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DATE News (chronologically)

Rice may be forced to look for new ride UPDATE This rumor was reiterated by Robin Miller on the SPEED Report Sunday night, that Buddy Rice is out of a ride in the Rahal Letterman team after this year and he is seeking a ride in Champ Car or with another team in the IRL. Right now Rahal Letterman will be just a 1-car team in 2007 with Ethanol sponsorship, although that could change between now and then.

07/29/06 BROOKLYN, Mich. -- With a sponsorship uncertain at Rahal Letterman Racing, 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice has permission to look elsewhere for employment for next season.

But Rice said Friday that he's not currently looking. He wants to remain with Bobby Rahal's Indy Racing League team, and he's willing to give Rahal time to assemble a program.

Rahal's only secured major sponsor is Ethanol, which currently has Jeff Simmons in its car. Argent Mortgage is the primary sponsor on the cars of Rice and Danica Patrick.

Patrick will leave Rahal's team at season's end to join Andretti Green Racing. Rahal said he wants Rice to return.

"I think I'm in the spot I want to be at and where I need to be at," Rice said of his current position in the No. 15 car. "There's not a whole lot of (good) seats that are open anyway."

Rice still has a year left on a three-year contract with Rahal, and he appreciates the team owner giving him the freedom to pursue other options.

"Bob's a race car driver; he knows what it's about," Rice said during a media gathering in preparation for this weekend's IRL race at Michigan International Speedway. "He knows (it's important) that when the music stops you're not sitting out. That's quite commendable on his behalf.

"But we've had enough talks to know that I want to be back and we both want to keep going in the same direction. It just boils down to Bob having enough money to do that." Indy Star


Kubica to be disqualified, Schu gains a point UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' now. Michael Schumacher, who retired from the Hungarian grand prix with suspension damage, has inherited a single point after Robert Kubica's BMW-Sauber was found by post-race scrutineers to be too light.

Debutant Kubica finished seventh, but it was discovered that his car was two kilograms under-weight.

As a result, stewards confirmed that the Polish driver should be disqualified, leaving Schumacher - classified as finishing three laps down and ninth - with the final championship point.

The development leaves his deficit to championship leader Fernando Alonso at ten points with five races to go.

Schumacher's Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa also benefited from the reshuffle, with his extra point contributing to the now seven-point deficit to Renault in the constructors' chase.

It is understood that Kubica's car was underweight because of excessive wet-weather tire wear.

08/06/06 Robert Kubica could lose his first Formula One points after his BMW Sauber car was found to be underweight following the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Four hours after the race ended, Kubica's car has not yet been cleared from parc ferme, as it was found to be 2kg under the minimum weight.

If the stewards confirm Kubica's car was below the minimum weight, it will mean Michael Schumacher will be moved up to 8th and thus score a point and reduce the gap back to Alonso to 10 points.


Montoya’s first test, Wheldon too UPDATE We asked Wheldon about NASCAR last weekend at the Michigan IRL race.   We asked him if he'd want to drive a NASCAR car, just for fun, to see what it's like.  He was up front that he'd been in conversation with NASCAR teams.  When we mentioned that there were 100 seats in the major NASCAR series, he looked at me and said <British accent here>, "Yes, but there are only 2 or 3 that you'd want to take."

08/05/06 Team owner Chip Ganassi said former Formula One driver and Champ Car champion Juan Pablo Montoya, once he is contractually free, will make one of his first stock car tests at USA Speedway in Lakeland before a scheduled Nextel Cup campaign in 2007. Montoya is under contract with the McLaren F1 team, though he has been replaced as driver. "If he's made available, I'm sure it'll be at Lakeland," Ganassi said. Ganassi said he also expects to see defending Indy Racing League champion Dan Wheldon test a Nextel Cup car after his season ends Sept. 10. "We haven't formally talked about it, but we both know it's coming, so that's good," he said. St Petersburg Times


Mayfield to BDR
Jeremy Mayfield is close to signing a deal to drive next season for Bill Davis Racing, multiple sources told NASCAR.com on Saturday. Mayfield, who has a year and two option years remaining on his contract with Evernham Motorsports, would not comment on specific plans for 2007. But he admitted a return next season to the No. 19 Dodge, which reportedly already has been offered to Elliott Sadler, was unlikely. "I doubt I'm staying,'' Mayfield said after qualifying 15th for Sunday's Nextel Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. According to sources, Mayfield already has toured the facilities at Bill Davis Racing and agreed in principal to a multi-year deal to drive one of the organization's two Toyotas next season. Team director Tommy Baldwin confirmed on Friday that Dave Blaney would drive the other car. NASCAR.com


3 more Toyotas?
Toyota's presence in NASCAR's Nextel Cup Series expanded again Friday with the creation of Riley-D'Hondt Motorsports. That team will build two Camrys and compete in next year's Allstate 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as well as five Car of Tomorrow events. The team hopes to be at full speed in 2008 or 2009 with two full-time Busch Series and four Cup teams. Bill and Bob Riley helped NASCAR create its Car of Tomorrow - a car that's supposed to reduce the dependency on aerodynamics to promote more competitive racing. The new car, which is taller and wider than the current car, also will have a rear wing instead of a spoiler. The Rileys are the leading manufacturer of chassis components in the Grand American Road Racing Series with nine victories in 11 races in the Daytona Prototype division. The team didn't offer a lot of detail about its future, except to say it already had a verbal commitment from two drivers. Eddie D'Hondt, who was fired in July as general manager at Robert Yates Racing, said the team decided to concentrate on the Car of Tomorrow because it eventually will be the only car used in NASCAR. AP/Augusta Chronicle

Industry News

Camaro on verge of revival UPDATE It's really happening: The Chevy Camaro is coming back as a production car, the Free Press has learned.

General Motors Corp. Chairman Rick Wagoner is expected to announce the resurrection of the legendary muscle car in a speech Thursday to an automotive conference in Traverse City.

The auto industry has been buzzing with speculation about GM's plans for the Camaro ever since the carmaker wowed the crowds at the 2006 North American International Auto Show in January with a stunning 400-horsepower concept. At a time when truck and SUV sales are softening and car sales are regaining momentum, a sexy new entry could give GM's entire passenger-car line a boost.

The production version could be built as early as 2008 and will offer three engines, a V-6 and two V-8s, according to people familiar with the plans.  Detroit Free Press

03/07/06 Just weeks after it thrilled crowds at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the Chevrolet Camaro will take a giant step closer to production if workers at General Motors' plants in Oshawa, Ontario, approve a new flexible manufacturing system this week.

GM hopes to have the Camaro and other members of its new rear-wheel-drive family of cars in production by 2010. The automaker wants to reignite enthusiasm in Chevrolet by cashing in on Camaro's heritage of affordable style and performance.

"The Camaro program is on a very good track," said a knowledgeable GM person, who requested anonymity because the company has not publicly announced it will build the car. "Things are looking good."

The stunning V8 Camaro concept was the undisputed hit of the auto show, drawing praise for its combination of futuristic design touches and retro cues that recall the legendary muscle car. It was a mainstay of Chevrolet's lineup from 1967 until it went out of production in 2002, a victim of slow sales.

GM is betting that plenty of life remains in the public's appetite for muscle cars, given the popularity of the new Ford Mustang and Dodge Charger.

Karl Scheffy, 52, a store owner from Macungie, Pa., who is cofounder and president of the American Camaro Association, recalled Monday that "as soon as I saw that thing roll down the line" at the auto show, "I said, 'Oh, my word.'  More at Detroit Free Press 


Alonso duped Schu - manager
(GMM) Michael Schumacher's manager has accused Fernando Alonso of deliberately tempting the Ferrari driver to overtake under red flags in Hungary.

Video evidence released on Sunday showed Alonso's Renault, already penalized by stewards after an incident on Friday, slowing to a crawl in front of Robert Kubica, before Schumacher zoomed past the pair of them.

''An experienced driver like Michael does not overtake in a red flag,'' Weber was quoted as saying by 'Bild am Sonntag' newspaper.

He added: ''Alonso saw him and intentionally braked.''

BMW-Sauber rookie Kubica, however, told a different story, insisting that Alonso drove at a 'consistent speed' throughout the lap.

Alonso said: ''To overtake two cars under a red flag is unthinkable. I've never seen anything like that.

''Everyone says that I slowed down but if you pass two cars on the outside of a corner, you have to decide to do it yourself.''

Renault boss Flavio Briatore, meanwhile, refused to defend Alonso for his earlier stewards' misgiving involving Robert Doornbos.

But he also spared no praise for Schumacher. ''They were both stupid,'' the Renault boss was quoted as saying by 'AS' newspaper in Spain.

He said: ''They behaved like children.

''You can't say that the pressure is getting to Fernando because you also would have to say that it is getting to Schumacher.''


Pedro 'calm' about McLaren seat
(GMM)  Pedro de la Rosa admitted in Hungary that he is not sure if the McLaren seat will still be his when the circus reconvenes in Turkey.

But the Spaniard sounded an optimistic note by telling 'AS' newspaper that team chiefs were pleased with his form around the twisty Hungaroring track.

''Ron Dennis and Norbert Haug congratulated me after qualifying,'' de la Rosa, 35, revealed.

The Barcelona-born racer said he had not been guaranteed Juan Pablo Montoya's vacant seat for the balance of the season, although he felt 'calm' about the situation.


Todt hints at Kimi coup (5 year deal) UPDATE #3 More on this rumor can be found here.

08/03/06 According to Finnish tabloid Ilta-Sanomat Ferrari has taken his option on Kimi Raikkonen to race for the Italian team next season. The Finn would have signed a five-year-contract.

The story is based on the Finnish tabloid's reliable sources close to Kimi Raikkonen. According to the source Raikkonen's contract is worth around 160 million euro and thus see the 26-year-old earn 32 million euro a year.

Michael Schumacher said in Hockenheim he will announce his future plans in Monza and it is very likely that Raikkonen's plans will be announced shortly after Schumacher's decision was announced.

07/30/06 Ferrari boss Jean Todt dropped a hint on Sunday that he expects Kimi Raikkonen to be heading for his Formula One team next season. "The moment from this day I will keep in my mind is the podium ceremony, that featured my three favorite drivers," said the Frenchman at the German Grand Prix.

But Todt has clarified his comments, and claimed that there was nothing new in expressing his feelings about Raikkonen.

When asked to explain why he had spoken so warmly about Raikkonen, Todt said: "No I didn't. I made a general comment. I said that on the podium there were my three favorite drivers, which is true, but it's nothing new.

"You feel it's new because you are speculating who is going to drive and who will be announced. But, if you take my comments two years ago, when I was told, by the same guys: who do you prefer among the new drivers? I always said Raikkonen.

"So you have Schumacher, he's my hero. You have Massa, I'm very close to him, he does a good job. We've had him for five or six years with us and Kimi. There is no other message."

07/23/06 (GMM) Jean Todt has given the strongest indication yet that current McLaren pilot Kimi Raikkonen's future is red.

Although the Finn has been recently linked with Renault, despite persistent rumors of a multi-million dollar Ferrari 'pre agreement', the Ferrari boss was quoted as saying by 'Bild am Sonntag' in Germany: ''Raikkonen is our investment into the future.''


Alonso involved in Schu penalty
(GMM) The latest theory in the Hungaroring paddock is that it was no coincidence that Fernando Alonso was involved in Michael Schumacher's 'red flag' incident.

One of the cars Schumacher passed illegally during Saturday practice was none other than the reigning world champion, who is locked in battle for 2006 honours with the 37-year-old.

Given Alonso's existing two-second penalty, it is suggested that the Spaniard deliberately slowed his Renault to tempt Schumacher to pass, knowing that doing so would cost him a date with the stewards.

Everyone in a red uniform chose their words very carefully on Saturday afternoon, including Ferrari boss Jean Todt who said 'everyone can draw their own conclusions'.

Ross Brawn added: ''I leave it to you to decide if the penalty is fair.'' Speaking to reporters, Schumacher, too, implored interested analysts to 'look at the video'.

''The pictures speak a clearer language,'' he added.

Pressed for why reporters should dash off to watch a replay, Schumacher added: ''What I said is not difficult to understand; look at the video and form an opinion.''


Knaus to renew with Hendrick/Johnson UPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Chad Knaus has signed a contract extension that will keep him with Hendrick Motorsports through the 2010 racing season, mirroring the organization's recent agreements with driver Jimmie Johnson and team sponsor Lowe's.
"I hadn't been approached or anything like that, it just was a lot of rumors," Knaus said. "I had every intention to stay at Hendrick Motorsports. I love Mr. Hendrick. He's a great friend and mentor of mine. He's a guy that I've grown quite a relationship with. He has turned me into a great adult, and helped me become a great leader. I owed that to him at least to stay four more years."

05/20/06 Chad Knaus was left out of the recent round of contract extensions at Hendrick Motorsports, and the crew chief said Friday he's not received indication that he'll get one. "I love my job. I love my team. I love it at Hendrick Motorsports," Knaus said during preparations for the Nextel All-Star Challenge. "But no one has talked to me about staying beyond 2007." Driver #48-Jimmie Johnson and sponsor Lowe's both signed three-year extensions this week that keep them with Hendrick through the 2010 season. But Knaus is still working under his old deal, which expires at the end of next year. Knaus was included in the last round of extensions, which came in May, 2003. Not getting one this week created speculation through the garage that something was amiss. Associated Press

05/16/06 Conspicuously absent from Monday's announcement that Hendrick Motorsports Nextel Cup driver Jimmie Johnson and sponsor, Lowe's Companies, had signed a multi-year extension, was news regarding Johnson's crew chief, Chad Knaus.

Hendrick Motorsports officials confirmed Tuesday they are working on an contract extension for Knaus as well.

The deal Monday extended Johnson and his sponsor's contracts with Hendrick through the 2010 season. Hendricks officials said Tuesday Knaus is currently in a deal that is not yet set to expire. ThatsRacin.com


Phoenix Champ Car race a go? UPDATE #8 Judging by this website that is already live, the Arizona Grand Prix of Phoenix is expected to receive final approval for a Champ Car race on November 16-18, 2007.

06/06/06 Autosport.com reports that the 2007 Champ Car schedule will probably include a street race in Las Vegas as season-opener, a street race in downtown Phoenix as season-closer, and a race at Zhuhai, China around August.  However, AutoRacing1.com hears that Zhuhai, if it happens, will run the week before or after the Surfers race in October to save transportation costs.

05/09/06 Inside Champ Car sources tell us that 22 races for next year is unrealistic and to expect 16 to 17 races if there is no merger and around 20 races if there is a merger with the IRL. Financially the teams are not yet on solid financial footing to be able to afford too many races. We were told that races/events that are not performing financially will be axed and this will allow three new races to be added in 2007 (assuming no merger).

We are also hearing that Zhuhai is more impressive than first thought. The track has undergone renovations and now includes an 18-hole golf course. The area is tropical and very much has the feel of a Surfers Paradise and we hear the government is very supportive of this event coming together and are onboard with the 3-day festival concept. However, as we saw in Ansan, until the money is in the bank......Another good thing about Zhuhai is the fact that it is a "F1 standards" natural terrain road course and, as such, should "race" better than a street circuit.

05/08/06 AutoRacing1.com has learned that with or without the rumored merger, when Champ Car announces its 2007 race schedule it will include three new venues.  Based on recent rumors, that could be a Phoenix street race, a Las Vegas street race, and Zhuhai, China (outside of Hong Kong), and of course NY City, Philadelphia and Otaru, Japan are also possibilities.  We hear the schedule will be announced in August. Mark C

Read more & Comment...

