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A war of words brewing A reader writes, This is my first chance to write this, but I wanted to share a comment on the local news on Sunday night. With a lead-in teaser something like "could a war of words be brewing among the two Indianapolis based Open Wheel racing series?" The Indianapolis local ABC station ran a brief interview with Sebastien Bourdais during which Sebastien told the IRL "Stay away from Long Beach.....It's ours!" Barry Michael, Indianapolis
Atlantic team eyes Champ CarUPDATE AutoRacing1.com can now confirm that Polestar would like to move up to Champ Car if sponsorship can be found, hence this rumor is 'fact' in that they are eying a move up. Team owners Jim and Pam Griffith do not hide the fact they want to move up. A huge reason why they left DSTP a few years back - Dede Rogers thought the team's resources should have been focused solely on the Atlantic series whereas Jim thought it was important to have involvement in more than one series. The drivers would not necessarily be their current Atlantic drivers. Their sponsorship hunt is slated to start in May. Possibilities exist to be a satellite team to an existing Champ Car team, or their own separate team. 04/09/05 We are hearing that the Polestar Toyota Atlantic team is considering a move up to Champ Car with driver Katherine Legge and possibly Antoine Bessette. No word from the team but Legge told AutoRacing1 that Champ Car is her goal.
Newman/Haas to enter Bourdais and JunqueiraUPDATE This rumor is now 'fact.' See Hot News page for announcement. 04/12/05 According to a report in the Detroit Free Press, today, Newman/Haas is expected to enter this year's Indy 500 with defending Champ Car champion and winner of the Long Beach GP Sebastien Bourdais and Bruno Junqueira, who sat on the 500 pole in 2002 while driving for Chip Ganassi. "The Indy 500 is a legendary race," Bourdais said while testing at Sebring last month. "My heart is in racing, and winning an Indy 500 would be the best."
Renault looks to re-sign Alonso Renault team principal Flavio Briatore has entered into talks with world championship leader Fernando Alonso to extend his contract with the team. The Spaniard has won two out of three of this year's grands prix and Briatore is keen to lock up his services quickly. Particularly as interest in Alonso is believed to be growing among rival teams - including Ferrari. "The negotiations with Renault for a contract extension have already started," Briatore told Swiss magazine Motorsport Aktuell. "If all sides are in agreement, it would be great to be able to announce the new contract at the Monaco Grand Prix (in May)," he added.
Kiesa eyes Minardi and LMES Rumors in Europe are that Minardi driver Patrick Friesacher has not paid his bill and Nicolas Kiesa will step in to do testing and possibly replace him in the not too distant future. From Kiesa's website - With the Formula One 2005 season three races old, Nicolas is getting himself ready for great opportunities. "It's been tough work behind the scenes working on a set of opportunities both in and outside Formula One. Even though no news has been released on my official website, don't even think that nothing has happened. Together with my management team I've been working twenty-four-seven to secure a sound future for the rest of the season.
"Due to my very positive relationship with the Minardi Formula One team, we are trying to build on that and figure out a common future together. I am ready to take part in their testing work whenever they need an extra set of hands. This Friday the Minardi Formula One team are getting ready for the first test of the Minardi PS05 on the Mugello circuit, and I will be traveling down there just in case they need me. After that I will be going to the Spa Circuit, looking at different opportunities in the European Le Mans Series in 2005. I have at least one standing proposal to drive the season there. I am focusing a bit on other series besides Formula One these days, to make sure that I am sharp and race fit, and there is no doubt that the European Le Mans Series is the best alternative at the moment."
Montoya to race at Imola Colombia's Juan Pablo Montoya should be back up to speed for the Imola race later in April. The McLaren driver had to skip the Bahrain grand prix when he (somehow, according to the Paddock cynics) fractured his shoulder playing tennis. Ron Dennis' Woking-based medical specialist, though, evaluated the 29-year-old and - contrary to suspicion that he could be out until June - (pre-Bahrain) predicted a fourteen to twenty-one day recovery. JPM is wearing a tight sling and undergoing magnetic treatment, to accelerate bone growth. ''We are not worried about it,'' Ron told the Australasian Motorsport News magazine.
Chennai to bid for Indian GP? India's on-off bid for a F1 grand prix is back in the 'on' position. The hugely populated country's first ever local F1 star, Narain Karthikeyan, popped in on the chief minister of (state) Tamil Nadu on Monday. He urged Ms. Jayalalithaa to build a track in home city Chennai and bid for a grand prix. ''She seemed very determined to bring F1 to the state,'' 28-year-old Karthikeyan told The Hindu. Jayalalithaa, 'fully supportive' of the idea according to the Indian media, told Jordan's Karthikeyan she had already written to the Prime Minister seeking support for a F1-style circuit.
14 team in trouble?UPDATE This rumor is now 'fact.' Bob Dillner stated during Saturday's installment of SPEED News that the #14 team was now shutting down for the rest of the season, period. 04/11/05 The new team John Andretti has been driving for this season may be in more trouble than anticipated. Last week the team announced it was cutting back to a limited schedule of Cup events, indicating sponsorship issues, and about a dozen men were reported let go. Now the team has been hit with a second round of crew cuts. Winston Salem Journal
Japan race gains momentum Rumor has it that the Japan race received a major boost this weekend after the Japanese dignitaries came away from Long Beach with a very positive feeling. We also hear that the track location is directly on the waterfront in downtown. We will have more on this later this week.
The IRL and Toyota There has been much speculation as to Toyota's future with the IRL after 2006. We spoke to Toyota's Jim Aust and Les Unger today in Long Beach after the Champ Car race and they did not give us an indication that they were going to leave. "We extended through 2006 last year," said Unger. Aust added, "The IRL has been good for us, but we want to get back to the level we were at two years ago when we were winning." They would not say whether they would renew or not past 2006. Whether this is just the party line or not, we don't know as the rumors are rampant that they are getting out. However, we'll believe it when we see it. If the rumors can be believed, that may hinge on whether the IRL is successful in its bid for the Long Beach race. Mark C.
The future of Toyota AtlanticUPDATE #2 This rumor is 'false.' We spoke to Les Unger after the race and he confirmed that Toyota will no longer sponsor the Atlantic series after this year. They would sell engine kits like they do now if Champ Car still wants them, but that would be the extent of their involvement. 04/10/05 We are bumping this rumor up to 'strong' today with more word that Toyota may stay with Champ Car's Atlantic series and the next generation engine will be bumped up in power to 350 to 400 HP. We also hear another manufacturer is ready to step in and fill the gap just below Toyota Atlantic. Mark C.04/06/05 We are hearing that Toyota may want to continue with the Toyota Atlantic series after their contract expires in 2005. Whether they remain as the primary series sponsor, however, is not known as apparently Champ Car may have some other plans. Champ Car will soon announce a new car for the series and possibly a new engine. It has been suggested that Cosworth might make a new more powerful engine for the series and have a manufacturer, perhaps Toyota, perhaps another manufacturer, badge it.
Wirdheim out of money?UPDATE We are downgrading this rumor to 'false' today. We spoke to Wirdheim's management and there is absolutely no truth to this rumor. The sponsor is a new TV station and they simply could not be ready in time to get their decals on the car for Long Beach. A contract for the full year is in place. 04/10/05 Rumors in Sweden say that Swede Bjorn Wirdheim is out of a ride after Long Beach. If the report can be believed, they failed to land a deal with Swedish TV-channel Sport Expressen which had been listed as the broadcasting TV-channel in Sweden. He is supposedly out of money. We will investigate this rumor and report back later. If true, this could open the door for Jos Verstappen.
Stewart vs. Mosley power struggle F1 motor racing has become embroiled in power struggles involving two of its leading figures - former three-times world champion Sir Jackie Stewart and Max Mosley. Several national motor racing bodies are lobbying for Stewart to replace Mosley as the president of the ruling Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA).
However, Stewart is also facing calls for Mosley to be removed from the board of the British Racing Drivers’ Club which runs the Silverstone race track and of which he is president. Mosley is under increasing criticism for being too close to Bernie Ecclestone, the 75-year-old British billionaire who runs the sport worldwide. On Friday, nine of the 10 Formula One teams plan to boycott a showdown meeting with Mosley as they continue to plot a breakaway from the current setup. Only Ferrari will attend.
The others, backed by manufacturers BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Honda, Renault and Toyota, have signed up for a rival series, called Grand Prix Racing. The so-called "Gang of Nine" will meet on Thursday in a deliberate snub to Moseley.
A source close to the teams said it was "only a matter of time" before Mosley was forced out. "He’s been imperial about his decision-making to bring in regulations he has imposed which have cost the teams tens of millions of pounds and some of those changes have been shown to have been of no benefit."
The grouping of national organizations who are government-supported and, in effect, run the grand prix are lobbying behind the scenes to get Stewart to replace Mosley. A group led by former chairman Ray Bellm, who was sacked in January, have called an extraordinary general meeting for next month at which the 500 members will vote.
"It’s pretty close to open warfare," Stewart admitted. "I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s been a concerted effort by a small group of people to create an enormous amount of agitation and that’s not good for our club and not good for British motor sport." The Scotsman
Villeneuve to NASCAR rumors resurface Formula One driver Jacques Villeneuve has expressed an interest in driving in NASCAR, according to some who have talked with him, and that could be a good sign for NASCAR's proposed Canadian racing project. Last spring, when Villeneuve's F1 career seemed all but over, and he was searching for a ride, Villeneuve inquired about NASCAR opportunities. But last fall he managed to land another F1 ride, though it wasn't a great one. At 34, Villeneuve may well be nearing the end of his career on the international circuit. Some say that Villeneuve may not have the attitude for NASCAR's "got-to-get-along" world, or the gumption for the grinding 38-week-a-year tour. An intriguing aspect to NASCAR's Canadian venture is that Vancouver may be a player, because that beautiful city, just two hours north of Seattle, could give the sport its long-awaited Northwest anchor. Given the problems that NASCAR has had finding 800 acres and political support for construction of a track in the Seattle area itself, Vancouver could be a solution. And Vancouver has a racing tradition with street-course CART Indy-car races. Winston Salem Journal [Editor's Note: We simply don't see this one happening. Villeneuve is said to have more money than God and see no reason for him to damage his career further by trying NASCAR where the Nextel Cup drivers would like nothing better to bang up on a former World Champion just to prove a point.]
Long Beach fans overwhelmingly behind Champ CarUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. The Press Telegram today published the results of their poll of readers that showed 85% want Champ Car to stay in Long Beach, 10% want the IRL, 5% a sports car series and 0% another series (numbers are rounded to whole percentage point). 04/06/05 We are hearing that the Long Beach Press Telegram did a poll that will be released this week that shows 85% of its readers want Champ Car to stay in Long Beach, vs. 15% for the IRL. Like we said, Dover and Toyota would be taking a huge risk if they switch the race to an IRL race. The Champ Car fans that have been going to Long Beach since 1985 are adamant about Long Beach staying a Champ Car event. While Champ Car goes about its business of running races and signing new venues (i.e. ignoring the IRL and not trying to take anything from them), the IRL does everything it can to undermine Champ Car and take everything and anything they can. In fact almost the entire paddock and many of the IRL events were formerly with CART/Champ Car.
Many outraged Champ Car fans have written to say the IRL are a bunch of low-lifes for leeching off Champ Car instead of going out and starting their own events. Understandably they are quite emotional when it comes to Long Beach as they feel it is their crown jewel event. Their hate for Tony George and everyone who backstabbed Champ Car while following the Japanese yen over to the IRL and claim that hate will deepen if the IRL takes Long Beach. St. Pete was a success on the back of CART. Even the concrete crash walls and fencing were left behind by CART free of charge.
HVM car to carry Korea logosUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today with the Ronnie Bremer car carrying Ansan, South Korea 2005 logos. 04/09/05 Similar to the Beijing '06 logos on AJ Allmendinger's car, we are hearing that one of the HVM cars will carry logos for the South Korean Grand Prix to be held later this year. No word on whether another car will get Otaru, Japan '07 logos. We spoke briefly to the Chairman of the planned race, Yukihiro Arasawa, and the President, Osamu Kinoshita, about how plans were going for their race. Both said very well. They liked what they were seeing at Long Beach and said the weather in Otaru (near Sapporo) is nice in May, the date being tossed about.
Overheard in Long Beach - II Word in Long Beach is that a prominent Toyota team has all but made the decision to leave the league after 2005. We are also hearing that Andretti Green Racing is considering starting a Grand-Am team with Honda, though that is unsubstantiated at this time. We will know for sure if and when they open another shop in the Charlotte area.
Champ Car prepared to move race to LA This Long Beach Press Telegram article says, His right shoulder immobilized by a sling, Kevin Kalkhoven delivered a blow that was more powerful than any he could have thrown even before his skiing accident. The 60-year-old Aussie told a small group of reporters inside his posh motor coach Friday that the Champ Car World Series is primed to create a street race somewhere in Los Angeles if the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach doesn't bring his series back in 2006.
"In the unfortunate event that we are not back next year, we know our fans in the L.A. area like to see Champ Car. So we'll hold (a race) for them," said Kalkhoven, who is the most influential and vocal of the three team owners who run Champ Car.
The Indy Racing League is making a strong case to replace Champ Car, which sees its contract with the Grand Prix Association expire following Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Champ Car and its precursor, CART, have raced in Long Beach since 1984, but its dearth of sponsors has weakened its pitch for a contract renewal.
While some people close to Grand Prix told the Press-Telegram that his comments should be seen as no more than veiled threats, Kalkhoven was confident he could put on a street race a week before next year's LBGP.
"What we have in mind for a street race in the Los Angeles area is pretty well laid out," Kalkhoven said. "These are very much contingency plans designed to make sure our fans get to see Champ Car."
He wouldn't divulge where he expects to conduct the race and Chris Pook, the founder of the Long Beach Grand Prix, said finding a suitable location in L.A. is no easy task.
"The Grand Prix Association tried for years to find a place to race in Los Angeles," Pook said Friday of his search some years ago to add another street race in Southern California. "We couldn't find one."
Jim Michaelian, the current head of the Grand Prix Association, had no comment. Starting a street race is certainly no easy undertaking, especially in the same market as a race that has 31 years of tradition behind it.
Champ Car would likely have to foot most of the $3-4 million in startup costs. Since it wouldn't get any logistical help from the Grand Prix Association, all the safety equipment the cement barriers and protective fences and grandstands would have to come from an existing street race.
The most likely candidate would be to borrow the equipment from the San Jose Grand Prix, which will hold its inaugural race in July. But Bob Singleton, the general manager of the San Jose race, said he's heard nothing about any L.A. Grand Prix and said it usually takes 18 months to develop and conduct a street race.
Kalkhoven and Co. have 11 months and change. This wouldn't be the first street race in L.A. Dr. William Burke, the founder of the L.A. Marathon, ran a street race on Olvera Street in 1997 and then around the L.A. Coliseum in 1998 before the venture was doomed by mounting financial losses and complaints by residents.
Any new street race will likely need an environmental impact report, an inquiry that can take several months before local officials give the OK. Kalkhoven also alleged the IRL recently offered to purchase the Grand Prix Association from its parent company, Dover Motorsports. "(Dover) can't just do a side deal with a company, but that's what the IRL tried to do," Kalkhoven said.
Ken Ungar, the senior vice president of business affairs for the IRL, denied his series made any such move. "We've had no secret meetings and we don't want to own the Long Beach Grand Prix," Ungar said. "We want to sanction the race there. I don't know why he thinks that. We've only had discussions to sanction the race there."
Kalkhoven said he's had no discussions with the Grand Prix Association about a contract renewal. Champ Car wouldn't leave Long Beach empty-handed; Kalkhoven said he would take the LBGP's newest addition Formula Drift with him to his new race. Kalkhoven also said he would likely keep Rosko Dickinson, the man behind the Miss Grand Prix pageant, from the LBGP next year since Champ Car has a deal with Dickinson to conduct similar pageants at other races. "I haven't done anything yet," Kalkhoven said. "I'm quite happy to stay in Long Beach." [Editor's Note: See our related article, which said basically the same thing two days ago.]
Swiss media predict JV to get axe "It's clear that Sauber will be replacing Villeneuve," Zurich newspaper Tages-Anzeiger reported today. "The only question is when and with whom." Another Swiss paper, the Blick, quoted Peter Sauber as saying Villeneuve is guaranteed for the April 24 San Marino GP, but not for the Spanish race two weeks later. Peter Sauber admitted to Reuters that “the partnership between Jacques Villeneuve and Sauber Petronas is currently at a difficult point, but to keep from straining the relationship any further, I prefer not to make any further comments at the moment."
