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DATE News (chronologically)
Why Zhuhai?  A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Recently I have seen you rumor that Champ Car is eyeing a race in Zhuhai, China. What happened to Beijing? Joseph Capone, Bronx, NY

Dear Joseph, The Goldenport track outside of the Beijing airport was inadequate to host a Champ Car event and Beijing is focused 100% on getting ready for the 2008 Summer Olympics to worry about putting on a race, at least until the Olympics is over. Zhuhai was built many years ago expecting to host an F1 race, but a deal was never struck with Bernie Ecclestone and Zhuhai has sat dormant much of the time, primarily used by local racing clubs. The owners still want to hold at least one "major international event" at the natural terrain road course each year and Champ Car can fit that bill. Although changing rapidly, the politics in Beijing are still largely "old Communist thinking" whereas Hong Kong and its surrounding areas are much more westernized and used to doing business with international organizations.

A short 35 minute ferry ride from Hong Kong, Zhuhai is close to Macau, which hosts the famous Macau Grand Prix F3 race each year, so racing is not something new to the Chinese in and around the Delta Peninsula. Although Shanghai is the new commercial capital of China, Hong Kong is not far behind. It will therefore, be easier to get commercial interest from some major corporations to sponsor the event than say Beijing. We hear that Champ Car had some recent good meetings with the race promoter and the government, both of whom are very much sold on the idea of making the event a 3-day festival. In fact they have used a similar concept in some other events they have held at the circuit.

Another positive going for it is the fact that two Chinese drivers, Marchy Lee and Ho-Pin Tung - both with ties to Hong Kong, are capable of driving a Champ Car, and would bring much attention to the event in that part of China should it happen. Whereas Lee and Tung were shunned by the Beijing promoters (there is still a lot of animosity between a very westernized Hong Kong and the very Communist Beijing), both would be welcomed with open arms at Zhuhai.

What's interesting is what will happen after the Olympics in 2008. If Zhuhai turns out to be a huge success, it will be difficult to move the event to Beijing. However, the Chinese arm of the FIA, and the organizing body for all major racing events in China, is headquartered in Beijing and we suspect they will want to move the race to the streets around the Olympic Village starting in 2009. After building the magnificent structures for the '08 Summer Games,' the government will be looking for events to hold at these facilities rather than see them lie dormant. Either way, both Zhuhai and Beijing have the potential to be successful events if Champ Car can ever reach an agreement in China, which is not an easy thing. Mark C.
Webber eyes new Williams deal  (GMM) Mark Webber, whose contract expires at the end of 2006, says he would like to keep pedaling at Sir Frank Williams' team.

Due to his links to Renault boss Flavio Briatore, the Australian has been touted as a possible replacement for Fernando Alonso in 2007.

However, even though the future Renault line-up may simply be locked up already, 29-year-old Webber told Reuters that he would be happy if Williams took up an 'option' on his expiring two-year deal.

''It's up to Frank,'' he said.

Webber said: ''I hope he likes what he's seen so far and I still think I'm one of the good guys out there, I keep my head up and keep going.''

Mercedes to buy controlling interest in McLaren  (GMM)  Mercedes-Benz has described the prospect of buying the remaining 60 per cent of McLaren as 'an option'.

Competition chief for the German carmaker, Norbert Haug, suggested that 'discussions' about the matter were likely to take place in the future.

Mercedes' minority share aside, Ron Dennis and Mansour Ojjeh own the Woking-based F1 team.

Haug told 'Motorsport Aktuell': ''There is no decision about that (issue).''

He explained that he cannot imagine a 'better partner' than McLaren for Mercedes' grand prix foray.  ''Ron is a good partner and my friend.''

Haug continued: ''Of course, we do not always have the same opinions!''

Atherton denies rumor, to stick with ALMS  “Recent speculation in the media that I might be nominated to head a unified open wheel series is flattering but inaccurate. To be suggested for such an important position is personally flattering, but I believe it is the result of the success that the American Le Mans Series has achieved.

Don Panoz has entrusted me with the stewardship of his varied motorsports interests including Elan Motorsports Technologies, which is designing and building the next generation Champ Car – the Panoz DP01.

Panoz Motor Sports Group, which I have the honor of leading, remains committed to providing the best service to all our partners. It is my sole focus at the moment and for the foreseeable future.”   Scott Atherton, President/CEO

McLaren prepared to drop Montoya  The public admission that Juan Montoya is dispensable by McLaren team 'F1 CEO' Martin Whitmarsh will be a blow to The Colombian, who - like Raikkonen - is near the end of his current contract. ''We've made no secret of the fact that we would prefer Kimi ... to remain in the team,'' Whitmarsh told the British Guardian 'paper. He said: ''To that end we've given him the maximum amount of time to decide what he wants to do.''
USGP toast?  IMS President Joie Chitwood said that “his staff did not send ticket renewal forms” to customers for the track’s F1 race because the future of the race “remains unsettled”  INDIANAPOLIS STAR [Editor's Note: Rumor in Indy is that after losing money for five years coupled with last year's disaster, the Hulman George family won't be inviting F1 back.]
Renault cracks Ferrari's code  According to German newspaper Bild in a story they ran on Saturday, Renault had decrypted Ferrari's radio communications, much to the Italian team's chagrin. But when autosport.com asked Ferrari's Luca Colajanni what he thought about the story, he said: "I don't care what Bild says," and refused to comment further.
JV to marry  According to Autosport.com, Jacques Villeneuve will be getting married in June to girlfriend Johanna Martinez, and it is said a little Villeneuve could be on the way.
Todt F1 link with son?  (GMM)  Jean Todt has denied speculation that he helps son Nicolas to succeed in racing.

The Frenchman admitted at the Nurburgring that the weekend was a good one if your surname is 'Todt' -- a Ferrari won the grand prix, and Todt Jr's GP2 team 'ART' dominated the support category events.

Moreover, Michael Schumacher's F1 teammate, Felipe Massa - who is managed by Nicolas Todt - netted his first grand prix podium.

''I am very proud of my son,'' Jean Todt said, ''as it is clear that he only shares my name; he is really doing the job.''

However, speculation persists that the relationship could extend further, particularly as 'ART' is enjoying such success and already shares one high-profile sponsor with the F1 team.

''(Nicolas) does not have a relationship with Ferrari,'' father Todt said, ''not at all.

''Same sponsor?  I never spoke to that sponsor, I never convinced them (to back both teams).''

Todt continued: ''I cannot help it if people think he maybe gets Ferrari telemetry, or that I stand behind him -- most of the time he doesn't even listen to me.''

There is also an interesting link between Todt Jr's recent 'ART' drivers and formula one.  Last year, now Williams rookie Nico Rosberg drove for the team, and now McLaren protégé Lewis Hamilton is looking impressive in GP2.

''Last year he didn't know he was training a driver (for F1),'' Todt mused, ''but this year he does.''

More NASCAR cheating: Jarrett team faces penalty  UPDATE NASCAR confiscated the sway bar from Nextel Cup driver Dale Jarrett's No. 88 Ford this past weekend at Richmond, Va., and crew chief Richard "Slugger" Labbe faces stiff penalties for the infraction, the Observer has learned.

A sway bar may be used on the front and/or rear suspension to help keep the body flat as the vehicle rounds a corner, which greatly improves a vehicle's cornering agility. Replacing the sway bar with one of a larger diameter can increase it even more.

According to NASCAR sources, Labbe could receive a hefty fine and possible suspension for the violation. Jarrett and team owner Robert Yates could also receive points penalties.

An official announcement of NASCAR's verdict is expected on Tuesday.  ThatsRacin.com

05/08/06 The situation surrounding Dale Jarrett Saturday night was murky, but NASCAR said it might issue penalties this week. Jarrett's crew apparently made some pre-race chassis adjustments that NASCAR didn't like, so NASCAR forced Jarrett to start from the rear of the field. Winston Salem Journal
New Champ Car design on hold  A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, You're slipping.  Robin Miller reported on Speed News Sunday that he thinks the new Champ Car Panoz DP01 was put on hold.  Any news? Tommy Evans

Dear Tommy, According to our sources, the hold was a short term delay during negotiations.  Now that the two sides have met and decided on the direction of the new car, the design of the Panoz is progressing forward.  Mark C.

Three Andrettis on track at Indy  UPDATE #2 Photos of the Andrettis from today at Indy:

Photos Courtesy of IMS

05/06/06 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  All three generations of the racing Andretti family will take to the famous oval for a ceremonial lap at noon Sunday as the track opens for practice. Mario Andretti will drive the No. 1 Dean Van Lines Hawk/Ford in which he earned the pole position for the 1967 Indianapolis 500. Michael Andretti and Marco Andretti will drive their 2006 Indy 500 cars, Michael in the No. 1 Jim Beam/Vonage Dallara/Honda/Firestone and Marco in the No. 26 NYSE Group Dallara/Honda/Firestone.   Related story

05/03/06 Rumor has it that Mario, Michael and Marco Andretti could be on the track together during opening day of Indy 500 practice this year.  One has to wonder if Mario might drive his 1969 Brawner Hawk Indy winner with Michael and Marco in their 2006 cars.  Recently Mario's pole winning 1966 car was out on the track for a few laps, so perhaps that could be the car.  Of course we are speculating about what exactly is planned, only that we should look for the three of them on opening day.

Bridgestone enjoying 'advantage' - Haug  (GMM) Michelin-clad McLaren-Mercedes' Norbert Haug has admitted that Bridgestone teams are enjoying a tire advantage at the Nurburgring.

The German, competition director for McLaren's engine partner, suggested to 'Premiere' that the situation goes some way to explaining Ferrari's continuing good form in Germany, and McLaren's current slump.

''We can't really say that we have a tire disadvantage,'' Haug said, ''but perhaps they have a slight advantage.''

He then admitted that McLaren's tires are a bit 'too hard' this weekend.

12 ovals, 6 street/road courses?  A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Is that article about the Champ Car/IRL merger kidding about that 18-race schedule....12 ovals and 6 road/street courses? What 12 ovals could possibly be better venues than the road/street courses financially speaking? Indy, Texas, and.....Nashville or something? Road courses that are obvious to keep: Long Beach, Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, St. Pete, Cleveland, Denver, Mexico City, Australia, Road America. How can anyone justify getting rid of any of those road/street venues from a financial standpoint?  Doug Ferguson, Florida

Dear Doug, The 12/6 mix was pure speculation on the part of the author and is not likely to happen.  Whereas some of the existing Champ Car race contracts are multi-year, the IRL race contracts are year-by-year just like NASCAR does it, so there is no reason to keep an oval race on the schedule unless it is profitable.  As we have stated on numerous occasions, in a merger scenario, the profitable races will be retained and the deadwood dropped - be it ovals or road courses.  Mark C.

Toyota to steal Fennig from Roush  UPDATE Jim Aust, the president and chief executive officer of Toyota Racing Development, denied one current car owner's contention that Toyota had already hired away five of his people. White said that TRD has hired exactly one person in the past four months for its High Point operation. Seven engineers who'd worked in IndyCar racing for Toyota are transferring into the NASCAR effort and relocating to High Point, he said, and another 15-20 jobs will be filled soon as the engineering staff is beefed up.

White and Aust said that it is Toyota's corporate policy not to interview any potential employees encumbered by a current contract.

"We're not going to steal people and we're for sure not going to be offering them $20,000 or $30,000 more than they can make at race teams now," White said.

"We don't have that kind of money and our corporate structure doesn't work like that."

Aust said it's up to Waltrip, Davis and Red Bull to hire drivers and crews.

TRD has a full plate, he said, developing both the current and "car of tomorrow" iterations of a 2007 Toyota Camry model along with engines that will gain NASCAR approval.

"Our role is from a technical partner's side as opposed to actually getting involved with teams and running their activities or making decisions on a day-to-day basis," Aust said.

"They're going to come to us and say, 'Here are two or three driver's who we're interested in. What do you think about them?" And we'll provide our input. But ultimately the decision will be theirs to make."

Aust said he hopes that in 2007 that all of the Toyota teams will be good enough to qualify for each race to earn opportunity to compete.

"We'd like to be able to run somewhere in the middle of the field," he said.

"We don't have the expectation, certainly, of being up running for the Chase for the Nextel Cup the first year in the series.

"If we can prove we can qualify well and can run in the middle of the field, up toward the top 15, we will look at that as a successful start to our operation. Granted, you want to do the best we can...but for us to try to set our sights higher than that would be, I think misleading ourselves." ThatsRacin.com

04/22/06 Former Roush Nextel Cup crew chief Jimmy Fennig (now running their Busch team), a highly respected, no-nonsense guy who gained his credentials with Bobby Allison and Mark Martin, is suddenly the hottest item in the stock-car racing garage, with Toyota officials and Dodge's Chip Ganassi expected to make calls. Ganassi is looking for a new team manager for his three-car operation after Andy Graves' resignation. And Fennig could be just the guy to fill the void, with instant credibility. Toyota could be an option. Toyota executives are wide open in building their Nextel Cup tour operations, and now they're raiding teams right and left, according to car owners. Don Miller, of the Roger Penske team, said that Toyota has picked up five Penske men already: "They just offer them $20,000 more than they're currently making, and get them." Ganassi has been so upset at losing crewmen to Toyota that he has sent the company a "cease-and-desist" letter. That move has many here writing off Ganassi for any Toyota-NASCAR deal. Winston Salem Journal
National Guard to drop NASCAR sponsorship  UPDATE Geoff Smith, president of Roush Racing, says he last talked to NASCAR officials about a month ago on complying with NASCAR's four-team limit. NASCAR announced last year that they would limit organizations to four teams. Roush fields five teams. Roush officials say contracts with sponsors and drivers go through the 2009 season. Smith says he's hopeful the organization can fulfill those contracts before downsizing. "They've made it pretty clear that they don't want an indefinite window,'' Smith said about NASCAR. "Philosophically, it seems like we're on the same page. I expect ... we're going to do this on a year-to-year basis with the view that if we can get it done before then we will.'' Smith also said that the team is in talks with the National Guard about returning as a sponsor. The National Guard is scheduled to be the primary sponsor in 22 races for Greg Biffle this season. Roanoke Times

05/05/06 Rumor in the NASCAR garage is that National Guard will no longer be on the No. 16 car of Greg Biffle after 2006.  Conspiracy theorists always tell us that whenever a NASCAR sponsor is rumored to be leaving, that car wins the pole or race soon thereafter.  However, we are sure it's just a coincidence that Biffle put the National Guard car on the pole for Richmond tomorrow night.

Euro GP race to be over by first corner  (GMM) Sunday's European grand prix could turn out to be little more than a 650m duel to the first corner.

Much like at Imola two weeks ago, the Nurburgring is a tough circuit to perform an overtaking maneuver on.

''I think it's a bit better here than Imola,'' Michael Schumacher, this time to start behind Imola rival Fernando Alonso, said on Saturday afternoon.

''You can try at two places -- turn one and turn-13. It's not easy but it is definitely possible.''

Former triple world champion Niki Lauda, however, painted a duller picture. He said there is 'hardly a chance' to pass at this venue.

''So Schumacher needs a super-start,'' said the Austrian great, ''if he wants a good chance to win.''

Ferrari driver Schumacher's other problem at 2pm on Sunday is threefold; not only is he already behind Alonso, but the Renault is still the fastest starter on the grid.

To make matters worse, the German is on the dirty side of the track.

''They are usually very good (at starting),'' Schumacher, 37, acknowledged, ''but we have been doing a lot of work in that area too.

''Whether we have caught up enough, we will find out.''

The joker up Schumacher's sleeve, however, is incredible straight-line speed. One analyst predicted that his advantage over the Renault on Sunday will be between 8-10kph.

Alonso said: ''I want to win, but if it turns out that I cannot, then second place is also ok.

''Then I will win at my home race (next Sunday) instead!''

Alonso running light  (GMM) Fernando Alonso will almost certainly carry less fuel than usual to the start of Sunday's grand prix.

Although the title leading Spaniard patted himself on the back after securing his first pole of 2006, he also admitted to reporters that Renault 'tried something a bit different' in terms of strategy.

So far this year, the blue and yellow car has carried a substantial level of first-stint fuel.

''I will be surprised if Alonso is carrying more fuel than us,'' said Ferrari's technical director Ross Brawn.

