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DATE News (chronologically)
Crash should spark Campsa tweak - Webber  
Mark Webber
(GMM)  Mark Webber says the time is right to review the run-off area at the Circuit de Catalunya's high-speed Campsa corner.

The Australian's friend, McLaren driver Heikki Kovalainen, was hospitalized after his car failed at about 240kmh and was buried in the barriers during Sunday's Spanish grand prix.

Rescue workers took ten minutes to recover the initially unconscious Finn from the broken Mercedes-powered single seater.

"The first thing to say is that the run-off on that corner is too tight and we need to have a look at it," Webber, who drives for Red Bull, wrote in his column for the BBC.

He said turn nine, which he inspected during a lap of the Barcelona layout on a scooter on Thursday afternoon, is "probably the worst section of that whole track" to crash.

Webber said he wanted to inspect the tire barriers at Campsa after Sebastien Bourdais destroyed Toro Rosso's prototype 2008 car there in recent testing.

While Bourdais bounced off the barrier, Webber said Kovalainen's car hit at a "nasty angle" and went under and penetrated the covering conveyor belt.

"With the amount of pressure that comes along the top of the chassis the next thing exposed in the forward section is your head," Webber explained.

He said a FIA worker at the scene of the crash last Sunday provided much relief to the passing field when he gave a thumbs-up.

"It is just nice to know that one of our good mates and popular colleagues is not badly hurt," Webber said.

track news
Kentucky Speedway claims NASCAR, ISC work against them  Kentucky Speedway owners insist they are not just a jilted distributor but contend that NASCAR and International Speedway Corp. have worked together illegally to keep independent tracks from hosting Sprint Cup races, according to Kentucky Speedway’s appeal in its federal antitrust lawsuit against the two France family-controlled companies.

According to a redacted version of the appeal, in which some presumably sensitive information was taken out, Kentucky Speedway offers its arguments as to why a U.S. District Court judge should not have ruled in January in favor of NASCAR and ISC without allowing the case to go to trial. In his opinion, the judge rejected the validity of Kentucky Speedway’s expert economist’s testimony.

In its appeal, released Monday by the U.S. appeals court in Cincinnati, Kentucky Speedway says that NASCAR denied independent tracks Cup races until they agreed to sell to ISC at below market value. The track's appeal also says that NASCAR threatened to pull races from Las Vegas Motor Speedway because the owners refused to sell to ISC; the owners later sold to ISC-rival Speedway Motorsports. More ...

Overheard at Kansas  We have it on good word that Vision Racing will run a third car at Indy for Davey Hamilton......Look for KV Racing Technology to run just two cars for the Indy 500, so they won't be running a third car for Paul Tracy......Rookie Orientation starts next Sunday for the 12 or so rookies to go through rookie orientation at Indy....We hear that the NHLR team is looking for ways to get more weight out of Justin Wilson's IndyCar since he is in the heaviest weight category and can remove the most weight.......We heard a lot of people are saying that the ISC tracks are not treating the open wheel contingent very well at times.  We have said for years the stock car folks consider open wheel racing a foe not a friend......The Ganassi team cars dominated the entire weekend, so they found something no one else has, which bodes well for them at Indy since oval track racing is almost all car......Dale Coyne's team worked until race time to get Moraes' car ready for the race, and at one point they didn't have the necessary parts.....We heard a part broke on Coyne's car in the Sebring test and it turns out that part was redesigned three years ago.......Hmm, did the Champ Car teams get all the junk cars the IRL regulars did not want?
Patrick does not rule out NASCAR switch  Danica Patrick's visit to the Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway two weeks ago was more about seeing friends than putting out feelers.

But aside from renewing ties with former Indy Racing League peers Dario Franchitti and Sam Hornish Jr., Patrick's Phoenix appearance as a guest of Roush Fenway Racing also could mark a step toward establishing new relationships in stock-car racing — perhaps with Jack Roush, who admitted officials from his powerhouse Cup team spoke to Patrick at Phoenix.

NASCAR still remains a possibility for Patrick in the wake of becoming the first woman to win a major-league open-wheel event. More ...
Danica Patrick 'dead set' on F1 switch  
Danica Patrick will give F1 a look after she wins the IndyCar championship
(GMM)  Danica Patrick has vowed to push for an IndyCar title before seriously considering a switch to formula one.

After becoming the first woman to win a premier open wheel race last Sunday, reports have linked the 26-year-old American with an eventual switch to the sport's highest category.

But she told the Daily Star: "First I want to contend for the IndyCar championship and then we'll see what opportunities arise."

Patrick admits to setting her heart on a grand prix foray after spending some of her formative career in England as a youngster.

"During my three years in England, I followed F1 closely and became dead set on racing in it," she recalled.

"F1 is regarded as the highest level of racing with the best drivers in the world and it's very flattering to have that as an opportunity," Patrick added.

Sebastian Vettel, the German rookie who is racing with Toro Rosso this year, at Barcelona played down suggestions that women are not physically strong enough to race in F1.

"Well, I'm not exactly a bear!" he laughed.

Overheard in Long Beach - 5  UPDATE There is a possibility of fielding an Indy 500 entry. We have a good relationship with an existing team, who will help us pull the equipment together that we need. I'm sure nobody is surprised to hear, the only thing that I need to do now is to get the money, and that's my mission, put a program together and do a good enough job. For us it's really important to compete in IndyCar as often as possible. It's our intention to build back into IndyCar again. Therefore, getting as many events under our belts this year is extremely important. Hopefully, we can pull that off. We will be making an announcement as soon as it's a done deal. Derrick Walker

04/19/08 Alex Tagliani who, like many other good Champ Car drivers, was left hung out to dry when Champ Car folded in the 11th hour, is said to be talking to Duncan Dayton about the team's possible 2nd entry in ALMS in 2009.......Derrick Walker tells us he still has no definite plans after this race (outside of the Atlantic Series) but he's trying to keep the doors open in hopes that he can put something together in Indy Car or sports cars for 2009........The grandstands look 80% or more full for the ALMS race and the crowd looks every bit as good as 2007, so we hear race officials are happy with the result given the slow economy.......We are hearing that Pacific Coast Motorsports may announce their previously rumored Indy Car program on Wednesday with the goal of starting in the Indy 500 and running the rest of the schedule.  Mario Dominguez is still rumored to be the driver that will be announced.....We hear that Tony Cotman reminded the drivers that the nine transition to the IRL drivers are running for IndyCar points so be careful not to take them out or spoil their result.....There was a rumor going around that if the IRL IndyCar race was not able to run on Sunday in Motegi the race would just be cancelled and no points awarded because of the logistics for the teams to get back to the USA in time for next weekend's Kansas City race.  That would have meant no points would be awarded here in Long Beach for the nine transitioning drivers, but now we are hearing that the IRL may try for Monday should Sunday be a washout....Speaking of the Kansas race IndyCar race, we hear it's a sellout.
Did Champ Car drivers forget how to drive in one week?  UPDATE If I may respond to Bernie Martin, Having driven both ovals and road courses, I can say that it does take considerable skill to drive an oval. Coming out of a turn at over 200mph (I didn’t go that fast) with a concrete wall staring you in the face just inches to your right is not something most people can identify with. However, it does take more overall driving skill to drive a road course. One could argue that the two have become quite specialized and it's rare that you see a driver that can truly do both. I am inclined to believe that.

The real deal is that on an oval, the driver still does make a difference as the driver must be able to take the car to its limits. When a car is set up and powered sufficiently, that bar is raised, requiring more of the driver. Even at 100% throttle, there are faster ways around a track that a good driver will find. The differences are very small however. So even a really good driver cannot make much of a difference with a car that is not properly set up and handling.  However, with a car that is properly set up and handling, don't think that the driver doesn't make a difference at that point, especially in a wheel-to-wheel dice at over 200 mph. Also, a major part of the driver's job is communicating effectively and providing input to enable the team to set the car up properly. But if the crew does not have test data to work with, the chain is broken and the whole system breaks down and you are slow. All of the pieces need to be in place and working at their optimum.

Generally, you will see a road racer adapt to oval racing much more quickly than the other way around.

The reason you see the Champ Car teams doing well on the road courses is that the physics and dynamics of road racing are something they are familiar with. Though the cars are quite different to the seasoned racer, they still share many of the same basic types of parts that behave basically the same way from one type of formula racing car to the next. Additionally, the driver makes a much bigger difference on a road course, and can do more to make up for a less-than-ideal handling car.  However, it should be noted that an ill-handling car will still be at the back, no matter who is in the seat.

There are two ways to get grip, and racing cars use varying levels of both. Downforce is aerodynamic grip from the tunnels under the car and the wings. Mechanical grip comes from the suspension geometry, springs, shocks, tires pressures, stagger and other intricacies. If you can't get the grip mechanically, you have to get it by cranking the wings up a bit. The problem is that cranking the wings up, also creates drag, which slows you down.

It's just speculation on my part, but I suspect that the Champ Car teams are running more downforce to get the car to handle comfortably, because they have not yet figured out the intricacies of getting the car to handle just right by using less downforce. On an oval, downforce is a fickle lady. Downforce keeps the car glued to the track in the turns, but kills you on the straights. So the trick is to get the car to grip as much as possible in a mechanical way, requiring less downforce to do the job. The Champ Car teams are years behind in experience with ovals and these cars. I expected to see a little more improvement this race, but it looks like they will likely be out of it for most of the season on the ovals. Indy might be an exception because all the teams have a lot of track time there during the month of May. Also the turns are not banked much, so it's more like driving a four-turn road course. I believe Nigel Mansell said something to that effect several years back. So I am predicting that these things should help. Also, over the course of a 500 mile race, the team and driver have more time to sort the car out as the race progresses. That, coupled with good pit and fuel strategy, can win you a nice cold drink of milk.

I think you would see an instant validation of this if one of the Champ Car drivers get picked up by a seasoned IRL team. Let's see what happens if and when Franck Perera gets picked up by Penske for that TBA car he has entered at Indy. That might be interesting...Lance Freespeed

04/26/08 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I see that the Champ Car teams and drivers are all at the back of the grid for the Kansas IRL race after dominating in St. Pete and strong runs in Long Beach. Did they forget how to drive since the last races? Of course the answer is no. Ovals have and always will be 100 percent car and zero percent driver on 100 percent throttle tracks. Until the Champ Car teams figure out the IRL car on the ovals their drivers will be nowhere. Bernie Martin
Grand Prix Masters back?  UPDATE Could this be the home for the Champ Car Panoz DP01 and Cosworth given the former GP Masters cars were ex-Champ Car Reynards? Food for thought.....

04/26/08 Word is that the defunct Grand Prix Masters Series is going to make a comeback and the latest word is that Jacques Villeneuve will be racing in that series.

The Grand Prix Masters series which ended after the UK based company that organized and promoted it was officially wound up after legal action by two of its creditors in November 2007 is to be re-launched.

The series in which ex-Formula One drivers raced against each other in identical chassis powered by identical engines series started in 2005 but by the time of the last event in August 2006 only three races had taken place.

A report in the UK’s Autosport magazine says that Delta Motorsport which supplied the series identical chassis based on a former Reynard IndyCar design and was one of the companies that applied for the winding up order is part of a group behind the re-launch.

The Autosport story says that negotiations over backing for a revival of the series could result in an announcement by the end of May. Source

NASCAR has eye on snatching Danica from IRL  Officials from Roush Fenway Racing "had a conversation" with IndyCar driver Danica Patrick as recently as two weeks ago when the Sprint Cup Series was in Phoenix for the Subway Fresh Fit 500.

And while Jack Roush, the founder and co-owner of the organization, said that he was not part of the conversation, he also said Friday from Talladega Superspeedway that he believes Patrick has an interest in eventually pursuing a future that would include at least some stock-car racing. He even offered to lay out a program for her indoctrination into NASCAR.

"I think Danica, from what I understand, has got an interest in stock-car racing," Roush said. "Any sponsor, any team owner that felt the need to have more of a diverse situation in their driving lineup would look at Danica very favorably." More ...

Where will Atlantic Series end up?  Vicki O'Connor can't say with certainty what the future holds for the Atlantic Championship, but the managing director of the nation's oldest open-wheel development series is certain it has one.

O'Connor has been at the helm of the 35-year-old series since 1985 and has seen it graduate drivers from Bobby Rahal to Graham Rahal. But with its parent, Champ Car, being absorbed into the Indy Racing League, which has the Indy Lights as its development series, the Atlantics are left without a sanctioning body.

O'Connor is undaunted. "We'll just have to see where the best position is for us," she said. "We've had a lot of interest."

The series has an 11-race schedule this year, which began last weekend at Long Beach, Calif. O'Connor is optimistic about having at least that many dates in 2009 as support races at a variety of events.

"We will be affiliated with someone," she said, "but who sanctions us doesn't mean we always have to run with them." Indy Star

[Editor's Note: According to our sources, the IRL is one possibility.  Recall in the glory days of CART there was both an Atlantic series and a faster Firestone Indy Lights Series as training grounds for up and coming IndyCar drivers.  And the IRL already sanctions a karting series.  So it makes a lot of sense to see the same four step ladder Karting-->Star Mazda-->Atlantics-->IndyLights-->IndyCars]

Superleague may buy Champ Cars  UPDATE #3 Team owner Paul Gentilozzi said he believes the world hasn't seen the last of the Cosworth-powered Panoz DP01 cars that ran in the Champ Car World Series finale at Long Beach. "I think somewhere a series will emerge using this equipment. I know we have a plan for ours." IndyStar

02/21/08 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  The Superleague Formula will not buy used or new Champ Car chassis, because the Superleague  tubs are already built and the chassis is totally different.

02/20/08 Don't be surprised if this rumor becomes 'fact' before long now that it is all but certain that Champ Car will cease to exist and the teams will be left with cars they have no use for.  Another option we hear could be on the table is a switch to a modified oval-ready version of the Panoz for 2009 or 2010 and beyond, which is when the IRL was due for a new car anyway.  In that scenario the question is whether the IRL would switch to the sexier turbo engines that Champ Car uses, or stick with the loud normally aspirated engines they currently use.

01/28/08 There is a rumor going around that if Champ Car were to take up Tony George's offer (Tony says it's too late, the offer is no longer on the table) to switch to the IRL the new Superleague, which has not had all its cars built yet, have made an offer to buy all the Champ Cars and convert them to their normally aspirated F1-sounding V10 engines.
Barrichello to IRL; Andretti to F1?  UPDATE #2 We are downgrading this rumor to 'false' today.  Honda have denied rumors that Rubens Barrichello is set to quit Formula One in order to move to the Indy Racing League series.

