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DATE News (chronologically)
IRL eyes European races  UPDATE #2 We hear that it is fairly definite the IRL will race in Portugal next year, we assume at Estoril.

07/10/07 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, the IRL is very close to announcing a deal that will see the IndyCars racing in Europe. Does this surprise us? No, because the IRL game plan all along has been to copy everything CART and now Champ Car does. In the later case the goal is to marginalize Champ Car by offering a competing product that provides essentially the same product. Recall all those statements from the IRL side that their sponsors were from the USA and it did not make any sense for them to race in Europe or overseas.

03/25/07 Recall Brian Barnhart’s recent comment about a possible Indy Car race in Portugal. The IRL has clearly tried to copy everything about CART and Champ Car it could in an effort to kill off the rival series by mimicking its business plan. In recent years the IRL has added street and road courses and even bolstered its Indy Pro Series by significantly increasing its purse payout, not unlike Champ Car. That game plan, to marginalize their enemy, continues today.

In an interview with USA Today reporters Tony George said he and his top executives are thinking about adding a couple of non-points overseas races in Europe in the fall sometime in the future. This comes after Champ Car announced it would race in Europe later this year.

"I think there's a case to be made if the right opportunities come, if it's good for the sponsors, if it's good for the teams, if it's good for IndyCar racing in general to do a couple of offshore races," he said.

"We could do a couple of races in the mid-September to end of November time frame. We're just looking for the right way to package it. It's conceptually something that I've given consideration to, but nothing has been set in stone."

"I think we could add a race or two, as long as they're the right one or two. We have opportunities for new events in new markets," he said. "There's interest from new sponsors, which means healthy teams and a growing series. All those things will start to fall into place and will require strong leadership."

Ginn Racing in trouble  Rumors are that Ginn Racing has laid off employees and is in the process of dropping one of its teams.
Spyker to sack Albers  UPDATE #4 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement - see Hot News page.

07/09/07   Christian Klien has emerged as the frontrunner to replace Christijan Albers, if the Dutchman departs Spyker prior to the European grand prix.

While reports that Dutchman Albers' sponsor Mingya is late in due payments to the Silverstone based team circulate, Austrian Klien was seen leaving the Spyker factory on Monday.

Klien is scheduled to join his Honda team at Spa-Francorchamps in his capacity as test and reserve driver, but it is now suggested that the former Jaguar and Red Bull racer might also test for Spyker.

Even after his split with Red Bull last year, 24-year-old Klien is still backed considerably by sponsors, but Williams' tester Narain Karthikeyan has also been linked with the seat.

Karthikeyan drove for the team in its former Jordan guise in 2005, but suggestions that Giedo van der Garde is also a possibility for the seat are wide of the mark because the Dutchman has failed to secure a Super License for 2007.

He will, however, test for Spyker at Spa this week.

07/09/07 (GMM)  Lagging performance is not the only reason that Christijan Albers' immediate future at Spyker is under threat.

We have learned that one or more of the 28-year-old Dutch driver's key sponsors are in excess of (US) $1 million behind in due payments to the Silverstone based team.

A final deadline has now been imposed and possible replacement drivers for the upcoming European grand prix may be tested at Spa-Francorchamps this week.

It is understood that one of the late-to-pay sponsors is Mingya European Resort, a Chinese real estate developer with Dutch links.  The deal was facilitated by Albers' manager Lodewijk Varossieau, who recently split with the struggling driver.

Spyker reserve driver Markus Winkelhock is the most likely replacement for Albers.

07/05/07 (GMM) Dutch driver Christijan Albers could be dropped by Spyker even before the end of the 2007 season.

Formerly a favorite of the Dutch outfit, the experienced 28-year-old pay driver has struggled to keep up with his rookie teammate Adrian Sutil in 2007 and is now steadily losing the support of his team allies.

Albers recently split with his manager Lodewijk Varossieau, whose company GR8 Industries is contracted to run PR and find sponsors for Spyker.

The CEO of Spyker's parent company Michiel Mol publicly questioned Albers' position in the team for 2008 following the French GP, where he drew the ire of Spyker's technical boss Mike Gascoyne for inexplicably driving out of the pitlane with a fuel hose still attached to his car.

Germany's Sport Bild now reports that even father-in-law Roel Kooijman - a Spyker financier - is losing patience with Albers, as is team boss Colin Kolles, who is quoted as frustratingly observing that "we are a Dutch team" when he was asked about Albers' fate.

Spyker's reserve driver Markus Winkelhock (pictured left), meanwhile, looks the most likely to replace Albers, perhaps at the upcoming European grand prix.

BMW-Sauber's Robert Kubica, a former rival and friend, is quoted as saying: "If a team boss needs a driver, and he asks me, I will suggest Markus."

26-year-old German Winkelhock, however, said: "I do not want to take part in any speculation, however it is my job to be ready to race."

07/04/07 (GMM)  Christijan Albers might struggle to find a seat on the formula one grid next year.

That is not just a speculative whisper but also the admission of his boss at the Dutch team Spyker, after usually failing to keep up with his rookie teammate Adrian Sutil in 2007.

CEO Michiel Mol told Silverstone based Spyker's formula one magazine that, amid the apparent interest of other teams, the Dutch outfit is keen to hang on to Sutil.

He added: "And Chris?  After a race or two or three, we will sit down at the table with him.

"He wants to reach the top, but we won't get there by 2008.  He is ready for teams like Williams or Toyota, but is that going to happen?"

Mol's fellow bosses were also openly critical after Albers drove out of the pitlane at Magny Cours with his fuel hose still attached, while Mol observed: "Fact is, it's pretty remarkable that a rookie is often faster (than him)".

With Champ Car racing in Holland look for Albers to make a run at a Champ Car ride in 2008, but is he good enough to handle 750 HP with no electronic driver aides?

George wants 2nd Cup date  Rumor has it that Tony George would like nothing better than to add a 2nd NASCAR Nextel Cup race at the Brickyard.  He'll make money off of that 2nd Cup date if he were to get it, compared to keeping the F1 date which is, and always will be a big money loser for him.
Bernie at center of new political scandal  (GMM)  The political controversy surrounding Bernie Ecclestone's secret £1m 'donation' to the British government ten years ago is threatening to raise its head once again.

A new autobiography written by the recently departed Prime Minister Tony Blair's long time press secretary Alastair Campbell raises questions about whether Blair's successor, Gordon Brown, deliberately lied in 1997 about Bernie's payment.

Blair's New Labour party gave the money back to F1 chief executive Ecclestone when it was linked with the government's decision about whether or not to ban tobacco advertising for formula one.

Campbell suggests in his diaries that the government, including Blair's then deputy Brown, had already discussed what to do about the donation scandal three days before Brown denied all knowledge of it.

The then Chancellor Brown had said in an interview: "You'll have to wait and see, like I'll have to wait and see when the list (of donations) is published."

But, three days before, Campbell wrote in his dairy: "I spoke (about Ecclestone) to Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson and at one point during the day, all four of us were agreed.

"I thought that we should say that we made mistakes.  Again, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were against on both fronts."

IRL announcers commentate from the chat rooms  I was on the IndyCar.com video feed chat room today during the race. When the cars pulled in to the pitlane and the scuffle broke out, the first question everyone was asking was "who is that, who is that? (who knocked Sam Hornish Sr to the ground)"
- Literally with a second of Sam Sr hitting the ground, one poster joking typed "OMG! It's Danica's dad! Danica's dad just hit Sam Sr!"
- Amid all the commotion, a handful of people quickly replied "yeah right", "what's he doing there?", "really?", "I thought he was banned from the pitlane?", etc
- original poster "Said, no it's him for sure"
Shortly afterwards, as everyone was trying to make heads and tails of the whole situation, the ABC commentators suddenly chimed in with "It was TJ Patrick".
- original poster says "see told ya" and the whole place went nuts.
- minutes later TJ Patrick is seen wearing a blue shirt saying he was nowhere near the incident when it happened.
Coincidence? I think the clown IRL announcers on ABC follow the chat room for their expert advice. Name withheld
Stepney threatens to reveal 'bodies'  (GMM) Already accused of espionage and sabotage, sacked formula one veteran Nigel Stepney has now threatened to reveal more hidden secrets about the Ferrari team.

Through his lawyer, the Briton had already indicated that he may sue his former employers for unfair dismissal, and in newspapers on Sunday he repeated his claim of total innocence.

Stepney has now fled Italy again, speaking to the Sunday Times from a Mediterranean hideaway because he said he had been harassed by unidentified Italian figures.

"I've been framed," he said, before issuing a warning to his former bosses.

Stepney said: "I've been with Ferrari for 14 years and there's been a lot of controversy over the years, and I obviously know where the bodies are buried."

Ferrari did not immediately comment.
Top-35 rule could be changed  NASCAR is considering changing the number of teams locked into each Nextel Cup race by virtue of owner points, an official source within the sanctioning body confirmed to SPEEDTV.com Saturday at Daytona International Speedway. Currently, the top 35 teams in NASCAR Nextel Cup owner points are guaranteed starting spots at each race, regardless of where they actually qualify in the field. Teams outside the top 35 must attempt to qualify for the remaining eight spots in each Cup event. “We’ve had ongoing discussions about changing the number of teams we lock in,” an official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The end result could be that the number of guaranteed starters would be reduced from 35 to perhaps 30 or 25. The NASCAR official stressed that no decision had been made yet, but the matter will continue to be a front-burner topic for the sanctioning body. More at SPEEDtv.com
Ferrari front wheel fairings illegal?  (GMM) Albeit dwarfed by the scope of the espionage saga, another technical controversy is bubbling away in the Silverstone paddock this weekend.

Perhaps emboldened by the apparent moral ground it holds in the Nigel Stepney-Mike Coughlan spy scandal, Ferrari's single seater has been running a more aggressive than ever 'wheel fairings' solution at the scene of the British grand prix.

The concept - black carbon-fiber wheel-rim covers that provide an aerodynamic benefit - first emerged on the Maranello built cars late last year, but only at the rear of the car.

Some rivals moaned at the time that the fairings came close to flouting the rules about moveable aerodynamic devices, because, undeniably, they spin in excess of 300kph with the motion of the wheels.

But, because they are fixed securely to the rim and therefore arguably do not move, the FIA ultimately gave the concept the all-clear. It is understood, however, that the clearance - and the concurrence of the rest of the field - was limited to use on rear wheels only, because the front wheels move when the car is being steered.

For the first time, however, the Ferraris driven by Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa at Silverstone featured fairings on all four wheels.

Toyota and Renault were also using similar wheel fairings at Silverstone, but only at the rear of their cars.

Haug hints - Alonso running heavy?  (GMM)  Fernando Alonso is running a healthy load of fuel for the first stint of Sunday's British grand prix, McLaren-Mercedes' Norbert Haug hinted after qualifying.

The reigning world champion qualified third, behind his pole sitting teammate Lewis Hamilton and the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen.

But Mercedes' competition director Haug told the German broadcaster Premiere: "I must say that Fernando's achievement should be assessed as very strong.

"That will show up tomorrow."

Spaniard Alonso, 25, told reporters following the session that he hoped his strategy would "pay off" at Silverstone on Sunday.

He added: "I didn't have an easy day in Q3 but tomorrow I will try to win the race, that is for sure."

Spy duo wanted Super Team  The two men at the centre of the Formula 1 spying controversy were touting the services of a secretly assembled Grand Prix Super Team of technical experts.

One leading paddock source told the Daily Mirror he was "stunned" when he attended a meeting called by Ferrari's disenchanted technical manager Nigel Stepney to be met by Mike Coughlan as well, chief designer for their biggest rivals McLaren.

In talks the duo suggested there were at least another three individuals who could join them.

Had their plans come off, it would have been the biggest transfer of Formula 1 talent since Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne quit Benetton in the 1990s to establish the Ferrari Super Team that created an unparalleled era of domination.  Mirror.co.uk

Daytona 500 to be moved to November?  UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  There's no validity to a rumor circulating on the Internet that NASCAR is having discussions about moving the Daytona 500 to November, Daytona spokesman Andrew Booth said. "That one was way out in left field," he said.  TBO.com

07/05/07 This week, sources within NASCAR told CTR there has been closed door discussions to move the date of the Daytona 500, to November. Apparently, NASCAR is intrigued by the idea of switching the dates of the season ending Homestead race with the season opening Daytona 500. The allure of ending the NASCAR season and crowning a new Nextel Cup champion at the sports biggest race is something the France family is strongly considering. NASCAR and the International Speedway Corporation own both tracks so a change of date would be easy to accomplish. For the past 25 years, NASCAR has led off the season in Daytona Beach, FL with the sports biggest race, the Daytona 500. In 2008, NASCAR will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Daytona 500 on February 17th for what may be the final time ever in the month of February. Sources said the late Bill France Jr. was very much against moving the Daytona 500 and felt that it would hurt the integrity of the sport. NASCAR does not intend to have a final decision regarding the date change until the end of the 2007 season. CTR-Captain Thunder Racing
Will this be the last restrictor-plate race?  Drivers are divided on the issue of whether or how the Car of Tomorrow will change restrictor-plate racing.

Tonight’s Pepsi 400 marks the final appearance in a plate race of the chassis design that is being supplanted by the COT. The COT will be used for the first time at a “restrictor-plate track” in the fall at Talladega.

Denny Hamlin, coming off his first victory of the season, thinks the COT will make a considerable difference.

“It’s just going to make them like the truck races, really, where the guys are just all packed tight together, where now our cars are so slick that they’re not handling the race track that well and we’re starting to spread out,” said Hamlin. “Now we’re kind of going to take a step back and be back where we were. With the Car of Tomorrow, I think they’re going to suck up to each other so much that you’re just going to have a huge wad.”

Jeff Burton wasn’t so sure.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Ask me after Talladega. It’s too early to tell. I haven’t driven the Car of Tomorrow on a Superspeedway (i.e., a plate track). I certainly haven’t been on a race track with 42 other guys. I don’t know what to expect. I don’t have an opinion on that. I don’t have enough information to have an opinion.” Gaston Gazette

Sacked Stepney to hit back at Ferrari  (GMM)  Sacked Nigel Stepney plans to hit back at Ferrari by launching his own legal attack, according to his lawyer.

Sporting a tan, the formula one veteran has now arrived back in Italy from a holiday in the Philippines.

On Thursday his house was searched for a second time before he was interviewed by police for three hours.

He is at the centre of an espionage scandal also involving McLaren's Mike Coughlan and Honda.  It is now clear that Stepney and Coughlan, who could not be contacted on Friday, were allegedly pooling data and a group of Ferrari and possibly McLaren engineers in a bid to attract the interest of a high-paying alternate employer.

Stepney's Italian lawyer Sonia Bartolini is quoted as saying by The Guardian: "It is probable we will legally challenge Ferraris' firing of Nigel."

Wild rumors - Button, Alonso, back to Renault  (GMM) F1's annual 'silly season' always slips into a high gear at Silverstone, but one particular paddock rumbling is worth a mention.

Sources including Britain's Daily Mail and the Spanish newspaper Diario As suggested on the scene of the British grand prix that Renault could completely overhaul its driver lineup ahead of 2008.

The Daily Mail said 27-year-old Button, who drove for Renault in 2002, "could be handed an escape route from his problems at Honda" by former boss Flavio Briatore.

The article went on: "Although (Button) maintains he intends to stay at Honda, Renault's director of engineering Pat Symonds said they would welcome Button back."

Reigning world champion Alonso, meanwhile, drove successfully for Renault until his switch to McLaren this year, where he is admittedly 'uncomfortable' alongside rookie sensation Lewis Hamilton.

'Diario As' is reporting that, among the various approaches the Spaniard has received in recent weeks, was "one from his old boss Briatore".

"Flavio would love to have him back in 2008 with an attractive contract of at least two years".

The Italian television station Canale 5, meanwhile, said late on Friday that Alonso has in fact reached an agreement with Ferrari, who intend to buy out his McLaren contract. It has also been whispered that Alonso might then announce the news and sit out the 2008 on 'sabbatical'.

Alonso at Silverstone wearily rejected the swathe of wild rumors: "The only thing that I am going to say is that all the rumors are not true.

"I am completely concentrated on winning the championship with McLaren."

Indy pens MotoGP deal but F1 still in doubt  UPDATE Rumor has it that the MotoGP race at Indy will be announced on July 16th at the Speedway.

07/06/07 (GMM) Bernie Ecclestone and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have edged ever nearer to a July 12 deadline without inking a deal for a US grand prix in 2008.

It is now certain that MotoGP will stage a round of its premier two-wheeled series on the circuit's F1 road course next year -- a move that will require a slight modification to the layout.

But circuit president Joie Chitwood can not speak so optimistically about the fate of the American formula one race, which has enjoyed mixed success since arriving at the Speedway in the modern era in 2000.

But he did reveal that Indy chief executive Tony George spoke with Ecclestone on the phone earlier this week, and another discussion is planned for next week.

"I'm encouraged by that," Chitwood is quoted as saying by the Indianapolis Star.

Wallace eyes Busch or Truck in Iowa  Rusty Wallace is hoping to get a race in one of NASCAR's three elite series at Iowa Speedway.  Iowa Speedway is a 7/8th-mile trioval located in Newton. Wallace, a co-owner of the facility, admits that he hopes to some day host a Busch or Craftsman Truck series race at the track.

"We really, really hope," Wallace said. "I've learned a long time ago to keep my mouth shut. Obviously, we've asked for a truck race or a Busch race. It's in NASCAR President Mike Helton's hands, or Chairman Brian France. We're just trying to do the best job we can right now. I think we're a good candidate for it. We've sold out every race, and all the drivers love it. All I can tell you is that we'd love to have one. Whether we'd get one in '08 or '09, we don't know.

"The whole track right now, with the races we've got, we're making money ...we're paying for things, and the fans love it. We sold out the Busch East race. We sold out the IndyCar race. Every single race has been fantastic. ... And by the way, Iowa drew the second highest IndyCar television rating ever last week on ABC. We drew a 1.3 rating, which ... equaled the average regular Busch race ratings this year." Scenedaily.com

Stepney may not have acted alone  Nigel Stepney may not have acted alone in the crimes alleged against him by Ferrari, according to sources in Italy.

Now a former employee of the Scuderia, having been dismissed from his post as technical manager on Tuesday, Stepney has been accused of both sabotaging the team's cars ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix and, more recently, passing technical secrets to arch-rival McLaren. Having returned to Italy last night after a family holiday in the Philippines, the Briton has again denied that he committed either crime, and admitted that he was 'surprised' to have been fired by the team, even though he had been earlier placed on suspension pending police and internal investigations.

While the local police have confirmed to Stepney that he is being investigated for 'various crimes', however, Italian news agency ANSA reports that the 47-year old may not have acted alone, claiming that two other team members were also under scrutiny. Stepney's Italian home was again searched on Thursday as police look for evidence - including email records - that he did indeed pass secrets to McLaren, which has refused to confirm media speculation that chief designer Mike Coughlan was the recipient. SkySports
Eury Jr. could be suspended another 6 weeks  Theoretically, most penalties written severe enough to include a suspension also include a probation," he said. "If Tony Jr. keeps running his yap we could easily send him home for another six weeks."