Alonso, 24, indicated that the plan is to get to the first corner first and pull out a lead.

He explained: ''At previous races we have had problems with traffic or the fuel load. The Ferraris look very competitive.''

Alonso's engineering chief Pat Symonds, meanwhile, hinted that 'some teams' - perhaps Ferrari and Bridgestone - have brought 'quite adventurous tire specifications' to Germany. He is probably referring to rumors that the Bridgestone appears to be a particularly soft tire.

No matter the situation, though, Sunday is shaping up to be a close race, to in all probability be an Imola-like re-match between Alonso and Schumacher.

But Schumacher denied that, with his fuel load, he could have put the Ferrari on pole. ''Nowhere would I have found those two tenths,'' said the German.

''But we believe that race pace is more important than qualifying pace.''

The duo's rival Jenson Button has said all weekend that he would put his money on Renault.

''I think (Alonso) will win it easily,'' he said plainly in Germany.

Jarrett eyes ESPN deal  In addition to his plans for the final two years of his Nextel Cup career, Dale Jarrett is trying to secure a long-term future outside of the racecar. 

Jarrett confirmed Friday he has had discussions with ESPN about joining the network as a television analyst. 

ESPN will take a leading role in Nextel Cup coverage beginning in 2007. Jarrett has stated earlier this year that 2008 will be his last season racing.  NASCAR.com

Honda could veto qualifying tweak  (GMM)  An obstacle to any tweak for F1's new knockout qualifying system has emerged; in the form of Honda.

The Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA), now supported by many teams, is pushing for a change to the final 20-minute section, in which the foremost objective is to burn fuel.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone says a change could be made as soon as next week, after a meeting at Barcelona, but it would require unanimity among the eleven team principals.

And Honda's Nick Fry, for one, might exercise his veto.  ''I don't think there's a telling reason to change,'' he told 'Speed TV'.

Fry suggested that the ten-minute trough in excitement means that qualifying as a whole is 'nice', with 'highs and lows'.

He added: ''If I feel that the logic for change is a good one, then we would support it.

''But I haven't seen that.''

New spy scandal to rock F1  (GMM)  A spying war has broken out at the Nurburgring, according to German reports.

It is claimed that a communications specialist at F1 championship leader Renault has successfully tapped into Ferrari's encrypted radio systems -- and Ferrari know about it.

'Bild' newspaper said the Flavio Briatore-led camp 'monitored every word' spoken by Ferrari's engineers and drivers throughout Friday, including secret technical and race strategy information.

The Renault specialist is reportedly using a high-tech piece of equipment to do the spying, whose efforts could not be thwarted even by Ferrari changing its radio frequency several times.

F1's governing body is apparently aware of the alleged saga, with an 'insider' at the FIA telling Bild: ''It is not a secret that the top teams invest a lot to obtain the information of other teams.

''But without strong evidence, we cannot intervene.''

GP Masters to take F1 Spa date  UPDATE In the wake of the announcement that the planned June 18 for Monza has been cancelled due to noise legislation, GPM CEO Scott Poulter exclusively confirmed to autosport.com that a complex deal to take the series for over 45-year-old former Grand Prix drivers to the classic circuit on September 17 was "close, subject only to agreement on a few points".

An announcement was expected to be made on Monday, he said.

GP Masters cars are old Champ Cars, so it will be interesting to see how they race at Spa even though they are down on HP.

04/27/06 Grand Prix Masters organizers are moving towards a deal to run a race at Spa on the same date the Belgian Grand Prix was due to be held, autosport.com reports.

The Belgian Grand Prix, originally scheduled for September 17, was dropped from the Formula One calendar in February after being in doubt for several weeks because of problems over who would promote it.

"While F1 is not at the circuit this year, it is very important we keep the spirit of Formula One alive in Belgium," Eric Van de Poele (Left, who was fastest in the first practice session Friday) told autosport.com. "We would have 50,000 to 60,000 people there definitely.

"I've got about two weeks to make this happen. But it's quite hard for us with political situation in Belgium. I dream about the circuit. It could happen this year.

"The series is convinced it is a good idea, but now we just have to find people to take the risk to have GP Masters in Spa and to find sponsors for the organization.

"When you have a race track where you have a very difficult moments in the past like Spa, with the politics, it is difficult to recover that directly, and people are careful as a result.

"But it would be a proper circuit with proper drivers. I've been doing everything I can since January to make this happen. It was my first goal and target to get Grand Prix Masters in Spa."

IRL eyes race around LA’s Dodger Stadium  UPDATE #2 This race is dead and this rumor is now 'false.'  The Indy Racing League won't be racing at Dodger Stadium, at least for now.

In searching for a location to return to Southern California, IRL officials met with the Dodgers about a race in the parking lot at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers evaluated the possibility and decided it did not make financial sense, spokeswoman Camille Johnston said Thursday.

Without the infrastructure of California Speedway and the tradition of the Long Beach Grand Prix, the Dodgers would have been challenged to break even on the event. Johnston would not comment on financial figures, but one industry source estimated it would cost the Dodgers about $3 million to stage the race, including costs for a temporary track, restraining walls and temporary seats.  More at LA Times

04/11/06 Some readers write, I think I just broke a rib from laughing. And I am a big Dodgers fan too. I cannot think of any place I would rather NOT go to watch a race than around the parking lot and tenement homes of Chavez Ravine. Already a tough place to get to, who is going to spend a day there? And boy walking around during the breaks to enjoy the local businesses will be a treat too.
Talk about grasping at straws to try to play hardball with Champ Car about the LBGP market. Does Mr. George and his latest PR person actually see this event attracting even 1% of the fans, both race fans and just people who like to start their spring partying by the ocean, that Long Beach has built up over 32 years. So much for friendly discord during the alleged merger talks also. John Costello, Long Beach, CA

This would not be the first race conducted at Dodger Stadium parking lot. Not positive about exact date but I believe 1963 SCCA held a large event. I attended and watched a sterling battle between Ronnie Bucknum (MGB) and Lew Spencer (Morgan) that had everyone standing. Well I guess we had to stand as I don't remember many stands, if any. The course was marked by a few hay bales.

Ronnie Bucknum was plucked from this MGB ride the following year to be Honda's first ever Formula One driver. His very first open wheel race was 1964 on the long course at Nurburgring on the long course in Formula One. He went on to be a three time Indy 500 entrant, clinched the TransAm title for Penske in 1969, won the first ever Michigan IndyCar event (1968), and had a podium for Ford at LeMans during their sweep year (1966).

I am confident nobody before or since ever went from D production sportscars in SCCA to Formula One. Ronnie's son is Jeff Bucknum who should make his second Indy 500 appearance this year. Paul Grosjean, Portland, Oregon

A race in the parking lot around Dodger stadium will never happen. That is because if the race is in the parking lot where is everyone going to park? (If anyone shows up) They would need to bus people in from downtown. Nobody is going to want to walk up the hill from Chinatown and everyone knows how much So Cal people love public transportation. Chalk this one up to the IRL trying to get some free press around Long Beach weekend. Doug Beaver

04/11/06 According to this Orange County Register article, Indy Racing League and Dodger Stadium officials are exploring the possibility of holding a road-course race in the area surrounding the stadium.

Dodgers senior vice president of communications Camille Johnston confirmed Monday that IRL officials are proposing a race that would use the parking lot and access roads on the streets in Elysian Park.

IRL vice president of public relations John Griffin said the race likely would be held in March, with a 2007 event being a remote possibility.

"The Los Angeles market is very important to the Indy Racing League," Griffin said. "We are exploring several opportunities for us to return."

Jarrett says yes to Toyota?  UPDATE #7 Dale Jarrett said Friday that a decision about who he will drive for next year should be made within the next 10 days. "I don't have anything more than what I said last week at this point in time," Jarrett told the media at Richmond International Raceway. "I think within probably the next 10 days that we'll have a definite answer, and we'll have something to bring to you," Jarrett said. "I'll assure you as soon as I have that answer, a final answer, then I will let you know as soon as I do.

"But probably within the next 10 days I think that decision will be made. There's probably no one that knows. ... I sat down with my dog the other night and discussed it with her because I was pretty sure she didn't have many people she could go to, so we had a good conversation - bounced it off of her. Whenever she liked one of the options that I gave her, she would lick me in the face, and that was pretty much it. So I kind of knew what that stood for. She's really the only one that has any idea of what's really going on. I've confided in her more than anyone else."

05/04/06 Michael Waltrip says he and several other teams have talked with Dale Jarrett about his future plans; however Waltrip downplays a report Jarrett was offered a two year, $10-million contract [see below] to join his Toyota team. “I haven’t made him any offer monetarily and I think I’m pretty sure I can tell you no one has offered him that (10-million) but it makes for pretty good print.” Waltrip said he’s more interested in Jarrett’s services than sponsor UPS. “We have our second car pretty much agreed upon with the sponsor and we’ve got a list of drivers that would be approved by the sponsor and he’s on that list. Anybody would hire Dale Jarrett, former cup champion and his sponsor UPS. We just want to hire Dale because we think he can win races and because that being our focus and the reason our drive for hiring him then I think he appreciates that." PRN's Garage Pass Radio Show

05/03/06 Toyota has yet to put a car on the track in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, but the automotive giant appears to have already landed its first NASCAR champion. Dale Jarrett, the 1999 NASCAR Cup champion, is expected to help head up the company's 2007 entry into the series, agreeing to join Michael Waltrip Racing next season. Several sources have confirmed that Jarrett, 49, informed Robert Yates Racing officials of his decision April 26. More at NASCAR Daily Scene

05/03/06 Toyota - The Japanese automaker has pumped in tens of millions of dollars into its teams to launch a Nextel Cup program in 2007. Car owner Michael Waltrip is rumored to be dangling a two-year, $20 million contract in front of Dale Jarrett to get him into a Toyota. Speed Channel

04/30/06 A team spokesman on Friday confirmed that Jarrett had spoken with Waltrip about driving for Waltrip's organization next season.

"It's been in the media that (Jarrett's) deal is up this year and so, I mean, you ought to be able to figure out that I probably have (talked to him) because how could you not?" Waltrip said.

"He's a champion. He's a friend. I did ask him, but I don't have anything to report on the answer."

04/29/06 Dale Jarrett said he has talked to quite a few people about driving for them next season but would not say whether he has signed with Michael Waltrip Racing.

Waltrip said Friday that he had talked with the Robert Yates Racing driver but had not signed him to run a second Toyota out of the Michael Waltrip Racing stable in 2007.

"People know when the last year of your contract is, so they start talking and seeing what your interests are, especially in my case," Jarrett said Saturday following qualifying for the Aaron's 499 at Talladega.

Jarrett said that he probably would make a decision in the next two or three weeks and that sponsor UPS is not necessarily tied to him.

"That's Robert's sponsor," said Jarrett, referring to his current owner. "They came here because of what we accomplished at Robert Yates Racing, and that hasn't been a factor in determining what I'm going to do. NASCAR Daily Scene

04/23/06 It would appear Dale Jarrett is in the driver's seat when it comes to where he will drive in 2007. UPS has not renewed with car owner Robert Yates and will not until they are assured Jarrett's services have been secured. Jarrett, on the other hand, is being wooed by Toyota, with the full knowledge wherever Jarrett goes, UPS goes. CircleTrackPlus.com

04/22/06 Robby Gordon declined to comment on the latest reports that Toyota and sponsor Red Bull are making an offer to buy him and his entire team. General Motors executives are still hopeful of keeping Gordon in their fold and point to the extensive work they've done to help Gordon become more competitive as an independent owner-driver. #29-Kevin Harvick, also said to be on Toyota's wish list, is still negotiating with GM and owner Richard Childress for a contract renewal, and the yes or no could come in the next few days. Harvick has set a package and price, and the ball is in Childress' court. But team sources indicate that Childress isn't willing to meet Harvick's demands. Childress has been unavailable for comment, and Harvick has declined to comment. According to sources, Dodge owner Ray Evernham may be interested in hiring Harvick.

And Toyota apparently wants not only Dale Jarrett but also his sponsor, UPS. That situation is unclear, but it appears to mean that if car owner Robert Yates wants to keep UPS on his quarterpanels, he would also have to re-sign Jarrett for two more years. Winston Salem Journal

F1 qualifying tweak in works for Barcelona  (GMM) Friday is for practice at a grand prix, but much of the action occurs off the track.

The buzz around the castle-like motor homes at the Nurburgring in Germany is about the otherwise-liked 'knockout' qualifying system, which could be tweaked as soon as next Saturday's session in Spain.

With David Coulthard and Michael Schumacher already voicing their discontent about the final top-ten section, during which cars do little more than burn fuel ahead of a late burst, fellow Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA) director Jarno Trulli says he too would like to make it a light-tank run.

The GPDA will meet with team managers, and possibly also team principals, at Barcelona, but any change would need unanimity along pitlane.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, however, explained that it is the only obstacle to what could be a quick fix.

The 75-year-old favors a return to the one-lap format for the last 20-minute dash for pole position.

Ecclestone told La Gazzetta dello Sport: ''If all the teams agree, it can be done from the next GP already.''

Harvick closer to deal with RCR  UPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today - see related Hot News Item. Richard Childress Racing (RCR) and Kevin Harvick have agreed to terms on a contract extension that will see Harvick as an RCR driver through the 2009 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season. Harvick drives RCR's #29 GM Goodwrench/Reese's Chevy in the NEXTEL Cup Series and RCR's #21 Coast Guard Chevy in the Busch Series. Harvick's career statistics include six victories and 70 top-10 finishes in the NEXTEL Cup Series and 19 victories and 98 top-10 finishes in the Busch Series. "Kevin is an important part of the RCR organization and we're happy that will continue," said Richard Childress, President and CEO of RCR. "He has done a great job in both the NEXTEL Cup and Busch Series and we look for that to continue over the next several seasons." Harvick is currently seventh in the 2006 NEXTEL Cup Series point standings with one win and four top-10 finishes. He leads the Busch Series standings by 274 points, ahead of RCR teammate Clint Bowyer in second place, with two wins and nine top-10 finishes. "I'm looking forward to the next three years at RCR," said Kevin Harvick. "We've made a lot of changes over the past year that have really helped point the organization in the right direction. The chemistry feels right between the drivers, the crew chiefs and the teams. Above all else, there is a long relationship at RCR that Richard and I have. I feel like it would take time to recreate what we've built over the last seven years." RCR PR

05/03/06 Nextel Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick and Richard Childress Racing have reached a tentative agreement on a contract extension to keep Harvick in RCR's No. 29 Chevrolet for the next several years, RCR sources have told The Charlotte Observer.  RCR has reserved a news conference slot Friday at 2:45 p.m. Eastern in the infield media center at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, site of Saturday night's Crown Royal 400.  A Friday "RCR press conference" was noted on several pre-Richmond race news releases issued Tuesday by RCR teams, although its purpose was not given. 

04/27/06 Kevin Harvick said he doesn't want to end his relationship with Richard Childress Racing and has told Richard Childress what it would take to keep him. "The ball is pretty much on that side," Harvick said April 21. "There's a seven-year relationship here that is, first and foremost, the main priority to keep. I have a lot of friends here. I have a seven-year relationship, and I think it's something that would be the first thing to try and work out.". NASCAR Daily Scene

Brawn likely to stay at Ferrari  (GMM)  Ross Brawn is likely to sign a new contract to remain Ferrari's technical director beyond this season.

He told Britain's Autosport magazine that he would make a decision in the summer, but hinted that he was not looking to change teams.

The Briton said: ''I'm very happy here (but) there are still some formal discussions to take place.''

This week's edition of Autosport also reported that the FIA is to stage tests to determine if the design of F1 cars should be modified to reduce the risk of wheel-to-wheel crashes.

Schu, Montoya, could go to Red Bull - DC  (GMM)  David Coulthard says the possibility of seeing Michael Schumacher or Juan Pablo Montoya in a Red Bull cockpit next year cannot be ruled out.

The Scot, although likely to renew his stay at the energy drink's senior team beyond this year, insisted that 'anything is possible' in formula one.

Responding to speculation that team owner Dietrich Mateschitz is keen to put another top name in the team next year, 35-year-old Coulthard told eurosport.de: ''If those drivers remain competitive, I don't see why Red Bull would necessarily say no to them.

