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Ferrari secretly taped BMW pitstops - reports UPDATE (GMM) The Italian broadcaster Rai on Sunday denied reports that it helped Ferrari secretly film BMW-Sauber's simulated pitstop procedures during the recent Paul Ricard test.

It was reported earlier this weekend that Ferrari, the famous Maranello based marque, may have commissioned Rai or fellow broadcaster Sky to capture the special footage.

But Rai on Sunday denied "categorically" either receiving the request from Ferrari or filming the pitstops of any team.

05/24/08 (GMM)  The newest 'spying saga' may be on a smaller scale, but it nonetheless has tongues wagging in Monte Carlo.

It is reported that, so impressed is Ferrari with the superior speed of BMW-Sauber's pitstops so far in 2008, that the Italian team took to secretly video-taping its German rival at recent test sessions.

Concerned that, on average, its pitstops have been 1 second slower than BMW's this season, Ferrari apparently commissioned the Italian broadcasters RAI and Sky to capture special footage of the Swiss based team's crew in action at the Paul Ricard test last week.

BMW team boss Mario Theissen told the German newspaper Bild: "If Ferrari sees us as a benchmark, we take that as a compliment."

It is rumored, however, that BMW's secret may be as simple as the fact that the F1.08 requires less fuel to be added at pitstops because it consumes less than its rivals.

McLaren's pitstops, according to the reports, are as much as 2 seconds on average slower than BMW-Sauber's.

BMW team manager Beat Zehnder told the Swiss newspaper Blick: "We are very proud of our fast guys."


WoO champ eyes move to NASCAR
Donny Schatz doesn't have to prove to anyone how good he is behind the wheel. He's won back-to-back World of Outlaws titles, making him the king of dirt tracks. Yet when Schatz agreed to drive for Tony Stewart this year, he had to prove to his new boss that he has what it takes to three-peat -- and, maybe, compete in either the Nationwide or Sprint Cup series. Schatz said yesterday that he'll consider all options if Stewart decides to leave Joe Gibbs Racing to form a NASCAR team. Stewart acknowledged last month that he has considered opting out of the final year of his contract with JGR to explore ownership options. "I don't know exactly what Tony is thinking of doing," Schatz said. "If something else comes along, I'll evaluate it and maybe want to make a move. The main focus for us right now is to be on the dirt [tracks]. I feel like I can race with those [NASCAR] guys, and sure it's in the back of my mind. It's not something I'm dead-set on doing, and I'm not going to trade the ranch for it, but it's definitely something I would try given the right opportunity." Richmond Times Dispatch

[Editor's Note:  What happened to the Road to Indy for the Open Wheel guys?  Seems they are still looking to NASCAR.  With that said, historically front-engine car drivers such as Schatz do better in NASCAR (front engine) whereas drivers who come up driving karts or smaller cars with the engine behind them tend to do better in Indy Car and F1.]


Mosley likely to survive June 3 vote
(GMM)  Max Mosley's staunchest opponent, former triple world champion Sir Jackie Stewart, has placed a $100 bet that he hopes he will not win.

The 68-year-old Scot, who is the same age as the FIA's scandal-ridden president, revealed at Monaco that he is despondently confident that Mosley will emerge unscathed from June 3's confidence vote in Paris.

"I'll gladly pay out if the other guy wins but I think it's wrong if I win," the Scot told Reuters.

Despite the widespread calls for Mosley's scalp, Stewart's prediction is reflected by many figures on the verge of the Monte Carlo event, even if the stakes for the FIA are raising ever higher.

It is now common knowledge at Monaco that the influential Japan Automobile Federation has made it clear to FIA affiliates that it may withdraw from the governing body if Mosley does not step down before the June 3 vote.

After making a brief appearance in the paddock on Thursday, Mosley was not seen in the Principality on the 'day off' Friday.


Rising gas prices could force future cuts at Chrysler
Chrysler chairman and CEO Robert Nardelli said Friday the company might see the need to get rid of some larger vehicle models or further shrink capacity if gas prices continued to rise. Though plans are "not yet" in the works, Nardelli said it wasn't out of the question.

"The operative statement is not yet. We'll continue to sense the market," he told a small group of reporters here after an event recognizing military appreciation month. Nardelli said some of its customers were shifting out of trucks and into sedans like the Chrysler Sebring amid gas prices that at or above $4 a gallon. Chrysler is moving quicker to bring advanced vehicles to market, he said.

"We are accelerating our technology in response to the environment," Nardelli said. "...We see a segment shift from trucks." He said the company would move to find new smaller vehicles if that's what customers want and that the company would acquire them through partnerships with other automakers rather than produce them if it were more expedient, saying "we won't suffer from the not-invented here syndrome."

Nardelli said Chrysler would agree to similar deals like the one struck with Nissan to share products "that make financial sense." He said the company had no plans to join Ford Motor Co.'s lead in increasing job cuts or production.

"You have to be continually reactive. Today change is the only constant in business," Nardelli said. "We think we're good today."

Nardelli also said:
• That the company planned to continue with its plans to open an axle plant in Marysville, which is under construction.
• He praised the recent labor deal with the Canadian Auto Workers union: "We feel good about it and most importantly there's no disruption."
• And he disclosed that auto executives at a May 8 meeting with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had offered suggestions how the California emissions standards could be "modified so manufacturers can really" operate.

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Kentucky Speedway to get Cup race in 2009 UPDATE #2 NASCAR hopes to have its 2009 Sprint Cup schedule completed earlier than in past years, and that could mean that Kentucky Speedway won’t get a Cup race next season, a NASCAR spokesman said Friday afternoon.
Speedway Motorsports Inc. announced Thursday that it has agreed to purchase Kentucky Speedway. The purchase likely won’t be completed for another 90 days.
Until SMI owns the track, it would have a hard time negotiating a sanction agreement for a race or asking for a race to be moved there for next season.
At a news conference Thursday, SMI Chairman Bruton Smith said he expects to have a Cup race at the 1.5-mile oval next season.
“We don’t see any possibility of Kentucky being on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule for 2009 … regardless of ownership,” NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said Friday afternoon. “There has been no request for realignment in Kentucky. We are well along in the sanctioning process at this stage.”

05/23/08 A NASCAR spokesman said Thursday that just because Speedway Motorsports Inc. Chairman and CEO O. Bruton Smith wants a NASCAR Sprint Cup race at his newly acquired Kentucky Speedway is no guarantee he’ll get one – in 2009 or after. Smith announced Thursday that SMI had inked a deal to purchase the speedway, which is located half an hour from Cincinnati, and he expected it would host a Cup race next year. And to think that it might in 2009, may be wishful thinking, according to NASCAR Managing Director of Corporate Communications Ramsey Poston. “There are certainly some hurdles there,” Poston said of Smith’s hopes to get a Cup date next season. In the past, NASCAR has refused to grant Kentucky a Cup race, citing, among other factors, its proximity to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Chicago Speedway, and Talladega Superspeedway. With the Southeast and Midwest already saturated, NASCAR has said Kentucky holds little appeal for a Cup race. NASCAR traditionally announces its final schedule in mid-summer and by now is deep into negotiating sanctioning agreements with tracks for next year. If SMI wants to move a race to Kentucky next year, it must submit a plan to NASCAR saying where it would be willing to give up a race at one of its other tracks. SPEEDtv

05/22/08 Speedway Motorsports Inc. officials confirmed Thursday afternoon that the company has bought Kentucky Speedway and that the track hopes to host a NASCAR Sprint Cup race, possibly as early as 2009.

SMI purchased the 1.5-mile oval in Sparta, Ky., that opened in 2000 and has been in the center of an antitrust lawsuit against NASCAR and SMI rival International Speedway Corp. since 2005.

Bruton Smith, SMI chairman and CEO, said that his group has nothing to do with the lawsuit and that he cannot comment on it. He added that he would  not disclose the purchase price at the request of the track. The acquisition is expected to close in the third quarter of 2008, according to a news release.


Mosley letter 'could be war' - Ecclestone UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Bernie Ecclestone, angry at the letter sent by Max Mosley to FIA clubs, has finally retracted all support for his beleaguered fellow F1 powerbroker.

Ecclestone is annoyed that Mosley attempted to widen the sex scandal to a "declaration of war" with the sport's commercial rights holder, which is headed by the 77-year-old F1 chief executive.

"Everybody's wrong except him," Ecclestone mocked in the Monte Carlo paddock on Thursday, according to the Daily Telegraph.

"Everybody was involved in the orgy except him.  He is just lashing out at anything he can.

"If he wants me to be the enemy he should be very careful because if he makes me an enemy I could make sure that he never whips anybody again," he warned.

Ecclestone said the Mosley letter was insulting to the 222 FIA clubs because it effectively branded them as "idiots" who could not take over responsibility for the Paris based governing body.

"Normally Max is more together instead of making silly, outrageous mistakes," Bernie, whose former alliance with Mosley stretched back decades, continued.

Ecclestone also put his signature to a formal letter of reply to the clubs, vigorously denying that he wants to take over all the FIA's F1 powers.

In the letter, he moved to correct the "misunderstandings and inaccurate conclusions" that Mosley invited the club presidents to come to.

"The (commercial rights holder) does not wish to have control over the formula one regulations," Ecclestone wrote.

He also clarified that the only changes he wants to F1's agreements with the FIA are to clear up some "unintended consequences" of the original documents.

"We intend to continue our successful relationship with the FIA," Ecclestone said.

05/21/08 (GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone has not ruled out suggestions that a letter written by fellow F1 powerbroker Max Mosley last week was a "declaration of war".

Ahead of the FIA senate's crucial confidence vote relating to the sex scandal, the embattled FIA president warned motor racing club presidents that he should be kept in his role because of "complex negotiations" about the future of the sport.

Mosley revealed that F1's commercial rights holder CVC, represented by F1 chief executive Ecclestone, is trying to renegotiate its 100 year agreement so that it has "control over the formula one regulations and the right to sell the business to anyone".

Mosley also said he is opposed to the push for a new Concorde Agreement that would give non-FIA entities even more power.

"I sincerely hope that it isn't a declaration of war because, if that's what the message should be, then we'll have to defend ourselves," 77-year-old Ecclestone, referring to Mosley's letter, was quoted as saying by the British newspaper The Times.

"I don't want to have a war with Max.  I hope he doesn't want one with me," he added.

Ecclestone also rejects Mosley's argument that the confidence vote on June 3 is about anything other than whether he still has the ability to be FIA president after he was caught in a sadomasochistic romp with five prostitutes.

"It's nothing to do with anything else and I don't quite know why he's come out and said these things," Bernie said, also rejecting Mosley's claim that F1 is on the verge of a "major financial crisis" and the loss of more teams.

"I don't see any problems up until a couple of months ago," Ecclestone explained, referring to the News of the World expose.

Following a board meeting that took place this week, Ecclestone said CVC intends to reply to Mosley's letter.

See the entire letter written by Max Mosley To all FIA Club Presidents on our Home Page.


IRL to finalize Edmonton & Surfers, drop loser races
Officials from Northlands and the Rexall Edmonton Indy are flying to Indy today to finally finish off a multi-year contract to become a staple in the newly merged IndyCar Series.

"It's a signature," said Terry Angstadt, president of the commercial division of IndyCar.

"We'll get it signed here. The intention is to be there long-term," he added.

Sun Media has also learned that not only will the race finally show up on the official schedule and make the Edmonton race the only one in the series in Canada this year, it will end up as the only former Champ Car Series event featuring drivers and cars from both series this season.

Due to a contract with Chicagoland to have their September race the final event of the series, the Surfer's Paradise Champ Car event from Australia will go as planned in late October but not count in the standings this season.

It will either run as a one-off or as the start of next season. "No deal has been signed with Surfer's yet," said Angstadt.

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JR Motorsports could move up to Cup - with Stewart too UPDATE #2 Tony Stewart said he is getting closer to determining what he will be doing next season and beyond. Stewart, who is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through 2009, is entertaining offers of leaving the organization to go to another team that would include the two-time Cup champion as a team owner. “I’m getting closer, that’s the good thing,” said Stewart, who first acknowledged he was considering leaving JGR four weeks ago at Talladega. “I feel like I’m on the backside of the hill getting everything done. We’re a lot closer than we were.” If Stewart wants to race somewhere else in 2009, he would need to get released from his contract with Joe Gibbs Racing. He has admitted the issue has been discussed but denied that he has gotten the release for the team where he has spent his entire 10-year Cup carrier. “We haven’t gotten it,” Stewart said of the release. “I have not asked for it.” SceneDaily

05/20/08 Tony Stewart, who is exploring options outside of Joe Gibbs Racing, reportedly could be a partner with JR Motorsports. But Stewart's contract doesn't expire until after the 2009 season and team president J.D. Gibbs has said he will hold Stewart to it. "I don't know with Tony. If he goes over there [Haas CNC], he might be able to talk Martin into it. But I don't know. I mean no way would I even do that to Martin, even if he wanted to." Stewart has acknowledged that Haas CNC is one of several organizations to have offered part ownership as an incentive to join the team. JR Motorsports merged with the Nationwide program at Hendrick Motorsports this year after Earnhardt went to drive for HMS. The engines and chassis already are supplied by Hendrick and that could continue with a move to the Cup series. ESPN.com

05/17/08 Dale Earnhardt Jr. from a weekly top 12 drivers press conference:

THE OWNERSHIP THING, WHEN YOU’RE OUT THERE RACING WITH BRAD KESELOWSKI, ARE THERE THINGS THAT GO THROUGH YOUR MIND AND ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT HIM OR ABOUT THE RACE? “Well, I get mad when he messes up and I see him in a wreck or something. But normally I just hope he’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing and running good and having a good night. But his night doesn’t go right or something happens to the car, it’s sort of bums you out a little bit and it’s hard to revert back to concentrating on what you’re trying to do with your car.”

IS THERE ANY CHANCE YOU’LL MOVE UP TO THE CUP LEVEL WITH THAT TEAM ANYTIME? “I used to say no way, no way. But it’s almost as expensive to run in the Nationwide Series. And their going to bring a CoT in and we won’t be able to race in the Nationwide Series with the CoT probably. That’ll just be too expensive to switch all that over.”

WOULD YOU DO IT AS EARLY AS NEXT YEAR? “Yeah, maybe. If the right opportunity comes along with the right sponsorship and driver, we’d love to do it. And it would cost the same amount of money to do that, as it is to run the Nationwide Series. It’s harder to get sponsorships. And the CoT program is going to be too expensive for me to justify creating a whole new program with CoT stuff, so I’d just as soon go into the Cup Series or get out of the Nationwide Series altogether.”

