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Kahne and Evernham to be finedUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. See Hot News item on NASCAR cheaters. 06/20/05 Kasey Kahne is waiting to hear what sort of penalties NASCAR will impose on his No. 9 team after officials confiscated an unapproved air dam from his car this weekend in Michigan. NASCAR says the part, an adjustable spring-loaded air dam, was found during Friday's pre-qualifying inspection. Vice president for corporate communications Jim Hunter says the part never made it onto the track. "A penalty will be forthcoming - I don't know what," said Hunter. "The rulebook says it cannot be adjusted, so it did not conform to our rules." Kahne, who qualified fourth, finished 18th in Sunday's race. He and the team face a loss of points and fines.
Portland race still on shaky ground This Portland Oregonian article says, Promoter Mike Nealy was taking phone calls Monday morning, and no one was screaming for a refund or asking about the Indy Racing League or wondering how long it would be before Champ Car pulled the plug on its annual event at Portland International Raceway.
Nealy wasn't breaking out champagne in the wake of Sunday's race -- which attracted an estimated crowd of 25,000 to 30,000 -- but he felt a lot better than he did 12 months ago when low sponsorship sales, sagging attendance and the threat of the IRL seemed to indicate a seismic shift in Portland's open-wheel future.
For months, Champ Car wasn't sure it wanted to be back in Portland. But Champ Car signed a new three-year contract with the city in August 2004, with the proviso that Nealy deliver more sponsorships and more fans. Above all, Champ Car needed some sign that Portland wanted this event to continue. After Brazilian Cristiano da Matta won Sunday's race, series co-owners Kevin Kalkhoven, Gerry Forsythe and Paul Gentilozzi seemed satisfied.
"I think everybody left here very much on a high yesterday," Nealy said. "I think it was a great weekend for Portland. I've had calls from people outside of Oregon who watched the race on CBS and raved about how terrific it looked. . . . I just think everybody is excited, and encouraged."
Kalkhoven, who also is part-owner in da Matta's PKV Racing team, said Portland "is showing all signs of a rebound. I've looked at the numbers (sponsorships, suite sales, tickets) and everything is up 18 percent, or 20 percent, or 30 percent."
But the reality is the Portland race still is not making money for the city and Champ Car. Nealy said he doesn't have the final totals yet from 2005, but he could not say with assurance the event will turn a profit. According to the wording of the city's contract with Champ Car, if the revenue base for 2005 is less than $1.5 million, "Champ Car or the city will have the option to cancel the remaining races during the 90-day period following the race."
No one from Champ Car even hinted that the series would exercise its "out" clause. Still, there is work to do if Portland wants to assure its appearance on Champ Car schedules in 2006, 2007 and beyond.
Gentilozzi concedes an emotional attachment to Portland. "But somewhere in here we have to make a business decision," he said. "If there's any potential to grow the market and make this race a success, then we want to be here. And it's not just about promotion. It's about community involvement."
Nealy said that in the next 30 to 45 days, Champ Car officials want to meet with Portland Mayor Tom Potter or the new Parks Commissioner (when that person is appointed) to see if the city is as committed to investing money and support as the major businesses that contributed to this year's event.
"There was a buzz about the race this year that started weeks ago with the G.I. Joe's inserts, the Red Bull displays at over 200 retail locations and Chevron's involvement starting on the first of May," Nealy said. "(The business response) was just incredible, I thought."
5 USA cities clamor for Champ Car race Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Seattle have made inquiries about hosting a Champ Car race. It isn't an exaggeration to say the competition for race dates has gotten stiffer.
Heidfeld to Sauber The Sauber BMW buy-out will have immediate effects with regards of the new team's driver in 2006 and beyond. Nick Heidfeld is expected to rejoin the Hinwill-based team as he is German and very much liked by BMW's Dr Mario Theissen. Frank Williams would be also happy to release Heidfeld as this will create room for Jenson Button. Nick Heidfeld drove for Sauber between 2001 and 2003, before joining Jordan in 2004 and, at the beginning of this year, BMW.Williams. It is expected that both Jacques Villeneuve and Felipe Massa to leave the team. The Canadian is set to retire, while Massa will rejoin Ferrari, either as test driver or as Michael's grid mate, replacing Barrichello. F1Galaxy
BMW may buy SauberUPDATE #8 See full story on Hot News page. They did not buy the entire team, but BMW will manage the team and therefore, have full control. 06/11/05 The BMW board has agreed to buy Sauber for $270m, rumor has it. But both the Munich carmaker and Peter Sauber's independent F1 team quickly snapped into action with denials. Sauber's spokesman said: ''The story ... is not true. We expect to reach an (engine supply) agreement in June.''
However, BMW's current F1 partner, Williams, admitted that a buyout looked on the cards. ''I have been assured by Dr. (Mario) Theissen,'' Sir Frank Williams revealed, ''(that) the BMW board will decide ... later this month whether they wish to ... purchase Sauber.''
The team owner and principal also indicated that the damage was near the point of no return. ''The relationship,'' Williams added, ''has been just too hostile for too long.''
And Sauber driver Jacques Villeneuve did little to hide the possibility of a BMW deal. The French Canadian, who won the title with Williams in 1997, said: ''It'd bring in more money and a different attitude.''
06/10/05 We are bumping this rumor up to 'strong.' Reports from BBC Live Five say that BMW has now agreed terms to purchase the Swiss-based Sauber team for a rumored $270m. Neither party will comment......yet. 06/07/05 Swiss team boss Peter Sauber wants a swift conclusion to his negotiations with BMW. "I hope to be close enough to close an agreement soon, as it would be in the interest of both parties," Sauber told Italy's Autosprint magazine. "Unfortunately we haven't reached that point yet."
Sauber also told the magazine that he could have stuck with his supply of Ferrari engines and that money was a deciding factor. "It wouldn't have been a problem to stay with Ferrari, but they made it clear that they wanted to make money out of it," said Sauber.
05/28/05 Speculation linking BMW with Peter Sauber's Hinwil based F1 outfit is at melting point. New reports say BMW motor sport director Dr Mario Theissen last week drove home from Monte Carlo to Munich -- via Switzerland. ''As I always do,'' he smiled, before laughing. ''I didn't even stop to refuel, I tell you!''
If BMW do buy Sauber, Theissen - predictably - would become new team principal. ''I am very happy in my current role,'' the German insisted, ''but the team structure with which we win ... is of secondary importance.''
Tuesday, the next board meeting in Munich, is being touted as 'judgment' day for a BMW, Sauber - and Williams - verdict. Theissen said: ''Sauber is very well run. At the moment we are talking about engine supply and anything else is speculation.'' GMMF1net
05/24/05 BMW have refused to comment on renewed speculation that they are on the verge of buying the Sauber F1 team. According to reports in German newspaper Handelsblatt, BMW wants to buy the Swiss-based team to boost their racing profile.
BMW are understood to be disappointed with the performance of the Williams team - who have used the manufacturer's engines since 2000 - although the team's two-three result at the Monaco Grand Prix last weekend may have alleviated some of the pressure. "The fact is that we are negotiating with Sauber about providing motors from 2006," a BMW spokesperson said. "Everything else is speculation on which we don't comment." Meanwhile a spokesperson for the Sauber team said: "We are negotiating with BMW about motors and all the possibilities that go above and beyond this are speculation on which we don't comment."
05/17/05 In an interview for the Italian Autosprint magazine Frank Williams said: "I don't think they really want to buy Peter Sauber's team, and I don't think Peter wants to sell it." But he did add "Really, I don't know what will happen."
As the likelihood that BMW will be supplying Sauber engines next season Williams said: "Let's not forget that every manufacturer publicly pledged to supply a second team. Maybe that's what they want to do with Sauber. It would be their decision, which I respect and which I can't interfere with."
05/04/05 Mario Theissen, the head of BMW Motorsport is to propose to the BMW board of directors that the Munich company increase its investment in F1 and buy control of the Sauber team. The Swiss team is owned by the banking house Credit Suisse but Peter Sauber retains all the voting shares of the team, which means that he makes the decisions.
Credit Suisse bought the shares five years ago after Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz decided to cease his involvement with the team as an owner, following a dispute over whether the team should hire Kimi Raikkonen (Sauber's choice) or Enrique Bernoldi (Mateschitz's choice). The bank has enjoyed a lot of exposure for relatively little investment and might be willing to sell its shares despite the fact that the value of the F1 teams is at a low ebb at the moment because of the political uncertainty in the sport.
In banking logic it is better to take what one can rather than risk a loss in the future. Convincing Sauber to sell control of the team may not be a huge task, particularly if the deal means that he stays on in some titular role and enjoys motor racing without the responsibilities of being the team boss. Sauber is 61 and, while not really thinking of retirement, he might like an easier role. Theissen would be the new team principal, a role he clearly relishes.
Convincing the board of BMW will be another matter. BMW is disappointed with results that have been achieved with Williams in the last five years. Both sides must take some of the blame for that. The problem for Theissen is that having direct control will not necessarily guarantee better results, even if the team is run by Bavarian supermen. Sauber has had Ferrari engines for years but has yet to come close to the performance of the Italian team. Building up the team would require sizeable investment and would take time and during that phase of development there would be no guarantees of any big results.
Theissen's logic, according to our spies, is to stay with Williams as well, until Sauber is a success. This may sound like a wonderful idea for the men in Munich but it is hardly a vote of confidence in Williams and it is logical that in such a situation Williams would be on the lookout for an alternative engine partner with a little more faith. And if that happened BMW could end up with egg on its face. Grandprix.com
05/04/05 German engine supplier BMW could be about to buy F1 privateer Sauber. According to the rumored plan, Peter Sauber's modest Hinwil based outfit would be re-branded as BMW's works team.
Speculation already links Sir Frank Williams' team, currently powered by BMW, with independent engine maker Cosworth, who are eager to find a customer for their well advanced 2.4 liter V8 design.
Dr Mario Theissen, overlooking the Williams collaboration as BMW motor sport director - and possible future Sauber-BMW team principal - said the Munich marque had a 'careful' eye on Grove. ''We will ... review the performance in the coming season,'' he told Auto Action magazine.
BMW to announce Sauber deal todayUPDATE This rumor is now 'fact.' See story on Hot News page. 06/22/05 BMW today has called a press conference with Prof. Dr. Burkhard Göschel (Member of the Board of Management of the BMW AG, Development and Purchasing), Dr. Mario Theissen (BMW Motorsport Director) and Peter Sauber, presumably to announce the long rumored sale of Sauber to BMW.
Marlin considering consultant role Sterling Marlin yesterday said he will "consider" an offer to remain at Chip Ganassi Racing next year as a consultant — a move that would end his Nextel Cup racing career — but made it clear he hopes to land a new ride with a different team. "Chip and his people have made a really good offer," Marlin said from his home in Columbia, referring to a six-figure deal that would keep him at Ganassi Racing in a non-driving role. "The offer's on the table but I haven't given them my answer yet. I want to wait and see what happens." What Marlin is waiting on is word from "two or three really good" Nextel Cup team owners about his prospects of driving for them next year. "We've talked, but nothing has been decided yet," Marlin said. "Hopefully I'll know something soon." In addition to receiving an offer to remain with the team as a consultant, Marlin's longtime sponsor Coors also offered him a three-year personal-services contract. Marlin said he could take the Coors offer and continue to drive for another team, as long as it was not sponsored by a rival brewery. "I couldn't be a spokesman for Coors and race for some other (beer) company," he said. "But as long as there was no conflict I could do both. Coors and I go way back. They sponsored my car when I was 19 and racing at the Fairgrounds." Another development over the weekend was an extension of Marlin's contract with FitzBradshaw Racing to continue to drive their car in a partial Busch Series schedule next year, but with one major addition: Marlin would be joined by his son Steadman. "I'd run about 20-25 races and Steadman would run the rest," Marlin said. "The details aren't worked out yet, but this could be a big chance for him." Marlin said he could run the Busch races even if he accepted the consultant offer from Ganassi. "Working for Ganassi and running Busch wouldn't be a problem," he said. "But I couldn't work for Chip and run Cup." Tennessean
Bernie could be suedUPDATE Bernie Ecclestone could be sued for the return of the $13.5m (£7.4m) it cost the Indianapolis organizers to stage the farcical US grand prix. Ecclestone, the sport's commercial rights holder, was escorted away from the track on Sunday night as spectators hurled abuse at him. With many in the crowd of 160,000 becoming upset, two BAR-Honda team mechanics who left the track in their team gear were punched.
Yesterday race fans queued outside the track offices to demand a refund. Inside, Indianapolis Speedway was assessing the damage caused to its reputation.
Joie Chitwood, president and chief operating officer of the track, refused to rule out legal action. "We're going to analyze our situation, our position here," he said. "We're probably going to respond appropriately in the coming days. There are a number of questions like that which we will have to sit down and look at and come up with a better response."
Chitwood said huge damage had been done in terms of promoting formula one in the US. "I would say it is a major set back. We feel as victimized as the fans do in what they witnessed today. We had no control over the ability to stage an event. The people who had the ability to control things today were [the governing body] the FIA, Formula One Management and Michelin. I believe Mr Ecclestone is aware of the position and our unhappiness with what occurred."
Ecclestone responded by saying: "If I was a race organizer and I found myself in a position that I had to reimburse the paying customers, then I might well seek to make good my loss from somebody else.
"On the other hand you could take the view that Indianapolis had a round of the formula one world championship and that's it. The Indy organizers are well versed with the unpredictability of this business. IRL and Nascar races can be delayed by a day or so because they don't race in the rain."
The race, won by Michael Schumacher, degenerated into chaos when only six cars started after the teams running on Michelin withdrew due to safety concerns. All seven Michelin teams have been summoned to an FIA meeting on June 29 in Paris. The Guardian
06/21/05 F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is tipped to land in court after Indianapolis Motor Speedway bosses fumed at their unfair treatment in the US grand prix. Indy CEO Tony George forked out a cool $13.5 million for Sunday's absurd six-car procession.
Bernie, 74, admitted that George may well want to refund tickets. ''If I found myself in (that) position,'' the little Englishman conceded, ''then I might well seek to make good my loss.''
Bernie's conciliatory attitude was probably fashioned after irate fans screamed abuse at him as he left the 'Brickyard' on Sunday. In addition, two BAR mechanics were punched, and Red Bull's team members wisely made their way back to the hotel wearing 'Indy' t-shirts.
Ecclestone, though, also suggested that the Speedway can handle the often inconvenient nuances of racing. ''IRL and NASCAR can be delayed because of rain,'' he noted. GMMf1NET
FIA to grill Michelin This Grandprix.com article says, We hear that the FIA has ordered Michelin to supply it with full details of all of its tyre failures in recent times and that the federation has instructed the French tyre maker that the information will be put in front of an independent technical expert to decide whether or not Michelin's F1 tyres are dangerous. We have not not seen the letter from FIA President Max Mosley to Michelin but apparently it suggests that the outcome of this could be the exclusion of Michelin from the World Championship, which would leave seven teams with no tyres for future races. As most of the cars are designed specifically for Michelin tyres this would mean that cars could not be run because of safety issues. We expect to see the teams providing a robust defence of the charges against them and we would expect to see a similar reaction from Michelin. The alternative is for the companies involved to begin to quit the F1 scene - which is quite possible now - which would be the start of an even bigger disaster for the sport. The FIA World Council next week will be the most significant FIA meeting for more than 10 years with the major question not being the details of what happened in Indianapolis but rather whether the best interest of the sport is to have a World Championship featuring the best of the best or a ruined championship over which the FIA has full control to do as it pleases. In the second case, it is likely that there will be a rival championship featuring the refugees of F1 as we now know it. For us, there is only one acceptable answer but we must see if the World Council members agree or whether they believe that it is best to kill what we have and start again with something new.
BMW looking at Minardi Our F1 moles in Indy tell us that BMW will supply engines to Sauber next year but are right now looking very seriously at buying Minardi. Minardi would 1) cost a lot less to buy than Sauber; 2) part of the Sauber engine deal would include use of the Austrian team's wind tunnel to develop the Minardi BMW; 3) Despite the lack of solid results, Minardi is a very well-run team with a hard-working, passionate staff that absolutely love their team and their jobs; 4) Minardi do more with less than probably any team in the history of F1. With a little more money and support from BMW this team could go far. On the down side, BMW could screw it up royally if they 1) Try to make it a "German team" - let Stoddart and the Italians continue to run it with technical support from the Germans!
USGP not dead yet One day after a fiasco at Indianapolis Motor Speedway led many to say Formula One racing would never return to the city, Speedway President Joie Chitwood said the U.S. Grand Prix might be back next year.
The Speedway's decision will be made in the best interest of the track, its fans, the city of Indianapolis and Central Indiana, Chitwood said. He alluded to the investment made in F-1 and the local economic impact that has been estimated at $170 million.
"(The decision) is going to affect a lot of people. It's important that we understand our role in this and make some good decisions," he said. Indy Star
FIA to kick Michelin outUPDATE This PDF file is a copy of correspondence between the FIA and Michelin back on June 1st and 2nd whereby the FIA warns Michelin that their tires appear to be having too many failures and a letter back from Michelin assuring the FIA that their tires are safe and undergo the highest levels of quality control and quality assurance. A few short weeks later disaster strikes at Indy and the sport is thrown into a turmoil. This of course makes one wonder if indeed the rumor is true that the FIA will kick Michelin out of F1. 06/19/05 According to reliable sources Forza Motorsport can exclusively reveal that FIA will kick Michelin out of the championship next year and make Bridgestone sole supplier of tires next season in formula 1. The situation in the USA can best be described with two words: anger and chaos! FIA is very upset with Michelin and will in a few weeks publicly present that Michelin will be kicked out of the championship." Source
Goodyear to bring new tire to Pocono Goodyear officials are reviewing the tire situation at Pocono and likely will decide this week whether to introduce a new tire for the second Pocono race July 24. Problems were not associated with this tire combination during tests or the race at Las Vegas, but there were plenty of problems June 12 during the Pocono 500. Goodyear's Rick Campbell says there still is time to change the tire combination for the next race at Pocono. Ricky Rudd, who had six cut tires at Pocono, says the tunnel turn at Pocono became rough over the winter. "It was like driving over a brick on the highway," he says. Rudd says he expects changes to be made in the track's surface. Sporting News
Evernham to get Valvoline? Valvoline has been associated with MBV and Nelson Bowers since 2001, but it is expected to sell its shares back to the team at the end of the season. Centrix Financial is expected to sponsor the #10 Chevrolet, which is being driven by Scott Riggs. Sporting News
Portland Champ Car race to continue While the attendance numbers of over 64,000 over the three days in Portland weren't staggering, they did represent a slight improvement over 2004. And according to Champ Car majority owner Kevin Kalkhoven, this race no longer is on the endangered species list.
"No, no, no," said Kalkhoven, who was encouraged by the return of longtime sponsor G.I. Joe's this year and the addition of Intel's corporate muscle.
"You can't turn anything (completely) around in a year, but to be honest, I'm actually very happy about the way the numbers have turned out," he said. "We're committed to Portland. . . . It's unfortunate that we've had to drop places like Road America (and Laguna Seca and Mid-Ohio) because it simply wasn't working. . . . But Portland, I believe, can work."
Champ Car, sensing a big opportunity, announced Sunday that it will honor ticket stubs from the U.S. Grand Prix at this week's race in Cleveland.
Still dripping from the post race podium champagne shower, Tracy said, "This was a big day for our series because of what happened at the Formula One race. . . . People don't forget that sort of thing. And today, we put on a good show on national TV. Hopefully, we won some fans."
Of course Champ Car/CART lost some fans from two races that were postponed in the past - Texas and Fontana. Hopefully they learned their lesson and will always have a backup plan and not let politics come before the race fans like it did yesterday in Indianapolis.
FIA called teams bluff Rumor has it that the teams didn't think the FIA would really start yesterday's USGP with just six cars on the grid. In fact the drivers stayed in their cars until the 2nd or 3rd lap watching on TV monitors and it could be overheard on the scanner teams telling a driver when to get out and verifying that all the Michelin runners were in the garage and not running. Kimi Raikkonen's team could be heard telling him that all his main points paying competitors never took the green. He then hopped out of the car, shook his head and walked away. All the drivers helplessly watched the TV monitors in disbelief.
F1's US future in doubt If America wasn't keen on F1 before Sunday's US grand prix, the sport is now on a life-support machine after the farcical Indianapolis race. Indy CEO Tony George, though, swiftly swung the forehand of blame directly across the Atlantic. ''(F1) made decisions on an individual basis,'' he insisted.