France and the NFL rumor resurfacesUPDATE #2 We are downgrading this rumor to 'false.' The rumors that Brian France has sold shares of the family racing business to buy into an NFL franchise keep chasing the young NASCAR chairman and CEO like a rabid dog. The rumor flared up again two weeks ago when former NBA great Magic Johnson told USA Today, "It would be wonderful that Brian France would be interested in being a part-owner or owner in the Los Angeles franchise." "It may be wonderful, but I'm not interested, so that's where it stands," France said in a telephone interview from his Los Angeles office Thursday. "We've gotten to know each other through the NASCAR diversity council, and I've had dinner with Magic a couple of times, and I like him a lot," France added. "He knows I've had a home out here in Los Angeles before and all that stuff. We've never had a conversation regarding the NFL." France chairs the NASCAR board of directors, comprised mostly of his family members. NASCAR is a private company. He also owns a large chunk of the publicly traded International Speedway Corp. Both NASCAR and ISC are headquartered in Daytona Beach, FL. When asked about selling off his shares of NASCAR or ISC stock back to the family, presumably to finance an NFL bid, France would not discuss it. "We don't get into any of our family planning within the business," the 42-year-old executive said. "We do all kinds of financial transactions within the family. What I can tell you is that I'm heavily invested in the industry of NASCAR. I have a financial interest that, in my little world, is very important to me and I plan on keeping for a long time." When pressed for more information, France would not budge off the non-comment. "The public company (ISC) has various filings we've had, but we've never talked about the infrastructure of the private company and I can't get into that," he said. "I'd break the family tradition. I don't understand it," he said. "No. 1, I would have to hit the lottery to be able to afford an NFL team, the last time I checked," he said. "Economically, I'm not in that position. Secondly, I have a big interest in NASCAR. I have a huge financial and 20-years-of-my-life, interest in NASCAR. I'm in big-time sports. I don't need an NFL team to satisfy my sports needs." France said the persistent rumor that he wants to own a piece of the NFL has not hurt his effectiveness as NASCAR's leader, but he quickly added, "It's not helpful." France said he doubts he will manage NASCAR as long as his father, William C. France, who had control of the family company for more than 30 years. "I just don't think that will be the case for me," he said. "I don't see myself doing this until I'm 70 years old, but that should not be misconstrued that I'm out the door tomorrow morning." In part from the Daytona Beach News Journal03/25/05 Former Los Angeles Lakers great Magic Johnson says he and NASCAR chairman/CEO Brian France have held discussions concerning the purchase of an NFL team for Los Angeles. Johnson, a co-chairman of NASCAR's diversity committee, said he has met three or four times with France in Los Angeles, where France has a home, and he said the two will meet again in two weeks. "I'm working on trying to bring the NFL back to L.A.," Johnson said in a telephone interview Tuesday night. "I've met with the league three, four, five times, hopefully to be a minority owner." Los Angeles, the nation's No. 2 media market, hasn't had an NFL team since 1995. NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said during his annual state of the game address before the Super Bowl that the league intends to return a team to the Los Angeles area sometime this decade. "It would be wonderful that Brian France would be interested in being a part-owner or owner in the Los Angeles franchise," Johnson said. "He has the money, he has the marketing tools and he lives in L.A. He loves both the NBA and the NFL. So I would see him being an owner in one or the other league. I'd love to work with Brian." France — a grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. who has been credited with increasing the sport's popularity since taking over from his father, Bill France Jr., in 2003 — was not available for comment Thursday. "Brian and Magic have had several conversations," said Ramsey Poston, managing director of NASCAR corporate communications. "Mainly they've talked about diversity in NASCAR, but ... they've talked about a lot of sports. They both like the NFL, but there has not been any specific conversations between the two about acquisition or ownership of an NFL team. Brian is firmly planted as CEO and chairman of NASCAR and is here for the long haul." USA Today03/21/05 Brian France's on-and-off plans to get into the National Football League as part-owner of a proposed new Los Angeles franchise may be back on again, according to sources who say France is working with Magic Johnson on various NFL-NBA angles. Johnson is on the NASCAR business roster to help this sport's diversity program. The latest thinking on France-to-the-NFL is that he will complete NASCAR's current round of TV renegotiations before making any big moves. France has insisted he's not planning on leaving NASCAR anytime soon, though he has left the door open. Winston Salem Journal
RuSPORT to announce sponsors We hear that RuSPORT will announce their sponsors today around noon in Long Beach. As a hint their entire hospitality area is decked out in Red Bull. SanDisk should be announced as the other primary sponsor.
Cosworth may move to Long Beach Long Beach City Council member Rae Gabelich said at the council meeting she was told by series co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven that he may move Torrance-based Cosworth the race engine manufacturer owned by Champ Car to Long Beach if the race stays a Champ Car venue. Long Beach Press Telegram
Leno to host Champ CarUPDATE #3 A reminder that this show is tonight. 04/07/05 This rumor is now 'fact.' In addition, Derek Daly will appear on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Paul Newman. Paul will challenge Jay to a go-kart race and Derek will be the play-by-play announcer. It is part of the build up to the Long Beach Grand Prix which will be aired this Sunday April 10th at 4:00pm eastern time. Derek will be the color analyst for Champ Car TV this season starting with Long Beach. 04/06/05 Jay Leno is going to race Paul Newman in a go-kart on the Friday April 8th Tonight Show and there will be a very cool ender that features Memo Gidley, the two seater and Paul Newman. Mark C.04/05/05 It looks like the relationship between Traveling Light Media and Champ Car is already beginning to pay dividends. Rumor has it that Traveling Light put together a deal that the 2-seater Champ Car, Paul Newman and Sebastien Bourdais to be aired later that night on the Tonight Show, Friday April 8th of the Long Beach GP weekend. Our sources tell us that Bourdais will be helicoptered to the NBC Studios right after Champ Car qualifying where the 2-seater will be waiting. Accompanying Bourdais on the show will be none other than Paul Newman, who believe it or not, has never met Jay Leno. It will be a memorable evening. Being on the Tonight Show will be a big boost for Champ Car since Leno's show gets almost double the TV ratings vs. David IRL Letterman's Late Show.
Comedian Jay Leno gives a "thumbs-up" sign from behind the wheel of his new 2005 Ford GT, delivered to Leno at the NBC Studios in Burbank Monday. Leno, host of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," says the 550-horsepower, 200-plus miles per hour GT supercar is "faster than fast." Leno is one of the first drivers in the world to purchase and take delivery of their Ford GT. Mark C.
Fontana could jettison Grand-Am and IRL This SBsun.com article speculates that California Speedway in Fontana could eventually drop the Grand-Am and/or IRL races from its schedule if Champ Car loses Long Beach to Tony George which would result in the IRL at Long Beach with perhaps the Grand-Am series as a support race. Neither the IRL nor Grand-Am draw many fans in southern California at Fontana and that can't be lost on the Grand Prix Association and Dover Motorsports in Long Beach. Last week's Grand-Am race had perhaps 1,000 paying fans in attendance (some say 500) and the IRL race draws a small fraction of what Champ Car drew when it was in Fontana. With both races money losers for Fontana, and because they now have their two coveted Nextel Cup dates, dropping Grand-Am and the IRL could be an easy decision for ISC who owns California Speedway.
Summit to oust Sir Jackie A special meeting of British GP venue Silverstone's track-owning 'BRDC' could see Sir Jackie Stewart stripped of presidency. But in a statement, the British Racing Drivers' Club board backed the Scot and former triple world F1 champion. ''We ... recommend that members vote against the removal of Sir Jackie,'' it advised. Stewart, 65, furtively pointed a finger at ousted chairman Ray Bellm (a 'wounded animal') and a small band of disgruntled Club members. He said: ''I am looking forward to answering this misleading whispering campaign.''
RuSPORT SponsorsUPDATE #2 We are led to believe that Allmendinger's car may not carry any primary sponsor logos this weekend, even though prior correspondence suggested Red Bull was the sponsor. 04/06/05 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. See photo courtesy of RuSPORT and Autosport below showing SanDisk clearly on Justin Wilson's car during testing.. Now we shall see if Red Bull appears on Allmendinger's car in Long Beach. Rumor has it that Carl Russo turned down a couple of other sponsors who were willing to pay millions, until he got a sponsor that would pay his asking price. 04/05/05 Rumor has it that SanDisk with sponsor the #9 RuSPORT Lola Ford of Justin Wilson in 2005 and Red Bull will sponsor the #10 RuSPORT Lola Ford of AJ Allmendinger. We await a formal announcement by the team.
Cheever might try Indy again Former Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever has indicated that he might make a return to action at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May, but was quick to dampen rumors about a possible last minute entry in the Indy 500 itself. The 1998 Indy 500 winner and former F1 pilot mentioned a possible return to the cockpit during this week's Indy 500 media tour.
"I think it's possible that I might do some testing," Cheever said. "But it depends on our workload. Our drivers are very, very busy, and there are some technical issues that we're trying to play with that might make it possible that I'd do some testing. "It wouldn't be a newsworthy event, either,” he continued. “I might just do some laps. That's all. We still haven't gotten the cars to a point where we're happy with their performance, so there's a lot of work still to be done. All of the management needs to focus on these two cars (for Barron and Patrick Carpentier), not on a third one."
All-Star race to be at Lowe's again NASCAR's Nextel All-Star Challenge race is likely to return to Lowe's Motor Speedway near Charlotte in 2006, but NASCAR isn't ready to say the race will remain there in the future, The Charlotte Observer reports. The paper says a vice president from Nextel, which sponsors NASCAR's Cup series as well as the all-star race, said that the company was happy with the Charlotte area's efforts for the race and indicated the event would likely come back in 2006. But NASCAR Vice President Jim Hunter said nothing has been decided about the long term. "Every year, we revisit the idea of moving the all-star race," he said. The story says the all-star event creates an estimated $94 million impact on the region's economy in travel and tourism dollars. NASCAR Scene Daily Newsletter
Hunter-Reay's sponsorship We are hearing that a deal is close that will see Ryan Hunter-Reay's Rocketsports car sponsored by an automobile dealer that accounts for 8% of all car sales in the USA. Mark C.
Italian gets Jensen rideUPDATE #2 This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact.' See press release on our Hot News page. 04/07/05 We are upgrading this rumor to 'strong.' Jensen is still finalizing his contract but Del Monte is in Long Beach with Jensen and is ready to go. We await the press release. 19 cars will start in Long Beach. See updated Silly Season Page. Mark C.04/07/05 According to this Italian website article, Italian Euro3000 sensation Fabrizio Del Monte will drive for Jensen Motorsport in 2005. He was runner-up in the Euro3000 series last year and lost the title by just one point to Nicky Pastorelli when he failed to finish the last race. We await some sort of confirmation from Jensen this morning before this one can be 'fact.'
Sperafico gets 2nd Coyne seatUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. According to Sperafico, who had tested with Conquest Racing last December, the negotiations with Dale Coyne Racing had been going for quite a while, and finally came to a conclusion yesterday when the veteran team owner called to ask him to fly to the U.S. immediately. The Brazilian’s deal is good for the full 2005 Champ Car season.
“It’s going to be a tough weekend since my first contact with the car will come during Friday practice,” he revealed. “Still, I feel confident and eager to run. My goal at Long Beach will be to finish the race and score as many points as possible.”
Sperafico is cousin to 2004 Conquest Racing driver Alex Sperafico, and also has a twin racing brother, Rodrigo Sperafico. But Ricardo’s resume is the strongest of the trio by far, and includes three International F3000 wins and four poles, plus the 2000 Italian (later European) F3000 title. SPEEDTV.com [Editor's Note: As we have stated - this is the strongest lineup of drivers, perhaps in Champ Car's history. Don't be fooled by some of the big name drivers in the past. Don't confuse a famous name with being able to wheel a car. The driver lineup in Champ Car this year is sensational. It will be exciting.
04/06/05 According to Brazilian website (www.superlicenca.com.br), Ricardo Sperafico, the fastest of the three Speraficos, confirmed today that he will race at the Long Beach GP (and all following 2005 races) for Dale Coyne Racing alongside Oriol Servia. We await the official announcement from Coyne. Champ Car in 2005 has a fantastic lineup of talent from top to bottom, overall its best grid ever.
Jeff Ward to get Indy rideUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact.' See Hot News page for announcement. 04/07/05 This indy Star article says, Jeff Ward is expected to be confirmed today as the second Indy 500 driver of Vision Racing, which is owned by IRL founder Tony George. Ward has 60 IRL starts, but none since 2002. He will team with George's stepson, Ed Carpenter, in a Toyota-powered car.
Wurz may get call by McLaren Norbert Haug may be calling for Pedro de la Rosa to race at Imola if he’s needed, but the Spaniard says it would “fair enough” if Alex Wurz got the next drive. Despite Wurz having been at McLaren longer than de la Rosa, the latter was given the responsibility of replacing Juan Pablo Montoya at the Bahrain GP. And did so to good effect, finishing the race in fifth place and earning McLaren four World Championship points. However, Wurz also impressed on the Friday of the race weekend. Acting as the team’s Friday tester, the Austrian ended day one at the top of the timesheets, which means McLaren face the difficult decision of choosing either Wurz or de la Rosa as Montoya’s replacement at Imola – that’s of course if they need someone to fill in for the Colombian. PlanetF1
Trouble for 'A1' in Oz? Whether the 'A1 grand prix' championship can be a hit in Australia is now in grave doubt. The novel Dubai-based open-wheeler category has signed a TV deal with the 'pay-per-view' operator Fox, according to 'The Australian' newspaper. A report said Dubai-based 'A1' met with free-to-air networks 10, 9, 7 and the ABC, but none agreed to the price. The Fox deal may have been at a 'reduced price,' the paper hinted. Meanwhile, Edward Geldard - manager of Melbourne's Sponsorship Unit - speculated that Alan Jones' team will be hard pressed to find much support. ''Even the well-established V8 supercar teams don't find it easy (to find a sponsor),'' he said. GMMF1
Dutchman could soar at Imola Don't be surprised if Robert Doornbos' name is featured a little more prominently at the San Marino GP. The Dutchman is 'Friday' driver for Jordan but, until now, he's not completed an all-out, low-fuel lap in practice. ''At Imola I'll try to do that,'' he told his website, ''like Red Bull and McLaren do. It's good publicity for the team and the driver -- so why not?'' Midland-owned Jordan, like most others, will test at Paul Ricard (France) next week, but Doornbos - a Dutchman - isn't sure if he'll go. ''I hope (the team) give me a call,'' he smiled. GMMF1
Oz GP could lose sponsor The Australian grand prix at Melbourne looks likely to lose some key sponsorship for 2006. A senior executive has been convicted of drink-driving -- but the Australian GP corporation didn't tell the Transport Accident Commission (TAC). The 'TAC' traditionally advertise their 'drink drive, bloody idiot' slogan at Albert Park. ''The TAC is furious,'' reported the Herald Sun newspaper, ''that ... general manager of operations Jonathan Caughey had lost his license.'' A TAC spokeswoman confirmed: ''We're obviously very disappointed ... the AGPC ... did not inform us of the incident.'' GMMF1
Overheard at Sebring 4UPDATE We are upgrading this rumor to 'fact' today. The colors of both Rocketsports cars are as rumored: Hunter-Reay's CarTimo Glock's Car03/24/05 AutoRacing1.com has learned that today will be the last day we see the Rocketsports cars painted dark blue. Ryan Hunter-Reay's cars will be silver, black and red and Timo Glock's car (assuming he signs with the team) will be yellow and red. We hear that Paul Gentilozzi will announce who Hunter-Reay's teammate will be Friday or Saturday. Mark C.
Alex Zanardi Documentary We are hearing that the Alex Zanardi documentary is almost finished and the Producer/Director just finished an interview with Jimmy Vasser. We hear the show will be a landmark of its kind.
Since Forever We are hearing that a big documentary by Traveling Light Media about the history of Champ Car will be announced soon. One of the new commercials they've done is called "Since Forever" and it shows Champ Cars from the 1904 Vanderbilt Cup race to Sebastien Bourdais' championship in 2004. It's good to hear that Champ Car is going to better educate the public about the rich history of Champ Cars, dating back before the first Indy 500.
Coyne hints at other driver This week's Autosport Magazine reports -Team-owner Dale Coyne said: “Expect to be surprised. I don’t think it’s any secret that Michael Valiante would be an appealing choice. We tested him in the off-season and we were impressed. But there are others in the picture, too – rookies and experienced guys.” Coyne confirmed he had no contact with Rodolfo Lavín, or Jos Verstappen, who is known to be still chasing a drive. Oriol Servia is already confirmed as one driver according to a Champ Car press release.
Nine teams might blow off Max again The nine F1 teams that blew off Max Mosley's last meeting could miss a second successive meeting with FIA President Max Mosley later this month. "The meeting with Mosley I suspect won't be attended," the Australian told Reuters. "It will be tea and biscuits with Todt again I expect. I might be wrong."
The nine teams will meet in London beforehand to discuss the matter: "It will be all about moving further forward with the four working groups," said Stoddart, "taking the 2008 regulations to the next stage and laying down a proper road map of times and dates and objectives."
"We sent the letter to Mr Montezemolo in Malaysia, we've not had a response, there's been no dialogue and Ferrari continue to test," said Stoddart. "I don't think there's any sign that they are prepared to compromise. The nine teams are completely resolute," he added. "Ferrari can do what they like and we are going to stick together. If they do test more, they've got a bigger advantage and if they do end up winning it will be a slightly hollow victory."
"If the decision was not to attend, that's not out of disrespect for the FIA or a lack of desire to find a way forward," said McLaren boss Ron Dennis. It's more likely to be linked to the fact that we'd like to have a clear understanding of what we want and we're not there yet. People should remember that what we're talking about is the post-2007 position. There's a bit of time yet. We don't want to be stampeded."
Gil de Ferran to run BAR Honda teamUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement. 04/05/05 Last Sunday, Gil de Ferran called the Indy Racing League event as color analyst for ESPN. In a few days, the employees of the BAR-Honda Formula One team will start calling the 37-year-old Brazilian their boss. SPEEDTV.com has learned that in the next few days de Ferran will be named sporting director of the English-based team that has failed to finish a race so far in 2005. de Ferran was in Indianapolis Tuesday but flying back home to Fort Lauderdale and unavailable for comment.
