ganassi said on Friday at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg he didn’t know what would be done to Almirola’s program.

“He’s a good guy. We’re doing the best we can for him,” said Ganassi, who shuttered Dario Franchitti’s Sprint Cup program because of sponsor problems last year. “You can only do what you can.” Tamabay.com

03/26/09 Series watchers expect that Earnhardt Ganassi Racing will park its No. 8 Chevrolet for Aric Almirola. Team owner Chip Ganassi said he won’t run the car without a sponsor--the same stance he took last year when he closed down former IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti’s team.

Almirola is scheduled to compete in this weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway and in the April 5 race at Texas Motor Speedway, but EGR has no plans for the team after Texas.

Castroneves trial could go to jury this week  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Testimony is over in the Miami tax evasion trial of Brazilian race car driver Helio Castroneves.  Closing arguments are scheduled for Thursday, followed by jury deliberations.

04/07/09 Prosecutors in Miami allege auto racing champion Helio Castroneves is a tax cheat who owes the U.S. government $2.3 million.  Castroneves, 33, a winner of the Indy 500, faces up to 10 years in prison if he is convicted of conspiring to evade taxes on $5.5 million in income between 1999 and 2004, The Miami Herald reported Monday.

The driver's trial could go to the jury this week, court officials said.

Castroneves, formerly of Brazil and a U.S. resident since 1997, allegedly failed to pay taxes on a $5 million marketing deal with Penske Racing and $530,000 in income he received from a Brazilian sponsor, testified Joann Levitt, an agent for the Internal Revenue Service.  The racer also allegedly took large expense deductions for his father, Helio Castroneves Sr.

Brawn exhaust pipes illegal?  UPDATE Was Jenson Button's BGP001 fitted with illegal exhausts in Melbourne?

A small scandal is brewing about the legality of the winning Brawn GP cars at the Australian Grand Prix. It is claimed that the cars ran throughout the weekend with its exhaust pipes protruding from the bodywork by 10cm, which could be outside the regulations. The Brawn bodywork was changed for the Malaysian Grand Prix suggesting that the question of legality may have been raised during the weekend.

Brawn BGP001

BGP001 exhaust exit in Australian GP spec - note the protruding pipe, which is thought to be in breach of the 75mm rule.

Brawn BGP001

At the Malaysian GP, the bodywork had been modified to comply fully with the regulations - note the new cover over the tailpipe.  Ferrari were caught out by the same regulation following the launch of its F60. Both the original Ferrari and Brawn Melbourne designs are felt to contravene the following part of the 2009 technical regulations

Any vertical cross section of bodywork normal to the car centre line situated in the volumes defined below must form one tangent continuous curve on its external surface. This tangent continuous curve may not contain any radius less than 75mm :

- the volume between 50mm forward of the rear wheel centre line and 300mm rearward of the rear face of the cockpit entry template, which is more than 25mm from the car centre line and more than 100mm above the reference plane. The surfaces lying within these volumes, which are situated more than 55mm forward of the rear wheel centre line, must not contain any apertures (other than those permitted by Article 3.8.5) or contain any vertical surfaces which lie normal to the centre line of the car.


Once the relevant bodywork surfaces are defined in accordance with Article 3.8.4, apertures may be added for the following purposes only : single apertures either side of the car centre line for the purpose of exhaust exits. These apertures may have a combined area of no more than 50,000mm2 when projected onto the surface itself.

However whilst the regulations do not specifically outlaw this approach, though they also do not specifically allow it Toyota's Pascal Vasselon told Racecar Engineering of his point of view at the pre season Algarve test, before the Brawn had even appeared "the Ferrari has a few illegal features like the exhaust pipes which are in an area where the bodywork must have a minimum radius of 75mm. They just cannot comply with this rule, we expect that rear bodywork to change quite quickly. There was a clarification that the exhaust had to comply with the bodywork rule in mid September."  Ferrari was forced to change the rear bodywork on the F60 as a result of the other teams threatened protest.  Racecar Engineering

04/05/09 Spanish newspaper Marca has revealed, Brawn may have infringed the technical regulations, diffusers aside, during the Australia Grand Prix.

As they report today, the BGP001 may have used controversial exhaust pipes lay out that could be out of the regulations.

Apparently their exhausts extended 10cm out of the bodywork while used during the (entire?) Australian GP, something that has been corrected for the Malaysian GP. Now the bodywork has been increased, to cover the pipes. More ...

Schu may leave Ferrari at season's end - manager  (GMM)  Michael Schumacher's manager admits it is "possible" the former seven time world champion will finally part ways with Ferrari at the end of 2009.

Since he retired at the end of 2006, 40-year-old German Schumacher has occasionally tested the Maranello team's single seaters, and attended several tests and grands prix in an advisory role.

His latest appearances were in Australia and Malaysia, whereafter Ferrari figures were heavily criticized for making bad strategies and decisions on the pitwall.

"It astonishes me that with such an advisor such a shambles could occur," ex-driver Marc Surer is quoted as saying by the German press.

Elements of the German media were even more critical of the role Schumacher should have played in preventing the messes, including the one last Sunday when Kimi Raikkonen was sent onto the dry Sepang track with full wet tires.

Schumacher's estimated 5m euro per-year contract is due to expire at the end of this year.

"If the contract isn't renewed I'm certain that the Malaysia grand prix will have nothing to do with the decision," his manager Willi Weber told the SID news agency.

He said talks with Ferrari will only take place in the second half of the season.

It has been rumored that if Schumacher does leave Ferrari, the path will be clear for him to reunite with his former technical director and strategist, Ross Brawn.

Brawn GP driver Jenson Button dismissed the speculation.

"We have been around long enough to know what it takes to win," the Melbourne and Malaysia winner said.

NASCAR may sue magazine because of April Fools Joke  Just when you thought NASCAR couldn't inflict any further harm to its business comes word that with all the turmoil facing the auto industry right now, Brian France was "very, very upset" about the recent April Fool's Day prank on Car and Driver magazine's Web site titled "Obama Orders Chevrolet and Dodge Out of NASCAR." France called the decision to run the article "very irresponsible" and added that the sanctioning body is still looking at options to remedy the damage.

"We were really very upset about that," France said. "And it may not be over with how we're going to approach that. That was an outrageous thing that those guys did."

We suggest Brian France save his money and instead of suing Car & Driver, focus on fixing the business he is running into the ground.

McLaren fate to be known Wednesday?  McLaren could learn this week whether it is to face greater sanctions for its part in the 'lying' scandal that scarred the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, adding to an already tough start to the 2009 campaign.

With its MP4-24 clearly not working well enough to put the Woking team on a par with the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari in the pursuit of the 'diffuser three', McLaren will be hoping to get off with a slap on the wrist when the FIA decides what punishment to dole out, but it is unlikely to get off that lightly.

Along with world champion Lewis Hamilton, the team has already been stripped of the points it scored in Melbourne, after the Briton and sporting director Dave Ryan were shown to have been economical with the truth when called to discuss a safety car infringement involving Toyota's Jarno Trulli. More ...

Another title sponsor to axe NASCAR?  UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  Sources confirmed late Monday that Camping World intends to remain as the title sponsor of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Published reports said NASCAR was shopping for a replacement Truck Series sponsor for Camping World, which is in the first year of a multi-year agreement with the sanctioning body. But a spokesperson for the retailer said the company is actually helping locate a replacement sponsor for the Camping World East and West Series. Camping World previously had announced that 2009 would be its last year as title sponsor for the East and West Series. “We have no intention at this point of trying to pull out of the Truck Series,” said Diana Ardelean of Camping World. “We’re very excited and fully in support of the Truck Series.” SPEEDtv

04/04/09 NASCAR is putting out feelers for a sponsor to replace Camping World for the Truck Series. Camping World entered the sport as the sponsor for Richard Childress Racing and Kevin Harvick Inc. on Ron Hornaday's truck in 2007. Later that season CW expanded to include what was formerly the NASCAR Busch East and North developmental series. Camping World was named title sponsor of the Truck Series last fall following an extensive search after Craftsman Tools bowed out. FoxSports
Mercedes F1 program in jeopardy?  (GMM)  The possible exit from formula one of Mercedes-Benz is back on the radar, amid the 'lie-gate' McLaren scandal and the collaboration's bad start to the 2009 season.

The German broadcaster Sudwestrundfunk reports that, on Wednesday this week, a shareholder's meeting of the Mercedes parent Daimler is scheduled.

The carmaker is currently hemorrhaging a reported $1 billion per month, so drastic cost-saving measures - like capping executives pay - are believed to be on the agenda for the April 8 meeting.

At the same time, Mercedes' motor racing chief Norbert Haug in Malaysia last weekend said there could be no guarantees about the future of the Stuttgart based marque in F1.

"If you're asking me 'are we here for the next 10 years?' then everybody who is honest, and I am honest, cannot give you an answer about how the world, the car industry, the economical surroundings will develop," he is quoted as saying by GP Week.

"I hope it changes.  It's not easy for anybody but I hope it changes."

Haug was also asked about how the 'lie-gate' scandal together with McLaren's lack of competitiveness is complicating the decision.

The latest news on Monday is that the FIA is poised to summon McLaren-Mercedes to the World Motor Sport Council to account for its behavior over 'lie-gate'.

"Victories would be better than having discussions like these," the German admitted.  "But we are clearly unhappy with the situation, as it is right now."

Fiat would own biggest slice of Chrysler  One way or the other, it looks like Chrysler will once again have new owners after April 30.  Instead of Cerberus Capital Management and Daimler AG holding 80.1% and 19.9%, respectively, of Chrysler LLC, there will be a larger cast.

Under the latest scenario proposed by the U.S. government, Fiat SpA will have the largest block of Chrysler, at 20%. The remaining 80% will be allocated among a variety of secured creditors that include at least five banks and U.S. taxpayers.

Cerberus and Daimler likely will hold much smaller stakes because they still hold loans that helped finance the August 2007 acquisition of the Auburn Hills-based automaker.

Even the UAW could end up owning a piece of the company.

"They are trying to trade debt for equity among the current creditors," said Tom Stallkamp, a former DaimlerChrysler vice chairman and president. He is now a partner in Ripplewood Holdings LLC, a private equity fund. "It's all based on how much of a haircut the debt holders will accept." More at Detroit Free Press

NASCAR to be forced to rename Cup Series again  UPDATE Will Comcast buy Sprint, which has been losing millions of customers since sponsoring NASCAR's Cup series? "As telco giants AT&T and Verizon move deeper into the TV business, cable giants like Comcast may have to get into the wireless business to compete. That could eventually involve Comcast buying Sprint Nextel, the No. 3 U.S. wireless carrier," writes Silicon Alley Insider. Comcast and Sprint are backing the Clearwire 4G wireless network, and its WiMax system. If Clearwire doesn't connect, and cash-rich Comcast decides it's easier to buy than build, "the most logical deal could be for Sprint, which currently has a $12 billion market cap," Insider says. "It's not a new idea. But it could make sense in the next few years." Citing a report from Pali Research, the article quotes Comcast CEO Brian Roberts at the annual cable show in Washington yesterday: “Wireless is a conundrum for the cable industry... AT&T and Verizon... are the super elephants. They’ve got all the market share..." He "avoided a clear answer to the question as to whether Clearwire was Comcast’s sole wireless strategy." Philly.com

11/08/08 According to AR1.com sources, T-Mobile is going to buy the failing Sprint telecommunications company.  This rumor surfaced last spring but it never happened.  However, now we hear that talks are moving forward again.  NASCAR will have to rename their Cup Series once again, this time to the T-Mobile cup.
New date for St. Pete race in 2010  Mayor Rick Baker and Andretti Green Promotions will discuss an extension for the Grand Prix contract, taking it through 2014. No surprise here. The renewal signed in 2007 has self-activating one-year extensions which need to be approved by city council.  Next season's Grand Prix may change dates as the first Sunday in April, the event's typical slot, falls on Easter.
Overheard in St. Pete - 3  UPDATE Forgot to mention that we spotted Nelson Philippe in the IndyCar paddock Saturday and word is he is trying to put together something with HVM (his old team) or Conquest (another former team of his).

