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Carpentier could drive in MontrealUPDATE #7 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today as it was announced that Patrick Carpentier will drive in the Grand-Am race at Infineon Raceway this weekend.
08/10/06 Patrick Carpentier told autosport.com: "Yeah, it would be fantastic to be back in a Champ Car, especially at Montreal, but it depends on what the deal is.
"If RuSPORT couldn't offer me a day of testing first, then it wouldn't be so interesting. I want the chance to do a good job for them and a good job for me."
However, asked whether Montreal Champ Car race organizer Alan Labrosse has been working on his behalf to get him in the No. 10 RuSPORT car, Carpentier told autosport.com: "I think Labrosse is trying to get Jacques Villeneuve in the car, actually. Certainly it's getting the race a lot of attention having that possibility out there."
Carpentier, who has been linked with NASCAR Busch drives for 2007 also said that test sessions in Busch or ARCA cars may preclude his participation in Champ Cars this year.
"It depends what [personal sponsor] Mecachrome want. I know they're very keen for me to do Busch next year, so if NASCAR confirmed a Busch race in Montreal in 2007, then testing for a Busch team would have to take priority over Champ Cars."
06/28/06 Patrick Carpentier -- the former Champ Car World Series star -- told the Toronto Sun that the next time his home fans see him in a race car it will be in the NASCAR Busch Series. "I have had discussions with (sponsor) Mecachrome about my future and we agree it is to go stock car racing," the 1997 Champ Car rookie of the year said. The 34-year-old native of Joliette, Que., said that he also is in negotiations to race in the ARCA series next season as a prelude to moving up to the Craftsman Truck Series and then to Busch. His immediate goal, he said, is to be on the grid when the NASCAR Busch Series comes to Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve next season. "I don't want it to be just a one-off deal, though," Carpentier said. "I would like to have a program in place that would take me beyond just running in Montreal." Toronto Sun
06/25/06 The next time we see Patrick Carpentier behind the wheel of a race car here (Montreal) should be next summer, in a 3,400-pound Busch Series stock car. And that's very difficult to digest for Alan Labrosse, Carpentier's ex-agent and perhaps former friend.
Labrosse says that on May 28, Carpentier was "99 per cent committed" to slide into a Rocketsports car for the Aug. 27 Montreal Champ Car Grand Prix, a seat Labrosse had arranged for an event he is promoting. Less than a day later, hours before a meeting that Labrosse and Carpentier had scheduled with a potential sponsor, he says the driver rejected the offer.
And on June 1, the day after Labrosse had hoped to announce at a news conference that he had a third Quebecer to join Roxton Pond's Andrew Ranger and Lachenaie's Alex Tagliani on the grid, Carpentier said he wasn't willing to turn laps for an uncompetitive team, merely to sell tickets, but was seriously keen on NASCAR.
"I was told that other parties were conversing with Patrick at the same time I was," Labrosse said tersely. "That was a personal disappointment I've not yet forgotten."
Those "parties," as read between Labrosse's lines, would be Normand Legault, the longtime promoter of Formula One's Grand Prix of Canada. Legault will promote a NASCAR Busch Series race in Montreal that's expected to be confirmed soon. More at Montreal Gazette
04/19/06 The following excerpt from an article on ChampCar.ws tells how Alan Labrosse took over promotion of the Montreal Champ Car race again, and leads one to believe that he expects to be the promoter for years to come and hopes to get Patrick Carpentier a ride for this race. The untold story here is how Kevin Kalkhoven, Gerald Forsythe and Labrosse maneuvered to retake control of the event from Normand Legault who wields a lot of power in Montreal.
A month ago it appeared there would only be two races in Canada this season but that's when Alan Labrosse rolled up his sleeves.
A longtime driver agent who represented Carpentier and now takes care of Andrew Ranger, Labrosse also had years of experience managing race tracks and sanction bodies as well as a pretty impressive racing career of his own. He'd been the promoter of the Champ Car event in Montreal in '04 and knew it needed immediate attention.
"I felt it was important for the city of Montreal that we keep up with major sporting events and the Champ Car race had been a big one," said the 44-year-old Montreal native.
"When Gerry (Forsythe) and I met in Chicago, I told him I was willing to be the promoter again so here we are. I don't think we'd be racing in Montreal had I not stepped in so I'm glad I did."