"Rubens' wife has said that if there was one thing she didn't want him doing, it was oval racing," CEO Nick Fry told Autosport.

So that seems to have been translated into a swap between two drivers.

"I know nothing about it whatsoever, and neither does Rubens, so we are somewhat amazed by where this has come from. I think we can knock that one on the head, even though we did give Marco a drive and we keep an eye on what he is doing. Rubens is definitely having an Indian summer, the first three races he has done a great job and now we are just looking for him to keep it up."

04/23/08 "News to me," came the response from Andretti Green Racing spokesman Al Larsen as told exclusively to Motorsport.com this morning. Thus reports that Honda Formula One driver Rubens Barrichello, set next month to become the series' longest-serving driver, will finish his career in the United States would seem to be at least premature.

A story attributed to German newspaper Bild and reportedly confirmed by Speedtv maintains that Barrichello will drive for Andretti Green Racing in 2009. The story suggests the Brazilian will swap places in Indy car racing with AGR driver Marco Andretti. The common link is Honda, whose engines power Indy cars. The third-generation Andretti racer has tested Honda's F1 car.

Larsen told Motorsport.com that the rumor "absolutely blindsided" him.

"I've not seen that," he said. "Nobody here's got a clue. The only thing official is he's not here. Nobody is confirming it."

Marco Andretti
Will Rubens Barrichello (above) swap seats with Marco Andretti (top)?
04/23/08 (GMM)  Rubens Barrichello has received an offer to see out his long motor racing career in America, according to reports.

The German newspaper Bild claims the 35-year-old, who next month will set a new benchmark as the longest serving grand prix driver in history, has been asked to run with the Andretti-Green IndyCar team in 2009.

Barrichello's current contract with the F1 team Honda, owned by the Japanese marque that also equips Andretti-Green with engines, runs out at the end of 2008.

Bild raises the possibility of a seat 'swap'; Barrichello to IRL in exchange for Andretti-Green's Marco Andretti, the 21-year-old American son of former McLaren driver Michael Andretti, whose own father Mario won the world championship in 1978.

Reportedly, the American broadcaster Speed TV cited Barrichello as confirming the offer.

Marco Andretti has already collected about 900 kilometers of testing in a Honda F1 car.

Fry 'not optimistic' about Aguri survival  (GMM) Honda team chief executive Nick Fry on Thursday said he is not optimistic that Super Aguri's troubled current situation will have a happy ending.

The Japanese manufacturer has already ruled out rescuing Super Aguri, which since 2006 has operated as a de facto 'B' Honda team, after its buyer's financial backing fell through.

Leafield based Super Aguri has set up at the Circuit de Catalunya, but currently there is no confirmation that the team will be able to complete the Spanish grand prix weekend or beyond.

Fry, a close former associate of potential Super Aguri buyer Martin Leach, will not buoy the mood of anxiety with his comments at Barcelona to the Reuters news agency.

"We've been working as hard as we possibly can to find a solution for Aguri, but at this stage I'm not overly optimistic," he said.

It is understood that talks with Leach's Magma Group are back on, but that the Dubai investors are not keen on the looming end of the 'customer car' era.

Fry added: "We have been engaged almost full time in the last few weeks trying to find a solution and I hope that it's going to be a happy ending to the story, but at this stage that certainly can't be guaranteed."
Will major oil find lower gas prices?  Brazil's discoveries of what may be two of the world's three biggest oil finds in the past 30 years could help end the Western Hemisphere's reliance on Middle East crude, Strategic Forecasting Inc. said.

Saudi Arabia's influence as the biggest oil exporter would wane if the fields are as big as advertised, and China and India would become dominant buyers of Persian Gulf oil, said Peter Zeihan, vice president of analysis at Strategic Forecasting in Austin, Texas. Zeihan's firm, which consults for companies and governments around the world, was described in a 2001 Barron's article as "the shadow CIA.''

Brazil may be pumping "several million'' barrels of crude daily by 2020, vaulting the nation into the ranks of the world's seven biggest producers, Zeihan said in a telephone interview. The U.S. Navy's presence in the Persian Gulf and adjacent waters would be reduced, leaving the region exposed to more conflict, he said.

"We could see that world becoming a very violent one,'' said Zeihan, former chief of Middle East and East Asia analysis for Strategic Forecasting.

"If the United States isn't getting any crude from the Gulf, what benefit does it have in policing the Gulf anymore? All of the geopolitical flux that wracks that region regularly suddenly isn't our problem.'' Bloomberg.com: Latin America
NASCAR Worried? Danica's Win Could Spell Trouble  While several of NASCAR's best and brightest were strutting their stuff in Mexico, where Kyle Busch won yet again in the Nationwide Series, stock car racing was being upstaged, for once, by the Indy Cars.  It's been awhile since that happened.

The embattled, but finally unified, Indy Racing League got a long awaited boost when Danica Patrick won for the first time. The first female IndyCar winner broke through in her 50th attempt.

NASCAR greatly benefited from the open-wheel split that lasted more than a decade. When it happened, in 1996, Indy Cars were a potent, if already troubled, force in American motorsports. By the time the split finally ended this year, the long term decline in attendance and television ratings had relegated IRL and Champ Car alike into a once great, but trivialized, outpost of the sport.

So what happens next? Does Patrick's victory spur a long term restoration or just a short term boost? How does it affect NASCAR? Does a rise in open-wheel interest create a fall for NASCAR? Or is the health of motorsports overall beneficial for all parties?

There is no Danica Patrick on the NASCAR horizon. Women have occasionally competed but without notable success. NASCAR diversity efforts have been focused on ethnicity, not gender, in part because the modest success stories have mostly involved men.

This week, Patrick will enjoy the kind of acclaim normally reserved for a Daytona 500 or Indy 500 victor. Her victory occurs at almost a perfect time, leading into the tradition-filled month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Patrick was featured in a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue pictorial earlier this year. She is attractive, articulate and vitally concerned with her image. There won't be any reluctance on her part to capitalize on the attention.  More at AOL Sports

[Editor's Note: See related rumor about Lil' E needs to get "the call" now to win this weekend at Talladega and stop the Danica Patrick juggernaut.]

Will Truex bolt from DEI?  
Martin Truex Jr.
If free agent-to-be Martin Truex Jr. is considering employment with another team, the next two months should help him make up his mind.

Starting with last year’s spring race at Talladega, Truex shrugged off a slow start with finishes of 11th or better in six of nine races — including a dominant win at Dover. During that stretch, Truex rose from 20th in the standings to ninth. But Truex’s situation is much different this season. He’s feeling the pressure to duplicate last year’s performance and is unable to sneak up on competitors.

The good news is that Truex may not have to worry about finding a new employer.

His performance to date has been much better than in the first eight races of last year. If Truex decides to bolt, Richard Childress Racing’s new fourth car would be a step up. Truex is a good qualifier and probably wouldn’t sweat too much over the first five races of next season, when he would have to qualify solely on time. Also, Truex would be joining an organization whose current drivers rank among the top eight in points. If Truex’s cars don’t measure up to his expectations during these next two months, the decision to leave will become that much easier. And it would leave DEI without any full-time premier drivers. NASCAR.com

Papis to land ride with Haas team  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with this announcement today - Haas CNC Racing is pleased to announce that Max Papis will drive the No. 70 Haas Automation Chevrolet during the two road-course races on the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule.

"I'm very excited to have this opportunity," Papis said. "After testing for Hendrick Motorsports and developing more knowledge about the COT, I'm proud and honored to carry over that experience to the Haas CNC Racing program."

The 2008 Sprint Cup Series road-course races are June 22 at Infineon Raceway and Aug. 10 at Watkins Glen International.  Haas CNC Racing

04/21/08 Rumor has it that Max Papis is in talks with Haas CNC Racing about running the two Sprint Cup road course races in the #70 car.  An agreement is said to be close.
NASCAR needs for Lil' E to win after Danica's win   If there is a such thing as "the call" in NASCAR, now is the time for Earnhardt Jr. to get that call.

Danica Patrick no doubt feels like the weight of the world is off her shoulders after she finally scored her first career IndyCar win over the weekend.

But while Patrick's load has lightened, perhaps it is Dale Earnhardt Jr. who is now carrying around some heavier freight these days. Earnhardt now has the distinction of being the most well-known driver in auto racing who has seemingly made more trips to the bank recently than to Victory Lane.

Both Patrick and Earnhardt are the faces of their respective racing disciplines. They are the most recognizable and popular personalities in each series and have capitalized tremendously with a wealth of marketing, sponsorship and commercial endorsements.

Many had harshly criticized Patrick for being nothing more than a dog and pony show or auto racing's equivalent of Anna Kournikova after going winless for nearly three years while continuing to appear in countless advertising campaigns, television interviews and media opportunities. More ...

PCM to start Indy Car team  UPDATE #3 See Hot News page for the announcement confirming this rumor (now fact).

04/22/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today as we have learned the announcement will be made in Mexico on Wednesday that will include Mario Dominguez as the driver.

04/18/08 We are upgrading this rumor to 'strong' as we are hearing in the Long Beach paddock that the team is close to announcing their Indy Car plans and Mario Dominguez may be their first driver.

03/29/08 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Tyler Tadevic has bought the Pacific Coast Motorsports team from Tom Figge and is close to signing a deal to run a 1-car Indy Car from the Indy 500 to the end of the season.  We also hear the sponsor and driver could be announced mid-week and could turn out to be a two, or even three year deal and that the team will continue to field two cars in the Atlantic series for Carl Skerlong and Frankie Muniz........If true this means the Indy Car Series will have 27 full-time cars and bumping will happen at Milwaukee, Iowa and Richmond due to limited pit space at those tracks........Word in the paddock here in Homestead is that Alex Figge may soon sign a deal to run a GT2 car in the ALMS........Paddock gossip says that Frankie Muniz has a new girlfriend, Ellen Page, who was recently nominated for Best Actress for her role in Juno........
Renault eyes Patrick for F1?  UPDATE This FOX Sports article says Danica Patrick should stay with Indy Car where her star is bright, rather than switch to NASCAR (or F1 for that matter) where she will almost definitely fail.  The author is 100% correct.  Indy Car needs her more than NASCAR and if guys like Montoya, Allmendinger, Carpentier, Villeneuve and Franchitti cannot excel in NASCAR, she certainly would fail much worse.  So we predict Ms. Patrick isn't going anywhere.  Will she get a Honda public relations F1 test like other IRL drivers before her?  We await the announcement.

Will Renault give IRL superstar, the greatest American driver of all-time based on media hype, Danica Patrick, a shot at F1?
04/23/08 (GMM)  Former grand prix driver Hans-Joachim Stuck is convinced that Danica Patrick, the first female competitor to win a race in premier American open wheeler racing, would be a good addition to the formula one grid.

26-year-old Patrick drove into the history books last Sunday by beating Helio Castroneves to the checkered flag in the IndyCar race at Motegi, Japan.

She drives for Andretti-Green Racing, which is co-owned by former McLaren racer Michael Andretti, whose son Marco has tested for the F1 team Honda.

"It is quite clear that, with Danica, formula one could conquer the United States.

"She is good enough for it," Stuck is quoted as saying by the German magazine Sport Bild.

Stuck, however, believes Patrick would need a season in GP2, as well as some F1 testing, before making the leap.

Sport Bild claims that Flavio Briatore, the Renault boss, has contemplated making contact with Patrick in view of a formula one collaboration of some sort.

Has Patrick’s Victory Made Kansas a Bigger Story Than Talladega?  Danica Patrick made history last weekend by becoming the first female to win an IndyCar Series event. On her fiftieth try, Patrick took the checkers at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan.  Her breakthrough win made worldwide headlines and has attracted unprecedented attention to the series’ next event at Kansas Speedway on April 27. 

The NASCAR race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway has typically dominated the weekend’s motorsports press, but will Patrick’s groundbreaking win make the IndyCar race at Kansas Speedway a bigger story?

John Andretti, former Open Wheel winner, NASCAR Sprint Cup winner:
“I tell you what, if you’re anyone other than Danica Patrick at Kansas, you probably won’t exist.  That’s OK – she’s earned the right.  It’s no different than Graham Rahal.  He won his first IndyCar race right out of the box to become the youngest winner in the series. It’s been a historical year already and they’re only three races into the season. The reunification is happening, so there’s a big focus on open-wheel racing.  The Indianapolis 500 is following right behind all this, so there’s going to be a lot to talk about in Kansas.  It’s not just about Danica, but certainly she’ll be leading the blitz.” More ...

Vettel to move up to Red Bull team  UPDATE #2 (GMM)  Sebastian Vettel has refused to confirm or deny speculation that he is set to graduate to Red Bull's primary team in 2009.

The 20-year-old rookie has impressed from the cockpit of the Toro Rosso outfit so far in 2008; the team that is part-owned, sponsored and supplied with cars by its energy drink parent.

Vettel's contract, meanwhile, is with Red Bull, not Toro Rosso, and Dietrich Mateschitz's racing advisor Helmut Marko admitted recently that the youngster is likely to step up to Red Bull Racing next season.

But on the verge of the DTM race at Oschersleben last Sunday, Vettel insisted: "My focus is on Barcelona and the rest of the season.

"Let's think first about this season," he reportedly smiled to the German magazine Auto Motor und Sport.

04/17/08 (GMM)  Sebastian Vettel is likely to move from Toro Rosso to Red Bull's primary formula one team in 2009, the Swiss newspaper Blick said.

The probable move, also flagged by the energy drink outfit's motor racing advisor Helmut Marko in the British magazine Autosport this week, has been on the cards for some time.

Last year, Red Bull magnate Dietrich Mateschitz insisted that Vettel, the ever impressive 20-year-old German, is likely to be in a Red Bull cockpit in 2009.

It also emerged recently that, while his teammate Sebastien Bourdais' contract is with Toro Rosso this year, Vettel's deal - set to run for another couple of years - is solely with Red Bull.

When asked if Vettel is set to move up to Red Bull Racing next year, Marko answered: "I think so, yes."

Surely among the favorites to replace Vettel at STR next year, alongside Red Bull test driver Sebastien Buemi, is New Zealand teenager Brendon Hartley, who recently gave the team's 2008 car its actual track debut at Vairano.

