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DATE News (chronologically)
Monterrey attendance again down  For the third year in a row the promoters for the Monterrey, Mexico Champ Car race have reduced the number of grandstands for 2006.  Based on the seating chart recently published for 2006, the number of grandstands is now less than 50% of what they were when the race debuted in 2001 and is the same number as the recent A1GP race there.  Given the downward trend, if the IRL and Champ Car merge we simply do not see this race making the cut unless someone gives this event a big shot in the arm real soon.

(L to R) 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 Grandstands

2006 Grandstands

Merger issue  A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1.com, how many races do you see in 2007 if the Champ Car/IRL merger happens? Don King, Dallas, TX. Dear Don, Both series currently have 14 races for a total of 28. We believe you would see a 20 to 22 race schedule.  It's interesting that both series continue to negotiate new races.  While that may seem strange given the merger talks, it would make perfect sense if in fact there were to be a two division with playoff arrangement.

With that said, we do believe the goal is a single series with common equipment. We hear the IRL is lobbying for a 2-chassis series and wants Dallara to go head-to-head with Panoz, as they do now in the IRL. This of course would drive costs up but Panoz President Scott Atherton has gone on record as saying they would not stand in the way of a merger even though they have an exclusive contract for the 2007 Champ Car. We believe that a second chassis does absolutely nothing to increase fan appeal and would be a total waste of money, especially if one car turns out better than the other. Then teams who bought the wrong car have to buy the other cars. We fully endorse a multiple engine arrangement, however, as that brings in additional car manufacturers, something that is sorely needed. Mark C.
Champ Car to sanction new Ford Series?  If rumors are to be believed, Ford's Dan Davis would like to start a spec TransAm-like series using souped up versions of the Mustang FR500C (right) raced in the Grand-Am Cup Series.  The $125K FR500C makes 420-HP and this new $200K 550-HP Mustang, the brainchild of Ford Motorsport boss Dan Davis, was lapping Long Beach last weekend just 10 sec. per lap slower than the Daytona Prototypes.  It's a serious race machine that Davis wants to sell to anyone who wants to go racing and has a valid race driving license.  Word is he is talking to Champ Car about possibly sanctioning the series.
Toccacelo to replace Thai Tor Graves  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today as Eurointernational has inked a deal with Toccacelo.

04/13/06 Enrico Toccacelo (last season's A1GP Italy team driver) may take over from Thai Tor Graves (aka Tor Schriavanon > Graves is the name of his Foster parents), due to lack of testing results, at Eurointernational for the World Series by Renault V6 3.5 championship, even before the season starts at Zolder (29-30 April). For the moment only for the first three events (Zolder, Monaco and Istanbul).

Toccacelo will first do a test at Zolder with Eurointernational on Thursday, April 27th. Depending on the result he will decide if he joins the team for the first round at the same circuit that weekend. Last year Toccacelo won the first WS by Renault race at Zolder for Victory Engineering!
If he decides not to do it, it might already open the door for JP de Oliviera at Zolder, winner of the 2005 Japanese F3 championship and at the moment without a drive! If Toccacelo does take the ride, he will be teammate to German driver Pascal Kochem, who's sponsor has helped out with this deal.

If it all doesn't work out, Brazilian Joao Paolo de Oliviera, winner of the 2005 Japanese F3 championship and at the moment without a drive, might be the substitute driver. An announcement will be made shortly!

Carl Haas submit entry for Indy 500?  UPDATE The team is co-owned by John Cummiskey and Mark Shambarger, who have prepared the Indy Racing League cars of Newman Haas Racing, a Champ Car World Series team, the past two 500s. C&S has not settled on a driver, but the car will carry No. 36, the same used by Newman Haas driver Bruno Junqueira the past two years. "It's been an on-again, off-again thing, and this week it looks like it can happen," Cummiskey told the Indy Star. "We haven't promised (any driver) anything; we've just told them what we're trying to do."

"Carl Haas is not behind this effort at all," John Cummiskey told AutoRacing1.com. "It is a totally separate effort other than the fact we may buy some cars from them. We are still doing restoration work for Newman/Haas, however, and we are still looking for sponsorship for our Indy 500 effort. "

04/14/06 Is Carl Haas returning to the Indy 500 in 2006? We hear that Carl is behind the TBA C+S entry on the 2006 Indy 500 entry list. Interesting to also see an entry for Luyendyk Racing - when did Arie become an Indy Car team owner? Who is paying for this?

1) Michael Andretti, Andretti Green Racing
2) Tomas Scheckter, Vision Racing
3) Helio Castroneves, Marlboro Team Penske
4) Vitor Meira, Panther Racing
5) Buddy Lazier, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
6) Sam Hornish Jr., Marlboro Team Penske
7) Bryan Herta, Andretti Green Racing
8) Scott Sharp, Delphi Fernandez Racing
9) Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing
10) Dan Wheldon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing
11) Tony Kanaan, Andretti Green Racing
14) Felipe Giaffone, A.J. Foyt Enterprises
15) Buddy Rice, Rahal Letterman Racing
16) Danica Patrick, Rahal Letterman Racing
17) Jeff Simmons, Rahal Letterman Racing
18) TBA, PDM Racing
20) Ed Carpenter, Vision Racing
21) TBA, Playa Del Racing
22) TBA, Vision Racing
25) Marty Roth, Roth Racing
26) Marco Andretti (R), Andretti Green Racing
27) Dario Franchitti, Andretti Green Racing
31) Al Unser Jr., Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
33) TBA, Target Chip Ganassi Racing
36) TBA, C+S Motorsport
41) Larry Foyt, A.J. Foyt Enterprises
48) TBA, A.J. Foyt Enterprises
51) Eddie Cheever Jr., Cheever Racing
52) TBA, Cheever Racing
55) Kosuke Matsuura, Super Aguri Fernandez Racing
61) Arie Luyendyk Jr., Luyendyk Racing
90) TBA, Vision Racing
91) P.J. Chesson (R), Hemelgarn Racing
92) Jeff Bucknum, Hemelgarn Racing
93) TBA, Hemelgarn Racing
TBA) TBA, Panther Racing
TBA) TBA, Marlboro Team Penske
TBA) TBA, Sam Schmidt Motorsports

Albers likely to stay at 'MF1'  (GMMf1NET)  Christijan Albers' future at 'MF1' appears secure, with team principal Colin Kolles reporting that he is 'happy with our current drivers'.

The chief, however, made special mention of Albers, the 27-year-old Dutchman who is the 2006 teammate for incumbent Tiago Monteiro.

''I think he is one of the strongest drivers in the pit lane,'' Kolles told dailyf1news.com.

''Give him a proper car and he will win races.''

The Midland-owned squad's boss admitted that he is presently talking over the renewal of Albers' single-year contract with manager Lodewijk Varossieau.

Colin Kolles insisted: ''We definitely want to keep him for 2007 if he keeps his current performance level.''

The current problem at Silverstone-based MF1, however, is the car's lack of performance, and constant speculation of owner Alex Shnaider's reluctance to offer a competitive annual budget.

But Kolles said the team is 'working hard' to bridge the gap to rivals.

He added: ''And I am more determined than ever to drive us forward, toward the sharp end of the grid.''

Gascoyne and Williams  (GMMf1NET) Williams' technical director has declined to deny categorically that Toyota refugee Mike Gascoyne might be on the way to the Grove team.

Gascoyne will be on 'gardening leave' until October, but his shock Toyota exit has ignited rumors that his future lies at a British-based team.

So far, the 43-year-old Englishman is also linked speculatively with Midland (Silverstone) and Super Aguri (Leafield), but Frank Williams' Oxfordshire-based camp seems the most likely of the trio.

Moreover, the team seemingly has a key technical appointment available, following the departure last month of designer Jorg Zander.

''If we were to make changes,'' Williams' Sam Michael told f1total.com, ''we would not discuss it publicly.''

Boss to exit in Midland ’crisis’ saga?  UPDATE In view of recent media speculation regarding the future of the team, MF1 Racing wishes to issue the following statement

Over the past week, there have been a number of speculative rumors published in the media, none of which has any basis in fact. MF1's general policy is not to respond to such unfounded rumors, but rather to concentrate on the job at hand. However, in this case we would like to make an exception, in order to re-assure the stakeholders in our team and to clarify the situation for the media. Beyond this, we have no further comment to make on this matter.

MF1 has adequate budget to take an active and competitive part in the championship this season and we are working hard to close the gap between ourselves and our competitors.

Midland Group, our parent organization, has confirmed that the team is not for sale and there are no proposals that this should change. As expected, various approaches have been made, especially in view of the large number of entries for the 2008 championship. Without exception, these have been rejected.

Midland Group has also approved significant further investment in team infrastructure. We are therefore also pleased to announce that the project to upgrade our wind tunnel facility will begin very shortly. This will entail an increase in scale to 50% More ...

What really happened with Briscoe  To everyone's surprise in the off-season, Australian Ryan Briscoe turned down an offer to drive for the Team Australia Champ Car team - Walker Racing but with Australian Craig Gore more or less leasing the team and running it as Team Australia. Gore is responsible for the commercial deals.

Everyone, including us, thought that Briscoe must be off his rocker not to accept the offer after disastrous seasons with Toyota F1 (test driver) and in the IRL with Ganassi Racing. Then when PKV Racing did not pick him up for 2006, Briscoe made a negative comment about PKV Racing that he was notified so late there were no more rides left. As is usually the case, there's more to the story......

According to talk in the Champ Car paddock, Briscoe was assured of the PKV drive until Craig Gore got wind of it. Gore supposedly petitioned PKV boss Kevin Kalkhoven that any Aussie racing in Champ Car would need to be in the Team Australia car, otherwise it would effect his sponsorship ability in Oz. Gore wanted two Australians and that is why veteran Alex Tagliani was rumored to be out of a ride. Gore even threatened to close the team if Kalkhoven signed Briscoe. He apparently figured Briscoe would have to drive for him... Supposedly Briscoe is the best open wheel driver from Oz other than Webber and no one thought he would just sit out the season. So... Kalkhoven finally gave in.

But Briscoe said no way to Team Australia because it was very much a personal thing. If the rumors are to be believed, Briscoe didn't feel Gore had his best interests in mind and was not happy with all the politics going on behind the scenes.

Cat fighting in the NASCAR pits  Greg Biffle's girlfriend faces a reprimand from NASCAR about her pit-road confrontation with Kurt Busch's fiancé after the two drivers wrecked at Texas Motor Speedway. Busch hit the back of Biffle's car early in Sunday's race, causing an accident that ended Biffle's day. Biffle, the defending race winner, had led 49 of the first 82 laps before the crash and wound up 42nd.

Moments after the wreck, TV cameras caught girlfriend Nicole Lunders slamming a water bottle on Biffle's pit box. She then marched down pit road and climbed halfway up Busch's box and had a heated exchange with Eva Bryan. The brief confrontation created a buzz in NASCAR, and the sanctioning body wants to cool down the emotions.

"There will be some conversations that will be had with the people that participated, and we'll make sure that this doesn't carry on and into the garage or anywhere else," Robin Pemberton, vice-president of competition, said Wednesday. "You've got to remember, most everybody in the garage area is friends, and those two girls in particular have a close relationship. Tempers flare, and we'll look at that and we'll make sure it doesn't carry on any further than that." More at Autonet.ca

Schumacher and Renault  (GMMf1NET) Michael Schumacher's manager has admitted to having talks with Renault boss Flavio Briatore.

Faced with the F1 paddock's latest rumor, Willi Weber confessed to the German 'Bild' newspaper that Briatore - who carried Schumacher to title triumph at Benetton in the 90s - has 'shown interest' in snapping up the Ferrari star for 2007.

Seven time world champion Schumacher is refusing to talk about his future beyond 2006 on the grid until the summer.

''Flavio and I often talk to each other,'' Weber was quoted as saying, ''as we have known each other for a long time.''

Regarding their latest chats, however, Schumacher's manager said Briatore made it clear that 'we should talk (again)' prior to any decision to re-sign with the red-colored team.

''(He said) he would probably be interested,'' Weber added.

But the German manager reportedly told Flavio that he is staging serious talks 'with no-one' until Schumacher makes his decision about whether or not to hang up his helmet for good.

'Flav', who turned fifty six this week, has a vacancy at the French-owned Renault team because world champion Fernando Alonso is switching to McLaren.

One of many possible spanners in the works, however, would be Briatore and Renault's refusal to meet Schumacher's huge wage demands.

What’s up with Ranger?  A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I'm a bit confused with the Andrew Ranger situation at Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing.  We keep hearing that he needs to bring more sponsorship money.  Yet, it does not appear that Charles Zwolsman or Ryan Briscoe have brought any money and they are getting seat time.  Why the double standard?  It seems odd considering that Ranger finished 10th in points last year, is sitting 6th in points right now and has brought a sponsor we've actually heard of (Tide) to Champ Car.  Any thoughts?  Chris Silhavey, Stratford, CT

Dear Chris, We believe Zwolsman did bring some money to the table, but we can't speak for Briscoe as we hear he has none.  What must be a real kick in the teeth for Ryan Hunter-Reay is the fact that Briscoe turned down the Team Australia ride and then criticized PKV Racing in the press saying they left him hanging until the 13th hour before turning him down.  Meanwhile Hunter-Reay, who is American and who has actually won Champ Car races, has been completely overlooked and sits without a ride.  The 0.6 overnight TV rating in the USA for Long Beach underscores the fact that Xenophobic American fans really want to see Americans competing for the wins.  With Jimmy Vasser on part-time status, Champ Car only has one, AJ, and he is not a hero yet.  Mark C.

Papis eyes Indy 500 start  Max Papis, a former CART driver who now competes in the Rolex Grand American Series, is rumored to be trying to line up a ride in the 90th Indianapolis 500 in May. He is rumored to be talking with Vision Racing team-owner Tony George and Cheever Indy Racing team-owner Eddie Cheever.
Who are the 22 teams?  UPDATE #6 Besides the 11 current teams on the grid, nine of the other eleven entrants are as follows:

1: Prodrive with Dave Richards
2: Craig Pollock
3: Jean Alesi
4: Eddie Irvine
5: Eddie Jordan
6: Paul Stoddart under the Minardi name
7: Trevor Carlin
8: Racing Engineering
9: Scalabroni (BCN).

As for the final interested parties, it is thought that one is GP2 team, Durango, while the other is the Pakistani A1 GP team of Adam Khan.

04/05/06 A pretty good source tells us that we may not be seeing the full picture for the 22 applications for a F1 team in 2008.  The source says they heard a rumor that Roger Penske has a front man and or might take over Toyota's program.  Mark C.

04/03/06 Speculated below, Spanish GP2 Series team BCN Competicion is now confirmed as one of the 22 teams who have submitted an application.

04/02/06 Eddie Jordan may return to formula one with a team in 2008, according to his former F1 colleague Gary Anderson.

The ex-Jordan technical director told 'Setanta' that he believed the Irishman, Jordan - who sold his Silverstone based team to Midland last year - was one of twenty two teams to meet the FIA's entry deadline.

''As far as I am aware he has put an entry in,'' countryman Anderson said.

The FIA, to allow a maximum of twelve teams, will publish the definitive 2008 formula one entry list on April 28.

04/01/06 Roger Penske told Autosport.com that he was not one of the 22 teams filing an entry for a F1 team.

"At this point, we have a full plate," Penske said. "We've made no commitments to anyone, and I don't think you'll see us with a team in Formula One under the current circumstances."

Penske met in December with Bernie Ecclestone, giving rise to speculation that Penske's team might return to F1, where it competed from 1974 to 1977 with several drivers, including the late Mark Donohue.

"It would be a great opportunity to be in that sport, but right now we just don't see it as an option," Penske said.

"We've got the Indy cars, the long-distance racing with Porsche, and our two NASCAR cars. Our plate is pretty full. If I can't be involved in it directly myself, it really doesn't give me the returns, both personally and from a business perspective."

Arden team owner Christian Horner also told Autosport.com that they were not an entrant.

"I am completely concentrating on Red Bull Racing," he said. "And I think being involved in GP2 and A1 Grand Prix is more than enough for Arden."

04/01/06 'Direxiv' is one of the twenty-two teams vying for a spot in the 2008 formula one championship, according to McLaren boss Ron Dennis.

However, the Briton baulked at claims that the Japanese company - that would be based at McLaren's old Woking factory, using an old McLaren car powered by a Mercedes-Benz engine - was a 'b' McLaren team.

''There is no McLaren b team,'' Ron said in Melbourne.

''(But) I do believe Direxiv have entered the 2008 world championship but it's for them to comment, not me.''

04/01/06 The announcement that the FIA has received 22 entries for 2008 is not really a surprise as there is no real commitment necessary at the moment. The various dossiers need now to be examined by the FIA in order to see who is really sensible - and who is not.

The confirmed applications come from Prodrive and from Paul Stoddart. In addition we believe that Craig Pollock and Eddie Jordan have put in entries and we expect that Eddie Irvine has also made an application. In addition there are a number of GP2 teams which would like to move up into F1. The most likely of these are Racing Engineering from Spain and DPR Direxiv, both of which are believed to have very decent budgets for an F1 programme. The other entries are probably more speculative with the likes of BCN Competicion, ART Grand Prix, Arden International, DAMS, Carlin Motorsport, FMS International and Piquet Sports likely to have taken a punt. Whether or not these organizations can find the money to compete is quite another matter but it will certainly be useful for the FIA that so many teams have tried to join in, as it will allow the federation to show that F1 does not need the car manufacturers. Grandprix.com

[Editor's Note: Recall Max Mosley's claim that Roger Penske was interested in fielding an F1 team.]

Noisy Monza race in doubt  UPDATE #3 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  A serious threat to the running of September's Italian GP has now ended.

With the recent banning of loud noise at Monza, it appeared likely that the historic venue would not be allowed to welcome F1 cars in 2006.

According to local reports, however, a compromise has been reached that will reduce the year-wide ban on noise of more than 70 decibels to just 37 days -- enough for formula one and F3000 to still take place.

F1 cars peak at about 130 decibels, the 'paper said.

'La Gazzetta dello Sport' wrote that the regional Council of Lombardy unanimously amended the ban that had originally been approved by a Milan court.

04/03/06 (GMMf1NET)  A threat to September's Italian grand prix still lingers above Monza.

Despite reports of an out-of-court settlement, the German 'sport1.de' publication claims that the historic venue and local residents are still at odds over the race.