COULD YOU GET MARTIN TRUEX JR. IN THAT CAR? “No. Why would he want to come drive for me? He’s in good stuff now and he’s going to have great opportunities from other people. And I would never do that to him (laughter). For the first year coming out of the box, man we’ll struggle like hell. Come on, man. He’s going to have deals offered to him by these great companies around here and from DEI. I’ll be at the bottom of that list, right there with Haas and a couple of other people (laughter). I don’t know with Tony (Stewart) if he goes over there (Haas), he might be able to talk Martin into it. But I don’t know man. I mean no way would I even do that to Martin, even if he wanted to.” GM Racing PR


Ecclestone - 'No British GP in 2010' UPDATE (GMM)  A boss of the British grand prix venue Silverstone has denied Bernie Ecclestone's claim that talks about a new contract for 2010 are akin to a "dead duck".

Apart from needing to agree to a new $22m promoters' fee, which would increase in cost by 5 per cent every year, the F1 chief executive said from Monte Carlo on Wednesday that he would "not put any money" on the Northamptonshire circuit getting its requisite new pit and paddock complex finished any time soon.

But Silverstone's development director, Spencer Canning, responded in the pages of the local Northampton Chronicle and Echo newspaper that talks with Ecclestone's company are still being held.

He also said work on the new $70m pit and paddock complex could begin in October.

"We do still have ongoing discussions with formula one management (FOM)," Canning said.

"Nobody from FOM has told us anything other than we are still involved in ongoing talks and that they like the proposals we have for the new pit and paddock.

"We're still fully behind wanting to keep the grand prix and our full focus is on that," he added.

Canning also seemed to reject Ecclestone's observation that there is only six months remaining for Silverstone to finalize the talks.

"It could go all the way through to autumn next year," he said.

"If all goes well work could start at the track in October this year.  If we started it in October it should be finished by early spring 2010.

"So everything's ready to go, the only thing we don't have at the moment is the money."

05/22/08 (GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone on Wednesday said there are currently no plans to stage a British grand prix in 2010.

Quoted by the Daily Telegraph newspaper, the F1 chief executive likened negotiations about a new contract for the Silverstone race, whose existing deal runs out next year, to a "dead duck".

It is reported that grand prix promoters the BRDC recently received a new contract from Ecclestone's office demanding an initial $22m per year race fee.

The British Racing Drivers' Club apparently returned the unsigned document asking for a discount.

Money, however, is not the only stumbling block, as 77-year-old Ecclestone is stalwartly also demanding that Silverstone rapidly begins its promised pit and paddock upgrade.

"I suppose they could come back to me," he said.  "They could get the building done in six months.  But I would not put any money on it.

"The BRDC know the terms.  If they meet them, then we are in business.  But at the moment they can't and therefore there is no race in 2010," Ecclestone added.


Talks for new Button contract to begin
(GMM)  Negotiations to extend Jenson Button's Honda contract have begun in Monte Carlo, according to reports.

Despite the 28-year-old saying earlier this month that "I will be with Honda next season", the British newspaper The Times insists that there is a chance Button will quit the Japanese team "to chase his dream of winning the drivers' world championship".

The newspaper said talks with Honda chiefs, including Nick Fry and Ross Brawn, were scheduled to begin on Friday, the traditional 'rest day' at Monte Carlo.

"We are investing huge amounts in our factory, in our manpower and our resources, all geared to have a world championship-winning driver.

"Jenson has seen what we are doing and he is very impressed and excited by it," team CEO Fry said.

The Times, however, said Honda "will have to fight" to keep Button in a Brackley built cockpit, following his handsomely-paid six years with the team that have netted just a single victory.

Red Bull is mentioned as a possible alternative team, as is BMW, whose engines powered Button's debut with Williams back in 2000.

A Honda source is quoted as saying Button would accept a cut in his reputed $16m per year salary "to drive a winning car, like the one Kimi Raikkonen has at the moment, no question."


KV Racing Technology to announce new sponsor UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Three years shy of legal driving age, Angie's List has taken the wheel of one of the fastest cars in the world by signing on as primary sponsor of the No. 5 entry in the Indianapolis 500 mile race this Sunday and will be an associate sponsor for the remainder of the 2008 IndyCar Series season.

The Angie's List Special Honda/Dallara/Firestone car will be driven by KV Racing Technology’s Oriol Servia, a Miami resident and one of the company's newest members. Servia qualified 25th and will start in the ninth row on Sunday. The sponsorship is the Indianapolis-based company's first step into the auto racing world but an expansion of its national advertising plan first launched in 2007.

"Angie's List has been on a pretty fast pace these past two years. With this partnership, you might say we've stepped on the gas again," said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List, the nation's leading provider of local service company ratings. 

Hicks established Angie's List 13 years ago, initially going door-to-door to sign up members. The company now employs more than 350 people and provides service to more than 650,000 members across the country. Angie's List, traditionally a source for home improvement contractors, also offers local ratings for mechanics, auto care, auto sales and more than 330 other categories of service.

"Angie's List knows what it takes to build a winner and we're going to be working hard to earn top grades on Sunday," said Kevin Kalkhoven, co-owner of the 6-year-old Indianapolis-based KV Racing, which will compete for the first time Sunday in the IndyCar series. "We are very pleased to have Angie's List on our team."

KVRT co-owner Jimmy Vasser said, “It is fantastic that KV Racing Technology has the opportunity to work with a local Indianapolis based company like Angie’s List.  Local interest and support is key to the success of any race, any series and in the end to the teams.”

Servia, a 33-year-old native of Pals, Catalonia, Spain, who is making his first appearance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, will become just the second Spaniard to start an Indianapolis 500 when the green flag drops Sunday.

05/21/08 Rumor has it that KV Racing Technology will announce tomorrow that Angie’s List is sponsoring an Indy car this year for the first time in the local company’s history. The No. 5 car will be dubbed the "Angie’s List Special"


'Crabby' cars may be scaled back by NASCAR UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  NASCAR sent a memo to Sprint Cup teams this week putting a limit on the amount of rear adjustment being made to create more sideforce. The adjustment basically has the back tires turned to the right with a rear toe adjustment, allowing the car to enter the turns with more speed. It's not visibly noticeable on the turns, but on the straightaways the car appears to be crabbing down the track sideways. Darby said teams have been adjusting the rear end in excess of two degrees. NASCAR limited the adjustment to one degree. ESPN.com

05/18/08 Expect NASCAR to tell Sprint Cup teams that they've gone far enough - and in some cases, too far - with making crooked cars. Sprint Cup Series director John Darby said Saturday that teams will get a memo, likely this week, telling them to "clean up" the way they're turning their wheels to help the cars handle better. "They need some of that, but there are some of them that have pushed it," Darby said. The rear wheels on some of the cars were turned to the point that some were having difficulty being pushed onto the scales used in inspection. Charlotte Observer

track news

Bruton Smith to buy Kentucky Speedway UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  The Kentucky Speedway in Sparta is being sold to one of professional auto racing's biggest operators.  Speedway Motorsports Inc. of Charlotte, N.C., and its founder and chairman Bruton Smith will announce at 3 p.m. that it is purchasing the speedway in a deal that is expected to close in October. Terms will not be announced but Kentucky Speedway Chairman and developer Jerry Carroll confirmed this morning that Smith plans to invest $50 million in the speedway and bring a coveted NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race to the Gallatin County track as early as 2009.

"He wouldn't be buying the track if he wasn't going to bring a Sprint Cut race here," said Carroll as he rode to the airport to take a charter flight to North Carolina for the announcement.

Speculation is that Smith will move a Sprint Cup race from tracks he operates in Atlanta or New Hampshire.

Track employees were informed of the sale during a 30-minute staff meeting held this morning at the track’s business offices in Fort Mitchell. The message from Carroll, track president Mark Simendinger and executive vice president and General Manager Mark Cassis was to continue operating as usual. The speedway employs about 30 people.

Carroll said Smith has asked him to stay on in an executive capacity, an offer he is likely to accept. No job cuts are planned.

"I want to stay on because I am so close to the speedway," Carroll said. "I want to make sure everything that is promised is followed through on and that everything is done in a proper manner.

"We're very proud and excited to be a part of Bruton's team."

In a statement made available to The Enquirer Smith said that the purchase "is a wonderful opportunity for our company to grow into a new market in a modern facility."

"We continue to be committed to investing in the motorsports industry," Smith said in the statement.

Carroll said Smith has met with Gov. Steve Beshear to discuss his ownership of the track. Carroll said Smith may also "request some help" from the state, but he would not discuss details of what that might entail.

Carroll said he and Beshear are flying to North Carolina this weekend for the Coca-Cola 600 that will be at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., one of Smith's tracks.

"The governor will see first hand the magnitude of this sport, the people it draws and the ripple effect it can have on the economy," Carroll said. Cincinnati Enquirer

05/22/08 The future of Kentucky Speedway is expected to be addressed during a “major announcement” scheduled for Thursday afternoon in Concord, N.C. Sources close to the speedway confirmed to the Enquirer tonight [May 21st] that Kentucky Speedway officials have been in talks with Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman and chief executive officer O. Bruton Smith about selling or partnering with the Sparta track owned by Jerry Carroll and his partners. A spokesman with Lowe’s Motor Speedway, one of the seven tracks owned by SMI that hosts NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, indicated only that Thursday's announcement would be of interest. The exact nature of the announcement is not immediately known, but it could include selling all or part of the speedway or partnering with Smith to bring a Sprint Cup race to the 1.5-mile track. Smith will make the announcement at 3pm/et Thursday in the media center at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Carroll was unavailable for comment Wednesday. News of a potential deal with SMI comes at the same time lawyers representing Kentucky Speedway continue to fight in 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals the early January decision by a U.S. District Court judge to dismiss the track’s antitrust lawsuit against NASCAR and International Speedway Corp. Cincinnati Enquirer


Piquet under pressure
The word in the paddock in Monaco is that Renault's second driver Nelson Piquet Jr is under pressure from the team to improve his performance or may find himself replaced within the next few races. The rumors suggest that the drive could go to either Takuma Sato or Anthony Davidson, the two men left without work after the demise of Super Aguri, or by Force India F1 test driver Tonio Liuzzi.

track news

Bruton's son to replace Humpy
SMI Exec VP/National Sales & Marketing Marcus Smith, the son of SMI Chair Bruton Smith, is the "leading candidate to be voted to replace" retiring Lowe's Motor Speedway President Humpy Wheeler next week. Several sources indicate Smith is the "appropriate choice." There also has been speculation that Wheeler's positions as LMS President and SMI President & COO "could be split" between two people  ESPN.com


Marco Andretti says F1 team McLaren wanted his dad to fail UPDATE (GMM)  IndyCar driver Marco Andretti said on Wednesday he hopes for a future in formula one, but accused one of the sport's marquee teams of sabotaging his father's career in the 90s.

The 21-year-old American's father, Michael, was Ayrton Senna's teammate for most of 1993, and conventional wisdom recalls that he was replaced by Mika Hakkinen because he was not committed or quick enough.

But Marco Andretti, preparing for the Indy 500, told The Associated Press: "If you ask me, it was sabotage."

With the promising and more affordable test driver Hakkinen waiting in the wings, Andretti - also the grandson of 1978 world champion Mario - says McLaren worked deliberately to make his father look bad.

"They would make the car do weird things in the corner electronically, stuff out of his control," he said, revealing that one of his father's only allies was the late Senna.

"He was one of the few who knew what was really happening in the team, and I think he believed in my father.  It was Monza that he really said, 'Give him my car.  Give him exactly what I had'," Marco said.

McLaren did not answer a request for comment.

Marco Andretti, meanwhile - who tested for Honda a couple of times more than a year ago - said he would also like to "tackle" the world of grand prix racing, but only with a front-running car.

"I don't have any other mentality other than to go over there and win," he said, suggesting that the IRL and Indy 500 titles would "help" attract teams' attention.

Andretti explained: "I think it's a bigger story if I go over there and fail, really.  Because that's what people are waiting for, to be honest, over there."

05/21/08 [Editor's Note: If this story is true, this is the same Ron Dennis team that may have tried to make Fernando Alonso look bad to help their 'pet' driver Lewis Hamilton.  Alonso struck back, however, and helped the FIA with evidence that led to a $100 million fine against McLaren for using stolen secrets from Ferrari.  Alonso is still probably getting a good last laugh over that one.]

Marco Andretti slams McLaren F1 team
Although Marco Andretti would jump at the chance to race in Formula One if the right team came calling, his eyes are wide open to the sport's dark side of politics and backstabbing.

And the third-generation member of one of racing's most famous families doesn't have to look far to find an example of F1's ruthless nature: His father, Michael, drove in the elite international series in 1993 and came away looking like a failure.

But Marco said the team his father drove for, McLaren, went out of its way to make sure he didn't get a fair shake.

"If you ask me, it was sabotage," Andretti told the Associated Press on Wednesday, as he prepared for Sunday's Indianapolis 500. "It was."

According to conventional racing wisdom, Michael Andretti didn't succeed in his lone F1 season because he wasn't committed enough, wasn't properly prepared or simply didn't measure up.

But Marco said people don't know "the real story" behind his father's poor performance that year, insisting the team tried to make his dad look bad so they could get rid of him and make room for a promising young driver -- Mika Hakkinen, who would go on to win two world championships.

"They wanted him to fail," Andretti said. "I don't know, it was a very bad deal. The reality of it was, they had Mika Hakkinen ready to come in for a lot less than what my dad was getting paid, and that's all it was. Right then and there, they had to make him look (bad)." 

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NASCAR drivers no longer welcomed in Indy 500 UPDATE A reader writes, Gordon said "The saying is to be a star, you've got to beat a star, and they're going to have to rebuild that process."

HENCE THE PROBLEM- the IRL "star" has always been beaten (except one fuel economy run)...I want to watch racing, not American Idol.  Derek Hughes

05/21/08 Yeley and Robby Gordon, who has five top-10 finishes in 10 Indy 500 starts, don't see the folks at Indy concerned about luring NASCAR stars to combat the recent defections of past champions such as Montoya, Sam Hornish Jr. and Dario Franchitti to NASCAR.

"They're [IRL] trying to build their own racing series," JJ Yeley says. "If you start bringing some of the superstars from NASCAR back over, they're going to steal all the thunder."

Robby Gordon thinks the IndyCar Series has stars of its own to cultivate.