In a statement, George then urged disgruntled race goers to let Michelin, the FIA, and Bernie Ecclestone's FOM company know what they think by publishing their contact details. Speedway president Joie Chitwood admitted that the future of the race in Indiana, with a contract until 2006, now sat under a grey cloud.
He said, also dodging a question about ticket refunds: ''We feel as victimized as the fans do. I'm not sure if the situation is repairable. I hope it is.'' ''We'll be evaluating our position on what's going to happen.'' GMMf1NET
What would Bill France have done at Indy? "My general feeling is what Bill France Jr of NASCAR would have done in the same situation. He has been in this type of crisis three or four times in the past when drivers have been injured when tires blew. He has always had a back-up plan. The race has always gone ahead with a full field. If Bill France was here today the 14 drivers who parked their cars would be history.
"This could kill Formula 1 in America. It has been on the ropes for a long time. It has a credibility problem. This was stupid, really stupid. There is no excuse for not having a Plan B, for not putting on a show and running the race. It is arrogance and stupidity that has caused this. It shows no respect for the people watching in the grandstands and on TV. It is slap in the face for the US public." Mike Mulhern, Winston Salem Journal
Ganassi to expand to 4-car team At a press conference later today Chip Ganassi will start reshaping the future of the team by formally announcing long-rumored changes that will yield Marlin's #40 Dodge to driver David Stremme. "It wasn't an easy decision, I'll tell you that," Ganassi said. "I'm sure if you were to ask Rick Hendrick if Tim Richmond or Geoff Bodine contributed to his team's overall success, he'd answer 'yes.' Sterling's done that for us, too, and that's why I'm not just cutting him loose, even though at the end of this contract I didn't owe him anything." Engineered by Ganassi, Marlin will get a substantial, six-figure, three-year personal services contract -- the money coming in equal parts from Ganassi and Coors. According to Ganassi, the changes won't stop with the #40 Dodge -- though such aren't scheduled to be formally announced today. Reed Sorenson, also recent grist in the rumor mill, will be moving up to Cup, too -- but not at the expense of Casey Mears, as many have predicted. Though all the parts have yet to fall perfectly into place, Ganassi is working toward fielding a four-car Nextel Cup effort in 2006. There's even a fairly substantial chance of Ganassi's Rolex Series effort growing from two to three DP cars in 2006. Daytona Beach News Journal
Kalkhoven to continue backing Legge Katherine Legge, who won the first time out in her Toyota Atlantic race debut at Long Beach earlier this year, is backed by series co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven. However, his commitment to her runs out in two races and although she is hard at work trying to find additional funding, it is thought that Kalkhoven will back her to the end of the season if she falls short because Legge may be Champ Car's answer to Danica Patrick if she is able to move up to Champ Car in 2006. Mark C.
Sauber to race - JV Jacques Villeneuve has suggested that Sauber will contest Sunday's F1 grand prix at Indianapolis. The Canadian said it's more a 'car-tire-setup' problem for some Michelin teams, rather than an inherent tire fault per se. ''It's always been two teammates having problems,'' the 34-year-old noted. ''We are quite safe with our tires. I think we are ok.''
The latest suggested solution to the debacle, meanwhile, is to allow every car - Bridgestone teams included - an extra set of tires for the race. JV's teammate, Felipe Massa, reckons the Indy turn's abrasive surface might have something to do with the failures. ''The load is a lot higher on the banking,'' said the Brazilian, ''and the temperature then goes up a lot.'' GMMf1NET
SC rule to be changed A rapid change to the safety car regulations may be agreed at Indy. McLaren's Ron Dennis fronted the initiative that, following a pace car period, three laps should be run in a 'yellow flag' (no passing) situation. After the Michelin tire debacle in the United States, rumored to have been sparked by teams running too-low tire pressure, the team boss said: ''We hope all the teams will agree. ''We have asked (them) to consider amending (the rule).'' GMMF1NET
Indy race under threatUPDATE #2 Bernie Ecclestone has said he is absolutely sure that Michelin's tire dramas will not lead to a mass withdrawal from tomorrow's United States Grand Prix. Ecclestone is due to hold a meeting with team bosses at Indianapolis on Saturday afternoon to discuss the tire situation, with Michelin wanting to be allowed to run new specification tires for Sunday's race after Ralf Schumacher's practice accident. Michelin's hopes of being allowed to run with those new tires will depend on unanimous approval from the teams, and permission from the FIA – but Ecclestone is confident that a solution can be found.
"I think they (the Michelin runners) will find a tire that will work and they will be able to start alright," said Ecclestone in an interview with ITV.
When asked whether he would allow the teams to run with the new tires, Ecclestone said it was likely but the decision could lead to post-race protests from rival teams. "I think if they do (run the new tires), they will be in breach of regulations, that is obvious, but I am sure the stewards will let them run and we will see afterwards what will happen," he explained.
Ecclestone made it clear, however, that he had no doubts there would be a full grid for the start of the race. "Absolutely," he claimed. "I am 100 percent sure it will happen." Atlas/Autosport
06/18/05 Renault say they will not race in Sunday's U.S. Grand Prix if Michelin are denied permission to bring in new tires. "We fully support Michelin in this situation, and in the efforts they are making to best resolve it," Renault boss Flavio Briatore told the team's official website on Saturday. "They are flying out different tires to use in tomorrow's race, the same that were used in Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix," he said. "The authorization to use them has not yet been granted but if that were not given, we would not compete in tomorrow's race. The safety of our drivers remains our number one priority." 06/18/05 Michelin clad Formula One teams have threatened to pull out of the United States grand prix if not authorized to race Michelin's emergency tire spec. The tire, designed for Barcelona, is en route to Indianapolis following safety concerns with the two existing specifications. ''We fully support Michelin in this situation,'' said Renault principal Flavio Briatore.
Using the new tire would require the FIA and Bridgestone teams Ferrari, Jordan and Minardi's consent. Briatore said that authorization has not yet been granted. ''If (not),'' the Italian warned, ''we would not compete in tomorrow's race. The safety of our drivers remains our number one priority.'' GMMF1NET
Roush 2006 lineup almost complete Geoff Smith, president of Roush Racing, said Friday that the Roush lineup for 2006 is all but complete, with sponsors and drivers for four of its five Nextel Cup cars showing no major changes. DeWalt will return to Matt Kenseth's #17, National Guard/Subway/etc. to Greg Biffle's #16, Rubbermaid/Smirnoff and others with Kurt Busch's #97, and all races accounted for with Carl Edwards's #99. The million-dollar question, of course, has been who will take over for retiring veteran Mark Martin in the flagship #6. Sponsor Pfizer will leave after this season, as has been known for weeks, but Smith said the sponsor issue is more a matter of placing the right company with the right driver. Smith continues to hint that Jon Wood, still under contract with Roush while driving on loan in the Busch Series, could be the front-runner for the job. "We have at least one sponsor who is very interested in Jon," Smith said. Smith also dismissed reports that Valvoline, one-time primary sponsor of Martin and the #6, could return as sponsor of Martin's Roush-backed Craftsman Truck effort next season. Smith said Roush Racing has a company-wide supplier agreement with Quaker State [Pennzoil], and that such a nostalgic coupling would not be possible. Ford Racing
Ganassi announcement slated for Sunday NASCAR’s Youth Movement has swept aside veteran Sterling Marlin. Months of speculation about the future of the 47-year-old racer from Columbia will end at a press conference tomorrow at Michigan International Speedway when David Stremme, 27, is introduced as Marlin’s replacement for Chip Ganassi Racing. “They decided they wanted a younger driver,” Marlin said yesterday from the track where he is preparing for tomorrow’s Nextel Cup race. “They’re going with Stremme.” Marlin said he “understands” that he will finish out the season in the #40 Dodge he has driven for the past eight years. “I think they may put Stremme in another car [#39?] for about four races,” he said, “but as far as I know I’ll run them all.” Tennessean
Abrasive Indy surface may force Michelin to switch Although Michelin is not 100% certain what is causing the spat of tire failures its drivers experienced on Friday (aren't tire wars lovely?) but the thought is that the diamond grinding used to fix the defective paving job on the oval section of the track has made the surface extra abrasive and hence causing the Michelin tire failures. Michelin is said to be trying to get approval to fly in a new batch of tires overnight from France.
F1 calendar could shrink Moves are afoot to start chopping down F1's unprecedentedly long grand prix race calendar. Although Bernie Ecclestone is thought keen on adding one more to make twenty, the Concorde Agreement stipulates a maximum of seventeen GP stops. Going beyond 17 requires the agreement of the teams.
''Seventeen is enough,'' said Peter Sauber, boss of F1's most successful independent team. ''All these back to backs are too much for the team.''
The final straw, according to reports, was F1 supremo Ecclestone's intention to stage even more back-to-back races to accommodate the World Cup. ''I'm not sure the public want or need this many races,'' said BAR boss Nick Fry. And Sir Frank Williams remarked: ''The more races there are, the richer Bernie gets, the poorer the teams are.'' GMMf1NET
Webber under fire Mark Webber has fired a dart at speculation he is not cutting the mustard at a top F1 outfit. Some say the Australian, who debuted for Minardi in 2002, is only able to shine in a low rung team, and has only ever tackled untalented teammates.
''That's just Formula One,'' Williams' Webber, 28, smiled at Indy. ''You have a bad race or two and you get this sort of questioning. I know what I'm capable of and what I can achieve.''
The biggest question mark has been raised since German teammate Nick Heidfeld surfaced as the coming man of Grove. Previously, Webber had been paired, also at Jaguar, alongside Alex Yoong, Antonio Pizzonia, Justin Wilson and - last season - Christian Klien.
''Up to now I've had my teammate fairly well under control,'' Mark agreed, ''but it's a close fight between Nick and I. But I see a strong teammate as a good thing. It's a great feeling when you beat a guy of Nick's caliber.'' GMMf1NET
Rookie pair learning their way Word here in the Portland paddock is that rookie Michael Valiante and his rookie race engineer Kyle Brannen are still feeling their way at Portland. It is only Valiante's second Champ Car race and most of Brannen's experience comes from Toyota Atlantic where he was a top engineer. The two have never worked together, let alone on a Champ Car so they have yet to hit upon a good setup on the Dale Coyne Lola.
We also hear that Valiante (right) is hopeful he will keep the ride for the rest of the season, but that has not been decided yet. This weekend is a tryout of sorts we suspect. If he does stay, Valiante will need a new engineer in Cleveland as Brannen has commitments in Grand-Am after this. It is possible that Sperafico's new engineer, Brian Ma, could engineer both of Coyne's cars, but that is far from an ideal situation.
As with young Hunter-Reay, it's important for young Valiante to have the right support structure around them to succeed. Although Champ Car currently has four Canadian drivers, that could change in the wink of an eye with Andrew Ranger eyeing F1 and Paul Tracy eyeing NASCAR. With three important races in Canada, Champ Car needs Canadian drivers running up near the front and contending for podium positions. Ditto of course for all countries Champ Car races in, but Canada, the USA and Mexico are strategic markets.
Ma moves to Coyne Word here in the Portland paddock is that race engineer Brian Ma has moved from Rocketsports to Dale Coyne Racing and is engineering Ricardo Sperafico's car this weekend, which by the way, is carrying a new sponsor this weekend (see photo to right). There has been no announcement but he was definitely working for Coyne's team and we assume the move was permanent.
Ma was the engineer for Ryan Hunter-Reay (left)and now we hear that Hunter-Reay has no engineer at all. Hunter-Reay was a frontrunner the last two years and we know he did not forget how to drive over the winter. To see him struggling and mired at the back of the grid just about every race this year is really bad news for Champ Car, which needs as many Americans as possible doing well. The second Rocketsports car has always struggled, regardless of the driver.
“Well, we obviously are not where we want to be," said Hunter-Reay. "It is a bit disappointing to be 16th right now, so it is going to take a lot of work for tomorrow. I was experiencing braking issues and the rear was really moving around on me this afternoon. I am not really sure what is going on, so we will have to put all of our heads together tonight and get it figured out for tomorrow.”
F1 musings Formula 1 appears to be gaining in popularity in North America right now. The Canadian Grand Prix recorded its biggest ever race day crowd of 121,000 on Sunday, this despite a poor showing from local boy Jacques Villeneuve. The local media seemed more interested in the fact that the Quebecois driver was coming in for plenty of criticism from team boss Peter Sauber and even Bernie Ecclestone, rather than events on the race track.
Down south from Montreal, in the USA, rumors surfaced that Las Vegas now wants to host a grand prix, not to replace the one at Indianapolis, but to revive the idea of having two grands prix in the States. If the deal came off, it would not be the first time that the gambling city staged a Formula race. Back in 1981 and '82, a grand prix was held in the car park of the Caesar's Palace Casino.
The appearance of California's Scott Speed in the third Red Bull Racing car on Friday in Canada and Indy has also generated more interest in the sport on this side of the Atlantic, as has the appointment of former Indy racer Gil de Ferran to the role of sporting director at BAR. Another homegrown talent was the star of the show at Indianapolis, at least on the Thursday. Danica Patrick, the best woman racer to come along in a long while, who finished fourth in the Indianapolis 500 a few weeks ago and took the "Rookie of the Year" award, was in attendance on Thursday. Miss Patrick cannot stay for the race weekend as she is attending the premiere of Disney's "Herbie, Fully Loaded," film featuring a much slower form of transport in the form of the famous VW Beetle car. Indy 500 winner, Dan Wheldon, will also return to the scene of his triumph to watch the F1 race and inevitably the rumor mill is working overtime, suggesting he is trying to secure an F1 drive for next year.
The Jordan team has a new Sporting Director in the shape of Adrian Burgess, who was already filling the role of team manager. His appointment comes after the departure of Trevor Carlin, who is returning to look after his own Carlin Motorsport teams in other formulae. Jordan MD Colin Kolles claimed Carlin was leaving because he could no longer face the 90 minute drive to and from work every day!
The Montreal weekend ended in style with the now traditional Cirque du Soleil party, held to celebrate Cirque owner Guy Laliberte's birthday. Taking place a short drive out side the city centre, this event has become one of the social highlights of the F1 calendar and half the paddock seemed to be in attendance, Michael Schumacher, wearing a cowboy hat, while rather surprisingly, Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa were the stars of the dance floor. There were a few sore heads on Monday morning, as many people rushed straight from the party to the airport to hop onto flights to Indianapolis.
Coyne eyes ValianteUPDATE #5 It looks as if Michael Valiante has finally caught a break. The talented driver from Burnaby, B.C., will be behind the wheel of a Dale Coyne Motorsports car in Sunday's Champ Car race in Portland, Ore. That could well transform into a season-long ride, including the July 10 Toronto Molson Indy, for the 24-year-old, who has been desperately seeking a spot with a Champ Car team after three outstanding seasons in the developmental Toyota Atlantic series.
Valiante raises the Canadian contingent in the series to four, as he joins Paul Tracy, Alex Tagliani and rookie Andrew Ranger. He gets the seat of Spaniard Oriol Servia, who moved from the Coyne team to Newman/Haas racing to replace the injured Bruno Junqueira. "I'm looking forward to this weekend," Valiante said. "I've been trying to get this opportunity for a long time. It's unfortunate what happened with Bruno and I hate to see anything like that, but that's how things happen in racing sometimes and that freed up this seat for me.
"Portland is one of the most difficult tracks to jump into because it has a lot of very fast corners and they are very long in duration, so you're turning a lot at high speeds. So for us it will be important to get the car right in those sections this weekend."
Team owner Coyne said Valiante was tested in the off-season and was the first driver he turned to when Servia decided to join Newman/Haas. "When we needed a driver, he was the first guy that we thought of," he said. "He tested for us here Wednesday and was very professional."
Valiante made his Champ Car debut in the final race of the 2004 season in Mexico City for Walker Racing and finished 14th. He was hoping to race full-time for Walker this season but couldn't come up with the sponsorship dollars to secure a ride. Toronto Star
06/15/05 With no rubber on the track, Valiante turned mid-59 second laps early on today in Portland in the No. 19 AMR car vacated by Oriol Servia.. The fastest time in recent Portland testing was AJ Allmendinger at 57.04 sec. and the fastest time turned by Servia on that day was 58.15 sec, again on a well rubbered in track and 58.9 sec on the first day of the test, which shows how much faster the track gets as rubber is laid down. The team spent much of the day getting familiar with each other and testing various setups. Heavy rains are forecast Thursday and into Friday with clearing before race day on Sunday. It appears we may see wet weather qualifying. 06/15/05 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact.' Michael Valiante was in the car today at Portland. No other drivers were tested and we hear Valiante will indeed race this weekend for Dale Coyne Racing. We hope to have his lap times soon. 06/10/05 We spoke to Dale Coyne this afternoon who informed us that he will test Michael Valiante next Wednesday at Portland, just prior to the race weekend. He may test a second, as yet unnamed driver, as well. Mark C.06/05/05 Coyne was particularly miffed that he didn't find out about Servia's departure until Wednesday afternoon, and then only from another driver calling to inquire about taking over Servia's car. "I want a driver who is going to be loyal to the team now and in the future," said Coyne, who had a handshake agreement but no contract with Servia since they hooked up last year. "If it had been for the rest of the season, that's one thing, but to do it for one race doesn't make a lot of sense to me." We hear Coyne will test Valiante for Servia's seat this week at Putnam Park. 06/03/05 We hear that ex-Champ Car driver Christian Fittipaldi is talking to Dale Coyne about replacing Oriol Servia. Coyne is not happy with Servia because he found out he wasn't driving for him this weekend from another driver and never got a call from Oriol.
Will Marco make it to F1? As Marco, Mario and Michael Andretti (right) surveyed the activities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Thursday, one could not help but wonder if we will ever see another Andretti in F1, and more specifically at a USGP. Marco will be racing in the Infiniti Pro Series race this weekend where the competition is less than stout. He is expected to do well. A better measure of whether Marco Andretti is good enough for F1, however, will come from his results in the Star Mazda series. He has had a couple of top-5 results, but can't touch series leader Raphael Matos, who is head and shoulders better than the rest so far this year.
In equally prepared cars, Marco is going to have to show us whether he can beat Matos before we can say he's ready to go up against a Kimi Raikkonen or Fernando Alonso. We think he might be. Marco has done well up until now in his career, but as he moves up the ladder the competition is getting tougher. And of course the IRL has their eyes on him, so whether he ever tries F1 like his grandfather Mario (1978 F1 Champion) and father Michael (1993 partial year in F1 where he was screwed by Ron Dennis) did, remains to be seen, but it sure would be nice to see another Andretti in F1 some day. F1 in the USA is in need of more media attention, and Marco certainly would bring that.
A1-Ring plan back on track The redevelopment of Austria's defunct F1 circuit, the A1-Ring, may now be back on track. It is reported that Red Bull billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz's planned $800m project, canned after the objection of environmentalists and the demolition of the site, could be revived.
A Red Bull dossier confirmed that, with legal permission, the company is 'available' to continue with its ambitious plans. ''The new site would be much better and more scenic than the old (A1 Ring),'' said a leading figure of the venture. GMMF1net
Ron Dennis and McLaren to reject FIA proposal We have it on good word that Ron Dennis and his McLaren team will vehemently object to today's FIA proposal to whack most of the needless technology and hence cost out of F1 in 2008. The FIA press release (See Home page) isn't really anything new, just more detail on earlier proposals. It all makes a lot of sense and will move F1 very close to Champ Car. Ron Dennis, having spent ungodly sums of money to develop his new technical center will immediately shoot holes in this proposal since it will essentially shutter his technical playground for engineers. Quick someone send Ron a For Sale sign. With the tranquil lake next door, the building would make a great Nursing Home.
We also hear that the GPWC (manipulated like puppets by Dennis behind the scenes) will soon issue a press release of their own stating that they are moving ahead with their breakaway series.
However, in the end, the FIA will win because their proposal makes far too much sense and ultimately the manufacturers will agree that cutting costs is the way to go. His McLaren empire about to collapse, Ron Dennis was said to have steam coming out from his ears this morning and shaking uncontrollably after having read the proposal. That shot would have made our next picture of the week list for certain.
Schuey to quit soonUPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. Ferrari's Michael Schumacher, asked to confirm his plans, particularly after younger brother Ralf told a German newspaper he felt the seven-times world champion might retire soon, Schumacher replied: "That's very easy. To keep on racing.
"As long as I am competitive and you are happy to see me I will keep on," he told the crowd in an open air question session at Indianapolis.
Ralf had told Germany's Sport Bild newspaper Wednesday that, with Ferrari no longer winning, Schumacher was not enjoying the sport as much as he had in the past and did not believe he would continue for much longer.