04/04/09 We hear that Shell Oil had signed a deal with Junior Strous to take him to the Atlantic Series and then to Champ Car by 2009.  However, with the Champ Car/IndyCar merger last year the Atlantic Series lost their TV coverage and Shell was very unhappy that some of the races had no fans, so they pulled him out of Atlantics as they viewed it as a dead-end career path, and with guidance from Arie
Ex-Atlantic driver Junior Strous has strong backing from Shell
Luyendyk moved to the Indy Lights Series this year.  However, don't expect him to be there long.  As we understand it, Shell intends to take Strous up to IndyCar.  In fact we hear that Shell may want to do as much as a 2-car IndyCar team in 2010, depending on who the 2nd driver is......The goal for Strous, who is very well funded (sponsors all over his driving suit) is to win this year's Indy Lights title.  He starts both Indy Lights races this weekend in 2nd and his engineer, Tim Wardrop, is very experienced.  The Indy Lights cars like to be manhandled and that suits Strous' style well. We hear the personal contract Strous has with Shell is a personal contract and the CEO of Shell is supportive of Strous because they are from the same hometown in Holland.....We hear that Strous is managed by Bart Rietbergen, who promoted the Champ Car race in Assen, and who would like nothing better than to get IndyCar to race at Assen (see other rumor).....Shell has no other personal service driver sponsorship worldwide.  Strous is the only driver they back.  All other Shell sponsorship deals are with teams......Look for a bigger difference in performance between the hard and soft Firestone tires in Long Beach, than what we are seeing this weekend in St. Pete......It looks like Engineer Bill Pappas is gelling well with the Dale Coyne team already, helping Justin Wilson to 2nd on the grid Saturday.  Pappas formerly worked for Target Chip Ganassi and moved to NASCAR for one year, but is back......We heard again today that Dale Coyne is definitely trying to put together a 2nd car for the remainder of the year and is not really interested in a one-off Indy 500 deal.  Mark C. reporting from St. Pete
Duno to Dreyer & Reinbold  Dreyer & Reinbold are in the process of trying to bring back Milka Duno to run the 10 ovals while keeping Manning for the remaining six road races. Duno tested with Newman/Haas/Lanigan at Homestead in February and was attempting to put a deal together to run alongside Robert Doornbos and Rahal but, according to his friends, Carl Haas just decided he didn't want to run her -- at any price....... SPEEDTV.com
Axe likely for Malaysia 'twilight' concept  (GMM)  Sunday's rain-shortened grand prix may have been the first and the last 'twilight' race in Malaysia.

The country's new prime minister, and also the boss of the Sepang circuit, said an earlier start time for next year and beyond might be negotiated, given the atrocious weather and the fading light in 2009.

"In the future, we may allocate a different time, perhaps earlier," new prime minister Najib Razak told reporters at Sepang.

"There are also suggestions to do a night race but we need to look at the cost," he said.

Like in Australia a week ago, Malaysia adopted the 'twilight' concept for this season, installing a 5pm start to better serve the bulk European television audience.

But it has been the talk of the paddock this weekend that late afternoon near Kuala Lumpur often coincides with torrential rain, while sunset is also quite early in the evening in this region.

"I had a talk with Bernie just now and we will review it," Sepang track boss Mokhzani Mahathir said after the Malaysian grand prix was abandoned on Sunday due to the rain and fading light.

"As to exactly what time we will start next year, we are not sure but we will review the timing for next year's race," he admitted.

Overheard in St. Pete - 1  UPDATE The first part of this rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today as we have learned that Dreyer & Reinbold Racing will field the Indianapolis 500 car entered by Richard Petty Motorsports for driver John Andretti.

04/03/09 We are hearing that there is a reasonable chance that Dreyer & Reinbold will run a 3rd car in the Indy 500.......Hearing that if the IRL does race in China it will be the week before or after the Motegi, Japan race. This may be another reason that the IRL moved Motegi to September after F1 moved their China race to the Spring. The venue for China is still unknown but what makes sense is Shanghai where the beautiful circuit built to F1 standards for F1, sits idle much of the year.....We hear that 93-year old Indy veteran Chief Mechanic George Bignotti recently had knee replacement surgery and is rehabilitating in Las Vegas. His knee is fine, we hear that he is having heel problems from laying in bed on his back so much.
NASCAR team owner coming to Indy 500  UPDATE #3 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing will field the Indianapolis 500 car entered by Richard Petty Motorsports for driver John Andretti.

04/03/09 This rumor is now 'fact'.  Richard Petty Motorsports will field an entry for John Andretti in this year's Indy 500, sources confirmed to NASCAR.COM. It will be the first foray into the premier open-wheel event for RPM, the former Gillett Evernham team that absorbed the 60-year-old Petty Enterprises organization late last year. The formal announcement will be made Monday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Petty, who won seven championships and 200 races on NASCAR's top level, never attempted the Indy 500. Andretti has started the event nine times, with a best finish of fifth in 1991. He placed 16th last year driving for Roth Racing.

Andretti, whose long relationship with the Pettys goes back to his days driving for Petty Enterprises, would neither conform nor deny the venture Friday after qualifying his No. 34 car for Sunday's Sprint Cup event at Texas Motor Speedway. "People are jumping the gun on something," he said.

While RPM fields four cars on NASCAR's Cup circuit -- those of Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler, Reed Sorenson and A.J. Allmendinger -- the Charlotte-based organization does not have an IndyCar wing, making it unclear exactly how the program will take shape. Indications are that the RPM name will be placed on an existing operation.

04/03/09 We are upgrading this rumor to 'strong' as AR1.com sources tell us that Richard Petty Motorsports will enter John Andretti in this year's Indy 500.

04/03/09 Word is that a media teleconference will be held Monday, April 6, to announce the car entry of a NASCAR team owner in the 93rd Indianapolis 500 Mile Race set for Sunday, May 24.

The NASCAR team owner will make his debut as a car owner for this year’s Indy 500.  On May 24, the owner will join past Indy 500-winning team owners Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi as the only team principals with entries in both Memorial Day racing classics, the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte.

The team owner also will announce the driver and major sponsor of his Indy 500 entry in Monday’s teleconference.  The unveiling of the new entry will be part of the press conference as well as interviews with the team’s participants.

Penske to Toyota?  
Roger Penske talks to Rob Dyson at St. Pete Friday
Speculation mounts that some Dodge teams may be looking to bolt, depending on how the Washington-Detroit-Chrysler-Fiat talks go. Most prominent in the speculation is that Roger Penske, who is one of the nation's biggest Toyota dealers, may move Kurt Busch's Dodge team, which just won at Atlanta, into the Toyota camp. A Penske-Toyota-NASCAR scenario has been bandied about for several years. There was no immediate comment from officials at Chrysler, but Toyota racing boss Lee White said "Unless Roger Penske has resorted to secretly stealing our parts, there is not chance he's running anything remotely resembling a Toyota in the foreseeable future. It's just another of many false rumors." mikemulhern.net
EGR to have a 'common chassis' soon  Earnhardt Ganassi Racing is planning on a common chassis constructed using the best ideas from both elements of EGR. It might appear as early as in two weeks when the season resumes at Phoenix after next weekend's Easter break. EGR competition director Steve Hmiel said Truex and Montoya might be in "common cars" as early as in two weeks on the 1-mile Phoenix oval, or as late as the Sprint All-Star Race at Lowe's Motor Speedway in May. "There's one done now that could go to Phoenix if they desire," Hmiel said. "We finished one Thursday morning before we came out to Texas and we finished another one Friday." NASCAR.com
Malaysia GP to be wet  UPDATE #3 (GMM)  A little over an hour ahead of the Malaysian grand prix, the formula one paddock is sodden and the skies grey.  The rain has stopped for now, but the GP2 race had to be delayed for thirty minutes amid heavy monsoonal weather, and then started behind the safety car.

04/02/09 (GMM)  If Thursday was any guide, the Malaysian grand prix weekend could be a very wet and very dark affair.

At one point at the Sepang circuit, as six drivers addressed the media in the official FIA press conference, claps of thunder drowned out their comments while black clouds darkened the room.

"I think if it rains like this (this weekend) we will need to organize a boat race," Sebastien Bourdais joked.

04/02/09 An unpredictable race is definitely on the cards this weekend, as the Sepang circuit is continuously battered by heavy rain. Most Formula One personnel remained dry on Thursday afternoon, however, as the rainstorms have a tendency to strike the area during late afternoon and evening. The race takes places two weeks later this year in comparison with 2008, although F1 has visited the circuit further into April in the past. The fourth month of the year also happens to the one in which the country has the highest levels of rainfall, which throws an added challenge into what is already a difficult race with temperatures reaching over 30 degrees centigrade coupled with much humidity.

Surprising, only one Malaysian Grand Prix has been heavily affected by rain from the previous ten which have taken place, as 2001's event saw it come after just one lap, resulting in high drama which included a number of spins and retirements. The 2004 race also featured a sprinkling of rain early on, which soon passed over the circuit.

03/31/09 It may well be a cooler Malaysian F1 Grand Prix with a later start to the race this year but the drivers will still have to brace for a wet affair at the Sepang circuit.  The Malaysian Meteorological Department has predicted thunderstorms from the start of the practice session on Friday to race day on Sunday.  The start time for the 56-lap race is 5pm instead of 3pm previously and it may turn dark if heavy rain falls.

Adding further intrigue is the introduction of slicks this year and it will be interesting to see how teams tackle the changing scenario. More ...

If #8 team closes, Truex could be free agent..to Gibbs  The buzz in the garage has Earnhardt Ganassi Racing shutting down the #8 Chevy and sidelining Aric Almirola after this weekend if a sponsor doesn't magically appear. If that happens, three contracts are affected: #1-Martin Truex Jr., Bass Pro Shops Racing and Chevy. Truex's contract states that he must have two teammates or he can leave the team.

Bass Pro Shops has a performance clause and with Truex 28th in owner points, the #1 team is in a precarious position. Finally, Chevy can alter its support to EGR if three teams are not under the roof. The hot rumor at Martinsville last week had Truex replacing Joey Logano in the #20 Home Depot Toyota. Joe Gibbs Racing president J.D. Gibbs insisted Sunday and again by phone on Wednesday that "Joey's our guy. We haven't had any conversations with anyone," Gibbs said. "We'd like to have someone in line by summer time, but you have to sit down, look at what partner is available, what driver is available and who would be a good fit for the team. We had #96 Hall of Fame last year and we don't have it now. So we have room for a fourth team. We'd love to have it." More ...

IndyCar title will go all the way to season finale  Tony Kanaan doesn’t see anybody locking up the IndyCar championship before the season-ender at Homestead-Miami Speedway in October.

"The way I see this championship, I think it’s going to be really hard for somebody to do that, but if it happens, I think it’s still going to be an exciting race," he said Friday. "People will still be fighting for second and third and fourth place. Trust me, this is the tightest field we’ve ever had. Since the Champ Car teams have come over it is very competitive.  I honestly don’t see anybody running away….I think there are eight to nine drivers right now who can fight for this championship."

Audi, maybe VW, to IRL  UPDATE #6 IRL president of competition Brian Barnhart said he expected board votes from Porsche-Volkswagen-Audi by the end of March, but the IRL's terry Angstadt said “they’ve gone a little bit radio silent,” adding that a possible shuffle in the company’s leadership might have delayed a vote.

Angstadt said he was not unnerved by the silence and that the IRL has “a couple other things developing as alternative plans that could be very exciting.” Audi, he said, would likely build the German engines. Honda, the IRL’s official engine supplier since 2007, wants new makes against which to compete, especially with the demise of competition the American Le Mans Series LMP1 class.

Perhaps as a sign the engine deal might not happen, The Indy Racing League is again using St. Petersburg as the backdrop against which to woo potential sponsors and race venue representatives. As usual, the wining and dining is occurring on a yacht in the temporary basin facing Turn 10, and in an ironic twist, this year it’s on a black-hulled vessel named “Hope Floats.”  TampaBay.com

01/20/09 Honda vs. Volkswagen. Now that has a ring to it. And it is looking like that could be the headline act in the 2011 Indy Racing League.

Ulrich Baretzky, Audi Sport’s head of engine technology, told Racecar Engineering magazine recently that his company is interested in taking on Honda in the IRL, when the open-wheel series comes out with new engine specifications for 2011. While Baretzky said it isn’t clear whether the Audi or VW brand would enter the series as an engine supplier, sources close to the on-going talks said it is most likely to be VW. Talks began between Audi and the IRL in June, and have heated up recently. Sources within the league said an announcement could come as soon as April, shortly before the season begins.

Sources with several IRL teams said it appears that series officials will go with a four-cylinder turbocharged engine, despite Honda’s desire for V-6 engines. Honda is so eager to have another engine builder to compete against, series sources said they are willing to bend a bit on their desires. The IRL is expected to announce the new engine formula in the next 60 days.

Part of the negotiations likely include marketing mandates forwarded by the league that will require VW to inject millions of dollars into the series. Audi officials, sources said, are busy talking to teams to see which ones they might line up as customers.  VW’s best known product, the Beetle, isn’t exactly a picture of performance. Racing insiders said the German company will have to overcome that perception to lure teams away from the well-established Honda stable. A few financial incentives thrown at teams will surely help. IBJ.com

01/14/09 Audi Sport’s head of engine technology Ulrich Baretzky confirmed to Racecar Engineering that the Volkswagen Group has been actively talking to the Indy Racing League since the engine manufactures’ round table held by the IRL in June 2008. Although nothing has yet been confirmed, it is looking increasingly likely that VW will join Honda as an Indy Car engine supplier when the regulations are changed, in theory in 2011. It is possible that announcements will be made shortly before the season begins in April both on participation and on rule changes. Baretzky did say that it has also yet to be decided which of the Group’s brands would be used if the decision is taken to go ahead although this is more likely to be Volkswagen itself rather than one of the other brands such as Audi.  Baretzky indicated that his interests now lie in the area of small powerful petrol engines, rather than the diesels that may become such a factor of Audi’s success both on the track and road. He confirmed that this is the direction he would like to head with the IRL. Most likely scenario is currently a 2.0-litre turbocharged formula allowing both in-line fours and V6s, thus accommodating both the Volkswagen Group and Honda. Racecar Engineering

12/11/08 You can scratch Porsche from the list of possible companies that will supply engines to the IndyCar series in 2001 and beyond - see related article.  It now remains to be seen whether sister company Audi says no as well.  We doubt they want to race their product with the crickets in the cornfields of Iowa or the dregs of Homestead, Detroit and Richmond.