The local residents won a court ruling last November that loud motor races at Monza must be banned unless the sound can be stifled.

And circuit manager Enrico Ferrari was quoted as saying on Sunday that F1, GP2 and Le Mans-style racing can no longer take place with the current court order still in play.

03/27/06 We are downgrading this rumor to 'false' today.   A saga that threatened to disrupt the running of September's Italian grand prix may now be over.

A Milan court recently ruled that Monza, scene of the historic F1 race, reduce the sound of wailing engines or cancel motor sport events.

But Italian newspaper 'La Gazzetta dello Sport' reported at the weekend that Monza's mayor and the group of disgruntled local residents, after a meeting, may have now reached a mutual settlement.

Mayor Michele Faglia told the publication that the agreement would involve the installation of barriers to reduce noise from the Monza track.

03/10/06 (GMMf1NET) September's running of the Italian grand prix has run into serious doubt.

Historic Monza, it is reported, has had to call off an upcoming F3000 race because a recent court order forbids the wail of loud engines at the track.

But a lawyer for Monza, Leandro Cantamessa, was quoted in Gazzetta dello Sport as vowing to fight the complaint of a few local residents.

''It is not a health issue, but (it is) an annoyance issue,'' he argued.

Toro Rosso may stick with V10 in '07  (GMMf1NET)  Dietrich Mateschitz has described as 'hysterical' claims that Toro Rosso's use of a V10 engine in 2006 is unfair to its rivals.

The Red Bull magnate, fifty per cent owner of the former Minardi team, told Motorsport Aktuell that uncompetitive teams should 'get used to the idea' that Faenza is no longer a back of the grid player.

''We are not Minardi,'' Austrian Mateschitz said.

He added: ''Nowhere is it written that we have to be last.''

The 61-year-old also explained that Toro Rosso simply did not have enough time to equip its car with a V8.

''We took over an existing contract that was made between Paul Stoddart and (Cosworth's) Kevin Kalkhoven.  We would rather have had a V8.''

But he warned that ditching the current V10 is not a certainty for 2007.  ''We would have to clarify it with Kalkhoven that we would get the same equipment as Williams,'' said Dieter.

VW alliance 'unlikely' for Red Bull  (GMMf1NET)  Red Bull magnate Dietrich Mateschitz has tempered his search for a works F1 carmaker partner by insisting that having one will be 'less important' after 2008.

Already signed on for Max Mosley's lower-cost future, the Austrian billionaire was thought keen on bringing Volkswagen into the paddock.

The customer engine contracts with Ferrari (Red Bull) and Cosworth (Toro Rosso) run to the end of 2007.

''Cooperating with a manufacturer would be good,'' Mateschitz told Motorsport Aktuell, ''but in 2008, 2009 and 2010 it will be less important than in the past.''

He is no doubt also referring to the FIA's current plan to 'freeze' engine development.

'Didi' added: ''So it will not be so crucial (in the future) as to whether you can win that you get your engine through a partnership, rather than simply buying (one).''

He added that Volkswagen and Audi are unlikely to get involved in F1 any time soon.

Singapore ripe for its own F1 race  UPDATE #5 This BBC article has a bit more on the rumored Singapore F1 race, now thought to probably be a street race.

04/11/06 The possibility of a grand prix in Singapore is revving up, with the southeast Asian country's government now admitting to 'actively looking at' a proposal to host a 2008 race.

Following the verbal interest of F1 power-players Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone, Singapore's minister for Trade and Industry told 'Today' newspaper that the government is contemplating allocating money for the project.

Lim Hng Kiang said: ''This is a very important proposition and we have to study the full impact and make a proper evaluation.''

He added that, in densely populated Singapore, allocating land for a F1 circuit is a 'very big decision', while a street track has also been mooted.

''It's not an easy evaluation to make,'' said the minister, undoubtedly mindful that South Africa, Mexico, Russia and India are also eyeing F1's calendar of the future.

04/05/06 AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that Singapore is a serious project and should happen if the money can be agreed upon. Other rumors suggest Malaysia will go away before their contract is up because the race is losing a lot of money. Singapore might replace it as early as 2008.

04/04/06 (GMMf1NET) Max Mosley has added another voice of power to Singapore's apparent bid for a formula one race.

With F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone already admitting the possibility, the sport's governing body president - Mosley - says the Asian country would be a 'welcome addition' to the calendar.

The FIA chief told newspaper 'Today': ''Singapore is a vibrant business region with a huge motorsport fan base.

''If the infrastructure and financial commitment is in place, then it is always possible that Singapore could host a grand prix.''

A Monaco-like street circuit would be the most likely venue. More ...

Suzuka sellout  (GMMf1NET)  Tickets to October's Japanese grand prix at Suzuka may already have sold out, according to reports.

With Fuji set to take over the race's running from 2007, pitpass.com said that most grandstand seats were snapped up within fifteen minutes of going on sale.

The F1 circuit's website revealed that tickets went on sale on Sunday.

Honda-owned Suzuka has hosted the Japanese grand prix since 1987.  Fuji Speedway is 93.4 per cent owned by Toyota.

Valencia’s F1 bid gathers momentum  UPDATE [Editor's Note: We are upgrading this rumor to 'strong' but we suspect this is the usual Bernie Ecclestone threat of an alternate race to get a better deal with Barcelona, the current holder of the Spanish GP rights. Whenever a race contract is due for renewal soon, another possible alternate race suddenly appears on the scene.]

Valencia will stage formula one races from 2009, according to reports in the Spanish press.

At the circuit's unique stand-alone GP2 season opener on the weekend, notable guest and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone was spotted with local dignitaries, and has been quoted praising the soon-to-be rejuvenated F1 test track.

''GP2's drivers are knocking on formula one's door,'' regional sports secretary David Serra told the BBC, ''and we are also.''

Reports in Spain claim that Ecclestone, 75, verbally told Valencia president Francisco Camps that the first grand prix could be run in 2009, but that no contract has yet been signed.

The crucial subject of money, too, is not thought to have been broached in detail, but more meetings between Bernie and Camps are planned.

04/10/06 (GMMf1NET)  A couple of familiar faces popped up in Valencia (Spain) last week.

While Giancarlo Fisichella, Heikki Kovalainen and Alain Prost added to the celebrity list at the GP2 season opener, two more F1 celebrities had the most eyebrows raised -- Flavio Briatore, and Bernie Ecclestone.

Interestingly, their itinerary was not confined to F1's little open-wheeling brother.  Together, Bernie and Flav accompanied dignitaries including Valencia president Francisco Camps and mayoress Rita Barbera to the nearby America's Cup (yachting) village.

The news comes after the revelation that the twisty 'Ricardo Tormo' layout at Valencia - already a popular F1 test venue - will be modified for a future GP bid.

'Rossi will switch to F1'  UPDATE Valentino Rossi's hugely speculated switch to F1 has been backed by a motorcycle chief.

'KTM' team boss Heinz Kinigadner told 'Die Presse' that he reckons the authoritarian MotoGP champion will eventually race a Ferrari.

''I believe he will,'' Kinigadner said.

''What has he got to wait for in bike racing?  To be beaten by a faster, younger rival?''

27-year-old Rossi would likely have to take a pay-cut to make the switch, but Kinigadner is adamant that the Italian does not ride for money.

But the man himself is not sure if it's worth the gamble.  ''It's a big risk for Ferrari,'' Rossi admitted to Gazzetta dello Sport, ''(but) not as big as it is for me.''

Amid speculation that some at Ferrari are now less keen on the idea, Rossi said he would announce his plans in June.

04/08/06 MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi has once again insisted that the F1 world will be made aware of his future plans by June at the latest.

The charismatic Italian bike rider has taken part in numerous testing sessions with Ferrari over the past eighteen months, and speculation is rife that Rossi could join the Scuderia in time for next season.

The media have become obsessed with ascertaining the veracity of such talk, but Rossi is remaining coy.

"We will know something between here and June," he told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"I have tried not to think about it for a while, that way I will have a clearer mind when I have to make the decision."

Industry News
GM to sell Isuzu  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  General Motors Corp. today announced it would sell its 7.9 percent equity stake in Isuzu Motors Ltd. The commercial partnership between GM and Isuzu will continue.

03/29/06 General Motors acknowledged today that it is discussing the possible sale of Isuzu Motors Ltd. shares owned by GM in a private transaction. Isuzu is a core alliance partner with which GM has many long-term mutually beneficial projects and the level of activity between the two companies continues to increase.  GM

Rahal hints at IRL departure  In this exclusive interview with AutoRacing1.com, Bobby Rahal hints that his future in IndyCar racing is in jeopardy. He insinuates that other team owners are thinking along the same lines if there isn't a merger of Champ Car and the IRL this time.

"If it [the two series] doesn't come together, as a team owner, I can't see how I can invest in something where there's no reward and a lot of risk. I don't mean physical risk, I mean financial risk.

"For the sake of open-wheel racing, and I don't think I'm the only team owner that's feeling this way, it's just way too much financial risk for way too little reward in the current scenario." Read the full interview for more.

Rahal eyes Indy Pro start  In this exclusive interview with AutoRacing1.com, Bobby Rahal hints that Champ Car Atlantic driver Graham Rahal will likely drive an Indy Pro car in the Indy Pro race to be held during the USGP this year.  Because he is not yet 18-years old, he is precluded from driving in the Indy Pro Series.  However, the race held in conjunction with the USGP does not have such a restriction.
Aussies losing interest in F1?  According to a survey conducted in Australia, a disappointing number of people watched the Australian Grand Prix on television.  The Roy Morgan Sports Monitor found that 4.9 million Australians aged 14 and over watched the race broadcast, the lowest audience of all Melbourne's big sporting events.

The race attracted less than half the 10 million-plus audiences of the Melbourne Cup and Australian Open men's tennis final, and was well down on the nine million who watched the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony.

Only 565,000 Australians watched all of the race, compared to almost one million who watched all of the next day's AFL match between Collingwood and Adelaide.

Yates, Jarrett and Toyota  UPDATE #4 There is still no word on which drivers Toyota might back, but Toyota may be making a run at car owner Joe Gibbs, with hopes of persuading the veteran Chevy man, and his three-man team of #20-Tony Stewart, #11-Denny Hamlin and #18-J. J. Yeley, to jump to the Camry brigade, according to sources. Chevy's Kevin Harvick continues to be a focal point of Toyota speculation. However, there is word that Harvick may be under consideration by Ford's Jack Roush for a driving job next season, though Harvick insists "I've not talked with Jack Roush, and I don't know Geoff Smith (Roush's contract attorney)." Smith was not here to discuss the situation, and Roush demurred: "I hear Toyota goes with Kevin Harvick, and there's not a Toyota in my future. What I do know, is Toyota just hired (engineer) John Propst from Ford, and that gives Toyota access to everything all the Ford teams have known about the engineering of the cars, and that's a cheeky move by Toyota, and it's certainly a coup for Toyota. The thing that is more distressing is Toyota is in position to make their own tires, with its relationship with Bridgestone....And I've heard Toyota has acquired 100 acres of land in Charlotte to put together a test track." Winston Salem Journal

04/09/06 When Red Bull Racing debuts their two Toyota teams at Daytona in February of 2007, rumor has it the organization is looking to pair a rookie with a veteran, taking an approached used by Evernham Motorsports with Dodge. Veterans on the Red Bull list are said to be Kevin Harvick and Dale Jarrett. No word on a rookie, but it could easily be an accomplished veteran from another of the Motorsports arenas. CircleTrackPlus

04/08/06 The new NASCAR Nextel Cup Toyota operation that is being backed by Red Bull "has opened the checkbook," according to one top Ford man, who points to Red Bull's hiring of John Propst, a top Ford Motor Company vehicle dynamics specialist, and the hiring of a top Dodge engineer from the Ray Evernham camp for its new stock-car racing team. General Motors executives are anxiously watching their own key engineers for any similar defections. Elsewhere on the Toyota-NASCAR front, Toyota has made a bid to sign a two-year contract with Dale Jarrett, the tour's 1999 champion and a three-time Daytona 500 winner. Jarrett's contract with car owner Robert Yates is up at the end of this season. While it has been unclear for several months if Yates and Jarrett could come to new terms, Ford officials said Yates is offering Jarrett a contract similar to the Toyota deal. Winston Salem Journal

03/25/06 Dale Jarrett reaffirmed his plan to race through the 2008 season but revealed there's a chance he could finish his NASCAR career outside Robert Yates Racing. "Some of the other offers coming my way have kind of a two-year deal, so that's when I started looking at (2008)," said Jarrett, whose contract is up at the end of the season with Yates, his home since 1995. "I think the high probability is that I'll be right where I'm at." The 1999 champion hopes to settle on his future by the end of May. USA Today

03/20/06 Robert Yates' racing program this season has gotten off to a surprisingly weak start, in comparison with Ford teammate owner Jack Roush. That is raising rumors with the season less than two months old. Dale Jarrett, in the last year of his contract with Yates, may soon become the topic of the speculation, particularly if Toyota - which is wooing Bill Elliott - takes a gander. Jarrett, 49, says he wants to drive at least one more year with Yates. Jarrett, the 1999 Cup champion and three-time Daytona 500 winner, is considered one of this sport's consummate spokesmen. Winston Salem-Journal

Midland eyes ex-Toyota designer  Rumors out of Europe suggest that MF1 Racing have expressed an interest in the services of recently fired Toyota F1 designer Mike Gascoyne.  Of course that will not be until November as Gascoyne is currently out on gardening leave until his contract runs out.
Three European races face possible axe  UPDATE The immediate future of the Nurburgring's formula one race is secure.

That is the message of Walter Kafitz, managing director of the German circuit in the Eifel mountains that traditionally holds the annual European grand prix.

Current speculation says that Valencia, in Spain, could possibly be drafted in by F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone to grab the spot on the 2007 calendar.

But Kafitz, in Auto Motor Und Sport, referred to the Nurburgring's F1 contract, valid until 2008.

''For another three years formula one will be at the Nurburgring,'' he insisted, despite earlier hinting at a possible scheme to alternate the German race each year with financially embattled Hockenheim.

Nurburgring will host the 2006 European GP on May 7.

03/21/06 Bernie Ecclestone has warned that at least three European races could face the axe from the world championship calendar.

Ecclestone said that with the growing number of countries vying to host events, the only solution would be to lose some of the existing organizers in the 18-race calendar.

"We have several host candidates, more than we can meet, and we can't increase the calendar endlessly," Ecclestone told French sports daily L'Equipe.

"There are two Grands Prix in Italy, two in Germany ... more or less two in France if you consider that Monaco and France are related. I think that three Grands Prix could disappear without any problem."

Ecclestone said that even stalwarts like Monaco and Monza, which have been part of the circuit since the world championship series began, were not safe.

Asked if Monaco could disappear from the calendar, Ecclestone said: "That could happen, even if I don't wish it. Anything is always possible."

And he did not rule out a system of rotating Grand Prix events.

"Nothing is impossible but I don't envisage this solution. Rotation isn't viable for organizers. But on the other hand sooner or later it will be necessary to agree to lose certain Grand Prix."

Super Aguri to sack Ide  UPDATE Japanese rookie Yuji Ide's future on the F1 grid is on shaky ground.

Following three spin-filled and uncompetitive debut grands prix for Super Aguri in 2006, the 31-year-old Japanese could be shown the door after the upcoming Imola race.

''Unfortunately, since Bahrain, Ide has not improved as strongly as we had hoped,'' team manager Daniele Audetto was quoted as saying by the focus.msn.de publication.

Adding, however, that a replacement will not be lined up before the San Marino event, he said: ''We could replace him soon.''

Unlike fellow 2006 rookies Nico Rosberg and Scott Speed, Ide - who has lagged multiple seconds behind teammate Takuma Sato's pace - zoomed onto the F1 scene and debuted in Bahrain with very little mileage under his belt.

Before Yuji gets the boot, F1 team newcomer Super Aguri will let him run at the bumper Barcelona test this week.

Should Ide fail to make strides at Imola, though, Aguri is likely to try another Japanese rookie at the wheel, like Formula Nippon champion Satoshi Motoyama.

Honda tester Anthony Davidson is seen by some as a possibility, but relations between Super Aguri and partner Honda appear to have soured.

04/09/06 Super Aguri number two Yuji Ide (right) has just one more race to prove that he is up to Formula 1 standard, according to a report on autosport.com.  Now Super Aguri team manager Daniele Audetto says, “To be honest with you, we are lucky he did not crash the car yet,” Audetto told autosport.com.

“We will give him a full test in Barcelona before Imola and then we can assess him with more time and also fairness, to give him a good chance to prove that he is good.

"San Marino will be tough too, but giving him a full day in Barcelona I think we should see the potential in full at Imola.

"Otherwise, we will have to take consequences because we cannot have a driver who is two seconds a lap slower (than Sato)."

Schu to stick around in 2007  (GMMf1NET) Michael Schumacher will stick around in formula one beyond this year, according to a 'high ranking' member of his team.

The German's current contract runs out at the end of 2006, but the Ferrari player told Germany's 'Welt am Sonntag' that Schumacher, 37, 'will continue'.

The newspaper did not name the vocal Ferrari team member, but he was also quoted as saying that the seven time title winner had 'had enough' of the constant speculation about his future.

Schumacher will not formally announce his decision until mid-season.

The source said: ''It appears that no one has realized that (Michael) can't imagine a life without racing.

''He wants to race and he will race.''

After a mixed opening stint to the 2006 season, Schumacher and Ferrari will be hoping for a turnaround on Italian soil next weekend.

Michael cancelled his planned trip back home to Switzerland to try a revised package at Vallelunga last week, including a new engine spec and the full evaluation of cooler-weather Bridgestone tires.

Revealing that he will also test this week in Barcelona, he told La Gazzetta dello Sport: ''Compared to the first races, Imola is another world.''

Honda still eyeing ALMS?  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today.  We hear that Honda will announce a 2-car entry into the ALMS LMP2 class at the upcoming NY Auto Show.  They will use Lola chassis' we hear. 03/09/06 Honda's Robert Clarke was quoted as saying in this week's IRL media conference that "Honda's racing historically has been focused on technology.  Having not been directly involved with NASCAR, I think it's probably unfair for us to say that their technology is dumbed-down or at a lower level, but it's clearly a different kind of technology."