''But F1 is an incredibly fast sport in which each driver is ... judged every two weeks.

''(So) you're only as good as your last race.''

DC, however, formerly advised his team to ignore Montoya's availability, also accusing the Colombian of not being a team player.

V10 rumpus won't go away  (GMM)  BMW's Mario Theissen hopes Toro Rosso decide to abandon the V10 route for 2007.

The issue, sparked after the former Minardi team was taken over by Red Bull, has meant a constant wave of contention, involving possible unfair advantages over those towing the V8 rule.

BMW motor sport director Theissen told 'Speed TV': ''I do hope that this discussion will disappear and next year we no longer see V10 and V8s side by side.''

MF1's Colin Kolles has been the loudest opponent of the V10 loophole, and he now tells the 'Welt' newspaper that he fears for the outcome of the situation at Monte Carlo.

''On a slow street course,'' said the team principal, ''a Toro Rosso could be on pole position.''

Kolles also reacted to Toro Rosso counterpart Franz Tost's assertion that the Faenza-based team's pace in 2006 is due not only to the V10.

''He is the only one with that opinion,'' said Midland's team boss.

Raikkonen drops a hint  Kimi Raikkonen has hinted he will only consider leaving McLaren for Ferrari or Renault.

The Finn is out of contract at the end of this year and is widely tipped to quit McLaren-Mercedes and head for Ferrari.

But Ferrari’s recent dip in form has made that move look less attractive and Raikkonen is adamant he has yet to make a decision, revealing Renault could remain an option.

He said: “In the end there are not many different positions where I would go. I don’t think it will be a big surprise whatever I decide.

“There are only really three teams these last two years who have been capable. It will be a top team so I don’t think it will be difficult to decide.

“I will decided where I will have the best car but you can never know that, you just have to hope you will make the right decision. I just have to make sure I have a good feeling in the team.”

Renault, Red Bull, to join 'seamless' club  (GMM)  Renault and Red Bull are next in line to produce 'seamless shift' gearboxes, as the technology becomes commonplace in formula one.

Ferrari and BMW-Sauber are also hard at work in designing versions, following the use of the first models at actual grands prix by McLaren, Honda and Williams.

A 'seamless' 'box is believed to be worth several tenths of a second per lap, with drivers able to change gear without the momentary 'blip' in power.

Red Bull's work on a new gearbox follows the acquisition of a specialist in the area from 'seamless' pioneer Honda.  World championship-leader Renault, meanwhile, recently track-tested its soon-to-be debuted 'box.

It could be raced for the first time at Monaco, while Ferrari is thought to be heading for a 'seamless' debut in July.

A1GP planning Manchester, England event  Tens of thousands of people are expected to turn out to watch A1 Grand Prix cars stage a high-speed parade through the streets of Manchester, England this summer, according to British publication Motorsport News.

The run for the 520bhp single-seater machines will be part of a free entertainment festival from August 11-13.  UK TV broadcaster for A1GP, Sky Sports, is said to behind the deal.

The A1 GP Parade will take place on the Sunday of the Sky Festival and it will be free admission.

Mi-Jack Conquest trying to keep Ranger in the car  UPDATE The Mi-Jack Conquest Racing Team (MJCR) will be heading to Texas next week to dispute the second round of the Champ Car World Series on the streets of Houston with drivers Andrew Ranger and Charles Zwolsman. The Grand Prix of Houston, which takes place Saturday, May 13 on the 1.7-mile street course, will mark the second time that Champ Car has run a night race on a temporary circuit.

Canadian Andrew Ranger will be back behind the wheel of the #27 Tide/Mi-Jack Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone car to participate in the first Houston race since 2001. After a sixth place finish in Long Beach, at the opening race of the season, Ranger wants to put in another strong performance.

“I’m happy to be back with the Conquest Racing Team for the Grand Prix of Houston. It’s a race that I’m really looking forward to because it will be the first time I take part in a night event on a street course. I saw the track layout when I was there last November for the unveiling and it looks like a very challenging track, it should be an exciting race for the fans as well as the drivers. Hopefully, we can put in another performance like in Long Beach and get a good result for the team.”

04/19/06 According to this Journal de Montreal article, the Mi-Jack Conquest team is trying to keep Andrew Ranger in the car for Houston and beyond.  The team tested Ryan Briscoe recently to see if their recent performance was driver related or car related.  When Briscoe turned out to be slow and not able to work any miracles it confirmed for the team that their current drivers are OK and their cars are just not up to the pace of the frontrunners.

Ranger's manager, Alan Labrosse, is still looking for more sponsorship dollars, but the most telling story is that Briscoe continues to not live up to the promise he showed when he went to F1 to be a Toyota test driver so it does not sound like Eric Bachelart will replace Ranger with Briscoe.

Toro Rosso team to stick with Cosworth  Scuderia Toro Rosso have yet to decide their engine plans for when their contract with Cosworth's ex-Minardi V10s expires in one year; Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz saying they intend to honor the contract despite protests from other teams concerning the advantages of using V10 engines.

Rumors circulating the San Marino Grand Prix were suggesting that the Toro Rosso would take on the Ferrari engines and the Red Bulls would switch to Cosworth V8s, and although STR co-owner Gerhard Berger is convinced the Ferrari engine woes evident earlier this season are over, he hinted the team would stay with the detuned V10s.

"I think that Ferrari has by now mastered their engine gremlins, but I consider the Cosworth to be the best V8 engine currently," he said. "What we shall do for 2007 regarding engines has not been decided yet."

Berger also acknowledged the skepticism about STR's moving up the starting grid from the habitual last that Minardi occupied.

"You see, this was Minardi, a race team which had enormous sympathies because they were the eternal last. Now, the comments against has have become much sharper, which is understandable, since we are not here to be last." Eurosport.com

VW and F1  Volkswagen chief executive officer Bernd Pischetsrieder has won a five-year extension to his contract. This means that he will remain in charge of Europe's biggest car company until April 2012. The 58-year-old German, who made his name at BMW, has long been a fan of motorsport to promote products, particularly Formula 1. In a perfect world, Pischetsrieder would probably take the Wolfsburg company into Grand Prix racing, perhaps using one of its more exotic brands such as Audi, but at the moment VW is in the process of cutting costs and jobs in an effort to improve its financial results. This will mean job losses of around 20,000 people. This makes an investment in Grand Prix racing rather hard to justify but once the company is made leaner and more competitive it is likely that Pischetsrieder will look again at the sport, particularly if the FIA is able to push ahead with its desire to close down areas in which money can be spent to make cars more competitive. Money is always going to make a difference, if it is spent wisely, but the FIA hopes that it can reduce the rates in which money can be spent and big advantage gained. This philosophy is putting the federation into conflict with some of the car manufacturers, notably those that look to F1 for technological advancement. Grandprix.com

[Editor's Note: Audi has a major commitment in sportscars and it is very unlikely they would enter F1 just to blow $200 million per year and more. As for VW itself, F1 isn't the right fit for this German brand, which prides itself on economy cars like the Beetle, Golf and Jetta, the latter two with diesel power.]

Finn on pole for Renault race seat  (GMM)  Renault tester Heikki Kovalainen admits that he is probably on pole position to snatch McLaren-bound Fernando Alonso's race seat in 2007.

According to some paddock sources, the 24-year-old rookie Finn has already been told that he will line up alongside teammate Giancarlo Fisichella next year.

''I made a long-term commitment to Renault,'' Kovalainen told the Belgian 'Grenz-Echo' publication, ''and I believe I have a good chance to drive races in 2007.

''It is well-known that Fernando Alonso is leaving the team.''

Kovalainen, who showed off last year's 'R25' car to fans at Zolder for the Renault World Series opener at the weekend, revealed that he has received offers of F1 seats from other teams.

He insisted: ''But (accepting them) would not have been right.''

NASCAR, Goodyear implement "Rubber Restrictor Plates"  No one is admitting it publicly, but did NASCAR ask Goodyear to supply a harder tire to slow the cars down at a newly repaved Lowe's Motor Speedway?

The $3.5 million repaving project got rave reviews from Nextel Cup drivers Tuesday, their first day on the new surface. Goodyear's choice of a harder tire for this month's NASCAR races at the track didn't fare nearly as well.

"Rubber restrictor plates" is how one crew chief described the tires, which are of a harder compound and similar to those used at Daytona and Talladega.

In at least one respect the comparison to the carburetor restrictor plates, used to slow cars at NASCAR's biggest tracks, was accurate.

"The speeds are slower now because you have to let off (the accelerator) a lot sooner than before. I don't think the track has lost grip, but the tire just has less grip," said Bobby Labonte, one of the drivers who participated in Goodyear's first test after the resurfacing was completed.

"You can't be as aggressive as you could before. It's the same track, but it's just a different tire."

"In the beginning of the day it was real slick out there, there wasn't a whole lot of grip. The more rubber that has been able to be put down, the better the track surface has been getting," said rookie Kyle Busch.

"The track pavement job is excellent. The tires – they're just a little too hard."

Brian Vickers, was more outspoken.

"The tire is just way, way, way too hard. Obviously, if it's too soft, you can end up blowing a tire. But this one is definitely taking it to the extreme," he said.

"I don't think you're going to see any tire problems. You'll probably see fuel mileage come into play at the end of the race."

Big plans for Road America  AutoRacing1.com was confidentially given some insight into the plans for this year's Champ Car Road America weekend and although we are not at liberty to tell you what they are at this time, we can tell you that "it's about time" and will go a long way toward reviving this once popular event.  And the changes may not be what you think, but will do as much to bring this event back to the good old days as the merger between Champ Car and the IRL will.  All we can say is - stay tuned.
Lola designing F1 car  UPDATE In a story first broke here at AutoRacing1.com weeks ago, now comes word from autosport.com that Lola has admitted to them their interest in designing an F1 car, what they did not admit to them is that a design is fairly well progressed as we reported.  We are bumping this rumor up to 'strong.'

"We have had close consultations with several F1 teams that are ongoing," a Lola spokesman told autosport.com on Tuesday. "The release of the entry list didn't change anything and we are still pressing ahead with our plans.

"We've got the facilities for a serious F1 operation, and our wind tunnel is still used by F1 teams when theirs is out of commission for any reason.

"However we are unable to announce anything more at this stage."

Lola's owner Martin Birrane told Autosport last week that he believed the interested parties were serious in their efforts to move into F1 and that his company was confident it would be more successful than its last foray into the sport.

"We're entirely serious about this," he explained. "There's no way we want to embarrass ourselves.

"We're one of the few companies who can do the whole lot in terms of building a car for a new team and we'd be absolutely delighted to go ahead and do it. It's natural for a company of Lola's reputation to be in F1."

04/04/06 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Lola is quite far down the road to designing a Formula One chassis for a high profile customer. Whether or not this is for one of the recently announced teams (Prodrive, Pollock, BCN, etc) we are not sure, but it would seem that it is real and to be ready for 2008, as the major suppliers have signed confidentiality agreements.

Also, Lola's wind tunnel has been used by several F1 teams recently. Sauber, and Minardi/Scuderia Toro Rosso are just two of them. Their technical facility and design capabilities have recently undergone significant upgrades in readiness for the F1 build.

The only other details we have are that they also have a sub-site that is acting as a Special Projects division and we believe that this is supplementing the project. It was recently used for making composite panels for a major automotive manufacturer.

The two main people involved from Lola's side are its Managing Director - Rupert Manwaring (ex Lotus/Brabham/Minardi) and also Julian Cooper (Chief Designer and ex Benetton and RML).

Schumacher signs new Ferrari deal  UPDATE #6 Michael Schumacher will not make an announcement about his future intentions at the European Grand Prix this weekend, his manager Willi Weber said Tuesday.  "I would like his decision to be made as soon as possible, but I can say for definite that there will be no decision made this weekend," Weber said.

04/19/06 (GMM)  F1's latest whisper suggests that Ferrari will officially announce a new contract for Michael Schumacher at the Nurburgring race in May.

Germany's 'sid' news agency said the 37-year-old had now finally decided to stick around in 2007, after speculation raged that he might either retire or switch to another formula one team.

Schumacher has also consistently insisted that any decision would not be forthcoming until closer to mid-season.

But 'sid' reported that the seven time world champion has put pen to paper on a new two-year deal, allegedly with a small pay increase, to take his $50m a-year career to the end of 2008.

Norbert Haug has denied that McLaren-Mercedes' Kimi Raikkonen is already a signed-and-sealed Ferrari driver for 2007.

The German, Mercedes' competition director, told 'Motorsport Aktuell' that he did not believe recent reports that McLaren's Finn penned a contract with the red-colored team more than a full year ago.

''I can not imagine that such a thing would happen behind our backs,'' said German Haug.

He said it would not make sense for a top driver to have committed to Ferrari last year. ''If you imagine, (Raikkonen) was sitting in the fastest car in the business, and Ferrari was in crisis.''

Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz, however, told the same publication that he believed Raikkonen was definitely Ferrari-bound.

04/18/06 Speaking to The Times of London, Michael Schumacher says he sees no reason why he will not stay on with Ferrari.

"It is very likely that I would stay with the color red," he said. "There are obviously other options but at this stage, I won't consider them. Why should I?

"I am so happy here. We have such a good relationship and we have known each other for so long that I would have to have a very good reason to move to another team.

"It is more complex than just considering myself. There are a lot of other factors that are very important, such as whether the team is competitive and what other things are going on and I need to verify those."

04/17/06 Speaking to the Neue Zuercher Zeitung over the weekend, Ferrari Principal Jean Todt refuses to reply to the Raikkonen and Schumacher rumors.

“Those who have all this information, are blessed!” he said. “On the day when we wish to announce our drivers, then we will do it. It surely won’t be a newspaper that will drive us to it.”

“People are anyway never content with what they already know. It must be more. If we announced now that Michael has signed for a further ten years with Ferrari, then they would all ask: "and afterwards, what will he do afterwards?"

“I do not believe what is written in the newspapers. This morning I read everywhere that Schumacher wants to go to Renault. That is stupidity in the first degree and so stupid that I will not react to it at all. I am convinced that it is one of our strengths, not to react to such speculation at all.”

04/17/06 Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn has revealed that the team won't be rushing Michael Schumacher into making a decision on this future.

Despite rumors, Brawn claims that although they are in talks with the seven-time World Champion, nothing has been signed yet.

"Currently, there are discussions taking place, but it is up to Schumacher to decide," Brawn told Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

"We did not set any deadlines for him, but I assume he will give Ferrari an answer in May or June.  I see no reason for it [retiring]," he added. "Michael is as motivated as always. And, he has more experience than any other driver in the field today.  He needs a car capable of winning, though. And it's up to us to give him that."

04/16/06 7-time World Champion Michael Schumacher has apparently agreed a deal to stay with Ferrari in 2007 and 2008, having signed a new £60 million contact.

Although there is still no official confirmation from the team and no announcement is expected until the summer, British newspaper, The News of the World is reporting that the deal is done, although he has a special clause in it, that means he could quit one year early, if he felt the desire.

"Michael is going to carry on next year," a Ferrari 'insider' told the tabloid 'paper. "He sees no reason why he should retire because the motivation to win is still there. Only a few people at the team know the deal has been done."

If the rumors are true that Kimi Raikkonen has also signed with Ferrari, it will give Ferrari one of their strongest driver lineups in quite awhile. It would also mean that Valentino Rossi is shut out of a Ferrari ride amid much speculation that he would get it.

Coulthard to re-sign with Red Bull  UPDATE A reader writes, Just a comment of possible little consequence re Coulthard and Red Bull. He was 'on duty' at the Red Bull track attack in Cardiff today along with Klein, Liuzzi and Doornbos (no sign of Speed however) and seemed at the forefront of the event.

If he is standing down and joining his long time friend at Honda, then Red Bull are getting their money out of him first.

Good event today BTW, Liuzzi and Doornbos were shown the way by a couple of amateur Karters! Bob Price

04/30/06 (GMM) F1 veteran David Coulthard 'will re-sign' with Red Bull so as to race a third consecutive season with the fledgling team in 2007.

That is what a team 'insider' told British newspaper 'The People'.