Report: Ross Brawn to step down UPDATE #2 On Friday in a press conference of technical directors, Ross Brawn deflected rumors of him taking a sabbatical from Formula One in 2007, insisting that his decisions for the future will not be made public until the end of the year.

"We've said that we'll make the plans of the team, specifically the team, known at the end of the season and that's when we will make it clear what our plans are for the future and we certainly won't make any comment before then and will concentrate on trying to win this championship."

Some say the entire "Schumacher Team" may leave - Schumacher, Ross Brawn, Jean Todt and designer Rory Byrne, and it will be Raikkonen and Massa as drivers in 2007. 

"I love the team. Ferrari is a fantastic team, a fantastic group of people," Brawn said. "When you first go to a team, your first job is just to sort out the dramas. When I went to Ferrari, there were a lot of day to day things that needed to be put right. "When we got over those initial hurdles, then we had to start thinking about building for the future because none of us are going to be there forever.

"I think you've seen with Rory, who has been a great servant of Ferrari for the past few years, that we've successfully brought on his successor in Aldo Costa. We've had a very good evolution there and there's evolutions going on throughout the whole organization. Formula One teams change shape and the shape of a team in the future may be different."

08/02/06 Ferrari have played down talk of the Formula One team's technical director Ross Brawn taking a sabbatical next year.  "It's just another speculation," said a team spokesman on Wednesday. "We will tell the structure of the team only after the end of the season."

Brawn has masterminded all of world champion Michael Schumacher's seven world championships, two of them with Benetton in 1994 and 1995, and his future is likely to be closely linked to that of the German driver.  Schumacher, 37, has yet to announce whether he is staying or retiring next year, but if Brawn goes, so too may Schumacher.

08/02/06 Ross Brawn will step down from his post as technical director at Ferrari next year, this week's Autosport magazine reports.  The 51-year-old will take a sabbatical in 2007, with no decision currently made about his long-term future with the team.


Heikki for Renault, Kimi for Ferrari - Flav
(GMM) Flavio Briatore has dropped the biggest hint yet that Renault test driver Heikki Kovalainen could move into the racing cockpit in 2007.

Asked about speculation linking Kimi Raikkonen with the blue-colored team, the Italian principal said in Hungary: ''He would be an interesting driver for us.

'''But formula one is not only about the superstars. There are many young talents who we should not allow to become too old for it -- like our 25-year-old test driver Kovalainen.''

The Budapest paddock is traditionally a melting-pot for mid-season silly-season gossip, and Briatore is usually a player. This time around, he is also toying with the destination of Mark Webber, who is now understood to have penned a deal with Red Bull.

What does 56-year-old Briatore predict about Michael Schumacher? ''If I look into the cloudy skies of Budapest,'' he said, ''I can imagine that Michael has decided to stop.

''I see Raikkonen and Massa at Ferrari in 2007.''


Champ Car teams may cancel today’s test UPDATE This rumor is 'false' as test is ongoing. Italian F3000 and GP2 veteran Enrico Toccacelo is testing today in the No. 27 car of Andrew Ranger.

08/04/06 Due to yesterday's accident that Cristiano da Matta had with a deer at Road America we are hearing that the remaining teams may pull out of today's final test.  We are trying to confirm this.


Forsythe to pay for Tagliani’s damage UPDATE We contacted Neil Micklewright who tells us this rumor is most positively NOT true. "At the request of Walker, we are helping to supply some hard to find parts, but that is a regular business transaction."

08/03/06 Rumor has it that Forsythe Championship Racing VP of Operations Neil Micklewright phoned Derrick Walker and offered to replace all the damaged parts on Alex Tagliani's car as a result of the collision with Paul Tracy in San Jose.


Sarah Fisher return? UPDATE #5 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  See related Hot New Item.

08/03/06 This rumor is upgraded back to 'speculation' today. Sarah Fisher told Dave Calabro on Ch 13 in Indy that she will be in Dreyer & Reinbold car at Kentucky this year.

07/22/06 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' based on the Dreyer & Reinbold press release - see Hot news page.

07/22/06 We are bumping this rumor back down to 'speculation' today.  Sarah Fisher had hoped to make her return to Indy-car racing next weekend at Michigan, but she said that's unlikely now. There's no time to test -- her last IRL race was a one-off at Indy in 2004 -- and she doesn't have the sponsorship money it takes to drive Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's No. 5 car that has rotated between Buddy Lazier and Ryan Briscoe this season. Briscoe crashed the car in Friday's morning practice; the team will use the backup in today's qualifications.  Indy Star

07/20/06 We are bumping this rumor up to 'strong' today.  According to the Detroit Free Press, Sarah Fisher is set to return to the IndyCar series at MIS in a Dreyer & Reinbold Racing entry.

07/19/06 Rumor has it that Dreyer and Reinbold may put Sarah Fisher in one of their cars before the season ends. Fisher drove for the team from 2002 to 2003.  It would make a great story for the IRL - two women against each other, Danica and Sarah, so it makes sense that Tony George could bankroll this.


Coulthard to stay, Mateschitz hints
(GMM)  According to strengthening speculation in F1 circles, David Coulthard has now signed - or will shortly sign - a new contract to remain at the Red Bull team in 2007.

To the 'Bietigheimer Zeitung' newspaper, energy drink mogul Dietrich Mateschitz dropped the strongest hint yet that the veteran Scot is certain to stick around for a third season in succession.

''I don't think we have to say much about Coulthard,'' the 62-year-old was quoted as saying.

''He is one of our strongest assets.''

Mateschitz, who also co-owns the junior 'Toro Rosso' outfit, added that Vitantonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed are also due to extend their Red Bull links, but the fate of Christian Klien is unclear.

''Speed and Liuzzi have fulfilled our expectations,'' he stated.

''They have charisma, talent, the courage and the will to become established in formula one.''

Referring to Klien, however, Mateschitz outlined that there is still time for the young Austrian to 'prove he has the potential' to become a winner.

He flatly denied recent reports that - with an alleged $3.78 billion in the bank - Mateschitz only scarcely loses out to Bernie Ecclestone as the paddock's richest face.

''Lists like those are purely fictitious,'' he claimed.


Albers to Super Aguri
The Super Aguri team has offered MF1 Racing driver Christijan Albers a seat for next season his manager revealed to F1Racing.net. Media speculations suggest that Super Aguri and Albers were in talks for next season. Albers' manager Lodewijk Varossieau confirmed to F1Racing.net: "We have received an interesting offer from Super Aguri team boss Daniel Audetto indeed. It is an offer we will consider but Christijan has already told me he would prefer to stick with Midland as the team has been improving very well during the season."

Industry News

Ford may dump Jaguar
Ford Motor Co. on Wednesday hired an expert in mergers and acquisitions with European expertise to evaluate strategic opportunities, such as alliances and asset sales, reportedly starting with an evaluation of whether to dump Jaguar.

Even as Ford stock rallied Wednesday on the news -- and the implication that Ford was open to sweeping changes in the shape of the business -- Chief Executive Officer Bill Ford told employees that the company's top priority remains fixing the North American automotive business.

"It is prudent in a time of rapid change in our industry for us to carefully examine all of our options," Ford said in a memo to employees. "In the meantime, however, all of us must continue to remain focused on doing our part to get our company on the path to sustained profitability and success."  More at Detroit Free Press


Roger agrees
Roger Penske agrees with AutoRacing1.com's latest article - i.e. he is pessimistic that a merger can happen in the near future, and Roger usually knows what is going on, and may be calling some shots.

"It [merger] just has to happen because the sum of the two parts are so much stronger than one alone," said Dario Franchitti, who was a CART driver from 1997-2002 and is in his fifth season with the IRL. "If and when we combine the two, and hopefully it's when, it will make open-wheel racing here so much stronger. It would put the strengths of the two together instead of comparing one to the other."

IRL and Champ Car have taken important steps toward unifying the two open-wheel series, but there are many issues to resolve. Roger Penske is pessimistic they can be settled soon.

"I think it's very difficult," said Penske. TSN.ca


Webber to Renault UPDATE (GMM) Mark Webber's father has played down speculation that the 29-year-old will drop out of formula one at the end of the year, despite Williams' confirmation that he is not a part of the team's plans for 2007.

Alan Webber, who with Flavio Briatore and Mark's partner Ann is involved in his management, told 'ABC' in Australia that Webber has 'an attractive offer' on the table.

The latest whisper is that Red Bull and BMW might be options, but stronger speculation is that Webber could fill the plum vacancies at Renault or the McLaren squad.

''(Mark's seat) will probably be announced possibly next week to the media overseas,'' said Alan Webber.

''Rest assured that Mark will be in formula one driving again next year, but at this stage it's not for me to say who it will be with.''

A spokeswoman for Webber's management company, however, suggested that a decision cannot be taken until Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher confirm where they slot in for 2007.

08/02/06 Mark Webber has moved into pole position for the vacant Renault seat in 2007. The Australian, who has not been included in the Williams line-up for next year is believed to be the favorite to partner Giancarlo Fisichella at Renault next season.


Bernie's aim: Milk Tony dry
Word in Indianapolis is that Bernie Ecclestone has increased the annual sanctioning fee the Indy Motor Speedway would have to pay to renew their F1 race contract from $15 million per year to $20 million per year, a 33% increase.  The city has indicated they would help, and that may be the ONLY way the USGP returns to Indy.


Montreal ticket sales up
Word on the street is that Montreal promoter Alan Labrosse's Wal-Mart partnership is proving to be very successful. They have an unbelievable amount of consumer traffic through their stores and their in-store radio promos and the multiple life-size cardboard cut-outs of Andrew Ranger on display are serving the 5th Annual Montreal Champ Car Grand Prix very well. We hear that this year you will notice a strong increase of spectators sitting in the grandstands facing the start-finish pit-lane area. Obviously the pricing of the these tickets (only $81.00 including paddock access) of which $27.00 is contributed to the Operation Enfant Soleil sick children’s foundation makes this partnership a win, win, win opportunity for all parties. Depending on ticket sales this month, we are told that management is confident the race will have a better crowd than what we saw in 2005. Mark C.


Wurz to drive for Williams, Webber out
Rumor has it that Alexander Wurz will drive for the Williams team in 2007 and Mark Webber will have to find another drive, as Williams has a contract with Nico Rosberg.


Scuttlebutt from Michigan
A reader writes, As a subscriber of AutoRacing1.com  and a loyal Champ Car race volunteer and series supported I had stepped out of my comfort zone last Sunday and attended the IRL Michigan 400 out of respect to my friend whom asked me to go. After all we went to Surfers Paradise for the CCWS a few years back so that explains "the why" I attended not to mention that we live in Michigan.

What I heard and observed was quite interesting and I'll share it with you and your readers, however since I work as a volunteer for CCWS I ask that my name be withheld if you would please.

I found my way into the paddock about three hours prior to the original start to the race and looked up a few acquaintances that worked in Champ Car a few years back. One is a mechanic on a top IRL team and as we spoke he asked if I was still with CC and responded yes, he said "I wish I was too".  As the topic of the new Panoz was addressed he mentioned that the IRL Panoz-G-Force cars were of very poor quality. No two cars were alike; body & chassis parts did not have the same tolerances from one car to the next and that the CC mechanics could be in for a nightmare if the Panoz Quality Control Systems do not improve (one would expect they have by now). He like every one else he currently works with, wants a merger and sooner than later.

Also spoke to John Anderson and he was his usual good natured self. 

The grandstands were very sparse.

Marlboro-Penske were giving away the "red hats" as seen on camera. Quite a few motorhomes in the paddock but very little hospitality there unless  it was located elsewhere.

Saw long lines by Danica's garage & transporter.

The IRL cars are not only ugly but while working on them in the garages the mechanic attach temporary mufflers to kill some of the noise. Speaking of which I was the only one in our group to bring earplugs and when the cars were turned loose at the start the volume of noise coming out of the Ilmor/Honda was deafening and I don't mean maybe. People all around were covering their ears, running down to the concessions for plugs and fashioning makeshift ones from paper towels. I was offered $100. (in jest) for mine.

I have got to believe that the extreme and constant exhaust noise has to keep people away over the long run. It is just awful. We as CC fans can only hope the turbocharged engines will remain in the series, due to not only a racy sound but non-ear piercing volumes.  Name Withheld


Another potential new Champ Car team emerges
Veteran crew chief Peter Parrott will run the Panoz DP01 testing program for Champ Car. Parrott worked for Penske for many years as Rick Mears chief mechanic. More recently he worked for Mo Nunn’s team. Parrott wants to put together his own Champ Car team and is the perfect choice to run the test program.

“Pete’s a seasoned veteran and I think they’re lucky to have him available to them,” Derrick Walker remarked. “He comes with a ton of experience and he’s not afraid to speak his mind. He’s a detail guy and if he knows there are some problems, he’ll track what he sees and what he finds. I have no doubt that he’ll be a good custodian of this program during these exploratory tests.” Champ Car


Opening '07 F1 calendar
The start of next year's 18-race F1 calendar is tentatively set as follows:

Mar. 18 Australian GP
Apr. 8 Malaysian GP
Apr. 15 Bahrain GP


2007 Champ Car schedule shaping up UPDATE #5 We have updated the tentative 2007 Champ Car schedule below based on latest information and scuttlebutt.

07/20/06 The Grand Prix of Houston will take place April 20-22 next year, three weeks earlier than this year's inaugural event at Reliant Park. .)

Michael Lanigan, the Grand Prix promoter, confirmed Wednesday afternoon that the American Le Mans Series will be Saturday night (April 21) and the Champ Car World Series will be Sunday afternoon (April 22.)

The Grand Prix of Houston was May 11-13 this year, with the ALMS race on Friday night and the Champ Car on Saturday night. Because of cooler temperatures in April, the Champ Car race can be shifted to daytime in 2007.

"If we could have wished for a date, this is the one we would have wanted," said Lanigan. "When you're dealing with two series and a venue that has as much going on as Reliant does, sometimes you can't get exactly what you want. This time, we did."

Lanigan said that the Champ Car schedule, which has not been released, will have not have events after the first weekend in May next year. Theoretically, that will allow Champ Car drivers to have the opportunity to practice and qualify for the Indianapolis 500 throughout the rest of May.

The Champ Car drivers did not have that opportunity this year because of races on the two weekends prior to the Indy 500.

Champ Car and Indy Racing League executives have held talks concerning unification of the series, but Lanigan said the chances for that happening in 2007 seem to be growing slim.

"I think everyone on both sides wants it to happen owners, promoters, sponsors," said Lanigan. "But I believe that some people have been a little too optimistic about how quickly something like this can come together.

"It has to be set up properly so that both sides are comfortable. Because it's such a big unification, it's taking longer than many people expected. I think everyone is still optimistic, though."

Chuck Kosich, the general manager of the Grand Prix of Houston, said the Houston event in 2007 would be the third Champ Car race of the season. According to Kosich, the series will begin Las Vegas the first weekend in April and travel to Long Beach the next weekend before coming to Houston.

"Champ Car used to do an awful job of scheduling early in the season," said Kosich. "There would be the opener, and then you'd wait a month before the next race. There was no national attention.

"With this schedule, you have races on consecutive weeks so you really have some momentum build up coming into our race."  Houston Chronicle [Note: See updated schedule below]

07/10/06 Easter Sunday is April 8th in 2007, and as stated below, the Champ Car season opener is tentatively slated to be on Easter Sunday in Las Vegas if the race gets approved.  One would have thought the race should be April 1st with a 2-week break to Long Beach on April 15th.  However, the IRL St. Petersburg opener is on April 1st, so perhaps Champ Car is trying to leave that date open.  Easter will be on March 23rd in 2008, so it should not present a problem.