Of course it's a daunting assignment. Molson pulled out as the title sponsor last November and nobody bothered looking for a replacement until Labrosse and his mighty staff of four people showed up.
"Obviously, we've got a real late start and there's so many things to do," he continued. "But I'm optimistic we'll succeed in bringing back the Canadian corporate world.
"It's going to be a challenge but that's just part of motorsports."
Burton signs with Toyota team Ward Burton has finally made official his rumored comeback by signing with one of the new Toyota teams which will be running full-time in the Nextel Cup Series in 2007. Burton has spent the last two years away from auto racing, choosing instead to concentrate on cultivating the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation. While Burton has had opportunities over the last two years come back to NASCAR, he chose instead to wait until the right opportunity came along, rather than risk running poorly week in and week out for a lower-tier team and subsequently ruining any chance he might have at a premiere ride. Burton and the team plan to make their debut this season. More at LastCowboys.com
JV to race in Montreal?UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today as AutoRacing1.com has learned that Villeneuve was nice enough to call Alan Labrosse but had to decline the offer due to other commitments. He was thankful that he was considered.
08/08/06 Rumors out of Montreal have Champ Car promoter Alan Labrosse trying to get ex BMW Sauber F1 driver Jacques Villeneuve to do a one-off Champ Car drive for RuSPORT in place of the injured Cristiano da Matta. AutoRacing1.com sources tell us Villeneuve is not interested in a fulltime Champ Car or IRL ride because he has already done that. He either wants to return to F1, do NASCAR, or do sportscar racing. Would he run this one race? Doubtful.
USGP race date to move againUPDATE This rumor should have been upgraded to 'fact' last week when the announcement was made.
08/11/06 After moving to the July 4th weekend in 2006, the USGP F1 race at Indy looks set to move back to a June date.
First on the agenda for the Speedway is negotiating an agreement with Formula One to bring back the U.S. Grand Prix. Chitwood said there is "frequent communication" between Speedway boss Tony George and F-1's Bernie Ecclestone. Chitwood expects F-1's return. But time is becoming an issue.
"The longer that goes, the harder it's going to be for us to get information to our customers," Chitwood said.
With the 500 set for May 27 and the Brickyard moving to July 29, that leaves June 17 or 24 as the most likely dates for the USGP, a decision that ultimately will be made by F-1 officials. IndyStar
F1 again eyes Las VegasUPDATE #12 Hearing from F1 sources in Europe that the reason Bernie Ecclestone only signed a 1-year extension at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the United States Grand Prix is because F1 will indeed race on the streets of Las Vegas starting in 2008. A letter of intent has been signed.
One would assume that Champ Car's agreement with the city would be exclusive in that the city would hold only one street event. And it is true that Champ Car's agreement is with the City of Las Vegas.
However, "The Strip" is applied to the unincorporated areas of Clark County that surround the city, especially the resort areas on and near the Las Vegas Strip. This 4½ mi (7.2 km) stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard is mostly outside the Las Vegas city limits, in the unincorporated town of Paradise. So it's quite possible that Paradise, or Clark County itself, could sign its own race deal.
Then again this could be Bernie floating the Las Vegas rumor again to get Tony George to sign a longer term renewal at the Speedway, which they are supposedly discussing.
07/21/06 Now that Champ Car has signed a 5-year deal to race on the streets of Las Vegas Bernie Ecclestone can forget about moving the USGP from Indy to Las Vegas. We doubt he was ever really serious about it and started the rumor as competition for Indy to extract more money from Tony George's bank account when they try to negotiate a renewal of the USGP deal.
02/28/06 A Las Vegas media source has played down the possibility that the United States grand prix could be raced on the famous city's streets.
As Bernie Ecclestone negotiates with Indianapolis' disgruntled officials about a new contract, he recently told an Italian magazine that an 'ideal' US alternative would be a street course along Vegas' fabled Casino 'Strip'.
But the 'Las Vegas Business Press' wrote this week that the chance of a US GP in the city is 'a long shot'.
The publication said its investigations have found that 'City Hall only received a single inquiring phone call last September', while the Visitors Authority and 'Las Vegas Event' have not been contacted at all.