NASCAR’s John Darby Warning to suspended crew chiefs: Come to the track if you dare. Just don’t brag about it.

That was the message delivered by Nextel Cup series director John Darby prior to Thursday’s practice at Daytona International Speedway. "Personally, I don’t care if he’s watching a race from the grandstands," Darby said. "When a crew chief that went through that is bold enough to throw it back at us, we’ll react to it."

NASCAR chairman Brian France said on Tuesday that the governing body had a meeting to address the issue of suspended crew chiefs who continue to do their jobs from locations at the track but outside meeting came after Tony Eury Jr., the crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr., said he worked with the team last week at New Hampshire from a motorcoach on a hill overlooking the track. More ...
Honda may also have stolen Ferrari secrets  The full extent of the scandal, which Formula 1 is now calling "Stepneygate", is about to drag in the Honda F1 team as well as McLaren and Ferrari. There were rumors in the Silverstone paddock on Friday that the Japanese team will make some kind of statement about the situation shortly.

Stepney had two meetings with Honda F1 team members at the end of April. In these meetings he proposed taking a group of top-level designers and engineers to Honda to help the team get on the pace after the disappointing start to the season. Stepney's package would have put him in a very senior position, earning more money and more recognition than was the case at Ferrari. It would also have provided higher profile jobs (and presumably more money) for the others involved. It is believed that one member of this mysterious group was the senior McLaren designer who has been caught up in the scandal but there are believed to be at least four others who were included in the offer. Our sources at Honda say that the team did not discover the identity of the people mentioned as negotiations did not go far enough as Honda had developed its own plans to hire a different selection of engineers. A number of these appointments have since been made public. Grandprix.com

Kahne wants out of Dodge contract  UPDATE Kasey Kahne denied on Thursday a report that he would leave Evernham Motorsports after this season and move to Dale Earnhardt Inc. or another Nextel Cup organization.

"I've had plenty of different teams calling to talk to me because we're running bad," said Kahne, who is 26th in points a year after making the championship chase and winning a series-high six races. "I haven't talked to any other teams.

"I have never once talked to another team owner. It's just another reporter putting something out there with no facts. It's not true," he said.

Kahne has a deal at Evernham Motorsports through the 2010 season. Team owner Ray Evernham said there are no plans to let Kahne out of the contract and that his impending partnership with Montreal Canadiens owner George Gillett Jr. would not provide an out.

"There are ways to purchasing," he said. "Whether it's stocks or assets makes a huge difference."

Evernham added that Kahne has given no indication he wants out of his deal.

"Right now what we're trying to do is get this thing sorted out," he said. "Kasey has been one of my biggest supporters. The way he's jumped in, you'd think he was my partner. I'm really proud of him."  ESPN.com

07/05/07 Kasey Kahne wants out. Kasey Kahne's frustration at Evernham Motorsports has forced him to ask out of his contract, according to Fox Sports.  Kahne reportedly wants the freedom to negotiate with Dale Earnhardt Inc. to replace Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2008.
Carlos Slim wants Cup race  It may be NASCAR's good fortune - the man behind this sport's Mexico City gambit, Carlos Slim Helu, may be the richest man in the world, even richer than Bill Gates, according Mexican financial figures who peg his telecom-based fortune at nearly $68 billion. Microsoft’s Gates is figured to be worth $59 billion.  Helu’s fortune would be nearly 10 percent of Mexico’s entire GDP. Helu has been pushing NASCAR’s France family to turn the Mexico City Busch tour stop into a Nextel Cup tour stop. Winston Salem Journal
Dale Jr. to announce deal with Adidas  Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Friday will announce a personal services agreement with clothing manufacturer Adidas, sources told ESPN.com. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Sources said Adidas will manufacture Earnhardt's fire retardant driving suits and shoes, and the Nextel Cup star will be involved in promoting specific consumer apparel. Earnhardt has yet to announce the biggest piece of his sponsorship puzzle for 2008 -- the primary financial-backer of his Hendrick Motorsports Chevy. Earnhardt is leaving Dale Earnhardt Inc., the company his late father founded, to drive for Hendrick Motorsports next season. ESPN.com
NASCAR to close loophole on suspensions  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  NASCAR vice president of corporate communications Jim Hunter told members of the media Thursday at Daytona International Speedway that crew chiefs serving suspensions for rules infractions no longer will be allowed on race track property while their suspensions are in effect.

"We’re going to handle this the way we’ve handled it in the past, with (Nextel Cup Series director) John Darby and (vice president of competition) Robin Pemberton informing the crew chiefs," Hunter said. "Instead of ‘Yeah, you can do that,’ it’s ‘No, you can’t do that any more.’  We want to take away the perception that they’re circumventing the penalty, that the penalty doesn’t mean anything because they’re still on site...With people thinking that this is a circumvention of the penalty, the next step is, ‘What do you do about it?’"

07/03/07 Even though NASCAR has suspended several Nextel Cup crew chiefs this year, those crew chiefs have continued to be near the track and in communication with their respective teams.

Last weekend at New Hampshire International Speedway, for example, Tony Eury Jr. was in a motorhome outside the track, and his driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., even spotted him during the Lenox Industrial Tools 300.

But NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said on a national teleconference Tuesday that practice could be changing. He was asked about crew chiefs being on track property and being in communication with their teams.

"Funny you ask," he said. "We just had a meeting on that today with [NASCAR President] Mike Helton, myself and others," France said. "If that all is accurate, we will be addressing that shortly."

France didn't say what NASCAR would do to police the practice but did say he agreed it was not in the spirit of suspensions.  Scenedaily.com

Petty Enterprises to move shop in 2009  Petty Enterprises Vice President of Racing Operations Robbie Loomis said the team is making progress on its goal to move from its long-time home but likely won't leave it's Randleman, N.C., base until 2009.  "We're definitely making a lot of progress," Loomis said. "We've looked at more land and sites and things. The scope and the size of the project has kind of changed a little bit.  We were originally looking for 50-75 acres, and now we're looking for a lot more land than that."

Loomis said the team would eventually like to expand to four cars, and there needs to be enough land to add shop space to accommodate the increased number of teams.  The two-car team is now housed in a sprawling campus in Randleman, about 90 miles from Charlotte, N.C., the home of most NASCAR teams.  Scenedaily.com

Hamilton seeking pay raise?  (GMM) Rookie Lewis Hamilton on Thursday poured cold water on rumors that his father-manager Anthony is seeking a mid-season pay-rise for his championship leading son.

Reports this week suggested that, given Hamilton's stellar opening phase in his career featuring two wins and eight straight podiums, a clause in the 22-year-old's McLaren contract could allow for a renegotiation of his modest $300,000 deal.

On the eve of his home race at Silverstone, however, Hamilton insisted that money does not motivate him.

"It's never been something that's driven me to get to formula one," he said.

"If (team boss) Ron (Dennis had) came up to me and said, 'I'll give you the drive but you're not going to get paid', any driver would have jumped at it."

The rumors had hinted at a 2007 top-up of up to $3 million for Hamilton, compared with teammate Fernando Alonso's estimated $25m deal.

Hamilton continued: "You want to be respected, and at some point you want to be paid your value, but that's not something that drives me."

Heidfeld signs new BMW contract  UPDATE #2 (GMM)  Nick Heidfeld on Thursday denied reports this week that said he had now signed a two-year extension to drive for BMW-Sauber beyond this season.

After performing strongly for the German team so far in 2007, however, the 30-year-old suggested that inking a deal is little more than a formality.

"I believe that, on both sides, there are not many alternatives," Heidfeld is quoted as telling the news agency Sport-Informations-Dienst at Silverstone.

He expressed satisfaction with team boss Mario Theissen's similarly positive comments about their collaboration this week, in which Heidfeld was described as an "asset" to the Swiss based camp.

Heidfeld said: "It would not make much sense not to continue together but nothing has been signed yet."

07/03/07 (GMM)  A contract has not yet been signed but Nick Heidfeld is very likely to stay at BMW-Sauber beyond 2007, both parties admitted on Tuesday.

Team principal Mario Theissen refused to confirm reports that a two-year deal to also cover 2008 and 2009 had been penned in the last few days but he promised that "we will soon talk about a renewal".

30-year-old German Heidfeld's manager Werner Heinz, meanwhile, told Deutsche-Presse-Agentur: "He (Theissen) wants it, we want it, now we have to sit down and talk."

Theissen told Blickpunkt Sport: "Nick is having his strongest season.  He works very well with the engineers.  He is a very active part of the team.

"He is an asset and we will soon talk about the prolongation of his contract."

Speculation in Germany is rife that the highly anticipated news will be finally confirmed at the Nurburgring on July 22.

07/03/07 (GMM)  Nick Heidfeld has finally signed a two-year extension to his contract to race for BMW-Sauber in formula one, according to reports.

The German newspaper Bild-Zeitung said Heidfeld, who is 30, will again line up alongside Poland's Robert Kubica in 2008, with reserve and test driver Sebastian Vettel probably loaned to Toro Rosso for two years.

Heidfeld's new deal runs from the conclusion of the current season until the end of December in 2009, Bild claimed.

The newspaper also said he had been "right at the top of the list" for a possible switch to Honda.

BMW team principal Mario Theissen is quoted as saying: "Sebastian's disadvantage compared to Heidfeld and Kubica is obviously his missing race experience."

Rap star to buy F1 team  (GMM) F1's traditional 'silly season' has taken a bizarre twist.

After championship leader Lewis Hamilton recently spent some time with the American rapper Sean Combs - otherwise known as Diddy, Puff Daddy or P.Diddy - a rumor has emerged that the formula one paddock could soon have a new team owner.

At an event for the launch of a Diddy perfume - 'Unforgivable' - Combs announced that he is thinking seriously about joining the circus by buying a team.

However, it is no surprise to learn that - at the night-time occasion in central London - more than (US) $200,000 alone was spent on champagne.

McLaren rookie Hamilton, 22, meanwhile, attended the event as a guest of the English pop star Natasha Bedingfield and another rapper, Pharrell Williams.

Both Diddy and Williams have attended F1 races in the past.

NASCAR forced to change name of Nextel Cup Series  UPDATE #3 A new name for the Nextel Cup Series will likely be announced at a news conference Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.

06/20/07 NASCAR will neither confirm nor deny that its Nextel Cup Series will carry the name Sprint beginning in 2008.

"To my knowledge, no final decision has been made," said Ramsey Poston, NASCAR's managing director of corporate communications, refuting an ESPN.com report that the name change was imminent.

But Poston added, "if that's the direction they want to go, we (NASCAR) would be supportive of that."

Nextel officials were flying to California Wednesday afternoon, in preparation for Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway, and not available for comment. However, USA TODAY learned that the topic of changing the NASCAR series name did not come up at Wednesday's corporate communications meeting.

Changing the name would require substantial lead time and expense on the part of Sprint/Nextel, given the amount of signage and participating sponsorships involved.

Poston noted that this issue of rebranding differs substantially in NASCAR's eyes from the ongoing battle between AT&T/Cingular and Sprint/Nextel which prompted the filing of a $100 million countersuit by NASCAR this week.

"They are different agreements," Poston said. "The contract between Nextel and NASCAR had written into it that they could rebrand one time. The agreements between Cingular (and alltel with NASCAR) did not. We went to bat for them to keep them in the sport with a grandfather clause."  USA Today

06/20/07 Beginning with the 2008 season, Sprint will replace Nextel as title sponsor of NASCAR's premiere racing series, multiple high-ranking industry sources told ESPN.com on condition of anonymity. The series will be known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, sources said. NASCAR declined comment. Dean Kessel, Sprint's NASCAR marketing director, denied the claims, and said Sprint/Nextel is still sorting the proposition out with NASCAR. Kessel also said that multiple outstanding details must be finalized internally before a decision can be made either way. This would mark the third time in four seasons NASCAR's Cup Series experienced a sponsorship-based name change.

Here's one to consider, if NASCAR/Sprint don't let AT&T convert the Cingular brand over to AT&T then NASCAR should not let Sprint change the Nextel brand over to Sprint!  If there going to hold AT&T to the letter of a contract signed long ago then AT&T should force NASCAR to hold Sprint to the letter of their contract as well!  This is going to get REAL interesting REAL fast!  It's really a precedent setting and LONG overdue challenge to NASCAR's monopolistic management of team/sponsor relationships.  Look for the four team rule to get challenges too.  The cost of competition (read: testing and R&D) is getting so expensive the major racing corporations will need to field more teams to make up for all the little operations that will soon be folding up their tents.  See: Andretti Green Racing.

03/11/07 After investing million of dollars in the Nextel Cup name rumor in the NASCAR garage at Las Vegas on Sunday is that Sprint Nextel has finally decided that they want NASCAR to change the name of the Nextel Cup series. Since the merger of Sprint and Nextel Communications into Sprint Nextel rumors have been rampant that the name would change to Sprint Cup Series or Sprint Nextel Cup Series.
Red Bull to keep Coulthard and Webber  UPDATE (GMM)  David Coulthard has agreed terms to remain at Red Bull Racing for a fourth consecutive season in 2008, it has emerged.

It was reported in Austria last month that both the Scottish veteran and his current teammate Mark Webber had "done enough to secure the blessing" of team owner Dietrich Mateschitz.

Relevant contracts were due to be signed, and according to the specialist publication Auto Motor und Sport, this has now been done.

If 36-year-old Coulthard does go on to complete the entire 2008 season, he would rank only behind Riccardo Patrese and Michael Schumacher in terms of the most experienced F1 drivers ever.

He explained this week: "I still love racing.  I do a good job, I deliver value.  I wake up on a Sunday and still look forward to going racing.

"I love it here at Red Bull.  I still have the pace but I'm now armed with more experience.  I'm not scared of hard work and we're building the foundations of future success here.

"I am not sensitive about being 36-years-old and people ask about how long I will go on.

"I only think about age when some idiot asks about it, which is fair enough because I am closer to the end of my career than the beginning."

07/02/07 Talk during the French Grand Prix weekend that veteran racer, David Coulthard, won’t be hanging up his racing gloves anytime soon after signing another twelve month extension to his current Red Bull racing contract.

While it is still to be confirmed by the Milton Keynes based squad, it is also strongly suspected that Australian driver Mark Webber will also be continuing with the team, giving the two drivers another season as teammates in the Adrian Newey powered contender.

FIA to probe Ferrari-McLaren spy scandal  (GMM) F1's governing body has apparently accepted McLaren's invitation to launch an investigation into the spy scandal saga involving Nigel Stepney and Mike Coughlan.

The FIA said on Wednesday that its newly initiated inquest will be conducted "with the full cooperation of both teams".

McLaren had earlier insisted that "no Ferrari intellectual property" had been used for the design of its current MP4-22 single seater, and "invited the FIA to conduct a full review of its cars" to verify this claim.

Ferrari expressed concern that its information seems to have passed illegally from the sacked Stepney to McLaren's now suspended chief designer Coughlan, saying in its own statement that it reserved the right "to consider all implications, be they criminal, civil or of any other nature".
Stepneygate could decide World Championships  As F1 grapples with the incredible developments of Stepneygate, which culminated in McLaren suspending their chief designer on Tuesday after Ferrari documents were allegedly uncovered at his home, a nightmare scenario looms over the sport: the World Championship being won and lost in the courts.

Having already launched legal proceedings against their mechanic Nigel Stepney, Ferrari's claim of espionage took on a sensational dimension on Tuesday when a police raid, made at their behest, allegedly found 'technical information' stolen from their Maranello base at the home of Mike Coughlan, McLaren's chief designer.

Announcing that they had presented 'a case against Nigel Stepney and an engineer from the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team with the Modena Tribunal, concerning the theft of technical information', Ferrari pointedly ruled out further legal redress. 'Ferrari reserves the right to consider all implications, be they criminal, civil or of any other nature, according to the applicable laws,' it declared in a statement.

"We have proof that Stepney had been supplying technical information to a McLaren employee and we found evidence of that fact in his [the employee's] home. This is a very serious situation. We are talking about a lot of information being given to a prominent McLaren engineer. We are not talking here about rumors or speculation."

As a mood of crisis threatened to envelop the sport on Tuesday night, the FIA confirmed that, "We have received information on this matter, which we are examining."

The governing body will be powerless during any criminal investigation either in Italy or Britain, but it is already being speculated that Ferrari could launch a separate case that would determine the victors of both the Drivers' and Constructors' World Championships in the courts.

Their case would be advanced if they could prove a correlation between performance and the alleged 'dirty tricks'. PlanetF1

Spyker F1 team could be floated  While F1 is fixated on the problems between Ferrari and McLaren, there is action going on at Spyker as well with reports in Holland that the larger shareholders in Spyker want to de-list the company from the Euronext stock exchange in order to restructure. The story appeared in the De Pers newspaper, which is owned by Marcel Boekhoorn, a Spyker shareholder.

Spyker's share price has suffered in recent months with the departure of chairman Victor Muller and rumors of financial trouble. According to the reports, the car business is dragging down the whole company and the management is considering selling off that side of the operation and then going ahead with only the race teams. There has even been talk of floating the race team on the stock exchange. Grandprix.com

Ralf to take $17m pay-cut for 2008  (GMM)  Ralf Schumacher has agreed to slash his annual salary if it means he can keep his seat at Toyota in 2008.

The embattled German, who has conspicuously failed to live up to his reportedly (US) $22m retainer this year, has offered to drive for under $5m for the coming season, the newspaper Munich TZ claimed.

Supplementing his income would be a whopping bonus of $340,000 per point in 2008, should Toyota officials accept the offer made in recent days by 32-year-old Schumacher's manager Hans Mahr.

Meanwhile, the German gossip magazine Bunte reports that Ralf's wife Cora is pregnant and expecting their second child in early 2008.

She also defended her husband, saying: "Ralf can only do as much as his car will allow.  With a competitive machine he is one of the world's best drivers, as he proved regularly with BMW."

Ralf to save career at RBR, STR  (GMM)  Ralf Schumacher could save his flagging career by taking shelter among allies at a Red Bull-backed team in 2008.

That is the latest whisper in formula one circles, spurred on after the German's manager Hans Mahr was photographed chatting with the energy drink company's driver representative Helmut Marko at Magny Cours last weekend.

Mahr played down the significance of the evidence but, referring to Marko's boss Dietrich Mateschitz, told Motorsport Aktuell: "After my time as editor-in-chief at (German broadcaster) RTL, I still have his phone number."

Red Bull Racing could be one option, then, but another is not too far away in the paddock in the form of Toro Rosso, which is co-owned by Mateschitz.

Toyota's Schumacher, despite his disastrous season so far, is still highly rated by many of his former BMW colleagues including Gerhard Berger and Franz Tost.

Both men are now firmly in charge at Faenza based STR, with Tost, for example, insisting that Schumacher "has not forgotten how to drive".

He added: "Things do not go well for him at the moment but he has also won races when he should not have."

