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Rahal to race in Atlantic seriesUPDATE We are upgrading this rumor to 'fact' as someone we know spoke to Bobby Rahal who told them his son Graham was definitely racing in the Champ Car Atlantic Series in 2006. Mark C.07/31/05 We have it on good word that Bobby Rahal has ordered a new Atlantic car for his son Graham (pictured right) who will graduate from the Star Mazda Series to the Champ Car Atlantic Series in 2006. Given his performance in Star Mazda this year it's clear that Marco Andretti is not ready for the big cars and needs a year in Atlantics, the best training series in the world, as well. Michael Andretti would be wise to have Marco run one year in the new Atlantics series because the IPS series just does not have the level of competition that the Atlantic series provides. With $2 million to the winner next year, the best young talent from around the world will be eyeing the series. The fact that 18 cars have already been ordered in less than 24 hours, it's clear just about everyone is eyeing this new series as the place to be if you want to learn how to really drive a race car in the USA and gauge your talent against the some of the best.
It should be noted that Graham Rahal has made it clear he does not want to race on the dangerous ovals and prefers to take the road racing route, the route the best drivers in the world take.
Richard Philippe to move up to Atlantics AutoRacing1.com spoke to the father of Champ Car driver Nelson Philippe and younger brother Richard Philippe (pictured right). 15-year old Richard is doing well in Formula BMW this year, taking a number of poles and race wins and in the hunt to win the championship. We quizzed dad on his plans for Richard next year. "Our plan is to move him up to the Champ Car Atlantic Series in 2006. He will be 16 in January, I hope he is old enough," said Thierry Philippe. AutoRacing1.com since found out that 16 years old is the minimum age for the Atlantic series, so Richard will qualify for 2006. In two weeks both brothers will be racing together in Denver so Dad can see both race the same weekend.
Busch Series to ESPN The ABC/ESPN group, which lost broadcast rights to its competitors after the inaugural NASCAR television contracts were announced in 1999, wants to get back into the racing game.
From 1979 through 1999, individual racetracks negotiated their own deals with the TV industry. NASCAR racing was scattered across the dial, with every major network, with the exception of Fox, televising races.
NASCAR gathered up all those individual TV rights and went to the negotiating table armed with a racing package. When all was said and done, Fox/FX secured the first half of the Nextel Cup season while NBC/Turner got dibs on the second half of the schedule.
Glover says there have been discussions about separating the Nextel Cup and Busch Series in the next TV package. The two series have been attached at the hip in all other previous contract negotiations. ESPN is seriously interested in the Busch Series.
"It is one of the things that's being talked about and looked at," Glover said. "That is one of the things we are discussing -- maybe not all the Busch Series races being on a single network.
"But let's put that into context -- we talk about a lot of things during the negotiating process. It is our hope and belief, and we still think we will end up with packages very similar to what we have now." Daytona Beach Journal
NASCAR closes on TV deal The negotiations over NASCAR's future television contracts continue out in Beverly Hills, Calif., where Richard Glover reports the process is "right on schedule." NASCAR's energetic vice president of broadcasting and new media hints the sanctioning body's next multi-year deal will look much the same as the current contracts.
The Fox/FX and NBC/Turner groups, who have enjoyed NASCAR Nextel Cup broadcast rights since 2001, each want to re-up and continue their split-season relationships with big-league stock car racing. The current $2.4 billion contract ends next season and Glover predicts the next contract will be signed and announced sometime in late November or early December.
He said there could be some minor changes, "tweaks" as he called them, to the next big TV contract. The Daytona 500 is apparently some sort of wild card in the process, now that NBC/Turner enjoys the fruits of the Chase for the Nextel Cup Championship playoff format. The Chase was added into the mix last season, the fourth year of the current contract. Daytona Beach Journal
Beijing race close to getting final approvalUPDATE #2 We hear all the deals with Beijing may not be signed in time for the Denver schedule release, things just take time in China. However, everyone is confident that the deal will get done eventually. 07/19/05 We spoke to the FIA's Roger Peart (pictured right - he is the head of the ASN and head of FIA's circuit safety committee worldwide) in Edmonton and we hear that the FIA has the plans under review for the major upgrades planned at Goldenport in Beijing, China ahead of next year's Champ Car race in October. In preparation for the Champ Car race, Goldenport had their first opportunity to see whether they can handle a big crowd. The Formula BMW Asia Series made their second annual stop this past weekend at Goldenport and raced in front of a packed house. There were major traffic jams.
Fans were turned away because the grandstands were full. The organizers were unprepared for such a crowd, but it was a good dry run and they learned a lot about what it will take for next year, as clearly there could be a massive crowd expected for Champ Car if they can find a Chinese driver. More on this later.
Remember what we said, Beijing does not like to be outdone by Shanghai (F1). The Champ Car race will be one week before the F1 race. Some race fans will take in both. Beijing will be compared to Shanghai, and Beijing could be embarrassed given the grandiose Shanghai circuit. Beijing is aware of this, hence why the race will move the Champ Car race to the Olympic stadium area after the Olympics in 2008. The dilemma is how much money to spend on Goldenport now to not be totally embarrassed by Shanghai knowing that the race may not stay there forever.
The current track is unsuitable for anything much bigger than a Formula BMW car so how are the A1GP cars going to race there on April 3rd when we doubt construction won't be done by then. Part of the plans for Goldenport is to widen it, lengthen it and build new grandstands for Champ Car.
Champ Car's dilemma is that they have no Chinese drivers to promote and none on the horizons. Although the Beijing folks consider Hong Kong as much a rival as Shanghai, they might have to put their pride aside and get Hong Kong's Marchy Lee into Champ Car for next year, or risk having no Chinese driver to promote and take a financial bloodbath on ticket sales. The Beijing government has made it clear to Champ Car that they want a driver from Beijing if possible, but none are ready yet. Champ Car should do a massive test of Chinese drivers right after the season and see if one jumps out as ready. Better yet, perhaps they can hire the driver from China's A1GP team. He will have a good number of races under his belt starting in September when the A1GP winter calendar kicks off. One way or another, Champ Car had better have a Chinese driver in a Champ Car all of 2006. Then when October '06 rolls around, a massive crowd at Goldenport will be assured.
06/25/05 Things are still moving forward with the Goldenport Beijing track expansion and the Champ Car event for next year. Champ Car's Will Wilson, Joe Chrnelich and Martyn Thake all have been there recently to check on progress and stir the pot a little.
You may be aware of this, but just in case not, the A1 series has already set its date for their first race at Goldenport. Makhtoum's staff decided that March 26th would be a good date, but they seemed to have forgotten to consult with the Goldenport folks first, as they have no advance notification regarding this date. This date is a bit early for two reasons: 1. The weather will still be a bit cool at that time of year, although it should be raceable. Temps likely around the 15 degree C mark, but hard to tell for sure. 2. The upgrades to the track may not be finished by that point. The track extension should be finished without any problem, but the ancillary facilities may not be.
As for the Goldenport track extension and the Champ Car race, this is looking more and more likely to happen (remember, only a Memo of Understanding has been signed to date). Reps from the Beijing Motor & Auto Sports Association and the Beijing State Assets Management group have been meeting and it is obvious that the Beijing levels of government have thrown their weight behind the expansion and race going ahead.
This stems for two main reasons: 1. To counter the prestige of the Shanghai F1 event - Beijing is looking to counter that race with one of their own so bragging rights can be restored; 2. To have an international event that will help make use of the Olympic facilities after that event has come and gone. Beijing wants to make sure that all the money poured into the Olympics will result in more than just a 16 day party and have some lasting effect. The plan is to shift the race to an Olympic venue, using a street course, in 2009 and beyond.
While track owner Jim Ye is pretty well tapped out financially, the money will be found - the government virtually has said so. The land to the east of the track has just been purchased for the expansion and the previous owners have vacated. The track plan has seen its final revision and has been sent on to FIA for approval. That is expected in a couple of weeks, and then construction is scheduled for as soon after that as is possible.
In the meantime, other events progress. Land has been acquired at the track for what will be the largest BMW dealership in China, Maserati was there with several cars to give demo rides around the track and to sign a dealership to a dealer who will build a dealership at the track, and the head of Ferrari for China said that a Ferrari dealership located at the track is being seriously looked into. Mark C.
SJ track to change in 2006 AutoRacing1.com has learned that the Mayor of San Jose is very pleased with the success of the first year San Jose race and confident of pushing through changes to the downtown track in 2006. Lengthening of the track, eliminating the tight sections and adding Grandstands with better viewing angles are all on the table. Mark C.
Vasser hints that end is near "I think street racing is the future of Champ Car," said driver Jimmy Vasser. Vasser is a Las Vegas resident but owns three Napa Valley car dealerships he runs with his father. Vasser won the Champ Car World Series in 1996 and is sixth in the point standings this season driving the No. 12 car.
At 18, Vasser graduated from the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School and his love for road courses hasn't let up. Vasser has driven an assortment of race cars, from IRL to NASCAR's Busch series. His favorite remains the Champ Car.
"I get more satisfaction from a Champ Car," Vasser said. "It's the purest of cars. I think Champ Car is on the upswing. It's such a bitchin' machine. This car is the most satisfying to drive for me."
The Champ Car World Series is similar to the IRL, but the tracks they race on are very different. The IRL races primarily on ovals with just two road courses, where the Champ Car Series races road and street courses with just a couple of ovals. Vasser feels a lot of talent is being wasted in the IRL.
"I think the drivers over there are under-utilized," Vasser said. "All those drivers are products of Champ. It's easier for a road racer to adapt to an oval than a strictly-oval racer to go the other way."
As much as Vasser enjoys the sport of racing, this season may be his last. "It's not 100 percent my decision, whatever's best for the team," Vasser said. "A lot of it's going to determine how I finish the last seven races. There are a whole lot of unknowns to determine if this is my last year or not. I'm having a hard time. I haven't been thinking about it much. I still enjoy racing a Champ Car. Right now my focus is finishing my career here and getting this race team in the front on a consistent basis." More at NapaNews.com
A Monterey street race? This Monterey Herald article suggests a street race in downtown Monterey, California after seeing the success here in San Jose this weekend, and after Champ Car dropped the nearby race at Laguna Seca. Unfortunately it's too late. Now that Champ Car has a race in San Jose they would not do another in nearby Monterey. We also doubt it would ever get government approval.
IRL drops Phoenix, condenses ’06 scheduleUPDATE #4 Racing fans have spoken: Open wheel racing is just spinning its wheels. There seems little doubt that the Indy Racing League has worn out its welcome in the Valley, and if Phoenix International Raceway loses its Indy race this week as expected, there will be very few tears shed.
Open wheel racing, which gave PIR its identity decades ago and drew tens of thousands of die-hard enthusiasts, is now merely yesterday's news to the majority of Valley racing fans. You want proof? Only about 10,000 showed up at this year's IRL race. Adding to the irony is the fact that Valley resident Danica Patrick has finally given the IRL a much-needed image boost, and she likely won't be able to race next season on her home track.
What happened to turn people away? The most obvious answer is the tremendous impact of NASCAR.
"It's all about NASCAR," said Tom Sneva, the 1983 Indianapolis 500 winner who lives in Phoenix. "The perception around the country is NASCAR is where it's at. It's really too bad, because Indy-car racing has had a history in Phoenix.
"The bad news is, it's all perception. NASCAR has done such a good job of marketing, and there's only room for one person on top of the list in motorsports. And right now, that's NASCAR. We go to a lot of the same tracks as NASCAR, and if we get the same fan at an Indy race, they'll say the IRL is more exciting."
Besides NASCAR, other key racing factors come into play, according to longtime Valley racing fans: the apathy created in 1996 by the IRL/CART split that diluted the sport, and the influx of foreign drivers.
"Drivers are the biggest draw," said Mike Brooke, 48, of Chandler, a longtime NASCAR fan. "Fans have favorites. Even people who don't follow the sport closely, they know the superstars of racing like they know the ones in other sports. It's the big names you need. Open wheel used to have very big names, guys like A.J. Foyt, Tom Sneva, Mario Andretti, those guys, rough-and-tumble drivers.
"Now in this generation, there are names you can't pronounce, and you can't embrace them. It's not like they're a 'home team' any more. In this day and age, especially after 9/11, we embrace our own. NASCAR is an American sport."
Former IRL driver Billy Boat, a Valley native, sensed a lot more enthusiasm a few years ago but he can't put his finger on why the downturn started,
"It's a mystery to me," he said. "I think a lot of it has to do with the timing of the race. There's an abundance of activity that time of year (March), and it's never really been able to create fans."
For Scott Flatt, 44, of Chandler, who has followed Indy-style racing since he was a youngster, the IRL has no clear identity or direction.
"The IRL is back to everything it said it wasn't going to be," said Flatt. "It's on the level of Formula 1 - no identity. You can enjoy it for the racing, but there's nothing to draw you to it."
Phoenix's Buddy Rice, who won the Indianapolis 500 in 2004, said if the IRL left the Valley it would be difficult for him to accept.
"What makes it more disappointing is that I don't know what the cause is," he said. "I don't know if it's poor attendance because people don't want to come out when it's hot, they don't like IRL racing, they're not promoting it, whatever it is . . .
"The NASCAR draw is completely different and we never draw here for open wheel cars, and I don't' know why. Obviously, there are racing fans here. There's two NASCAR races, and obviously we're not doing a good job. What do we do to fix it? I don't know. I can't make that call or put the blame on anyone." More at Arizona Republic
07/27/05 The Indy Racing League's lack of flexibility in scheduling and Phoenix International Raceway's conflict with an April date led to the decision not to include PIR on the 2006 IndyCar Series schedule, an open-wheel racing source close to the situation said Monday. PIR, which has run Indy-style races on the Avondale mile oval since 1964, is expected to officially announce sometime in early August that it has been left off the 2006 IndyCar Series schedule.
The racing industry source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said PIR was offered an April race date for 2006, but track president Bryan R. Sperber and PIR parent company International Speedway Corp. turned down the date because it was too close to PIR's first NASCAR Nextel Cup race of the season, which is April 22.
IRL officials countered by offering Phoenix an August race date, but PIR didn't find running a race in 100-degree heat, even at night, an attractive option. Those were the only choices PIR was offered, the source said. “(IRL) didn't want to be flexible.”
IRL officials would not confirm Phoenix is off the 2006 calendar and won't release next season's dates until early August. More at East Valley Tribune
07/26/05 Officials at Phoenix International Raceway and the Indy Racing League say it's too soon to announce whether the Valley's IRL race will return in 2006. "We continue to have discussions with (PIR President) Bryan Sperber," said John Griffin, IRL vice president of communications. "It's premature to say anything yet." Sperber acknowledged that negotiations are ongoing for the 2006 schedule, which will be announced next week.
A Web site, speedtv.com, reported Friday that PIR, which has hosted Indy cars for more than 40 years, will not be on the schedule. Griffin told the site that one of the IRL's goals is to condense its season. A 17-race schedule this year, with Phoenix the second stop, started in March and will run through October. Arizona Republic
07/24/05 IRL president Brian Barnhart said the 2006 season will be shorter in duration. The official schedule will not be released until next month, he said, but it figures to begin in St. Petersburg, Fla., either April 2 or April 9 and end Sept. 10 in Joliet, Ill.
This season runs from March 6 to Oct. 16. "We just don't want to fight football (in the fall)," Barnhart said.
There will be 16 or 17 races, he said, with Phoenix expected to be dropped. The race in Kansas City, Kan., will be held the week following the Indianapolis 500. Barnhart said Texas Motor Speedway general manager Eddie Gossage was given the choice whether to be the first race after Indy or keep its traditional date two weeks after the 500. He chose the latter, Barnhart said.
A new street race in Quebec City, Canada, is being planned. Indy Star
07/22/05 The 2006 Indy Racing League season will start later, end sooner and may be reduced from 17 to 16 races but one of Indy-car's cornerstones for the past five decades has been dropped from the schedule. It's still a few weeks from becoming official but SPEEDTV.com has learned that Tony George's series will begin with a street race at St. Petersburg, Fla. in April and end in early September at Chicago.
The Michigan race appeared to be in jeopardy (ticket sales for next week's race are reportedly dismal) but will likely be around at least one more year and the IRL is also thought to be looking at one more venue which would bring the total back to this year's number (17).
Although the IRL has shown interest in racing in Canada, there are no additional plans to add any road courses in '06 as Sonoma, Calif. and Watkins Glen, N.Y. will remain the IRL's only two road courses. Full story at SPEEDTV.com
Karthikeyan and A1 Jordan rookie Narain Karthikeyan has been linked with a winter spell in the inaugural 'A1' series. India's team manager Akbar Ebrahim said the 28-year-old would be the 'number one choice' for the September-March World Cup-style open wheel category. Karthikeyan's obvious priority, though, will be his first ever F1 season - which does not conclude until mid October - and, potentially, the 2006 championship, for March.
Bernie still eyes Russia Bernie Ecclestone has not given up on hauling his F1 circus to Russia. The F1 supremo, 74, tried - and nearly succeeded - in a bid for a grand prix in Moscow a couple of years back. He told the New York Times last week: ''My theory is, Go East, young man, not Go West.''
''Countries like Russia and places like Moscow are important to us.''
Hungary's event just outside of Europe, which arrived on the calendar in 1986, is still the only grand prix behind Europe's old 'iron curtain'. The Hungaroring will host F1 at least until 2011.
Certainly, Russia-born F1 team owner Alex Shnaider hopes his homeland breaks through. He said: ''The middle class is becoming bigger and wealthier as the economy is developing, and obviously the demand for cars has been increasing.''