07/09/06 Other new races being considered are San Antonio where Chris Pook is trying to put together a deal (rumored previously), Assen as previously rumored (but track is too narrow), another country in Eastern Europe, a country in Northern Africa, South Africa, and Japan.  Which ones actually fall into place remains to be seen.  As they say, money talks, and if the money is in Champ Car's bank account by the time their 2007 schedule is announced in late August, then that city will have themselves a race.

Our guess at the 2007 schedule:

April 8 Las Vegas (Confirmed - Easter Sunday)
April 15 Long Beach (Confirmed)
April 22 Houston (Confirmed)
May 6 Zhuhai, China (Tentative)
May 27 Champ Car to leave rest of May open for Indy 500
Jun 3 Cleveland (Tentative)
June 17 Portland (Tentative)
July 8 Toronto (Tentative)
July 22 Edmonton (Tentative)
July 29 San Jose (Confirmed)
Aug. 12 Denver (Tentative)
Aug. 26 Road America (Tentative)
Sep. 9 or 16 Assen, Holland (Tentative)
Sep. 16 or 23 2nd Europe Race - LeMans, France is one option (Tentative)
Oct. 7 San Antonio (Maybe)
Oct. 21 Australia (Tentative)
Nov. 4 Mexico City (Tentative)
Nov. 18 Phoenix (Tentative)

07/08/06 Word is that Champ Car has plugged the hole in the early part of the schedule that has existed for several years starting in 2007.   Look for the season opener to be in Las Vegas on Easter Sunday (2007 only - might be better on Easter Saturday) the first week in April, followed by Long Beach and Houston.  Then in early May we hear the series will likely move to Zhuhai, China.  Champ Car will leave the Memorial Day weekend, and the preceding weeks open in case some teams want to race at Indy.

After that look for two races a month from June through November with the season closer being in Phoenix.  Mark C.

07/08/06 AutoRacing1.com has learned that Champ Car is getting close to finalizing their 2007 schedule, probably by the end of August.  We hear that Monterrey, Mexico, Milwaukee and Montreal will be dropped for 2007 as previously rumored and added will be Phoenix, Las Vegas, China (Zhuhai we hear) and possibly a race in Europe.  We hear that two new 'exotic' international venues have recently come into play and could possibly happen for 2007.  As we understand it, 14 races are set for 2007 and the series is looking to fill the gap that remains in September.

Some feel that the IRL will finally get their foot in the door in Canada by teaming with NASCAR's Busch Series in 2007 as they continue to try and erode Champ Car's business model. 


Red Bull re-signs all 4 drivers
Our spies at Red Bull tell us that the Austrian drinks company has signed deals with all four of its current drivers for the 2007 season. There is still some work to be done with the test drivers. The key point of interest therefore is which driver will be in which car and while the rumors in recent months have been that Tonio Liuzzi will be joining David Coulthard at Red Bull Racing, the decision to keep Austria's Christian Klien - if confirmed - will be a surprise as Klien has not done a startling job this year. The fact that Klien went so well in Germany may be linked to the fact that he has recovered a little of his confidence, knowing that he has a job next year.

The decision over the drivers is now based more than anything on the engine deals under discussion and the signs are that Scuderia Toro Rosso will use Ferrari engines in 2007 and Red Bull Racing will have Renaults. This is yet to be confirmed but the teams are under pressure to make quick decisions as time is now running short, particularly if the design team at Milton Keynes is going to get Renault engines for the Red Bull RB3. Grandprix.com


Webber eyes move to Renault, McLaren
(GMM) A close confidante of Sir Frank Williams has put a twist on recent news stories that Mark Webber is likely to take a pay-cut for 2007.

'Guardian' journalist Alan Henry, a long time personal friend of the Grove team's principal, headlined on Tuesday that the 29-year-old driver is 'on way out of Williams as talks stall'.

An option on the Australian's contract ran out on Monday night, and Alan Henry added that Webber was 'poised to quit the ... team' because talks have now 'reached deadlock'.

Williams told the newspaper: ''We are still negotiating, but nothing is fixed.''

The Guardian, however, cited 'other sources' who hint at a breakdown in talks, while the 'Herald Sun' in Australia published that Webber is 'tantalizingly close' to switching to Renault or McLaren.

Webber, who was quoted elsewhere as not being 'massively' excited about Williams' new Toyota engine deal, said: ''There is actually no rush, because we don't know what is happening further up the grid.''

He hinted that Williams' brinkmanship tactics might backfire.

''Frank wants a bit more time which suits me perfectly,'' Mark explained. ''I might be in a position to wait a bit.

''I think things will be decided at the absolute latest by Monza in September.''


Adam Carroll eyes Champ Car
23-year old Adam Carroll has dropped out of Honda's driver development program, ending his current Formula One aspirations. Free of the Honda shackles, Carroll is now hoping to foster links with another Formula One team, with a view to testing - and possibly racing - next season. And if that does not materialize, then Champ Car is rumored to be on his radar screen. He won three GP2 races last year with a different team. This year he has been winless.

V8 Supercars

V8’s bow out of F1 race support
In what can possibly be a huge blow to attendance for the 2007 Australian Grand Prix F1 race next March 18th in Melbourne, the popular V8 Supercar series is supposedly withdrawing from the event, claiming that there is not enough hotel rooms to accommodate F1, their series and the World Swimming Championships.


Albers to Super Aguri
'Formule 1 RaceReport' is reporting that MF1 racer Christijan Albers could be eying a future switch to the fledgling Japanese camp of Super Aguri.

Albers' manager Lodewijk Varossieau confirmed the rumor, adding that Honda test driver Anthony Davidson could be another candidate to star alongside Takuma Sato in 2007.

''Of course we take this offer very seriously,'' said Varossieau, who claimed that MF1 also want 27-year-old Albers to stay.

''We have heard that next year Super Aguri will use the (works) Honda car.''


Gascoyne off to Midland?
Departed Toyota technical director Mike Gascoyne might be on the way to MF1, according to reports in the Dutch press.

'Formule 1 RaceReport' claimed on Monday that the Briton was spotted at Hockenheim in Midland's paddock motor home.

''He was speaking with team boss Colin Kolles,'' the publication said.

Interestingly, Gascoyne worked for Jordan - MF1's former guise - before switching to Renault and then Toyota.

James Key is Midland's current technical director.


New Champ Car orders begin UPDATE #2 As it turns out, the new car will not test this coming week at Road Atlanta like we previously heard. We are told that the test is about three weeks away as work is completed on the new Hewland gearbox. The gearbox will have essentially the same Hewland internals as the existing Champ Car gearbox, but the casing, which was designed by Lola for the existing car, is being redesigned to fit the Panoz chassis. We also learned that the onboard starter will have enough battery for three attempts at a restart.

07/29/06 In a story first broke here on AutoRacing1.com, this rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today as Bob Gelles (pictured right) announced to the public at last night's Champ Car launch gala that he would be entering Champ Car in 2007 and has ordered new cars.

07/23/06 Word in Edmonton is that Champ Car announced to the team owners in a meeting Saturday the new Panoz DP01 will test at Road Atlanta in Georgia Wednesday through Friday after the San Jose race weekend.  We hear Roberto Moreno will do the initial shakedown tests and that Jimmy Vasser might follow.

We also hear that the first batch of DP01's will be delivered to team owners on November 15th - all together.  After that, each team will get their 2nd car on a first order, first delivered basis. 

We hear purchase orders for the new cars were handed out to all team owners at the meeting and Bob Gelles was the first to sign the contract for the first two DP01's.  This means that Gelles Racing, an Atlantics team that plans on moving up to Champ Car in 2007 with a 2-car team, will be the first to get their 2nd car in December.  We suspect we will hear some announcement to that regard in the not too distant future.


Things that make you go hmmm....... UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today as AutoRacing1.com has confirmed that two people from the IRL visited the Panoz factory to see the new Champ Car, one of which was Brian Barnhart. We hear he had nothing but nice things to say about what he saw.

Champ Car made a point of saying during the unveiling Friday night that this new car is the safest open wheel car in the world that easily exceeds all IRL and FIA safety standards. So if you hear anyone say there can't be a merger with this car used as the standard, shrug it off as BS because the person telling you otherwise probably has another political agenda.

With that said there will be no merger for a long time. Mark C.

07/28/06 AutoRacing1.com has learned that Brian Barnhart was at the Panoz factory this past week and was seen having a thorough look at the new Champ Car including stooping down underneath and having a good look at the underside of the car.

Given this fact, and given that he was granted permission by Champ Car to come and see the new car, one has to wonder why? Our theory is this, we do not see a full merger between Champ Car and the IRL happening based on what we know today. However, it is quite possible that the two series will agree to run common equipment which will allow some joint races, including the Indy 500, but that's probably as far as the cooperation will go. If that happens though, we are looking at something very much like this scenario we proposed awhile ago - see related article - i.e. common equipment, two divisions with joint races.


Another potential team owner emerges
Former Champ Car team owner Stefan Johansson from Sweden has emerged as the latest possible new team owner in Champ Car. AutoRacing1.com spoke to Johansson briefly in San Jose Saturday morning.

When asked what he thought of the new Champ Car he said, "I don't know I just got here but the pictures looked good."

As for his interest in returning to the Champ Car series as a team owner, Johansson responded, "we're trying, we're trying."

Industry News

Big 3 sales slump predicted
U.S. automakers are expected to register a dramatic decline in July vehicle sales from a year ago, when heavy discounts stoked near-record sales. At the same time, high gas prices continue to push many buyers toward more fuel-efficient models, an area where Asian manufacturers still dominate.

New vehicle sales are expected to come in at about 1.54 million units, a 15 percent decrease from July 2005, according to estimates by the vehicle research site Edmunds.com.

Automakers release their July sales results Tuesday.

Michael Maroone, president and chief operating officer of AutoNation Inc., the nation's largest auto retailer, said July should be stronger than June, when 1.5 million vehicles were sold in the United States.

"I think in June there was a number of customers waiting for the next incentive program," he told the Associated Press this week. More at Detroit News


Observations from Michigan - I
The weatherman is calling for HOT weather, 94 degrees with high humidity on race day.  Look for this to kill walk-up sales.  Saturday has a chance of thunderstorms, which has the potential to kill qualifying which doesn't start until 2:45. 

We hear that the walk-up cash sales for 2002's IRL race at Michigan was 2,000 seats.  That's right... 2,000.  The rest were comps and corporate deals.  This lagged far behind the previous year's CART sales.  

2002 - 25
2003 - 21
2004 - 22
2005 - 23
2006 - 19

Bill Janitz is leaving MIS after the August NASCAR race.  He's going to be the PR guy for Tony Stewart's business holdings (Eldora, etc). 

Absolutely no one mentioned moving the MIS race to Detroit today.   Detroit at Belle Isle wasn't popular with drivers, but as the DetNews article pointed out, many of the current IRL drivers never raced at Detroit. 

Quite frankly, we can't see anyone getting excited about open-wheeled racing in Detroit if none of the Big 3 are represented.  Having a bunch of Hondas racing in Detroit would be like having NASCAR race Fords, Mopars and Chevys in Tokyo.  Tim Wohlford reporting from Michigan


IRL may be forced to move Michigan date
With the announcement of the schedule change for the 2007 Brickyard (which moves it a week earlier), Michigan International speedway is deep in discussions with the IRL and ABC - who will broadcast both IRL and NASCAR races next year -- to move the 2007 MIS IRL event to a week earlier.  Traditionally, the Indy car race at MIS (both CART and IRL) has been the last weekend of July, and this would place the event on July 22 of 2007.

The move will only be official when the 2007 IRL schedules are released in 2007.  Tim Wohlford reporting from Michigan


Massa, Kubica, wait in 'silly-season' queue
(GMM)  As ever when the F1 calendar enters its final third, the 2007 driver 'silly season' found itself in a high gear at Hockenheim.

While speculation about Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen traditionally hogs the headlines, a number of other racers are also unsure about their future.

Schumacher's young teammate Felipe Massa is patiently waiting for the silly season's smoke to clear, while he has cropped up in gossip about a Red Bull move.

''All I can say is that I will drive in formula one in 2007,'' the Brazilian confidently exclaimed.

''Where, it is too early, but hopefully I have a chance to stay at Ferrari.''

BMW-Sauber's test driver Robert Kubica, meanwhile, again impressed with his 'Friday' performance in Germany, but he says he is not guaranteed a racing ride at the team next year.

''I have learned to keep my feet on the ground and to not have any expectations,'' the Polish youngster was quoted as saying by 'St. Galler Tagblatt'.

Kubica said: ''If it happens, great, if not, it means I did not do a good enough job and I will have to accept it.''

Meanwhile, observers noticed F1's world champion of 1998 and 1999 - Mika Hakkinen - as a guest of the McLaren team at the Hockenheimring on Friday.

''I think they can win this weekend,'' said the Finn, who today races in the German 'DTM'.


Rosberg and Williams UPDATE #2 (GMM) Short of making a formal press announcement, Sir Frank Williams has given the biggest possible indication that Mark Webber will be retained by the Grove based team in 2007.

The Australian driver will only appear in blue overalls next year if 64-year-old Williams picks up an 'option' on his current contract, but he played down suggestions that 29-year-old could be a free agent in the near future.

''Mark Webber is a superb racer,'' Frank - who will also retain teammate Nico Rosberg - said in a column for the newspaper Daily Telegraph.

''We're in contract discussions (with Webber) at the moment and definitely want to keep him for next year.''

Williams also defended his decision to switch from Cosworth to works Toyota power, explaining that sticking with a customer supplier would have risked 'dithering on the vine'.

Adding that linking up with Toyota will help attract sponsors, he said: ''The other small problem was that we had to pay for (Cosworth's V8 engine), and we can't afford to do that.''

07/27/06 (GMM) Nico Rosberg's future on the grid appears secure, with Sir Frank Williams all but confirming that the German rookie will stay at his team in 2007.

''We think he is extraordinarily talented and articulate,'' the 64-year-old was quoted as saying by F1's official website.

''He is doing very well, thank you.''

Rosberg's debut season got off to a lightening start earlier this year, and was quickly being linked with switches to teams like McLaren.

But the 21-year-old then entered a slight plateau, particularly as Williams' 2006 package also started to wane.

Rosberg's Williams contract is for multiple years, but it is understood that the team is in control of year-upon year 'options'.

Adding that Mark Webber's contract 'does terminate', Sir Frank said: ''I wasn't aware that Nico's contract ends at the end of the season.''

Rosberg, meanwhile, said joining a team like McLaren in the future 'might be pretty cool'.

''Because they often have the best car,'' he told F1 Racing magazine, ''and ultimately I want to win.''

07/25/06 Since designer Adrian Newey left Williams the team has been lost and look nothing like the great team it once was when they would win F1 races on a regular basis.

The fact that Williams is not a winning team is not lost on rookie Nico Rosberg, who says would jump at the chance with a team that could give him a winning car.

"Well, I'm contracted to Williams, and very happy to be contracted to Williams, and for the moment what I need to do is concentrate on learning and improving and doing my best," Rosberg told F1 Racing magazine.

"Well, you read things in the media - like the rumor that McLaren were after me, which started after Malaysia - and you think, 'Hmmm, yes, one day it might be pretty cool to do that.'

"Because McLaren often have the best car, and ultimately I want to win."


Papis to land Cup ride UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Road-racing specialist Max Papis, who has North American victories in Indy cars and sports cars on his resume, will attempt to make his Nextel Cup debut next month at Watkins Glen International.