Asked whether he had set himself a target of 10 world titles, a feat that would have to involve racing long after his contract with Ferrari expires at the end of 2006, Schumacher smiled.
"Rumors, that's what the press lives from," he said. "There is no such target for me. I just want to enjoy as long as I can enjoy, and I only enjoy it if I am competitive. And I feel competitive still," said Schumacher. "As long as this is the case, I keep on. The main target arrived in 2000, the first championship achieved together with Ferrari. That was so outstanding for all of us that ever since, anything that arrived after that was just a present. I'm not targeting anything in particular except running, enjoying and getting such support as I'm getting here today."
"If I listen to the support we should do it, there shouldn't be any question of that, as you have seen lately, we are sort of struggling a little bit. We are pushing very hard to get the car back to the competitiveness we had in the past and last year but competition is tough. Those other guys and teams are doing a great job and it's difficult to beat them at the moment," said Schumacher. "It's just a different challenge...we have the speed. We are there in terms of speed, we just don't get it there all the time and particularly in qualifying. We have been winning for the last five or six years and at some stage you have to accept that maybe somebody else can do a better job. It's our motivation and challenge to show again that we can come back and I am so confident about that, I have no doubts about it. It just may take a little bit longer."
06/15/05 Ralf Schumacher predicts older brother Michael to walk away from Formula One in the near future because he is not longer enjoying the sport. "I don't believe that Michael will be driving for very much longer," Ralf told German newspaper Sport Bild.
"He'll stay as long as he's having fun but is not having fun at the moment and I'm anxious to see what will happen. Ferrari have passed their zenith," said Ralf Schumacher, adding that the team's problems were caused by more than their under-performing Bridgestone tires.
"They did a great job in past years but they're not doing it anymore. Mistakes have crept in other areas. It can be seen as a sign of weakness that Ferrari introduced their new car so late in the season. I'm not sure whether someone who has had such a successful time, as Ferrari has had, can still have the bite to fight back to the top."
"When Michael leaves then a lot of good people will leave at the same time," he said. "After that it will be very difficult for Ferrari to get back to the top. I'm not sure that would even be possible."
DC and BAR Add veteran driver David Coulthard's name to the ever impatient 2005 'silly season'. Red Bull's Christian Horner told Autosport that he would not let a rumor linking the 34-year-old with a move to BAR 'distract' him or the team.
Also on BAR's potential short list, should Jenson Button move to Frank Williams' team, are Nick Heidfeld, Rubens Barrichello and Anthony Davidson. DC's current boss added: ''If David wants to drive here, and we want him, it will happen.''
Brackley tester Davidson, meanwhile, reckons countryman and Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon is 'desperate' to jump the queue en route to F1. ''There are plenty of guys,'' said the Englishman, defending his decision to spurn a Champ Car ride, ''who would kill to be in my position.'' GMMF1.net
Williams, Honda and Cosworth BAR co-owner Honda has thrown water on speculation that it may offer a dual 'works' engine contract to Williams next year. The Japanese marque's race vice president Otmar Szafnauer told Motorsport News that time has nearly run out for a '06 deal to be struck.
He also warned that any second engine arrangement would be an effective 'customer' deal, with BAR remaining the only works team. Szafnauer confirmed: ''We have had the question ... but from other teams, not just Williams. ''I would imagine that ... we are too late for next year.''
And, with Jordan likely to pull together a new Toyota deal, the Honda man's comments leave Williams pondering - other than BMW - the only other real option; Cosworth. The combo won the 1982 championship. GMMF!.net
Combining IPS and Toyota Atlantic Hand-in-hand with discussion that the IRL might merge with Champ Car is the issue of the support series. Toyota Atlantic this year has over 20 cars and IPS averages around 12. Combined they would yield 30 car fields, which would be fantastic as a feeder series. The question is who would supply the engines - Toyota, Infiniti or Cosworth. Probably not Toyota because they no longer want to sponsor the series, just be an engine supplier. We could see a Cosworth engine badged by Infiniti or another manufacturer with some direct link to the "tuner" market.
Hill to test GP2 car Former World Champion Damon Hill will test a GP2 car at Paul Ricard in France later this month according to a report in Motorsport News. "It is a while since I have been in a car like a GP2, but I would be interested to see what the cars are like," said Hill. No official announcement has been made yet.
Firman resets F1 or Champ Car focus 2003 Jordan driver Ralph Firman is hoping to resurrect his failed Formula One race career. The Briton, 29, has touched down in Malaysia to steer a Honda NSX in the Japan GT series -- the category that launched his grand prix flirt.
''I was hopeful of securing a race or test role in F1 last season,'' Firman said at Sepang. He told Malaysia's 'The Star' newspaper: ''But I was let down. ''My objective now,'' Ralph added, ''is to ... re-establish my career in single seaters for this year and 2006.' He was eyeing Champ Car and that, or GP2, is probably his best bet because F1 would be a real stretch.
Heidfeld in F1 'talks' Germany's Nick Heidfeld is pretty such he won't be flicked off F1's fickle merry-go-round at the end of the year. The 28-year-old former Sauber and Jordan driver was signed by Williams to, effectively, warm Jenson Button's 2006 seat.
But, to many observers' wonder, 'Quick Nick' is not only ahead of countrymen Michael and Ralf Schumacher in the F1 standings, but also highly rated teammate Mark Webber.
''There have been loose talks with some teams,'' Heidfeld told f1.com, ''but it's much too early ... to make a commitment for the next season. When the transfer carousel starts to move I want to be in the best possible situation.''
If he must move on, though, Heidfeld - once a Mercedes-Benz protégé and F3000 champion - won't resent Sir Frank.
Nick admitted that - for himself - the 'Jenson situation' was a 'lucky strike.' ''I'm grabbing (the opportunity) with both hands. I always knew that if I got the chance to drive for a top team, I would show good performance.' GMMf1NET
Driver to quit IRLUPDATE #6 Al Unser III has been confirmed today as driver in the No. 10 Brooks Associates Toyota Atlantic car as a teammate with Andreas Wirth for the rest of the year. Bospoker.net was confirmed as the sponsor. Bospoker.com (a related company) will also sponsor four Toyota Atlantic races, again as we originally reported weeks ago. Unser said he hopes this deal will be for several years. 06/13/05 Look for Al Unser III to be officially announced Tuesday. This story, broke by AutoRacing1.com weeks ago, is significant because 1) It brings the great Unser name back to Champ Car and 2) It prevents the renewal of the great Unser vs. Andretti battles for many years (Marco Andretti is in the IRL ladder series) and is another reason why the silly split between Champ Car and the IRL must end. Open Wheel/Indy Car Racing needs all the great 'rivalries' it can get and loss of this rivalry only dilutes open wheel racing and enables the France family to toast Tony George for continuing the split while they and their NASCAR series laugh all the way to the bank. 06/09/05 This Saturday at 11am @ the Hayden Island GI Joe’s and 3pm @ the new Johnson Creek GI Joe’s (82nd Ave) will feature an open Mechanics Forum put on by Toyota Atlantic owner John Brooks (Brooks Racing), engineer Peter Jacobs, driver Al Unser III and Team Manager, Vince Cramer from HVM Racing. All interested should head out to one of the GI Joe’s – the forum is free to interested guests. 05/27/05 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. See announcement on our Home Page about Al Unser III. 05/25/05 We are hearing that this announcement will be made before the weekend. Stay tuned...but recall we told you it could be an IPS or and IndyCar driver. 05/20/05 This rumor is close to becoming 'fact' as we hear the deal is signed, sealed and delivered and Champ Car is just waiting for the right moment to make the announcement. Mark C.05/13/05 We are hearing that one fairly popular driver in the Indy Racing League paddock is close to jumping ship to the Champ Car paddock, possibly as early as next week. What's not clear is whether it is an IndyCar driver or an IPS driver. We are also hearing that after the crashes at Motegi and again this week at Indy that many of the drivers look concerned. Also hearing that you probably won't see Michael Andretti risking his son Marco's well-being on any of the high banked tracks the IPS races on.
Bremer out, Verstappen in?UPDATE #4 According to Ronnie Bremer, he will be in the HVM car this weekend in Portland as the team has given him more time to find the extra sponsorship. Mark C. 06/13/05 Team Manager Keith Wiggins of HVM told AutoRacing1.com, "The team and Ronnie are working through the hiccups that have occurred with his backing. We are working together to get the issues resolved, but we will run two cars at Portland regardless." The bottom line - the team would like to keep Ronnie but they also need money to operate, so if Ronnie can't come up with the money and another driver can, they would get the ride. We were told that many drivers have contacted the team about the possible open seat. Mark C.06/13/05 A Danish reader informs us - An article in Danish news about Ronnie Bremer being out of his ride. The article says that he confirms things look bleak and that he needed 500,000 USD by today for his contract. He had contacted Lego and other Danish companies, but no luck. It's really too bad for his career - he beat Danica Patrick in Atlantics and Wirdheim consistently this year. It's also a loss for Champ Car as, despite a mechanical DNF, he is tied for 2nd in the rookie of the year standings and has led in two races. Dennis Johansen06/13/05 Ronnie Bremer may be out of the HVM team by the time Champ Car hits Portland International Raceway this weekend. The Danish rookie has admitted on his personal website that he needs to raise $500,000 in order to keep his ride with Keith Wiggins’ squad. The Toyota Atlantic graduate has campaigned a sponsorless car in the first three rounds of the 2005 Champ Car World Series, in which he’s posted two top-10 finishes - seventh at Long Beach and eighth at Milwaukee. He is set to meet with prospective Danish sponsors today (Monday), and if no deal is agreed, the possibility of prematurely terminating his season is considerable. Dutchman Jos Verstappen, who tested with HVM in the off-season, reportedly has the backing to step in at Portland. Oddly, the news of Bremer’s financial difficulties were posted only on the Danish-language portion of the website, likely as a way to raise awareness with local sponsors. SPEEDTV.com06/09/05 According to our sources in Holland, Ronnie Bremer needs to come up with $0.5 million by Monday to honor his contract with HVM Racing. If not the seat may go to Jos Verstappen.
Wurz, Mercedes to Midland-JordanUPDATE It is very likely that Midland-Jordan will announce they will be using Mercedes engines in their F1 cars next season. Rumors were going round for a while but Jordan-Midland Team Manager Colin Kolles told F1Racing.net exclusively: "We will make an announcement at Indianapolis about the 2006 engine." 06/13/05 Alexander Wurz is set to race back onto the F1 grid next year. The McLaren tester, who drove 53 grands prix for Benetton until 2000, may be the showpiece of a $9m Mercedes Benz V8 engine deal for Jordan-Midland, a report revealed.
Currently Toyota powered Jordan remains, however, in negotiations with both Japanese and German carmakers. 31-year-old Wurz's latest three year contract at Mercedes' part owned team McLaren ends in November 2005. ''I am not aware of any discussions,'' Alex told a Salzburg (Austria) newspaper, ''or of the plans of McLaren.''
Champ Car TV partner to help promote the IRL Sources tell us that Champ Car's primary competitor, the IRL, will be the primary benefactor of CBS' 60 Minutes, which will be taping a segment on Danica Patrick scheduled to air sometime later this year. Some Champ Car races are telecast on CBS and Champ Car pays CBS to do that, rather than the reverse, making it an even harder pill to swallow.
Portland race on thin ice This Portland Oregonian article talks about the fact their Champ Car race is on thin ice. If the fans don't show up in large quantities this year, enough to cover costs, and if sponsorship falls short, the race might be history. While the article doesn't say it, the fact remains that many fans refuse to pay $50 to $80 for a grandstand seat for a race that is just 100 to 105 minutes long. To some it feels like it's over before it started. Some bemoan NASCAR for their long races and high ticket prices, but their attendance is huge and their TV ratings strong throughout the entire 3.5 to 4 hours. Perhaps fans feel they are getting more for their money with NASCAR.
Also, Champ Car did well at Portland back in their day when they had big name drivers like Andretti, Foyt and Unser. Heroes make or break a sport. Champ Car can help race promoters if its drivers were big stars - look at the Danica effect at Indy. Champ Car failed at places like Road America and Laguna Seca partially because of race promotion, but more because it no longer has the "big" stars it once had. As we have preached - fans will drive to remote tracks like Road America to see their hero. No heroes = poor race attendance, and if Champ Car thinks otherwise, it's kidding itself - its vision clouded by events like Long Beach which appeals to both hard core fans and casual fans because of the festive atmosphere.
Champ Car's ultimate success will be a direct result of whether it can make heroes out of its drivers. NASCAR recognized this decades ago and look where it is today.
Kimi and Ferrari Rumor has it that Kimi Raikkonen's management sat down for a chat with Jean Todt in Montreal. McLaren's Finnish driver, winner of three grands prix so far this year, is high on the Maranello based team's wish list for 2007 and beyond.
''I'm not going to comment about that,'' Frenchman Todt, Ferrari team principal, insisted. ''Drivers are not the priority today, winning is. Saying that, I was happy for Kimi (in Canada), he's a good guy, although I'd prefer Michael to win.''
Further probed about the inevitable post-Schumacher era, though, Todt said he 'wouldn't tell ... even if I had signed all the contracts.' He also insisted that Raikkonen is not the only young star on the grand prix grid.
''I see that (Felipe) Massa finished a brilliant fourth but nobody wants to write a word. 'People say my son runs his career and that's why he's here.''
Ferrari may race new engine Ferrari may unveil a new-specification V10 engine at Indy. Technical director Ross Brawn admitted that the Maranello based team is 'still to decide.' If the innovation is deemed not ready for the second of the North American double header, it'll appear in Britain. Brawn told Autosport: ''What we need is more performance.''
Grand-Am thought they were going to Long Beach We have it on good word from a Grand-Am insider that the series thought they were going to be racing in Long Beach next year (Saturday) with the IRL (Sunday). We heard similar talk from the IRL teams, who also expected to be there. However, Kevin Kalkhoven drew a line in the sand and stopped it by putting together a winning bid for Champ Car.
NASCAR eyes Russian driver NASCAR is beginning to formulate its international expansion plans by bringing in drivers one-by-one from foreign countries. We have seen drivers from Mexico, Brazil, Japan and soon Russia getting rides in NASCAR. This AutoWeek article says, NASCAR could have a Russian driver in the next two years if the ambitions of sports car driver Alexei Vasiliev come to fruition. The 32-year-old, who races a Ferrari 550 Maranello in Europe, wants to be on the grid in a NASCAR division next season. Vasiliev would then like to graduate to the Nextel Cup. Vasiliev tested the Douglas Racing team’s Goody’s Dash car at the Darlington and Hickory ovals last month. He has plans to do one ARCA race before the end of this season in preparation for more events in 2006. “NASCAR seems to be very open to having a Russian driver,” Vasiliev said. “Fifteen years ago that would not have been possible.”
Andrew Ranger eyes F1 Jordan F1 team owner Alex Shnaider says that he would like to have a Russian and a Canadian driving for the Midland F1 team in the future. The Toronto-based Russian is a naturalized Canadian and would love to see a driver from each country in his cars. Shnaider is understood to have met recently with rising Canadian star Andrew Ranger, who has been making a good impression this year in Champ Car. There were rumors in the Canadian press that Ranger may move to GP2 next year as he is keen to make his name in Formula 1 rather than have a career in the United States. Grandprix.com [Editor's Note: If Ranger moves to GP2 and then to F1 Champ Car will have lost a promising young Canadian, leaving Alex Tagliani as the lone Canadian if Paul Tracy moves to NASCAR as rumored. Perhaps this will open the door for another Canadian, Michael Valiante, who is fast and can win races (given the right team) but who currently lacks the financial backing. Perhaps he will get the ride with Dale Coyne to replace Oriol Servia.]
Labonte to sub for Leffler Terry Labonte is expected to substitute for Jason Leffler in the #11 Fed-Ex Chevy in the June 26 race at Sonoma if Leffler fails to climb into the top 35 in points by then. Drivers in the top 35 are guaranteed starting spots. Labonte is the safety net for the team because he has a champion's provisional, which guarantees him a starting spot. Leffler has run just one road course race, a Busch race in 2000 at Watkins Glen. Leffler crashed at Pocono but remained in the same points position, 36th, meaning he has to improve by one spot Sunday at Michigan to lock in for the race at Sonoma. Leffler says he has wrecked so many cars that "we're bringing cars back to the track that aren't in the best shape" because the fab shop hasn't had enough turnaround time. Sporting News
BMW to end 'tense' F1 deal? When BMW's Mario Theissen returns to Munich from North America mid next week, Williams co-owner Patrick Head's insulting words will ring in his ears. The German carmaker will, in June, decide whether or not to abandon Frank Williams' Grove crew and buy rival Sauber.
Theissen, motor sport director, said at Montreal: ''We'll probably discuss the role the statements of Patrick Head play, although I don't really rate them important.''
He also shot down reports he is keen to step on the throttle and become a team boss. ''BMW decisions are neither based on personal ambition,'' said the German, ''nor on emotional statements or what happens at a single race track.''
Similarly pressed by the media, though, Sir Frank froze up. ''I can't answer that,'' he said when asked about reported initial dealings with Cosworth, Toyota and Honda. 'I won't comment further on that topic,'' he said to another question.
Theissen said the BMW-Williams collaboration is 'naturally a little tense' after six years without a title. ''So I can understand a bit of emotion coming in,'' he explained. ''That's why we are carefully examining if we are on the correct road together.''
'JV, Sauber, won't split' Speculation of 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve's imminent Sauber split is untrue. That's the claim of his manager Craig Pollock, who dismissed the Montreal spat with Peter Sauber and said the pair get on 'excellently.' ''We are totally unaware of anything like (a split),'' Pollock - former BAR principal - told Britain's ITV.
He said JV, 34, had somehow emerged from a tough time with his local Canadian press. ''I have to say this year,'' Pollock reckoned, ''(they have) probably been the hardest on him. ''But it happens every year.''
Tracy eyes NASCARUPDATE #10 A reader writes, I just finished watching Wind Tunnel tonight with special guest co-host Paul Tracy and with the exception of a few good questions that made their way through to P.T. the show was a total waste of time. P.T. is one of the greatest Champ Car drivers of all time and once again three quarters of the show was dedicated to NASCAR and Dale Jr.. What a slap in the face of all Champ Car fans. I tried for two straight hours to get a phone call through because I had real Champ Car and P.T. questions to ask but never got through because they just kept taking calls for NASCAR. What a shame! I am also now a little worried about the amount of enthusiasm Tracy was showing to one day try his hand at stock car racing. I have always hoped that P.T. would go the same route as Jimmy Vasser and forgo NASCAR to become a team owner in Champ Car, but Tracy totally dismissed any notion of ever doing that. I hope P.T. at least races Champ Cars for another 3 or so years before calling it quits, giving some of the young up-and-coming Canadian drivers like Valiante, Ranger, Bessette and Lacroix time to make an impact and keep Champ Car the most popular racing in Canada. Only time will tell. Deke McTeer, Twin Lake, MI, Formerly Orangeville ON Canada
05/23/05 Roger Penske's search for a new driver to replace retiring Rusty Wallace has become one of this sport's biggest mysteries. #42-Jamie McMurray seemed the obvious pick for a while, but car owner Chip Ganassi doesn't seem a bit interested in letting McMurray move over to arch-rival Penske. #16-Greg Biffle has also been in the heavy speculation since his contract with Jack Roush is up at the end of the season. Biffle insists he's sticking with Roush. but adds the caveat that even if he were thinking about moving on, he'd be foolish to say anything about it right now. The latest Penske speculation focuses on Paul Tracy, a wildly aggressive Indy-car star who once drove for Penske - and who once worked with Matt Borland, one of Penske's top NASCAR crew chiefs, who works now with Ryan Newman. Borland said that Tracy might be a bit too aggressive for NASCAR's got-to-get-along world, but Borland said that if Tracy brings the right attitude, it could certainly work out. And Borland said it would be "very interesting" to watch Tracy learning to adjust to the NASCAR tour. Winston Salem Journal05/21/05 Paul Tracy, who is in the final year of his current contract with Forsythe Championship Racing, today downplayed reports of an impending move to NASCAR. “I have no urge to leave (Champ Cars),” he said. “I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot here,. I’ve won a lot of races; I’ve won a championship. But I want to win another championship, too. There’s some other races I’d like to win, too: Montreal, the new race in Edmonton….
“There’s lots of opportunities out there. People ask me if I’m thinking about retiring, but I’m not ready to retire. I still enjoy what I’m doing and I’m still competitive. But there’s lot of things I’d like to try. I’d like to try some more endurance racing, there’s NASCAR . . . I’d like to drive at Le Mans. But I don’t want to just drive around. I want to be in a situation where I can compete and win.