Walker Racing to add another Aussie teamUPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Derrick Walker told AutoRacing1.com that the team will field a 2-car Team Australia Formula BMW team. They also announced the formation of a new 2-car Champ Car Atlantic team. 07/19/05Clarification: Walker Racing already fielded two Formula BMW cars in Montreal and Indianapolis as well as the official testing in Putnam Park. From Denver forward the Australian folks have bought in and they will be focused on developing Australian drivers and running in Team Australian livery. 07/18/05 AutoRacing1.com has learned that Australian Champ Car team boss Derrick Walker will add a 2-car Formula BMW team decked out in the same green and yellow car colors as their Champ Car team. The first race is expected to be in Denver. The plan is to have this team help develop future Australian Champ Car stars. Mark C.
Champ Car to announce new Atlantic dealUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today and the announcement is pretty much as we rumored. See Home Page for the full story. In a nutshell the comparison of the new car to the existing car is as follows:
Toyota Atlantic Championship
Champ Car Atlantic Championship
240 HP (4 cylinder Toyota)
300 HP (4 cylinder Cosworth)
1,265 lbs (w/driver)
1,265 lbs (w/driver)
Both rolling and standing
Length of race
Races per year
Cost to buy
$175K complete, incl. engine
Cost per year per car
$500 to $600K
07/29/05 Our sources tell us that the announcement of the new Formula Atlantic car will be Saturday here in San Jose. As previously rumored, the chassis will be a Swift and the engine Cosworth. The big news is the rumored $2 million check that goes to the winning driver to be used for a ride in the Champ Car series the following year. We hear young drivers from around the world are expressing interest. We predict a slew of new talent in the Atlantic series because of this pot at the end of the rainbow.
Chevy to switch to Champ Car?UPDATE We are downgrading this rumor to 'false' as we suspected. 07/30/05 According to this Brazilian website, Chevy will announce participation in the Champ Car series starting in 2006 after announcing their withdrawal from the IRL. This would pit Chevy vs. Ford, who have a longtime rivalry. We don't believe this report, however, we will snoop around today here in San Jose. We suspect this is just someone with wishful thinking.
IRL drivers worried A number of IRL drivers are worried how they are going to get paid once all the engine manufacturer money dries up. Many of them have contacted Champ Car teams to see what might be available, however, Champ Car, though building quickly now, still isn't at the level they want to be to pay drivers. One source told us that Scott Dixon is downright miserable racing in the IRL. We were told he wasn't alone.
Champ Car Garage Rumor has it that a one hour special on SPEED Channel called Champ Car Garage will air in September. Becky Gordon, sister of NASCAR driver Robby Gordon and girlfriend of Ryan Hunter-Reay, will be one of the TV personalities. We hear the goal is to do many 30 minute episodes in 2006.
RuSPORT sponsor changesUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today as both cars are running sponsors here in San Jose as rumored. The big news is that we hear Intel likes what they see and we could see them take a much more significant role in 2006. Mark C.07/28/05 Sources tell us that AJ Allmendinger will trade in his yellow and white paint scheme and run red and white CDW colors (not CDW of Canada this time) this weekend in San Jose. Meanwhile, Justin Wilson will have Intel back as his primary sponsor. Associate sponsor for both will be SanDisk we hear.
Major announcement today in San JoseUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' - see Hot News page for announcement. 07/29/05 AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that Team Australia will make a major sponsor announcement today in San Jose at 3:00 PM PT. Stay tuned.....
Telecommunications giant eyes Champ Car Word here in San Jose is that a telecommunications giant has a keen eye on Champ Car with a potential big role. We suspect the deal, if any, is still someway away.
D'Agostino eyes Atlantics [Editor's Note: We hear Joe D'Agostino has a keen eye on the soon to be announced new Formula Atlantic series, especially the rumored $2 million prize to the champion.] American Joe D'Agostino will be back in racing action this weekend after nearly a month-long summer hiatus as he works to regain the championship lead in the prestigious UK Formula Ford Championship this weekend at Brands Hatch in Kent.
D’Agostino is locked in battle for the championship spoils with Irishman Charlie Donnelly, and has a margin to make up after three non-points finishes have left him second in the points despite having won six of the twelve races run so far this season. The frustration of being crashed out of two races is compounded by the fact that D’Agostino is racing with a razor-thin budget, with the support of friends and family who recognize the talent and see the potential for the young Floridian.
While he is totally focused on the racing task at hand, he is also exploring his options for the future, and is more than a little interested to see what develops with the upcoming new Atlantics package for 2006 which is due to be announced in the coming weeks.
"For next year I would like to be driving something with good power and grip and to showcase my abilities,” said D’Agostino. “British Formula 3 looks to be the best option at the moment but with Atlantics revamping the cars and series that is certainly an option as well.”
For D’Agostino, there are a lot of variables that will go into this decision, but he knows that no matter where he races next season, that he’ll still have the same goal.
“At the end of the day I have to do whatever is best for my sponsors and for my career, with so many strong series to choose from it will not be easy but I am confident I will win in whatever I drive," said D’Agostino. “My goal and ambition is simple, I want to be the best there is in the top level of single-seater competition, be it in Europe in Formula 1 or back home in Champ Car; I want to be the best."
He has shown his winning ways thus far in the rough and tumble racing European racing environment, and he knows that he just has to keep his head down this weekend as he gets back to work in his Team JLR machine.
"To still be second in the UK Formula Ford championship after three DNFs I think says a lot about my pace, and hopefully enough people out there will recognize that and support me." Championship updates, photos, and news are available at: www.joedagostino.com.
Penske eyes Wease Penske isn't ready to name Wallace's replacement, but he's clearly thinking a few years ahead now. Last weekend, Penske arrived at Wisconsin State Fair Park a day ahead of the Indy-car race to watch 18-year-old Billy Wease, Noblesville, Ind., race in USAC's midget division.
Wease, who finished third, has quietly been testing with Penske's drivers since December. He recently tested a Cup car at Kentucky Speedway in conjunction with Ryan Newman, who recommended him to Penske.
Wease also ran more than 500 laps recently at North Carolina Speedway and tested a Busch Series car at Chicagoland Speedway. He has driven well, though he's not ready to replace Wallace.
"We're doing a lot of testing with him in Cup cars, and Ryan is really high on him," said Penske, who is clearly keen on Wease, too. "We want to get him moved down south, to Charlotte, and get him enrolled (in college). I'd like to get him in a stock car (race) pretty soon."
Wease, who recently graduated from Noblesville High School, is certainly agreeable.
"They've been really fair with me, and I'll do whatever they ask of me," said Wease, who Monday drove his pickup truck carrying his belongings to North Carolina. More at Indy Star
Honda to run 1,000 HP firecracker Honda intend to give F1's V10 formula a rousing farewell in China by aiming to break the 1000hp barrier with a one-off engine. ''It's possible,'' the Japanese marque's Otmar Szafnauer told Autosport magazine. With the power boost, Honda - co-owner of Jenson Button's BAR team - hopes to fulfill the seemingly impossible pre-season team objective; to aim for 'race wins' in season '05. F1 will revert to 2.4 liter V8s next year.
Button to BAR or Williams?UPDATE #3 It looks like Button will be racing at Williams in 2006 as team boss Frank Williams appears intent on making Button honor his contract. "A deal is a deal," says Sir Frank. "A contract is a contract. I have always believed that a signature on a contract is basically underlining a man's word given in honor. We have a proper and correct contract in place that will stand up to any examination. I keep reading that he wants to be World Champion. Why can't he be World Champion with us? I understand Jenson's concerns about his team's competitive position and our uncompetitive situation at the moment. Teams go up and down. We will be back, if not in the second half of this year, certainly next. If a driver says 'Sorry, I have changed my mind' every time it suits him, there would be chaos in the paddock. Sponsors will know that some teams don't keep their word as given in signed contracts. The same applies to drivers. A third party has chosen to use the press to strengthen Jenson's case," Williams says, "but the whole situation is much more profound than that." 07/27/05 Frank Williams is planning a meeting with Jenson Button after securing the use of Cosworth engines next season, according to The Guardian. With an engine deal now finalized, Williams hopes to convince Button to honor his contract and join the team.
'It is understood that Patrick Head, Williams' director of engineering, told the workforce last week that they would use the Northampton-built 2.4-litre V8 Cosworth engine next season rather than accept BMW's offer to tide them over,' The Guardian reports.
Williams will have to pay Cosworth in the region of $20 million, but the European media thinks that the team still might use Toyota power in 2007, which AutoRacing1.com doubts, as we suspect the Williams/Cosworth marriage will turn out to be a good one and eventually attract a car manufacturer to badge the engine.
07/27/05 BAR has denied reports of a 'driver-plus-cash' deal to convince Frank Williams to let the Brackley based team keep Jenson Button next year and beyond. It was suggested that $9 million and test driver Anthony Davidson had been offered to Williams, owner of 25-year-old JB's 2006 contract.
''It is pure supposition that this could be one option for resolving the matter,'' a BAR spokeswoman said. ''I am sure we would listen to any options proposed by Williams but at the moment all the discussions are between Jenson and Williams.''
It is also reported that Frank will meet with Button this week in a bid to convince him that a Cosworth-powered Williams, to then also allegedly switch to Lexus-badged Toyota V8s in 2007, is a pretty good bet.
Whether he is swayed or not, though, a Williams 'insider' told the Independent newspaper that there is 'absolutely no question' of the team surrendering JB to BAR. He added: ''Jenson is a crucial part of our corporate strategy for 2006 and beyond.''
06/13/05 This Guardian Unlimited article talks about the dilemma Jenson Button faces. The shortage of hard results is generating another dilemma for Button and BAR, namely the contractual obligation for Button to switch to the Williams team in 2006 unless he has amassed 75% of the championship leader's points tally by the end of July. This is now almost impossible, and the downside to this equation for Button is that Williams look in disarray, locked in a war of words with their engine supplier BMW and looking no more competitive than BAR.
Over the Canadian grand prix weekend Frank Williams moved rather clumsily to dissociate himself from criticisms of BMW made by his engineering chief Patrick Head, who accused the German car maker of a "dishonest approach". "The remarks made by Patrick were a private remark and absolutely do not reflect the position of this company in respect to Mario [Theissen, head of motor sport at BMW] or to BMW," said Williams. "One particular remark was taken slightly out of context.
"I have frequently said BMW are tough, hard people and that is why they are a rich and very profitable company. That is how you get the job done."
However, sources close to BMW say the damage to the relationship with Williams is terminal and it is just a question of when, and not if, the deal is axed. Where this leaves Button's career path is unclear, but the signs are not promising.
Lavín to replace SperaficoUPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact.' Lavín told AutoRacing1.com that he has the ride and Corona will be on the car starting in Denver. Paul Castoro07/28/05 Lavín is here in San Jose and is getting fitted for a seat in the No. 55 HVM car and the talk in the paddock is that he will be in the seat the rest of the year. He is still wearing Corona driver's suit and helmet, but the car still carries the Ansan and HVM colors and logos. Alex Sperafico's name is still on the car. Still no word from the team whether Lavín will take the seat or not this weekend. Ronnie Bremer just left the HVM compound and headed toward Dale Coyne Racing. Remember, Bremer will be back in that ride next year according to a press release put out by the team two weeks ago. This is good news for the Mexico City race as it ensures at least two Mexican drivers on the grid. 07/28/05 Rumor has it that Mexican Rodolfo Lavín may be back in Champ Car as early as this weekend, and may replace Alex Sperafico at HVM for the remainder of the season. Rumors in Mexico say Lavín’s Corona sponsorship money finally materialized. Sperafico replaced Ronnie Bremer at HVM because the team needed Sperafico's money. Bremer is at Dale Coyne Racing until next year. Lavín drove for Forsythe Racing in 2004 with Corona sponsorship
Bourdais hints at big things for Champ Car Apparently points leader Sebastien Bourdais has been clued in by someone in Champ Car as to some big developments in store for the series. He had this to say yesterday - "I think street racing is obviously a big attraction for the racing series. We’re going where the interest is. I heard a lot of very good things that are going to happen for the future. Champ Car is on the way up and that’s a very good sign."
Of course this bodes well for Champ Car retaining Bourdais. Although he would like to be in F1, the chances of landing as competitive a ride as he has in Champ Car with Newman/Haas are slim. With Paul Newman as his team co-owner, we suspect he's been given a peek into the future and he likes what he sees. Champ Car still has a long way to go, but there are now definite signs that the foundation is being put in place for the future. Recall our article where we predicted that 2005 would be a foundation building year for Champ Car. We will see a bit more of that in 2006 before 2007 when we will see new cars, new sponsors, better TV, and a schedule that will finally have all the deadwood races removed and exciting new domestic and international venues added.
Kasemets in secret Fontana test Sources tell us that Toyota Atlantic championship hopeful Tonis Kasemets and his team snuck off to Fontana this week to test ahead of the race this weekend in San Jose. Not satisfied with their pace in Edmonton two weeks ago, we hear they found a few things that should make him more competitive.
Raikkonen could leave McLaren Today in Hungary Kimi Raikkonen said, "I still have a contract for next year and concerning my future, I don't really know what is happening.
"I have not made my mind up. Maybe I stay with McLaren, because I am happy with all the people there, even if we have had some difficult times. We need to work in a better way just make sure that the car is very reliable. I think the speed of the car is very good so once we get everything else sorted, I think I will be more than happy to stay."
However, if it does not improve, we suspect Raikkonen, who is signed through 2006 with McLaren, will move to Ferrari to replace a possibly retiring Michael Schumacher.
IRL and TMS nearing deal for 2006 The IRL is “close to reaching” a deal to return to Texas Motor Speedway (TMS) in ‘06, but the race “no longer will be the event immediately after the Indianapolis 500,” according to sources cited by Terry Blount of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. Kansas Speedway’s IRL race is expected to move from early July to June 4, with the TMS race on June 10. TMS President Eddie Gossage “was at odds with IRL officials” over their decision to race at TMS on the weekend after the Indy 500, so the IRL gave him the option of “moving the TMS event to the first weekend in June.” Gossage did not want that date because the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, which races the night before the track’s Saturday IRL event, “couldn’t race at TMS that weekend” DALLAS MORNING NEWS
Ganassi to scale back IRL effort Darren Manning told Autosport-Atlas, "I've just got to wave goodbye to my Ganassi endeavors and move on. Somebody will probably fill that seat and if they don't I was told there was a possibility that they will still only run two cars next year." Rumors suggest the team will only run two cars at Michigan this weekend.
Hamilton Sr. to run Brickyard, maybe not retire Bobby Hamilton will try to qualify for the Aug. 7 Brickyard 400, his first race in NASCAR's top tier since he left at the end of the 2003 season. "If I can qualify, I'll be in the race," said Hamilton, who won the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship last year and is currently third in the standings. "It's a no-pressure thing and I'm looking forward to it." Hamilton said he is dabbling in Nextel Cup for two reasons. He hopes to transfer some of the chassis technology to his truck racing team, and also help his son, Bobby Jr., get his car up to speed. Bobby Hamilton Jr. has struggled in his first full Nextel Cup season. "We're working together, helping each other," the senior Hamilton said. "We were at Indy testing last week and I had the quickest lap and Little Bobby the second-quickest. After Indy I may run a few more Cup races on some tracks that we need help on." Hamilton purchased the Nextel Cup car from PPI Racing, the team for which Bobby Jr. drives, and rebuilt it at his racing complex in Mt. Juliet. "It's a good car," he said. "I'm anxious to race it. I've still got a lot of buddies over there and it'll be fun to see them," said Hamilton, who has run five Busch Series races this season for Sadler Racing in addition to his full-time truck schedule. Hamilton hopes to eventually evolve his truck racing team into a Nextel Cup team, with his son driving for him. Earlier this year Hamilton said he intended to retire from driving at the end of this season in order to oversee his team and develop young drivers on a full-time basis. Since then those plans have become less definite. "I'll do what I think is best for my race team," he said. "It's hard to predict the future." Tennessean
Panther Racing loses Pennzoil sponsorship According to Chris Economaki in this week's NSSN, "Panther Racing co-owner John Barnes tells us — despite sponsor Pennzoil backing away — expansion is under consideration. Adding a Champ Car World Series or a Grand-Am sports-car effort is being weighed. No decision, though, until September."
100% throttle racing ruining drivers Not having to use driving skill in the 100% throttle world of IRL racing, it appears the reflexes and road racing skills get dumbed down from non-use. Chris Economaki reports that Tomas Scheckter’s career may have been dimmed by a recent disappointing road-racing test for a European team. Scheckter originally came from the European road racing system. And you wonder why we say F1 is never going to hire an IRL driver. Simply won't happen. Road racing takes a lot of skill and being away from it for awhile takes some time to get back up to speed. F1 teams have F3, GP2, and Champ Car to pick from, all road racing series. The IRL is a better training ground for the almost all-oval NASCAR series. Maybe the IRL drivers should wear "The Road to Daytona" hats.
Rumors from the German GP The future of Formula 1 has been the subject of much discussion in recent months and after several meetings, the teams presented the FIA with a document outlining their own proposals for the sport's rules and regulations to come into effect as from 2008.
The GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers Association) is having a meeting in Monaco on 1st August to discuss safety issues at F1 test sessions with FIA president, Max Mosley. Currently, with the new one set of tires per race rule, drivers are doing much higher testing mileage to assess tires, sometimes completing up to two race distances per day. The drivers are concerned therefore that safety and medical facilities at these sessions are not up to the same standard as at race meetings. Given that much testing involves unproven prototype components the GPDA believes the risks are actually higher than at a GP weekend.
First we had speculation that former Jordan, Ferrari and Jaguar driver, Eddie Irvine was trying to buy Jordan, with the backing of a Russian conglomerate, but now the talk is that he has switched his target to Minardi. Team boss Paul Stoddart confirmed that he has been approached, but says no real talks will take place until he sees a financial commitment from the Irish ex-driver.