Alan Henry, the longtime F-1 correspondent for The Guardian newspaper, also confirmed this unlikely, if not shocking, promotion in Wednesday's editions. It's not a surprise that current CEO Nick Fry is under fire since this season has been a disaster for Jensen Button and Takuma Sato. After finishing third and eighth in the 2004 point standings, neither has made it to the end of a race and both have been off pace. And Toyota has scored a pair of podiums and pretty much humiliated their arch rival.
NASCAR to bid season finaleUPDATE Darlington Raceway president Chris Browning got a call Tuesday that sent him scrambling: Was International Speedway Corp. contemplating a sale of the old country track to its rival? So Browning, who was displaced when North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham was sold last year, called down to the company's Daytona Beach, Fla., headquarters to find out. "They told me, 'Hey, nothing to it, buddy,' " Browning told The Associated Press. "That was good enough for me." Browning said the report he read on the Internet speculated that Bruton Smith of Speedway Motorsports Inc. wanted to buy Darlington and move its remaining race weekend to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, giving that facility a second race date. But Browning said that's not the case. "There's absolutely no truth to the rumors whatsoever," he said. "I don't know where they got started." AP Story04/04/05 NASCAR executives are working on the 2006 Nextel Cup tour schedule, and one suggestion from teams in the garage is for NASCAR to move the season finale to different tracks, as the Super Bowl is moved, with that date up for bids to the track owner willing to post the largest purse. But there are indications that the International Speedway Corp.[ISC] may be willing to sell Darlington Raceway and its lone remaining Cup tour date to track owner Bruton Smith, to move that tour date to Las Vegas, for a Cup event during the last 10 weeks of the 2006 season. And Smith would be willing to bid on being the host for the season finale at Las Vegas Speedway. Winston Salem Journal
ISC still trying to get $$ from CART From ISC's last quarterly report - The Company recently reached settlement with the CART Liquidation Trust ("the Trust") that allows a claim in ISC's favor of $2.0 million in the CART bankruptcy. The claim is based on the failure to return ISC's sanction fee paid to CART, less allowable expenses, for the 2003 event scheduled in California that was canceled because of the state of emergency due to wildfires in Southern California at the time. Once the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of Indiana, has approved the good faith settlement at a hearing scheduled for mid-April, the Company will be positioned to recover the first $1.5 million of the claim. If there are not sufficient funds remaining in the Trust to fully satisfy the allowed claim of $2.0 million, the Company will pursue the remaining funds, or up to $500,000, from Champ Car World Series (formerly Open Wheel Racing Series), as represented and agreed to at the CART bankruptcy hearing held in January 2004.
St. Pete attendance artifically manufactured Based on the percentage of fans in these photos from St. Pete wearing Marlboro hats, it is clear that up to 50% or more of the attendance for the IRL race was due to free ticket giveaways from Marlboro, Honda, Toyota, Firestone, and 7-11. Reports from moles in St. Pete tell us that they estimate as much as 75% of the attendees were there on a free ride. No way of knowing for sure, however.
Liuzzi to get Imola ride?UPDATE This rumor is now 'fact' based on today's announcement. 04/05/05 Christian Klien or Vitantonio Liuzzi? -- Red Bull will decide today. The former, an Austrian, impressed in the first three races, but Dietrich Mateschitz's team is keen to try the reigning F3000 champion at the wheel from Imola. Klien, 22, blitzed 'no.1' David Coulthard in Bahraini qualifying. "There is still a chance I could race in San Marino,'' Christian said at the weekend. 'Tonio' Liuzzi quipped: ''I don't know, I don't know (if I'll race at Imola, Barcelona and Monte-Carlo). I hope so!''
Dale Coyne's drivers It looks like we won't know who Dale Coyne's two drivers will be until Friday morning in Long Beach as things are coming together very late for the team. We are told the shortlist of drivers are the usual suspects. One can speculate that means Oriol Servia, Gaston Mazzacane, perhaps Rodolfo Lavin, Tarso Marques (who has filled in for Coyne on a number of occasions) or one of the other drivers who tested during the off-season. It's possible that whoever is in the 2nd car may be there for a one-off race only.
The significance of St. Pete A reader writes, I live here in St. Petersburg, and have yet to encounter anyone - either in person or in print who actually PAID for a ticket. So many free tickets were available from various sources that you would have to be a complete dolt to have paid money for a ticket. The race was very heavily promoted in this area. The promoter/race winner Andretti-Green must have spent a fortune on promotion. It is unimaginable that this was a profitable venture. Wonder how much of Tony's Family's money was poured into this one? Odd, that the commentators never once mentioned that the race winner Dan Wheldon lives 3 miles from the start finish line. I would have thought that would be a point of some interest. NASCAR announcers never tire of telling us Jeff Gordon is from Indiana or California (depending on whether they are racing at Indy or Fontana). Bob Lauer, St. Petersburg Dear Bob, It was important for the IRL to look good in St. Petersburg, and if they had to give away free tickets to fill the stands to do it, they can.
Strategically they wanted to show Dover Motorsports that they can run a successful street race because Dover has 60 days after this year's Long Beach race to inform the city what race series they will be going with in 2006 and beyond. Dover's contract with Long Beach runs through 2010 and ultimately it is their decision whether to stick with Champ Car or switch to the IRL. The city doesn't have much say in the matter except geographically where in the city the race is run and that it must be a street race series. That's why it was so important for the IRL to get this race in before the Long Beach decision and why Champ Car made a strategic error in letting the IRL get St. Petersburg. They may have handed the keys to Long Beach to the IRL on a silver platter.
Dover is a public company and they are obligated to make a return for their shareholders. Hence it would not be surprising to see Dover auction off the event to the highest bidder for 2006 though 2010 (5 years). They are in bed with the oval track cartel and may just find this as a way to get out of the street racing business altogether. How successful this year's Champ Car race is in Long Beach could have an influence on Dover's decision. Mark C.
Bremer may get 2nd HVM seatUPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' based on today's announcement that Bremer has the 2nd seat. 04/03/05 Verstappen can't take the third seat at Sauber, he does not qualify because he has run in far too many F1 races. Whether than means he is still in the running for an HVM Champ Car seat is still up in the air, but we hear Bremer will probably get it. 04/02/05 Ronnie Bremer has taken pole position to land the 2nd HVM seat alongside Bjorn Wirdheim. A final decision is forthcoming. It's expected one of the Mexicans - Rodolfo Lavin or Roberto Gonzalez will get the final Dale Coyne seat and that will close out the grid for Long Beach. Jos Verstappen could not come up with enough money in time and appears to be hanging his hopes on a possible 3rd driver role at Sauber, though that is a long shot.
HVM to announce drivers todayUPDATE Ronnie Bremer and Bjorn Wirdheim will be officially announced as the two drivers for HVM in about an hour. 04/04/05 Look for the HVM team to announce their 2005 driver lineup this afternoon.
Eury Jr. to leave DEI Crew chief Tony Eury Jr., the key car chief in Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s title runs the past two years, is reported to be one of hottest items in the garage, with several rival teams interested in hiring him away from Dale Earnhardt Inc., where he now runs Michael Waltrip's #15 team. It is unclear if rival Chevy teams are interested in Eury or Ford or Dodge team owners. Winston Salem Journal
Engine of future slated for 2008 Chevrolet engineers are expected to have their first version of NASCAR's proposed "engine of the future" ready for dyno testing by Christmas, according to Detroit sources. And Ford's Robert Yates and Jack Roush have started laying the groundwork for a new engine-development operation that would start work on a Ford version of that engine of the future. But Roush said Ford couldn't meet a deadline of having such a new engine ready for the 2007 Daytona 500, as NASCAR has proposed. It would have to be 2008 at the earliest, Roush said. Winston Salem Journal
Marco Andretti to Indy in '07 Prior to Sunday, Andretti was only scheduled to compete in one more Pro Series race this season -- the one at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in June in conjunction with the U.S. Grand Prix -- but that plan will be revisited, his father said. Michael Andretti expects to give him an oval race or two this year, as well as a limited Indy-car schedule in 2006. Marco Andretti is focusing on the Star Mazda series this season. "I still think (the Indianapolis 500) in 2007 should be the goal, but we've got a lot to think about now," Michael Andretti said. "He's the real deal, and we need to get him some race laps to get him ready for the (Indy) cars." Indy Star [Editor's Note: We predict he will be in Indy Cars before 2007.]
Lavin loses sponsor Hearing that Rodolfo Lavin may have lost his Corona sponsorship. We hear they wanted to cut their sponsorship by 60% for Lavin to stay with Forsythe, but Forsythe said no, my price is my price. Lavin's mother supposedly has influence on the Corona board but Lavin's performance combined with the weak economy in Mexico won out and Lavin may end up without a ride unless another team, such as Dale Coyne is willing to run him on a much smaller budget.
'Go9' may snub FIA meeting For a second time, the so-called 'group of nine' might snub an upcoming FIA meeting. McLaren chairman Ron Dennis said the April 15 summit would either be attended by 'all or none' of the non-Ferrari clan. They'll get together on 9 April, to decide whether or not to go to the meeting slated to - with Max Mosley - talk about rules for 2008 and beyond. ''There's a bit of time before (2008),'' Ron stated. Woking's main man also hit out at a little-noticed sentence in last week's FIA statement. While the governing body announced that F1's technical regulations will stay the same until 2008, it quietly added that even an 'unanimous' request by the teams for change would only be 'considered' by the World Council. ''I'm struggling to feel comfortable with that,'' said RD, a traditional foe of Max Mosley.
Kiesa on pole for Sauber seat Denmark's Nicolas Kiesa is winning the race to become Sauber's 'Friday' driver, Peter Sauber admitted. The Swiss said Kiesa, the former Minardi racer, moved into the lead following Timo Glock's signing of a Champ Car deal. But he still needs to find $5 million, to fund the extra expense. Sauber also vowed to 'help' - rather than fire - struggling race driver Jacques Villeneuve, 'by giving him a fast car with more grip and better behavior. ''If we can do this,'' said the team owner and principal, ''I'm sure we'll see again why he was the champion (in '97).''
Wurz to get Imola gong Alex Wurz will test the current MP4-20 McLaren twice prior to Imola, indicating that he - not Pedro de la Rosa - would replace a still-injured Juan Pablo Montoya. The tall Austrian hinted that going fastest in Friday practice was to 'prove a point. ''I think I showed I was going fast no matter what (specification) I was driving,'' the 'third' driver said. Contractually, Wurz is McLaren's 'reserve' driver, but he didn't fit in the 20's skinny cockpit until last week. Alexander added in Bahrain: ''I think the McLaren test pairing, me and Pedro, is better than maybe some race pairings.''
F1 to get twelfth team? F1 could be set to get a twelfth grand prix team. With Midland and Red Bull now up and running, an all-new entrant - Team Dubai F1 - is still on track, according to Ron Dennis. But that's not all. Canadian newspaper the 'Toronto Sun' claims that a Canadian filmmaker has an eye on the F1 and (US-based) Champ Car grid. Ken Mandeville said on the phone that his Champ Car plan - an 'initial step' towards, perhaps, Team Canada F1 - could be up and running by May. Back, though, to Ron. Although it's all-quiet on the Team Dubai F1 front, McLaren's top man said in Bahrain that the plan is still 'active. ''Until we have something factual,'' said Dennis, whose team - and Mercedes - would provide technical (and other) support, ''we'll keep quiet.''
Rusty's son eyes Busch start Just as Rusty Wallace's farewell tour is getting under way, his son Steven Wallace is taking one of the first steps up the NASCAR ladder. Wallace said Friday his 17-year-old son [turns 18 this summer] has been signed to a driver development contract by Dodge, which also supports the elder Wallace's racing. The younger Wallace, who is now competing on the Hooters Pro Cup circuit, likely will move to his father's Busch car next season for a partial schedule. He got the deal with Dodge following a recent tryout with several other hopefuls, all of whom drove a Bobby Hamilton-prepared truck at USA International Speedway in Lakeland, Fla.(Atlanta Journal-Constitution), also on Speed Channel's Trackside show Friday, Wallace said that Steven would run two Busch races this year in the #64, Phoenix and Memphis. Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Junqueira scorches SebringUPDATE See Hot News page for official statement on the test and how much he really broke the lap record by. 03/31/05 Reports from Sebring are that Bruno Junqueira drove a Champ Car around the 3.7-mile (long) Sebring course today with a fast lap time of 1min. 41 sec., some 7 seconds under the ALMS lap record set by JJ Lehto. The assumption is that the Champ Car will get down to the 1 min. 39 sec bracket under qualifying conditions. Now it remains to be seen whether this test leads to a Champ Car race at the famed central Florida facility as rumored elsewhere on these pages.
Popular American lands Champ Car rideUPDATE AutoRacing1 has since learned that this ride for Gidley, if it happens, is just for Long Beach right now. Apparently some other things are in play. We shall know the full story soon. 04/02/05 According to our sources, we hear that Eric Jensen has decided to run the popular American Memo Gidley this year in his new Champ Car team. This selection is sure to go over well with Champ Car fans who have been pulling for Gidley to land a full-time ride for a long time. The team secured a Lola from HVM and will use pit equipment secured from Forsythe Racing. We await the formal announcement. We have added Gidley to our 2005 Champ Car Silly Season page. Mark C.
Montoya to return at Imola McLaren expect their injured driver Juan Pablo Montoya to return for the next race, the San Marino Grand Prix. The Colombian was ruled out of this weekend's Bahrain race after sustaining a hairline fracture to his shoulder. Dennis said: "Based on similar injuries of this nature we have every belief that he will be fit to drive in Imola."
Dennis added that he "did not care" if Montoya had injured himself falling off a motocross bike, as paddock rumors in Bahrain have suggested. "Juan Pablo told us it was a tennis (accident). If he hasn't told the truth, he hasn't told the truth. I don't care if he slipped in the bath and hit his head or he was jumping double-decker buses," said Dennis.
"He is free to do what he wants to do. We place no restriction on our drivers and we never have done. It's a hairline crack but the pain is not coming from that but from an inflammation where it had a bit of joint separation. It's the pain that precluded him from driving this weekend and not the hairline crack. "The crack itself is in an area of high blood circulation, which normally means the healing process is very quick."
Another Canadian Champ Car team announcedUPDATE #3 Perhaps we will be proven wrong, and in this case that is a good thing. "We are talking to some drivers with Formula One experience," Mandeville said in a telephone interview with the Toronto Sun. "This is no April Fool's joke. I am serious about doing this." Mandeville said he is a long way from announcing a launch date for the Champ Car part of the deal. "It definitely will not be in place by Long Beach (Champ Car's season opener April 10)," he said. "But possibly by the first Mexican race (Monterrey, May 22). He also called this "an initial step" toward the formation of a Canadian F-1 team. We have added this team to our 2005 Champ Car silly Season page. 04/01/05 Some news outlets are still running with the press release that Mandeville is going to start a Champ Car team. We hope he does, but he hasn't even contacted Champ Car and they know nothing about his planned team. One would think that if you were going to start a team you would at least contact the sanctioning body. We're still labeling this as a hoax until proven otherwise. 03/31/05 We are downgrading this rumor to 'false.' It is a hoax as we said when we originally posted it. The Domain is registered to a Wild Orchid Films, Sassy Beaver, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, and the telephone no. 310-299-6011 has been disconnected. This is so fake! 03/31/05 Is this an April Fool's joke? This came out of nowhere and some of the grammar is not correct. Mandeville Motorsports Marketing is launching a Canadian based Champ Car team. The team will be located in Ontario. Mr. Mandeville is currently talking with drivers from Formula One.
This strategy comes as part of an Automotive based manufacturing venture that is very exciting for Canada. Strategic partners have been put in place. This venture comes as part of Mr. Mandevilles racing venture. Champ Car is a great series that is on solid footing. Mr. Mandeville is in contact with companies that have Global concerns and have shown serious interest in Champ Car. Mr. Mandeville is a strong supporter of Champ Car.
Mr. Mandeville is also very keen on developing the first truly based North American Formula One team. With it's manufacturing facilities within North America.
Several of the key components and strategic alliances are already in place to make this happen. Several top F1 engineers are on board and ready to make this happen. The next key component is to get the loyalty of US and Canadian corporations to make this happen for the long term. Several US and Canadian Drivers would be considered. The key to a North American team would be to have a North American driver and North American based manufacturing facilities. Many USA based corporations have shown serious intent. Press Release
Engine shortage could keep Bourdais out of 500 Champ Car World Series champion Sebastien Bourdais wants his Newman/Haas Racing team to enter a car for him in this year's Indianapolis 500. Bourdais, who dominated the 2004 Champ Car season with seven wins in the 14-race schedule, told The Toronto Sun that he has been asking team owners Carl Haas and Paul Newman "for months" to get him in the May 29 race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The team already is nearing completion of a deal to enter at least one car -- for Bourdais' teammate Bruno Junqueira -- at the U.S. Memorial Day classic. Junqueira is a former Indy 500 rookie of the year and has two races at the 2.5-mile oval under his belt.