Unification "clears up a little confusion," Gordon says. "But they have a little process over there of building stars again. Obviously, Danica (Patrick) is a star. Marco Andretti has tons of opportunity. With Scott Dixon and (Helio) Castroneves, they've got good racers. But the public needs to know about them. The saying is to be a star, you've got to beat a star, and they're going to have to rebuild that process."

With that said we doubt NASCAR wants their drivers to race in the Indy 500 because they never win so it makes them look bad.

track news

Humpy Wheeler to retire? UPDATE “Over the last two decades, I made numerous trips to Humpy’s office seeking nothing more than a chance to bounce ideas off the man synonymous with free thinking and grand ideas. And, for me, it wasn’t just about coming up with the coolest ideas to promote the sport of NASCAR, it was about the enthusiasm and excitement Humpy generated around each one of them. I wish him well in his retirement, but certainly trust our relationship and mutual efforts to find the next big idea will continue for years to come.”  Hunter Nickell, SPEED President

“It may be a few more years before we can really measure the impact that Humpy Wheeler had on the sport of stock car racing.  Over his 33-year career, he and I had one thing in common.  We both have always held true to the notion that the fans are what drive our sport.  His passion was to ensure that when each fan left the track, they felt as if they had been a part of a happening.  Under his direction, Lowe’s Motor Speedway became the gold standard by which all other racetracks were built and in how they were measured.  Whatever he chooses to do next, I’m sure he will go about it in the same way.  “The King” Richard Petty" 

[Editor's Note: We get a kick out of the Petty press releases where he signs his name The King.  Talk about having a big head. Why can't all drivers retire and carry themselves with dignity and respect like Mario Andretti who has been named numerous times as the greatest American driver of all-time.  Given that, what is Petty the King of?  The only thing he is the King of these days is the commode in his bathroom.]

Humpy Wheeler
Humpy Wheeler, the "P.T. Barnum" of NASCAR promotions, will retire and step down as president and general manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway, The Associated Press has learned. This weekend's Coca-Cola 600 will be Wheeler's last race for Lowe's Motor Speedway, two people familiar with the decision told the AP. They requested anonymity because an official announcement, which could come as early as Wednesday, has not yet been made. It was not immediately clear who will succeed Wheeler, who has managed the track for the past 33 years and was named president in 1980. Candidates include track owner Bruton Smith's son, Marcus, the executive vice president of sales and marketing for Speedway Motorsports Inc., and Lauri Wilks, executive vice president of management and administration for LMS. Nicknamed "Humpy" because of the camel's hump on a pack of Camel cigarettes his father was caught smoking, Wheeler was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2006. Associated Press/Jenna Fryer/ESPN.com


Tires may be an issue for the Indy 500 UPDATE #2 Another reader reacts, Dear AutoRacing1, 30 laps divided by 22 gal. equals 1.36 mpg.  What happened to the minimum requirement of 1.8 mpg? Is the Ethanol that bad?  Stephan Domanski

Dear Stephan, No, that is 1.36 laps per gallon, not mpg.  Ethanol gets better mileage than methanol but worse than gasoline.  Mark C.

05/20/08 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today based on info from a team engineer. "Two things on the tire situation: we got 34 laps out of a set and still had 40% tread left.  The tire worries stem from early in the month when the track was completely "green". Additionally, due to having a 22 gallon fuel cell, the cars only go 30 laps on a stint.

"Finally, Firestone is VERY pro-active on potential tire issues and they're confident that tires won't be an issue."

05/20/08 According to what AutoRacing1.com is hearing in the Indy 500 paddock, the tires are only lasting in the range of 17 laps and they then become "bald" on the positive camber side of the right rear tire.  This may be due to the way the teams are setting up the cars for qualifying, but if it still happens in race trim a harder tire for the race may be in order. 

Pit stops at 36 to 39 laps for fuel would mean running on canvas if they use the existing tires so tire conservation (stroking it) may be the order of the day.  Given the number of crashes we have seen at Indy this month already, the switch to a harder compound may catch the drivers out leading in a real crashfest.  Dallara has their cash register ready.  Ca-ching....ca-ching.


Toyota poised to bury Chevy, Ford and Dodge
Just like they did in IMSA and CART, and later the NASCAR Truck Series, get ready for Toyota to bury the competition in the Sprint Cup Series.  Consider it a shot over the bow, that new Toyota engine design that Joe Gibbs' drivers -- Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart -- put on the track at Lowe's Motor Speedway last weekend.

Yes, it broke midway through the All-Star race, but even on seven cylinders, Busch was outrunning most others in the field. With a little bit of polish in the new valve-train still to be done, Toyota appears ready to turn things up another notch, and that should worry the competition even more.

Busch has dominated all three of NASCAR's touring series this spring, and he leads the Sprint Cup standings. If he wanted to, he could easily challenge for all three series championships.

No wonder Lee White, Toyota's NASCAR field boss, is all smiles.

"No, no one's gloating," White said.  More at Winston Salem Journal


Ford plans to debut small, light pickups
Ford Motor Co. is planning a major revamping of its truck lineup in the United States in response to rising fuel prices and a consumer shift toward more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The Dearborn automaker is developing a smaller, lighter version of its bread-and-butter F-150 pickup. The company also is designing a new global compact pickup in Australia that it plans to manufacture in South Africa and Thailand that could be imported to the United States.

Ford would not comment on either program, but sources told The Detroit News that the vehicles are part of a sweeping revision of the company's product plan that is aimed at chasing consumers who are abandoning full-sized pickups in favor of smaller, more efficient models. Record oil prices have made big trucks a luxury that few Americans can afford if they don't need one for work. As a result, full-sized pickup sales have fallen nearly 23 percent during the past three years.

That hurts Ford the most, because its top-selling vehicle is the full-size F-series pickup. The F-series remains the best-selling vehicle in the United States, but demand already is down 15.5 percent this year.


Did Danica get "The Call"
A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Why are all the pictures on the right side of the home page of crashes? 

In the interview with Scott Dixon, the commentator asked him about being passed by Danica.  He stated that he didn’t know she was on the lead lap and his crew told him to let her by.  Since I saw that I can’t get it out of my mind that she got “the call”.  It fits with the unification and her winning to bring attention to the series to the general public. John Schieving

Dear John, There's no hidden message in this week's photos of the week, they were just the best ones this time around.  With regard to Danica getting "the call," we know nothing about that.  Helio Castroneves was also quoted as saying he was told to move over and let her by.  The explanation was that he was running low on fuel and he had to conserve.  Besides she's the most popular driver so she must be the best -- the Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth and Tiger Woods of racing all rolled into one.  Mark C.


Webber 'on the market' - Coulthard
(GMM)  Mark Webber's recent comments about his contract talks for 2009 are a "positioning tactic", his Red Bull teammate David Coulthard has deduced.

Both drivers are out of contract at the end of the year, and Australian Webber, who is 31, told reporters in Turkey recently that he has opened talks about a new deal.

"I am free next year but I am massively keen to stay here," he said.

F1 veteran Coulthard, who has failed to contribute to Red Bull's tally of 10 points so far in 2008, noted Webber's comments in his latest column for ITV.

"I can only presume it was either to stimulate talks with the team or to stimulate interest in the rest of the paddock, reminding people that he's on the market," the Scot said.

"I would conclude that it was a positioning tactic rather than anything else."

Coulthard, at 37 the oldest driver on the grid, said he has no intention of making the same sort of declaration about his own negotiations.

"I will keep my own counsel until I have a firm deal to announce," he promised.

Team boss Christian Horner on Monday was quoted as rating the performance of Red Bull's driver lineup in the first quarter of 2008.

"Mark is in the form of his life at the moment and I think he is driving extremely well," he said.

"David has had more than his fair share of bad luck, but he was very much back on form in Istanbul, which is very positive for the team, as we rely heavily on both our drivers bringing back points," Horner added.


Giebler to have full-time ride in 2009
American Dream Motorsports' bid to make the 500 never made it to the qualifying line, as Phil Giebler crashed Saturday during practice laps. He was hospitalized overnight with bruised lungs and released Sunday but not cleared to race.

He wouldn't have raced at Indy anyway, because the Panoz-Honda could not be repaired in time for Sunday qualifying, but Saturday night team owner Eric Zimmerman was still exploring ways to get back on the track, possibly with Jaques Lazier in a car bought from somewhere else in the garage. That never materialized, but Zimmerman said the team would acquire a new Dallara in time for the June 7 race at Texas Motor Speedway and as many as four more races, with plans to go full-time in 2009.

"Phil is still our driver and we back him 100 percent," Zimmerman said. "Until he gets better, Jaques will be in the car, but Phil is our driver."  ESPN.com


IRL/Honda extension expected IndyStar
The Indy Racing League and Honda are expected to announce later this week an extension of the engine manufacturer's contract beyond 2009.  Erik Berkman, president of Honda Performance Development, said with the larger fields resulting from unification, he hopes other manufacturers consider getting into the IndyCar Series. Indy Star [Note: Tired of looking like losers, AutoRacing1.com is hearing that Toyota wants out of F1 in a very big way.]


Tired of losing money, Hockenheim may exit F1 calendar after 2010
(GMM)  Hockenheim may only host one more formula one race after July's German grand prix before forever slipping off the calendar.

That is the warning of the circuit's managing director Karl Josef Schmidt, who said the local state Baden-Wurttemberg must begin to contribute to the financing of the bi-annual Hockenheim race.

"Otherwise there will be no more formula one races here after 2010," he was quoted as saying by the newspaper Stuttgarter Nachrichten on Saturday.

A spokesman for the state's ministry of economic affairs, however, responded by insisting that it is "not the task" of the public to fund events at the Hockenheimring.

Up to 15 million euros in government funds assisted in the redevelopment of the circuit six years ago.

Germany's annual date on the F1 calendar is alternated each year between Hockenheim and the Nurburgring, which will return to the schedule in 2009 following its most recent event in the European grand prix guise last July.


Marlin expected to run #40 car in Cole 600
Chip Ganassi didn't enter his #40 Dodge in the All-Star race activities because driver Dario Franchitti is still nursing a broken left foot. The car will be back for next week's Coca-Cola 600 here at Lowe's Motor Speedway, but Ganassi believes Sterling Marlin will be behind the wheel instead of Franchitti. He was injured earlier this month in a wreck at Talladega, and has missed three Cup starts because of it. "It's the same old thing -- drivers think they aren't that hurt when they're hurt," Ganassi said. "They think they'll be back in a week, and so we all kind of said 'OK, great, it's going to be a week or two. I think he's starting to realize that it's not going to be that quick and it looks like Sterling Marlin is going to be driving the car here next week for the 600 and we're kind of taking it one day at a time after that." Ganassi didn't rule out Franchitti participating in the test at Pocono Raceway in two weeks, or the June 1 race in Dover. Associated Press


MI5 linked to Max Mosley sex scandal
Max Mosley
An MI5 officer has been forced to resign after admitting that his wife was a prostitute who took part in a notorious “Nazi-style orgy” with Max Mosley, the Formula One racing chief.  (MI5 is Britain's legendary internal security service)

The intelligence officer, who cannot be named for security reasons, left the service last month after it emerged that his wife was one of the five call girls who took part in the sadomasochistic sex session with Mosley.

Exposure of the lurid orgy led to calls for Mosley, the son of Sir Oswald Mosley, the wartime British fascist leader, to step down from his post as president of the FIA, the governing body of world motor sport.

In an extraordinary turn of events yesterday, MI5 was forced to deny through Whitehall channels that the orgy had been a “sting” that it had set up to discredit Mosley. “Any suggestion that the service was involved in setting up Mosley is total nonsense,” a senior Whitehall official said.

The official did disclose, however, that one of MI5’s officers had left the agency after his wife’s involvement as a call girl in the orgy became known. “I cannot talk about individual cases, but we do expect high standards of behavior from all staff at all times, both professionally and privately,” the official said.

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Beer sponsorship returning to IRL
Rumors abound that both Miller and Budweiser will return as sponsors in '09.  Bud already has tons of billboard ads in the area featuring a red Dallara Indy car.


IRL’s Gene Simmons sex tape revealed UPDATE #3 AutoRacing1.com has learned that the girl in the video, is absolutely NOT ELSA from Frank's.  It looks like her; it is not her.  Absolutely not.

05/16/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' - in this article Simmons' lawyer confirms the tape's authenticity.

05/16/08 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Just to add to the intrigue and embarrassment.....lostinshowbiz.com reports that "The model, named Elsa, who appears in the sex tape with Simmons is reported to be a paid promoter of a concoction called Frank's Energy Drink, which counts Simmons among its endorsers." 

Frank's is also the Official Energy Drink of the Indy 500 and is a sponsor of Andretti Green Racing and 2004 IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan.  Maybe the recent rash of publicity surrounding FIA president Max Mosley has acted as inspiration to this new and absurd episode.  The "sport" of Motor Racing is in a downward spiral and these revelations only act as another reason for people to tune it out of their lives. Bloody sad.  Ray Masters

05/16/08 By the looks of this Google search the IRL may have a major black eye to deal with.  Seems there is a lot of talk about a sex tape Gene Simmons made in which he stars in it.  If true look for the IRL to distance itself from Simmons.  Simmons was contracted by the IRL to head up their marketing strategy and it was Simmons who came up with the corny I am Indy slogan.


Red Bull settles Force India car row? UPDATE Force India's chief executive Colin Kolles has been spotted in Salzburg, meeting with representatives of Red Bull to find a settlement over the question of the arbitration between the Silverstone team and the Austrian drinks company. This relates to the use of the same chassis by both Scuderia Toro Rosso and Red Bull Racing. Force India claims that this contravenes the teams of the Concorde Agreement which states that all teams must build their own chassis. Red Bull is now keen to settle the problem because of its desire to sell its 50% shareholding in Scuderia Toro Rosso, possibly to Lancia.

It is not clear at the moment what the deal is, but it is likely that Toro Rosso will have agreed to split the prize money it gained as a result of finishes achieved with Red Bull chassis. The arbitration case was made much easier when Super Aguri F1 disappeared as trying to do deals involving the three teams had proved to be impossible. With Super Aguri out of the picture, it seems that rapid progress has been made. Grandprix.com

05/16/08 (GMM)  Force India's legal pursuit of formula one competitors using so-called 'customer cars' may now be over.

Then under the Spyker banner, the Silverstone based team commenced arbitration against Super Aguri and Force India more than a year ago, arguing that their use of cars not designed by themselves is against the rules.

With Super Aguri now folded, however, the German magazine Sport Bild reports that the remaining parties - Force India and the partially Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso - have now sat down in an attempt to end the row once and for all.