Does this lend credibility to a rumor that Honda will join the American LeMans Series, perhaps for 2007? Both pride themselves on embracing the upper levels of technology.

Seen in Long Beach - VII  UPDATE Also here from Ford was motorsports boss Dan Davis, Senior VP Anne Stevens and Cosworth's commercial Director Bernd Ferguson. Speculation is that talk is about an equitable engine formula that both Ford and Honda can live with in a merged series scenario.

Honda has no competition in the current scenario. Though not happy with the lack of competition, they also realize head-to-head battles for supremacy against other manufacturers is not in the cards given the current economic climate.

Therefore, the solution is simple - the Grand-Am concept. As we have stated previously, with the same ECU, put the 2.65 L Honda turbo and the 2.65 L Ford Cosworth on the dyno. Compare their HP and torque curves. Tweak the engines so both curves are essentially equal and then lock the engines down. Blueprint them and do not allow any changes....just rebuilds. With equal engines Ford and Honda should win their fair share of races without the worry that one will outspend their other to gain a HP advantage. Would Honda agree to such a restricted scenario? What competition do they have now in the IRL?

You decide.

04/09/06 Honda's Robert Clarke is here today at the Long Beach race as meetings continue toward a possible merger. We are hearing that NASCAR folks are working behind the scenes to kill any merger. Having benefitted immensely from the split, why would they want a serious competitor. The conspiracy theorists have said all along that the folks in Daytona want to kill off open wheel racing, though they would never admit that publicly.
Gentilozzi eyeing driver for 2nd car  UPDATE #4 AutoRacing1.com has learned that the Pastorelli deal with Rocketsports was verbally agreed to this morning and will be signed after today's race. 04/09/06 Nicky Pastorelli is said to have signed to drive the second Rocketsports car the remainder of the year, we presume alongside Pizzonia should his sponsorship come through.  We will try to confirm this today.  When we spoke to him and his manager on Friday they were waiting to meet with Paul Gentilozzi, and they both expressed confidence a deal could be done.  They told AutoRacing1.com that Pastorelli would be testing in Portland this week with Rocketsports. 

04/07/06 The No. 8 Rocketsports Pizzonia car is sporting NKN sponsorship this morning - National Karting News. There is also some other minor sponsorship as noted below.

04/05/06 The latest rumor is that if Rocketsports only has one deal signed by Long Beach they will likely sign Nicky Pastorelli for the remainder of the season in  a second car.  They are also planning on testing him at Portland next week.  If true, this may mean that Dale Coyne will put Jan Heylen in their 2nd car alongside da Matta.  We have updated our 2006 Champ Car Silly Season pageMark C.

03/29/06 As to why only one car for Rocketsports at Long Beach, Paul Gentilozzi told AutoRacing1.com, "With only one business deal done properly for sponsorship the right thing to do was wait until it could be completed. We have a commitment to our fans to run 18 cars and PKV had already committed to run Jimmy at Long Beach. We [Rocketsports] will pick up the remaining slack at Houston.

"I think very highly of Rocky Moran Jr. (pictured right)and would like to have a chance to run him. We were very close last fall."

Johannson eyeing Champ Car return?  Former Champ Car team owner Stefan Johannson is rumored to be eyeing a return to Champ Car and this morning he was seen by AutoRacing1.com having breakfast with Kevin Kalkhoven.
Seen in Long Beach - VI  AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that ticket sales for this weekend's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach are up at least 10% over last year and a huge crowd is expected on Sunday. The Friday attendance was very healthy and wait lines at most of the downtown dining establishments were and hour or more last night.......We spotted Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon together again, this time taking in the sights of the electric downtown of Long Beach with smiles on their face and knowing they want to be a part of this some day.
Timo Glock in career-ending move  Looking over the results of the first GP2 race today, as well as pre-season testing where he was usually beaten by his less experienced teammate, it's clear Timo Glock's move from Champ Car to GP2 could spell the end of his career.  After winning rookie of the year in Champ Car and impressing a lot of team bosses, on Saturday in GP2 he started 23rd and finished 16.  This kind of performance won't have any F1 bosses knocking down his door.
Champ Car expects 20% increase, new TV deal  Q and A with Champ Car president Steve Johnson:

Q: This year, you’ve got the most race telecasts (seven) on network TV since ’02, with eight more on Speed Channel. What can we expect for next year and beyond?

A: We’re in negotiations right now for (’07). Obviously, I’d love for us to be every weekend on network, but it’s also very expensive to do that. We’re working with partners; Speed has been a partner with us and NBC and CBS are our partners.

Q: How important is network coverage, as opposed to cable coverage, in growing the sport?

A: I think it’s very important. They’re great partners for us. We’re not abandoning cable, but obviously the networks are extremely important to the sponsors. From a numbers standpoint, you seem to get better ratings (on network) and it’s a bigger audience that you can potentially reach. We’re happy with Speed. They’ve been great partners with us, and as a matter of fact they’re going to be re-airing all the network races (this season) as well. I think you’re going to see us increase our TV numbers by 20% probably this year versus last year.  The Daily

Seen in Long Beach - III  UPDATE #2 Ronnie Bremer is here with his Qbic7 folks still looking to put some sort of Champ Car deal together.

04/07/06 The Otaru, Japan contingent is here in Long Beach and they are getting closer to putting a deal together for a Champ Car race....Tide is the primary sponsor on Ranger's car, Mi-Jack on Zwolsman, Optium on Legge, Gulfstream on Servia, Bell Micro on Vasser, Hole in the Wall Gang on Junqueira, and blank sidepods on Allmendinger.

04/07/06 Both CTE-Racing HVM cars are sporting "A Bird and A Bear Entertainment" company sponsorship. Both Dan Clarke's and Nelson Philippe's car are painted identical - gray with yellow and red highlights. This may be the new team sponsor that Keith Wiggins alluded to a week or so ago. ......Ran into Nicky Pastorelli and his manager who are both hopeful that Nicky will be in the second Rocketsports car by Houston. We kidded around about a possible race in Holland someday now that there might be two Dutch drivers in the series. Nicky said it would be huge. He hears the A1GP race at Zandvoort has sold most of their grandstand tickets already, such is the love of racing by the Dutch.

Two more cars for Houston  There are 29 cars/drivers looking to qualify this weekend for the Atlantic Series and we have it on very good word that there will be 31 by Houston.
Martinsville days numbered?  UPDATE International Speedway Corp. Chief Operating Officer John Saunders says the company has no plans to move any of its NASCAR Nextel Cup races from Martinsville Speedway and California Speedway. 

Answering questions during a conference call with financial analysts to discuss the company's first-quarter financial results, Saunders today said that "We have stated previously that realignment, which is a NASCAR initiative, is something that we're very interested in and that we would look in time to markets that are saturated, smaller markets and where we have opportunities to go to larger, underserved markets," Saunders said. "But having said all of that, there are no plans sitting here today to do anything with Martinsville's schedule in 2006, 2007 and no plans beyond that at this point"

04/01/06 Might Martinsville Speedway lose one of its two NASCAR Cup dates to Las Vegas next season? Speculation is growing that something like that might be in the works. If so, Martinsville's fall race - in the middle of NASCAR's championship chase - might be the chip on the table between the France family and Bruton Smith.  Winston Salem Journal

[Editor's Note:  Given the limited seating capacity of Martinsville compared to the larger tracks, its days appear numbered - certainly it has no business having two races.]

Toyota's F1 future cloudy  Recall our rumor from Wednesday that Roger Penske could take over the Toyota F1 team.  According to a report in Autosport magazine, Toyota boss John Howett wants the sports governing body to clarify a few things, mainly that manufacturers are indeed welcome in the sport after such a big push for independent outfits to join as they are, in FRIA boss Max Mosley’s opinion, the backbone of the sport.

"It's all very unclear at the moment. Are we welcome or not? If we really are not welcome, it should be said publicly. The FIA has got to understand that we are being asked to commit to Formula One until the end of 2012 without giving any indication of whether we are wanted,” Howett told Autosport.

“Using technology doesn't always mean more cost, it can mean the opposite,” he explained.  "If F1 can't remain the pinnacle, then the board will have to decide on the company's participation."

Weidlinger to enter car in Indy 500  Rick Weidlinger, owner of the USA A1GP team, is rumored to be preparing a 1-car entry into this year's Indy 500 with a former Indy 500 winner and race legend as a driver, reports Autosport.  It is thought that Al Unser Jr. may get the ride.
Belgian eyes Champ Car  UPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement that Dale Coyne has signed Heylen.

03/19/06 AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that Jan Heylen is the best funded driver of all looking for a Champ Car ride and will either get the 2nd seat at HVM alongside Nelson Philippe or perhaps end up at Mi-Jack Conquest Racing alongside Charles Zwolsman or even with Dale Coyne. We originally had Heylen rumored at HVM alongside Philippe until recent news that Ronnie Bremer was back in the picture. Mi-Jack Conquest team boss Eric Bachelart is also Belgian, not that that matters........We will know for sure on Monday as CTE/HVM has a press conference scheduled.   We have updated our 2006 Champ Car Silly Season page above.

11/29/05 2005 Eurocup Megane Trophy Champion Jan Heylen (Pictured right) is to test with the Mi-Jack Conquest Racing Champ Car team with a view to competing in the 2006 Champ Car World Series. 25 year old Heylen from Belgium will test a Mi-Jack Conquest Racing Lola at the Sebring Raceway, Florida on December 12th 2005.

Jan Heylen: "This test is going to be great. I can't wait to be racing single seaters again. I have to thank Eric Bachelart for this chance.

"Champ Car is growing stronger every year both competitively and commercially. My management team Goman, headed by Rick Gorne who has enjoyed success with Mark Gene, Anthony Davidson, Jean Alesi, Alex Zanardi, Gil de Ferran among others. Rick is pushing hard for an opportunity for me to race in the Champ Car World Series in 2006. It is nice to know that my abilities have been recognized with this offer of a test."

Belgian based company Berghoff, who is one of the partners in this project are working hard to bring other partners on board to make the 2006 season a successful one.

Eric Bachelart, Mi-Jack Conquest Racing Co-owner, "I am looking forward to giving this opportunity to a fellow countryman, it is a great way for Jan to finish what has been a great season for him."

In 2005 Jan competed in the Eurocup Mégane Trophy as part of the World Series by Renault event weekend. His dominant displays produced 6 wins, 4 pole positions. As well as his racing commitments he continued to be the development driver for the Mygale F3 car. Prior to the 2005 season Jan has competed in International F3000, Euroseries F3 and German F3 as well as winning the Formula Ford Festival and multiple National and International Karting titles.

Dale Coyne’s 2nd driver  UPDATE #4 This rumor is now 'fact' -see Hot News page for announcement on Heylen.

04/05/06 Dale Coyne tells us that either Nicky Pastorelli or Jan Heylen will indeed be in his 2nd car at Long Beach.  "Both did a good job when we tested them."  As to when we will know which driver, he tells us perhaps Thursday or as late as Friday.

03/29/06 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today (for the da Matta rumor). See da Matta announcement on Hot News page. Pastorelli was not announced today but he will test today with the team.  Coyne said - "We're still looking at a couple different people.  We're testing Nicky Pastorelli today, and there's still some other people that we're looking at, too, so we'll see how it all evolves.  I would hope we'd have that done by the end of this week." 

03/28/06 Dale Coyne will announce his 2-driver lineup Wednesday - expected to be Cristiano da Matta and Nicky Pastorelli.

03/26/06 Yesterday we reported that Nicky Pastorelli is on his way from Holland to sign a 2-year deal to drive with Dale Coyne Racing.  Today we can rumor (very strong) that Brazilian Cristiano da Matta will drive alongside Pastorelli, giving the team perhaps its strongest 2-car driver lineup in its history.  We await the official announcements.

NBC tries to embarrass NASCAR  NASCAR said it was "outrageous" that "Dateline NBC" targeted one of its race tracks last weekend for a possible segment on anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States.

NASCAR said NBC confirmed it was sending Muslim-looking men to a race, along with a camera crew to film fans' reactions. The NBC crew was "apparently on site in Martinsville, Va., walked around and no one bothered them," NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said Wednesday.

"It is outrageous that a news organization of NBC's stature would stoop to the level of going out to create news instead of reporting news," Poston said.

"Any legitimate journalist in America should be embarrassed by this stunt. The obvious intent by NBC was to evoke reaction, and we are confident our fans won't take the bait," he said.  ThatsRacin.com

Flavio the Playboy  Renault's Flavio Briatore is forever in the news with beautiful women. According to a recent New York Post article, Briatore recently bought a $25-million apartment in New York City’s Plaza Hotel. When it is finished in a few months, he is expected to move from the $11-million One Beacon Court apartment he bought last January. The 55 year old, is quoted as saying, “I like younger girls. Girls over 32 are way too aggressive.” He split with Heidi Klum recently, who was carrying his child, after he was caught in bed with a 19-year-old model.
Champ Car ticket sales up  Our sources are telling us that a good number of Champ Car events are well ahead of last year's advance ticket sales numbers.  We are hearing that there may be some news soon on a new international event.
Major shakeup at Toyota  UPDATE #2 Toyota confirmed bombshell reports on Wednesday morning that said Mike Gascoyne had left the formula one team.

A statement said the technical director had been 'suspended' because of a 'fundamental difference of opinion'.

43-year-old Gascoyne, who switched from Renault in 2003, could be the first high-profile casualty of the Japan-owned carmaker's poor start to the 2006 season.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that it may be part of a wider reshuffle, with Pascal Vasselon tipped to take over Gascoyne's top job.

04/04/06 Mike Gascoyne has left his post as technical director for the Toyota Formula 1 team.

The Englishman’s exit is thought to be part of a major shake-up in the management and technical departments at the team, according to sources close to ITV-F1.com.

The nature of Gascoyne’s departure remains undisclosed.

He is believed to have been at odds with some of Toyota’s more senior decision-makers and was not expected to remain with the team beyond the end of his contract, which would have ended this year anyway.

[Editor's Note:  Is this surprising?  Gascoyne's cars are always slow.]

04/04/06 The word on the street on Tuesday was that there has been a major shake-up at Panasonic Toyota Racing with our sources saying that technical director (chassis) Mike Gascoyne has departed the team. We contacted Gascoyne to see if there was a story. He is saying nothing at all beyond "No comment" and by default one must assume that there is a problem because in normal circumstances Gascoyne would swat away such rumors. More at Grandprix.com
Simmons to take over Dana ride  UPDATE This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact' today - see Hot News page for announcement.

03/31/06 According to this article at ESPN.com, Rahal Letterman Racing is preparing to announce that Indy Pro Series veteran Jeff Simmons will replace the late Paul Dana in the No. 17 Ethanol Honda/Panoz for the rest of the 2006 IndyCar season, ESPN.com has learned. 

Team owner Bobby Rahal was unavailable for comment. The three-time CART National Champion and winner of the 1986 Indianapolis 500 is in China watching his son, Graham, participate in the A1GP race at the Shanghai circuit.

"Plans for the Ethanol car are undecided at this time," stated Ray Leto, acting general manager of Rahal Letterman Racing. "Bobby is out of the country this week, but he has been conferring with the sponsor and making progress on a replacement driver. We expect to finalize matters when Bobby returns early next week."

NASCAR Nextel sponsorship in jeopardy?  UPDATE Sprint Nextel officials Tuesday reiterated the company's commitment to NASCAR despite the recent merger of the two companies and the pending departure of two marketing executives who handled Sprint Nextel's management of its Nextel Cup sponsorship. Mark Schweitzer, the chief marketing officer from Sprint Nextel, said the company has no plans to back away from its 10-year deal (reportedly $75 million per year) that began in 2004 to sponsor the Nextel Cup Series. Schweitzer said there are not many outs in the contract and added that the sponsorship cannot be transferred and it cannot be sold. Sprint Nextel also has contracts with the tracks and is also committed to spend an undisclosed amount of advertising in conjunction with the sponsorship. Sprint and Nextel completed their merger in 2005, and the series name is expected to change. Schweitzer said original plans called for a decision on whether to make a name change by last February, but that decision has been delayed until "the middle of this year. We want to make sure that, if we were to make a change, it isn't detrimental to the equity that we've built up, particularly in support of our Nextel product," Schweitzer said. Schweitzer was speaking an attempt to dispel questions about the company's commitment to the sport with the pending departure of Michael Robichaud, vice president for sports marketing and Nextel Cup program marketing manager Jill Gregory. Gregory is going to Bank of America to help activate its NASCAR sponsorships, while Robichaud plans to pursue other opportunities. NASCAR Daily Scene 04/03/06 A major shakeup appears under way in the Sprint-Nextel sports department with two top players leaving, and that has the NASCAR garage abuzz with questions about the company's future in NASCAR stock-car racing. Jill Gregory, the director of NASCAR Nextel Series marketing since 2004, is leaving to join Bank of America's new NASCAR marketing operation. And Michael Robichaud, vice-president of sports marketing for Sprint-Nextel, and formerly Nextel's director of sports and entertainment marketing, is also leaving, though his next job is up in the air. And there is intense speculation here that Sprint-Nextel's chairman, Tim Donahue, who made the original deal with NASCAR before last year's merger, may be leaving, too. All that increases speculation that officials on the Sprint side of the company are taking control from all the key Nextel people. Sources here say that might not be good for NASCAR, because they say Sprint executives generally aren't fond of NASCAR and might try to unload the $70 million a year, 10-year sponsorship, perhaps by selling it to another company. Winston Salem Journal
Montagny to GP2?  After being turned down in Champ Car because he did not have enough money to be a ride-buyer (he certainly is fast enough), Frank Montagny has been invited by Giancarlo Fisichella to drive one of his GP2 cars at the Valencia test on Wednesday. Fisichella has always praised the young French driver for his proven test driving skills and took the opportunity to ask Montagny for some professional advice.  "Both of our FMS International drivers," said Giancarlo Fisichella, "have no previous experience on the tricky Spanish circuit and I have asked Frank to help them with set-up guidance for the first GP2 round"

Might this be the open door Montagny needs into GP2?

A1GP to add night race  "A night race is on the cards for next year," Sheikh Maktoum bin Hasher bin Maktoum al Maktoum told autosport.com. "Not that much lighting is needed actually.

"I got lied to the first time round. Someone said it could cost us five million dollars. Do I look like I have stupid written on my forehead? Then they told me it was actually half a million dollars. Ooops I added a zero? How did that happen?

