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DATE News (chronologically)
China GP contract extension talks to be 'fierce'  (GMM)  The extension of China's formula one contract beyond 2010 may not be as simple as was recently suggested by Bernie Ecclestone.

The F1 chief executive had been asked in Shanghai about rumors that the race could now drop off the calendar, despite it being a crucial market for carmakers and sponsors.

"The contract is ongoing here.  We renew every five years.  It will go on," said the Briton, blaming poor attendances on the local promoters but insisting that the government is "fully supportive".

Earlier, a government official had warned that an "assessment" of whether China should renew its F1 deal was taking place. More ...

Hendrick renews crew chief contracts  We hear that Rick Hendrick has extended the contracts of crew chiefs #5-Alan Gustafson and #48-Chad Knaus. Gustafson is currently crew chief for the #5 Chevy driven by Mark Martin. The extension likely means Gustafson will be paired with Kasey Kahne when he joins the team. Knaus has guided Jimmie Johnson to the last four NASCAR championships as crew chief of the #48.(Associated Press), no length of contract or terms mentioned.
Pirelli eyes F1  UPDATE This rumor is updated 'strong' today.  Pirelli has definitely joined the race to supply tires to formula one teams next year.

We reported last week that, after a shareholder's meeting of the Italian company, chairman Marco Tronchetti Provera said Pirelli might be interested in entering F1 if certain conditions are met.

He said that if the permitted diameter of F1 tires is increased, and providing the arrangement makes financial sense, Pirelli would "look into this (F1) world with greater attention".

But in the wake of his comments, the F1 teams alliance FOTA met on Wednesday of this week, and Williams' Sam Michael emerged confirming that the bulk of the conversation centered on a choice between Michelin and Avon. More ...

Ferrari guilty of tobacco advertising?  
2010 Ferrari livery - note barcode on car too
According to reports in the Times, the Ferrari Formula One team is coming under scrutiny for subliminal tobacco advertising on their cars and driver overalls in the form of a barcode, the Italian company managing to keep Marlboro advertising worth an estimated billion dollars, by associating the red white and black barcode with the cigarette giant rather than using the actual logo.

Tobacco advertising in sporting events has been banned by the EU for many years now but while many believe that the barcode is a form of branding.....

“The bar code looks like the bottom half of a packet of Marlboro cigarettes. I was stunned when I saw it. This is pushing at the limits. If you look at how the bar code has evolved over the last four years, it looks like creeping branding,” John Britton from the Royal College of Physicians and director of its tobacco advisory group was quoted as saying in the Times of London. More ...

Villeneuve to IndyCar  Totally unconfirmed rumors have former Indy 500 winner, CART champion and F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve in a second Newman Haas car from the Indy 500 onward.  We'll believe it when we see it as Canadian Villeneuve has always thought himself to be too good for CART and IndyCar, as if it would be a step down for him.  Well in fact it certainly beats pulling weeds in his vegetable garden, which is pretty much what he has been doing since being kicked out of F1.  With that said it makes a lot of sense for Villeneuve to race in IndyCar because IndyCar has two races in Canada - Toronto and Edmonton - and the series certainly is on the upswing.

As for Newman Haas, Carl Haas isn’t well, and requires care.  Paul Newman has passed into history. Mike Lanigan is gone. Bernadette (Bernie) is in charge now and has moved front and center.

Overheard at Long Beach Saturday  UPDATE #2 See related rumor about Tony George and the USGP.

04/18/10 As we rumored on Friday that Tony George was in China looking for sponsorship for his Vision Racing team, there has been an interesting sighting in the Shanghai paddock this weekend.  Tony George was CEO of the former US grand prix venue Indianapolis Motor Speedway until he resigned last year.  He is credited with bringing F1 back to America in 200 on a novel road course inside the fabled Indy 500 oval, and until he stepped down was keen to pen a new race promotion deal with Bernie Ecclestone.  We have word that George, 50, met with the F1 chief executive in Shanghai.

(L to R) Kevin Kalkhoven, Paul Tracy and Jimmy Vasser
04/17/10  KV Racing announced today that they will run a 4th car for Paul Tracy in the Indy 500 with backing from Geico Insurance.  As we reported yesterday, look for a May announcement that Honda will back Tracy in the two Canadian races........Even though HVM Racing announced Dutch driver Robert Doornbos for one of their IndyCars in 2010, and Doornbos was even listed in the IndyCar media guide, the ride never materialized, we hear because his backer, Muermans, is some financial and legal issues to deal with.  Doornbos is running in the Superleague for now.  Dutch youngster Junior Strous, who we rumored will be starting in IndyCar later this year with backing from Shell, would have welcomed fellow countryman Doornbos.  "I would have loved to have had him for a teammate.  He drove in F1 and Champ Car and I could have learned a lot from him."............Ex-IndyCar driver Dick Simon, who must be in his 70s now, got his first 2-seat ride today at Long Beach and was very impressed.  "It felt strange not being in control.  These cars have great brakes and the experience is absolutely fantastic for anyone who gets a chance to do it."  The 2-seater was hitting 150 mph on the main straight today.  Stefan Gregoire was Simon's driver and he drove for Simon in IndyCar over 10 years ago.  See Scott Morris' article later on our home page from his experience in the 2-seater today..........Also see my home page article I promised on the controversy over the 3rd spring that some teams are running and that I alluded to yesterday.......Look for Americans Scott Pruett and Paul Gentilozzi to team with Belgian Marc Goossens in the Jaguar GT entry for the 24 Hours of LeMans.....Milka Duno never turned a qualifying lap today.  We hear she voluntarily parked herself because she was too slow.  If she does start tomorrow, look for her to get lapped quickly, get black flagged for being in the way, and park it.  Rumor has it that Dale Coyne may get her in an Indy Lights car this coming off-season so she can get a lot of laps in an open wheel car on a road course.  There is no limit in off-season testing for Lights cars........There was another very large crowd here today in Long Beach, still everyone's favorite venue on the circuit......We hear there will be a big Playboy party during the Indy 500 weekend with over 100 bunnies in attendance.  They won't have to twist our arm to attend that one.......Ryan Hunter-Reay's continued strong performance for the Andretti team (2nd in qualifying today) will hopefully land him a full-time ride.  Right now we hear he is only contracted through the Indy 500, which is a downright travesty given this series needs more Americans capable of winning races....Patron Highcroft driver Simon Pagenaud made a great move on the last lap to beat the Aston Martin of Adrian Fernandez.  Mark C. reporting from Long Beach
NASCAR or F1 racing coming to NJ  UPDATE Tony George has been shipped out of Indianapolis by his family and is no longer involved. However, it seems that he has some control over the rights to the phrase “The United States Grand Prix at…”. This means that he could be involved in any other race wishing to use that name, be it in Alaska or New Mexico. The rights to such an event would normally belong to the national sporting authority – in this case, the Automobile Competition Committee of the United States (ACCUS) – but it seems that these were delegated to the IRL, an ACCUS member, when the race was being run at Indianapolis. It is not clear whether Ecclestone agreed not to have other race names, such as “The Washington Grand Prix” but it is logical that this would be part of such an agreement.

While Bernie Ecclestone is not keen to take F1 back to Indiana, he might be willing to do that to get F1 back into the US, particularly if such an arrangement led to a race being established elsewhere. The Hulman-George Family is not going to be wanting to spend more that Tony George was spending, so unless Ecclestone bring down his price the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is not really an option, unless someone else is willing to make up the difference between what Bernie wants and what the Speedway is willing to offer. And even if that happens the Speedway will always be in Indiana and the F1 corporate types will still not want to go there… Thus the recent visit to Shanghai of Tony George must be about more than simply another race at Indianapolis. More ...

Penske says Hornish will be back in 2011  
Sam Hornish
Penske Racing owner Roger Penske said he plans to have Sam Hornish Jr. return to the organization's Sprint Cup stable in 2011. A three-time Indy Racing League champion, Hornish is in his third full season in the series and the last year of his contract. To re-sign Hornish, Penske would need to find a sponsor. Mobil, which sponsors Hornish, is looking for another team to sponsor after Penske signed a deal with Shell/Pennzoil to sponsor driver Kurt Busch. "Our plan is to run three cars next year and Sam is in that program," Penske said. "We're planning on it. & Sam has been with us, he won the Indy 500 with us, he came over here, he's endured and he's run better than his points position."  SceneDaily
Stefan GP considering a dozen drivers  Serbian hopefuls Stefan GP have declared that, having failed to secure a place on this year's starting grid following the non-attendance of US F1, they now hope to make a debut in 2011 and have a list of 12 potential drivers with whom to do so.  With US F1 having prevented other teams from entering Formula 1 this year, the last-minute pull-out of the Charlotte-based outfit forced sporting governing body the FIA with no option but to prevent the likes of Stefan from making a debut, not least because no contract has been agreed for a Bridgestone tire supply.

However, the Zoran Stefanovic-owned squad - which purchased 2009 Toyota cars, engines and gearboxes with a hope of joining the 2010 grid - has now announced that (like Epsilon Euskadi and GP2 outfit Durango) it is submitting an entry bid for the 13th and final grid slot, with the following drivers as candidates: More ...

DIS to pursue IndyCar race  
Why is Daytona International Speedway paving the 2.5-mile tri-oval?

After a 32-year run, the racing surface needs a facelift. The Speedway can't afford another pothole incident like the one that happened in the Daytona 500, NASCAR's premier event. Not only was it frustrating for fans but it was embarrassing to the parent company, International Speedway Corp.

Engineers work on the initial paving of Daytona International Speedway in 1958 Daytona International Speedway is repaved for the first and only time in 1978. The track will be repaved again in 2010. Layers in the 2010 repaving of the Daytona International Speedway
Daytona International Speedway Daytona International Speedway Daytona International Speedway

When does the work start?

The massive construction project will begin on July 4, the day after the Coke Zero 400. Speedway president Robin Braig said the current track surface has been analyzed, studied and fortified so the pothole problem won't occur during Summer Speed Week.

"There's only one window for us weather-wise and schedule-wise, and that's the July-to-January window," Braig said. "We are really confident the present track surface has many more races in it and fans should not be concerned about the 400." More ...

Hakkinen to return to F1 return 'as a manager'  (GMM)  Mika Hakkinen is considering a full-time return to premier motor racing -- as a driver manager.

Whilst backing his former title rival Michael Schumacher to return to top form and win a race on his 2010 comeback, the similarly 41-year-old Hakkinen also admits he still feels the lure of the sport.

"I miss racing every day.  It's very close to my heart," said the double world champion, who raced in DTM between 2005 and 2007 after retiring from F1 at the end of 2001.

The Finn told Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper: "I'll be back but I don't know when or where.  I just know that I will do it again.

"Perhaps I will come back to F1 as a manager," added Hakkinen.

Indeed, he is also part of his own manager Didier Coton's Aces Group company, and has been linked with Lewis Hamilton in the wake of the McLaren driver's professional split with his father Anthony.

F1 teams close to agreeing new 2013 engine formula  (GMM)  F1 teams are close to agreeing upon a new engine formula for the six-year period beginning in 2013.

Until then, development of the current 2.4 liter V8s will remain 'frozen', to be replaced thereafter by similarly powerful engines that use less fuel, emit less pollution and are affordable for the small teams.

Spain's El Mundo Deportivo newspaper said an in-principle agreement has been reached for a four cylinder, 1.5 liter engine equipped with a twin-turbo and direct injection.

The new formula would reportedly also involve KERS.

"If F1 has to develop something helpful for real (road) driving conditions, then the best solution is for an engine that is turbocharged and GDI (gasoline direct injection," Ferrari CEO Amedeo Felisa told Autocar magazine at the Beijing Motor Show. More ...

Hendrick to snatch Budweiser, Martin to start team  Hendrick Motorsports general manager Marshall Carlson has talked with Anheuser Busch officials about the possibility of Budweiser becoming a team sponsor after this season, team owner Rick Hendrick said Sunday. Budweiser is looking for a new partner after its contract expires with #9-Kasey Kahne and Richard Petty Motorsports after this season. Kahne, who recently signed a contract with HMS to replace Mark Martin in the #5 in 2012 and a car to be determined in 2011, has said he would like to continue his relationship with Budweiser if possible. There were reports that HMS could not bring in Budweiser because of the team's relationship with longtime sponsor Pepsi, but Hendrick said that "depends on which car it's on." "In our deals we have rights of first refusal," Hendrick said. "We've got to go through that, but we're talking to anybody." Hendrick would be willing to supply Martin with engines and chassis if Martin decides to go into ownership. Martin recently said he would consider becoming an owner if he could find a deal like the one Tony Stewart got with Gene Haas. "I'd be open to anything Mark wants to do," Hendrick said. "He talked about a long time ago about wanting to own a truck team. I never heard him say anything about a car until now." ESPN.com
Weather to impact Talladega weekend  UPDATE This rumor is now fact -see Home page.

04/24/10 Several lines of thunderstorms are expected to start rolling through Central Alabama on Friday night and continue Saturday with heavy rain, flash flooding, lightning, hail and tornadoes possible.