The 18-year-old, with long blonde hair, is currently racing in British F3 with Red Bull sponsorship, and has moved from Austria to live with Buemi in Milton Keynes (UK), close to Red Bull Racing's base.

"I always thought I would arrive in formula one some day but never really knew how it would happen.  The dream is getting closer and closer all the time now," he admitted.

Hartley also revealed that - "fingers crossed" - he will do some driving in RBR's F1 driver simulator this year.

Sebastian Vettel
04/16/08 Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko thinks it is likely the "special" Sebastian Vettel will be driving for the team next season.

The German is currently impressing for Scuderia Toro Rosso, Red Bull's B-team, and has been tipped for bigger things.

And Marko told admits it is likely the 20-year-old will be driving for Red Bull by the time the next season starts.

He told Autosport: "I think so, yes.

"He's a special one and he is very developed for his age. He can be very aggressive in the car but he's also technical and well trained.

"Red Bull has been with him for eight years and we have a contract for another couple of years."

Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost also had nothing but praise for Vettel.

"He is one of the best young drivers so far," he told Autosport.

"He's been racing for 15 years so from the driving side he's very mature. But he's also really clever and I think this is a key to his success.

"Sebastian is on a much higher level than many other drivers; both in and out of the cockpit.

"He knows he can do the job if we provide him with the right car. He has already reached a very high level and it depends which car he will get for next season but he can become a front runner."

Silverstone F1 race in jeopardy?  The Formula 1 world has been paying very little attention in recent weeks to its normal goings-on, with FIA President Max Mosley hogging the limelight. However, we are hearing disquieting stories from Northamptonshire, where the British Grand Prix is facing a troubled future. At the moment the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) has a deal that will keep the race at the Silverstone circuit only until 2009.

We are hearing that Formula One Management has offered the BRDC a new contract for the years 2010 to 2014. There are, however, a number of commitments needed from the club in order for this deal to be secured. These include the promise that Silverstone will have new facilities by the time the new deal begins. The financial details of the offer are not clear, but we are hearing that these are well in excess of the $15m that the club is currently paying for the right to host the race. Insiders say that the deal on offer is on a par with the deal that was signed with Germany. This is believed to be around $22m, although most of the FOM contracts these days include an annual price increase of 10%, which means that by the end of a five-year deal a promoter would be paying $32m a year. This would mean an overall commitment over five years of something in the region of $130m. More at Grandprix.com

Overheard in Long Beach - 6  Word here in Long Beach is that rather than team the Motegi race with the Surfers race next year on back-to-back weekends, the Motegi race may take the Kansas race weekend the week following Long Beach.  The two reasons given were 1) Spring date equity for Motegi and the desire not to upset Bernie Ecclestone who has an F1 race in October in Japan.  No word on what date Kansas would take.
NASCAR to integrate Nationwide Series version of COT  The NASCAR Nationwide Series likely will go with its own version of the “car of tomorrow” in 2009, but not at the start of the year as had been originally targeted by NASCAR officials.

The rollout of the new Nationwide car most likely will be around midway through 2009, NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton said Saturday at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

“It will probably be in the middle of next year sometime,” Pemberton said. “We will try to do something that’s more user-friendly than the roll-out schedule that they had in the Cup Series.

“We probably will go later in the year but more races in a row. We haven’t determined that but we’ll look at sometime after mid-year.”

Once it starts, it likely will be a clean break with the new car used in all events except for road courses where NASCAR will revert back to the old car, Pemberton said.  More at Scenedaily.com
Long Beach will have to add more seats in 2009  Long Beach City Manager Patrick West, whose interest in Grand Prix lies not so much in the racing as in the financial and civic boost it provides the city, said IRL's higher-profile racers and more competitors will only draw additional fans in 2009.

"Next year will see significant new interest with more cars in the race, more names like Danica Patrick, more grandstand areas, more `name' celebrities with no writers strike and more TV coverage from this year promoting next year, along with a bigger publicity machine from IRL," West said. "It's all good!"

West indicated the writer's strike, which ended in February, shifted TV production later than normal, causing many celebrities to bow out. In past years, stars such as George Lucas, Cameron Diaz, William Shatner and Motley Crue rocker Vince Neil competed in the Pro-Celebrity race.

Overheard in Long Beach - 3  UPDATE Rumor has it that the IRL is talking to the government of Mexico City about the possibility of a street race in 2009.  This would surprise us because the cost to put on a race in the streets is sure to be a lot more expensive than using the already built Aut¢dromo Hermanos Rodríguez.

04/18/08 Long Beach GP honcho Jim Michaelian was all smiles Friday hinting that the crowd appears to be up over last year's legitimate 49,000 on Friday......the crowd gathered around the six historic Champ Car on display was huge indicating a lot of fans love Champ Car and regret that next year’s race will be run with Indy Cars. Many fans expressed to us the desire to see the new IRL car be the current Champ Car formula. Time will tell.....We hear the reason why Cosworth is not involved in doing Indy Car rebuilds is Roger Penske. Seems his Ilmor company is doing all the Indy Car rebuilds and that is keeping Ilmor from going belly up so Roger does not want to share in that work.  With that said, another rumor going around is that Cosworth may be back in the IRL in 2010 (source) when the new car comes out.  If true than why would they give people like Ian Bisco, who started the USA arm of Cosworth 25+ years ago, his walking papers after this race?
Overheard in Long Beach - 2 (Pagenaud)  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement. See Hot News page.

04/18/08 Word in the paddock is that Gil de Ferran will later today announce that ex-Champ Car driver Simon Pagenaud will be his 2nd driver for his Acura ALMS program.....We spoke to Paul Tracy who told us he has nothing going for the rest of this year after Long Beach and there is nothing to the rumors that he might drive for Vision Racing at Indy. The termination of his contract with Forsythe looks like it may end up in court if the two sides cannot agree on an early termination fee.
Sex scandal keeps Porsche turned off to F1  (GMM)  The Max Mosley sex scandal has apparently made it even less likely that Porsche, the German manufacturer, will enter formula one.

Porsche chairman Wolfgang Porsche is quoted as telling German news magazine Stern on Friday: "After the affair with Max Mosley and the women it would not be very savory to get involved now."

Porsche is bidding to take control of Volkswagen, the world's fourth largest car producer that has also resisted racing in F1.

VW chairman Ferdinand Piech, referring to the average formula one annual budget, also told Stern: "300 million euros a year -- that is just burning money."

Hornish, Franchitti to drive in Indy 500  UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  Sprint Cup rookies Dario Franchitti and Sam Hornish Jr., the men who won the last two Indianapolis 500s, will not compete in the race next month. Their NASCAR team owners -- Chip Ganassi for the #40 Dodge Franchitti drives and Roger Penske for the # 77 Dodge Hornish drives -- both said the Indy 500 is not part of the plan this season. The two Cup rookies will concentrate on the Coca-Cola 600 Cup race that day (May 25) at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. Penske, who is traveling in Europe this week, called Rusty Wallace on Tuesday from England to tell him Hornish would not race at Indy this year.

Penske wanted to end the speculation that David Stremme would replace Hornish in the Coca-Cola 600 so Hornish could race at Indy. The speculation about Hornish also brought rumors about Franchitti possibly returning to the Indy 500 next month to defend his victory from last season. But Ganassi made his feelings clear: "No way we're doing that," Ganassi said. Ganassi also said that Franchitti is totally committed to his move to NASCAR. ESPN.com

04/16/08 Penske Racing officially announced Tuesday that they have hired David Stremme as a test driver for its NASCAR Sprint Cup program.  The move has many saying that it is part of a bigger plan that will allow Sam Hornish Jr to compete in the Indianapolis 500 next month.

"It's a rare opportunity to have someone of David's caliber to work with Kurt (Busch), Ryan (Newman) and Sam to help us improve our NASCAR Sprint Cup program," said Tim Cindric, president of Penske Performance Inc. "David has raced the new car and understands what it takes to compete at the highest levels."

Penske officials wouldn’t comment publicly on the issue of Hornish and the Indy 500. However speculation is that Hornish will interrupt his Sprint Cup career to drive a third Penske car at Indy.

Penske currently have three entries in the Indy 500 - the two regular cars for Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe and an extra No. 77 car with its driver listed as TBA.

Hornish drives the No. 77 Dodge for Penske's Sprint Cup team.  Cup Scene

British F3
Mercedes could leave F3  Mercedes have threatened to pull out of Formula 3 if their engine rivalry with Volkswagen provokes an expensive development race.

Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug says they use F3 primarily to develop links with young drivers and that they would quit the series if it became a "money wasting machine".

"It's a joke, F3 is not F1," he told Autosport. "I can't change the rules but I will accept it as long as we don't have to develop engines. As soon as F3 becomes a money-throwing competition, we will not take part.

"It's better to invest in young drivers than to invest in an F3 engine testing team. We've done a lot for guys like Lewis (Hamilton), Jamie (Green), and Paul (Di Resta) and our system is working well.

"We have the perfect system because F3 doesn't cost us anything - we get the money we spend back from leasing the engines."

But Volkswagen motorsport boss Kris Nissen doesn't believe their rivalry with Mercedes will have a significant effect on costs.

"It's not only about the money you're willing to spend," he told autosport.com, "you need to have the right people to do the job. I don't think there will be a problem with it getting more expensive because the regulations are very tight.

"You have to keep the rules stable for as long as possible, this is what helps to reduce costs. Also, the engine is not the main cost in F3 and it is possible to reduce budgets in other ways - you could use the chassis for longer or only have one choice of gearbox."

Big 3 gearing up for hiring binge  Over the last few years, huge numbers of union workers have accepted buyout packages to leave their high-paying jobs at automotive factories and office buildings. Many of those retired workers will be replaced by new hires at much lower salaries in the coming years. In fact, there could be as many as 46,000 new workers hired in Michigan alone, according to a recent 95-page report released by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR). This report could mean good things for the troubled economy surrounding Detroit -- but it's not all roses, as the report indicates that more workers will leave through attrition than the estimated 46,000 that could be hired. Also, all of those new workers will require lots of training before they can be counted on as worthy replacements. Still, as Kristin Dziczek, an analyst from CAR says, "The bleeding will stop." Car Group
Ferrari, Renault, to battle for Alonso  (GMM)  2008 could become a two-team battle to capture the services next year of former double world champion Fernando Alonso.

The Spaniard signed a two-year contract to return to Renault this season, but - despite the hints and denials - it is strongly believed that 26-year-old Alonso can leave the French team at the end of 2008 if his car is not competitive.

Renault's disappointing form so far this year has already triggered several suggestions from Alonso that his employer for 2009 is not fixed, and his favored alternative seems to be Ferrari.

The Italian team, however, has ongoing contracts with both Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa, causing a Spanish newspaper to react with surprise to the latest apparent development from Italy.

Diario AS reports that Ferrari's high profile press officer Luca Colajanni met for a media lunch with Italian journalists this week.

Asked about Alonso's famous personality, he is quoted as saying: "Fernando is an intelligent and professional driver who always knows what he wants to say."

Alonso's current boss, on the other hand, apparently does not intend to farewell his star driver after only one more year together.

"If we do not return to being a winning team, Fernando will leave no earlier than 2010," Flavio Briatore is quoted as saying by the Swiss publication Blick.

De Ferran to announce co-driver  Rumor has it that two-time CART driving champion and 2003 Indy 500 winner Gil de Ferran, who recently began a new racing career as a team owner in the American Le Mans Series, will make several major announcements on Friday, April 18, at the Grand Prix of Long Beach in the Acura Motorsports Hospitality motor coach area at 12:15 p.m.

De Ferran, who served as Sporting Director for Honda Formula One last year, formed de Ferran Motorsports in January when he and Acura racing officials announced his organization would campaign a fourth Acura LMP2 entry in 2008 ALMS tour.  Gil will return to the cockpit for the first time since he retired from competition after his IndyCar Series victory at the Texas Motor Speedway in October, 2003.

Berger denies 'miracle engine' reports  (GMM)  Toro Rosso's new car, the STR3, will be tested publicly for the first time in Barcelona on Wednesday.

But Gerhard Berger, the team's co-owner, has denied reports in Switzerland that the single seater is to be fitted with what Motorsport Aktuell refers to as a 'miracle' Ferrari engine.

It was suggested that a revised Maranello built V8 engine that debuted in the works team's cars in Malaysia is now ready to benefit Ferrari's two customer teams, Faenza based STR and Force India.

But Berger said of the rumors that the new engine boasts 25 horse power more grunt: "If that is true, then it is not in our car.

"I can not imagine that," he added.

The STR3, designed by Red Bull Technology and based on the Renault-powered RB4 already in use by Red Bull Racing, is scheduled to debut at the Turkish grand prix.

Following its private shakedown at Vairano recently, it will be debuted properly for the first time by Sebastien Bourdais at the Circuit de Catalunya on Wednesday.

The Frenchman's teammate, Sebastian Vettel, will drive it on the final day of the test on Thursday.

Six cities busted for shortening yellow light  Have you ever hit the throttle when a traffic light turns yellow, and then it turns red faster than you thought? We know it's happened to us, and for the most part we thought the problem was our bad timing. In six cities across these United States, missing a yellow light has less to do with bad timing, and more to do with shorter amber signals.

Six cities have been busted recently for having an amber light that lasted less than the minimum timing at an intersection, and millions of dollars in fines have been collected when drivers went through the premature red and got caught on camera. Chattanooga, Tennessee; Dallas, Texas; Springfield, Missouri; Lubbock, Texas; Nashville, Tennessee; and Union City, California all cut the timing on their lights, and while some have paid back the fines, others have not. In Dallas, over $700,000 was collected in a matter of eight months, and in Tennessee the light timing was changed at only a few intersections, which just so happen to be the areas where local law enforcement set up traps. Autoblog.com

Ferrari spying may still be an issue  (GMM)  The appearance of Ferrari's radical new nose innovation at the Barcelona test on Monday confirmed that espionage could still be a factor at the Italian team.

Alleged Ferrari spy Nigel Stepney no longer works for the Maranello based team, but the technical secret about the 'hole nose' nonetheless emerged in the pages of an Italian magazine some ten weeks ago.

Autosprint broke the story about the nose, including sketches of the innovation, in its pages in February, raising suspicions that the leaking of confidential and sensitive design data has not stopped, notwithstanding Stepney's firing and McLaren's $100m fine.