There are plenty of rumors doing the rounds surrounding the Williams team at the moment. On the engine front, it has been suggested the team might switch to Cosworth power, now that current supplier BMW has bought Sauber. The Cosworth deal would only be for 2006, prior to the start of a long term agreement with Toyota kicking off in 2007. On the driver front, there is a feeling that BMW might try and take Nick Heidfeld with them to Sauber. Neither party would comment on this.
Still on the driver front, Jenson Button is in the middle of a "tug of love" between current team BAR and Williams. The Englishman, who began his F1 career with Williams is tied to them with a contract that stipulates he should drive for them in 2006, if this year, he fails to score 75% of the series leader's points tally by the time the season gets to Hungary. But it now seems as though the darling of the British media would prefer to stay where he is. McLaren Mercedes
BAR eyes Massa Felipe Massa may be a contender to join BAR. The young Brazilian has excelled at Sauber this season and his performances have reportedly attracted the attentions of BAR. While the team is thought to be leaning towards Rubens Barrichello as either a replacement for the Williams-contracted Jenson Button or Takuma Sato, The Independent claims that Massa could move to BAR.
'BAR are hedging their bets,' the paper claims. 'There have been talks with Rubens Barrichello for some time, but Felipe Massa's recent strong performances - described by team boss Peter Sauber as "flawless" in Germany - have also put the younger Brazilian in the frame.' With that said, we expected to join Ferrari as a replacement for the outgoing Barrichello.
The final year at MIS for the IRL?UPDATE Just because there will be no NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, ARCA series, Infiniti Pro Series or pit stops by the NASCAR Busch Series does not mean there won't be plenty of action at Michigan International Speedway this weekend.
"We've had trucks here for this race weekend in the past, but the trucks were a home run here in June," said Brett Shelton, MIS president. "When you've got three race weekends, you try to get them all filled. We had several things we were looking at for this weekend, but schedules just didn't allow.
"I think it's just one of those things. It's not necessarily in your plans to say: 'Let's see what an IndyCar weekend will do by itself.'
"It's just one of those things that it's the way it worked out."
Last July, the track paired the Infiniti Pro Series developmental series with the IndyCar race on Sunday and had a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race on Saturday of race weekend in Brooklyn.
The International Race of Champions (IROC) series has also spent time on the MIS schedule in July in years past.
"A lot of racetracks, this is what they do all the time," Shelton said of the one-race weekend. "It's not unusual; it's just a little bit unusual for us."
The last stand-alone open-wheel race weekend at MIS was the Michigan 500 on Aug. 2, 1986 -- a Saturday.
The Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) series returned to MIS for the Pepsi-Cola 250 on Sept. 18. That race was supported by an American Speed Association (ASA) event.
Even the one-time try at a 500-mile open-wheel race in May, the U.S. 500 in 1996, was supported by the Indy Lights developmental series. More at MLive.com [Editor's Note: This is not a show of faith in the IRL by ISC. Gone from Phoenix, no support at Michigan, a questionable future at Fontana (given horrible attendance figures), we suspect that ISC has lost faith that the IRL can deliver big race crowds for them and has decided that NASCAR is pretty much the only game in town. We always said that the France family would squash the IRL like a bug once they were finished playing Tony George like a fiddle to destroy open wheel racing in America by having him split the sport and destroy it.]
07/25/05 Interesting answer from Curt Cavin regarding the future of the IRL at MIS: Question: What's going on at Michigan this year? Why are there no other races, not even the Menards Infiniti Pro Series? I have not seen this scenario before for the IRL: qualifying on Saturday afternoon and then NO final practice that day, until Sunday morning. (John from Columbus, Ohio)
Answer: The schedule is indeed ridiculous. The Indy cars will be the only show on the track. To me, that's not enough. I predict a very small crowd and the final year for the IRL at MIS, especially if Chevy is leaving. We'll see if that plays out. Indy Star
Speed to Williams or Red Bull? Scott Speed was charged up last weekend at Hockenheim and although the American youngster made some mistakes he still showed his pace and it cannot be long before he wins a race in GP2. The 22-year-old is under contract to Red Bull Racing and to the Red Bull drinks company, which make it rather odd that there were stories last week that he has sneaked into the Williams headquarters at Grove. Perhaps he was there to visit Jonathan Williams, who has an unusual dual role as a member of the iSport team (for which Scott drives in GP2) but keeps an office at Williams F1.
But then again perhaps he was there chatting with Jonathan's dad - Sir Frank Williams - about his hopes and dreams.
The word on the street in Hockenheim is that now that Red Bull has signed up David Coulthard and Tonio Liuzzi for next season, with Christian Klien there to be number three, the Speedster may be going over the side and setting his lifeboat off in the direction of a Williams test drive in 2006.
Having an American onboard in 2007 would do no harm at all with the folk at Lexus, which let us not forget is an American car company. Grandprix.com
Meanwhile, Christian Horner has revealed that American Scott Speed is the lead contender for taking the Friday test role at Red Bull Racing next season. This could mean Liuzzi is looking for a new job.
Christian Horner was talking about the reasons that Red Bull Racing had signed up to an extension of the Concorde agreement citing that whilst F1 does need improving, you know what you are getting whilst the plans of the GPMA were still a little sketchy.
More tellingly he revealed that Scott Speed (currently 3rd in the GP2 Series) is the front runner for the Friday test drive role in 2006. Red Bull are already on record as saying they will not continue the driver swap routine next season. With DC already signed up, this means that if Speed does get the Friday job, either Klien or Liuzzi is out of a job. Based on performances so far this season it looks like Klien would get the drive alongside Coulthard, leaving Liuzzi out in the cold. Sport Network [Editor's Note: Liuzzi dominated F3000 last year like no driver before him. The fact that he is quick is without question, he just did not get enough seat time with Red Bull to prove his worth. After all, he is still very young.]
F1 bosses face jail F1 principals like Nick Fry face two years in jail if they fall foul of Britain's vague anti-tobacco advertising laws. The BAR boss, along with British based and tobacco backed rivals McLaren, Renault and Jordan, said he had spent the last six months trying to clarify with the UK government whether running a cigarette livery even outside of Europe breaks the legislation. ''We still do not know,'' he said.
A minister dismissed a question about whether F1 bosses could be sent to jail in a recent sitting of parliament, but Fry said that is not enough for a 'criminal' act. ''We haven't had anything firm yet.''
The law descends on July 31, the day of Sunday's Hungarian GP. A spokeswoman for Britain's department of health, meanwhile, said she expected written government advice to be issued before the deadline.
Williams linked with Honda and Bridgestone dealUPDATE This rumor is now downgraded to 'false' as Williams will race with Cosworth next year. 06/01/05 Williams have now been linked with a switch to both Honda and Bridgestone. With BMW expected to buy out Sauber, the rumor mill reckons that Williams could be set to use Toyota power from the start of next season. Meanwhile, Nick Heidfeld is expected to move to the new BMW-Sauber team, making room for Jenson Button at Grove. However, Honda have now emerged as possible contenders, along with Toyota and Cosworth, as new engine partners with Williams if and when their partnership with BMW ends.
The paddock is also awash with talk that Frank Williams was spotted in talks with Bridgestone's Hiroshi Yusakawa at the weekend. Bridgestone are known to be keen to bring more teams into their stable, accepting that only supplying Ferrari with tires is a severe handicap. Planet-F1
Bell to replace Manning Rumor has it that American Townsend Bell will be named to replace Darren Manning who is no longer with the Target Chip Ganassi IRL team effective today. See Hot News page for story on his release. According to sources, Manning was fired. Given the performance of the Ganassi team the past two years, we doubt Manning is losing any sleep over it.
NASCAR race in Canada moves closerUPDATE #3 NASCAR officials continue to play coy about their north-of-the-border intentions, but the fact the biggest name on the circuit this year would take a rare day off (Johnson just raced at the Pennsylvania 500 on Sunday) and spend it schmoozing with media types speaks volumes about the importance they place on Canada.
"Well, let's just say we'd love to have discussions," said Adam Ashton, vice-president of marketing for TSN, a managing partner with NASCAR.
Ashton said studies have shown one in four Canadians call themselves NASCAR fans. Ratings for the circuit are up by more than one-third over last year and, according to recently released figures, NASCAR is far and away the most popular form of auto racing on Canadian TV.
Lilydale Foods recently signed on as the first Canadian company to become a NASCAR official partner, Ashton said yesterday. As well, NASCAR paraphernalia is now being made in Canada to make products more competitive with NHL caps and other souvenirs. And there's a NASCAR SpeedPark at the Vaughan Mills Mall outside Toronto, a place where fans can race on tracks and learn more about the NASCAR experience.
Ashton also said about 40 per cent of NASCAR fans are women, thanks in part to a sport that actively markets itself as one that reflects "family values" despite connections with companies such as Jack Daniel's whiskey and website advertisements for one-liter "macho mugs" with driver logos on them.
NASCAR has grown from a U.S. backwoods circuit into an American phenomenon. And officials are slowly pulling out of smaller markets and aiming for the big cities. NASCAR management has said they'd love to race in Toronto or Montreal, perhaps as soon as 2007.
"My own thoughts, I think it's a no-brainer for us to be up here," Johnson said after spending his morning at a suburban Toronto store to promote Levi Strauss clothing. "I can say I meet Canadian fans at every single race we go to, even as far south as Talladega, Alabama. So I know there is a huge race market up here and a lot of fans." More at Toronto Star
07/26/05 In this National Post article Jimmie Johnson talks about NASCAR coming to Canada as if it's a certainty. He was at Wayne Gretzky's in Toronto though. It was an informal gathering with reporters. Since NASCAR people have visited Toronto (or the surrounding area) so much, we suspect Toronto may get a NASCAR race before Montreal. We still wonder where they will race. Mosport has almost no hotels and the track Champ Car races on is too narrow and the race will be a crashfest. 07/20/05 Replicating NASCAR’s south-of-the-border success in Canada is high on the sanctioning body’s priority list, with the Busch Series tipped to repeat its pioneering move at Mexico City in Montreal in a couple of years’ time, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
"Canada is a great market, and we've got a strategic alliance with CASCAR [Canadian Association for Stock Car Racing] and a partnership with TSN, and we need to have an event up there if that's a market we want to grow in,” said NASCAR CEO George Pyne.
07/03/05 NASCAR’s 2006 Nextel Cup schedule should be released around its normal Labor Day announcement date. Expect no major changes of dates or venues in any of NASCAR’s top-three series for next year, sources said. Normand Legault, who is Canada’s leading automobile racing promoter, was a guest of NASCAR at the Pepsi 400. Look for a Canadian NASCAR Busch Series race in 2007, sources said. Speed Channel
Aussie plans Formula Atlantic team In this Courier Mail article Australian Craig Gore says he wants to start a Formula Atlantic (currently Toyota Atlantic) team next year. Whether he does it with Walker Racing, whom he is teamed with in Champ Car and soon to be Formula BMW remains to be seen.
Separate TV deal for Busch NASCAR has informed television networks that it may sell television rights to its Busch Series separately from its next Nextel Cup package, Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal reports. Dick Glover, NASCAR vice president of broadcasting and new media, says the preference is maintain the current Cup-Busch packaging, but no decision has been made. Writer Andy Bernstein reports that insiders predict that Nextel Cup and Busch Series rights will sell for about $500 million a year in the next contract, up from $400 million a year in the current deals with Fox and NBC/TNT. NASCAR Scene Daily Newsletter
Honda to use V10 in next NSX Honda Motor Co. has long maintained that it wouldn't develop a V8 production engine. But it now says it will develop a V10. Honda will install the powerful engine in a successor of the current NSX sports car, which is powered by a V6. Production of the current NSX will stop at the end of this year. The V10 will be more powerful than any other engine Honda has built for its production vehicles.
The NSX successor will debut in "three to four years," says Takeo Fukui, Honda's president. He would not elaborate the plan. The new sports car will be sold worldwide. It isn't known if Honda plans to use the V10 in any other vehicles. "What we're aiming at next is not a V8 but a V10," says Motoatsu Shiraishi, president of Honda R&D Co., Honda's engineering arm. "We've got to be the top of a top (group) in producing engines." AutoWeek [Editor's Note: That was the same argument we used for why Champ Car should be a V10 in its next generation car, it's simply sexier and more exclusive, thereby raising your image. It could still be turbocharged.]
ESS secures F1 rights ESPN Star Sports (ESS), which holds the telecast rights to Formula 1 for all of Asia, has signed a deal that secures the broadcast rights for F1 for another five years according to IndianTelevision.com. The deal is said to be worth $18 million.
Increased state funding for Hungarian GP According to an article in the Hungarian magazine Budapest Business Journal the 2005 Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix will receive Ft 2.65 billion (€10.7 million) of state funding, an Ft 0.17 billion increase over the amount it received in 2004.
From it’s inception in 1985 until 2001, the amount of state subsidies for the race varied between Ft 400 million and Ft 450 million but increased significantly to Ft 2.92 billion in 2002, but declined slightly to Ft 2.85 billion in 2003, and Ft 2.48 billion in 2004.
In the article a Hungarian government spokeswoman Boglár László explained how the state money is used, “Rather than subsidizing the Grand Prix directly, the state budget shoulders some of the fees payable by state-owned Hungaroring Rt to the license owner.”
The article also explains that the state’s F1 profit comes not from ticket sales, but from the VAT content of tourist spending in Hungary. Gábor Galla, CEO of Hungarian Tourism Rt, the state-owned tourism development agency said, “Hosting the Formula One is profitable for several reasons. The race draws approximately 120,000 visitors who would not otherwise visit Hungary.”
Referring to a survey carried out in 2000 by the Economy and ransport Ministry, Galla said that foreign visitors often combine the Grand Prix with a holiday and spend an average of six nights in Hungary.
“Calculating with daily average spending of Ft 20,000 per person, this amounts to Ft 14 billion every year, and bearing in mind average VAT of 20%, the state enjoys revenues of Ft 2.8 billion,” said Galla. Source: Budapest Business Journal
Pocono to keep both races? Speaking of Pocono and its fans, there was another packed house of more than 100,000 for this race, just six weeks after the June date. For the foreseeable future, forget all that talk about only one Nextel Cup race per year here. Yahoo! Sports
Gibbs, Labonte and Evernham And what might happen next at Gibbs' is uncertain. While Bobby Labonte insists he has no plans to leave Gibbs, that has not quieted the NASCAR garage, with the talk continuing, focused on the possibility car owner Ray Evernham would like to hire Labonte for his new third team next season. Gibbs may be moving his FedEx sponsorship from his new third team, with Jason Leffler, to the team for which Labonte currently drives, which has been sponsored for years by Interstate Batteries, according to sources close to the team. And there could be more to the change, though it's not at all clear just what. And it's not clear just how Gibbs' Interstate Batteries sponsorship might be aligned next season. Interstate boss Norm Miller is a close friend of Gibbs and is the man whose sponsorship helped launch Gibbs in NASCAR more than a decade ago. But over the years, the Texas battery maker has watched bigger and bigger companies join NASCAR as sponsors. Winston Salem-Journal
All RCR teams will return Richard Childress said his three teams will return intact next season: "We're pretty much set on everything right now." All three drivers, Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick and Dave Blaney, will be back with their current crew chiefs, Kevin Hamlin, Todd Berrier and Philippe Lopez? "Yes, as far as I know," Childress said. But he wants all three teams to step it up: "We've made huge changes in our engine shop, and in our bodies and chassis, and our number one goal is to get our three teams back winning. "And we've got a lot of angles we've been working on. We've been testing somewhere every week." Yates third team not likely till '07? Yates' proposed third team may be postponed until 2007, according to team sources. Winston Salem-Journal
Harvick Partnership with RCR? Start cup team in 07? Even though Harvick has strongly expressed the desire to someday run his own Nextel Cup team, it appears he's happy remaining under the RCR banner for the foreseeable future. Plus, Harvick already is a team owner with a strong Busch Series effort. Being just 29, Harvick can afford to put his Cup ownership dreams on hold for a few more years. But don't be surprised to see Harvick announce – possibly before the end of the season – a partnership with Childress that will bring their two organizations closer together over the years, much the same way Jeff Gordon and Rick Hendrick have structured their relationship. Yahoo! Sports
Buttongate '05 in full swing In an odd reverse re-run of 'Buttongate' 2004, English driver Jenson Button is the subject of another tug-of-war between BAR-Honda and Williams. This time, Frank Williams' team has the contractual high ground, while BAR claim that the 25-year-old wants to stay put.
Sir Frank said at Hockenheim that he 'fully expects' Button to slide into a blue and white racing suit for 2006. He denied that the loss of BMW engines would foul the deal.
Heating up the inter-team tussle, though, was BAR 'CEO' Nick Fry's Hockenheim revelation that Jenson 'wants to stay' at the Honda powered camp. Fry said whether or not Williams has a valid contract is not ''the point. I would not want any of my employees,'' he explained, ''in the team if he didn't want to be.''
The BAR boss called '05 'Buttongate' 'a bit of a mess.' One suggestion is that Williams will sell JB's 2006 contract to BAR in a move that would part-finance its expected Cosworth V8 engine deal.