Reportedly, Force India chiefs Vijay Mallya and Colin Kolles met in Salzburg at the Red Bull-owned restaurant 'Carpe Diem' with Dietrich Mateschitz's lawyer.

It is believed a settlement totaling 8 million euros was agreed by Red Bull.

Kolles confirmed to Sport Bild: "I think we will find a way forward now."


Lancia to buy into Scuderia Toro Rosso?
The word from Italy is that the Fiat-owned Lancia brand is considering buying into Scuderia Toro Rosso, as part of its plan to revive the marque by expanding sales of Lancia models in Europe and beyond. The company's sporting heritage is impressive, dating back to 1906 when former Fiat Grand Prix driver Vincenzo Lancia set up the business, convinced that he could bring new ideas to the growing automobile business. He insisted that the company stay out of competition and concentrate on building luxurious and sporting road cars. He died in 1937 and his son Gianni took over the company and in the 1950s he hired Alfa Romeo racing designer Vittorio Jano and recruited Ferrari drivers Alberto Ascari and Gigi Villoresi and entered F1 with the D50, powered by a 2.5-liter V8 engine. The team began winning non-championship races in 1955 but the death of Ascari in a Ferrari sports car and serious financial problems resulted in Gianni Lancia selling the D50s to Enzo Ferrari. In 1956 the D50s won five of the seven World Championship events and continued to do well in 1957. Grandprix.com


Biffle could leave Roush for Gibbs, or not UPDATE #2 Greg Biffle said on Thursday he remains 100% committed to re-signing with Roush Fenway Racing. Biffle's commitment to signing a new deal was questioned after he criticized his team following Saturday night's race at Darlington Raceway. He had the fastest car the first half of the race, but fell back because of a loose wheel and then was sidelined when the timing belt broke. "That had nothing to do with my contract," he said before the All-Star Pit Crew Challenge at the Charlotte Bobcats Arena. "I was mad my stuff was broke." Biffle said negotiations are continuing and he hopes to finish a deal by mid-summer. "That is my focus," he said. "My focus hasn't changed." ESPN.com

05/13/08 Greg Biffle certainly didn’t sound like a guy committed to Roush Fenway Racing when he blasted the faulty equipment that led to his last-place finish at Darlington Raceway.  “All I want is equipment to drive that stays together,” said Biffle, who started from the pole and led 95 laps Saturday night before loose wheels, a bad vibration and a broken timing belt ended his race early.

“It is really frustrating, but you know what, I’ve just come accustomed to expecting it because week after week it’s something. Something breaks. Something falls off. I give it 110 percent as a driver all the time, and you just want your equipment to last and be able to win these races.”

The rant was, of course, based on frustration. He seemed to have the car to beat, but instead left the track still searching for his first win of the season.

Still, it was clear “The Biff” was sending a message with his biting remarks.

Just what might that message be? Well, signing a contract extension with Roush might not be the slam dunk both sides have led everyone to believe.

In fact, Biffle might finally be ready to test the free-agent market.

If that’s indeed the case, the first place Biffle should look is Tony Stewart’s seat at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Of course, that ride isn’t technically open right now. Stewart is under contract through 2009, he’s yet to ask to be released from his contract early and Gibbs officials have insisted they’ll hold him to his deal. But it’s becoming increasingly clearer that the two-time champion has some juicy offers on the table that he’s taking rather seriously.  Yahoo Sports

05/12/08 Greg Biffle is sounding a little less certain about his desire to remain at Roush Fenway Racing.  The driver said during Monday’s Nationwide Series test at Lowe’s Motor Speedway that he doesn’t know if Roush Fenway Racing is where he wants to be next season, citing a consistent pattern of team-inflicted mistakes.

“You know, you get frustrated, and you look at that last race, and you say: ‘Gosh, I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to do something different,’” said Biffle, who led 95 laps in Saturday’s Dodge Challenger 500 at Darlington Raceway before a broken timing belt in his car’s engine relegated him to a 43rd-place finish.

“But you look around the garage, everybody has these issues. Everybody has these problems. A timing belt can fail on anybody’s race car. You can have a loose wheel at any time. You can have a problem with the transmission. All these guys have had these issues in the past. I just don’t want to continue to have them year after year.”

Biffle, whose contract with Roush Fenway expires at the end of 2008, said as recently as two weekends ago at Richmond International Raceway that he fully intends to return to the team in 2009.

But the driver of the No. 16 Ford was highly critical of his team at Darlington for leaving two loose wheels on his car. One of those wheels forced Biffle to make an unscheduled green flag pit stop, giving up the lead.

“It’s easier to accept when it’s a Denny Hamlin situation, where he dominates at Richmond and he gets a flat tire,” Biffle said, referring to the woes that cost Hamlin an almost certain win at Richmond two weekends ago after leading all but one of the first 382 laps.

“That can happen, and it did happen, and a driver can accept that. … But when it’s other issues it makes it harder inside to take because stuff will happen. I don’t know. It’s one of things. You feel frustrated, but you’ve got to continue to give it 100 percent effort all the time.” SceneDaily.com


Labonte re-signs with Petty? UPDATE #2 Bobby Labonte said he is no longer agonizing over whether he will stay at Petty Enterprises or drive for someone else next season.

Labonte, speaking prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pit Crew Challenge, said he is likely within two or three weeks of having final answers concerning his driving career beyond this season.

“We’re trying to get things squared away at Pettys, like I’ve always said,” Labonte said. “But obviously we have to get that done. In a couple of weeks, three weeks maybe, we’ll have a lot more answers. …  Right now, I’m pretty much at ease.

"… It’s just a matter of things happening that’s going to take place, whether you like it or not. I’m about to the point if it happens, it happens and if it doesn’t, you do something different. I’m not worried about that as much as the talk about it from the outside trying to make sure that the guys that come to work, that they don’t read the paper and say, ‘What’s going to happen?’ ”

Labonte’s sponsor, General Mills, is heading to Richard Childress Racing next year, and it has been speculated that Labonte would join the company. But Petty Enterprises officials have said they’re confident Labonte would return and Labonte has said nothing to indicate he is leaving.
“Nothing is done yet – nothing that can be [said] because of the implications [on] people,” Labonte said. “We can’t implicate people that are doing things that will [mess] them up and our own position. I have nothing to report yet. Hopefully in the next few weeks, it will be a lot more well known.

“But right now, we’re trying to make sure we’re doing the right thing at the No. 43 car.” More at Scenedaily.com

05/04/08 When asked if he had made a decision about his future, Labonte said: “I haven’t. Nothing from me from my mouth has said that I’ve done that. Until then, stay tuned. There’s opportunities and a lot of things right now.  “We’ll just kind of weigh some options out and see what’s there.”

Bobby Labonte
05/04/08  Bobby Labonte became the latest driver to take himself off the free-agent market, agreeing to a contract extension with Petty Enterprises, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press.

The former Cup Series champion had been considering an extension since late last year and decided this week to continue driving the famed No. 43 Dodge.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Saturday because portions of the deal, including sponsorship, are still being completed.

Labonte, who starts 39th in Saturday night's race at Richmond International Raceway, was not immediately available for comment.

David Hovis, a spokesman for Petty Enterprises, said the team had nothing to announce Saturday about Labonte's future.

"We still remain 100 percent convinced that Bobby will be with Petty Enterprises next season," Hovis said. More at AP article


Sato could test for Renault in summer
(GMM)  Takuma Sato could find himself back on the formula one tracks in the near future.

Just over a week after expressing his sadness at the collapse of his race employer Super Aguri, the Japanese driver is being linked with a swift return to the limelight.

Rumors were already swirling inside the Istanbul paddock last weekend that the 31-year-old might replace the veteran Rubens Barrichello, whose contract is set to expire, at the works Honda team in 2009.

The slightly less obvious speculation, meanwhile, was reported by the normally authoritative French magazine AutoHebdo, who are linking Sato's predicament with the disappointing performance of Renault rookie Nelson Piquet.

So dissatisfied is Renault with 22-year-old Piquet, AutoHebdo claims, that the French team is considering a shootout test early this summer to decide on his replacement.

Romain Grosjean, the French-Swiss rookie who is a Renault test driver this year, and Super Aguri refugee Sato, are reportedly top of the list for the shootout.


Rain costing Speedway $millions
As the rain falls at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the financial losses mount for the famed Brickyard. So far this month, spectators have seen more activity from the IMS track drying crew than by actual racers. Yesterday, 15 Speedway safety vehicles logged over 6,700 miles in their attempts to dry the track. Their efforts reaped a 30-minute practice session.

Three practice days that would have each normally attracted about 10,000 spectators were rained out reducing the crowds on those days to a few hundred. With a $5 entry fee for practice, that cost the Speedway $150,000 in gate receipts alone. Throw in parking, concession and merchandise sales, and the loss quickly doubles, motorsports business experts said. The way the weather looks, the lost revenue for practice alone could approach $750,000 by month’s end.

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Sato to Honda team UPDATE #2 According to this Motorsport Aktuell article, Sato will be replacing Barrichello at Honda as early as 2009.

05/10/08 (GMM)  F1 team Honda's CEO Nick Fry on Saturday said the outfit has not yet decided how to support the drivers Anthony Davidson and Takuma Sato following the collapse of the satellite team Super Aguri.

"It's something that we are thinking about at the moment," he told Reuters at Istanbul Park, scene of the Turkish grand prix.

Both Sato and Davidson have had either test or racing roles with the Brackley based operation in the past.

Fry said Honda "will help" the duo "if we can", now that they are out of work.

"But there's nothing planned at the moment," he warned.

Fry also defended himself amid accusations that he was instrumental in Super Aguri's collapse, but said he understands former team boss and owner Aguri Suzuki's emotion when commenting in the immediate aftermath.

"To be fair to him, he'd just announced to the world that he was pulling out of formula one and obviously there are fairly serious financial ramifications for him," he said.

05/08/08 With the demise of the Super Aguri team rumors are rampant that Takumo Sato will move to the Honda F1 team and replace Rubens Barrichello who is getting long in the tooth for F1.  Some say the Super Aguri team was created with Honda's help for the primary purpose of giving Sato a place to race.


Mexicans might buy into PCM team
Mario Dominguez in the Mexican Tourism Bureau car
Ron McQueeney/IRL
"We knew it wasn't going to be easy," said Mexican driver Mario Dominguez, who gave his team hope for Indy by placing third in the Champ Car finale at Long Beach, Calif., on April 20. "We're only going into the most difficult race on the planet."

Just getting to Indy was no small achievement after PCM lost its sponsorship with the merger. Team co-owner Tom Figge, whose son, Alex, was a PCM driver, decided he'd had enough and was ready to fold the team until Tadevic "put myself in hock with everything I own" to assume sole ownership.

Tadevic explored several options outside the IndyCar Series, including offshore boat racing, and was running out of ideas when Dominguez arrived bearing sponsorship from his homeland.

The Mexico City Tourism Board is beckoning fans to "Visit Mexico City" in festive lettering on the sidepods of the No. 96 PCM car. The tourism board has made a two-year commitment to sponsor the car and Tadevic said it has inquired about buying a stake in the team.

The money arrived in the nick of time. "Our guys were able to cash their paychecks," Tadevic said.

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Kubica chatter kicks off 'silly season'
Robert Kubica
(GMM)  Rumblings surrounding the future destination of Robert Kubica could have kicked off a very early start to F1's annual driver 'silly season'.

We reported recently that, notwithstanding BMW-Sauber's option to automatically extend the 23-year-old Pole's contract to include 2009, Ferrari and Renault have made enquiries as to how long his stay at the team could extend.

The Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell suggests that Kubica's manager, Daniele Morelli, may have leaked the news not because his charge may be looking to change teams, but simply to drive up his salary following an excellent start to the 2008 season.

Asked by reporters at Istanbul last week about BMW's 2009 driver lineup, team boss Mario Theissen revealed: "We will make an announcement about this in the summer."


F1 to set budget cap of 110 Euros
Autosport reports that Formula One is aiming to establish a 110 million Euro budget cap by the 2011 season, this week's Autosport magazine reveals.  A budget cap is set to be introduced in the sport from the start of 2009, and FIA consultant Tony Purnell has written to all Formula One teams with the figures the governing body would like to be set as a starting point for future discussions.

The figures proposed are 175 million Euro for 2009, 140 million by 2010, and 110 million a year later.

The cap would not cover expenditure on engines, KERS systems, marketing costs or driver and team principal salaries.


Hamilton is Britain's best paid sportsman
Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton has moved into pole position as Britain's highest paid sportsman, according to The Times' latest Rich List.

Hamilton, who came second in the Formula One World Championship during his rookie season last year, has eclipsed England football star David Beckham as the best paid sportsman in Britain.

The 23-year-old already has a basic salary of £75 million with McLaren over the next five years.

Beckham's Los Angeles Galaxy salary and commercial endorsements earn him in the region of £16 million a year.

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Hamilton also in talks with Pepsi
(GMM)  Hot on the heels of news that Lewis Hamilton is discussing a $20m deal with Reebok, it has emerged that the McLaren driver is in talks about yet another lucrative personal endorsement agreement.

The British newspaper The Times reports that Hamilton's talks with PepsiCo, the American drinks company, could mean that the 23-year-old takes over from David Beckham as the highest earning British sportsman.

The newspaper said the Pepsi deal "could be worth the same as the Reebok contract, or substantially more".

A McLaren spokesperson, meanwhile, confirmed the existence of Hamilton's Reebok talks, despite the British team's usual reluctance to allow its drivers to negotiate personal sponsorships.

"Any marketing activity undertaken by Lewis on behalf of Reebok will be fully consistent with his existing obligations to McLaren, and will run in complete cooperation with Lewis's primary marketing commitments to the team and its partners," the spokesperson said.


Bernie to axe Magny-Cours UPDATE Formula One commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone said he would like to introduce a grand prix on the streets of Paris to replace the French grand prix at Magny-Cours. He told French newspaper L'Equipe that 2008 would be the last year Magny-Cours would host a grand prix, but said he was hopeful of finding a new venue for the event, which he would ideally like to stage on the streets of Paris.

"We agreed that there would be a French grand prix at Magny-Cours in 2008 but not in 2009," said Ecclestone. "[French] prime minister Francois Fillon told me we would then see if we could have a grand prix in Paris or just outside but that would not necessarily be for 2009, rather for 2010. In any case, 2008 will be the last time we continue like this."

Magny-Cours suffers from poor access and insufficient accommodation, which have led to weak attendances.

05/12/08 (GMM) France could be absent from the formula one calendar in 2009, despite Bernie Ecclestone's strong desire to move the race to the streets of the capital Paris.