With speculation that Juan Pablo Montoya could join energy drink action in Christian Klien's seat next year, the 'insider' cautioned that a new deal for Coulthard - the 35-year-old Scot - is not yet sealed.

But he added: ''Adrian Newey came to Red Bull because of him and it would be stupid to break them up as a partnership that could really take this team on.''

The 'insider' said DC's 2007 agreement is 'sure to be signed' by mid-year.

Coulthard, meanwhile, backed up the story by ruling out a rumored move from the cockpit to a Johnny Herbert-style management role for at least two more years.

''I still think that I have a couple of years racing in me,'' he explained, ''so taking up a role like that is still a bit of a way off.''

Roth to graduate to IndyCar Series fulltime  Marty Roth recently was married, recently upgraded his pilot's license and recently sold his Indy Pro Series equipment.

The latter has the most bearing on his auto racing future. The Toronto native said he will move up to the IndyCar Series full time, beginning with the 90th Indianapolis 500 on May 28. Roth has competed in the past two 500-Mile Races, and has entered the No. 25 Roth Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone. Practice begins May 9.

"It's been a very busy first quarter," Roth said. "Making the decision to move to the IndyCar Series will allow our team to focus only on one car and one series. This year, Honda, being the sole engine provider, has certainly re-shuffled the deck, thereby making it economically viable to run in races other than Indy 500.

"This is the first time in 90 years a spec engine will be competing in the Indy 500. I think this will be a fantastic opportunity for a lot of teams and drivers."

Roth became the first Indy Pro Series owner-driver to move up to the IndyCar Series when he qualified for the Indianapolis 500 in 2004. He started 32nd and finished 24th. Last year, he placed 31st after handling issues forced him to retire after 47 laps.
Roth formed Roth Racing before the 2004 Indy Pro Series season after purchasing the equipment of reigning series champion Panther Racing (Mark Taylor behind the wheel). Last year, he had a career-best second place at Chicagoland Speedway to complement 12 other top-10 finishes.

In three Indy Pro Series races this year, he started fifth and finished ninth on the Homestead-Miami Speedway oval and was 14th and 12th on the St. Petersburg (Fla.) temporary street course.

Early in his career, Roth competed in various classes of motorcycles.

Roth has used his racing status to assist Shoot For A Cure Moto-Sport, a program from the American and Canadian Spinal Research Organizations (ASRO/CSRO) that helps raise funding and awareness for the improvement in quality of life for those challenged with spinal cord injuries.

Long eyes Champ Car/IRL  Appearing on Wind Tunnel, American Porsche sports car factory driver Patrick Long (right) says he is keeping an eye on a possible Champ Car and IRL merger and might want to make a switch from sports cars to the open wheel cars in about 5 years when the sport is again on sound footing.

Long went to Europe to try and make it into F1, and although he would still like the opportunity, he realizes that landing a ride with a winning team is probably not in the cards, so IndyCars may be the next best thing.

Long is currently contracted to Porsche to run fulltime in Grand-Am and also drive the Penske Porsche LMP2 ALMS car on a limited basis.

Earnhardt Jr to get "The Call" Sunday  UPDATE Another reader adds, The similar Black No. 8 driven by Martin Truex Jr. (pictured right courtesy of NASCAR) won Saturday's Busch race at Talladega. Now if Earnhardt Jr. also wins Sunday for the Cup race in the Black No. 8 the fix will certainly have been complete. Denny Hamilton, Charlotte, NC

04/26/06 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I just read that the black number 8 with an Earnhardt driving will make Talladega a true Earnhardt fan weekend to die-for. I'm sure the Earnhardt faithful who will be there in full force this Sunday will have something to really cheer for. I will be very surprised if any car besides Jr wins, I predict he will get the famous "NASCAR Call." If he wins it will be quite transparent. Doug Ferguson, Florida

Mayfield expects no changes  Despite a disastrous season to date, Jeremy Mayfield said he foresees no major shakeup to his Evernham Motorsports team, which was reorganized late last year. “I don’t expect any changes other than we might add a few people. Chris (Andrews) and I have started to come together,” Mayfield said Saturday. “It hasn’t showed up yet, but it’s better than it was a couple of weeks ago as far as him understanding what I like and me understanding how he does things on the car. It’s just like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Michael Waltrip when they switched up. You saw what happened on that deal. Dale Jr. couldn’t hit his butt and Michael took off running good. That’s just part of what we’re going through right now.” Speed Channel
formula bmw
Pelletier to be well supported in the coming years  15 year-old Formula BMW USA Junior scholar Maxime Pelletier will begin his open wheel career in three weeks in Mid-Ohio but a rumor has it this talented young driver will benefit from the major sponsorship of a large European corporation for 2007.

Pelletier, who was born in France but immigrated to Quebec in his childhood, holds both citizenships and the important funding, in excess of a million dollars, will come from Europe, providing him with extensive testing in the winter season to nurse his skills until the next season starts. There could be discussions going on to implement a multi-year program to support the young Montreal driver.

In 2006, Pelletier will drive for Gelles Racing who sends a squadron of six cars in this series. He has shown a lot of speed in Road Atlanta and Virginia where official testing days were held so far, posting regularly times in the Top Five. His goal is to become the best rookie in this series, but he might also vie for a few podiums along the way.
Maxime Pelletier is happy with Gelles Racing right now and he works very hard with his engineers to put his BMW in front. He focuses on developing his skills with his team and the Education and Coaching program that the BMW series provides scholars. Experts agree this is still the best way to start a career in open wheel.

But back to business, Pelletier is testing with his team this weekend at Carolina Motorsports Park, the last two mandatory testing sessions for the BMW teams before they head to Mid-Ohio for the first double header of the season.

Gelles Racing has six cars entered in the Formula BMW USA this season with drivers from four countries and two cars in the Atlantic Champ Car series. You may visit www.gellesracing.com or www.maximepelletier.com

Red Bull team eyes 2006 start  Red Bull Racing, which will field two Toyota Nextel Cup series teams beginning next season, is making plans to enter at least five races this season, likely at the end of the year, The Charlotte Observer reports.  The Toyota Camry is not approved for NASCAR competition in 2006, so Red Bull has to utilize another car make if it enters races this season. The organization has already built a Dodge Charger, sources said. Red Bull is searching for a driver for its partial schedule. Former Cup champion Bill Elliott is among those being considered, sources said.  Charlotte Observer
Webber eyes switch to Renault  After rumors have been spread that Kimi Raikkonen or Juan Pablo Montoya would take the place of Fernando Alonso with Renault next season, Mark Webber, the Australian Williams F1 driver, has been named another possibility. Of course many of us feel that Heikki Kovalainen will land the vacant Alonso seat with the Renault team.
Elliott Sadler job hunting  UPDATE We are downgrading this rumor to 'false' today.  A report states that Jarrett’s teammate, Elliott Sadler, is frustrated and looking to join another team. One destination could be the Red Bull Racing Toyota team. Sadler admits he’s frustrated with how this season has gone _ he’s 14th in points _ but remains committed to Robert Yates Racing. Last June, Sadler signed a contract extension, along with sponsor M&M’s, to remain with the team through the 2008 season. “You just can’t change a team overnight,’’ Sadler said. “It’s going to be a long process. I’m here to stay at Robert Yates. I can’t see myself going anywhere.’’ Roanoke Times

04/28/06 When Sadler arrived at Yates, he said it was a dream job, perhaps a lifetime job. And now? He's not so sure. Sources say Sadler is talking to other team owners looking for a deal. He'll be 31 on Sunday, and in a tight market for experienced, winning Cup drivers with plenty of years left, somebody likely will be interested. Sadler has a year remaining on his contract, and he may just be testing the waters in case things don't improve. Or he may be trying to create a situation like Kurt Busch and Jamie McMurray did last year by signing a year in advance and then letting the car owners work out a deal for an early release. More from CNNSI column

F1 musings  (GMM)  A day is a long time in formula one.

Although mystery has surrounded Michael Schumacher's future beyond 2006, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo now says the German is almost certain to stick around on the grid next season.

''He wants to remain for another year,'' the Italian revealed to La Gazzetta dello Sport, ''but it would be better if he would sign a contract for two more years.''

At the Silverstone-owning 'BRDC' club, a new president now reigns; taking over from Sir Jackie Stewart is another ex-champion -- 1996 winner Damon Hill.

A twelfth team - 'Prodrive' - will race in 2008, but one of the squads that missed out, Trevor Carlin's 'Carlin Motorsport', has vowed to keep a sharp eye on a possible debut in 2009.

David Richards' Prodrive, meanwhile, is already on the hunt for a carmaker-partner, in the same mould as its successful rallying foray with Subaru.  ''We have had approaches from two or three manufacturers over the last 18 months (about F1),'' the Briton told the Daily Telegraph.

In Italy, the trial of two former Ferrari engineers charged with industrial espionage involving Toyota commenced on Friday.

At the Maranello factory, however, technical director Ross Brawn was busy rejecting Honda counterpart Geoff Willis' suggestion that video evidence is proof that the rear wing of the '248' car still flexes.

''If all you look at are videos,'' the Ferrari man told Auto Motor Und Sport, ''then every car out there is illegal.''

Speculation rumbled on about who might replace Fernando Alonso at Renault next year.  Williams' Mark Webber didn't want to throw his name into the hat, but he did tell ITV: ''Flavio (Briatore) manages me so he has got control of the hat in many ways!''

Also in control of the 'hat', however, is Frank Williams, who could take up an option on Webber's contract for 2007.

Something that is unlikely to change for a little while, meanwhile, is Renault's current dominance.

Despite finishing second to the Bridgestone-shod Ferrari of Michael Schumacher at Imola, the team's technical director Bob Bell said: ''I suspect (Nurburgring and Spain) will be Michelin races, and that our main competition will come from the (other) Michelin teams.''

Kalkhoven eyes joint GP Masters/Champ Car weekend  According to Autosport.com, Champ Car co-owner and Cosworth boss Kevin Kalkhoven admitted talks have been in place to take the Grand Prix Masters series to the United States of America.

"This is a format that I think has got some legs if it can get the right sort of exposure I'd like to take it across to the United States, to some of the areas where we have sort of two hundred, two hundred and fifty thousand people," said Kalkhoven.

"I mean they remember Emerson(Fittipaldi), they remember Nigel (Mansell)," he said of the former Champ Car champions, before admitting to talks with GPM CEO Scott Poulter to take the series across the Atlantic. "We were talking about how we could do it, we were just talking. I only met him for the first time last night, but the format's got potential, I like the format."

Cosworth eyes engine supply for GP Masters  In this rumor we told you that Kevin Kalkhoven's Gulfstream usually doesn't fly unless there is a business purpose behind it. After visiting Italy and the P1 Powerboats, the Gulfstream landed in Qatar for this weekend's Grand Prix Masters race.....again not by coincidence we suspect, though the shrewd Kalkhoven is playing dumb of course.

Autosport.com reports that Kalkhoven's unexpected visit to Qatar's Losail International Raceway also fuelled speculation that he intends to supply engines to the GP Masters series. "No, that (an engine arrangement) wasn't what we were talking about, but, mind you, we have just started talking..."

However, Kalkhoven explained that his friendship with Fittipaldi was the main reason why he went to Qatar. "Emerson (pictured right) is a very good and long-standing friend of mine, so primarily I came here to see him."

Also, let's not forget that the GP Masters cars are old Reynard Champ Cars with normally aspirated V8s rather than the turbo engines that were in them when they were Champ Cars......so there is a fit in that the GP Masters Series, though made up of ex-Formula One drivers, is also a retirement series for Champ Car as well.  Maybe they should mix in some retired Champ Car drivers.

Bernie offer is F1 peace ’breaker’  (GMM)  Although peace at Imola seemed imminent, a serious hurdle has emerged between the warring carmakers and F1's owners.

The British 'Sunday Express' newspaper has reported that, with no hands looking to be shaken in agreement this month, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has now withdrawn his offer to the 'GPMA' group of 60 per cent of F1's revenue.

The 75-year-old will seemingly only reconsider the proposal if the carmakers themselves (i.e. not their subsidiary teams), sign the commercial agreement to 2012.

This will almost certainly not happen.

To the carmakers' teams, Ecclestone is only offering 50 per cent, although it is substantially more than the current share of income.

The Sunday Express quoted a source as saying that the impasse could be viewed as a 'deal breaker', as previous talks had been based on the 60 per cent.

Cosworth look to Toro Rosso, Prodrive  UPDATE (GMM)  Cosworth is looking to Toro Rosso, but also David Richards, as the independent engine maker prepares for the future.

With current partner Williams likely to race into Toyota's clutches in 2007, the Northampton-based company is hoping to equip Red Bull's controversial junior team - Toro Rosso - with a V8 power plant next year.

According to 'Auto Motor Und Sport', former Benetton and BAR boss David Richards is also in Cosworth's sights.  With his 'Prodrive' team certain to get the FIA's nod for 2008 on Friday, the German magazine suggested that a 'long term' engine contract with Cosworth is possible.

But Cosworth has not yet given up on retaining Sir Frank Williams' business, with Tim Routsis saying earlier that his job is to make it 'bloody hard for them to want to go' elsewhere.

04/27/06 Speaking to autosport.com, Cosworth's commercial director Bernard Ferguson said he was looking beyond just Williams for next year to supply – and said there was likely to be a major push in the next few weeks to try and conclude preliminary negotiations that have taken place.

"Ideally we would like to have two competitive teams, but then again wouldn't everybody," said Ferguson. " I think basically what we are trying to do is do the best possible job we can do for Williams. That is to make a decision to go anywhere else very difficult for them, but also by doing that it gives us a shop window for the rest of the grid.

"There is a very small market place and everyone can see what everyone else is doing, and I think that we are getting a lot of good press in real terms and in terms of perception from the rest of the teams.

"We are exploring conversations with other people that have not advanced that far at this stage for next year, but I think that will pick up quite quickly now we are into Europe.

"These guys (Williams) have already started conversations about the engine installation in the chassis, and everybody else is doing the same. I would think by some time in June all the deals that are going to be done, with everyone and not just Cosworth, will be pretty much signed and sealed."

Brit GP crisis set to ease  (GMM)  The crisis at British grand prix-promoting club 'BRDC' is likely to begin to ease on Friday.

Reports suggest that a scheduled vote of no confidence at the Silverstone meeting will not succeed, while Damon Hill is tipped to take over the presidency from fellow champion Sir Jackie Stewart; a controversial figure.

'BBC' said the raging opposition that led to the call for the board to be removed 'has run out of steam in recent days'.  The argument was about how best to go about securing the long term future of the historic formula one race.

Rosberg, Webber, could face engine penalty  (GMM)  Williams' Nico Rosberg looks set to move ten places back on next Sunday's European grand prix grid.

The rookie German's team is reportedly considering changing his Cosworth engine ahead of schedule, according to German magazine Auto Motor Und Sport.

''(Cosworth) fears that the eight cylinder'' will not make it through another race, the news report explained, adding that the problem might involve damaged piston rods.

20-year-old Rosberg's engine failed in Malaysia, and the Imola-spec engine belonging to teammate Mark Webber may also have shown signs of damage.

Technical director Sam Michael suggested that the Nurburgring's 'crazy' weather might make a qualifying penalty easier to handle.

''So a bad starting position is perhaps not so bad,'' the Australian said.

It is unknown how long the basic technical flaw will take to fix, but boss Alex Hitzinger said Cosworth has 'neither the money or the personnel' to react as quickly as its rivals.

’Prodrive’ to grab twelfth spot for 2008  UPDATE #3 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today - see Hot News page for story.

04/27/06 (GMM) On Friday morning, David Richards' 'Prodrive' will be announced as the winner of the twelfth and final spot in the F1 pitlane of 2008.

Including the existing eleven teams, the governing FIA received no less than twenty two entrants for the future world championship, including those involving Eddie Jordan, Paul Stoddart, Craig Pollock, Trevor Carlin - who had planned to buy Penske's English factory - and Jean Alesi.

But the latter ex-Ferrari driver's outfit, backed by 'Direxiv' and with use of McLaren's old Woking factory, indicated that it could still launch a team for the 2007 season.

''We have a factory and we still want to use it next year,'' Alesi told Britain's Autosport magazine.