Cheever to switch brands  Rumor has it that Eddie Cheever will switch his Grand-Am Daytona Prototype cars over from Porsche to Pontiac power soon.
Pescarolo to leave sportscar racing  Just as he said last year, European sports-car team owner Henri Pescarolo says he is unlikely to return to the Le Mans 24 Hours unless gasoline-powered LMP1-class cars have a chance to win.

Pescarolo, whose team finished third at Le Mans this year, called for the removal of what he believes is a clear turbo diesel performance advantage. “If there is no guarantee that we can fight with the turbo diesels, or at least not be too far away, why should we come back?” Pescarolo said. “Even if I don’t make that decision myself, it might be made for me. How can I find sponsors if I don’t have a chance?”

Champ Car extends deal with Mont-Tremblant  Champ Car is rumored to have extended their deal with Mont-Tremblant another 4 or 5 years as a result of this past weekend's successful race.  The promoter was so happy he has agreed to make improvements to the track to increase the passing possibilities.  Given the good race, one has to wonder if it should be touched at all.

“Over the weekend I was asked about my first impressions, our fan capacity and our objectives for Champ Car Mont-Tremblant. Francois Dumontier, Champ Car Mont-Tremblant General Manager. “We were looking to host a good event and we had a great race on the track. All of the fans left satisfied and with a smile on their face. I am pleased to announce we had more than 42,000 fans for the three days. This is our first event and we built a very strong foundation.”

Wurz F1 career over?  (GMM) Alex Wurz has played down suggestions that his struggle at Williams this year has left his formula one career in doubt.

The Austrian veteran returned to the grid from a long stint as a test driver in 2007 to replace the departing Mark Webber.

But after Magny Cours, where he qualified eighteenth compared with Nico Rosberg's ninth, his qualifying record against his impressive teammate now stands at a worrying 0:8.

Insisting that the gap is steadily closing, he told the German broadcaster Premiere: "I am not having sleepless nights. I know that the speed is there and that I am coming closer to my teammate.

"I simply must keep adjusting myself to these tires."

Wurz's tale might be similar to those of the highly rated Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Heikki Kovalainen and Robert Kubica, who have struggled to adapt to Bridgestone's harder control tires this year.

He explained: "Perhaps it is like a tennis player who always used to play on clay and then goes straight to a hard court -- if that is not your style, the feeling just doesn't completely fit and you have to work on it.

"That's what I have to do, but I am not worried; I must remain calm and keep working hard."

More defectors follow Bigois to Honda  (GMM)  The high profile defection from Williams of its chief aerodynamicist Loic Bigois is among a raft of appointments by the struggling Honda team.

France's 46-year-old Bigois, formerly with prominent roles also at Ligier, Prost and Minardi, will join highly-rated figures also from BMW and McLaren who now make their way to Honda, who on Sunday scored its first point of the 2007 season at Magny Cours.

Bigois is currently on the inevitable 'gardening leave' after stepping down at Williams and will join Honda at a mutually acceptable time, a spokesperson for the team confirmed to us.

Another Frenchman, Francois Martinet, also comes from Williams, John Owen has been lured from a top aerodynamics job at BMW, as has a member of McLaren's aerodynamics group.

"It's a concerted effort to improve our skills in that area because aerodynamics these days is 80 percent of the performance and we simply weren't strong enough in that area," Nick Fry is quoted as saying by Reuters.

It is understood that even more appointments could follow in the following months, with the first appointments not due to arrive until August.

Silverstone is next to go  FIA president Max Mosley on Friday warned that Silverstone will drop off the calendar if significant improvements to the British grand prix venue are not promised.   "Either business, or the government, puts the money in or they will lose the grand prix. I don't think there's any doubt they will lose it if they don't," he is quoted as saying by the Daily Express.
New York investors looking for Cup teams  The buzz in the garage in New Hampshire is that at least two New York-based investment banking firms have been making the rounds among Nextel Cup teams, looking to invest in one or more teams, eventually taking a race team public with a stock offering. So far, there have been no takers among the NASCAR team owners. At least one of the investment firms has talked with multiple teams in the garage, including Robert Yates Racing, Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and Roush Fenway Racing, multiple sources said. The idea has been for the companies to make cash investments of upwards of $50 million in a team and then at some point sell their interests, perhaps by public stock offering. “We looked at their business plan and it didn’t make sense to us,” said Roush Fenway Racing President Geoff Smith, who confirmed his team had been contacted by a New York-based investment fund that he did not identify by name. Robert Yates talked extensively with the potential investors and reached the same conclusion. “You sit in a room with about 20 bankers and you spend about 18 hours in there with them and you realize that they didn’t contribute anything to the gross national product except maybe going to the bathroom,” said Yates, who also has entertained merger and/or partnership offers from Dale Earnhardt, Inc., Robby Gordon Motorsports and Hall of Fame Racing, among others, before deciding to go it alone. More at SPEEDtv.com
Mobil to sponsor 3rd Penske entry in 2008  UPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today.  Penske Racing appears to be expanding to three teams in 2008, and former Indianapolis 500 champion Sam Hornish Jr. likely will fill that seat. Hornish is expected to compete in an unspecified number of Nextel Cup races toward the end of this season, team owner Roger Penske said Sunday morning at New Hampshire International Speedway. "We're looking at it," Penske said of the third team. "We definitely are very interested in doing that, but we have to look and see where we are with Hornish. That'll be a deciding factor on exactly what we do." More than likely Mobil 1, the sponsor on Hornish's Busch car and an associate sponsor on both Penske Cup cars, would be the primary sponsor on the Cup car. Mobil 1 and Penske have had a long association. With this apparent plan to expand to three teams with Hornish, Penske said he is not in the running for free agent Kyle Busch. Busch's older brother, Kurt, early last week lobbied on behalf of his brother during a national teleconference saying Penske Racing would be "stupid" not to talk to his brother. ESPN.com

06/10/07 LONG POND, Pa. - Amid rumors he is about to resurrect his third Nextel Cup team (possibly for Indy Racing League champion Sam Hornish Jr.), team owner Roger Penske said nothing has been decided concerning that for 2008.

Penske said Hornish, who won the Indy Racing League event Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway, will compete in the ARCA race this coming weekend at Michigan and is still going with the part-time stock-car schedule laid out earlier this year.

 "We haven't made any commitment on [a third team] at this point," Penske said Sunday prior to the Pocono 500. "There's lots of speculation. Sam has run some Busch races, is going to run ARCA in fact at Michigan next week. We've got a lot of moving parts right now, and I'm not committing to a third team at this point at all." Scenedaily.com

As far as Hornish possibly making his Nextel Cup debut in the Allstate 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Penske said that won't happen.

"We need to go to the Brickyard with the 2 [of Kurt Busch] and the 12 [of Ryan Newman] and execute there," he said. "We don't have a car. We need to go with our two best guys there and let him complete his season. We're done in September [with the IRL], which gives him a lot of time to run some races, which would give him a real opportunity to see where we are."

06/08/07 Jayski is rumoring that long-time Penske sponsor Mobil 1 will sponsor a 3rd Penske Racing South Nextel Cup entry in 2008.  Multi-car teams appear to have an advantage in NASCAR and given the fact that Penske cars cannot win we're not surprised to see the team expand.
Jeff Earnhardt tabbed for selected Busch races  Jeffrey Earnhardt, the 18-year-old grandson of the late Dale Earnhardt and son of Kerry, could be in a Busch car next season for a limited number of races.

Earnhardt currently is competing in the Busch East series that ran on Friday at New Hampshire International Speedway and will do so again next season. John Story, vice president and general manager of Dale Earnhardt Inc., said the company plans to run him in seven NASCAR Busch series races in 2008.

“That way we maintain his rookie status,” Story said. Story said that if Earnhardt continues to progress DEI expects to back him for a full Busch season in 2009.

’Au Revoir’ to Magny Cours  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Today's French grand prix was definitely the last to be held in Magny Cours, Bernie Ecclestone confirmed on Sunday.

Organizers, the French Federation of Motor Sport, had already announced that the race would probably drop off the calendar for 2008, but said the situation would be "re-examined" at an upcoming meeting in July.

But F1's chief executive Ecclestone categorically told the French newspaper Nice-Matin: "There is no future for Magny Cours. 2007 will be the last race at this circuit."

Alternatives in and around Paris are possible for the future, while 76-year-old Ecclestone owns the Paul Ricard circuit located near Marseille but it is not equipped for spectators.

Top figures for grand prix teams at Magny Cours this weekend said they would not miss this circuit but insisted that France is an important market for F1.

"It is one of the leading countries in the European environment and it is important to have a grand prix in France," Ferrari team principal Jean Todt said.

Renault's Flavio Briatore agreed: "I hope we hold a grand prix in France (in the future) and maybe in a better location."

07/01/07 (GMM) Ralf Schumacher thinks it is a shame that formula one will probably never return to Magny Cours after Sunday's grand prix.

"This is really no place for our sport," F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is quoted as saying by Sport Bild.

He refers to the common complaint that the current French GP venue is 'in the middle of nowhere' and, after the hustle and bustle of visits to places like Montreal and Monaco, only able to offer scenery such as a few cows.

But Schumacher, who turned 32 on Saturday, is not one of F1's renowned party-goers and commented: "I like it here -- it is nice and calm.

"I think it is nice that you can come here and it is more relaxing than some other places we go. It's a shame that we might not come back."

Also drawing the ire of F1's traveling circus, though, are the lacking facilities at Magny Cours, not to mention the long distances to below-par hotel accommodation and airports, and its promoters' struggles to match Ecclestone's ever-increasing annual fees.

But another issue is the lack of an alternative venue, given the importance to sponsors and carmakers of the French market. Love or hate the region, meanwhile, most of the drivers enjoy the high-speed chicanes.

Paris has been touted as one possibility, while Nick Heidfeld admitted this weekend: "If we have to go to Paul Ricard (in the future), I would rather stay here."

The first F1 race at Magny Cours took place in 1991.

David Reutimann to stay with Waltrip?  David Reutimann would prefer to return to Michael Waltrip Racing's Nextel Cup program next season. But he's still awaiting an offer. Reutimann signed a two-year contract to race Busch cars for Waltrip but is under a one-year deal for Cup. At the time, that seemed like a safety valve for Waltrip Racing, but with the team's mighty struggles in Toyota's first-year Cup effort and unwanted publicity surrounding Waltrip's cheating scandal at Daytona, it could give the rookie an escape. Team officials, he said, have yet to broach an extension. "Me personally, I am not really out looking around, " he said. But others could be looking at him, especially considering his performance for a Waltrip Busch program that has been markedly more competitive because of the quality of the engine Toyota has developed in the series. St. Petersburg Times
NASCAR could suspend additional crew members  The garage still is buzzing about the severity of the penalties handed to the Hendrick Motorsports teams of #24-Jeff Gordon and #48-Jimmie Johnson after their cars failed initial inspection last weekend because the front right fenders were bent beyond the wheel well. Gordon particularly was outspoken, saying he was disappointed in NASCAR's decision to suspend crew chiefs Steve Letarte and Chad Knaus for six races and fine each $100,000, as well as dock him and Johnson 100 championship points. "But I will say we're crystal clear going forward," Gordon said. "We're clear now that there is no gray area." It is clear now. If it's not, NASCAR is prepared to expand the suspension to car chiefs and engineers -- whatever it takes to get the message across. "It could grow into multiple suspensions," [Nextel Cup series director John] Darby said as he sat outside the hauler otherwise known as the NASCAR principal's office. Teams have understood for years that messing with the gray area in engines will not be tolerated. Now they're discovering that the body is off limits as well. ESPN.com
BMW to field unchanged race lineup in 2008  BMW will almost certainly field an unchanged driver lineup for the 2008 season.

Robert Kubica is already secure with a multi-year BMW-Sauber contract, while the impressive form of his experienced teammate Nick Heidfeld this year suggests that team principal Mario Theissen would be very unlikely to let him go.

The latest paddock whispers is that they are only stumbling over the finer financial details of a new two-year deal to cover 2008 and '09.

Before setting off to hospital to get his slight back injury checked on Friday, Heidfeld was quoted as telling the Diario As newspaper: "I still have not renewed (the contract) but things are going well."

30-year-old Heidfeld's only real competition for the seat comes from current test and reserve driver Sebastian Vettel, but the teenaged German is more strongly linked with a temporary move to Toro Rosso in 2008.

Both Theissen and Vettel have tellingly fumbled with part-denials of the story at Magny Cours this weekend. Vettel, for example, did not deny it but insisted that "there are always rumors in formula one".

Theissen said of BMW's current lineup: "We have a pair of very good drivers. Nick and Robert are two top drivers and we are happy with them.

"Nick does not yet have a new contract but he is doing a good job and our discussions are heading in the right way.

"Robert is having a difficult time with the change to Bridgestone tires, much like Fernando (Alonso), but already he is getting there."

Pepsi cutting way back on NASCAR sponsorship  According to a report in Sportsbusiness Daily Coca-Cola is close to displacing rival Pepsi with a massive pouring and marketing rights deal at Daytona Int'l Speedway.  Neither Coca-Cola nor ISC spokespersons would comment.  However, a source familiar with the negotiations said Pepsi was walking away not only from a 49-year association from the track that is home to the Daytona 500, but will eventually drop its deals with other ISC tracks when they expire over the next four years, including Phoenix, Talladega, Watkins Glen and Darlington. Pepsi “just didn’t see the value in continuing a legacy deal just for the sake of it," said a source familiar with the negotiations. Pepsi will continue to leverage the sport with Jeff Gordon, and is expected to increase NASCAR activation at retail, consistent with the direction set by VP/Sports Media & Interactive Marketing Ralph Santana, who moved into Pepsi’s top sports marketing slot last year. Another possibility is that they might sponsor Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Hendrick Motorsports, and hence the cutback at the track level.
Heidfeld to miss French GP  (GMM)  Sebastian Vettel might not have to sit out the French grand prix, according to news emerging from Magny Cours on Friday afternoon.

Just two weeks after making his point-scoring debut in Robert Kubica's car at the US grand prix, BMW-Sauber reserve driver Vettel could again be called up to replace one of the German squad's injured race regulars.

Nick Heidfeld, despite insisting on Thursday that the back twinge that put him out of the recent Silverstone test was now not bothering him, left Magny Cours shortly after Friday practice bound for the local hospital in Nevers.

Down in a lowly nineteenth place, he did just 18 laps compared with teammate Kubica's 42 in the afternoon practice session.

A team spokesman confirmed: "Nick stopped early as he did not want to aggravate his back following a recurrence of the pain that had bothered him at the Silverstone test last week."

Heidfeld, meanwhile, confirmed that he will undergo checks this afternoon.

"I stopped early because I wanted to save my back.  Last week at the Silverstone test I had some problems.  I can still feel it and as a precaution I want to have it checked today," he said.

Did Pope save Kubica?  UPDATE "I know nothing about this," Kubica told Reuters at the French Grand Prix, after being passed fit to race again on Sunday.

"In Poland there are many things that are reported that are not true.

"I don't know by whom I was saved, I don't know if I was saved by someone. I'm here in one piece so I think that is very positive," he added.

06/28/07 Polish-born Formula 1 driver Robert Kubica who emerged unhurt from a spectacular crash June 10, may be called by the Vatican to testify to alleged miracles performed by the late Polish- born Pope John Paul II, Poland's PAP news agency reported Thursday. Kubica always races in a helmet emblazoned with the late pope's name and was wearing just such a helmet when his car spun out of control and crashed at the Canadian Grand Prix June 10. Few onlookers thought he had survived.

According to the PAP, the story of Kubica's "miraculous survival" is likely to feature in an upcoming issue of the Vatican's "Totus Tuus" monthly magazine devoted to the beatification of the late Pope John Paul II.

The PAP also quotes anonymous Vatican sources saying Kubica's testimony could be included as part of the information attesting to the alleged miracles performed by the late Pope John Paul II. More ...
Land zoned for NASCAR track  Both chambers approved a bill to expedite land use review of a destination resort and amenities that would surround a proposed NASCAR-style speedway that developers want to build near the Morrow County town of Boardman.

Two developers have been negotiating with NASCAR in hopes of persuading it to pick Boardman for a Pacific Northwest speedway, which local officials say would be an economic boon to Eastern Oregon.

Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner, said the land use bill is aimed at clearing the way for developers to move forward with the speedway project and to show NASCAR that the state supports the $500 million project. We’re trying to tell NASCAR, ‘We’re open for business. Boardman wants you,’ ” Smith said. The bill now goes to the governor. Daily News

Bernie again eyes Las Vegas  Even though this weekend is the French GP our spies in Las Vegas spotted Bernie Ecclestone yesterday at the Wynn in Las Vegas.  The obvious conclusion will be drawn from this, but then that may be the reason for the visit as Ecclestone negotiates with Indianapolis.

Whether there is a serious chance of a race in Las Vegas remains to be seen. The streets are not very likely but there might be possibilities with individual casino owners, notably Steve Wynn, who was hot on the idea of an F1 race in Vegas around 10 years ago. Wynn now has a much larger, private, property known as Wynn's Las Vegas and he could stage a race himself.

2008 F1 driver lineup  We are still in June, not quite at the mid-point of the season, yet already the European media have begun predicting the make-up of the 2008 starting grid. It's not surprising that the game has begun so early this year, especially in Germany where Michael Schumacher is much missed and his kid brother seems to have lost his way. The Germans want to see their young talents advance, with Adrian Sutil moving to a good team and Sebastian Vettel landing a regular race seat. Italy also misses Schuey and some would like to see him come back and replace Räikkönen at Ferrari. Even the Brazilians are getting impatient in seeing young Nelsinho Piquet limited to a testing role at Renault, a team which has lost its panache.

So what are the rumors, from the most serious to the most surprising? To begin with, everyone in both the U.S. and Europe seems convinced that Sébastien Bourdais already has a contract in his pocket to go to Toro Rosso. Christian Klien, relegated to a testing role at Honda, could return with Toyota. Marc Gené, test driver for Ferrari, could go to Toro Rosso, on some kind of loan from the Scuderia. Another tester, Vettel, could move from BMW to Red Bull. Others suggest that Robert Kubica could go to Red Bull to make room for Vettel at BMW. It has also been reported that Kovalainen could go to Williams to make room for Piquet at Renault. Finally, Räikkönen's lack of success so far at Ferrari has led to the strangest speculation. The Finn could see himself replaced by Michael Schumacher, as mentioned earlier, or by Nico Rosberg, whose talent has never been doubted by anyone or, even more astonishing, by Fernando Alonso, disappointed by his experience so far at McLaren. If there's so much speculation already, what will it be like a month from now?

Penske may soon feature a brother act  Roger Penske may be considering adding Kyle Busch to the Penske Racing South NASCAR operation, which includes older brother Kurt Busch. "Penske would be stupid not to look at Kyle, so that talk is under way," Kurt Busch said during a national teleconference. But, he added, Kyle is "talking with all the other race teams out there such as Ginn Motorsports, Yates. I'm sure he's talked with Gibbs. "I would say he's talked with 99 percent of the garages, and that 1 percent (he hasn't talked to) is probably Roush Racing." Kyle Busch is to return to The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway next week and compete in the annual "Night of Fire" racing card Tuesday night. Las Vegas Sun
$6m key to Malaysia GP future  (GMM)  Money, not the safety of night racing, is the key to whether formula one will visit Malaysia beyond the expiration of its contract in 2010.