"I am ready for it," Bourdais said. "But if I never get to race (at Indy), I never get experience." The 25-year-old native of Le Mans, France, said he has been told a plan to get him a car for the Indy 500 is being worked on. "Well, they are trying but whether it's going to happen or not, I'll know in a few days," Bourdais told the Sun while in Toronto to promote the 20th Toronto Molson Indy race on July 10. Bourdais said one of the obstacles is that the team is having trouble getting a Honda engine for a second entry. "We will have to find an engine," he said. "I was told there may be an engine shortage." Toronto Sun
Foyt IV to drive No. 48UPDATE #2 This rumor moves from 'fact' to 'false' after Tony George found out Foyt was trying to use a hole in the rulebook to relieve Tony of some of his money. Here is the official explanation - A.J. Foyt IV will have something borrowed and something new when he competes in the inaugural Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Foyt will drive the No. 14 A.J. Foyt Racing Panoz/Toyota/Firestone. The chassis is a switch from Dallara for the street-course race, and the car has been painted the familiar Coyote red run by his grandfather, A.J. Foyt. The senior Foyt had entered No. 48 – in honor of his 48th year in Indy-style car racing, but on April 1 switched back to No. 14 to keep a streak intact. “Just tell ‘em (media) you never know what A.J.’s going to do,” said Foyt, a four-time Indianapolis 500 winner. A.J. Foyt IV will compete in his first street-course race. He tested at Texas World Speedway’s road course in February, but did not join other IndyCar Series drivers for the two-day Open Test at Homestead-Miami Speedway in January. 04/01/05 Leave it up to AJ Foyt to find a loophole in the IRL rules and relieve Tony George of more of his money. A.J. Foyt's team will use a different car (No. 48 instead of No. 14) to capitalize on the Leader's Circle program, which provides financial incentives to the top 24 cars. Only 22 participated in the season's first two races. 03/30/05 The official entry list for this weekend's IRL race in St. Petersburg, FL shows AJ Foyt IV in the No. 48 car instead of the No. 14 car. Grandfather AJ Foyt said he didn't want to run the road courses so it looks like perhaps he borrowed a car from another team rather than pay to convert the No. 14 to a road course configuration.
Champ Car team/driver lineup Here is the expected 2005 Champ Car team/driver lineup for 2005 one week prior to the first race: Dale Coyne Racing Oriol Servia (Not announced but expected) TBA (Possibly Roberto Gonzalez) Forsythe Championship Racing Paul Tracy Mario Dominguez HVM Racing Bjorn Wirdheim TBA (Probably Lavin, maybe Bremer or Verstappen) Jensen Motorsports TBA (Possibly Michael Valiante or Richard Lyons) Mi-Jack Conquest Racing Nelson Philippe Andrew Ranger Newman/Haas Racing Sebastien Bourdais Bruno Junqueira PKV Racing Jimmy Vasser Cristiano da Matta Rocketsports Racing Timo Glock Ryan Hunter-Reay RuSPORT Justin Wilson AJ Allmendinger Walker Racing/Team Australia Marcus Marshall Alex Tagliani
Jackie in trouble Sir Jackie Stewart may not be BRDC president for much longer. It's reported in Autosport that the Scot, a former triple world champion, was asked to resign in a special General Meeting at Silverstone, which is owned by the Club. He refused, but - struggling for member support - a subsequent meeting may leave him no choice. Previously, in the political struggle, chairman and Stewart foe Ray Bellm was ousted.
Wirdheim lands Champ Car rideUPDATE #4 We are hearing more reports that talks are indeed underway that could see new investors becoming partners with Keith Wiggins in HVM, one of which is listed below. It is still up in the air whether the team will retain any of its Mexican connections. Unless Roberto Gonzalez or Rodolfo Lavin come through with their sponsorship, it looks doubtful, which could open the door for this team becoming "Team Europe." 03/31/05 Although we already reported this rumor as 'fact' yesterday, Autosport published these quotes from Wirdheim today - "I have been trying to put a deal together in America for a while," he noted, "so it's great to be able to announce it at last. Keith [Wiggins] is a fantastic team boss, and he runs a really great team. I've seen how a few of the other teams operate here, and I'm really happy to be working with HVM." Wirdheim, who is set to fly to the team's base in Indianapolis on Sunday for final preparations, is looking forward to the start of the season, which opens at Long Beach on April 10. "I can't wait to start racing again," he smiled. "Working in Formula One was fantastic, but I am a racing driver and I really want to race. I have been keeping fit over winter, and I'm ready to go. Champ Car is going to be a great series this year, and I can't wait to get onto the grid at Long Beach." 03/30/05 We are upgrading this rumor to 'fact' today. AutoRacing1.com has learned that Wirdheim is signed at HVM. Mark C.03/29/05 Our sources tell us that Swede Joel Wikell (right) could be the man behind "Team Europe" and the buyout of HVM. He is the guy that helped Björn Wirdheim throughout his career. He is a multi-millionaire and lives in Florida. He has a son in the early teens, Alexander, that is working his way up the racing ladders. 03/29/05 Our sources in Sweden tell us that Bjorn Wirdheim has closed a deal with HVM for 2005 and they hear Mario Dominguez is Forsythe bound as we rumored elsewhere. If Verstappen or Bremer end up in the 2md HVM seat, the rumor we reported elsewhere that the team may become one of the "European" teams will start to fall into place.
RCR hit with $million lawsuitUPDATE This rumor is now 'fact.' See the first page (to the right) of the docket that was filed in court. 03/29/05 We are hearing that Richard Childress Racing (RCR) was sued last Thursday in Mecklenburg County Superior Court for defaulting on a payment associated with their Cingular sponsorship. The suit was filed by a Prism Sports Group. The payment was close to a million dollars. Kevin Harvick’s business manager was also sued by the same company according to our sources.
IRL cars dog slow on road course Unofficial times from this week's IRL testing on the Sebring short road course had the fastest lap as 55.1 sec. by one of the Andretti Green cars and the times went up from there to the 57's. Compare that with the Champ Cars just a few days earlier where Timo Glock turned a 50.96 sec. fast lap and just about everyone else was in the 51 second bracket. Over 4 seconds per lap slower on such a short road course is an enormous amount of time. 55 sec/4 sec. per lap = Champ Car would lap the IRL car every 14 laps. One wag said they looked so slow it was like watching paint dry.
Glock signs to drive in Champ CarUPDATE #9 Glock confirms again on his personal website that he has signed to drive for Rocketsports - "It is going to be an exciting and fun year," said Glock, who topped the times at last week's Sebring test. "Champ Cars is a beautiful challenge and, because the engine and chassis are all the same, the field is certainly very close. More depends on the driver, which I find particularly good. I have the aim already of Rookie of the Year, which would be great," he said. "And if one or more victories jump out, then even better. With success in Champ Car, my position will become better there and in F1," said Glock. 03/29/05 According to Timo Glock's website, he has signed with Rocketsports. We await the official announcement from the team. We have updated our 2005 Champ Car Silly Season Page.03/23/05 Heard today in Sebring that Glock supposedly has already signed with Rocketsports and will be in Champ Car, not F1, in 2005. Mark C.03/22/05 Reports in Europe are that Glock and his $4 million are now being courted by Sauber to be their 3rd driver on Fridays. Sauber says he needs $5 million to do it but we suspect he will gladly take the $4 million. If Rocketsports hasn't already signed Glock, he might be lost to F1. We shall see if Rocketsports makes any announcements at the Sebring test this week. If Glock is not testing, it will be telling. 03/13/05 Alex Tagliani has confirmed today to the Toronto Sun that he is out at Rocketsports. Excerpts: Alex Tagliani has been shunted aside by Rocketsports Racing, leaving him on the outside looking in just a month before the start of the 2005 Champ Car World Series season. In an exclusive interview with The Toronto Sun, Tagliani said he was both shocked and hurt to find that team owner Paul Gentilozzi had backed off a handshake deal the pair agreed to after the final 2004 Champ Car race in Mexico City. That deal would have seen Tagliani in the Rocketsports car for three more seasons.
"Me and Paul had a conversation in Mexico City," Tagliani told The Sun. He told me we had a three-year deal. We shook hands on it."
When he began to hear that Rocketsports would be the new home for American Ryan Hunter Reay -- with his salary being paid by series co-owners Gerry Forsythe and Kevin Kalkhoven -- he sought assurances his position with the team was solid.
Formula One reject Timo Glock, who drove part-time for Jordan until his money ran out, has bought a drive in the second Rocketsports car with a $4-million U.S. deal to bring a sponsor form his native Germany to Gentilozzi. It was then Tagliani was told it was almost certain he would not be back with the team this season.
"It came as a big shock," Tagliani said. "It made me sad. I thought we had a deal."
What made it even tougher to deal with was the fact he considered Gentilozzi a friend. "When I came to this team there was nothing there," Tagliani said of his first season with Rocketsports. "(Gentilozzi and I) built the whole team together with the plan to move to winning a championship."
Tagliani said he has been told by Champ Car officials that he will be in the series this season but it is highly unlikely it will be with a team that is competitive. There also is concern about Tagliani's future from the organizers of Toronto Molson Indy and Molson Indy Montreal -- two of Champ Car's biggest events. [Editor's Note: With new young guns Michael Valiante and Andrew Ranger aiming for a seat, losing Tagliani won't be the end of world. Valiante is capable of winning races given the right car/team. Look what he did with Walker's Reynard in Mexico City.]
The Sun has learned that a Molson executive was in Indianapolis Friday trying to get answers from Champ Car as to why Tagliani -- a big draw here -- was in danger of losing his job. The shabby treatment of Tagliani virtually mirrors what happened to another Canadian Champ Car driver -- Patrick Carpentier -- in 2004. He was fired from Forsythe's team just before the start of the season after it had brought in Mexican Rudolfo Lavin who had the lucrative Corona beer sponsorship to pay his salary. But Carpentier had a guaranteed contract from the former Player's Racing team that forced Forsythe to keep him in a race car last year.
Once the season ended Carpentier, however, bolted to the rival Indy Racing League. Tagliani, with no guaranteed deal and with the season's first race at Long Beach so close, is now left to scramble for sponsorship to keep him in Champ Car this season. "I am negotiating around the clock with Canadian companies to sponsor me for this season," Tagliani said.
[Editor's Note: We expect to see Tagliani in another car if he can bring at least some money to the table. Meanwhile this may open the door for either Michael Valiante and/or Andrew Ranger. At this stage in their career, Valiante is the faster of the two, but Ranger has some money. Both are talking to Walker Racing who is rumored to have recently signed some key sponsorship deals, meaning Valiante may not need to bring much money. We doubt Champ Car will go with just one Canadian so even if Tagliani didn't find any ride, Canada will be represented. We have updated our 2005 Champ Car Silly Season Page. ]
03/12/05 ESPN.com also reports that another option for Tagliani is Forsythe Racing, to team again with Paul Tracy. There are a lot of drivers scrambling for last minute seats and with Forsythe's capacity to run more than two cars, anything is possible. 03/11/05 This TSN.ca article sheds more light on the Alex Tagliani and Rocketsports situation. Alex Tagliani should know by the end of this weekend where he will call home for the 2005 Champ Car season. After announcing last fall that he had come to a verbal agreement with Rocketsports owner Paul Gentilozzi on a new three year deal, reports of late indicate the Canadian's position with the team is not as secure as first thought. The addition this past week of Ryan Hunter-Reay to the third year team has only clouded the situation for the Canadian. While Tagliani's accomplishments were mentioned, the press release was vague when it came to Hunter-Reay's teammate next season.
Tagliani tells Radio Canada's website that Gentilozzi and fellow Champ Car owners Gerald Forsythe and Kevin Kalkhoven were intent on keeping Hunter-Reay in the series after Herdez Competition lost its primary sponsorship over the winter. After surveying the landscape, it was determined that Gentilozzi's Rocketsports team was the best option since they had an opening. Complicating matters is the fact former F1 test driver Timo Glock has arrived with four million dollars worth of sponsorship looking for a ride.
Despite announcing his three year deal, Tagliani has yet to formally sign the contract. He is said to be in Quebec this weekend to finalize sponsorship details which should help secure his seat at Rocketsports, should the Glock deal fall through. If he's forced out at Rocketsports, Tagliani says his next best option is HVM, formerly Herdez Competition. But Tagliani is looking forward to building on the success he started at Rocketsports. HVM currently have Mario Dominguez confirmed for the 2005 season and team co-owner Keith Wiggins says they plan to run a second car, despite the loss of their Mexican sponsorship. Whomever they sign would likely have to bring some sponsorship dollars with them to the team.
03/10/05 German website F1Total.com is also reporting that Glock is close to signing with Rocketsports for 2005. 03/10/05 As noted in this Verstappen rumor, RTL5, which is German, may broadcast all Champ Car races live in 2005 in Holland. Timo Glock is German, which will boost his sponsorship deal. 03/10/05 According to this RDS.ca article, Alex Tagliani may take the 2nd seat at HVM if Timo Glock takes his seat at Rocketsports. Meanwhile Glock's manager, Hans-Bernd Kamps, told www.sport1.de today - "We are 99% certain to be with Rocketsports, a contract will be signed shortly". Tagliani is expected to have new Quebec sponsors.
AOL close to deal with Champ CarUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. In this interview on Champ Car's website, President Dick Eidswick talks about the AOL deal. "From the business side, we have new relationships with McDonald’s and Roshfrans, and America Online announced a new partnership at our promoters meeting to put Champ Car branding on AOL subscriptions. It’s going to be an interesting activation that will feature McDonald’s and Ford Motor Company and our other partners," said Eidswick. We await a formal announcement. 03/24/05 Our Champ Car sources tell us that Champ Car is close to announcing a deal with AOL. Stay tuned.....Mark C.
Jensen scrambling to get readyUPDATE #2 AutoRacing1 was in touch with Eric Jensen Wednesday to get an update on his team and driver search. "It took too long getting the car and team operations sorted to be in a position to do the driver deal in time to go public today (Wednesday)... Unfortunately... But we are looking quite good right now... I have made some very positive new hires, and have quite good and experienced people now... I am not over-estimating our chances, but we will have a reasonably competitive and certainly professional effort at Long Beach," said Jensen. "As for the driver, I have some very good options." 03/28/05 In further discussions Jensen told AutoRacing1.com, "There is no need for alarm. My primary concern is being able to provide a quality race car and team for the sponsors. Certainly this is a struggle being so last minute, and success (at least professionalism) is difficult to assure for Long Beach, but if we don't deliver something decent at Long Beach, it will be very difficult with the sponsors, which would kill this program... so that's why I am focusing on the program details and our planned announcement has been delayed a bit. We still plan to test at least one day before Long Beach and will probably announce our sponsor and driver lineup just before the Long Beach weekend." 03/28/05 AutoRacing1.com can reveal exclusively that Eric Jensen is not going to be able to announce his driver and sponsor lineup in Montreal this Wednesday as originally planned. Jensen told AutoRacing1, "We have had some delays in getting things organized, so I will not be able to announce anything Wednesday. I actually don't think we will do any official announcement until just before Long Beach at this stage (i.e. early to middle of next week)." A lot of people have been speculating that Jensen will choose fellow Canadian Michael Valiante as his driver, but there are so many others scrambling for the final seats anything is possible.
AutoRacing1.com confirmed with Valiante that only preliminary talks had occurred with Jensen, with no discussion whatsoever that would indicate Jensen would choose him. Mark C.
Montoya crashed motorbike? Juan Pablo Montoya, to nurse a broken shoulder while the rest of F1 races in Bahrain, fell off a motorbike. The rumor mill is denying the official line -- that McLaren's Colombian hurt himself during a friendly hit of tennis. UK's 'Independent' newspaper wrote that JPM, 29, crashed whilst attempting a motocross jump. ''The rumors are not true,'' a spokeswoman insisted. A McLaren statement confirmed the injury to his left shoulder-blade, and that he'll be checked for a possible return in a fortnight. ''The team fully expects Juan Pablo to be able to compete ... at Imola,'' the spokeswoman added.
Dominguez to take Lavin’s seat at ForsytheUPDATE #5 Champ Car's website now has an article announcing Mario Dominguez will drive for Forsythe Racing, per our report yesterday. We hear sponsorship will be announced at some point. 03/29/05 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today as Autoracing1.com has learned that Mario Dominguez has signed with Forsythe Racing, possibly with backing from Corona. We await the formal announcement. 03/29/05 Hearing that Mario Dominguez is real close to signing with Forsythe Racing and we hear that the HVM team might become the "European" National team, which explains why they tested both Verstappen and Bremer recently. An owner from Europe might be buying into the team. Team co-owner Keith Wiggins of course has a European background having been involved in the old Pacific F1 team. The only issue with this whole theory is that HVM is half Mexican owned. 03/25/05 AutoRacing1.com has learned that it is quite possible Rodolfo Lavin may do a swap with Mario Dominguez that will see Dominguez driving for Forsythe Racing alongside Paul Tracy and Lavin driving for HVM alongside Jos Verstappen or Ronnie Bremer. Mark C.03/25/05 A reader writes, Dear AJ Perez, Wow, I get really surprised when a staff writer puts out an article like this close to the start of the race weekend. What is the intention of the article? Is it to put question in the mind of the potential attendees? What good does that serve? The city enjoys the benefit of this race and has for 30 years. Champ Car has brought a great show to Long Beach every year and has helped transform Long Beach into a great destination from a slum. This is the thanks they get from the staff writers? You had better rethink your position because if you lose Champ Car and get the IRL you won’t have a race in five years or so if it takes that long. I don’t know if you noticed but the fans do NOT show up for IRL races anywhere. They had 5,000 at Phoenix last week. So before you all slam Champ Car for no good reason you should be very careful for what you wish for. IF it comes true you just might be back slumming it again. Thank you. Sam Mancuso, Miami, FL03/25/05 [Editor's Note: We heard rumblings of this in Sebring, but Dominguez and Keith Wiggins denied it so we are not sure this story is accurate. If true, look for Ronnie Bremer and Jos Verstappen to possibly take the two HVM seats because both have some financial backing. Mario Dominguez going public with his F1 contract talks and testing the Jordan F1 car before HVM could even complete their sponsorship deals potentially threatened any prospects of landing a sponsor deal. He stamped a Champ Car expiration date across his name turning himself into a lame duck no sponsor would touch with 10-foot pole. Mario may have inadvertently torpedoed his own seat at HVM.] A mere two weeks away from the start of qualifying for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the car count dropped to 12 when Mario Dominguez apparently lost his seat with HVM Racing. HVM Racing, formerly known as Herdez Competition, lost the sponsorship of the Mexican food conglomerate in the off-season. A sponsor that was to replace Herdez fell through recently, leaving the team without the sponsorship dollars to keep Dominguez.