“Realistically, I’m 37 years old and I probably have two or three years (left) in Champ Cars. If the right opportunity came in NASCAR, I might be looking at extending my career another seven or 10 years. But I’m not about to go and do anything where I don’t have a similar situation to what I’ve got now: I’m with a championship-winning team and I have a chance to win some more races. If I were to go somewhere where I didn’t have that, where I was just driving around, I’d be miserable.” SPEEDTV.com05/09/05 Rumors about the racing future of Toronto's Paul Tracy in NASCAR were ratcheted up this weekend. This time the 36-year-old Champ Car World Series driver is being wooed by Penske Racing South. While there have been stories linking Tracy to a proposed American Le Mans Series team planned by Roger Penske, this is the first time that people are talking about him joining up with Penske's NASCAR program. The nucleus of the talks revolve around Penske needing a driver to replace Rusty Wallace in the #2 Dodge. More intriguing is talk in the NASCAR garage that Ryan Newman is unhappy with his progress in the #12 Penske Dodge. Toronto Sun05/09/05 Roger Penske's search for a new driver to replace retiring Rusty Wallace has become one of this sport's biggest mysteries. #42-Jamie McMurray seemed the obvious pick for a while, but car owner Chip Ganassi doesn't seem a bit interested in letting McMurray move over to arch-rival Penske. #16-Greg Biffle has also been in the heavy speculation since his contract with Jack Roush is up at the end of the season. Biffle insists he's sticking with Roush. but adds the caveat that even if he were thinking about moving on, he'd be foolish to say anything about it right now. The latest Penske speculation focuses on Paul Tracy, a wildly aggressive Indy-car star who once drove for Penske - and who once worked with Matt Borland, one of Penske's top NASCAR crew chiefs, who works now with Ryan Newman. Borland said that Tracy might be a bit too aggressive for NASCAR's got-to-get-along world, but Borland said that if Tracy brings the right attitude, it could certainly work out. And Borland said it would be "very interesting" to watch Tracy learning to adjust to the NASCAR tour. Winston Salem Journal05/06/05 Hearing that Paul Tracy met with Richard Childress at the recent Phoenix Nextel Cup race and may have gone so far as signing a $50,000 retainer on Tracy's services (option to negotiate a contract, not a full contract). This information is not confirmed but given Jimmy Vasser's statement this week that "Tracy is as good as gone," it's looking more and more likely that Champ Car has lost its biggest star to the deep pockets of the oval track cartel who continue to pick clean the CART carcass. Over the past several years we have seen the oval track cartel (IRL, NASCAR, Grand-Am) pick clean the Champ Car paddock of its sponsors, teams and manufacturers with the lure of money. The goal? To put Champ Car out of business. They have become a bit frustrated because the series keeps running like the Energizer Bunny, but that hasn't stopped the cartel from trying. Next on the agenda is to wrestle the Long Beach race from their grasp. 05/04/05 Overheard at Milwaukee yesterday when one fan asked Jimmy Vasser whether he thought Paul Tracy would go to NASCAR next year. Vasser's reported answer - "Tracy's as good as gone. He wants to be eaten alive by the NASCAR boys," or something to that effect. 04/24/05 We were told in Long Beach by Paul Tracy's mother that the rumors of him looking for a house in Charlotte were not true. What we heard since then (though it is unsubstantiated), is that a meeting took place in Vegas between Tracy and Roger Penske about next season's possible NASCAR ride. Supposedly Sony's President was also there (Las Vegas NASCAR race) to talk about sponsoring Paul’s Penske ride for '06. Unless NASCAR lands a race in Canada for 2006, however, we doubt Tracy will make the jump. His first priority will be to stay in Champ Car, which has three Canadian races. Not being sponsored in Champ Car could be a factor as well. Other drivers have been mentioned for the Penske seat if Penske buys out Rusty Wallace as rumored, not Tracy. The Sony piece is rather interesting as it could indicate a tie to Japanese brand Toyota and the rumors that Penske will start another Cup team with Toyota, separate from his Dodge team. However, Sony is already an associate sponsor on Penske's Cup cars. Again, we stress that this information is unsubstantiated and may just be from a source trying to start rumors. Our inside Champ Car sources tell us to expect Tracy to stay in Champ Car, and would Paul go back to Penske after Penske fired him twice in the past? 03/31/05 Perhaps there is more to this rumor than some think. AutoRacing1.com has been told by sources in Charlotte that Paul Tracy has been looking for a house in that area. At Sebring last week there were rumors that he might be moving from Las Vegas to Florida, but apparently that may have been a smokescreen. It's quite possible as well that Tracy will go to the highest bidder - Champ Car or NASCAR, whoever wants him bad enough. So starting rumors about going to NASCAR, whether true or not, is certainly a good negotiating tact. 03/31/05 Further investigation into this matter leads us to conclude we smell a rat. Don't read into this rumor too much. Contacts of ours there yesterday for the press conference stood right next to Tracy for most of the questions, and it was the media that started asking him about NASCAR. He really didn't have a clue that NASCAR was aiming at coming north of the border....and he said that...."I don't know anything about it." He repeatedly told media "I would have to ask my boss before I could ever do anything like that." But you know the way the media puts a spin on it, especially the Toronto SUN., as anti-Champ Car as they come.. But the press conference was a success, and very well attended. Mark C.03/31/05 The 20th edition of the Toronto Molson Indy could be the final one for Paul Tracy - a two-time winner of his hometown race - in the Champ Car World Series. Tracy, 36, told the Toronto Sun yesterday that if NASCAR comes to Canada in 2006, he wants to be part of that series. Tracy's Champ Car contract with Forsythe Championship Racing ends this season and he said he wants to explore other avenues.
"I haven't got any irons in the fire, so to speak," Tracy said yesterday while he was in Toronto to help promote this year's race. (But) there are a lot of things happening in Canada right now with NASCAR."
"My eyes are wide open to the possibilities," Tracy said. "I'm looking at all the options and seeing what develops. One of the main things that would draw me to (NASCAR) would be if they were to come to Canada ... have a race in Canada," Tracy said.
"The main reason I've stayed in Champ Car is that I've been able to race in Canada. I'll wait and see what happens with NASCAR," he said. "I have a whole year. Sun Media
NASCAR eyes Montreal, to replace Champ Car?UPDATE #7 According to a report on autonet.ca Montreal is the front runner for a stop on the NASCAR circuit. There have been discussions and it is unknown at this time whether the Nextel Cup, Busch Series or the Truck series will make the trip north to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in downtown Montreal which already hosts the Formula One Grand Prix and the Champ Car World Series event. Apparently Normand Legault (Montreal Promoter) is in quite the battle with Mosport International Raceway for the rights to host a NACAR race. MoSport is located just outside the Greater Toronto area.
"We could easily run a NASCAR Busch Series race in concert with the Champ Car race in August," Legault said. "In terms of the track being ready to host NASCAR, we could be ready tomorrow." Legault would prefer to have the top guns of the NASCAR Nextel Cup series in Montreal but would have no problem with hosting the Busch series first to show Canada is ready to host a Nextel Cup race.
Just to add to the rumors of NASCAR running at the Montreal track: I have a hard time figuring out how the Busch or Cup cars can run on Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. The Mexico City track had to be redesigned to accommodate the weak brakes on the Busch cars. The Montreal track is much less "user-friendly" to the Busch cars due to the long straights and tight chicanes everywhere. Legault acknowledged that fact and was quoted saying the track would have to be changed. However, I don't know how feasible this is as there is very little room to move corners around on the man-made island the track was built on. One way or another, it's going to be a big and very expensive project. Alex M., Montreal. Canada
06/12/05 A reader informs us, Dear AutoRacing1.com, The Toronto Sun article by Dean McNulty quotes Normand Legault, Montreal race promoter, as saying he could run a Busch race along with Champ Car, not to replace them, but we shall see. Funny that ESPN, the huge IRL supporter, didn't mention that at all. How convenient! I will say again, I just don't see French-Canadian, open-wheel race fans supporting a bunch of American drivers crawling slowly around in big, heavy, non-maneuverable stock cars. Their only hope for success would come from North Eastern U.S.
I have said it before and will say it again. Canadian sports fans, particularly French-Canadians, love and support their own. The French-Canadians and other Canucks who flock to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve every year do so to support their own. They have long been rabid fans of open wheel racing. All you need to do is look or read every poll that has taken place in Canada and you will clearly see there is not nearly the love for NASCAR in Canada that there is for F1 or Champ Car. No matter how much brainwashed, gullible media want to spin it, NASCAR will never reach heights in Canada like open-wheel racing does. The majority of Canadian race fans will not support a bunch of slow, bulky, heavy stock cars crawling around a beautiful venue like the one in Montréal.
Normand Legault, the Montreal promoter, has supposedly said to want NASCAR at his track and that fans would love it. Let's take a quick look at this. First, media (the Toronto Sun) have completely misquoted him in the past on such issues. This time it apparently comes from ESPN. That's right, ESPN, the huge IRL supporter. They release these so called quotes from Legault on the biggest weekend of the year in Canada, the Canadian F1 GP. The same event that French-Canadian Champ Car drivers Alex Tagliani and Andrew Ranger are to attend. Legault attended the Champ Car Grand Prix of Long Beach earlier this year and said he was very impressed. He also stated he believed this years Champ Car race in Montreal would be a huge success and that Champ Car had two years left on their contract with him.
Now we are to believe ESPN that he will dump Champ Car, which has been a great success so far in Montreal, for a bunch of American drivers in stock cars. Sorry, I just don't see it happening. The fans will not support it. This is nothing more than the oval track cartel trying to kill Champ Car yet again. Deke McTeer, Twin Lake, MI06/11/05 The promoter of Montreal's race track is lobbying to bring NASCAR to Canada and says his facility is the best place to host the stock cars. Normand Legault said he's had preliminary talks with NASCAR executives in an effort to bring the United States' top racing series to the road course at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. [Editor's Note: With only two major events allowed on the island a year, that would mean Champ Car would lose its Montreal date.]
"I would love to have it here. It is a super, super show," Legault said. "I am quite sure Canadian fans would take to NASCAR racing just like a match to dry wood."
Legault hosts two races a year at his facility, which is temporarily erected on a man-made island for each event. He said it can accommodate 125,000 fans a day, and about 95% use public transportation to reach the facility.
He said few changes would have to be made to the setup, which is currently configured to host the Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday, to stage a NASCAR event.
"We don't waste space on parking here, so it would be very easy logistically to get a NASCAR event here," he said. "We would just have to move a few things to handle the transporters, and possibly relocate hospitality."
Legault knows that if Canada lands a NASCAR race, it would most likely be a Busch race and not a coveted Nextel Cup race. Although he prefers the top-level Cup races, he said he would be willing to start with the Busch Series to prove he is up to the task. "It would be up to us to earn a Cup event," he said. How soon could it happen?
"Physically we could do it next year," he said. "But I don't think there are any dates available on their calendar. You have to squeeze your way onto their schedule, and that could take some time." USAToday/AP
02/24/05 Eight inches of rain in the past week and the prospect of more in the coming days are putting a damper on this weekend's first early-season NASCAR tour stop in Southern California in many years. The rain stopped yesterday morning after a wet night, but yellow "Flooded" signs are at every intersection near California Speedway, and thunderstorms surround the track, dense clouds boiling against the San Bernardino range a few miles north. But maybe Sunday's dynamite TV ratings for the season-opening Daytona 500 will provide a sorely need boost of stock-car racing publicity in this tough-sell market. NASCAR executives are ready to make as much hay as they can, not only here in Los Angeles but south of the border - the sport's next stop is Mexico City next week, for an historic run - and north of the border, where there is heavy speculation that NASCAR wants to go next, to either Montreal or Toronto. Canada's TSN said this Daytona 500 was the most-watched auto race in the network's 20 years, with a peak of 650,000 viewers for Jeff Gordon's victory.
The last time TSN carried the 500, two years ago, it drew only 240,000 viewers. NASCAR's Brian France and George Pyne, his No. 2, are both eager to keep the momentum. "I spend a lot of time traveling North America, and we took a team to watch the Canadian Grand Prix (in Montreal) and the Toronto CART race this past year," Pyne said. "And we've been to a number of CASCAR (Canada's NASCAR) races. We've announced a strategic alliance with CASCAR that gives us the option to purchase CASCAR at some point if we'd like, and we're evaluating that right now. "We just announced a marketing-and-licensing relationship with TSN, the major sports network. If you want to be in sports in Canada, TSN has the guys you need to know, so we've got a good working relationship with them. "And we've licensed two Canadian tracks for the Dodge Weekly series. That's our first entry into the Canadian market, and it's based on NASCAR doing so well on television in Canada. We're second only to hockey on TV. "We've done some research on Canada, and between six and eight million Canadians, out of the 30 million total, are NASCAR fans. And 80 percent of that 30 million live within 75 miles of the U.S. border. "So Canadians are an attractive market. And certainly open-wheel has had a lot of success there, with Formula One and CART." Gordon, though a great road racer, said someone in Toronto or Montreal or Vancouver needs to build an oval: "We got to build a track up there. We don't have one yet, but we need to be in Canada. We're going to Mexico; the next step would be Canada." "We're trying to partner with the leading companies in Canada to see if there is an opportunity to bring stock-car racing to Canada," Pyne said "I don't think in the foreseeable future that would be a Nextel Cup race, but I do think a Busch or Truck race, given the right set of dynamics, is an option.
"Markets like Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver are all interesting. "We're cautiously evaluating that, and talking to all the major Canadian corporations. Without being specific about who they are, I have met with a number of them. And we're looking to see if we can pull something together that gives us a high likelihood of success. "If you look at the game plan for Mexico and the game plan for Canada, they're very similar. We don't really have an interest in going somewhere just to run one race. We really want to go to a place to become relevant to people. And if we can become relevant to people, then it probably makes sense. "We don't need to travel to see the world; we've seen plenty of it. "But if we can do something that will be meaningful long-term, we have an interest. "So that's why grassroots racing in Canada, as in the United States, is an important element. You need grassroots racing, and you need at least one major event that can stamp approval in that country that 'Hey, this is what it's all about.' "And you need media partners to get the message out. And corporate support ... and a fan-base that likes racing. "We're a little further ahead in Mexico than we are in Canada. But those ingredients are there, and if we can get the right package, then it's something that makes sense. "Does the Canadian market have an interest? Absolutely. Do we think it's logical? It certainly does seem logical." Winston Salem Journal02/22/05 Does anybody know anything about motorsports in Canada? Where is NASCAR going to race? The Gilles Villeneuve Circuit in Montreal? Please the circuit is built for open wheel cars. A lot of the track has barriers around it - F 1 and Champ Cars slow down to 25 mph at the hairpin a NASCAR stock car would have to stop - NASCAR drivers have a terrible time driving road courses and Montreal is a tight road course not wide open like Sears Point. Toronto has no track except for the Molson Indy layout which requires shutting down the main thoroughfare for 3 days - the track has signed up for 4 years with Champ Car and it is a terrible track to see stock cars - watch CASCAR cars and you will see what I mean.
The longest oval track is 5/8 of a mile and seats 10000 with no amenities around. Canada is and will always be Champ Car territory because Champ Car brings the racing to the big series where the race is just part of the show. We don't want IRL cars and where would they run? Champ Car has Edmonton tied up for 3 years, Toronto for 4 years, and Montreal for 2 more years.
Are there NASCAR fans? Yes, lots of them and there are loyal fans for CASCAR races but there is not a track suitable and people from Toronto won't drive 1 hour away to go to a race. That's why the Molson Champ Car race is so successful - bring the race to the fans. Bill Brittain02/12/05 It's time we bump this rumor up to 'strong.' There will be a NASCAR Nextel Cup race at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal within two or three years, maybe sooner according to Normand Legault, president and CEO of Grand Prix F1 du Canada, the promoter of the Canadian Grand Prix. He was the featured guest at this year's Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame Induction Gala. "It's true. We (NASCAR) have been talking. It's definitely a possibility that they will come to Montreal to race. We have not gotten down to anything approaching serious negotiations, but we are talking. I would say two, maybe three years, but I think it will happen.'' Add all this together, then toss in the rumor that NASCAR might soon try to sell the old Watkins Glen circuit in western New York (thus opening up a road-racing date in the northeast), and a Cup race in Montreal makes all the more sense. "You're right,'' laughed Legault as I rattled all of this off. "With all the NASCAR fans from Toronto, Montreal and New York coming to Montreal, I probably couldn't build enough grandstands to hold everybody.'' Toronto Star11/21/04 A study of the popularity of NASCAR in Canada may be seen in today's editions of the Toronto Sun. It's Gray Cup week, the Argonauts are in the big game ... and the paper is devoting two full pages to NASCAR's Homestead finale. It's little wonder that NASCAR executives are studying the Canadian market so intently. There has been speculation that Montreal's Formula One and Champ Car road course could be the site of a NASCAR Nextel Cup race eventually. Winston Salem Journal [Editor's Note: Sounds like the PR office in Canada is doing its job. While NASCAR has also opened an office in Mexico, Champ Car does not have an office in either country to look after their interests. With staff devoted to both countries what are the chances NASCAR will erode Champ Car's market share in Mexico and Canada? Time will tell.] 08/10/04 The NASCAR Nextel Cup rumor machine pointed its radar at Canada again this week during the lead up to yesterday's Sirius at the Glen. The latest story making the rounds is that International Speedway Corporation -- which owns Watkins Glen International -- is trying to find a buyer for the upper New York State facility and then moving its race date to Montreal. Sources close to NASCAR say that it would be a win-win situation. Not only would it get a foothold in Canada, it would also get the prestige that goes with racing at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve -- a Formula One track. Toronto Sun
Standoff between Toyota and NASCAR Engines, engines, engines. It's all about engines this weekend, to hear drivers and engine men tell it, now that shifting is no longer an option around this road-course type high-speed track.
Then again, as loopy as qualifying yesterday was for today's Pocono 500, with so many big guns mired back in the pack, on a track where passing may be tougher than usual, there is an ominous feeling about what is about to unfold. Particularly in light of how these guys had such a difficult time adjusting to the new lines around Humpy Wheeler's Charlotte track just two weeks ago.
And there are threatening clouds over the NASCAR trailer, where the unexpectedly swift and sudden death of NASCAR's proposed and intricately documented "engine of the future" appears to be a major triumph for Ford.
Ford guys Jack Roush and Robert Yates were never high on the project to begin with, and pointed out the great cost involved in throwing everything away and starting all over in time for the 2007 season.
The decision by Mike Helton, NASCAR's president, to put the new engine on the back burner isn't setting well a bit with General Motors. But the most curious aspect of Helton's surprising decision is that he is now, according to industry sources, telling Toyota officials they will have to come up with a new engine design if they want to move up from the Truck tour to either Busch or Nextel Cup.
Toyota had a Busch program planned for 2006, according to Detroit sources. NASCAR has been expected to run secret tests to evaluate the new Toyota against Ford, GM and Dodge models, both on the track and in the wind tunnel.
But now NASCAR's push for Toyota to come up with a new engine, rather than use a version of the NASCAR Truck engine its teams have been running, appears to have become a major stumbling block. It could lead to a standoff between NASCAR and Toyota.
Toyota's ace in the hole in all this is its considerable TV ad-buying power. Toyota is spending about $100 million a year in the Indy Racing League, and there is widespread speculation that Toyota may follow Chevrolet and pull out of that series.
So while Helton fiddles with the technical details of keeping the four carmakers relatively happy, NASCAR CEO Brian France is working the other end of the financial equation - putting together a big new TV package, in which 30-second ad-buying power could be significant leverage. Winston-Salem Journal
Who will replace Martin?UPDATE #2 Sterling Marlin is having discussions with Jack Roush about the possibility of replacing Mark Martin next year in the #6 Ford. Gaston Gazette06/05/05 Roush Racing president Geoff Smith said Sunday NASCAR Busch Series rookie Jon Wood has "some marketing momentum" and a viable candidate to replace veteran Mark Martin in Roush's No. 6 Fords next season. Wood, 23, remains under contract with Roush but has been on loan to ST Motorsports' No. 47 Ford team in the Busch series this year.
Wood has long been considered a possible driver for the Wood Brothers' No. 21 Ford Nextel Cup team, which is co-owned by his father, Eddie Wood. Other Cup teams have also inquired about whether Wood was available to be tested in a Cup car this season.