If the rain washes out Sprint Cup qualifying, the lineup for Sunday's race would be set by owner's points, which would give the pole to points leader Jimmie Johnson.

But the rain may also wash out the Aaron's 312 Nationwide Series race, which is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. Saturday.

If that happens, it is likely the Nationwide race will have to be postponed until Monday. The Sprint Cup race on Sunday cannot be moved from its advertised start time and there would not be enough daylight following the Cup race to squeeze in the Nationwide race. Talladega does not have lights so a night race is not an option.

USGP in NYC  UPDATE #3 (GMM)  Tony George is interested in taking formula one back to the United States.

We reported last weekend that the 50-year-old former boss of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was spotted in Shanghai for the Chinese grand prix.

George met with F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone and also Zak Brown, founder and CEO of motor sport marketing firm Just Marketing who represents several high level sponsors according to the Indianapolis Business Journal (IBJ).

"Would Tony George love to broker a deal to bring back a US grand prix?  Sure," said Brown. More ...

Is Hornish on his way out?  Though Penske holds an option on his contract for 2011 and has said it wants to keep the driver, Sam Hornish said before practice Friday at Talladega Superspeedway that he has thought about the alternative.

"People say how long do you sit here and hope that they get what they need around it," he said. "They've been good to me, and I'll sit here as long as they want to, but you also have to think about what are your other options, too. Because you can't sit on your hands and hope that everything does work out. If it doesn't, you haven't made the first step forward."

Such is the predicament that Hornish finds himself after the Sprint Cup sponsorship dominoes fell this week and resulted in good news for his Penske Racing teammates. More ...

Lanigan out at Newman Haas  UPDATE If you look at the Newman-Haas Official Web Site ... the logo is changed and Mike Lanigan's bio has been removed.

04/23/10 Newman/Haas Racing has changed their Twitter and Facebook names to Newman/Haas Racing.  They were Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing before.  An oversight or is Mike Lanigan out after rumors he and Carl Haas' wife did not get along?
Now Luca Filippi linked with de la Rosa's seat  (GMM)  Speculation doubting the future of Pedro de la Rosa's race seat at Sauber continues.

It was rumored last week that, with Peter Sauber admittedly disappointed with the time it is taking the former McLaren tester to reacclimatize to racing, Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado - and his sponsors - could be drafted in to replace him.

Now, France's Auto Hebdo said Luca Filippi is another possible replacement for 39-year-old de la Rosa, who had been signed to lead the development of the disappointing C29 car.

Italian Filippi, 24, is an experienced GP2 driver who has also had tests with the F1 teams Minardi, Honda and Super Aguri. More ...

Ferrari may ask for engine tweak permission  (GMM) Ferrari may ask the FIA for permission to make changes to its formula one engine on the grounds of reliability.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport magazine on Thursday said the Italian team's recent engine problems - including two failures for Fernando Alonso - have been identified.

Reportedly, the problem - which could cost Alonso grid places later this season if he runs through his allocation of eight engines - is with the pneumatic valves.

The report said too much air is escaping from the engine during the races, and because of the new regulations there is not enough time during the single pitstop to replenish the 2.4 liter V8s.

Auto Motor und Sport said that if Ferrari can prove to the FIA that the engine is suffering a general reliability flaw, it may be granted a temporary exemption from the 'freeze' on engine development.

The engines already used by Alonso and his teammate Felipe Massa, however, may not be altered.

Keselowski to #2, Bud to RCR?  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  The tradition of great drivers in Penske Racing's #2 Miller Lite Dodge will continue as Brad Keselowski takes the wheel of the Blue Deuce beginning in 2011. The 26-year-old Keselowski is currently in his first full year on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, driving the #12 Penske Dodge. "Brad is one of the hottest young drivers in NASCAR and we're thrilled to welcome him to the Miller Lite Racing family," said Andy England, chief marketing officer at MillerCoors. "Rarely in this sport are you presented with the opportunity to build a relationship with a top-tier driver at the start of his career. We look forward to 'tasting greatness' with Brad and Penske Racing in the years ahead."

"We're extremely proud of our long-standing partnership with MillerCoors and are excited to extend this successful relationship," said Roger Penske. "Brad is a tremendous talent with a bright future and I look forward to watching him continue the great tradition of the Blue Deuce." For Keselowski, a third-generation driver, the move to the Miller Lite Dodge is a milestone moment. "To follow champions like Rusty Wallace and Kurt Busch in the legendary Blue Deuce is a dream come true," Keselowski said. "The Miller Lite Racing team is accustomed to winning on and off the track, and I can't wait to do my part to build on that tradition."

"Kurt is a champion, a great driver and has been an enthusiastic ambassador for Miller Lite over the past four years," England said. "We want to thank him for that, and we look forward to chasing the 2010 Sprint Cup championship with Kurt and the whole team at Penske Racing." Tom Roberts PR

Kurt Busch
Kurt Busch has signed a multiyear extension with Penske Racing that includes moving from the #2 car with Miller Lite as his primary sponsor into the #22 with Shell/Pennzoil as the sponsor, team officials said on Wednesday. Brad Keselowski will move from Penske's #12 car into the #2, with Miller Lite, which has been with the organization for 20 years, remaining the sponsor for the #2. Keselowski currently is sponsored by Verizon, but because of NASCAR's exclusivity deal with Cup series sponsor Sprint, Verizon's brand logo is not allowed on the car. "Brad is one of the hottest young drivers in NASCAR and we're thrilled to welcome him to the Miller Lite Racing family," said Andy England, chief marketing officer at MillerCoors. "Rarely in this sport are you presented with the opportunity to build a relationship with a top-tier driver at the start of his career."
The addition of Shell/Pennzoil means that Mobil 1, a competing motor oil that sponsors Penske's #77-Sam Hornish Jr., will not return in 2011. But Jonathon Gibson, the vice president of Penske Racing, said Penske is committed to remaining a three-car operation with Hornish in the third car. "We'll be prepared to announce a new sponsorship deal for that car in the next few weeks or months," Gibson said. "We're very excited. For us to have the opportunity to bring in a great brand like Shell and extend our relationship with Miller puts us in a place where we can build for the future."
Kevin Harvick, in the last year of his contract with Richard Childress Racing, is without a sponsor. Harvick is negotiating with RCR to find a new sponsor and stay with the company, according to a source. Harvick has been with RCR since he succeeded the late Dale Earnhardt in 2001. A source said discussions between RCR and Budweiser, in its last season with Richard Petty Motorsports' #9-Kasey Kahne, have taken place. Kahne signed last week a deal with Hendrick Motorsports to replace Mark Martin in 2012 and drive a car to be determined by team owner Rick Hendrick in 2011.ESPN.com
Serbia planning F1 circuit near Pazova  Pazova, a small town near Belgrade, Serbia is targeted to be the ground of a new Formula One circuit. There are plans to create a 3550 meter long track that is up to standards for F1 and MotoGP races in the future.

The project is targeted at the end of the road Stara Pazova - Golubinci, an area where hectares of land are available for a new circuit.

"There are various advantages to this location, including the possibility of quickly obtaining all necessary building permits under the jurisdiction of local government" , promises Goran Jovic, president municipalities. He is confident that the works could start soon.

He continued that "such a sports facility would mean a lot for the promotion of Serbian municipalities and Stara Pazova, not only in Europe but also in the world". Although Jovic could not confirm how much the project would cost, rough estimates suggest that the media is a minimum digits of 200-250 million Euros.

The track is planned to have ancillary facilities and would allow 20,000 spectators during events.

"In addition to the circuit, what is most important for us are the surrounding towns and many other facilities within the Technology Park. Since the investor in Serbia intends to test the products and parts, as well as a complete racing cars, it means the employment that was so necessary " , reveals Jovic.

That investor is said to be Stefan GP, the company that tried to enter F1 in 2010 but failed to make a big impression to the FIA by its dubious financial state. Reportedly, the company is ready to invest 20 million euro into the project, but it remains to be seen how they will get that together.

"I understand that the arrival of Formula 1 in Serbia at the moment seems unrealistic. Nothing can be done quickly and at night. However, when we built the course by the standards of Formula 1, then there will be a chance to win the race. Of course, this does not depend on either the municipality or from Stara Pazova AMCO Corporation, but from the state, which will have to be involved in this project ", concluded Jovic.

More news and an official announcements is expected to be released on Thursday. F1Technical.net

Shell/Pennzoil loss will be blow to RCR  UPDATE Shell Oil Co. confirmed Wednesday morning that it will leave Richard Childress Racing and move to Penske Racing next season. See Hot News page for announcement.

The following is a statement from Richard Childress, president and chief executive officer of Richard Childress Racing, regarding the announcement by Shell Oil Company that it will end its sponsorship of the No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet at the conclusion of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season:

“Shell and Pennzoil have been great partners with Richard Childress Racing since our first race together, when Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 team won the Daytona 500 in 2007. I’m disappointed that our partnership will conclude at the end of the year but understand some of the reasons that went into their business decision. RCR will continue to provide Shell-Pennzoil the highest caliber program possible, keeping in sharp focus the ultimate goal of winning the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. What this creates for RCR is the opportunity for a new partner to forge its own relationship and identity with Kevin Harvick and the championship-level team led by crew chief Gil Martin, our other race teams and drivers, and our other 35 partners. The No. 29 team has had only two primary sponsors since it began in 2001 but the number 3 has played a significant role at RCR for decades. We feel strongly that the third chapter of the No. 29 team’s partnership history will be a successful one.” More ...
Budweiser to Michael Waltrip Racing?  Michael Waltrip Racing's Ty Norris was entertaining representatives from Budweiser this weekend at Texas. Norris has a history with Budweiser dating back to his Dale Earnhardt Inc. days when Budweiser was sponsoring the #8 Chevy. With Kasey Kahne parting ways with Richard Petty Motorsports at the end of the season, it's likely that Budweiser will be entertaining offers.FoxSports
Rossi still hinting at F1 switch  Despite deciding against the move several years ago, and dismissing subsequent speculation, Valentino Rossi has now admitted moving to formula one with Ferrari "could happen" in 2011.

That is when the flamboyant multiple MotoGP champion's Yamaha contract will be expired.

"Yes, I am quite happy to talk about it," Rossi, 30, told the Daily Star Sunday while in Laguna Sea for the US MotoGP round.

"It could happen in 2011," he added. "Why not?"

It is believed the current rumors are related to Ferrari's considerations about perhaps running three cars in formula one in the near future.

Hildebrand to sign IndyCar deal  UPDATE Rumor has it that Gary Peterson bought one of Tony George's IndyCars, and we hear he was intending on running JR in a 6th Andretti car at Indy but the deal was not quite done yet.

04/20/10 JR Hildebrand noted on his twitter page that he is "hoping have IndyCar news quite soon".... Speculation is that it could be with Team 3G, though he does have a relationship with the Andretti team when he drove for them in Indy Lights.
Iceland ash could leave Virgin driver short on fuel  (GMM) While F1 personnel devise imaginative routes back to Europe, the harshest impact of the volcanic ash lingering above Europe could fall on Virgin.

With FIA clearance, the new British team has been busily designing a new chassis to accommodate a fuel tank big enough to take its cars to the end of races.

The package, at an estimated development cost of 1 million pounds sterling, was due to debut in Barcelona in three weeks.

But F1's hundreds of kilos of freight - including the two race cars driven by Lucas di Grassi and Timo Glock in Shanghai - are currently holed up at Shanghai airport while the six 747 jets are stranded back in Europe.

It means the Virgin cars, including a third spare monocoque, might not be returned to the Yorkshire base in time - or at all before being shipped to Barcelona - so they can be modified for the new chassis package. More ...
MotoGP race to be postponed due to volcano  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today - the Grand Prix of Japan scheduled to take place this weekend - has been postponed due to the continuing disruption to flights in Europe caused by the well-publicized volcanic eruption in Iceland. MotoGP series organizers made the decision as it became clear that it would impossible for personnel and equipment to arrive in Japan on time as the volcanic ash clouds cause widespread flight cancellations across Europe.