According to the Swiss newspaper Blick, technical director Aldo Costa was 'horrified' about the leak, confiding that "very few" Ferrari workers even knew about the nose solutions when they were being tested in the wind tunnel.

Blick claims that an internal investigation into the leak is in progress.

Edmonton to run July 26th  UPDATE #2 See this Hot News item for the confirmation that this race will run on Saturday July 26th.

03/28/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  We await the formal announcement.  For more inside information on this and other happenings in the IRL see our latest feature article on our Home page by AutoRacing1.com President Mark Cipolloni which covers highlights of the Tony George, Brian Barnhart and Terry Angstadt press conference held today.

03/19/08 Rumor has it that the Edmonton Grand Prix, which was supposed to run July 20th as a Champ Car race, will move to July 26th - the following Saturday.  The reason for a Saturday is said to be the Allstate 400 at Indy, which runs on Sunday.  Tony George wants to be able to attend both events.  This means the IRL will have races on a grueling six straight weekends - 1) Newton, Iowa, 2) Richmond VA, 3) Watkins Glen, NY, 4) Nashville, TN, 5) Mid-Ohio, OH and 6) Edmonton, CN
Mercedes plans gull-winged sports car  Mercedes-Benz is planning to build a top-of-the-market gull-winged sports car to compete with the most expensive Porsches, German business newspaper Handelsblatt was set to report on Monday.

The 2010 model would replace the existing SLR McLaren, which is built by the British sports-car company McLaren and sold with a Mercedes-Benz badge. The company declined comment on Sunday on the report, saying it would not discuss future model planning.

The SLR McLaren costs about euros 400,000 ($A679,636) including 19-per-cent sales tax.

The new high-performance car would be based on the existing Mercedes SL and would be entirely made in Germany by Mercedes-Benz, a unit of German company Daimler, the newspaper said. The Age
Stremme expected to be named Penske test driver  Expect an announcement this coming week that David Stremme has agreed to join Penske Racing as a test driver for the organization's Sprint Cup program. Team owner Roger Penske has a seat open in one of his Indianapolis 500 entries, and if Penske and current Cup rookie Sam Hornish Jr. agree that Hornish should compete at Indy, where he won the 500 in 2006, that opens up the seat of Penske's #77 Sprint Cup Dodge, which is currently 33rd in owner points through eight races with Hornish behind the wheel.

Penske's entry blank for the Indy 500 reportedly lists Helio Castroneves in the #3 car and Ryan Briscoe in the #6, but there's a "TBA" beside the #77. It's all speculation at this point, but if Hornish should decide he'd rather run up front in the reunified IndyCar Series (he's a three-time IndyCar champion) than fight to stay on the lead lap in a stock car, Penske would have a test driver -- Stremme -- ready to fill the void. Stremme, who finished 10th in Friday night's Nationwide Series race at Phoenix, already has turned down at least two offers to drive for current Cup teams. NASCAR.com
tv news
Long Beach race TV rumors  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  ESPN's International networks will broadcast the Long Beach Race live or tape delayed on its international networks including: ESPN Latin America, ESPN2 Caribbean, ESPN+, ESPN Pacific Rim (including Australia/New Zealand), ESPN Middle East and ESPN Africa.  Total countries and territories reached by ESPN International are 96 for this particular race, with an anticipated household reach of over 22.4 million homes.  It does not look like the race will be shown in Europe.

04/10/08 Before Champ Car folded, a TV deal had been worked out for the season.  However, now that the IRL has taken over, a lot of people are wondering what will happen to the Long Beach race broadcast. 

We are hearing that the Long Beach Champ Car/IRL race will be broadcast in High Def TV (except for the 4 in-car cameras) on ESPN2 and it will also be on the IMS Radio Network.  As for international distribution, we hear it's still being worked out.  It could be that it goes out worldwide on ESPN International (like all the other IRL races), or possibly just live online streaming on IndyCar.com. 

Toyota to decimate NASCAR competitors  In reference to this article where we talk about Toyota's eventual domination of all three of NASCAR's divisions, we already know what they have done to the truck series - buried everyone.  Next up is the Nationwide series and then Cup.  Driving a Toyota Kyle Busch has led 41.1 percent of all laps in the first eight Nationwide races, so consider the Nationwide Series Toyota property henceforth.  This year Toyota will win some races in Cup to make it look good and not upset too much of NASCAR's Xenophobic fan base, and then by 2009 they will bury Chevy, Ford and Dodge in Cup as well.
Harvicks to buy NHRA team  Kevin Harvick who along with his wife Delana already own a Nationwide and Craftsman Truck series team, will announce Sunday that they have joined into a partnership with NHRA Top Fuel driver/owner Bob Vandergriff.  The Vandergriff team will field a second Top Fuel dragster in 2009. The NHRA is competing in Las Vegas this weekend and the Harvicks are expected to make the announcement there Sunday.  Cupscene
The beginning of the end of Autobahn ecstasy?  Mention "Autobahn" to an automotive enthusiast, and his or her eyes instantly light up. That single word represents miles upon miles of traditionally unrestricted high-speed roadways throughout the German countryside connecting major towns and cities.

While sections of the Autobahn have been speed restricted for years, the city of Bremen in northern Germany has just become the first state to introduce a speed limit on all of its Autobahn areas today. While the news instantly sent shudders through our throttle feet, further investigation revealed the state of Bremen has just 60 km (about 37 miles) of roadway within its jurisdiction. Regardless, for the automotive passionate among us, this move is a frightening baby-step for the German Green party (Die Grünen) and the Social Democrats (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands). Both groups not only oppose unrestricted speeds on the Autobahn, but they also share the power in Bremen. Thankfully, German Chancellor Angela Merkel continues to rule out a national speed limit for the Autobahn.
Marchy Lee eyes NASCAR  
Marchy Lee was 3rd in today's Dubai Speedcar race
Quote from Chinese driver Marchy Lee at the Dubai Speedcar race.

I am delighted with my position in today’s race. It wasn’t easy but I managed to overtake the championship leader Uwe Olsen which gave me great satisfaction. It is really good to race against ex-Formula One drivers like Jacques Villeneuve, Jean Alesi and Johnny Herbert and to beat them. I am interested in the possibility of racing in NASCAR as racing in Speedcar has prepared me for this further challenge. I am looking forward to tomorrow’s race where I am qualified 3rd on the grid for the start.
Tagliani to race at Champ Car finale, Tracy not sure  UPDATE Paul Tracy may be back banging on garage doors in NASCAR soon. Without a ride in the newly united Indy Racing League, the Toronto native has put out feelers that he would be happy to test for a solid Cup or Nationwide team for this season

04/10/08 Alex Tagliani will be at the Champ Car finale in Long Beach next week but his friend and sometimes rival Paul Tracy isn't so sure.

Tagliani will drive for Walker Racing in the April 20th race, which will also double as an IndyCar series points race for those teams who made the switch to the IRL following open-wheel unification earlier this year.

While Tracy's name is on the entry list beside the No. 3 car for Forsythe Racing, the Toronto racer has been embroiled in a contract dispute with the Chicago businessman following his decision not to field a team in the IndyCar series. The Indianapolis Star reported that Tracy's manager had recently contacted Tony George and he could be racing in a third Vision Racing entry in Japan that same weekend.

"I've had a lot of great years with Gerry and I'm still hoping to be in his car next week at Long Beach," Tracy tells SpeedTV.com. "I expect we can resolve our differences in a way that makes us both happy. I'm looking forward to that result and being at Long Beach."

As many as 20 cars are expected to line up for the Long Beach finale, the most on the starting grid for a Champ Car race since 2002. tsn.ca
Tough times for Ganassi -Target to leave at season's end?  UPDATE #2 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  The 19-year partnership between Target and Chip Ganassi Racing is one of the longest consecutive partnerships in motor sports.  Our race program has proven successful and we in fact have a solid base of sponsors in place.  We continue to build on the excitement and momentum around the program and look forward to celebrating our 20th anniversary next year... Any rumors regarding an end to the partnership are simply without merit.    Steve Eastman, Target Vice President

04/08/08 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Our capstone project has been a three-year integrated marketing campaign for Target Corporation. In our second year campaign we activated some of Target's auto racing sponsorships. The Target execs told me that they liked the usage and activation, but that Target was "re-evaluating" their motor sports sponsorships and it did not appear likely that they would continue their sponsorships. Name Withheld as requested for obvious reasons.

04/08/08 Not only is Chip Ganassi's NASCAR Cup teams struggling, sometimes to even qualify for races, there are persistent rumors that Ganassi may be in financial deep water, with his long-time sponsor Target likely announcing by the end of the year it will be ending its association with the race team.  If true this would affect not only their Cup effort but also their 2-car IndyCar team.
20 cars expected for Long Beach  UPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement that 20 car/driver combinations have been entered for Long Beach - see Hot News page.

04/07/08 With today's announcement of 7 more cars for Long Beach, plus the previously announced 10 the total car count would be 17.  However, 2 more cars are expected from Walker Racing plus one more from Minardi Team USA bringing the total up to 20 cars, the biggest field in years.

04/06/08 In the aftermath of the open-wheel racing merger of the Champ Car World Series and Indy Racing League, speculation on the field for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach ranged from a combination of IRL and CCWS veterans to perhaps the smallest field in the event's history.

The reality for the April 20 events lands in the middle and with good cheer, with a lot of recognizable names and race teams who are committed to making the final race in Champ Car history and the 34th Grand Prix special.

The five race teams that have made the jump to the IRL for the 2008 season will all run multi-car teams here, led by Newman/Haas' Justin Wilson and Graham Rahal. Most of the five teams that have been left by the curb in the wake of the merger will also drive here, topped by Forsythe Racing.

It hasn't been officially announced yet, but three-time winner Paul Tracy is expected to be one of three drivers for Forsythe, which chose to go in a different direction and join the IRL. [Editor's Note: Last we heard Forsythe is not even talking to Tracy and as we write this there is no deal for him to run Long Beach, but that could change.]

There should be minimally 17 cars in the field. More ...

Tracy may yet get a ride for Long Beach  Paul Tracy would like nothing better than to send Champ Car into auto racing history with a salute from the victory podium at the Long Beach Grand Prix.

The four-time winner of the event might just get the opportunity to make it five.

Tracy said yesterday in a telephone interview from Las Vegas, where he has lived for the past several years, that he – through his lawyer – is attempting to rectify a dispute with Forsythe Racing that would put him in the No.3 blue and white car for the April 20 race along the ocean-side streets of Long Beach, Calif.

The 39-year-old Scarborough native has been in limbo since Gerry Forsythe, who was also a co-owner of Champ Car, shut down his racing operation and declined to run in the IndyCar Series following the reunification of the two series after a 12-year separation.

At the heart of the dispute, among others, is a clause in his five-year contract with Forsythe that stipulated Forsythe has to field a car or free him to drive for another team. More ...

Firestone eyes NASCAR  If Goodyear were to leave NASCAR, the executive director of Firestone Racing says his company would be interested. Goodyear is NASCAR's exclusive supplier through 2012.

"There's a lot of people in our organization that would love to be running NASCAR," Firestone's Al Speyer says. "Our engineers can do a very good job there."

Although Firestone has been the exclusive supplier of Indy car racing for several years, stock cars are part of its history. Speyer says the company won many races in NASCAR's first decade (1948-58) before leaving the sport in the late 1960s. USA Today

Up to 39 entries expected for Indy 500  The Indianapolis 500's magic number is 39.  That's "the maximum" number of cars Honda has been told it will need to power at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May by Indy Racing League president Brian Barnhart.

The May 25 race will have no problem filling the field this year thanks to the newcomers from the Champ Car World Series. In recent years, filling the 33-car field proved difficult.

In addition, Sarah Fisher, who formally opened her team's Westside shop Tuesday, said she would consider a second car if she qualifies on the first weekend. Her team manager and father-in-law, John O'Gara, said adding a car in May is relatively easy based on his eight years at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.

"It's not twice the work," he said of a potential second car.

There have been 26 car-and-driver combinations at the first two IndyCar Series events. More at Indy Star

Tracy might drive for Vision Racing  The IRL plans to take cars for 18 drivers to Japan. That number only figures to change if Paul Tracy gets a ride. League CEO Tony George, who owns Vision Racing, said Tracy's manager contacted him since Tracy won't be driving Gerald Forsythe's Champ Car World Series car at Long Beach, Calif. Indy Star

However, according to AutoRacing1.com sources, Tracy's best bet for an IRL ride could be with Rahal Letterman Racing, if not for a full season, possibly just for the Indy 500, depending on whether Tracy can bring his Monster sponsorship with him.

Spanish GP sellout unlikely in 2008  (GMM)  After a few years of Alonso-mania, the Circuit de Catalunya is unlikely to feature a full house for the forthcoming Spanish grand prix.

A record attendance of 141,700 thronged the Barcelona venue a year ago, as Spaniard Fernando Alonso - then the reigning double world champion - diced at the front of the field with his competitive McLaren.

But in 2008, with Alonso now at the wheel of the seventh or eighth fastest car in formula one and also coinciding with a Spanish economic downturn, the circuit looks set to feature up to 20,000 vacant seats for the race later this month.

Another factor likely to be affecting ticket sales is the impending inaugural European grand prix at Valencia, meaning that the F1 calendar features two Spanish venues for the first time in years.

Tony George noncommittal on Paul Tracy  When asked whether Paul Tracy would soon have a ride in the IRL, Tony George would not say for certain whether he would make that happen.

Q: Tony, Paul Tracy has been the most successful and the most recognizable driver in recent years in the Champ Car series. How important is it to get him involved in the IndyCar Series, and could that opportunity come with your Vision Racing team?

GEORGE:  You know, I don't know. I intend to call; I got a message yesterday from his business manager. I didn't have a chance to call him back. The message was is that he's free to talk about a ride beginning as early as Motegi. He said he would not be running Long Beach, much to my surprise.

You know, all of that's kind of unfortunate in all of this. I'm not sure what his prospects are, and I'm not sure what teams, you know, have available seats that would meet his expectations. We're currently planning to be a two-car team. On the outside chance we would need to add a third or on the outside chance the right business opportunity comes along for us to run a third, we would consider that. But, you know, at this point I'm not inclined to go spend a lot more money to do that. I don't think we'll need to. On the other hand, I'd like to see Paul in, and if it could be with Vision, that would be great. If it could be with another team, that would be great. I just want him to have the chance to come over now and, you know, I don't know how long he wants to do it, probably a year or two, couple of years and transition into the next phase of his professional career. But it is kind of unfortunate, some would say a travesty, that he's been sort of left on the sidelines here.