"Here is a guy who ran head-to-head (in the Truck series) with Carl Edwards and look how well Carl Edwards has turned out," Smith said. "We've had a chance to observe him in Cup test sessions with the Wood Brothers and he was very good in those test sessions. Of course, he has done as well as or better than anyone has done in the No. 47 car in the last 10 years, including Jimmie Johnson being in that ride." That's Racin
06/05/05 The driver who would be Mark Martin's first choice to replace him as driver of the No. 6 Ford will not be in the car after Martin retires from full-time competition at the end of this season. "I'll tell you exactly who I would put in the No. 6 car in a heartbeat," Martin said. "Joe Logano turned 15 a few days ago, and if NASCAR would let me I would make Jack Roush let us put him in the 6 car. He's already ready. He's the man." Martin has been singing Logano's praises since early this year. Logano can't race in the Nextel Cup, Busch or Truck series until he's 18, but he has already made his debut in the Hooters Pro Cup series. "I am absolutely 100 percent positive, without a doubt, that he can be one of the greatest who ever raced in NASCAR," Martin said. Charlotte Observer
Lazier to get Panther ride?UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Panther Racing confirmed that it will enter cars for 2000 IRL champion Buddy Lazier in races July 16 at Nashville and July 31 at Michigan. Lazier, the 1996 Indy 500 winner, drove a Panther car to fifth place in this year's 500. 06/11/05 The IndyStar is reporting that former Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier may possibly race for the Chevy powered Panther Racing squad. Supposedly he would run selected venues in a third car. The cost is said to be approximately $100,000 per race if he finds a sponsor.
Another sign a possible merger in works? IRL president Brian Barnhart said no announcement is imminent on the league's engine rules starting in 2007. "We're still exploring all options," he said. Indy Star [Editor's Note: It would make sense for the IRL to wait to see whether the Champ Car/IRL merger talks bear fruit before announcing any new car/engine specifications. Even if there is not a merger, common equipment between the two series has been proposed.]
Scheckter hoping Chevy will change mindUPDATE This is absolutely, positively, Chevrolet's last season in the Indy Racing League. Unless, of course, it isn't. Panther Racing put the IRL's only two Chevrolet-powered cars on the front row for Saturday night's Bombardier Learjet 500K at Texas Motor Speedway, then pole winner Tomas Scheckter backed it up with a dominating victory. Just as he did last month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he was consistently fast in practice, Scheckter said after winning the pole and then the race that his goal is to get Chevrolet to reconsider.
"I hope we can carry this momentum and win a lot of races for these guys," he said. "If we push very hard and get some wins for them, (maybe) we'll be able to change their mind."
So, is their mind changeable? Joe Negri, director of General Motors' IRL program, said before the race he has heard nothing from company officials that would indicate a reversal is in the works. "But that being said, decisions are changed all the time," Negri said. "There's no set requirements that if we win three races, we'll stay. It's a business decision based on the conditions at the time. Personally, all of us directly involved in the program would like to see the decision changed. But I don't see anybody (in the GM hierarchy) jumping up and down saying we need to do it. When you see 25,000 people laid off, it's tough," Negri said. "If we sold some cars, it would help."
Negri said the recent surge of interest in the IRL ignited by Danica Patrick is promising but inconclusive. "If this blows up and all the numbers get better, GM is going to pay attention," he said. "If the return on investment doubled, I'd be crazy not to take that back to management." Indy Star [Editor's Note: Champ Car and Cosworth owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe would like nothing better than to see Cosworth retain the Chevy contract in the IRL.]
06/10/05 "One thing needs to be mentioned. There is an increase in viewership, for whatever reason, and I think we know what the reason is. I hope that keeps Chevy in. And I'm hoping that if we push very hard and get some wins for them that we'll be able to change their mind." Tomas Scheckter
Jordan to stick with Toyota Jordan/Midland team principal Colin Kolles says the team will soon announce their 2006 engine plans. Jordan currently use Toyota engines. "I think with the engine, there will be some announcement very soon," said Kolles. "I think the relationship between Jordan, Midland and Toyota is not so bad. I think that we are working very well together, it is very positive, and regarding the engineering side, you know that we started with Dallara, building up the team from scratch with the engagement of Dallara. "This is continuing until December 31 and we are building up also to improve the intellectual property of the team, bringing in new people, new young people, and new ideas. The decrease in number of personnel has basically stopped and it is increasing now."
Toyota president, John Howett meanwhile added it is their 'intention' that will supply Jordan with a V8 engine in 2006, when the regulations change, consigning the V10's to history. Midland had been rumored to be talks with both Mercedes and Ferrari about engines prior to their take-over of the Jordan team in January, but the Ferrari deal has now gone to Red Bull.
Ganassi Shake-up imminent?UPDATE #2 How big a shakeup is in the works in the Ganassi Racing camp? Busch driver David Stremme is considered the heir apparent in the #40 to replace Sterling Marlin. He could do so for the last seven races of the season, and not jeopardize his rookie status for next season. Changes are expected involving the #41 team and driver Casey Mears. Sources say owner Chip Ganassi plans to clean the entire house, making way for Busch Series rookie sensation Reed Sorenson and crew chief Brian Pattie. Mears' crew chief, Jimmy Elledge, has been mentioned as a potential crew chief for Stremme. Daytona Beach News Journal06/10/05 Though no further details were announced, sources tell the Observer the new sponsor will pair with Coors in sponsoring David Stremme in the #40 Dodges in Nextel Cup next year. Charlotte Observer06/06/05 Is a shakeup in the works in the Ganassi Racing camp? Sterling Marlin still hasn't been officially told what the plans are for the #40 Dodge in 2006, but he says he's not ready to retire. "I'd like to race another two or three years and then go fishing," says Marlin, who'll turn 48 on June 30. Marlin has spoken with several teams and hopes to have a plan solidified in the next two weeks. Busch driver David Stremme is considered the heir apparent in the #40. He could replace Marlin for the last seven races of the season, gaining experience while not jeopardizing his rookie status for next season. Changes are expected involving the #41 team and driver Casey Mears. Sources say owner Chip Ganassi plans to clean the entire house, making way for Busch Series rookie sensation Reed Sorenson and crew chief Brian Pattie. Mears' crew chief, Jimmy Elledge, has been mentioned as a potential crew chief for Stremme. Sporting News
More changes at MB2/MBV? Following closely on this week’s promotion and transfer of top technical personnel, expect some major announcements from the MB Motorsports organization in the next couple of weeks. The team, which campaigns Nextel Cup cars with drivers #01-Joe Nemechek, #10-Scott Riggs and (part-time) #36-Boris Said, soon will announce the signing of a well-known sprint-car driver to an ARCA/Busch/Cup program [known as the ABC program] for 2006, sources close to the team said. This will be the first step in a full-blown driver-development program. That driver is said to be Kraig Kinser. The team has been a cooperation among the MB2 (Nemechek) and MBV (Riggs) teams, with sponsor Valvoline to now owning part of the MBV team. Valvoline apparently intends to sell its part of the operation to MB2 founding owner Nelson Bowers and associates, with Valvoline remaining as associate sponsor on Riggs's #10. Centrix, sponsor of Said's effort, will step up to the top position [primary sponsor of the #10]. Speed Channel Notebook
Yates eyes third car Robert Yates Racing [#38-Elliott Sadler, #88-Dale Jarrett] officials say the believe they need to move toward a third team, and efforts are in the works. Team manager Eddie d'Hondt said Saturday that he is to meet Tuesday in Baltimore with official of Citi Financial, current sponsor of RYR's Busch team, to see about a Cup program. Doug Yates, RYR president and leader of Roush/Yates Engines, said he understands that RYR has fallen behind the two majors, Roush and Hendrick, and that expansion is a competitive necessity. "That's the thing Robert and I always thought, that getting more teams was getting kind of greedy," Doug said. "We look back now [and realize] we missed the boat on it a little with all the opportunities we had." The RYR philosophy, as seen by Robert, has been the old Junior Johnson method: Let lesser teams develop the drivers, then snatch them up for the top seats when they are ready. It's a new world, Doug says, hinting that he has seen it coming. Yates and d'Hondt agreed that driver development will be a significant part of the team's future efforts, although Cup drivers Dale Jarrett and Elliott Sadler have driven RYR's newly-founded Busch car all year. d'Hondt said RYR needed to get the team up and running, with a veteran baseline, before throwing a newcomer into the seat. Speed Channel Notebook
Shnaider eyes Canadian and Russian lineup Jordan-Midland owner Alex Shnaider's ideal grand prix driver lineup would be a Canadian and a Russian. The Toronto based billionaire, who was born in Russia but became a naturalized Canadian, reportedly met with French Canadian Champ Car driver Andrew Ranger, 18, in Montreal.
He told the 'Canadian Press' agency that Midland's door will be 'open' to all nationalities. But, asked about the potential Canadian-Russian combo, Shnaider replied: ''It would be great to have.''
He also defended his team amid criticism it is not spending enough money to be deemed a serious Paddock player. ''We bought Jordan a year early,'' Alex told CP, ''in order to learn everything for 2006.''
F1 to shun Indy winner Unlike Juan Pablo Montoya and Jacques Villeneuve before him, Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon will not enjoy a clear road to the grand prix grid. Contrary to speculation, the 26-year-old Briton has been told that there are 'no plans' for him to be Jenson Button's BAR-Honda descendant.
''Wheldon is a very good driver,'' BAR sporting director and fellow Indy winner Gil de Ferran told the UK's 'The People' publication. ''I called him after the Indy 500. He is a mate, but there are no official discussions.''
De Ferran then set out the quest to retain Button, although Frank Williams' 2006 'option' may either entice or compel him to return to Grove. ''We would love for him to stay,'' said Gil, ''but the decision for next year will come later.''
Dan Wheldon, meanwhile, has more than one egg in one basket. He revealed: ''A second (team) got in touch after Indy.''
[Editor's Note: We don't know what some people are smoking, but F1 teams are not going to take drivers from a 100% throttle no talent required race series. Until such time as the IRL becomes predominantly road courses like Champ Car, the best an IRL driver can expect from F1 is a test drive for PR purposes. For example, if Danica Patrick gets an F1 test at Indy this coming week it will be because it's a PR stunt orchestrated by Bernie Ecclestone to help sell race tickets, not because Patrick is qualified to race in F1. On the contrary, she never won a race in Champ Car's road racing ladder series (equal cars) and has yet to win a race in the IRL.
This is why American oval racing (NASCAR and the IRL) will never produce a World Driving Champion - the "show" is more important than the talent behind the wheel. When you go through the European development series you are competing against some of the most talented young drivers in the world, and it is only those drivers that can win regularly in Europe that will get a real shot at an F1 ride. Scott Speed is doing it right by going through the European system and winning regularly, hence has a real shot at being the next American in F1.
Rubens may leave FerrariUPDATE Rubens Barrichello has shot down rumors he will accept a $12m a year offer to leave Ferrari and be BAR's number one next year. ''That's just gossip,'' said the Brazilian, who - although more outspoken in recent weeks - has a red 2005 contract. In La Gazzetta dello Sport, 33-year-old RB claimed the rumor cropped up in badly translated interviews elsewhere. Red Bull's David Coulthard is also linked to BAR-Honda, who'll have a spare seat if Jenson Button returns to Williams. 06/11/05 Rubens Barrichello has admitted he might one day leave the Scuderia. The Brazilian, who has raced a red Ferrari since 2000, put his odds at '50-50' that he might see out his career elsewhere.
Recent speculation said Rubens' anti-Schumacher stance after a Monaco incident indicated a wider rift behind Maranello based doors. He told ITV: ''As long as Ferrari and I are in love ... then we can keep going. But there is life outside Ferrari.''
The 33-year-old revealed that he has 'talked to other' teams. Barrichello, linked with BAR-Honda, added: ''I'll keep smiling and see what comes to me. ''I have a contract to 2006 and that is firm. The important thing is to win the title.''
Patrick to get F1 opportunity?UPDATE 23-year-old female racer Danica Patrick could get behind the wheel of a grand prix car next week. The diminutive American, who qualified and finished an historic fourth at the Indy 500 last month, may - on the Speedway's F1 road course - drive a demonstration run in a BAR.
Patrick, who finished 13th at the Texas Motor Speedway this weekend, reportedly told the press she would attend a Californian movie premiere on Sunday, but otherwise is available. The news will no doubt please F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who is keen to promote his sport in America, perhaps with a street race in Las Vegas.
''We're gradually getting to grips on it,'' the 74-year-old said. ''But until we get the championship on regular television, there's not much we can do.'' GMMF1net
06/11/05 Danica Patrick is expected to be present at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Thursday next week as the Formula 1 teams get ready for the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis. The star of the Indianapolis 500 and the darling of the American media at the moment, Danica may conceivably get herself into a BAR-Honda Formula 1 car for a demonstration run but the details of that are still under discussion although the team is understood to be very keen on the idea. Patrick and Jenson Button raced together in Formula Ford in Britain some years ago and are old friends.
Patrick will not be around for the race itself because she has to fly to Los Angeles for the world premiere of Herbie: Fully Loaded, a Walt Disney picture. Disney is sponsoring Patrick this weekend in the IRL race in Texas with a Herbie logo on her Rahal Letterman Racing Panoz-Honda. The deal extends to the next race as well, which will be held at Richmond International Raceway in Virginia.
"We are thrilled to partner with the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Danica Patrick and her Rahal Letterman Racing Team," said Oren Aviv, President of Buena Vista Pictures Marketing. "In the crowded summer marketplace, we are always looking for opportunities to set our films apart from the rest. Just as Patrick has recently taken the racing world by storm, we know our own Herbie will be turning heads when he races into theatres on June 22." Grandprix.com
Kevin Lacroix, 16, eyes Champ Car Kevin Lacroix, 16 years old, and holder of a special racer's permit, has reached the Formula BMW podium three times in four starts, winning two races and placing third in another as a member of the AIM Autosport team. He crashed in a fourth race, but still leads the overall series with 52 points and a modest $2,800 U.S. in earnings.
The natural progression for Lacroix would be to shine in BMW, then join the Formula Atlantic series. From there, Champ Car and beyond, if all goes according to plan. Montreal Gazette
Honda and Toyota to stay? With rumors that NASCAR has told Toyota to stay in the IRL longer to help them out coupled with rumors Toyota is not moving up to the NASCAR Busch Series next year as rumored, it's looking like perhaps both Honda and Toyota will remain in the IRL past 2006. Based on comments in this ESPN.com article, it appears both manufacturers are planning for the future with the IRL. Whether it's because there's talk of a merger with Champ Car is anyone's guess, but everyone knows that the sport needs much more than the Danica Patrick mania to turn around.
From ESPN.com: The IndyCar Series has still not determined technical specifications for its future engine formula, set for introduction in 2007. For the better part of the last year, IndyCar Series founder Tony George has hinted that he would like the series to mandate much simpler engine architecture in an effort to reduce costs.
However, he has encountered resistance from Honda and Toyota, which would prefer to maintain a relatively high level of technology and the manufacturer lease-and-service engine programs that have been successfully used in CART (now Champ Car) and the IndyCar Series for the better part of 20 years.
"We've been in a series of meetings with the IRL in the last year or so talking about future engines and a lot of the talk was about having to get back to outside engine builders," said Toyota racing development vice president (and IndyCar Series program manager) John Faivre. "Some of the guys who were around in the early days of the IRL said, 'Don't glamorize that because that was really a bad deal. We had four or five engines blow up every race and that would cause accidents.'"
From Honda's perspective, the current engine costs in the IndyCar Series are quite reasonable. "We weren't involved then, but in 2002, my understanding is that an IRL engine program cost teams somewhere between $1.0 and 1.5 million," said Honda Performance Development president Robert Clarke. "Our standard lease right now is $1.7 million, so if you take inflation into consideration, we're right where they were. And that's about half of what a CART program cost in 2002.
"They are getting a very competitive, very reliable, professionally serviced and supplied product for basically what they were paying before," Clarke continued. "So I think the engine cost to the team is quite reasonable, though the manufacturers are eating a huge cost. On the other hand, it's pretty difficult for the IRL to control development. That is driven more by the need for the manufacturer to compete and win and the value they feel they get out of it."
Toyota's Faivre said that costs have also been reduced by the sheer dependability of the factory engine programs common to the IndyCar Series since 2003.
"The main difference you see is the reliability," he remarked. "I think there was only one engine failure I saw in the Indianapolis 500, and there weren't more than four or five engine failures in the month, which is fairly incredible when you think about the miles. Our engines alone did more than 20,800 miles."
Nick Hayes to Hendrick Word here in the paddock at Pocono is that former Cosworth F1 engine designer Nick Hayes is going to work in the engine department for the Hendrick Motorsport team Nextel Cup. Hayes will bring some of his F1 know-how to the Hendrick team, replacing Randy Dorton who was killed in the Hendrick motorsports plane crash last year. The organization rebuilds about 700 engines a year and has a staff of over 80. Frank R. reporting from Pocono
Harvick to Penske? During last night's Truck series race in Texas, it was reported that Kevin Harvick was in discussions with Roger Penske to take over the Rusty Wallace's Miller Lite Dodge for next year. Today at Pocono Harvick called an impromptu news conference at his hauler to dispel the report. Harvick said he is 100% committed to Richard Childress, Todd Berrier and the rest of the #29 GM Goodrich team. Frank R. reporting from Pocono
Menard to buy DEI? Richie Gilmore, Director of Motorsports at Dale Earnhardt Inc., strongly disputed rumors that millionaire businessman John Menard is attempting to buy the team. Talk of a potential sale was prevalent in the garage area at Pocono Raceway, where several drivers and owners from other teams confirmed that they had heard the rumor. “There is no truth to it at all,” Gilmore said. “John (Menard) is a great sponsor of ours, but that’s all it is. Over the years, many ‘players’ have tried to buy DEI. We’ve been contacted by owners of NFL and NBA teams about it. Teresa (Earnhardt) has no interest.” Menard’s son Paul drives the #11 DEI Chevy in the Busch Series. Gaston Gazette
Mexican driver to make Cup start at Sonoma At Infineon Raceway, José Luis Ramírez will attempt to become only the second Mexican-born driver to compete in a NASCAR Nextel Cup race. Sponsored by Bay Area-based mortgage company Pro30.com, he will try to qualify the #52 Dodge for the Dodge/Save Mart 350, to be held at the Sonoma track June 26. Ramírez was among the nine Latino drivers showcased in NASCAR's Busch race held in Mexico City in March - the sport's first foray onto foreign soil. In the field of 43, he finished 31st, ahead of such Cup regulars as Jamie McMurray and Robby Gordon. Ramírez, 26, started his career in karting and Trans-Am road racing in his hometown of Mexico City before switching to stock cars. Now a regular in NASCAR's Grand National West Series, Ramírez has made 17 starts. He finished 10th in the series standings in 2004. In April, he crashed his Cup car during testing at Infineon Raceway, hitting the foam barriers at Turn 4. He suffered minor injuries to his right eye, right foot and back, but drove to an eighth-place finish two days later in a Grand National race at Phoenix International Raceway. Other than that late-day mishap, Ramírez came away satisfied with his performance on Sonoma's notoriously tricky 10-turn track. The only previous Mexican-born Cup driver retired before Ramírez was born. Mexican racing legend Pedro Rodríguez, who drove in six Cup races between 1959 and 1971, was NASCAR's Latino pioneer. A regular in sports car events at Daytona International Speedway, Rodríguez finished fifth in NASCAR's 1965 World 600 at Charlotte - his best Cup result. Sponsor Pro30.com - a major mortgage lender in the Latino community - chose Ramírez as its driver specifically because of his heritage, chief executive officer Bill Coleman said. Sacramento Bee
Evernham to add a third team Ray Evernham, chief of Dodge-backed Evernham Motorsports, says chances are "better than 50%" that he will have a third Cup team in 2006. He said he has tentative agreements with significant sponsors, and he pulled up short when asked who would drive the car [Jayski Note: Brendan Gaughan has been rumored]. Evernham says he has constructed a building for the proposed new team and has personnel aboard. "I think you can get the team started and kind of take it from there. The sponsor is going to have to have realistic expectations. For a first-year team, to jump right up there and win races, there's not too many people who do that. "I'm fortunate enough to say I'm one of the people who have done it, but it's still very difficult. There are [drivers] out there that can win races, and the sponsor has to go into it realistically. Every sponsor says they want a top 10 car, top 10 driver, well, there's 15 top-10 cars out there, which one do you want? Speed Channel
Montagny for Magny Cours? Speculation says Renault test driver Franck Montagny will not only wear yellow at Magny Cours' French GP next month, he'll also line up on the grid. The Frenchman filled the 'third' Jordan cockpit at Nurburg. ''Ask Mr. Briatore,'' said coy Jordan chief Colin Kolles. ''I think Franck did a good job and we'll try to find a solution.''