Sepang officials have in their possession a proposal to extend the deal for five years, but they are weighing up the estimated $6 million in extra costs that would be needed to satisfy Bernie Ecclestone's demands for lighting up the circuit near Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia's sports deputy minister Liow Tiong Lai confirmed in parliament on Thursday: "The government is still mulling over the cost factor (and) that is why we have yet to sign the contract."

Ralf to be replaced?  UPDATE #2 (GMM)  Ralf Schumacher at Magny Cours denied that he recently escaped a two-race 'ultimatum' to improve his form on formula one's recent North American tour.

"There was no such thing," Toyota's underperforming German driver told reporters at the French venue on Thursday.

"It was only your journalist colleagues (saying that)," he added, explaining that stepping down from his 2007 contract would have been "not possible" even if he or the team had wanted to.

Schumacher's most conspicuous problem at the wheel of the TF107 this season is in qualifying -- his record against teammate Jarno Trulli stands at 0:7.

Ralf snapped: "What am I supposed to say about that?  Only what I have said every single year in my career -- that what is important is the final result.

"Until the last race we were only two points apart, and now I think the gap is five.  So for the moment I can live with that and it is true that the whole team can improve also."

Schumacher said last week that he is "100 per cent certain" that he will still be a grand prix driver in 2008.

With an expiring contract, how can he be so sure?  "Because I know it," Ralf said.  "I gave this information because I know it, and everything else will be revealed when it is the right time.  And it is not (the right time) yet."

06/18/07 Rumors are currently doing the rounds of most internet sites that Panasonic Toyota Racing’s Ralf Schumacher has been relieved of his duties with the Cologne based squad and that third driver, Franck Montagny, will be taking his place at the upcoming French Grand Prix at Magny Cours, Montagny’s home track.

However, automoto365.com can confirm that Franck will definitely not be partnering Jarno Trulli at the French Grand prix in two weeks time, and added to that, the Frenchman, who was due to take part in the team’s testing program this week, will now be sitting the session out as Ralf completes his share of the workload instead.

06/18/07 There were rumors in Indianapolis that Christian Klien may have signed a long term deal to drive for Toyota. Honda sources say that they have not been approached about releasing the young Austrian but confirm that he is a free agent at the end of the current season.

The suggestion, coming from Austrian sources - which are not always 100% reliable - is that Klien could be the man who will replace Ralf Schumacher in the team next year, driving alongside Jarno Trulli.

There remains speculation about Schumacher's immediate future but the smart money in F1 circles remains on the German departing the team before the French Grand Prix, particularly in the light of his bizarre accident at the start of the United States Grand Prix. It is anticipated that the team's test driver Franck Montagny will take over for the rest of this year, beginning at his home race in France. Toyota has, however, been shopping around for a longer term solution. More at Grandprix.com

Sleaze shops to open across from future ISC track  X-rated businesses might find a home in the swamps of Jersey. This Bergen County town introduced an ordinance that would create an adult entertainment zone for strip clubs, massage parlors, porn stores and tattoo shops across from the Meadowlands Sports Complex, possible home to a future NASCAR and IRL track.  Mayor James Cassella told The Record of Bergen County the ordinance is needed to prevent adult businesses from opening near schools and homes. Newsday
Geelong wants Australian GP  (GMM)  With rival city Sydney eyeing Australia's grand prix, it has now emerged that yet another alternate region is keen to see formula one move away from Albert Park.

A consortium in Geelong, which is slightly less than an hour's drive south-west of Melbourne, is working on a $200 million plan to build a Circuit de Catalunya-style permanent track, the local newspaper Geelong Advertiser said.

A spokesman said the consortium did not want to reveal its plans yet.

"But the news in the papers (about Sydney's possible F1 bid) has made us announce things earlier," he added, explaining that a location for the site has been selected and that "some big offshore people" have pledged funds.

It is also believed that the site will be close to Avalon airport, which is already used for the arrival of formula one freight.

"We are presently in the process of providing more information for the State Government," the spokesman continued.

FIA propose to allow flexi-wings  (GMM) F1's governing body could legalize moveable aerodynamic devices in 2011, it emerged after a meeting on Wednesday of the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris.

Despite recent controversies over currently banned designs like overly flexible wings and floors, the FIA revealed in a statement that freeing up these regulations could "reduce drag by over 50% and allow a 40% reduction in the power required to maintain current speeds".

Overtaking, meanwhile, could be stimulated by introducing new rules and standardized bodywork to "halve the downforce", making it easier for the next car to follow and pass its rival, while V8s may be scrapped and replaced by 4-cylinder engines.

Also mooted at the meeting were "restrictions on personnel" at races and restrictions "on the use of (wind tunnels)".

NASCAR to settle out of court, award Kentucky Cup race  As the Kentucky Speedway began preparations for hosting another NASCAR Truck event July 14, much of its attention was on the possibility of a settlement in its lawsuit against NASCAR – news of which broke last Saturday.  Nothing official has been released yet, but if a deal is reached a product could be a coveted Nextel Cup race as early as next year.  The track has been open seven years. The facility sued NASCAR over monopolistic practices after being passed over for a Nextel Cup race.

Did anyone think the France family would let a lawsuit such as this go to a trial where all their books would be open for review?  The Texas Motor Speedway antitrust lawsuit was settled out of court as well.  They were awarded the 2nd Cup date they coveted.  We could easily see Martinsville lose one of its two Cup races to Kentucky.

Overheard in Cleveland - 5  UPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's Rexall GP of Edmonton announcement - see Hot News page.

06/24/07 AutoRacing1.com has learned that the sponsorship announcement Wednesday will be for a new title sponsor for the Grand Prix of Edmonton.  We know the company but that info is embargoed until Wednesday.  We can tell you that it's a large company with almost 2,000 locations in the USA and Canada.

06/24/07 One rumor making the rounds in Cleveland is that Sebastien Bourdais already knows he has a deal to move to F1 in 2008, though he and the Newman/Haas/Lanigan team are saying publicly that no decision has been made yet........Tied in with that rumor is that another top Champ Car driver is already being eyed to replace Bourdais........Also hearing that a driver in the IRL is also eyeing a possible move to Champ Car. We have yet to learn who this driver is, but if it's a driver who wants to apply his skills and not drone around at 100% throttle (even Milka can do that), or if it's a driver that has F1 aspirations, Champ Car with its 100% road racing and standing starts is a much better place to be........We heard that the sponsor announcement coming out Wednesday has nothing to do with the AVN Racing deal we reported on our Hot News page. The Wednesday announcement will be from Canada. Perhaps it will be related to the Grand Prix of Toronto contract extension deal we previously reported.
ISC eyes Meadowlands, NJ site  UPDATE "The process is purely exploratory at this point," reports the Bergen Record newspaper on June 13th.

"Following our decision to discontinue speedway development on Staten Island (N.Y.), we've begun exploring a number of sites, including the Meadowlands. No specific proposals have been offered or received, and we don't have a predetermined timetable for concluding our potential site evaluation efforts in the (metro New York) region."

Sports Authority President Carl Goldberg told the Newark Star-Ledger June 13th that the meetings are "informal with no definitive proposal."

The Record said the talks were for 1.25-mile speedway around the existing one-mile horse race track.  There is a far better chance that ISC will have success in the Meadowlands than in Staten Island.  Access is far superior and NY Transit is planning a rail spur to the site to handle up to 10,000 passengers per hour.  That plus the site is surrounded by the NJ Turnpike, Route 3 and other major highways.  The entire site is a sports and entertainment complex.  If there is any place ISC will gain acceptance for a race track it's in the NY Metropolitan area, it's the NJ Meadowlands.

01/05/07 ISC's Michael Printup, lead dog in the New York sled for International Speedway Corp., remains optimistic, saying Tuesday that ISC would soon start NYC 2.0 in a week or two.  The goal remains intact: construct a track within a 20- to 30-mile radius of Manhattan, and persistence from Brian France and Lesa France Kennedy could ultimately prevail.

What about the New Jersey Meadowlands?

"I haven't gotten any calls from the Meadowlands, yet," Printup said. "I figured I would have by now, but haven't."

Printup said the pending defections from the Meadowlands' Continental Arena by the NBA's New Jersey Nets (to Brooklyn) and the NHL's New Jersey Devils (to Newark, N.J.) could provide NASCAR an opportunity to swoop in and replace critical lost revenue.

That's not the case, according to Bernard Spigner, a spokesman for the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority (NJSEA), which owns and operates the Meadowlands complex.

"It's hard for me to speak for the [Meadowlands] CEO. I haven't even spoken with him about NASCAR, but it's apples and oranges. The Nets' and Devils' departure will make our arena profitable. Arenas don't make money as homes of basketball and hockey teams. It's concerts and family shows -- non-sporting events.

"Arenas are more profitable once teams vacate. With that said, though, we know NASCAR is a jewel among American sports and cuts across many demographics. So if Mr. France picked up the phone and called Mr. Zoffinger [NJSEA CEO George Zoffinger], they'd meet. I'm sure of that."

Printup might just do that.

"Maybe it's time I picked up the phone and gave the Meadowlands a whirl again," Printup said. "I think we have a really good chance of surviving up here."  More at ESPN.com

Sydney wants to poach Australian GP  UPDATE (GMM)  The premier of rival Australian state New South Wales has played down reports this week that Sydney might try to poach the country's grand prix from the Victorian capital Melbourne.

Despite saying on Tuesday that "nothing will be ruled out" by the new $85 million major events corporation, premier Morris Iemma clarified less than 24 hours later: "We have no ambitions for the (GP)."

Melbourne's current formula one contract runs until 2010.

06/26/07 (GMM) A rival Australian state has set its sights on poaching the grand prix from Melbourne.

New South Wales, Australia's most populous state and home of the famous city Sydney, wants to host both F1 and MotoGP, whose Phillip Island round is also currently staged in the capital of rival state Victoria.

Domestic newspapers on Tuesday revealed that a new major events corporation - with a budget of $85 million - has been set up by the NSW government, while talks have already taken place with F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone.

A spokesman for NSW premier Morris Iemma said: "We will be competing for events right across the spectrum, regardless of where they are held, and nothing will be ruled out."

Victoria's tourism minister Tim Holding reacted to the news by insisting that Melbourne wants to retain the events, despite rumors in recent months that they were becoming too expensive.

And he added: "Sydney has a way to go -- they have some learning to do."

Melbourne's current grand prix contract runs until 2010.

De la Rosa to drive for Prodrive?  (GMM) Pedro de la Rosa has shed no further light on rumors that McLaren's current test driver lineup is first in line for a Prodrive seat in 2008.

David Richards' Banbury-based team is expected to enter formula one next year with a customer car-engine package bought from McLaren and its engine partner Mercedes-Benz.

But Spaniard de la Rosa, McLaren's primary test driver alongside Gary Paffett, told the newspaper 'Diario As' that he did not know what his future held.

"Of course it is my intention to be involved in formula one also next season," the 36-year-old said, "and if I am racing then that is even better."

De la Rosa continued: "But it is necessary also be realistic. It is difficult to say if I will be (racing), but we will see."

Experts have cast doubt on the Paffett-de la Rosa-Prodrive speculation because it would leave McLaren needing to field an all-new test lineup in 2008.

Cheating Hendrick teams preparing for crew chief suspensions  It looks like Chad Knaus and Steve Letarte are about to become teachers, in a hurry.  Sources told captainthunderracing.com late Monday, that the two Hendrick Motorsports crew chiefs and their crews will be working franticly to prepare for the possible suspensions stemming from the Infineon race. At last weekends road race in California, both teams race cars failed inspection and their drivers, #24 Jeff Gordon and #48 Jimmie Johnson, where forced to start from the back of the field. Over the next few days, the two crew chiefs will be working overtime with their crews and their new replacements to prepare themselves for the possible passing of the baton this weekend in New Hampshire. Sources said Knaus is prepared to assist Letarte with preparations and the two are reviewing Knaus's notes from last year to get a strong handle on how to handle their potential impending absences from the race track. They are preparing to work the operation much the way they did last season when Knaus was suspended following a cheating infraction at the season opening Daytona 500. Johnson won the race in Knause's absence with fill in crew chief Darian Grubb sitting on the pit box in place of Knaus. Grubb parlayed that gig in to a full time gig as crew chief for the #25 of Casey Mears. When Knaus was suspended last year, they communicated via laptop and cell phone by housing Knaus in a hotel close to the track. Sources told me they will prepare much as they did last year and they will be sure to be ready for the worst. And, if they don't get suspended, they will be even better prepared for this weeks race in New Hampshire. Whoever replaces Knaus and Letarte has some big shoes to fill, and they better be prepared to be there for a while. Sources say the penalty could equal the one NASCAR handed out to Tony Eury Jr. just a few weeks ago. captainthunderracing.com
track news
Paul Ricard for sale?  Bernie Ecclestone is rumored to have put his Paul Ricard High Tech Test Track at Le Castellet, near Toulon, up for sale. Ecclestone has owned the track since 1999, through a company called Excelis, which is run by Philippe Gurdjian. Since then the circuit has been redeveloped into one of the most advanced facilities in the world. The company has also upgraded the Le Castellet Aerodrome to take executive jets and the Hotel du Castellet has been turned into a top-quality hotel and conference centre.

The investment involved to achieve all this has been considerable and it seems that Ecclestone now wants to cash in, presumably hoping that a car manufacturer or a promotional company will buy the facility and make a profit using it for testing, presentations and launches.

There have often been rumors that the track might one day be able to host the French GP once again but the poor road access and the proximity to the Mediterranean beaches, coupled with a lack of sufficient hotels means this is unlikely. There are also no spectator facilities left.

The facility boasts a top level karting facility and a skid pan, in addition to one of the most advanced medical facilities to be found at any racing circuit. Grandprix.com

Pizzonia sacked  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Adam Carroll will replace Antonio Pizzonia at FMS for the GP2 races at Magny-Cours this weekend and we assume the rest of the year.

06/11/07 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Brazilian Antonio Pizzonia has been sacked by the FMS International GP2 team.  We hear that Ernesto Viso may be his replacement.
Almirola to Ginn in 2008?  In a press conference at Sonoma, JGR president J.D. Gibbs said of Almirola: "Really, for us, he [Almirola] is a huge part of our future. We have invested a lot in him both time wise and financially but more importantly, just getting to know him. No one wants him to succeed more than us. He is a perfect fit all the way around to race here for JGR and will be in this sport for years to come." and "He'll run another race for them [Rockwell, sponsor of JGR Busch team] here down the road this year and they'll line up and do a full deal with him next year. That's what I hope." And "Rockwell has been a great partner for many years. For us, they are kind of evaluating where they go next year." GM Racing PR
Albers' ex-manager eyes van der Garde  (GMM)  F1 test driver Giedo van der Garde may have been the factor that led to fellow Dutch driver Christijan Albers' recent split with his manager.

It is reported by the magazine Formule 1 Race Report that Albers' estranged manager Lodewijk Varossieau could already be in talks with a possible new charge -- 23-year-old van der Garde, who currently occasionally tests for the Spyker team.

Test rookie van der Garde switched to Spyker this year after actually signing a deal with Super Aguri -- a contractual anomaly that means he is still without an FIA Super License.

The news preceded information that his girlfriend's father, Marcel Boekhoorn, this year bought a $10 million stake in Spyker's parent company.

It now emerges that driver manager Varossieau, who was still in charge of Albers at the time, was in Monaco a guest on Boekhoorn's luxury yacht.

But Varossieau, whose company GR8 Industries is contracted to Spyker as sponsorship specialists, insists that he has actually been approached by many drivers following his split with the Silverstone-based team's race driver Albers.

"It shows that we must have done a good job (with Albers)," he said.

Bourdais to test again  UPDATE Robin Miller reported on Speed TV that Bruno Senna and Sebastien Bourdais were leading contenders for the Toro Rosso drive and Justin Wilson and Marco Andretti are possible replacements for Bourdais. As we reported, Miller said that the rumors have Bourdais already signed with Toro Rosso for next year.

06/24/07 According to our sources in the Champ Car paddock, Sebastien Bourdais is slated to test for the Toro Rosso F1 team again this week, adding further credence he is a lock to go to F1 next year.
Changes at Renault  Renault F1 is restructuring its aerodynamic department as it expands and prepares for a new computational fluid dynamics facility to be built at Enstone. The team's chief aerodynamicist Dino Toso is to move up to a new role, overseeing the CFD organisation and leading the aerodynamic design team, while the management of the team's wind tunnel programmes is being passed on to Deputy Technical Director James Allison. Allison's role will be a temporary one as the team will be recruiting someone for the position later in the year. Applications are expected to pour in. Grandprix.com
Overheard in Cleveland - 4  UPDATE #2 Dale Coyne told us he is locked in with his two drivers for the rest of the year and Mario Dominguez told us he does not have any definite sponsor deals in place yet.......Sierra Sierra said it is not true that the would not move up into Champ Car. If the sponsorship money was there and Matos or Hinchcliffe win the $2M championship they would move up to Champ Car. Mark C.

06/23/07 We forgot to mention that we spotted former CART Champ Car team boss Steve Horne talking to Kevin Kalkhoven and we hear a meeting was set up for Sunday morning.  Hmmm.........Horne is very well respected on both sides of the great divide.  We wonder if Horne is ready to get back into racing?

06/23/07 We are seeing more sponsorship as well as more grassroots marketing at Champ Car events this year. This has resulted in attendance to date to be up over 20%. There are a lot of people at the Cleveland event this year, far more than in previous years and as we left the track at 8 PM thousands were still pouring in to see the drag races tonight. For two days now racing has been non-stop until 10 PM. The new promoters have done a fantastic job and the great weather isn't hurting either......After a 6-week lull Champ Car now has 8 races in 12 weeks so you will see them gain momentum........After the CBS race this weekend we are told ESPN/ABC will start their Champ Car marketing campaign which will include many drop-in ads on many websites and coverage on most ESPN outlets.........We hear that Champ Car is courting five potential title sponsors........We keep hearing there will be two new European races added to next year's schedule and one new USA venue, but one weak existing race (Portland?)may be dropped.......Jeremy Shaw reports that Eurosport is thrilled with the TV ratings Champ Car is getting in Europe this year. A lot of that has to do with all the European drivers in the series........We spotted Mario Dominguez in meetings with Dale Coyne so it looks like Dominguez may have found some sponsorship money..........Bobby Rahal is here in Cleveland this weekend watching his son race instead of with his IRL team in the cornfields of Iowa......Don't look for the Sierra Sierra team to move up to Champ Car next year even if one of their drivers (Matos or Hinchcliffe) win the $2M title. Seems they like working with young drivers and developing them.........Do, however, look for the Polestar Atlantic team to again try to move up to Champ Car in 2008. Recall they almost made it this year but came up a little short on the money side.......Look for the Las Vegas race to run the week after Easter next year we hear.  If true that would make the Champ Car season opener on March 30th next year. Mark C.
Yeley's ride on the line  J.J. Yeley’s fate is still up in the air with Joe Gibbs Racing after a star-crossed run at Michigan last week that saw him qualify on the pole but sink like a stone once the green flag fell en route to a 28th-place finish. Ford Racing

[Editor's Note: This happens a lot in NASCAR (a car winning the pole for sponsor or manufacturer publicity) and many fans write us to say they believe NASCAR starting grids are computer generated.  With no telemetry allowed everyone takes for gospel what the NASCAR timing and scoring computers spit out.  We have some pretty sharp readers and they usually can smell a rat when they see one.  Don't you just love those conspiracy theories?  Hmm........]