Sorenson to remain in Busch Tyler Epp, team manager for Chip Ganassi Racing, said Saturday the team will keep Reed Sorenson in the Busch Series in 2006 in the No. 41 Dodge. "He's 19 years old, and he has developed very quickly," Epp said. "But we want to make sure we're doing everything we can to develop him to win championships in coming years." That'sRacin.com
Mears awaits word on future with GanassiUPDATE #3 Tyler Epp, team manager for Chip Ganassi Racing, said Saturday regarding Casey Mears, driver of the No. 41 Dodge, "We want him to be part of our program for a long time and we have every intention of having him in one of our race cars next year." 07/19/05 Word is that Busch rookie sensation Reed Sorenson will get the nod for the #41 Dodge in 2006. Possibilities mentioned for Mears include the #2 at Penske Racing and the #10 at Evernham. There also has been the suggestion that he'll drive Sorenson's Busch car. Sporting News07/10/05 With McMurray out of the picture, Casey Mears' name has popped up as replacing the retiring Rusty Wallace at [#2 Miller Lite Dodge] Penske Racing South. Mears, who drives the #41 for Chip Ganassi Racing, said yesterday he is waiting to hear from Ganassi on next year. "I've been told they want me around next season, but that's the extent of it," he said. "I just haven't seen anything solid that says I'm going to be there. I'm happy with my team. I think we can improve and do a lot better than we're doing now, so if I stick around, I'd be happy with that. If not, I'm keeping options open to go do something else. But right now it's their option, and as soon as they let me know I can make a decision. . . . The longer they wait to tell me anything hurts me.". Richmond Times Dispatch05/14/05 Casey Mears, in his third full Nextel Cup season with Chip Ganassi Racing, is awaiting word on whether Ganassi will exercise an option and allow him to remain in the No. 41 Dodge next season. "There is a certain day down the road Chip has, but I would like to know sooner rather than later," Mears said. "We've made a lot of progress with this team in the short time I've been here and I feel really good about where we're at. I just want to know what I'm going to do, anyone would in my position." ThatsRacin
Hong Kong group to buy F1 for $1 billionUPDATE We are dropping this rumor to 'speculation.' Bernie Ecclestone responded with caution to the Sunday Telegraph's bombshell that Hong Kong conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa had made a $1bn bid to buy Formula One.
''I'm happy with the banks,'' the F1 supremo said. ''Why do I want to change the shareholders we've got for shareholders we don't know?''
07/24/05 A Hong Kong conglomerate is in talks to buy F1 for a reported $1 billion. The 'Sunday Telegraph' said Hutchison Whampoa, owned by Li Ka-Shing, is negotiating with the three banks that currently hold a 75 per cent stake in Bernie Ecclestone's company.
Representatives of 'Tom Group' - a subsidiary - have also met with the F1 impresario, who holds the other shares.
''Hutchison ... sees great potential for F1 in Asia,'' a banker close to the negotiations told the newspaper. "The banks are quite happy to sell out.''
Hutchison, owner of '3' - the mobile phone company - will not buy the banks' stake without Bernie's backing. ''Tom wants him to continue doing what he does best,'' the unnamed 'banker' continued.
Townsend Bell in for Enge at MichiganUPDATE We are upgrading this rumor to 'strong.' Townsend Bell will return to Panther Racing for next week's race at Michigan in Enge's car, assuming Enge (broken back) is not cleared to drive. Bell drove for Panther last year. Indy Star07/24/05 Rumor has it that Townsend Bell may drive for the injured Tomas Enge (No. 2) at Michigan and that Buddy Lazier, who replaces him this race, will be in the No. 95
Briscoe Out, Ganassi team short on cars?UPDATE #2 For the second consecutive year, team owner Chip Ganassi will hold a shaken driver out of the A.J. Foyt 225. Rookie Ryan Briscoe was so woozy after his first-turn hit Saturday at the Milwaukee Mile that he had to sit down on the track to gather his senses.
The Australian was later cleared by the league's medical staff to drive, but teammate Scott Dixon, who crashed twice in one day last year here before being sidelined for the weekend, knows why it's good for Briscoe to rest. "Every time I've had a big hit, I've felt it more the next day," Dixon said.
Said team managing director Mike Hull: "A guy hits the wall as hard as Ryan did comes back the next day and he's a race driver in his heart. But sometimes he's not a race driver in his (head)." Hull said Briscoe didn't need to risk the rest of his season in a 225-lap race that is expected to be run in oppressive heat and humidity. The IRL races next weekend at Michigan International Speedway. Briscoe couldn't explain why he lost control of his car. "I was pretty lucky that I didn't come in backward and went in sideways," he said. "I'm on my feet and a bit bruised up, but otherwise OK." Ganassi cars have crashed at least 10 times this season, and Darren Manning pulled off the track in qualifying Saturday with a loose car. Indy Star
07/24/05 “It's disappointing for our team and sponsors not to run the no.33 Target Toyota this weekend but we made this decision in what we believe is the best interest of both our driver Ryan Briscoe and the Target team,” said Mike Hull, Team Managing Director for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. “It will allow him and the team to properly regroup from today's incident and prepare fully for our next race next weekend in Michigan. With these back to back race weekends, we feel it is the right call. Milwaukee is a very unforgiving track and we had a similar situation last year with Scott (Dixon). Ryan (Briscoe) is a young, very talented and hungry rookie driver and it's tough for anyone to sit out a race but we feel this is the best decision for everyone.”
At the time of his accident, Briscoe was the quickest of the Ganassi cars. In qualifying, Dixon was only able to qualify 18th, and Manning waved off his qualifying lap with a very loose race car and will start 21st.
“I don't really know (what happened),” said Briscoe. “We made a change to the car, and I was starting my first qualifying lap and on my third time by I was going into Turn 1 and the rear end came around on me. I was pretty lucky that I didn't come in backwards and went in sideways. So, I'm on my feet and a bit bruised up but otherwise okay. The team has made the decision not to have me run the rest of the weekend in order to properly rest up and be on top of my game for Michigan next weekend.”
07/23/05 Word in the IRL paddock is that the Target Ganassi team is so concerned about losing any more cars to crash damage they told their drivers don't crash anymore this weekend. Darren Manning didn't even take a qualifying time to avoid a wreck. "I went out and the No. 10 Target Toyota Panoz was really loose, and I had a bit of a moment between Turns 3 and 4. We decided to come in and not take the chance to damage another car after Ryan's accident. Since we concentrated on race setup more than qualifying, we likely would have started in the second half of the field anyways, so we didn't really lose anything," said Manning. We also heard Briscoe won't be running anymore this weekend, so we'll see if he takes the green on Sunday.
Heidfeld to lose Williams rideUPDATE Nick Heidfeld refuses to burn any bridges and talk about his future. "As I've said many times before, I'm not going to comment on that," he told Reuters after qualifying for his home grand prix, "I'm in a good situation compared to last year, and I don't have any concerns. I'm part of a very good team and very happy to be on it. Anything can happen. "For me, BMW-Williams is still one team, it should be treated like one team and it should keep functioning like one team so that we continue to improve." 07/06/05 Following the disaster that was Button-gate in 2004, which saw the Brackley outfit retain Button's services for 2005, it was common knowledge that a clause in his contract could see him return to WilliamsF1 - the team which brought him into F1 - for 2006.
Under the terms of his contract with BAR, should Button have failed to score 75% of the World Championship leader's points tally, by the end of July, WilliamsF1 would have first call on his services for 2006, no ifs or buts. Speaking to Alan Henry of The Guardian, Frank Williams has confirmed this.
"It's been well explained," said Williams. "If BAR meet the option, they must take him. If they fail, then he lands in our lap."
The current World Championship leader is Fernando Alonso, who has 69 points. Assuming the Spaniard doesn't add to this tally, Button, currently on 5 points, would need to score a further 46 points from 3 races. It's understood that, contrary to media speculation, Williams' engine deal for 2006, or lack of it, would have no bearing on Button's contract for next year. BAR-Talk
[Editor's Note: This means either Nick Heidfeld or Mark Webber will be out of a ride in 2006. Heidfeld was hired by Williams this year because he is German to appease German engine supplier BMW. With BMW out after this year, Heidfeld's job is in jeopardy. Too bad because he has outperformed Webber, much to the surprise of many.]
Irvine eyes MinardiUPDATE Speaking to Autosport-Atlas, Paul Stoddart claimed the only conversation he had had with Eddie Irvine about selling his team was at this year's Monaco Grand Prix - although further talks may take place when Irvine flies into today's race at Hockenheim.
"I spoke to Eddie back in Monaco on a 'what-if' basis, but I believed at that time they were looking at Jordan," said Stoddart. "I want to stress that we have not had any discussions.
"I am aware he is shopping, but they are one of five people that I know are shopping at the moment. We are the only team for sale and I have made it clear, particularly if there was any manufacturer involvement, that I would always be willing to sell."
Irvine is believed to be acting as a front man for Russian billionaire Roustam Tariko, who has made his money from vodka and banking.
07/24/05 Eddie Irvine has reportedly turned his attention from buying Jordan to Paul Stoddart's back of the grid Minardi team. The former Jordan, Ferrari and Jaguar racer is apparently set to fly into Hockenheim for talks with the Faenza based team's Aussie owner.
Talks with Jordan fell through when team owner Alex Shnaider demanded from Irvine's Russian associate Roustam Tariko a 'silly' $105m. ''Irvine has been in touch with me,'' Stoddart told The Sun newspaper, ''but we can only start serious talks (when) he puts a $35m deposit on the table.''
Only 50,000 may attend 2006 USGP Tony George said his staff is still assessing the merit of staging an F-1 race in 2006. He said he expects the sport's hard-core fans to return. George put that number at about half of the 100,000 people who attended this year's race.
"I don't have a great deal of faith as we sit here today," he said about the more casual fans. "But we have an agreement (with Formula One Management) to have a race and until we feel compelled to try to change that, it's certainly our preference to have it." Indy Star
IRL exec resigns, headed to Champ Car? Bill Long, the IRL's vice president of marketing, resigned his position. We had heard that Champ Car was talking to some people in the IRL. Was Long one of them? Will Wilson, Champ Car's head of marketing is spread pretty thin, and we would not be surprised to see him get some help. Being a global series requires a lot of travel to market properly, something not possible for just one person to do it well alone.
Wheldon may quit IRL for NASCAR or Champ CarUPDATE #3 This Indy Star article says that Wheldon is also talking to Champ Car team owners. Dan Wheldon is coy about his options, and it's unclear how many he has. He is expected to receive a good offer to remain in the Indy Racing League with Andretti Green Racing.
This week, the IRL's points leader said he has been contacted by a couple of Formula One teams regarding a ride in 2006. He declined to name them. Two weeks ago, Wheldon told a NASCAR reporter he would consider a Nextel Cup ride.
There also has been discussion about his management team contacting Champ Car teams.
What's the truth? The Brit smiles and evades the question. "I can't say, brother; you know that," he said Friday at Wisconsin State Fair Park, where the IRL will race Sunday.
AGR co-owner Kevin Savoree said Wheldon, 27, has a right to test his market value because "he's a free agent."
Jim McGee, general manager of PKV Racing in Champ Car, said Wheldon wants a two-year contract, something most IRL and Champ Car teams aren't willing to give at this time.
"I don't think the money's there for 2007 because people don't know what they're going to be doing," McGee said. "And I don't know how good of a road racer he is."
"We're in a stage where we're not talking (to others) about what's going on," Savoree said. "But nothing has changed for us; we want the same four guys next year."
AGR has defending IRL champion Tony Kanaan under contract for 2006. Dario Franchitti's career has mostly been a series of one-year contracts, and he figures to return to the Indianapolis-based team if Honda continues with its program. Bryan Herta likely will be the last piece to AGR's puzzle.
Savoree said Wheldon's primary sponsor (Jim Beam) is already under contract for 2006. [Editor's Note: Wheldon has a European background. He can road race. If Jim McGee has his doubts he should give him a test. In the end Wheldon will probably end up back at AGR. All these talks are so his management team can squeeze as much money out of AGR as possible.]
07/12/05 Indy 500 Champ Dan Wheldon told Claire B. Lang (CBL) of XM Satellite NASCAR Radio (regarding the possibility of making the move to NASCAR): CBL: Have you talked to some stock car teams seriously: Wheldon: "I have talked to some teams seriously, yes. I mean obviously my experience in this right now is zero. But there's certainly a lot of interest and there's certainly a lot of interest on my part so we'll just have to wait and see. CBL: What would it take to make the move? Wheldon: "I'd need to be obviously in a very very good team I think have a lot of testing and the ability to race some Busch races and stuff like that. I gotta consider everything, I'm a driver and you know you've got to look to the future and that's what I'm looking at. But, I haven't decided what I'm going to do as of yet." CBL: Do you have a deadline when you have to decide? Wheldon: "Yea I'm going to have to in the next three or four weeks for sure." XM Satellite NASCAR Radio
07/11/05 Dan Wheldon, this year's Indy 500 winner, was a guest at Chicago of Robby Gordon. Wheldon said he's looking at the NASCAR world for a possible career move, eventually. Winston Salem Journal [Editor's Note: Eventually means when all the engine manufacturer money dries up in the IRL after 2006]
07/07/05 Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon is considering a switch to NASCAR should the imminent withdrawal of Toyota and Chevrolet undermine the level of competition in the IRL, according to this week's Autosport Magazine.
Wheldon's manager, Julian Jakobi, has revealed that a move to a top NASCAR team is an option for Wheldon, although a move into Formula One is believed to be the most favored choice.
Wheldon revealed: "I'm evaluating a lot of options, and the good thing is that people want to speak to me. Jakobi gets approached by a lot of people, and right now he's keeping quiet because he wants me to focus on winning the championship.
"NASCAR is something that in America you have to look at because it is so big, although I think the IRL IndyCar Series could rival that. The biggest thing at the moment is to do what is right for me.
"Obviously the more competition we can get between chassis and engine manufacturers the better, but it's something I will bear in mind because I want to be racing where all the competition is at." [Editor's Note: Once all the huge manufacturer money leaves the IRL after 2005 (Chevy) and 2006 (Toyota and probably Honda) and engine suppliers begin to charge full price for engines and not subsidize teams or drivers, the IRL will lose a good number of teams and drivers, at which point Anton George will be sorry he did not merge with Champ Car when he had the chance.]
Marco Andretti may forego IRL and try F1 Marco Andretti is will test a GP2 car later this year, in the hope of following his father's and grandfather's footsteps into Formula One. We have always said that Marco was a real talent and would hate to see it wasted in a 100% throttle series on dangerous ovals rift with injured drivers. 100% throttle racing isn't our idea of a test of talent, not by a long shot.
18-year-old Andretti, son of Michael and grandson of Mario, has set his sight on a career that would lead him into Formula One and he says a GP2 test has already been confirmed.
"My main ambition is to race in F1," young Andretti told Italian magazine Autosprint. "That's why in October I will test a GP2 car at Paul Ricard, and all the details have been finalized already."
ART team principal Nicolas Todt told Autosport-Atlas that his team has been in touch with Andretti, but he said the test was not confirmed yet.
"We have spoken with him, yes," Todt said. "There is nothing confirmed, but we had some nice talks and there is a big possibility of giving him a test [at the conclusion of the season]."
"I have to be realistic: nobody knows me in Europe, they've never seen me racing, I have an important name but this doesn't mean anything," he said. "So my father offered me some tests in IRL, on road tracks, like Sebring and on an oval, to see if I like the series.
"Maybe the most logical thing would be to race there for a couple of seasons, and if I'll be successful I'll then try to play the F1 card. [But] My father wants only the best for me, he would never advice me against racing in F1 just because he owns a team in IRL."
Grandfather Mario, who won the 1978 championship for Lotus, but got his first F1 win in a Ferrari in 1971 at Kyalami, would rather see him race in Europe and ultimately land a seat in F1.
"Let's say they both want the best for my career," Marco said. "Mario perhaps would have preferred if I started immediately in Europe with F3, but Michael's contacts made it easier to start in America. I'm curious to see how the GP2 test will go, then we'll see.
"If I'll race in IRL, then I'll have to get down to work on the ovals, because my knowledge of that kind of tracks is limited, otherwise I'll race in Europe. At that point it will be a decision with no compromises or nostalgia for home of the States. Because I want to get to F1, as soon as possible."
"Personally I'd prefer if Marco followed the European route, racing in GP2 in 2006 and then be ready for F1," said Mario Andretti to the Italian magazine.
"If this would be possible with Ferrari, then it would be perfect. I'm told that Ferrari is thinking about the future post Michael Schumacher. If they had him testing it would be fantastic and they would understand that they have a real talent in front of them. And I say this not because he's my grandson but because I've seen plenty of drivers." We would think that a year or two in the all-road course Champ Car series might be good for Marco, but the GP2 series is a great place to learn the F1 tracks. If F1 is his goal, GP2 is the better route career wise
Intel in play? Intel, the giant semiconductor company, is currently a small sponsor on the Toyota F1 team but word in the Hockenheim paddock is that firm is looking seriously about a big deal with one of the top teams.
Of course Intel sponsored Justin Wilson at Portland earlier this year as well. It remains to be seen whether Carl Russo (RuSPORT boss) and Kevin Kalkhoven (Champ Car co-owner) have enough connections in Silicon Valley to land Intel in Champ Car rather than F1.
'Schu faces GPDA axe' Michael Schumacher could be ousted as president of the grand prix drivers' association (GPDA), Sir Jackie Stewart has warned. The Scot, a leading advocate of F1 safety in the seventies, said the seven time world champion is 'wrong' for not backing his rivals in a row about driver safety.
At the crux of the tension seems to be Michael's non-reluctance to sign letters backing the teams' stance regarding the Indy tire situation.
Stewart, once a triple world champion, said the nonconformity is a 'serious oversight. ''I am sure there are those who will excuse him from his duties on the GPDA,'' the 66-year-old told the Mirror newspaper. ''All the other drivers can't be wrong.''