"I think we will throw one in there. It is better for weather and it would be great to see the glowing disc brakes on these cars.

"If we could go somewhere that was really, really hot then we should make it at night. Malaysia, Dubai and Indonesia are three like that."

Kimi's $5m Ferrari pledge  (GMMf1NET) No matter where his future lies, Kimi Raikkonen will be a winner in 2007.

It is reported by the 'sport1.de' publication that McLaren's Finn has already signed an agreement with Ferrari regarding next year's formula one championship.

In the contract, reportedly, is a $5 million clause, guaranteeing the 26-year-old either Michael Schumacher's number one seat, or the tasty payout of 5 million dollars.

Speed, DC, nearly came to blows  (GMMf1NET)  Scott Speed and David Coulthard nearly came to blows during their meeting with the stewards at Albert Park, it has been revealed.

Paul Gutjahr, an FIA representative who was present in the stewards' room, told the Swiss 'Blick' newspaper that as Toro Rosso's Californian rookie said 'f**k you!' to Coulthard, a fist fight 'nearly' broke out.

''Luckily, the Scot (Coulthard, 34), held himself back,'' said Gutjahr.

If not acceptable, 23-year-old Speed's reaction was perhaps understandable.  He had just told the media that driving into parc ferme with a maiden point had been the 'most emotional experience of my life'.

''My whole team was on the fence cheering like I won the race,'' he enthused.

''It was like a victory.''

The affair has been a PR calamity for the energy drink company, with billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz owning both Toro Rosso and Coulthard's senior team.

''Just to make one point clear,'' read a Red Bull Racing document, ''Red Bull Racing did not lodge a protest against Scott Speed.

''The Stewards had reached their own decision about his passing move (under yellow flags) on Coulthard.''

A Toro Rosso released added: ''As you can imagine, relations between the two teams was to say the least a bit strained.''

Champ Car to mothball two-seater  UPDATE We are hearing that Champ Car is planning two new 2-seater cars with the new chassis due out later this year.  When they will get around to making the new two-seater is not known given Panoz is working full throttle on the design and manufacturing of all the new cars for 2007.  Hopefully it will appear sometime in 2007.

04/03/06 Rumor has it that Champ Car has decided to mothball the two-seater program, at least for this year.  It may run two-three more times, but certainly not each weekend as before.  They may resurrect the program with the new chassis next year.

A new 'crisis' at Maranello?  (GMMf1NET ) In the face of giant pressure in Italy, 2006-spec Michael Schumacher has played down any comparison with the Ferrari 'crisis' of last season.

The midfield running German crashed during Sunday's Australian grand prix, after earlier admitting that his '248' car was simply not quick enough to challenge for the win.

''It is a completely different situation now,'' Schumacher, 37, told his website on Monday.

''This season we are much more competitive and have a better car that it looks at the moment.

''When we get the tires working, we have the pace.''

The red team will show up for its home race at Imola in three weeks with significant improvements to both bodywork and the engine.

But the pressure from the fickle and passionate Italian press is not ignorable. 'What has happened to the old Schumacher?' asked Corriere Della Sera, while 'Tuttosport' said 'crisis has broken out again. (It was) a terrible day for Maranello'.

''I do not want to make excuses,'' said Michael, referring to his shunt at the final corner and losing control over a 'bump' in the grass verge.

''It was my mistake; simple.''

Rosberg and McLaren  UPDATE #2 (GMMf1NET )  Sir Frank Williams has added his vehement denial to F1 speculation that rookie Nico Rosberg could be sold to McLaren next year.

The 20-year-old German has attracted a lot of attention so far in 2006, but team boss Williams clearly sees no parallel to the situation of last season, when the sale of Jenson Button proved a mighty revenue stream for his Grove based outfit.

Nico, it is clear, is not for sale.

''I don't think I even have to comment,'' the Briton - who took Rosberg's father Keke to the 1982 crown - winked to newspaper 'Welt'.

''Nico has a wider technical knowledge than his father, he is very fast and aggressive and has a big future,'' said Frank.

03/30/06 (GMMf1NET) F1 rookie Nico Rosberg, 20, has fended off rumors that he could switch to McLaren at the end of the 2006 season.

The young German, to start only his third career grand prix on Sunday, said in Melbourne that he is on a long term contract for Frank Williams' team.

Nico insisted: ''I am very happy where I am.''

''Williams supported me a lot, they helped me to reach formula one, and it's all going well so far.''

Rosberg's title-winning father and manager Keke, meanwhile, has similarly played a straight bat to the speculation, but he did reveal that the length of his son's Williams contract is 'less' than 5 years.

03/29/06 (GMMf1NET) The hot rumor in the Albert Park paddock is that Williams' impressive rookie Nico Rosberg is being chased by McLaren for the '07 season.

Allegedly, Ron Dennis met with Sir Frank Williams at the Sepang circuit last fortnight, with reports suggesting a discussed transfer fee of up to $30 million for the 20-year-old's long term contract.

With Fernando Alonso set to arrive at McLaren next year, both current drivers - Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya - could be eyeing alternate futures.

The Rosberg rumor maintains that McLaren's highly rated GP2 talent Lewis Hamilton could be a part of the Williams trade.

Intriguingly, a spokesman for Mercedes-Benz only conditionally denied the gossip, and praised the young German.

''(The team and Rosberg) are not currently speaking about a common future in formula one,'' he told the 'sid' news agency.

''As long as our 2007 lineup is not finalized, it is only normal that there are rumors.

''We have been impressed with Nico's achievements so far this season. We know him well. With our support he successfully raced karts with (Hamilton).''

Meanwhile, Nico's father - 1982 champion Keke Rosberg - played a straight bat when confronted with the rumor.

''Nico is very happy where he is now,'' he said.

''You know formula one -- if you have a good weekend, then good things are said, but it also goes the other way.''

Howard hints at go in Atlantics  As his seven friends and relatives from England enjoyed the weather, new St. Petersburg resident Jay Howard finished second in Sunday's second Indy Pro Series Grand Prix, narrowly losing to Raphael Matos.

Top-3 Indy Pro Drivers - look for great things from these three in the future (L to R) Jay Howard (2nd), Raphael Matos (1st), and far right Alex Lloyd (3rd).  Matos is switching to the Champ Car Atlantic Series effective immediately and Jay Howard looks to run at least one race in the series in the not too distant future.  Photos courteous Indy Racing League

"The sun was shining so I'm sure they had a good time," Howard said. "They won't be looking forward to going to England."

Right, Howard gets a hug from an admirer (girlfriend?) after finishing 2nd Sunday.

Matos, who will race in the Atlantic Series for the rest of the season, earned his second consecutive win. He also took Saturday's race, in which Howard was third.

"Two wins in two days," Matos said with a smile. "It's like a dream come true."

Howard, meanwhile, said he wants another crack at Matos.

"Maybe I'll go visit him in Atlantics and see if I can upset his party," he said.  St. Petersburg Times

IRL to eliminate Sunday warm-up  After Paul Dana died last weekend in Sunday morning warm-up there has been much talk in the IRL paddock about doing away with the session.

The teams fielding cars for Matsuura, Franchitti and Buddy Lazier certainly would not have been upset if the IRL had skipped Sunday's 30-minute warm-up in St. Petersburg. All three crashed during the morning session, forcing their crews to work in a hurry to get their cars ready for the 3:45 p.m. race start.

This came one day after IRL president Brian Barnhart said the league is looking into the possibility of abolishing the warm-up at some of the three-day race weekends later this year, saying the original reasons for having the Sunday session no longer applies.

When the warm-ups were first scheduled, teams changed engines for qualifying on Saturday and then switched back to race engines for Sunday. Now, they use the same engines throughout the weekend.

Tom Anderson, co-owner of Matsuura's Fernandez Racing entry, said he's all for getting rid of the Sunday warm-up.

"The only reason to have a race day warm-up is if the weather has caused problems with giving the teams enough time on the track before that," Anderson said Sunday as his team scrambled to repair Matsuura's car, which was the worst damaged.

"If they want to make sure the teams get that 30 minutes, add it to practice on Friday or Saturday." More at AP Article

Lehman to buy back F1 stake  (GMMf1NET)  New York-based bank Lehman Brothers might not be finished with the world of formula one.

While recently selling its 14 per cent stake to now 100 per cent owner 'CVC Capital Partners', Lehman negotiated an 'option' to buy back into the grand prix racing group.

England's 'Independent' newspaper wrote that Lehman 'is set to purchase a stake' in the sport's new CVC-run parent body, Alpha Prema.

''The option is valid for several weeks and Lehman is expected to exercise it shortly,'' the 'paper said, citing sources.

Lehman, along with fellow banks Bayerische Landesbank and JP Morgan, inherited their shares in F1 after the Kirch group went broke in 2002.

But Lehman was the only one to retain a buy-back option.

IROC to St. Pete?  Andretti Green Promotions vice president Kevin Savoree sees the idea as a way to improve the overall show with some added star power. IRL drivers see it as a way to get those NASCAR boys out of their comfort zone and force them to do some real racing. International Race of Champions president Jay Signore is intrigued, and talked with Grand Prix officials this year about bringing the all-star series to the downtown streets as a support event.

But the chances of IROC ever coming here remain remote as long as NASCAR drivers dominate the lineup and the Grand Prix continues to fall on Nextel Cup dates. St. Petersburg Times

Just a casual meeting?  Photo right, Toro Rosso's Gerhard Berger in an intense conversation with BMW's Mario Theissen in Australia Sunday. Some speculate that the topic of conversation could have been engines for 2007 or 2008. The Toro Rosso team currently uses a V10 Cosworth. Although it is assumed they will switch to V8 Cosworths in 2007, there is always the chance the team would prefer to have BMW factory backing. Photo courtesy Red Bull.
Ralf’s podium in doubt  UPDATE It was Scott Speed and not Ralf Schumacher that was penalized for passing under a yellow.  Speed lost his championship point and the results of the race have been revised. 

04/02/06 (GMMf1NET) Ralf Schumacher's breakthrough podium could be snatched away by the stewards, with suggestions that the Toyota driver illegitimately passed Nick Heidfeld (BMW-Sauber) under yellow flags.

The rumor would explain the fact that official confirmation of the Albert Park results have not yet been published by the governing body, the FIA.

Indeed, Germany's Heidfeld said his compatriot passed him 'within meters' of yellow flags to indicate a safety car period.

He finished behind Ralf, in fourth place.

Renault win could make Briatore quit  (GMMf1NET)  Flavio Briatore could quit formula one if Renault wins another championship this season.

The Italian, whose contract will expire at the end of the year, has vowed to think more seriously about his future in the European summer.

But he told La Gazzetta dello Sport: ''If I would win the title again with Renault, I would have little more to ask from formula one.''

Briatore hinted that, with 'five or six friends', he could invest a bit of time and money in a soccer team.

But he ruled out succeeding Bernie Ecclestone as F1 'supremo'.

''To be the new Bernie would mean becoming the manager of a group with the F1 rights.  If you ask me, that is not sexy.''

What about his own 'Briatore' F1 team?  ''Believe me, no,'' the Italian told the newspaper.

''I do not depend psychologically on F1.  When I take my Renault uniform off, I put on a pair of jeans and I am someone else.  I have some other things to do.''

Button's $26m F1 bill  (GMMf1NET)  Jenson Button's race seat at Honda COST him $26 million, it is reported.

The 'Sun' newspaper said the Briton must cough up the cash after buying his way out of a three year rock-sold Williams deal starting 2006.

However, the bulk of the bill will undoubtedly be picked up by Japanese carmaker Honda, no doubt happy about their investment as 26-year-old 'JB' put his RA106 on pole in Melbourne, despite not winning.

''Giving away money is never my forte but I seem to do it quite well,'' Briton Button said.

Who's light, and who's not?  (GMMf1NET) As ever on a Saturday evening, and Sunday morning, the buzz in the formula one paddock is all about fuel -- or cars' potential lack of it.

Honda's Jenson Button is genuinely excited about his Albert Park pole, but some F1 wags think he might be carrying a lighter fuel tank than the chasing Renault and McLaren rivals.

''I guess we will find out,'' said a coy Norbert Haug, of Mercedes, ''but we take all of our opponents seriously.''

McLaren has played a modest deck of cards in Melbourne, but qualifying did not give the game away, according to Ron Dennis.

The boss told 'ITV' that fourth and fifth on the grid might only be a representation of fuel load and the fact that a harder tyre compound could be in play.

Ron said: ''If we survive the first lap, it should look very good.''

Some observers express a more radical view -- that Button, unlike the silver or blue cars, could be planning three stops.

By the same token, conventional wisdom puts runners like Toyota's Ralf Schumacher (6th) and Williams' Mark Webber (7th) somewhere in between a heavy and light load.

''I think Renault and McLaren are probably heavier,'' Mark Webber admitted on Sunday morning.
Flav to sue German tabloid  (GMMf1NET)  Renault boss Flavio Briatore has threatened to sue a German newspaper for calling him a Nazi.

'Bild' published a photo of the playboy Italian, standing outside the McLaren-Mercedes pit, doing a Hitler-like salute in the Melbourne pitlane this weekend.

''That's ridiculous!'' Briatore fumed.  ''I was only waving to someone.''

But daily tabloid 'Bild' claimed that Briatore, 55, had even clicked his heels together and held his arm aloft for several seconds.

''Flavio can sometimes be a clown and likes to have fun,'' said a Renault spokeswoman.  ''The gesture was not at all politically motivated -- it was neither malicious or racist.''

James "Bubba" Stewart eyes NASCAR  Think Richard Petty in the late 1960s and early '70s. Or maybe Dale Earnhardt a decade later. Or even Jeff Gordon as the '90s closed out.

Then you'll get an idea of what James "Bubba" Stewart is to Supercross and Motocross racing.

In just his fifth year of riding professionally, the 20-year-old has won four championships -- two in Supercross (indoor, man-made tracks) and two in Motocross (outdoor, natural tracks). He holds the record for the most career professional victories (47) in AMA Supercross Lites and Motocross Lites (smaller motors and half the number of races).

He really put in more of an effort than most, and he's really changed how a lot of people ride now," said crew chief Jeremy Albrecht, noting that Stewart has perfected the art of passing other riders in the air by turning his bike sideways. "He studies. He works on that all the time at home. He rides probably more than any other rider ever has." More ...

Renault fastest yet spends far less  Critics of Formula One sometimes say the world's most expensive form of motor racing is not a sport but a business, where the richest teams simply buy victories by raising the largest budgets.

That myth can finally be put to rest, as the news has emerged that Renault, the team that won the championship last year - and has won the first two races this season, which moves to Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday - had only the sixth-largest budget of the 10 teams last year.

That not only is good news for fans who believe in the sport; it also is good for Max Mosley, president of the International Automobile Federation, the sport's governing body, who is trying to create a new, cheaper Formula One. And no wonder he is. According to a study published in the March issue of F1 Racing magazine, the sport's 10 teams last year spent a total of nearly $3 billion to go racing.

The biggest spender, Toyota, had a budget of $494.55 million, or $26 million per race. Yet the team finished only fourth, while Renault won the championship with a budget of $287.56 million, or 58.1 percent of Toyota's budget. Toyota scored 88 points, while Renault scored 191. For each $1 million that the teams spent, Toyota scored only 0.18 points, while Renault scored 0.66. More at NYTimes
STR to 'probably' ditch V10 for 2007  (GMMf1NET) Toro Rosso co-owner Gerhard Berger says his team will 'probably' ditch its controversial V10 engine for next year.

In the Albert Park paddock, the ten-time GP winner said the half Red Bull-owned squad was likely to attack 2007 with a less contentious 2.4 liter V8.

''Most probably next year,'' the Austrian answered to the query, ''but we haven't decided yet.''

Berger also confirmed speculation - by nodding his head - that his team's Tonio Liuzzi would test at Paul Ricard for big-brother team Red Bull next week.

Kovalainen is a shoe-in  Renault's Flavio Briatore has laughed off speculation linking Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher with the spare race seat for '07.

The Italian even took the opportunity to lay into his old double title winner of the Benetton days, dismissing Schumacher, 37, as 'not a race winner'.

Scotching the rumors, Flavio laughed: ''One of them (Kimi) has signed an agreement with another team, and the last race Schumi won was with one driver against him (USA 2005).

''Please be serious.''

Clearly in no mood to muse about non-Renault drivers, Briatore did - however - drop the clearest hint yet that tester Heikki Kovalainen is a shoe-in for at least one race seat.

''Right now, we don't know who will be his teammate,'' 'Flav' added.

Regarding incumbent Giancarlo Fisichella, the Enstone based team's boss vowed to wait until late this season to determine whether the Roman has done enough to keep his ride.

Stoddart has Cosworth engine deal  UPDATE Stoddart still retains the rights to the last Minardi design. Stoddart is not sure his submission will be accepted. If rejected by the FIA it is rumored he is eyeing Champ Car (or IndyCar if there is a merger). He and Max Mosley have butted heads on many occasions, so an FIA rejection would come as no surprise.

03/31/06 (GMMf1NET)  Paul Stoddart says he has already put an engine deal in place for the 2008 world championship -- with Cosworth.

In the Albert Park paddock for the first time since selling his team to Red Bull, the Australian this week revealed that he had lodged his entry in Geneva with the FIA as 'European Minardi F1 Team'.

''It's already in place,'' Stoddart said at the track when asked if he would now go on a hunt for an engine supplier.

''We would use the same car we had here last year (the PS04B), which could pretty quickly be brought up to 2006 specs.''

But Paul, seemingly patient to wait for later, admitted that the FIA was not likely to accept Minardi's entry in the very first round.

V8 Supercars
Barrichello eyes 'Bathurst' ride  (GMMf1NET)  Rubens Barrichello says he would like to race an Australian 'V8 Supercar' at the famous Bathurst endurance event.

The Brazilian, who watched countryman and friend Max Wilson from the pits of the 'Adelaide 500' last weekend, also attended the touring car race at Bathurst late last year and was spotted checking out the tin-top racers in the Supercar pits at Albert Park.

33-year-old Rubens admitted that the carmaker clash - between his Honda F1 team and Supercars' Ford and Holden - might be a problem.

''I'll have to talk to my team to see if they would let me (do it),'' he admitted in Melbourne.

Barrichello added: ''And I would need a lot of testing, because even people who have done well in (international) touring cars did not do so well in V8s.''