I'll have plenty of time to call back and find out what's going on today.

Penske team to be fined on Tuesday  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' - see announcement.

04/06/08 Penske Racing's Ryan Newman finished fourth in Sunday's Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, but his Dodge did not clear postrace inspection. According to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby, the right rear of the car was too high following the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. The car was one-eighth of an inch beyond the allotted half-inch tolerance.  Look for a fine to be announced Tuesday.
Mayfield loses NASCAR ride  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Haas CNC Racing announced today that the team and Jeremy Mayfield have mutually agreed to part ways.  The team is exploring several scenarios regarding a replacement driver.

“Jeremy’s proven resume behind the wheel of a Cup car was a real benefit to our team,” team general manager Joe Custer said. “He stepped into the seat and did everything we asked him to and more.

“Ultimately, we were unable to provide him with the right balance, handling and speed he needed to be successful,” he added.

“We wish Jeremy nothing but the best for his future.”

04/07/08 Sirius NASCAR Radio's Sirius Speedway reported today that Jeremy Mayfield is out as driver of the #70 Haas CNC Racing Chevrolet, and will be replaced by former Haas CNC driver Johnny Sauter, effective immediately.
Honda to re-up with IRL  According to this ESPN.com article, an IndyCar insider said that the league is close to reaching agreement to extend Honda's involvement, which significantly leaves the door open for competing engine manufacturers to join.

"I don't know where you got your information from and I can't confirm or deny anything," said Erik Berkman, president of Honda Performance Development. "All I know is there are a lot of meetings going on in trailers with an eye toward the future."

Honda has been a key supporter of the IndyCar Series since 2003, serving as the formula's sole engine supplier starting with the '06 season. That arrangement is set to continue through 2009.

Long Beach ticket sales strong  According to AutoRacing1.com sources, ticket sales for this year's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach are on par with 2007.  If you recall, 2007 was a good year with ticket and corporate sales about equal to 2002, the last year before many of the 'big' teams left CART for the IRL.
Mosley accused of lying by prostitute  Formula 1 and world motor sport washed its hands of Max Mosley yesterday as astonishment turned to anger at his refusal to stand aside as president of the FIA after the publication of further details about his part in an allegedly Nazi-inspired sado-masochistic orgy.

To say that the scandal overshadowed Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix, which was won by Felipe Massa in a Ferrari, would be an understatement. It took the noise of 22 V8 engines screaming round the desert track to distract attention briefly from an affair that has consumed the sport and damaged it in equal measure.

After initially publishing details of Mosley's activities nine days ago, the News of the World followed up on Sunday with a detailed interview with one of the five prostitutes involved. It appeared designed to disprove Mosley's claim there were no Nazi connotations to the session. More ...

Did Alonso brake-check Hamilton?  UPDATE #2 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  Pat Symonds mocked the dubious credentials of those experts who decried the Lewis Hamilton incident on Sunday as a 'brake test' by his former McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso.

"They're not as expert as they think," said Renault's engineering chief.

He was armed with telemetry print-outs from Alonso's R28 single seater, showing that the Spaniard was hard on the throttle when Hamilton hit him during the Bahrain grand prix.

"So all I can say from our side is there's no blame attributable to Fernando, which is what some of the speculation might be," Symonds added.

The Spanish daily Diario AS took a harder line than simply exonerating Alonso of blame, by headlining that the 26-year-old was the "victim of Hamilton's stupidity".

Neither driver, however, turned on one another in any serious way, despite their spectacular falling out as teammates last year.

"The incident doesn't make much sense to me, but thankfully it didn't affect my race too much," Alonso told the Spanish press corps.

04/06/08 (GMM)  Fernando Alonso on Sunday refused to accept the blame for a collision with his former McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton.

The incident, which had some British pundits wondering whether the Spaniard had deliberately slowed down or even 'brake tested' Hamilton, resulted in the former championship leader having to pit for a new nose following a dire start to the Bahrain grand prix.

The rear wing on Alonso's Renault was damaged, but he did not accept the blame for the accident.

"The McLaren was just a lot faster than my car and he crashed into me," the 26-year-old, who finished the race tenth, told the Spanish broadcaster Telecinco.

After the race, Renault technical boss Pat Symonds was keen to rubbish the brake test rumors by showing pundits a print-out of Alonso's telemetry data.

McLaren team boss Ron Dennis, meanwhile, refused to point the finger at his former charge when he was asked about the incident immediately after the checkered flag.

Hamilton finished the race thirteenth, meaning that both Kimi Raikkonen and BMW's Nick Heidfeld overtake him in the drivers' classification.

McLaren also lost the lead of the constructors' championship, but Hamilton was not among those who openly wondered about Alonso's driving.

"I have no idea.  I was behind him, I went to move to the right and he went to move to the right as well and I ended up on the back somehow.  It's racing," he said.

Hamilton, 23, said he blamed himself for his poor finishing position, triggered by his loss of seven places with a mistake at the start.

"It was a very poor performance and I sort of let the team down today," the Briton added.

04/06/08 Fernando Alonso has refused to make too much of his run-in with Lewis Hamilton in the opening stages of Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix.

Having dropped to ninth place on the opening lap of the race at Sakhir, Hamilton crashed his McLaren-Mercedes into the back of Alonso's Renault, damaging the Spaniard's rear wing.

Hamilton was forced to pit and never really recovered, eventually finishing the race in 13th place.

With the pair's bitter relationship last season at McLaren doubtless at the forefront of minds, there have already been suggestions that Alonso brake-tested his former teammate.  It sure looked that way on TV given the closing rate between the Renault and the McLaren as they accelerated out of the corner.  Somehow we see Alonso getting a big chuckle out of that move.

But, after finishing 10th in the race, Alonso said he did not see anything sinister about the incident.

"The McLaren was just a lot faster than my car and he crashed into me," the double world champion told Spanish network Telecinco.

Can a unified series rise to be No. 1?  Tony Kanaan was signing autographs in the paddock of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Friday afternoon when a fan thrust a picture of a red-and-yellow McDonald's-sponsored race car into his hand. He balked.

"I ran the McDonald's car back in '99 (in Champ Car). And I said, 'That's not me, it's Justin (Wilson),' " Kanaan said. "And I looked and actually it was my hero card from 1999 and the guy said to me, 'This is the first time I'm watching you race since the split.' So I think we've added some people, which is great. Finally, we added everybody together."

Once fractured and feeble, open-wheel racing is buffing out the bumps these days after Champ Car dissolved and five of its teams, three of its races — and likely more soon — have been blended into the once-rival Indy Racing League. So now what? The ambitious long-term goal for owners and drivers is to recoup the luster and the relevance surrendered to NASCAR after 29 years of in-fighting. The split as an alibi is gone. But shorter term, perhaps it's wiser for the sport to aspire to being the first IRL, not the second NASCAR.

"This will be no magic bullet," said Kevin Kalkhoven, Champ Car's former co-owner.

There is encouraging news for the IRL. Reunification has eliminated confusion and competition among fans. Television ratings are rising. Wary corporations pondering sponsorship are listening, and the IRL landed two valuable benefactors last week. More ...

IRL to change name to facilitate reconciliation  UPDATE A reader agrees, Dear AutoRacing1.com,  I think all Champ Car fans would agree this would be the best gesture Tony George has said so far. I will believe it when I see it though.  I think that for us to get past the hump and turn the corner towards the future quickly this, and a new Champ Car-like car, has to be done. The faster the name changes the faster we as fans (Champ Car fan base) will get on board and the faster we will get this series back to its glory days!!! C'mon  Tony don't just say you're going to do it, "Do It!".  Rod  Orlando, FL.

04/05/08 Indy racing chief Tony George is serious about reconciliation and moving forward with a truly unified racing series, and to that end is making several overtures to make the joining Champ Car teams feel more at home racing with this IRL teams.

Among the steps being considered is a name change to reflect the unification of the two erstwhile series. Acknowledging that the Indy Racing League name poses an inhospitable barrier for migrating Champ Car teams, George is suggesting the series return to the IndyCar World Series name used before the split. George would also like to use the Vanderbilt Cup, the oldest trophy in American motorsports that CART took with it on its departure. Meanwhile, George suggests that the calendar of the combined series could be split equally between oval tracks, road courses and temporary street circuits, with six races on each type of track, literally and metaphorically leveling the playing field for all those involved. Lastly, George finally owned up to his own mistake of locking out the bulk of the 1996 Indy 500 to only eight Champ Cars versus a 25-car IRL field, which prompted CART to boycott the event and widen the rift between the two series. AutoWeek

Alonso eyes BMW?  (GMM)  Mario Theissen in Bahrain had no time for suggestions that BMW Sauber's evolution into a truly top team will have stirred the interest of Fernando Alonso.

When asked about his future earlier this weekend, 26-year-old Alonso confirmed that he is on the market for a winning seat in 2009, mentioning both Ferrari and BMW as potentially attractive options.

But as Robert Kubica captured the Swiss based team's first pole position on Saturday, team principal Theissen insisted that he is very happy with his current pair of drivers.

"I prefer not to talk about other teams," the German told the Spanish newspaper Diario AS, when asked if he had thought about poaching Alonso from Renault for 2009.

"I am very happy with our own drivers," he added.

Theissen insists that he regards pole sitting Kubica, the 22-year-old Pole, as one of the best drivers on the grid.

"If we did not think that, we would not have him on board," he said.

Hamilton linked with Dannii Minogue  
Dannii Minogue
It seems that British Formula One racing driver Lewis Hamilton has the hots for Dannii Minogue, for the sports star has arranged a secret date with the Aussie singer at the Monaco Grand Prix next month. The two had swapped numbers following Hamilton's Australian race victory last month. Since then, Hamilton has been bombarding Dannii with text messages.

This will be the second F1 outing for Dannii, who was engaged to Jacques Villeneuve in 1999. "Lewis has been texting Dannii like mad since they met in Melbourne. He took a real shine to her," The Sun quoted a source as saying. "Lewis thought she was gorgeous and was really impressed with her knowledge of cars. He wanted to take her out for dinner that night but she had something on that she couldn't cancel.

"He's kept at it and she's finally agreed to meet him for dinner at the Monaco Grand Prix," the source added. The X Factor judge has on the other hand been full of praise for the young racing star after their meeting. "I think the guy is incredible. He is mostly perfect in every way, shape and form," she said.

The source also revealed that Lewis was very excited about the whole meeting, and would be doing his best to woo the lady with his charm on May 25. "Lewis is delighted they have finally set a date," the source said. "It's the earliest time they could both do. They will certainly have a lot to talk about. Dannii is quite knowledgeable about F1 thanks to her relationship with Jacques," the source added.

UPS to replace AT&T with Jeff Burton  
Jeff Burton AT&T car
As you know AT&T is not welcome in NASCAR by rival Sprint who is the main sponsor of the series.  AT&T was allowed to stay on the Burton car for 2 years after a series of lawsuits.  Now, according to AutoRacing1.com sources, UPS is in serious discussions to take over the primary sponsorship on the Jeff Burton car.  This of course has a lot of implications if true, but clearly UPS may not be satisfied with their current arrangement with the MWR team.
Smart Car may be death trap in USA  With all the large trucks and SUVs in America, Smart Car buyers beware.  The Smart Fortwo two-seat minicar received one of the lowest crash-test scores among 2008 car models for protecting passengers, according to federal test results released Thursday.

While the other tests of the Smart produced better results, the scores highlighted the high safety hurdle Smart's U.S. sales team has to climb in order to overcome American buyers' fears about driving the smallest vehicle on the road.

Smart said the results were as expected, although the company has told customers the Fortwo was designed to get four stars in testing.

The Smart, a European model developed by Daimler AG, scored four out of five stars for protecting drivers in a head-on collision under tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But the Smart garnered only three stars in the same test for passenger protection, meaning the agency estimates passengers face a 21% to 35% chance of serious injury.

Only one other 2008 car model -- the BMW 5-Series -- has garnered fewer than four stars in front collision testing for either drivers or passengers.

The agency gave the Smart five stars for side-impact crashes, but noted that the vehicle's door popped open during the test, raising the chances of ejection during an accident. Several other vehicles have received similar warnings in side-impact tests.

Will UPS drop NASCAR, NHRA sponsorship programs?  UPS is going through its normal evaluation of all of its motorsports sponsorships, a UPS executive said Thursday.

UPS has agreements ending after 2008 with Michael Waltrip Racing, some race tracks, NASCAR and the NHRA, said UPS motorsports marketing manager Laura Kouns said in a phone interview Thursday.

Two years ago, UPS went through a similar evaluation process before agreeing to move with Dale Jarrett to MWR.

“Right now, we’re currently evaluating our entire motorsports program on both the NASCAR and the NHRA side,” she said. “Every time a contract expires for any type of sponsorship, we take the opportunity to evaluate our program and evaluate our options.

“We’re currently going through that process. … Everything is being looked at just as the normal course [of business].” Scenedaily.com
IRL a step closer to presenting sponsor  UPDATE #3 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement.

03/30/08 Tonight on Wind Tunnel it was announced that DirecTV will be the presenting sponsor for the IRL Indy Car series.  Nothing official from the IRL yet.

03/27/08 The Indy Racing League late yesterday finalized a deal worth $3 million annually over the next few years that will essentially make DirecTV the series’ presenting sponsor. The California-based satellite television service provider is expected to launch a major promotional campaign next month promoting the series—which will be called the IndyCar Series in DirecTV HD. IRL officials expect to announce the deal tomorrow in Miami, where the series kicks off Saturday night.

Sources close to the deal said DirecTV is poised to launch print, billboard, TV and Web ads touting the series and its relationship with it. DirecTV, which has 16.8 million customers nationwide, may also launch a sweepstakes-like contest involving the IRL, sources close to the deal said. Sports marketers said DirecTV was attracted to the series due to its upscale, technology-oriented fans. DirecTV already has a strong presence in NASCAR as a series and team sponsor for Richard Childress Racing.

Indianapolis-based Just Marketing International, which has had a relationship with DirecTV dating back two-plus years, was instrumental in the deal, sports marketers said. JMI officials are also pursuing a title sponsor for the series, which they hope to announce in May at Indianapolis. With the massive exposure IRL officials expect DirecTV to bring to the table, Just Marketing’s hunt for a title sponsor just got easier. Just Marketing officials said they “are getting closer every day” to signing a title sponsor.