The problem, though, is that entering for 2007 would still require the mandatory $48m new-team bond. Worse still, Alesi would not be guaranteed a spot for 2008.

News agency Reuters, meanwhile, asked FIA president Max Mosley whether the limit of twelve teams could be simply expanded to accommodate another one or two.

''If all the organizers and promoters want to make the investment (to enlarge facilities),'' he was quoted as saying, ''there's no fundamental reason why it shouldn't be

Also on Friday, 1996 world champion Damon Hill is likely to be named as Sir Jackie Stewart's successor for the presidency at British grand prix-promoting club the BRDC.

04/25/06 McLaren-Mercedes may have secured the final place on the F1 grid in 2008, for their much talked about and long rumored 'B' team, according to the latest gossip reported by crsdh.net.

Although it was thought that Prodrive had secured the final slot to enter the sport when the new Concorde Agreement comes into operation in two years time, it now appears that might not be the case.

04/20/06 (GMM)  According to speculation, formula one's governing body, the FIA, has granted the twelfth spot in the 2008 pitlane to David Richards' 'Prodrive' team.

It earlier emerged that, among the twenty two prospective squads, unsuccessful applications were informed this week that they had not won the coveted final garage alongside existing teams.

But it now appears that - with Trevor Carlin, Paul Stoddart, Eddie Jordan and others also vying for the spot - ex-BAR principal Richards' bid, featuring a high-tech HQ in England, got the nod.

Official confirmation is due next week.

Toyota courting Rudd  Ricky Rudd confirmed Wednesday that Toyota is courting him. He's honored, but to date has politely declined. This retirement thing ain't so bad. "I've had a few conversations with different folks, and that's one group," Rudd said. "It's a two-way conversation. I'm not ready to come back right now, but there has been conversation. They've got to move on with their program, and their timeline and mine are not the same. I wanted to take a year off." That's not to say he's ruled it out completely, however. Rudd has pinpointed a September commitment time regarding his racing future. Might he come back? "I enjoy race day a lot, but not the grind of the schedule," Rudd said. "I'm liable to get bored and restless, though, but haven't yet." NASCAR.com
Marlboro prepared to bankroll Ferrari super team  Ferrari title sponsor Marlboro has said it is willing to bankroll the $70 million pay packet of Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari next season, according to a report in this week's Autosport.
Industry News
High fuel prices to hit Big-3 hardest  High gasoline prices and fear of them seem to be taking a bite out of new car and truck sales in April.  General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and even Chrysler Group, the only Detroit automaker performing well this year, are expected to post sales declines Tuesday when they are scheduled to report results.  Through March, sales were down 5.2% at GM and 2.8% at Ford, but they were up 3.9% at Chrysler.

There have been some reports that consumers are shifting away from SUVs and into smaller vehicles with less powerful and less fuel-thirsty engines.  That would be bad news for Detroit automakers, which make a lot of their money on big, powerful vehicles. More at Detroit Free Press

’Flexi’ saga set to resurface  (GMM) Although the 'flexi wing' saga appeared to have died down, the FIA has reportedly received a new letter in informal protest of F1 team Ferrari.

Honda suspects that the '248' racer's rear wing still bends at high speed, a scenario that would explain the Maranello-based team's dominance of the circuit speed traps at Imola.

Although no new mention of Ferrari's redesigned front wing was made, a report of the Italian magazine Autosprint says that Honda technical director Geoff Willis has video evidence to back his views about the rear wing.

Ferrari was fastest on the straights at Imola, 7 kilometers per hour faster than the rest.

Track News
Indy Speedway for sale?  UPDATE #2 According to the Wall Street Journal, four members of the NASCAR-owning France family, sold 2,204,000 shares of ISC stock for more than $105 million. Bill France, his brother Jim along with Bill’s son Brian and daughter Lesa Kennedy each sold 551,000 ISC shares at $48.35 per shares, which comes to $26,640,000 for each.   It was done just before tax filing day, so was it for tax purposes or was it to gear up for a major purchase, like a Speedway?  We were told Indy is not for sale, so..... 

03/02/06 AutoRacing1.com has learned from inside sources that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is indeed NOT for sale. We are not sure where Brock Yates got his information.  Mark C. 

03/02/06 Brock Yates writes in his column in the April issue of Car and Driver Magazine that word is rumbling through the motorsports community that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway may be for sale. The bidders appear to be the France family and the Disney Corporation.  We do know that Mari Hulman has said on more than one occasion that the Speedway was for her grandchildren and it would never be sold.   However, if enough money was offered one never knows what the family might do.

Red Bull steals another from McLaren  After luring one of the best designers, Adrian Newey, away from McLaren, according to Autosport.com sources, Red Bull Racing have now also lured McLaren operations chief Neil Martin to be their new Head of Strategic Operations. 

Although the news has not been confirmed by the team, there are suggestions that he will be joining Red Bull at the start of next year after seeing out his current contract with McLaren.

STP back on No. 43  UPDATE #2 This weekend, Bobby Labonte and the #43 STP Dodge team head to the 2.66-mile Talladega ( Ala. ) Superspeedway for Sunday's Aaron's 499. The #43 Dodge will carry a retro STP paint scheme designed to pay tribute to one of the longest sponsorships in history of motorsports. It will be the first time in six years that STP has been the primary sponsor. They will commemorate the event by donating $43 for each lap completed to the Victory Junction Gang Camp.

Labonte will be making his 27th start at Talladega this weekend. He has six top-five and 10 top-10 finishes at the superspeedway. He won this race in 1998. In his last race at the track Labonte started sixth and finished 11th. Petty Enterprises

04/07/06 This rumor is now 'fact' with today's announcement.

04/07/06 One of the most famous car designs in all of NASCAR history was the #43 STP design driven to victory lane all over the country by Richard Petty. It appears the STP name will once again grace a Petty-owned car as a primary sponsor, this time with another NASCAR champion at the wheel, Bobby Labonte. CircleTrackPlus  Photo courtesy CIA Stock Photo

Pizzonia out, Pastorelli in?  According to this ItaliaRacing.net article, Antonio Pizzonia is out at Rocketsports and Nicky Pastorelli is in.  However, the last we heard from team owner Paul Gentilozzi, he was still waiting to hear whether Pizzonia's sponsorship would come through.  If it did, a two car team was still a possibility.  We hear Pastorelli does not have enough money for a full season either.
Hoosier Hundred is history?  UPDATE The American race fans’ intense interest in and devotion to the storied USAC “Hoosier Hundred” auto race has helped in its re-instatement as a May 26 event this year!

The 54th running of the race will take place on the Friday night before the Indianapolis 500 as a result of diligent work by numerous parties dedicated to the event’s continuance as a May tradition.

The combined tireless efforts of the United States Auto Club, Indiana State Fairgrounds, Indiana State Government, K & K Insurance, Bob Parker of Parker Machinery in Indianapolis and race organizer Bob Sargent of Track Enterprises, Inc. in Macon, Ill. created an avenue of opportunity for the race to be re-instated on the calendar for 2006.

The third leg of USAC’s 2006 Silver Crown Championship Series showcases the nation’s most competitive racing series on the Indiana State Fairgrounds’ 1-mile dirt oval in a 100-mile race which has produced a list of champions including America’s greatest drivers. Indianapolis 500 Champions Bob Sweikert, Jimmy Bryan, Rodger Ward, A.J. Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Mario Andretti and Al Unser are former winners, as are current NASCAR stars/USAC graduates J.J. Yeley and Jason Leffler. More ...

Busch to get NASCAR fine  UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  NASCAR has decided it will neither fine nor take points away from Kyle Busch for running into the back of Casey Mears during the red flag period of last Saturday's Subway Fresh 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, according to NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp.

04/24/06 Kyle Busch didn't have much to say and Casey Mears probably didn't feel there was much to say about Busch's running into Mears under the red flag following their accident on lap 100 of the Nextel Cup race Saturday. Busch was mad at Mears over the accident in the Subway Fresh 500 at Phoenix International Raceway and showed his displeasure with the light tap. Busch was about 45 laps down when he returned to the race and NASCAR held him five laps for rough driving, but Busch would have finished in the same position with or without the five-lap penalty. NASCAR will revisit the issue this week to determine whether any additional penalties are warranted. After meeting with NASCAR officials in the hauler following the race, Busch left the track without commenting to reporters, and Mears, frustrated with his car even before the Busch tap, was atypically terse. "I'm not really worried about Kyle," Mears said. When asked if he was surprised Busch hit him during the red flag, Mears replied: "I'm not surprised with anything he does." NASCAR Daily Scene

What about all those new races?  A reader asks, what happened to all those rumored new Champ Car and IRL races?  How come nothing has been announced - Phoenix, Las Vegas, San Antonio, South Africa, Japan, China, Philadelphia?  Jill Waters

Dear Jill, Until the merger talks are done between Champ Car and the IRL, we doubt you will see any announcements for new races.  Merging the two schedules together will already make the schedule too large, so adding new races will be difficult.  The good news is that they should be able to drop the dead wood races and end up with a 20 to 22 race schedule that contains only the profitable and popular venues. Mark C.

Schu's new $86.6m contract  (GMM)  Michael Schumacher now has in his possession a contract to extend his formula one career for Ferrari by two more years.

That is the information of Germany's biggest newspaper, Bild, which wrote on Tuesday that the deal - yet to be signed by the Imola winner - is for a monstrous $86.6 million.

'Bild' added that 37-year-old Schumacher's new contract contains a 'world champion clause', meaning that he can quit at any time if he lifts an eighth title, including in 2006.

The newspaper suggested that a decision at the Nurburgring, scene of the next grand prix early next month, is possible.

''Michael is still the best formula one pilot there ever was,'' Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo told the German 'sid' news agency.

''I hope he remains loyal to us.''

Kimi 'already wearing red' - Tambay  (GMM) Finland's Kimi Raikkonen may have taken his foot off the loud pedal for the end of his career at McLaren.

That is the theory of Patrick Tambay, the French former F1 driver for Ferrari and Renault, who hypothesized about the 26-year-old's mediocre grand prix weekend at Imola.

Tambay, 56, suggested to France's 'L'Equipe' newspaper that he believed speculation about Kimi's move to Ferrari for the 2007 season.

''Perhaps he already has it in his head that he is wearing a red suit,'' he told the 'paper.

GP Masters eyes street races  According to a report on Autosport.com, Grand Prix Masters organizers are eyeing a street race in Durban, South Africa and the USA for 2007. The Durban race would be in addition to the successful A1GP race on the streets of Durban. A1GP, Grand Prix Masters and the IRL are all adding street races and trying to beat Champ Car at their 3-day festival game. Champ Car of course does street races the best, but their inability to close deals in new markets is allowing competitors to get their foot in the door, which of course marginalizes Champ Car's negotiating position.
Industry News
Penske to save GM?  According to Robin Miller on Wind Tunnel Sunday night, there is a rumor in Detroit that GM is wooing Roger Penske to take over the auto giant and save it from pending bankruptcy, much in the way Lee Iacocca was brought in to save Chrysler years ago.
Ganassi team in chaos?  A pair of personnel changes, including the resignation of general manager Andy Graves, does not mean things are in chaos at Chip Ganassi Racing, the car owner said Saturday.  "Does it look like I'm panicking?" Ganassi said as he leaned back on a couch in a team hauler. "We're going to be fine. Everybody over here is fine."

"I have a good group of managers that can all step up and fill in," he said. "I don't feel a burning desire to replace Andy Graves immediately."

It's unclear where Graves will end up long. He can stay with Ganassi in a different role, but garage speculation had him moving on to a management role with another team - perhaps even with Toyota as the Japanese automaker prepares to make its NASCAR debut next season. More from AP Wire story

GP2 chief keen on buying MF1  UPDATE #2 So-called 'lazy' journalists copped a thumping by Midland owner Alex Shnaider at the weekend, but one or two did spot an interesting figure popping into the team's motor home at Imola.

His name is Alfonso de Orleans, a GP2 team chief.

While Shnaider vehemently rejected any lingering talk of an invisible 'for sale' sign above the door, de Orleans - the 'Racing Engineering' boss - insisted that he is still keen to snap up the Silverstone based squad.

''Right now it seems like the team is not for sale,'' the Spaniard admitted to 'Marca' newspaper, ''but a few weeks ago it was said that everything has its price.

''So I will continue to pursue this idea (of a Spanish national F1 team).''

04/15/06 More quotes from Alfonso de Orleans Borbon to Spanish daily Marca - "Some days they say they might sell, and on other days they say I have to wait," the Spaniard said.

"The fact is that at Imola, I'm going to sit down to talk with Shnaider if I can, and if not, I'll try in the next race.  The buyout is not easy to evaluate, because you have to check if they have debts," he explained.

"If we take upon ourselves to pay off their debts, then this would be included in the price - just like the Silverstone factory, the wind tunnel, and so on."

04/14/06 (GMMf1NET) Despite the team's denials, rumors surrounding the Midland-owned 'MF1' team continue to grumble.

The latest whisper originates in the 'Marca' newspaper in Spain, which reported that Alfonso de Orleans - boss of the GP2 team Racing Engineering - is keen on buying the Silverstone based outfit.

It already emerged this week that Orleans did not submit an application to join the formula one grid in 2008.

But the Spaniard is taking a peek at Midland, with 'Marca' suggesting that he wants to set up a Spanish national team, with the possible support of the government.

Orleans will apparently stage talks with Midland owner Alex Shnaider at Imola next week.

''If that cannot be done,'' he said, valuing MF1 at about $100 million, ''then we will (meet) at the next race.''

Ide ’unlikely’ to race at Nurburgring  (GMM)  An ominous cloud has re-gathered over Yuji Ide's fledgling F1 career.

The struggling rookie driver, already warned by Super Aguri bosses to up his game, sent an irate Christijan Albers' 'MF1' into a barrel-roll at Imola -- an indiscretion that earned him a formal reprimand from the stewards.

They ruled that 31-year-old Ide had caused the shunt, warning him of the 'possible effect of incurring a second' slap.

Added to his extreme lack of pace and erratic on-track style, a movement of opposition to Ide's mere presence on the grid has now widened.  Former triple world champion Niki Lauda told 'RTL' TV at Imola that the sport's bigwigs should consider suspending his superlicense.

''It is not making formula one look good,'' the Austrian told Germany's F1 broadcaster, probably also riled by Ide's reluctance to accept the blame for his error.

Responding to Albers' charge of over-aggressiveness, he said: ''I don't think I was pushing too hard.  Albers was the one on the racing line and I could not avoid his car.''

England's 'Times' newspaper, however, summed up the mood of the F1 paddock, reporting that Ide is 'unlikely to be in Germany at the next race'.

Kimi's Ferrari deal not done yet - Haug  (GMM) Kimi Raikkonen has not yet signed a Ferrari contract for 2007.

That is the adamant claim of Mercedes' Norbert Haug, who was quoted by the German 'sid' agency as assuming that McLaren is still in the running to retain its Finnish star.

''Kimi ensures me that there is no agreement with Ferrari,'' the competition director said. ''He has said it to my face, and I do not accuse him of lying.''
Greece mulls F1 track  UPDATE #6 The Greek Tourism Development Ministry has finalized the conditions required for locations which are bidding to be the venue of a Formula 1 track in Greece. There are several different plans for racing circuits in the country with the major bids coming from Orchomenos, near Thebes; from the port of Patras in the west and from the island of Crete. Grandprix.com

01/09/06 Bernie Ecclestone visited Greek capital city Athens at the weekend.

The F1 supremo inspected the Hellinikon Olympic Complex, a venue for the Olympic Games in 2004, as a possible site of a future grand prix.

Located at Elliniko, the site - formerly an international airport - was earlier ruled out as a possible F1 site as authorities wanted to turn it into a housing area.

But Bernie is thought to favor Hellinikon, as it is 80km closer to Athens than another possible venue, Orchomenos.

''It is a beautiful location,'' Greek journalist Dmitris Papadopoulos told the UK's Guardian newspaper.

He said: ''It's overlooking the water and could be made into a parkland circuit like the Albert Park track in Melbourne. It would be the best possible prospect for a Greek GP.''

10/05/05 Greece is carrying out a feasibility study into the construction of a Formula One track, Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said Wednesday. "The ministry is in the process of drawing up a draft law that lays out the legal and institutional conditions to advance in the coming months," the construction of a track, Avramopoulos said after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Caramanlis.