Manning still eyes Champ Car ride  Following this weekend's A1GP race in Shanghai, China, Darren Manning will fly to Long Beach, California in an attempt to seek out opportunities in the Champ Car World Series at next week's season opener reports Autosport.com.

"The Champ Car season starts next week and there are still a couple of rides available and I'm still really keen to do that. A good result here will help massively," Manning told autosport.com. "It will be something else to talk about and show people that I can do it again. It can only help.

"If I don't get anything out of this weekend I'm not in a worse position. One of the reasons why I got picked for this ride was to try and rekindle my career a little bit, reignite it or give it a little bit of a boost. My race experience was another reason.

"I'm going to go to Long Beach regardless. There are probably still deals to be done and I've got to work on next year now.

"Obviously people are wanting me to drive saloon cars and GT cars and this kind of thing but I've got a little bit of time to make commitments."

Flav to retire?  (GMMf1NET) Flavio Briatore will decide whether or not to stay in formula one beyond this year in June.

The colorful Italian, long time chief of the Enstone based F1 team currently called Renault, has been offered a job to switch to European football, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.

''I like football,'' he said, ''but I said 'no' to the offer.

''It's a complicated world. In order to be successful in football, one must invest much passion, so maybe I do not love the sport enough.''

In a separate interview with the 'sid' agency, 55-year-old 'Flav' admits to contemplating the end of his F1 career.

''Sixteen years in this game is a long time,'' he confessed. ''There are other things in life.''

What does Renault move mean?  (GMMf1NET)  Renault attended last week's meeting with the FIA at the Ferrari factory without the knowledge of other 'GPMA' members, it has emerged.

Toyota's John Howett told 'Speed TV' that he was 'surprised' when he heard that the Flavio Briatore-run camp had agreed with an FIA proposal to freeze V8 engine development in 2008.

''Each (GPMA) member is still entitled to discuss as an individual, so we have to respect that,'' he added.

The news has led to renewed speculation that Renault might be preparing to pull out of F1, with the Enstone-based team to return to the hands of a privateer.

The presence at the meeting of independent engine maker Cosworth, too, has led to suggestions that Briatore could be contemplating the return of 'Supertec' -- his engine company based on the Renault design.

FIA could change 'flexi' test  (GMMf1NET)  F1's contentious 'flexi-wing' saga could be permanently put to sleep by a change in the FIA deflection test.

It is suggested in the Albert Park paddock that the Technical Working Group - a group headed by Charlie Whiting and including team technical directors - will discuss a change in the test at a meeting before the next race at Imola late next month (April 23).

Zandvoort to kick off A1GP season  UPDATE This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact' - see Hot news page for Zandvoort announcement.

03/30/06 Rumor has it that Zandvoort will host the 1st opening round of the A1GP series for '06/'07 season on the 1st of October, 2006. The 2nd meeting will be at the Czech Brno circuit one week later. The final round will be at Brands Hatch, early April, 2007.

Spa given green light for '07  The Walloon minister, Jean-Claude Marcourt, has met Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone in London last Tuesday. According to the minister all obstacles have been discussed and the Grand Prix of Belgium 2007 has been given the green light.
Restrictor Plate for Lowe’s?  UPDATE #2 Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition, was at LMS monitoring the situation. NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said no decision will be made on whether the sanctioning body will step in to lower speeds until after a full Cup test session in early May. NASCAR.com

03/30/06 It could take weeks for Goodyear to decide what tire will be best because the track surface will continue to change as more and more cars drive on it. The only thing that's certain is that the speeds should reach record highs. Labonte said his laps Wednesday were just a tick off of Elliott Sadler's track record 193.216 mph. But Sadler's mark was set in qualifying, when a car is designed to go as fast as possible for only one lap. The times posted during the test were in race trim, when a car is supposed to be much slower. "It would not surprise me if you saw a 197-mph lap," track president Humpy Wheeler said. Although using horsepower-sapping restrictor plates is an option, no one really wants to use them. AP Story

03/29/06 Official lap times were not reported during a tire test at Lowe's Motor Speedway Tuesday and Wednesday, but #43-Bobby Labonte said he came within .3 second of the last October's pole-winning lap, Elliott Sadler's 27.948-second lap at 193.216 mph. "It's going to be faster than 2005," Riggs said. "Is it going to be fast enough that we're going to need restrictor plates? Absolutely not ... even if we are going to break the track record. Anytime you come out with a new tire or new paving, we always break track records. I don't think just because we are going to run faster than the track record previously, it's not by two seconds or 10 miles an hour." Goodyear is testing tires to determine a compound to use when Nextel Cup teams test on the newly paved track May 1-3. The Nextel Cup series races at the track twice in May, for the all-star event and the Coca-Cola 600. Tire problems marred both races at Lowe's after the track surface was ground down last year, but this year, the track has been repaved. "Anytime you come out to a test like this, there are a lot of unknowns," said Rick Heinrich, Goodyear's Nextel Cup product manager. "We knew the conditions would be severe. We knew there would be a lot of speed. New asphalt generally generates a lot of wear. Conditions were a little more severe than we anticipated but not out of the ordinary." Labonte, Riggs, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and the truck of Bobby Hamilton Jr. participated in the test. Riggs said he did not think speeds were so fast that restrictor plates would be needed in May. Heinrich said the wear is coming on both sides of the car and front and rear. The loads are similar to loads from last year, he said. "Right now, there's a little bit too much wear, but that's kind of expected because the asphalt is real fresh," Heinrich said. "The more laps ... will slow that wear down." NASCAR Daily Scene

Montoya’s future tied to Raikkonen’s move  UPDATE (GMMf1NET) Juan Pablo Montoya has dropped a few hints about his formula one future.

Intimating that he will leave McLaren at the end of 2006, the 30-year-old Colombian mentioned the words 'Toyota', 'BMW' and 'Renault' when grilled by the 'Autosprint' magazine.

He insisted: ''If you look around there's nothing ... but available seats (for 2007).''

But, with his ear to the rumor mill, Montoya admitted that he is not as hot a proposition as his highly sought-after teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, who on Thursday was seen at the wheel of a Hydrogen-powered Mercedes bus in Melbourne.

Juan acknowledged that the Finn simply looks like a quicker driver of Woking-built silver racers.

But, explaining the simple problem of a clashing style in the cockpit, he said: ''For me, it would be interesting to see what the situation would look like in a different car.''

Montoya added that he would like to have his team for 2007 decided by the end of this year.

03/29/06 McLaren driver Juan Pablo Montoya says that he is unable to make a decision on his Formula One future until teammate Kimi Raikkonen decides where he will race in 2007.

"I'm looking around like everyone else, but around you can't hear anything but talks of Raikkonen going to Ferrari," Montoya told Autosprint.

"Or there are people saying he wants Renault, or he wants BMW, et cetera. All you hear about is Kimi."

With world champion Fernando Alonso confirmed in the McLaren squad for next year, Montoya is likely to find himself surplus to requirements should Raikkonen decide he wants to stay with the Woking-based team, with team boss Ron Dennis making no secret of the fact he wants to keep the rapid Finn on the payroll.

"At the moment I'm concentrating more on this season, on the fact that I'm here at McLaren," said Montoya.

"I only try to do my job the best I can and, when the time will come, we'll take the best decision for myself," he said.

Australian GP days numbered?  UPDATE #2 (GMMf1NET)  Another Australian bigwig has played down a supposed threat to the future of the grand prix.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone cast a cloud over the Melbourne event when he chided the imminent end to a special arrangement to allow tobacco advertising at Albert Park.

Race boss Ron Walker dismissed the cheeky comments, referring to an 'iron clad' contract until 2010, and he is now backed by Victorian state premier Steve Bracks.

But he told the 'Age' that the lost tobacco sponsors will need to be replaced.

Bracks said: ''This has occurred in other countries (so) we have no concerns or fears at all.''

However, as Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher suggested in Melbourne this week, replacing cigarette cash is unlikely to be a dollar-for-dollar affair.

But the German added: ''F1 is strong enough that new advertisers will always be found.''

03/29/06 (GMMf1NET) Australia's grand prix chief has played down reports that the future of the Melbourne race is now under a smoky cloud.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said on Tuesday that there might be 'some problems' with the looming end of legal tobacco advertising at the Albert Park circuit.

The 75-year-old suggested that the government ban might breach the Australian GP's formula one contract.

But Ron Walker, chairman of the Australian GP Corporation (AGPC), dismissed the claim, referring to the race's 'iron-clad' deal until 2010.

''(Banning tobacco adverts) has become very wide now ... all over the world,'' he told Australian national broadcaster ABC.

Walker even suggested that Ecclestone may be misinterpreting the technicalities of the Australian grand prix contract.

He explained: ''(It) was negotiated by Mr. (Max) Mosley ... directly with the Howard (federal) government.''

03/23/06 (GMMf1NET)  The state government of Victoria is likely to pick up the bill for a $20m blow to the Australian GP in Melbourne.

After next Sunday's race, tobacco advertising will be totally banned in the country and at the Albert Park circuit -- leaving a huge advertising hole.

And, according to the Melbourne based 'Herald Sun' newspaper, the Australian federal government has said no to a plea for help, with sports minister Rod Kemp insisting: ''There are no programmes in the sports portfolio to support these (kinds of events).''

In the contract with Bernie Ecclestone, Melbourne is obligated to host the race until 2010.

Victorian tourism minister John Pandazopoulos was quoted by the 'paper as saying it was 'disappointing (that) the federal government', run by an opposing political party, 'refused to acknowledge the national benefits' of the GP.

[Editor's Note:  This race has always lost money, but with the loss now boosted to $20 million it is questionable whether this race will be around much longer.] 

Bahrain may keep F1 opener  UPDATE #2 (GMMf1NET) Australia's grand prix boss has rubbished suggestions that the Melbourne race could lose its traditional season-opening calendar slot.

This year, Bahrain stepped into the circus' coveted round-one role, leading F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone to enjoy higher television ratings because the Persian Gulf's time difference is more favorable for European fans.

Indeed, 75-year-old Bernie rued the usual Melbourne ratings of 1996 to 2005 as 'lousy'.

But Ron Walker, chairman of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, hit back at Ecclestone, inviting the diminutive Briton to look closely at the contract that is not set to expire until 2010.

He said 2006 was a one-off to avoid a clash with the Commonwealth Games.

Walker told the Herald Sun: ''We have it in the contract that we are the first race, so we're not worried about that.''

03/29/06 Bernie Ecclestone has continued to point his rifle of fear at organizers of the Australian grand prix, suggesting that the race may not be given back its season-opening slot for the 2007 season.

With Melbourne hosting the Commonwealth Games earlier this month, Bahrain stepped in to host the first race -- the first time Albert Park has dropped down the F1 calendar since 1996.

But, speaking from London, 75-year-old Bernie told the 'Age' newspaper that F1's new season opener recorded better TV ratings in Europe than previous Australian races; no doubt because of the more favorable time slot.

''We got very, very good television ratings (for Bahrain), whereas from Australia, we get lousy television ratings in Europe,'' the Briton said.

Bernie was also quoted as suggesting that Australian organizers should liven-up their F1 race by using more spectacular Commonwealth Games opening ceremony-like ideas.

03/28/06 Bernie Ecclestone says it may be better having an F1 season opener in Bahrain rather than Australia.  Australia asked to not be the opener this year to avoid a conflict with the Commonwealth Games.  Now it appears they may never get the season opener back.

"We got very, very good television ratings for the Bahrain GP, whereas from Australia, we get lousy (early morning) television ratings in Europe," Ecclestone said to the Sydney Morning Herald, alluding to the fact it is important to have good Europe TV ratings for the opening race.

Moreno to replace Carpenter?  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement.

03/28/06 Ed Carpenter suffered bruised lungs in his accident Sunday in Homestead. Carpenter said his availability for Sunday's IRL street course race in St. Petersburg, Fla., won't be known until he visits with league doctor Henry Bock today. Most of the IRL personnel remain in Homestead for today's road course test at the track. Carpenter's car will be tested by Roberto Moreno.

Rocketsports to announce lineup  UPDATE AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that the Antonio Pizzonia (pictured right) deal is done with Rocketsports and he will drive the team's only entry for Long Beach.  The even better news is that they hope to have the deal for the 2nd car done in time for Houston in May.

Look for an official announcement from Rocketsports on Pizzonia on Thursday according to our sources.

03/29/06 A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1.com, With only a week and a half till the first Champ Car race weekend begins, do you think Rocketsports will get the Team Brazil deal done in time? Rod Orlando, FL.

Dear Rod, The businessmen were meeting last night in Brazil trying to reach a decision. We expect Rocketsports to show up in Long Beach with at least one car, two if the Team Brazil deal gets done. If Champ Car already had a race in Brazil we think Rocketsports would have been able to close this deal a long time ago. There is still a desire to hold a race in Brazil, but if the merger happens, will the combined schedule have room for it? Mark C.

Concorde announcement imminent - rumor  (GMMf1NET) The existence of a new commercial F1 (Concorde) agreement, signed by all existing teams to include 2008-2012, will be announced imminently, it is rumored.

Ending once-and-for-all the conflict between the carmakers' 'GPMA' alliance, the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone, the news would give the weekend's Australian grand prix an atypically unified feel, devoid of tired politics.

''We aim at a compromise,'' Bernie told sports magazine Kicker, ''to halve the budgets but still allow the development of technology.''

But Ecclestone, who has now officially relinquished his role as commercial rights holder to confirmed new owner 'CVC', revealed that McLaren's Ron Dennis proved a significant stumbling block to a deal.

''It's typical Ron,'' the diminutive Briton, to remain chief executive, told Germany's 'Auto Motor Und Sport'.

Bernie added: ''He wants equality for all but a little bit more for himself.''

Ecclestone, however, suggested that Dennis and carmaker partner Mercedes-Benz were ultimately forced to ditch plans for a rival series.

The 75-year-old revealed that McLaren's contracts for 2007 and beyond with Fernando Alonso and Vodafone were valid only if the silver team raced in the current FIA-run formula one championship.

Briscoe makes career ending decision  UPDATE Some real stats on Ryan Briscoe.  In 2005 he crashed in 8 out of 14 IRL starts:
1. Homestead Crash
2. Phoenix Crash
3. St. Pete Crash
4. Motegi 12th
5. Indy 10th
6. Texas 12th
7. Richmond Crash
8. Kansas DNF Mechanical
9. Nashville 8th
10. Milwaukee Crashed out in Qual. DNS
11. Kentucky 13th
12. Colorado Crash
13. Sears Point Crash
14. Chicago Major crash. Nearly killed himself. Lucky to be alive

03/28/06 After being let go by the Toyota F1 team, followed by a disastrous 2005 season that saw him wreck numerous Chip Ganassi IndyCars, you would think Ryan Briscoe would take any decent ride he can get. Instead he turned down an offer to drive for Team Australia in Champ Car and now sits unemployed.

So, what is Ryan Briscoe doing now?

Will Drive for Food: Ryan Briscoe was tooling around the garage at Homestead this weekend, hoping his presence would spark some interest after he was fired by Ganassi following his rookie season.

Briscoe, 24, suffered multiple injuries - including two broken clavicles - and was knocked out for the season after his car flew into the catch fence and broke apart in a fireball at Chicago. Ganassi downsized to a two-car team after releasing the former Formula One test driver. Briscoe would have loved a chance to drive for Ganassi this season with equal horsepower.

"Last year obviously we did not get the results we wanted and we just struggled for speed in general and that's why it would have been really cool to come and do a second season with material that was competitive and we would have been able to win with," said Briscoe, who had three top-10s in 15 starts.

"It's sort of disappointing I'm not in the game this year. I would have liked to have been, but at the moment I'm just going to see what I can put together for 2007. If I can do the Indy 500 it would be huge." St. Petersburg Times

Monza race cancelled  The Monza Round of the 2006 Le Mans Series has been cancelled according to rumors out of Europe. The court has ordered the track to cancel a number of planned events, including the season-ending LMES race,  because of protests by local neighbors over the amount of noise coming from the historic Italian circuit.  Formula 1 looks to be one of the only major series able to race on the legendary track this season.
Dan Clarke eyes move to Champ Car  UPDATE #5 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today with the HVM announcement that 22-year old Dan Clarke will drive the #14 CTE Racing - HVM Lola Ford in 2006.  Full announcement will be published on our Hot News page. 03/26/06 Dan Clarke is set to be announced at CTE Racing-HVM on Tuesday, following a test with the team last week at Sebring.  Team boss Keith Wiggins was not prepared to confirm the news, but another senior source within the team told autosport.com that the deal was to be inked this weekend. We have updated our 2006 Champ Car Silly Season Page.

03/23/06 Dan Clarke has apparently emerged as a possible front-runner for the 2nd CTE Racing-HVM seat.  The team ran just 50 miles with new signee Nelson Philippe today, but put in 51 laps with the former British F3 driver Clarke. The 2004 Formula Ford Festival champion ran a few stints to get familiar with the Champ Car as the team looks to finalize its driver lineup for 2006.

“The car feels really good. It did everything I expected it to,” said Clarke, who had tested earlier with Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing. “It was hard work out there. The team told me to do some six-lap runs but I pushed out to 10 because Long Beach is only two weeks away and you can’t afford to get into things slowly now.”

Clarke was on hand as a possible driver for the team’s second car, which will carry the #14 instead of the #55 this season. The 22-year-old Brit is looking to run his first season in the United States, and wants to do it in Champ Car.

“The main thing that interests me about Champ Car is that it’s a level playing field here,” he said. “The teams are much more equal than they are in Formula 1 and I want to race in a series that allows you to go out and show how good you are and I think Champ Car is the best for that.  Champ Car

02/07/06 See Hot News item on this today. His management team appears confident he has a ride lined up.

01/06/06 Kevin Kalkhoven has given a strong endorsement to Dan Clarke joining the Champ Car World Series in 2006. 

"Dan is perfect for Champ Cars," said Kalkhoven in a recent interview. "He's a determined, ambitious young driver who loves to race hard. He doesn't underestimate the enormity of the move up to these powerful cars, but at the same time he's ready to grab the chance with both hands and live up to his 'Speedy' Dan name.

"Champ Car attracts an international field of talented young drivers and Dan would be a great addition to our grid. We look forward to welcoming him into the Champ Car family in 2006."

[Editor's Note: Dan Clarke will not be driving for PKV, but for another team.]  More ...