Max Papis isn't the first open-wheel driver to announce he's interested in NASCAR. But he could become the third Italian-born driver to compete in the Nextel Cup Series.
Papis will drive the No. 78 Chevrolet fielded by Furniture Row Racing that has attempted every event this season, driven primarily by Kenny Wallace.

07/26/06 Besides his NASCAR Busch ride announced earlier today, AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that a NASCAR Nextel Cup deal will soon be announced for him at The Glen as well.


NBC eyes bigger role in Champ Car
Spotted NBC producer Chris Landy here in San Jose and word is that NBC is interested in taking a bigger role in Champ Car in 2007, especially since they will no longer be doing NASCAR.  We hear they may want to do 4 to 6 races. This year they have three, Long Beach, here in San Jose and Montreal.   We also hear CBS still wants to be involved as does SPEED Channel. Mark C.


Two new Busch/Grand-Am doubleheaders in Mexico and Canada
According to inside AutoRacing1.com sources, Grand-Am will race with the NASCAR Busch Series in Monterrey, Mexico (after Champ Car leaves that market) in 2007 and we hear they will also team with the Busch series in Montreal, Canada.  There is still uncertainty whether or not Grand-Am will return to Long Beach (we doubt it after the bad blood that was created between Champ Car and the France family in Phoenix and Montreal) and long-term we wonder about Mexico City for Grand-Am and Busch for the same reason.


2007 F1 calendar
Autosport.com reports that the 2007 F1 calendar will look very similar to this year's except there will only be one race in Germany, bringing the number of races back down to 18 according to Bernie Ecclestone. As reported elsewhere, Australia will once again open the season. In addition Ecclestone confirmed there will only be one race in Japan at Toyota's Mt Fuji track. Therefore Honda, having lost their F1 round to Toyota's cash cow, can plow under the great Suzuka track and use it for farm fields, or find another suitable race for it. We are still of the opinion that Honda should hold a Champ Car race at the facility while keeping their IRL race at Motegi.


Schumacher and Massa to stay at Ferrari
Rumors in the paddock at Hockenheim suggest that both Michael Schumacher and Brazilian Felipe Massa will stay on at Ferrari in 2007.  The fact that Jean Todt renewed is no coincidence and rumors suggest both drivers will be announced during the Monza race weekend in early September.

"I am expecting to have a great future in Formula 1," the Brazilian told reporters at the German GP. "But it is too early to talk about that future, so you will have to wait a month or so!"

As regards the coming weekend, Massa has only one goal, to do his best for the Scuderia: "We have to always work as a team," he continued, "because we are in a situation where we are fighting with the same team race after race. So, in order to pick up as many points as possible we have to work together. Michael is totally committed to trying to win the championship and I am a hundred percent motivated to try and win the constructors' championship for the team and get ahead of Renault. We are always trying to work together."

"There is a very big points' difference [between me and the top two – Fernando Alonso and Michael] and so I cannot realistically win the drivers' title, but if we can win as a team and if I can come third among the drivers, then I really want to try and achieve those targets," he added.

"My goal this weekend however is as always the same - to win. And if I could take my first win here at Hockenheim it would be fantastic. But at the least, I will be aiming to be on the podium and take as many points as possible away from Renault."


Cosworth or Mercedes for Midland
(GMM)  Williams' Toyota coup means that the Japanese carmaker's existing F1 customer, Midland, is now on the hunt for a new engine deal.

''We've known about it for a little while,'' said the Silverstone-based team's sporting director Johnny Herbert, referring to the fact that the Williams arrangement was basically penned in June.

Herbert, a former grand prix winner with Benetton and Stewart, would not confirm that Cosworth is an option for 'MF1', but did admit that an alternative supply of V8 power could be cheaper.

''Well Toyota are expensive, yes,'' he told 'ITV' in Hockenheim.

Pressed for a name or two, however, the English chief said one option 'may be obvious'.

Herbert then added: ''Yes of course (Cosworth) are an option.''

Another option, although played down this week by Martin Whitmarsh, might be Mercedes-Benz, with McLaren youngster Lewis Hamilton bundled in the deal.

''Of course you would be interested in that!'' Herbert, 42, exclaimed.


Renault to land Kimi, retain Flavio UPDATE (GMM) Kimi Raikkonen has admitted that switching to Renault is an option for 2007.

The 26-year-old Finn, arguably the hottest property in F1 as he also courts Ferrari and current team McLaren, was quoted as telling 'Sport Bild' that reports of Renault talks are not wide of the mark.

''My manager has spoken with Renault,'' Raikkonen said at a Mercedes museum in Stuttgart earlier this week.

Kimi, though, insists that he has not yet made up his mind.

''There is no deadline,'' he confirmed, also refusing to rule out staying in silver team gear.

''I can make up my mind when I want. There are many reasons for me to change (teams), and also many reasons for me to stay.''

But Raikkonen does not shy away from criticizing McLaren, particularly after failing to win a single race so far in 2006 after the seven victories of last season.

He said: ''Our car is not as fast as it should be. The engine needs to have more power and the aerodynamics need to be better.''

07/15/06 (GMM)  Renault will shortly distribute a joint press release confirming the extension of Flavio Briatore's contract and a sensational deal to snatch Kimi Raikkonen from the clutches of both Ferrari and McLaren.

The Finn's manager, Steve Robertson, spent twenty minutes - from 3.20pm to 3.50pm - in the Renault motor home at Magny Cours on Friday, as he met with Briatore.

26-year-old Raikkonen's almost certain agreement to race for the blue and yellow team in 2007 follows renewed paddock speculation that Michael Schumacher will definitely race beyond '06.

Kimi's camp was having none of the latest paddock whispering, however, with Robertson's father - David - telling the Guardian: ''There is no ink dry on any contract for Kimi and any team anywhere for next year.

''There is not even one written in pencil.''

Briatore, meanwhile, is understood to have now informed carmaker Renault's upper management that he will continue to lead the Enstone based team, but only for one more season.


Schu’s BMW billion UPDATE (GMM) BMW and Michael Schumacher have dismissed wild rumors that they could collaborate on an astounding $100m per-year deal to run from 2007.

British reports sensationally claimed that the coup could ultimately see a ten-figure sum enter the current Ferrari driver's bank account, but Schumacher was quoted on Thursday as scoffing at the gossip.

''I know nothing about it,'' Schumacher said, according to 'sid', while the German reaffirmed his commitment to announce his future plans at Monza.

The German said of the BMW tale: ''It's just a rumor.''

BMW motor sport director Dr Mario Theissen, meanwhile, said the report has 'no basis'.

07/26/06 (GMM) Michael Schumacher appears on the verge of a new two-year Ferrari deal, but it is rumored that BMW tried to lure the seven time world champion on the promise of a record-breaking contract.

'F1 Racing' magazine in Britain reports this month that BMW-Sauber chiefs held recent talks with Schumacher's manager, Willi Weber, about an 80m EUR per-year offer.

With merchandising income thrown in, it is suggested that the arrangement could have resulted in a mind-boggling ten figure sum finding its way into the 37-year-old's bank account.


German hosts to propose GP ’share’ concept UPDATE #2 (GMM)  An agreement to annually alternate German F1 races between Hockenheim and the Nurburgring is close to fruition, according to Max Mosley.

On the eve of free practice at the 2006 German grand prix, the president of the FIA told 'sid' agency that the concept - agreed by the two circuits and awaiting meetings with Bernie Ecclestone at Hockenheim - is a 'good idea'.

''Everyone is basically united about this,'' Mosley was quoted as saying.

07/26/06 Mercedes' Norbert Haug has baulked at the concept of an 'alternating' venue for the German GP.

Hockenheim is an important event for the German carmaker; not only is Stuttgart HQ just an hour away, more than 6500 employees will sit in the Mercedes grandstand and the race is also sponsored by common McLaren partner ExxonMobil.

''It is my opinion that Germany earned its two grands prix,' Haug was quoted as saying by Auto Motor Und Sport, amid speculation that formula one's visit this weekend could be the last before the event is either axed or annually shared with the Nurburgring.

He said: ''There are four German drivers, there is BMW and Mercedes; no country is represented in F1 more strongly than Germany.''

Haug's BMW counterpart Dr Mario Theissen, however, told 'sid' agency that he does support the alternating plan as an 'economically reasonable solution'.

The German also told RTL: ''For a German manufacturer it is a luxury to have two grands prix, but BMW is a global enterprise.

''We are interested in opening formula one to new and growing markets.''

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, meanwhile, admitted that talks about the future of the race will be staged at Hockenheim this weekend.

He told newspaper 'Mannheimer Morgen': ''We are discussing many things with the Hockenheim people, but I cannot go into detail at the moment.''

07/25/06 (GMM) The race organizers of German formula one hosts Hockenheim and the Nurburgring have fundamentally agreed to 'share' the annual grand prix privilege.

Together, the circuits' bosses will present their unanimous proposal to the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone this weekend, as the formula one circus visits Hockenheim for potentially the last time.

A spokesman admitted this week that Hockenheim is resigned to losing the race for 2007, but Nurburgring chief Walter Kafitz told 'sid' on Tuesday that the two circuits are 'united in principle' that the race can be annually alternated in the future.

FIA president Max Mosley suggested that, with new countries wanting to join the calendar, losing a race is unavoidable.

''With 18 races each year, we have reached the limit,'' the FIA boss said.


Portland race likely to return UPDATE Promoter Mike Nealy will be in San Jose, Calif., this weekend seeking confirmation from Champ Car that the series will return to Portland International Raceway in 2007.

"Everything so far has been very positive," said Nealy, whose Portland-based Global Events Group stages Champ Car World Series and American Le Mans Series races at PIR in June and July.

Discussions will resume Friday, when Nealy meets with Champ Car president Steve Johnson. The series' 2007 schedule is expected to be quite different from previous lineups, with at least two new events, and races at Montreal, Milwaukee and Monterrey, Mexico, reportedly being dropped.

"Quite frankly, we should have something announced relatively soon as far as where we are going from a scheduling standpoint," Johnson said.

"I'd say it looks better for Portland now than it did prior to the Portland race. I think the results were much better."

Portland's presence in Champ Car seemed in jeopardy before the 2005 event, but an increase in attendance for the second year in a row -- last year's race day crowd was estimated at 30,000 -- bought the city another year.

Last month an estimated crowd of 44,065 watched A.J. Allmendinger win his first Champ Car race. In addition to the race day attendance jump, Nealy said corporate sponsorship of the event was up $100,000.

"I think those were signs to Champ Car that we're going in the right direction," Nealy said.

Portland and Champ Car signed a three-year co-promotion deal in 2004, but there was an out clause that gives Champ Car the opportunity to void the deal if minimum revenue projections aren't met.

The race has not made a profit in at least five years, but Champ Car values the Northwest market and has been reluctant to give up an event that started in Portland in 1984.

Still, Portland's attendance and sponsor support pales in comparison to many of the series' other markets regardless of their size.

"Last weekend in Edmonton we drew 170,000-plus," Johnson said. "The corporate support was great, the hospitality suites sold out.

"It's night and day when you go someplace like that, and we shouldn't have that issue in Portland. We've been at Portland longer than most other places. It should be much easier.

"Personally, I have no negativity toward Portland. I would like to be there. I'm just trying to find a solution, find a way we can be there." More at Portland Oregonian

06/24/06 According to this Portland Tribune article, Power broker Kevin Kalkhoven, who helped rescue the racing series from bankruptcy court in 2004, says that the Champ Car World Series race at Portland International Raceway has displayed enough “momentum” to be included on the 2007 schedule. His comments:
   “As long as the trajectory is in the right direction …
   “It’s a track all the drivers love and all teams loving coming to …
   “It’s a great track and each year attendance has gone up …
   “I’m hopeful we’ll be back — we very much want to come back …
   “I won’t like to think Portland is in danger … it’s not what I want."

Champ Car has an out clause in its contract, which has only next year remaining, to dump the PIR race for another venue, if certain standards have not been met. Steve Johnson, the series’ first-year president, says five venues have been considered for next year, including South Korea, which was on the original 15-race schedule this season until the event got canceled. The other venues: Phoenix, Las Vegas, San Antonio and Zhuhai, China. A 16-race schedule is expected for 2007.  More....


2007 to be Barrichello’s last UPDATE We are downgrading this rumor to 'false' today as Rubens denies the retirement rumors, started by Germany's Auto Bild magazine, on his personal website.

"In the midst of all this hard work [to improve Honda's car], I suddenly come across news of my own retirement - give me a break!," Barrichello wrote on his weekly column.

"I think I've never driven this well nor been this happy, so retirement is something to think of only way, way ahead."

07/24/06 Rubens Barrichello has acknowledged that retirement from formula one is 'closer than ever'.

Behind Michael Schumacher, the 34-year-old Brazilian is the most experienced driver on today's grid, and with nearly 230 grands prix is third on the list of most experienced of all time.

But Barrichello, who joined Honda this year after six years at Ferrari, admitted to 'Auto Bild' that he is not likely to trouble Riccardo Patrese's all-time record of 256 race starts.

That gives him less than two seasons left in F1.

''I love this sport,'' Rubens said, ''but I do not want to break Patrese's record.  It will be one of the saddest decisions of my life.''


Ralf hints at Schu brother rift
(GMM) On the eve of their home grand prix, Ralf Schumacher has given some unfavorable insight into his relationship with super-successful brother Michael.

The pair have shared the grid for 150 grands prix and nearly a decade, but in the last few years there have been signs in the paddock that not all is rosy behind motor home doors.

In the illustrated magazine 'Bunte', 31-year-old Ralf played down the influence that elder sibling Michael - a seven time title winner - has had on his life.

He said: ''Privately and professionally, Michael was never for me a role-model.''

'Schumi II' did have to admit, however, that Michael's inevitable retirement from formula one could damage the sport in Germany if another countryman isn't ready to step up into championship contention.

Coincidentally, Ralf and Michael are due to meet in the FIA press conference at Hockenheim on Thursday, alongside fellow German racers Nico Rosberg and Nick Heidfeld.


Real-estate mogul Ginn to purchase MB2
The sale of MB2 Motorsports to real estate and resort developer Bobby Ginn should shore up the Nextel Cup team's short- and long-term future.

The deal, which will be announced Wednesday at a news conference at a Ginn Clubs & Resorts property in Orlando, will include a 10-race primary sponsorship this year for Sterling Marlin's No. 14 Chevrolet, solidifying a car that had lacked full-season funding.

But Ginn, who purchased the majority stake from MB2 founder Nelson Bowers, has bigger plans for the team. Besides a likely name change for 2007, he wants to expand to four cars within a few years and plans on having one car sponsored exclusively by his varied businesses interests.  More at USA Today


IRL eyes Iowa race UPDATE #4 The IndyCar Series has agreed to a race date at Iowa Speedway, the seven-eighths-mile oval that is being built in Newton, Iowa. Although the IRL schedule has not been announced, the addition should increase the schedule to 15 races after dropping to 14 this season.

05/26/06 The seven-eighths-mile speedway, which is currently under construction near Newton, Ia., is located along Interstate 80 about 30 miles east of Des Moines, Iowa Speedway is expected to be completed in time to hold races in September. It will have 25,000 permanent seats.