Overheard in Cleveland - 1  UPDATE #2 To clarify, Steve Johnson said total viewership was up 100% not total ratings and in fact total USA viewership is up over 100%.

06/22/07 Steve Johnson says the TV ratings for Champ Car are up 100% over the first 5 races of last year--not entirely true according to our research......at least not in the USA. Perhaps he meant worldwide.
In the USA the first 5 races last year generated a 1.9 rating vs. the first 4 this year getting a 2.5--that's a 32% increase.
The first 4 last year got 1.3 vs. 2.5 this year, which is +92%, but--and it's a BIG BUT--only one of last year's first 4 races was on network, while three of this year's were.
The fairer comparison is that the average rating of last year's 7 network races was a 0.73, vs. the average of this year's 3 network races (so far) is 0.73!  So the ratings are the same.
They're even the same for the cable races--last year's Houston got a 0.1 on Speed, but that was on Saturday night.  The two other early season races last year on Speed got a 0.3 each, which is what Houston got this year on ESPN.

06/22/07 Champ Car President Steve Johnson said today in Cleveland our attendance is up 20%, our TV ratings are up 100% and our website viewership is up over 100% from 2006 through the first five races.  This is what led Bridgestone to renew for two more years already........Champ Car is talking to five potential title sponsors, all global companies that don't have the myopic view that the world revolves just around the USA........We hear that a race in Greece in 2008 is still a very real possibility, but the China race scheduled for October is probably not going to happen (as previously reported) and will run in May next year as was planned this year.......Another American city is pushing hard to land a Champ Car race.......Expect to see a renewal signed to extend the Champ Car deal in Toronto.......We are told the ticket sales for this weekend's Cleveland GP are up significantly.  The weather, for once, is cool and comfortable.
Overheard in Cleveland - 3  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today - see Hot News page about new 'racy' Champ Car team.

06/23/07 At the Erotica LA 50,000 people strong conference in Los Angeles this weekend, word is that Adult Video News will announce that it will put its logo on a Champ Car (brace yourself for years of jokes about pole position), and Cirque du Soleil's (Sponsor at Champ Car's Mont Tremblant race) "Zumanity" will attach its considerable brand name to the expo by staging a mini-show on Saturday afternoon on the event's "Sensual Stage." "It's a perfect fit for us," said John McCoy, publicist for the Cirque du Soleil show, which mixes the troupe's trademark acrobatics and surrealism with semi- and implied nudity. "We're trying to break down the boundaries between the mainstream and entertainment that is sensual, fun and sexy. This is a perfect marriage for us and the expo." LA Times.........we hear there will be a significant sponsor announcement this coming week for Champ Car. Could this be it?........Keep your eye on 13-year old Gaby Chavez (pictured right) from Bogotá, Colombia who just came over from Juan Montoya's native country and immediately qualified 3rd fastest in his first Skip Barber National race. Not even 5 feet tall yet this kid appears to have some real talent, and he handled the post-qualifying press conference like a real professional.
Stepney's lawyer denies sabotage  UPDATE #4 The lawyer of Englishman Nigel Stepney, the former Ferrari Technical Manager accused of sabotaging the Italian team ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix, dismissed the accusation against his client on Saturday.

Ferrari on Friday announced that they had requested prosecutors in Modena to open an enquiry into Stepney, who is facing a criminal investigation following an official complaint filed by the team last month.

"The only thing I can say is that Stepney has been placed under investigation but the charge is at present very hazy and uncertain," lawyer Luca Brezigar told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"From what I've heard there are a number of legal definitions such as aggravated damage or sporting fraud, but I would exclude sabotage," he added.

06/23/07 A leading Formula One mechanic is being investigated by police after allegations that he attempted to sabotage two Ferrari racing cars. Nigel Stepney, who earns £750,000 a year as Ferrari’s head of team performance development, is alleged to have interfered with the fuel system of cars driven by Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen.

Mr. Stepney, from Warwickshire, was reported to the Italian police after a mysterious white powder was found in the petrol tanks only days before the Monaco grand prix.

He was passed over for promotion earlier this year and is reported to have been looking to move to a new team. Since the mysterious powder was discovered, the Ferrari team’s performance has fallen in the past three grands prix.

The world of Formula One was stunned yesterday after Ferrari confirmed it had held an investigation into Mr. Stepney, 47. Although the sport is famous for shenanigans between teams, with fines for cheating and prosecutions for selling secrets to rivals, no one has previously been investigated for trying to sabotage their own cars.

A criminal investigation into the alleged sabotage has been started by the district attorney in Modena after he received evidence from the internal inquiry held at the Ferrari team factory in Maranello, northern Italy.

Luca Colajanni, a Ferrari spokesman, told The Times: “Ferrari can confirm that we have brought an action against Nigel Stepney and that there is an internal disciplinary procedure against him.”

The investigation into Mr. Stepney is being seen as a sign that since the retirement of Michael Schumacher, its star driver, and several other key team members, Ferrari is losing the cohesion that made it such a formidable force.

Mr. Colajanni dismissed such talk. “This is a sign, if the investigation is confirmed, that someone has lost his team spirit because he is not happy with the choices made by the team management. It is not correct to say the team is falling apart.”

Mr. Stepney was believed to be on holiday in Asia yesterday with his Brazilian wife and their baby. The Times of London

06/22/07 Ferrari has filed a criminal complaint accusing a British team member of attempted sabotage before the Monaco Grand Prix.  Nigel Stepney, a technician who is responsible for team performance, was cited in the deposition in a Modena court, Ferrari spokesman Luca Colajanni said Friday.  A mysterious powder was found on the gas tanks of Felipe Massa's and Kimi Raikkonen's cars on May 21, six days before the Monaco race, the Gazzetta dello Sport and the Italian news agency ANSA reported.  The parts were replaced before the race and the powder was sent to the police to be examined.

06/21/07 Perhaps this is why Ferrari has been falling behind - Autosport reports that the Modena district attorney in Italy has opened criminal investigation against Ferrari stalwart Nigel Stepney, after the Maranello outfit filed a formal complaint earlier this week. The team would not divulge the nature of their complaint or what Stepney is accused of, but a team spokesman has confirmed to autosport.com that the Briton is at the centre of investigation. "Ferrari have taken action against Nigel Stepney, and there is now an investigation," the spokesman said, adding that Stepney is still an employee of Ferrari.

06/19/07 The Ferrari team relies heavily on its Renzo Piano-designed windtunnel, rather than running two windtunnels like some of its rivals. The team is investing heavily in CFD technology at the moment and intends to use much more of the virtual technology rather than building a second wind tunnel. This is a sensible strategy but the problem is that if the main windtunnel is out of action, the team may struggle to keep up. Modern F1 windtunnels work round the clock and parts do become worn out as a result. The tunnels require "down time" for suitable servicing.

We hear on the grapevine that about a month ago Ferrari suffered a failure of its rolling road system in the Maranello windtunnel. The rolling roads in the modern F1 windtunnels are made from a steel belt, which circulates at around 180mph. If a rolling road breaks, the damage can be considerable as lumps of metal fly around at 180mph.

The word is that this may have been what happened.

And that Ferrari has been in trouble ever since. Grandprix.com

Klien blanks Toyota rumors  (GMM) Christian Klien has refused to clearly deny rumours that he could be on the way to Toyota next year.

The former Jaguar and Red Bull racer switched to the test role at Honda for 2007 in a bid to start to claw his way back to the grand prix grid.

But with the Japanese squad looking to keep both Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button on board in 2008, 24-year-old Klien could instead be looking to fill beleaguered Toyota driver Ralf Schumacher's race seat.

Sportnet.at asked the Austrian, a veteran of 48 grands prix, if he was still hoping to race for Honda in the future.

"You should ask the team about drivers," he answered.

Regarding the Toyota speculation, Klien added: "Like I said, it is each team's responsibility to make statements about its driver situation.

"I can say nothing more about it."

What he could say, however, is that he fully intends to return to the formula one field before too long.

"When it will be, we will have to find out," Klien concluded.
Overheard in Cleveland - 2  Although Matt Halliday said he's coming back to Champ Car for the final five races with sponsorship in hand, the fact remains that the Conquest team does not have a 2nd car for him to drive and it is cost prohibitive to acquire one for just five races. If the rumor is true that the Rocketsports team will be losing its sponsorship after Toronto, and if Halliday does indeed have money, perhaps he will land in the 2nd RSPORTS car.........Did you know that 23-year-old native of Jens, Switzerland Neel Jani's father hails from India. Indeed he does........Saturday morning has dawned sunny and cool again so we should be in for another nice day for the Roar by the Shore (of Lake Erie)........Conor Daly, in his first Skip Barber National Series outing was fastest in practice yesterday. Daly is the son of former Champ Car announcer and F1 driver Derek Daly.......The grandstands being used in Cleveland now are a bit steeper than years gone by to help the fans see the cars better on the very wide-open flat airport circuit, but the number of grandstands is way down from the glory years of CART..........In future years we hear the Grand Prix Organizers are toying with the idea of adding grandstands in the infield so fans can get a good view and feel the rumble of a standing start. Of course that would block the view of those in grandstands outside the track.
NASCAR explores spec engines  Bill Davis Racing and Roush Fenway Racing each will test a truck at Martinsville Speedway for NASCAR on Monday. Davis said the teams will use a spec engine as NASCAR explores the possibility of making all the engines the same for the Craftsman Truck series at some point. "On the surface, it really looks good because of the cost reduction," Davis said of a spec engine in the truck series. "The only thing that concerns me, not only my operation but a lot of truck operations are very manufactured-dependent for sponsorship. I'm afraid if the manufacturer doesn't have his engine in there, it's a spec motor, is the attraction still going to be there?" Johnny Benson is scheduled to test for Bill Davis Racing. Travis Kvapil is scheduled to test for Roush Fenway Racing. Roanoke Times

[Editor's Note: Spec engines will help put a stop to the near-monopoly Toyota has on the truck series.]

Menard to move sponsorship money  John Menard is reported to be considering moving his sponsorship from Dale Earnhardt Inc. to Roger Penske’s Dodge team, with Penske expanding to a three-car operation. Menard, according to sources, has narrowed his list to two owners, and it appears that #7-Robby Gordon is no longer in the running. Menard, who is supporting son Paul on the Cup tour at DEI, has been reported interested in purchasing DEI from Teresa Earnhardt.
F1 to race in Dubai  According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Bernie Ecclestone is far along in his negotiations to race in Dubai, but not until 2012 or later.  We hear his plan is to add races as he builds the F1 brand in the Middle East.
Ecclestone turning screws on George until he screams  UPDATE #2 A reader writes, Either the Indy Star has their story wrong or Joie Chitwood talks out of both sides of his mouth. He tells the Indy Star there are no contract talks with Bernie, yet in this letter he sent to all fans it says otherwise.

Dear USGP Fan:

I would like to thank you for your attendance at the 2007 United States Grand Prix. From the unprecedented access on Pit Walkabout day to rookie Lewis Hamilton continuing his improbable climb to the top of Formula One, the United States Grand Prix was a truly exciting event. I think we all hope to be able to see Hamilton defend his title next year here in Indianapolis.

To that end, we are currently working to ensure the future of Formula One at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. After a series of conversations between Formula One Management CEO Bernie Ecclestone and Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO Tony George about the future of the United States Grand Prix, we are working toward an agreement for 2008 and beyond.

We have stressed that we would like to continue the event, and we believe Formula One feels the same way. After playing host to the USGP for eight years, we are aware of the challenges ahead, and that is why we are exploring ways to reach a long-term agreement, with hopes of making an announcement no later than July 12.

With the Indianapolis 500, we annually present the world's largest sporting event and also play host to the largest-attended NASCAR race with the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. The goal is to continue to work with the Formula One community and find the right business model to make this event successful for all involved.

Please continue to log on to www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com for the latest updates regarding the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis.

Thank you again for your support of Formula One in the United States, and we certainly hope to see you again in 2008.


Joie Chitwood
President & COO

06/21/07 Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Joie Chitwood said no discussions have been held with F-1 boss Bernie Ecclestone regarding a new contract for the U.S. Grand Prix. Speedway officials have set a July 12 deadline for deciding whether there are additional grand prix events at the facility.  Indy Star

The Mole writes: "You also have to remember that Indianapolis is paying a lot less for the Grand Prix than most other races. I heard that Tony George got the deal for about $10m a year, which is peanuts compared to events in Asia and the Middle East. They are paying Bernie three times as much. Bernie wants George to pay more, raise the ticket prices and do some more promotional work. George is worried that if he does that people will stop coming and he will make a loss. Bernie does not care. He says the deal is on the table and it is up to Tony to take it or leave it.

"Don't get me wrong," he added. "I think Bernie would like to have Indianapolis on the schedule. It is a good name to have in F1 but it needs to make him more profit. I think that Indianapolis will go with motorcycle racing and F1 will be off on the road again."

"The road to nowhere," said The Mole.

"Well, that is true," said The Contact. "The other thing is that Canada and Indy are currently sharing freight costs so that creates a problem for the Canadians as well."

He paused for a moment, looked into the bottom of his coffee cup. There were no tea leaves for guidance.

"Bernie has been sniffing around a few other places in the US, but no-one is going to pay him what he wants. He could try to promote his own event but you know he had the chance to buy Long Beach a year or two back and he did not take it. That would be a disaster for TV ratings anyway. He needs something on the East Coast. Somewhere big with hotels and a bit of glitz. He needs New York or Miami. Something on Long Island, or the Connecticut coast.

"He needs a Monaco kind of race, just to get people excited. Americans don't mind spending money to go somewhere which they think is glamorous, but I guess that Indiana just doesn't cut the ice."

The Mole looked out of the window, across the airport to where a huge new terminal is being built.

"Maybe it is not too late," he said.

06/19/07 The USGP is already a big money loser. Reports are the race is significantly in the red given all the improvements that had to be made to the track to meet the FIA requirements.

With the current contract now over, Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone says the fate of the US Grand Prix is in the hands of Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony George, although he likely means George's wallet.

Ecclestone told Indianapolis television station WISH-TV that racers enjoy the event, staged here since 2000, but gave little clue about talks for the future as a July 12 deadline looms to decide the future of the race.

"It's good here, the facilities are good and all the teams are happy here. We don't have a problem," Ecclestone said.

Asked whether F1 and Indy officials would sign a deal to replace the one expiring after Lewis Hamilton's triumph Sunday, Ecclestone said, "I don't know. I've been having a chat with Tony so we'll see.

"He knows what it takes. Ask Tony. It's in his hands. It's up to him."

The stumbling block could be the amount of money Ecclestone wants George to pay to stage the event in future years. A one-year extension for this race was added after the original seven-year deal expired in 2006.

With bidders such as Singapore willing to raise the stakes and other Asian sites such as South Korea and India preparing to jump into the bidding for F1 races, money to Ecclestone and for boosting US interest will be crucial.

So the question remains whether George will sign the new deal and bleed more red ink, or will he tell Bernie to go pound sand. Long ago Long Beach told Bernie to go pound sand. We'll see if George still brings his hammer to work every day.

Indy to host Bike race starting in ’08?  UPDATE #6 Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Joie Chitwood is optimistic there will be an international motorcycle event at the track in 2008, but he said today that choosing a date remains a challenge. Chitwood had hoped for a late-August weekend, but busy local and international schedules appear to be prohibitive, he said.

“We have to find a date that works for all parties,” he said. “There are a lot of factors to consider.”

MotoGP has an 18-race schedule in 2007 that visits many of the world’s top road courses. It has one U.S. race, held this year on July 22 in Monterey, Calif.

MotoGP would have to make adjustments to accommodate Indy in September or October. This year, the series has races in Italy (Sept. 2), Portugal (Sept. 16), Japan (Sept. 23), Australia (Oct. 14) and Malaysia (Oct. 21) in that period.

Chitwood denied a report that he has a deal with MotoGP, the sanctioning body he has targeted over the past six months.

“Nothing has been signed, and (discussions) are not to the point where it’s official,” he said. Indy Star

06/21/07 Tony George has the monopoly on four-open-wheeled entertainment in this country but, starting in 2008, one of the most electrifying things on two wheels will be performing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

SPEEDTV.com has learned that IMS has finalized a deal to bring the MotoGP series to the Speedway next fall. MotoGP officials were spotted dining with IMS president and chief operating officer Joie Chitwood earlier this week.

“We are working very hard to having a MotoGP event here sometime in 2008 as a kickoff to our centennial era,” said Fred Nation, IMS vice president of communications. “Remember, our first motorsports event at the Speedway in 1909 was a motorcycle race.” More at SPEEDTV.com

03/18/07 Tony George interviewed on Wind Tunnel Sunday night said that there was better than a 50% chance that MotoGP would be coming to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway starting in 2008......one year before the Speedway's 100 year celebration.  The Speedway opened in 1909 with a motorcycle race, a very unsuccessful one.

02/19/07 The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has hired Hardcard Holdings, a leading motorsports management and consulting firm specializing in motorcycle events, IMS President Joie Chitwood announced Feb. 19.  See Hot News page for the full story.

02/16/07 Indianapolis Motor Speedway doesn't yet have a motorcycle race for its 2008 calendar, but it has a month for the event just in case. The month would be August, said track president Joie Chitwood, who said hosting the MotoGP series does not hinge on whether Formula One returns to the road course circuit. "We've always planned this as a fourth event (for the facility)," said Chitwood, who is nearing final discussions with MotoGP officials. "At that point, the dates are limited."

Based on the time slots used this year, the corresponding dates of the Speedway's 2008 events would be May 25 (Indianapolis 500), June 15 (U.S. Grand Prix) and July 27 (Allstate 400 at the Brickyard). The Speedway's staff would need at least three weeks to convert the oval track back to its road course configuration, putting the target dates for MotoGP as Aug. 17 or Aug. 24. "It's a summer event," Chitwood said. "It fits in August."

The Indy race is not expected to replace Laguna Seca. "It's really something special," Chitwood said of MotoGP. More at IndyStar

01/15/07 Latest rumors out of Italy are that the Indy Speedway is negotiating with both MotoGP and World Superbikes and that World Superbikes might get the nod over MotoGP.

12/21/06 Indianapolis Motor Speedway will likely host a round of the MotoGP World Championship in 2008, according to a number of sources, but it won’t replace the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Instead, for the first time ever, the U.S. will host two rounds of the championship.

The news was first reported by Motor Sport Aktuell, an authoritative Swiss weekly. MSA said that the race would replace the Chinese GP at Shanghai, an event that hasn’t had the success that Dorna had hoped for in the world’s most populous nation.