"We want to keep him, but we don't have any control over it," she said in a phone interview Thursday night. Messages left with Champ Car were not immediately returned.
There have been reports that Dominguez may land with Forsythe Racing, a team owned by one of the owners of Champ Car. Forsythe Racing was to race a three-car team last year, but is currently running only reigning Long Beach Grand Prix champ Paul Tracy.
While the race occurred a week later on the calendar, the series had the same amount of drivers confirmed on this date last year. Series officials explained away the low car count at the time as an aftereffect of the series emerging out of bankruptcy in January 2004. What's their excuse this time? Long Beach Press Telegram
Penske might enter 3 drivers at Indy Penske Racing, winner of a record 13 Indianapolis 500-Mile Races, filed three entries March 30 for the 89th running of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Two-time winner Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish Jr. were named as drivers for two of the entries. No driver, chassis, engine or tire was designated on the third Penske entry.
When the music stops.....UPDATE #2 In a press release OCESA in Mexico stated that Mario Dominguez, Rodolfo Lavin and Roberto Gonzalo all have Champ Car rides for 2005 and that it is just a matter of the teams making an official announcement. 03/30/05 Reports from our sources in The Netherlands now tell us that indeed Jos Verstappen is talking to Forsythe Racing about a possible seat in Forsythe's third car. There are a lot of people pushing for Verstappen getting a Champ Car ride given his huge popularity. It's also not lost on anyone that Verstappen was third quick at Sebring last week on the first time ever in a Champ Car and on the Sebring track in conditions that were less than ideal (high winds, off and on showers and a dirty track.). A team of Tracy, Dominguez and Verstappen would be a powerhouse to be reckoned with. 03/30/05 The remaining seats at Champ Car are going fast, and when the music stops, who will be left without a ride? As always, money is King. We hear the following drivers have this much money: Rodolfo Lavin has $2.5M from Corona Roberto Gonzalez has $2.0M, part from Tecate perhaps Jos Verstappen has $1.0M Ronnie Bremer has around $1.0M Michael Valiante has <$0.5M Oriol Servia has almost none.
You know the seats available (HVM 1 assuming Wirdheim is signed), Coyne (2) and Jensen (1). Speculating, we could see Gonzalez at HVM with Tecate (the cars are already painted with the colors of Tecate), and Lavin at Coyne. Jensen isn't necessarily looking for the biggest checkbook so Valiante still has a chance, but would he go with a more experienced driver like Verstappen or Servia? Given Verstappen's huge fan base, Champ Car would be wise to run him in Forsythe's third car as an investment in their future, but that will cost them money and we're not sure having a big fan following of the series is important enough to them.
Champ Car to race in ChinaUPDATE #1403/23/05 This rumor is upgraded to fact today. See feature story. We are also splitting this rumor of China off from the Japan rumor. 03/04/05 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. AutoRacing1.com has learned that Champ Car will likely announce soon, possibly as early as in Long Beach, that they will race in Beijing, China in 2006. Any notion of racing there in 2005 is gone - no time and all the agreements are not yet in place. This is a blockbuster deal for Champ Car - a major shot in the arm. Racing in the capital of China, home of the 2008 Summer Olympics, is a big deal as companies worldwide seek to do business in China's growing economy.
A bit of background as to why it takes time to do deals in China. The fact that there is an almost bitter rivalry between various government departments, and between Chinese cities, especially Shanghai and Beijing, slows things down. This results in a lack of cooperation that can often border on sabotage. For instance, Shanghai refused to let anyone from Beijing help out at the F-1 race, simply because they were from Beijing and Shanghai did not want them there, even if their expertise was better than theirs. For example, rather than use Beijing's marshals, they hired college students to be marshals, most of whom had never seen any kind of race before. They put them through a " crash course " and set them loose. Our contacts in race control communications gave us the inside story on the confusion generated by this lack of experience on the part of the marshals. It was extremely lucky that there were no major incidents.
In addition, one has to understand the work ethic in China. We lack the understanding to know whether this is a product of centuries, or if it stems from the Communist system. The "old" Chinese culture are not particularly productive, and in general, do not work too hard although they do work long hours quite often. Things get done in China based on the sum total of manpower, not individual productivity. Go to any department store and you will find five clerks within elbow swinging room, all just waiting for customers and not doing much else besides standing around. Teachers teach an average of three or four forty minute periods a day and no more, and we can give you countless other examples.
Remember those old "how many people does it take to..." jokes? Well China must be the place that gave rise to them. Why this inefficiency? It partially stems from the fact that with 1.6 billion people, manpower is not an issue - they just throw bodies at the problem. It also stems from the fact that until recently, the Communist Party kept the people in the dark ages with regard to technology. They are just now beginning to emerge from the "dark ages" so-to-speak. This is why the world economic powers are keeping a watchful eye on China. As the next generation emerges, with technology at the fingertips of 1.6 billion people, their ability to accomplish great things will be exciting to watch.
02/27/05 In this Long Beach Press Telegram article, Kevin Kalkhoven says, "I think CART got into trouble because it lost sight of what it was," says Kalkhoven, whose Champ Cars will be roaring around downtown Long Beach on April 8-10. "It got distracted, went into places where it should not have gone. You're not going to compete successfully with Formula I in Europe. That's just not going to happen. Our overseas races will now be in the Pacific Rim. Australia, China, Korea, places like that. To be successful in this business in any business, for that matter is placing the right product in the right market place to the right customers. You do that, and things will come out all right for you." 01/19/05 We are beginning to hear that the event in Beijing is getting closer to reality, but a decision on 2005 or 2006 has yet to be made. That is what is being decided as we write this. If 2005 it will be a start-late, just get by first event. If delayed until 2006 the debut will be far more spectacular. The good news is that the Beijing government is involved with the deal. The bad news is that the Beijing government is involved with the deal. If Champ Car pulls this deal off it will be a major shot in the arm, perhaps the biggest shot in the arm the series has ever received. Beijing, not Shanghai, is where the central government calls all the shots for China. It was Beijing, not Shanghai, that landed the 2008 Summer Olympics. If they want to really get behind this event in a major way, they will spare no expense. We shall see...... 01/19/05 Chris Economaki writes in this week's National Speed Sport News - "Our Chinese friend in Beijing tells us a new 1.8-mile street circuit near the airport, only 20 minutes from the downtown Hilton hotel, has received regulatory approval. Final details for a Champ Car date are said to be in the making. The monumental support both local and international business can be expected to provide such a race could make it one of the world’s most significant auto contests and a commercial feather in Champ Car’s cap."[Editor's Note: Unfortunately Mr. Economaki's Champ Car sources are not so good these days now that his publications caters to the IRL and the oval track crowd. Part of his story might be correct.] 01/06/05 AutoRacing1.com has kept this one under wraps for weeks, but we can reveal that there is now an outside chance Champ Car could race in Beijing, China on October 9, 2005, a week before the South Korea race. Recall AutoRacing1.com stated below that Champ Car should race in Beijing, and not on some remote island (Sanya) as was being pursued a few months ago. Right now the chances of this race happening are pretty remote given this late date, but there are some pretty important constituents in the Champ Car arena who want this to happen. We will know more in a few days as to whether it can happen in 2005, or must wait until 2006, after the Champ Car contingent returns from China. If this comes off, Champ Car will do three straight flyaway races in the Pacific Rim on three consecutive weekends in 2005 - Beijing (Oct. 9), Ansan, South Korea (Oct. 16) and Surfers Paradise, Australia (Oct. 23). Mark C. 10/21/04 The Beijing site is in the south west quadrant of Beijing between the 4th and 5th ring roads in an area that is rapidly been upgraded by demolition of older suburbs and replacement with light industrial and commercial developments. The track can now be reached by a new freeway meaning that driving time from Tiananmen Square is about 30 minutes on a good day. At present there is a small section, about 2 km where driving is on city streets but a second freeway is under construction that will run right past the gates and will have an off-ramp leading almost directly to the site. The site has a golf course on one side and a lake (not yet filled) on the other. Given how fast Beijing authorities build roads and clear poor areas they have the ability, when they decide to do so, to improve the area dramatically within a very short period of time. Expect that to start happening when the track construction resumes. The site is to Beijing what Circuito Hermanos Rodriquez is to Mexico City. Again, this is where Champ Car should be racing in China, period. 10/18/04 AutoRacing1.com sources informed us today that the Beijing track project has been taken over by the Chinese government. Quite what this means is difficult to say but the management of the circuit say it means the project will now progress. Perhaps there's more to this rumor than meets the eye. 10/14/04 This week's National Speed Sport News reports - "The enthusiastic response by American companies doing business in China to the recent F-1 race has created a desire to bring Champ Car over for an event. A company in which retired driver Kevin Cogan holds an interest is said to have taken the first step in that direction. Many U.S. companies in China are relatively new to the country and are feverishly seeking ways to get their names and logos in front of the country’s huge populace. But Shanghai, where the country’s first F-1 circuit was built, fades in comparison and size to the national capital, Beijing, where the current focus is." As we wrote Wednesday as part of this rumor, Beijing is where Champ Car should be racing in China, so it's encouraging to hear that there is a group trying to make that happen. At this late stage, one would think not before 2006, but we don't know how far along the Kevin Cogan group is. Mark C.10/13/04 While we have not been told Sanya, China won't happen, we are starting to hear doubts that it will materialize. If this deal goes south, that will be three straight failed deals in Asia for Champ Car - Motegi, Japan (forced out not by their own doing), Seoul, South Korea and now Sanya, China. From our perspective, Champ Car should be racing in Beijing anyway. While Sanya may be a beautiful resort, Beijing is the home to the central government and will host the Summer Olympics in 2008. To the right is the track that was designed by Allan Wilson for Beijing and was under construction until it was stopped. That track, which is not far from the city center, should be completed and that is where Champ Car should be racing in China....period. We are downgrading this rumor to 'speculation.' 09/18/04 Some have asked us where Sanya, China is. The maps below depict where this island resort is located.
09/12/04 We now hear that Champ Car's China race will be the week before next year's Surfers Paradise race in October. Mark C.09/11/04 The deal is not done, but we are hearing that Champ Car might be headed to the Surfers Paradise of China. Sources tell us the race in China could be held in the resort city of Sanya, population 0.5 million. A lot of big international events have been held in Sanya, including the Miss World Beauty Pageant. Hainan is a tropical island paradise and Sanya is its ultimate playground. With miles and miles of pristine beaches, this is heaven indeed for intrepid travelers and sun worshippers alike. With its rustic charm still very much intact, tourists can savor the beauty of fishing villages or trek inland to experience the culturally rich traditions of minority tribes. Located only one hour's flight from Hong Kong or Guangzhou and 3-4 hours from Beijing or Shanghai. Sanya is an important political, economic, cultural and foreign trade port in the southern part of Hainan, China, and also a famous coastal tourist city filled with tropical landscapes and local customs. Since Sanya is situated in the southernmost part of China, she has been called "the remotest cape of the earth" since ancient time. The region of Sanya has a long history of human development. There were discoveries of cultural relics of the Old Stone Age. Ancient Persian tombs were found along the coast. 09/11/04 While we were originally led to believe that Champ Car would not race in China until 2006, sources tell us that Champ Car could be headed to China in 2005, which could explain their sudden loss of interest in the Seoul, South Korea race. As for the location in China, we will say this, it is not Beijing or Shanghai, but we hear it's a very popular location and should draw a huge interest.
Montoya doubtful for BahrainUPDATE #3 This rumor is now 'fact,' Team McLaren-Mercedes has confirmed that Juan Pablo Montoya will miss this coming weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix, as a result of the injury he sustained during the Easter break.
"I'm obviously disappointed not to be able to race this coming weekend," said Montoya. "However driving a Formula One car is hard work and it would be impossible to do with my injury and whilst it's difficult, we have to follow the advice from the medical experts.
"I'm going to take it easy for a few weeks and cheer for the team in front of the TV. I'm already looking forward to getting back into action as soon as possible. At least it's early in the season and a lot can happen, so I don't think my championship challenge is over."
Mercedes boss, Norbert Haug added: "Unfortunately Juan Pablo can't race at Bahrain due to his shoulder injury. I wish Juan Pablo a speedy recovery, so that he will be in a position to compete in the next race at Imola again."
03/29/05 According to unconfirmed reports, Juan Pablo Montoya looks set to miss the next five weeks to five months after damaging his shoulder while playing a game of tennis last weekend. This rumor is upgraded to 'strong.' 03/27/05 According to Autosport-Atlas, McLaren are pulling out all the stops to try and get Alexander Wurz into their third car for the forthcoming Bahrain Grand Prix, in the wake of Juan Pablo Montoya's likely absence. With Montoya likely to miss the next race of the Championship in Bahrain, insiders have told Autosport-Atlas that the team's engineers have now been instructed to speed up modifications to the MP4-20 chassis so the tall Wurz can run the third car in Sakhir. 03/27/05 McLaren's Juan Pablo Montoya could miss the Bahrain GP with a shoulder injury. The Colombian driver sustained a hairline fracture of the shoulder after falling badly while playing tennis with his trainer, Gerry Convey, on Saturday. According to the autosport-atlas website, Montoya has been told to rest for three weeks, but a team spokesman revealed that the former Williams driver has not yet been ruled out of the upcoming race in Bahrain. "We will make a final decision on Thursday," he said. Pedro de la Rosa, who has shown impressive pace in the Friday practice sessions, would be the obvious choice to replace Montoya in Bahrain, should the charismatic driver not be passed fit to compete.
Champ Car's $2 million gamble According to the Oregonian, co-promoting this year's Champ Car race with Mike Nealey will be Champ Car itself. G.I. Joe's returns as presenting sponsor. The Oregonian says this is a $2-million financial gamble for the sanctioning body. The Portland race has lost money at its last three events so promotion has been broadened from the greater Portland area to include the entire state. If they lose money again this year, the plug could be pulled on this event.
Red Bull would loan driver Red Bull Racing owner Dietrich Mateschitz has suggested that he would loan out one of his team's drivers to Sauber this season, if they decide to terminate Jacques Villeneuve.
In an interview with Swiss motorsport publication Motorsport Aktuell, Mateschitz confirmed that there was a chance for a deal with Sauber to come off.
"We have quite a density of talent available," said Mateschitz about Red Bull's current driver line-up. "Now it is up to us to hone that talent or to lend it to other teams. And this we will do.
"We never see it in a fashion if the one is driving now and the other is not. We want to give both of them enough experience that they are fully serviceable drivers next year, knowing every race track so far unknown to them.
"Then again, I do not wish to start ideas which might prove irrelevant. It could well be that suddenly Villeneuve finds back to his old form. And for sure it is not easy to knock on the door of another team and to ask for a drive. We wait and see. But the possibility exists. I would definitely consider it.
"We have told Klien that he will race for the first three events, so it is only fair to give Liuzzi the same chance," explained Mateschitz. "But we have not decided yet when this will start. It could be Imola."
GM to be lowered to junk status General Motors Corp. shares fell again Monday as another Wall Street analyst advised investors to start selling GM stock amid expectations the automaker would be lowered to junk-bond status and cut its dividend to shareholders. It was another day of bad news for GM -- part of a two-week stretch of really bad news amid a 2005 of mostly bad news. GM had largely avoided the bad news, financial losses and job cuts that plagued Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler Group the last five years, but now GM is facing its worst financial quarter in 13 years, and the threat of becoming a so-called junk investment looms.
How did it come to this for the world's largest automaker? It's the product, stupid. It's namely the new product that is not selling or the old product that is not selling as well as it did when GM was raking in multibillion-dollar profits from 2001-03 and gaining some market share. "If you go back to the post-9/11 era, GM had a certain swagger. Its trucks, like the Cadillac Escalade or Hummer H2, were doing well, and they were taking market share from Ford or Chrysler. Now they have introduced a bunch of new cars and they just aren't hitting at all," said Robert Hinchliffe, auto analyst for the financial firm UBS.
GM is bracing for that already. Wall Street analysts say falling into junk-bond status could make borrowing more expensive for the automaker and make its turnaround even more difficult. It might also have some psychological impact on the automaker.