05/25/06 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1, I was raised in Iowa and lived there for 20 years. There are less than 3 million people in the whole state. I cannot imaging an IRL race getting more than 5000 in attendance.
The Iowa Cubs cannot even fill their 12,000 seat stadium with regular attendance of around 5000. Greyhound park in Waterloo closed after just a few years of operation. The Knoxville Raceway has 24,000 seats - it is the third largest outdoor facility in Iowa (behind the football stadiums at Iowa and Iowa State). As much as I have a place in my heart for Iowa, it is not the place the IRL should be looking. Is this a desperate move to find another NASCAR subsidized/associated event? What was the attendance of the 1989-91 Des Moines Grandprix? Randy Stocker

05/25/06 Will this be the Carb Day announcement? The new Iowa Speedway in Newton will host an Indy Racing League event in 2007, league officials confirmed to the Indy Star. The seven-eighths-mile track east of Des Moines will be one of the smallest tracks on the circuit. A race date could not be confirmed. Indy Star

05/09/06 IRL officials will do a feasibility test at the new IRL TV announcer Rusty Wallace's Iowa Speedway the first week of August. The track east of Des Moines hopes to host an Indy-car race in 2007. Wallace calls the IRL cars Hot Rods. Where does the IRL find these announcers?


Todt offered new Ferrari contract UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  See today's F1 Hot News for story.

07/19/06 (GMM) Jean Todt has received a lucrative offer to stick around as Ferrari's F1 chief beyond the end of 2006, according to press reports.

'Auto Motor Und Sport' in Germany claims that the offer of a one-year contract extension, courtesy of Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, is so attractive that it would be 'difficult to refuse'. Todt's decision to stay, meanwhile, would almost certainly accompany the renewal of Michael Schumacher's similarly-expiring red-colored contract.

In a different German publication, meanwhile - 'Express' - another sign that 37-year-old Schumacher is not done with the sport is that the German is allegedly already involved in plans for Bridgestone's marketing plans for 2007.

A spokesman said: ''All I can say is that Mr. Schumacher is an important advertising medium for Bridgestone.''

Also on Wednesday, fledgling Japanese team Super Aguri rolled out its new 'SA06' car at Silverstone, complete with a revised race livery.


Danica gets sweetheart deal at AGR
According to AutoRacing1.com sources, when Danica Patrick inked her new deal with Andretti Green Racing for 2007 (with option years) she instantly became the highest paid open wheel driver in America.  We hear her base salary is $3 million per year.  Add to that the standard 40% of purse winnings (50% if she finishes in the top 3), 50% of the Indy 500 purse winnings plus 25% of any new sponsors she brings to the team and Danica can earn $10 million in 2007.

Not bad for a driver that has never won a race!  We doubt that sits very well with the male drivers who dominate the sport.


Patrick to replace Herta at AGR UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's Danica Patrick announcement.  See Hot News page.

07/23/06 If Danica Patrick lands at Andretti Green Racing next season, as most in the Indy Racing League paddock now believe, fellow driver Bryan Herta will have opened the door for her.

Herta has told AGR officials he'd prefer to drive their sports car in the American LeMans Series next season. He said there are ways he could remain in the No. 7 Dallara/Honda, but it's likely his 13-year Indy-car career will be over at season's end.

"At least that's my preference," Herta said Saturday at the Milwaukee Mile.

Herta has won four Indy-style races in his career -- two in CART, two in the IRL.

Patrick hasn't been confirmed at AGR, but speculation continues to mount an agreement was reached earlier in the week. AGR and Rahal officials declined comment, and Patrick held firm in her silence.

"I just don't have anything new to say, and I like to say new things (to reporters)," she said. "Unfortunately, my lips are sealed." Indy Star

[Editor's Note: It's pretty much a foregone conclusion Danica Patrick will drive for Andretti Green Racing in 2007.  If it turns out that she is faster than rising star Marco Andretti in the same car/team, Marco's F1 aspirations will be finished.  F1 teams would never give him a 2nd look.  And vice versa, if Danica still cannot win races for Andretti Green Racing, it will pretty much confirm her reputation as all show and no go.]


NASCAR teams find another way to cheat
A number of stock-car crews have been playing with tire tricks the past year, trying to prevent excessive air pressure build-up and improve handling over long runs. Two of the tricks have been installing illegal air-pressure bleeders in the valve stems, and the drilling of very tiny holes in the sidewalls, which is not specifically illegal.

So when NASCAR officials confiscated Clint Bowyer's left-front tire at Martinsville after Saturday's Busch race, there were a lot of questions in the Nextel Cup garage at Pocono Speedway.

But Mike Dillon, the director of team operations for Bowyer's car owner, Richard Childress, said that it was much ado about nothing.

Read more & Comment...

Montoya wanted to strike first
According to F1-Racing magazine, Montoya's sudden departure from F1 was precipitated by the first-corner crash at Indianapolis just a week before he stunned the motor racing world by announcing that he had signed a deal to join the NASCAR series.

Supposedly Ron Dennis, 'livid' at the mistake at Indy where he ran into the back of McLaren teammate Raikkonen, and his 'fury fuelled throughout the Indy weekend by JPM's biggest-ever entourage, to the extent that there was sometimes nowhere left for the Mercedes board members in the McLaren hospitality area', the Colombian realized that his future in F1 was in severe jeopardy.

The magazine reports that 'Juan Pablo left knowing that a meeting had been arranged for July 11th, at which he would be asked to explain his recent shortcomings to Dennis and Martin Whitmarsh. With the McLaren door closing, Montoya panicked. Red Bull and Toyota wouldn't commit to him and, Juan wanted to reject F1 before it rejected him.'

Montoya duly phoned Chip Ganassi on the Wednesday following Indianapolis and a deal was formalized two days later.


Schu to make decision soon, won't retire
Renault team boss Flavio Briatore thinks that Michael Schumacher will not retire at the end of 2006.

"Competition and racing, it's in his blood and I think he thinks of winning all the time," Briatore was quoted as saying in the  August issue of F1 Racing magazine.

"He's still very good and I don't think he'll retire at the end of the year. He won't just get out of bed in Switzerland with nothing to do."


Jani likely to leave Toro Rosso
(GMM)  Neel Jani is likely to fall out of the official Toro Rosso lineup at the end of 2006.

The Red Bull junior team's co-owner, Gerhard Berger, was quoted as saying by motorline.cc that the young Swiss will 'probably not have a place' at STR next year.

''We want to continue with our two primary drivers,'' he explained, referring to Vitantonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed, and the fact that in 2007 it is likely that any test driver can be used by a team on test-day Fridays.

Asked if 22-year-old Jani, Toro Rosso's official 'Friday' driver, could be absorbed back into the Red Bull family, Berger replied that he did not know.

The veteran Austrian also revealed that Toro Rosso will either be powered by Cosworth, Renault or Ferrari next year, and that the 2007 car will be a bespoke model.

Berger said: ''We are going to build our own car, this has already begun, and in two or three weeks at the latest we will know which engine will be used.''


Damon Hill to make driving return
Autosport.com reports that Grand Prix Masters is in talks with Damon Hill about him joining the series for the next race at Silverstone, England in August.


Carmichael to switch from 2 to 4 wheels UPDATE If Motocross racer Ricky Carmichael wants to give NASCAR a try, Joe Gibbs Racing will find a seat for him. J.D. Gibbs said Sunday the team has had preliminary discussions with Carmichael, who many consider the greatest motocross racer of all time. "We're just talking to him, like a "Hey, if it ever comes up and you are interested in doing something, let's brainstorm,' " Gibbs said. Carmichael is expected to make the 2007 season his final one in Motocross, and Gibbs said he didn't think it would take him long to adjust to stock-cars if Carmichael wanted to give them a try. FoxSports/AP

07/20/06 As Ricky Carmichael soldiers on through his last full season on the AMA Motocross circuit, pieces are starting to fall in place as to what exactly his plans are for 2007 and beyond. Besides rumors circulating of Carmichael signing a three-year deal to drive in the ARCA Series for the Joe Gibbs race team starting in 2007, Carmichael is starting to leave hints as to which outdoor nationals he plans on racing next year. racerxill.com


A third car for Yates? UPDATE Robert Yates Racing is trying to put 19-year-old Stephen Leicht in a Nextel Cup car in 2007, team co-owner Doug Yates confirmed Monday.

Yates said that if CitiFinancial agrees to sponsor the team's No. 88 Nextel Cup car next season, Leicht will be the driver. If the company decides to remain in the Busch Series, Leicht would drive that car and he also would be a candidate to drive the Cup car, depending on the sponsor. Yates also said if Leicht doesn't run Cup in 2007, then he would in 2008. Today, we like what we see," Robert Yates said Monday afternoon. "When you race, you've got to really feel good with what you line up with and make sure that you bet on it succeeding. Today, I think Steve has a good chance of doing that."

07/24/06 Robert Yates said there's a "realistic" chance that RYR could go to three Cup teams next season if 44-year-old Ward Burton, who has been out of Cup the past two seasons, comes up with a sponsor. CitiFinancial and M&M's, according to team officials, are looking for younger drivers such as Leicht, 19, and Gilliland, 30. "If Ward walked in with a sponsor today we'd say, 'Ward, you've got the ride,'" Yates said.NASCAR.com

The Yates crew is interested in Gilliland, sources tell Team Ford Racing, with veterans Ricky Rudd and Ward Burton as the team’s fallback position if they are unable to sign a young up-and-comer, Gilliland or someone else. Ford Racing


Davidson to drive for Super Aguri
With the removal of the Friday Test Driver from Formula One next year, Honda Racing F1's Anthony Davidson is set to move up to a full racing seat, with Honda-powered outfit Super Aguri F1.

Davidson's contract with Honda Racing F1 ends this year and, while the team are keen to renew it, they won't stand in the way of the British driver moving to a full time racing berth.

With Super Aguri keen to run a modified Honda RA106 chassis in next years championship, Davidson will be a valuable asset, bringing tens of thousands of kilometres of experience with him. Teaming up with Takuma Sato for a second time, the Japanese squad will be able to draw on a vast wealth of knowledge, hopefully propelling the team up the grid.

Read more & Comment...

Cracks forming in the IRL UPDATE A reader responds, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I agree there needs to be one open wheel series not two. I also think that Kalkhoven & friends should not give in to Tony George's demands just because he has the Indy 500. Champ Car is guaranteed to have more cars then the IRL next year unless Penske and Ganassi grow to 4-car teams like AGR (not likely). From a Champ Car fans perspective, it was hard to see Honda, Toyota, sponsors & teams jump from CART to the IRL.

We deserve the enjoyment we are going to get from the same thing happening in reverse. The only thing holding the IRL afloat is the Indy 500. Champ Car is in a better position than the IRL right now. Next year, will be a breakthrough year for Champ Cars. New less expensive chassis, new teams, new races like Las Vegas, it will be great. Rahal, Ganassi & others will not go down with the ship like Tony George will. Ganassi, if he leaves the IRL, might just do NASCAR & leave open wheel racing. Roger Penske is smart. He probably already has a life raft planned. Rahal is second guessing his decision of leaving the series at Long Beach a couple of years ago. You can tell by his comments this past couple of days that he would rather be in Champ Car.

With Champ Cars picking up steam the IRL cannot survive with the Indy 500 alone, that’s why you see Tony George doing Street/Road courses this year. He is trying whatever he can to keep his head above water. The IRL needs a merger more than Champ Car does. The longer the split goes on the less Tony George has chips to deal with. This merger talk all of a sudden, why? Rahal commented that Ganassi, Penske and themselves are 50/50 right now on switching series. Could Tony have possibly sensed something and decided he needed to start talking merger? It's a real possibility.

A merger can't happen in 2007 with all the logistics (track contracts, prior commitments, etc.). It could happen in 2008. All it would need is two out of those three teams mentioned in this article to jump ship back to Champ Car. They have all jumped a sinking ship before so doing it a second time should come easier for them. One thing is for sure, whoever doesn't do it in 2007 will be a year behind on developing the new Panoz chassis. I hope they come to their senses soon, because they can make this merger happen by themselves. Here is to the future. "The Champ Car IndyCar Series". Rod, Orlando, FL.

07/24/06 A week after Cheever Racing suspended operations, the Indy Racing League is in danger of losing another team.

Indianapolis-based Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, which has been in business since team co-owner Robbie Buhl drove the car to a win in its 2000 debut at Walt Disney World Speedway, does not have the funds to race next weekend at Michigan International Speedway.

Assuming a deal doesn't come together quickly, Dreyer & Reinbold's absence will leave the IRL with 17 cars, its fewest ever.

"The window on (our participation) is closing fast," Buhl said Saturday from the Milwaukee Mile, where Ryan Briscoe will drive the team's car.
Briscoe crashed the primary car in Friday's practice and will start last in the 18-car field of today's ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Indy 225.

Dreyer & Reinbold had hoped a program for Sarah Fisher would come together for Michigan, but she needed a test after being out of an Indy car for three seasons. Briscoe is committed to drive the car at the IRL's Aug. 27 road-course race in Sonoma, Calif.

Whether the IRL can come up with an 18th car at Michigan remains to be seen. Marty Roth, whose only league experience is two starts in the Indianapolis 500, had hoped to participate.

There has been talk of Tony George's Vision Racing team fielding an extra car for Townsend Bell, but George said Friday "that's not on our radar."

Eighteen cars is the fewest the IRL has fielded in its 11-year existence, and both of those races have come in the past two weeks. Indy Star [Editor's Note: Anyone who thinks the IRL does not need a merger with Champ Car ASAP had better pull their head out of the sand now.]


Hockenheim, Imola, set for F1 chop UPDATE #4 Hockenheim circuit spokesman Hartmut Tesseraux told 'dpa' on Monday that he 'assumes' the race is to drop off Bernie Ecclestone's 2007 calendar.

With Spa Francorchamps to return and teams unwilling to travel to more than 18 venues each year, Germany - with two grands prix on the current schedule - along with Italy, is an obvious target for the cull.

''We are still in negotiations,'' Tesseraux continued, revealing that an announcement is likely to come shortly, ''and these discussions will continue during this weekend.''

He added, however, that Hockenheim is still hopeful that Ecclestone could agree to a year-by-year alternation of the formula one privilege with organizers of the Nurburgring event.

With local hero Michael Schumacher's return to championship contention, meanwhile, Hockenheim is expecting a bumper crowd on Sunday -- upwards of 100,000.

07/16/06 (GMM)  Germany's leading motor sport politician has re-floated the concept of alternating the Hockenheim and Nurburgring races, as Bernie Ecclestone indicated at Magny Cours that 'one' looks likely for the chop in 2007.

''A rotation (of the races each year) is both necessary and reasonable,'' said Hermann Tomczyk, who is an FIA vice president, according to 'sid' agency.

Ecclestone indicated on Saturday that Imola will also fall off the calendar next year, while Toyota sources at Magny Cours reiterated speculation that Fuji will certainly join the schedule in Suzuka's place.

Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, meanwhile - with key circuit improvements - is due to return.

07/15/06 Germany and Italy could each lose a Grand Prix next year but Belgium's Spa is set to return, Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone said on Saturday.

Germany currently has races at the Nurburgring and Hockenheim but Ecclestone, who draws up the calendar, told Reuters at the French Grand Prix that could be trimmed to just one round.

"We're working on it, probably only one," he said. The same applied to Italy, which has the historic Monza circuit and Ferrari's home track at Imola.

"It looks like it," said the Briton.

07/03/06 (GMM)  A spokesman for the Hockenheim circuit has reacted with surprise to reports that Mexico and Korea are more likely to feature on the 2009 formula one calendar.

Imola, Italy's second annual grand prix, is also mentioned as a possible victim of the sport's continued thrust into new territories.

Moreover, at the Indianapolis convention centre on Sunday, McLaren chief Ron Dennis backed up the story by saying that he expected races in the future in Mexico and Korea, and probably Russia too.