11/16/08 Interesting tidbit from longtime reporter/editor/publicist Michael Knight, a correspondent for the Arizona Republic, that he first reported on the Racing Roundup Arizona radio show Sunday:

"Porsche, which has built its factory ALMS P2 class program around Penske Racing, will move into the IndyCar Series with the team in 2011. That's when IndyCar specs change and additional manufacturers join the series, which is currently involves only Dallara chassis and Honda engines."

10/28/08 A reader writes, You have to be kidding me right?  A company like Audi isn't going to come into a series where the management thinks it's more important to race at a two-bit track in the cornfields of Iowa while they drop a great international event like the Surfers race that gets worldwide coverage.  This after signing a TV deal with Versus that ensures the IRL will fade away into obscurity.  And they can't figure out why the series sponsors they had lined up are now backing away.  Get real people.  They haven't a clue.  Mordichai Rosen, Los Angeles, CA.

10/27/08 On Wind Tunnel Sunday night, Robin Miller stated that Audi would be in the 2011 IndyCar series "for sure" and the Porsche was "leaning favorably."  2011 is the year the IRL introduces their new IndyCar engine formula, rumored to be a turbocharged 4-cyclinder.
Whitmarsh might resign  In the wake of the ‘misleading’ information scandal engulfing McLaren-Mercedes in Malaysia this weekend, Martin Whitmarsh has refused to rule out resigning from his role of team principal at the Woking-based outfit – a position he has held for barely a month.

“As you can imagine it is a very sad day for the team,” acknowledged Whitmarsh. “I had to take an incredibly difficult decision, [and] we have suspended our long-standing sporting director, Dave Ryan. He has been with the team for 35 years. I have personally known him for 20 years, and I think anyone in this paddock who knows him knows that he is a very straightforward, dedicated, committed and hard-working individual.

“I think anyone who knows Dave will know that he did not set out with any deliberate intention to mislead the stewards. He went to that stewards meeting with Lewis, I am sure, with the intention of being very clear and straightforward. I think what the stewards should rely upon is that when the teams are called before them, they will give a totally true and open account of what happened – and there was a belief that a true and honest account would get the result of the positions being reversed. More ...

Scheckter to land IndyCar ride  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. We learned in the St. Pete paddock today that Team 3G is indeed trying to close a deal with Scheckter for the rest of the season starting in Long Beach. We also hear the team will soon announce a team apparel partnership.

03/30/09 According to rumors, Tomas Scheckter could be on the IndyCar grid in St. Pete this coming weekend and an announcement could come today.
New team for ALMS  According to AutoRacing1.com (AR1.com) sources, the ALMS will announce during the Long Beach weekend that a new team will be joining the very healthy GT2 ranks with one or two cars.  Long Beach of course will also be the last race for Corvette in GT1 as they will be stepping down to the GT2 class sometime after Long Beach.
Race bans possible for 'liar Lewis Hamilton'  
Lewis Hamilton is now known as a liar worldwide
(GMM)  Britain's mainstream sports press branded Lewis Hamilton a "liar" overnight, after stewards revealed he and the McLaren team deliberately misled them in Australia.

At a reconvened inquiry in Malaysia, Jarno Trulli had his podium reinstated while 24-year-old Hamilton was excluded from the results, regarding the incident behind the safety car at Albert Park days earlier.

But additional sanctions are now possible, given the FIA's right to refer the matter to the World Motor Sport Council because Hamilton was charged with bringing the sport into disrepute.

"It is potentially an extremely severe situation," a spokesman for the Paris body said at Sepang.  "We cannot rule out further action."

The British press is musing the possibility of race bans, or total exclusion from the world championship.

But the worst damage is likely to be to the reigning world champion's image.

The Daily Star headlined the story 'Liar Lewis', and The Sun tabloid said 'You're a liar, Lewis'.

Hamilton could be kicked out of F1  UPDATE In re-opening the investigation, stewards at a further hearing in Malaysia ahead of Sunday's race at the Sepang circuit have taken the appropriate sanction against Hamilton they felt was necessary.

However, the situation contravenes the International Sporting Code and is viewed as so grave that the FIA have it within their power to pursue the matter further.

A FIA spokesperson confirmed: 'Given the seriousness of this matter, we cannot rule out further action at this stage.'

As Hamilton has been excluded from the race at Melbourne's Albert Park, should motor sport's world governing body take up the case, only two additional punishments are open to them.

One would be to suspend Hamilton from a further race or races, or alternatively they could disqualify him from the championship altogether.

In an effort to be more open and transparent this year in relation to decisions taken by the stewards, the FIA are now publishing the key considerations of their findings.

On Sunday, the stewards did not have the benefit of radio exchanges or comments from Hamilton to the media, and instead acted solely on video footage. More ...

VW unveils 16-cylinder IRL engine  UPDATE Did you fall for this?  Of course it was an April Fool's joke.

Volkswagen Indy04/01/09 The Indianapolis 500 will exclusively use VW power in 2011 Racecar can exclusively reveal. VAG's new engines will be based on a revolutionary quad turbo W16 design. The two liter powerplants are said to be highly efficient and only use three quarters of the fuel used in the current IRL spec engines.

Whilst all the engine blocks will be identical a number of different cylinder head and bottom end layouts are available, each is to be badged by a different part of the VAG company, most notably Porsche. The most interesting variant is the triple crankshaft Bugatti branded unit, which trades off incredible efficiency and marginally higher power against increased weight and a higher centre of gravity.

A full study on the new engines will appear in next months magazine.

FIA may re-open Trulli investigation  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today - see this Hot News article.

04/01/09 (GMM)  Toyota has withdrawn its appeal, but the case of Jarno Trulli's confiscated Melbourne podium may be far from over, according to a report in the German press.

The authoritative magazine Auto Motor und Sport claims FIA officials are concerned Lewis Hamilton may have lied during the post-race stewards investigation.

The reigning world champion was promoted to third place while Trulli demoted to twelfth, after stewards ruled that Trulli illegally passed the Briton's McLaren behind the safety car.

Toyota had argued that the Italian only passed Hamilton because the 24-year-old pulled over and slowed down.  Hamilton was subsequently quoted by a reporter as admitting the team told him to let Trulli past. More ...

ESPN might give NASCAR the shaft  ESPN is looking to encourage cable operators to carry the ESPNU Network. For those cable systems who already have ESPN Classic, there is now an easy solution to this problem. Just replace Classic with the ESPNU college channel and call it a day. All of this can now be done with ESPN's official blessing.

This move is crucial to ESPN, a company who has been on a buying spree where college television rights are concerned. Billions of dollars have been spent and just like the NASCAR situation, there are simply not enough ESPN TV networks to carry the product.

Back in early 2007, we suggested that ESPN use the Classic Network to carry NASCAR when there was a live event conflict.

Now, two years later, ESPN Classic has become a crucial link to NASCAR TV during the college football season. This is especially true for the Nationwide Series, the only NASCAR racing series that ESPN carries from start to finish. More ...

Tony George to run Hunter-Reay  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement.

03/27/09 With one of America's IndyCar stars and IZOD's multi-million dollar advertising and promotional program on Ryan Hunter-Reay and the series twisting in the wind, SPEEDtv.com reports that Tony George agreed Thursday to campaign the talented 27-year-old American in a second Vision Racing car for the entire 2009 season.

A formal announcement is expected this weekend reports SPEEDTV.com.

"It all happened yesterday and we're still getting the contract squared away but the team is scrambling to put my car together and thankfully I'm going to be racing Indy cars this year," said Hunter-Reay. "I really can't tell you how thankful I am that Tony stepped in because it was getting late and I know Terry Angstadt (IRL's president of its commercial division) has been working real hard to help me and I appreciate his efforts.

"The entire IRL marketing and commercial department has been working relentlessly on several B to B deals as well as sponsorships and I can't thank them enough. I'm just very grateful right now. This will be a huge opportunity for me to race for Tony George at Vision." SPEEDTV.com

Brawn did not display full pace in Oz  UPDATE More from the Guardian site today, quoting a Brawn team ‘insider’ talking about how much faster the car is capable of going than we saw on Sunday.

“I think, basically, that if someone is two-tenths off us they can feasibly win the race but, if we’re half a second in front, which is probably where we are at the moment, although we don’t necessarily look like that, it is just foolish to just annihilate people all the time.  I think we have a little bit in the bag. We’ve got good stuff coming and I think we have reason to be confident.”

“The visual bits are not really the performance drivers, it’s all the surfaces you can’t see that give you the real performance. One of the good things about the Brawn car is that competitors will look at all of it and say, ‘That’s the bit that’s making it fast.’ But it is not necessarily one thing; they could be focusing on something that is not really a big performance driver. We were looking at everybody else’s times asking why were they all so slow. Our research was telling us we would be the quickest car.”

03/31/09 (GMM)  Brawn GP recorded a one-two victory in Melbourne, but it seems the former Honda team could have destroyed rather than simply beaten its competition.

BMW-Sauber figures expressed huge disappointment about Robert Kubica's late crash with Sebastian Vettel last Sunday, insisting the Pole could have raced up to eventual winner Jenson Button and passed him.

"That's interesting," Briton Button, 29, grinned as he reflected on his win in St. Kilda - a beach suburb near Melbourne - before having to jet off to Malaysia.

"I don't think Kubica has any idea about whether I was driving as fast as I could have," he added coyly.

Red Bull's Vettel, seemingly matching his Mercedes-powered rival as he ran second to Button for most of the 58-lap race, suspects the Brawn driver's hint is indeed true.

"I have the feeling they (Brawn) were playing with us," the German told Auto Motor und Sport. More ...

Harvick set at RCR Thru 2010  Kevin Harvick says rumors of his imminent free agency are greatly exaggerated. Although mentioned recently as a driver up for grabs after this season, "I have another year on my contract after this year with Richard Childress Racing, so I'm not in the middle of all that stuff this year," Harvick said. "So you can go ahead and check my name off that list. We have an extension in my contract that we signed about a year and a half ago. It goes through 2010." ESPN Insider
Did Brawn team get the call?  UPDATE Another reader writes, Dear AR1, Just to add a few insights to your reply to Anonymous concerning Brawn getting "the call"

Until just a few weeks ago the team now known as Brawn was still Honda. And while they officially pulled the plug on the team, Honda continued to finance and support the effort.  Let's not forget that this was one of the wealthiest teams on pit road.

Just over a year ago Ross Brawn came into the team, bringing his incredible skills and history of winning everything he has ever entered.  This guys has done it all. F1, IMSA, Le Mans, and succeeded at every endeavor.  So now we have one of the most heavily funded teams being run by the most highly regarded race engineer on the planet!

But here is the big one. While the rest of the field were racing in 2008, Brawn and Co. were working on their 2009 car.  Fully 15 months before the start of the season.  McLaren and Ferrari on the other hand worked on their 2008 cars until the final race.

So did they get the call.  I really don't think so.  If they did, it was more likely to tell them to slow down a bit.  Remember in testing they were at least 1 second a lap faster.  More ...

Renault split-level diffuser could be ready by China  The Formula One teams which are currently not using the controversial diffuser are planning to develop a similar design for their own cars. Flavio Briatore, who is no fan of the device, believes that the diffusers could be a safety problem in the future and a waste of money in a time of crisis.

Flavio Briatore said: "What is happening with the diffusers is stupid, forcing teams to spend money in a time of crisis.

"It is also about safety: we have already put similar pieces in our wind tunnel and it gives 14 per cent more downforce. That is not in the spirit of the regulations. And once they are developed we could be talking 30 or 40 per cent additional"

Despite the fact that Briatore is no fan of the controversial diffusers, the teams already using the device proved that, if Renault wants to keep up in 2009, it will become a necessity to develop the diffusers. According to rumors in the paddock, Renault could be racing the new diffuser next month during the Chinese Grand Prix.

Abu Dhabi in trouble, Canada to sub  UPDATE (GMM)  Organizers of the inaugural Abu Dhabi grand prix have rubbished reports the Yas Marina circuit will not be ready to host the 2009 season finale.

Rumors last weekend, and subsequent reports in the Canadian press, suggested the defunct Montreal race could be revived in order to substitute for Abu Dhabi, whose project may be delayed by the global financial crisis.

But Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management (ADMM) said tickets for the November 1 race went on sale on Monday.

"Progress on the construction of Yas Marina Circuit ... is on track and there are no concerns regarding delivery deadlines," a statement issued by ADMM read.

03/29/09 (GMM) Canada could be set for a shock return to the formula one calendar, a local television channel reported on Sunday.

Citing rumors from the Melbourne paddock this weekend, the French language Reseau des Sports cable channel said organizers of the inaugural Abu Dhabi grand prix - scheduled as the 2009 season finale - have fallen behind in construction of its circuit.

Abu Dhabi's problems are reportedly due to the global financial crisis, with Montreal considered as a substitute despite falling off the 2009 calendar after a commercial disagreement with Bernie Ecclestone.