A downgrade by Standard & Poor's could have a domino effect. If S&P cuts GM's rating, that could prompt other agencies to also lower their rating to junk-bond status. That in turn would force a number of mutual funds and pensions funds to sell off their stakes in GM. Detroit Free Press
HVM - 1 car or 2?UPDATE We are hearing that Roberto Gonzalez is trying to close a last-minute deal with Tecate that will see him take the 2nd seat at HVM alongside Bjorn Wirdheim. Rodolfo Lavin is also trying to put a deal together as is Ronnie Bremer. According to Robin Miller, Jos Verstappen is out of the picture, most likely because he could not get the funding needed quick enough (if true a major loss for Champ Car given the huge following Verstappen has). There are 4 to 5 drivers angling for the final 3 seats (1 at Coyne, 1 at HVM and 1 at Jensen Motorsports) and when the music stops, a few are going to be left without a chair. 03/24/05 Sandra Becerril from Reforma is reporting HVM is having a meeting tomorrow with Champ Car directors about the future of HVM. "Tomorrow we will talk with the Champ Car people and we will know if we will run two cars or just one," said Jorge Quintanilla, who is involved in the HVM project. Roshfrans is an associate sponsor on the cars. Hector Serrano Gonzalez reporting from Mexico
Lavin closes on 2nd Forsythe seatUPDATE #2 With Dominguez now signed at Forsythe, this rumor is close to going to 'false.' We are hearing that Lavin may only have $2 million and could end up with Dale Coyne, or possibly HVM. 03/29/05 Hearing that if Lavin's Corona money comes through he will be in the third car at Forsythe (Tracy-Dominguez- Lavin). If not he's out of a ride. We are downgrading this rumor to 'speculation.' 03/24/05 Sandra Becerril from Reforma is reporting that Rodolfo Lavin is the second Mexican confirmed to run the full season in 2005 Champ Car with Forsythe along Dominguez in HVM - in an article called "Champ Car loses Mexican drivers". HVM was supposed to have test days in Mexico (at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez of Mexico City) because it was of great interest by the HVM owners to run two Mexicans, but that deal didn’t materialize. That plan included a test for Memo Rojas, David Martinez, Antonio Perez and Roberto Gonzalez (he will be testing tomorrow, but does not have a big chance to land a ride). Memo Rojas was waiting for a "YES" from a sponsor to land the second seat in HVM, but apparently it did not materialize. Hector Serrano Gonzalez reporting from Mexico
Hearn to drive for SchmidtUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Sam Schmidt Motorsports has named IRL IndyCar® Series veteran Richie Hearn as the driver of the No. 70 Meijer/Coca-Cola Special at the 89th Indianapolis 500. Schmidt's entry will be a Chevrolet-powered Panoz chassis, with major sponsorship from traditional Indy team sponsor Meijer stores and Coca-Cola. Sam Schmidt Motorsports is the defending champion of the IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series, and won the season-opening Miami 100 with rookie driver Travis Gregg. 03/27/05 Look for Richie Hearn to drive for Sam Schmidt Motorsports in this year's Indy 500. An announcement is expected Monday.
Champ Car to announce first national teamUPDATE #4 See official announcements on our Home Page. 03/28/05 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today based on the announcement put out by BAM, the media company for the Lexmark Indy 300: What? Queensland Premier Peter Beattie will announce the first-ever full-time Australian team and Queensland driver to contest the Champ Car World Series this year – the series that includes the Lexmark Indy 300 on Queensland’s Gold Coast. Queensland driver Marcus Marshall will be introduced, after just returning from preseason testing in the United States.
When? 1.30pm tomorrow (local time), Tuesday March 29
Who? Queensland Premier Peter Beattie Queensland Deputy Premier Terry Mackenroth Queensland driver Marcus Marshall The new Australian team owners and sponsors Lexmark Indy 300 Chairman John Cowley Lexmark Indy 300 General Manager James O’Brien
03/23/05 The Walker Racing cars will carry the color scheme shown in the picture added to the right, except the green will be brighter, like a John Deere green. The color scheme will be better explained on March 29th. 03/22/05 Australian's two major magazines (Auto Action and Australasian Motorsport News) today ran stories suggesting that Craig Gore has been involved in securing a controlling interest in Walker Racing. The deal apparently cannot be officially announced due to consideration of government involvement. Auto Action reported the official team launch will be on March 29th. We presume this means that the Queensland Government wishes to make the formal announcement at that time for promotion of the Gold Coast Indy race. Auto Action suggests that Derrick Walker is one of Gore’s partners in the venture, along with someone else. Australasian Motorsport News reports that WPS may also be involved, which is what you would obviously expect. The exciting news for Australians is that the reported plan is for two Australians to make up the driver lineup eventually, may be as soon as next year! 03/13/05 Rumor has it that Champ Car is going to begin switching over to a "national" team format with the conversion complete by the 2007 season. Not unlike the A1 Grand Prix concept, Champ Car will have one or more national teams from many countries. The first such team will be announced before Long Beach we are told. By 2007 you will see Champ Car have at least one each of a USA Team, a Mexican Team, a Canadian team, an Australian Team, a Chinese Team, a Korean Team, a Japanese Team and an Argentina and Brazilian Team (or combined called a South American team). It's conceivable that at some point we will see teams from Europe as well. Mark C.
Champ Car and EuropeUPDATE A reader writes, In response to the Champ Car and Europe rumor, I hope Champ Car continues to try to return to Europe. If Champ Car is going to become a true international racing series they must have a presence in Europe. I find it hard to believe that with all the great racing venues in Europe, Champ Car could not put together at least two successful (and profitable) events in the next two years. Europe is a major world market and not having a presence there will cost the series in the long run. NASCAR controls a large part of the motorsports marketing dollars in the U.S. and Champ Car needs to court as many non-NASCAR markets as possible to bring more money into the series. This should also help to greatly improve international TV ratings which brings more value to Champ Car sponsors. The past has shown that Champ Car can run events in Europe and not step on Bernie's shoes. Also, if they want to promote the idea of national teams how can you ignore Europe? How many drivers from Europe currently have Champ Car rides (plus the ones still trying) ? Champ Car needs Europe along with Asia, South America, and North America to become a true international motorsports powerhouse. Name Withheld The Champ Car races in Europe were big money losers. In order for Champ Car events to do well in Europe, there must be a big enough attendance and corporate sponsorship. If Champ Car brings in drivers from Northern Europe and the interest in the series builds in the next few years, then perhaps a return may be in the cards, not before. Mark C.03/28/05 Kevin Kalkhoven recently said that Champ Car is not pursuing any races in Europe for the immediate future. However, it is curious that three drivers from the northern reaches of Europe - Jos Verstappen (Netherlands), Bjorn Wirdheim (Sweden) and Ronnie Bremer (Denmark) are all possible drivers in Champ Car in 2005. Meanwhile many Mexicans and Canadians (like Michael Valiante who should be in Champ Car) wait on the sidelines. None of these northern European countries have a F1 race either, and with the world demand, it's very unlikely they will for a decade or more. In steps Champ Car. Can the plan be to develop a fan following with drivers from northern Europe and then in a year or two add a race in one of those countries? Makes perfect sense and might explain the recent interest from northern European drivers. A race in the Netherlands would be the most likely early prospect given tracks like Zandvoort and Assen.
Banks now control F1?UPDATE Eddie Jordan believes the banks must keep Bernie Ecclestone in charge of F1 to secure the long-term future of the sport. "Formula One with Bernie Ecclestone is worth far more than without Bernie," the Irishman told The Daily Telegraph. "The banks may have the equity and the voting rights now, but the fact is that Bernie has the promoters, the teams and the sponsors on his side. The real control and value is with Bernie." Minardi's Paul Stoddart added, "A sale of a stake to the carmakers would be a first step to avoid the disaster of two Championships," Stoddart told the British newspaper. "The banks must realize they need Bernie to make an exit on their investment." 03/25/05 Reports are beginning to emerge in Germany which indicate that the deal between Bernie Ecclestone and the Formula 1 banks is a deal that is heavily in favor of the banks. SLEC's chairman Gerhard Gribkowsky is widely quoted as saying that the banks now influence relative to their shareholding throughout the entire F1 empire. The reports are being carried by credible media organizations such as Dow Jones, Reuters Germany and the influential Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. If these stories turn out to be true all further legal actions, including the writs against Ecclestone for damages will disappear and Bambino, the Ecclestone Family trust will be relegated to being just a minor shareholder in the business. It is not clear whether this will affect Bernie Ecclestone's status as chief executive but it is logical to assume that he will remain in the role and operate on behalf of the banks. Grandprix.com
No mercy for Dodge from NASCARUPDATE #2 The Dodge Charger nose has been in the news recently because it seems to pick up trash off of the track, blocking the air flow to the radiator. Speculation has it that Dodge has gone to NASCAR and ask for modifications on the nose. At Nashville Superspeedway this past weekend, Ray Evernham said that as far as he knows, Dodge has neither ask for -- or have been offered any concessions from NASCAR concerning any modifications of the Dodge Charger nose. "We've talked to them about a possible replacement of the trash screen and nothing else," said Evernham. Insider Racing News03/28/05 Jeff Hammond of FoxSports: "Dodge is concerned about it [Nose], and they've had some conversations with NASCAR. But Dodge designed the nose and presented it to NASCAR in a certain form. If NASCAR allows a change, the benefits of cooling the engine block can't also give teams another benefit with downforce or drag. I think NASCAR will be a little reluctant to make any changes as long as Chargers run tape on the nose. If Dodge went to NASCAR and said, "Hey guys, we're overheating, and we need a little tweak", NASCAR might be more willing to make a change if there's no tape covering the opening. But more than likely, I think that NASCAR would say, "You should have thought about that ahead of time." As long as teams can open up that front end and add more air to the engine, it's going to be hard for NASCAR to give Dodge much leeway." FoxSports03/14/05 Dodge officials have been in negotiations with NASCAR officials, apparently over aerodynamic issues. Dodge has a new nose and tail this season, and the nose has been controversial because of its tendency to suck up trash on the track and lead to engine overheating. Winston Salem Journal
Homestead to get lightsUPDATE Homestead is still waiting for FAA approval for the installation of lights at the Speedway. They are hoping for it soon. 03/06/05 Homestead-Miami Speedway is looking to go under the lights. Curtis Grey, president of the track, said nothing is final yet but the process is moving forward and, so far, everything has been positive. "We're still working through that approval process," Grey said. "But we haven't heard anything negative."
The Homestead Air Force base has given their approval to the lights. The city of Homestead is looking to add an additional substation "to give us more electricity," Grey said.
"A lot of it depends on TV and the sanctioning bodies," Grey said. "From the NASCAR side, we know what the schedule is in '05. Grey said the IndyCar race also will be taken under consideration for the time switch.
Gambling increases TV ratings The racing industry take note. Want higher TV ratings? Encourage gambling on your sport by race fans. Sports business expert David M. Carter said a reason auto racing faces several challenges trying to compete with football is because auto racing does not have as an extensive gambling subculture to boost its popularity.
Art Modell, a former NFL owner and early architect of the NFL's success, told The Baltimore Sun recently: "There's no question in my mind, and I hate to say it in public, but I have to be honest about it, the element of wagering by the average fan in office pools, man-to-man betting, even with bookmakers, has added a tremendous dimension to our game. It's brought millions of people to the TV set if they have a buck or two on a team."
Carter noted that ultimately all sports must eventually admit gambling is an important part of its popularity. "They've got to find moderation," he said. "Most people feel the office pool is OK. But they don't want it getting to the point where there is a sophisticated system to fix an event. "One glass of wine is OK, but put down a fifth of Jack Daniel's and you've got a problem. It's moderation, and Las Vegas is not known for moderation."
Free tickets for all Dear AutoRacing1.com, You might want to let your readers know that they don't have to buy tickets for this weekend's St. Petersburg IRL race. I hear that are giving away tickets at 7-11 here in St. Petersburg if you buy a sandwich. Not sure if it's a race ticket or just a qualifying ticket. Greg Callanan
Bremer still confident Former Toyota Atlantic driver Ronnie Bremer from Denmark told a Danish newspaper Saturday that he does not need to bring all that much sponsorship to land a Champ Car ride because Champ Car wants him in, to prove that the ladder system is working. He does not say it, but one can only interpret this as Champ Car is going to partly fund his ride. He says required sponsorship is less than 1/3 of what Kiesa is paying for his F1 Friday test seat with F1 minnow Minardi. We estimate that to be about $1 million for Bremer. He stated that he expects things to finalize this week and that it is (still) looking very good. Mark C.
Will Champ Car race at Sebring? In this Hot News item last week we broke the story that the Newman/Haas team with driver Bruno Junqueira will test the Sebring long course, the first time for a Champ Car. While in Sebring last week there was some speculation that Champ Car might consider racing at Sebring in conjunction with the 12 Hours of Sebring classic. Robin Miller jokingly mentioned it on Wind Tunnel Sunday night as well. For years we suggested that perhaps Champ Car race on Sunday following the Saturday 12 Hour race. After all, over 100,000 people, many young college students that Champ Car covets, are already gathered for the sold out event. Champ Car would have to qualify on Friday and take Saturday off while the ALMS puts on their show, but that's all doable. However, in talking to Champ Car personnel about this idea last week, mum was the word, with no real hint that it was being considered. Historically the track has been very bumpy, but nothing a good milling machine couldn't take care of. We suspect Junqueira's test is just a fact finding endeavor to see if it's feasible to race there. Imagine what a bonanza for road racing fans should this rumor ever materialize into something real. For now it's simply food for thought.
Champ Car’s China circuit revealed According to our sources, Champ Car will use the significantly revised and upgraded Goldenport natural terrain road course in Beijing, China. The photos below show the condition of the track as it existed a couple of years ago. The track diagram shown (right) will change with lengthening slated to the east (right) in the track diagram photo. Many new grandstands will be erected as well to bring seating capacity up to at least 100,000. Design plans are still being worked on. While Goldenport won't be as grandiose as Shanghai's F1 circuit, it will be a lot better than what you see in these photos. We hear some government officials in Shanghai are going to lose their jobs because so much money was spent on the facility it is drowning in red ink.
Trivia teaserUPDATE Now that it has been announced we can reveal the answer to this trivia question. The aerial photo is a picture of the Beijing, China airport that Champ Car personnel and teams will use when the Champ Car circus comes to town in 2006. The natural terrain road course that Champ Car will use is located between the airport and downtown Beijing. 12/27/04 Trivia teaser: Can you tell us what the photo to the left is? Where was it taken? And what significance might it play in motorsports?
The next generation Champ Car A reader writes, I have two (2) questions concerning the Champ Car chassis I am hoping you can clarify for me:
1) Are the current Champ Car chassis the same physical chassis that have been raced for the past 2-4 years, or does Lola and Reynard build new chassis to the previous specifications? If they are indeed the same physical chassis, is there ever a safety concern over fractured tubs, worn parts, etc?
2) When will Champ Car be debuting their new chassis package? I know you have written articles on AutoRacing1 about adopting a chassis similar to the Superfund series. Any ideas which way Champ Car will go?
I must admit that I was quite soured by Champ Car during the off-season and their lack of (apparent) progress. I really appreciate your articles and news from Sebring. I do indeed hope Champ Car is on the right track (pardon the pun!) to once again become a true world class series. John Farney, Milwaukee, WI Dear John, Some teams have bought brand new Lolas while others are 2-4 years old. On the older cars some of the parts have been replaced to minimize fatigue failures, but sometimes they do still occur.
The new chassis will be introduced in 2007. As for how big it will be, I believe that will depend on whether Champ Car still wants to race on ovals (they say they do, but are they economically feasible given NASCAR pretty much has a monopoly on them?). Since 99% of their races will be road and street circuits we are of the opinion the next generation Champ Car should be reduced in size to that of an F1 car. With the tight circuits the Champ Cars race on, a slightly smaller car will help. There is a big debate as to whether the next engine should be a turbo or not, but any new engine won't be introduced before 2008. In some of the articles we wrote we suggested that Champ Car adopt an engine similar to the Superfund V10. That engine runs on Ethanol and it's interesting to see that the IRL has since adopted Ethanol for their engines.
We still like the scream of a normally aspirated V10 while others prefer the sound of the existing turbo V8. People think the turbo gives the engine a particular sound. Not true, it just muffles the sound so the noise isn't too high. The series may stick with a turbo since there is some tie-in with the tuner crowd Champ Car is trying to woo, and turbo engines are increasingly found on passenger cars. A lot will depend on what the engine manufacturers who join the series want. What I don't think you will see is a production-based engine being used. That gives visions of "stock car" and open wheel race fans are not interested in "stock cars." The image, the allure, of open wheel race cars has always been state-of-the-art vehicles with one sole purpose - to go fast. The IRL tried production based engines but eventually abandoned those hand grenades for proper race engines.
We do expect the next generation Champ Car to have onboard starters for a couple of reasons - if a car stalls on a standing start grid the driver can attempt to start the car and if a driver spins out and stalls the engine, they can attempt to restart it and avoid a tow vehicle being dispatched, which results in a caution flag. Mark C.