04/18/10 Next weekend's Motegi MotoGP race is to be postponed due to the air travel crisis in Europe preventing team personnel and equipment from reaching Japan.  Autosport.com  rumors that MotoGP organizer Dorna will announce on Monday that the Japanese Grand Prix will be rescheduled for 1-3 October, just before the Malaysian and Australian GPs. The volcanic eruption at Eyjafjallajoekull in Iceland has closed airspace across much of Europe, leading to huge problems for teams trying to travel around the world for motorsport events.
Danica to Stewart team in 2012?  Rumor has it that Hendrick Motorsports will send Kasey Kahne to Stewart Haas next year with the Bud sponsorship, but in 2012 Kahne will leave Stewart Haas to drive the #5 car with the Bud sponsorship and Hendrick will move the Go Daddy Sponsorship and Danica Patrick to Stewart Haas in her move up to the Sprint Cup series.  What we still do not know is whether it will be a part-time IndyCar and part-time NASCAR deal, or a full-time move to NASCAR.  Still IndyCar's most popular driver even though on road and street courses she is out to lunch, the loss of Patrick would certainly be a blow to the IRL.
Childress in talks with Harvick and Kahne  Richard Childress is still in talks with Kevin Harvick in hopes of keeping him with Richard Childress Racing in 2011. Childress doesn't expect his 2011 driver lineup to include Kasey Kahne. Rick Hendrick has signed Kahne for 2011 but must find him a ride in a Chevrolet for one season before Kahne takes over the Hendrick Motorsports #5 car in 2012. Aside from #2-Kurt Busch, who is expected to re-sign with Penske Racing, Harvick is the most accomplished free agent driver available for next year as the 10-year veteran has 11 career victories. "Kevin and I are working hard together to stay together," Childress said Sunday prior to the Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. "Our plan right now is to stay together and our plan right now is to be together. Anything can change, but right now we're planning on racing together. We've been talking. We haven't signed nothing yet. But we're definitely talking in the right direction for him to be a big part of RCR and keeping Kevin Harvick Inc. all together." Sponsor Shell/Pennzoil also is up for renewal. "They're doing their [request for proposals] and we'll see where that comes out," Childress said. As far as whether he could expand his operation back to four teams, Childress said the key is managing growth and that the organization would need to make sure it is ready for a four-car team. He doesn't anticipate signing Kahne to fill any open ride. SceneDaily
Overheard at Long Beach Sunday  In case you missed it, ex-Champ Car PR boss Steve Shunck has taken a similar role with the Indy Racing league as PR VP of Operations.........We hear that things are looking pretty good for the Baltimore Grand Prix street race to be added to the schedule in 2011, but we hear streets have to be widened, which is making the costs higher than your average street circuit.  We spotted officials from the City of Baltimore watching and learning here at Long Beach.......Milka Duno was still off the pace 7.5s in morning IndyCar warm-ups but the IRL is still going to allow her to start the race........We hear some folks referring to the new IndyCar as the Car of the Future which is analogous to NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow.  Let's hope it turns out better than NASCAR's attempt at a new car.  As for some team owners suggesting putting the new engine in the existing car that makes no sense as we previously stated.  Why waste money on a retrofit kit for the existing car to hold it over when you might end up with less than the optimum engine for the chassis chosen.  Better for the IRL to either wait another year or two for the entire new package when the teams are on better financial footing, or to include in the Request For Proposal that goes out to the chassis manufacturers to include the option for a team to either buy the new car outright, or a lease option for the teams that cannot afford it to buy the new car right now.  That would require the manufacturers to team with a bank or leasing company as part of their proposal.......We chatted with HPD's Erik Berkman on the status of the new IndyCar engine.  He told us that he's waiting on the June 1st deadline for the IRL to announce their new engine proposal.  As we all know Honda has proposed a V6 to the IRL and it sounds like HPD has already gone to the 20% design level.  "If they decide to go in a different direction and we still choose to participate then of course we will have to start over again," said Berkman.  "And then I am not sure we can be ready for 2012.  I think perhaps the IRL will want some time between when they announce the new engine specifications and when the chassis proposal is due because they probably want the chassis designers to know what the engine specification will be."......We spoke to another team owner, Eric Bachelart, about the third spring controversy and he is very upset.  "It simply is not right," said Bachelart.  "It increases the gap between the big teams and the small teams who do not have the resources to develop the third spring using the anti-roll bar.  This is something that increases costs and does not do anything for the fans.  After we design it then we have to go and test it  I also cannot believe that a team was allowed to have it when the other did not.  There needs to be more transparency from the rules makers in this league."......As we alluded to yesterday, some teams will test in Kansas later this week (starting Wednesday we think) and we hear there will be a rookie test on Friday for both Conquest Racing drivers (Baguette and Romancini) de Silvestro, etc........We caught up with Graham Rahal regarding the rumor earlier this weekend when we said we heard the Newman Haas Lanigan deal may have fallen apart for Rahal and he pretty much confirmed it did.  He did not rule out our other rumor that Rahal could possibly drive for the Rahal Letterman team.  "I have not reached out to dad for help yet because I am trying to make it on my own, but he still has cars so anything is possible.  This is my last race for Sarah Fisher's team and right now I have nothing for Kansas or even Indy and beyond."  Mark C. reporting from Long Beach
Will HRT sign another tester alongside Yamamoto?  (GMM)  Sakon Yamamoto could get his first outing as HRT's new Friday driver in Barcelona next month.

The former Super Aguri and Spyker driver has been signed by the Spanish team, and is in Shanghai this weekend.

But after Colin Kolles said he wanted to pay an experienced driver to contribute to the development of the F110 car, and gauge the strengths of Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna, it is rumored that HRT might now sign a second test driver.

It is believed Yamamoto comes with significant sponsor funding, and it could be the next driver signed by HRT that does the bulk of the Friday running this season.

The 27-year-old told France's Auto Hebdo: "It is expected that I will drive on Fridays at grands prix.  Surely from Barcelona, but it remains to be confirmed."

Reports - weight making Schu too slow?  
Michael Schumacher
(GMM)  According to the buzz in the German media after qualifying, Michael Schumacher's struggle to keep up with his teammate in 2010 could be due to his weight.

Although believed to be back to his racing weight of 2006, the seven time world champion is reportedly 7 kilograms heavier than Nico Rosberg, despite the 24-year-old being a few centimeters taller than Schumacher.

F1 cars are all the same weight, but heavier drivers have less ballast to strategically position around their single seater.

But Schumacher's former fitness trainer Balbir Singh told Bild newspaper that he does not recommend any further weight loss for the 41-year-old, who is "fully fit". More ...

Porsche Hybrid to run Petit LeMans  
Porsche GT3R Hybrid
We just got word that we should look for the Porsche GT3R hybrid to compete in the Petit LeMans here in the states. The car has exceeded Porsche's expectations by a long shot. The amazing part is that the car is actually faster than the standard GT3 race car...AND...requires one less pitstop every 6 hours (actually a little less in idea conditions) So you could expect this car to really dominate against the typical ALMS GT2 class cars, with perhaps 3 less stops in a 12 hour race and as many as 5 fewer stops in a 24 hour race. This is a huge boost for the image of hybrid technology, and we can't wait to see it run.
Atlantic series was drowning before Johnson took over  There are a number of Atlantic people milling around here in Long Beach, and we heard the series was bleeding money long before Ben Johnson took it over, to the tune of $1.5-$1.8 Million per year. It seems that nobody has entirely given up hope for this great legacy series however. Perhaps that is just denial, or maybe there is something to it. We hope the series can manage a revival and continue its tradition in open wheel racing.
Overheard at Long Beach Friday - 2  Randy Bernard hasn't seen the Indianapolis 500 in person, but he knows the impact it has on promoting the IndyCar Series — and he wants more of it.

Hinting at possible "major" changes in the open-wheel circuit, the new Indy Racing League CEO said on Friday an announcement will be made in the next two weeks to create excitement outside of the IRL's premier event.

"You have the Indianapolis 500, then you have a bunch of vanilla events," Bernard said at the Grand Prix of Long Beach. "Not to take away from this great event here, but it's not a national event, which we need to have two or three majors that stand apart and make them big, big events. I think what we're working on might help with that."

When IndyCar was run by USAC they had the triple crown 500-mile at Indy, Pocono and Ontario. Only the Indianapolis 500 is still around.  When CART took over IndyCar they tried the triple crown races at Indy, Michigan and Fontana.

The IRL could take two or three events outside of Indy, make them 500 miles or offer big purses and dub them majors, but the more likely scenario would be to create a playoff-type system similar to NASCAR.

"It's not the end of all means," Bernard said of the changes. "I don't want to create too much excitement in something that's going to change the series. I think we want to set ourselves up for the future on how we can determine and build stars as well as major events."

He also told AR1.com that a race on the Indy road course would not be out of the question and that certainly would be a very big event, second only to the Indy 500.

Now Renault working on F-duct for 2010 car  (GMM) Renault has changed its mind about not developing an F-duct system for its R30 car.

Team boss Eric Boullier said recently that despite several teams moving to emulate McLaren's rear-wing stalling innovation, Renault preferred to concentrate in other areas of development.

But in Shanghai, with two long straights, the F-duct is proving a significant straight-line advantage, and Sauber, Ferrari, Williams and Mercedes have also been running similar systems in China. More ...
Williams set to debut F-duct on Saturday  (GMM) It is believed Williams' new F-duct system will be up and running for the first time in Saturday morning practice.

The British team is understood to have wanted to debut the McLaren-like system on Friday in Shanghai, but some new parts for the FW32 car were held up in Chinese customs.

An official Williams source, not confirming that the F-duct pieces were among them, confirmed that some new parts that were delayed arrived at the track late on Friday.

Also missing in the Shanghai pitlane on Friday was the team's technical director Sam Michael, who had trouble obtaining a visa.

It is believed he will be trackside on Saturday.
Ferrari, Williams, Mercedes to use F-duct in China  (GMM)  Sauber, Ferrari, Williams and Mercedes are tipped to all be running a McLaren-style 'F-duct' system during Friday practice in Shanghai.

"Our plan is to have it on the car from Friday to Sunday," Sauber's Pedro de la Rosa confirmed.

China's F1 layout features a very long straight, and Ferrari's Felipe Massa said in the build-up to the event that he thinks the downforce-stalling system will be a significant benefit this weekend.

Williams sources hinted on Thursday that a "rear wing upgrade" is one of the developments on the FW32 car in China. More ...

Ferrari to extend Massa contract into 2013  UPDATE #3 (GMM)  Robert Kubica and Felipe Massa on Thursday played down the rumors about their respective futures.

With Brazilian Massa's Ferrari contract set to expire, it is suggested that Kubica, 25, could be drafted in from Renault to be his friend Fernando Alonso's teammate in 2011 and beyond.

The speculation has gained even more pace given the Pole's impressive start to this season, but he said in China: "I don't think for any seconds or any minutes about next year.

"There were rumors about Ferrari last year, and now there are rumors again this year.  So far, the rumors have only been rumors," added Kubica.

Some sections of the media have touted the possibility of a new three-year contract for 28-year-old Massa, who has been with Ferrari since 2006.

But Italian sources have suggested the Kubica rumors might be true, and when asked about his talks with Ferrari Massa said on Thursday: "I think there's really no rush for the moment.

"Even before my accident last year, some talks started to renew the contract, and those talks have started again.

"I'm really not in a rush to do that.  Improving race by race and fighting for the championship is more on my mind," he added.

04/13/10 (GMM)  Italian media sources have not fully backed reports that Felipe Massa is close to extending his contract with Ferrari for 2011 and beyond.

German and Brazilian reports last week suggested the 28-year-old, whose current contract with the Maranello based team is set to expire, is in talks to stay put for the next three seasons.

Felipe Massa
But according to some well-placed Italian sources, Ferrari is not in such a hurry to finalize its 2011 driver lineup.

Indeed, when asked about the team's 2011 lineup, a Ferrari spokesman told Italy's Sportevai said the topic is "not currently a priority".

The sources also insist that rumors linking Robert Kubica with a move from Renault at the end of 2010 should not yet be dismissed -- at least this early in the current season.

Finland's Turun Sanomat reports that while Kubica apparently signed a multi-season Renault contract late last year, the 24-year-old Pole may be able to switch to Ferrari as early as 2011, depending on various factors. More ...

Kahne to leave Petty team for Hendrick Motorsports  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with this news.

Kasey Kahne
Kasey Kahne has agreed to a contract with Hendrick Motorsports beginning in 2011, sources told SceneDaily.com.

Richard Petty Motorsports, which has Kahne under contract for this season, confirmed that Kahne is leaving the organization.

Exactly whether Kahne will drive for a Hendrick team or for Hendrick affiliate Stewart-Haas Racing is still to be determined. Stewart-Haas, which features drivers Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman, gets chassis and engines from Hendrick. More ...

Are IndyCar's two biggest stars wankers?  UPDATE Hey, Milka Duno didn't finish last Sunday! OK, so she finished next-to-last, but baby steps, right?

In qualifying at Barber Motorsports Park for Sunday's IRL race, Duno was more than three seconds slower than the next slowest car in the field of 26. And believe it or not, that was better than her qualifying effort at St. Petersburg, where she was five seconds slower than the rest of the field. (St. Petersburg was where she spun out during the pace laps.)

A Venezuelan, Duno is sponsored by CITGO, which is owned by the Venezuelan government. After racing for Dreyer and Reinbold last year, Duno is now with Dale Coyne Racing, which also fields a car for Alex Lloyd that is sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America.

In no uncertain terms, Duno is a moving chicane, and holds up traffic at some point every race because she's so far off the pace. And if it wasn't for CITGO, she'd probably need press credentials to be on pit row during qualifying. Simply put, her lack of speed is dangerous. More ...

Pat Symonds set for F1 return as 'consultant'  
Pat Symonds
(GMM)  F1's other banned 'crashgate' conspirator, Pat Symonds, could soon resume a role in the sport.