The F1 chief executive said in an interview on Monday with the national sports newspaper L'Equipe that this year will be the last visit to the unpopular Magny Cours venue.

Ecclestone, 77, said he has been told by French prime minister Francois Fillon that he will look into the possibility of a Paris race.

"But that would not necessarily be for 2009, rather for 2010," the Briton explained. "In any case, 2008 will be the last time we continue like this."

2009 could therefore be the first time since 1955 that France does not host a grand prix.

Magny Cours, located near the central rural region of Nevers, is one of the least popular destinations on the calendar, due to its isolated location and lack of accommodation.

Referring to Nevers in 2005, Red Bull Racing declared in a pre-race preview: "If you pronounce it the English way, it perfectly describes how many times people want to come back."


ALMS and Grand-Am merger in the works
The dumbest thing in all of motorsports was to have two IndyCar series. Perhaps even dumber was to have two sportscar series, which drew even less fans to its events. Now that the IRL and Champ Car have merged Grand-Am boss Roger Edmondson admitted on Wind Tunnel last weekend that executives from both the Grand-Am and ALMS had met recently and one topic of discussion was a possible merger. One roadblock is the fact that ALMS follows ACO LeMans rules. However, ALMS has many manufacturers locked in and you know the France family, that owns Grand-Am, would like nothing better than to get closer to them. Since the Grand-Am cars are generally viewed as the ugliest on the planet (although the racing is good) perhaps the family will give in and follow international ACO rules for the good of sportscar racing in America.


Teams to hire spotters to avoid Mosley
No one wants to be photographed with sex maniac Mosley
Formula One teams are so reluctant to be seen with Max Mosley that they are reportedly considering hiring 'paddock spotters' to warn them of his movements if, as expected, the disgraced FIA President appears at the forthcoming Monaco GP.

Mosley's return to the paddock - he hasn't attended a race since he was exposed in the News of the World allegedly taking part in a sordid sex session - threatens to overshadow the centerpiece of the Formula One season. While only a few teams have publicly called on Mosley, who faces a FIA hearing in Paris next month, to consider his position, they are all reportedly united in their reluctance to be seen in his company.

The Times claims that one team principal has told the newspaper that they 'will keep an eye on Mosley so they can avoid him and have even considered an informal scouting system around the Monte Carlo paddock to warn them of his presence. Another team source said almost all the teams were making preparations to avoid Mosley. The source, who added that "furtive conversations" on this issue between teams had taken place at Istanbul Park last weekend, said: "The safe majority of teams are considering what they should do about their important people in terms of interaction with the president of the FIA at Monaco."

While the farcical situation underlines the extent to which Mosley's position has become untenable, the man himself is said to be determined to attend the event, regardless of the furor it is bound to call. Aside from being the crown jewel of the F1 calendar, Monaco is also considered to be the most important commercial event of the year, with a host of high-profile and lucrative business deals conducted during F1's brief but glamorous stay in the principality. Planet F1


AMD to let Ferrari sponsorship lapse
(GMM)  The American computer company AMD will let its sponsorship of the formula one team Ferrari lapse, according to reports.

The technology website fudzilla.com said the decision was made following the departure last September of AMD marketing officer Henry Richard, who was a motor racing fan and responsible for the Ferrari deal that began in 2002.

AMD on Raikkonen's rear wing endplate
The most visible elements of Ferrari's AMD sponsorship are the logos on the rear wing endplates and on the drivers' helmets and overalls, which were still visible at the most recent Turkish grand prix.

Fudzilla said AMD has "already cancelled its Ferrari sponsorship and ... is waiting for the contract to expire", and also that AMD intends to severs its ties with the American stock car NASCAR scene.

The F1 deal was estimated at between $10-$20m per year.


FIA sanctions possible over dog incidents
(GMM)  A spokesman for the FIA said F1's governing body will investigate the stray dog incident at the Turkish grand prix, and refused to rule out sanctions for the operators of the Istanbul Park circuit.

Bruno Senna struck and killed a white and black stray dog during the GP2 support race on Sunday, which took place before the main formula one event.

A few moments after Senna retired with the resulting heavy damage to his right suspension and monocoque, another dog - a larger, Alsatian-type animal - also ran across the track but escaped into the infield.

FIA race director Charlie Whiting said the incident was a serious safety breach, and the FIA spokesman now reveals that the matter will be investigated fully by the FIA Commission.

"How could such a thing happen at an almost brand new formula one track?" he is quoted as saying by the news agency Reuters.

The spokesman added that the FIA Commission might then refer the matter to the World Motor Sport Council, and that "sanctions cannot be ruled out".

Fascinatingly, the Istanbul Park circuit - otherwise known as the Otodrom - was taken over by F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone last year.


Walker Racing to A1GP? UPDATE I had the opportunity to attend the last A1GP race of the 2007/2008 season at Brands Hatch, where I continued my fact finding mission on the series. I have said before, we have a great deal of interest in the series, and this second event that I attended was very informative.

A1GP has a new Ferrari car coming into the series for the 2008/2009 season, which is powered by a 430 production based Ferrari engine. I think this will elevate the series to a different level and will attract more drivers, franchise owners, and sponsors to the series going forward. Along with Ferrari, Michelin will be the tire and Shell oils will also join A1GP, so three great marquee corporations will be entering into the series as well.

The series itself is very well organized in many respects when you look at all of the assets that it has. One can't help to lament as to how Champ Car in the last few year was never able to get to that level. This may appear to be a somewhat odd statement, but when you look at their television production, hospitality management for their VIP guests, the format of the racing and, needless to say, the cost, they have done a lot of things right in a very short space of three years since their inception.

A1GP is broken up into two entities. The franchise owner, who in most cases is a businessman, who probably knows very little about racing and knows a lot more about money and business. Secondly is the team service provider, which is someone like me who has a race team, equipment and expertise. A1GP tries to marry those entities together and provide 12 events, transportation, racing equipment for the teams, ultimately providing a level playing field, which I think they do a very good job at doing.

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New Hampshire might want Indy Cars back
This Memorial Day weekend, Jerry Gappens will revisit his Indiana roots and attend the Indy 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There he hopes to court the cars that first put Loudon on the map of professional auto racing.

Named executive vice president and general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway after Speedway Motorsports, Inc., bought the one-mile Granite State oval from founder Bob Bahre for $340 million last winter, Gappens is a very busy man.

"I haven't been (to the Indy 500) in 16 years," Gappens said. He grew up in Windfall, Ind., watching A.J. Foyt duke it out on a dirt track in nearby Terre Haute on Saturday nights and then tuned to the TV on Sunday to see Foyt, a red-eye jet flight from Indy, rocketing his Indy car around a glitzy paved oval.

Gappens' life in motor sports for a time led him to the Indy 500 pits, where he was a reporter for ABC television. Now he may soon have big news to report regarding the return of Indy cars to New Hampshire.

"I'm going to Indy with the hope of having them back," he said. "It's very intriguing."

In 1992, the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) IndyCar World Series came to Loudon and the three-year-old New Hampshire International Speedway. Big name racing had finally landed in the Granite State. But it wasn't long before the Indy cars became no-name racing.

The last Indy car race at Loudon, in 1998, was won by Tony Stewart under Indy Racing League sanctioning following an ugly Indy car split from CART leadership three years earlier. The rising star Stewart left the splintered, struggling Indy car league in the dust and found fame and fortune through NASCAR -- as did Loudon's "Magic Mile." More at Union Leader

[Editor's Note: There has long been rumors that Speedway Motorsports, Inc. would pull one of its New Hampshire dates for a second Las Vegas race.  If true, then getting an IndyCar race on the New Hampshire schedule makes sense.  However, Indy Car racing has never been popular in the Northeast.  They have failed at Langhorne, Trenton Speedway, The Meadowlands, Dover, Pocono and New Hampshire, and the current race at Watkins Glen is hanging on by a thread, so what is going to make it any different this time around?  Not much.]


Foyt to run Simmons UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  A.J. Foyt Racing announced that it has hired Jeff Simmons to drive the No. 41 ABC Supply Honda-powered Dallara as a teammate to Darren Manning for the 92nd Indianapolis 500. Simmons will see his first track time May 14 and attempt to qualify for the 33-car field May 17.

“A.J. is taking it on himself to put me in this car so I just want to do the best job I can for his team,” said Simmons, who will be seeking to qualify for his fourth 500-Mile Race.

Simmons, 31, drove for Foyt in the Indy Pro Series in May 2004, finishing second in the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A few hours later, he was behind the wheel of the No. 21 Mo Nunn Racing car (Tora Takagi’s backup) for his initial practice laps. He qualified 29th the next day – Bump Day – and finished 16th in his first 500-Mile Race.

“It’s great to be back with A.J.’s team,” said Simmons, who started 13th and finished 11th last year in the ‘500’ in the No. 17 Team Ethanol car for Rahal Letterman Racing. “I’m looking forward to working with A.J. and Darren and the whole Foyt team. Darren can help me get up to speed quickly and hopefully I can contribute something to the team as we get ready for qualifying next weekend.”

Simmons has been competing this season with Team Moore Racing in the Firestone Indy Lights, producing two top-10 finishes in three starts. He is scheduled to compete in the Firestone Freedom 100 on May 23 in the No. 2 TMR-Xtreme Coil Drilling car.

“I’m glad to be working with Jeff again,” Foyt said. “I like the way he drives and the way he hustles the car pretty hard which is what I look for in young drivers.”

In 25 IndyCar Series starts, Simmons has recorded 11 top-10 finishes. His best finish is sixth, which came last year at Texas Motor Speedway where he led twice. He was replaced in the No. 17 car by Ryan Hunter-Reay in July.

Both A.J. Foyt Racing cars will attempt to qualify May 17 as positions 12-33 are available. Manning’s lone attempt on Pole Day was waived off.

05/12/08 If A.J. Foyt decides to field a second car, three-time Indy starter Jeff Simmons is a candidate to drive it.  Indy Star


Tweak to four-race gearbox rule likely
(GMM)  A slight tweak to the new long-life gearbox rules is likely to be introduced soon.

This year, under the risk of five-position grid penalties, drivers may use only one complete gearbox for four grand prix weekends.

The rule, however, does not apply on Fridays, meaning that one-off gearboxes are fitted to the cars throughout the initial three hours of official practice.

However, the combination of the two scenarios - despite the FIA's desire to reduce costs - means that teams are actually bringing more gearboxes to races than ever before.

Not only are spare four-race gearboxes ready in the transporters in the event of a failure on Saturday, teams are also bringing to races spare Friday gearboxes -- as well as the sealed current four-race 'box per car.

At a bosses' meeting at Istanbul, the teams apparently agreed to a slight rule tweak, which could be introduced as early as Monaco, pending the consent of the World Motor Sport Council.

The new rule will mean that, in the event of a failure on Saturday, drivers - albeit still punished five grid places - will be allowed to simply get through the remainder of the weekend with a 'Friday-spec' one-off gearbox.

The next four-race phase will only then begin at the next event, thus removing the need for spare four-race gearboxes to be on site at grands prix.

track news

Don't expect Southern 500 back at Darlington
The romantic in Jim Hunter would love to see the Southern 500 back at his beloved Darlington Raceway in South Carolina.

The pragmatist in NASCAR's chief spokesman is certain why it shouldn't.

Seemingly ever since the Southern 500 left the country track for California Speedway on Labor Day weekend after 2004, whispers have abounded about a triumphant return to South Carolina where the race was run for 54 years.

Hunter doesn't expect more changes.  ''We could sell 55 to 58 thousand tickets here on Labor Day five years ago,'' Hunter said Saturday. ''We moved it to California and they sell 90 or 92 [thousand] or something. From a business standpoint, that is a no-brainer.''

Hunter, a South Carolina native, was Darlington's president from 1993 to 2001. He still has a home here and loves how the old layout has reinvented itself with lights and more grandstand seats the past few years.

Still, track owners International Speedway Corp. have responsibilities to those who own the stock.

''Do I feel bad about it? As a shareholder of ISC, I don't feel bad about it at all,'' Hunter said. The Morning Call


Terry Labonte to Drive for Petty
Terry Labonte will be a teammate to his brother Bobby at Petty Enterprises starting next month, pending sponsor approval. Terry (and Chad McCumbee) will drive the #45 when Kyle Petty gets out for the summer. Petty is scheduled to compete in the Coca-Cola 600 and then miss the next seven races (one for his daughter's wedding and the other six to work as an analyst for TNT). McCumbee likely will drive at Dover and Chicago. Terry Labonte likely will drive in the other five races. Labonte's addition is key for Petty Enterprises because the #45 car is not in the top 35 in car owner points. Labonte's second of his two titles came in 1996 -- that makes him the most recent champion not in the top 35 since Bill Elliott's title came in 1988. Thus, Labonte would be guaranteed a starting spot each time he starts, while the Wood Brothers would lose that even with Elliott in the seat. This would be the second time the Labonte brothers have run as teammates. Terry Labonte drove in five races for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2005 when Bobby Labonte was there. Terry Labonte ranks fourth in series history with 851 career starts. He won 22 races. Roanoke Times


Tracy could drive for Walker at Indy, in 2009 UPDATE Motorsports sources said efforts by Walker Racing boss Derrick Walker has come up about $200,000 short of fielding a car this month for Tracy, who has continued to work out and prepare in case an opportunity this month arises. Tracy was seen yesterday morning training on his mountain bike.

While Walker said he is still working on an 11th hour deal, sources behind the scenes said there has been discussion about Penske letting Walker use one of his spare cars to qualify for the race. Talks between the two sides continue, sources said, but a deal likely won’t be finalized until Penske gets all his drivers safely in the race this weekend.

If Team Penske fails to qualify its drivers, or if one of them has an accident this weekend, sources close to both teams said any chance of a deal with Walker to put Tracy in the race will likely die. Indianapolis Business Journal

05/07/08 One of the most well known drivers from the now defunct Champ Car open-wheel race series, Paul Tracy, is still without a ride for this year’s Indianapolis 500.

Veteran race team operator Derrick Walker is trying to put together an 11th hour deal that will put Tracy on the famed Speedway this May. Walker told IBJ yesterday the effort to field a car is looking grim—though not completely dead.

“At times, I think we’re real close,” Walker said. “But if we’re going to go out there, I want to put together a solid effort, and that takes about $500,000. The worse thing that can happen is to become a bump day story. I don’t want to make a fool of myself.”

Walker has set a deadline for himself of early next week to get a deal done to make a qualification run at this year’s Indianapolis 500. That would give Tracy two or three days of practice on the track before the second weekend of qualifications.