Yates still considering third team It was not that long ago when Robert Yates Racing [#38 and #88] was a state-of-the-art team. It would be tough to argue that it still is. In fact, in one key area — cars on the track — the Yates operation is lagging behind such Nextel Cup teams as Roush Racing and Hendrick Motorsports [Jayski Note: but Yates has two cars in the Chase at current, Hendrick has...one]. Yates still just has two — one for Dale Jarrett and one for Elliott Sadler. While the Yates drivers are doing fairly well — they are both in the top 20 [actually top 10] in points this week — some think they could do better if they would add another car or two to the stable. Apparently, the folks at Yates have been thinking the same thing. “We’ve had a lot of discussions” about adding a third car, Jarrett said this week. Adding more cars is beneficial on several fronts. The most important of those is the data front. More cars means more tests, more laps and more information for engineers and crew chiefs to chew upon. Again, Yates is certainly aware of all that. “We do everything that we can with the people that we have now,” Jarrett said, “but there’s a sign that there is strength in numbers.” Kansas City Star
BT to sponsor McLaren? The word on the street in Hockenheim is that McLaren may be about to announce a sponsorship with British Telecommunications plc. BT is fast developing its broadband empire around the world and aims to spread its networks across the world, creating mobility services for its customers wherever they are. It is already one of Europe's leading providers of telecommunications services, including local, national and international telecommunications services, higher-value broadband and internet products and services, and IT solutions. The company has been expanding with the acquisition of BT Albacom in Italy, BT Radianz, a system used by the world's financial community, and expanding its BT Infonet services. More at Grandprix.com
Richards and Hyundai could buy JordanUPDATE #2 There is still speculation as to whether Jordan will stay with Toyota power or go with Cosworth and Hyundai. Toyota thinks they still have the deal. "There is no rush on our side to make an announcement," said Toyota's John Howett on Thursday's FIA Press Conference. "To some extent the ball is in Jordan's court, but I can confirm that our intention is to supply Jordan next year." Taking this into account, Howett revealed that talks are not dead with Williams. He said that there is an 'informal discussion' with Sir Frank's team but insisted that it is 'too late' to wrap anything up for 2006. John is determined to add to our confusion however, adding "It's dangerous to say never." 07/21/05 This Grandprix.com article talks more about the Jordan engine situation for 2006. Jordan F1 has 10 days in which to complete its engine deal with Toyota and Williams is waiting quietly on the sidelines, keen to see whether the Russian-owned team will hit the deadline. The deal between Jordan and Toyota is agreed but it depends on payments being made and Jordan has been struggling for cash in recent months as the Russians behind the Midland Group do not seem interested in coming up with the cash and instead are trying to sell the team. They want $66m so it is not surprising that they are having trouble finding a buyer. There are several possible buyers out there but only if the price comes down to around $30m.
What is interesting is that Jordan has signed the Concorde Agreement extension deal. This might have been done to enable the team to borrow money (perhaps from Bernie Ecclestone) to pay for the engines without help from Russia. A new buyer might consider a Cosworth deal more attractive because the engines can be badged and there have been rumors that David Richards is looking at taking Hyundai into F1 using Jordan as a vehicle. For the Korean car maker a deal with Cosworth would be a good place to start.
07/15/05There have been some rumors in recent days linking former Benetton and BAR boss David Richards with a deal to acquire the struggling Jordan F1 team as the current owners Midland seem to be going nowhere in no particular hurry. The team has yet to confirm its engines for 2006 and there is no sign of any investment being made by Midland amid rumors that some of the partners in the business are opposed to the F1 project.
The F1 authorities are very keen that Jordan be kept alive because they do not want the field to drop below 20 cars and while there is still talk going on with Eddie Irvine and his Russian backer Roustam Tariko, it seems that Richards is also involved and is trying to put together a deal to acquire a team, rather than working for someone else.
There have been other rumors suggesting that Richards is hoping to lure Korea's Hyundai into F1 with backing from Samsung.
There is no doubt that Hyundai does have big ambitions which include F1 if it is possible. The company has been growing rapidly in recent years following the break-up of the old Hyundai industrial empire into five different companies in 2003. Until 2004 Hyundai was competing (unsuccessfully) in the World Rally Championship, so Richards has the necessary contacts.
Whether Samsung might also be involved is quite another matter. Samsung and Hyundai have traditionally been bitter rivals but since the Hyundai break-up Samsung has reigned supreme as Korea's top industrial group. There is no doubt that Samsung has been sniffing around F1 recently but it remains to be seen whether there will be a deal with a different team.
The rival LG company is also said to be looking seriously at F1 sponsorship. Korean interest in F1 is growing and it should not be forgotten that there is a deal in place for there to be an F1 race in Korea in 2009. Grandprix.com [Editor's Note: Champ Car will race in South Korea starting this year. What companies are they talking to? Or don't they have an office in Korea to look after their interests?]
Jourdain could return to Champ CarUPDATE #4 In this El Norte and Reforma article, Jourdain talks about his quest for sponsorship. He told the press that he has a few meetings scheduled with potential sponsors. He says that he can’t give any names because nothing is signed yet, he also said he has a few offers from Champ Car, A1 GP and Grand-Am, but said his priority is to obtain sponsorship to continue in the Busch Series, and that he is planning to attend the Saint Louis race to keep contact with the team. Jose Arrambide, reporting from Mexico07/21/05 As one of Mexico's biggest racing stars, it seems unlikely that Michel Jourdain's current ridelessness will last long. Although the former Champ Car driver considers the reactivation of his NASCAR Busch Series program with ppc Racing to be his highest priority - pending on new sponsorship being found - the 28-year-old is keeping his options wide open. "Everything is pretty much still in the air right now," he confessed to Mexican website ATM. I have offers to run in Grand-Am at the Mexico City round [on a doubleheader with Champ Car on November 4-6], and could even have returned to Champ Cars already at Edmonton [last week], but my priority now is to keep racing in the Busch Series." More at SPEEDTV.com07/14/05 After 19 outings for the ppc Racing team, former Champ Car driver Michel Jourdain Jr of Mexico has announced the interruption of his NASCAR Busch Series program with the outfit, both sides claiming a lack of financial resources to go on. The team’s reactivation is now pending on new sponsorship being found.
“I am very disillusioned by this situation but confident that we’ll find a solution as soon as possible,” Jourdain said in a statement. “We’ve been struggling for several weeks, canceling test days and so forth, and those things were making us unable to compete at this level.”
The double Champ Car race winner clarified his contractual situation with the squad: “I’m still part of the team; I’ll keep on getting paid while they work to find sponsorship. My contract says they must give me a car for this weekend [Saturday’s New England 200 at Loudon], but without money that is simply not possible. My lawyers will take over from now on.”
According to Jourdain, Ford Racing is also seeking a solution for the impasse. “It was Ford that proposed my coming to the Busch Series, and they were the ones who supported me and found me a ride. I’ve spoken to [Ford Racing director] Dan Davis and he told me they’re worried and looking for a way past this situation, as they’re also part of our [NASCAR] program.”
Jourdain qualified for 18 of this season’s 19 Busch rounds - his first DNQ came precisely at Chicagoland last week - and currently sits 23rd in the points standings, with a single top-10 finish to his credit. SPEEDTV.com [Editor's Note: Talk about ruining one's career by moving to NASCAR's 'B' league. Was he delusional?]
07/13/05 We contacted Michel Jourdain's PR agent José Escamilla and asked what was the possibility was of Michel going back to Champ Car or any open wheel racing series. "We are open to any good opportunity. Unfortunately the problem is the same everywhere - sponsorship. Michel still has a contract in NASCAR and has intentions to continue his NASCAR career. He made a lot of sacrifices to be there (moving to a different city, buying a new house, taking his family out of his country, etc) to drop everything at the first problem. However, he is open to any good option, if you know what I mean." Jose Arrambide, reporting from Mexico07/13/05 Michel Jourdain Jr. appears to be out of his NASCAR Busch Series ride and is looking to see if there is something that might open up in Champ Car, where he belongs in the first place, Jourdain is an open wheel driver, and as we saw with Christian Fittipaldi, another foreign driver, the grass is not always greener in NASCAR. Fittipaldi moved to NASCAR with the hope of resurrecting his sagging career and never got a ride that would put him in a position to win. With Nextel Cup having no plans to go to Brazil or Mexico in the foreseeable future, the best Fittipaldi or Jourdain can hope for is a Busch Series ride, but is that where they want to be career-wise? Fittipaldi instead chose Grand-Am and Brazil stock cars.
ppc Racing officials announced Tuesday driver Michel Jourdain Jr. will not compete this weekend in New Hampshire due to lack of sponsorship. ppc Racing officials will continue to search for sponsorship in hopes of returning Jourdain to the NASCAR Busch Series.
“Our second Busch program has gone most of the season without sponsorship and we cannot continue to run this team until that is in place,” said Pollex. “Michel is a great sell to any corporate sponsor looking to reach the Hispanic community in the United States and several have stepped up with one-race agreements in key markets. We have a competitive race team here and again this year we are in the hunt with Kenny Wallace, who is fifth in the driver standings. We hope to have Michel return to competition before the season ends in Miami.”
Jourdain teamed with ppc Racing, the 2000 NASCAR Busch Series championship-winning team, in January after moving from the open-wheel ranks. Jourdain began the season as the series first full-time Mexican driver. Jourdain earned his first top-10 finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway after just six races in a stock car. Jourdain’s first stock car race was in NASCAR’s West Series at Phoenix International Raceway, where he finished sixth.
“I am disappointed that we have to make this decision,” said Jourdain. “This is my first year of stock car racing, making the transition from open-wheel. The biggest thing for me is to race miles at every track and to gain experience with these cars but it is near impossible to run a race team without a sponsor. I am thankful to Greg Pollex, ppc Racing and Ford Racing Technology for their efforts to get at least to this point. Hopefully we can race again soon this season in the NASCAR Busch Series.”
Michelin face F1 exodus More than one Michelin shod F1 team will be enticed onto Bridgestone rubber next season. The French supplier's 'better balance' proposal, then, might actually be interpreted as a clever way of putting a noble spin on losing F1 support.
Indeed, rather than muse an eighth team, Michelin F1 director Nick Shorrock told Autosport that the only current contract beyond the end of this year is with Sauber. The rest are thought keen on a 'control' tire -- and the eager frontrunner is Bridgestone. ''We're working very hard on the other (six F1 contracts),'' Shorrock revealed.
Ferrari powered (in 2006) Red Bull will almost certainly make the switch, and may be joined by Toyota and Williams. ''We are looking at our options,'' a Toyota spokesman admitted.
Sellout expected in San Jose There is promotion and advertising all over the San Francisco Bay area for the inaugural Champ Car race in San Jose at the end of July. Former Toronto promoter Bob Singleton is doing a yeoman's job. He had this to say Wednesday - "Our sales are really starting to peak. We've got about five of our silver grandstands, although some are big, some are small, sold out. We still have some silver grandstands, not some gold, they are all sold out already. It's my guess being around here for 10, 12 years in the business we'll sell out all of the grandstands here in San Jose and have a huge general admission crowd. So we're excited and looking forward to a great weekend."
Engine height rule in 2006? NASCAR is also considering a maximum engine-height rule (as measured from the center of the crankshaft), to keep teams from raising engines to allow more wheel-travel. "But if they did that, we'd all be dragging bell-housings on the ground and tearing up the asphalt, and probably sending flywheels sailing into the grandstands," Andy Graves, the manager for Chip Ganassi, said. Winston Salem-Journal
Will McLaren drivers eye Champ Car? McLaren drivers have a dilemma - there's too many good ones and not enough race seats. Pedro de La Rosa is often the fastest in testing, yet he remains a test driver. McLaren's Young Driver Support program has 20-year-old Lewis Hamilton who has won nine of the 12 Formula 3 Euro Series races this season, the most recent two victories coming on the streets at the Norisring last weekend. Winning more than 50% of the races in a major Formula 3 title is a rare achievement and most of the drivers who have achieved that have gone on to leap straight into Formula 1.
Back in 1979 Alain Prost was signed by McLaren after winning seven of 12 European F3 events; Ayrton Senna collected 12 wins in 20 British F3 races in 1983 and Mika Hakkinen won nine of 17 in 1990. In modern times Takuma Sato won 12 of 26 British races in 2001 and went to Jordan in 2002 although he was dropped by the midseason.
Regular drivers Juan Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen are not going anywhere, and what about the other test driver Alex Wurz? Something has to give and with Champ Car gaining strength rapidly, one has to wonder if one or more of these excellent drivers will eye Champ Car. In part from Grandprix.com
Overheard in Edmonton - IVUPDATE We are hearing that Swift is now the front-runner to get the chassis contract for the new Atlantic series. Swift makes the current car and it appears to be fairly reliable and it keeps some Americans employed. And since Swift is near Cosworth, if Cosworth gets the engine contract, they can work closer with Swift. Mark C.07/17/05 Until today we were told there were three options for the replacement to the Toyota Atlantic series, but we were only able to dig up two of the three options 1) A new Lola Chassis with a Cosworth engine, or 2) The one-year old Renault V6 cars from Europe. Last night the scuttlebutt was that Toyota may be having a change of heart and may stay in the series, which could be the third option. We do know that Champ Car wants an engine with more power for the Atlantic Series. Toyota did not have one. If this third rumor is true, have they decided to build one, or perhaps badge a Cosworth. We have to believe that Toyota is quite capable of building their own, but badging a Cosworth may be a lower cost alternative?.....We hear that San Jose will be a real scramble to be ready in time because construction started late.......We heard that if Honda pulls out of the IRL entirely, Andretti Green Racing might following the money to ALMS with Honda. Of course that rumor is coming from within the Champ Car paddock, so take it for what it's worth. Mark C.
Kiesa to take over for DoornbosUPDATE Danish TV tonight confirmed Nicolas Kiesa as the 3rd driver for Jordan. One interesting side note about Kiesa is that he admitted to TV2 Denmark that he tried to grab Ronnie Bremer's seat from HVM when things were looking bleak for Ronnie. Bremer is supposedly quite annoyed with his slower but better funded countryman. Dennis Johansen in Copenhagen07/20/05 Word on the Danish websites Jubii Formel 1 and Pole-position.dk are that Nicolas Kiesa is going to take over Robert Doornbos vacated Jordan seat from Friday. Confirmation should come tomorrow but it is not known right now if it the seat is only for the German Grand Prix or more races.
Portland to keep traditional Champ Car date This Portland Oregonian article says, (key excerpts) Portland race promoter Mike Nealy was slightly alarmed when he read Internet speculation that suggested the city's Champ Car race might move to July 30 for 2006 and would be part of a doubleheader with the American Le Mans Series. Portland's expected June 25 date, in this scenario, had been taken by Cleveland.
Nealy assumed there was no truth to the talk that Portland was losing its coveted late-June spot on the schedule. But just in case, he called Joe Chrnelich, Champ Car's executive vice president for promoter services. Chrnelich was in China, and it was 2 a.m. local time.
Champ Car's 2005 schedule features new events in Edmonton, Alberta; San Jose, Calif.; and Ansan, South Korea. A new race in Beijing is scheduled for 2006, and Champ Car is also considering races in Sebring, Fla., Houston, Brazil and South Africa. The most likely places for Champ Car and the ALMS to run together are at Sebring, Long Beach and perhaps Houston.
Portland made a modest attendance gain in 2005 with a race-day crowd estimated at slightly more than 25,000 fans, but there will be pressure to increase that dramatically in 2006 in light of Champ Car's debut in Edmonton last week and large advance ticket sales for new events in San Jose (July 31) and Denver (Aug. 14). Edmonton drew more fans for its race weekend than Portland's combined attendance the past three years. . . . Chrnelich said the numbers in Edmonton -- 78,000 on race day and 200,052 for three days -- were not exaggerated. "That is verifiable, paid attendance," he said. "The whole town was just on fire. It was amazing. And we feel like the same kind of thing is possible in Portland. More....(Talks about possible doubleheader with ALMS and more)
New nose lip for 2007 NASCAR officials are telling crew chiefs that there will be a new nose-lip for all Nextel Cup cars in 2007, perhaps earlier, a new nose valence that would be similar to Trans-Am noses and truck noses - with a lower aerodynamic lip, designed to force teams to limit the wheel-travel of race cars. The new rule would come in response to the radical wheel-travel that teams are using this season to drop the nose of the car and increase speed by literally dragging the nose on the pavement. Wheel-travel is believed to be one reason for the rash of tire problems, with tires taking a fearsome beating. "I think it's a good rule, and they might do it next year," #01 crew chief Ryan Pemberton said. "But it will (make) obsolete all the hundreds of thousands of dollars of expensive special springs each team now has. I've spent more on springs in the past year than I have in my entire career. We're talking hundreds of thousands of dollars of springs." Winston Salem Journal
Williams for sale? Believe it or not, Grove based Williams - one of F1's most successful ever grand prix teams - is reportedly in buyout talks with a Korean consortium. Former BAR principal David Richards, and Korean multinationals Hyundai and Samsung, are thought involved.
Richards, also Prodrive boss and world rally impresario, told F1 Racing magazine: ''I haven't spoken to Frank (Williams) or Patrick (Head), but I'm keeping a close watch.'' And what about Hyundai? ''Possibly -- I've no idea.'' It is thought that Hyundai will badge the Cosworth V8 as part of the deal as the company does not have the know-how to build an F1 engine themselves.
Another new Champ Car team In addition to the rumors that Panther Racing is eyeing Champ Car, AutoRacing1.com has gotten wind of another new Champ Car team forming. Details are sketchy at this time, but it is believed to have involvement from a current or former IRL team and we are told it's real. We previously rumored that three new teams are eyeing Champ Car, this being the second one after Panther. We have no details on the third one yet, but the old rumor of Canadian filmmaker Ken Mandeville doing something is still out there.