Renault's team principal, though, also baulked - but, tellingly, didn't lurch into denial - at the question in Montreal. ''He's doing Le Mans,'' Flavio said. ''Let's see, we'll see. I want to talk with Franck. Alex (Shnaider) is a good friend, (Colin) Kolles is a good friend. It depends on the driver, what he wants to do.''
Jordan self-destructing?UPDATE Jordan owner 'Midland' will split with car builder Dallara at the end of the current season. Colin Kolles conceded speculation that the 2006 F1 car will no longer be built in Italy. ''The engagement with Dallara will continue until December 31,'' the managing director said.
The first 'Midland' car, though, will basically be Dallara's design, and the constructor is continuing to work on it in the wind tunnel. ''Plans change,'' Kolles continued. ''We have the facility to build our own car. We also have a wind tunnel in Brackley.''
He also revealed that an announcement regarding 2006 engine supply is imminently due. ''The relationship between us and Toyota,'' said Colin, ''is not so bad. I think we're working very well together.''
06/10/05 This Grandprix.com article asks - Why is Trevor Carlin not sticking around to enjoy the fruits of their dreams? One might conclude that Carlin does not agree with the way the team is being run but clearly he is discreet enough not to say it out loud. This means that speculation is inevitable and from what we hear the problem was one of money and its effects on flexibility. The financial controls at the team are such that money is not being spent - as a string of unhappy suppliers have pointed out - and that means that progress cannot be made. The management of the team says that it is not going to pay every bill that turns up without first checking to see if it is real. This may sound like a sensible idea but it means that the team's future performance will be affected because now is the time that investment needs to be made.
To date there is not even an engine deal for 2006 and there are signs that Midland had the chance of a very reasonable deal with Ferrari but did not act on the opportunity, which allowed Red Bull Racing to get the engines. If team owner Alex Shnaider was serious about F1 he would have jumped at the chance of a deal with Ferrari and would have come up with the money. That means that either he does not have access to the money or that he missed the opportunity. Or that he has a better offer about which we have still to learn.
There are also rumors that the much-vaunted deal with Dallara has fallen out of bed and that the Jordan team will design the cars itself, with Dallara doing some of the composite work as a sub-contractor. This is not a stupid idea as there was much doubt in F1 circles that a company used to producing customer cars would be able to come up with a car with the edge needed to be competitive. But having Jordan build the cars will be more expensive and hiring new people to do an even better job will take both time and money.
Alex Shnaider came into Formula 1 with what seemed to be grand plans. Those dreams are looking a little threadbare at the moment. If Shnaider wants the stories to go away he must dig into his piggy-bank and come up with cash and get things moving in the right direction. Until he does that Formula 1 people are going to consider the enterprise to be either decidedly odd or considerably misguided.
2006 Champ Car schedule It does not appear that the rumored Champ Car race in Buenos Aires will materialize anytime soon as the race is being held hostage by one political party against another. There is a chance things might change after September but rather than fly the series down to Buenos Aires, perhaps South Africa will get a race first. It's a bit longer flight, but not by much. It appears the city of Cape Town is keen on the idea but Bernie Ecclestone is trying to get them to do a F1 race instead at some astronomical price. Champ Car president Dick Eidswick says the 2006 Champ Car schedule will probably have 16 races and be released by the end of the summer, after marketing and advertising budgets are locked down by most major corporations for next year......hence we expect a lot of unsponsored cars again next year due to the late schedule release. Hopefully they will at least announce how many races will be on network TV in the USA and what countries will get an international feed well before then so at least teams have something to sell to sponsors.
Long Beach race to change dates In a recent interview Champ Car president Dick Eidswick confirms that by 2007 they will shift the Long Beach race to a week after the Masters Golf Tournament so the race's TV ratings don't suffer. The issue was getting the Long Beach Convention Center clear that weekend for them. The Convention Center is a key element for the event, housing the motorsports expo as well as the Toyota Atlantic pits.
Trouble with Toyota? Honda looking?UPDATE #3 The rumors of an earlier than expected entry by Toyota into the Nextel Cup Series appear to be unfounded. There had been speculation that Toyota already had built and tested cars, but no one seems to have seen the car. Most insiders say Toyota, which competes in the Craftsman Truck Series, won't move up before 2007. Atlanta Journal-Constitution06/06/05 The latest engine proposal on NASCAR's desk is from car owner/ engine man Robert Yates, who has proposed to NASCAR president Mike Helton cutting 75 horsepower from the present 800-horsepower engines by going to a shorter-stroke engine.
When NASCAR first proposed its engine of the future in December, the goal was to put all the manufacturers back in a box by adding a number of technical specifications and to cut engine size from 358 cubic inches to 325 cubic inches, to chop about 100 horsepower.
NASCAR has had four major meetings with Ford, General Motors, Dodge and Toyota officials since December about the planned new engine, and the plans appeared to be moving slowly but smoothly ahead. Honda, though, has not been involved in any of the talks.
Now, however, NASCAR has abruptly changed tack, after listening to car owners' complaints about the expense of both the engine change and a major future body change at the same time.
"The engine of the future was NASCAR's idea," GM engine specialist Jim Covey said. "When Toyota came in (four years ago), NASCAR felt it had things under control ... but a few things got by them. So NASCAR said 'We've got to have this box for when Toyota might come to Cup.
"NASCAR first wanted it for 2007. Then they pushed it back to 2008 when Ford said it didn't think it could finish the project before then. But now with the car of the future coming too, some of the car owners it appears want it pushed back further.
"But will the engine of the future now be 2009 or 2010, and can we live with what we've got through 2010? "When you ask NASCAR about the engine of the future right now, they say they don't know. Winston Salem Journal
06/06/05 NASCAR's controversial engine of the future suddenly appears all but dead, according to engine builders and car owners, after the latest round of meetings between NASCAR executives and a few Nextel Cup team owners. However, that would lock in the current Toyota and Dodge engine designs as still technically superior to the present Ford and Chevrolet engines. And it would leave Honda - widely expected to make a run into NASCAR racing - with a clean sheet of paper to design its own new NASCAR V-8, which rivals worry would be even better than any engine in the sport right now. NASCAR's engine of the future was to have debuted at California in February 2007. Now it has been pushed back to 2009 or 2010. Add to that, word that NASCAR is apparently working with Honda on an engine development operation for the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville [NC], and it's easy to see why the NASCAR garage here has been in such turmoil the past 48 hours. On the engine front, Ford's Jack Roush says that Toyota has the best engine design in the sport at the moment and Dodge has the second-best. GM officials agree, which is one reason that GM has been promoting NASCAR's proposed new engine. Ford's Roush, however, says that such a new engine would be very expensive, though he has reluctantly hired engine designers for the project. Winston Salem Journal06/05/05 There are questions being raised about Toyota's commitment to a Busch series effort next season, and indications of a possible rift between NASCAR and the Japanese car maker about engine issues related to NASCAR's proposed engine of the future. NASCAR's meetings with the sport's four car makers about specifications for the engine of the future, tentatively designed to roll out in 2007, have been taking place since December. The Toyota engine, according to its rivals, has a technical edge in several respects, and the engine of the future project was in part designed to put all four car makers back on equal technical footing. The NASCAR-Toyota debate comes as word breaks that NASCAR and Honda are reported to be in talks for an engine program of some sort, still undefined, but apparently tied in with NASCAR's technical institute in Mooresville. Winston Salem Journal [Editor's Note: Honda and Toyota are quickly going to find out that they can't push their weight around in NASCAR like they do in the IRL and F1 and like they did in CART and IMSA before that. NASCAR's goal with its next generation engine is for it to be pretty much a spec engine just like the car bodies, so no one has an unfair advantage. Perhaps this will be enough for Toyota and Honda to rethink NASCAR, roll out their 2.65 L CART turbo engines, detune them to 1,200 mile units like Cosworth did, get Ilmor involved again (see Penske buying part of Ilmor rumor), get the IRL and Champ Car back together, and return the sport of IndyCar racing to what it once was when they all competed together in CART and ratings were much closer to NASCAR. Hopefully this time though, the new IndyCar series will be better managed than CART. If you think about the Honda and Toyota image, NASCAR is really not a good fit, but it's hard to turn their backs on its popularity.]
What’s up with Al Unser III?UPDATE #3 We spoke to Toyota Atlantic series spokesperson Merrill Cain today who informed us that the Al Unser III deal is still not done yet, but it's getting closer. They hope to have an announcement next week sometime so Unser can race in Portland next weekend. He is making an appearance in Portland this weekend as we previously reported, if that is any indication. We also hear the same company that was going to sponsor him may now put another one of their poker websites on his car. 05/30/05 Even further research yields an entirely different picture - Here are just a few of the companies that are doing online gambling advertising now. It appears it is not uncommon. The World Trade Organization (WTO) came down with a ruling in 2004 that the DOJ is negotiating on at this point. The ruling by the WTO was in favor of the online gambling firms. We are not attorneys, but this research leads us to now believe Unser's sponsor may be acceptable. More....05/30/05 Further research reveals a related article below. FYI, ESPN, Fox, major magazines, the Super Bowl, etc.,etc., are and have allowed similar sponsors this year.
Bodog Press Release - Bodog.com Rocks Indy at the 2005 Miss 500 Hawaiian Tropic Pageant & Pre-Race VIP Party, Releases Odds on Race Winner May 17, 2005 Indianapolis, IN - Leading online gambling site Bodog.com, sponsor of some of the world's hottest social events, continues this month in Indianapolis during the Indy 500 race weekend with the 2005 Miss 500 Hawaiian Tropic Pageant & Pre-Race VIP Party on Saturday, May 28th. "We like to have a presence at the major sports and entertainment events so the Indy 500 is big on the calendar," says Calvin Ayre, Bodog.com Founder and CEO. "Fast cars, hot girls, good times, it's the New American Dream." The event will take place at the exclusive Vizion-Vapour Lounge in Indianapolis. This will be an ultra-elite soiree, with invitees including celebrity race fans, top drivers and glamorous models. The party will feature performances by local Indianapolis favorites Five Apples and Dave & Rae, along with national break-out rock group The Franchize. Additional sounds will be provided by DJs Slater Hogan, Noah the Arkitech, and Unorthodox. Bodog.com will be extremely visible come race weekend in Indianapolis. In addition to the Pageant party, Bodog will host a Budweiser co-sponsored tent party for 300 VIPS that will take place on the infield of the track Bodog calendar girl winner Melina will be on hand during the party to sign and give out popular Bodog Girl calendars. At the same time, and into the night, the Bodog.com Beach Party will take place. There will be a volleyball tourney with Hawaiian Tropic girls vs. Bodog Girls. The event will be at the Bella Vita at the Marina Geist.
05/30/05 Al Unser III's sponsor bospoker.com may be problematic. It's not clear yet. As we understand it, Champ Car has turned this deal down even as of last month for sponsorship/signage for races (in Mexico and Canada). This originally was turned down due to the Department of Justice (DoJ) threatening ALL broadcast companies. DoJ claims ANY advertising by OFF SHORE (they are based in Costa Rica and publicly held in the UK) and on-line gambling is illegal in the USA. Any company -magazines, broadcast, radio, etc that allows the advertising will be fined and possibly jailed and/or FCC license will be revolved.
One off shore gambling company had $3.4 million confiscated by the DoJ after they paid a cable company as sponsorship of a gambling tournament which was scheduled to be broadcast.
After sportsbook.com sponsors a ALMS car -- CBS, SPEED etc WILL not identify the car or say sportsbook. After this was announced - Trans-Am, NASCAR, Champ Car, IRL and others were contacted by an agency that has bospoker.com as a client - each turned down the money we are told.
We are told NASCAR WILL NOT let any on-line gambling site be involved in ANY way with any team or function. PartyPoker.com is NOT a gambling site.
Betonsports.com had a motorcoach traveling many pro and college football games. In Tampa -- all of the people running the motorcoach were arrested since it is "illegal."
From what we are being told, the IRL is not alone in turning down this sponsor - every series including Champ Car and Trans-Am have refused to take money or even discuss this sponsorship. Walker Racing had sportsbook.com in Miami -- they found out that this was illegal AFTER the race and it was not renewed or considered for any future sponsorships. Stay tuned as we're sure there is another side to this story.
Indian driver under pressure to perform India's first Formula One driver Narain Karthikeyan has been told to raise his game by the Jordan team. "We are all aware that the drivers are rookies," said team boss Colin Kolles at the Canadian Grand Prix on Friday. "I was not very happy with the performance of Narain in Monte Carlo, I was not very happy with his performance at Nurburgring. He knows this, I told him this," he added.
The Indian has also been out qualified by Monteiro in the last two Grands Prix. "At the beginning Tiago was a little bit behind Narain, now Tiago is doing a better job," said Kolles. "This also has something to do with experience. I think both drivers are not as bad as they look, we have to give them a better car and then they will look much better. We are realistic enough to know that the car is not a good car, you can see it on the track." Reuters [Editor's Note: Rumor has it that if Bernie thinks he can do a deal for a race in India, Narain will keep his ride. If not.....]
Michigan to benefit from Danica Patrick? The Indy Star reports that although Texas hasn't seemed to benefit greatly from Danica Patrick's fame, Michigan International Speedway may be seeing a bump. The speedway says that ticket sales for the "first few days after the Indy 500 were up "four to five times" from the corresponding period a year ago, and the momentum has continued.
Jarrett Racing Adventure may have to closeUPDATE Dale Jarrett Racing Adventure says "We are not closing, in fact we are expanding our business:" Dale Jarrett Racing Adventure, a company that has provided the thrill of driving a Nextel Cup car around NASCAR tracks nationwide to thousands of customers over the last 5 years, is going strong and growing every year. Dale Jarrett Racing Adventure is a publicly traded company under the symbol DJRT and files financial reports with the SEC every quarter. According to Tim Shannon, President, "Our first quarter, being winter, is traditionally our slowest. This is when the auditor usually is required to add the "going concern" statement which is based on only a few factors and does not accurately reflect the entire dynamic of the company. We have grown by 35% and more every year of the last four and have not had to raise any outside capital in the process and have no plans to do so in the near future. In fact, we are so pleased with our development that we have implemented a strategy to expand our business into other areas where the respected Dale Jarrett brand can bring benefit to companies and shareholders alike." Readers are encouraged to not only review all Dale Jarrett Racing Adventure filings with the SEC but to visit their website for more information about their unique product which features side by side racing and passing at www.racingadventure.com Dale Jarrett Racing Adventure, 888-GO-RACE-1. 06/03/05 Dale Jarrett Racing Adventure Inc. incurred a net loss for the quarter ended March 31 and says its auditors have expressed reservations about the company's ability to continue operating. The Denver, N.C., company, which operates a stock-car fantasy driving school at several tracks around the country, including one at Lowe's Motor Speedway, says in its SEC filing it has experienced a significant loss from operations, a result of investments necessary to achieve its operating plan. From the company's creation in 1998 through March 31, Dale Jarrett Racing has incurred net losses of nearly $4.8 million. The company has a working capital deficit of more than $1 million. The company says failure to secure equity financing, raise additional capital or attain profitable operations may result in the company depleting its available funds and not being able pay its obligations. This month, Dale Jarrett Racing announced it changed from a fiscal year ending June 30 to a calendar year ending Dec. 31 to better coincide with business planning and strategy. Business Journal
Pedro seeks 2006 ride Pedro de la Rosa would like to step back onto the F1 grid, permanently. But the Spaniard, who raced spectacularly in Juan Pablo Montoya's injured boots at Bahrain, admits that a full time seat is rather improbable.
''I'm pretty realistic,'' he told Spain's 'Marca' newspaper at the Montreal track, where he'll fulfill McLaren's 'Friday' and reserve post. 'I know how difficult it will be to get a place in 2006. If it happens, I'll look back on Bahrain and remember that race as very helpful.''
So what about Canada's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve? Pedro, who has driven for Arrows and Jaguar, reckons the best car in Montreal will be the one with the best traction. ''So Renault will be strong,'' he told the daily.
Villeneuve faces axe ahead of home GP There can be no greater insult for a Formula One driver than to be classified as slow. When your employer makes the assessment, the humiliation is complete. That was the fate of Jacques Villeneuve, whose Formula One career continued to unravel yesterday on the red carpet rolled out for his homecoming here.
Normally the most reserved of team principals, Peter Sauber cast aside restraint with a damning summary of the man he brought back to grand prix racing after a year on the sidelines.
Following the debacle of Monte Carlo, where Sauber described Villeneuve's ill-advised attempt to pass his team-mate, Felipe Massa, as one of the most disappointing episodes he had endured in F1, the post-Nurburgring attack had something of the death knell about it.
"Jacques goes too slow. It is difficult to find the cause. It represents a problem we must solve internally," Sauber said. The solution may come sooner rather than later. Probably in the shape of the axe. Though Villeneuve took the diplomatic route when questioned about Sauber's remarks, he accepted his future looked bleak.
"I feel I'm still one of the better drivers. If I did not think that I would not have come back.
"When this kind of thing gets into the public domain it also shows a weakness in the team. If it continues like it has there won't be many chances for me," Villeneuve said. More at Telegraph.co.uk
Zonta or Servia to drive for Newman/HaasUPDATE #3 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' as Servia got the nod today. Word is Zonta was making a high salary as a Toyota F1 test driver and wanted more money than Newman/Haas was willing to pay. 06/07/05 According to this Champ Car article, Oriol Servia will probably get the nod over Ricardo Zonta for the Bruno Junqueira seat. 06/04/05 Will Servia keep his job at Newman/Haas or will they go with Zonta? “Oriol did a good job,” said Carl Haas after the race. “He did everything we asked; he certainly didn’t lose any points. What we’re going to do I can’t say right now, but we’ll know in the next few days.”
“Oriol (right) did a good job,” said race engineer Rocky Rocquelin. “He’s a very smart guy, very good feedback and he took full advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves today. This was probably not the ideal place for him to drive for Newman/Haas. As everyone knows, we’ve been pretty average here lately and with just one day of practice and qualifying, it was a pretty big challenge for him, but he did a good job. I’m happy for him.”
“It’s not my decision to make, of course,” said Bourdais, “but I like Oriol. I’ve known him a long time and I think he deserves the chance to finally drive a good car. And he proved today what he can do.”
06/02/05 AutoRacing1.com has learned from confidential sources that Newman/Hass Racing has reached a tentative agreement with Toyota F1 test driver Ricardo Zonta (pictured right) from Brazil to take over Junqueira’s car for the remainder of the season starting at Portland. Zonta has proven to be very quick testing for Toyota, many times running faster than their regular F1 drivers. He deserves this big break. We hear everyone has agreed to it as long as Toyota can find a replacement for Zonta.
Our sources tell us that Ryan Hunter-Reay was the only driver on this side of the ocean that Newman/Haas was willing to put off signing a European driver with Formula 1 experience to the seat for. Nothing against Zonta, he's a great driver, but why wasn't everything possible done to get Ryan Hunter-Reay into a race winning ride. While we understand Paul Gentilozzi's predicament having to find a replacement driver for Hunter-Reay, where was Mario Haberfeld who was standing by for Glock in Monterrey? Not only would it have been good for the series to have Hunter-Reay winning races, an opportunity he may not get this year, it would have been good for Hunter-Reay's career.
If Zonta does get the Newman/Haas ride as this rumor suggests, we assume Servia will return to his ride at Dale Coyne Racing. Mark C.