Following news that the scandal has ended due to a settlement with the FIA, it is already rumored that ousted Renault boss Flavio Briatore could be back in the paddock with a role alongside Bernie Ecclestone in 2013.

But Symonds, the British engineering veteran who previously admitted scheming with Nelson Piquet to crash deliberately during the 2008 Singapore GP, could be back in F1 almost immediately.

While no longer pushing for Briatore's lifetime ban, or Symonds' 5-year ban, the FIA said on Monday that the pair have "undertaken to abstain from having any operational role" until 2013.

But Symonds, 56, has clarified in a statement that his own company Neutrino Dynamics could be engaged for F1 consultancy work immediately.

As distinct from the FIA's statement, Symonds said he has promised not to take on "a direct operational role" in F1 until 2013.

"This agreement does not prevent him acting as a consultant to any team during this period and he will continue to contribute to the sport in this, and other, ways," the statement added.

Mercedes to race 'B' car in Spain  (GMM)  Mercedes will reportedly launch a major upgrade for its 2010 car in the hope of pushing for grand prix wins. It was reported early last week that if the W01 is not winning races by June, the Brackley based team will switch its focus to 2011.

"We have very good developments coming, and I cannot wait," said Nico Rosberg, whose teammate is the seven time world champion Michael Schumacher.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport on Tuesday gave details about the major upgrade, set for debut at Barcelona next month.

Changes as fundamental as a revised wheelbase are reportedly part of the package, which will require the 'B' car to undergo all new FIA crash tests.

The report also said the weight distribution, rear suspension and the gearbox housing will be changed.

It is believed Mercedes would also like to slim the actual chassis instead of extending the wheelbase, but "the chassis is homologated.  We cannot change it," team boss Ross Brawn is quoted as saying.

Schumacher added: "We will take a big step, but the others move forwards as well."

Briatore to return to F1 in 2013  (GMM)  The events of Flavio Briatore's 60th birthday on Monday means the ousted former Renault boss is coming back to formula one, Italian media said on Tuesday.

"He will start immediately behind the scenes," said La Gazzetta dello Sport, tipping a role for Briatore alongside F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.

The FIA said on Monday it had reached a settlement with Italian Briatore and crashgate co-conspirator Pat Symonds, where the pair's motor sport bans would apply only until the end of 2012.

Previously, F1's governing body wanted Briatore to be banned for life, while Briton Symonds would have been eligible to re-enter the sport in 2015. More ...

Trouble with the Ford FR9 engine?  One thing that could help the Roush squad down the road is Ford's new FR9 engine, which is said to have improved cooling that allows the teams to use more tape on the nose. That makes more front downforce and helps the cars turn in the corner. So far, only the part-time Wood Brothers Racing team is using the FR9 in every race. The Roush Fenway Racing cars are phasing it in gradually, with no definitive timetable on when it will be run exclusively. Asked about when the FR9 would be in his car, #16-Greg Biffle said he wasn't sure. "That is a good question, I don't know the answer," Biffle said Friday at PIR. "I know they are working hard at it and it is a logistical nightmare. There are a lot of parts and pieces that need working. You are going to have to have 16 engines a week and have to rebuild every single one of them down to the pistons and rings. There is a supply issue getting all the parts and castings and making sure it is ready for competition. I am surprised more of our guys aren't running it week to week."  SPEEDtv
Chinese Grand Prix in doubt for 2011  The Chinese GP has not had an extension on its seven-year deal begun in 2004.  The F1 teams are on their way to Shanghai for the seventh Grand Prix in China this weekend. But with no deal in place for a race next year, could this be F1’s last visit to Shanghai?

Built at a cost of $350m the circuit boasts one of the largest structures in F1 and can accommodate up to 200,000.  It was the most expensive track ever built.

But it’s never come close to finding that many paying spectators, and many of the fans that do go pick up cheap tickets sold on by corporate guests who are offered them for free. In recent years the large turn 12 and 13 grandstand has been converted into an giant advertising hoarding.

While Bahrain, which also joined the F1 calendar in 2004, has had its deal extended until 2013, there has been no such extension for the Chinese round.

However car manufacturers see a round in China as being important for the world championship.

Indy could have over 40 cars trying to qualify  UPDATE Indianapolis 500 entries have yet to be announced, but IndyCar has received 40 of them with at least one more possible.

Honda officials confirm the number and say all are full-week lease programs.

In addition to the 25 car-and-driver combinations at Barber, A.J. Foyt Racing has entered Indy-only cars for A.J. Foyt IV and Jaques Lazier. Paul Tracy will announce his deal with KV Racing later this week in Long Beach, Calif.

Other one-off programs are set for John Andretti (Andretti Autosport), Townsend Bell (Sam Schmidt Motorsports), rookie Sebastian Saavedra (Bryan Herta Autosport), Bruno Junqueira (Fazzt) and Ed Carpenter (Panther). More ...

HRT boss to pay Friday driver  UPDATE (GMM)  Christian Klien will travel to Shanghai this week for the Chinese grand prix. For the first time since entering F1 with Jaguar in 2004, the 27-year-old is no longer a regular in the formula one paddock.

After losing his Red Bull race seat, Klien was test and reserve driver with Honda and then BMW, but his only official role this year is as Peugeot's Le Mans reserve driver.

This week, he will be testing for the French sports car marque in France, but will then fly to China to be trackside for round four of the F1 world championship.

It was reported late last week that HRT team boss Colin Kolles is looking to pay an experienced F1 driver to drive during Friday practice sessions, to help gauge the performance of the Dallara car as well as Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok.

Klien, as well as Ferrari reserve driver Giancarlo Fisichella, have been linked with the role.

The Austrian said he is still not able to commit to Peugeot as a race driver in 2010 "because of my involvement in formula one negotiations".

"Right after the (Peugeot) test I fly to Shanghai to keep in touch with the teams," Klien said on his official website.  "Sometimes it can turn around pretty quickly as we have seen.  And being at the race means taking a shortcut, which makes things easier sometimes," he added.

In Shanghai, Klien will also commentate for the Austrian broadcaster ORF, as regular expert Alex Wurz fulfils the role as the fourth steward this weekend. More ...

Big crowd expected for today's IndyCar race  UPDATE The estimated three-day total attendance for the inaugural event exceeded the goals of race promoter ZOOM Motorsports, which estimated more than 86,000 fans attended the three-days of racing at Barber Motorsports Park - including an estimated record crowd of 53,555 fans on April 11.

"The attendance more than doubled the largest event ever held here previously at Barber Motorsports Park," said Gene Hallman, president and CEO of Zoom Motorsports. "The Indy Racing League product is a fast-growing and very demographically-dialed product for consumers in this market. Being the only race on the calendar in the Deep South, we were able to draw a lot of IndyCar fans into Birmingham, which helped us from a tourism perspective. The Indy Racing League is a tremendous partner and helped us immensely in this first year."

Indy Racing League officials were equally pleased with the on-track product showcased in front of the fans who attended the first-year event.

"I think our first race at Barber Motorsports Park was a very successful event. There was a lot of action down in Turn 5 and we saw quite a bit of passing in Turn 11 as well.  It was a very good show and entertaining for everybody."

04/11/10 According to John Lewis, the vice president of marketing and league development for the Indy Racing League, weekend attendance for the Alabama GP IndyCar race at Barber Motorsports Park today will exceed 100,000.
Overheard at Barber Indy - Sunday  *Weather is expected to be amazing today. Its warm but not hot, with nice breezes floating through the tress and hillsides. We are expecting the biggest crowd Barber has ever seen, which is impressive in the middle of NASCAR country. Three hours before the race, and the hillsides are about half full and its elbow-room only in the paddock area.

The race does not have a title sponsor, but local business has supported this event, consistent with the creating and operation of this entire facility. No word yet on if this years event will be a money-loser. We doubt it, as almost every race event loses money the first year or two. More ...
track news
Phoenix to keep 2 cup races  Although a final decision isn't expected until late summer, Phoenix International Raceway appears likely to keep two NASCAR Sprint Cup events next year.

International Speedway Corp., which owns PIR and 11 other tracks, is expected to ask NASCAR to transfer a date so Kansas Speedway can have a second event. A hotel-casino is to be built near Kansas Speedway.

PIR, plus Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., and Martinsville (Va.) Speedway have been mentioned as tracks which might lose a Cup race.

"All the tracks, including Daytona, have one-year deals," PIR President Bryan Sperber said. "I'm always worried, and we're always trying to do the best job we can for the fans and the series. More ...

Rumored Penske illegal 3rd damper "Malarkey"?  UPDATE #2 AR1.com spoke to one team owner who did not want to be quoted this morning in the Barber Motorsports paddock and he explained to us that what the Penske team have done is weld the anti-rollbar in a way that causes it to act like another spring.  The owner said if you remove the regular springs from the other cars the car will drop flat to the ground.  Not so with the Penske's because the anti-rollbar continues to act as a spring, suspending the car.  Some teams have done this in the rear of the car, but the Penske's apparently have it is front and back, the front being harder to do. These cars are a pullrod suspension, so everything in the front of the car is buried inside the footwell, and is not visible like many formula cars.

04/10/10 As it turns out, the area in question was a roll bar and IndyCar technical chief Les MacTaggart says The Captain is playing by the rules reports SPEEDTV.com.

“It’s a clever way of using bar deflection to control pitch and Roger’s team has been running it for at least two and a half years,” said MacTaggart. “It’s totally within the rules and other teams have used it or tried it.

“Besides giving the teams something to play with, it also helps save tub damage, and it was approved back in the free development period, in February of 2008.”

Penske said it was pretty cut and dried.

“We passed technical inspection before and after the race,” said The Captain, whose driver Will Power is unbeaten (2-0) in 2010. “And we aren’t using any illegal parts or devices.”

“We thought Penske was running some form of ride control in front of their car at Detroit in 2008,” said Mike Hull, managing director of Target/Ganassi Racing. “Julian (Robertson, engineer) went to Les and specifically asked if we could submit a version or ride control and was told it was not in the spirit of the rules and would not be allowed.

“So we didn’t pursue it. Our opinion today is that Penske is legal. We have no problem with that. But we do have a problem that we were denied an opportunity and that Penske was the only team doing it in 2008, so that should fall under the restrictions of 2009.” More ...

Hamlin may not finish race  Denny Hamlin, who had surgery nine days ago to repair a torn ACL in his left knee, said he is uncertain if he can drive the entire race Saturday after experiencing significant pain and discomfort in practice Friday. "I don't know how far I can go," Hamlin said. "It aches quite a bit and the range of motion is a problem. If I had to do it today there is no way I could do it." he said. Casey Mears will replace Hamlin if Hamlin has to get out of the #11 Toyota. A driver must start the race to earn the points for that event. "There's a lot of fluid build-up on the knee right now," Hamlin said. "The doctors are going to insert a needle in the morning and drain all the fluid. They also are going to take the stitches out, so I might have a little more mobility." Hamlin said he hopes to make a decision early in the race about whether to get out of the car. "If we do it, we need to do it early," Hamlin said. "I'll start thinking about it at 50 or 60 laps. My goal is to know what I'm going to do before Lap 100. There's no reason to abort it if I make it that far. It hurts worse when I stop than when I'm going." ESPN.com
Qualifying change for Indy 500  Qualifying for next month's Indianapolis 500 will be restructured. Final details still are coming together, but the single weekend session May 22-23 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have a cap of 24 cars, or eight rows, on the first day -- pole day -- with the other nine positions decided on bump day.

The previous format allowed 11 qualifiers for each of the first three days.

Saving action for bump day is the key to this plan, but there figures to be enough action anyway because Indy Racing League officials are expecting at least 40 car-and-driver combinations, the largest total in years. More ...

Overhead at the Barber Indy  Dan Clarke is working really hard to get on the IndyCar grid, and Walker Racing says they are ready anytime.

Wayne Taylor told us today "This is where I want to be" today as he sat in the Penske pits, watching intensely at the operation, and apparently has some level of acquaintance with Ryan Briscoe (it was since pointed out to us that Wayne is Ryan's manager, which makes more sense. But when Wayne starts his team, and Roger goes down to 2 cars again, will Ryan race for Wayne?)

Most of the top teams today were conserving tires. There is more running time than the rules-limited allocation of tires allows for.

Milka Duno showed some improvement over her tortoise vs. hare speed at St. Pete, but is still nearly 5 seconds back from the leader.

Graham Rahal is expected by many to be back with Newman-Haas-Lannigan by the Indy 500.

Schu could end F1 comeback?  (GMM)  Norbert Haug has played down suggestions that Michael Schumacher's return to formula one might be short-lived.

Prior to coming out of a three-year retirement last month, the seven time world champion inked a contract with Mercedes tying him to the German marque until the end of 2012.

But Schumacher, 41, has so far failed to outpace his younger teammate Nico Rosberg, lags his German compatriot in the drivers' table by 26 points, and has yet to qualify higher than 7th or better his 6th place finish in Bahrain.