However, Canada would apparently not simply replace Abu Dhabi's November event, but instead host a race before the Brazilian grand prix in October, which would become the new last round of the championship.
Senna to Force India?  (GMM)  Vijay Mallya has admitted interest in Bruno Senna, the 2008 GP2 runner-up who narrowly missed a seat on this year's formula one grid.

25-year-old Senna, the nephew of the great Ayrton Senna, was a favorite for the cockpit alongside Jenson Button in 2009, until Ross Brawn completed the management buyout and opted instead for Rubens Barrichello's experience.

Indian billionaire Mallya is the owner and team boss of the Force India team, who reportedly considered making a driver change for 2009 but instead opted for stability.

"There were too many changes I was making with the team," he told the British Sunday newspaper the Observer.

"We had management changes and I wanted to have some stability and continuity," said Mallya.

But he indicates that a change next year is on the cards, given that 36-year-old Italian veteran Giancarlo Fisichella is closer to the end of his career than the beginning.

"I know that Giancarlo is reaching the end of his racing career, it may not be next year but he is certainly at the tail end," Mallya said.

"There are youngsters waiting in the wings -- one of them is Bruno Senna and we all thought he would be signed by Brawn GP but they went with Barrichello.  We will look at the youngsters at the appropriate time," he added.

US says it might let GM bankrupt, NASCAR in jeopardy  UPDATE A related Washington Post article with some doomsday quotes about GM.  Henderson, a key architect of GM's now-rejected turnaround plan, was charged with working with U.S. officials and advisers to develop a more aggressive restructuring.

"We believe our approach to GM is starting with a clean sheet of paper," the senior official said.

GM bondholders, the official said, could have to take less than the 33-cent-on-the-dollar payout they have been offered and should abandon hope of a government guarantee.

The Obama administration had also not ruled out a quick bankruptcy process for either GM or Chrysler, he said.

Wagoner had been outspoken in his opposition to a Chapter 11 reorganization, saying it would drive away consumers and probably lead to GM's liquidation.

GM had asked for more than $16 billion in new government loans, while Chrysler wanted $5 billion to ride out the weakest market for new cars in almost 30 years.

GM has lost about $82 billion since 2005 when its problems began to mount in the U.S. market. GM stock has also lost about 95 percent of its value since Wagoner took over as CEO. Although he inherited many of the company's deeper problems, his critics say he failed to act fast enough to resolve them.

03/30/09 The resignation of General Motors Corp. CEO Richard Wagoner and the Obama auto team's findings seem sure to create more turmoil for GM stock today.

The administration said it would give GM 60 days of working capital to come up with a credible viability plan, saying it would support the company's turnaround -- but made no guarantees.
It would have been impossible for the U.S. government to give additional loans without dramatic changes at GM.  And the Obama administration said Sunday a structured bankruptcy may be best for GM and Chrysler.

Auto analyst Maryann Keller, a longtime critic of Wagoner who is known for her blunt talk, said Washington could not give money to a company that's still being run by the "man that drove the bus off the bridge." More ...

Red Bull to switch to split-level diffuser  
Comparing the non split-level McLaren diffuser top with the Brawn split-level diffuser bottom
The Red Bull Racing F1 Team is considering to add the controversial split-level diffuser to their 2009 car after earlier this week launching a protest against the three teams already using the device. A hearing at the International Court of Appeal on the diffusers has been set for 14 April and whether Red Bull pursues the split-level diffuser rests on that appeal.

Christian Horner said to 'BBC Sport': "We started to look at the concept several weeks ago when we saw the cars run for the first time. If the design is fully legal after 14 April then the seven teams will have to explore development in that area. We will accept the decision but would like to have absolute clarity going forward."

AMA Superbike
Daytona family out to ruin motorcycle racing too?  UPDATE #8 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. To catalog the multitude of transgressions perpetrated by the new AMA Pro Racing on the road-race paddock would be futile. The list is long and varied and constantly growing. But if there's one thing they've done that's inexcusable, other than laying waste to their own credibility, it's that they've taken the fun out of racing.

Very few people get rich racing motorcycles. The hours are brutal, the physical demands are demanding, the return on investment is minimal. People race motorcycles, people work on racing motorcycles, people support motorcycle racing, because it's their passion, because they love it, because it's fun. But if Daytona didn't convince you, the evidence was stark at Fontana - this just isn't fun anymore.

The atmosphere in the AMA road-race paddock is funereal. The central topic of conversation isn't racing, but what's wrong with racing and how much worse it's going to get. Because, make no mistake, it continues to get worse.

It's one more example of the monomaniacal compulsion to change every single aspect of motorcycle racing, to take something that's unique and mold it into the shape of some other series for no good reason. The pace car - in Fontana, it was a lumbering four-door that clearly wasn't made to go around corners - should be banned. What happened when the pace car came out for the mandatory three laps in Sunday's SportBike race? The fans were treated to three less laps of racing.

The rules from now on are, there are no rules. If you screw up, we'll tell you, but we won't tell you in advance. Will we race in the rain? Don't know. We'll get back to you. Racing in the rain at Fontana is insane. The daffy curbing that makes up the chicane in turn one is lethal. Hit it in the dry and you might lose your front end. In the wet, you will crash and you will hit a wall. And that simply isn't fun.  More...

09/11/08 Today it was announced that a rival motorcycle racing series has been started in the USA because people in the industry are fed up dealing with the France family's heavy-handed running of the AMA and how they are trying to turn it into dumbed down NASCAR on 2-wheels.  In recent years the France family has branched out into motorcycle racing, has bought the Grand-Am, tried to NASCARize open wheel sprint car racing, and started stock car racing series in Mexico and Canada.  Their aim is to solidify their monopoly stronghold on all racing in North America.  In this way they can control a huge chunk of advertising dollars and funnel it toward NASCAR as they slowly kill off other forms of motorsports in an effort to eventually have NASCAR be "racing" so there is no fan confusion of what racing is - stock car racing on big high banked oval tracks.

08/22/08 The Rockstar Makita Suzuki team will appeal the disqualification of Mat Mladin from the Virginia International Raceway results, but AMA Pro Racing does not have to accept the appeal.  Overnight, the team issued a press release stating they would appeal the penalty imposed after Mladin’s crankshaft was found to be illegal following his double race wins at VIR last weekend.  The violations fall under the rule A3.1 a. as an “equipment violation that could potentially or effectively enhance the performance of a motorcycle used in competition.”  The team now has until the "third business day by 5:00 p.m." after being notified, according to the rulebook, to appeal. The team was notified on August 20, three days after the second of Mladin’s two runaway VIR wins.

08/22/08 After he spoke out against the France family run AMA motorcycle series (below) AMA Pro Racing announced today that Mat Mladin has been disqualified from the August 16-17, 2008 AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited round at Virginia International Raceway following the outcome of post-race technical inspections.

The crankshaft from the #6 Rockstar Makita Suzuki was sent to AMA headquarters in Pickerington, Ohio, and was compared to other production crankshafts from the same model. Upon this inspection, the crankshaft was found to be in non-compliance of the 2008 AMA Superbike Championship Rulebook.

08/19/08 Standing atop the victory rostrum on Sunday at Virginia International Raceway, Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Mat Mladin told the crowd that he’d be racing a Superbike in the U.S. next season. But where? It won’t be in the AMA Superbike Championship, run by the Daytona Motorsports Group (DMG). Instead, he’ll be one of the riders in a rival road race championship that could be announced as early as Wednesday.

“It was supposed to be announced last week before (Friday’s) DMG (Daytona Motorsports Group) announcement” not to include the Factory Superbike class, a source familiar with the new series said, adding that the series will have four classes. The plan is to adopt World Superbike rules for the premier class in 2010. A second source said that the series had the support of the parent companies of the American distributors of the Japanese brands.

DMG CEO Roger Edmondson said on Friday he wouldn't include Factory Superbike in the 2009 AMA Superbike Championship. He said there wasn't a single response to his query. The timing of Edmondson's decision and the new series announcement was coincidental. One of the sources said that the idea had been in the works for more than two years, ever since then AMA CEO Patti Dipietro dismissed AMA Pro Racing CEO Scott Hollingsworth and dissolved the AMA Pro Racing board.

“Yeah, sounds like we’re going to be racing Superbikes again, so that’s good,” Mladin said after the podium celebrations. When asked where he’d be racing he was non-committal, saying, “I don’t know.” American Suzuki vice president Mel Harris said on Saturday that his company wouldn’t race in the DMG-run AMA Superbike Championship.

Harris, a persistent critic of the DMG, said he had the blessing of Suzuki Japan to find an alternative series, “so at this point, we’re going to be looking at any avenue that might open up in the future and if there is another series or an alternative that we can race, we’re going to really consider that and see where that goes. But at this point we’re out of DMG’s racing.” Cycle News Online

06/13/08 In this article, France Family appointee to oversee the AMA they just bought, Roger Edmondson, gets tough with the riders who refuse to race in the rain with some real strong-arm tactics.

06/12/08 Based on this article, looks like all the riders are really angry at Daytona Motorsports Group (DMG) from this and other articles saying that DMG put out a press release saying the riders would run in the rain because of safety changes. There were none. DMG is making friends everywhere it seems.  Best quote by Ben Spies over the issue of racing in the rain at Mid-Ohio:

“It’s the surface that is the biggest part for the crashes, but then after you crash you don’t want to be tagging the wall,” Spies said. “Yes, if there were no walls here, I would race here in the rain. But the fact is there are a bunch of walls here and I will not race in the rain. Even though, supposedly, there were all these track changes that DMG or AMA or whatever it is now, called and said and approved for racing in the rain, but they forgot to ask the riders. The facts are that nothing has been changed. So they can get on my bike and race in the rain if they [France Family and AMA leadership] want.”

BTW, AutoRacing1.com hears that Suzuki will not be back if the proposed new rules stay.

05/21/08 There is a real ground swell happening against the Frances proposed changes to AMA Superbike etc. This week numerous riders have voiced concerns, including King Kenny Roberts etc. But here is a link to 6 time legend Matt Mladen.

Six-time AMA Superbike Champion Mat Mladin used the podium at Infineon Raceway as a pulpit to blast the proposed 2009 rules package for the AMA Superbike Championship.

Just after getting beaten by team-mate Ben Spies, for the third race in a row, this time by over six seconds, and after accepting the second place trophy, Mladin addressed the crowd. 

“If you guys don’t speak up, you’re going to be watching a bunch of piece of crap motorcycles ridden by second rate riders,” he said, later adding, “Hopefully we’ll be back next year riding the biggest fastest bikes in America.”

The Daytona Motorsports Group is expected to announce the technical regulations for the “Literbike” class quite soon.

04/22/08 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I can't take it anymore.  The France family in Daytona thinks they can NASCARize everything.  What they are doing is ruining all forms of motorsports in America.  They tried it with the USAC sprint cars and failed miserably.  Their NASCAR superspeedway version of the sprint car is now gone, rejected by teams and fans alike. 

The Daytona Prototype looks as bad as an Edsel Ford and we all know what happened to them.
Photo by Grand-Am
Then we have the Grand-Am Daytona prototypes, without question the most hideous looking and performing race cars on the plant.  Witness the car to the right, it looks like an Edsel.  It is truly hideous.  Now I read where they are trying to NASCARize AMA Superbikes, rolling starts and all. 

This Superbikeplanet.com article says,  Suzuki have ruled the roost in AMA Superbike racing for a lot of the last few years through a combination of the best riders and the machinery that pushes the technological envelope of the rule book. Combine those two things with and a talented crew and they've had a great recipe for success.

With the Daytona MotorSports Group proposal possibly removing the 1000cc bike classes from the series and moving the emphasis away from the technology of the bikes and going in a more NASCAR-like "it's all about the entertainment" direction, Soup asked Suzuki's Mel Harris for his opinion of DMG's directions and how it affects Suzuki's racing program and their ability to "Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday." Oh, and we asked him about the meeting he had with Daytona Motorsports Group, too.  More at Superbikeplanet.com

NASCAR TV ratings are down over 20% from three years ago and attendance at races is way off.  Grand-Am popularity is a complete joke and now they are taking aim at motorcycle racing and the people I know who are involved are not happy about it.  Fans are becoming disgusted with the people in Daytona and their arsebackwards way of thinking.  I am beginning to truly believe their goal is to take over all forms of motorsports in the USA and slowly destroy it from the inside out so that only NASCAR stock cars will be left, which would enable them to control all the racing advertising dollars in the USA, i.e. a true monopoly.  Jeff Teravainen

GM's Rick Wagoner to be forced out  UPDATE This rumor is now 'fact'.  The Obama administration asked Rick Wagoner, the chairman and CEO of General Motors, to step down and he agreed, a White House official said.  (See Related Article)

The White House confirmed Wagoner was leaving at the government's behest after The Associated Press reported his immediate departure, without giving a reason.

On Monday, President Obama is to unveil his plans for the auto industry, including a response to a request for additional funds by GM and Chrysler.

Industry sources had said the White House planned very tough medicine, which turned out to be an understatement. And it went to the very top. The measures to be imposed by the government will have a dramatic effect on workers, unions, suppliers, retirees and the communities where plants are located, the sources said.