Walker said if it doesn’t work out for this year, he will start working on an effort to field a team for next year’s Indy Racing League season. Whether Tracy or someone else would be his driver, he said, remains to be seen. But Walker clearly has faith in Tracy.

“Paul can still drive, and he has as much desire as I do,” Walker told IBJ from his Indianapolis office yesterday. “Paul still has something to prove. He’s still capable of competing at a high level.” Indianapolis Business Journal


Ferrari found loophole in engine freeze?
(GMM)  According to whispers in the Istanbul paddock, Ferrari may have found a way to creep ahead in the horsepower department this season despite the current 'freeze' on engine development.

It is common knowledge that, not only are the Maranello based team's drivers getting the best starts off the grid, the V8 power plant in the back of the F2008 is now perhaps the most powerful in the entire field.

Last year, however, the engine situation between teams seemed closer, leading to suggestions that Ferrari's permitted tweaks for 2008 have added tangible performance to the unit.

The German magazine Auto Motor und Sport estimates Ferrari's horsepower gain compared to last year at "within the two-digit range".

Most engine manufacturers made permitted tweaks to their V8 designs over the winter, but it is rumored that some rival teams are unhappy that Ferrari's changes - apparently green-lighted by the FIA - seem to have resulted in a significant performance gain.

Auto Motor und Sport said Ferrari's rivals are concerned that the Italian team's 2008 changes were submitted "under the pretext of reliability problems".

"The (engine freeze) rules do not allow any great leaps.  So whether a development has taken place to increase performance, I can not judge," BMW motor sport director Mario Theissen said at Istanbul Park.

"But I assume the normal procedures have taken place.  I have no suspicions," he added.


John Andretti at Indy looking for ride
Over the hill driver John Andretti was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Wednesday looking for a ride for this year’s Indianapolis 500.

"That's why I'm here," Andretti told the Journal and Courier. "I'm not much of a fan. This is what I love to do."

"If the right opportunity came along, I would be all for it," Andretti said. "Right now there is nothing set."


Corvette entry for LMP1 UPDATE Corvette Racing's future direction is up in the air after General Motors decided to shelve its plan to build a Corvette-based prototype for the new Le Mans Evo class.

But that does not mean the Pratt & Miller-run Corvette program will disappear altogether any time soon.

Also, contrary to recent reports, the Evo class is slated to begin racing in 2010, though with a modified look.

According to GM road racing boss Steve Wesoloski, the company has backed away from plans to develop an Evo Corvette due to cost concerns and because the final regulations of revised Le Mans classes, including the GT classes, remains questionable. He did, however, leave the door open to revive the Corvette Evo program.

"I'm not giving up," Wesoloski said. "Overall [race] wins are still my target."

The GT1-class Corvettes that now race in the American Le Mans Series and at the 24 Hours of Le Mans are contenders for class wins only.

In June 2007, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest announced its intention to introduce a new Evo class. The class would allow only closed-cockpit coupes with reduced performance and bodywork that resembled actual road cars, rather than the radical-looking LMP1 cars used today.

The new cars would have been eligible beginning in 2009 and would have replaced the existing breed of LMP1 prototypes entirely by 2011. But Wesoloski told AutoWeek on Wednesday that recent comments by Le Mans sporting director Daniel Poissenot that were interpreted to mark the Evo class' death were taken out of context.

Instead, it appears that the ACO's latest plan calls for Evo coupes to debut in 2010, when they will race against today's LMP1 cars. AutoWeek

04/03/08 According to rumors on F1Grandprix.it, after dominating the GT1 class for years, Corvette and Chevrolet are working on a car to enter in the LMP1 prototype class of the American LeMans Series to go up against Audi and Peugeot.  The car could be powered by the new supercharged Corvette C6-R 'Blue Devil' engine and the chassis may be designed by Chevrolet themselves.


Would Chevy return to Indy Car Racing?
The topic of a possible return to the Indianapolis 500 is never far away when five-time Indy starter Tony Stewart returns to IMS. Two-time Allstate 400 at the Brickyard winner Stewart visited IMS today to help Chevrolet unveil the new Midget engine that will power Tony Stewart Racing driers Tracy Hines and Levi Jones in USAC events, and he also discussed “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

TONY STEWART: “There’s part of me that thinks running at Indy and in IndyCar is a chapter of my life that is closed, and then there is the emotional part of me that says, ‘Never say never.’ I don’t know if I will ever get in an Indy car again, but if that happens, it’s obviously going to be a long way down the road because I have a lot of commitments on the NASCAR side. If I was going to come to Indianapolis again, I don’t want to come and show up and run the month of May. If I am going to do it, I need to start at Homestead, and I need to run all the races leading up to the month of May to really feel like I am being fair to the team and being fair to myself, and have enough time in the car to where when we show up in the month of May, we are ready to go. Where I am comfortable in the car, I’m comfortable with the people I am working with and feel like I am in tune and up to speed with the technology of the setups and what is going on. As long as I am driving a stock car, that basically takes that part of it out of the equation. I’m not going to be one of these guys who just shows up and runs the Indy 500. I’ve ran the Indy 500; I want to win the Indy 500. I honestly don’t believe in the era of the driver that you can just come in on a one-off race and do that. It’s virtually impossible. You can’t come in and expect as good as the guys doing it every week.” (About the unification of open-wheel racing under the IndyCar Series banner): “I'm really excited to see everybody back. What's the car count this year so far? Thirty nine? That might actually make it fun and exciting to come here on Bump Day. That's going to be cool. I think you're going to see one of the most competitive fields ever at Indy this year.”

GM Racing Director Mark Kent was asked about the possibility of Chevrolet returning to a unified IndyCar Series in the future during a press conference unveiling the new Chevrolet Midget racing engine today at IMS.

MARK KENT (Director, GM Racing): “First, I would like to say that the unification is going to be great for the open-wheel sport. I think the two groups getting back together is only going to be beneficial for the series. As far as Chevrolet's involvement in open wheel, we were involved for many years. We currently aren't, as you know, but each year we take a look at all our racing venues and open wheel, for example, is new to us in the last couple of years. We look across every opportunity out there and try to make sure that our involvement is justified by a return on our investment to sell cars. Obviously, that's what we're trying to do. Everything we look at, we look at from a business perspective, and we will definitely keep our eye on open wheel as it moves forward and continues down this new path.”


Chinese Grand Prix future in doubt
According to Autosport.com, Shanghai could have held its last MotoGP round on Sunday, as rumors suggested the Chinese circuit will not be on the calendar next season.  The series has visited Shanghai every year since 2005, but the official press kit for this weekend's round included a sheet bidding "farewell" to MotoGP - although no officials would confirm it during the weekend.


French PM joins running to succeed Mosley
(GMM)  An interesting candidate to possibly replace FIA president Max Mosley in 2009 has emerged.

The French daily morning newspaper Le Figaro, citing an unnamed minister, reports that it is current Prime Minister Francois Fillon's "dream" to lead the governing body of world motor sport.

The 54-year-old is an avid motor racing aficionado, having lived in the Le Mans area all his life.

He is a member of the famous 24 hour race's organizer, the Automobile Club l'Ouest, and has even competed in historic sports car races and classic road rallies.

Mosley, 68, faces a confidence vote of the FIA senate in June over the damaging sex scandal.

His normal term will expire late next year, and he has announced that he will not be contesting the forthcoming election.

Fillon's boss, president Nicolas Sarkozy, is currently fending off disastrous opinion polls, despite dominantly winning the French elections a year ago.


Marty Roth IndyCar team to fold?
The Marty Roth Indy Car team recently let several key personnel go including David Cripps who has returned to Panther Racing.  Jay Howard's comments yesterday from indycar.com do not paint a good picture:

"Just not a very good day for us. It's pretty common knowledge in the paddock a lot of people left Roth Racing last week, and we had no engineers as of yesterday. Fortunate for us, Larry Curry has come on board, but he has definitely had his hands full. It's been a real struggle for us today. Hanging on for dear life and doing slow times is not what we came here to do. Hopefully the guys can put everything right over the next couple of days. We may even sit out tomorrow just to make sure that everything is right. We're not going to try to be heroes and do anything stupid. So far this year, we have had an up and down season, but we have always managed to come away with something good from every day. This is our first day where it's not gone so great."


Jordache to Sponsor Buddy Rice?
If their appearance on Indy Live is any indication, Buddy Rice’s #15 Dreyer and Reinbold car will be sponsored by Jordache jeans in a deal being assembled by Townsend Bell.  Bell, who brought Rock and Republic and William Rast to the series, has connections in the clothing world.


Camara to sit out today
Rookie driver Jaime Camara has earned his Indianapolis 500 stripes if not the medical clearance necessary to return to driving at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The clearance required after Monday’s first-turn accident doesn’t figure to come until at least 3 p.m. when Camara is checked by Dr. Terry Trammell. But former IndyCar Series driver Bryan Herta has already given the Brazilian the support he needs.

“He told me I’m now an Indy driver,” Camara said of hitting the outside wall.

Herta drove for the same Andretti Green Racing team that groomed Camara in the Indy Lights series. Camara now drives for Conquest Racing.

Camara will not participate in today’s action, which begins at noon. All other drivers are able to participate.

The track closes at 6 p.m.  Indy Star


Australian F1 race doomed after 2010, says Jones
Former world champion Alan Jones believes the Australian Grand Prix will disappear from the formula one calendar after 2010.

The race is unlikely to continue at Melbourne's Albert Park and has no chance of a future in Sydney, Jones said.

Australian Grand Prix Corporation officials are trying to persuade formula one boss Bernie Ecclestone to extend the contract for the Australian event beyond 2010.

Ecclestone has issued a variety of veiled threats about the race's viability, including suggesting recently it might move to Sydney. A feasibility study into upgrading the Eastern Creek track near Sydney to formula one standards was announced recently.

But, according to the 1980 drivers' champion, the Australian Grand Prix's days are numbered. "They're talking about spending $30 million on it, which would probably furnish Bernie's office, but I don't think it'd build a good F1 track," Jones told Eurosport.com.

"They're kidding themselves. If I was a betting man, I wouldn't say F1 is going to be in Melbourne either after 2010.

"I'd be sad to see the Australian GP go. I'm a big F1 fan and proud of the way my country's hosted those events in the past."

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UPS eyes Edwards or Truex UPDATE #4 UPS officials released a statement Monday saying the company is not currently in negotiations with any specific Sprint Cup team or driver.

UPS currently sponsors Michael Waltrip Racing and the No. 44 Toyota driven by David Reutimann. MWR Vice President Cal Wells has said that UPS has had preliminary discussions with six teams about what cars and drivers they would have open for 2009 and "UPS is doing exactly what they should be doing. We either earn the business back or we won’t."

But to say that UPS has started negotiations with any team is not accurate, according to a company official.

“As of this date, UPS is not engaged in formal active sponsorship negotiations with any NASCAR Sprint Cup driver or race team,” read the statement, attributed to UPS Director of Sponsorship & Events Ron Rogowski.

“As a proactive and responsible corporation, we have an obligation to maintain an ongoing process of measurement and evaluation of all sponsorships. We have an ongoing interest in understanding available opportunities, but that itself does not imply any change in current commitments.”

05/04/08 AutoRacing1.com is also hearing that UPS may be getting close to doing a deal with Martin Truex Jr. and DEI or Penske Racing.

05/03/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today.  Carl Edwards could be the next NASCAR star to drive "the Big, Brown Truck?"  Edwards, who announced Friday that he had signed a three-year contract extension with Roush Fenway Racing, appears set to join with sponsor UPS beginning next season, the Observer and ThatsRacin.com have learned.

UPS is close to completing a deal to pair with Edwards on Roush's No. 99 Fords, although the company is still talking with other teams, multiple sources confirmed.

UPS has sponsored Michael Waltrip Racing's No. 44 Toyota since last season and been paired with veteran Dale Jarrett since the 2001 season.

Jarrett retired as a fulltime driver in the Sprint Cup Series following the March 16 race at Bristol, Tenn., but still plans to compete in the May 17 all-star race at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Asked about sponsor plans on Friday, team owner Jack Roush said Edwards' car definitely had one or more sponsors for next season, but declined to name them. ThatsRacin.com

05/02/08 As this rumor said below, expect Edwards to stay with Roush Fenway.  That announcement was made today

04/22/08 Office Depot is in the midst of an exclusive 60-day negotiating period to extend its sponsorship of Carl Edwards’ No. 99 Ford, but industry sources say UPS is waiting in the wings to make a run at the hot Roush Fenway Racing driver.

Edwards, winner of a season-high three Sprint Cup races this season and one of the busiest spokesmen in NASCAR, is perhaps the sport’s most-wanted free agent. Like Dale Earnhardt Jr. a year ago, Edwards’ contract with his team is up at the end of this season and his next step could create ripples among potential sponsors. Most industry experts, however, expect him to stay at Roush Fenway.

Office Depot, meanwhile, is in the final year of its three-year deal with the team.

While any prospective driver and sponsor changes on the No. 99 car won’t create the shock waves felt when Earnhardt Jr. switched teams and sponsors last year, Edwards and Roush Fenway appear to be in position to push the first of many sponsor dominoes in the coming four to six weeks.

“We value our relationship with Carl, and we’re working to continue that relationship,” said Mindy Kramer, spokeswoman for Office Depot.

Kramer would not comment on Office Depot’s negotiating window with Roush Fenway, but industry sources said that it expires in the next three weeks.

If Office Depot, which has used Edwards out front for its annual “Official Small Business of NASCAR” promotion, doesn’t have a deal done by mid-May, industry sources say UPS will pursue sponsorship of Edwards’ car.

UPS has been considering several options, from staying at Michael Waltrip Racing to Edwards to Jeff Burton’s No. 31, which is scheduled to lose AT&T as its primary sponsor at the end of this season, but sources said Edwards has emerged as the top option. More at Scenedaily.com


London back on the F1 agenda?
For the last eight years London has been run by Ken Livingstone. In that period Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone tried to convince Livingstone that it would be a good idea for a London Grand Prix. Livingstone seemed keen on the idea, believing that that it would bring hundreds of thousands of people to the city. In 2004, working with impresario Harvey Goldsmith, the Crown Estate and Westminster Council, Formula One ran a demonstration of eight cars on the streets in the West End. Around 500,000 people attended. Livingstone reckoned that the best place to hold a race would be Hyde Park, as this would minimize the disruption of city life. However, he felt that F1's financial demands were too high.