Rumored driver moves  (GMMf1NET) Honda's James Rossiter will take over from Franck Montagny as 'reserve' driver for Super Aguri in Melbourne, it has been revealed.

However, with only two A23/SA05 cars up and running, he will not take to the cockpit at Albert Park unless race drivers Takuma Sato or Yuji Ide are ill or injured.

And, after Giorgio Mondini did the driving duties at Sepang, Germany's Markus Winkelhock is to resume the 'Friday' wheel in Australia for the Midland-owned MF1 outfit.

Meanwhile, in the German 'Motorsport Aktuell' publication, it is suggested that McLaren's Ron Dennis has made an initial approach to F1 youngster Nico Rosberg, following the German's impressive Williams debut.

Both current silver clad pilots, Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya, are out of contract at the end of the year and connected with rival teams. If they should both depart, a 2007 ride would be vacant alongside Fernando Alonso.

For the record, the rumor goes on that any buyout of Rosberg's solid Williams contract could involve the transfer of McLaren property Lewis Hamilton to Frank Williams' team.

''I have a lot of respect for Frank,'' Dennis said, ''but we would both do anything to win.''

'GPMA' not defeated, says Haug  We expect this rumor to soon go to 'false' but Mr. Haug thinks the GPMA still has teeth.  Lodging team entries with the FIA for 2008 does not mean the 'GPMA' carmakers have been defeated, according to Mercedes-Benz's F1 boss Norbert Haug.

''I don't see it like that,'' he told the German 'dpa' news agency, ''and (the manufacturers) also don't see it that they are now on their knees.''

Indeed, indicating entry for the 2008 championship is not a binding commitment to race, sources explain, and the 'GPMA' is reportedly still willing to launch a rival championship if final negotiations fail.

However, every recent sign suggests that a compromise is on the verge of being reached - if one hasn't already been found - with another boost on Tuesday in the form of F1's new owner (CVC) confirming that its acquisition is now complete.

Even Haug admitted: ''I would say the possibility (of a rival series) is fairly small.''

But he suggested that Mercedes, Renault, BMW, Toyota and Honda only signed up for 2008 in order to 'modify the rules' so that they 'correspond to the wishes of the majority of teams'.

Stoddart eyes F1 comeback  UPDATE This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact.'  Paul Stoddart has lodged an FIA entry to re-launch the 'Minardi' team in 2008, the Australian entrepreneur said in Melbourne on Tuesday.

At an event with his two-seater F1 cars outside of the city, 50-year-old Stoddart - who sold his Faenza based team of the same name to Red Bull last year - suggested that he would run the new team from his Ledbury (England) factory, with a 2004-specification car.

''We're entered as European Minardi F1 Team,'' he confirmed, ''and I think it would be good to bring the name back and great for the sport to get some characters back in there.''

The rights to the 2005 Minardi racer, presumably, were transferred to Red Bull, the energy drink that has renamed Minardi 'Scuderia Toro Rosso'.

Stoddart, clearly holding out for Max Mosley's lower-cost future, explained that he would not be guaranteed one of the maximum of 12 garage slots.

But he continued: ''If the prices do go down to this reputed $100m, then we'd be positively dangerous -- we'd no longer be just destroyed by these billion dollar budgets.''

[Editor's Note: This should end any rumors that Stoddart should start a Champ Car team that we heard floating around.]

03/28/06 (GMMf1NET) Just a few months after exiting the F1 turnstile, Paul Stoddart is eying a route back in.

The former Minardi chief sold his Faenza based team to Red Bull last year, but he has since lost millions on the 'OzJet' airline and now admits to missing the paddock's buzz 'badly'.

He said coping with life after F1 has been 'very hard'.

Stoddart, 50 - tipped to appear in the Albert Park paddock this weekend - told the Melbourne Age: ''I would like to think that all kinds of opportunities could be there, if not in '06 or '07 (then) in '08.''

The newspaper hinted that Stoddart has told some European associates that he is looking into starting a new team under Max Mosley's low-cost blueprint.

Champ Car seats filling up  UPDATE #4 According to RDS.ca, the deal for Ranger is Long Beach and the three Canadian races for now. It's all about money.

03/27/06 According to today's Journal de Montreal, Andrew Ranger will drive for Mi-Jack Conquest at Long Beach but they have not yet finalized a deal for the rest of the season.  They intend to.

03/26/06 Sponsors for Ranger are supposedly Tide, Folgers, Kodak, Duracell, Kellogg's and Sharpie.

03/23/06 AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that Andrew Ranger and his management have been very busy with the corporate world  since the Fall of last year trying to line up REAL SPONSORS that actually activate and  promote their Brand names in association with a Champ Car team!  As we have learned, they have  been low profile yet successful with their sponsorship sales.  We expect some announcements early next week confirming their sponsors and the  team for which Andrew will race with at Long Beach and the 2006 Champ Car  World Series.   It is assumed that team will be Mi-Jack Conquest.

03/21/06 With just a little over 2 weeks to go until the Champ Car season opener in Long Beach anywhere from 4 to 6 seats remain open:

  • CTE Racing-HVM (1): has one seat open. Ronnie Bremer may get it for a partial season but we would not be shocked if the team put Ryan Hunter-Reay in that ride for Long Beach - he has experience with the team (2004) and time is of the essence. Hunter-Reay's the man for the job.
  • Dale Coyne Racing (2): Dale tells us he'll be there with two cars. Who will be driving them will likely be answered within a week.
  • Mi-Jack Conquest (1): Canadian Andrew Ranger is the front-runner for the seat but Belgian Jan Heylen is thought to have a strong shot at that seat as well. Expect an announcement within 10 days.
  • Rocketsports/Team Brazil (2): Team boss Paul Gentilozzi is feverishly trying to finalize a deal that will see ex-F1 Brazilian pilots Antonio Pizzonia and Enrique Bernoldi behind the wheel forming a Team Brazil.

 If all the above rides materialize, Champ Car will have 19 cars on the grid at Long Beach.

NASCAR COT wing rumors  One item that is expected to be missing in the final version of the car of tomorrow [COT] will be the customary rear spoiler, which NASCAR has used for decades as part of its aerodynamic package. In its place will be a single-element rear deck wing, which was first track-tested at Daytona earlier this year. Monday's session at Bristol will be used to test different wing designs. The wing will represent a dramatic change in the look of NASCAR's stock cars, but according to Brett Bodine, a former driver who now serves as NASCAR's test driver and is heavily involved in the development of the new car, the wing is more in tune with today's modern race cars as well as new showroom models. He added that using a wing will allow teams to build a more symmetrically shaped car rather than the current models, which are cut and bent to shape to permit them to run better on ovals. According to Bodine, the wing will be a bolt-on piece that will be given to teams each race weekend by NASCAR, thus preventing any cheating. The wing will most likely include a small wickerbill/Gurney flap – a right-angle piece of metal rigidly bolted or riveted to a wing's trailing edge – which will offer an additional level of downforce or drag to be produced by the wing. Monday's session also will test the design of the new air splitter located below the bumper on the front of the new car. The splitter is designed to keep the front of the car on the ground. Both the wing and the splitter are items that have been used successfully for decades in sports car racing worldwide. Yahoo Sports
Engine 'freeze' set for '07 fast-track  (GMMf1NET) The FIA's controversial 'engine freeze' proposal could be fast tracked to kick off next year, the governing body said on Monday.

Revealing details of the meeting at Maranello with Ferrari, Renault and Cosworth, the sport's ruler said a five-year freeze on performance development of V8 engines had been agreed for 2008 to 2012.

''Those present (at the meeting) will endeavor to secure changes to the 2007 (rules) to incorporate the 2008 engine homologation regulations ... including a limitation of engine speed,'' read a statement.

Will NASCAR fine Gordon?  NASCAR officials said they will review the Jeff Gordon shove of Matt Kenseth, which occurred on pit road after the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.  NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said Sunday night that NASCAR will follow its typical procedure and review the incident in the next few days, probably Tuesday.

Kenseth sent Gordon spinning on the final lap, and went over to Gordon to apologize after the race.  Gordon violently shoved him away.

"I would have been ticked off, too," Kenseth said. "I probably should have known better than to go over there, but I just think when you do something wrong, you should try to be a man about it and apologize."

"I'm sure he didn't mean to do it and all that stuff, but I wasn't happy about it," Gordon said. "I showed it to him after the race."

F1 qualifying tweak needed?  Formula One's new knockout qualifying needs further modifications to improve the show, says Renault team boss Flavio Briatore.

"I think the knockout system is very good, and spectacular for the spectators," he said in a team preview for Sunday's Australian Grand Prix, the third race of the season. "But I am still not happy with the first part of Q3.

"At the moment, we are going round for no reason, and it doesn't make sense for the people or for our image with the environment," added the Italian.

"I think the final session should be 15 minutes long and you fuel beforehand. You then qualify, and whatever load you finish the session with, then you...start the race like that.

"What we are doing now doesn't make sense for the show."

Roadblock for Prodrive's F1 HQ?  (GMMf1NET) Plans to build a formula one HQ in rural England could be scuppered by an opposition group.

The 'Fulcrum Prodrive Action Group' - named after former BAR boss David Richards' racing company and the proposed 'Fulcrum' factory - will lobby the Warwickshire county, located in central England, to reject planning permission for the project.

The opposition group claims that the HQ, which could house a staff of 1000, will bring chaos to village roads, while tree felling at the site could destroy the habitats of deer, owls, bats, badgers and newts.

53-year-old Richards was in Adelaide (Australia) at the weekend to oversee the progress of his Ford powered 'FPR' supercar team.

Wood to drive famous No. 21  UPDATE Wood says he will drive a second car for the team for seven races in 2007, but he will not be in the No. 21. 03/23/06 Busch Series regular Jon Wood, third-generation member of NASCAR's Wood Brothers Racing, said Wednesday he is "90 percent sure" he will drive the #21 Ford full time in the Nextel Cup Series in 2007. Fort Worth Star Telegram
Two Dutch drivers eye Champ Car seats  UPDATE #3 Dutch sources tell us Nicky Pastorelli (pictured right) is on his way to Indianapolis to sign a two-year deal with Dale Coyne Racing. He will test for the team in Fontana this week and will be starting the race in Long Beach as one of Dale's two drivers for this year. That gives Champ Car two Dutch drivers. Imagine what a huge success a Champ Car race at Zandvoort would be, especially if Verstappen were given a one-off ride. They pack the place for an F3 race - the Dutch are rabid race fans.

History on Pastorelli - In 2003 Nicky participated in the Formula 3000 where as a rookie he managed a second and fourth place finish.

His great performance earned him a seat as a driver at the Draco Junior Team for the 2004 Superfund Euro 3000 Series. At the end of this exciting season, Nicky grabbed the championship away from his rivals through a sensational win at the last race at the Nurburgring in Germany.

This excellent result gained him a Formula 1 test at Minardi and also opened the doors to the Champ Car World Series where he tested with Walker Racing in December 2004 (right).

In 2005 he was hired as an official Jordan Grand Prix test driver (left) and was the first driver in the Young Driver Development program for the Midland F1 team.

03/16/06 Hearing that Pastorelli has around the same amount of money as Zwolsman, and neither Dutchman have enough for a full-year effort.

03/15/06 Apparently 3 or 4 teams are interested in Zwolsman and one is a real surprise as many thought this team was all set for 2006. And we hear that Nicky Pastorelli (pictured right) is also talking to some teams and has some financial backing.

03/14/06 Rumors suggest that 2005 Champ Car Atlantic champion Charles Zwolsman of the Netherlands is close to landing a Champ Car ride for 2006. We spoke to Zwolsman at the Champ Car Atlantic unveiling in Los Angeles last month. At that time he told AutoRacing1.com that he was pretty confident of landing a Champ Car seat for 2006.

As it turns out we now hear that is very close to happening and rumors suggest he could replace Nelson Philippe at Mi-Jack Conquest Racing. Philippe is rumored to be moving from the Mi-Jack Conquest team to the HVM team for 2006.

For Mosley it’s all a game of chess  Give FIA President Max Mosley credit for one thing, he has the nerve to play with large manufacturers as if they are just puppets.  Case in point, the recent proposed three year engine freeze. 

Is it really about cost savings, or is it about Mosley squeezing the manufacturers until he says checkmate!

Mosley has said that all teams have to sign up to these new regulations by the end of March, at which point they also have to commit to take part in the 2008 season. Only the teams who've signed up can put forward proposals to change the rules.

A classic example of how Mosley tries to pressure the teams into agreeing to his terms. If they don't like the new rules, they have to commit to the future if they want to change them. And that, in turn, would mean they'd have to forget about plans for a breakaway.

It appears Mosley is willing to play poker with these large car manufacturers.  They could get fed up with being backed into a corner and just leave the sport, or they just decide to play his game and give-in. 

But as John Howett, of Toyota, said: "Three years out is quite a long way to freeze an engine after a very limited period of running with it."   Over the next 18 months, the teams will all have to submit the basic design of an engine, and that's what they'll have to use throughout the 2008, 2009 and 2010 seasons. 

If all have less HP than, say Renault, they will be locked into three years with an inferior engine.  We just don't see them agreeing to this unless the FIA does as we proposed Champ Car do with their Honda and Ford Cosworth 2.65 L turbo engine - put all the engines on a dyno and tweak them so they all have essentially the same HP and Torque curves.  Then blueprint the engines and freeze them in time for a span of three years, at which time everyone will enjoy a level playing field and may the best team win based on chassis, strategy and driver skill.

Non-Porsche teams not happy  Hearing that non-Porsche Grand-Am teams are not happy. Porsche went from being at a disadvantage to this year having a HP advantage as Grand-Am officials granted them a favorable rules change.

Another wild rumor we heard in Homestead, which we do not believe by the way, is that the ALMS will add a new class for Daytona prototypes next year. Yes, this would be a way for the two series to merge a la Champ Car/IRL, but we simply do not see the France family allowing such a thing. While they can't stop the ALMS from doing it, they can make it very hard on the teams who try to run both series.

No Swifts to be had  AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that Swift Champ Car Atlantic chassis' just are not available - a testament to the strength of the series.  Swift has one new one they just built and four people are in line for it.  No team will give up cars they have.

29 drivers tested in Fontana this past week and around 30 are expected to start in Long Beach.  Imagine what will happen next year when Champ Car and the IRL merge and the IPS teams join the Atlantics.  Can you say 40-car fields?

Rossi to decide on future soon  MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi says he wants to decide within the next three months whether to stay on two wheels or switch to Formula One.  The Italian's contract with Yamaha runs out at the end of the year and he has tested several times with the Ferrari Formula One team.

"For both teams, I need to decide what I am doing in a short time, I think two or three months," the 27-year-old told the BBC.  "Going in F1 will be hard on my private life. Already for me it's over the limit, so to think worse is difficult."

Harvick can be Toyota’s next target  UPDATE #3 While rumored to be the top choice of Toyota when that auto maker ventures into NASCAR Nextel Cup Series competition in 2007, driver #29-Kevin Harvick says none of the future moves he makes will entail the role of owner/driver. In fact, Harvick's comments Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway sounded more like the five-year Cup veteran would rather remain with current car owner Richard Childress than either exit to start his own Cup program - he already fields Busch and Truck entries through Kevin Harvick Inc. - or leave to drive for another owner. Harvick is in the final year of his contract with Richard Childress Racing, although there are contract options available to Childress to re-sign the driver. And while the two have mutually agreed to discuss their future later this year, Harvick said Friday that there was no specific date set to have any issues resolved. The talk of Toyota, he said, is speculation. "... As far as [Toyota] courting me, I don't know what would fall into that category. Everything up to this point is speculation of what's happening. Right now, there's nothing done or nothing happening anywhere from any manufacturer or anything." NASCAR Daily Scene

03/20/06 Kevin Harvick has set too high a price tag in his contract renegotiations with General Motors, and it now seems unlikely that car owner Richard Childress will renew the deal, according to sources. The two have set an early April deadline. Harvick drives Nextel Cup [and Busch] cars for Childress, and also fields a Truck for Ron Hornaday and two Busch cars, for Burney Lamar, Ron Fellows, Tony Stewart and himself, all under Kevin Harvick Inc. Toyota would likely be willing to support Harvick with a full Nextel Cup-Busch-Truck package, but it is unclear if GM is willing to match that. And it's unclear if Harvick would back down on his price in order to stay with Chevrolet. That is all raising speculation about who Childress might hire to replace Harvick if Harvick does move on. Winston Salem Journal

03/07/06 Whether Kevin Harvick returns to Richard Childress Racing next season will not be totally up to the 2001 Nextel Cup rookie of the year. A source close to the organization said there is concern over whether Harvick is focused enough on his Cup career to be given a long-term contract. Harvick already owns teams in the Busch Series and Craftsman Truck Series, and is believed to be a target of Toyota as a driver and perhaps owner when the Japanese-based manufacturer enters NASCAR's top series in 2007. Harvick and team owner Richard Childress have set an April deadline for determining whether they will remain together past this season. Childress has maintained he would like Harvick back. He also admitted the decision is not one-sided. "It's got to be right for both of us,'' said Childress, who attended Sunday's race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. "It can't be right for just one. It has to be a deal that both of us believe we can win races and win championships. NASCAR.com

01/26/06 Unless car owner Richard Childress can sign him to a long-term extension, Kevin Harvick will be one of the top free agents for the 2007 season - just in time for Toyota to make its NASCAR debut.

"They are going to make a run at a lot of drivers, and everyone is aware that Kevin's contract is up," Childress said Thursday. "I am sure they are going to make a run at him." Harvick has been reluctant to negotiate with Childress, unsure of where the program is headed.

Once considered one of the elite teams in NASCAR, RCR has struggled of late and Harvick has failed to qualify for the Chase for the Nextel Cup championship the past two seasons. He's coming off a one-win season in which his crew chief was suspended twice for allegedly cheating on car setups.

Since his breakout season in 2001, when he won in just his third career Cup start, Harvick has never fully taken off. He's got just four career wins - although one is the prestigious Brickyard 400 - and has never finished higher than fifth in the final season standings.

So until he's sure that Childress can give him a team capable of winning a championship, Harvick doesn't want to commit to anything.

"We've kind of agreed to sit down in April and just kind of evaluate where things are," Harvick said. "I'm not going to rush into things and do things I don't want to do. I think right now we are in the same frame of mind about our goals, and our goals are to go out and get the season going out good and make the Chase.