03/29/09 A person with knowledge of General Motors' plans says Rick Wagoner will step down immediately as chairman and chief executive of the struggling Detroit automaker.

The person asked not to be identified because Wagoner's plans have not been formally announced.

The move comes on the eve of President Obama unveiling his plan to reinvigorate the U.S. auto industry. Obama and other administration officials have said they would demand deeper restructuring from General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC before they would get any more government loans. AP Story

Montreal could be back on F1 calendar  UPDATE (GMM) Talks with Bernie Ecclestone about reviving the Canadian grand prix have taken place, Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay said on Sunday.

He was responding to reports that the race could return to the calendar this year, as a substitute for the inaugural Abu Dhabi round, whose organizers have reportedly fallen behind schedule amid the global financial crisis.

"We have been talking with Bernie Ecclestone about it coming back in 2011 and 2010," Tremblay confirmed to the Montreal Gazette.

However, he stated that he would be reluctant simply to offer Montreal as a one-off substitute for Abu Dhabi.

"We don't want to have it just in 2009. We want a long term agreement that respects our ability to pay," said Tremblay.

He insists, however, that Montreal organizers would be able to arrange an event this year, with the Melbourne rumors hinting at an October date.

"We have a lot of good people who have organized the races for many years," he said.

Promoters of the traditional Canadian round at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve fell out with F1 chief executive Ecclestone last year over a dispute about race fees.

An earlier dispute also saw the other North American round, the United States grand prix at Indianapolis, stage its last race in 2007.

03/28/09 The Canadian Grand Prix could be back on the Formula One schedule by 2011, according to a published report. Former race promoter Normand Legault said in Saturday's edition of Montreal La Presse that he's optimistic the race will be back in the city even though the economic downturn may negatively effect F1 auto racing.  He adds Montreal successfully hosted the race for some 30 years and the city already has the infrastructure in place. Legault says the city also falls in a time zone convenient for broadcasting the race in Europe. TSN.ca
Virgin may rename Brawn, buy team equity  UPDATE (GMM)  After watching his Virgin logos speed to one-two victory at Albert Park, Sir Richard Branson hinted his next step could be into the world of formula one team ownership.

The British billionaire cut short a family skiing holiday this weekend to jet into Melbourne and announce a hastily-signed sponsorship deal with the new Brawn team.

Branson, 58, hinted the announcement was just the first phase of his new interest in the sport, and he told the BBC on Sunday that he is likely to make the next step in the very near future.

"At the moment we're just sponsors.  I mean, one day, Virgin might own a team and name it after itself.  We'll have talks," he said.

So fuelled has Branson's interest in the sport been by the Australian grand prix success, he decided against attending his own 'V Festival' rock concert in Sydney on Saturday night.

It is believed he also stayed in Melbourne on Sunday night - rather than fly to the Gold Coast for the next 'V' concert - to help Brawn celebrate its Virgin-branded victory.

"They've certainly got me addicted so it'd be a good time to sit me down and have a word about upping my interest," Branson smiled.

"I'm sure if Brawn GP keep plying me with champagne and putting gorgeous Virgin girls either side of me, you never know.  But on a serious note they deserve supporting."

03/28/09 (GMM) Mere weeks after rising from Honda's ashes as 'Brawn GP', the Brackley based team could be set for yet another name change.

Following the eleventh-hour sponsorship deal with the Virgin brand, Sir Richard Branson in Melbourne admitted his company might take over the name of the Mercedes-powered team.

The British billionaire told selected journalists at Albert Park that Saturday's announcement was just the first part of the new Brawn collaboration.

"I think, even in the next three to four weeks, we would all like to see this develop into a more complete relationship. We will have to see," Branson said.

The first step - perhaps after next weekend's Malaysian grand prix - will be obtaining permission for a substantially new livery, after a few Virgin logos were hurriedly added to the white and yellow BGP001 car for Saturday's running.

Slightly beyond that, applications for a name change - requiring the agreement of all the teams - are likely, and it is rumored that some equity may also change hands.

Asked about the possibility of the 'Brawn' team becoming 'Virgin', Branson said: "It is certainly possible. More ...
Back problems for Jeff Gordon?  Okay, what's the deal with Jeff Gordon's back? He's talked for three weeks now about chronic back pain. And that sounds suspiciously like the type of pain that Ricky Rudd and Mark Martin have endured. Martin himself had major back surgery a few years ago to alleviate his pain. Gordon has made no mention of any possible surgery, but his repeated complaints are raising eyebrows. At the moment he's been doing some heavy-duty workouts to try to relieve the pain. mikemulhern.net
Will Versus be the IRL's undoing?  A reader writes, Dear AR1.com, "Sad" doesn't even begin to describe those amateurish, pathetic pre-season specials VERSUS produced on the IndyCar series.  The first one about Danica Patrick was very good.  It obviously was done by a different production company than the other two I saw, i.e. "IndyCar Series: Top 10 Closest Finishes" and "IndyCar Series World Tour 200."  Those two were the same caliber as those lame kind of immature Thrills and Spills type shows.

That "IndyCar Series: Top 10 Closest Finishes" had absolutely terrible editing.  They kept playing the same close finishes over and over again.  The one clip they kept showing looked like they were going to a commercial, but the show continued.  Both of those shows looked like they were aimed for the idiots who like to watch crashes and fights instead of great racing.  Mary White

Dear Mary, TV ratings on Versus will be miniscule so the negative impact of poor quality broadcasts will be low since they won't be seen by many.  The dropping of ESPN to make way for Versus could be the IRL's undoing.  Mark C.
Bourdais F1 career in doubt as yet another teammate faster  
Sebastien Bourdais tries hard in the Toro Rosso car, but it wasn't enough as his inexperienced teammate, Sebastien Buemi, has shown more pace.
Last year Sebastian Vettel buried his Toro Rosso teammate Sebastien Bourdais, but Bourdais had come from the USA so the excuse was that he had to learn F1 and the unfamiliar tracks. His other excuse was that the car did not suit his style.

This year Bourdais is considered the veteran on the team but once again his new rookie teammate Sebastien Buemi has come in and beat Bourdais both in preseason testing and Saturday in qualifying for the season opener Buemi has immediately outqualified Bourdais, who was dead last.

This has led many pundits to conclude Bourdais just isn't good enough for F1 and should have stayed in America to race where the talent level isn't as high. Bourdais cleaned up in Champ Car and did so well in IROC NASCAR great Mark Martin said he was the best driver he had raced against. Martin has not tried F1 so he doesn't really understand what real talent is. More ...
Hamilton could start Aus GP dead last  UPDATE #2 Because the Toyotas of Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli were sent to the back of the grid when they were found to be running rear wings that were too flexible, Lewis Hamilton will now start the race from eighteenth position, rather than last. See related Hot News article.

Lewis Hamilton
03/28/09 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' now.  Under the current rules, gearboxes must last for four grands prix.  Hamilton's did not and he will, therefore, start from the back of the grid at the Australian Grand Prix following a gearbox change.  Although McLaren could have changed the gears and avoid a penalty, the team has decided to replace the gearbox altogether. "It was a gear failure and although we are allowed to change gears under the regulations, we will change the gearbox," said team boss Martin Whitmarsh.

03/28/09 (GMM)  Norbert Haug on Saturday evening admitted "it is possible" world champion Lewis Hamilton will begin the defense of his 2008 world title from dead last.

Hamilton, the reigning champion, wrestled his uncompetitive McLaren through to the 'Q2' qualifying session at Albert Park.

But a gearbox problem meant he could not take part in the remainder of the session, leaving the Briton provisionally just fifteenth on the grid, one place behind his teammate Heikki Kovalainen.

And it could get even worse for Hamilton, with Mercedes' Haug admitting "it is possible" the gearbox will have to be replaced overnight.

According to F1's long-life rules, a five place grid penalty applies for an unscheduled gearbox change.

Team boss Martin Whitmarsh said the failure was "probably a broken dog ring but we'll have to investigate it to know for sure".

USA government to offer owners incentive on clunkers  New-car sales in March will likely fall to the slowest annual pace in at least 39 years when they are announced Wednesday, analysts predict, but the market could be at or near the bottom if the stock market sustains its recent rebound.

"Unfortunately we are expecting about a 43% decline industrywide from March 2008," said Jesse Toprak, an analyst with Edmunds.com in Santa Monica, Calif. That translates to an annual selling rate of 8.9 million cars and trucks, down from a 9.1-million rate in February.

Earlier this month, CSM Worldwide cut its forecast for 2009 U.S. auto sales from 10.7 million to 9.7 million, based on the assumption that unemployment will peak later this year at 9.4%. U.S. consumers have not purchased fewer than 10 million vehicles in any calendar year since 1970, according to Autodata Corp.

The pain continues to be spread evenly. Toprak expects General Motors, Ford and Chrysler to report sales declines of between 46% and 49% from March 2008. Edmunds.com predicts sales at Honda, Nissan and Toyota fell 43%, 43% and 40%, respectively. More ...

Virgin set to sponsor Brawn  UPDATE #2 Added photo from Saturday's Virgin and Brawn GP announcement.

Virgin Announcement
03/26/09 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group is to invest in Formula One for the first time as a significant team sponsor. A deal has been reached with Brawn GP, whose driver, Jenson Button, is favorite to win the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.

The multimillion-pound deal, which was revealed exclusively by Times Online yesterday, is expected to be confirmed in Melbourne tomorrow by Branson, who has cut short a family skiing holiday to fly to Australia for the occasion. It represents Brawn's first big sponsor signing after a management buyout led by Ross Brawn, the team principal, saved the team from extinction when Honda decided to quit the sport in December.

Until now their cars have run in pre-season testing with no commercial branding apart from the Brawn GP logo and that of Bridgestone, the Formula One tire supplier. But a senior source at the team indicated to The Times that the cars will now carry extensive Virgin branding and may even do so this weekend. However, Branson's company is not thought to have acquired the team's title sponsorship rights.

Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One commercial rights-holder, confirming that a deal had been reached, said that the size of Virgin's financial commitment has still to be worked out in detail. Ecclestone is delighted by what he views as a coup both for the team and for Formula One at a time when other big companies are scaling back their sponsorship commitments or even pulling out. More ...

Ford may get $2B for Volvo  Ford Motor Co. may get $1-$2 billion for its Volvo Cars unit, less than a third of what it paid 10 years ago, as it conducts sale talks with more than three bidders, according to an unnamed source interviewed by Bloomberg.

The last piece of Ford's failed strategy to boost profit with European luxury brands may take six months to complete, said the unidentified person, who preferred to remain private. The individual wouldn't name the potential buyers, reported Bloomberg. More ...

The return of Cosworth?  The plans for new teams to emerge to boost the F1 grids next year have been boosted significantly by the announcement that the FIA will allow budget-capped teams being allowed to operate for only $42m. The big problem with the plan is that the manufacturers who are not very keen on a budget cap might not be very keen to supply engines to all these new upstart organizations. This means that an alternative needs to be found and the only real option in the short term is to revive the Cosworth F1 program. The FIA did announce last year that Cosworth would be willing to supply engines to teams at a very reasonable price, but no-one took up the option and the idea of Cosworth's return to F1 seemed to have disappeared, but we hear that the plan is now being revived as new teams begin to form.

Now owned by Gerald Forsythe and Kevin Kalkhoven, the Cosworth Racing company has been doing work in various different markets of late, notably the aerospace, defense and automotive worlds. The old technology division - which did these for Cosworth Racing - has now ceased to be anything to do with the company and is part of the German engineering company Mahle. Cosworth first entered F1 in 1967 when Keith Duckworth designed the DFV for Team Lotus, using Ford money. The DFV and its derivatives won 167 races beginning with its debut event in Holland in 1967. The company remained active in F1 until the end of 2006 when none of the teams wanted to use the engines any longer. The Northampton-based firm lost many of the members of its F1 crew, particularly to the Mercedes-Benz outfit in nearby Brixworth.

The identity of the new teams are still secret at the moment, apart from the USGPE operation that has been announced. It will be interesting to see how many of them come out of the woodwork - and how many of them head down to Northampton to use Cosworth engines. Grandprix.com

'Militant' action over cash row still possible  (GMM)  Threats of a race boycott were unfulfilled, but rumors suggest other 'militant' action by formula one teams has not been ruled out.

The F1 teams' alliance FOTA, and F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, are locked in a row over allegedly unpaid commercial revenues.

With leaks to the press and an exchange of heated press releases, a recent threat by some teams to boycott the Australian grand prix was revealed, although the parties now suggest that progress has been made since then.

"I think that is a business between the teams and Bernie that needs to be resolved urgently," McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh is quoted as saying by the Guardian. More ...

KERS to reduce overtaking  Germany's Nick Heidfeld, one of the smallest drivers in the championship, will use KERS in Sunday's season-opening Australian Grand Prix, but his much taller Williams team mate, Poland's Robert Kubica, will not.

"I think KERS will have a big influence, but I'm not expecting more overtaking," Kubica said.

Button said he thought the introduction of KERS may even reduce the chances of cars passing each other.

"If you don't have KERS and you are behind a car that does have KERS you're not going to be able to get past."