New NASCAR team ownerUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Former NFLer TIM BROWN retired yesterday and announced “his foray into NASCAR ownership,” according to Billy Witz of the L.A. DAILY NEWS. Brown said, “If it’s going to be America’s sport, it’s got to encompass all of America. NASCAR is not a sport that is marketed toward African-Americans. It’s just not the way they’ve gone about doing their business. The way things have turned around and turned about, now they understand that they have to do that and I’m looking forward to the opportunity.” Witz reports Tim Brown Racing (TBR), which will begin racing next year, is forming a partnership with Roush Racing. Roush will supply TBR “with the chassis and technology and own” 49% of TBR, while Brown “lines up the four to five sponsors that will contribute the $20[M] needed for the start up” L.A. DAILY NEWS, 7/1907/18/05 NFL receiving great, Tim Brown announced he will become a NASCAR team owner, during his retirement announcement today on ESPNews. He is working with Roush Racing to get engines and chassis.
Friesacher out, Doornbos inUPDATE #6 Minardi will replace Patrick Friesacher with Jordan 'Friday' driver Robert Doornbos at the German grand prix, the Faenza based team announced. 24-year-old Doornbos' gong creates the first ever all-Dutch race line-up, even if he and Christijan Albers reportedly do not get along.
As earlier reported, Austria's Friesacher - also a Formula One rookie - got the boot because some of his backers failed to honor verbal sponsorship assurances to Paul Stoddart. ''This decision,'' said the Australian team owner, ''should in no way be taken as a reflection on his ability. ''We continue to rate Patrick very highly.''
Rotterdam-born Doornbos, who won at Spa in F3000 last year, will round out the year for Faenza based Minardi. Stoddart smiled: ''I'm sure (we) can expect even more enthusiastic support from the Netherlands, if that's possible.''
07/18/05 Minardi will reveal Patrick Friesacher's German grand prix race replacement on Monday afternoon, we have learned. Although an official announcement is yet to be made, the rear of the grid Formula One team has dissolved the Austrian rookie's contract after verbal sponsorship promises were not upheld. Team boss Paul Stoddart, reportedly with Jordan 'Friday' driver Robert Doornbos in the wings, has already admitted that the Friesacher axe is a 'possibility'. 2004 Minardi racer Zsolt Baumgartner is also touted.
It is speculated that 24-year-old Friesacher's problems are connected to the 'Kaernten' logos on the Minardi's rear wing, and the suggestion that tax payer funds were improperly applied. Israeli test driver Chanoch Nissany, meanwhile, tested the PS05 and practiced pit stops at a hot Vallelunga circuit - near Rome - last Friday.
07/17/05 AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that Doornbos to Minardi is a done deal and that Frank Montagny will take his race seat at Jordan. We await the announcement. 07/16/05 With Robert Doornbos almost certain to be named as the replacement for Patrick Friesacher alongside Christijan Albers Dutch F1 fans will get to see who is the faster of their two young drivers now that Jos Verstappen has faded from the scene. Unfortunately they will be fighting over the last two places on the grid, many seconds slower than the top drivers. 07/15/05 Austrian Patrick Friesacher is likely to lose his Minardi Formula One drive next week because his sponsorship money has dried up. "Patrick being replaced at the next race is a strong possibility because of sponsorship money not being paid," Minardi boss Paul Stoddart told Reuters on Friday. The Australian entrepreneur said three drivers were in the frame to replace the 24-year-old and a decision would be taken early next week before the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim. He gave no names but the two most likely candidates are Jordan's Dutch reserve driver Robert Doornbos and Hungarian Zsolt Baumgartner. Were Doornbos to get the drive, Minardi would have a double Dutch line-up with compatriot Christijan Albers in the other car. Reuters07/13/05 Patrick Friesacher's brief Minardi career may already have ended. The Austrian rookie, whose sponsors are six weeks late in due payments to Paul Stoddart's rear of the grid team, will - without a rapid cash injection - reportedly not race at Hockenheim this month. In pole position to potentially replace the 24-year-old is Robert Doornbos, the Dutchman and current 'Friday' man at Minardi rival Jordan. His backer, Harry Muermans, may already have met with Stoddart, according to media gossip. 07/09/05 Patrick Friesacher's Minardi seat is in jeopardy, paddock gossip claims. It is suggested that the Austrian rookie has fallen behind in due sponsor payments to Paul Stoddart's rear of the grid F1 operation. The 24-year-old's manager, Thomas Frank - who also manages former Minardi man Zsolt Baumgartner - reportedly admitted at Silverstone to some rumblings within the Faenza located camp. Also according to reports, Stoddart has imposed July's Hungarian grand prix as a deadline for the Friesacher cash.
Three teams chasing KimiUPDATE McLaren's Ron Dennis has urged Kimi Raikkonen to stay put if the Finn wants to become a F1 world champion. The Woking based chief told team sponsor TAG Heuer's website that Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and Mika Hakkinen all stuck it out but ultimately wore the crown.
''There are examples,'' the team principal said, ''where drivers who keep changing ... do not become champion.''
The Tag Heuer report claims that 'three teams' are interested in the 25-year-old championship challenger. ''These ... include McLaren, Ferrari and BMW,'' it stated, ''with ... McLaren ... already in discussions with their man (about) a new ongoing contract.''
07/19/05 Finnish racer Kimi Raikkonen is one of the most wanted drivers in the Formula One paddock right now with three teams looking to sign the young racer to their team after the 2006 season. These teams include McLaren, Ferrari and BMW with his current McLaren team already in discussions with their man in regard to a new ongoing contract. Knowing the competition is extremely interested in stealing his driver, McLaren boss Ron Dennis has warned that he needs stability and consistence if he wants to secure the drivers crown? Tag Heuer
’B’ Jordan for Budapest debutUPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' because the new car won't make a Budapest debut. Tiago Monteiro took part in the recent testing session organized by Jordan Toyota on the Circuit Paul Ricard, last week, alongside the Scuderia Ferrari team.
The final week of testing before the enforced summer break was of a crucial importance for the Portuguese driver and his Silverstone based team who needed to decide if the EJ15B - the latest contender from the factory workshop - was to make its competition debut in the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim on July 24.
However, problems with the cooling system made the decision for them and the new EJ15B will not be present on the starting grid of the next two events, Germany and Hungary.
"It is extremely regrettable that we will not be able use the new car, but the cooling problems encouraged the team to make the right decision and delay its debut," explained Tiago. "It will now be necessary to review the situation before being able to plan the roll out in Turkey".
Tiago's program in France also involved the evaluation of the Bridgestone tires which the Japanese manufacturer will supply the Jordan team with in Germany and Hungary.
"It was one intense and important working day, reserved for tire testing," continues Tiago. "I tested 12 different sets of tires and therefore we had the data in hand to determine which would be the best choices and alternatives for the next two GP's."
"I carried out 30 laps in the morning, in order to perfect the settings on the car before beginning the comparison of the various sets of tires. It is essential that the car is well balanced before being able to start work of such a serious comparison. After the lunch break, I completed a further 55 laps, adding a further 264km to the meter. This made for a total of 450 over the course of the day." DCA
07/14/05 Jordan's 'b' spec car may be up and racing by the Hungarian grand prix later this month. Rookie driver Narain Karthikeyan told the 'Times of India' that the EJ15B was born with engine cooling problems.
The 28-year-old, who is set to test the car at Paul Ricard on Thursday, said: ''The team is saying that the launch may be delayed 'til Hungary. ''They're still working on it.''
Narain admitted to frustration after the car was initially scheduled to race onto the F1 grid at Magny Cours. He said the 'b' is 'quicker and better' than the current car. ''The aerodynamics package is completely different. I think I will easily finish in the top 10 with the new car. If (Friday) driver Robert Doornbos is not the quickest but if he can achieve those kind of speeds and times with the new car, we can do much better.''
Dixon’s F1 dreams fading away New Zealand Indy car driver Scott Dixon still has his heart set on driving in Formula One. He secured some test drives with the Williams team after winning the Indy Racing League in 2003 but failed to secure a contract. His stocks have since fallen, with Team Target struggling over the past season and a half. However Dixon says the dream is still in the back of his mind, and he will go to the Italian Grand Prix on a scouting mission. NewsTalkZB [Editor's Note: Tony Kanaan's BAR Honda test is simply a reward for winning the IRL championship. He has zero chance of getting an F1 ride. Ditto for Scott Dixon. F1 teams don't hire 100% throttle oval racers. Period, end of story.]
Sponsors threaten F1 split A lot of bank notes could fly out of Formula One's window if the political storm speeds ahead. 'A host of top-tier sponsors' have contacted GT, rally and A1 grand prix teams and are prepared to leave F1 should the threatened 'breakaway' split occur, brandrepublic.com reported Tuesday. ''The sponsors ... are keen to maintain their links with motor sport ... with less troubled championships,'' it claimed. Only Ferrari and Red Bull are committed to the existing series beyond 2007, with the rest - mainly teams with major car manufacturer partners - at war with Bernie Ecclestone and FIA chief Max Mosley.
Possible 2006 Champ Car scheduleUPDATE #5 AutoRacing1.com has learned that although it will be ready sooner, the 2006 Champ Car schedule will be revealed during the Denver GP race weekend in a little over three weeks. For now it will show a total of 16 races with three or more new tracks. We hear at least one existing venue is in jeopardy of not making the cut, which means the speculative schedules shown below are not 100% correct. Mark C.07/17/05 AutoRacing1.com spoke to Champ Car's Joe Chrnelich this morning in Edmonton. We quizzed him on how the 2006 schedule is coming together. "We're still shooting for the first week in August," said Chrnelich. "I am trying to get as many of the key events on there as I could before we release it. It should be exciting. Each year, little by little, we want to improve it." He tells us that the South Korea race is really coming together. The entire town of Ansan is plastered with race promotion material. Mark C.07/12/05 A reader asks, Isn't it time for Champ Car to stop leaving May open and develop their own marquee event? They can use LB or maybe another place where they can seat 200,000+ on race day. I like their schedule but not leaving the month of May open again, thereby helping Anton George. Harvey Pelovsky, Payson, AZ Dear Harvey, We believe that you will eventually see Champ Car overseas in early May and at some point in time announce a marquee event in the USA on Memorial Day weekend. That weekend is the biggest race weekend of the year in the USA and they need to be racing somewhere that weekend. It kicks off the summer season too and the weather is very conducive in a wide range of possible venues. Champ Car would probably race in a major metropolitan area that weekend to draw a huge crowd and a lot of attention to the city. Mark C.07/11/05 Our reporter in Monterrey, Mexico writes, As you show on the revised 2006 Champ Car schedule, April is the best month for Monterrey to host a race. The climate is still not hot, and there's usually little rain in April. May, for example, is usually a rainy month and can be extremely hot as we found out this year, while February and March are very weird months in this City. There's a saying in Monterrey, “February Mad and March also,” let’s hope the race moves to April. José Arrambide, Monterrey, Mexico
07/10/05 A more likely schedule from what we hear from AutoRacing1.com sources (we hear 16 races is the early goal): Venue (Date) Notes Sebring (March 19) with ALMS (Champ Car won't run Friday as some speculate) Monterrey (April 2) Long Beach (April 9) with ALMS Houston (April 23) with ALMS Brazil and/or South Africa (May - Long shot for 2006) Milwaukee (June 4) Back to Sunday San Jose (June 18) Cleveland (June 25) Toronto (July 9) Edmonton (July 16) Portland (July 30) with ALMS Denver (August 13) Montreal (August 27) Las Vegas (September 23) with NASCAR trucks Saturday night Beijing (October 8) Ansan (October 15) Surfers Paradise (October 22) Mexico City (November 5)
07/10/05 A speculative CCWS schedule making the rounds in Toronto is as follows: Venue (Date) Notes Sebring (March 17 or 19) with ALMS Long Beach (April 9) with ALMS Brazil/Argentina or South Africa (Late April/Early May - Long shot for 2006) Monterrey (May 21) Note: Way too hot in May for paying customer - race will eventually fail Milwaukee (June 4) Back to Sunday San Jose (June 18) Cleveland (June 25) Note: Way too hot and humid late in June for paying customer - race will eventually fail unless run under the lights Toronto (July 9) Edmonton (July 16) Portland (July 30) with ALMS Denver (August 13) Montreal (August 27) Houston (September 9) with ALMS Note: Way too hot in early September for paying customer unless at night under the lights Saturday night Las Vegas (September 23) with NASCAR trucks Saturday night Beijing (October 8) Ansan (October 15) Surfers Paradise (October 22) Mexico City (November 5)
Recall that Bruno Junqueira tested a Newman/Haas Champ Car on the Sebring long course earlier this year (as opposed to the short circuit usually used for Champ Car tests). Junqueira, in Toronto, was enthusiastic about a possible Champ Car race at the venerable airport circuit.
"It is a very challenging circuit," he said. "For sure it is bumpy in some places, mainly the start/finish straightaway and the straightaway behind the pits and the turn connecting the two. But the rest of the circuit is OK and, besides, the bumps are the same for everyone. I think it would be good for us to race there, it would bring Champ Car back to Florida and be a good race for the sports car fans." In part from SPEEDTV.com with corrections by AutoRacing1.com
Toyota expected to renew with Long BeachUPDATE #4 Look for this sponsorship renewal announcement to be made at the next Champ Car race in San Jose, California. Mark C. 07/18/05 We are close to upgrading this rumor from 'strong' to 'fact.' We heard in Edmonton that Toyota is close to signing a new 5-year agreement with the Grand Prix of Long Beach. There may be option years involved as well. We expect an announcement in the not too distant future. 07/11/05 After doing further research on this rumor today it appears that the original SPEEDTV.com article was misleading. There is no indication that Toyota won't renew as title sponsor of the Grand Prix of Long Beach. We will keep this rumor rated as 'speculation' until Toyota renews.......or not. 07/10/05 Toyota's recent announcement of its withdrawal from American open wheel racing has also prompted renewed speculation about two of Toyota's remaining linkages with the Champ Car, namely the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and the Toyota Atlantic Series. Toyota's lengthy deal (Some 30 years or so) as title sponsor of the Long Beach race concluded this year and Kalkhoven, who -- along with Champ Car co-owner Gerald Forsythe -- purchased the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach from former parent company Dover Downs Entertainment, said potential deals are in the works for a replacement title sponsor. "There are a number of discussions with manufacturers and I can't say any more than that at this minute," he said. SPEEDTV.com06/01/05 GPALB President Jim Michaelian was delighted by the news of the sale of Long Beach to a Champ Car group. "We needed to get the situation clarified," Michaelian told National Speed Sport News. "It was time for us to begin our planning for 2006 and beyond. The city, the sponsors and a lot of fans were involved in the decision-making process and we owed them an answer about the direction we were going to go in. Now that the purchase has been made, it defines our future very clearly."
Michaelian estimated that 30 to 35 percent of the Long Beach audience is made up of hard-core Champ Car fans who would have reacted adversely if the race was changed to IRL sanction.
"There is definitely a very fervent, loyal and substantial following for Champ Car and that obviously was a factor to take into consideration in weighing which direction to go in," he said. "The fact that we've had Champ Car at Long Beach for 22 years gave it a certain amount of inertia or momentum that has been built up. It makes it a lot easier to continue on in that mode than to change and go to something else.
"Kevin and Gerry have put together a good team at Champ Car," Michaelian added. "Obviously our familiarity with them and theirs with us is important in going forward. There is going to be very little learning curve. We've worked together for a long time and know each other and I think that's going to be beneficial in the planning process for next year."
Toyota has been represented at Long Beach from the first Formula 5000 race back in 1975, as title sponsor since 1980. Toyota's National Motorsport Manager Les Unger told NSSN he sees no reason why that relationship should end after the change in ownership.
"As soon as the deal is officially official, we plan to begin discussions," Unger said. "We've been involved with the Long Beach Grand Prix for 31 years, and unless something dramatic or unexpected occurs, we expect to continue the relationship."
"Our first appointment after all this activity that has taken place is to discuss with Toyota what their involvement will be with the race," Michaelian confirmed. "We're very anxious to retain them as the title sponsor. They've been with us for 31 years, 25 of them as the title sponsor. We're going to do everything in our power to retain them and even expand on that relationship in the future." National Speed Sport News
Labonte to leave GibbsUPDATE Even though Bobby Labonte has a contract with Joe Gibbs Racing through the 2008 Nextel Cup season, CBS Sportsline reports Labonte might not be back in the #18 car he's driven since the beginning of the 1995 season and in which he won the 2000 Cup Championship. What didn't get reported by CBS is a persistent rumor that Labonte, tired of the Nextel Cup grind but enamored with his Rolex Series Daytona Prototype ride, will swap to that series with Gibbs in 2006. Daytona Beach News Journal07/16/05 Even though Bobby Labonte has a contract with Joe Gibbs Racing through the 2008 Nextel Cup season, CBS Sportsline reports Labonte might not be back in the #18 car he's driven since the beginning of the 1995 season and in which he won the 2000 Cup Championship. What didn't get reported by CBS is a persistent rumor that Labonte, tired of the Nextel Cup grind but enamored with his Rolex Series Daytona Prototype ride, will swap to that series with Gibbs in 2006. Daytona Beach News Journal
Wilson to re-signUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' as Wilson has a seat with RuSPORT for next year and possibly beyond. 07/17/05 AutoRacing1.com chatted with Dr. Jonathan Palmer this morning in Edmonton. He and his driver Justin Wilson were headed to a meeting with RuSPORT. Was he there to talk about a contract extension for Wilson? Palmer, a former F1 driver also owns several race tracks in the UK, including Brands Hatch.
Good news about the Formula Atlantic Series coming We are hearing that in San Jose Champ Car will make a major announcement about the Formula Atlantic Series that will see the series Champion be guaranteed a $1 or $2 million prize that can be used to land a Champ Car ride the following year. It is expected that this announcement will draw teams and drivers from around the world to join the Atlantic series and provide a steady stream of new blood up into Champ Car. We also hear that Swift, the current chassis provider, is making a major play to win the contract for the new chassis. If they don't choose the Renault V6 option, we could see a Lola or Swift Chassis with a Ford Cosworth engine from Ford's Rally car that makes over 350 or HP. Mark C.