Though nothing has been signed, all indications are that an event at Indianapolis is moving forward. Ron Green, a spokesman for Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said that “There is no agreement in place,” but, he added, “The Speedway is still active in its dialogue with several motorcycle racing sanctioning bodies. It is clear that the Speedway wants an event. And it’s something that we’ve been exploring for quite some time.” More ...

Starter motors don’t work  UPDATE Hearing that Champ Car is allowing the teams to remove the starters from the cars since the poorly designed system does not work so why carry the dead weight of the starter and battery around.  We also hear someone designed a system that would have worked but it was nixed in favor of this failed one.

04/08/07 So much for Champ Car putting starting motors on their new cars. Rumor has it that when the car is hot the battery does not have enough power to restart the car. If true Champ Car may as well remove the dead weight from the car because, as it turns out, the new Panoz weighs more than the Lola it replaced and the dead weight of the starter is one reason for it. The devil's in the details and this is another detail gone awry.
More sponsor deals for Earnhardt  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Sony Electronics officials announced that the electronics brand has signed a personal endorsement deal with NASCAR's most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The multiyear deal gives Sony the use of Earnhardt Jr.'s name, likeness and voice for Sony promotions. Earnhardt Jr. will also make appearances on behalf of Sony at electronics and industry events.
"I always check out the latest electronics available and Sony delivers the best," Earnhardt Jr. said. "The company is a leader in the industry and offers great technology. It's cool to be associated with a brand that's known for its innovative, high-quality products."

06/20/07 Sony will announce Thursday that NASCAR's most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt. Jr.  has signed a personal endorsement contract with the high-end consumer electronics company. Adidas is set to announce another deal with Earnhardt next month.

Thayer Lavielle, the vice president of marketing and brand development at Earnhardt's JR Motorsports, said the new business partners are a reflection of an older, wiser Earnhardt.

"I don't think we're trying to reposition him; I think we're evolving with him," Lavielle said. "He has grown a lot as a person since his rookie season, and as he matures, we have to grow his brand with companies that are authentic to who he is."

India GP might not happen  (GMM) India's two motor sport bodies have cast further doubt on whether the country will host a grand prix in 2009.

The Indian Olympic Association said last week that it has bagged a preliminary deal with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone for a race in Delhi -- despite the lack of confirmed funding or a circuit.

But the Motorsports Association of India (MAI) and the Federation of Motorsports Clubs of India (FMSCI) both expressed skepticism this week.

"The announcement was a bit premature," NDTV quotes MAI president Nazir Hoosein as saying.

FMSCI's president Rajat Mazumbar adds: "The only authorized body that can run motorsports in the country is ours."

Schu to return to Ferrari cockpit?  UPDATE #2 (GMM) Michael Schumacher's manager and spokeswoman have both vehemently denied rumors this week that the seven time world champion could be set to make a return to a Ferrari cockpit in the near future.

While the newly retired German is all signed up to contest the popular 'Race of Champions' at Wembley Stadium in December, he is not looking to pull Ferrari out of its so-called crisis by racing or testing its single seaters again, according to Willi Weber and Sabine Kehm.

"That is absolute rubbish," manager Weber told Sport Bild, also rejecting suggestions this week that Schumacher may already have conducted secret tests in the F2007 racer.

But, confirming that his 38-year-old charge will remain a Ferrari 'advisor', Weber added: "I know Ferrari, and with the resources they have, already in the next race everything could be completely different.

"McLaren should not celebrate just yet."

Schumacher's spokeswoman Kehm, meanwhile, said of the rumors: "There's absolutely nothing in it.

"Michael has absolutely no intention of returning to the cockpit," she told Deutsche-Presse-Agentur.

"Michael has definitely not driven this car. He is completely contented with his life at present. He has never regretted his decision to retire and nothing has changed in that."

06/20/07 Record world champion Michael Schumacher has categorically ruled out a spectacular comeback to help revive Ferrari’s Formula One title challenge this season.

Schumacher’s media adviser told Deutsche Presse-Agentur DPA Wednesday there was no substance in speculation that Ferrari wanted 38-year-old Schumacher to replace Kimi Raikkonen.

‘There’s nothing in it. Michael has absolutely no intention of returning to the cockpit,’ Sabine Kehm said.

Germany’s Auto Bild Motorsport magazine, in a report to appear on Friday, said Schumacher was missing racing and had already been testing the Ferrari F2007.

06/19/07 (GMM)  A common perception in the formula one paddock this year is that Ferrari, thirteen seconds behind the winning McLaren at Indy, is missing Michael Schumacher.

Triple world champion and former Ferrari racer Niki Lauda observed at the US grand prix: "They will be missing the meticulousness with which he moved Ferrari forwards in the past years.

"I said at the start of the season: it's not going to hurt them now, but later in the year."

'Bild' newspaper, meanwhile, took the bold step in declaring that F1's famous Prancing Horse is back "in crisis".

Another German publication, the specialist magazine Auto-Bild-Motorsport, said Schumacher could be on the verge of returning to the red cockpit as a test driver -- and the 38-year-old may even have already driven the current F2007 single seater in "secret tests".

Italy's IL Secolo XIX wrote this week: "Some at Ferrari are already dreaming about Schumacher's return".

The former seven time world champion, however, might not be interested.

While he attended the recent Spanish, Monaco and Canadian grands prix, he traded in his spot on the Indianapolis pit wall for a game of football in the east Austrian state of Burgenland last weekend -- and scored three goals, according to local reports.

Heikki-to-Williams?  UPDATE (GMM) Sir Frank Williams has added weight to Flavio Briatore's denial that the two team bosses are preparing to trade drivers later this season.

According to rumors that emerged at Indianapolis, Renault's Briatore is trying to broker a deal with Williams to offload the underperforming rookie Heikki Kovalainen -- who, it must be said, performed strongly on F1's tour of North America.

It was claimed that Williams was seeking a multi-million dollar figure to pay-out Alex Wurz's contract, with Nelson Piquet Jr in the frame to slip into Kovalainen's newly vacated Renault race seat.

But Williams told the Austrian daily newspaper Die Presse: "This rumor annoys me particularly.

"It arose from the simple fact that Flavio Briatore very kindly gave me a lift on his private plane, and - like so often - a conspiracy theory was born.

"The whole thing then snowballs and I find myself having to explain whether or not I am going to kick Alex out."

Williams insisted that he cannot imagine "a single scenario" for which he might consider sacking Wurz in 2007, despite the fact that the Austrian has been conspicuously outperformed by his younger teammate Nico Rosberg.

"Alex is safe," he added, nonetheless admitting that all team bosses in the pitlane are on the lookout for the "next Hamilton".

But Williams, 65, praised Austrian Wurz for being a "superb team player" who is underrated.

"He is rock-solid and an unbelievably positive stimulus for every member of the team.

"He is very strong in the head and charming as well -- not to mention fast," Williams said, adding that 33-year-old Wurz has only looked mediocre alongside Rosberg in 2007 because his young German teammate is "simply very, very good".

06/20/07 (GMM) Flavio Briatore has vehemently denied reports that Renault's Finnish Heikki Kovalainen could be offloaded to Williams in the coming weeks.

Paddock rumors at Indianapolis last weekend suggested that the French squad's team boss was so dissatisfied with Kovalainen's form this year that he wanted to replace him as soon as possible with test driver Nelson Piquet Jr.

"In formula one, too much is always spoken," Briatore said in an interview with the Spanish newspaper 'As'.

He insisted: "The truth is that I have never talked with Frank Williams about drivers or had dinner with him.

"We have made our decisions and we stick with them. With Heikki, we chose for the future."

Briatore said 25-year-old Kovalainen has shown clear signs of improvement in the past few races and partly blames himself for the Finn's rusty start to 2007.

"He drove a great race in Montreal. Obviously, he is working with the team to understand some of the errors he has made but we have to be careful, give him every support and try to improve our car."

Briatore said Lewis Hamilton's impressive start to his formula one career shows that a good car is crucial for any rookie.

"With the (2006) R26 Kova tested a champion car but at the beginning of this season we were initially just 15th.

"He has had a difficult car, whereas Hamilton's (McLaren) has been perfect.

"On the other hand Lewis raced in GP2 in 2006 and Kovalainen not at all. That could have been our error that we have paid for.

"I am never content if we do not win, but at the moment it is not possible because of the machine, not because of the drivers."

Briatore said: "The potential of Heikki and Giancarlo is quite good.

"Kovalainen has to prove it still and Fisichella has done a very good job for the car. We must work with them to improve -- without pressure."

BMW, Red Bull, to 'swap' drivers - report  (GMM) F1's annual 'silly season' is shifting into a higher gear for the European summer -- and Robert Kubica is the latest name to get a mention.

While the Pole recovers from his now-confirmed 75G impact during the Canadian grand prix, rumors in the German press suggest that Red Bull team owner Dietrich Mateschitz is keeping a keen eye on the BMW-Sauber driver.

'Bild' newspaper, in fact, cites possible talks between Mateschitz and Kubica's current boss Mario Theissen, with BMW said to be keen to make room for a full time spot for test driver Sebastian Vettel in 2008 after he stood in for the injured Kubica at Indy.

The fact that Red Bull could be a 'loan' destination for 22-year-old Kubica is interesting, as Vettel is already jointly contracted to the energy drink and wears its colors on his helmet.

Kubica, meanwhile, has a BMW deal for 2008, making a straight contract swap within the bounds of possibility.

Bild quoted Mateschitz as saying: "With the exception of Hamilton and Massa, out of all the young drivers Kubica impresses me the most."

Ralf's career at end  (GMM)  Formula one will bid goodbye to Ralf Schumacher at the end of the season.

That is the opinion of the beleaguered German driver's former boss Sir Frank Williams, for whom 31-year-old Schumacher won all of his six career victories until he switched to Toyota in 2005.

"When I look at Ralf this year, it seems to me that he has completely lost his passion for racing," Williams told sportnet.at.

"I see that his career is coming to an end."

Even though he does not travel to all grands prix anymore, meanwhile, Williams insists that his own passion for racing - even at the age of 65 and wheelchair bound for more than 20 years - is fully intact.

He promised to the Austrian newspaper Die Presse: "I will start coming to places like Australia and Malaysia again when Williams starts winning again."

V6 engines in 2011?  UPDATE #2 The Formula 1 manufacturers do not seem to be very impressed with the suggestion that F1 should use 2.2-litre turbo-diesels from 2011 and beyond. According to the manufacturers we have spoken to, there is no interest at all in such engines in F1. The manufacturers argue that such a radical change would end up being hugely expensive, because of the investment needed in research and development; some also argue that turbo-diesels are not in line with their product ranges. There is also a feeling that the low-revving engines would not produce a sound that would be right for F1.  Grandprix.com

05/24/07 BMW's Mario Theissen said the reduction in revs, half what cars were reaching two years ago, could be positive.

"I remember back in the turbo times, we had only a four cylinder engine, only 1.5 liters and only about 11,000 rpm but still more than 1,000 horsepower and it was so exciting," he said.

"So it's not just about engine speed. Maybe it will be about power again instead of revs."

The characteristic wail of a Formula One engine, so resonant in Monaco with the circuit hemmed in by buildings and the harbourside basin, is likely to change to a deeper rumble but noise levels will remain high.

Theissen said the use of biofuels was a challenge.

"Generally we support going in this direction," he said.

"But, again, it requires careful discussion because biofuel only makes sense if it's from regenerative resources and if these resources are available in a quantity which is relevant to road car fuelling as well."

Diesel technology, already used to power Audi to success in the Le Mans 24 Hour sportscar race, was not possible under current proposals.

"If we don't want to go below 10,000 rpm, then diesel is not an option," said Theissen.

"There are many open questions and issues to be solved, but generally we think it's a positive move," Theissen said of discussions between the governing body and Formula One manufacturers about major technical changes from 2011.

"The ambition to pioneer road car-relevant technology through Formula One certainly will be beneficial to the role Formula One plays and the positioning of Formula One," he added in an interview with Reuters at the Monaco Grand Prix.

"As a technology frontrunner, BMW is happy about such a course.

"The difficult issue is certainly to keep costs under control and it will be important to make sure that really only road car- relevant technology will be put into the regulations in order to have this technology transfer and pioneering role.

"We need enough lead time to do the job with the resources currently available," added Theissen.

05/18/07 Max Mosley has proposed a new engine rule for the 2011 season. The 2.4-litre V8 engine would be replaced by an eco-friendly 2.2-litre turbocharged V6 engine running on biofuel. It's been only 2 years that the V10 engines have been exchanged for V8 engines.

The 2.2-litre V6 engines would develop around 770 horsepower. Mosley plans to restrict the number of revs and wants to set the limit at 10,000rpm. This would make the F1 cars quieter than the current cars. The proposal also says that the engines have to last five Grand Prix weekends instead of the current two.

industry news
China, India auto part exports to U.S. expected to grow  As auto markets in China and India grow, so will the number of auto parts that companies in these countries send to the United States, says a study by Southfield-based AlixPartners.

The consulting firm, which is known for its restructuring services, released its 10th annual study of the auto industry today. For the study, the company examined financial data of 297 auto suppliers, 51 automakers and 25 heavy truckmakers to evaluate the industry's financial health and identify trends Last year, U.S. companies imported $43.2 billion in parts, with Canada, Mexico and Japan leading the way. China and Germany were tied for fourth place last year, accounting for a little more than 5% of U.S. auto part imports. For the first three months of 2007, China topped Germany. More ...

Another Atlantic team eyes Champ Car  UPDATE #4 Well, this rumor was almost true but now we can officially make it 'false'.

Chardon-based Polestar Racing came very close to fielding a Champ Car team this season. The team fell short of funding and returned to the Atlantic developmental series, where owners Jim and Pam Griffith and Bruce Potter have had a lot of success over the years.

Jim Griffith said they had enough money to get started, but not to finish the season.

"We had four-fifths of the budget we needed and couldn't find that last part of it," he said. "At the time, the big hope was that Katherine [Legge] was going to drive it. We were really close."

Legge became the first woman to win a U.S. open-wheel race while driving for Polestar's Atlantic team in 2005. She moved up to Champ Car last season.

After putting all of its preseason efforts into Champ Car, Polestar was forced to regroup quickly in March and April to race the Atlantic series without any testing. It re-signed former Polestar driver Ronnie Bremer and signed American rookie Bret MacDonald, whose funding is about to run out. His last race will be in Cleveland. Bremer is seventh in the Atlantic standings and MacDonald is 29th. The leader is Raphael Matos with 140 points. Cleveland.com

11/17/06 “Katherine [Legge] will definitely be in Champ Car next year,” said Kevin Kalkhoven, who signed her to a two-year deal and ran her this season at his PKV stable. “I’m just not exactly certain where.”

07/26/06 Besides Gelles Racing, which has already ordered two new Champ Cars, another Atlantic team looks set to move up in 2007.

"Certainly, almost sooner than later, we'd like to do a Champ Car deal," said Jim Griffith, co-owner of the Polestar Racing Group, which fields a two-car team with Americans Alex Barron and rookie Alan Sciuto.

Barron has returned to the series after racing in both Champ Car and the rival Indy Racing League, to be reunited with Griffith, who was his engineer when Barron won the 1997 Atlantics championship.

"Coming back to Atlantic was a way for me to run in a top-grade car, to do well and work with a lot of people that I've had a lot of success with in the past," said Barron, the only former champion in the series. "To be honest, it's been a little harder than I expected. But, as a team and a driver that's a challenge and that's what you're looking forward to.

"I think there's a lot more talent now than there was when I ran in Atlantics before."

Griffith agreed with his driver, saying, "A lot of people are really running to win the big prize and because of that, the competitive nature of the whole thing has really gone up.

"Where it used to be the top four cars were within a half second, now the top 20 cars are within half a second. So it's really, really hard to move up the grid. The talent is certainly a little more international and I think it's really drawing the cream from everywhere, and I think it's only going to get more so in the future."

But Griffith said this season is only the beginning for Atlantics and Champ Car, which will introduce a new car for 2007 later this week.

Most people believe the proposed unification of the two American open-wheel series must happen for the sport to regain any kind of momentum in its efforts to lure fans to the tracks and raise TV ratings. But Griffith, like Kalkhoven and others, believes that if the merger doesn't happen, Champ Car, which grew from the ashes of the bankrupt CART series, needs to be prepared to carry on alone.

"I think they're just at the point where they're ready to blossom," Griffith said. "There's been a lot of good business decisions made recently, including all the changes in Atlantics. But I think it's a situation where sometimes people expect too much too soon.

"If you think you're going to take this series, which basically you killed - it was sort of a chemotherapy thing there for a while - and make it come right back, well, that would be difficult. It's going to take a little while to come back, but it's happening. More ...

Kimi to leave Ferrari - reports  (GMM) Kimi Raikkonen could depart Ferrari as soon as the end of this season, according to reports.

Germany's Auto-Bild-Motorsport said the beleaguered Maranello based team has already commenced its search for the Finn's successor, after failing to live up to his reputation and newfound status as the highest earning F1 racer following his switch from McLaren for 2007.

Not only is the 27-year-old struggling to keep up with Felipe Massa in the other F2007, Ferrari bosses are apparently also concerned about Kimi's lack of focus and rookie errors -- such as failing to get his car quickly off the line.

Part of the Auto-Bild-Motorsport rumor is that newly retired Michael Schumacher is the obvious choice to replace Raikkonen, but paddock rumblings have also hinted at McLaren's disgruntled Fernando Alonso or Williams' impressive Nico Rosberg to fill the seat.

The speculation may also be related to new gossip this week that says Toyota could be eyeing Raikkonen as a replacement for Ralf Schumacher next year and beyond.

Ferrari is now coming under intense pressure from the notorious and influential Italian media, with La Gazzetta dello Sport headlining this week that the trip to North America was a "total failure" for the Prancing Horse.

Regarding Raikkonen, meanwhile, the sports daily wrote: "Hopes that he is Michael Schumacher's heir are gradually fading.

"Australia aside, Kimi has never been brilliant in a Ferrari."

Bahrain eyes NASCAR race  There are some things we just can’t make up. This is one of them.

Officials from the country of Bahrain, near Saudi Arabia, said Monday that they want to host a NASCAR race at their Bahrain International Circuit (BIC), a road course.

"Hosting NASCAR is on the minds of the management at the BIC," said BIC director of PR and government affairs Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa who has just returned from the US after heading a fact-finding delegation.

As part of their fact finding officials attended a NASCAR race and that seemed to peak their interest; it’s not known which race they attended. We did go and see a NASCAR race and an Indy 500 single-seater race there. We not only looked at things from the racing side, but also from a marketing perspective," said Shaikh Salman speaking at a BIC Press conference at the Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Resort and Spa. More ...

Another Champ Car star NASCAR bound?  Another Champ Car star is heading to NASCAR. Alex Tagliani spent most of this past weekend at Mosport International Raceway site of a Canadian Tire Series event. While there he made no secret of his upcoming plans.

"I am going to drive the No. 8 Jacombs Chevrolet at the Canadian Tire Series race in Montreal (Aug. 3-4) when the NASCAR Busch Series races there," he said.