Last week Livingstone was defeated in the local elections by Conservative candidate Boris Johnson. It is anticipated that Ecclestone and Goldsmith will once again try to convince the city to look at F1, either on a parkland circuit in the city, or at the 500-acre Olympic Park in Stratford.

The Mayor's job is to run the transportation, policing and promotion of the 600 square miles of Greater London. He shares power with the local councils but has strategic control over the city. His annual budget is $18bn.

One of the divisions he controls is the London Development Agency (LDA), which is tasked with developing infrastructure and sustainable business and promoting London on the international stage. It has an budget of around $60m for promotion and $200m for infrastructure, although with the 2012 Olympic Games this is currently four times that.

The LDA is currently working to decide what happens to the Olympic Park after the 2012 Olympic Games. It is intended that five stadia will remain and will continue to host big sporting events and be used to train new champions. The Olympic Village will be turned into 4000 new homes and there are plans for the International Broadcast Centre to be transformed into offices for high-tech, creative and media companies. A team of planners is currently working on other details of what happens after the Olympics and how visitors will be attracted to the venue. Their findings will go through a discussion process but that task should be completed by the end of next year. F1 could be part of that package. More at Grandprix.com


Fry ordered Super Aguri lockout?
(GMM)  An official Super Aguri source has now confirmed that the team's equipment trucks and motor home have been locked out of Istanbul's Otodrom venue.

Less than a week before the Turkish grand prix there, it emerged that officials at the circuit - which is owned by F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone - denied Super Aguri access when they arrived to prepare for Sunday's race.

The trucks are therefore parked outside of Istanbul Park, which is located in Akfirat county on the Asian side of the city.

The source confirmed on Monday that Super Aguri team members were told by Otodrom officials that they had been instructed by Formula One Management (FOM) - Ecclestone's company - to restrict their access to the paddock.

Upon contacting FOM, Super Aguri management were then told that Honda's F1 CEO Nick Fry had instructed Ecclestone that the struggling team would not be getting a green light to compete in Turkey.

The source told us that the paddock lock-out is designed to prevent Honda the embarrassment of having Super Aguri on the scene if the manufacturer's executive board rejects the proposed Weigl buyout in Tokyo on Tuesday.

It is understood that Super Aguri chiefs Aguri Suzuki - who is already in Japan - and Daniele Audetto are now pushing hard to have the Tuesday meeting fast-forwarded to Monday.


Stewart to Hendrick with Bass Pro Shops?
There has been no official word from either side, but it is becoming increasingly likely that Tony Stewart will indeed leave car owners Joe and J.D. Gibbs at the end of this season, to start his own team, under the Rick Hendrick Chevrolet umbrella, possibly with Bass Pro Shops as his sponsor. If Stewart does depart, that would leave the Gibbs team looking for a new driver. Joey Logano's chances of getting the nod? Sunday's Carolina 500 at Rockingham Speedway could offer clues. Logano is to start from the pole, and he could lap the field. Winston Salem Journal


Super Aguri to miss Turkey race UPDATE According to this Hot News article the Super Aguri trucks are barred from the Istanbul paddock, hence this rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today.

05/01/08 Most of the Formula 1 trucks going to Istanbul did not come home after the Spanish Grand Prix but instead headed to Trieste in order to take a ferry ride through the Adriatic in order to be in Istanbul in time to begin setting up the Grand Prix over the weekend. The sea route is considered the most sensible way to get to Turkey because of the number of truck hijacking that occur in the Balkans and in southern Italy.

The speculation about Super Aguri F1 remains ongoing but the reality is that the team's racing cars are currently at the Honda factory in Brackley and there is no sign of them departing for Turkey. If the cars do not depart today or tomorrow there is no way that they can be in Turkey in time for the race, unless they run the gauntlet through the Balkans, which is not very likely.

The signs therefore are that Super Aguri will not be going to Turkey and if that happens the future of the team is in very serious doubt, although the current confusions over the Concorde Agreement make it less than clear as to what will happen with the team's rights and privileges. Grandprix.com


Renault, Ferrari chasing Kubica
Renault and Ferrari have both made enquiries about BMW Sauber driver Robert Kubica, according to German newspaper Bild.

The Pole currently lies third in the world championship after four events and has been in impressive form for his team, claiming their first ever pole position in Bahrain.

He has also amassed 19 points, despite not making it to the finish of the opening event in Australia.

"He will get better and better. If I was a team boss, I would pick him," Formula 1's commercial rights' owner, Bernie Ecclestone, is quoted as saying by the publication. (See related article)

Kubica is contracted to Mario Theissen's squad until the end of 2009 with the option for an extra year, but Bild believes that the 23-year-old is only earning a quarter of Nick Heidfeld's €10 million paycheck despite out-qualifying him 4-0 so far this term. Setanta Sports


Citroën to quit rally and go to DTM
Citroën World Rally car
A news story posted yesterday on Italiaracing.net states that representatives from French car manufacturer Citroën recently met with DTM officials to discuss the possibility of joining the touring car series.

The DTM organization has been working very hard during the recent years to bring a third constructor to their series. Opel left the DTM at the end of 2004, and has not been replaced yet. This situation has hit the credibility of the DTM.

According to the latest reports, Wolfgang Ullrich (Audi) and Norbert Haug (Mercedes-Benz) had a meeting with representatives from Citroën who wanted to discuss certain issues such as the sporting and technical rules, the budgets, the visibility and others.

Seeing Citroën leave the World Rally Championship is not so silly than it may seem. Citroën has captured four consecutive world titles in recent years and has nothing to prove in that category.

Additionally, the FIA want to change the technical rules of the WRC, going to two-wheel drive vehicles, something which does not impress the constructors involved.

The Citroën C5 would fit the DTM rules, expect for its engine. DTM cars must be powered by V8 engines derived from a production car of the make. But it appears that Citroën could receive "customer" engines from a supplier.


Ford to sell Volvo too?
Ford Motor Co. isn't about to sell its Volvo car subsidiary, a senior company official said Friday, brushing off a suggestion by Jerry York, a representative of the Dearborn automaker's newest major shareholder.

"Volvo is not for sale and we are about improving the business," Lewis Booth, chairman of Ford of Europe said at a press conference.

Ever since Ford sold the British brands of its Premier Automotive Group -- Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin -- to raise cash to finance its recovery program, questions have been raised about the outlook for its Volvo subsidiary.

York, who represents Kirk Kerkorian's Tracinda Corp., which recently made a cash tender offer for up to 20 million Ford shares, said that he would sell the Swedish carmaker.

"There's no rational reason for keeping Volvo or Mercury," York told Automotive News.


Edwards could extend MotoGP stay with Tech 3 Yamaha
MotoGP veteran Colin Edwards is eager to make further appearances in the premier class in 2009, despite original plans for an AMA `retirement package´.

Edwards, who has enjoyed a career renaissance since making a sideways switch from the Yamaha factory team to the Tech 3 satellite outfit, admitted in Thursday’s press conference that he had been swayed by his upturn in fortunes to pursue a further year in MotoGP.

`There was talk about maybe going back to the AMA, but it would be difficult with the bike working as good as it is, Michelin putting in such a big effort and me feeling so good on the bike to say `see ya, I’m going back to the states´,´ admitted the `Texas Tornado´.

Tech 3 recently confirmed a renovation of their deal with Yamaha, which will run until 2010. They already have rookie James Toseland onboard for 2009, and Edwards is keen to feature in their plans.

`I definitely want to stick around,´ stated the American. MotoGP


Coulthard, Fisi, eyeing A1 team ownership?
(GMM)  A1 GP promoter Tony Teixeira claims four members of the formula one fraternity are looking at setting up teams in his open-wheeler series.

Although refusing to confirm whether David Coulthard and Giancarlo Fisichella are contemplating getting behind Scottish and Italian outfits respectively, the South African said he would "welcome" their involvement.

The Daily Express newspaper reports that both veteran grand prix drivers are "examining the business profile" of A1's forthcoming season, which from next year will boast Ferrari-made and powered cars.

"I can't talk names, but we have had four F1 people in touch," Teixeira, in England for the finale of the 2008 series, confirmed.

"And I would welcome people like Fisi and Coulthard.  We have an open door."

Teixeira also revealed that F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone was "totally dumbfounded" when he heard that grand prix pacesetter Ferrari was to become intimately involved in the A1 GP series, "and then offered respect for the deal".

Meanwhile, the Daily Mirror said Red Bull "dismissed claims" that Coulthard could be ousted by the F1 team this season after a spate of crashes.


Childress to poach driver from another team
Richard Childress Racing owner Richard Childress said he's talking to three or four drivers for the fourth team he will start next season with General Mills as the primary sponsor.

Childress would not identify the drivers, but said all currently compete in the Sprint Cup Series.

"We hope to have something to announce in the next three or four months," he said. ESPN.com


More on the Nationwide COT
“We are working very hard on the COT,” [Nationwide Series Director Joe] Balash explains. “We’ll utilize the NASCAR 110-inch wheelbase certified chassis, and it will be interchangeable between the Sprint Cup and Nationwide garages. [But] we’re going to do something unique with the bodies to give the Series its own look as opposed to the past.” The last point is a reminder of the dangers posed by creating a Nationwide car too much like their Sprint Cup cousins; and when you talk to Balash, you sense his focus at ensuring the next generation of Nationwide vehicles create a unique driving style all their own. “We want [the new car] to drive somewhere between a Truck and Cup car,” he says. “And we’ve been working with drag and downforce to be somewhere in between. We want the car to drive a little easier than a Sprint Cup car; [and while] there are some components of the body that are the same, we’ve relocated them. For example, we’ve moved the rear deck lid forward, and the same distance we moved it forward, we’ve moved the front of the body forward, helping the car turn just a little bit better in the corner. It’s been great to see from concept to the car in the wind tunnel.” When that concept becomes reality, the timeframe is still very much TBD. “My hope is to introduce the new car next year,” says the series director. “We’re looking at an August timeframe based on the conversations we’ve had with owners and others in the garage.” Frontstretch.com


Super Aguri team to fold? UPDATE #20 (GMM)  Spaniards Alejandro Agag and Adrian Campos have returned to the frame of potential formula one team ownership as Super Aguri fights for survival ahead of the Turkish grand prix.

The Leafield based outfit faces not only a race to find the couple of million euros necessary to compete at Istanbul Park, but also a race against the clock to retrieve its single seaters from supplier team Honda's Brackley base and dispatch them across Europe.

Although there were one or two exceptions, such as Renault, most formula one teams headed from Barcelona directly to the Italian port city of Trieste, where their cars will be boarded on a ferry to cross the Adriatic Sea bound for Turkey.

Aguri's unexplained UK detour means that the team must now imminently depart if it is to be stationed in the Istanbul garages for the start of free practice next Friday.

It is understood that the Dubai-funded Magma Group buyout is now completely lifeless, while Honda is not keen on the recently reported Weigl Group alternative because the German automotive company is only proposing an initial short-term rescue package rather than a full buyout.

Super Aguri boss Aguri Suzuki earlier this year engaged in detailed negotiations with Agag and Campos, co-owners of a GP2 team, about the sale of the Honda-supplied squad.

The Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell reports that the Agag-Campos solution may again be on the table.

It is suggested that the Spanish companies Telefonica and Repsol are keen to get behind the idea of a Spanish formula one team.

04/30/08 (GMM)  The German automotive engineering company Weigl Group has played down reports that it is behind an eleventh-hour rescue of the Super Aguri team.

Reports on Tuesday said the firm's chief executive Franz Josef Weigl visited the Spanish grand prix last weekend where he discussed financing the struggling Japanese team for at least the remainder of 2008.

Honda bankrolled Super Aguri's Barcelona action to the tune of 2 million euros, but has ruled out offering any further race-by-race assistance to the cash-strapped team.

Some pundits, however, reacted with surprise to the Weigl reports, pointing out that the company had already been rejected recently by Honda as a possible takeover partner.

An official source at Weigl reacted by pointing out that while CEO Franz Josef Weigl was a Super Aguri guest at the Circuit de Catalunya, this does not mean the company is going to get involved with the team.

Weigl was previously involved in a technical partnership with the Midland team, involving the design and construction of a gearbox.

04/29/08 Additional information about The Weigl Group: The Weigl Group, a German automotive industry company, is tipped to be bidding to save the Super Aguri F1 team. The bad news is that Weigl has been around for some months and Honda has shown no great interest in getting involved in a deal, as Weigl does not appear to have the kind of money that is needed to bankroll an F1 team.

Weigl, which has sales of $200m a year, goes back to the 1970s when 52-year-old Franz Josef Weigl raced motorcycles. He then began to manufacture parts for the motorcycle industry and then expanded into the automobile business. Weigl components are now used by many car companies, including General Motors, Daimler, Volkswagen, Audi, BMW, Porsche, Volvo and Jaguar.

The firm is based in Pottmes in Bavaria. The company has eight subdivisions at six different locations. It concentrates on metalworking, notably with transmissions and treatments for engine parts. It also owns a foundry and a prototyping subsidiary. It has been involved in F1 since the end of 2005 when a three-year technical partnership was agreed with MF1 Racing (now Force India). The company was to help MF1 with the design and construction of its gearbox.

While one can understand why Weigl would want to be involved in F1, it is not clear how the company would fund such a deal. However, if Honda is willing Weigl could take over the role of trying to save the team, while looking for backing in the months ahead. GrandPrix.com

04/29/08 Automotive company Weigl Group are set to launch a bid to bankroll the cash-strapped Super Aguri team, according to a report on autosport.com on Tuesday.  Weigl Group boss Franz Josef Weigl was reportedly present at last weekend's Spanish Grand Prix and has been linked with a £6.5million bid for the team run by former F1 driver Aguri Suzuki.  According to the report, any deal with Weigl Group would likely only secure Super Aguri's future for the remainder of the 2008 season, with a long-term solution to be sought at a later date.

04/25/08 We hear that the Super Aguri team will be saved this weekend by a German investor.  Stay tuned as we learn more.......

04/24/08 (GMM) According to speculation in the Barcelona paddock, Super Aguri is close to agreeing a new deal with the Dubai-funded Magma Group.

Whether the contracts can be signed in time for Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson to participate in the Spanish grand prix, however, is another matter.

Honda - Super Aguri's free car, engine and technical supplier - is apparently adamant that pen must be put to paper before the SA08s get the green light to exit the Circuit de Catalunya pit garages.

The struggling Leafield based team has at least fully set up shop at the circuit, complete with 60 members of the race team and its comparatively dwarfed motor home in the paddock.

"We advise that discussions regarding investment are ongoing, however, due to legal conditions, we are unable to expand on, allude to or provide further details regarding this confidential matter at present," the team said on Thursday.