Mario to stop Marco from going to NASCAR Phil Hill and Mario Andretti still maintain interest in Formula One for personal reasons as well as professional.
Hill's 30-year-old son, Derek, has been trying to make his way up the European road racing ladder with his eye on the elite series. Andretti's 18-year-old grandson, Marco, has shown promise in American steppingstone series and an interest in top-level road racing.
"Now and then Michael talks about testing him in a Busch car, and it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up," Andretti said, referring to his son, Marco's father, whose own F1 run ended in frustration. "(NASCAR) is not a direction the Andrettis are going to go." JSOnline.com
Legge to get Champ Car testUPDATE This Edmonton Sun article has more on Legge's comments about her readiness for Champ Car. 07/17/05 After winning her second Toyota Atlantic race in just eight starts we hear that Kevin Kalkhoven will probably give Katherine Legge a Champ Car test after the season is over. In today's post-race interview a modest Legge said she felt she was not ready mentally for Champ Car and she was still making too many rookie mistakes, but if she does really well with the Champ Car in the off-season - who knows.
A Champ Car is a very difficult beast to tackle and far harder than 100% throttle racing we see in another series, but given that Legge has already been able to win two Atlantic races and Danica Patrick never even won one, she might be able to handle a Champ Car. Legge was very complimentary of Danica Patrick today, saying that she admires what she has done and wishes her nothing but good luck. Patrick was also up against some very talented drivers in Atlantic, but balancing that was the fact she had Team Rahal behind her, at the time a strong Champ Car team. Mark C.
Gibbs Racing to expand to four teams Joe Gibbs Racing is contemplating an expansion to a four-car effort next season, according to team sources. However, J. D. Gibbs, who runs the team for his NFL coaching father, insists the company isn't looking at hiring Busch hotshot Reed Sorensen, despite reports. Winston Salem Journal
Can Artam and F1UPDATE We are raising this rumor to 'strong' today. As exclusively reported last Wednesday, Turkish GP2 driver Can Artam is tipped to soon drive onto the grand prix scene. The 24-year-old is touted for a Jordan or Minardi 'demo' run at the first ever F1 event in Istanbul late next month. Back of the grid Minardi owner and principal Paul Stoddart told Reuters that he has 'talked to a Turkish driver.'
''If a commercial deal is concluded,'' the gruff Australian added, ''we would be proud to run him in Turkey.''
Reports that Can - actually pronounced 'Jan' - might snare a FIA 'superlicense' and become Patrick Friesacher's Hockenheim replacement, though, are wide of the mark.
07/13/05 Can Artam could be set to become the newest name on the F1 stage. The 24-year-old, from Turkey, is tipped to do a deal with either Jordan or Minardi and appear as a 'Friday' driver at his country's inaugural grand prix at Istanbul next month. He is a regular in the GP2 category.
Champ Car must convert attendees to fans Readers of AutoRacing1.com know that we have pressed for Champ Car to start promoting their drivers better and to make the ones who deserve to be, heroes. All successful sports have athletes as heroes. That's what drives a sport.
This Edmonton Sun article proves our point - while by all measures the Edmonton race is a huge success this weekend, the fact of the matter is that 17 of 20 fans surveyed said they were there for the spectacle and were not huge race fans. We suspect you will find similar numbers at all these great urban racing festivals. Like NASCAR, Champ Car must figure out a way to turn these people into race fans so that their TV ratings will go up race in and race out.
As they say, 'It's all about the drivers, stupid.' As Champ Car solidifies its schedule and financial situation , it must now press the sponsors, promoters and the teams to focus on the drivers.
Why drivers want out of the IRL There are thought to be three reasons why many IRL drivers are looking to bail on the IRL. One is the danger (too many injured drivers), two is the engine manufacturer money that may soon dry up and the third, and some say the biggest reason, is that Danica Patrick gets all the publicity while they play second fiddle even though they are superior drivers. Not only did Indy 500 winner and point leader Dan Wheldon take a backseat to Patrick, when the winner of the last IRL race in Kansas, Tony Kanaan, came into the post-race interview room he had to wait on an media conference being done with Danica Patrick who finished way down in 9th place. Afterward he made some snide remarks about the situation, indicating he wasn't a bit happy at all. Rumor had it that team owner Michael Andretti isn't happy that his drivers and team, who are kicking butt and taking no prisoners, are taking a back seat to the rookie.
Britney Spears team owner Britney Spears, the sexy singer that NASCAR marketers have been trying to use as a promotional tool for the sport, may be back in the stock-car scene, according to NASCAR sources that report that Brian France is pushing to have Spears listed as a part owner of a Cup team, possibly with wealthy Indy-car team owner Carl Haas. According to one man familiar with the situation, car owner Cal Wells could be the beneficiary. Wells said yesterday that NASCAR executives have been working with him on some options but said that Haas and Spears weren't part of that project. NASCAR, in 2002, had hopes that Spears would play a role in a racing movie. Now plans for that movie may be dusted off and revived. Winston Salem Journal
Waltrip to Toyota Michael Waltrip is headed eventually to the Toyota camp - along with Eury Jr., according to one Detroit source very close to the situation - in what is reported to be a top-dollar project. "Toyota has offered Michael and Tony Jr. so much money they can't turn it down," the source said. Waltrip has been eyed for a Toyota ride for more than a year, in part because older brother Darrell runs a Toyota team on the Craftsman Truck Series. NASCAR has been pushing Toyota to step up its presence in the sport, for the added marketing punch that would provide. And Waltrip could give Toyota quick credibility. Toyota isn't expected to field a Cup team until 2007, although a Busch team is a possibility in 2006. Toyota does have a formidable presence in the truck series. The Toyota option? "I don't even know when that's a possibility, and I need a job for next year," Waltrip replied. Roush said that Waltrip has talked with him about a ride: "And Michael is on the list, along with Sterling Marlin, Ricky Craven, Jamie - and Mark." Waltrip has also inquired about openings at Chip Ganassi's, according to sources. Waltrip declined to be specific. "We've just had talks," he said. "We've talked to a lot of people about next year. There are no real offers, just people interested. I've got a lot of options. There are some things in the works. Making this announcement will probably complicate that, before it comes clear. I'm just looking forward to getting into the best situation possible." Winston Salem Journal
F1 drivers could go on strike Formula One drivers could go on strike if their safety concerns are ignored, driver representative David Coulthard warned on Saturday. "Strike action could hit the second half of our season," he said in a newspaper column. That's how strongly I and my fellow drivers feel over the safety concerns that have dogged us since last month's U.S. Grand Prix," he added.
The drivers want the FIA to ensure safety measures at private tests are equal to those at grands prix and have also expressed concern about the handling of the U.S. Grand Prix.
"I hope the meeting goes ahead," said Coulthard. "We want to ensure safety is the priority. It is entirely possible we could strike if we are forced to do something we don't feel is safe. Hopefully that won't happen but if need be we will stick together and walk out. What happened at Indy has given everyone a shake."
End of Jos’ racing road?UPDATE A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1.com, How come Verstappen never got a chance in Champ Car? I remember that he and Bremer were equally impressive in the Sebring test in March. Linda Moseley, Boston, MA Dear Linda, As we understand it, Verstappen could not raise the money. It is too bad for Champ Car who are in desperate need of more 'hero' drivers as we call them, drivers that have a fanatical fan following. This is strictly a chicken and egg scenario. There is no doubt that if Champ Car could have found a way to get Verstappen a ride, his huge fan base in Europe would have driven the TV ratings very high, especially in his native Holland, which would have driven Dutch companies to sponsor him, particularly if he started to get podium or near-podium results.
Although Danica Patrick has become an overnight 'hero' for the IRL, typically it takes a superstar driver years to reach that status, something Champ Car can't afford to wait for. In the interim they are going to have to hire drivers who are already 'heroes' if they ever want to see their TV ratings get much above a 1.0. As we have long said, hero athletes attract eyeballs that make a sport successful. Without heroes you simply exist. Mark C.
07/15/05 F1 veteran Jos Verstappen's racing career appears at an end. The 33-year-old Dutchman steered away from Minardi at the end of 2003 but vowed, this year, to re-join the horse power club in Champ Car. A test here and there, though, did not lead to a drive. Verstappen said his diminishing prospects are mostly about money.
''Without sponsors it is so difficult,'' a translated transcript of Jos' quotes on his personal internet website read. Verstappen remarked: ''I would immediately grab with both hands a good offer, but (for 2005) it is no longer ideal with the season half gone.''
The spare time on his hands, though, led Jos and his son Max - also a talented driver at the wheel - to the kart track. ''He has won five (kart) races in a row,'' the proud Dad grinned. ''He's pretty fast!
Future of USGP still uncertainUPDATE #2 Speedway president Joie Chitwood said track officials were still considering whether to host Formula One's only United States race for a seventh year. "At this point in time I can't confirm there will be a 2006 United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis," Chitwood told the USA Today. "Obviously, there is always a concern of something like what happened this year happen again," Chitwood said. "We're having discussions on what makes sense for us."
Michelin spokesman Michael Fanning said the company's troubles at Indianapolis were an aberration. "This is something that will never happen again," he said.
06/29/05 A reader adds, While the IMS ticket office is not cashing checks or charging credit cards while taking orders, the same cannot be said of ticket renewals placed online. My credit card was immediately charged and appeared on my credit card account within 1 day. Dan Racan 06/29/05 An IMS telephone operator yesterday said of tickets for the ’06 race: “We are taking orders from our subscribers, but we will not cash their checks or charge their credit cards until after IMS has made a decision on the future of the event” Toronto Sun
Champ Car eyes Detroit Trans-Am driver Paul Gentilozzi, also influential in the Champ Car series as a partner and a team owner, said the two series would like to return to racing the streets of Detroit, perhaps as early as 2007. "We're talking about it," said Gentilozzi, a Lansing-based real estate developer. "We're looking at some opportunities in '07, and I think we've got a nice bunch of people in the community who are willing to help us. Some of it, honestly, depends on who wins the mayor's race."
There has been no racing in Detroit since 2001, when the CART series held the Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Island. "We need to be there (racing in Detroit)," Gentilozzi said. "Hopefully, we will work on it this summer and by spring be able to talk about it." More at Detroit News
Mark Martin to run another yearUPDATE Mark Martin said Friday that if Jack Roush needs him to, he'll forgo his semi-retirement and come back for one more season behind the wheel of the No. 6 Ford. "He wants me to drive until I'm 90,'' Martin said of Roush. "The man has cried a number of times over this. He was giddy last week when I said I would reconsider. My career has been built on the 6 car and Jack Roush, and it's important to me to feel that I haven't let them down. For 18 years that's been my car, and for the next 18 it'll probably be my car to me.'' 07/14/05 Jack Roush asked Mark Martin if he would consider taking one for the team--"an encore tour"--if Jamie McMurray were unavailable in 2006 to drive the #6 Ford. Roush was beaming ear to ear when he said, "He didn't tell me no." Sporting News
Controversies in EdmontonUPDATE More comments on track safety from Paul Tracy - "I had one moment at what would be the last corner, the chicane. I turned in there and I had the back jump out on me sideways. I caught it. The thing straightened up. I was like going straight head on for the wall right there. Only one set of tires up against the concrete wall. I looked at that, I was probably going 160 at that point. I was like, "Well, that doesn't look too safe to me." I don't know if anybody else noticed that.
"I didn't think about it beforehand. I thought that corner was going to be pretty easy flat. It's not easy flat. It's really bumpy on the entry. The car jumps around a lot because the cars are so stiff because of the high speed. It stepped out and I caught it. I was going like head on for the wall. Probably could use some more tires there, the last chicane."
07/15/05 Eric Bachelart, Mi-Jack Conquest team boss, isn't happy with Mario Dominguez and feels he should apologize for the accident that happened between he and Andrew Ranger this morning. "He didn't even come to apologize," said Bachelart.
We hear that Paul Tracy has had it with Sebastien Bourdais' blaming everyone but himself for every incident. Keep your eye on what happens between these two, both on and off the track.
We hear that the Newman/Haas drivers think the Edmonton track is a bit dangerous, but we quizzed other drivers who didn't have anything negative to say, other than the track was bumpier than they realized. Mark C.
Who will get Champ Car chassis contractsUPDATE We are hearing now that the Atlantic chassis could be the one-year old Renault V6 chassis, with Renault badging the engine, something we recommended a year ago. 07/15/05 Word here in the Edmonton paddock is that Lola may get the new Formula Atlantic car contract for 2006 (with Cosworth power, possibly badged with a manufacturer) and the new Champ Car might use the same or similar spline (tub, engine, gearbox and other running gear) as the current Lola with new sidepods, bodywork, suspension and wings. A large contract to a single manufacturer for both series is thought to reduce costs dramatically. No final decision has been made yet, however.
Will H-P cuts affect Williams sponsorship? Williams F1 primary sponsor Hewlett-Packard will soon announce a restructuring plan that could lead to major job cuts as the computer company cuts costs. This could have an effect on the company's F1 sponsorship, which was inherited when the firm took over Compaq. It is known that Hewlett-Packard was less than impressed by what happened at the United States Grand Prix. Reports suggest that HP could axe as much as 10% of its current workforce, which would make an F1 sponsorship difficult to justify in the future. The company currently employs around 150,000 people and there have been suggestions that the cuts could be as high as 25,000 people. Grandprix.com
Button aims to renew with BAR According to British publication Autosport, Jenson Button is now attempting to get out of a deal with Williams agreed last year that enables the Grove-based squad to take up an option on his services for next year. The much publicized option that Williams holds indicates that they can call on Button’s services if he and BAR fail to achieve 75 percent of the points total of the championship leader by the Turkish Grand Prix next month.
"Our contract (with Button) is not watertight but we're relying on the fact Jenson will see there is a good future with Honda," BAR Honda CEO Nick Fry told BBC Radio Five Live. "Honda have a huge heritage in F1, we've won in the past and we will in the future. We're a good place to be and Jenson's got to make up his mind."
Andretti Green to expand to 5-car team Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon surprised people when he spoke last week of exploring options in NASCAR. But he said Thursday that it's a matter of being prepared for anything as contract negotiations intensify this summer.
"Right now, I don't have a contract for next year," Wheldon said during his travels from the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles to Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway, where the Indy Racing League competes this weekend. "I don't know what's going to happen. I'd like to think (he'll remain in Indy cars), but you never know.
"If you can't agree (on a contract), you can't have a deal."
Wheldon said he doesn't have a timetable for completing discussions with Andretti Green Racing, his current employer. Also unsigned at AGR for 2006 are Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta.
AGR co-owner Kevin Savoree said Thursday the team intends to have the "same (four) drivers, same sponsors" next year, plus perhaps a program for Marco Andretti, co-owner Michael's son. Indy Star
Honda to ALMS, maybe Champ CarUPDATE #3 Hearing in the Champ Car paddock that Kalkhoven's discussions with Honda are probably with the Champ Cars, not for the Atlantics. With high mileage engines (1,200 miles between rebuilds for the Cosworth now) and common Pi Electronics, Honda and Cosworth can compete head-to-head at a pretty reasonable cost it is thought, especially if they push the mileage up between rebuilds to, say 1500 or 1800 miles. We will keep our ear to the ground. 07/13/05 This may be why Honda is rumored to enter ALMS - to compete head-to-head against the Corvette, Aston Martin and Mercedes MC12 - Honda has finally confirmed it will replace its current long-running NSX ‘supercar’ – first launched in 1991. The automaker said in a statement on Tuesday that it is developing a new car to succeed the current model and that production of the present generation NSX will cease at the end of the year due to the extensive re-tooling necessary to meet stringent 2006 emissions and equipment regulations for the US, Europe and Asia.
The NSX is sold as an Acura in the US and as a Honda in all other markets. Sales of the hand-built model produced in a dedicated factory in Japan have reduced to a trickle in recent years, though the car has received regular updates. "We are committed to having an ultra high-performance vehicle in the Acura lineup in the future," said John Mendel, senior vice president, automobile operations, for Honda Motor’s California-based US unit. "It's too early to comment on specifics, but the all-new model will be just as groundbreaking as the 1991 NSX." Just-Auto
07/12/05 "I really can't talk for what Honda is going to do," Kevin Kalkhoven commented. "We have a continuing dialogue with them, as we do with other manufacturers. They have proven to be very friendly and cooperative and we'll wait to see what happens. (Competition) wouldn't be done in the way it was in the past, which is uncontrolled development by the manufacturers. I think that it's great when manufacturers are in, but the rules have to be set such that it is fair competition." ChampCar.ws
06/30/05 Brian Barnhart, the chief operating officer of the Indy Racing League, stated Wednesday that he wasn't sure if his series was any better off with Toyota and Honda since it hasn't improved attendance and television ratings. Hmmm, that sure sounds like a rather unappreciative man without an engine program for the future.
Because that's not how Barnhart and his IRL brethren sounded a four years ago when those two major manufacturers dumped CART for Tony George's series. The "League" was downright giddy and used phrases like "a great day for the IRL" and "the IRL has turned the corner."
Of course that lovefest is over.
SPEEDTV.com has learned that Honda Performance Development will enter the American LeMans Series next year in order to compete head-to-head with Porsche and Penske in the LMP2 category.
It's believed Bobby Rahal will be the lead team and it's also likely than Andretti/Green could be involved as well as another prominent car owner.
"That's news to me because no one from Honda has said anything to me about it," said Rahal on Wednesday night. "Now I've made no secret of my desire to be involved in sports car racing and I've talked to Audi, Aston Martin and Ferrari in the past few years but haven't been able to put anything together.
"All I know is that I've got a contract with Honda in the IRL."