When asked about rumors the former Ferrari driver might not see the end of his three-year commitment, Mercedes' competition director Haug answered: "It's quite the contrary.

"I know that Michael is highly motivated and wants to make his comeback for the long term, with long term success," he is quoted as saying by Bild newspaper. More ...

Another new crew chief for Robby Gordon?  hearing that Samuel Stanley is the new crew chief for #7-Robby Gordon. Ian Watts had been the crew chief, starting at the beginning of the season. Larry Carter supposedly was a 'consultant' for a few races, but supposedly is no longer with the team. No word if Watts is still with the team.
Maldonado in talks with Sauber?  Pastor Maldonado has told GPUpdate.net that he is not involved in talks with the Sauber Formula 1 team following a paddock rumor at Thursday's GP2 test which states that the Venezuelan could be in-line to take the seat of Pedro de la Rosa as the European season begins. Having set the quickest Wednesday lap time at the start of this week's 3-day GP2 test session at the Circuit de Catalunya, Maldonado retained his strong pace by finishing third and a tenth off the top spot on Thursday morning.

"Not bad," the Rapax driver, pleased with the improved Spanish weather, said in the team garage. "We are working and trying different things on the car. The important thing here is to collect the data and give it to the workshop to be able to develop more because we don't have a lot of tires for testing, so it's always difficult to do anything here but I think the balance is okay and I'm happy with the car."

With the gossip being that Maldonado, 25, could take Spaniard de la Rosa's place from Monaco onwards, with the earlier Spanish Grand Prix also remaining a possibility, Pastor explained his attempts to enter F1 for 2010.
Will another open wheel war erupt?  Q: Initially it seemed like reports from you and other reputable sources (obviously nobody associated with ESPN) didn't give the DW a chance for being selected because of the timeline factor - officials would like a selection made by the end of May, but DW wouldn't have a full mach up until August. However, at least DW had something to unveil at Chicago while the other contestants have only submitted paper drawings. So how does the timeline put DW at a disadvantage if it seems like they have done just as much, if not more, than the other chassis designers? Also, how much does the creation and composition of the ICONIC committee factor in to the DW design being selected? I would think that since Brian Barnhart (barf - sorry, I get disgusted just writing his name) is now only one member on a seven member committee, his obvious bias to Dallara and incompetence should be minimized. Finally, if the DW is not chosen, what kind of rift would that create within the ICS? It seems like a lot of heavy hitters (team owners and drivers) are supportive of the DW concept. With so many positive developments recently, I would hate for everything to go to waste if the owners revolt and have another split. More ...
Briatore to make F1 return 'after 2012'  (GMM)  Flavio Briatore has admitted he might return to formula one after 2012.

The Italian, who turns 60 in a few days, successfully overturned the FIA's imposition last year of a lifetime ban, but the governing body is now working on an appeal.

Briatore, having stepped down not only as Renault boss but also as chairman of the London football club Queens Park Rangers in the wake of the 'crashgate' scandal, has ruled out returning to the sport as a manager.

But his friend, the F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, said a few days ago: "I think he could take up a role in the promotion of formula one."

And Briatore has now told Italy's Sky Sport 24: "I was thrown out as though a criminal.

"I will never come back to formula one as team manager, but perhaps (I will return) after 2012 in another role."

Red Bull to consider F1 drivers' futures  (GMM)  A meeting later this year will discuss the immediate futures of up to three Red Bull-backed F1 drivers.

The Swiss newspaper Blick said Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, as well as the main Red Bull team's Mark Webber, will be the subject of discussion between Helmut Marko and Dietrich Mateschitz in the autumn.

The report said that even though Buemi, 21, is highly regarded by team boss Franz Tost - while the youngster Alguersuari showed great improvement in Malaysia last weekend - their futures are not guaranteed.

It is believed that Red Bull consider the Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who is Red Bull Racing's reserve driver this year, is ready to step into a race seat. More ...

Renault tells Petrov to lose weight  (GMM)  Renault has told its rookie Russian driver Vitaly Petrov to lose some weight.

The German publication Auto Motor und Sport said the 25-year-old newcomer, who is bringing EUR15 million to the team in 2010, is significantly heavier than his teammate Robert Kubica.

Kubica and Petrov, both among F1's tallest drivers, are roughly the same height, but the report said Petrov weighs 10 kilograms more than the slight Pole.

Ex-NASCAR driver eyes IndyCar  
Shane Hmiel
For former NASCAR driver Shane Hmiel, life is good. Maybe the best it's ever been. He's driving racecars for a living and winning races. His personality is stable, his mind focused. And he's drug free.

"I've got my life back," Hmiel said. "I've got my racing career back."

Hmiel is in his third season racing in the United States Auto Club's open-wheel, Silver Crown, Sprint Car and Midget divisions. He won his second USAC national race and his first in Midgets last week at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Hmiel's first national victory was a Sprint Car race at Iowa Speedway last summer.

But Hmiel wasn't always an IndyCar driver. His first home was NASCAR, where he was banned for life as a result of failed drug tests. It's unlikely he'll ever be invited back. As a result, he's set his sights on the Izod IndyCar Series, where he'll first have to drive in Firestone Indy Lights, its primary development series, to gain the rear-engine experience he needs. More ...

Mercedes S-class to go hybrid-only?  To meet tightening global fuel-economy standards, Daimler executives in Germany are considering a radical plan: make the flagship S-class a hybrid-only lineup.

Mercedes-Benz dealer sources tell Automotive News that Stuttgart executives are considering switching all future S-class luxury cars -- including high-performance AMG models -- to full hybrids, offering no models with only internal-combustion engines.

The idea is drawing fire from some U.S. dealers, who worry that hybrids are not perceived as true performers in the market.

The switch would take place globally with the next-generation S class, which is due in Europe in 2013 and in North America a year later.

Only a handful of Mercedes dealers have been briefed on the plan. Those dealers will meet this week with Joachim Schmidt, sales and marketing chief at Mercedes-Benz Cars, at The Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga. Mercedes is a sponsor.

Dealers say they have been vocal about their opposition to such a switch, which they feel would change the perception of the brand. More at AutoWeek

MotoGP to expand in Asia  Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of MotoGP promoter Dorna Sports, says he is keen to expand the motorcycling series further into Asia despite the sport failing to catch on in China.

The 18-race 2010 series starts in Qatar on Sunday and is largely weighted towards Europe, with four races in Spain and two in Italy. However three of last year's races were held in the Asia-Pacific region and over the three-day race weekend drew crowds of 102,000 (Malaysia), 105,000 (Australia) and 65,000 (Japan).

“It's good but there are other options and we are looking for them,” Ezpeleta said. “There are other countries in Asia where we are discussing and I think the next changes in the calendar will be because we will expand in the Asian region. Of course, these are preliminary discussions and we are not able to say which countries we are discussing with. More ...

Daimler, Renault to team up  UPDATE Some folks aren't cut out to be married, but they keep trying. You can spot them by the trail of ruined relationships. Others make missteps, then find the right partner and settle into a blissful relationship.

The alliance Daimler, Renault and Nissan are to announce today could go either way. Detroiters will be watching closely. Previous failed alliance attempts by the automakers wreaked varying degrees of havoc on General Motors and Chrysler. The trio's Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Renault and Infiniti brands compete with all three Detroit-based automakers and Chrysler's new partner, Fiat, so the alliance will affect jobs and businesses in Detroit.

The deal is expected to see the automakers take a small symbolic shareholding in one another. They plan to share the cost of developing small cars and purchasing, which could save billions of dollars.

04/06/10 The Renault-Nissan Alliance was rebuffed in 2006 when it reached out to General Motors, and a year later, Germany's Daimler AG wrote a big check to break off its relationship with Chrysler. But the European automakers haven't given up on partnerships.

Now they're ready to try again -- with each other.

Dieter Zetsche, chief executive of Stuttgart-based Daimler, and Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co., are expected to announce the start of a partnership as early as Wednesday, according to sources familiar with the talks. More ...

FIA to negate Red Bull suspicions with rule tweak  UPDATE The saying "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" seems to be the perfect way to describe the technological race in Formula One the moment.

The Red Bull car is just a blur to the other wannabes
First there was the diffuser debacle, then it was McLaren's controversial f-duct device and now it's Red Bull's ride-height system.

Most teams have already designed their own double diffusers and a few have responded with the f-duct systems of their own. So last on the list (for now at least) is the low ride-height device which has allegedly given the Red Bulls a significant advantage in qualifying - helping them to gain three out of three pole positions this season.

However, McLaren, who initially questioned the legality of the system and then downplayed it, look like they will become the first team to imitate the device.

According to Mark Hughes' BBC blog, the new suspension system could be ready for the next grand prix in China and it will give McLaren a 'further 0.3s boost'. More ...

IRL and ALMS to jump onboard with 'global' engine formula  Inside word from the IndyCar talks suggests that a decision on a fundamental engine architecture is close. No one has revealed as of yet whether we're talking a 4-cylinder turbo, a turbocharged V6 or a small turbo V8, but one piece of information that's emerging is that the discussions have moved to the point where a common engine architecture is close to being agreed upon. By the sounds of it this would mean a "spec" engine is imminent, which would mean the same-old, "business as usual" type of scenario, but that wouldn't be accurate in this case. More ...
HRT's Willis set for Force India switch?  (GMM)  Geoff Willis looks set to leave the struggling Hispania/HRT team and could re-emerge at Force India.

It was reported from Sepang last weekend that the 50-year-old Briton, who began working with the new Spanish team as a consultant during its pre-season struggle for survival, was considering whether to now leave the outfit.

The formerly high-profile Williams, McLaren and Honda technical boss, who left Red Bull in the middle of last year, said in Malaysia that he was "disappointed" with the Dallara car and unsure whether significant progress could be made.

It was said he will make a decision about his future around the time of next weekend's Chinese grand prix.

Finland's Turun Sanomat, as well as Italy's Autosprint, report that Willis' departure is likely.

It is said that Briton Willis could switch to Force India, in the wake of technical director James Key's move to Sauber.

Key was replaced in February by Mark Smith.

Schumacher believed to have rejoined GPDA  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Michael Schumacher's spokeswoman and day-to-day manager confirmed on Tuesday that the seven time world champion has rejoined the F1 drivers' union GPDA.

We reported on Sunday that the 41-year-old signed up during the course of the Sepang race weekend.

Spokeswoman Sabine Kehm said last month that, with the German having played a leading role in the Grand Prix Drivers' Association in his initial career, Schumacher now wanted F1's new generation to carry the baton.

"Now he really wants the others, who have taken over in the meantime, to continue," she said.

It was rumored that the Mercedes driver did not get along with the GPDA's chairman Pedro de la Rosa, who quit the association in protest after Schumacher's Monaco 'Rascasse' parking incident four years ago.

In Melbourne, Spaniard de la Rosa stepped down and was replaced as chairman by Mercedes reserve driver Nick Heidfeld.

Schumacher's countryman and friend Sebastian Vettel, and his former Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa, have also now replaced Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso as directors.

Kehm confirmed on Tuesday that Schumacher is once again a member of the GPDA.  It is believed the only non-member on the grid now is Schumacher's countryman Adrian Sutil. More ...

F1 to reignite tire war?  UPDATE #2 (GMM)  A Michelin official has admitted the French marque is considering returning to formula one in 2011 as a tire supplier.

Speculation about Michelin's return gained momentum at Sepang last weekend, where team bosses met with Bernie Ecclestone and discussed at length how to handle the departure of Bridgestone as official supplier.

Michelin left F1 after an intense tire war with Bridgestone at the end of 2006, upset that the sport opted instead to mandate a single supplier.

Rumors in Malaysia said Michelin wants to be paid to return next year, and also favors a move from 13 to 18-inch wheel hub diameters, and would welcome a rival supplier to compete with.

A spokesman said in February that Michelin "might consider returning but there are some very clear conditions".

And in the wake of the latest reports, a representative of the Clermont Ferrand-based company told French daily Le Figaro: "We have made no decision.

"But we are closely monitoring the evolution of the regulations, knowing that we are committed to promoting the technical quality of our products and also the notion of respect for the environment," the Michelin official added. More ...

Penske to kill off Delta Wing Concept  Roger Penske has gone on record as saying the IRL should come out with a new engine for the existing ugly Dallara and to delay the new IndyCar chassis.  If he gets his way (he usually does) the Delta Wing concept car will be history.  You see the existing Dallara requires that the engine be a stressed member of the chassis and the engine has to be designed to withstand those forces, hence raising the cost of the engine.

The Delta Wing concept car calls for the engine to be a non-stressed component, thereby allowing lower cost engines to work.

Sure, the stronger engine made for the Dallara will work in the Delta Wing, but now you have an engine that is over-designed for the intended purpose.
Mercedes sets June deadline for 2010 wins  (GMM)  If Mercedes' W01 is not on the pace by June, the Brackley based team will switch its focus to the 2011 world championship.

That is the information of the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, which said the team led by Ross Brawn is preparing to unleash a major car upgrade for next month's Spanish grand prix.