"All the rest of it, the paper stuff, is something that's not high on the list right now."  More at AP Story

Renault, Cosworth and Ferrari agree to engine freeze?  According to a report in Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport the FIA held a meeting Friday with Ferrari, Cosworth and Renault to formulate future engine regulations.  The International Automobile Federation confirmed on Saturday that FIA president Max Mosley met key personnel at Ferrari's Maranello factory.

"Max Mosley, Charlie Whiting and FIA consultant Peter Wright attended the meeting.

The Italian newspaper headline says - 'The Peace of Maranello', and reported an agreement was reached to freeze engine development for a five year period from 2008 to 2012 with the aim of reducing costs dramatically.

Is IRL running out of gas?  The Indy Racing League had a 'watershed season' last year, its president said, but a decrease in drivers, manufacturers and races suggests the circuit still has a challenging road ahead. Full story at the Miami Herald
NASCAR team on verge of collapse  Two Toccoa [GA] businessmen, John Carter and Roger Craven, did the near-impossible last year when they took their shoestring budget team to Daytona and finished ninth in the Daytona 500, earning more than $300,000. But this year, Carter and Craven are on the verge of dropping off the circuit. With Mike Skinner at the wheel of their #37 Dodge, the R and J Racing team has failed to qualify for an event this year, and the team has no primary sponsor to help foot the bills. "We're still trying to get on our feet, and we're too good a team to just quit," Carter said. "It's a shame that a Georgia-based team can't get a Georgia-based company to help us just a little bit." Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Champ Car/IRL merger nears  UPDATE Tony George stated more things today regarding the possible IRL/Champ Car merger talk.  This AP article says (key excerpts from today) -Tony George acknowledged that he and Kalkhoven have been talking "fairly frequently," but added, "I think (an agreement) is certainly possible, but I think we're a long way from there at this point.

"I think everyone would like to see it happen sooner rather than later: our partners, our sponsors, our teams, fans and I think likewise on the other side, I'm sure there are those that feel the same way. But it's nothing you can hurry along."

George, speaking at a press conference at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where the IRL IndyCar series opens Sunday with the Toyota Indy 300, said, "There's always the temptation to start charging ahead but so far I've tried to keep focused on really trying to understand what all we both have to consider in discussions we've had on unification."

Asked if he now believes it is important to have only one open-wheel series, George said, "I, for a long time, have been one of those who believed it certainly would be nice if open-wheel racing were unified."

Kalkhoven said he too has enjoyed the conversations with George, but cautioned that "No one is saying we want to do this at all costs.

"The issue is, everyone would agree, that it's a very, very good thing to do," Kalkhoven told the Associated Press in a telephone interview earlier Friday. "It's not about getting an agreement to merge. It's about what we will have in year one, year two and year three.

"The worst thing that could happen would be to merge and then have another split."

Asked if it can get done this time, Kalkhoven said, "We're talking and that's a good thing. The best thing would be if everyone else just goes away and leaves us alone."

George first said that, even if a deal does get done, it could not happen by 2007. Later, though, he said, "I supposed if all the stars, moons and planets aligned, it could be possible. But what are the chances of that?"

"There's reason to be hopeful, but I would caution everyone from getting their hopes set too high," George said. "I think if it comes together, great. That would be wonderful. It depends on what the issues are. If we can eliminate the hairy issues, it won't be a problem. If we have a bunch of big, hairy issues then it will be a problem."

Full Transcript of what Tony George said.

03/22/06 As we have reported previously, we expect a merger announcement of the IRL and Champ Car to happen during the month of May at Indy. In this new LA Times article Tony George gives the strongest indication yet that the merger talks are heating up.

It's fair to say we would both like to see that," George said of a merger. George's track is the site of the Indianapolis 500, the most famous U.S. auto race and one of the world's biggest single-day sporting events with up to 400,000 spectators, plus millions more on worldwide TV.

George, the man primarily responsible for splitting open-wheel racing into two groups when he formed the IRL in 1995, now says, "I'm one of many people who believe that open-wheel racing would be better served by a unified IRL and Champ Car."

Kalkhoven, whose series opens its season April 9 with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, agreed that "we're trying to develop a plan."

The goal is not only to combine the two series, he said, but to make the sport a more potent alternative to NASCAR stock-car racing, whose growing popularity has helped marginalize the IRL and Champ Car.

That's especially crucial if open-wheel, open-cockpit racing — whose famous drivers include A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Rick Mears and Al Unser Sr. — hopes to gain more corporate sponsors. They would provide the financial muscle the sport needs to better promote itself and capture more fans, he said.

"We've had fruitful discussions," Kalkhoven said. "We all agree it would be better to have a united series. We are both trying to find the right solution."

The statements by George, 46, and Kalkhoven, 61, could set the stage for a dramatic shift in auto racing.

Both men emphasized that the talks were in their early stages, that a merger still might not happen and that they were prepared to keep going their separate ways.

"There is a lot of hair on this cat — it's not easy," George said. "Nothing is imminent."

But asked whether a merger could be done, he replied: "Absolutely. No question."

AutoRacing1.com has been a proponent to a merger for many years now, despite die-hard fans from both camps who insisted the two sides should never merge. We are glad to see that this time the talks appear very real and all indications are that the time has come to end this Hatfields and McCoys destructive battle. Mark C.

Wallace gone after 2006  Word in Homestead is that new IRL TV Commentator Rusty Wallace will move over to the ABC NASCAR booth in 2007 when ABC's NASCAR TV contract kicks in. It seems ABC is getting him some experience in the IRL first......and if the IRL and Champ Car merge they will have all the Commentators they need.
IRL teams eye new Champ Car  AutoRacing1.com is hearing that more than one IRL team has made inquiries to Panoz about the new 2007 Champ Car.  This is likely a further indication that they think a merger between the IRL and Champ Car is going to happen and, as rumored, the new Panoz with the 2.65L Champ Car turbo engine will be the standard chassis for the new merged series. 

The new Panoz will be unveiled to the public at this year's San Jose GP in July.  If the merger announcement happens in May as anticipated, there will be a rush by teams to get their orders in early with Panoz.  The sooner they get their first new chassis, the sooner they can begin to test it after the 2006 season is over.

Sponsor woes for Champ Car?  UPDATE #2 AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that Newman/Haas has signed a major new sponsor for Bruno Junqueira's car to replace PacifiCare.  We have been told what company it is, but promised not to spoil the announcement.  Based on the colors of the car testing in Sebring this week, we'll leave it up to your imagination as to what company it may be.  If true this will be a major coup for the team as the sponsor is a very visible company.

03/23/06 Per the story we broke below back on February 10th (see below), all indications are that the Newman/Haas team indeed won't have PacifiCare back as a sponsor for Bruno Junqueira.

Junqueira appeared at Sebring testing this week with an entirely new paint scheme and no sign of PacifiCare.  Now it remains to be seen whether the team has found a replacement sponsor.  The new red and white paint scheme indicates something is up.

02/10/06 A reader writes, I log onto AutoRacing1.com every morning anticipating some Champ Car news and there's nothing. PKV has not filled a seat, there's no teammate announced for Tracy, what about Ryan Hunter-Reay? Are Champ Car teams this hard up for sponsorship? Brian Carroccio, Rockville, MD

Dear Brian, With all recent sponsorship announcement news by NASCAR and Grand-Am teams, the still fractured open wheel racing appears to be reeling with little or no sponsorship news to announce. IRL lost Chevy and Toyota, some teams folded and they can barely assemble a full field of cars, and likewise for Champ Car.

Tracy will probably have Dominguez as a teammate and PKV already knows who they want as drivers.  As for Ryan Hunter-Reay, he sits and waits hoping for a phone call.  We expect he won't know what he is doing until the 11th hour.

We hear Champ Car does have some news they are holding back on, but here is what AutoRacing1.com sources are hearing for Champ Car on the sponsorship front:

Hearing that PacifiCare is out of motorsports due to their merger with United Healthcare. Don’t know if N/H has another sponsor in the wings or not. Maybe they have a small involvement with the team for 2006 because PacifiCare is still on their website, but a PacifiCare rep told our source that due to the merger, they were out of motorsport and recently Bruno Junqueira let it slip by saying "we need a sponsor." At the time we assumed he meant for the rumored 3rd Newman/Haas car, but now we wonder.

Roshfrans has stopped all sponsorships in motorsports for 2006, except for the Champ Car official status. No sponsorship of the Forsythe team (or any others).

Hearing Intel is not going to be involved with Champ Car, in light of the Global sponsorship of the BMW F1 team.

Hearing that the CDW deal is very small, maybe only $1 million to the RuSPORT team. May not happen. This one is very speculative because CDW said they would be doing a program.

Hearing that the DHL/Glock deal is not that big of a loss to Champ Car (which is why they probably did not try to save it). There was NO buy-in (or budget) from the USA division at all, which means no activation in the USA. The budget actually came from the Deutche Post Speed Team (go to www.tolimit.de) which runs a “Driving experience” for Deutche Post. They would invite special clients to the track to drive with the Speed Team, it was basically a big Hospitality program in Europe. They broke off some of the funding from their driver development budget and put it over here. They could probably do the GP2 series for $1.5 million, where the Champ Car is going to be $3 million at least.

Hearing that in 2005, Forsythe would not take anything less than $6M, which is why Corona went away, as they only had $4million, and came on very late in the season.

Champ Car is not out of the woods yet when it comes to finding sponsors, but it's not all their fault, when Tony George split Indy Car Racing in half by creating the IRL, he basically destroyed the sport and now all the sponsors look to NASCAR. In 1995 and prior, when Joyce Julius did their annual sponsorship report, the total sponsorship value in CART dwarfed NASCAR. Look where the sport is today!

With that said, we expect Champ Car to make some key announcements Tuesday regarding the Atlantic series and then we expect to hear whatever positive news Champ Car has in their back pocket between March 1st and the Long Beach race.  Mark C.

Will Danica Patrick stay in the IRL?  In a recent interview, the Florida Sun-Sentinel asked Danica Patrick - How did you end up in the IRL or did the IRL find you?

She responded, "The team I drive for, they were a Champ Car team and then they got into IRL and you know it's kind of where the sponsors want to go. If the sponsors want to go to a certain series, you have to go where that money is, because I don't know about you, but I don't have 7 or 8 million dollars to fund my own car wherever I want it. You've got to go where the money is."

She alludes to the fact she is not committed to the IRL and will go where the money is, so the rumors of a possible move to NASCAR may not be so far fetched.

However, she may not be prepared to commit to NASCAR's laborious schedule. In the same interview she said about the prospect of NASCAR, "It might happen one day, but it might not. I think I have to go where the fun is for me. I've lived in England and I've traveled into Europe and stuff, and I don't know it's just right now I'm not excited about Europe very much, so therefore I'm happy where I am in the states. I have my family and my friends and NASCAR is just so many races. You race almost every single weekend, it seems like … that you don't have a life. My husband still works a little bit, by no means would I want to be away from him that much. It's all about what makes you happy in your life. And your life is way too short to just work. And so what if you make a lot of money at the end of it, if you can't do anything with it. Or if you didn't have a good life because you were just working the whole time, what was the point?"

Indy star may get 'serious' about F1  (GMMf1NET)  England's Dan Wheldon says he is still serious about following the career paths of predecessors Juan Pablo Montoya and Jacques Villeneuve.

Like the F1-racing duo, the 27-year-old is an Indy 500 winner and Indy Racing League champion, but so far the biggest move to formula one has passed him by.

Wheldon came close to a test deal with BMW Sauber for 2006, but he baulked at the offer because it did not guarantee him a race seat.

Since then, speculation suggests he might one day simply settle for a big-money offer in NASCAR.

''When my contract expires with (IRL team owner) Chip (Ganassi),'' Dan told the Telegraph, ''I'll take a serious look at formula one -- maybe more serious than I did before.''

To the British newspaper, he admitted frustration that - despite success, fame and fortune in America - he is not often touted as a major star of formula one's future.

[Editor's Note: Does Wheldon seriously believe F1 teams are going to give a hard look at a 100% throttle oval race winner?  Simply isn't going to happen - completely different driving skill required in F1.  His chances are far greater in NASCAR.]

Newman/Haas team poised to dominate again?  It appears the Newman/Haas team is poised to dominate the Champ Car World Series again this year if pre-season test times are any indication.

In testing this week at Sebring, their drivers - Sebastien Bourdais and Bruno Junqueira turned laps quite a bit faster than anyone else, although Nelson Philippe was nipping at their heels.

Both driver led the way over the two days of testing at Sebring International Raceway, with Bourdais (right)  clocking a best lap of 49.93 seconds on Wednesday. Both drivers ran again on Thursday before afternoon rains closed things down three hours early.  Both Bourdais and Junqueira ran 175 miles each today with Bourdais setting a best lap time of 50.1 and Junqueira a 50.2.

“Things went very well for us,” Bourdais said. “We had a very good first day, the conditions were just about perfect and we worked on quite a few things. The track was very grippy and fast, and we did a lot of laps so it was a good physical workout as well. We ran a lot of laps and a lot of them in the 50s (seconds), so we were working hard. I think we’re ready for the season to start.” In part from Champ Car

Nelson Philippe, pictured right in his yet to be painted Lola Ford almost matched the speed of the Newman/Haas duo.

Fastest Sebring Lap Times since November, 2005
1. Sebastien Bourdais 49.93 seconds (N/H car)
2. Bruno Junqueira 50.1 seconds (N/H car)
3. Nelson Philippe 50.31 (Thursday on 50-mile day)
4. Oriol Servia 50.65 (Thursday on 50-mile day)
5. Franck Montagny 50.8 (PKV car)
6. Giorgio Pantano 50.9
7. Ryan Briscoe 51.0
8. Ryan Dalziel 51.5
9. Katherine Legge 51.5 (PKV car)
10. Jan Heylen 51.73 (Mi-Jack Conquest)
11. Charles Zwolsman 51.8
12. Alx Danielsson 52.1
13. Richard Lyons 52.2
14. Katherine Legge 53.2  (Rocketsports Car)
15. Dan Clarke 53.5
16. Tonis Kasemets 54.4

Industry News
Signs point to GM bankruptcy  General Motors has a plan to return to profitability:

Get rid of as many United Auto Workers as it can by offering $35,000 to $140,000 to leave.

Not sure how many are going to pack up and go, but on Wednesday the world's largest--and least-profitable--automaker made such buyout offers to each of its 113,000 UAW members in the U.S.

By 2008, GM hopes to have 30,000 fewer of them.

General Motors Corp.'s decision to offer early-retirement buyouts to 113,000 workers left many in the nation's capital wondering Wednesday whether their worst fears might come to pass--a bankruptcy by the troubled automobile giant.

That would mean that GM's pension obligations, estimated by the government to be underfunded by $31 billion, likely would be dumped on the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., the agency that backs up private pension plans in the U.S.

Congress is considering a bill to shore up the agency's resources and force stronger steps to strengthen underfunded pension plans. There is concern that a GM bankruptcy could overwhelm the pension agency, which is supported by company premiums, and possibly require a taxpayer bailout.

"We are watching this very closely," said a Senate Finance Committee staff member involved in writing the legislation, which has stalled. "It is one of our big concerns." More at Chicago Tribune

Some wild F1 rumors  Some wild rumors circulating in F1 have Red Bull making Gerald Forsythe and Kevin Kalkhoven an offer they can't refuse to take Cosworth off their hands at a substantial profit.

Meanwhile the rumor mill goes as far as speculating that instead of supplying Williams engines in 2007, Toyota could dump their existing F1 team, which is a complete failure, and buy the Williams team.

Seems too far-fetched? This sort of aggressive move is not without precedent, however. When Toyota was losing badly in CART they left All-American Racers high and dry and switched to Ganassi Racing. Winning is all that mattered and we doubt Toyota brass will stand for losing so badly in F1 much longer.

Red Bull could test at A1-Ring  (GMMf1NET)  Red Bull's two F1 teams could use the soon-to-be-rebuilt A1-Ring in Austria as a test track.

The former grand prix venue is now part-owned by the energy drink magnate Dietrich Mateschitz, who has vowed to contribute to its $120 million rejuvenation.

In the 'Tiroler Tageszeitung' (Austria) newspaper, the billionaire suggested that he had contemplated the idea of nominating the track as his teams' 'home' venue.

But he admitted: ''I don't think we would get permission to do it.''

Cheat storm could engulf F1  (GMMf1NET)  F1's 'flexi-wing' saga might be just one of multiple rule infringements in 2006, with a report suggesting that at least two other cases of suspected cheating could now be under review.

Germany's 'RTL' broadcaster claims that, Ferrari aside, up to five other teams are being watched -- including champions Renault.

''Renault have always had impressive speed off the line,'' said Niki Lauda, referring to Fernando Alonso's rocket-like start at Sepang, ''but what we saw (in Malaysia) was unusual.''

It is suggested that Renault could be running a form of launch control, despite the fact that the technology is not allowed.

Former Sauber principal Peter Sauber, meanwhile, told 'Sport Bild' that - not including Ferrari, BMW-Sauber and McLaren - at least three other teams were running dubious 'flexi' wings in Malaysia.

''But what the Ferrari wing was doing (ie. flexing) was the most extreme,'' said the Swiss.

'RTL' suggested that Honda and Toyota could be two of Sauber's three.

Also attracting rivals' ire is a new braking system devised by Ferrari, which is seen by some as yet another moveable aerodynamic device.