Avramopoulos, who did not give any details on the proposed location of the circuit, said "interest in this project was big... and the organization behind Formula One was also interested."

Greece has sought to benefit from the good reputation it gained from the highly successful hosting of the Olympics 2004 to attract international sporting events using sites built for the Athens Games. AFP

09/06/05 There are reports in Greece that Bernie Ecclestone and the Greek government are discussing plans to hold a race in Athens as early as 2007. This could be achieved because the city has a ready-made venue at the Helliniko Olympic Complex. Once the city's airport, Helliniko was turned into a venue for a number of sports during the 2004 Olympic Games and the site now features hockey, softball, baseball, basketball, canoeing and fencing facilities and stadia. The aim now is to turn the area into a large park, supporting sporting, cultural and recreational activities. Close inspection on the site reveals a very obvious opportunity to use a perimeter road as a racing circuit and the logical course of action would be for the facility to follow the model set by Melbourne with the race track being used once a year and then being returned to its normal parkland status. This would be quick, easy and cheap.

Helliniko is within easy reach of the new international airport and not far from the downtown area. There are good access roads to both the east and west of the area and plenty of space for run-off areas and other F1 facilities. There is already a go-kart track right next to the venue and so noise would not be a major problem. The plan is for subway and suburban light railways to be extended south from the city centre to the park and with the Saranic Gulf just across the road Helliniko could be a scenic venue.

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is also the Culture Minister and the development of Helliniko will come under his portfolio. A decision is expected to be made shortly. Grandprix.com More ...

Busch Series to switch cars  UPDATE NASCAR is currently in preliminary discussions with manufacturers regarding the use of different car models in the Busch Series. Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president for competition, said manufacturer representatives have approached NASCAR about the idea in recent weeks.

"There is some support from the manufacturers to utilize a different car model in the series," he said.

A secondary effect of any change would be to help differentiate the Busch Series from its Nextel Cup counterpart.

Both series use similar cars, which differ only in wheelbase, height and horsepower. Also this season, a growing number of Cup drivers have been participating in the Busch series, with seven drivers running full schedules in both series.

Cup driver Kevin Harvick has two wins in the series and holds a commanding lead in the points eight races into the season. ThatsRacin.com

04/18/06 NASCAR continues to look for a way to differentiate the Busch Series from the premiere Nextel Cup Series, in answer to critics who suggest Busch has become Cup Lite, with near-identical cars and a plethora of invading Nextel Cup drivers. One possible way: Change the Busch Series cars from sedans to the manufacturers’ “pony” cars—the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger and Toyota Solara. Sound farfetched? It isn’t. “It’s under discussion with NASCAR,” said John Fernandez, director of Dodge’s racing operation. “It isn’t to what I’d consider the serious stage, but it is under discussion.” Dan Davis, director of Ford Racing Technology, said, “We’ve discussed it. And I’d like to see it. We need to do something about the Busch Series.” Given the production schedule of the Camaro and Challenger, it is unlikely those cars would be able to enter the Busch Series before the 2008 season, with 2009 a more likely scenario. By then Nextel Cup’s Car of Tomorrow redesign should be in place. One scenario would have the Busch pony cars built on modified platforms from the Nextel Cup cars used now, thus helping team owners who say the Car of Tomorrow seriously reduces the value of the old cars. Manufacturers are hoping that if it happens, NASCAR will allow the pony car racers. AutoNews.com
Red Bull eyes Montoya  UPDATE #3 (GMM) Juan Pablo Montoya says he is still unsure about where in F1's pitlane he will be found next year.

The Colombian, already linked with a switch to Red Bull or Renault for 2007, received a dampening response when he asked McLaren what it had planned for the future.

''Ron (Dennis) said he's not going to make a decision on drivers yet,'' 30-year-old Montoya revealed to The Times.

The Latin driver also confirmed that he had been told by the silver-clad principal that his personal performance for the balance of his contract would be the 'deciding factor'.

Ultimately, though, the decision probably belongs to Kimi Raikkonen. If the Finn does not set off to Ferrari, Montoya will surely be the one to go.

'JPM' has also been linked with BMW-Sauber. '''That was the first rumor,'' Juan Pablo told the British newspaper, ''then it went quiet.''

04/19/06 Juan Pablo Montoya's management is negotiating about a 2007 formula one contract with Red Bull Racing.

Colombian newspaper 'El Tiempo' reported that the 30-year-old McLaren driver, who is likely to leave Ron Dennis' Woking based squad after a two-year deal, is high on the list of potential replacements for racer Christian Klien.

Red Bull owner and billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz did not deny the story.

''We are observing the driver market at present,'' said the Austrian.

Mateschitz admitted: ''Michael Schumacher, Raikkonen and Alonso are not available at the moment, but behind them are a group of interesting drivers, including (Montoya).''

Speculation hints that Klien, albeit Mateschitz's countryman, would be the existing racer to get the chop, possibly leaving Montoya alongside David Coulthard, who does not get along with the Colombian.

But Mateschitz insisted: ''We need two strong drivers.''

03/23/06 Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz has tried to play down surging speculation that Juan Pablo Montoya will spearhead the team's driver lineup next year.

With the rated Colombian's McLaren contract to expire, and suggestions that he will be moved over to make way for Fernando Alonso, 30-year-old Montoya is linked with the energy drink's squad.

Moreover, Red Bull principal Christian Horner only fuelled gossip when he told 'Motorsport News' that the feisty driver 'has so much more ability to exploit'.

''(But only if) somebody were to give him the right environment and get inside his head,'' he added.

However, billionaire Mateschitz denied that active talks with Montoya were taking place, adding to the 'Tiroler Tageszeitung': ''Making a decision (about drivers) right now would be premature.''

03/22/06 Red Bull Racing says they are seriously pursuing Juan Pablo Montoya for 2007.  Team boss Christian Horner thinks very highly of the Colombian.

"I think if somebody were to give him the right environment and get inside his head, he has so much more ability to exploit," he told Motorsport News.

Montoya is in the final year of his contract with McLaren, which has already signed Fernando Alonso for 2007. That leaves just one seat open at the Woking-based team for Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen to fight over.

The addition of designer Adrian Newey has made Red Bull an attractive option for other drivers. Even Coulthard admitted he would like to sign a long term deal with the team now that Newey is on the scene.

"You can't focus on this year or next year," Montoya told ITV-F1.com. "You need to look into the future and say what is going to be your best choice and then make your decision."

Schu's pole on a whiff of petrol  (GMM) Ferrari's 'Tifosi' is rejoicing the red team's return to form, but paddock cynics still suggest that Michael Schumacher achieved his Imola pace on the mere whiff of petrol.

''I guess we are going to have to wait,'' said Toro Rosso co-owner Gerhard Berger, who on Friday also accused Ferrari of running low fuel.

Schumacher, 37, achieved his 66th career pole - an outright record - on Saturday, despite failing to win any of the three grands prix in 2006.

At Imola, fuel strategy - basically the choice between two or three stops - plays a crucial role, with overtaking near-impossible. On paper, two stops is best, but getting early track position is also smart.

Cynics aside, there is a feeling that Schumacher's pace is genuine, but he is perhaps running a slightly shorter first stint and - almost certainly - the softer tire. Williams and Toyota plumped for a harder Bridgestone spec.

BMW-Sauber's Nick Heidfeld noted: ''(Michael) was also very quick in the first and second phases of qualifying, where everyone goes with a light car.''

Fuel or no fuel, a lucky ace up Ferrari's sleeve is that Fernando Alonso is way down in fifth. Surely, Honda's Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello are light.

Renault's Flavio Briatore reckons Schumacher is, too, but added: ''If Ferrari win, it is good for F1.''

Champ Car SIM  UPDATE #2 A reader writes, The link you posted to the Champ Car sim is a MOD that was made to be used with Electronic Arts F1 Challenge (F1C). This is a free add-on if you own the EA game. There have been numerous MODS made for this game. It is highly recommended if you can find it. Here is a link to IDT/SSM site that explains more about the MOD. SSM also made a great ALMS MOD for the same F1 platform. http://idt.rscsites.org/index.htm

SE Games does have the rights to the Champ Car series and is to develop it after they launch a Karting game later this year. Their web site is under construction now but I did see the announcement a number of months back. Stephen R. King, Missiauga, Ontario, Canada

04/21/06 More info on this Champ Car SIM can be found here.

04/20/06 Rumor has it that a Champ Car PC-based SIM game is under development by a company called Team IDT.  We uncovered this teaser video clip.  The previous company S-E Games appears to be out of the picture now.

Jourdain Jr. lying thru his teeth  UPDATE In an interview with newspaper El Norte/Reforma, Michel Jourdain Jr. said that he received offers from Newman/Haas and PKV to drive in the Monterrey race, but that he decided to decline the offers because he was sure Newman/Haas couldn’t put together a competitive third car and because according to him he talked with Jimmy Vasser and Jimmy Vasser told him his car in Long Beach wasn’t very competitive. He said he will not compete in Champ Car without a competitive car.

Call me crazy, but a car in the Champ Car grid (especially a Newman/Haas car) no matter how uncompetitive is a lot more competitive than a Busch car that stays in the garage for most of the year.  Remember that Jourdain has only raced the Mexico City event and his team said he will only race in 2 more events without any sponsor. And if you want to talk about a competitive car, in 2005 where Michel had 20 starts in the Busch Series, his average finish position according to NASCAR was 29.1. If that car was competitive, then the driver was very uncompetitive to say the least.

Talk/rumor here in Mexico is that someone from NASCAR must have called him and told him not to race in Champ Car in another example of them trying to put the screws to open wheel racing. Jose Arrambide reporting from Mexico

04/21/06 A Mexico media outlet reports that they have talked to the PR personnel of Michel Jourdain Jr. and according to them Jourdain is discussing with PKV the possibility of running Houston and Monterrey in the car that Jimmy Vasser used in Long Beach. Jourdain has a contract with Ford in the NASCAR Busch Series, but the contract does not guarantee a car if there is no sponsor.  Jose Arrambide
’Kimi signed Ferrari deal long ago’  UPDATE #2 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  See this rumor for story.

04/13/06 Michael Schumacher offered a straight face to speculation that Kimi Raikkonen is now a fully-contracted Ferrari driver for 2007.

The German, presumably to either agree to be the ace Finn's new teammate, switch to another team or retire, told German publications on Wednesday that he would not comment on the latest wave of media gossip.

A so-called Ferrari 'source' told Switzerland's Blick newspaper this week that Raikkonen, 26, signed his red contract more than a full year ago.

Asked for his reaction, 37-year-old Schumacher said: ''Same as usual; I do not comment on rumors because someone always makes something (more) out of what I say.''

04/12/06 (GMMf1NET) For more than a year now, Kimi Raikkonen's signature has appeared on a long-term Ferrari contract for 2007 and beyond.

That is the claim of a Ferrari 'source', who told Switzerland's 'Blick' publication that the information is common wisdom up and down the corridors of Maranello.

''I am surprised that the (news) was not made official a long time ago,'' the newspaper quoted the source as saying.

The red-colored destination of McLaren's 26-year-old Finn has been spoken about at Ferrari 'for months', the source added.

Ferrari to announce Raikkonen deal at Imola?  UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo denied at Imola today that the Italian team have already signed Kimi Raikkonen for next year. Raikkonen is rumored to be on his way out of McLaren to their rivals, and Italian di Montezemolo admitted that they were interested in a driver of the caliber of the 26-year-old Raikkonen.

But when asked if Raikkonen had signed a contract with the Maranello-based team, di Montezemolo said: "Why do you assume that a deal has been done? It is not like this."

"I haven't got any kind of contact, unfortunately, with a fantastic driver like Raikkonen. Talking to potential drivers is a very intelligent suggestion - not only with Raikkonen. I think it's important to have a spare tie in your pocket - Mr. Ferrari told me that."

"Michael has no pressure from us," he added. "He knows that if he will continue with us we will be extremely pleased and if he will retire then we will be disappointed but also we understand that in a life there comes an end for all of us."

04/15/06 (GMMf1NET) At Imola next weekend, Ferrari will announce that Kimi Raikkonen is to become Michael Schumacher's new formula one teammate from 2007.

The information was published in Austria's 'Kronen Zeitung' newspaper.
Bridgestone to introduce slower tires in '07  Ross Brawn says that he expects that Bridgestone will introduce a more durable and slower tire in 2007 when it becomes the sole supplier of tires in F1 when Michelin drops out. In 2008 F1 will choose a new sole supplier for the following five years.

"My understanding is that they're going to use a control tire as a first stage, because they hope to be the successful applicant in 2008," he said, "That obviously goes to tender, and we'll see who comes through, but Bridgestone perhaps sees 2007 as a precursor to 2008, and I think it's their intent to provide their control tires.

"I think what they've got to decide is how much development they want to continue to do, and on what principle we try to do that development, because obviously it's got to be done in a fair way between the teams. I think Bridgestone will probably want to keep some development going because, if it's the case that it's going open again in the future, they can maintain some decent level of technology."

"[Next year's] will be one or two steps back from what we have now, because what we have now is quite an expensive construction, quite an expensive tire to build," he confessed, "I don't think there's any incentive for Bridgestone to be building expensive tires when they're the only supplier in F1.

"I think the ideal situation they've been asked to create is that the teams have an option of a fast, soft tire, or a consistent tire, so teams can have different strategies for the race. It's a very difficult thing to achieve, to pick the exact spot where you can have a quick, soft, but deteriorating tire, and a more consistent slower tire, on every circuit.

"It's quite a difficult thing for Bridgestone to achieve, but that would a nice ideal, because then the teams could vary their approach or their strategies."

"I don't think slicks will be introduced a year earlier in 2007 because it's got to be developed," he surmised, "We don't want to see car speeds develop very much from where they are now, so I don't think a slick will appear in 2007."

Schu back on Renault radar  (GMM) Michael Schumacher may be back on Renault's 2007 radar.

It was recently revealed that team principal Flavio Briatore, with Fernando Alonso's seat to fill, was keen to stage talks with the Ferrari veteran's manager Willi Weber.

In typical Briatore-style, he muddied the waters by suggesting that seeing 37-year-old Schumacher in a blue and yellow racer would be akin to him being photographed dating a 90-year-old.

Alonso backed up the rejection of the rumor by openly laughing at the idea of Schumacher accepting a massive pay-cut.

In an apparent u-turn, however, Italian 'Flav' has now been quoted as saying that Schumacher is one of only 'three or four guys' in pitlane who could take a Renault to the top step of the podium in 2007.

''I am looking for somebody to win races with our car,'' 56-year-old Briatore said, ''and (Michael) could.''

Fisi to lead Renault team in 2007  (GMM) According to the latest rumor, Giancarlo Fisichella has been told that he will lead the Renault team into the 2007 season.

With champion Fernando Alonso to leave the Enstone based team at the end of the year - probably as a winner of two titles - Flavio Briatore apparently decided that maintaining as much continuity as possible is preferable.

So who'll be the 33-year-old Roman's new teammate? Test driver Heikki Kovalainen is undoubtedly in the hot-seat, but paddock speculation is adamant that 'Flav' is still in with a shout of capturing Michael Schumacher.

''I do not fear driving next to a seven time world champion with equal equipment,'' Fisichella told La Gazzetta dello Sport, ''but I must admit that I would cooperate very gladly with Kovalainen.''

F1 deal could be sealed at Imola  (GMM) The enduring row about F1's future is nearing an end, with speculation at Imola adamant that a deal with rogue carmakers is now on the verge of being formalized.

Following a meeting between the carmakers' 'GPMA' group and F1 owner CVC at the circuit, and then a GPMA-only meeting on Friday evening, media sources report that an announcement could be made before Sunday's race.

Renault principal Flavio Briatore indicated to Reuters that the French manufacturer is ready to commit, adding that he was 'sure' a deal was 'close'.

The uncertainty stretches back months and years, with carmakers holding out against signing a new commercial deal for post-2007 and threatening to race in their own rival championship.

But most issues have now - it seems - been resolved, with any lingering debate thought to hinge on just a few million euros.

Briatore insisted: ''It makes no sense to lose (more) time.''