"The basis of our car is right," said Nico Rosberg, who was on the podium with the dominant Red Bulls at the end of Sunday's Malaysian grand prix.

"We have very good developments coming, and I cannot wait," added the 24-year-old German.

An unnamed team insider told the newspaper: "Brawn wants to win races by June at the latest, or he will write off the season and focus on next year."

When the team was called Honda, its British boss similarly wrote off the 2008 season and then rolled out last year's title winning Brawn BGP001.

Australia to have earlier start time in 2011?  UPDATE (GMM)  Australian grand prix organizer Ron Walker has slammed reports that drivers successfully pushed for an earlier start-time for next year's Melbourne race.

In the wake of the 5pm race a week ago, with the 'twilight' concept providing a better live TV slot for F1's bulk European audience, some drivers repeated their criticisms that the race ended in dangerously low light.

On Saturday, Michael Schumacher - backed by some of his on-track rivals - revealed that the FIA did lighting tests at Albert Park that should now lead to an earlier race in 2011.

But in response, Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman Walker said on Sunday that the whining F1 drivers are "prima donnas".

"It (the 5pm start) is clearly not dangerous," he told the Herald Sun newspaper.

"You can't please these drivers, they are a bunch of lazy people who won't do anything to help the sport, except for two or three.

"A lot of drivers are prima donnas.  They are never happy," added Walker. More ...

Compulsory KERS to spice up F1 'show' in 2011  UPDATE (GMM)  The possible return of KERS to formula one next year could be used to spice up the 'show'.

In meetings at Sepang this week, lifting FOTA's current gentleman's ban on the energy recovery system was discussed.

More meetings are planned for the weekend of the Spanish grand prix next month.

Among the biggest criticisms of KERS last year was the huge cost of developing the systems, the fact that it was not compulsory, and the questionable advantage of carrying the heavy units that can only be deployed a few seconds per lap at 400 kilojoules.

Already on the table to address some of these problems is that the systems will be more powerful, developed by a single supplier and run by all the teams.

Another suggestion is that its usage would be limited to a certain number of button presses per race, in order to aid overtaking. More ...

AAA withdraws from FIA  UPDATE In a story broke by AR1.com, we now upgrade this rumor to 'fact.'  Here is the withdrawal letter written to FIA President Jean Todt and Todt's letter to all remaining members.

04/01/10 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, the American Automobile Association (AAA) has dropped or will be dropping out of the FIA, which might send some shockwaves through the FIA front offices.
F1 wheel diameters to change  (GMM)  As the paddock empties at Sepang long after darkness fell on Friday night, more details about F1's possible new tire formula emerged.

The team bosses met earlier with Bernie Ecclestone at the Malaysian circuit, and the major topic was Bridgestone's withdrawal at the end of the year.

It is now known that Michelin has made a tentative proposal to return, but with very clear conditions.  One of those, it is believed, is for its 2011 F1 product to have fundamental synergies with the French marque's other motor sport forays.

One such synergy is with Michelin's sports car program, which could see the diameter of the F1 wheel rims dramatically increase in size from the current 13 inches.

18-inch F1 tire regulations would see not only a dramatic aesthetic change, with a move from very thick to very low-profile sidewalls, but Michelin therefore able to share its technology between the racing series.

It is believed that Michelin's proposal did not meet unanimous approval among the team ranks in the meeting with Ecclestone.  The teams association FOTA was due to meet subsequently on Friday afternoon.

Lotus closing on four more sponsor deals  (GMM)  Lotus will not stop at CNN and Maxis in terms of signing agreements with third-party sponsors, boss Tony Fernandes said on Friday.

According to the Malaysian news agency Bernama, the millionaire would not reveal names but said his team is in talks with four local and international companies.

Fernandes said no fewer than four of the sponsors will join the livery of the green T127 during the 2010 season.

"It means more if it is Malaysian money," he told reporters at an event.  "It was just six months when we built the team and we have now won the crowd."

Meanwhile, there was an amusing moment after the FIA press conference on Friday, when Fernandes emerged from the building with his driver Heikki Kovalainen.

They had failed to prepare for a downpour, and - due to Fernandes' running of the AirAsia airline - did not want to huddle under an umbrella emblazoned with the words 'Fly Kingfisher' wielded by Force India's Vijay Mallya and Tonio Liuzzi.

Another Swift concept for next-generation IndyCar  Swift Engineering, Inc., a California-based designer and manufacturer of open-wheel race cars, is the first Cray CX1000 customer. In addition to the Cray CX1000, Swift will also use a Cray CX1 system to further enhance its capabilities in Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), an important tool in the design and development of aerodynamic concepts. Swift is aligning with companies such as Cray to further its bid to design and build the next generation race car chassis for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series.

Note some of the design cues this version has taken from the concept developed by Honda.

Fauzy to race with Lotus in 2010  UPDATE (GMM)  Lotus team boss Tony Fernandes on Friday refused to confirm speculation Fairuz Fauzy will race a green T127 sometime in 2010.

After the Malaysian 27-year-old tested Heikki Kovalainen's car during initial Friday practice at Sepang, he told BBC radio that Fernandes has hinted he might race later this season.

"I think we don't think too far ahead," Fernandes said when asked by reporters about Fauzy's plans.

"Today (the plan) was to give Fairuz a chance at testing in his home circuit.  As for the future we are not sure.

"We will have to wait and see but all I can confirm was that it was for Malaysia only at this point," the Malaysian businessman added. More ...

Coulthard to Mercedes in DTM  UPDATE #2 (GMM)  Norbert Haug has admitted there is a "good" chance that David Coulthard will race for Mercedes in the German touring car series DTM in 2010.

Scot Coulthard, 39, recently tested the C-Class car and had said he was hoping to "complete the final details" of a deal in Melbourne last weekend.

David Coulthard
He said he now plans to sit down with Haug, who is the German marque's competition boss, on the sidelines of the Malaysian grand prix at Sepang.

"There is still no contract signed, but David and I will have talks before the grand prix of Malaysia," the German confirmed to the SID news agency.

"The chance that we will find a solution is, I think, good," added Haug.

Coulthard drove for McLaren-Mercedes between 1996 and 2004, but finished his grand prix career two years ago at the wheel of a Red Bull.

He is still close to the energy drinks company, and attends all the F1 races as an expert pundit for British television. More ...

Compressed gas is key to Red Bull ride-height  (GMM)  The secret of Red Bull's supposed adjustable ride-height system is compressed gas, according to strong rumors inside the Sepang paddock on Thursday.

Officials for McLaren and Mercedes have admitted their suspicions about the system, with the dominant Adrian Newey-designed RB6 somehow able to have a low-ride height in qualifying and then not bottom-out when gallons of fuel are added prior to the race.

"Our understanding ... I can't remember the article exactly, but you are not allowed to make any suspension changes between qualifying and the race," said Mercedes team boss Brawn when the controversy arose in Melbourne.

It seems, however, that Red Bull could have simply interpreted the rules cleverly, rather than broken them. More ...

Andretti to drive for family team in 500  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement.

03/30/10 The current buzz is that the fifth driver for the Indy500 for Andretti Autosport will be John Andretti, driving for his cousin. Look for an announcement later in the week.
Malaysian weather 'greatest challenge' in F1  UPDATE (GMM)  After monsoonal rain halted running during last year's twilight Malaysian grand prix, afternoon thunderstorms are again forecast for the 2010 edition at Sepang.

The race time has at least been brought forward from 5pm to 4pm for this weekend's race outside Kuala Lumpur, after the grand prix last year ended in near-darkness.

But the threat of late afternoon rain, in unbearable humidity and high temperatures, has again been a feature in and around the city so far this week.

Mercedes' Norbert Haug said: "This climate is the greatest challenge for
the teams, cars and drivers."

The same sort of weather is forecast throughout the weekend, although the chance of very heavy rain is mercifully smaller for the decisive qualifying and race sessions on Saturday and Sunday.

03/30/10 The F1 teams move from Australia to Malaysia for this weekend’s race but it looks like they won’t escape the rain.

Scattered thunderstorms are forecast throughout the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend.

As we saw last year and in 2001, these can be heavy enough to stop the race. Last year the combination of a heavy rain storm and the late race start time meant the race couldn’t be completed.

The Malaysian Grand Prix starts one hour earlier than it did last year, which should help it avoid the kind of thunderstorms which are common in the region in the early evening. The race starts at 4pm local time on Sunday, qualifying begins at 5pm the day before.

Along with the chance of rain the teams face the usual Malaysian weather – hot temperatures and punishing humidity. This creates problems for the drivers – who have to keep drinking throughout the race to replenish lost minerals – and the cars, which need extra vents for cooling and may need to keep out of the slipstream of rival cars.

Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-thirties throughout the race weekend.

Fauzy could drive Lotus in Sepang practice  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Lotus has now confirmed two pieces of news that were revealed recently.

The first is that the new Malaysian team's Kuala Lumpur-born test driver Fairuz Fauzy will be driving race regular Heikki Kovalainen's green T127 car at Sepang on Friday morning.

"I've been told to get ready for Friday's practice and it will be a fantastic feeling for me," said the 27-year-old.

And we reported on Tuesday that the Norfolk-based team would shortly confirm a sponsor deal with leading Malaysian mobile network Maxis, with a logo to be placed on car's nose section.

"There is money in the sponsorship," confirmed Maxis' COO Jean Pascal van Overbeke.  "It is a firm one year sponsorship with long intentions." More ...

Overheard in St. Petersburg - Friday  UPDATE The Acura Sports Car Challenge was dropped from this year's Grand Prix, but that doesn't mean the high-tech American Le Mans Series won't return at some point.  Grand Prix co-promoter Kevin Savoree said Saturday "there have always been discussions" about bringing back the series that sanctions the historic 12 Hours of Sebring.  Grand Prix organizers would prefer to move back to the first weekend in April next year, but that may not fit with the Indy Racing League's plans. Terry Angstadt, president of the IRL's commercial division, said next year's date will be "around the same time."  If the IRL chooses to make St. Petersburg the season opener next year, the Grand Prix could be run as early as March 18-20. That's Sebring's spot on the ALMS schedule. TBO.com