F1 teams to protest illegal defuses on Thursday  UPDATE #3 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Four teams have now lodged protests against the legality of the rear diffusers fitted to the Brawn, Toyota and Williams cars.

The news emerged in the Albert Park paddock on Thursday after the controversial aerodynamic components were declared legal by FIA scrutineers ahead of the 2009 season opener.

"There are different interpretations of the rules, and we need clarity as quickly as possible," BMW-Sauber team boss Mario Theissen said.

Ferrari, Renault and Red Bull also protested, and it is understood they are protesting against all three teams.

The stewards are due to consider the protest on Thursday, but depending on the outcome either the protesting teams, or the three diffuser teams, are expected to send the matter to the Court of Appeal.

If the stewards side with the protesting teams, Brawn, Toyota and Williams will be permitted to race under appeal.

FIA president Max Mosley has already revealed that the appeal would not be able to be heard until after next Sunday's Malaysian grand prix.

03/26/09 (GMM)  Toyota on Thursday declared it is ready to defend the legality of its rear diffuser design.

The Cologne based squad is among three teams, including Brawn and Williams, likely to be formally protested against by multiple formula one rivals this weekend in Melbourne.

It is rumored that Toyota has brought several diffuser designs to Australia, in anticipation that the stewards declare their controversial preferred component illegal.

But team president John Howett told the Cologne newspaper Express that he is not worried.

"No, we enquired with Charlie Whiting and got the green light," he is quoted as saying.  "If it comes to a protest, we will be able to defend ourselves." More ...

Three new F1 teams in 2010  UPDATE (GMM)  Three new teams have "confirmed" their entry for the 2010 world championship, according to Bernie Ecclestone.

Presumably on the back of the FIA's newly announced voluntary budget cap for next year, the F1 chief executive told the AP news agency that the grid is set to swell to 26 cars.

He did not name the other two teams but suggested the USF1/USGPE team is among the new entrants.

"We've got a lot of people confirmed," the 78-year-old added.

Ecclestone also contradicted an FIA spokesperson when he denied that the governing body needs to consult with the teams before reproposing the 'winner takes all' scoring system for 2010.

"It won't be necessary to discuss it with anybody.  Providing the regulations are out before they enter the championship, that's how it is," he said.

The Briton slammed the current system, with 2 points between race winners and second place, and points all the way down to eighth place, as "completely mad".

03/25/09 Formula one boss Bernie Ecclestone expects there to be three news teams on the grid in 2010.  Despite the troubles current F1 teams have endured due to a lack of sponsorship heading into the 2009 season, Ecclestone is confident their will be 26 cars lining up next season because costs have been reduced in F1.

"We'll have 26 cars on the grid next year - we've got a lot of people confirmed," Ecclestone told the Associated Press.

Last month Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson said they planned to launch USF1 in time for the 2010 season.

The 2010 season will also have a €33 million (£30.8 million) budget cap which could help the sport become more affordable to new entrants. More ...

Hamilton could leave McLaren  UPDATE (GMM)  Lewis Hamilton on Thursday played down British media speculation that he might consider leaving McLaren.

In Melbourne for his first race as world champion, the 24-year-old Briton was quoted as admitting he "would listen" to offers from rival teams.

"It would be a compliment and it would be silly if I did not," said Hamilton, who is expected to struggle to qualify in the upper half of the grid.

The quotes were interpreted as an "admission he could leave" McLaren (the Guardian), that he has "doubts over future" (the Times), and a "hint" that could "alert Ferrari" (the Telegraph).

But he later clarified: "I am happy where I am.

"It (the speculation) doesn't really have any grounds.  All I said was that it's quite cool if you find out other teams are interested in you.  It's good to know you are wanted.

"I honestly want to see out my career with McLaren.  I do feel it's my family, it's where I am right now and it's where I'm happy," Hamilton added.

03/26/09 (GMM)  Comments made by Lewis Hamilton in Melbourne have been interpreted by the British media as a sign the reigning world champion might consider leaving McLaren.

While admitting to reporters that even scoring points at Albert Park this weekend will be difficult, the 24-year-old Briton was asked on Thursday if the situation could lead to him shopping around for a better drive.

"I haven't had offers from other teams and I am not talking to anyone but I would listen to an offer if someone asked," he said.  "It would be a compliment and it would be silly if I did not."

The quote was interpreted as an "admission he could leave" McLaren (the Guardian), that he has "doubts over future" (the Times), and a "hint" that could "alert Ferrari" (the Telegraph).

Hamilton, however, is under contract until 2012, and he has previously said he never intends to leave the Mercedes-powered team.

But he also admitted to reporters that, unlike last year's '8 out of 10' MP4-23 with which he won the drivers' title, the single seater he will race this weekend scores just a 'four'.

"I honestly don't know (why)," Hamilton admitted.  "I think we focused so

F1 could be CVC's undoing  CVC Capital Partners Ltd.’s $2.5 billion bet on Formula One is looking like a loser as the new season gets under way.

The world’s most-watched motor sport faces an 80 percent decline in corporate hospitality guests at some races because of the economic slump, said travel company LSA Ltd., which books hotels for 20 team sponsors and guests. Honda Motor Co. withdrew its team in December, and Renault SA may follow unless it gets more of the sport’s $938 million in annual revenue.

London-based CVC, a private equity firm that bought the series in 2006, may have to wait longer to get a return on the investment than it anticipated, said Tom Cannon, a sports business professor at the U.K.’s Liverpool University. Formula One CEO Bernie Ecclestone says revenue will be little changed this year after surging 42 percent between 2003 and 2006. The 17-race season starts in Melbourne on March 29.

“CVC isn’t going to be able to sell its Formula One stake in the current climate,” Cannon said. “It’s a conspicuous consumption sport with the kind of spending that isn’t viable in these times.” More ...

Brawn GP under dark financial cloud?  (GMM)  Despite the recent management buyout-out and the 2009 car's sterling test pace, the future of Brawn GP reportedly remains under a very dark cloud.

In the decisions of the World Council meeting earlier this month, it was noted that despite the Brackley based team simply requesting a name-change, Brawn would in fact be considered a 'new entry' for this season.

"The contract the team had with the FIA was to run as 'Honda', which they are no longer in a position to do," the FIA said.

Outwardly, the technicality has resulted in Brawn shifting to the very bottom of the pitlane, and being assigned the lowest race numbers for 2009.

But we noted last week that new teams usually must wait to receive full revenue entitlements according to F1's commercial agreements. More ...

Todt to take job with CVC  According to AR1.com sources ex-Ferrari boss Jean Todt is going to take a job at CVC (major F1 owner), looking after F1. Stay tuned as details emerge.
Kvapil done with Yates Racing?  UPDATE Effective immediately, Yates Racing will shut down its No. 28 team, which is driven by Kvapil. The shutdown is taking place due to a lack of sponsorship, and puts the majority of the team on the unemployment line.

"Hopefully in the next 24 hours something great happens to this team," said Kvapil, who finished 18th. "That's all we can pray for."

At one point, Kvapil fought race winner Kyle Busch like mad to avoid getting lapped.

"We had nothing to lose and everything to gain, so I raced 110 percent every lap," Kvapil said. "It was frustrating. I hate it for Kyle. I'm sure he was frustrated and wanted to just wreck me, but he did a great job of racing me clean.

"Who knows? If the caution would have come out, we would have stayed on the lead lap and we could have finished four or five spots higher at the end of the day."

Travis Kvapil
Next week's race at Bristol Motor Speedway may be #28-Travis Kvapil's last for Yates Racing this season. Sources close to the organization say Kvapil's crew has been told they will not run the next two Sprint Cup events at Martinsville and Texas, and that unless sponsorship comes along they won't run the rest of the year. The team pieced together sponsorship for the first five races hoping Kvapil would do well enough to garner more attention. Things were looking up after he finished second in the second race at California. Then he failed to qualify for the Las Vegas race and a failed engine last week at Atlanta left him 42nd with a car capable of finishing in the top 20. He's 39th in owner points with little chance of being in the top 35 guaranteed a spot in the field after Bristol. On anther front, Roush Fenway Racing has not replaced the entire crew of David Ragan's team as another driver suggested last week. Ragan has had a rough start, ranked 22nd in points, but the team is confident in crew chief Jimmy Fennig. ESPN Insider
Duno to make NHLR a 3-car team  UPDATE #3 This rumor is downgraded to 'speculation' today.  SPEEDTV.com reports that "testing resumes Monday but it appears Milka Duno is looking for a ride. She had practiced with Newman/Haas/Lanigan at Homestead last month and the team had cleared space in its shop to run three cars but evidently her funding fell short of what had been promised."

02/23/09 The team says Venezuelan driver Milka Duno will join the team in a testing capacity for the two days of Homestead testing this week.

02/23/09 A No. 23 CITGO car was being unloaded from one of three NHLR transporters this afternoon in Homestead and Milka Duno was at the track.  CITGO was her backer last year so it looks like the rumors are true of Duno as the 3rd driver at NHLR with backing from CITGO.  No formal announcement yet, however.  The NHLR cars are number 02, 06 and 23.  We have updated our 2009 IndyCar Silly Season page.

Milka Duno
02/03/09  According to SPEEDtv.com, IndyCar backmarker Milka Duno is close to signing with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing as a teammate to Robert Doornbos and Graham Rahal. According to SPEEDTV.com sources, Brian Lisles, the team manager at NHLR, called the Indy Racing League office on Tuesday afternoon to reveal that young Rahal will have two teammates for the upcoming season. "I can't tell you anything right now because we have no signatures or contracts signed but we're working on doing the best we can," said Lisles. "We do hope to have some good news for ourselves and the IndyCar series by the end of the week."

It is believed that NHLR is in need of more sponsorship money and Duno is rumored to have in the neighborhood of $5 million but it leaves the Dreyer & Reinbold team without their biggest cash cow. 

McLaren sandbagging?  UPDATE #2 (GMM)  A former grand prix driver and now respected pundit has dismissed Bernie Ecclestone's suggestion that McLaren has been sandbagging this winter.

In light of the Mercedes-powered team's poor pre-season pace, the F1 chief executive said he does not think McLaren are set to struggle in 2009.

"I think you will find that they are still very competitive in Melbourne," Ecclestone said.  "Let's put it this way, there's been no need for them to show that they're quick."

But the Swiss Marc Surer, a veteran of nearly 90 grands prix in the 80s, said there is no doubt that the Woking based team's MP4-24 is not a world beater.

"There is no bluffing, they are having problems," he is quoted as saying by spox.com.  "They definitely have an aerodynamic problem.

"It would surprise me if they will be where they want to be in Melbourne.  We can safely assume they will get to the bottom of it, but they are not going to have a winning car all of a sudden," Surer added.

Brawn racer and grand prix veteran Rubens Barrichello agrees with Surer that McLaren is in difficulty, but similarly backs the highly-successful team to bounce back.

"What I assume is that, even though it will take some time, certainly McLaren are going to win grands prix this year in the second half of the championship," the Brazilian said in an interview with Spain's Marca sports newspaper.

03/22/09 (GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone on Sunday suggested McLaren's pre-season lack of pace may have been overstated -- even by the British team.

In the run to next Sunday's Australian grand prix, it has emerged that the MP4-24 is not a world-beater, reportedly suffering from aerodynamic flaws.

But while the works Mercedes squad has been quite open about its winter struggle, F1's 78-year-old chief executive floated the theory that an element of sandbagging may have been in play. More ...

Peugeot to develop LeMans hybrid  In an interview with Racecar Engineering Peugeot’s technical director has confirmed the manufacturers plans for a 2011 LMP1 programme with an all new hybrid car.
Rome GP rumors heat up  UPDATE (GMM) The seriousness of Rome's bid to stage a grand prix has revved up even further.

The Italian capital's sports councillor Allessandro Cochi has revealed "very frequent contacts and visits by FIA officials".

"The possibility of running a grand prix in Rome in 2012 is ever more feasible," he is quoted as saying by the news agency ANSA.

While Bernie Ecclestone is reportedly excited at the prospect, FIA president Max Mosley and Ferrari's Luca di Montezemolo have been cooler about considering a full-time calendar spot for Rome.

But ANSA claims that the possibility of a one-off event is now gaining strength, despite promoter Maurizio Flammini wanting a multi-year agreement.

"I've spoken to (F1 chief executive) Bernie and if, as it appears, the costs can be totally borne by private investors, I think it would be interesting to make an in-depth assessment of its feasibility," Montezemolo said.

Another Italian, Renault team boss Flavio Briatore, heralds the idea as "fantastic", predicting a Rome GP would be "spectacular".

Rome mayor Gianni Alemanno, however, insists that the chequered flag is not set to wave quite yet.

"The negotiations are complicated, almost as complicated as organising an Olympic Games," he said.

02/26/09 (GMM)  Max Mosley will tour the EUR district of the city of Rome, amid rising speculation a street grand prix in the Italian capital is a real probability.

Corriere dello Sport, a Rome based sports daily, said the FIA president's visit - while he is in the area on other business - is scheduled for next week.

An inaugural grand prix in the area has been touted for 2011 or 2012, with the reported backing of F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone as well as the mayor of Rome Gianni Alemanno.