''I cannot imagine that Bernie Ecclestone said this as a fact,'' Hockenheim's Hartmut Tesseraux said, according to 'sid' agency.

''Only last week there were discussions with him in London, and we are still in negotiations.''

Hockenheim's contract to host the German grand prix runs out after its 2008 race, although the agreement does include options for another five events.

07/02/06 (GMM)  Hockenheim's spot on the formula one calendar is under threat.

At Indianapolis on Saturday, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone staged a rare meeting with all team principals and reportedly told them that races would need to make way for new grands prix in Korea, Mexico and possibly another in the United States.

While the new races could be set for debuts in 2009, Spa-Francorchamps at Belgium is hoping to be reinstated next season.

As well as Hockenheim, Italy's second race - at Imola - is also in doubt, 'Speed TV' claimed, because the teams are loathe to return to the hectic days of a 19-race calendar such as in 2005.


Tire concern at Indy
Two days of NASCAR testing earlier this month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway didn't allay the fears of several teams that tire wear is going to be a problem at the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.

"I think it's a big concern. I think it's our first tire issue of the year," driver Greg Biffle said at Pocono Raceway before Sunday's Pennsylvania 500, the last stop before the Aug. 6 Brickyard.

Goodyear wasn't satisfied with the tire compound it brought for an initial test with three teams in April and summoned them back for a second test the week after the Indianapolis 500. Company spokesman Mark Keto said despite the rapid wear some teams experienced during the full test July 10-12, there's no problem that more rubber on the track won't cure.

Heavy rain that cleaned the surface forced cancellation of the middle day of the NASCAR test and further complicated matters.

Biffle concedes uninterrupted track time with a full field of cars could fix things, but he isn't wholly convinced. He said his tires initially were down to the cords within six laps and even by the end of the test day he was getting only 12-14 laps on his Roush Racing car.

Richard Childress Racing driver Kevin Harvick reported similar rapid tire wear.

"I think everybody is pretty nervous about the tire," he said. "They say they are going to be all right, but you never know until you get back."  Indy Star


NASCAR going global
This Miami Herald article talks about NASCAR's popularity growth, and particularly its growing interest worldwide. NASCAR has a much broader appeal than what it had 10 to 15 years ago. It just didn't happen. It was planned.' (Related article - Stock Car's lead widening over open wheel.)


2007 to be Champ Car’s breakout year UPDATE More cars next year. Guaranteed.

But will two of them be Rahal-Letterman cars from the Indy Racing League?

Bobby Rahal shook up the auto racing world a tad with his comments in the Sun yesterday about the possibility of his team jumping from IRL to Champ Car.

"Bobby has seen, because of his son racing the support series, the quality of racing and the quality of venues such as we have here in Edmonton,'' said Champ Car owner Kevin Kalkhoven yesterday. "Obviously it's had an impression on him.''

Rahal started his professional racing career in Edmonton at a Players Series race in what is now the Formula Atlantic Series, in which his 17-year-old son Graham is a rookie. He had his Rahal-Letterman unit in the Champ Car paddock this weekend and suggested it could be here for more than just a visit in the future.

"You never know,'' he told the Sun. "It's a great series. Owners like to race in great series. Many things depend on sponsors. They're putting on great events. It's great racing.''

He also suggested Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi "or ourselves are probably 50-50 odds'' to switch series in the event.

One Champ Car team owner, Carl Haas of Newman-Haas racing, said he can't see all three.

But, Rahal ... there's a chance.

"I think so,'' he said of the owner, along with CBS Late Show host David Letterman, who have female star Danica Patrick driving one of his Indy Racing League cars.

"But Penske? Chip? I don't see Penske or Ganassi. Absolutely not.''

That said, Haas said he thinks there will be some movement from the IRL series which raced Milwaukee yesterday and which is viewed by some as being "on life-support'' outside of the crown jewel Indianapolis 500.

"I think there are people looking to do that. People are definitely interested, from what I'm told,'' said Haas, who met partner Paul Newman here when he used to race sports cars in the Edmonton International Speedway days.

"If we could bring this to a single series, it would be the ideal situation. There's not quite enough room for two. It would also bring more TV. It's hard for people to get sponsors. It's very hard.

"Kalkhoven is trying very hard. Some of the new venues like Edmonton are great. We have Las Vegas coming on next year.''

Newman, also here for the race, was not available for comment beyond raving once again about the crowds, track and atmosphere here.

There's the suggestion Newman-Haas has been talking about hiring Rahal's son Graham, 17, to join Sebastien Bourdais as a driver with their series-leading team.

"It was a conversation,'' said Haas of having talked to the Rahals on the topic.

"He's a good young driver and he's an American.''

Champ Car has but one U.S. driver, A.J. Allmendinger, who won the previous three races in the series and finished third yesterday.

Kalkhoven said one thing he can guarantee.

"We'll come here next year with more cars. I say that without hesitation.''

The first two Edmonton Grand Prix have featured fields of 18 cars each.

"I believe the new chassis we're going to next year, combined with the excellent new venues like Edmonton we have in our series, will result in a number of new teams in the series. It's now getting very attractive. I think we'll see a number of new teams in the series.''  Edmonton Sun

07/22/06 As we have stated on numerous occasions, 2005 and 2006 would be foundation building years for Champ Car and 2007 will be the year the company begins to generate a profit and build upwards. We have rumored a number of new teams lately, but being sworn to secrecy we did not tell you all we know. However, Alex Tagliani gives you further proof that what we tell you is true:

''What they need is a couple more cars,'' admitted Alex Tagliani. ''That's what they're working on. Behind the scenes I know there are a lot of cars on order from Panoz. There are going to be a lot of cars delivered before Christmas. There are rumors that if you do a car count, you will see there are going to be more teams next year, just by looking at the orders. There are some teams coming from somewhere.''

Couple that with some new sponsors, new races in Las Vegas, Phoenix, China, and perhaps San Antonio, Morocco and Holland or Eastern Europe, and you have the makings of a series poised for some great things.


Rival cars could sprout BMW wings
(GMM)  Rival teams plan to investigate the effects of BMW-Sauber's inventive 'nose wings' after the tower-like appendages debuted in France.

Admitting the mantra that imitation is often the only flattery at the pinnacle of motor sport, Williams' Sam Michael vowed to soon look into the concept at the Grove wind tunnel.

''Their car is obviously working very well with the wings,'' he was quoted as saying by Eurosport, adding that the design affects the air to the rear of the car.

Michael admitted: ''It's like any new part.  We haven't tried it in the tunnel, but we'll have a look.''

Ferrari's Ross Brawn, however, noted that the aerodynamic innovation resembles the 'x-wing' (1998) or nose-wing (2001) designs of the past, which were subsequently banned by the FIA.

''I am sure there will be some controversy,'' he said, presumably alluding to criticisms that not only are the appendages aesthetically questionable, but could impede a driver's vision.

''It looks terrible,'' Sam Michael admitted.

But Brawn added: ''If the FIA are happy then obviously we will go away and have a look at the concept.''


More evidence interest in NASCAR waning?
A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1,com, I don’t watch NASCAR but I saw the highlights of the Busch race at Martinsville. Looked like a giant sea of empty seats, even with the return of ole D.W. What if they held a race and nobody showed up? Doug Ferguson

Dear Doug, As we stated, NASCAR has flooded the media with so much NASCAR, and coupled with the outrageous ticket prices, the fans are saying that's enough. There is a lot of truth in the saying, "too much of a good thing." NASCAR has reached a saturation point. It will be interesting to see if open wheel can capitalize on it by merging now and offering the fans a good alternative. Mark C. Photo courtesy of CIA Stock Photo


Yates eyes Gilliland UPDATE Gilliland has gone on record as saying that if sponsor M&Ms approve him, he will indeed take over the Elliott Sadler car in 2007.

07/23/06 David Gilliland, who has won one Busch Series race, said yesterday he has been contacted by several teams for next year. The Charlotte Observer reported that one of those teams was Robert Yates Racing, reporting that Yates had extended Gilliland an offer to replace Emporia native Elliott Sadler in the #38. Gilliland wrecked out of the Goody's 250 on Lap 163. Shortly after Gilliland emerged from the team's hauler, Jack Roush pulled him aside for a short conversation. Gilliland didn't mention specifics yesterday but said his goal hasn't changed. "We've got a lot of options. I got a lot of phone calls," Gilliland said. "I want to race full time next year." Richmond Times Dispatch


Schu to make decision on F1 future soon
(GMM) The world won't know the crucial detail, but in the Hockenheim paddock Michael Schumacher will already have decided whether or not to quit formula one at the end of 2006.

''By then he will have decided which path to take,'' said the German's personal manager Willi Weber, ''whether he will quit or continue.''

37-year-old Schumacher's decision - to be made public at Monza - is not so much the key to the 2007 driver market, but a vital falling domino that is certain to set in motion many key moves.

Kimi Raikkonen is undoubtedly waiting for a vacancy at the Ferrari team, so therefore Renault and McLaren are waiting for the Finn. Felipe Massa is another domino in wait.

Even so, Weber is surprised at the level of interest in the subject; particularly with a high-interest race in Germany in wait.

''I was asked around 300 times at the Nurburgring,'' he confirmed to the Indo-Asian News Service, ''it's getting on my nerves.''

Michael's countryman Nick Heidfeld also observed: ''I sometimes feel sorry for him over this issue. I can imagine how annoying it is.''

The feeling in the paddock is that Schumacher is set to race on, with speculation that a two-year deal will include end-of-year out-clauses in the event that Schumacher tops the title.

Triple world champion Niki Lauda observed: ''There is no reason for retirement.

''Schumacher is in a fantastic form. He has everything under control at Ferrari -- no rival and a competitive car.''


Kyle Petty ready to step down
How far would Kyle Petty go to insure the restoration of Petty Enterprises to the glory years of Richard Petty's seven Winston Cup (now NEXTEL Cup) Championships? Would he surrender the No. 45 Dodge to another driver and hang up his helmet? "Yes, I would retire tomorrow if it would help Bobby Labonte win races and Petty Enterprises contend for the championship," Petty confirmed candidly when asked if he was willing to step out of his ride under the right circumstances. What would be the right circumstances? Petty said he would gladly step aside as a NEXTEL Cup Series driver if the team was able to sign a marquee driver and sponsor capable of furthering the efforts of Bobby Labonte, Todd Parrott, Robbie Loomis and the rest of the team in Randleman, NC. "And," he added, "If I retired from this I would go racing in the Grand Am Series or something like that. But, once I retired from NEXTEL Cup that would be it. If I said, 'I'm done completely then I would be done completely. If I said I would run three or four races then I would only run three or four races.'" CircleTrackPlus.com


New Aguri could make troubled debut
(GMM) Aguri Suzuki has warned that the debut of his F1 team's new car at Hockenheim might be marred by reliability trouble.

'SA06' is a long-awaited development of its Super Aguri predecessor; whose chassis and basic bodywork was carried over from the 2002 racer of defunct team Arrows.

The new car, still using the Arrows monocoque but significantly lighter, debuted at a Silverstone 'shakedown' this week and on Thursday got a second outing in the hands of Sakon Yamamoto, who will also debut next weekend.

But Suzuki said: ''It is possible that we are going to face a few teething problems.''

The updated car's aerodynamic bodywork is all new, as is the aluminum gearbox and revised rear suspension.

''The car felt good,'' said Takuma Sato, ''although it is difficult to say how good as the Stowe circuit (at Silverstone) is very short compared to a normal race track.''


Heikki Kovalainen will race in 2007
Renault test driver Heikki Kovalainen is confident he will be racing next year. There is plenty of speculation over who will partner Giancarlo Fisichella at Renault next season. Fisichella has already claimed it would be a Finn - in other words either Kovalainen or Raikkonen.

Kovalainen isn't sure who Renault will go for, but he is confident he will race next season in Formula 1. Kovalainen told F1Racing.net: "I haven't paid a lot of attention to that, because the team hasn't made a decision yet, and the management hasn't made a decision either. They told me to carry on testing and not to worry about anything else. I’m quite confident that I am racing next year and wherever it is, I am sure it will be at the right place. We will just have to wait."


Fisichella injures shoulder - source
(GMM)  World champion Fernando Alonso was not scheduled to join the test action at Jerez this week, but the Spaniard turned the laps for Renault on Friday.

It is reported in the Spanish media that he was only drafted in to the pre-Hockenheim session after teammate Giancarlo Fisichella pulled out with an apparent injured shoulder.

''But (Fisichella) will be okay for Hockenheim,'' said a source in Spain.

Jerez on Thursday was excruciatingly hot -- 38C at one point.  Honda led the way, also in the presence of runners for BMW, McLaren, Red Bull, Toyota, Williams, Toro Rosso and Midland.

Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa, meanwhile - also on Friday - circulated for Ferrari at Paul Ricard (France).


Patrick rumors just smoke and mirrors
The smoke and mirrors that have clouded the reality check on Danica Patrick are fading rapidly.

The darling of the sporting world after her fourth-place finish in the 2005 Indianapolis 500 - the reality being it was her race to lose - was slipping out of the spotlight week by week, and she needed a boost.

She got it from her father, T.J., who told one of the country's most-respected motorsports writers, Ed Hinton, that Danica might be ready to jump to NASCAR.

This seems like a ploy, pure and simple, to get more money from an owner, whether it's Rahal Letterman Racing or a new team. The IRL would go to extremes to keep her, despite the fact she hasn't won yet and clinging to the hope that she soon will. The league is struggling to regain the interest of fans, and even a merger with the Champ Car circuit won't solve all the problems. Arizona Republic


Trulli to sign new Toyota contract UPDATE #3 Toyota's Jarno Trulli has confirmed that he and Toyota have only to sort a few 'details' now before he is confirmed alongside Ralf Schumacher for next season.

"We have been in consultation with the team for some time and have reached an agreement that is now down to the detail stages," he explained. "I think it is important to take a stable situation and develop everything to the best of your ability. That's an important mentality.

"You can have a year starting badly, as this one did, but we've managed to recover the situation, fix most of the reliability problems and now have a generally quick car. All that's left now is to hope that the second half of the season will bring further improvements.

"I'm happy for both myself and the team because Toyota has been really working hard in the last few months. Now, step-by- step, we are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. The car has been very competitive recently and I have to say well done to the team and to Bridgestone. The whole package is working very much better at the moment."

06/29/06 (GMM)  Jarno Trulli is 'very close' to signing a new contract, Toyota F1 president John Howett admits.

Responding to the reports circulating at Montreal that the Italian was shaping up to stay for another three years, Howett insisted that pen hasn't yet been put to paper.

''But we're very close to (reaching) an agreement,'' the Briton was quoted as saying by Speed TV.

Howett explained: ''It's always dangerous to say anything until we both finally agree the details and sign.  As I've said all along, we expect to have the same driver line-up (in 2007).''

31-year-old Trulli's current teammate is Ralf Schumacher, who has at least one more year to run on his own deal.

06/25/06 (GMM) Jarno Trulli has denied rumors that a new three-year contract with Toyota is now done.

But the Italian driver did confess that he is 'close' to putting pen to paper.

''At the moment I am in talks,'' Trulli, 31, told BBC, ''and close to a contract with Toyota. But at the moment it is not done.''

06/24/06 (GMM) According to reports emerging from both Italy and Britain, Jarno Trulli will stay at the Toyota team beyond the end of 2006.

In fact, although the deal is not yet thought to have actually been signed, the Italian driver could be set to win a three-year contract with the Japanese manufacturer to guarantee his presence on the grid until at least late 2009.