03/26/10 On a perfect day to go racing in the beautiful west coast Florida town on St. Petersburg, the general feeling in the paddock is one of optimism, optimism that the series has hit bottom and starting to rebound.  While last year most cars on the grid got Tony George charity money, this year there is none of that yet the car count is up and the sponsorship level has definitely increased, that's pretty easy to see just looking around........We hear that Andretti Autosports might have a deal together by the end of the weekend that will see Ryan Hunter-Reay in the No. 37 IZOD car for the remainder of the season, rather than just the 5 races he was originally contracted to do......on a related note we spotted Mike Kelly of the Phillips-Van Heusen Corp., who brought major sponsor -- Izod -- into the sport, and who also sponsors Hunter-Reay.  Is he here to sign a deal with Michael Andretti to lock in Hunter-Reay for the rest of the year?.........We hear that ALMS will be back next year at this event.  The reason why they are not here this year is because this event fell just one week after the grueling 12 Hours of Sebring and ALMS was afraid their teams would not be able to turn the cars around in time.....Did you know that the Brazilian race promoters were prepared to repave the entire bumpy concrete main straight the night before the race but the IRL decided to go with grinding because the asphalt may not have cured in time.......We hear that Dario Franchitti has a 1992 Ferrari F40 that his father drives around back in Scotland.......Spotted Adam Carroll here still trying to put an IndyCar deal together......We hear that Honda still hopes that IndyCar goes with a V6 engine configuration rather than an inline 4.  The reasons we hear are safety - in rear-first wall impacts the wider V6 speeds the load through engine bulkhead and the drivers back over a wider area than a straight six.  The shorter V6 also allows more flexibility with wheelbase lengths and that something can be put in the middle of a V6 layout such as a supercharger or some form of hybrid engine component......We had a chance to chat with IndyCar newcomer Bertrand Baguette.  Conquest Racing made a surprising move recently, announcing it had signed Baguette to field their second car for the team in the 2010 Izod IndyCar series.  He will run 15 races.  Last year he dominated the tough World Series by Renault series in Europe with 5 wins in the 600 kg, 500 HP machines.  He hopes to get at least one day of testing before his debut at Barber Motorsports Park........Rumor has it that some of the chassis manufacturers are thinking the IRL has missed the boat to have the new car designed, tested and mass produced by December, 2011 for the 2012 season.  It all depends whether the criteria for the car gets changed significantly. We also hear that most of the chassis manufacturers think the engine should be a stressed member, unlike the Delta Wing design that makes the engine unstressed, meaning the chassis will flex more.....Rumor has it that Derrick Walker is trying to put an IndyCar deal together, after returning to Indy Lights this weekend with Jonathan Summerton.......ABC/ESPN let their hot pit reporter Jamie Little break out from her NASCAR duties long enough to do pit reporting this weekend in St. Pete.  She will be joined by veteran Rick DeBruhl......Andretti Autosport announced the signing of 15-year old American Zach Veach to run in the USF2000 Series, which is one of the ladder series on the road to Indy.  He then went out and turned the fastest practice lap in the field of 13 at 1m14.675s ahead of Raphael Abbate.....Simona de Silvestro was as high as 3rd fastest in the afternoon session and everyone is saying she is the real deal......The Newman Haas Lanigan team still will not comment on the rumors that Graham Rahal will be back with the team soon, but we hear they definitely like the idea of running an American......The Friday crowd looked better than recent years and we hear new St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster is really behind the event and is working hard to ensure it grows.......Keep your eye on a new off-road event called the Mexican 1000, to be run April 28th to May 2nd, which will feature old Baja cars driven by Baja legends Parnelli Jones, Bob Gordon, father of NASCAR driver Robby Gordon - a Baja series champ affectionately known as "Baja Bob," Rod Hall and a host of others.....And speaking of Robby Gordon, we hear he might run the Indianapolis 500 this year on the same day as the Charlotte 600 NASCAR race.  "I've got a commitment, but just because you have a commitment from people doesn't mean it's going to happen," Gordon said.  Mark Cipolloni reporting from St. Petersburg, Florida.
Will they park Milka?  There seems to be some whispering that Milka Duno (did someone say milk-n-donuts?) might be parked or suffer an early "mechanical" in today’s race after several spins on track between yesterday and today. We doubt it though.
Overheard in St. Petersburg - Sunday morning  It's a sticky morning here in St. Pete, hinting at the rains to come later in the day. There is about a 60% chance of rain for the race today--Graham Rahal and the Dollar General team are really struggling with handling, and are at a loss on what direction to go with the changes.--Hearing that Bourdais might have rented his home here in St. Pete as opposed to selling it, perhaps making a move back to American open wheel scene an easier transition.--Keep an eye out for HPD to promote their hybrid technology in racing fairly soon. We can only assume that would be in the ALMS -- Honda is quite pleased with their moves into the ladder rungs of open wheel racing, namely with the SCCCA FF division. -- Milka just stuck the car into the tires again, ripping off the rear wing. -- Mike Conway is really pleased with his car and will be expecting to move up early. -- It looks like the Ganassi team got their uniform order all wrong as their crew shirts are an odd pink-fuschia color instead of the matching Target red. We asked a crew member about it, and he/she said that nobody has spoken up about it yet, but they were all wondering the same thing.
Sprint Cup race to be rained out  For the Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway is not looking to promising for Sunday afternoon. The National Weather Service forecast for Sunday is: Showers likely, then showers and possibly a thunderstorm after 2pm. High near 53. Southeast wind between 6 and 8 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New rainfall amounts between a half and three quarters of an inch possible. The Weather Channel forecast is: Rain / Thunder, high of 59°F, Precip 70%.
No new car or engine for IRL in 2012  "I'm all about saving costs right now for all the teams," said Roger Penske who pretty much always his way in the IRL paddock. "There's nothing wrong with the sport right now. I'm not sure that if we changed engines in the cars right now that it's going to put 50,000 more people in the stands. We need to promote the drivers and the teams and the sponsors."

Penske lost his Marlboro backing after last year so part of the team is funded out of the Billionaire's huge bank account.  However, rich people hate spending their own money if they do not have to, so with that do not look for a new car or engines for IndyCar until 2013 at the earliest.

Gil De Ferran said he would consider all of the variables before recommending how to proceed.

"In my mind the most important thing isn't the cost equation, it's the value equation," he said. "Obviously, value is revenue minus the cost. We need to understand better both sides of the equation."

Vettel eyes future switch to Ferrari  (GMM)  Sebastian Vettel has admitted he would be interested in driving in formula one with Ferrari at some point in the future.

The highly rated 22-year-old German finished last year's world championship second, and again with Red Bull in 2010 he has locked out two pole positions so far and is the favorite for victory in Melbourne.

He is also firmly under contract to the energy drinks company-owned team, but admits that F1's most famous brand is still an attractive option for the future.

"Right now I feel super-comfortable with Red Bull," he is quoted as saying by the German news agency SID.

But when asked about Ferrari, Vettel answered: "I think a famous soccer player said 'McLaren or Ferrari -- it must be Italy'.

"The Ferrari legend speaks for itself.  I think for every driver, it would be something special to go there, but for me I still have a few years in front of me."

Overheard in St. Petersburg - Saturday  On another perfect day to go racing in the beautiful west coast Florida town on St. Petersburg, the general feeling in the paddock is that although the Delta Wing concept car has some merit, it is too high a risk to take.  It's such a radical departure from the evolution that open wheel race cars have taken since they switched from front engine to rear engine in the mid-60's that if they build it and it does not work, then what?  Two years will have been lost.  Some do not think that the Delta Wing
Rumors say that Mutoh (above) will have Graham Rahal as a teammate starting in Long Beach
car can be built to meet the weight and performance criteria that have been projected.  Many do like the open source design concept that they proposed however.......We hear that the rumors of Graham Rahal going to Newman Haas Lanigan Racing are true.  We are told it is a multi-year contract with a high-tech firm that plans to activate their sponsorship at all the events......We hear that four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais is interested in returning to IndyCar Racing but a sponsor deal is needed.  He and his wife had built a house here in St. Petersburg but sold it when they moved back to Europe when Bourdais landed a ride with the Toro Rosso F1 team.......The fans were laughing hysterically when Milka Duno spun for the 4th or 5th time in Turn one.  She is significantly off the pace of the rest of the IndyCar drivers and some wonder if CITGO would not be better off sponsoring another driver who can compete for wins........Justin Wilson's performance for Dreyer Reinbold this weekend has the team smiling.  Not known for their road course prowess, Wilson has raised D&R's game on street and road circuits.  We spotted CDW's Bruce Delahorne in the Wilson pitbox.  Although CDW no longer sponsors Wilson, Delahorne remains a big fan and a close friend.  We hear that Dalahorne's daughter has turned into a big race fan as well........Helio Castroneves cracked a joke in the post-qualifying press conference saying that Will
Rookie Simona de Silvestro
Power broke his back at Sonoma last year and is still too quick for him, so he's just going to have to break his legs this year to slow him down.......IndyCar rookie Simona de Silvestro (right ) was delighted to have outqualified Danica Patrick in just her 2nd IndyCar start.  Talk in the paddock is that she is the real deal given that Danica is with a much better team and has huge dollars behind her...........Mario Andretti is coaching Marco Andretti this year while Michael Andretti has moved over to the No. 11 car of Tony Kanaan.  Kanaan wanted to switch to the softer red alternate tires for his final qualifying run but Michael Andretti overruled him and later Kanaan, who qualified 2nd, admitted that was the right call.....A report on Fox Race Day radio show stated that Danica Patrick's people are going to work to get out of her contract with Andretti Autosport after this IndyCar season and make the full
Ryan Hunter-Reay talks to Andretti teammate Tony Kanaan after qualifying
time move to NASCAR.  Danica, who is not competitive on road and street circuits, has been talking down those type of circuits saying the IRL should run more ovals (100% throttle where she has a better chance).  Is she setting up the excuses now so that when she does leave she can say she does not believe in the direction IndyCar racing is going as her reason for the move?.......There are a fair number of media here in St. Pete with every seat in the media center occupied........Although they have yet to set an exact date, we hear that Ryan Hunter-Reay might finally marry Beccy Gordon in December after the race season.  Our condolences to Ryan who recently lost a loved one to cancer.  Mark Cipolloni reporting from St. Petersburg, Florida.
Randy Bernard charged with making IRL profitable  We posed the following question to Randy Bernard today at the St. Petersburg track:

Q: Tony George made a statement at a Motorsports Forum a year or two ago that IndyCar had to be profitable by 2013.  Has the Hulman George family put that mandate on your shoulders as well?

Bernard: "When I took this job, at the press conference we had there in Indy I was asked about the challenges I face.  I don't look at them as challenges, I look at them as opportunities.  I think that (making it profitable) is the biggest opportunity we have.  If the league is not successful in a couple of years they should really look at who they have running the company.  As I said, the buck stops here.  I need some breaks, I know that.  Right now we really have some momentum and we need to keep that going.  IZOD has really helped and I think we can be successful in two years."

F1 sponsorship revenue plunges  We all know that F1 has fallen on hard times when it comes to securing sponsorship. The bare liveries of the HRT and Sauber alone are the best examples of this since, even in its darkest days, Minardi, F1's most famous backmarker, still managed to get enough sponsors to cover its cars. How times have changed. Writing in the Financial Times today, Pitpass' business editor Chris Sylt reveals that in 2010 the F1 teams are receiving £77m ($115m) less sponsorship than they did last year.

Not only is this is the biggest fall in the past five years, but the £474m ($705m) the sport's 12 teams will receive from sponsorship in 2010 (see below) is also their lowest total take in the past five years. Remarkably this slump comes despite the number of teams in the sport rising from 10 to 12 this year.

Commercial interest in the sport has clearly been dented by the economic downturn but the extent of this hasn't been clear until now.

Lotus, HRT, Virgin and Sauber, the four teams which joined F1 this year struggled to secure enough sponsorship to cover their budgets which average £43m ($64m). HRT receives an estimated £21.2m ($32m) from its owners and two drivers with just £335,000 ($500,000) coming to the team from sponsorship. Remarkably this is a massive 490 times less than Ferrari's £165m ($245m) sponsorship take this year.

Even Lotus, the best-sponsored of the new outfits, is receiving an estimated £24m ($35m) from its owners including Tony Fernandes boss of the Air Asia airline. It puts the future of the new teams in question as economic fluctuations could jeopardize the contributions from their owners.

Overall, average sponsorship revenues per team have plunged by 28.4% on 2009 to £40m ($59m). The drop was driven by the departure of several of the biggest-spending sponsors including ING and Panasonic who together paid £84m ($125m) annually. More ...

USF1 to reapply for team debut in 2013?  (GMM)  USF1 may not intend to reapply for a place on the 2011 formula one grid.

The American team was not ready to debut as scheduled this season and might subsequently be penalized by the governing FIA.

But with the FIA reopening the team application process for 2011, it had been rumored that Charlotte based USF1 might try again, given the effort put into designing and partially constructing its 2010 cars.

USF1's sporting director Peter Windsor, although no longer the FIA interviewer, or the pitlane reporter for America's Speed TV or Australia's Ten Network, is at Albert Park this weekend with some other media duties.

BBC journalist Sarah Holt revealed on Saturday that she chatted to the Briton before qualifying.

"I asked him if USF1 would re-enter for next year, and he said 'Maybe in 2013.'  He walked off before I had a chance to ask him if he was joking," she said.

Stefan GP considers US F1 takeover  UPDATE (GMM)  Stefan GP has not given up on racing in formula one this year.

With the Toyota relationship recently coming to an end, Serbian businessman Zoran Stefanovic is now said to be working on reviving the failed USF1 project.

Charlotte based USF1 had an official entry for 2010, but was not ready for the initial races of the season.

It was reported that initial merger efforts between Stefan GP and the American team had failed, but France's Auto Hebdo claims the solution is now back on the table.

The publication said the situation is circulating as a rumor in the Albert Park paddock, where USF1 sporting director Peter Windsor is performing some media duties this weekend.

But the problem with this solution for Stefan is that not only is USF1's car not built, but that the FIA is considering penalizing the American team for not appearing in Melbourne. More ...

Mercedes SLS GT3 to race in FIA GT  
Mercedes AMG SLS GT3
Some crumbs and tastes of Mercedes new GT3 race car have been scattered about online recently, but info has been thin and sparse from MB. The car will be sporting some wild curves and more carbon fiber than an Airbus A380. An intimidating front lip, vented hood, a racing rear ground effects diffuser topped by a fat rear spoiler...will all make this car a real addition to any race grid with accordingly suitable rules and regulations.

Currently only reported to race in the 2011 FIA GT3 Series in Europe, Mercedes does not have any curb weight numbers yet and says the FIA will likely determine how big and how powerful a version of the stock car’s 563-hp 6.2-liter V8 the race car gets.

“Thanks to uncompromising lightweight construction and superior handling dynamics, the SLS AMG provides an outstanding basis for a highly competitive racing car. This exciting GT3 version is our response to strong customer demand for a car designed for these attractive motor sports series. Once again, it demonstrates AMG’s huge experience gained in more than 40 years of motor sports, and its great expertise in the development of unique high-performance cars,” says Volker Mornhinweg, the man in charge of Mercedes’ AMG division.

Rumors have the SLS AMG GT3 making a debut appearance at the New York Auto Show on March 31st.

Rahal back to Newman Haas Lanigan Racing  America's leading young open-wheel driver appears set for a full-time return to the series, reports SPEEDtv.com's Robin Miller.

Graham Rahal rejoins the IZOD IndyCar series this weekend at St. Petersburg in Sarah Fisher's car but the 21-year-old second generation star is poised be reunited with the Newman/Haas/Lanigan team for the rest of 2010 and will team with Honda backed Heideki Mutoh.