Also in the coming weeks, the IRL is expected to announce Coca-Cola and Frank’s Energy Drink as exclusive category sponsors.  Indianapolis Business Journal

03/27/08 Sources say the IRL is close to finalizing a deal that would make DirecTV the presenting sponsor for the league's top circuit, the IndyCar Series. It is uncertain how DirecTV would be integrated into the name and logo of the series. IndyCar still is searching for a title sponsor as well. Both the IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights open their seasons Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Meanwhile, the IRL is also expected to announce this week that Coca-Cola will become the circuit's official soft drink.  SportsBusiness Daily
BMW may sell engines to GM, others  BMW will decide by the end of the year if it will sell engines and other components to General Motors and other rival automakers, says Friedrich Eichiner, the carmaker's board member for corporate and brand development.

When asked if BMW is talking to GM, Daimler and Fiat about supplying engines, Eichiner said: "We are talking with those companies you mentioned."

BMW will decide by the end of the year because "it does not make sense to go on talking and talking forever," Eichiner told Automotive News Europe.

F1 heading for 20-race calendar  (GMM)  The formula one calendar is set to expand to twenty grands prix as early as next year, team bosses suggested in Bahrain on Wednesday.

Abu Dhabi is preparing to host its inaugural race next year, and South Korea in 2010.  The current calendar features 18 stops.

But with India, the United States, Russia, Dubai and Qatar possibly also clamoring for hosting rights, the team bosses warned that while F1 needs to embrace expansion, there should be limits.

"My firm belief is the season should expand to not more than twenty grands prix," McLaren boss Ron Dennis told delegates at the Motor Sport Business Forum Middle East at the Sakhir circuit.

"Twenty is about the right number," Honda CEO Nick Fry agreed, while Red Bull's Christian Horner added: "Twenty is a big number, but it's a sensible number".

"It's a huge logistical challenge but the way the teams are working with each other to self-regulate testing it is possible," he added.

Fry said it is obvious that the recent trend for new venues is in the Asian and Middle Eastern regions.

"F1 needs to go where the commercial market is", he said, albeit insisting that the "balance of traditional circuits within Europe and new countries and continents is vital".

Dennis is also happy with F1's expansion, but baulks at the concept that it should be at the expense of the winter 'closed' season.

"The closed season is essential not only for logistical reasons but also in order to stir up a sense of anticipation in the hearts and minds of F1 fans," he said.

2008 Atlantic schedule close to being finalized  Some readers have been wondering when the 2008 Atlantic Series will be re-announced since the bankruptcy of Champ Car.  From what we hear they are very close to announcing the 2008 schedule, but they have one or two loose ends to tie up before they can do that.  As far as the original dates that they announced last fall, it is safe to say that--with the exception of the Portland event--they will be at every event that is still happening. In other words, they will be at Long Beach, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Edmonton, Road America, Trois-Rivières and Miller Motorsports Park per their original schedule announcement with the possibility of some modifications in terms of date or format.  We hear they will also have a few additional venues on the final '08 schedule. Stay tuned for more updates...
Ferrari shelve radical nose update for Bahrain?  Ferrari has reportedly called off its plan to debut a radical innovation at the Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend.

It emerged recently that the Italian team intended to use the innovation - effectively an opening in the upper front of the F2008's nose - for the first time in either Bahrain, or the subsequent Spanish Grand Prix later in April.

The nose, apparently with the hole cutting through where the Bridgestone 'B' logo is currently located, was tested by Marc Gene at the Vairano circuit last week, Motorsport Aktuell reports. 

But the Swiss publication claims that team boss Stefano Domenicali ultimately decided that ensuring better reliability, and also introducing some other aerodynamic updates that will debut in Bahrain, were higher priorities at present. Source: GMM

Labonte to leave Petty for RCR  Bobby Labonte has not yet signed a contract for 2009 and beyond, according to a statement released by his public relations firm.
Labonte is in the last season of his contract with Petty Enterprises, and the 2000 Cup champion is considered a heavy favorite to go to Richard Childress Racing’s fourth team next year.
General Mills, which currently sponsors Labonte’s car at Petty Enterprises, will move from the Pettys to that fourth RCR Sprint Cup car
beginning in 2009.
Amid speculation that Labonte has decided to move with General Mills to RCR next year, the statement that was released out of the Labonte camp did not indicate whether Labonte has made a decision about his future but did say that he had “made no contractual agreements for any team beyond 2008.”
Petty Enterprises has offered Labonte a contract extension but Labonte has not accepted the offer. In this third year at Petty Enterprises, Labonte has yet to win in 78 starts. He finished 21st in points in 2006 and 18th in points in 2007. Scenedaily.com
Vasser may drive at Long Beach  UPDATE #2 See related announcement from today.

03/24/08 On Wind Tunnel Jimmy Vasser confirmed the rumor stated by Robin Miller that he will drive at Long Beach. Jimmy hinted that there will be several other "guest" drivers at Long Beach.

03/23/08 With Champ Car/IRL worried about car count for the Long Beach GP now that Walker Racing and others may not be showing up, SPEED's Wind Tunnel  reported on Sunday night that Champ Car veteran Jimmy Vasser may be brought out of retirement to race a Champ Car one last time.
No pay drivers in F1 a lie  Talk of no funded or pay drivers in F1 is a complete lie. According to AutoRacing1.com sources Sutil brings Medion €10M, Nakajima brings Toyota €30.0M and Sato brings Honda $30.M.
Massa's days at Ferrari numbered  UPDATE #3 (GMM)  Luca di Montezemolo has rubbished speculation that Felipe Massa's seat at Ferrari is in danger.

Massa has had a difficult start to the 2008 season, with retirements in both the Australian and Malaysian grands prix.

But to the website of the Italian language La Gazzetta dello Sport, Ferrari president Montezemolo would not entertain rumors that the Maranello marque is thinking about replacing the 26-year-old Brazilian driver.

"It is absolutely not under discussion, nor is it an issue," he said.

"We have the best pair of pilots in the world."

Montezemolo said he expects Massa to bounce back with a "great race" in Bahrain this weekend, noting that world champion Kimi Raikkonen's teammate put in a "beautiful qualifying" to score pole position in Malaysia.

A Ferrari spokesman, meanwhile, insists that it is wrong for the media to interpret Massa's Sepang spin, caused by the driver hitting the curb at turn six, as driver error.

"I am convinced that we have an outstanding team and a competitive car," Montezemolo added.

Massa won the Sakhir race one year ago, following a similarly difficult start to 2007.

Felipe Massa's days at Ferrari are said to be numbered
03/26/08 This rumor is downgraded to 'false.'    A Ferrari spokesman has plainly dismissed rumors that a deal is already in place to put Fernando Alonso alongside Kimi Raikkonen at the Italian team in 2009.

"There is no arrangement at all with Fernando and Ferrari," he is quoted as saying by The Times.

"We have two drivers already contracted for next year -- Mr. Kimi Raikkonen and Mr. Felipe Massa."

Renault boss Flavio Briatore would also not be drawn on the speculation, despite his driver, Alonso, claiming that the rumors linking himself and Sebastian Vettel with Massa's seat were "logical".

Briatore, though, said it is a "waste of time to get involved in hypothetical daydreams", according to the news agency AP.

"Fernando is a great sportsman who will always give his best, and rumors I never comment on," he added. More ...

Petty team to take on major investor  UPDATE Medallion Financial Group President Andrew Murstein acknowledges speculation that his company's Sports Properties Acquisition Corp. might be a potential business partner with Petty Enterprises, but he won't confirm or deny the reports.

Medallion Financial has formed an entertainment/sports acquisition company, Sports Properties Acquisition Corp., which completed an initial stock offering in January on the American Stock Exchange. The gross proceeds were $200 million.

“There has been speculation of our interest in Petty Enterprises for Sports Properties Acquisition Corp,” Murstein said in a statement Monday. “We are looking to invest several hundred million dollars in the sports, leisure or entertainment-related industries. We are very interested in investing in NASCAR and the motorsports industry in general should the right deal come along.”

03/09/08 Yahoo! Sports has learned through two independent sources that Richard Petty will soon announce that he has struck a deal with a major investor that should keep the Petty name in the sport it has been so instrumental in building.

While it's obviously good to keep the Petty name alive in NASCAR, it also signals the beginning of the end of an era.  Wealth, power and diversity

Despite the criticism that NASCAR is a closed club where only a handful of wealthy team owners control the sport, a look at the starting field for Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 reveals 15 different team owners.

They are a diverse group that includes super-wealthy businessmen, major league sports team owners, a football coach, as well as former drivers and crew chiefs who have successfully transformed themselves into owners.  More at Yahoo! Sports

No pay-drivers in 2008 - report  (GMM)  For perhaps the first time in years, there are no pay drivers on the 2008 formula one grid, a German specialist motoring magazine claims.

Auto Motor und Sport said Kazuki Nakajima and Adrian Sutil are among the sport's lowest earners, with annual incomes in the range of $1m, but that - unlike in the past - no drivers actually forgo team retainers in lieu of providing their teams with personal sponsor funds.

Brazilian rookie Nelson Piquet is also a low F1 earner, with his $1.5m in stark contrast to Renault teammate Fernando Alonso, who at $28m is reportedly the best paid driver this year.

Timo Glock has re-entered F1 this season with a start-up fee of $2m.

Among the two top teams, meanwhile, reigning champion Kimi Raikkonen makes $22m in 2008, which is more than double the combined salaries of McLaren duo Lewis Hamilton ($5m) and teammate Heikki Kovalainen ($2.5m), Auto Motor und Sport said.

Like Hamilton, Williams' Nico Rosberg - also at $5m - is also earning considerably more in 2008 compared with one year ago.

Honda's Jenson Button commands $16 million, which is more than Nick Heidfeld's $11m from BMW Sauber.

Team Penske could field 3rd car  Penske Racing isn't planning to field a third car at Indy, as it indirectly did last year with Ryan Briscoe, but team president Tim Cindric won't rule it out. He gave it "a 30 percent chance" of happening, although it wouldn't be with former employee Paul Tracy, he said. Indystar.com
F1 to return in USA in 2009  UPDATE #2 (GMM)  Indianapolis boss Tony George has confirmed that talks are on to revive the US grand prix.

For the first time since 1999, the fabled venue will not be visited by the formula one circus this year, after George and the series' chief executive Bernie Ecclestone failed to reach a new agreement.

But it recently emerged that a local marketing company had been commissioned by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to look for potential sponsors to help fund the race's return.

And to Indianapolis radio station 1070 The Fan Radio, George sounded hopeful that the right financial backing could put the US grand prix back on track as early as 2009.

"We need to improve the financial performance of the event in order to justify bringing it back, and we won't do that without sponsorship," he said.

"We're talking to some folks that may have interest, and that could happen as early as 2009 if we can go to Bernie with a proposal," George added.

03/19/08 Indianapolis Motor Speedway president and CEO Tony George is planning to bring Formula 1 back to the Speedway in the summer of 2009. The race was lost this year because George and F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone could not agree terms for a new deal, with a rumored $7m difference between what George was willing to pay and what Ecclestone was hoping to get.

In recent days, however, the Indiana-based marketing firm Just Marketing has been hired by the IMS to help sign a title sponsor for the F1 race. There are rumored to have been talks between the F1 authorities and the cities of Las Vegas and Miami, but Indianapolis remains the only purpose-built track in the United States that is suited to F1, without the need for major upgrading work. A deal thus can be done quickly and so there is potential to put the race back on the calendar in 2009. Grandprix.com

03/06/08 Negotiations are heating up between Formula One and Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials that could bring F1 racing back to Indianapolis in 2009. Speedway boss Tony George told an audience at yesterday’s IU Business Conference that he’d like to bring Formula One back in time for the Brickyard’s centennial celebration. The facility opened in 1909.

Just Marketing, an Indianapolis-based firm that pairs sponsors with motorsports properties, has been hired by the IMS to help sign a title sponsor for the F1 race. Just Marketing President Zak Brown said F1 czar Bernie Ecclestone and the series’ existing sponsors have a “strong interest” in returning.

“I know there’s been talk of having an F1 race at Las Vegas or Miami, but the Speedway is the only facility in the U.S. that is up to F1 standards,” Brown said. “Indianapolis is turnkey and ready to go. If the right sponsors can be put into place, I think this can happen in 2009.”

Brown said he and George had private meetings with potential sponsors late last year, and those discussions are progressing. Brown called interest among companies willing to fork over an eight-figure sum for a multi-year title sponsorship “fairly high.”

“I think F1 will come back,” Brown said. “At this point, I think it’s a matter of when, not if.” Indy Business Journal

Next bike race could be Schu's last  (GMM)  Michael Schumacher has hinted that Sunday could mark the end of his two-wheeled racing foray.

History's most successful formula one driver, who hung up his helmet at the end of 2006, has been dabbling on motorcycles recently, including amateur races in Hungary and Spain.

Media reports said Schumacher actually won a 14-lapper at the Circuit de Catalunya over the Easter weekend, but the 39-year-old played down the triumph.

"I finished in front but they were young boys.  This instead will be a real race, the first official one I've done on a bike," he told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport daily.

He refers to his planned 990cc KTM race at the Misano circuit this Sunday.

Schumacher said he hopes simply to qualify for the 10 lap race, among highly competitive semi-professional riders.

"This is just for enjoyment, no one is obliging me to do it.  Maybe I will stop here," the German said.

Would Hornish return to the IRL?  Former champions Dario Franchitti and Sam Hornish have steadfastly defended their decisions to leave the Indy Racing League to begin NASCAR careers as absolute beginners. They've continued to do so as they've struggled mightily.

But Tony Kanaan wonders about the decision of Franchitti, his best friend and former teammate. And Tim Cindric, president of the Penske race team, admits there are contingency plans that could bring Hornish, the 2006 series champion, back to an IRL series in which he set records for wins (19) and titles (3) before reunification created a new record book this season.

Hornish is struggling in his rookie season after winning the IRL title and Indy 500 in 2006. Penske Racing assigned teammate Kurt Busch's points to his No. 77 Dodge to assure him entry into this year's first five Sprint Cup races, but he entered Sunday's event at Martinsville 35th in points, one spot from being forced to qualify on time. Team Penske's Tim Cindric said he can foresee Hornish returning to the IRL, but not in failure, and Roger Penske said he feels Hornish has raced better than his results indicate.