The Canadian Tire Series race will be a support event for the inaugural Busch Series race on August 4th. 

The question is whether he will stay in the NASCAR series if this rumor is true that his Champ Car sponsorship will soon evaporate.

Jr. admits he can't fill daddy's shoes   ESPN’s Mike Massaro Speaks With Dale Earnhardt Jr. About His Move to Hendrick Motorsports

What are the expectations for you at Hendrick?

“To win. I think the expectations will be for us to contend for championships and to be there year after year, contending for those championships. I would not dodge the pressure or dodge the opportunity to put myself in the best situation just because of the fear of failing to do that.”

What about your relationship and your fans’ relationship with Jeff Gordon?

“I think that we can still have a healthy rivalry within the walls of Hendrick Motorsports. I race him with respect. I never run into him, he never runs into me. We get aggressive, and we get upset with each other on the racetrack, but rarely. My fans and his fans can still draw a line in the sand between each other.”

What will people say if you don’t win?

“He wasn’t as good as his daddy. There is no argument there. I’m sure in a lot of people’s eyes if I don’t win a championship I will have failed. I do want to win a championship, I want that trophy, you know. I want to have that for myself.”

What would your dad say about this situation?

“He would be mad that I’ve left DEI, he would be upset that situation went down. But I believe at the end of the day that he’ll be proud of everything that I’ve ever done … that I was my own man and I made my own decisions.”

On not going to Richard Childress Racing

“Put yourself in my shoes. That was not my number, that’s my dad’s number. The things I struggled with there were the constant comparisons to my father, the constant discussions about my father and I don’t think I could’ve been that close to it for all those years, you know what I’m saying?”

Tagliani car to lose sponsorship?  According to AutoRacing1.com sources the news continues to get worse on the sponsorship front for Champ Car teams.  We are hearing that Alex Tagliani's #8 car won't have a sponsor after the Toronto race.
He's been carrying Lexington Energy Services so far.  This is a company that reported in an SEC filing we recently read that as of March of this year had not had any revenue for the past two years, which makes sense because the LXN2 logo on the side pods is for a product that doesn't actually exist.  We hear the guy who had been CEO of Lexington and who did the sponsorship deal got sacked recently, so that deal is now over.
The #8 car has Steelback beer sponsorship (and some Wal-Mart Canada) for the St. Jovite and Toronto races, but since Steelback isn't distributed in Western Canada that doesn't extend to Edmonton.  So, after Toronto, the car is unsponsored as of right now.  That could of course change as the #8 side of the team searches for a replacement.
UAW to reduce or end NASCAR sponsorship  As Detroit's struggling auto giants enter an epic battle with their unionized workers to reduce costs, they contend they either must win a profound restructuring or face catastrophe.

The head of the United Auto Workers union is trying to avoid becoming the union leader who ends seven decades of nearly unbroken advances in workers' wages and benefits. He is under unprecedented pressure to give back as much as $10 billion a year to help U.S. car companies stop losing to their lower-cost Asian counterparts -- or see the U.S. companies build more and more of their cars overseas. Former UAW president Doug Fraser calls this "the most difficult time in the history of our union. Period."

UAW insiders say they will let automakers cut back a wide range of so-called joint programs that provide union jobs but cost automakers hundreds of millions of dollars a year. They include company-sponsored day care and sponsorship of NASCAR races.

Vettel passes on 2008 seat speculation  (GMM)  Sebastian Vettel gave a cursory answer when he was asked if he might be a regular member of the formula one grid next year.

"We'll have to wait and see," the German teenager - who is jointly contracted to Red Bull's Dietrich Mateschitz - told Auto Motor und Sport on Monday.

"The season is still early."

Vettel, 19, stood in for Robert Kubica in the US grand prix but team boss Mario Theissen made it clear that BMW-Sauber's regular racer will be back in action as soon as the doctors give him a green light following his huge Montreal crash.

Vettel did a solid job at Indianapolis, but there was no hiding the fact that eighth place was a disappointment for the team that has been chasing down Ferrari in recent races.

Theissen, though, insisted: "Nick (Heidfeld) proved that we can hold the pace set by the top four cars.

"Now we have to get both cars over the finish at Magny Cours."

Honda to keep drivers; Klien to Toyota?  (GMM) Honda and its drivers have decided to field an unchanged lineup for the 2008 season, according to emerging reports.

The Austrian daily newspaper 'Osterreich' claims that Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello are staying put at least for another year, despite failing to score a single point so far with the uncompetitive RA107 car.

Barrichello's extended stay for 2008 involves a new contract, while Button penned a long term deal two years ago.

'Osterreich' says the news is bad for Christian Klien, who had been hoping to use his test berth this year to spring back onto the grid, especially amid rumors that Barrichello might retire.

But it is being suggested that former Jaguar and Red Bull racer Klien, who is 24, could be in talks with Toyota about 2008, with F1's other Japanese squad unlikely to renew Ralf Schumacher's expiring contract.

Klien's current deal only covers the 2007 season.

His manager-father Johannes Klien is also understood to have explored the options at Honda-powered Super Aguri, but sources report that both Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson are likely to stay.

Gene, Ferrari, linked to STR for 2008  (GMM) Marc Gene could be set to return to the formula one grid next year.

The 33-year-old Spaniard is currently a secondary test driver for Maranello based Ferrari, which has been speculatively linked with supplying a complete car and gearbox to a customer team in 2008.

Spanish newspaper Marca reports that Faenza based Scuderia Toro Rosso, co-owned by Gerhard Berger and Dietrich Mateschitz and already powered by Ferrari engines, could get Gene as part of the deal for Ferrari's race-winning F2007 racer.

Gene, so unoccupied by Ferrari this year that he races sports cars for Peugeot, drove for STR's predecessor Minardi in 1999 and 2000, and last appeared on a grand prix grid while substituting for Williams' injured Ralf Schumacher in 2003 and 2004.

Marca said the negotiations between Ferrari and Toro Rosso are "on the verge" of being finalized.

Surfers race in search of new sponsor  The organizers of the Lexmark Indy 300 in Australia are in search of a new title sponsor.

This October's race, which is part of the Champ Car World Series and Australian V8 Supercar Championship Series, will be Lexmark's last as the title sponsor, ending a five-year contract, according to a report in the Gold Coast Bulletin.

More than 300,000 people attended the race last year, according to the report.

"They have been our longest running major sponsor ever, and we understand that large companies reassess these things on a periodic basis and make decisions that is best for their business model," Indy Chairman Terry Mackenroth told the Gold Coast Bulletin.

Mackenroth told a different newspaper earlier this month that other companies have discussed taking over the sponsorship.

Another Ferrari espionage storm to break  A new storm is due to break this week in Italy where we hear a new espionage scandal is about to break with a former Ferrari team member being accused of having sold designs to rival teams. No more details are currently available but there is expected to be some kind of public statement from Ferrari soon.

Elsewhere at Maranello there are a number of aerodynamics engineers moving to rival teams. Ferrari says these are all junior employees and that poaching of staff is normal in F1 but we believe that at least on those involved is fairly senior.  More at Grandprix.com

Childress close to signing extension with Burton  Richard Childress said he hopes to have an announcement soon that he has signed Jeff Burton to a contract extension. Childress is also working on an extension with sponsor AT&T. Burton's deal runs out at the end of this year. "Hopefully we get a few things sorted out here in the next week or so, and we'll be able to make some type of a release on that," Childress said Saturday. "It's definitely the plan for him to stay but we can't do anything at this point. We're working on hopefully being able to do something to release it here in the near future." SceneDaily.com
Audi-Peugeot rematch at Petit LeMans?  Following Audi’s win over Peugeot on Sunday at Le Mans, the diesel powers already were looking forward to a rematch. But it could come much sooner than next year’s running of the 24 Hours.

Both Sebastien Bourdais and Stephane Sarrazin said they would welcome the chance to race against Audi again at the 1,000-mile/10-hour Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. The cornerstone event of the American Le Mans Series is set for October 6.

“I’d like to do it,” said Bourdais, who finished third in GT2 last year at Petit for the factory Panoz effort. “It is another way for us to be a better prepared team. We can always learn lessons to help us for Le Mans in 2008, which is our target.”

Bourdais, Sarrazin and Pedro Lamy finished second overall Sunday behind the Audi R10 TDI of Emanuele Pirro, Marco Werner and Frank Biela in the first Le Mans race for the Peugeot 908. They admitted that the decision ultimately would be up to Team Peugeot management.

“I don’t think it will happen,” Sarrazin said. “But I’d love to do it. I had a very good time racing in America last year with Aston Martin and another race with the Audi would be very exciting.”

Audi is unbeaten at Petit Le Mans since debuting in 2000.

Childress eyes Busch  Car owner Richard Childress was unable to sign Dale Earnhardt, Jr., but his team is hardly hurting as is. The car owner said Saturday that like a lot of car owners in the garage, he’s very interested in talking with newly minted free agent Kyle Busch, possibly for a long-rumored fourth Richard Childress Racing car. “Anybody would look at Kyle right now - any team in here,” said Childress. Childress, one of the most independent minds in the Nextel Cup garage, is not someone even remotely daunted by Busch’s reputation as a hot head. “I can name you eight or 10 guys in here at his age that were a handful. He's learning." Of Busch, Childress added, “He's the hottest property on the market right now.” In fact, some in the garage believe that Busch’s driving talent is equal to or even ahead of that of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. SPEEDtv.com
Aston Martin to build LeMans prototype  Just moments after their popular victory, Aston Martin boss, David Richards gave a hint of their future after winning the GT1 class at LeMans Sunday.  On Radio Le Mans Richards promised to be back and that they have more to do at the famous French track. This included going for 'outright victory'. This can only mean a LMP1 entry.
Evernham to take on partner/investor  UPDATE #5 Evernham said a partnership with Gillett is getting closer, perhaps two months away from being completed. Evernham said he'd love to announce a deal in Montreal in early August for NASCAR's first-ever Busch Series race there.” That’d be awesome," he said. "That would be good incentive for the attorneys to hurry up and get it done." Yahoo! Sports

05/29/07 Montreal Canadiens owner George Gillett Jr. is set to add a NASCAR Nextel Cup team to his growing sports empire.  According to ESPN.com, Gillett Jr. is close to finalizing a deal to buy a portion of Evernham Motorsports.

"It's not done, but we're working on it pretty hard," said Evernham, who added that the deal could be concluded within the next two to three months.

"We've agreed to go forward, but there's so much legal stuff that's got to be done. It takes months.

"Things are looking really positive, but it's not done."

Evernham would not say what percentage of the company Gillett Jr. would own except that it would be a "substantial stake". He added that he will continue to run the day-to-day operation of the team once the deal goes through.

"Right now we're getting further and further behind, resource-wise, for two reasons," he tells ESPN.com "People like Rick (Hendrick) and Bobby Ginn and (Joe) Gibbs have got a lot more money to spend, and now (Gillett) will fix a lot of that problem for me, for stability."

"George is a visionary. He's out there with the business stuff. He thinks really big. I'm a detail guy. I'm nuts and bolts."  TSN.ca

05/07/07 Montreal Canadiens owner George N. Gillett Jr. is close to finalizing a partnership arrangement with Evernham Motorsports, The Sporting News reported on its website Saturday.

According to The Sporting News, Evernham owner Ray Evernham said Saturday afternoon at Richmond International Raceway that talks with Gillett have progressed, that both sides are involved in due diligence and that he would welcome Gillett as a partner.

Gillett met with Evernham during the race weekend at Bristol in late March. "It's got to be the right partner," Evernham said at the time. "It's got to be somebody that can bring more to the table than money. It's somebody that can bring business-to-business and understand how some of the worldwide marketing and things work."

03/24/07 Ray Evernham may be getting closer to finding a business partner for Evernham Motorsports. George Gillett Jr., the owner of the Montreal Canadians of the NHL and co-owner of the Liverpool soccer team in England, will be at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday. Gillett also met with Evernham at Las Vegas Motor Speedway two weeks ago. "We're still talking," Evernham said on Friday. "It's a matter of getting the right partner and getting the right timing. It's not about the money. I need the right partner. I want to win a championship." Evernham said he hasn't discussed how much of EMS will be sold. "I just need somebody that's going to come in and bring people that are interested in providing technology and sponsorship to the race team," he said. Evernham would like to find a partner that could take over some of his business duties, such as dealing with sponsors. "I want to work on race cars again," said Evernham, who won three championships as the crew chief for Jeff Gordon at Hendrick Motorsports. "That's what I do, work on the cars with my guys and go fast. I need a partner who can do his side and I can do my side." ESPN.com

03/10/07 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Of course all the Dodges qualified up front for Sunday's Nextel Cup race, it's sponsored by UAW-DaimlerChrysler. Get it, yet another race where NASCAR throws the sponsor a bone by rigging their timing and scoring computers so the Dodges qualified 1-2-3-4 and 7 out of the top-10. This sort of silliness happens almost every race now. NASCAR is a total farce and they deserve to take a fall, a hard fall. Bernie Martin, Ann Arbor, MI

03/09/07 Monkey see Monkey do. Ray Evernham could have more on the line this weekend than just the racing fortunes of his three Dodges in Sunday’s UAW DaimlerChrysler 400. Evernham will also be entertaining a potential partner investor in his race team. Evernham confirmed Friday that George Gillett, the majority owner of the NHL’s Montreal Canadians and a co-owner of a soccer team based in Liverpool, England, will be attending this weekend’s race as the NASCAR team owner’s guest. “When I said I wanted a partner, I am pleased that the phone started ringing,” Evernham said. “I met George and we are talking about it.” Evernham’s teams certainly are off to a good start in trying to impress Gillett, as all three of the team’s Dodges earned starting spots among the top six in Friday’s Nextel Cup qualifying, with Kasey Kahne earning the pole. Last month, Jack Roush and the Fenway Sports Group announced a deal that changed the name of Roush’s team to Roush Fenway Racing. Evernham said in January that such deals could be the future in stock-car racing as the cost of doing business outstrips the money sponsors might be willing to supply. “I want a guy who owns a sports team,” Evernham said of a potential partner. “I want a guy who has a lot of business-to-business contacts. I want a guy who is not just in it for the money. George fits all of those things. “We’re talking. We don’t have anything done yet, but George would be an ideal guy. Whether or not that happens, I don’t know.” Gillett, 68, is a resident of Vail, Colo. He helped turn Vail into a major ski resort area and now owns ski resorts in Colorado, Wyoming, California and New Hampshire. He also owns several golf course and several companies in the meat packing industry. ThatsRacing.com [Editor's Note: Is it any coincidence that Evernham's Dodges are up front in qualifying at Las Vegas this weekend. These "coincidences happen every weekend in NASCAR."]
Things that make you go hmm.....  We know that we are a bit cynical at times but after finding out that  the Engineer on Alex Lloyd's Indy Pro car is the son of the Indy Pro Series head of technology, it makes us wonder if Alex is really that good of a driver or whether his Sam Schmidt car has special bits......
Some teams looking to add 4th team  The season is not even half over and several teams say they want to expand for next season. Officials from Dale Earnhardt Inc., Evernham Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing have said they'd like to expand to four cars next year. There have been hints other teams might look add a team. How many actually do will depend on what kind of sponsorship they can find. Greensboro News and Record
Evernham to re-sign Riggs  Car owner Ray Evernham says he's in talks with Scott Riggs to keep him there. Riggs is in the last year of his contract. ... Evernham also says his deal to add George Gillette as a partner is about a month away from completion. Greensboro News and Record
Todt pours water on Alonso rumors  UPDATE (GMM) Jean Todt in Indianapolis poured cold water on rumors that Fernando Alonso might break his McLaren contract and find refuge in F1's famous Italian camp.

The Ferrari boss, in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport, responded to speculation that Spaniard Alonso, frustrated with his situation alongside Lewis Hamilton in 2007, had already started to make eyes at the Prancing Horse.

Todt said Alonso is a "great driver" but insists that Ferrari is not on the driver market.

"There were some contacts (with Alonso) in the past, but nothing became of it. Plus, our drivers - who are very good - are only 26 and 27 years old ...

"The day will come when I leave and some others make the decisions that I do now. But I do not believe that Alonso will drive for Ferrari under Jean Todt," he said.

The 60-year-old Frenchman also played down Kimi Raikkonen's struggle to get up to speed this year, reminding the Italian sports daily that the Finn achieved "pole and victory" on his first attempt in a red car. More ...

Ferrari may sell whole car to customer team  (GMM) Jean Todt in Indianapolis refused to rule out selling Ferrari's 2007 single seater to a customer team next year.

Some outfits, such as the already Ferrari-powered Toro Rosso and Spyker, have been linked with simply buying a complete F2007 chassis, engine and gearbox package in 2008, when the regulations are expected to legalize the use of customer cars.

"If someone asks us, we will contemplate it," the Ferrari principal said in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport, "but it is not a priority for us."

Another rumor in the paddock of the US grand prix this weekend is that Todt's son Nicolas - who runs the ART team in GP2 - is contemplating buying shares in Toro Rosso.

"It is like if you ask me about his trip to the moon -- an invention.

"In Montreal we joked about these speculations with Gerhard Berger because there is no truth.

"But if you ask me if it would appeal to my son to be involved in a formula one team, then to that question I can answer yes."

Feathers and rumors at Indy  (GMM) Apart from a Renault finishing the days of a bird in an explosion of feathers at more than 300kph on the Indianapolis main straight, a relatively quiet free practice on Saturday meant that F1's silly-season rumors were bound to fire.

The most mischievous is speculation that Sir Frank Williams was recently approached to give Renault's Heikki Kovalainen a home for the rest of the 2007 season -- presumably to the detriment of Alex Wurz.

Also stirring at the scene of the US grand prix is yet another tale about how Gerhard Berger might be willing to sell a slice of his Toro Rosso team to Ferrari boss Jean Todt's son Nicolas Todt.
DEI willing to sell No.8  DEI Willing to Discuss Transfer of #8: Now that Dale Earnhardt Jr. has sealed his future for the next five years with Hendrick Motorsports beginning next season, there are other issues on the table. For instance, will he be able to take the #8 with him from Dale Earnhardt Inc.? Earnhardt said Friday after qualifying at Michigan that there has not yet been any communication with DEI about obtaining the #8. "Obviously, we'll see if there's any interest from team owner Teresa Earnhardt and DEI president of global operations Max Siegel to do that, but they've probably got to answer a couple more questions of their own to be able to have a good idea how they feel about that," Earnhardt said. "Whether they feel like they have any interest in talking about it, I'm sure that's something Rick Hendrick and my sister Kelley Earnhardt Elledge would be interested in doing." Siegel said Friday that he would be willing to discuss a transfer of the number. "We're open to talk about anything," Siegel said. "But in order to consider it, there has to be some formal proposal. No one has contacted me. Other than knowing his desire to have the number, no one has approached me with a formal proposal. I'm not going to talk about it until I get one." ESPN.com
STR to run seamless gearbox  (GMM) Scott Speed indicated on Friday that he is looking forward to the arrival of a seamless-shift gearbox for his Toro Rosso in the near future.