SPEEDtv.com reports that young Rahal secured sponsorship that will likely put him back with the Chicago-based squad he's driven for since 2007 - beginning at Long Beach next month.

"I don't want to say too much yet but it's looking good for something full-time," said Rahal on Tuesday night following his ALMS Corvette test at Sebring, Fla.

Hamilton back with Scherzinger?  Did you catch Lewis Hamilton in attendance at the season premiere of Dancing with the Stars last night. They showed him twice after Nicole Scherzinger performed her dance. We were under the impression the two had split up.
Hildebrand to start his own team?  UPDATE We got word from JR that this rumor is entirely false.

03/20/10 We have heard from more than one source that JR Hildebrand is trying to start his own IndyCar team. It seems that though he is the reigning Indy Lights Champ, there was not an IndyCar ride in sight for him, while the Atlantic runner up, and other Lights drivers from last year have found rides, the Lights Champ is once again left out of the game. Even so, if he has funding, taking sponsorship dollars to a team to run him simply puts money in the pocket of a team owner, when they could put that dollar to better use in more testing, better equipment, etc. The scaled cost of running a second car with another team however is still a question, as it seems that would be more bang for the buck, even if someone is making money.

However, like we said, we have heard this from more than one source...
Renault engine changes occurred before Bahrain  (GMM)  Renault has played down reports the French marque has been permitted to make new changes to its formula one engine.

It was reported recently that Renault, supported stridently and openly by its F1 customer Red Bull, had lobbied the FIA to be allowed to catch up with Mercedes' arguably best engine on the grid.

Red Bull's Christian Horner said last month: "It would be a disaster to lose another engine manufacturer at the end of the year because they cannot compete with the others."

But amid suggestions that none of the permitted changes involved improving either performance or fuel efficiency, a Renault source clarified on Monday that the news is not even new.

Rather, the source said the FIA's approved changes have not "just been green-lighted" but were rather all implemented in the winter pre-season.

Moreover, the changes were all in accordance with the rules allowing modifications on grounds of cost reduction and reliability, and the source said "every engine manufacturer" is in dialogue with the FIA on the same basis.

More changes coming to the COT?  The Sprint Cup car rear-deck wing, that much-hated piece of the race vehicle originally introduced as the Car of Tomorrow, will make one more run in Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. When teams reassemble next weekend at Martinsville Speedway, the cars will be fitted with the traditional metal spoilers that sat on the back of NASCAR racers for decades before the COT ushered in the wing. The reappearance of the spoiler probably won't be the only significant and maybe not the most significant change in car body armor this season as NASCAR has ramped up its campaign against flying cars in the wake of Brad Keselowski's wild ride two weeks ago at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Ongoing tests are directed at preventing cars from becoming airborne when they turn sideways or backward. Keselowski's flight at Atlanta caused particular concern among NASCAR officials because such problems are relatively rare at 1.5-mile tracks (although Atlanta speeds are seriously fast despite the track size). Pppppppp The switch next week from wing to spoiler is likely to have no measurable effect on holding cars on the ground. Wind tunnel tests and study of videotapes of airborne crashes indicate that the major cause of cars taking flight is the rush of air underneath the car, not the rear-deck wing. Among the solutions, according to long-time Ford Racing engineer Bernie Marcus, an aerodynamic specialist, might be slots in the rear area of the car so that, in an accident, air would have places to escape. "We tested last week in another liftoff test as a result of what happened in Atlanta," Marcus said Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway. More ...
Vettel ran out of fuel in Bahrain  (GMM)  Ron Dennis has been quoted as questioning Red Bull's claim that Sebastian Vettel suffered a spark plug failure whilst leading the 2010 season opener in Bahrain last weekend.

Initially after the 22-year-old pole sitter gave up the lead of the race to the eventual three podium-getters, Red Bull diagnosed an exhaust problem.

A subsequent media statement clarified that it was actually a spark plug problem within the Renault engine that was the matter, but Spain's AS newspaper reported last week that Vettel simply slowed to prevent running out of fuel.

"The lap times dropped so rapidly that one can imagine the electronic control unit (ECU) switching to a conservative program to save fuel," Dennis is quoted as saying in a report of the Cologne newspaper Express. More ...

'Baltimore Grand Prix' could start in 2011  UPDATE #7 A helicopter crew will conduct a survey of the likely route of a proposed Grand Prix race in Baltimore on Saturday.

City officials will post notices warning motorists not to park along certain streets in the Inner Harbor and Camden Yards areas between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. to clear the roadways for an aerial and ground survey of the 2.44-mile route.

The survey is being done to determine whether the city needs to do any modification to the roads before the race could take place, Barnes said.

Ryan O'Doherty, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake, said the survey could bring Baltimore one step closer to landing the high-profile, multiple-day auto race.

Jay Davidson, chief executive of Baltimore Racing Development, said his company envisions the Grand Prix as a three- to four-day event with multiple auto races, including a main event that would attract the top names in Indy-style racing.

O'Doherty and Davidson said the city and company are negotiating on how to share the costs of the survey.

Davidson said he hopes the company and city can wrap up a contract agreement by the end of this month. He said a final decision by the Indy Racing League on giving Baltimore the regional franchise could follow by another two or three weeks.

"They very much want this market," Davidson said. "They don't have anything in the Mid-Atlantic." More ...

Kolles eyes HRT takeover, Meta posing no threat  (GMM)  According to rumors in the French press, the newly branded Hispania (HRT) team could be set for another takeover before long.

In the rush to get two race cars built by the Italian constructor Dallara in time for the 2010 season opener, Jose Ramon Carabante took control of the ailing team from its founder Adrian Campos.

France's Auto Hebdo now reports that new team boss Colin Kolles, who allegedly wanted to relocate the outfit to Germany, could be the next in line to take over the team.

Meanwhile, to the AS newspaper in Spain, Meta Image has played down rumors that legal action could be amounted in light of the pre-season name change from Campos-Meta.

"Right now we are not posing any kind of complaint, about the name or anything else.  This is a collaboration, a common cause, and we just want to do the best for the team," said Meta chief Enrique Rodriguez. More ...

IRL lost $22 Million in 2009  Sources close to the IRL said the series lost $22 million last year, and  many motorsports experts think it will be difficult in the current economic climate to close that gap in the next two years.

IRL officials have cut  $2 million in overhead in the last year, have raised $3 million in cash annually with a new title sponsorship deal, and can expect $2 million in profits from the  Brazil race, said motorsports business experts. That still leaves a $15 million  hole to close.

Aside from races in Indianapolis; Long Beach, Calif.;  Edmonton, Canada; and Motegi, Japan, the IRL’s other 13 races break even or lose  money, sources close to the series said."

Deutsche Post DHL eyes Mercedes sponsor deal  (GMM)  Deutsche Post is contemplating a return to the livery of a formula one car.

The Munich newspaper TZ said the German logistics giant, who through its subsidiary DHL is already an official partner of the world championship itself, is in talks about backing the newly rebranded Mercedes GP team.

It is reported that Deutsche Post figures met with Daimler chief executive Dieter Zetsche to this end in Bahrain.

TZ said the deal could be ready for its debut at the Spanish grand prix in May, the first race of F1's European season.

The Jordan team, now Force India, ran with prominent yellow and red DHL and Deutsche Post branding in 2002.

More recently, the company is a personal sponsor of the German driver Timo Glock, including minor branding on his Toyota and Virgin overalls.

F1 team Williams positions for VW alliance  UPDATE Volkswagen has formed 'R' GmbH (The GmbH in Germany is like an LLC here in the USA - a limited liability company). In the future VW R will be specialized in sportive-exclusive models of the brand. Now added for example are the two new top models Scirocco R and Golf R. on top of that there will be the R-Line design packages as well as luxury exclusive equipment.

With Volkswagen R GmbH, VW wants to honor the worldwide increased demand for customized vehicles. The sporty positioning should be developed medium to long term. The company is based in Warmenau near Wolfsburg, Germany. The company employs over 350 employees.

VW does not do this for fun.  We think R GmbH will be their new racing arm. It may be that they want their racing arm to be a limited liability company because in racing, accidents do happen and people can die.

03/18/10 (GMM)  According to the latest reports from Germany, Williams could be a candidate to team up with the country's carmaker giant Volkswagen.

The Sport Bild weekly suggested that Sir Frank Williams, who has already sold a 20 per cent share in his once great Grove based team to Austrian Toto Wolff, could sell another stake to Wolfsburg based VW.

"We are stronger with a manufacturer than as a private team.  No question," 67-year-old Williams is quoted as saying.

"And of course we have an affinity with Germany.  I remember well, quite early on, we went to the races with VW buses -- we sometimes even slept in them!" he added.

"German cars are great," Williams continued.  "With Mercedes, Brawn won the title last year, and with McLaren in the previous year.  And now they (Mercedes) are up there with their own team."

Williams, now powered by engines supplied by the British independent company Cosworth, last won a race in 2004 with works BMW power.

The team has also won titles in the past amid works relationships with the carmakers Honda and Renault.

Said VW's motor racing representative Hans-Joachim Stuck: "At the moment F1 is not a topic for us.  If, however, the conditions change, we would have to think about it."

Volkswagen is openly keen on the FIA's proposal to instigate 'world engine' regulations from 2013.

Former F1 driver Stuck agreed that rules of that type would result in "huge savings".

FIA to tell more teams to alter diffusers  (GMM)  It is expected that two more teams will be asked by the FIA to alter their double diffuser designs prior to scrutineering for next week's Australian grand prix.

During the season opener in Bahrain last weekend, we reported that McLaren had been told that the diffuser fitted to its MP4-25 may not reappear in Melbourne.

McLaren had reportedly aerodynamically exploited the hole for the external engine starter, making it much bigger than necessary and thereby gaining another diffuser level.

It was said the British team agreed to revise the design for Melbourne.

Spain's El Pais newspaper said Renault and Mercedes will also have to modify their diffusers for the same reason ahead of round two of the 2010 world championship. More ...

Ferrari engineer working on diffuser for 'B' car  
Photos of the Ferrari rear diffuser are hard to come by
(GMM)  Rumors that Ferrari is working on a 'B' version of its new F10 car have resurfaced.

We reported Italian media speculation in late January that a significant overhaul of the single seater, which finished first and second on debut in Bahrain last weekend, is taking place.

Italy's weekly Autosprint magazine has now revealed more details, including that Giuseppe Azzollini - a CFD expert - was employed by the Maranello based team late last year following Toyota's withdrawal from the sport.

It is suggested he is now working on a considerable development of the F10's double diffuser that cannot be accommodated in the current layout of the chassis. More ...

Lotus lands $9 million Petrobras deal  (GMM)  According to Brazilian media reports, Lotus is close to securing a sponsorship deal with Petrobras.

Some of the reports said a deal between the new Malaysian-backed team and the semi-public Brazilian oil company has been done.

But UOL Esporte quoted a Petrobras official, whose employer was last involved in formula one with Williams, as clarifying that a contract is still "under consideration".

It is expected that the talks will be completed by the end of the month. More ...

JRM wants to run Danica's car for full season  JR Motorsports will try to run two full-time teams this season in the Nationwide Series.

The No. 7 Chevrolet was only scheduled to run 13 events this season with Danica Patrick. But the team said Monday it's trying to piece together sponsorship to enter all of the races.

"The bottom line is the No. 7 car is too good not to be at the race track," said JRM co-owner and crew chief Tony Eury Jr. "Our goal at JR Motorsports has always been to have two full-time Nationwide Series teams competing every week."

JRM's flagship No. 88 runs the entire season, and the team has said it is committed to the full year even though sponsorship for driver Kelly Bires is not complete. But Eury said enough progress has been made that the organization can now try to sell the No. 7 for additional events.

Scott Wimmer will race the No. 7 this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, and again on April 3 at Nashville.

Patrick drove the car in the first three Nationwide races of the season. Her next scheduled race is in June at New Hampshire. SI.com

NASCAR drivers could be tried for murder  If NASCAR drivers are going to retaliate against their fellow competitors, they might get more than three weeks probation because of it.

They could find themselves in trouble with the law.

Drivers should be aware that if they intentionally wreck another driver and someone is injured, they could face criminal penalties, according to Winston-Salem, N.C., attorney John Morrow, whose firm has represented Richard Childress Racing.

Whether the charges would stick and whether those injured could successfully bring civil claims against the driver is a matter of debate, according to lawyers and educators who follow sports law.

In Georgia for example, the definition of aggravated assault is “with a deadly weapon or with any object, device, or instrument which, when used offensively against a person, is likely to or actually does result in serious bodily injury.”

If Brad Keselowski or a fan had been injured when Keselowski’s car got airborne after intentional contact by Carl Edwards in the March 7 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, would Edwards’ action fit that assault definition?

“There certainly is a danger out there,” Morrow said. “They’re flirting with lawsuits. They race in about 20 states and every state has different laws. … You can be convicted of assault with a deadly weapon in North Carolina if you intentionally run over somebody.

“And if you kill them, that can get up there in the murder class [of crimes].” Scene Daily

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