The early reports suggest that Trulli, to turn 32 in less than a month, spoke openly about the matter with reporters at Montreal on Saturday prior to qualifying.

He reportedly said: ''Only at the end of a long-term contract can you say whether your decision was right or not.

''I don't think it is a good idea to constantly change teams. These days you can not any longer think from year to year.''

Teammate Ralf Schumacher is already on a long-term Toyota contract, so the Trulli news puts an end to rumors linking potential replacements like Nico Rosberg to the seat.


Danica to sign new contract soon UPDATE #3 Milwaukee Channel 6 sports director, Tom Pippin's reports tonight on the 9'oclock news said that Danica Patrick has indeed signed with AGR for 2007. Her 15 second sound bite said " Now I can go with a team I can win with."

07/16/06 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' tonight.  10pm Sunday FOX 59 in Indianapolis reports Danica Patrick has signed with Andretti Green Racing for 2007.

07/16/06 In a pre-race interview before the Firestone Indy 200 in Nashville Saturday night Danica Patrick made it plain and clear that she will not be moving to NASCAR next year and will remain in IndyCars, so if she is close to signing a deal, it won't be to race in NASCAR. The NASCAR move was just hype for some free PR and to extract more money from Tony George's bank account.

"I really feel that if you want to win Indy, you need to be in IndyCar," she told ESPN.

"Having been there and having done so well, I know what that single race can do for you in your whole life. Since one of my goals is to win that race, I don't believe I can be anywhere else but IndyCar."

Patrick told ESPN her goals of winning the Indianapolis 500 haven't changed because her parents attended a Nextel Cup race last weekend. But she said those goals would be reassessed when she wins the Indianapolis 500.

07/15/06 LEBANON, Tenn. -- Danica Patrick has gotten so serious with contract talks, a deal could be imminent.

The difficult part is determining which team, and which series, is in the lead.

"I think whatever happens, it will come to a head sooner rather than later," Patrick said Friday at Nashville Superspeedway, where she and the Indy Racing League will race tonight in the Firestone Indy 200.

Within the next week?

"Maybe," she said.

Patrick, who is in the final year of her contract with Rahal Letterman Racing, has met with team owner Bobby Rahal twice this weekend and considers his team among the front-runners.

But there is at least one other IRL team in the mix, she confirmed Friday, along with at least one in NASCAR. She wouldn't tip her hand.

Said Rahal: "As far as I know, she's staying here. But one thing I've learned, no one is irreplaceable, including me."  More at Indy Star


AGR/Fernandez/Rahal teams eyes ALMS with Honda UPDATE #8 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcements - see Hot News page.

07/17/06 AutoWeek reports that Honda has ordered both the LeMans winning Lola B05/40 chassis-and the as-yet-unraced Courage LC75.  It appears likely that AGR and Highcroft will race Courages, probably one each but perhaps two for AGR, and that Fernandez will use the Lola.

07/16/06 According to SPEEDTV.com, there is a chance that Marco and Michael Andretti could pair up at next year's 12 Hours of Sebring ALMS enduro in he Honda that they will be running.  An announcement is expected Thursday that Fernandez Racing and Andretti Green Racing will be running Hondas on the LMP2 class of ALMS next year. 

07/16/06 LEBANON, Tenn. -- The Indy Racing League's 2007 schedule has yet to be announced, but two of its race teams, both based in Indianapolis, are about to get busier.
Andretti Green Racing and Fernandez Racing will be two of the three Honda teams that will debut next year in the prototype division of the American Le Mans Series.

Fernandez already has a sports car team currently participating in the rival of ALMS, the Grand American Road Racing Series. AGR will add its new program to its shop on the city's Northwestside.

Both teams plan to continue their IRL programs, AGR with four cars, Fernandez with two.

Honda's third ALMS team will be Highcroft Racing, owned by Connecticut-based Duncan Dayton.

Drivers have not been selected, but two of AGR's drivers -- Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta -- are considering a move to ALMS.

"They'd be naturals," AGR co-owner Kevin Savoree said Saturday at Nashville Superspeedway. "They're both great drivers with great (personalities), and they're both key parts of the Honda family."

Franchitti said IRL is his first priority, but he is considering ALMS.
Herta likes the idea of being involved in a new program, but he's an Indy-car driver at heart and like Franchitti, he has the option to return to his IRL car.

"I love Indy cars, but how much longer can I do this, two or three years?" he said. "ALMS is the chance to start with something new, a startup deal, and build it into something I could be with for a long time.

"So I don't know right now." Indy Star 

Read more & Comment...

Bruce McCaw eyes Champ Car return? UPDATE #2 We heard from another source that Bruce McCaw remains very serious about possibly getting back into Champ Car as a team owner in 2007.  Already the new car is beginning to generate a renewed interest in the series.  Like we said a long time ago, 2005 and 2006 would be foundation building years, and 2007 was looking to be Champ Car's breakout year.  Certainly with what we have heard in recent days, that appears to be the case.  Mark C.

09/24/05 Correction to spelling of Bruce McCaw's name. It is not McCall. Besides their previous involvement with Nextel, Bruce's brother (Craig McCaw) is one of the founders of "Teledesic" (a currently "frozen" company planning a "system" of broadband satellites!).............Another investor in  Teledesic? - Why, Bill Gates. 09/24/05 Former CART team owner Bruce McCaw is rumored to be considering a possible return to Champ Car in 2007 when the new cars will be used.  McCaw was spotted in deep conversation with Kevin Kalkhoven in Las Vegas, as well as other Champ Car officials.


Another mega team in works for Champ Car?
AutoRacing1.com is hearing that a large multinational company is looking at entering Champ Car in 2007.  As we are sworn to secrecy we can only say that we don't know if this company will start a new team or if they will fully fund both of the drivers with existing teams, but we thought this was pretty interesting.  One driver is from Europe and has over 30 F1 races under his belt and the other would probably be an American.  If it happens this will be a very well funded team.  Mark C.

TV News

Split screen option for NASCAR?
Fans hoping that NASCAR’s move to ABC/ESPN next year would improve their viewing experience may be in for a rude awakening. Although the networks employ a “Side-By-Side” split-screen feature for its Indy Racing League coverage that allows viewers to continue watching the action while commercials play, NASCAR has forbidden ABC/ESPN or any of its other TV partners from marketing that kind of advertising. “We’ve looked at a lot of options to enhance the fan/viewer experience but feel that a split-screen presentation of ads and racing serves neither the fan nor advertiser,” says Ramsey Poston, NASCAR’s managing director of corporate communications. “Our TV partners do an excellent job of immediately returning to significant track action when it happens during commercials. With replays and other technology, the networks make sure NASCAR fans get the best, most comprehensive race coverage anywhere.” But according to George McNeilly, senior director of communications for ESPN/ABC Sports, the networks would be interested in exploring the split-screen option. “We are engaging focus groups and other research in an effort to quantify the positive feedback we’ve received from people who’ve enjoyed the viewing experience,” McNeilly says. “allowing the split screen would be a NASCAR decision. We’re in discussions about that and many other things.” Long Island Press


2007 IRL schedule to expand
The IndyCar Series is expecting to add at least two events for 2007.

“It is too early to confirm how many races we will have next year,” said John Griffin, IRL vice president of public relations. “Our goal and objective is to expand our schedule while staying within the time frames we established for this year. People can expect a 2007 schedule in the near future.”

The IRL plans to start the 2007 title chase in mid to late March, then run through the early part of September per ABC TV's wishes.

IRL officials confirmed off the record that the 2007 schedule could have as many as 18 races, though 16 remains the most likely number. If 18 the mix would be 12 ovals, 3 road courses and 3 street races. 

The twelve ovals are the eleven ovals, with the new Iowa Speedway being added. A street race in Los Angeles outside of Dodger Stadium remains a possibility as does San Antonio, Texas.   There has also been talk of an IRL race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.


Champ Car Indy Racing League?
According to this Edmonton Sun article, The circus is back in town.

Think of it this way. This is Ringling Bros.

Playing Milwaukee this weekend is Barnum & Bailey.

This is a Champ Car. The Indy Racing League is racing the Milwaukee Mile Sunday.

In order to thrive and survive, the circus world now has Ringling Bros., Barnum & Bailey. The story here is that there's evidence that the auto racing world, within weeks, perhaps days, could be looking at a merger to become the Champ Car Indy Racing League.

Edmonton race backers aren't speaking to the subject, but they were convinced to spend $1.5 million to move the main grandstand and pit area to accommodate 35 pits for the future. Doesn't that telegraph their expectations?

[Editor's Note: Given the way the IRL and Champ Car are conducting business as if no merger is planned, including developing race schedules with date conflicts, gives no indication a merger is imminent despite what this article says, though the author reveals a name for the new league as if it was leaked to him, so.......hmmm.....]


Massa to renew with Ferrari
(GMM) A clear indication that Ferrari has not yet settled upon its 2007 driver lineup is Felipe Massa.

Although recently linked with a move to Red Bull, it is similarly rumored that the young Brazilian is now likely to have his one-year contract renewed.

Massa, 24, has driven well in recent grands prix, but his likely presence in red overalls for 2007 probably has more to do with the fact that Kimi Raikkonen is nearing a deal to drive for Renault.

At any rate, he is not really a feature of the 2006/7 silly season, and has in recent races fended off speculation about his future with a suggestive air of confidence.

Massa and manager Nicolas Todt have, however, also cropped up in apparent negotiations with Toyota, but Felipe told Auto Motor Und Sport: ''You have to look around so that you are prepared for the worst case.''


Ecclestone to promote Spa UPDATE #2 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' per this Hot News story.  Bernie will not promote Spa, which means he knows it is a money loser no matter what he could do for the race.  Instead another sucker appears to have been found that will pay Ecclestone's FOM exorbitant sanctioning fees with little hope of turning a profit.

05/14/06 (GMM) The return next year of the popular Belgian grand prix at Spa-Francorchamps is not yet guaranteed.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone suggested in Barcelona that he was trying to organize a rare deal to promote the race himself, after it was left off the '06 calendar due to money problems.

'Sydney Morning Herald' quoted him as saying that a deal is 'in the middle' of a negotiation period, involving the requirement for the outdated circuit facilities to be upgraded.

''It's not easy,'' said 75-year-old Bernie, ''(as) we're dealing with politicians and it's difficult for them.

''We'll probably get it together.

''We'll try and get it back. I think we need to have Spa if we can. We're doing our best.''

05/13/06 Bernie Ecclestone is negotiating with the Belgian authorities to acquire the rights for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.

"We're talking to them about it; we want to take it over," Ecclestone told autosport.com. "We're hoping we can do something for 2007. It's just a matter of getting people to agree.

"We couldn't purchase the track, because it's a public road, so it's a little bit difficult. But we're trying to do a deal to hold the race, and I'll be the promoter. That's the whole idea."

Meanwhile, despite optimism earlier in the week that a deal could be struck to take Grand Prix Masters to Spa-Francorchamps as replacement for the circuit's September 17 Formula One date, the race is now unlikely to go ahead, autosport.com reports.

"We thought we had a deal after some extremely positive conference calls," GPM founder Scott Poulter told autosport.com, "but we seem to be a little bit apart, and it is now unlikely that we'll be going there in September.

"Bob (Berridge, technical and sporting consultant to GP Masters) is racing in the sports car race there this weekend, and he's giving it one last shot (to salvage the race), but possibly the Heads of Terms Agreement we sent across earlier in the week caused a rethink by the promoters, MediaGroup Van Dyck."


Las Vegas street race location revealed UPDATE #14 Look for this rumor to finally go to 'fact' today.  See Hot News article for full story.

07/04/06 This Las Vegas Review Journal article talks about the revitalization plans the city of Las Vegas has for the downtown area. The upgrades they are talking about fall within the proposed Champ Car track. Las Vegas Blvd. is five blocks to the East of Main Street on the map.

Working the race into the planned revitalization of downtown Las Vegas is very similar to what happened in Long Beach and the plans for Phoenix. The force behind the Vegas race is the same person who is behind the proposed Phoenix race - Dale Jensen, owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Phoenix Suns and so much more.

The central corridor of downtown Las Vegas' designated entertainment district has a new name - Fremont East - and a revised plan to fill a few blocks of Fremont Street with neon.

The area, which spans three blocks of Fremont Street from Las Vegas Boulevard to Eighth Street, is to have a decorative arch over each end of the district bearing the name Fremont East. The city also is planning to copyright the name.

06/23/06 See pages 53 through 56 of these May 3rd Las Vegas City Council meeting minutes whereby the Las Vegas Champ Car street race is meeting with near unanimous approval. So far it sounds like this race is a go on all fronts.

05/04/06 See this Hot News item for news on the interest this race is generating in Las Vegas and a news report on last night's City Council meeting.

05/02/06 Inside sources tell us the track diagram has been changed from what we show below as that diagram is a month old and may undergone a couple of revisions.

05/02/06 According to autosport.com, a 14-turn, 2.44-mile course set at the north end of the Las Vegas strip has been submitted for approval by the Council.

"The situation is that if the City Council approve, then we are there," Champ Car co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven told AutoSport. "We have a promoter in place, and a Las Vegas Grand Prix would be a perfect fit for the series, and a perfect fit for Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world."

04/30/06 To the right is the proposed Las Vegas Champ Car street circuit layout created by AutoRacing1.com presented in 3-dimensions. This overlay on a recent aerial photograph of the area shows that this track should race well. All the streets are wide and there are a number of long straights. At 2.44 miles in length, it is longer than most of Champ Car's street circuits, including the renowned Long Beach which measures just under 2 miles in length.

04/29/06 Photos of a portion of the proposed Las Vegas Street circuit:

Refer to map below right for Turn Numbers referenced on photos

04/28/06 Here is the City Council meeting announcement (PDF - 18 pages including track layout). Proposed track is quite interesting and is located right where we said it would be when we broke this story months ago.

04/28/06 The Las Vegas City Council will meet on Wednesday May 3rd to discuss all the latest business relating to the city and one item on the agenda will be an application for $3.2m in public money to be spent on improvements to the infrastructure to create a temporary racing circuit on the streets of the city. The plan is for a 2.44-mile track to be laid out in the old downtown area, to the north of the famous Strip, close to an attraction called the Fremont Street Experience (as we rumored below). The plan is for the race to be held on the weekend of April 6-8 2007. Interesting given April 6-8 would be the week just prior to next year's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Mileage wise, however, the two events are far enough apart so as not to be a problem. Logistically, given the rumored merged 22-race IRL/Champ Car schedule for 2007, it makes sense to run these races back-to-back.

01/26/06 It seems Champ Car could have another option for a race location in Las Vegas, though we think this may be too far out of town. Could a road course be designed into the road network around the resort?

California developer Matt Rose today will outline plans for a $4B sports resort eight miles from the Las Vegas Strip that he hopes “will lure amateur, Olympic and possibly professional sporting events.” The Ultimate Sports Resort would include “a 26,000-seat arena, a 5,000-seat aquatic center, an air-conditioned driving range” and other sports-related elements. It would also have a 150,000-square-foot casino, 5,500 hotel rooms and ten nightclubs AP, 1/26

11/30/05 It is interesting to note that http://www.LasVegasGP.com and http://www.lvgp.com are registered and take you to a racing website showing Bridgestone Champ Car tires and the words "Coming Soon." 09/26/05 This Las Vegas Sun article talks about the status of a possible street race in Las Vegas and it does not sound like it's even close yet.....but stay tuned.