This scenario becomes extra interesting because Champ Car and ALMS are working on a deal to run half a dozen doubleheaders together in 2006 -- beginning with Long Beach. So, indirectly, Honda would be again associated with Champ Car.
And, despite earlier denials from HPD president Robert Clarke, don't think for a minute the six-time manufacturer’s champion in CART still isn't looking at returning to Champ Car if the IRL can't provide suitable competition.
Clarke has been talking with both sides for several weeks about having a unified series by 2007 (it ain't gonna happen) and would like the Cosworth IRL engine (owned by Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe and currently badged by Chevrolet) to continue competing against Honda.
Hyundai, the seventh largest car manufacturer in the world, is exploring the possibility of badging the Cosworth in the IRL. But it's rumored that Honda has no desire to run against the Korean manufacturer it considers inferior, so that might not work.
HPD thrives on using its engineering prowess and resources to compete against major brands so taking on Porsche in the ALMS certainly meets that criteria.
But right now it's hard to say where Honda will be past 2006. Other than sports cars, of course. More at SPEEDTV.com
Boeri to replace Mosley? In October - there will be no real need for FIA President Max Mosley to stand for election again as he will have achieved all of this stated goals and can go into retirement (as he wanted to do last summer) with the house in order. This will please the teams which are tired of dealing with Mosley (even if now no-one will say a bad word about anyone else) and will open the way for a new man to take control.
The big question is who that man might be and the speculation is that unless there is a surprise candidate from the younger generations, the man most likely to get the job is Monaco's Michel Boeri, who was one of the frontrunners a year ago when Mosley announced his resignation. Boeri has been a leading light in the FIA since he became the head of the Automobile Club de Monaco in 1972 (his father had previously held the job between 1966-1968). At the time he was in his thirties and was widely seen as Jean-Marie Balestre's intended successor before Mosley unseated Balestre. Boeri has served under Mosley while also being a member of parliament in Monaco and indeed the head of the foreign relations council, which in effect is a ministerial job. Boeri was defeated in the Monaco elections of 2003 but it remains to be seen whether he will get a job with Prince Albert's new government. The Prince, who was crowned earlier this week, has asked his entire cabinet to resign. If Boeri does not get a job in the new government he is likely to be a leading contender for the FIA job. Grandprix.com
Williams to use BMW engines in 2006 [Editor's Note: Would BMW let the Williams team test their new V8 for next year if they were not going to do a deal with Williams? Would they let Williams learn anything about it and possibly give inside info away to a competitor?] Williams continued testing at Jerez today with Antonio Pizzonia and Nick Heidfeld. The Brazilian drove an FW27B equipped with the BMW V8 engine while the German evaluated different new set-ups and components on the FW27A. Heidfeld completed a total of 74 laps, his best in 1'18"798. Pizzonia covered a total of 25 laps, his quickest in 1'21"812.
Sam Michael, Technical Director - "Today, Antonio continued testing the FW27B (V8) car carrying out systems checks for BMW. Nick started driving today to work through a planned program to understand the Mk2 bodywork after the problems we experienced at the French and British GP's. As such, he conducted various mechanical set-ups and aerodynamic testing in the FW27A. He worked on a different mechanical set-up all day. We also went through some aerodynamic checks on the car, such as barge board modifications and a different front wing.
"WilliamsF1 is a winning team and we are determined to overcome the current difficulties with the FW27 and return to competing at the front.” BMW WilliamsF1 Team
Schumacher would destroy Button Last week the Daily Mirror reported that Ferrari were talking with Button about the possibility of him replacing Rubens Barrichello next season - a rumor that Ferrari boss Jean Todt says is "zero per cent true." And according to Irvine, Button had better hope there isn’t any truth to it because his career wouldn’t survive very long if he were to team up with Schumacher.
"There is no surer way of seeing your value plummet than being constantly upstaged by someone with the same machine," the former F1 driver told the Sun newspaper. "That is why any suggestion Jenson will go to Ferrari next season is laughable. Michael Schumacher would just blow him away. And that would not be a great career move."
He added: "Anyway, Ferrari are not interested in Jenson. The man they really have their eye on is McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen."
Rotterdam eyes F1 race The Dutch port of Rotterdam will take one step closer to its dream of hosting the Formula One circus when Christijan Albers takes to the streets in his Minardi next month.
The city was listed among those hoping to attract future Formula One events earlier this year, although organizers admit that a full-blown grand prix may prove to be a bit ambitious. Albers' presence at the Maasside Monaco event on 7 August, however, is a step in the right direction for a country still in love with the sport despite not having had a front-line driver for some time.
Albers is expected to pilot his Minardi-Cosworth PS05 around a specially laid-out 2.6km street circuit in Rotterdam's Maasside district, from the city hall at the Coolsingel and following Hofplein, the Pompenburg, Goudsesingel, Mariniersweg and Churchillplein back to Coolsingel. Stands and videowalls will be erected along the route giving fans, who will be able to access the festival for free, coverage of the entire lap. SkySports
Forsythe could fire pit crew "It was a ridiculous error on the part of our crew, running Paul out of fuel in Toronto," Gerald Forsythe told the Edmonton Journal. "That's so embarrassing (and) totally uncalled for."
Forsythe warned the crew that he would not tolerate a repetition of the Toronto debacle.
"I read them the riot act on Sunday," he said. "If this happens again, there will be a whole new crew in that stand. It better never happen again. This is the second time. The first time was one too many. This cannot happen, not from the caliber of team we have. This is not a weekend stint; it is a full-time job. Team members get paid handsomely. There is no room for error. No excuses. All they can do is hang their heads low. They all feel sorry but it doesn't get us a win back."
Cosworth V8 turning 21K, Kalkhoven meets with BernieUPDATE Cosworth is in negotiations with 'a couple' of F1 teams about 2006, its owner revealed. Kevin Kalkhoven, also Champ Car chief, is desperate to find a home for the ready-to-run Cosworth V8, built in Northampton. In truth, though, the only option is Williams, who have split with BMW and are on the power lookout. Rival independents Sauber (BMW), Jordan (Toyota) and Red Bull (Ferrari), appear set for the race into next year.
''It's a great engine,'' Kalkhoven told Autosport. ''We'll see how (the negotiation) goes. It's hard to compete with manufacturers that give away free engines and a lot of support.''
Minardi will use a rev-limited Cosworth V10 in 2006. Kalkhoven also admitted that his US-based Champ Car series could potentially boast faster cars than F1 from 2007. ''F1 is going down in power,'' he noted, ''and has different tire rules. '''We can go up in power and maintain the ability to change tires.'' [The new Champ Cars are going down in weight too].
07/12/05 Kevin Kalkhoven is proud of the broad base of Cosworth's engineering skills and capabilities.
"The primary reason for buying Cosworth was to insure Champ Car had a reliable source of engines for the indefinite future," he observed. "But Cosworth is an engineering company that does a lot more than make Champ Car engines. They make a lot of different stuff for a lot of different people, some of which you never hear about. It's an engineering expertise that is very creative whether it's in motorsport or say, aviation. They make bits for the new Airbus 380, for instance.
"They produce ingenious engineering solutions for a tenth of the cost of the big engineering companies. Cosworth doesn't have marble on the floor, but it has some smart brains. When you see that little Formula 1 V-8 running at 21,000 revs, well, it's amazing to see what they can do with a limited number of very smart engineers."
He was asked to comment about Cosworth's future in Formula 1.
"The V-8 is up and running, with well over 700 horsepower at 21,000 revs," Kalkhoven reiterated. "It's going well. It's a great engine. We're in negotiations with a couple of teams at the moment and we'll see how it goes. It's hard to compete with the manufacturers that give away free engines and a lot of support. So it really depends on how important having an independent engine manufacturer is to Formula 1 or whether they want to be entirely in the hands of manufacturers.
"I've had a meeting with Bernie (Ecclestone). He was very helpful and came up with a lot of creative ideas. Whether or not we supply a complete engine, we'll supply a lot of stuff, particularly when you combine it with Pi. Obviously we would like to have the engine in Formula 1. You certainly go out of your way to create a competitive offer to teams, but in the final analysis, you can never exceed an offer that a manufacturer will make. We have a contract with our friends at Minardi, but that's not a front-running team." ChampCar.ws
Seven teams could win appeal soon The Michelin Seven could win their appeal against the FIA on Thursday, according to reports. Having been found guilty of bringing the sport into disrepute during the Indy debacle, it's claimed by Autosport that team bosses will provide new evidence about what occurred in Indy that will result in the FIA quashing its previous verdict. Although their appeal had been set for the end of September, both McLaren's Ron Dennis and Red Bull’s Christian Horner are due to meet with FIA President Max Mosley on Thursday in Monaco. Planet-F1
Will Edmonton break even first year?UPDATE There is a chance of rain in Edmonton Friday, Saturday and Sunday, which could put a real damper on this inaugural event and hold down walk-up ticket sales. 07/13/05 For a first year event, the Edmonton Grand Prix Champ Car is performing beyond expectations, but according to this Edmonton Sun article, it is not in the black just yet. With that said, it will likely come close to breaking even in its first year, or even turning a slight profit when it is all said and done, which is not bad given the first year startup costs. The fact that all the suites are sold-out bodes well for the corporate sponsor interest in the event, a sure sign of financial success in the years ahead. And given how wide the track is and the fast straights and corners, the racing action should be entertaining for the fans, which will increase tickets sales even more next year.
Champ Car TV revenue/cost close to break even Kevin Kalkhoven - "Even our television ratings, which were not very good last year, are improving this year and I suspect when we announce the 2006 television package we'll see it will be even stronger still. Everything is a development that we're still doing, and things occasionally go wrong. But we are stronger this year than we have been for two or three years. We're nowhere near the level that the series spent on teams in previous years and the difference is being made up by sponsorship."
Finally, Kalkhoven was asked if he sees a time in the future when Champ Car will earn a TV rights fee rather than having to buy television time.
"Nearly every sport in the United States with the exception of the NFL and two or three others has to buy air time," he commented. "Even basketball buys time. There is nothing wrong with buying time as long as you have a product that sells the advertising at the same time. What people are forgetting is that we are getting some very good revenue from our advertising which is allowing us to pretty much cover the costs of our television. We are not where we want to be, but it's getting a lot better." ChampCar.ws
Champ Car’s oval days numbered Kevin Kalkhoven was asked if he sees oval tracks continuing to be a part of the Champ Car World Series.
"Ovals are part of the heritage of the series and I would personally hate to see them disappear," he observed. "What is clear at the moment, however, is that oval racing fans want to watch NASCAR. You can see that from the other series that go oval racing, that there's not a lot of interest in it. I don't know what the end result will be although we will certainly have ovals in '06. Beyond that, I don't know. Oval fans like NASCAR; Road racing has a different set of fans." ChampCar.ws
Overheard at Toronto - IUPDATE #2 Kevin Kalkhoven said final decisions are also being made at the moment about the chassis and engines for next year's new-look Formula Atlantic series. "There will be an announcement fairly shortly. There will be an Atlantic series next year. There are two options we are exploring for next year." ChampCar.ws07/10/05 News on the Formula Atlantic front should be coming sooner rather than later. "There will be an announcement fairly shortly," said Kevin Kalkhoven. "There will be an Atlantic series next year. There are two options (regarding a replacement manufacturer/title sponsor for Toyota) we are exploring for next year." SPEEDTV.com07/08/05 AutoRacing1.com is hearing that all indications are that Newman/Haas sponsor, PacifiCare will remain a wholly owned subsidiary of United Healthcare and they are happy with their racing program. If anything it might increase with United Healthcare now behind them........Hearing that Trans-Am expects 25 car fields next year, excluding the GTA cars and they are talking to potential title sponsors......We hear the Ansan track construction is nearing completion and looking good with the first layer of asphalt down. A large contingent of Koreans are due to arrive here soon......The new Toyota Atlantic car will not be announced this weekend, but it's close. Mark C.
Champ Car may blow F1 car in weeds soon Kevin Kalkhoven said progress continues in determining Champ Car's 2007 chassis and engine rules and selecting a manufacturer to build the new cars.
"We are talking to three or four different manufacturers about the '07 car right now," he commented. "Our goal is to make it more maneuverable and lighter while maintaining the safety aspects that are so important, and at the same time preserving things that are classic Champ Car, including the turbo engines. We've looked at normal aspiration, but I personally prefer the turbo. It's also interesting that we potentially have the opportunity to be the fastest racing because F1 is going down in power (to around 750 HP) and has different tire rules. We can go up in power (currently at 750 or 800HP depending on track) and maintain the ability to change tires. We're excited by the opportunity of the '07 car." ChampCar.ws
Rousch Racing for sale? Car owners Felix Sabates and Jack Roush had a brief spat in the garage after Sunday’s race. At issue was Roush’s signing of Jamie McMurray to drive for him, beginning in 2007. Roush signed McMurray this week. McMurray’s team, owned by Chip Ganassi and Sabates, has a one-year option on McMurray for next season and is expected to exercise that. After the race, Sabates saw Roush and commented about the move. “I just said it was a great, great move hiring Jamie, so he’ll have a stable of great drivers, so when he sells the company, he’ll get a bunch of money,” Sabates said. “He’s been trying to sell it.” Roush responded to Sabates: “I’m not for sale, pal.” Roush walked away from Sabates soon after that comment. News and Record
BAR offer Honda engines to Williams to keep Button BAR are set to offer the struggling Williams team a supply of Honda engines, but only if the Grove outfit drop their claim on Jenson Button.
The deal offered will see Williams supplied with Honda engines for 2006 to the same specification as those bolted on to the back of the BAR 008. However, Williams, currently supplied with engines by BMW, will have to relinquish all rights to Jenson Button.
A Honda engine deal would be worth in the region of $15 million, but BAR are prepared to spend far more than that to keep hold of Jenson. On top of the costs and logistical problems of an extra engine supply, the team are also ready to offer Jenson a $50 million contract over the next five years, propelling the Englishman to the top three earners in the sport.
Seen at Chicagoland Spotted at the NASCAR Nextel Cup drivers meeting Sunday were Roger Penske sitting next to Tony George, which in itself would not be too unusual since Penske had a car in the race and George is part owner of the track with ISC. More revealing, however, was the fact that AJ Foyt IV and Dan Wheldon were circulating together. Dan was seen photographed with Richard Childress. Both have been rumored to be moving to NASCAR in the near future, and no doubt there to learn all they can and make their contacts.
Teams put IRL on noticeUPDATE A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Where would they go? Grand-Am and race in front of no one? Or maybe they will join the queue of teams trying to fill the field in NASCAR? Maybe they plan to join Minardi at the back of the F1 grid? Or maybe they could go to the ALMS, but wouldn’t they then have to race with Champ Car at three events? James C. Allen, Virginia Dear James, There are many scenarios that can play out, including Tony George digging into the family coffers to subsidize them. We'll just have to wait and see if Roger Penske can save them by finding a replacement manufacturer. Mark C.07/10/05 According to a PR rep for one of the IRL teams (not Andretti or Ganassi) who shall remain nameless, Andretti Green Racing and Ganassi Racing have put the IRL on notice that if they lose Toyota and Honda backing without a replacement, the chances of them staying in the series is small.
Champ Car owners wanted to delay new car AutoRacing1.com hears that some team owners asked to delay the new Champ Car until 2008, however, as we understand it, Champ Car has decided that the new car will be implemented in 2007 as planned. Some of the chassis are from 2000 and are like flexible flyers, i.e. chassis and suspension mounting points are getting fatigued and the flex, similar to the old 'Flexible Flyer' snow sleds is causing some teams difficulty in getting a consistent setup in their cars, which is why the winning teams buy new chassis every year and the losing teams use old, cheaper models.
Mosley and Dennis secret meeting The debacle at Indianapolis and the subsequent FIA World Council meeting and penalty have done nothing to improve the already-strained relationship between the Formula 1 team bosses and FIA President Max Mosley. Indeed the strains have been such that talk of a breakaway F1 series have been widespread. This is obviously not a desirable situation and it seems that the F1 team owners have understood that despite their distaste for Mosley it is still wisest to try to talk their way to a solution. At the same time Mosley is no fool and presumably understands that the brinksmanship has gone as far as it can go without very serious ramifications for the sport. Indianapolis was bad enough but a rival series is worse.
Thus a secret meeting to be held this week in Monaco between Mosley, Ron Dennis and Christian Horner is something of interest. No-one is willing to say anything about the meeting but the composition hints at the likely discussions. Dennis is obviously the man with the mandate from the other rebel teams while Horner is presumably attending as an independent, which suggests that the discussion will centre on the planned FIA World Council meeting and the subsequent International Court of Appeal in September. More at Grandprix.com
F1 could implement push-to-pass With Champ Car's successful push-to-pass button loved by all, F1 may implement its version in the not too distant future as a compromise to the FIA's proposed lower-tech F1 car.
Motorsport boss Max Mosley has offered Formula One's car manufacturers an olive branch on technology in the row over the future of the sport. Mosley, president of governing body the FIA, is in talks with car makers to allow energy retention systems in F1.
These are used in environmentally friendly road cars to store up energy used during braking to give a power boost for acceleration. Car makers were "enthusiastic" about the concept, Mosley told the Guardian.
McLaren were developing regenerative power in 1998 only to have it banned. McLaren-Mercedes were pioneering a version of regenerative power in F1 in 1998, only to have it banned by the FIA.
Mosley's suggestion is for the regenerative power systems to be used to provide drivers with an instant extra 60bhp for around five seconds. This could improve the racing by enhancing overtaking opportunities. McLaren managing director Martin Whitmarsh said: "It is the sort of technical challenge which we would be keen to undertake. "It's certainly something we would like to get stuck in with," he told the Guardian. More at BBC Sport
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