"We would like to thank our team partners, suppliers, our fans and colleagues in the media for their continuing patience and support, and we look forward to our weekend at the Barcelona grand prix."

Read more & Comment...

Overheard in Long Beach - 1 UPDATE #2 The part of the rumor below about Alex Figge signing to drive for Tafel Racing is also upgraded to 'fact' with this news.

04/18/08 The part of this rumor about the extension between Long Beach and ALMS is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement - see Hot News page.

04/18/08 Word is that Forsythe Racing are still looking for sponsorship for an Indy Car deal, but unless that happens, (Gerald Forsythe is tired of funding the team fully) they are just going to run their Atlantics program.  It is rumored that Forsythe may be helping that series financially.........We do hear that Tony George has long coveted a race at Laguna Seca and we hear Laguna is interested........Alex Figge is going to race a Ferrari for Tafel Racing in the ALMS this year but our sources tell us that he still hopes to be in Indy Car eventually........We hear that Cosworth is going to focus on the aftermarket car market following this race but there is some doubt that there is enough work there to sustain the business, so don't be surprised if Kalkhoven and Forsythe deep-six that company too, which is a real travesty given Cosworth's history.  Given the increased car count and races in Indy Car many cannot believe that Kalkhoven did not include Cosworth in the merger deal with Tony George that would have seen Cosworth helping Honda with engine rebuilds......We hear that the ALMS and Long Beach will soon announce an extension to their deal that will see ALMS race with the Indy Cars in Long Beach for many more years.....The IRL has made no inquiries about using the Panoz chassis as their new car in 2010.  Too bad because Panoz is an American company.  Instead they will probably do another deal with Dallara and send all the American money overseas to Italy.


Will the Panoz DP01 be basis for new Indy Car? UPDATE #4 A couple of comments to the D. Hughes letter below.  1) Pop-off valves are antiquated and can be fooled.  A single make ECU for everyone is the way to go, which can control all engine functions and monitor and control boost pressure, and 2) Yes the ALMS cars were faster than the IndyCars in practice, but during the race the IndyCars were turning faster laps than the ALMS cars, as they should since ALMS is endurance racing.  The IndyCar pole was slightly faster than the ALMS pole speed, but not by much.  The ALMS cars qualified on Friday when less rubber was on the track, whereas the IndyCars qualified on Saturday after the track was well rubbered in.  At Long Beach the Champ Cars were 4.5 seconds per lap faster than the ALMS cars, so Mr. Hughes is correct in that the next IndyCar should be very similar in performance to the Panoz Champ Car.

04/29/08 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, It simply amazes me that there is so much discussion about what engine formula to run in the newly merged IndyCar series. This is such an important topic that if the powers that be do not get it right, I believe we will be in for such a ho-hum, this is boring, type of "show" that much of the momentum of this "merger" will be lost, taking with it many of the fans that have remained loyal in hopes of satisfying their longing for those days where the CART/IndyCar series was once the envy of most of the racing world, including Formula 1.

Like the old CART series, the newly merged IndyCar series for 2009 will be unique from all other major forms of racing. As many of us have been delighted to hear, it will have a schedule that is comprised of 1/3 street races, 1/3 road races, and 1/3 oval races- truly the greatest test of skill for any driver or team in major motorsports (and no, racing 2 road races out of 37 races in NASCAR does not count as equally diverse). Having said that, there are numerous reasons why the classic turbocharged engine should continue to be the hallmark of IndyCar racing in the future. Some argue it sounds better, some say it is quieter for the street circuits, some say it continues the history that always symbolizes IndyCar racing, and some say it is more environmentally friendly. These are all good and valid arguments, but not one of them matters, not one bit.

Why? The biggest problem that a diverse circuit series has is balancing the right engine power to keep the speeds slow enough for safety reasons on the ovals, yet high enough to inspire Formula 1-like performance and truly require only the most skilled drivers to be able to drive the cars on the road and street circuits so the series is considered the ultimate test for driver and team. The old CART series ran into this problem when they were pushing 900× hp in the late 90's and early 21st Century. It was fantastic and inspiring to watch those cars accelerate on the road and street courses, and downright frightening on the ovals. Gil de Ferran set the closed course record by qualifying, yes QUALIFYING (as in NO draft), at 242 MPH at Fontana! They had it right on the road/street courses, but not on the ovals. Nowadays, with the current IRL based car, they have it backwards from the old CART days. The speeds are almost perfect on the ovals, but horrendously slow on the road/street courses, as recently showed at St. Petersburg where the ALMS cars set the fastest lap times that weekend. On the contrary, the Champ Car series was getting close to figuring it out for the road courses, and were even considering bumping the power up another 50-75hp or so for the 2008 season before unification happened. They were already making 750hp compared to the IRL's 650hp and 800× hp with the push-to-pass button. They were also some 7-8 seconds a lap faster that weekend than the same ALMS cars that raced with the IRL cars two weeks earlier. The real question is and always has been is how to balance the two, and the only viable way to do this IS with a turbocharged engine. 

Just like the Champ Cars would do when racing at high elevation circuits where the lack of air cooling would seriously affect the ability of the engines to keep cool, changes were made to alter the horsepower levels of the cars to keep them within tolerances with the tightening of a few bolts. How? They did it with the infamous pop-off valve that limits the amount of boost produced by the engine. Such a simple device could, would, and should be the answer to the age old dilemma of keeping the speeds down for 1/3rd of the series races, yet allowing the cars to inspire and challenge on the other 2/3rd of the series races. A simple solution such as, say, 48psi on the road/street courses and 35psi on the ovals or whatever they need to match the numbers would do the trick.

I know many in the Champ Car circle have longed for a management group that "gets it," while those in the IRL circle have quietly tried to ignore the serious performance deficiencies of their cars and show creating aspects from the Champ Car series (standing starts, push-2-pass, equal playing field for all drivers). Let's hope that this "merger" is really just that, and they begin by getting it right with the turbocharged engine. D. Hughes, Atlanta, GA

04/28/08 The IRL could introduce a redesigned car for the 2010 season. CEO Tony George says the chances are "greater than 50-50" the new model could run a turbocharged engine after several years of the series using normally aspirated motors. George says turbocharged engines could attract manufacturers to the IRL, which has only Honda as an engine supplier.

"Now with conservancy and being more efficient environmentally, (turbocharging) has some benefits ... and it might be a more relevant platform" for manufacturers, he says. USA Today

04/19/08 According one source in the Champ Car paddock here in Long Beach, the concern the IRL has with the Panoz DP01 is the high nose. There is a fear the high nose may cause the car to climb the wall when there is an accident on the high speed ovals.

04/19/08 The AutoWeek layout below details the specs of IndyCars and their DP01 Champ Car counterparts, which race for the last time this weekend in Long Beach.  The IRL is currently studying what their next car Indy Car will be - both engine in chassis.  Many in the industry feel the IRL should just adopt the already made-for-ovals and road courses DP01 (yes the tub is stronger than the current IndyCar tub - fact), with perhaps a few modifications such as enlarging the sidepods slightly to provide more "crushability" when they crash on the high speed ovals. 

And why not get Honda to take their old turbo Champ Car engine out of mothballs, detune it and use it.  Or just badge the current 2.65 L turbo Cosworth a Honda and ready it for 100% ethanol instead of methanol.  Imagine the cost savings this would afford - about 30 are already built, Cosworth has a large inventory of engines, the car has a great push-to-pass system and does standing starts perfectly.  And last but not least, why spend all that American money with a company such as Dallara in Italy when the cars can be American made from Panoz in Georgia.  Given the weak American dollar it costs far more to make the next IndyCar overseas (yes the current IndyCar costs more to buy than a brand new DP01).

Champ Car Panoz DP01 and Indy Car comparison by AutoWeek


A1 boss Teixeira eyes Toro Rosso, Super Aguri UPDATE #3 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. The boss of the open wheeler series A1GP has lost interest in buying a formula one team.

South African millionaire Tony Teixeira enquired about the ailing Super Aguri as recently as ten days ago, but F1's clampdown on so-called 'customer cars' means that he is no longer on the market.

Teixeira last year was reported to be interested in Spyker (now Force India), Toro Rosso and Super Aguri.

"We wanted an A1 team in F1 where our winners would go and race in F1," he said in an interview with Reuters.

But Teixeira insists that with customer cars being phased out by the end of next year, he is no longer looking around.

"I sat with Toro Rosso and when we were close to a deal, F1 changed the rules: no customer cars.  When they changed the rules, I was through," he said.

Teixeira insists that "there was no way we could go and develop our own chassis and be competitive".

"I don't profess to have that kind of money and even if I did I wouldn't put it into F1, it would be madness," he added.

10/12/07 (GMM) The boss of the A1GP series has confirmed that he is interested in buying the formula one team Toro Rosso.

Tony Teixeira.

Tony Teixeira, a South African businessman, this week reached a long term deal with Ferrari for the supply of engines and car design consultancy for the so-called World Cup of Motorsport starting next year.

A few days earlier, it was rumored that Ferrari, supplier of customer engines to Faenza based Toro Rosso, was considering bolstering its alliance with the team by also supplying an identical chassis to effectively form a satellite outfit.

It was also rumored that Ferrari's recent talks with Teixeira involved a possible arrangement that he buy into Toro Rosso, which is currently co-owned by Gerhard Berger and Red Bull's Dietrich Mateschitz and almost constantly linked with prospective buyers throughout the 2007 season.

We reported in August that, like Vijay Mallya who has now bought Spyker, Teixeira was eyeing the small Dutch squad and also Super Aguri.

"I am looking around," Teixeira confirmed to the news agency Reuters on Thursday.

"I have been speaking to two or three different teams that are maybe available for sale. Toro Rosso are one of them."

10/11/07 A1GP boss Tony Teixeira is interested in buying into Formula One after securing a deal with champions Ferrari to power his own series.  "I am looking around. I have been speaking to two or three different teams that are maybe available for sale," the South African businessman told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.

"If I find the right deal that makes sense...and it's the right price and I think that I can get up to the top 10 positions in F1 -- I'm not going to do it to come last -- then I will conclude a deal," he added.

Toro Rosso and Spyker are both Ferrari-powered, although the latter team have just been sold for $124 million to a consortium led by Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya and Dutch entrepreneur Michiel Mol.

Toro Rosso are half-owned by Austrian energy drink billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz, who also owns the Red Bull Racing team, and Austria's former Ferrari driver Gerhard Berger.

Italy-based Toro Rosso showed their potential at the last race in China when German rookie Sebastian Vettel finished fourth.

"Toro Rosso are one of them," Teixeira, who attended last month's Italian Grand Prix at Monza, said of the possibilities. He said he had stepped aside for Mallya at struggling tail-enders Spyker.

"I want to be as close to the pinnacle of motorsport as I can," he said. "We don't want to be playing with it. If I do get involved with an F1 team, It will be as an insider to what is happening. Reuters

08/29/07 (GMM)  Two potential buyers for F1's financially-embattled teams have emerged.

With small privateer outfits Spyker and Super Aguri both under strain and looking for investors, it appears that Vijay Mallya and Tony Teixeira are both separately in the market to join the grand prix circus.

Mallya, a wealthy Indian businessman whose airline Kingfisher is already a sponsor of Toyota, is in talks with a team about a deal "which may be close to being sealed", the publication CNN-IBN said.

51-year-old Mallya is also likely to be a key backer of a future Indian grand prix, and he said of the team ownership speculation: "Everything is possible.

"To have a larger involvement in a formula one team would very possibly have a domino-effect with regards to the interest of the sport in our country," he told an interview with the Indian television station CNBC-TV18.

Also linked this week with an interest in F1 ownership is Tony Teixeira; a South African oil and diamond magnate who was instrumental in the establishment of the A1 Grand Prix series.

"I will not deny that I am interested in formula one, but I have not spoken with anybody at Spyker," he told the magazine Formule 1 Race Report, after he was linked with the Dutch team.


Chrysler loss may be $6.8 billion
Daimler AG indicates that Chrysler LLC lost about $6.8 billion primarily in the last five months of 2007 under international accounting standards, wiping out two-thirds of the value of Chrysler, at least on the German automaker's balance sheet.

Chrysler contends that using international accounting standards as opposed to U.S. procedures distorts its performance. Katie Hepler, a Chrysler spokeswoman, said the "company has enjoyed positive operating earnings" since Cerberus Capital Management gained control of the Auburn Hills automaker in August and noted that it would "be misleading ... to report on standards that are not used in the U.S."

Experts say the European accounting standards, while different, provide a relevant measure.

Because Chrysler is now the first major U.S. automaker to be privately controlled in more than 50 years, little is known about the company's finances. Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli has said the automaker will not be profitable in 2008.


Doornbos eyes Indy 500 ride
Robert Doornbos
Robert Doornbos writes, "My management is still in talks with IndyCar teams to compete in the Indy 500 and maybe to do all the remaining races this season. For me it's important to get into a team where we also have good chances to score in the long term (2009). So keep your fingers crossed a little longer!"


Will Raikkonen retire if he wins 2nd title?
(GMM)  Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali has rubbished speculation that Kimi Raikkonen could retire from formula one with a second consecutive world title.

The 28-year-old Finn and current championship leader's contract runs out at the end of 2009, and he is undecided about whether he will sign a new one.

1982 world champion Keke Rosberg said last weekend that he can imagine Raikkonen, who described his Barcelona victory as the most perfect of his entire career, retiring in the near future.

His now 9-point lead in the drivers' classification has even sparked some rumors that he might try to break his Ferrari contract and walk away from the cockpit as early as after November's Brazilian grand prix.

But even though Raikkonen consistently refuses to commit to formula one for the long haul, Domenicali said retirement rumors surrounding the Finn are "nonsense!".

"I have heard this rumor and there is not a gain of truth to it," he angrily told the Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell.

"Kimi is motivated from head to toe and I know that he is not thinking of retiring," he added.


Reid looking to find ride in Indy Lights
Jonny Reid
New Zealand A1GP driver Jonny Reid has the prospect of securing a drive in the Indy Lights series in the United States this season.  Reid, 24, hoped to have a stint on the oval circuits during the A1 Championship off-season.

He will link up with the Apex Racing Team to test and drive at Indianapolis in the Indy Lights championship, the stepping stone to IndyCars.

Apex were involved with the Chip Ganassi team, which has New Zealanders Scott Dixon as one of their two drivers.

Reid, who is lying second in the A1GP with one round left, will head to the United States after racing at Brand's Hatch in England this weekend.

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