08/18/05 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, the proposed Las Vegas street circuit will be in the area shown on the map to the right, even if our track layout isn't exactly correct. The area is just west of "old town" Las Vegas which was the original hub of the gaming industry along Fremont Street. The big open undeveloped space next to Interstates I-15 and I-515 will be utilized we are told. We laid out what we think might be the course layout (pictured right). It measures 2.4 miles. We were told it was a "long" street circuit by Champ Car standards, so that agrees with our guess of a layout. The long straight along Main Street measures a whopping 0.8 miles in length and the open expanse is perfect for paddock area and grandstands. The Golden Gate Hotel and Casino and the Nevada Hotel and Casino sit inside the track. The layout, if correct, would feature four tunnel sections, under the railroad twice and under I-515 twice. Would Champ Car be so bold to build a street circuit like this that the drivers can actually pass on? What a novel idea.

A less ambitious 1.7-mile layout is shown above left. Although simple and short at just 1.7-miles, you can pass on it as well. A possible 2.25-mile layout is shown to the right. This layout would have the least impact on city streets.

Holding a season-ending street race in Las Vegas the weekend before the traditional Thanksgiving weekend is expected. We heard Thanksgiving weekend was also being explored, but if Champ Car did that they might have a mutiny on their hands with the teams and their families. Besides, who would travel to see a race on Thanksgiving weekend when everyone wants to be home with their families?

07/15/05 Word here in Edmonton is that a Las Vegas Champ Car street race is a distinct possibility, in 2006 or 2007. Final approvals are not all in place yet, but we hear the layout and location are great. It will not be on The Strip of course, but it's not far away and it's not any of the previously rumored locations in Vegas. The talk is that this race could and should be Champ Car's season finale in early November, back in the USA which is where it should be. Mark C.


Renault prepared to buy Raikkonen from Ferrari
Renault are reportedly ready to pay Ferrari $4.4m to sign McLaren driver Kimi Raikkonen. In a deal that would be both extravagant and bizarre by F1's remarkable standards, Renault are reputedly so intent on securing the Finn's services that they would pay Ferrari to cancel the pre-agreement they currently hold with Raikkonen.

It's widely believed in the paddock that Ferrari paid Kimi $4.4m to sign the pre-contract agreement earlier this season. However, according to reports, the terms of the agreement elapse at the end of July, ensuring that Raikkonen - or his new suitors - could then pay the money back and sign a deal with another team.

With Fernando Alonso bound for McLaren, Renault President Alain Dassas has acknowledged that signing Raikkonen for 2007 is the team's priority. "We are ready to pay the usual market price for a good driver," he announced. Planet-F1


Kimi’s team to be unveiled in August
(GMM) The identity of Kimi Raikkonen's next F1 employer will be unveiled in August, according to media reports.

On Tuesday, 'AS' newspaper in Spain cited the information of the Finn's manager, Steve Robertson, who supposedly told journalists at Magny Cours that they could expect to hear an announcement about 2007 next month.

It had been rumored in the French countryside that Renault, seemingly the favorite to land 26-year-old Raikkonen on the promise of $18.5m, would complete its driver line up ahead of the grand prix, but the announcement did not come.

'AS' speculates that Kimi's alleged 'pre-agreement' with Ferrari, set to run out at the end of this month, prohibits any announcement until August.

The first grand prix in August is Hungary.

In the same report, Renault boss Flavio Briatore was quoted as promising to 'say something about my future' at Hockenheim in about ten days' time.


De la Rosa gets Hockenheim ride
(GMM)  Pedro de la Rosa will definitely race for McLaren at the upcoming German grand prix, according to reports in his native Spain.

The 35-year-old test driver (pictured right) was called up at short notice to replace NASCAR-bound Juan Pablo Montoya at Magny Cours, but his longer term role remains unclear in the challenge of British chargers Gary Paffett and Lewis Hamilton.

But 'AS' newspaper quotes McLaren managing director Martin Whitmarsh as praising de la Rosa's French form, and urging him to do even better when he gets a second ride at Hockenheim next weekend.

''He was on Kimi (Raikkonen)'s pace,'' Whitmarsh reportedly said, with comments that coincided with de la Rosa's faster time head-to-head with Paffett at the Jerez test.

Whitmarsh admitted that de la Rosa lost a place to Mark Webber in the French GP, and struggled a little with the novel qualifying system, but confirmed: ''Pedro will be in Germany and I am sure he will also do a good job there.''

The Spanish 'AS' newspaper, meanwhile, revealed that McLaren engineers have 'praised' de la Rosa after Magny Cours 'and want to keep him in the car until the end of the year'.


Hard tires will be mandated to slow F1 cars
The FIA, motorsport's governing body, yesterday ordered formula one teams to propose methods of slowing their cars down in 2007.  Worries about safety were voiced earlier this season when a number of drivers, including the world champion Fernando Alonso and Jacques Villeneuve, said they were concerned about rising cornering speeds.

Juan Pablo Montoya said he was particularly worried that Copse corner at Silverstone was negotiated almost 20mph quicker during this year's British grand prix.

There is talk about an engine freeze a year earlier and other expensive changes to slow the cars.  However, in the end the easiest, least costly way to slow speeds is to have Bridgestone supply a hard control tire next year.  Cornering speeds will decrease significantly, and braking zones will increase.  If they also add 100 pounds to the weight of the cars that will also slow the cornering speeds and increase the braking distances.


Kimi to be 'free agent' at end of July
(GMM) Renault is pulling out all the stops to ensure that either Fernando Alonso or Kimi Raikkonen resides a blue and yellow F1 car next year.

Complimenting renewed speculation that Flavio Briatore is trying to woo McLaren's Finn, was a story at Magny Cours that the Renault principal also made enquiries as to whether Alonso's silver contract might also be undone.

A Renault spokesman called the rumor 'absolute nonsense', but Bild am Sonntag newspaper insists that 26-year-old Raikkonen will be a free agent as of the last day of July.

The newspaper said Kimi is presently bound to the terms of a $4.4m Ferrari pre-agreement -- and that the money has already changed hands.

But 'Bild am Sonntag' reports that the agreement runs out at the end of this month, where after Raikkonen could simply pay Ferrari back and drive for whomever he wants in 2007.

Renault president Alain Dassas, meanwhile, was quoted as saying by 'Welt' newspaper: ''We are ready to pay the usual market price for a good driver.''


Paffett in 'shoot-out' for de la Rosa's ride
(GMM)  Test driver Gary Paffett is in the running to replace Pedro de la Rosa as McLaren's second racer for the rest of the 2006 season.

Alongside de la Rosa and team regular Kimi Raikkonen, the British rookie will do a four-day 'shoot-out' at Jerez this week, and the prize could be a race debut in Hungary, according to the 'Mirror' newspaper in Britain.

McLaren managing director Martin Whitmarsh, meanwhile, was quoted by the BBC as saying that the Woking based team will select from within the 'family' to replace the departed Juan Pablo Montoya full-time next year.

''We have some very good talent in the family,'' he said, referring to de la Rosa, Paffett, and McLaren-sponsored GP2 sensation Lewis Hamilton.

Track News

Spa deal close UPDATE (GMM) Spa Francorchamps looks certain to return to the formula one calendar next year, according to local reports.

It is understood that an official announcement is due in the coming days, after the Walloon government confirmed at the weekend that the circuit would be renovated in time for 2007.

'De Standaard' publication writes that 60 million Euro will be spent on the new grand prix project, with the money to cover three races (until 2009) and a new paddock and pit complex.

07/15/06 The Belgian Grand Prix is edging closer to a deal that will guarantee the race next season. The Belgian authorities have now awarded an $18.85m construction contract to a consortium involving four local companies, WUST, Besix, Bodarwe et Greisch. The final details of a deal with Bernie Ecclestone are still going through the legal confirmation process but we expect an announcement soon that an Ecclestone company will take over the promotion, with some significant incentives from the Belgian authorities.

The work, which is planned to start in October, will include a new pit and paddock complex, a longer pit straight which will mean that the hairpin at La Source will be moved further up towards Francorchamps village, while the Bus Stop chicane will be moved down towards Blanchimont. Grandprix.com


Williams to retain driver lineup
According to reports in the Italian press, Mark Webber will remain with the Williamsf1 team for the upcoming 2007 Formula One season. Team boss Sir Frank Williams has until the end of this month to pick up the option on Webber and Webber’s manager, Flavio Briatore, has confirmed that Mark will remain for his third year with the Grove based squad.  "He'll stay at Williams on the conditions set by us," Briatore told the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.  Rumors are that Rosberg will remain his teammate.

track news

Bahre will eventually sell NHIS
New Hampshire International Speedway owner Bob Bahre maintains his track is not for sale but also says that could change.

"The track isn't for sale, but my son (Gary) got sick a few years back and he would never want to run it alone, I can tell you that now," Bob Bahre said.

"I'm going to be 80 next year. If I die tomorrow, he'd probably sell it before the funeral."

Bahre was joking about the pre-funeral sale, but said he receives calls from interested buyers probably every six weeks or so.

Speedway Motorsports Inc. owner Bruton Smith has made little secret of his interest in the speedway, and International Speedway Corp. also has expressed its interest, should it be for sale, the Observer has learned.

"For now, we'll just keep going the way it is," Bob Bahre said. "I feel pretty good. I get tired in the afternoons.

"The doctors told me about two years ago that I have a bad valve in my heart. I said, `I got 65 cars in my garage and half of those have bad values and they're still going good.' The doctors thought I was going nuts."

Asked if he would hang on to the track as long as his health permits, Bahre replied: "Absolutely. Again, someday, maybe five to 10 years, I don't know what's going to happen."  More at Charlotte Observer


Toyota Camry close to approval
John Darby, Nextel Cup series director, says officials are in the final stage of approving the Toyota Camry for next season. Also, Dodge submitted a car for next season with a new hood and rear. Darby said the car is scheduled to be taken to a wind tunnel Tuesday. Roanoke Times


Why the low car count in ALMS?
A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I noticed that ALMS starting fields are only 22 or so cars. This is pathetic for a series with 4 classes. I remember when they used to have over 40. I also noticed that TV ratings are pretty low this year. Is this series dying? Dan Goldberg, Tucson, AZ

Dear Dan, The ALMS is plagued with several problems, 1) The split - the Grand-Am series is definitely draining away teams that would otherwise participate, 2) The cars are the stars instead of the drivers, 3) The factory teams destroy the privateer teams and hence drive them away. Who can beat them, so why compete. I did notice that this weekend's LMES race at Nurburgring had over 40 cars, but in Europe there is no split. Mark C.


Diesel unlikely for F1
(GMM)  F1 is unlikely to follow Audi's Le Mans lead by branching into diesel technology.

That is the claim of Rob White, who is Renault's F1 engine chief.

Audi, which won the legendary 24-hour race this year with its innovative R10 sportscar, claims that Diesel technology leads to better efficiency and lower fuel consumption with similar power and torque.

But White told Italian magazine Autosprint that the future of motor sport, as outlined by the governing FIA, is in the advancement of 'alternative' fuels.

''Diesel has the same limits as petrol,'' White said, ''(in that) they are both derivatives of oil.''


Might NASCAR expand starting field?
Might NASCAR expand the current 43-car fields to keep high-dollar sponsors happy? Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president for competition, said no: "Nobody's even brought it up. And we're already maxed out on pit road with 43 pits."

That is even more trouble for Juan Pablo Montoya, a Formula 1 racer moving to NASCAR. Montoya will have the points-exemption earned by the current Casey Mears-Chip Ganassi team for only next year's first five races, then Montoya will have to make the fields on his own.  Winston Salem Journal


Labonte to Yates?
Bobby Labonte said quite emphatically to scratch reports he may be on car owner Robert Yates' list of drivers to try to sign for 2007. Labonte called the Yates' report "a stupid rumor." Yates is in the market for a high-profile driver to run for his two-car team, with Dale Jarrett leaving and with major questions about Elliott Sadler possibly leaving too. Yates will be testing newcomer Stephen Leicht, from Asheville, at Pocono and Indy, though it's unclear if Leight, 19, will even be able to make the field. Leicht is a promising racer, but with little NASCAR experience. However, there is speculation that Yates may go with Leicht in a full Nextel Cup ride next season. Winston Salem Journal


Jarrett to drive No. 44 Toyota
The UPS-sponsored Toyota Camry that Dale Jarrett will drive in 2007 for Michael Waltrip Racing might be the #44. NASCAR vice president Jim Hunter confirmed Sunday that Waltrip has expressed interest in acquiring the number. Terry Labonte has run the #44 on a limited basis this season for Hendrick Motorsports. But Petty Enterprises, the last team to the run the number on a full-time basis, still has a say in where it goes. "I know Michael is wanting it," said Robbie Loomis, Petty Enterprises' executive vice president of race operations. "It will really be up to Kyle and Richard Petty. If it's something that they feel warranted that we might need for the future, then I'm sure we'll keep it. Otherwise, they see the big picture of the sport. And if it's good for Michael and good for the other people involved, then we'll probably end up turning it over." Waltrip also has inquired about the #33. But car owner Richard Childress indicated he is unwilling to part with the number he campaigned in three races last season with Kerry Earnhardt behind the wheel. Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Rudd to 4th Gibbs team
Car owner Joe Gibbs is possibly interested in expanding to a fourth Nextel Cup team - with Ricky Rudd, if Rudd is amenable. Rudd drove Dover for Gibbs last month while #20-Tony Stewart was recuperating, and the Gibbs team was pleased with how easy Rudd was to work with, and with how competitive Rudd still is. Red Bull has also talked with Rudd about a ride next year. Winston Salem Journal


Massa on Red Bull radar
(GMM)  Felipe Massa has joined the running to replace Christian Klien at Red Bull for the 2007 season.

The energy drink owned team's 'motor sport consultant' Helmut Marko said in Magny Cours that the young Brazilian is 'surely a candidate' -- if he is shown the exit at Ferrari.

''He (Massa, pictured right) is not as fast in the races as Michael Schumacher,'' Marko was quoted as saying by 'ORF', ''but for what he shows for his age and for his experience, he is surely a candidate.''

Klien, 23, must know by now that his time at Red Bull is up, even if the team's actual driver decision is not due for another week or two.

Marko explained: ''We expected him to beat David Coulthard, but he has not done that so far.''

Heikki Kovalainen, Ralf Schumacher and Mark Webber are also candidates to replace him, with Marko continuing that any successor 'would have to be clearly better' than the man he replaces.


Massa’s days numbered at Ferrari
(GMM)  Michael Schumacher may have trounced title rival Fernando Alonso, but Ferrari was only '50 per cent happy' with its result at Magny Cours.

Indeed, in the red-shod paddock surrounds, an undertone of disappointment resonated at the mention of the name 'Massa'.

Ferrari and Bridgestone dominated in the French heat, but still Renault's Alonso managed to emerge ahead of the young Brazilian on the post-race podium, despite Massa's start from the front row. (Pictured right Schumacher leads a Ferrari 1-2 at the start, but a too-slow Massa could not keep Alonso at bay.)

''You know, for us,'' said Ferrari chief Jean Todt, ''what is important is to have as many cars as possible in front of the one who is leading the championship if Michael is ahead.''

So Felipe Massa could have done better, then?

''I think your question could be better, that's for sure,'' the Frenchman told reporters, but technical director Ross Brawn was singing a similar tune.

He said: ''We are only fifty per cent happy, because we wanted to see Felipe in second place.''

As it is, Schumacher can keep winning races, with Alonso second, and the Spaniard will still wear his second F1 crown at the Brazilian finale.

[Editor's Note: While Massa can't be expected to beat the greatest driver in history, Michael Schumacher, he is expected to get the job done as #2 at Ferrari.  If this continues look for him to be replaced in 2007.]

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