Chinese to start selling cars outside of China Any company with ambitions to go global has to be in China. But, how long will it be before China feels the pressure and wants to increase its market share by going global. Obviously, sooner than most thought. Rumor has it that the companies to watch out for are Changan, Chery and Geely. Changan is the top producing car company in China and has dealings with Ford, Suzuki and Mazda. Chery is the eighth largest automaker in China and has a deal with Malcolm Bricklin, the founder of Subaru USA and Yugo USA to sell cars in the US. Geely owns 5 percent of the Chinese market. Cars are priced around USD 5,000. There is a report that Geely recently signed a deal with Malcolm Bricklin’s Chery to start selling its vehicles in the United States by 2006. Carlist.com
GM may buy back into Fiat General Motors got out of its purchase option with FIAT by paying them $2 Billion. Now both Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp(SAIC)(a joint venture with General Motors and Volkswagen in China) and TATA Motor Group are rumored to be interested in purchasing FIAT, the parent company of Ferrari and Maserati. This would give either company a foray into Europe and Latin America and, possibly, a footprint into the United States, slicing the domestic market share pie just a little more. Carlist.com
Rolex 24 to change dateUPDATE This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact.' See story on Hot News page. 06/09/05 The Rolex 24 At Daytona is moving up -- to a new date on the calendar. And the focus of next year's Speed Weeks will be different. The Rolex 24 At Daytona is being moved from its normal first weekend of February one week earlier to Jan. 28-29. The move is believed to be permanent, and is designed to end a longstanding first-Sunday-in-February schedule conflict between the race and the NFL's Super Bowl. Daytona International Speedway and Rolex Series officials will announce the move today. The move breaks the Rolex 24's longstanding tradition of being DIS' opening act in a three-week glut of car racing to follow. The NASCAR portion of the schedule remains unchanged, although the switch may affect testing dates. By slating the race's 44th edition for an off-weekend falling between the NFL's conference championships and ultimate game, those connected with the event say the move will allow fans to participate in both, instead of having to choose one over the other. News-Journal
Marco Andretti headed to NASCAR? The destruction of open wheel racing in the USA caused by the split when Tony George created the IRL has led to many bright young open wheel drivers to go to NASCAR instead. Marco Andretti may be the latest. According to the Las Vegas Sun, Michael Andretti is so uncertain about the future state of open wheel racing, that he has openly discussed placing his 18 year-old son Marco in the Busch Grand National Series next year.
BMW set to stick with Williams? DoubtfulUPDATE #2 We are downgrading this rumor to 'speculation' as it appears the Williams/BMW relationship is falling apart. “This is something I personally consider to be extremely unprofessional,” Patrick Head told Italian magazine Sport Auto Moto when he heard that engine partner BMW said the partnership produced just 10 wins in 5 years.
"Unfortunately our partner chose to tell people they are perfect while accusing us. This is honestly something which shows very little character,” he added.
"In my opinion, we should work like a united family, but instead this doesn't happen at all. In the last three years we've developed a starting system together - 50 percent ourselves and 50 percent them,” Head revealed. "But when the car starts badly they are very ready to accuse; they never talk about 'our engine' or 'our clutch' or whatever." (Williams' cars have been among the slowest off the line at race starts this season). I think this is Mario Theissen's approach, and it's a dishonest approach. We must live with this way of behaving of theirs, but we can't act the same way."
06/06/05 Frank Williams admitted for the first time to German newspaper Bild that Williams F1 is considering alternative engines for ‘06. “We have a valid contract with BMW for next year, but I’m not worried anyway as there are several other engines available. BMW seems to be everywhere in Formula 1 these days, but we would gladly continue our partnership with BMW."
“Our former associations with Honda and Renault were substantially more cooperative and more successful,” said Williams, letting BMW know he has options and they are not the best."
05/29/05 BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen has squashed rumors that they will drop the Williams team and buy Sauber. He told the media in Germany - "We are focusing on the co-operation with Williams," said Theissen. "We want to have a strong season together and I expect the relationship to continue beyond the end of the season. It certainly takes some time to adapt to a different package and I can tell you that we are very busy working on next year's package with the car and the engine.
"We really appreciate what we achieved as a team and it goes some way to what we expected," he said. "I certainly hope we can continue to get close to the frontrunners, to win races.
"We said at the beginning of this year that we are prepared to supply a second team from next year and soon after that we entered into discussions with Sauber," said Theissen. "Originally we were talking with Red Bull as well, but now it is only Sauber. We are discussing the situation and I would expect us to do that within June, probably to have a decision on what to do by the end of June.
"We will try to avoid two different engine design specs, but you might race more adventurous things not at the same time with all the cars you have on the grid," he said. "But that would always happen."
F1 back to 12-lap format Rumor has it that F1 will return to its old one-hour qualifying format in 2006 with each driver getting 12 laps. The FIA is thinking about requiring each driver to be on the track in the first 30 minutes, which otherwise would be void of many cars because the track gets faster as the session wears on and more rubber is laid down.
Carroll may get BAR test role Young British racer Adam Carroll has been tipped for a full-time testing role with BAR-Honda in 2006. Senior race engineer Jock Clear, who runs the young driver program, hinted at Carroll.
“Adam Carroll is clearly talented, quick and he’s seriously sharp,” Clear told Motorsport News. “After two years it’s our intention to bring one of the young drivers we’ve got in the program into the race team. “We know that Jenson Button’s position is not particularly clear and that Anthony deserves a chance to drive – so there’ll be a test spot available.”
Toyota announcement soonUPDATE #2 Our European sources tell us that Toyota will indeed soon announce they are quitting the IRL at the end of 2006 when their contract is up. 06/08/05 Toyota has a press conference scheduled this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway and many believe the manufacturer will announce its withdrawal from the IRL. 06/03/05 We are hearing that Toyota will announce their future plans with the IRL possibly as early as this coming week. Whether they stay or leave remains to be seen, but speculation is that they will announce the end of their IRL involvement after 2006. We also hear that if the rumors are true that the IRL may switch to Grand-Am engines, Honda is not really interested. We suspect we will know soon.
A subtle reminder Interesting ad that Toyota is running on the back cover of SportsCar, the SCCA magazine. It is for the Toyota Atlantic Championship, heralding that the series is "Developing the racing superstars of tomorrow." The photo depicts three drivers in full equipment (no HANS though) running on banked treadmills leaning into a left turn. An interesting message for a road racing series.....indicating NASCAR here they come.
Marlin to get the axeUPDATE #3 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today, Ganassi will release Marlin. Reports have recently circulated that Sterling Marlin might not drive the final seven races of the season for Chip Ganassi Racing. Marlin, the guest driver on yesterday's weekly NASCAR Nextel Cup conference call, said he "feels pretty certain they'll honor the deal," but added: "Some things are out of your hands." The veteran driver from Columbia said he is "100 percent sure I won't be back (with Ganassi) next year," and said he is currently looking for a new ride. Marlin also announced plans to run Saturday's Busch race at the Nashville Superspeedway. Tennessean
When it comes to determining his future in the NASCAR Cup Series, it's a different matter. Marlin actively has several lines in the water trying to land a ride for next season. "I've been approached by some teams and I'm talking to some teams," Marlin said. Marlin said he hasn't officially received word that he won't be back for a ninth season with the team that Chip Ganassi bought from Felix Sabates in 2000. But Marlin knows which way the wind is blowing as Ganassi grows dissatisfied with not winning. High Point Enterprise
05/09/05 Sterling Marlin said last month that he didn't think he'd be back at Chip Ganassi Racing next year because the car owner had been reluctant to discuss a new contract with him. Ganassi said Marlin can change that via on-track performance. "Right now, we don't have a plan for Sterling for next year,'' Ganassi said. "But if he wins a couple of races, it's not like we can't change our plans.'' Assuming he needs a new job next season, garage speculation has him moving over to Richard Childress Racing to drive the #07 Jack Daniel's Chevy that Dave Blaney currently pilots. Jack Daniels is a Tennessee-based company that would love to be represented by a home state driver. Busch series driver David Stremme, who is part of Ganassi's development program, is most commonly mentioned to replace Marlin in the #40 Dodge. ESPN.com RPM05/02/05 Sterling Marlin already has said he’s “99 percent” sure he won’t be back driving for Chip Ganassi next year. Multiple sources in the garage indicate that a well-known liquor company has contacted at least one established team about putting Marlin in one of its cars next season. Speed Channel04/08/05 Sterling Marlin said Friday he is "99.9% certain" that he won't be back with Chip Ganassi Racing for the 2006 Nextel Cup season. Marlin, 47, has been driving for the team formerly owned by Felix Sabates since the start of the 1998 season. He's won four races with the team after having six victories in the previous four seasons at Morgan/McClure. Marlin, who will be making his 646th career Nextel Cup start in Sunday's Advance 500 at Martinsville Speedway, is in the final year of his contract. Marlin said he has a few very preliminary discussions with others about potential rides for 2006 and beyond, but nothing substantive yet. David Poole/ThatsRacin.com
The 2007 to 2011 Champ Car and Indy CarUPDATE #5 This website provides some images of the proposed next generation Champ Car as proposed by Bruce Ashmore. 05/28/05 Another reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I recently purchased a set of super low profile tires for my Toyota. I'm one of what you call the "tuner" guys. You are so right. The low profile (low sidewall) tires are fast around corners but they break loose without warning and in the wet they are horrendous. Now I understand why you have been preaching the high sidewall F1 tires for the next generation Champ Car. Hector Gomez, Orange, CA.05/27/05 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Champ Car has some great momentum now that they have bought the LBGP. That is awesome. How about persuading Champ Car to have standing starts next season, if not 2007, to further differentiate itself from the competition. Now that would be awesome. Josue Cano, California, Oxnard, CA. Dear Josue, Standing starts would be great at certain tracks where the S/F straight is wide enough, but you probably won't see them until 2007, if at all. Mark C. 05/26/05 When Bruce Ashmore was working for John Menards Menards Competition Technologies (MCT) division, he came up with this proposed IRL IndyCar. Ashmore is back in the Champ Car paddock now working for Mi-Jack Conquest Racing Champ Car team and it looks like he is pushing this concept for Champ Car as well.
This new prototype open wheel chassis he penned has safety as a primary goal and looks just like what was described in the original Champ Car article. Ashmore was a key player in that Champ Car meeting and it appears he pushed this image, which gives us a clear picture what the next generation Champ Car could look like, and perhaps IndyCar if the two series merge as rumored.
The car is designed so driver sits more upright, which improves driver vision and provided better protection and support for drivers back and neck. New front wing aero assembly - rounded corners minimize potential for cut tires, much stronger -by design this front wing is far less affected by disturbed air in traffic.
The full width front wing, along with the barge boards behind, make the front tires fully protected - still clearly an open wheel car but with safety of a closed wheel design. Other features include;
Larger, full length, full width sidepods - better overall protection, better protection for rear tires and larger, smooth area for better signage
Larger underbody tunnels and overall smaller wings - when combined with new nose/front wings the entire platform is more stable in dirty air. Tunnels pay particular attention to laminar flow - no vortices or sharp edges - which create more overall downforce and make less susceptible to pitch and attitude changes as well as dirty air. Where a current chassis loses a large portion of its downforce in draft, this chassis should be far more stable. A simplified body design, with fewer total parts - intended to improve fit, build times and reduce maintenance
At the time Ashmore was with MCT there was confirmation that the "clean sheet" IndyCar engine, begun by TWR, had been completed by MCT ,and approved, and awaits only a manufacturer badge and commitment to see competition. With no airbox shown, it appears they may have had a turbo engine in mind.
With 160 employees consolidated at the former Arrows F1 facility in the UK, and enough technical expertise and equipment to build up to and including F1 chassis' and/or engines, MCT said they intend on becoming a "constructor" of racing chassis and engines, which means Cosworth and Honda could have some competition in a consolidated series, as would Lola. (see related article)
05/19/05 A reader adds, Are they just oblivious to the obvious? 100lbs. less? Is that it? Plus, with talk of still controlling the power to coincide with the higher straight line speeds, are they just blind or something? In all fairness, I do agree with much of what has been said about the new chassis. I agree with the narrower track. That is too obvious and would be a much needed help for passing on the streets. Also, obtaining the downforce from the underwing/underbody, rather than the external wings, is very bright. Keeping the chassis a "spec" chassis is also very smart. It allows Champ Car to retain the distinction of being the true World Driver's/Team Championship, as every team/driver has the same equipment and the skill of the driver/team is what is emphasized, not who just has the better car, ala F1. The retention of the turbo engine is also very wise, as it allows Champ Car to regulate the horsepower for road/street courses vs. oval venues through the boost control.
What I cannot agree with is the slight reduction of weight. Only 100lbs. reduction is just ludicrous. We've been patiently waiting for the performance for years now. What that means is at least 200lbs. reduction with the current horsepower. A 1350lb. Champ Car with 800hp minimum and narrower track is perfect. It is respectable performance compared to F1, significantly better than the IRL, will be visibly faster, and will certainly set much faster track records at every venue it attends.
Furthermore, and almost just as important, the driver who drives this new Champ Car must be thoroughly satisfied with its performance. This is imperative for retaining our Champions. Every race car driver, especially those at the top echelon of racing want to drive the best, the fastest of the fast race cars. Right now, there is a huge difference between a Champ Car and an F1 car, and the repercussions from that are obvious. The current Champ Car is looked down on by the F1 group and the driver's who come from F1 and test a Champ Car all say, somewhat in distaste, there is a huge difference between the two. If the driver's feel the Champ Car is almost every bit as quick as an F1 car, they are not going to be as likely to want to leave for better things, the respect from the F1 community will return, and the prestige of driving and winning in Champ Car "The True Driver's/Team World Championship" will return.
The drivers must WANT to drive a Champ Car, not see it as a ho-hum option because they didn't get that F1 ride they wanted. That is a big difference in attitude. The fans have been very patiently supporting Champ Car through these past few years, waiting for the day where we can turn and look to our F1 buddies and say "Hey! Not so fast, take a look at what we have over here" once more. And, like the days from the past, our F1 buddies will have nothing to say but "Damn, you are right. That is impressive!"
I know, I for one, will not be able to wait until 2011 (when the next redesign is due) for that day anymore. It has been a huge struggle at this point. Honestly, if the don't get it right, and do not significantly drop the weight while maintaining and/or increasing the horsepower.....I think my days will just be finished as fan. It is just too painful to watch right now. The mystique and awe is gone. Furthermore, even the absolutely low class IRL cars are in the ballpark, which is a complete shame. GET IT RIGHT! Derek Hughes, Cincinnati, OH
Dear Derek, By giving us a peek at what the next generation car will be now we are encouraged that Champ Car is going to see what the reaction is from its constituents before finalizing the design, and hopefully make the necessary corrections. We would target 150 less weight, not 200, unless ovals are eliminated. Taking out 200 pounds would drive costs up too high because lighter weight materials would be required and the car may not be safe enough when hitting a wall at 200 MPH. And the wheel size must drop to 13 inches in diameter (as stated below) to get the higher sidewalls so the drivers can throw the car around more and it won't breakaway suddenly without warning like it does now. You don't see low profile tires on dirt track cars do you, where the driver has to have enough feel to pitch the car sideways and hold it there? Simply can't be done with a low profile tire, so lets hope these smart minds finally understand and make this change. Mark C.
05/18/05 This Champ Car article talks about what a team of engineers are coming up with for the next generation Champ Car for 2007 thru 2011. There are some flaws in what this group is proposing, but generally they are on the right track. It's interesting to see they think the downforce should come more from the underbody and less from the wings. That's funny. We proposed that very concept way back in 2000. It took them this long to figure it out. Related article.
They are making a huge mistake not changing the wheels and tires to that of F1 size. More of the spring rate of the cars need to come from the higher tire sidewalls, but they don't yet grasp this concept and the benefit it produces. In addition, the smaller brakes required for the smaller 13 inch F1 wheels can mean longer braking zones, everything else being equal, which would result in more passing. Again, these guys don't get it with regard to this concept.
Lowering the sidepods is bad news unless they are going to eliminate ovals from the schedule. Pushing the sidepods out to the width of the front track and beefing up the suspension will increase the ability of the driver to bump and get away with it, but the cars have to look good or the customers, especially the tuner crowd, will turn their nose up to them. The beefy suspension pieces can also act like lethal weapons in a major accident. This needs to be looked at. It also increases the unsprung weight.
Taking 100 pounds out of the cars is what we have been saying for years. It's about time. The spec car and engine is OK, and good idea on the twin turbo, but the spec engine must carry multiple manufacturer engine badges. Champ Car's ultimate success will hinge on major manufacturer involvement (the series needs the money) with multiple manufacturers competing with spec engines and car, just as it will be in NASCAR. In NASCAR they simply change the front headlight decal and presto, you have a Chevy, a Ford or a Dodge. In Champ Car you just change the cam cover nameplate. Same idea, just a slightly different twist.
What about onboard starters and standing starts, nowhere is that addressed. Mark C.
Ilmor to become sole supplier of IRL enginesUPDATE Rumor has it that when Honda and Toyota follow Chevy and quit the IRL, Ilmor will be the sole supplier of IRL engines much the same as Cosworth is the sole supplier of Champ Car engines. Roger Penske will have saved the day for Tony George. 06/02/05 Mercedes-Ilmor Ltd is to be rebranded and in future the Mercedes-Benz F1 engines will be built by Mercedes-Benz High Performance Engines Ltd. The change has come about following the splitting up of the old Ilmor company with the sale of the Special Project Group of Mercedes-Ilmor and Ilmor Inc to the other shareholders: Penske Racing, Mario Illien and Elizabeth Morgan, the widow of founder Paul Morgan. At the end of September Mercedes Ilmor will become a 100% subsidiary of DaimlerChrysler and it will then change its name. The Special Projects Group and Ilmor Inc focus on engine programs for Indy Racing League and NASCAR. Grandprix.com
Kahne eyes Indy 500 Kasey Kahne, top-level NASCAR racer with Evernham Motorsports, hinted Tuesday that he hopes to make a try at the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. Kahne, former USAC midget champion, helped run his family sprint-car team out of Indianapolis, that team now located in North Carolina. He continues to run occasional USAC and Outlaws races. Asked if he had a chance to watch this year's Indy 500 while cooped with NASCAR at Charlotte, he said, "I watched pretty much all of it. I had a few meet-and-greets to do during it, but I was able to watch most of the 500. It's such an exciting race. It's exciting to watch every part of it. "I enjoyed it when I used to go and watch, and now I watch it on TV. I would hope to get an opportunity to race in that race in the near future." SPEEDTV.com
Will Wallace race in ’06?UPDATE Rusty Wallace is planning on making this year his last as a full-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver, however, this might not be the last time we see him in a racecar at Michigan. "I'm retiring full-time from NASCAR NEXTEL Cup racing," he commented. "But, I'm not going to say that I'll never get in a car again. I might run a few races in my Busch car. I have a lot of things I want to do. I want to help my son Steve. He's going to run in the second ARCA race here at Michigan in August, so I'm excited about that." MIS PR05/23/05 Speculation is intensifying that #2-Rusty Wallace might not be retiring at the end of the season after all. This year has been billed as "Rusty's Last Call," as his final season on the NASCAR tour. However, in the past few days there has been intense speculation that Wallace is having second thoughts about hanging it up while he's running so well. A question - car owner Roger Penske may be under pressure from sponsor Miller to keep Wallace in that car another year. However Penske just bought out Wallace's share of Penske South, after nearly 15 years as business partners, and Wallace has been complaining about the huge tax bite that sale is costing him. The prospect that Wallace might not be hanging it up has some rival car owner eager to make a bid for his services. Ford men are expressing an interest in Wallace, who drove for Ford for several years before switching to Dodge. Chevy men are also expressing an interest in Wallace. Miller officials of course want their NASCAR team competing head-to-head against the Budweiser team, with superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr. And so far Wallace is doing just that - he's led 204 laps, to Earnhardt's five. Wallace has four top-10s, Earnhardt five. Winston Salem Journal
Ford Crew Chief for No. 11 car Today, a source close to Joe Gibbs Racing told NASCAR Nation's Ralph Sheheen that Mike Ford will be named the new crew chief for the #11 and that he will be sitting on top of the pit box when the team races this coming weekend in Pocono.' I [Sheheen] also spoke to team president J.D. Gibbs who told me the team wasn't ready to officially announce anything but did say they were talking to Ford. Leffler's current crew chief Dave Rogers will stay with the team but in a different capacity. FoxSports/NASCAR Nation
Long Beach or NY City?UPDATE This Grandprix.com article says, New York City's bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympics suffered a setback on Monday when plans for a $2bn stadium on the West Side of Manhattan ran into trouble over funding, with a state financing board failing to approve a $300m grant for the stadium, which would ultimately serve as the new home of the New York Jets National Football League team. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made it clear that if the city does not get the stadium it will not get the Olympics. This conclusion was also reached in an International Olympic Committee report published this week which ranked Paris as the favorite to win the 2012 Olympic Games.
The state financing board is split on whether it is worth spending the money necessary when major investment is needed in lower Manhattan where major reconstruction is planned following the terrorist attacks on September 11 2001 attacks which brought down the World Trade Center towers.
New York's hopes of landing the Olympic Games is slim at best and there is a strong argument that it would be wiser for the city to concentrate on smaller events and that a Formula 1 race would be a very valuable idea. Bernie Ecclestone makes no secret of the fact that he wants F1 in New York and has been trying to get a race there for more than 20 years. It is 23 years since Ecclestone announced an event on New York. The event never happened because of legal challenges and in 1984 CART stepped in and began racing at the Meadowlands stadium in New Jersey. This venue continued to be used until 1992 when there was another attempt to run a street race in Manhattan. That too failed. A couple of years ago Ken Podziba, Sports Commissioner of the New York, said that the city was "exploring various venues around the city."