"There's no set plan on that front, but we operate with a lot of options," he said of planning Hornish's career. "But I would be very surprised if the reason he came back (to the IRL) is because it didn't work out there. I know how determined he is. I'd be surprised, but you never know." TampaBay.com

Roush Says Toyota Team Stole "Proprietary Part"  UPDATE #3 Lee White, the senior vice president and general manager for Toyota Racing Development, rebutted car owner Jack Roush’s claim Friday that Toyota may have had a hand in stealing a front sway bar from the Roush Fenway Racing organization last fall at Dover.

“From our perspective this is an issue that appears to be between two race teams and does not involve a manufacturer,” White said in a statement. “As always our focus continues to be on enhancing our hardware, improving our performance and winning races. This year, we have eight cars in the top-35 in owner points – and at this time a year ago we did not have any. We know we’re headed in the right direction and will continue to focus our efforts on the race track rather than away from the track.”

03/28/08 NASCAR officials say they will not intervene in the dispute between Roush Fenway Racing and an unspecified Toyota team that allegedly took a part from the Ford organization.

Team owner Jack Roush is asking NASCAR for “relief” on the issue, but NASCAR Vice President of Competition strongly dismissed that idea on Friday.

“If they’ve got issues with each other or other teams, then they’ve got to talk to those other teams,” Pemberton said. “I didn’t take a part or a piece, all right? Nobody in this [NASCAR] trailer took a part or a piece.

“We know Jack said that, and apparently some other team acknowledged having a part or a piece. Those people need to work their deal out.”

Michael Waltrip confirmed Friday afternoon that it was his team that Jack Roush was alluding to when saying a Toyota team had stolen a sway bar from Roush Fenway Racing at Dover last September.
“It was a mistake,” Waltrip said. “Look at the back of these toolboxes. There are sway bars, there’s jack handles, and it wound up in our possession. We called them and said, ‘We want to give this back.’ ” Scenedaily.com

03/28/08 The Roush Racing, Toyota feud could be escalating. According to team owner Jack Roush a proprietary part belonging to a Roush-Fenway Ford turned up in a Toyota camp, sources say Michael Waltrip Racing, after a post race teardown.

Roush cried foul and earlier this week threatened further action.

“We are considering legal action, or getting NASCAR involved,” Roush was quoted as saying.

Wednesday, president and chief executive officer of Toyota Racing Development Jim Aust said the part was a spring and as soon as it was learned that it belonged to another team, it was returned.

"I don't understand the whole procedure when a teardown happens," said Aust, referring to a post-race process in which several cars are torn down by NASCAR inspectors. "The only thing I know is it wound up with parts we had and they were returned to Roush.”

Aust also said that no one at Toyota knows exactly how they ended up with the part to begin with.

"It's unfortunate it happened the way it did. It wasn't anything intentional,” Aust said. “There's no reason to be done intentional. I have no idea how it happened to begin with."

However, late Wednesday Roush Fenway president Geoff Smith said the part in question was not a spring but would not say what it was.

"Jack is the only one to talk to at this time,” Smith said “And he presently doesn't want to make any additional comments."

Formula 1 racing was rocked by a scandal in 2007 when one team was found to be in possession of a 780 page technical manual belonging to a rival team.  Cupscene

03/26/08 ESPN the Magazine has an interesting and potentially explosive quote from Roush Fenway Racing co-owner Jack Roush as part of its 10th Anniversary issue, which is on newsstands this week. Two weeks ago at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the magazine quotes Roush as saying, “We had a proprietary Roush Fenway part go missing from one of my race teams, and we recovered it from a Toyota team. I’m not going to say which team it is, but we are considering legal action, or getting NASCAR involved.” If Roush’s allegations prove to be true, this could become NASCAR’s version of the recent spy scandal that rocked Formula One racing, in which the McLaren-Mercedes team was caught with confidential, proprietary test information belonging to rival Ferrari. We contacted Roush Fenway Racing today in search of further information – including the team that was involved and the specific part in question -- and we [SIRIUS Speedway w/ Dave Moody] hope to have a statement from them later today.
Overheard in Homestead - 1  Rumor has it that Dan Clarke is close to putting together a deal that will see him in an IndyCar by mid-season and possibly even in time for Indy..... We also hear that Clarke is talking to HVM, for whom he drove the past two seasons in Champ Car as well as Panther Racing..... Most of the Champ Car teams are finding it hard to beat the IRL teams who have a 5-year head start with these cars..... We hear the Champ Car teams have no idea what they will do with their one year old Panoz cars after Long Beach.  Maybe some will become show cars.
Tata to buy Jaguar and Land Rover  UPDATE #7 This rumor is now finally upgraded to 'fact.'  Ford Motor Co.'s agreement to sell Jaguar and Land Rover to India's Tata Motors Ltd. marks the end of its Premier Automotive Group -- the international luxury collection that was the centerpiece of former CEO Jacques Nasser's failed attempt to transform the Dearborn automaker from an American icon into a truly global automotive empire.

Under the terms of the deal, which was announced Wednesday, Ford will receive about $2.3 billion for the two British brands. That money will do little to offset the billions Ford has poured into the marques over the past two decades, but will bring the automaker one step closer to realizing CEO Alan Mulally's new vision of "One Ford" focused on fixing its Blue Oval brand.

"We are confident that they are leaving our fold with the products, plan and team to continue to thrive under Tata's stewardship," Mulally said in a statement. "Now, it is time for Ford to concentrate on integrating the Ford brand globally, as we implement our plan to create a strong Ford Motor Co. that delivers profitable growth for all."

Mulally's plan represents a major reversal of the strategy Nasser outlined in 1999 when he created the Premier Automotive Group out of Aston Martin, Jaguar and Lincoln, later adding Volvo and Land Rover. At the time, he predicted the luxury group would become a major contributor to Ford's bottom line.

Ford bought Jaguar in 1989 for $2.5 billion. It was widely viewed as a vanity purchase for which Ford overpaid. Since then, Ford has invested about $10 billion in the brand, including a $1.2 billion bailout in 2005. Despite the cash infusions, Jaguar continues to lose money -- about $715 million in 2006 alone.

Nasser added Land Rover to the stable in 2000, paying BMW AG $2.75 billion for the brand.

Jaguar and Land Rover have cost Ford somewhere between $11 billion and $13 billion when the financial losses they generated are added to Ford's investments in the marques. [Editor's Note: And to think, the execs received all those large bonuses over the years for such great management.  And you wonder why Ford is going under?]

03/25/08 U.S. automaker Ford has agreed to sell its luxury brands Jaguar and Land Rover to India's Tata Motors for more than $2 billion (1 billion pounds), according to a source familiar with the matter.

Ford, which signed the deal on Tuesday, plans to publicly announce the transaction in New York on Wednesday, said another source.

The deal will also see Ford pay about 300 million pounds into Jaguar and Land Rovers' pension funds, according to unions.

Ford declined to comment, adding "our first responsibility is to communicate with our employees." International Herald Tribune

03/25/08 Three months after India's Tata Motors Ltd. emerged as the lead bidder for Ford Motor Co.'s Jaguar and Land Rover brands, the two companies appear to have a deal, according to sources familiar with the situation. A formal announcement of the sale is expected Wednesday.

Tata reportedly will pay about $2 billion for the two British luxury brands, the sources said, and Ford will make a one-time contribution of $600 million to the pension fund for Jaguar and Land Rover workers.

The one-off payment would be made once the deal is completed, which is expected by the end of June.

The announcement will be made at Ford headquarters in Dearborn.

It is being timed to coincide with Jaguar and Land Rover employees' return from the Easter holiday.

One source stressed that previous deadlines in the negotiations had been missed due to disagreements occurring at the last minute, but that person was not aware of any outstanding concerns this time.

Ford would not officially confirm the date, but said a deal is close.  Detroit News More ...

Roush Toyota feud could escalate  The Roush Racing, Toyota feud could be escalating. According to team owner Jack Roush a proprietary part belonging to a Roush-Fenway Ford turned up in a Toyota camp, sources say Michael Waltrip Racing, after a post race teardown. Roush cried foul and earlier this week threatened further action.

“We are considering legal action, or getting NASCAR involved,” Roush was quoted as saying. Wednesday, president and chief executive officer of Toyota Racing Development Jim Aust said the part was a spring and as soon as it was learned that it belonged to another team, it was returned.

"I don't understand the whole procedure when a teardown happens," said Aust, referring to a post-race process in which several cars are torn down by NASCAR inspectors. "The only thing I know is it wound up with parts we had and they were returned to Roush.”

Aust also said that no one at Toyota knows exactly how they ended up with the part to begin with. "It's unfortunate it happened the way it did. It wasn't anything intentional,” Aust said. “There's no reason to be done intentional. I have no idea how it happened to begin with."

However, late Wednesday Roush Fenway president Geoff Smith said the part in question was not a spring but would not say what it was. "Jack is the only one to talk to at this time,” Smith said “And he presently doesn't want to make any additional comments."

Formula 1 racing was rocked by a scandal in 2007 when one team was found to be in possession of a 780 page technical manual belonging to a rival team.

F-1’s governing body, the International Automobile Federation, fined the McLaren team a record $100 million in September 2007. The team was also stripped of their constructor (owners) points.
Jordan blocks access to Force India factory  UPDATE Force India today rubbished reports that former team owner Eddie Jordan's closing of a road around its Silverstone factory had affected the Formula One outfit's access to the facility.

"There are two approach roads to the silverstone facility and the main public road which gives access the silverstone facility of Force India remains open and the visitors and staff have normal and usual access," Force India spokesman Prakash Mirpuri said.

Jordan was the owner of the team in its Jordan avatar and also has substantial land ownership around the factory. Reports had come that he had blocked access to the factory by closing the road.

The Force India spokesman admitted that Jordan had indeed closed the road but maintained with the main public road remaining open, the team's access had not been affected.

"The second road created by Eddie Jordan during his ownership has been closed by him as he wishes to explore alternative uses for is land. This in no way affects Force India," he added.

03/26/08 (GMM)  Team founder and former owner Eddie Jordan has thrown a spanner in the works of the Force India outfit, according to reports.

The Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell claims that the Irishman, despite no longer owning the team, still controls some of the land surrounding the Silverstone factory in rural England.

Jordan has apparently been trying to sell to Force India a section of land that provides access to the team factory.

But because the Vijay Mallya and Mol family-owned team has so far refused to buy, it is reported that Jordan blocked access to the factory while the race team and bosses were away for the Malaysian grand prix.

Motorsport Aktuell claims that Jordan ordered the dumping of a truckload of concrete on the access road.

Ferrari team orders in play at Malaysia  Team orders were in play by the Ferrari team in Malaysia, a veteran formula one expert suspects.

Gary Anderson, a semi-retired grand prix car designer for teams like Jordan and Jaguar, thinks Felipe Massa was manipulated into second place at Sepang despite scoring pole position and leading race winner Kimi Raikkonen until the first pit stops.

A series of quick sectors put Finn Raikkonen in front during the pit stop shuffle, and shortly afterwards Massa spun into the gravel.

"The way in which Raikkonen went past Massa at the first stop makes me suspect that Ferrari had it planned from the outset," the Irishman told Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell. More ...

Nick Fry to become Super Aguri boss  
Nick Fry
Motorsport Aktuell published a rumour that Honda's team CEO and former team principal Nick Fry could soon be drafted in as Super Aguri's new boss. updatef1.com
Albers to team with Legge  Rumor has it that Christijan Albers will drive an Audi DTM car this year for the TME Futurecom team.  The number 21 Audi will be a 2006 A4.  His teammate in TME Futurecom will be DTM newcomer Katherine Legge.
F1 to implement new rule to prevent blocking in quals  UPDATE Word is that FIA race director Charlie Whiting will soon announce that from Bahrain onwards the lap-to-grid rule will also apply in qualifying. This means it will be forbidden to go slowly back to the pits just to save fuel, instead drivers have to do their in-lap within 120 percent of the average of his best times and this new rule applies to everyone, not just those in the final session.

03/23/08 (GMM)  Moves are already afoot to ensure that the events during qualifying for the Malaysian grand prix do not occur again.

Nick Heidfeld and Fernando Alonso complained that the fuel-conserving McLaren drivers on Saturday ruined their final flying laps, and the stewards agreed, but it is also undoubtedly the case that the incident was extremely dangerous.

"It is a disaster that the rules allow such a thing," Williams driver Nico Rosberg observed to Motorsport Aktuell in Malaysia.

It is believed that the proposed solution to the situation, that has been sparked by the tweaked qualifying format this year, is to impose a maximum time limit for drivers to complete their slowing-down laps.

The pitwall timing monitors have often recorded drivers as having stopped on track, so slow have they been making their way back to parc ferme after qualifying.

It is understood that the new rule, also applying to the procedure whereby cars form up on the dummy grid before a race, could be introduced on the grounds of safety by race director Charlie Whiting as quickly as the forthcoming Bahrain grand prix next month.

The Spanish newspaper Diario AS asked Alonso, who like Heidfeld was held up at Sepang, about the possible rule tweak.

"I don't know, that might be a solution," he said.

"But there were six or seven cars (going slowly) in that part of the track, and with five of them I had no problem.

"It is the responsibility of the drivers to get off the racing line," the Renault driver added.

Farley may replace Ford's Mulally  Ford Motor Co.'s new chief marketing officer, Jim Farley, and the president of its Americas group, Mark Fields, are both on the short list of executives identified by the company to succeed CEO Alan Mulally.

But Ford stressed any talk of Mulally's leaving is "premature."

Joe Laymon, Ford's human resources chief, made public the names on his succession list for Mulally during an interview with Automotive News that was published Monday. Ford confirmed the details of that report, but said such planning is a routine part of corporate business.

"There are no plans right now for Alan's departure," Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans said.

Alonso could quit Renault  
Is that the smile of a Ferrari-bound driver?
Fernando Alonso has said he can leave Renault at the end of this season.  The double champion, who returned to the team after a stormy year with McLaren, has had a disappointing start to the season in an uncompetitive car.

"I'm at Renault because I wanted to get back to winning, like in 2005 and 2006, if not this year then next year," Alonso told Spanish newspaper As.

"But I have an option to leave so I can be in the best possible car, and it is clear Ferrari is one of the best."

When Alonso signed for Renault last winter, there was widespread speculation that he would only stay for one year before joining world champions Ferrari for 2009.