It is suggested that Mosley, 68, will meet with prospective promoter Maurizio Flammini during his visit, as well as with local authorities.

Ecclestone unlikely to save Hockenheim  (GMM) A meeting next Wednesday could result in Hockenheim pulling out of formula one, but Bernie Ecclestone for now is refusing to step in.

The German circuit is no longer able or willing to sustain the growing costs of staging a race every two years, with a final decision to be made next week.

Asked whether Hockenheim is really contemplating exiting the calendar, track boss Karl-Josef Schmidt said: "At the moment that is not only conceivable, but quite a realistic scenario."

In a teleconference with Australian journalists last week, F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone said he is not "stupid enough" to let grand prix promoters go out of business.

But on Saturday, the 78-year-old told the German news agency SID: "It would be unfortunate if Hockenheim disappears from the calendar, but this is a matter for the (local) government."
Why The King is not Racing at Bristol  Asked why seven-time champion Richard "The King" Petty isn't participating in Saturday's legends race at Bristol Motor Speedway, long-time crew chief Dale Inman said, "He knew better than to ask his wife." Inman wasn't the only person in the Sprint Cup garage at Bristol Motor Speedway who said Lynda Petty was the reason NASCAR’s all-time race winner isn't competing against the likes of Cale Yarborough, Harry Hyde and Junior Johnson. "He knew Lynda wouldn't let him," one source close to the situation said with a laugh. "But if you ask Richard he'll deny it." Petty isn't the only old-timer who declined to participate. David Pearson is out with a bad back and many, according to rumors, couldn't get the insurance necessary to compete in the 6 p.m. event. ESPN Insider
Bristol could be last race for #28  Sources at Yates Racing confirmed that Sunday’s Food City 500 will be the last race in the foreseeable future for the #28 Ford driven by Travis Kvapil. Last year, the team was able to piecemeal enough sponsorship together to last the entire season for the #28, but despite some support from Golden Corral for the first five races of 2009, it wasn’t enough to keep the car going beyond this week. SPEEDtv
Government prepared to give GM and Chrysler more money  The Treasury Department's chief auto adviser said Friday that General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC may need "considerably more" aid than the $21.6 billion they have sought.
And he gave the strongest signal to date that the government would pump more money into the auto industry.

Steve Rattner told Bloomberg Television's "Political Capital with Al Hunt" that the amount the two struggling automakers need "could be considerably higher. I won't deny that. There are a lot of pieces to this. The rate of car sales is the most important determinant," he said.

Chrysler has received $4 billion in government loans and wants another $5 billion. GM has received $13.4 billion and is seeking another $16.6 billion in loans and a line of credit. More ...

F1 will defer new point system  FIA has said it is prepared to defer to 2010 a controversial new system awarding the Formula One drivers' championship to whoever wins most races.

"If, for any reason, the Formula One teams do not now agree with the new system, its implementation will be deferred until 2010," FIA said in a statement.

The Formula One Teams' Association had earlier accused the FIA of acting outside the rules when it decided to change the points scoring system at a meeting in Paris.

FOTA added that the teams had "unanimously agreed to question the validity of this decision".

"It is too late for FIA to impose a change for the 2009 season that has not obtained the unanimous agreement of all the competitors properly entered into the 2009 Formula One Championship," the statement added.

FOTA had proposed changing the scoring structure to a 12-9-7-5-4-3-2-1 points format from the existing 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 but the FIA's world motor sport council rejected that.

racing news
2010 to be worse for racing  Michael Andretti predicts that 2010 could be worse for the motor sports industry fighting for the necessary financial support in this strained economy.

"I think 2010 could very well be the toughest of all years," the co-owner of Andretti Green Racing said. "There's a lot of sponsors that have been on multiyear deals, and the challenge will be renewing them.

"I also believe the economy itself has not bottomed out yet. It will probably bottom out about the end of the (season), which is when you're trying to get your sponsors in line for the following year."

Repsol keen on F1 return with teenager  (GMM)  The Spanish oil company Repsol is keen to return to formula one in the future, possibly with the teenage racer Jaime Alguersuari, according to the Marca sports newspaper.

Repsol has inked an agreement with the 19-year-old Spaniard and reigning British F3 champion, who made his F1 test debut with Red Bull last year.

Alguersuari is also highly rated amid the Red Bull program of junior drivers.

Marca reports that he has teamed up with both Repsol and Red Bull backing to contest the World Series by Renault series in 2009.

Sponsorship chief Arturo Sus confirmed that MotoGP is still Repsol's motor racing focus, but he quickly affirmed the commitment with Alguersuari.

Marca cites sources in reporting that both Repsol and Red Bull are keen that the young driver moves into F1.

It should be remembered that Sebastian Vettel was competing with Red Bull backing in the World Series when he switched mid-season to F1 in 2007.

track news
Bulgaria F1 race in works  UPDATE #2 (GMM)  Bulgarian officials are close to reaching an agreement with formula one for a grand prix in the southeastern European republic.

Conducting the talks with F1 authorities is the Bulgarian Motorcycle Federation (BMF), with its chief Bogdan Nikolov telling the Dnevnik daily newspaper "we expect to have a result by next week".

The BMF said it has already secured the funds to build a track to host the MotoGP championship in 2011.

"Once we sign the contract for hosting an F1 event, we can build a second track," Nikolov said.

Bulgaria's other motor racing body, the Bulgarian Motor Sport Federation (BFAS), was involved with the F1 negotiations until six months ago, its president Georgi Yankoulov revealed.

"I cannot imagine that the FIA will take any commitment before the ground-breaking ceremony for the track," he said.

"I am not against the idea but I have moderate expectations about it.  The task is too complicated and difficult especially in the current situation of an economic crisis with sponsors backing down." More ...

IndyCar may ditch Ethanol  In addition to a new engine formula beginning with the 2012 season, the IndyCar Series may be utilizing a new fuel other than Ethanol if a new engine manufacturer has its way reports National Speed Sport News.

Potential German automotive manufacturers Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi want the series to use a gasoline/ethanol blend because it is closer to what is used in the European passenger- car market. Honda Performance Development, the current IndyCar engine supplier, is open to the switch, but wants the fuel issue to be decided before beginning the architecture process of a new turbo-charged engine.

IndyCar Series officials are considering the fuel switch, but remain hesitant to bring gasoline into the mix because of safety concerns and the signal that it would send to the American market.

“We’re looking at fuels that may be more passenger-car relevant in 2012,” said Les Mactaggart, senior technical director for the IndyCar Series. “Right now we are running 100 percent fuel-grade Ethanol. Will that be a relevant fuel in 2012? We’re trying to sort out which would be the best direction to go, in terms of fuel as well.

“Some are probably too far out there that I’m not at liberty to say.” More ...

Bigger crowd for St. Pete race?  Grand Prix of St. Petersburg general manager Tim Ramsberger said on Thursday that ticket sales – renewals and individual purchases – are trending ahead of this time last year.  The fifth installment of the Indy Racing League’s first non-ovals event, scheduled for April 5 on downtown streets, will for the first time open the IndyCar season.
Earnhardt to move team to Cup series  On the surface the announcement that Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Mark Martin and Scott Wimmer would share a 21-race schedule for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series was all about luring sponsorship. Not really. JR Motorsports announced on January 16th that Fastenal would be the primary sponsor for the No. 5 for 14 races before the driver lineup was nailed down. But having five drivers with 91 career Nationwide victories and a pair of titles doesn't hurt during tough economic times when sponsorship, particularly outside of NASCAR's primary series, is hard to find. It's also good for the series, which needs top Sprint Cup drivers to attract fans. Success in the series also could fast-forward JR Motorsports transitioning to a Cup team. Earnhardt said last season that with costs the way they are it makes sense to consider such a move if he can find the right sponsor and drive combination. He's said little about it since, and for now he's focused on the Nationwide program. "This #5 team carries a strong tradition and a lot of expectations and we are fortunate to attract such quality talent to help carry on that tradition," Earnhardt said. "We had a similar setup with this team last year and we were able to go to Victory Lane twice. Obviously with this driver lineup there's no reason we can't exceed last year's win total." ESPN.com
F1 budget caps to never be implemented?  (GMM)  Mark Webber on Thursday backed suggestions that the voluntary budget cap scheme for 2010 is contrary to the spirit of formula one.

The FOTA team alliance has already declared that the system, with some teams working to a 33m euro limit and others financially unfettered, risks "turning on its head the very essence" of the sport.

FIA president Max Mosley insists the competitiveness of the two camps of teams will be balanced by allowing those with the cap to enjoy more technical freedoms.

"It's like saying Coventry can play with 30 players against Manchester United with 11," Australian Webber, who drives for Red Bull, told the BBC.

"Or in tennis, we'll lower the net for you because you don't have as good a racket, and we'll put it back up again for the other guy," the 32-year-old added.

Webber agrees that the two-tiered system contradicts F1's DNA.  "Sometimes it's hard to see where we are going (in F1)," he marveled.

"Rewarding yourself for doing well is about knowing other people have had the same opportunity to do well and you've done a better job than them."

But he is not overly concerned, because he suspects the FIA regulations are just the latest chess move in the thorny world of F1 politics.

"I'm not too bothered about it because I think it will change," Webber admitted.

Slavica could cheat Bernie out of all his money  
Bernie Ecclestone put all his wealth in his ex-wife's name and now she flew the coop.  He hope's she'll give it back.  Good luck dummy.
His fortune has plummeted, his ex-wife has just divorced him which will cost another few hundred million and, 14 years past retirement age, Bernie Ecclestone still has to work. Is he a happy man these days?

Sitting in his office, Ecclestone looks puzzled at the question, ponders the thought that his empire is thriving, his income is still on the north side of £2billion, his two beautiful daughters have rallied to his side and his health is ridiculously good.

Plans to shake up Formula One and bring in new teams have gone through and his idea the driver who wins most races should be champion was finally approved.

“Everything is fine, I’m good, not too poor,” he  said, brushing his familiar Mick Jagger-style grey hair back into place.

Slavica pushed through an uncontested divorce last week on the grounds of unreasonable behavior, something a few F1 teams might try to claim this week.  “You are 79,” I said.

“Seventy-eight,” he added, immediately  “I hope to be 79. A lot of people hope I don’t. More ...

Winner of Aus GP will be accused of cheating  There has been a lot said in recent weeks about the legality of several teams’ 2009 contenders with certain team bosses still concerned despite the sport’s governing body, the FIA, declaring them legal. It appears as if the rules have been interpreted differently by different teams with each believing their diffusers are the right way to go.

The teams in questions, Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams, have all shown impressive times in testing, something that has made rival teams sit up and take notice. However, according to FOM chief, Bernie Ecclestone the situation won’t be resolved until after the season opening Australian Grand Prix next weekend….

"I guarantee whoever wins the races in Melbourne will be told they are cheating, and it doesn't matter who it is," Ecclestone told Autosport. "In this case it seems two teams, maybe three, certainly Toyota and Brawn, have interpreted the regulations in a different way to the other teams. The FIA at the moment says that interpretation is correct, but possibly some other teams will put in a protest before Melbourne. It won't affect racing but will be looked at after."

Budweiser to leave NASCAR?  Now comes word that one of NASCAR’s longest running sponsors and one many fans consider synonymous with the sport is pulling out. Budweiser had already dropped their official status in 2008 after 9 years. Anheuser-Busch was also a longtime sponsor of the sports most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Junior having sponsored the driver from his debut in 1999 until his defection to Hendrick Motorsports in 2008. It was in 2008 that Bud moved their sponsorship to Gillett-Evernham Motorsports and driver #9-Kasey Kahne [supposedly thru 2010].  More ...
McLaren team was sandbagging after all  Heikki Kovalainen's McLaren topped the time charts during a quiet day of testing at Jerez on Wednesday.

With Renault and Brawn GP wrapping up their testing schedules on Tuesday, only McLaren and Williams remained out on the track for the fourth day of testing.

The Woking-based outfit showed considerably more speed than in previous days, with Kovalainen clocking a fastest time of 1:18.202 during his 79-lap run.

The Finn's time was the third-fastest of the week, with only Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg recording quicker times, proving beyond a doubt that the McLaren team has been sandbagging and indeed their new car is plenty quick.

Bernie to stop bankrupting race promoters?  
Bernie Ecclestone’s FOM deals with race promoters has bankrupted most of them, requiring them to seek government subsidies
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone has not ruled out lowering the fees charged to grand prix hosts amid the global financial crisis.

It has been suggested that the races themselves, obviously a major source of income for the Formula One Group, will be hit hard by the recession, with many promoters struggling to make ends meet even before the global turmoil struck.

It is reported that organizers of the Australian grand prix, already controversial due to the losses absorbed by the local Victorian state government, currently pays $47m (24m euros) per F1 race.

Australian journalists late on Wednesday asked the F1 chief executive by telephone if the contract may be renegotiated in light of the new circumstances.

"We will have to have a look.  It's a bit early days at the moment.  We haven't even started the series yet, so let's wait and see," the 78-year-old billionaire said.