Schu quick, but running on empty?  (GMM)  At first glance, Ferrari's Michael Schumacher appears in the running to win his first grand prix since the Indianapolis debacle of 2005.

On Friday, in front of the ardent Italian Tifosi, the German - with his upgraded '248' machine - shadowed the quick pace of reigning world champion and title leader Fernando Alonso.

''The goal for (Saturday) is to get the pole,'' said Schumacher, whose qualifying feat would surpass Ayrton Senna's long-standing record of 65.

Asked by reporters what Sunday's goal might be, he summed it up in a solitary word: 'Victory'.

But is everything as it appears?  Some trackside observers at 'Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari' noticed that Schumacher seemed a little erratic at the wheel.

Toro Rosso team co-owner Gerhard Berger, who drove for Ferrari in the 80s and 90s, went further, suggesting that Schumacher's red car might have been running a bit low on fuel when he logged his fast times.

''I hope I am wrong,'' the Austrian told German 'Premiere' television.  ''I hope they have just done a good job.''

Germany to challenge tobacco ad ban  The German government is reported to be planning to take legal action to stop the European Union imposing a ban on tobacco advertising. The move comes in response to the EU health commissioner Markos Kyprianou's plan to take Germany to the European court for its refusal to implement the EU ban on tobacco advertising.

New European legislation came into force on August 1 last year, banning all print advertising, radio advertising and event sponsorship by tobacco companies.  Grandprix.com

Bernie to secure Brit GP future  UPDATE Bernie Ecclestone has confirmed that he is involved in plans to safeguard the future of Britain's Grand Prix at Silverstone.

The F1 supremo told the BBC that he had happily agreed a 'joint venture' with BRDC rebel Harry Stiller, but - in the same interview - confusingly added: “(I have) no agreement with ... Stiller.”

“I'm not going to be a (Grand Prix) promoter,” the 75-year-old insisted.

04/13/06 (GMMf1NET) Although an historic critic of the British grand prix, F1 tsar Bernie Ecclestone (right) could be part of a plan to safeguard the future of the race at Silverstone.

British newspapers report this week that, with Damon Hill likely to become the track-owning BRDC's new president, a new scheme has been dreamed up to replace the recently axed redevelopment plan.

The Times said 75-year-old Bernie 'has agreed' to jointly run the race and help refurbish the venue in Northamptonshire. Colleagues at 'Daily Telegraph' wrote that the deal would safeguard the race until 2015.

'The Guardian', however, quoted existing president Sir Jackie Stewart as doubting the seriousness of the deal.

The Scot said: ''Bernie has told me that he's not interested in being a promoter. I also asked him (in) Bahrain ... whether rumors that he was interested in buying Silverstone were true and he said no.''

Townsend Bell to drive 3rd Vision car  UPDATE In a story/rumor  first published here on AutoRacing1.com - Townsend Bell has been linked to Vision Racing as the team's third driver at the Indianapolis 500. Team owner Tony George said Thursday in an e-mail from Japan, where the IRL races tonight, that Bell is one of five drivers being considered. A decision is expected early next week.

"Roberto (Moreno) would be the easiest (choice), and he is currently with the team in Japan," George wrote. "(Jimmy) Vasser would be a good choice, but he has some coaching duties (in Champ Car) that may hold him back.

"Townsend has to do (rookie orientation), or at least it would benefit him, and I don't know if I can afford to do a whole month program and the rookie (program) with our little team."

Ed Carpenter and Tomas Scheckter are Vision's full-time drivers. Moreno subbed for the injured Carpenter in St. Petersburg, Fla., on April 2. Indy Star

04/17/06 Rumor out of Indy this morning says that Townsend Bell will drive the 3rd Vision Racing entry in this year's Indy 500.
ABC/ESPN will keep TV contract in merger  UPDATE #2 As we reported last month, and is now confirmed by the Indy Star - Open-wheel racing has a television package in place if it can unify, according to the Indy Racing League representative who negotiated the contract with ABC and ESPN through 2009.
Buddy McAtee, the vice president and executive producer of IMS Productions, said provisions for unification are spelled out in the contract signed by the networks and the league in November 2004.

ABC and ESPN have the right of first refusal to air Indy-car races in a new arrangement, he said. "That makes (the contract) still viable," McAtee said.

McAtee insists he has not been included in unification discussions with Champ Car World Series officials, but he's planning for the day when he's told a deal has been reached. Planning ahead is necessary, he said.
The last contract with ABC and ESPN took 19 months to work through. McAtee won't have that much time if unification happens for next season, as seems possible.

"We'll have to turn it around in 60 days," he said. "I have to be ready."

McAtee is working on the premise there would be between 20 and 24 races in a unified sport, and the challenge is to squeeze them into a calendar that begins in March and ends just after Labor Day so it avoids conflict with the NFL.

With or without unification, McAtee said he is pushing for the IRL to develop a Friday night race package much like the NFL did for Monday nights. He said track officials at Richmond, Va., Nashville, Tenn., and Kentucky are interested in the concept. So are the networks.

"ABC and ESPN are willing to take a shot at it," he said.  Indy Star

03/30/06 A reader responds, Dear AutoRacing1:  I see some flaws in your notions about ABC and the current IRL contract with them. For one, and most importantly, ABC apparently has total discretion on which IRL races are shown on cable and which are on network. The series has to be able to make those choices for their own promotional considerations, not a TV "partner" with other fish to fry, such as NASCAR next season. Also, ABC/ESPN's choice of broadcast personnel has been pathetic, with even IRL fans at times besides themselves over the lack of a quality broadcast and the over the top spinning that is engaged in - all hype and no substance. Champ Car has a superior broadcast team and superior production, based on what I saw last year.

A new series would be poorly served by ABC, given their track record (pun intended). As to your notion that the ABC deal not be jeopardized because they currently pay the IRL, that is not necessarily a good thing for a company that seeks growth with a stated plan. Time buys are not at all uncommon in sports (like the Masters golf tournament), and that situation is not a loser if the product has value, and an increasing audience. The time buyer can hire the production crew and thus set their own values for race broadcasts, including announcers and fluff pieces, and the time buyer keeps all the revenue. A good deal if you succeed, much better than being locked into business with a company that has production values that clash with the racing bodies' goals. ABC has forgotten how to produce auto racing since they lost NASCAR, and getting NASCAR back is fraught with all sorts of bad scenarios for any other racing series they have a contract with.

As it is, I say that the IRL should be sold to Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe, the Indy 500 broadcast rights offered to ABC if they want them, and the new company can then negotiate for a TV partner aside from ABC and its new (rightfully so) NASCAR agenda for the rest of their races. Or they can simply seek another deal. Why would a new company allow ABC to negotiate down the contract terms anyway, when the new company will have more value? As to the name, the "Indy Car World Series" will do just fine, and serve both the goal of name recognition, promoting the Indy 500,  and retaining the true nature of the series for both the present and the future. Tom Finlay, Deer Island, Oregon

Dear Tom, While you make some good points, the fact of the matter is that the Hulman George family and the Indy 500 have a long relationship with ABC that simply isn't going to go away.  In addition, ESPN's international TV distribution is second to none.  And last, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN News have been promoting the heck out of the IRL this season already.  They are a good partner.  Sure, there needs to be some changes in the announcing booth, but given the current state of affairs, they are not going to get a better TV deal right now, especially one that pays them as well.  Perhaps in 2010 when the "new" series is in better condition.  Mark C.

03/29/06 Some have asked us whether the current IRL TV contract with ABC would get in the way of a merger between Champ Car and the IRL before it expires in 2010.  As we understand the contract wording, if a new company were to be formed then it would render the contract null and void and ABC could try to negotiate down the contract terms.  However, there is a simple solution.  The IRL and the IndyCar name will be retained because IndyCar has name recognition worldwide. 

We can see Tony George taking on a new partner in the ownership of the IRL.  Whether it would be just Tony and Kevin Kalkhoven, or Tony, Kevin and Gerald Forsythe is not known, but essentially the IRL would buy or assume Champ Car and the Champ Car name would be dissolved.  This would allow the same company, the IRL, to retain the contract with ABC/ESPN.  This is a key element in the negotiations because it is imperative that the ABC deal not be jeopardized - they actually pay the IRL for their races, whereas Champ Car has to buy time.

The key elements of the deal as we see it:

Name of Series: Indy Car World Series or some derivation
Name of Cars: IndyCars (Just like it was in the CART days and as it is now for the IRL)
Ownership: George, Kalkhoven and/or Forsythe
TV Contract: ABC/ESPN (retain existing contract)
Cars: New Panoz Champ Car (All teams will buy new cars for 2007)
Engine: Existing Champ Car 2.65L Turbo with common ECU for both Honda and Ford
Events: Combination of most healthy of the two series with more road and street circuits than ovals for safety and cost reasons - ovals are simply too costly and too dangerous.  Sport can't afford all the death and destruction anymore.
Support Series: New Mazda Atlantic cars.  Existing IPS teams would join Atlantic Series and the Atlantic Series would come under IRL umbrella.

Hyundai to power Prodrive entry?  F1 paddock speculation is that the 12th F1 team, rumored to be Dave Richard's Prodrive team, will be powered by South Korean car giant Hyundai. Could Hyundai build a competitive F1 engine? It will take them at least five years to get it right, but instead could contract with someone like Cosworth, who may lose their Williams deal if Williams switches to Toyota in 2007 as rumors suggest. Cosworth desperately needs a manufacturer to badge their engine as it is difficult to continue to beat the car giants without deep pockets behind them. The fact that the small company has produced a faster V8 than all the car giants has to be a major embarrassment in Japan and Germany.
Klien says he or DC will get the chop  (GMM) Red Bull Racing will say farewell to at least one of its current formula one racers, according to Christian Klien.

The young Austrian, teammate to David Coulthard and hoping to be the one to stick around, admitted in an interview with 'apa' that 'only one of us' will still be driving for the outfit next year.

''So it is a duel between us both,'' Klien said, obviously referring to strong speculation linking McLaren's Juan Pablo Montoya to the squad owned by an energy drink.

Klien admitted of the 'duel' with 34-year-old DC: ''The fastest one will stay.

''To this point I think I am doing a good job.''

But Christian Klien insisted that it is too early to get excited about plans for next year, although acknowledging that he 'needs results' in the coming races.

Yasukawa hopeful of Indy 500 ride  IndyCar Series veteran Roger Yasukawa is at Twin Ring Motegi this weekend. He is hopeful of securing enough sponsorship to race at the Indianapolis 500 next month.  "We're still working on a deal. I'm not sure if we can go for the first week, but that's still our target. It's good that the race is in Japan. We can visit the track but also to several prospective sponsors. The deal could come through before the first week of May. I'm crossing my fingers. I would love to be part of the Indy 500 again. It's my main focus for this year and I want to do well there."
Engine Changes and Unleaded Fuel coming  UPDATE #5 Before the end of the 2006 racing season, NASCAR officials hope to have both Busch and truck series teams using unleaded fuel. And if all goes well, it's likely that unleaded gas will be used in the Nextel Cup Series beginning in 2007.

"We don't know where we're going to be with [unleaded fuel for the Cup series]," Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition, said April 20. "We said by '08. ... If the tests look promising, we will re-evaluate the timeline.

"We are going to, before the end of the year, run unleaded fuel in some select races, probably in the Busch and truck series. Some of their races are stand-alones, [on] short tracks and things of that nature. You're looking at less mileage, smaller carburetors, less horsepower."

NASCAR teams have always used leaded fuel, and is exempt from the Clean Air Act of 1970 requiring unleaded fuel be used in all automobiles.  NASCAR Daily Scene

03/13/05 Do-able’? That’s what Jack Roush said in regard to finally making the NASCAR transition from leaded to unleaded fuels. Environmental groups have renewed longstanding demands for NASCAR to make the change recently. “It’s just a matter of when we bite the bullet and decide it’s time,” said Roush. “There will be some ‘hiccups.’ It will cost some money for the development and change in parts, but it’s a definitely a ‘do-able deal.” Shelby Star 

03/04/05 Environmentalists have blown a gasket over the NASCAR's continued use of leaded gasoline in its stock car races. Since NASCAR has science and safety on its side, I hope it has the good sense not to cave in to this eco-harassment. The Clean Air Trust "urged" NASCAR in a Jan. 19 letter to consider the supposedly dire consequences of using leaded fuel: "By permitting the continued use of lead, your organization may be putting millions of spectators and nearby residents at unnecessary risk of suffering serious health effects, according to the Environmental Protection Agency." Lead was eliminated from most gasoline in the U.S. during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1990, however, Congress exempted the aviation and racing industries from the lead ban. The exemptions made sense since no one wanted airplanes falling from the sky because of stalled engines and auto racing would only add an insignificant amount of lead to the environment. NASCAR engines run on a high performance fuel designed exclusively for competition called 110 Leaded Racing Gasoline. Not only does the "Official Fuel of NASCAR" make stock cars run better, but its components make it resistant to explosion, which naturally makes things safer for drivers in racing accidents. JunkScience at FoxSports More ...

Will Open Wheel steal some of NASCAR’s thunder?  UPDATE A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I stumbled upon this rumor from back in March and found it interesting that below you predicted way back on March 13th that an announcement of an IRL/Champ Car merger would be made at Indy during the Month of May. Is this really true? How could you know this? Trish Monroe, Indianapolis

Dear Trish, Our sources with connections deep inside the Hulman George family circle indicated to us back then that the deal was agreed to in principle and it was just a matter of working out some of the finer details. If true we gathered that in two months time (May) would be the perfect time to do it.  Each day they wait, they fall a little further behind NASCAR.  They need to merge soon while the Speedway can still use some of its power over potential sponsors.

In fact, they should do it on Friday, Carburetion Day, just before the weekend Indy 500. By then the mass of international media has arrived in town for the 500 and it would be the perfect time to make a big splash and ensure it received worldwide coverage. I guess we'll just have to wait and see now won't we?  Mark C.

03/13/06 A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1.com, With your news bit about NASCAR's latest TV ratings falling, and the suggestion they may have peaked, will KK and TG definitely pair up and slip through the hole left by the oval cartel and rise to power? We know they can, and they must, but will they? Rich McGuigan

Dear Rich, Yes we expect there will be a merger announced in May at Indy with Champ Car folded into the IRL and the best of both series brought together. Whether they will form a new company or just continue the IndyCar name remains to be seen, but it makes no sense not to use the IndyCar name because CART had its best years under that name. It is a worldwide branded name, unlike Champ Car, which has struggled to gain widespread name recognition. Together they may indeed begin to steal some of NASCAR's thunder.  Mark C.
A1GP race a sellout already?  UPDATE #2 Autosport reports that organizers now say that more than 50,000 tickets have been snapped up already for the event in the two weeks since they have been on sale, and extra tickets released this week have already sold out.

"Hopefully these extra grandstand seats will go some way to addressing the huge demand for tickets that we have experienced so far," said series founder Sheikh Maktoum.

"Our expectations are that this race would be received well in Holland have proved to be correct, and I think we can expect a great season opener when A1 Grand Prix arrives in Zandvoort for the race on 1 October."

04/11/06   We are upgrading this rumor to 'fact' today.  Ticket sales for the first race of the 2006-07 A1 Grand Prix season are exceeding expectations, just five days after going on sale. 10,000 tickets were sold on the first day alone, as Dutch fans clamored to get tickets for the race at Zandvoort Circuit Park on 1 October 2006.

A1 Grand Prix will meet with management at the Zandvoort circuit and A1 Team Netherlands next week to discuss additional grandstand seating to meet the huge demand for the first race of the season.

Fans that have purchased general admission tickets will be offered an opportunity to upgrade to Grandstand tickets, when these become available on 17 April.

Chairman of A1 Grand Prix, Sheikh Maktoum said 'The huge demand that we have experienced for tickets for this event is hardly surprising, with 25,000 tickets sold in the first five days. Throughout the first season of A1 Grand Prix, the Dutch fans have proved themselves to be the most passionate and loyal fans in the world. We hope to reward this by putting on a great show for them on 1 October and will try our best to provide as many people as possible with a grandstand seat.' source: a1gp.com

04/07/06 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.
Industry News
Big-3 to shrink  Foreign companies could match Detroit automakers in U.S. auto sales within five years if current trends continue, industry experts said Wednesday at a conference sponsored by the Detroit branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG account for about 60% of all U.S. sales. But Asian automakers, led by Toyota Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co., are gaining ground fast.