And his comments seem to confirm suspicions that the Spaniard does indeed have a break clause in his contract that would allow him to leave after just one year. Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo is known to regard Alonso highly. BBC Sports

Hiring freeze at NASCAR and ISC  Rumor has it that due to a  softening of their market both NASCAR and ISC have instituted a hiring freeze.
Ford to revive rear-wheel drive in U.S.  Ford Motor Co. is bringing rear-wheel-drive development back to the United States from Australia. The automaker also has green-lighted a vehicle platform that will provide the basis for a new generation of rear-wheel-drive cars, according to sources familiar with Ford's plans.

Australia, where such vehicles remain popular, had emerged as Ford's center for rear-wheel-drive development. But changing economics have convinced the company to bring the program back to Dearborn.

Sources said the new rear-wheel-drive platform will provide the underlying architecture for an all-new Ford Mustang, as well as for new Ford and Lincoln sedans. The same platform will be used for a next-generation Falcon in Australia. Product codes already exist for these cars, but it will still be about four years before they arrive in showrooms.

Ford would not comment on moving the rear-wheel-drive program, but said Australia will continue to play an important role in the company's product development operations.

Overheard in Mexico - 6 (Viso eyes Champ Car)  UPDATE #4 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement - see Hot News page.

01/30/08 Ernesto Viso seems to have a bigger chance to compete in the Champ Car Series this year.  The young Venezuelan driver will be in Sebring testing for Minardi Team USA Feb 2 – Feb 4.

Viso with Minardi co-owner Keith Wiggins
Viso tested a Champ Car in December with the team owned by Keith Wiggins and Paul Stoddart, a test that left a good feeling for both parties and brought the opportunity to talk about a future together.

“The chances of being in Champ Car has increased”- he said- “we have been talking with Minardi and we agreed to test again. I got some offers from GP2, but I prefer to keep my mind in Sebring. With my sponsors, I am working on the program to land a seat in  2008 that will enable me to fight for wins”.

01/04/08 After making the headlines in 2007 for all the wrong reasons, Ernesto Viso insists that he wants to be back on track full-time next season.

To that end, Viso made his Champ Car debut with Minardi Team USA at Sebring last month, and includes the series as a potential destination.

Ernesto Viso

"I think F1 is the target for all drivers, for sure it was mine," he admits, "I was there in Brazil last year and really liked it, and I think I did a good job. For sure, I am going to keep working hard to be there, and am working [to get] the sponsors here.

"F1 is always my first option but, if it doesn't happen, I want to race and I think Champ Car could be a good decision. The [Minardi] test went very well, and we were very quick even if myself and one other driver were the only ones on track and it was a bit green. I liked the car - it was a bit heavy, but there was a lot of power because of the turbo. It was fun to drive and the times were very quick - the guys were impressed and I was impressed as well. The team did a very good job and, if that's the way we're going to go next year, I think they're a good option for us."

"These days, even if you are a test driver in F1, you still need to race something because they don't do much," he explained, "There is no third driver as there was before, driving on Fridays, so, if I am third driver, I need to race something. In that case, Champ Car may be a bit too far [away], so GP2 could again be the best option."

"I think GP2 is always a good place to be because you're next to F1 and you're racing at a very high level," he reasoned, "I love to develop cars, and understand them really well, but, because it [GP2 has] a new car, the championship is going to be a bit more expensive and drivers need to bring a bit more money, and that's the difficult thing for me.

"The thing is that, because of my nationality, it is probably easier for me to get sponsors to race in America, but we still have options in GP2 and we're still working and talking to them. There's a door open over there, but sponsors are the biggest reason why we are looking at Champ Car." More ...

Coulthard tipped for F1 commentator role  
David Coulthard
(GMM)  David Coulthard could still be a fixture of the formula one paddocks next year, even if he is no longer on the grid.

The Scot, who is the oldest active driver in F1, is adamant that his racing days are not nearing an end, even after thirteen years and 13 grand prix wins.

"Something you are passionate about, something you enjoy, you don't give yourself a timeline," he said in Australia a week ago.

But according to whispers in the Sepang paddock, should Coulthard not be retained by Red Bull for a fifth consecutive season in 2009, he is being lined up as a F1 commentator for British TV.

Amid the news that the BBC has won the rights to take over from rival channel ITV as Britain's host broadcaster, it is rumored that 36-year-old Coulthard is high on the list to become a Martin Brundle-style 'color' commentator.

Elsewhere, Brundle's fans have been organizing online petitions in the hope that the former Williams and McLaren driver makes the switch with Britain's change of F1 broadcaster.

It is suggested that Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond is in pole position to front the BBC's F1 coverage from next March.

Sepang may follow Qatar's lead in running night race  UPDATE The Malaysian Grand Prix will most likely be raced at night next season Bernie Ecclestone told reporters at Sepang on Sunday. The Formula 1 boss has said the organizers of the Malaysian Grand Prix agreed to start the race after 7pm. 

In order to boost the European television viewers Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone is trying to get as many night races as possible in Asia and Australia. The organizers of the Australian Grand Prix said last week they were not willing to start at night and might lose their place on the Formula One calendar.

"The organizers here in Malaysia know it is necessary, both to attract television audiences in Europe and the public here,'' Ecclestone said at Sepang. "It will be very good for the people in Malaysia and anyone coming to visit the race as it will be very exciting.'"

12/24/07 Since Qatar will host the first MotoGP race at night in 2008, organizers of the Malaysian MotoGP race are interested in running a night race, according to Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta.

"Malaysia are thinking about (night racing) too, at Sepang," Ezpeleta told Motosprint. "They are very interested in making this investment as well."

"Since we first signed the contract with Qatar, I explained my worries, which were mostly about the great heat," he said. "And the government told us 'why don't we race at night?'

"The race can now be held on Sunday prime time and that's ideal. And then, by being at night, this event becomes very fascinating and it becomes something prestigious for the country."

Ferrari eyes Vettel  UPDATE #4 (GMM)  50 per cent Toro Rosso team owner Dietrich Mateschitz has played down persisting rumors that Sebastian Vettel could end up racing a Ferrari in 2009.

Even though the Austrian billionaire intends to sell his Red Bull stake in Gerhard Berger's team next year, Mateschitz rubbished speculation that the prized young German driver is also on the move.

He said there is no link between the rumors and the fact that Ferrari is Toro Rosso's engine supplier.

"First, we pay for our Ferrari engines," Mateschitz told the Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell.

"Secondly, we did not want even Alonso if it is just for one year.

"We have supported (Vettel) for six or seven years, even when BMW temporarily borrowed him.  I don't like to talk about contractual details.

"But one thing is clear: with Sebastian we have a long term contract."

It also emerged on the sidelines of the Malaysian grand prix at Sepang that, while Sebastien Bourdais signed a one-year Toro Rosso contract for 2008, Vettel's deal is solely with the energy drink Red Bull.

03/20/08 There are reports in Italy that Ferrari has signed Sebastian Vettel. These seem rather unlikely as Vettel's contractual situation is, at best, complicated and probably best described as convoluted, with BMW and Red Bull both having claims on the German rising star. It is unlikely that either company would sell these to Ferrari. In addition, Ferrari has both of its drivers under contract for at least two years and the two are doing a decent job at the moment, even if the change in management at Ferrari might bring new attitudes towards them. Grandprix.com

03/20/08 (GMM) Felipe Massa on Thursday hit out at rumors that Ferrari is looking to replace him for 2009 with rising German youngster Sebastian Vettel.

A correspondent for the Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport in Malaysia asked Massa, the 26-year-old Brazilian, if he had heard paddock gossip that his seat may be under threat beyond the end of this season.

Some other commentators suggest that the recent departure from Ferrari of Jean Todt weakens Massa's position at the team, as he is managed by the Frenchman's son Nicolas.

"I have a three year contract, so I am very comfortable in the team," he said at Sepang.

Massa explained that, even despite Ferrari's abysmal showing in Melbourne, featuring multiple driver errors, the Italian outfit is not responding by threatening the status of team members.

"So everybody is happy with the drivers, everybody is happy with the team itself and I have a three year contract if you don't remember," he added.

20-year-old Vettel, currently a driver for the Ferrari-powered Toro Rosso team, also would not be drawn on the rumors.

"I think Felipe was quite clear on what he said," the German responded in Malaysia.

03/18/08 Word is that Ferrari might like to use Vettel as early as this year should Massa or Raikkonen get injured.

Sebastian Vettel
03/18/08 According to Italian magazine Autosprint, Ferrari has engaged in talks with Sebastian Vettel for 2009 deciding to sacrifice Felipe Massa, who has a 3-year contract until 2010. Vettel is very highly regarded and if the rumors are true that Red Bull may be selling the Toro Rosso team, the door may be open for the move. Ferrari already has some relationship with Vettel since Toro Rosso uses Ferrari engines.
Lewis Hamilton to be penalized  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact.'  Both McLaren drivers have been docked five places on the Sepang grid after stewards found them guilty of impeding in qualifying for the Malaysian grand prix.

Nick Heidfeld and Fernando Alonso complained to the stewards that, although up to half a dozen runners were driving very slowly while conserving fuel at the end of the sixty minute session, only Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen were cruising on the racing line.

Kovalainen and Hamilton qualified third and fourth, so they will start Sunday's race from eighth and ninth respectively, the stewards revealed in a ruling that was handed down after 7pm local.

It is understood that the stewards took a particularly dim view of the fact that both McLaren runners were warned by radio that other drivers were still on flying laps behind them.

Other voices in the paddock on Saturday night were calling for a rule to be introduced for future grands prix, also on safety grounds, where drivers must maintain a specified minimum speed on slowing down laps.

Lewis Hamilton
(GMM)  Both McLaren drivers were summoned by the stewards at Sepang on Saturday after their rivals complained about being blocked at the end of qualifying for the Malaysian grand prix.

Nick Heidfeld (BMW-Sauber) and Fernando Alonso (Renault) complained that they were impeded by the two MP4-23s, as the Mercedes-powered cars slowed to conserve fuel on their way back to parc ferme.

Heidfeld, in particular, was captured by the live broadcasters weaving at break-neck speeds between the slow-moving cars, and he later complained in person to the FIA representatives.

To the press, the German recalled Hamilton and Kovalainen "cruising on the racing line".

McLaren F1 CEO Martin Whitmarsh confirmed: "Both our drivers have been called to see the officials."

Championship leader Hamilton, 23, also found himself explaining to the fervent British media why he qualified behind his Finnish teammate, Kovalainen.

"I didn't do a perfect job and need to analyze the data to see where I can pick up time tomorrow," he said.

New girlfriend for Lewis Hamilton?  
Hamilton greets Sonia Irvine, a Formula One physiotherapist
Wong Maye-E/AP
McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton was spotted kissing a mysterious blonde in the Sepang paddock. According to rumors the mystery girl is Sonia Irvine, the sister of former F1 racer Eddie Irvine.
Nationwide team might drop third car  This hasn’t been the start that team owner Gary Baker expected when he purchased Brewco Motorsports in late 2007.

Baker, who along with music mogul Mike Curb owns Nashville-based Baker Curb Racing, had aspirations of having two full-funded Nationwide Series cars this season and to run a limited number of races with a third car. Things haven’t gone as planned.

Baker said today that this is likely the final race for the No. 37 Ford — driven by Baker’s son Brad Baker — unless a sponsor steps forward.

“We are short of our goal right now,” Baker said.

Baker Curb Racing does have full sponsorship for the No. 27 car driven by Brad Coleman.

Toyota is unlikely to meet 2008 sales target  Toyota Motor Corp  is unlikely to meet its global sales target of 9.85 million units this year due to slowing sales in major markets amid the yen's strengthening, an executive vice president said on Thursday.  "Frankly speaking, sales in the U.S., Europe and Japan are showing signs of a slowdown. It will be difficult to meet the group's sales target of 9.85 million, although emerging markets such as China and Russia are active," Uranishi Tokuichi, executive vice president of Toyota, told reporters in Seoul.
Camaro may get 4-cyclinder engine  General Motors is considering a four-cylinder engine for the new Chevrolet Camaro as a response to rising fuel prices.

Speaking on the sidelines of the New York auto show, GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz said the drivetrain under consideration for the Camaro is the same high-performance one used in the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky roadsters. It’s a 2.0-liter turbocharged, direct-injected four-cylinder rated at 260 hp. Lutz said that if fuel prices continue to climb, the four-cylinder Camaro could see production.

GM has said it plans V8 and V6 versions of the Camaro but otherwise has been secretive. Lutz confirmed to Automotive News that the V6 version of the Camaro will be powered by the same high-tech V6 used in the Cadillac CTS. It’s a direct-injected, 3.6-liter four-cam V6. In the CTS, the engine is rated at 304 hp.

Low-priced version dropped
In the Camaro, the 3.6 liter’s horsepower should be around 260, Lutz said, Fuel economy, he said, will be around 17 mpg city and 25 highway. That would place the V6 Camaro among best in class for a performance car.

Lutz said GM has dropped plans to offer a low-priced, entry-level Camaro with one of GM’s low-tech V6s. GM will position both the V6 and V8 versions of the Camaro as premium cars compared to the Camaro’s chief rival, the Ford Mustang.

The base model Mustang uses a 4.0-liter overhead-cam V6 rated at 210 hp. The base model Dodge Challenger, due in the fall, will use a 250-hp, 3.5-liter V6.

Most enthusiast attention has focused on the Camaro’s V8 engine, which is likely to be a 6.0-liter with about 400 hp. Lutz said the V8 will have a cylinder cutoff system that shuts down half the engine when the car reaches cruising speed. That will help it get better fuel economy.  More at AutoWeek

Fuel Cell Problems at JGR?  Denny Hamlin says a potential flaw in the design of the fuel cells at Joe Gibbs Racing may have contributed to Sunday's loss at Bristol Motor Speedway. Hamlin was leading on the green-white-checkered restart, but his car stalled because not enough fuel reached the engine. That allowed Jeff Burton to blow past Hamlin for his first win at the half-mile track and set up a 1-2-3 finish for Richard Childress Racing. Hamlin, who got his car going after gas swashed into the engine in the corners of the track, finished sixth.

It wasn't the first time this has happened. "Anytime we get low on fuel, especially with a banked race track like Bristol, all of our fuel drains in the cell to where we don't get any in the engine," Hamlin said Tuesday. "Once we do take off all we're using is fuel in the lines. There's a bubble in there and the car stalls." More ...

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