Bankruptcy would be the end of GM  General Motors Chief Executive Rick Wagoner says the automaker would end up being liquidated if it enters Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Wagoner says restructuring out of court would accomplish 99 percent of what could be achieved in bankruptcy. But he says it wouldn't have the risk of scaring away customers or the huge expense of Chapter 11.

Wagoner made the statements Tuesday at a breakfast in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. General Motors Corp. has received $13.4 billion in federal loans and is seeking another $16.6 billion. The company faces a March 31 deadline to finish its viability plan and show the government it's worthy of the money. AP

Gauteng still musing grand prix bid  (GMM)  The South African province Gauteng's new long-term sponsorship deal with BMW-Sauber does not mean the country is definitely set to return to the grand prix calendar.

However, the Gauteng Motor Sport Company (GMSC), established by the provincial government, is currently evaluating the possibility of a race, sport operation head Seipati Mangadi admitted on Tuesday.

"We have enlisted the services of an independent analyst to perform an economic-impact study on what such an event will bring to the province, and then we will make a decision," he said.

Before Christmas, the GMSC announced it was looking into organizing a grand prix near Gauteng's capital Johannesburg.

FIA to make more F1 cuts  Formula One's governing body is due to present a further round of cost-cutting measures today and vote on whether to change the scoring system for this year's championship.

With the global credit crunch worsening, the International Automobile Federation announced last month it was preparing to submit 'radical proposals' for 2010 to the world motor sport council meeting in Paris.

The governing body said the proposals aimed to enable an independent team to compete for a fraction of existing budgets and still field cars that can match those of the manufacturer teams.

While no details have been given, they are likely to involve more standardization of parts and the possible imposition of a budget cap on top of significant steps already taken. More ...

No German GP after 2009  UPDATE #2 (GMM)  The future of the German grand prix at Hockenheim will be decided definitively next week.

Authorities have scheduled a meeting on March 25, next Wednesday, to determine whether or not they should organize a race at the circuit in 2010, the German news agency SID reports.

Recent editions of the race, alternated annually on the F1 calendar with the Nurburgring, have attracted multi-million euro losses, which the local promoters are no longer able to sustain.

"On March 25 we will evaluate the explanations and make a decision about whether we continue with formula one in Hockenheim," town mayor Dieter Gummer said. More ...

Hunter-Reay to HVM?  UPDATE #2 Ryan Hunter-Reay will participate in the Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park with HVM Racing, sharing the seat of the No. 13 car with E.J. Viso. Hunter-Reay, the 2007 Bombardier Learjet Rookie of the Year, won one race last season en route to an eighth-place finish in the IndyCar Series championship. IRL PR

03/13/09 Our rumor from February 4th is now upgraded to 'strong' after the report from Robin Miller on his live chat today that HVM will test Ryan Hunter-Reay next weekend at Birmingham's Barber Motorsports Park.

02/04/09 With NHLR rumored to be signing Robert Doornbos (and Duno) what happens to the seat that Doornbos was originally rumored to be taking at HVM?  Well Ryan Hunter-Reay has been spotted at their shop so maybe there is something brewing on that front, and of course Rahal Letterman Racing also has Hunter-Reay on their short list if sponsorship can be found.
Super GP to announce title sponsor  The IRL's loss is A1GP's gain, as word is that the SuperGP in Surfers Paradise, Australia has signed a new three-year naming rights partnership which will be formally announced by a representative from the Naming Rights company and SuperGP Chairman Terry Mackenroth this Wednesday.

The 2009 SuperGP, October 22-25, will be one of the first rounds of the 2009/10 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport and Round 11 of the V8 Supercars Championship Series.

Tony Stewart sponsor encourage lying to customers?  Rumor has it that some Office Depot sales managers have been encouraging their employees to lie to customers, Laptop's blog revealed in an investigative report Tuesday.

According to a number of the Web site's readers, who also claim to work for Office Depot, the practice of lying in regards to laptop availability is a common occurrence at the company due to strict corporate sales quotas. One reader named Rich, who Laptop confirmed to be an Office Depot employee, told the blog, "I have witnessed lying about the availability of a notebook, and have been told to do so myself."

Apparently, Office Depot corporate policy dictates that "attachments" (including warranties and other computer services) must comprise 30-percent of a store's sales. If that quota is not met, a manager faces retribution from his or her boss. Accordingly, if potential laptop buyers express no interest in those additional services, some managers are telling their employees to lie, claiming that available computers are no longer in stock.

It is important to note that this practice is by no means ubiquitous within the company's stores, and that Office Depot, itself, does not explicitly endorse lying. But, that being said, it seems to us that these managers' unethical decisions are reactions to the corporate office's unrealistic expectations. Let's just be glad that there are folks like Rich, and other ethical Office Depot employees, proving that "honest salesman" is not an oxymoron. We can only hope that the same is true of some folks at AT&T and Radio Shack. Laptop Mag

Are McLaren and Brawn showing their real hand?  Last week's four-day test in Barcelona presented us with more questions than answers, as the start of the 2009 Formula One season draws ever nearer. With just two weeks to go, the respective performances of McLaren-Mercedes and Brawn GP have thrown betting odds into disarray, as Formula One pundits strain to understand the contrasting pace of the two sides.

Beginning with McLaren, the team had a torrid time last week in Barcelona, with Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton spending much of the test at the bottom of the timesheets. Although the problems were only beginning to show at the Jerez test a fortnight ago, the continuing improvements of the teams around them highlighted their shortcomings in Barcelona. With all ten teams present, McLaren had to wait until the final day of the test before World Champion Lewis Hamilton was able to lift them from being the slowest team, to eighth-fastest, ahead of Toro Rosso and Force India, both teams having only debuted their cars recently. More ...

Are several teams out after Bristol?  After Bristol, this year's points standings will be used to determine who's in the top 35 and have a guaranteed a starting spot. Several teams have been trying to establish themselves, hoping sponsors would notice and help them keep going. But that's not happening. Unless something materializes, several teams will run out of road after Bristol and more people will lose their jobs. People who've been around racing their whole lives tell me they've never seen things as bad as they are now. Charlotte Observer
McLaren team in emergency talks  The McLaren team held a crisis meeting at their base in Woking yesterday, it is rumored. Lewis Hamilton joined the meeting after returning from the Barcelona test to join teammate Heikki Kovalainen, Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh and senior members of the team's technical crew.

Having introduced a new scheduled aerodynamic update for this week's Barcelona test - featuring modifications to the car's floor - the MP4-24 was significantly off the pace for both drivers, with Hamilton's final time of Thursday almost two full seconds slower than the fastest from Rubens Barrichello's Brawn entry.

Despite one more four-day test still to come in Jerez next week, Whitmarsh was pessimistic when describing the car's on-track displays so far: "I don't think we have done a good enough job, there is no point hiding from that face - we just have to get our heads down and work hard to fix it. We will rectify the problem as quickly as we can, even though that might not be as quickly as we would like," he is quoted as saying by The Guardian.

Tony George gets a side job?  
Someone sent us this photo and wanted to know if IRL and Indy Motor Speedway President Tony George was now selling real estate as a side job to raise money for his IndyCar team.  His team lacks sponsorship so maybe Tony thought he would tackle the booming real estate market and make a killing!

Any guesses how long it will be before some irate Champ Car fans slaps a Champ Car sticker on it?
Possible witnesses in Castroneves trial  Here are some rumored noteworthy witnesses for the Helio Castroneves Tax Evasion case from the Is It May website:

Kevin Savoree - Part-owner of Andretti-Green Racing.  USA/HK/AM
Peter Yanowitch - Attorney who also promoted the 2002 & 2003 CART events on the Streets of Miami.  USA
Guido Chipy - He’s a banker.  USA
Larry Albus - Former VP of Hogan Racing.  HK
Andy Borme - Former engineer for Scott Sharp at Kelley Racing, and also a part of Helio’s two 500 wins.  HK
Mark Buoniconti - Former college football player paralyzed in 1985 while playing for the Citadel. HK
Gil de Ferran  HK
Steve Horne  HK
Bruno Junqueira - HK
Tony Kanaan - HK
Juan Pablo Montoya - HK
Dr. Steve Olvey - Former medical director of CART HK
Adrian Fernandez - Former CART/IRL driver and team owner  AM
Jimmie Johnson  AM
Jack Kemp - Former football player, US Representative, and Vice Presidential candidate.  AM
Ric Moore - Father of the late, great Greg Moore.  Helio got the ride at Penske after Greg’s untimely death at Fontana.  AM
Roger Penske AM

USA - Declared by the prosecutor
HK - Declared by Helio & Katy’s Defense
AM - Declared by Alan Miller’s Defense
Obama bailout not helping auto or housing market  The two industries in the USA hit hardest by the recession are the housing and auto industries.  So what do the mental midgets do in Washington?  They remove the $15,000 tax credit for anyone buying a primary residence in 2009, and replaced it with a watered down version of $8,000 for first time home buyers only.  As a result, despite record low mortgage interest rates, the USA housing market continues to tailspin.

Likewise in the auto industry, the mental midgets in Washington gave a tax credit for car buyers, but in fact most car buyers today lease.  When I asked officials at two big auto retailers, Penske Automotive Group and AutoNation Inc., about leasing, both confirmed the trends. Tight credit, exacerbated by used-car value declines in key market segments, drove the captive finance arms of GM and Chrysler away from leasing in late 2008 and early 2009.

Ford Credit is still leasing, but has put more promotional money behind purchases. Lease offers vary by market, but a Ford Credit spokeswoman said the average monthly payment on a Fusion lease is now $276 -- still higher than a competing monthly rate of $211 for a comparably equipped Nissan Altima.

The mental midgets in Washington would have been better off loaning money to banks that had to be used to grant leases to car buyers at discounted rates.  As such the USA car industry will remain in a downward spiral.

Lipton, executive vice president of Friedman Real Estate Group in Farmington Hills, hit on a sore spot for the Detroit Three automakers. In the slump now pinching car and truck sales in every country, the Detroit brands -- especially General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC -- have been especially hard-hit.

One reason is that leasing has nearly evaporated as an option for shoppers at GM and Chrysler dealers, while Ford Motor Co.'s leasing volume has dropped sharply. Competing foreign brands continue to offer attractive lease rates.

Lipton cited two examples:

• One employee of his looked at a Ford Fusion and a Volkswagen Jetta, similar cars from a purchase-price and fuel-economy standpoint. The Jetta lease was quoted at zero down and $220 a month, while the Fusion was $340 a month, Lipton said, adding, "He had no choice but to lease the Jetta."

• A friend, Lipton said, wanted to lease an SUV. Every comparable American SUV was much more money than the foreign brands. "She just picked up her new Range Rover," Lipton said.

Yes folks, the party that currently runs Washington are indeed mental midgets.  For further proof watch this video of who is to blame for the economic crisis we now face.

track news
Another track bites the dust  According to AR1.com sources historic Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix, Arizona has been sold to a trucking company and will become a storage yard.
Chrysler to pull out of Canada?  A Chrysler executive issued a grim threat to Canadian lawmakers, warning the struggling U.S. automaker may shut down its plants in Canada if it doesn’t get significant labor concessions and government aid.

“Chrysler LLC cannot afford to manufacture products in a jurisdiction that is uncompetitive, relative to other jurisdictions,” President Tom LaSorda told a Parliamentary committee Wednesday night.

Chrysler’s labor costs in Canada work out to about 20 dollars an hour more than automakers such as Toyota and Honda, LaSorda told the committee.

“Currently Chrysler CAW (Canadian Auto Workers) are not competitive,” he said.

The automaker also asked for roughly $2.3 billion dollars from the Canadian and Ontario governments and demanded relief in a tax dispute with Ottawa. The company has about 9,000 employees in Canada.

“Failure to satisfactorily resolve these three factors will place our Canadian manufacturing operations at a significant disadvantage relative to our manufacturing operations in North America and may very well impair our ability to continue to produce,” LaSorda said.

New McLaren a dog?  UPDATE #3 In the ongoing discussion over how fast - or not - the McLaren MP4-24 is, this video shot at the Barcelona test session earlier this week has attracted a lot of attention:

It shows Heikki Kovalainen in the McLaren and Kimi Raikkonen in the Ferrari doing simulated starts together. Although Raikkonen starts behind the McLaren he is well ahead as the two head out of sight.

This has being seized by some on as conclusive proof that McLaren have massive rear grip problems and are going to be annihilated at Melbourne in two weeks’ time.

03/11/09 McLaren must be sandbagging then.  McLaren chairman Ron Dennis has insisted McLaren will be title contenders in 2009, despite an apparent lack of pace in pre-season testing.  World champion Lewis Hamilton and teammate Heikki Kovalainen lagged behind their rivals in testing ahead of the Australian Grand Prix on 29 March.  But Dennis told BBC Sport: "Whatever performance level McLaren have today we will be a competitive racing team.

"That means we will be fighting for the world championship."

"We lost some time," stated Dennis, who stepped down as team principal at the end of February, handing over the reins to Martin Whitmarsh.

"We had a strategy for this year to leave it to the last possible moment to produce our aerodynamic package for the Australian Grand Prix.

"That in itself gave us some production challenges and we have really only started to run the car in the last day with the Australian aero package.

"We ran the 2008 rear wing because it was more relevant in its performance to the wing that we are going to have in Australia. More ...

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