GM and Ford will get smaller as they close plants and cut jobs in the next few years, said Sean McAlinden, chief economist for the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. GM has made a decision to move away from incentives, even if it means losing sales, he said.

"GM is going to become the size of Ford," McAlinden said. "And Ford's going to become the size of Chrysler. And Chrysler is going to become the size of Chrysler -- if they're lucky."  More at Detroit Free Press

Renault will commit to a lower-cost F1  Renault’s new F1 president Alain Dassas says that the world champion team is ready to commit to Formula 1’s long-term future, so long as the costs of competing are reduced.

“We have already signed up for 2008, which means we want to continue,” he said.

“Formula 1 is a passion for a majority of Renault's employees, and the sport is known around the world.

“But we are realistic as well: before committing to the future, every company needs not only good product – which we have – but also sensible cost control.

“By June, we should know the new economic equation. If we have achieved the savings we want, then we will be able to make a detailed commitment for the future.”

“At the moment, Renault pays 60% of the team's costs, and 40% are covered by sponsorship and television rights money,” said Dassas.

“We can make savings in these direct costs while maintaining our sponsorship levels and improving the central distribution of revenue from television rights.”

“The engine definitions and private testing are the two areas where we can most obviously make significant savings,” he said.

“The future technical regulations must impose stricter limits on all the competitors, and allow us to reduce our spending in order to find the improved financial equilibrium we want.

“All of the teams, including Ferrari, wish to reduce the cost of their Formula 1 programs," he added.

“The correct balance must be found: we want to keep the quality of the show we offer, but stop the technological ‘arms race' we see at the moment.” More ...

NASCAR and the Champ Car/IRL merger  UPDATE A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. I'm sure you are right with your speculation of NASCAR trying to sway Tony George, but I think NASCAR abandoning IMS would be a huge mistake for them. I don't care how successful they are at their other events there is only one Indy.

But Indy means more to open wheel than NASCAR. A unified American open wheel series could run two races at IMS one in the Spring on the oval, otherwise known as the Indy 500, and one in the Fall on the road course. Furthermore, if the F1 race is failing, why not replace it with a 12 or 24 hour ALMS race? It seems to me that Kevin Kalkhoven has helped create better relations between Champ Car and ALMS. In my opinion this will create a nightmare situation for the France family as ALMS will be getting more exposure than their Grand Am series by running on the famed track and the unified open wheel series will provide even more reason for sponsors to return by running two races in Indianapolis.

For Tony George's part he will still have three races and a percentage in the series that runs two of them. It seems that if things can get worked out properly, then we are perhaps on the cusp of a change in American racing as open wheel and sportscar racing will be able to turn the tide against the NASCAR dictatorship that is currently in place.

Thanks for your speculations and news coverage. Joe Yack

04/19/06 What does NASCAR have to do with the recent Champ Car/IRL merger talks you ask? Well, if the rumor mill is to be believed, some folks from down south are putting pressure on Tony George. Why you ask? Why would NASCAR and the France family care?

Our answer would be, of course they care. What do they have to gain from a revitalized open wheel racing? Nothing - since very few IndyCar races are run on ISC tracks. If we were in their shoes, we would not want to see a merger either as it could bring unwanted competition for NASCAR.

But how can they influence Tony George's decision to merge or not? One scenario would be a threat to pull the Brickyard 400 from Indy. Never!, some would say, it's too big a race for NASCAR. Our response would say NASCAR has 38 big races a year, if they lose one, the percent impact on their bottom line would be minimal.  And of course new races are waiting in the wings that would easily replace much of the lost revenue from the Brickyard 400.

That is not the case for the Indy Speedway. They have just three races a year. Of the three, the USGP loses money and the Indy 500 does not turn the profit it once did. That leaves the Brickyard 400 as their biggest moneymaker and one of only two races that adds to their bottom line. Imagine the percent impact to the Hulman George profits if the Brickyard 400 is pulled out from under them.

And what about the Brock Yates column in a recent edition of Car and Driver magazine where he said he heard the Brickyard might be for sale and the France family might be buying?

However, if any of this were to be what is going on, Tony George has an ally in Kevin Kalkhoven, known for being a master strategist.

This all would make for a great Soap Opera.....As the World Turns, er....or is it As The Big Dogs Play ChessMark C.

Allmendinger to NASCAR?  UPDATE When asked at the recent Champ Car Portland test about him going to NASCAR rumors, Allmendinger played dumb.

"I'm just here at Portland testing, that's all I know," Allmendinger said while holding his helmet painted in Red Bull livery.

"I haven't read anything yet. I'm not really sure what you guys are talking about. I don't actually have a computer at my house so I don't read any of the rumors. ... I just kind of sit in a blank house and try to think about trying to win a Champ Car race."

04/03/06 Murmurs in Champ Car circles say Red Bull, which carries a personal services contract with Allmendinger, might like to see the young American in Nextel Cup, where it hopes to strike big in 2007 in partnership with Toyota. With so much money and fame up for grabs in NASCAR, it has become a challenge to keep promising open-wheel drivers away from the France family circus. It could prove difficult for Russo and Champ Car to hold onto Allmendinger, especially if he starts winning.  AutoWeek 

[Editor's Note:  Will Champ Car lose their last remaining American driver?  We do not see this happening, especially if there is a Champ Car/IRL merger.]

Martin eyes partial Cup schedule in 2007  UPDATE We are downgrading this rumor to 'speculation' today.  Mark Martin, who was at Lowe’s Motor Speedway to help promote the upcoming NASCAR All-Star race at the 1.5-mile track, said Tuesday that he has no plans to run a partial Nextel Cup schedule in 2007 and that he’d likely only drive a Cup car if a Roush Racing teammate is injured and unable to drive. “I’ve got to be careful about saying ‘never,’ but there may be a situation where I fill-in or whatever,” said Martin. “I’m just not going to say it couldn’t happen. … There is some wiggle room and I just can’t say ‘never,’ but there’s no plans.” Speed Channel

04/14/06 Mark Martin is hedging on his vow to not return to Nextel Cup in any part-time capacity after moving to a full-time Craftsman Truck Series ride next year. He now says if the right opportunity presents itself, he might consider doing Cup races that run in conjunction with truck events. Tampa Tribune

Red Bull to 'contact' Schumacher  (GMM)  Red Bull's owner has vowed to contact Michael Schumacher later this year to see if the German would like to drive for his formula one team.

Dietrich Mateschitz told the 'Motorsport Aktuell' publication that the 37-year-old German, presently at Ferrari, might also be interested in joining BMW.

''In the last few months,'' the Austrian billionaire said, ''I have not said anything to Michael except 'hello'.

''However, we will contact him in June or July.''

Although Schumacher appears most likely to re-sign with his red team for 2007, Mateschitz said he 'cannot imagine' the seven time world champion serving alongside Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari, or Fernando Alonso at McLaren.

''Beside Michael Schumacher belongs a young, rising driver,'' the Red Bull magnate added.

''I would also not exclude that he goes to BMW.''

All-Star race to stay at Lowe's  NASCAR Chairman Brian France offered his strongest endorsement yet for keeping the all-star race at Lowe's Motor Speedway during a speech Tuesday at the Charlotte Business Journal's annual Power Breakfast, the Business Journal reports. France, who has flirted with the notion of relocating the Nextel All-Star Challenge in recent years, said reinvigorated corporate and community support for the race has put it on more solid ground. The all-star race has attracted crowds of 120,000 to 140,000 in recent years. This year's race is May 20. "I think the all-star race has done very, very well here," France said during the speech in front of more than 1,000 civic and business leaders gathered at the Charlotte Convention Center. "Historically, big events tend not to move around much unless they're not working well.  Charlotte civic leaders have started to rally around the motorsports industry and the all-star race. Community leaders have sorted an earlier lack of attention out." The NASCAR chairman also said the uncertainty of moving events around on the schedule is a "bad business model" because it discourages track operators from investing in their events and venues. A recent higher profile for the all-star race and related events has made France more bullish on having it in Charlotte: "I hope we'll be able to keep it here." Even France's endorsement included a bit of wiggle room. He reiterated his stance that every race is subject to re-evaluation on a yearly basis. Still, the positive comments on the all-star race in Charlotte represent France's strongest public backing of keeping it in place. Corporate and political leaders began rallying around the all-star race when NASCAR officials began discussing a possible relocation of the event in 2004. Since then, a local organizing committee has been formed with state and local government agencies contributing money to create ancillary events tied to the race. NASCAR Daily Scene
Patrick F1 material?  From the totally hilarious department, Danica Patrick says she is not pushing for a F1 offer. Well of course not.

"I think it's very flattering. I feel very lucky to have people talking about Formula One and to potentially have that as an opportunity," Patrick told Reuters in an interview.

"But at this point in time I'm very happy where I'm at. I enjoy living in the States and being near my friends and family. I don't know what's going to happen in the future."

Patrick became the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500 last year, finishing the race in fourth.

Once "dead set" on racing in Formula One, Patrick admits she is not yet ready for the punishing grind of the F1 circuit.

"I think being away from all of your family and friends...it's something that isn't ideal for me right now," she said before this week's Indy Japan 300.

"Maybe one day I'll want to have a big, beautiful place in Monaco. If I'm happy off-track, I do well on-track. Maybe it will work out with Formula One in the future."

It's nice to dream. Though she is competitive at the 100% throttle IndyCar tracks where little or no talent is required and car weight is a factor (her car is 50 to 100 pounds lighter), on the road courses she gets smoked. The same when she ran in the Toyota Atlantic Series, the 'men' smoked her all year long. Certainly not F1 material and an F1 test drive would strictly be a public relations stunt by her management and F1 at this point.

Schu planning third child  Ferrari's number one driver, and his wife Corinna, may be planning to bring yet another 'Schumacher' into the world.

Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper reports on Wednesday that Michael Schumacher, the seven time world champion, could give a brother or sister to children Gina-Maria (9) and Mick (7).

''You can't plan these things,'' the Switzerland-domiciled German was quoted as saying, ''but if it happens, we'll be very happy.''

Ride buyers are MF1's financial lifeline  Although the F1 season has barely started (so far 3 race meetings), MF1 Racing have already managed to sign their fifth "test driver" for this year....
The 'lucky' fifth one, after Roman Rusinov (RUS), Markus Winkelhock (D), Adrian Sutil (D) and Giorgio Mondini (CH), is none other then Italian Fabrizio Del Monte.

Fabrizio tried his luck in Champ Car last year with Jensen Motorsport at Long Beach and with CTE-HVM at Surfers Paradise (16th) and Mexico-City. In Mexico-City he crashed heavily during testing on Thursday and never made it to the weekend.
After finishing second to Nicky Pastorelli in the Superfund 3000 championship in 2004 and competing in 2006 in the Italian F3000 championship, Del Monte seems to also have found some sponsorship money to 'buy' a test drive at MF1 Racing !
With this latest MF1 Racing coup, one wonders if all of these 'financial trouble' stories surrounding this team are true or false ....Which driver follows ...and for how long?

Wheldon’s F1 chances  UPDATE #3 Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon will not rule out a dream move to Formula One as early as next year -- but it would take an offer he could not refuse.

"I did have offers to go to Formula One," Wheldon told Reuters in a recent interview. "I do love Formula One -- there's no doubt about it. It's what I grew up knowing.

"But I felt none of the offers were good enough in order to leave America. If I accomplish what I did last year I think that would be a good opportunity to move on."

"I was going to be a test driver to start with but they couldn't necessarily guarantee me a race seat for 2007," he said before this week's Indy Japan 300 race.

"I wanted a way of being judged so that if I did a good enough job I would get moved up. They couldn't set anything out in stone to give me that opportunity.    have huge amounts of respect for (BMW-Sauber's motorsport director) Mario Theissen but we will just have to see what the future holds."

"I've got a point to prove this year," said Wheldon, who is bidding for a third consecutive Japanese victory his week. "I wanted a new challenge. I want to win in a different team.

"Right now my focus is Indy cars but you never know in this business."

"I said when I first came here that I wouldn't ever think about leaving the States until I'd won the Indianapolis 500 or the championship," said Wheldon.

"I thought personally the opportunity might have arisen last year where I could have done something with Honda in Formula One but it didn't.  

"We'll have to see what happens when the right opportunity arrives."

"People forget about you if you are not winning consistently," he said. "Let's continue to do that and see what doors open then.

"Formula One's always been a great passion of mine. Mr. Jakobi [his manager] is staying ahead of what's going on and planning for my future."

04/01/06 Wheldon can put his F1 dreams to bed.  He's 1.75 sec. off the pace in St. Petersburg.  F1 bound drivers simply don't qualify that slow in a lower 'spec' series.  Wheldon is a good oval racer who will stay in the IRL or go to NASCAR.

09/30/05 We are upgrading this rumor to 'fact' today. As we predicted, an IRL driver is not going to get an F1 ride. Wheldon was dreaming.

Indy Racing League champion Dan Wheldon is planning to race in Europe after this Indy-car season ends, but it won't be in Formula One as he had hoped. Wheldon said Thursday his manager's recent talks with the BMW and Williams F-1 teams have not led to serious consideration. At least not in the time frame that I have," the Indianapolis 500 winner said.

Wheldon needs to settle his contract with Andretti Green Racing, with whom he clinched the IRL title Sunday at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. The two sides say they have agreed to terms on a multiyear deal, but a contract has not been signed.

Wheldon's manager, Julian Jakobi, declined Thursday to discuss the driver's options until a contract has been finalized.

As for racing in Europe, Wheldon said he will compete in the all-star Race of Champions in Paris on Dec. 3, although the event's Web site lists David Coulthard and Colin McRae as Great Britain's drivers. Indy Star

09/27/05 Our Williams sources tell us that Williams have not even contacted Wheldon about F1. Frank Williams thinks winning the IRL crown is meaningless. Our source's quote, "Just another case of Danny Boy trying to convince everyone in Great Britain that he is a great driver." Based on his performance in all of the IRL road courses, him driving in F1 is a joke!  He got lucky at St Pete.  The only one in the AGR camp who might end up in F1 someday is Marco Andretti, and that will be if he can mop up the opposition in Star Mazda and other formula besides IndyCar or IPS.  So far the jury is still out. 
Michelin will 'no doubt' return to F1  (GMM) Eddie Jordan thinks F1's departing tire supplier Michelin will 'no doubt' return to the sport one day in the future.

In his latest column for F1 Racing magazine, Irishman Jordan, the former team owner, criticized the French company for being involved in the sport for purely selfish reasons.

''F1 is about long-term commitment,'' Jordan wrote, ''and Michelin have never made that.'' He said the supplier has 'sadly' not done enough for 'grass roots' racing like karts.

'EJ' continued: ''Michelin, no doubt you will return, so I hope you look at what you can do for F1, not just what you can get out of it.''

Indeed, it is already rumored that Michelin - to definitely quit F1 at the end of the year in protest of the FIA's single-tire formula - could return as soon as 2008.

Contrary to Jordan's criticism, however, Toro Rosso chief Franz Tost praised Michelin for making it seem that his team is enjoying an advantage with V10 engines.

''Maybe (people) forget that one of the main reasons for (our) performances is the excellent tire supply!'' he said.

Massa unlikely to keep Ferrari seat  Felipe Massa is unlikely to retain his Ferrari seat in 2007.

With Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen and Valentino Rossi more strongly linked with the red team, Massa - the number two seat incumbent - appears increasingly as the odd man out.

He signed only a one-year contract for 2006, and is already linked with a return to the now BMW-powered Sauber team.

Rumors from South America suggest that Massa may return to Hinwil next year to replace Jacques Villeneuve, according to the sport1.de publication.

Team principal Jean Todt, however, explained that - with Schumacher, Massa, Raikkonen and MotoGP champion Rossi all in the wings - Ferrari 'must make careful decisions' about next year.

The comments come amid claims that a movement within the walls at Maranello now object to the employment of the 27-year-old motorbike racer.

''If Rossi does not win for us within two races,'' the Frenchman admitted hypothetically to the 'Neuen Zurcher Zeitung' newspaper, ''then he would face attacks on every side.''

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