Ecclestone said recently that New York was "more open to the idea of welcoming international events" and has talked about an event on "the East Coast".
At various times in the last 15 years other venues have been mentioned in addition to Flushing Meadow, including Atlantic City and Floyd Bennett Field, a deserted Naval Air Station an island in Jamaica Bay. [Editor's Note: F1 and its minions are pipe dreaming if they think they are going to race in NY City. While Bernie Ecclestone is able to rape other cities with astronomical fees to host an F1 race, NY City never will because they don't need F1 to "put them on the map." The greatest city in the world is already on the map so what does F1 bring? If Bernie wants to race in NY City he will have to foot the entire bill and the chances of that happening are about as good as Minardi winning every F1 race for a year! Sport's Commissioner Podziba has already told us they won't close any city streets for a race.]
10/20/04 In the same article that Bernie Ecclestone declares the British GP is toast, the London Times speculates that the alternative venue might be Long Beach or New York. We doubt it's Long Beach or New York and in other rumors on these pages, it appears to be Cape Town, South Africa.
Villeneuve's days numbered Despite having a contract with the Sauber F1 team that runs until the end of 2006, it's pretty safe to say that Jacques Villeneuve's time with the Swiss squad appears to be nearing an end. There comes a time in every driver's career when they simply are no longer fast enough because reflexes slow with age and that fact is magnified in the ultra fast world of F1.
"Jacques is certainly too slow," team owner Peter Sauber told Autosprint magazine. "We've all become aware of it, himself and us."
Sauber said both the team and the driver were finding it hard to discover the reasons for Villeneuve's lack of pace.
"He goes too slow and it's difficult to find the cause, but it represents a problem which we must solve internally," added Sauber.
Ford looking to tie M3 beater into Champ Car? Rumor has it that Ford plans a mega-powered, BMW M3-beating turbocharged Focus RS with ties back into Champ Car's turbocharged cars and the drifting series for the tuner crowd. The rumors suggest that the forthcoming Focus RS will have up to 350bhp and 332lb-ft of torque from a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine, driven through all four wheels. That's more than the current BMW M3's 343bhp and 269lb-ft.
According to Autocar, Ford execs are considering a plan to install the Volvo-developed engine in the RS, which is due out in 2007. The unit is an aluminum block, four valve-per-cylinder powerplant weighing just 180Kg.
Three versions will be built:
3.2-liter naturally aspirated with variable cam timing for inlet valves only, producing 235bhp at 6,000rpm and 236lb-ft of torque at 3,500rpm
3.0-liter low-boost turbocharged with variable cam timing on all valves, producing 285bhp and 295lb-ft.
3.0-liter high-boost turbocharged with variable cam timing on all valves, producing 350bhp and 332lb-ft.
With Champ Car sticking to the turbo platform, and an increasing number of street cars getting turbo power, Champ Car is positioning itself to appeal to many manufacturers who will be forced to introduce turbos in the coming years to keep up with the continual horsepower race. Compare that to the hideous IRL engine that Honda, Toyota and Chevy are building that has zero relationship to production engines. There can be a direct marketing tie-in between Champ Car's turbo engines and production based turbo engines. The question is whether Champ Car can sell other manufacturers besides Ford on the marketing tie-in. If the IRL and Champ Car were to merge, there is no doubt in our mind what the common engine should be - turbocharged.
IRL to pair with some Busch races NASCAR is apparently working with Honda on an engine development operation for the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, and NASCAR executives are also considering a dramatic change in the Busch tour schedule (for 2006) that could pair the Busch series with the Indy Racing League during a number of doubleheader weekends in 2006, according to some top NASCAR team owners. In turn, NASCAR would hope to raise the television profile of its struggling Truck series by moving it to several Saturdays as part of doubleheaders with the Nextel Cup tour.
ABC, which got a big ratings boost from Danica Patrick's performance in the Indy 500, is apparently not pleased with ad sales in general for its IRL events. And the issue of TV ad sales, not just for IRL races but also for all NASCAR races too, appears to be playing a large role behind-the-scenes in some of the technical and scheduling issues under consideration. NASCAR's Truck series has, like the IRL, been largely unable to attract high-dollar sponsorships.
In fact, NASCAR's Truck series is in trouble and needs a big shot in the arm, some team owners say - a big TV shot in the arm. "When the Truck race here is on Speed (a cable channel) and gets tape delayed, you've got problems," Bill Davis, a Truck and Cup owner, said. "And the Truck race was originally scheduled for 5 p.m. on Friday, which is not exactly prime time to begin with." Winston Salem Journal
IRL ABC contract Rumor in some circles is that IRL is making a profit of $16 million from their ABC TV contract per season. Supposedly ABC pays the IRL $32 Million for the Indy 500, and then the IRL repays ABC $1 Million for the other 16 races (i.e. a time buy just like Champ Car, ALMS, etc.) for a net of $16 Million.
Overheard at MilwaukeeUPDATE Rumor has it that the title sponsor for the San Jose race will be Taylor Woodrow and the race called the Taylor Woodrow Grand Prix. Taylor Woodrow is a very large home building firm here in the United States and the UK. To learn more about them here is their US website address: www.taylorwoodrowna.comMark C.06/03/05 We hear there will be a title sponsorship announcement on June 9th for the San Jose GP......The rumors that Champ Car may go back to Mid-Ohio are just that, rumors for now.......Jimmy Vasser said it is irresponsible for a sanctioning body to run open wheel cars on high banked tracks because they are simply too fast for Indy Car type racing - too many drivers get injured.....Vasser feels a lot of fans expect new stadiums and better fan amenities than ever before, hence why downtown city races are popular.....Jimmy Vasser says he does not know what will come of the unification talks, but he thinks the two sides won't come together. He does not think Tony George is interested in a 50/50 deal.....Burned by Tony George before in failed merger talks, one fan coined it "Baloney from Tony"....Jimmy Vasser thinks series needs more ovals and at least one 500 mile race.....We hear Gerald Forsythe wants to organize a street race in Cancun, Mexico and he does not think F1 will ever race there because they want too much money......IRL stars Danica Patrick, Dan Wheldon, Buddy Rice, etc are ALL a product of the Champ Car Series and/or its development series......Tony Cotman said the next generation car will have about the same HP as the current car, in a lighter and sleeker car with a turbo engine and bigger underbody tunnels.......Talk is there will be over 20 cars on the grid next year in Champ Car.....Houston is back in the mix as a possible future Champ Car venue.
NASCAR HOF a white elephant? NASCAR has put their Hall of Fame up for bid between 5 cities, but it's quite possible the only ones benefiting from the HOF will be NASCAR. According to an article in the Charlotte Observer, Charlotte leaders have called the contest to win NASCAR's Hall of Fame a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to lure tourism dollars to the region. But an economic impact study shows the project would generate less revenue per year for Mecklenburg County's economy than a single Nextel Cup race at Lowe's Motor Speedway does for the region. And it would have only about five times as much impact as the McAdenville Christmas lights do in Gaston County. The study was conducted for the city to help build support for the hall. The Observer obtained it from Gov. Mike Easley's office through the N.C. Public Records Law (watch this study get swept under the carpet real fast by NASCAR).
The information provided to the Observer does not show, however, what the hall would cost to operate over time, who would cover those costs, or who would get the revenues if the hall makes a profit. That's what Jeff Wise, executive director of the Charlotte whitewater park project, would like to know. He said the NASCAR Hall of Fame is an exciting opportunity that needs to be evaluated, but the business case hasn't been made publicly.
Would Pikes Peak lose its race in merger? This Colorado Springs Gazette article talks about the possible merger of the IRL and Champ Car and the concern that they would lose their race because Champ Car has a race in downtown Denver and that may get the nod over Pikes Peak. However, this is not an issue in AutoRacing1.com's proposal which calls for two divisions and 6 common races between the two divisions. This issue was one of the reasons we recommended two divisions, so that most tracks will retain their event. See proposed schedule in this article. Only the very weakest events would be dropped and since Pikes Peak does not attract a large crowd, it was not on our proposed schedule. With that said, our schedule was only an example of what could be done.
Sanbagging at LeMans During this past weekend's 24 Hours of LeMans test there was lots of talk over some of the times dipping below ACO's "performance limits." Speculation is that Corvette is playing some very smart cards and letting Aston Martin show their hand prior to qualifying during race week...Corvette has been staying at or above the 3:55 "suggested" ACO limit. There is NO question that there is plenty more time in the C6R! LMSR
Patrick to F1?UPDATE We failed to mention that there has been speculation NASCAR would like to grab Danica Patrick as well. Rest assured the IRL will do everything in their power to keep her. If they lose her it will be another blow to open wheel racing in the USA. 06/05/05 Rumor has it that Michael Schumacher's manager, Willi Weber, has shown significant interest in signing Patrick to a long-term deal, sources say. We doubt it will happen until she starts winning races on a regular basis.
Will Danicamania carry over to other races? The Forth Worth Star-Telegram asked Texas Motor Speedway promoter Eddie Gossage. He replied, "I don't know that we're going to see a significant or appreciable increase in attendance." Of course that depends how many free tickets they give away.
Gentilozzi fed up with ovals? After losing two cars in testing at Milwaukee a month ago, Paul Gentilozzi's Rocketsports team lost yet another car Saturday when Ryan Hunter-Reay crashed, leading one wag to say Paul Gentilozzi, a road racer in the Trans-Am series, has seen enough of oval tracks for awhile. As we have said, oval track racing for open wheel cars can be very expensive, and when so few fans show up at places like Milwaukee you sit there and scratch your head and ask whether it's worth it.
Dale Coyne to run one carUPDATE #2 What is known is that if Servia doesn't stick with Newman/Haas, he isn't likely to be welcomed back by Coyne, who ran just one car in Saturday's race. "I want a driver who is going to be loyal to the team now and in the future," said Coyne, who had a handshake agreement but no contract with Servia since they hooked up last year. "If it had been for the rest of the season, that's one thing, but to do it for one race doesn't make a lot of sense to me." 06/02/05 Dale Coyne will run just one car in Milwaukee this weekend. Although he talked to Michael Valiante about driving for Servia, Valiante had other commitments so Dale decided to go with just one car (Sperafico). "We will be back up to two cars in Portland," said Coyne. The grid in Milwaukee will be down to 17, one more than the minimum in the Milwaukee contract. Mark C.06/01/05 If anyone got a raw deal out of this entire Bruno Junqueira replacement story it's Dale Coyne. He lost his #1 driver, Oriol Servia, to Newman/Haas and in 36 hours has to have two cars with drivers ready to go for practice on Friday morning at Milwaukee. When we spoke to him he wasn't a happy camper.
"I don't know what I'm going to do right now," said Coyne. "This all happened all of a sudden and now it's hard to get a driver with oval experience who can step in and do the job at Milwaukee on such short notice with no testing."
We asked him about Mario Haberfeld, who was standing by to replace Timo Glock in Monterrey. "I have not spoken to Mario," said Coyne.
Coyne's choices are somewhat limited. Perhaps Memo Gidley could step in and get the job done, and there are a whole host of other young hotshoes out there, but finding one who has Champ Car experience on an oval is not going to be easy. Mark C.
Milwaukee to get SAFER Barrier? After Ryan Hunter-Reay's 171 G hit on Saturday into the Turn 2 Milwaukee Mile concrete wall someone said that Tony George is installing safer barriers at the Milwaukee Mile starting Monday. They were removed from the Speedway a few weeks ago, replaced by the 2nd generation barrier. However, we find it hard to believe they will use the same barriers as Indy given the difference in the turn radius. Perhaps it is close enough given the short segments the barriers come in.
The track does not currently have the barriers and if true, our hats off to Tony George for making this happen at Milwaukee. Given Saturday's Champ Car attendance and the expectation that the IRL will have a much bigger crowd, some wonder if Champ Car leaves the Milwaukee Mile whether the IRL will take its traditional date as the race after the Indy 500.
Martin to run trucks fulltime in 2006 Mark Martin's final season on the Nextel Cup probably won't be his last on the NASCAR circuit if Roush Racing obtains a sponsor for him in the Craftsman Truck Series. "I'm excited about 2006 racing a Jack Roush truck in the Truck Series full time," Martin said Friday at Dover International Speedway. Martin ruled out a return to the Nextel Cup next season, saying he would not be sharing a ride with the retiring Rusty Wallace or any other driver. He prefers to picture himself in somewhat of a development role for Roush, his car owner since 1988. Martin likes the Truck schedule, which would give him an additional 13 weeks off to spend with his family. But he plans to approach the competition with the same desire that has made him one of the great racers of his time. ESPN.com/AP
Will cost overruns jeopardize ’05 Turkish GP?UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false.' Turkey is on course to host its first Formula One Grand Prix in August as scheduled, according to Bernie Ecclestone. "We have seen what's been done, and we are very happy with things exactly the way they are. I don't see any problems at all," Ecclestone told reporters on Friday. "If you're worried at all about the expenditure or the way things are being carried out financially ... you've got the best deal in Formula One," he told a news conference. "The reason for that is we didn't come here for the money. Quite the opposite, we came here to embrace Turkey into Europe. And I think we can do that as well as anybody." 04/26/05 The construction of the Istanbul Otodrom circuit that will host the Turkish Grand Prix in August has been hit by severe cost overruns. The original $100 million project is underway but the total cost is now estimated to be $153 million, according to Zaman Online. The Istanbul Chamber of Commerce is looking for an additional $55.1 million to complete the 5,378 km Istanbul Otodrom. Whether the overruns will delay construction and postpone this year's race remains to be seen. Circuit diagram by eTracks Online
Overheard in Milwaukee - II Overheard in Milwaukee that Dale Coyne is probably going to test Michael Valiante at Putnam Park next week with an eye toward running the rest of the season. Another rumor has Christian Fittipaldi in the seat, but our latest source says Valiante has a better shot. Dale Coyne did tell us that when they tested Valiante they were very impressed with him. We have long said that Valiante deserved a legitimate shot at a fulltime ride. Coyne assures us someone will be in the car in Portland......We hear as this year progresses we will see more cars on the grid.......One interesting rumor had Roger Penske buying into Ilmor (see other rumor) to produce engines for a unified IRL/Champ Car series going up against Honda and Cosworth/Ford and that Roger might become equal partners with Gerald Forsythe, Kevin Kalkhoven and Tony George in a new company that would own the unified series - an intriguing concept, the four making a very formidable force to be reckoned with......McLaren's F1 engine builder, Ilmor, will soon be '100 percent' owned by Mercedes' parent company, DaimlerChrysler. The carmaker announced on Thursday that it will sell Ilmor's 'Special Project Group' - mainly concerned with IRL and NASCAR - to Penske, Mario Illien and late Ilmor co-founder Paul Morgan's wife Elizabeth this month. ''This sale is the final logical step,'' read a DaimlerChrysler statement, ''in the acquisition process.'' Mercedes-Ilmor will also change its name to 'Mercedes-Benz High Performance Engines.'.........Hearing the Honda talks with Champ Car didn't really go too well.
Sponsor announcementUPDATE This announcement is delayed until Tuesday or Wednesday when Kevin Kalkhoven can be part of it. Kalkhoven is recuperating from a major shoulder operation. His shoulder became severely infected from all the metal plates and screws they put in it as a result of his skiing accident. They removed all his metal. 05/31/05 Word is that there will be a Champ Car team/sponsor/driver press announcement around 2 PM Friday at the Milwaukee Mile.
Scott Speed to become third Red Bull driverUPDATE #6 This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact.' Speed will be Red Bull's third driver for both the Canadian and US Grand Prix. We await the formal announcement. 06/01/05 American racer Scott Speed was scheduled to test at Silverstone but the British weather intervened and he never got the chance to set a lap time as BAR, Renault and Toyota had to cancel their tests altogether. 05/30/05 Formula One is heading to North America for a double-header with the Canadian Grand Prix on June 12 in Montreal and the United States Grand Prix on June 19 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. California's Scott Speed could participate as a test driver in both events. If that happens, he would become the first driver from the United States to take part in a Grand Prix weekend since Michael Andretti finished third in the 1993 Italian Grand Prix.
Speed would not race but instead work in a testing role as the third driver for Red Bull Racing in the Friday practice sessions in Montreal and Indianapolis. The rules permit teams that finished fifth or lower in the previous year's Constructors Championship to run a third car and driver in the two Friday practice sessions of a Grand Prix. Red Bull has alternated Christian Klien and Vitantonio Liuzzi in the third-driver testing role but is seriously considering putting Speed in the car for the two North American F1 races. "We will give Speed a test at Silverstone (England) on Wednesday (June 1) in an F1 car," Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner said. "After that, we will decide if he will be our third driver in Canada and Indianapolis."
This will be Speed's second time in a F1 car. He greatly impressed the team when he tested a F1 car earlier this year. "All the seat time you can get in a F1 car is helpful," Speed said of his upcoming test. "It is quite a different driving style to the GP2 cars, so it requires experience."
Speed is one of the leading stars of the Red Bull Driver Search program that aims to promote talented young U.S. drivers on the path to F1. He is racing in the new GP2 series, the final stepping-stone before Formula One, this year and has three podium finishes.
If Speed gets the chance to drive a F1 car in Montreal and at his home Grand Prix in Indianapolis, he will be delighted. "It is quite exciting," he said. "It's great: F1 and the whole crowd and all the things that go with it are awesome, but at the end of the day you are still trying to go fast." USGP
05/28/05 Word in Germany is that Scott Speed, who would be the first American on a grand prix track since Michael Andretti in 1993, will do the imminent North American leg - Canada and USA - in the third practice RB1. At Montreal, Christian Klien will re-take the racing wheel, but Tonio Liuzzi - a four race stint behind him - would sit the back-to-back out as Speed, 22, made his mark. Compounding the tale is that Speed is scheduled to test the car at Silverstone next week. A decision is expected by Wednesday. 05/22/05 Peter Windsor reported this morning on the preview show for the Grand Prix of Monaco that American GP2 driver Scott Speed will be named as the third Red Bull F1 driver for the Canadian and US Grand Prix races. He said that neither the team nor the sponsors have confirmed it, but he added, "You heard it here first." [Editor's Note: Not so Peter, AutoRacing1.com reported this for over a month now.] 04/06/05 We first broke this story a week ago. Now our F1 correspondent is hearing the same thing. Speed to take 'Friday' job. Scott Speed is the hot tip to take over Red Bull's 'Friday' ride from the San Marino grand prix. The American, 22, is a product of the energy drink brand's long running search for a US-born F1 driver program.
''An announcement ... will be made in due course,'' a statement said in reference to the vacancy, following the decision to unseat Christian Klien, not eligible for the spare seat. But Speed, who tested the Red Bull car at Barcelona last month, is set to race in the 'GP2' category this year, which would clash with the F1 role. GP2 qualifying practice, for example, is staged on Friday at 3.30pm -- just half an hour after the second F1 session. Switzerland's Neel Jani is the other contender.
03/31/05 Our moles in the Bahrain paddock tell us that If Liuzzi gets the expected Red Bull race seat after the 3rd or 4th F1 race it will leave regular driver Christian Klien on the outside looking in as he is unable to take the Friday test seat because he has too much experience (more than 3 races). This will open the door for American Scott Speed (Right) to become the third driver (Friday Driver) for Red Bull F1 just in time for the USGP at Indy. This will give Indy and US Red Bull huge publicity. Speed already has his super license and is expected to start testing on a more regular basis as time allows from his GP2 duties. Mark C.
Tony George wants 51% Our sources tell us that after two meetings with Tony George they are at a bit of a stalemate. Tony George wants 51% and wants OWRS to have 49% control, effectively giving Tony the deciding vote on all decisions. Tony feels he has the Indy 500 and that warrants him having 51%. Mark C.
Contreras eyes Busch and Cup Carlos Contreras, NASCAR's first Hispanic driver and only one to complete a full season in one of NASCAR's major series, is working to schedule additional races this year. In addition to his individual efforts, Contreras has been approached about both the Busch and Cup races at the Glen, as well as the Cup race at Sonoma, but as of yet has not committed. Contreras says, "I need to be in a competitive ride so I can show everyone that I can compete at this level, and not just run for running's sake. That's been done." Contreras ran amongst the leaders all day in Mexico City, steady in the top 5. He also ran 3 full seasons in the Truck series (2000, 2001, 2002), finishing in the top 20 each season and 2nd in Rookie of the year to Kurt Busch (2000). VMG PR
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