Ferrari ready to yield on testing Ferrari are ready to prove they do not have a 'win-at-all-costs' attitude to Formula One by canceling a planned pre-British Grand Prix test due to take place at Silverstone in June, Autosport-Atlascan exclusively reveal, after the testing row that has marred the season erupted again on Friday. The Maranello-based outfit, who only ever get to test at Silverstone in the traditional pre-race British GP test, booked use of the track for a four-day test from June 21-24 late last year - but the use of the track on those dates has now stirred up fresh controversy on the back of recent arguments over testing. But Autosport-Atlas has learned that Ferrari will only give the green light to the Silverstone test if their rivals join it at the venue - and the team are ready to cancel the test and put themselves at a disadvantage to their rivals in terms of track data if their opposition choose not to run at Silverstone on those dates. A source close to the team told Autosport-Atlas: "If the other teams don't want to do it, then we won't do it. Our etiquette is not to gain an unfair advantage and we will therefore not go to circuits that the others do not want to go to."
NASCAR eyes MosportUPDATE #2 Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ont., has leap-frogged Montreal to become the leading candidate to land a NASCAR stock car race as soon as 2006. A group of NASCAR executives met Tuesday in Daytona Beach, Florida, to map out an expansion strategy that includes a meeting in Toronto sometime this spring with Myles Brandt, president and general manager of Mosport. Brandt confirmed that NASCAR bosses are serious about a race at Mosport's four-kilometer road course. Bowmanville is 78 km east of downtown Toronto.
Robbie Weiss, NASCAR's top international executive, said earlier this week that an existing road course - like the one at Mosport - could be a target for the world's most popular stock car series in 2006.
Brandt said he already has had meetings with Weiss and other NASCAR officials about Mosport. "They have actually already been to Mosport," Brandt said. "And within the next 30 to 90 days they are going to be back to take another look at the track."
The key to making Mosport a favorite over Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve with NASCAR is the flexibility it has to host a race from the Nextel Cup, Busch Grand National or Craftsman Truck series.
The contract between Grand Prix promoter Normand Legault and the city of Montreal, which owns the track, limits its use to twice a year - once for the Canadian Grand Prix and once for the Champ Car Molson Indy Montreal.
While speculation has been rampant that Legault would dump Champ Car in favor of a NASCAR Nextel Cup race, he might not do so for a Busch or Craftsman Truck race. "Mosport would be ready to host any of the three top NASCAR series," Brandt said. NASCAR made its first foray outside of continental U.S. this season when the Busch series raced in Mexico City to huge crowds and great reviews. "We could match that," Brandt said, adding grandstands could be built at the track. Toronto Sun
03/24/05 Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ontario, is the leading candidate to land a NASCAR stock car race as soon as 2006, according to a report in the Toronto Star. The Star reported that a group of NASCAR executives met Tuesday in Daytona Beach, Florida., to map out an expansion strategy. Part of that strategy will include a meeting with Myles Brandt, president and general manager of Mosport. Brandt said Wednesday he already has had meetings with NASCAR officials about Mosport. He told the Star that NASCAR bosses are serious about a race at his four-kilometer road course. "They have actually already been to Mosport," Brandt told the Star. "And within the next 30 to 90 days they are going to be back to take another look at the track." The Star report says Mosport has moved ahead of Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve because of its ability to host races from the Nextel Cup, Busch Grand National or Craftsman Truck series. 03/22/05 George Pyne, NASCAR's chief operating officer, says the stock car sanctioning body will visit Toronto and Montreal in the next 30 to 90 days with the goal of finding a suitable track to race on, possibly as early as next year. "The two markets are Toronto and Montreal. Where within those markets? Obviously it will be a road course. But where, we don't have an answer," Pyne tells the Winston-Salem Journal. There have been whispers that Montreal's Gilles Villeneuve Circuit would be the ideal candidate for a NASCAR road race. However, promoter Norman Legault recently confirmed that he has a contract to operate only two races in the city each year - Formula One and Champ Car. The Champ Car contract in Montreal is set to expire in 2006. Toronto's lakeshore circuit, which is used to stage the annual Molson Indy, is not a suitable alternative in its current configuration, according to Pyne. TSN [Editor's Note: The only other track that might be suitable to host a NASCAR race in those two markets is Mosport, though some improvements would definitely be needed.]
Porsche to return The rumors are getting stronger that Porsche may return to the top ranks of sports car racing in 2006 with a LMP1 prototype to compete head-to-head against the new Audi R10, also scheduled to debut that year. The Audi R10 will replace the all-conquering R8 (right) and it is expected that Audi will stick to turbocharged V8 engine whereas Porsche is contemplating using the V10 engine from the Carrera GT Super Car. There are also rumors that Porsche may produce an LMP2 customer car as early as this year's Petit LeMans race at Road Atlanta.
With all the major manufacturers entering ALMS and LMES in recent months it's clear that they understand that the road racing fans like sophisticated state-of-the-art cars, the same fans that have rejected the dumbed-down NASCARized Grand-Am prototypes created by the France family. We have stated on numerous occasions that road racing fans will not accept dumbed-down race cars, and that theory is being proven correct on a daily basis when one looks at the attendance ALMS gets at its races (right) vs. Grand-Am (near zero). Let this be a warning to Champ Car as they contemplate their next generation Champ Car for 2007. If they dumb it down, stick a fork in Champ Car, it's dead. Mark C.
RuSPORT spy photos While all the Champ Car teams were testing in Sebring with many media gathered this week, the RuSPORT team was testing by themselves in secrecy at Fontana. Of course that could not deter us so we positioned a photographer on one of the mountains overlooking the speedway and with a very long lens were able to snap off these photos. Note that one of the cars is now red and white indicating a possible new sponsor.
The RuSPORT team have even gone as far as to fence off their test area at some of the test sessions so they are taking this season very seriously by developing some secret stuff in the hopes of wrestling the Vanderbilt Cup from Sebastien Bourdais and the Newman/Haas team. There are at least 5 teams that have a legitimate shot at the crown. It will be an interesting season. Mark C.
More announcements coming We are hearing that Champ Car is trying to ready a number of key announcements for the Long Beach race weekend in two weeks time. We keep hearing something about chassis and if true, it will probably have something to do with a replacement for the existing Toyota Atlantic car because the Champ Car chassis decision was supposedly going to be made later for the 2007 season. There will be other announcements as well, and after the race, and for the next 45 days, additional announcements will follow.
Australian GP could move back to Adelaide Australasian Motorsport News is reporting that Formula 1 could be on its way back to Adelaide if the current battle between Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Management and the manufacturers results in a new series. Ron Walker's close links with Ecclestone have seen the Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman come out strongly in favor of Bernie's cause over recent months, counseling other promoters to avoid a manufacturers' series.
South Australian Premier Mike Rann's current public stance is a simple "no comment", but reliable sources have told the magazine that preliminary conversations have taken place and that the South Australian government, which acted swiftly to secure the race in 1985, is looking favorably at the idea.
Newman/Haas to enter 2 cars in Indy 500UPDATE #2 AutoRacing1.com spoke to Carl Haas on Thursday in Sebring regarding his rumored entries in this year's Indy 500. "We will probably run just one car again," said Haas, and it looks like Bruno Junqueira will drive it again." 03/24/05 Our Newman/Haas sources tell us that nothing has been decided with regard to an Indy 500 entry this year, though a decision one way or the other would need to be made soon if the team is to participate in the upcoming test at Indy in April. No one is denying that it is being considered, however. 03/22/05 According to a report on SPEEDTV.com, Champ Car team Newman/Haas may enter two cars in this year's Indy 500 for both Bruno Junqueira and Sebastien Bourdais with PacifiCare backing and Honda power. With all the recent entries announced or rumored, it looks like the Indy 500 will make their 33-car starting grid.
More on Champ Car in China and JapanUPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with yesterday's announcement. See feature story. 03/08/05 Ironically or unfortunately Champ Car is looking at the northern island of Hokkaido Japan to hold a race. With Toyota making a bid to get the Japanese F1 race at its revamped Fuji track, either Toyota (Fuji) or Honda (Suzuka - current location of Japanese GP) are going to come out the loser. Regardless of whether Toyota or Honda are currently in Champ Car, both should be talking to Champ Car about racing at these facilities. It just makes sense for both sides. 03/07/05 The other rumor was getting too lengthy so we have started a new thread. More quotes from Kevin Kalkhoven today at ChampCar.ws - In eight days Kevin Kalkhoven visited Korea, China and Japan and returned positive that Champ Car can be a hit in all three countries within the next couple years.
“We had solid expectations going over there and they were more than fulfilled,” said Kalkhoven following the whirlwind trip in his trusty Gulfstream 5. “It was very, very encouraging.”
The Far East Tour began in Korea, where Champ Car’s 12th race of ’05 will be staged in Seoul in October.
“They had the groundbreaking for the road course we’ll be running on and there were 1,000 officials in attendance,” said Kalkhoven. “It was just unbelievable and they are so enthusiastic. We’ve got the support of the city and national government.“They have no big national events until 2012 and we’re going to be their next big sporting event.”
From there, Air Kalkhoven flew to the capital of China. “I was blown away by Beijing,” he admitted. “It’s a gorgeous city with huge, modern buildings, wonderful landscaping and big traffic jams. It makes downtown Dallas look puny.
“We were greeted by the Beijing State Asset Management Company and they were very enthusiastic. Shanghai has a track for Formula One and Beijing wants a race of its own. They like Americans and they like the idea of marketing their products in the USA through us.
“I left confident we’ll have a race there in 2006.”
The final stop was Hokkaido – the northern island of Japan. “They would very much like a race too,” said Kalkhoven, whose presentations to each country were shown on DVDs narrated by Paul Newman in Korean, Chinese and Japanese.
Asked if having a driver of each nationality was in the works, Kalkhoven replied: “Yes. For example, I think we’d like to provide training for Korean drivers through Formula Atlantics into Champ Car with Korean sponsors. Our eventual goal would be to have a Team China, a Team Korea and a Team Japan competing in Champ Car.”
Kalkhoven, who is putting a Champ Car office in the Far East, has said for the past two years that the Pacific Rim is a key to putting Champ Car back on the map, so to speak.
“We’re going to places that want to see us and that will pay some big sanction fees,” he said. “And I see the development of national teams to give these country’s spectators something to cheer about.”
Champ Car and Monterrey discussions Rumor here in Mexico is that CIE (OCESA) is in talks with Champ Car to renew the Monterrey GP contract for an additional 5 years. Both parties have great interest to renew the contract, and more news is expected soon, certainly before or during the race on the 22nd of May. Hector Serrano Gonzalez reporting from Mexico
Overheard at Sebring 3 AutoRacing1.com overheard at Sebring tonight that 18, 19 or even 20 cars will be on the grid at Long Beach, depending on how things pan out with drivers and teams between now and then. Mark C.
Overheard at Sebring 2 Vista Broadband Networks is the primary sponsor on Cristiano da Matta's PKV car today at Sebring so we can assume they will be his sponsor for '05.....Gulfstream is still on Jimmy Vasser's car....The paint scheme on the PKV cars this year (red and white) is a vast improvement over last year's all-red, and the red is a much brighter red now, a lesson other teams can learn who have darker and duller colors. Champ Cars need to be bright and flashy like F1 cars.....Spoke to Jim McGee, he is very upbeat about his team and the series for '05. He feels the driver lineup is fantastic. More later.....
Overheard at Sebring We hear that the Argentina race will definitely happen but most probably the first race will be March of '06.....RTL5 in Holland will show all Champ Car races live in '05 and Eurosport will also show all races live......Channel Sports Expressen and Eurosport will both show all races live in Sweden to follow Bjorn Wirdheim...All Champ Cars will carry Eurosport logos in '05 and Wirdheim will carry Eurosport sponsorship logos in a bigger way than the other cars with AMR back as the primary sponsor.....Gaston Mazzacane is here but not driving. Look for him back in the car in '06 when the Argentina race is added on the schedule....Champ Car just signed a TV deal in Japan with JSport and in India with Ten Sports. Ten Sports is also in other Asian Countries.....Champ Car will be on TV in China but the station is not known yet. South Korea is in the works....Potential TV viewers for Champ Car in '05 will be 2 billion viewers, double from '04. More later...
More on San Jose track relocation The San Jose Mercury News reports - Organizers of this summer's San Jose Grand Prix are scrambling to get city approval for an 11th-hour course change that would send race cars streaking through the heart of downtown rather than along its fringe. Paving work that began last week has been halted on the original route that used the parking lot at HP Pavilion as both its start and finish. A source familiar with the alternative route who did not wish to be named said it would start in front of the Hilton hotel on Almaden Boulevard and skirt Plaza de Cesar Chavez at one point. Dale Jantzen, president of the Canary Fund, the non-profit group that signed a five-year agreement with the city to stage the Champ Car World Series race, said a desire to contain costs and "maximize exposure for the city of San Jose" was behind the proposed changes.
Future of Portland race still in doubt This Portland Oregonian article says, Future of Portland Champ Car race still is tenuous. The return of a G.I. Joe's sponsorship is helping, but economic issues continue to be a cloud on the horizon.
The infamous Festival Curves at Portland International Raceway have been paved over, clearing the way for fewer fender-benders during the June 19 Champ Car race. But even though the gravel trap in the chicane is gone, a few figurative speed bumps remain as Portland readies for its 22nd open-wheel race after a tempestuous off-season during which the city flirted with the rival Indy Racing League, then came back hat in hand to Champ Car to sign a three-year contract. The addition of marketing-savvy G.I. Joe's as presenting sponsor is a huge plus for Portland, but local promoter Mike Nealy has not announced a title sponsor. The race had no title sponsor in 2004, and afterward there was a tug of war between Champ Car faithful and those who wanted to drop Champ Car and go with Tony George's IRL. But the IRL -- which added a street race in St. Petersburg, Fla., and road course races at Infineon (Calif.) and Watkins Glen (N.Y.) this year -- couldn't fit Portland into its 2005 schedule. After some hurt feelings, Champ Car came back. When former city commissioner Jim Francesconi announced a three-year revenue-sharing deal last August, he said he felt better about the race's future, "because the business community has said they're going to come up with a minimum of $500,000 worth of sponsorship."
If true, that would be a good start. "We anticipate having a totally different approach than last year," Nealy said. "We're still working at it. That's all I can tell you." Champ Car, which at one time was prepared to drop Portland from the 2005 schedule, will co-promote the race and assume a nearly $2 million financial risk. Champ Car's vastly improved TV package with CBS, NBC and the Speed Channel means greater visibility for the Portland race, which will be televised live on CBS.
The city and Champ Car have an out clause if the event loses money for the fourth consecutive year, but in an interview last week, Champ Car president Dick Eidswick said increased support from the Portland business community and a more aggressive marketing approach lead him to think the once-thriving event can be successful again. Eidswick said he is planning a trip to Portland to meet with representatives of Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski. He said he also would like some sit down time with Portland Mayor Tom Potter to discuss the economic impact open-wheel racing has made in the Portland area since the race began in 1984 -- and the importance of nurturing a relationship that almost turned sour when the IRL tried to move in. Bottom line, Eidswick said, there are no guarantees for Portland. If events at Vancouver, B.C.; Laguna Seca Raceway in California; Mid-Ohio Sports-Car Course, and Wisconsin's Road America can be discontinued, as they have been this year, so can Portland. If base revenue for the 2005 Portland race is less than $1.5 million, both Champ Car and the city have the opportunity to cancel the remaining two races on the contract during a 90-day period after the race. Both sides downplayed the significance of the out clause when the new contract was announced. The future of Champ Car racing at PIR could depend on how the race comes off in June. Will attendance increase? Will the event make money? Eidswick knows the history of the event and knows all about its glory days in the 1990s. "We're working very hard to make sure (Portland) gets back to that," Eidswick said. "We made a commitment to the city.
"We're going to bring the show and try to put on the best race we can," Eidswick said. "If the local business people don't support it, it means the community doesn't really want a race. But as far as we're concerned, we're in it this year and we're going full blast to put on a great event. Hopefully, we'll get the right combination with the city leaders and the business leaders and get the race to where it should be."
2nd team might get Renault power Formula 1's love affair with India is currently in its passionate phase, with the paddock awash with Indian reporters, stacking up to interview Narain Karthikeyan and to encourage Bernie Ecclestone to find somewhere to have an F1 race in India. Karthikeyan, to give him credit, has done the best job of all the new boys. He has kept out of trouble and done a good solid job, rather better than had been expected. The importance of India is, of course, all about numbers because with one billion people India can boost F1's TV viewing numbers and potential bring in new sponsors keen to make billions by selling their products to the country's middle classes.
Renault wants to get into the Indian market with its low-cost Logan model, which is badged as a Dacia and will sell for less than $5000. The company has just signed a joint venture with Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., the Mumbai-based automobile manufacturer to establish Mahindra Renault Ltd with the aim of producing 50,000 cars a year starting in 2007 and selling them through the Mahindra network of dealerships. This might be useful for Karthikeyan as he looks to move up in F1 and the possibility exists for a second team to use Renault engines in 2006. Grandprix.com
Coyne to run Servia and Wirdheim Word here in Sebring is that Dale Coyne Racing will be running two cars in testing Wednesday and Thursday. Their drivers for the test will be Spaniard Oriol Servia and Swede Bjorn Wirdheim. The team has not made any announcements as to their two car efforts or sponsors and we hear will not until just before Long Beach. We have updated our 2005 Champ Car Silly Season page. Mark C.