"I think the fact we are still waiting for our new gearbox will hurt us more at this circuit than at others," the American said, after going eighteenth quickest in the final practice session for his home grand prix at Indianapolis.

It is rumored that Toro Rosso will use the new gearbox for the first time at the upcoming French grand prix, after sister team Red Bull recently debuted the same technology in Spain.

Speed also had to cope with a throbbing finger on Friday, after a television monitor fell on him in the garage.

RBR set to retain Webber, Coulthard  (GMM)  Both Mark Webber and David Coulthard are set to stay with Red Bull Racing in 2008, according to reports in Austria.

The newspaper Salzburger Nachrichten claimed on Friday that the pair have done enough to secure the blessing of the team's owner, the Austrian energy drink magnate Dietrich Mateschitz.

Relevant contracts are due to be signed shortly, the reports added.

Mateschitz's motor sport right-hand man Helmut Marko, meanwhile, is quoted as rejecting the possibility that beleaguered Toyota driver Ralf Schumacher might rescue his career by joining Red Bull in 2008.

His comments presuppose that negotiations with Red Bull at least took place, but Schumacher's manager Hans Mahr insists: "As long as Toyota can redeem the (contract) option (on Ralf), we cannot negotiate with another team."

Prodrive deal agreed says Richards  (GMM) Prodrive has now secured an engine deal "in principle" for the 2008 season.

That is the information of David Richards, chairman and boss of F1's incoming twelfth team, who is running Aston Martin's effort this weekend at Le Mans.

Strong rumors suggest that Prodrive will link-up for both engine and chassis supply next year with McLaren-Mercedes, and Ron Dennis demanded recently that pen must be put to paper within the next few weeks.

PA Sport quotes Richards as saying at Le Mans in France: "We have an agreement in principle for an engine deal, but we're not going to announce anything yet."

That announcement is scheduled for Silverstone to coincide with July's British grand prix.

"We're on schedule," Richards confirmed, explaining that his "full attention" will turn to Prodrive's F1 entry after the chequered flag at Le Mans.

He tried to play down expectations for his outfit's first year at the pinnacle of motor sport but nonetheless predicted a berth in "the top half of the grid".

"We have to be realistic," Richards said. "There are some exceptional teams who have been in the sport for a long time.

"But with the route we're going to take, and with the relationship we will have with our partner team, I'm expecting us to be in the top half of the grid."

Tension mounts between Hamilton and Alonso  Championship-leading F1 rookie Lewis Hamilton has admitted his stunning success was creating some tension between him and McLaren team mate Fernando Alonso.

'I doubt he expected me to do as well as I am but I don't know that's why he's saying what he's saying,' Hamilton said when asked about a recent suggestion by Alonso that the team favored the Briton.

'He's the two-time world champion but he hasn't been really challenged by someone as close as me and as good a friend off the track, so it is a very difficult situation,' added the 22-year-old.

Alonso told Spain's Cadena Ser radio this week that he was uneasy with the euphoria surrounding Hamilton at the team and felt the Briton, who has reached the podium in all six of his starts, was receiving more support.

Haas not looking to sell despite legal woes  UPDATE The Entry List for MIS lists the owner of the #66 and #70 cars as Joe Custer, the GM of the team so it looks like Custer was lying through his teeth and Haas may have sold.

06/10/07 Nearly a year has passed since Nextel Cup team owner Gene Haas was arrested on federal tax evasion charges in California, and speculation has arisen recently that resulting financial strain could mean Haas/CNC Racing may soon be sold. Haas/CNC general manager Joe Custer said Saturday that there is no truth to that speculation, and explained that the race team is technically an extension of Haas' lucrative machine tool operation, Haas Automation, rather than a personal business owned solely by Haas. ESPN.com
Yates interested in Busch brothers  Add Robert Yates Racing [#38 and #88] to the list of teams interested in signing Kyle Busch to drive next season. "I've sent word through his agent that I would like to talk to him," RYR co-owner Robert Yates said on Thursday during a Ford function. "I'm very interested." Said Yates' son, Doug, "He would look good in a Ford." RYR not only wants Kyle, but his brother #2-Kurt. But Kurt Busch has three years remaining on his deal with Penske Racing, and according to his agent has no plans to leave. "That's flattering," said Kurt's agent, John Caponigro. "He's locked in at Penske. He's doing fine. He's looking forward to making the Chase this year and having lot of success at Penske Racing." Kyle became available on Wednesday when it was announced that Dale Earnhardt Jr. was signed to replace him at Hendrick Motorsports next season and that the 22-year-old Busch has been given his release from the final year of his deal in 2008. Bruce Kempton, who represents Kyle, said he's heard from just about every organization in the Nextel Cup garage. He said there had been no contact with RYR, but that his client was willing to listen to anyone. Among the teams other than RYR that have expressed an interest in Kyle are the Chevrolet teams of Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Ginn Racing. While Busch has driven Chevrolets since he left Ford's Roush Racing after the 2001 Truck Series season, he is not married to the manufacturer. ESPN.com
Iowa to sell out  A reader writes, I just got off the phone with Ticketmaster and as of my call, there were only 2 tickets left in all of the grandstands for the upcoming Iowa Corn Indy 250 at Iowa Speedway. I was trying to find an extra ticket near the four I purchased. The Ticketmaster rep did say however, that Section C (temporary seating) has seats available. So, the place will appear packed. I know that 25-30,000 isn't a huge crowd, but it'll sure beat Milwaukee's attendance. And I'm hedging a bet that due to the banking, the racing will be better too.  Paul Richards
Roush to announce new sponsor  Rumor has it that Roush Fenway Racing will announce the addition of a multi-team sponsor Friday at Michigan International Speedway.
Earnhardt Busch swap  UPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement - see Hot News page.

06/12/07 Rumor has it that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will take Kyle Busch's spot in the Hendrick team and Busch will take Earnhardt's spot at DEI.

06/12/07 Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Wednesday will announce his intent to move to Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in 2008, multiple sources with intimate knowledge of the negotiations told ESPN.com Tuesday on condition of anonymity. Hendrick Motorsports declined comment, and e-mails and calls sent to Earnhardt's representation were not returned. A news conference was scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday to officially announce the deal.

Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, who has handled contract negotiations for her brother, declined to comment on the report.

There was some speculation that the wheels are already in motion to plant Earnhardt in the No. 5 now driven by Kyle Busch before season's end, but Dale Earnhardt Inc. president Max Siegel, contacted by phone Tuesday, discounted that scenario, saying Earnhardt would remain in the No. 8 through season's end. ESPN.com

Walker set for F1 commentating return  (GMM)  Legendary formula one commentator Murray Walker could be set to emerge from retirement in the near future.

The 83-year-old hung up his microphone in 2001, but has since returned to call races in the 'Grand Prix Masters' series and even helped Australian broadcaster Ten to call its formula one race a couple of years ago.

British newspaper The Times reports that Walker, who worked for the BBC for most of his career, could fill in for BBC Radio regular David Croft when his wife gives birth this summer.

racing news
Another bike racer to try racing cars  A source close to Canada's Miguel Duhamel, AMA Super Bikes series driver, told Sun Media at the Canadian Grand Prix that Duhamel will be in a stock car built especially for him by Dave Jacombs. Jacombs is the same chassis builder who put former Champ Car World Series stars Patrick Carpentier and Andrew Ranger in races, with both finishing in the top 10 in their first efforts. Duhamel, 39, who now lives in Las Vegas, has conquered just about all there is to conquer on two wheels, owning the records for most wins and most championships in the Super Bikes Series. He will team up with 20-year-old Ranger in Fords sponsored by Wal-Mart, Proctor and Gamble and the Children's Miracle Network. Ranger, who looked to be destined for superstardom in Champ Car before his sponsorship dried up this season, was right at home in his first NCATS race last month at Cayuga Speedway Park where he finished fourth in the season opener. Duhamel, however, may just practice in his Jacombs prepared Ford at Mosport's Father's Day Double Header weekend and get behind the wheel for real at the NASCAR Busch Series NAPA 200 at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Aug. 4 where the NCATS will run as a support race. It is also expected at the NBS race that current Champ Car driver Alex Tagliani will drive a third Jacombs prepared car. Toronto Sun
IRL eyes The Rock  Sources inside the IndyCar Series are saying that the series is considering staging an event at the North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham.

The track known as the ‘Rock’ was a staple on the NASCAR circuit for almost 40 years. The last Nextel Cup race was staged there in 2004.

North Carolina Motor Speedway was built in 1965 as a flat oval. The track was rebuilt in 1969 into the current banked oval. In 1997, NCMS merged with Penske Motorsports, and was renamed North Carolina Speedway. More ...

Waltrip racing rumors  Michael Waltrip failed to qualify at Pocono, making it 12 DNQs in 14 races this season, and adding more fuel to the fires of speculation surrounding his team. Unconfirmed reports continue to circulate about Waltrip refunding between $300,000 and $400,000 per missed race to his sponsor, NAPA Auto Parts, and about the unhappiness of Dale Jarrett’s sponsor, UPS. Jarrett also failed to make Sunday’s race -- his third DNQ in the last five events -- and there is talk in the Nextel Cup garage that he could be released by MWR, or moved to another operation. As a team, Waltrip, Jarrett and rookie David Reutimann have qualified just 22 times in 42 attempts this season. Motorsports Soapbox/Dave Moody
Rookie Hamilton may earn $1 billion  These days everyone talks about the huge amounts of money there is in football and bemoans the size of the weekly pay-packets which go to the leading players. However, if you really want to hit the financial jackpot, stick to sports where you compete as an individual.

That is exactly what Lewis Hamilton has done and, if he can maintain his meteoric start to his Formula One career - collecting a number of world titles on the way - his career earnings could top the $1billion mark.

Hamilton's sport, motor racing, along with boxing, golf and tennis, is one of the richest and most globally watched sports and, as such, produces some of the world's richest stars.

Hamilton's success in the Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday was the latest step on an incredible career which, in just six months, has seen him secure an F1 drive with McLaren, prove he can cope with the pressure and produce six podium finishes out of six races, including Sunday's maiden victory in F1.

The only piece from the jigsaw still required is the drivers' championship and he is well on his way to securing that as well.

If Hamilton's rise to fame on the track has been meteoric, his earnings potential is on a similarly steep upward rise. It is not an exaggeration to say that if he continues this season as he has started and wins the world championship, he will put himself in pole position to become the UK's richest ever sport star. More at telegraph.co.uk

Champ Car teams to test at Road America  According to sources, look for several Champ Car teams to test at Road America next week prior to the Cleveland Grand Prix.
Either Glock or Vettel might replace Kubica  (GMM)  BMW test driver Timo Glock (right) said he would give "100 per cent" if he is called up to replace Robert Kubica at Indianapolis following the Pole's horror accident on Sunday.

22-year-old Kubica emerged from the 280kph impact at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve with no serious injuries, but he will spend the night in hospital under observation due to possible concussion.

"We hope he recovers quickly, but we are still waiting for news," said BMW-Sauber technical director Willy Rampf.

Both Glock and fellow BMW test driver Sebastian Vettel will travel to America, with the decision about whether Kubica is fit enough to race delayed until a medical check at the Indy venue this week.

Both Germans would be free to race, as their respective commitments in the GP2 and Renault World Series championships do not clash with F1's North American double header.

German broadcaster Premiere claims that Glock, who is in Canada to work as a TV pundit, received a phone call after Kubica's crash from team manager Beat Zehnder.  He was probably told to call off a scheduled return flight to Europe.

Vettel, meanwhile, travels to all the grands prix as BMW's official reserve driver.

"Of course you do not want anyone to be hurt," Glock said, "but if the team decides that I am to drive, then that is my job -- and I would give 100 per cent."

Two Pocono races on tap for future  There will continue to be two NASCAR races each summer at Pocono Raceway. For years, rumors suggested otherwise.

On Friday, NASCAR Vice President of Racing Operations Steve O'Donnell and President Mike Helton met with Pocono founder, Chief of Operations and CEO Dr. Joe Mattioli to iron out details of what is a continuing resolution.

"We signed the deal with Doc on Friday," O'Donnell said. "It was for one year like we do at all the tracks."

Mattioli said with his long relationship with NASCAR, he never doubted that his Pocono 500 and Pennsylvania 500 would continue.

"Based on our long relationship with NASCAR it happened," Mattioli said. "I only asked NASCAR if they are treating me like every other track." More ...

Dominguez eyes switch to IRL  Former Mexican Champ Car driver Mario Dominguez was at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend for the IRL Indy Car race.  With the only way for him to get a ride in Champ Car is to bring sponsorship (i.e. buy his ride) he is now actively seeking an Indy Car ride where the majority of drivers get paid to race.
Bernie eyes Swiss GP  (GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone has increased speculation about Switzerland's possible return to the formula one calendar.

The political wheels are already in motion for the scrapping of a more than fifty-year ban on motor racing in the country, and F1's supremo suggested that he would not be averse to considering any proposal from potential Swiss grand prix promoters.

76-year-old Ecclestone called the lifting of the ban a "good decision" in an interview with the Sonntagszeitung newspaper.

He said: "I am pleased about it -- we would be very happy to have a formula one race in Switzerland."

Bernie urged Swiss motor racing authorities to make plans for a circuit because "we would definitely come to Switzerland".

Swiss politician Ulrich Giezendanner, who championed the lifting of the racing ban, reacted with surprise to Ecclestone's enthusiasm, but cautioned that the F1 boss may simply have been placating a member of the Swiss press.

"I did not expect that," he said, "but of course I am very pleased about these sorts of statements."

'Team order' storm could return in Canada  (GMM) 'Team order' controversy could return to the formula one paddock in Montreal later today after Ron Dennis warned that he may again control the closing laps of the Canadian grand prix.

The British press reacted furiously in the days after Monaco, where McLaren boss Dennis ordered rookie sensation Lewis Hamilton to curb any attack on pole sitter and race leader Fernando Alonso.

At the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Saturday, it was this time 22-year-old Hamilton who powered the newly dominant MP4-22 to pole, so it could be the ecstatic Englishman who enjoys the protection of the kind of 'team strategy' that sparked the attention of an FIA inquiry only days ago.

The governing body, however, gave Dennis' 'hold station' order a clean bill of health, and he said in Montreal: "They will be allowed to race up to any point that we feel it is strategically right to protect our finishing positions."

Alonso hinted that the cut-off may come early on during Sunday's 71-lap race, when a journalist asked him if he had any 'advice' for his young teammate for Sunday.

"Don't be too aggressive in the first corner and let me go through," the Spaniard said to the laughter of the assembled media.

He also backed Dennis' policy of protecting a dominant one-two rather than allowing all-out racing that could result in a crash, but suggested that his team chiefs may not even have to make the call.

"It is normal in formula one," said Alonso. "Tomorrow, if I'm not P1 and I'm not fighting with the main opponents like Ferrari or BMW, I will not risk anything. I need the eight points.

"I need to win the championship in Brazil, not here."

'Silly season' simmers in Montreal  (GMM) F1's notorious 'silly season' has shifted into an even higher gear at the scene of the Canadian grand prix.

Hopefuls who are limbering up on the sidelines of the sport, or doing time with smaller outfits, are eying the stragglers of the 2007 field -- including Ralf Schumacher, Heikki Kovalainen and Alex Wurz, according to reports.

The Spanish newspaper Diario As claims to know that Schumacher, who in Montreal dropped out in the 'Q1' qualifying cut for the third time in as many races, will be replaced at Toyota in the coming weeks not by Timo Glock or Adrian Sutil, but the Japanese team's test driver Franck Montagny.

Specialist German publication Auto Motor und Sport also weighed into the silly season rumors, speculating that Heikki Kovalainen's mistake-strewn Canadian campaign would have moved Renault's team management one step closer to replacing him with young test driver Nelson Piquet Jr.

Williams' Alex Wurz has also had a bad weekend in Canada, bringing his qualifying record against teammate Nico Rosberg to 0:6.

Auto Motor und Sport said GP2 frontrunner and BMW tester Timo Glock, already linked with Ralf's Toyota seat, has already stirred the interest of Sir Frank Williams, while Sebastien Bourdais' manager Nicolas Todt has also spoken to the Grove chief.

Williams, however, is reportedly most impressed with the rookie Scot Paul di Resta, a standout in the DTM series so far in 2007.

Toyota might pull out of Canadian GP  UPDATE (GMM) Toyota is not planning to sit out the remainder of the Canadian grand prix weekend.

Shortly before the third pre-qualifying practice session on Saturday, activity in the Japanese squad's pit garages at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve appears normal and team personnel report that they are preparing the two TF107 cars to run.

Jarno Trulli suffered two identical right-front upright suspension failures after normally hitting the turn-eight curbs on Friday afternoon, sparking speculation that Toyota would have to pull the cars in the name of safety.

Reports indicate, however, that engineers have modified the setup of both cars overnight to prevent a recurrence of the problems, with sources explaining that Trulli generally runs a 'stiffer' suspension setup than does Schumacher, who has not encounter similar problems so far in Montreal.

The drivers have also been told to avoid the offending curb at turn eight.

06/09/07 (GMM) It is looking increasingly likely that Toyota may have to pull both of its cars out of the Canadian grand prix event.

Team sources played down the seriousness of the problem immediately after afternoon practice on Friday, where Jarno Trulli's right front upright wheel suspension twice broke over the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve curbs.

Toyota confined both the Italian and his teammate Ralf Schumacher to the garage, and engineers immediately began to scratch their heads because the offending pieces are not new.

Technical director Pascal Vasselon told Auto Motor und Sport that Trulli attacks the turn 8 curves - the scene of both failures - harder than Schumacher.

"But that is not an excuse for why they break," the Frenchman said.

Engineers from rival teams suggested that there is a risk that spectators have already seen the last of Toyota's 2007 Canadian campaign, because suspension parts cannot be thoroughly repaired on site.

"If it is really a major failure of the suspension then I think it is very, very difficult," said BMW-Sauber's Willy Rampf.

"You might be able to reinforce it but I think this is all you can do on the track."

Burton says RCR 'likely' to add fourth team next season  Jeff Burton thinks Richard Childress Racing will add a fourth Nextel Cup Series team in 2008, citing much recent discussion about the subject as partial evidence. "I think it's likely," Burton said of adding a fourth full-time team to the RCR stable. "Obviously we can't divulge what's on our minds but we have some exciting things that could happen." Burton wouldn't divulge details, rather said "there's a lot up in the air right now that we don't 100 percent know what's going to happen." The addition isn't a no-brainer, Burton said. He was quick to point out the negatives of adding another program: 25 percent more challenges, 25 percent more problems. The chief benefit of adding a fourth team is the additional knowledge added to the resource pool. ESPN.com

[Editor's Note:  Is there really any doubt whatsoever that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will drive for RCR?  All this speculation about Ginn, Joe Gibbs, Hendricks, is all just a smokescreen.  We expect Jr. to drive for the same team his father drove for and would not be surprised at all if they bring back his father's black No. 3, the number being owned by RCR.  Jr. is NASCAR's biggest star and with falling TV ratings and attendance, the series needs this big story to get the media in a frenzy.]

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