Atlanta rainout could cost SMI $1 million  The economic fallout from the rainout at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which pushed the Golden Corral 500 to a Monday start and cut the crowd to about a third of what track officials expected, began a week ago and will continue for months, maybe even years. AMS president Ed Clark said his extra costs for another day of clean-up and staffing runs into six figures, because the track typically employs 5,000 part-timers and 63 full-time employees. "We won't know exactly for a while, but it's substantial," Clark said, adding that lost revenue from concessions and souvenirs easily could top $1 million. Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Cingular Chevy No. 31 to lose sponsor  UPDATE NASCAR officials say they have informed Richard Childress Racing that if Cingular Wireless changes its name to AT&T, as expected after a recent merger, AT&T would not be allowed on Jeff Burton's #31 car. NASCAR made the ruling based on its interpretation of its contract with series sponsor Nextel. Cingular and Alltel, as well as Samsung/Radio Shack with Texas Motor Speedway, were grandfathered in as existing sponsors when the Nextel Series sponsorship contract was signed in 2003. "It's pretty clear that they can't transfer a name due to a sale," NASCAR Vice President for Corporate Communications Jim Hunter said March 17. Executives from Cingular would not comment March 16 when asked about what would happen to the company's sponsorship. "Right now, Cingular is in it and is in it for the long haul," team owner Richard Childress said March 19. "That's about all I can say." Hunter said that Cingular could negotiate with Nextel to try to transfer the name and keep the sponsorship. But Michael Robichaud, vice president for sports marketing for Sprint Nextel, said there are no plans to negotiate. One option could be for Cingular to move to the Busch Series, where any cellular company can provide sponsorship. NASCAR Daily Scene 03/20/06 One can assume from this article that the No. 31 Cingular NASCAR Nextel Cup car will soon be branded with AT&T sponsorship - Life goes on for Cingular Wireless, even though the brand is mere months from dying away. AT&T, which plans to take full control of the cell phone provider as part of its acquisition of BellSouth, intends to drop the 5-year-old Cingular name. Although Atlanta-based Cingular has spent more than $4 billion advertising itself since the company was born, its services will be renamed with the historic AT&T brand. Cingular's president and chief executive, Stan Sigman, supports the change, saying the company has been at a "competitive disadvantage" in pitting itself against rival Verizon Wireless, which shares the same name as other services offered by Verizon Communications. Cingular, meanwhile, has been distinct from its current corporate parents, AT&T and BellSouth. One thing isn't up for debate: Because the Cingular brand will continue to exist for months, the carrier can't afford to stop spending money on marketing. Thus you'll see plenty of Cingular ads, notably during the NCAA men's basketball tournament — which began this week — and during Fox TV's hugely popular "American Idol." Cingular will come full circle if, as expected, AT&T buys BellSouth for $67 billion in stock, taking full control of Cingular in the process. AT&T's plans to eliminate the BellSouth and Cingular names, and move to the single AT&T name, would save hundreds of millions of dollars on ads. Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Date switch for Champ Car race  UPDATE This rumor/story, broke by AutoRacing1.com last week is now upgraded to 'fact' today.  See Hot News page for details.

03/16/06 AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that the Mexico City Champ Car race weekend slated for November 5th will probably be pushed back to November 12th.  We expect we will hear more about this in the not too distance future.  We have updated our race calendars accordingly.

Bourdais to NASCAR  Motors TV in the UK/Europe aired a 30 minute interview with two-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais this past weekend, titled "Champ Bourdais".

In it he says that if he doesn't land the F1 seat he wants in 2007, which is looking more and more unlikely, he may turn to NASCAR and he says that Mark Martin is helping him get a ride.

He also talks about how he would have loved to drive the new Champ Car in 2006 and that it's a shame it's coming out a year later. Reading between the lines, this suggests he isn't intending to be in Champ Car when the new car launches in 2007.

However, if a merger between the IRL and Champ Car is announced soon, and the future suddenly looks very bright for open wheel racing, Bourdais, Tracy and others who may be eyeing NASCAR may quickly have second thoughts about leaving and stay in the new revitalized IndyCar Series.

Will F1 freeze engines?  Today, the FIA will meet in Paris to discuss a radical new rule for 2008. Max Mosley, the president of the governing body, the FIA, proposed a freeze on engine technology for 3 season to cut costs for the Formula One teams.

Mosley wants to cut costs in Formula One, to improve the safety standards. Mosley hopes to finalize the new regulations for 2008 for 30 June this year. McLaren, BMW, Toyota and Honda are no big fans of the new rule. Renault was the one to put the idea forward.

F1's appeal is in its high-technology - and the teams oppose Mosley's plans for restricting technical freedom in a number of ways. Renault came up with the idea of an engine freeze in F1, but of course they have one of the better engines right now.

"We're not keen on the idea of freezing the whole engine," Honda's F1 boss Nick Fry told Autosport.com. "It makes it very impractical for all the engine manufacturers."

Toyota F1 boss John Howett added: "Three years out is quite a long way to freeze an engine after a very limited period of running with it."

Agreement to merge the IRL and Champ Car?  UPDATE #9 This new USA Today article says, While Champ Car World Series co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven characterizes discussions with Tony George as informal meetings at ski resorts, he says they have broadened communications between the series enough that they plan to continue talking in the coming months. But he suggests it would be 2007 at the earliest before any settlement.

"I think we all recognize the virtue of bringing the two series together, but the most difficult thing isn't doing (the deal) but what happens afterward," Kalkhoven says. "It's a matter of Tony and me getting to know each other. We keep talking, and that's good and things are moving forward. I can't say if it's this year or next, but progress is being made."

"The most important thing is to get it right, because the worse thing is for a merger to fail. All the details have to be agreed upon."

Kalkhoven says being new to ownership and not having a personal history of the animosity between the series have helped him keep an open mind during talks with George, whom some blame for the split that has allowed NASCAR to become racing's premier series. And in acknowledging that fans on both sides might maintain hard feelings even with a resolution, he believes the enmity will evolve into acceptance whenever racing's longest standoff finally ends.

"It's been 10 years since the split, and you're not going to repair that overnight," Kalkhoven says. "But we've got good teams and good partners and the spirit of willingness and cooperation, which is great."  More at  USA Today

03/03/06 Some readers chime in, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Bravo to Derrick Walker, somebody inside finally speaking the truth that both sides need each other. Also, Robin Miller is dead on with the comments about the marketing efforts on both side. The marketing has been insulting the intelligence of all open wheel fans for the last 10 years. Tim Shaw, Wheaton, IL

Another writes, Just read Robin Miller's article on the latest hope for unification- as ever he speaks complete common sense and I find I agree with him 100%.
It's been clear for sometime (well ever since 1995) that one series was the way to go, I guess both sides had to reach a point where they could see the writing on the wall before common sense prevailed. Frankly I don't see much of a future for OW racing otherwise- the Indy 500 will survive in one form or the other but am not so sure about the rest.
To my surprise I've seen the odd comment on the forums claiming that reunification wasn't needed, each to his own I guess, personally I am hoping that TG and KK can put this thing back together again as what's left of CART/CCWS isn't really hitting the mark for me anymore- which is a shame as the old PPG CART Indy Car series used to be compulsive viewing, nowadays I get my US racing thrills from NASCAR.
Here's hoping 2006 will bring an end to the CART/IRL war and the forums will be talking about racing and not the tedious politics behind the split. Derek Parkinson

Dear Derek, Anyone who doesn't agree a merger is necessary are simply walking around with rose colored glasses on. As we wrote in this recent article, 'Headless Open Wheel Racing appears Doomed,' Unless the key principals in open wheel racing step back, realize that their sport is under attack (both from outside competition as well as its own internal divide-and-be-conquered cancer) and unite, I simply don't see America's oldest form of motorsport being around at all 10 or so years from now unless the head of open wheel racing is put back on its body by reuniting the IRL and Champ Car. The longer the two stay divided, the better the chance open wheel racing will eventually become extinct in the USA. Mark C.

03/03/06 In this latest Robin Miller article he agrees with AutoRacing1.com that a merger of the IRL and Champ Car must happen.    Some interesting quotes:
"We so desperately need each other it isn't funny," said Derrick Walker, an owner who's competed in both camps during the past decade of decomposition and also tried to orchestrate peace in 1998. "Tony (George) can't be happy with where the IRL is right now and we certainly can't be satisfied with Champ Car.

"There's no better time than right now because misery loves company."

03/01/06 This article is one author's opinion on the potential for a merger and why it is needed. The author is spot on regarding one point - if George and Kalkhoven care about the future of open wheel racing in America it's time to drop the hammer, i.e. end the split.

02/25/06 Dr. Jerry Punch, an IRL ABC pit reporter stated on ESPN Radio yesterday that the merger deal will get done for 2007. The way in which he presented it left the listeners believing he knew something was definitely in the works.

AutoRacing1.com has been a proponent of a merger for a very long time and we are firm believers it must happen. The long-term existence of the sport is at stake. We believe the rivalry between the teams of the two leagues in a merged series will be very healthy for the sport. There will be a real passion from the fans cheering for their side to win, something the sport needs badly. Rather than the negative passion we see today in a divided scenario with the other side wanting destruction of the other side, we will see that passion funneled onto the race track in a positive sense - may the best team win.  More ...

Cosworth F1's fastest engine?  (GMMf1NET) Cosworth, F1's smallest engine maker, is leading the pack in terms of horse power and revs in 2006, according to an analysis.

Germany's 'Sport1.de' publication printed the results of an apparent acoustic study, showing that Williams' independent Northampton-based supplier is packing the highest revs with its V8.

The analysis, believed to have been conducted by a rival F1 team, estimated that Cosworth is nipping the heels of the elusive 20,000rpm barrier.

Close behind, however, is Mercedes-Benz, generating a maximum of 19,600 revs per minute for the silver McLaren cars.

In third and fourth places are Ferrari and BMW, with about 19,000 rpm each.

Acoustic rev studies are carried out by recording the sound of an engine whilst it is lapping a formula one track.

track news
F1 unlikely for new A1-Ring  (GMMf1NET) Even though the demolished 'A1-Ring' is to be restored, the return of formula one to Austria has been deemed 'unrealistic' by the project's chief player.
However, Ernst Wustinger told the 'Kleinen Zeitung' newspaper that Zeltweg could host motor races again, such as the DTM series.

[Editor's Note: There are a number of F1 tracks in Europe that will soon not have an F1 race. Besides A1-Ring, Imola and Monza in Italy, Hockenheimring and Nurburgring in Germany, Monaco and Magny Cours in France all may have to alternate years in which they host F1 races per Bernie Ecclestone’s recent threat. Then there are tracks like Zandvoort in Holland and the long course at Brands Hatch that used to host F1 races. Should Champ Car ever go back to Europe there appears to be any number of tracks that could host a race. What we want to know is how come the rumored street races in Manchester, England quietly went away? Was that Bernie doing his magic behind the scenes to stunt any competition? It sure seemed that way because within weeks of the Manchester race, there were leaks of a possible F1 race in the streets of London.]

Hill may try DTM racer  (GMMf1NET) According to a rumor, 1996 world champion Damon Hill could test a DTM car at Brands Hatch.

His former rivals, like Jean Alesi, Mika Hakkinen and ex-Jordan teammate Heinz-Harald Frentzen, are all regulars in the German tin-top series. It is suggested that Hill, 45, will attend the upcoming DTM test in England.

To the German 'sid' news agency, he ruled out making a race return.

''Not at my age,'' Briton Hill smiled, ''but I would gladly have a quick drive if I had a chance.''

Rocketsports eyes Team Brazil  UPDATE #13 According to AutoRacing1.com sources at Rocketsports, the "Team Brazil" negotiation process is ongoing and progress is being made and there is good reason to hope that they will reach fruition. It will be two cars at this point.....if it happens. We hear their Champ Cars are all apart for painting. Could it be to the Team Brazil colors? Hmm.....

The team is not planning to test at Sebring this week. Their next planned test will again be in Houston we hear.

03/10/06 AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that Bernoldi has most of the money, and Pizzonia's along for the ride. We hear that Montagny does not have a lot of money so Champ Car looks very doubtful for him at this point.

03/03/06 According to Brazilian publication Globo.com, Pizzonia and Bernoldi will test for Rocketsports on March 8th and 9th in Houston....must mean Houston Motor Sports Ranch.....unless they mean Texas World Speedway in College Station, Texas.

03/02/06 From a press release in Brazil: The Pizzonia and Bernoldi's tests for Rocketsports are part of a Team Brazil project, created by Brazilian enterpriser Marcelo de Oliveira, Paulo Isper, Fernando Gomes and Renato Lopes and immediately supported by Rocketsports Racing. The projects goal is to increase Champ Car Brazilian participation and at the same time help make Champ Car more popular in Brazil.

"And as we are a country in love with cars, we want to make Champ Car "more Brazilian", with Northern and Southern drivers, hopefully leading to a Brazilian Champ Car race next year." said Oliveira.  They would race at either Interlagos or the new Belo Horizonte road course currently being built.

“I believe we are making progress toward making Team Brazil a reality." said Gentilozzi. “As Champ Car co-owner, I can say that we're very excited with the possibility to count drivers like Pizzonia and Bernoldi in our championship." added Gentilozzi.

"There were only talks, there is nothing confirmed. I know that, for the race to happen, we will need $5M, something that with sponsors, we could reach."

03/01/06 According to reports in the Brazilian media, Rocketsports is talking with Bernoldi and Pizzonia and their sponsors about becoming Team Brazil.  Paul Gentilozzi was quoted by the Brazilian media as saying "As co-owner of the Champ Car World Series, I can say I am very am motivated at the possibility to be part of Team Brazil in Champ Car".

02/28/06 Autosport.com reports Rocketsports Racing team owner Paul Gentilozzi has confirmed he is hoping to sign Franck Montagny to his Champ Car team by the end of the week.

Gentilozzi said: "I have been in negotiations with Franck and his manager; I have made an offer, they have made a counter-offer and we should soon find some middle ground. Franck seems a strong prospect, and if his heart in his Champ Cars, I believe he will be a major asset to the team and to the series as a whole."

Gentilozzi also confirmed to Autosport.com that should his Montagny deal fall through, he has back up plans with two more ex-Formula One drivers - former Williams tester and substitute driver Antonio Pizzonia, and fellow Brazilian Enrique Bernoldi  (Pictured left) who raced for Arrows and for the last two seasons has been one of BAR's test drivers.

"Enrique and Antonio (pictured right) are both young and hungry enough to prove they didn't get the chances they think they deserved in Formula One," remarked Gentilozzi. "I haven't decided yet if Rocketsports will be running a second car this season - I am only prepared to do it if we can do it right. But if it is feasible, those two would be at the top of my list of possible candidates to partner Franck."

02/25/06 Autosport.com reports that according to officials at Super Aguri, their preferable scenario would be to have Franck Montagny as reserve driver for the first three flyaway races of the season, starting with the Bahrain Grand Prix in two weeks.

Montagny is still looking to join the Champ Car series in the United States and could land a drive with Rocketsports.

However, the Champ Car season is not due to start before April 9th in Long Beach, which would allow Montagny to act as reserve driver for Super Aguri in the first three rounds of the F1 calendar.

The Bahrain Grand Prix is held on March 12th, followed by the Malaysian Grand Prix on March 19th and the Australian Grand Prix on April 2nd.

"Franck Montagny is most likely for the first three races, and after that maybe it will be James Rossiter," a team official told autosport.com.

See other rumor where days ago we said Montagny was in line for the third seat at Super Aguri.  Who would want to be the third driver for the slowest (by far) team in F1 is beyond us.  Talk about ruining one's career. 

02/02/06 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1, I read with great interest your interview with Franck Montagny.   This guy appears to have the talent and is extremely quick.  I can't imagine a Champ Car team not picking him up.  Christine Collins, Houston

Dear Christine, Yes, Montagny has the talent, but we hear he does not have a lot of money.  We know Rocketsports would like to pick him up, but the team and Montagny's management must put a sponsorship deal together before that can happen.  It all comes down to money.  Even though costs are way down from the CART days, so too is revenue from sponsors and we have yet to see any major marketing push from Champ Car.  Racing is still an expensive sport no matter how you cut it.  We are told there will be a bunch of sponsor announcements as we get closer to the season opener.  Mark C.

01/25/06 Hearing that PKV and Newman/Haas will test at Sebring on Thursday and Friday. We assume PKV will test Montagny and perhaps Legge again. As for Newman/Haas, will they test Timo Glock (pure speculation on our part)? We hear probably Bruno Junqueira. Forsythe Racing will test the day after PKV and Newman/Haas leave. Again, no drivers named. AutoRacing1.com staff

01/12/06 From Montagny's website: In 2006 Franck Montagny will express his talent far away from the circuits of Formula One, where he continued working until the last possible moment in 2005, even topping the leaderboard ahead of two world champions, Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher.

Now Franck will start a new chapter of his racing career when he makes his way to Indianapolis, headquarters of PKV Racing in the ChampCar series when he will undergo a two day test on the 26th and 27th of January, during the Florida winter on the Sebring circuit.

Franck will fly to America next week in order to undergo a seat fitting and to be integrated into the PKV team (founded by Dan Pettit, Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser), as much as possible on both a personal and technical level.

The Sebring test does not fully indicate what Franck’s 2006 program will be, as he will now need to convince the PKV squad - one of the best and most sought after teams – that his services are just the thing they need for the coming season.  More ...

New sponsors for CTE Racing - HVM  UPDATE KEITH WIGGINS:  At this stage we're putting together a sponsorship package, an overall sponsor for CTE-HVM Racing.  I think within a short period of time, you'll see what goes on the cars.  It will probably be mainly new stuff. 

Q.  Same sponsor for both cars, you're saying? 

KEITH WIGGINS:  Yes.  That may vary a little bit between individuals cars.  But on an overall program, yes, the plan will be that there will be one main sponsor. 

03/20/06 CTE Racing - HVM team boss Keith Wiggins hinted today that the team is putting the finishing touches on a new sponsorship package for both their cars.  The team is still evaluating their 2nd driver options and may test some drivers this week in Sebring.
Philippe to CTE Racing - HVM  UPDATE #2 Here is a transcript of yesterday's teleconference whereby Philippe was announced.

03/20/06 In a story first broke by AutoRacing1.com, this rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today as Nelson Philippe was announced today by the CTE Racing - HVM team.  More later on Hot News page.

03/01/06 AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that Nelson Philippe will switch from the Mi-Jack Conquest team to the HVM team for 2006. His teammate at HVM is rumored to be either Jan Heylen or Ronnie Bremer.

McLaren and BMW had illegal wings too  Besides Ferrari, Autosport.com reports that both the McLaren and BMW teams have been told by the FIA to change their wings before the next race in Melbourne. No official statement has been released by the FIA but apparently all three teams have been told to clean up their act before Melbourne.  See related news item.
Mi-Jack Conquest to announce one driver Tuesday  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  An article published today in Holland's largest Newspaper 'De Telegraaf' (750.000 copies) confirms the agreement between Charles Zwolsman and Mi-Jack Conquest Racing for the 2006 Champ Car season.  We have updated our 2006 Champ Car Silly Season page accordingly.

03/20/06 Word is that Eric Bachelart of Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing will announce one of his drivers for the 2006 Champ Car World Series season Tuesday (tomorrow).....assumed to be either Dutchman Charles Zwolsman or Belgian Jan Heylen.

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