Sauber to run third car on Friday After a very disappointing start to the season word on the street is that team SAUBER PETRONAS is finally looking to run a third car during Friday practice sessions. Although the option to do so has been available to them since the start of the 2004 season, the team has declined to do so based on a lack of funding. Most of the team's current woes with the C24 seem to be based in setup difficulties and lack of testing on their new Michelin tires. With new long-life tire and engine rules in place this year, most of the regular drivers are only turning a handful of laps during Friday sessions. It is clear that SAUBER would benefit from having a third car and driver who could run more laps assist with the setup work on Fridays.
The team does not currently employ a test driver of any kind and no names have been mentioned in conjunction with the third seat. Last week, rumors were rampant that either Anthony Davidson or Alex Wurz were being courted to replace Jacques Villeneuve. Could it be that SAUBER was looking at these drivers, but for use as a third driver instead? Unofficial Sauber Website
Indian GP by 2010 Former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu's dream of having an Indian Grand Prix might just come true except that it won't be in Hyderabad.
According to Suresh Kalmadi, president of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), India has not given up hopes of being a stopover on the official F1 calendar. "We are definitely trying to get a track ready in either Mumbai, New Delhi or Bangalore. By the time the Commonwealth Games (2010) comes to India, I hope that the track is ready for F1," said Kalmadi.
He was speaking at a function attended by India's Formula 1 debutant Narain Karthikeyan. The IOA president and MP also confirmed that talks with the chief ministers of these states have been initiated. He affirmed that it was time for India to host a Formula 1 race.
"At last we have a champion (Narain Karthikeyan), all we now require is a Formula 1 track and I think thats it's high time that India has got one," he added.
After Karthikeyan became the first Indian to sign a driving deal with an F1 team in early February, Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone had speculated that it was just a matter of time before India would be assigned a race.
Fernandez to run against own teamUPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. See story on Hot News page. 03/21/05 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong.' Look for Mo Nunn Racing to announce a 1-race deal to run Adrian Fernandez in this year's Indy 500 Tuesday. A press conference has been scheduled. 03/05/05 Adrian Fernandez might be driving against himself at Indy. The co-owner of a two-car IRL team has not landed the funding to compete with his own crew, but he's negotiating to join Morris Nunn's team for a one-race deal. Nunn will be at Homestead today to meet with Fernandez's partner, Tom Anderson. Fernandez is racing in NASCAR's Busch Series race in Mexico City this weekend.
"We both want to make a deal happen, but we haven't made a deal yet," Anderson said. "We need to know whose setup sheet Adrian will use, whose (crew), what equipment Morris has left. All those things we hope to figure out when Morris gets here."
Nunn is positioned to switch to Honda engines, which Fernandez's team uses, but he declined to comment from his home in northern Florida. "We've got to finalize some stuff," he said. Indy Star
Ferrari to press new car into service Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello has given the team's new car, the F2005, a glowing report following his first test with it at Mugello. Speaking after completing 95 laps today [Tuesday] - and over 450 kilometers - the Brazilian reckoned that it was an improvement over the F2004 in every way, although he couldn't beat the best time set by test driver, Luca Badoer yesterday [a 1min 21.380s] and was instead around a tenth slower [on a 1min 21.435s]. Rumor has it that now Ferrari will work to have the new car ready for Bahrain, at least for lead driver Michael Schumacher.
"Days like these always give you a nice feeling when you drive a new car for the first time, especially when it's a Ferrari," said Rubens, after beginning work this morning at around 9.15 am [local time]. First impressions count and I am very happy with how it felt to drive the F2005. "It is definitely quicker than the F2004 M and represents a step forward in every area."
Team leader Michael Schumacher will now drive the car for the first tomorrow [Wednesday], when the Scuderia continues development work ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix in two weeks time, when Ferrari may opt to use the F2005.
Argent Mortgage to reveal multi-year dealUPDATE This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement. See article on Hot News page. 03/22/05 The IRL and Argent Mortgage today will announce a multi-year partnership making Argent the official mortgage company of the IRL and the Indianapolis 500. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but sources pegged the deal at mid-six-figures annually. Argent is already co-primary sponsor of Rahal Letterman Racing’s No. 15 and No. 16 cars, driven by Buddy Rice and Danica Patrick, respectively. Argent is also title sponsor of IRL races at Kansas Speedway on July 3 and Infineon Raceway on August 28 SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL [Editor's Note: We may criticize the IRL on a number of key issues, but we must give credit where credit is due - they get their sponsors to help advertise/market the IRL (not that it is helping TV ratings) but Champ Car hasn't been able to get its sponsors to do much for the series and this is a major failing of Champ Car right now. They are not out there in the mainstream media. NASCAR, IRL, F1 all get their sponsors to activate. This isn't rocket science. There is concrete proof that when sponsors activate their sponsorship and get involved with promoting the driver and the race series, everyone wins - the sponsor, the series, the TV ratings, etc.]
Is Toyota showing their early hand in Long Beach?UPDATE AutoRacing1.com spoke to Long Beach GP President Jim Michaelian this morning and he said that indeed Toyota has started their full promotional campaign of the race as they have done in recent years. Because it just recently started that may explain why our Long Beach contacts had not seen anything yet. "We really didn't start a full promotional campaign until after the NASCAR race in Fontana. Now we are hitting it hard and the city is feeling very good about this year's race. Hotel reservations are up, our hospitality sales are up and our grandstand ticket sales are up over last year. Hopefully our rainy season, which traditionally ends around April 1st is over and we can get a few weeks of sunshine to get everyone in the mood for the Grand Prix," said Michaelian. "Toyota has their usual $69 promotional deal going on." 03/21/05 Toyota's history with the Grand Prix of Long Beach traces back to the inaugural race in 1975 and its current contract to serve as the race's title sponsor -a role the Japanese automaker has filled since 1980 -concludes when the checkered flag is waved for the main Grand Prix race on the afternoon of April 10.
"At this point in time, we are waiting to hear back from (Grand Prix Association parent) Dover (Motorsports) and the Grand Prix Association on what way they will have … their featured (race) starting next year, Champ Car or another direction," said Les Unger, national motorsports manager with Toyota Motor Sales. "From our perspective (a decision) isn't time-sensitive. We don't have to know in the next two days, three days or a month. We've told the folks at Dover that they need to do their due diligence to come up with a plan for the future of the race."
Complicating matters is that Toyota left Champ Car after the 2002 series for the rival Indy Racing League. Unger reaffirmed that Toyota will not influence or demand the Grand Prix Association to ink the IRL to guarantee Toyota's return.
"Next year will be the 30th year of the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race and it's our intention to stay involved as the title sponsor," Unger said. The feeling is mutual for officials at the Grand Prix Association.
"There's not enough words to describe what Toyota means not only to us but the city of Long Beach," said Kevin O'Brien, head of sales and marketing at the Grand Prix Association. "Toyota has been responsible for the heightened awareness of this event to the level it is today." Long Beach Press-Telegram [Editor's Note: Toyota is doing virtually no "co-op" advertising so far this year for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Toyota is NOT offering the traditional Fri/Sat ticket with a $70+ tune up.... which they've done forever. In the early years they sold discount tickets and gave a gift bag. Sometimes actions speak louder than words.]
Bernie and banks close to dealUPDATEThis morning in London the ongoing court case between Formula One Holdings and Formula One Administration took another step forward with a hearing before Mr Justice Peter Smith. The case is part of the long fight for control of the Formula One Group with the banks which own 75% of the shares in the business trying to get management control of the empire. We understand that for the first time there was representation in the court from the banks, Formula One Management and Ecclestone himself and the case was adjourned very quickly as a request was made for a new hearing tomorrow afternoon. It seems that the judge was told that a settlement was on the verge of being completed but it is not at all clear what that settlement will be. It is possible that Ecclestone might have done a deal to buy the banks out of the business but it is not clear how he would raise the money for this as the Ecclestone family money is tied up in trust companies and Formula One Management does not have the kind of money needed. It may be therefore that he will do a deal which will leave him with management control of the business for a period of time after which he will hand over control and take a back seat, remaining a 25% shareholder in the business but no longer playing a day-to-day role. It is possible that there might be other permutations but at the moment it is not clear what will happen. Grandprix.com03/22/05 Formula One's shareholder banks are close to agreement with Bernie Ecclestone in a dispute over the control of commercial rights, a High Court judge was told on Tuesday. Lawyers told the judge "the parties are close to agreeing something" and asked him to set aside time on Wednesday to hear another submission. "I think this will concentrate minds and allow a settlement to be reached," one lawyer said. The judge, Justice Peter Smith, said he would hear the submission at 1700 GMT on Wednesday. Reuters
Sepang to open '06 calendar Malaysia is likely to kick off next year's grand prix calendar. Sepang's general manager, Ahmad Mustafa, said he met with Bernie Ecclestone at the weekend to make the formal request. The 74-year-old F1 supremo answered 'positively,' Mustafa - also boasting of a record crowd at Sunday's grand prix - told a local newspaper. The opener is vacant following Melbourne's request to prevent a clash with their hosting of the Commonwealth Games. Mustafa continued: ''We are optimistic that our request (will) be considered positively.''
Klien to be replaced Although impressive at the Red Bull wheel so far, Christian Klien may lose his racing seat after April's Bahrain GP. The energy drink company's F1 'advisor' Helmut Marko admitted to an Austrian TV program that 'Tonio' Liuzzi will probably be given a chance at Imola, Barcelona and Monte-Carlo. ''The (driver) evaluation will be a thorough affair,'' he vowed to 'Sport Am Sonntag.'
Austria's Klien, 22, may be doing a points-scoring job, but Marko insisted that Red Bull 'do not want to lose' reigning F3000 champion Liuzzi. Liuzzi's promotion would also explain Red Bull wanting to test Scott Speed and Neel Jani, as experienced Klien cannot take the 'third' cockpit.
Klien's racing teammate, though, Scottish veteran David Coulthard, does not see a good enough reason to disturb the current driver lineup. ''So far (Christian) is doing well, pushing me along,'' DC, 33, admitted.
NASCAR's next move will be to take wins away Although he didn't come right out and say it, Mike Helton made this statement at the prerace drivers meeting, and every team owner was required to attend. NASCAR has fined points and money, the next step is to strip a win away if a car is found to be illegal after a race.
"We began with fining money," Helton said. "Then in 2002 we escalated the money ... until we got to the point that it was a concern of ours the money didn't matter, that the risk and reward wasn't balanced. So we gave the warning we would escalate. That's when we began with money and points.
"Now we're in the spring of '05, and I wanted to give you the heads-up that NASCAR will do whatever it feels it has to do to maintain the confidence of everybody in the garage that everyone is playing on the same playing field. Whether it's intentional or not intentional there is a box you have to fit in, and it's our responsibility to react when it doesn't work.
"So this is the warning, that you should not depend on NASCAR's traditional reactions to incidents that occur after the race when you don't fit. Because things we're hearing from last week and reading and in conversations, there is a lot of discussion about 'We'd be willing to do this to do that.'
"Our responsibility it to make sure the playing field is level for everybody. Everything is on the table, at NASCAR's option, to react. This is the warning. "It makes it a lot easier and a lot nicer when everything is inside the box. "Don't hang your hat on traditional reactions from NASCAR for the next deal ... because we'll do whatever we have to do to balance the risk against the rewards, so everyone in the garage feels they're on the same playing field."
Ranger to be announced MondayUPDATE AutoRacing1.com has learned that today's press conference in Montreal will indeed be to confirm Andrew Ranger as the 2nd driver for Mi-Jack Conquest. This rumor is now 'fact.' 03/18/05 Word is there will be a press conference held Monday morning in Montréal to announce a deal for Andrew Ranger in Champ Car. If Ranger is teamed up with Philippe as expected at Mi-Jack Conquest, this would be the youngest teammates ever in Champ Car with two French-speaking 18-year old youngsters.
Schumacher could retire Willi Weber, Michael Schumacher's manager, doesn't deny the possibility of the 7-time world champion retiring when his contract ends at the end of 2006. "I haven't yet discussed the renewal of Michael's contract with Ferrari simply because Schumi hasn't yet told me if he'll carry on or if he'll retire," Weber revealed to Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport. "When he comes to me to tell me he wants to carry on for one or two years, then I'll start the talks, for the moment, I'm not moving."
Internal unrest at Andretti Green Had Dan Wheldon known his teammate was trying to pass him, Dario Franchitti might have had a better shot at beating Hornish.
Wheldon, on the verge of being lapped by Franchitti in the late stages of Saturday’s race, wasn’t aware -- and apparently wasn’t told over the radio -- that his Andretti Green Racing teammate was behind him. For two laps, Franchitti and his No. 27 AGR Honda/Dallara struggled to lap Wheldon’s No. 26 AGR Honda/Dallara. Suddenly, Wheldon ducked low and lifted, allowing Franchitti to resume his pursuit of Hornish. When Franchitti emerged from his car after finishing fourth, he expressed annoyance at Wheldon. AGR co-owners Michael Andretti and Kim Green then told Franchitti that Wheldon -- for reasons not immediately known -- had not been informed by radio that the car behind him was Franchitti’s.
“Dan didn’t know,” Franchitti said after the discussion with Andretti and Green. “When he got the word, he got out of the way. Unfortunately, they didn’t get the word to him quick enough. I don’t know why. We’ll get to the bottom of it. It’s really frustrating, because the car was so quick.”
Andretti was furious about the mix-up, fuming in an animated conversation with Green after the race. But AGR driver Tony Kanaan, who saw Andretti and Green tell Franchitti of the error, said, “I saw all of the commotion around Dario after the race, and I couldn’t understand why,” Kanaan said. “I’m sure they’ll fix the problem. They will talk. We’re good teammates. We have our moments, and that’s part of the game. We should take our frustrations in-house and fix it. It’s like a marriage. It’s not good all of the time. You’re going to have a problem.”
“On equal terms today, (Hornish) wasn’t quick enough," Franchitti said. "The deck was stacked in our favor. We would have had him easily.” SPEEDTV.com
Long Beach expecting attendance increase After a year of setbacks, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach appears back on course. The April 8-10 race is expected to draw 175,000 spectators, a healthy spike from last year when Championship Auto Racing Teams, or CART, went bankrupt. Some fans unsure of CART's status stayed away. Light rain and generally gray weather on race weekend didn't help attendance, either. Champ Car World Series, a new organization, stepped in last year to rescue the race from CART and will put it on again, April 8-10.
"Realistically, I don't think anyone could have predicted we'd be celebrating our 31st anniversary this year," said Jim Michaelian, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach. "But when you look at the contributions of literally thousands of people, from the staff to city personnel, the assistance of sponsors and promotional partners and the support of the fans, that has been the driving factor.
"They've not only kept the event viable, but increased its popularity as the years have gone by." Construction is well under way on the 1.97-mile, 11-turn street circuit, with the last of the 14 million tons of concrete race barrier blocks, 16,000 cushion tires, seven pedestrian bridges and 19 spectator grandstands going into place. Soon to come will be eight giant television boards around the track. More at Long Beach Telegram
NASCAR's Engine of the Future NASCAR's proposed "engine of the future" for 2007 would be sized down to 325 c.i., about 100 horsepower smaller than the current 358 c.i. design, which has been stock-car racing's staple since 1975. NASCAR's goal is an engine that produces 700 horsepower at the flywheel (about 680 horsepower at the rear wheels). NASCAR has had three major meetings with Detroit car makers over specs for the new engine, which is being stalled by Ford Motor Company. In part of the engine discussions, NASCAR officials are looking for ways to create a secondary in-sport market for old engines. Currently there is no such hand-me-down market for slightly used, or last year's NASCAR equipment. Winston Salem Journal
NASCAR driver suspensions Jimmy Spencer, co-host of SPEED Channel's NASCAR This Morning, reported on Atlanta's Nextel Cup driver meeting. It was a really important drivers meeting, and (NASCAR president) Mike Helton talked about fitting in the box. In '01 and '02, they escalated the fines to just money. Then it was not enough. And then at Dover in June (last year), he warned it would escalate higher in reaction to the points. One month later, they issued money and points. Today, with what happened last week at Vegas, Mike says that's it. What (NASCAR's) going to do, he's heard about all of the car owners and crew chiefs talking this stuff, the car has to fit in the box. Don't make (NASCAR) react. "What I wanted to do today was to address you, as we have in the past, to give you the heads up that NASCAR will do whatever it feels like it has to do to maintain the confidence of everybody in the garage that everyone is playing on the same playing field," Helton said. "Whether it's intentional or whether it's not intentional, there is a box that you have to fit in, and it's our responsibility to react when it doesn't work right. My assumption of what he said is, "Boys, you could be missing a week. Maybe more." FoxSports/Speed Channel
Latest on Toyota’s move to Nextel Cup One reason for the engine talks is Toyota's planned step up to Nextel Cup racing and worries the Japanese giant - now the world's second biggest car maker - may come in with a significant technological edge. Toyota's NASCAR Cup plans remain a hot button issue in the NASCAR garage, and now there is word that Toyota may have already tested a NASCAR Cup car with one of its NASCAR Truck engines, and that Toyota's racing division is only awaiting word from upper management to launch the program. However, Toyota has just undertaken a massive Formula One effort that could be draining potential NASCAR resources. The Toyota F-1 project could run from $400 million to $700 million a year. While much speculation has been that Honda would follow Toyota into NASCAR racing, there are reports Nissan, instead, might be the second Japanese car maker to make the move into this brand of racing. Winston Salem Journal
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