However, it was reported last June that Ecclestone, the F1 supremo, entertained guests from Las Vegas at the Canadian grand prix.
But Pat Christenson, president of Las Vegas Events, reckons organizing a F1 race in the city race would be 'difficult'.
Christenson added: ''Our streets aren't really designed for it.
''There would be major infrastructure costs to get the streets ready.''
02/21/06 No talks are currently going on between Bernie Ecclestone and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, scene of the US GP debacle last June.
That is the revelation of Speedway spokesman Fred Nation, while the 'USA Today' newspaper reported that negotiations did not even take place about 2007 and beyond in the wake of the six-car race.
''(We) mutually decided to address the future after we see how this year's event goes,'' Nation told the newspaper.
Bernie, F1's so-called 'supremo' and the author of the annual calendar, told an Italian magazine last week that if he can not pen a new deal with Indy, he would try to switch the race to Las Vegas.
Fred Nation did not comment on whether he believed the 'Las Vegas' story was designed to put pressure on Indy to renew.
The spokesman said: ''That's (Bernie's) business, so we have really no reaction to that one way or the other.''
02/17/06 This rumor about Las Vegas probably means that Bernie is letting Tony George know that he has options as they negotiate the renewal of the USGP contract at Indy. As always, Bernie will squeeze Tony George, like he squeezes all race promoters, ensuring the Hulman-George family will continue to lose money on the Grand Prix while the FOM maximizes its profits.
02/17/06 Bernie Ecclestone has revealed that he is considering moving the United States Grand Prix to Las Vegas in 2007, if a new deal with Indianapolis does not come off.
"The contract with Indianapolis expires this year, and I don't yet know whether there will be the conditions to renew it," he said in an interview with Autosprint. "I'm looking around for an alternative solution.
"You can forget the idea of going back to Long Beach, although I'd like a street circuit anyway, like in the 1980's. Ideally it would be a track in Las Vegas, obtained from the 'Strip,' the road with all the most important casinos. We are trying that, we're working on it."
"You know Bernie has tried very hard to have a race in Las Vegas and we have a few friends from Las Vegas visiting Formula One this weekend and I hope we start talking," said Flavio Briatore.
New Champ Car to begin testingUPDATE #5 After delays due to fuel cell issues, the new Panoz DP01 will test today and tomorrow at Sebring, Florida with Roberto Moreno aboard.
08/16/06 Since so many have written to ask about how initial testing went we are only at liberty to say that initial DP01 testing has been delayed until later this week.
08/13/06 Champ Car's Tony Cotman told us that the new car will indeed begin testing the 15th (Tuesday) and continue on the 16th barring any major problems found on Day 1.
08/12/06 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today as AutoRacing1.com has confirmed that the new Champ Car will hit the track with Roberto Moreno behind the wheel at Road Atlanta this coming week on the 15th, but probably the 16th, for a 2-day test. An extensive test program is slated for Sebring in September. We hear the car is very crew-friendly, meaning the crews are going to find it easier to work on than the Lola.
06/23/06 The new car will not begin testing until August 15th, not July 12th as originally reported.
06/21/06 Word is that the New Panoz DP01 Champ Car prototype will begin testing on July 12th at Road Atlanta, just 3 weeks from today. The car will be unveiled to the public Friday night in San Jose (race weekend end of July) as we previously reported. The car will undergo extensive track testing and all teams will have at least one copy of the final product in their shop by the end of December. Additional cars will be delivered in time for the first race of 2007.
Vettel to grab BMW-Sauber ’Friday’ roleUPDATE (GMM) BMW has described as 'speculation' reports that Sebastian Vettel could this week be installed as its formula one team's new 'Friday' practice driver.
After Robert Kubica replaced Jacques Villeneuve in the race seat, BMW-Sauber applied to the FIA for a Super License for the 19-year-old German, according to rumor on Monday.
''This is still speculation,'' a spokesman for BMW Group insisted.
''There has not been a final decision yet.''
08/21/06 (GMM) German teenager Sebastian Vettel is on the verge of landing the role as BMW-Sauber's 'Friday' driver.
With former third pilot Robert Kubica moving into departed Jacques Villeneuve's race cockpit in Hungary, the Hinwil-based team did not have time to install a replacement.
But it has now emerged that, ahead of the grand prix on Sunday in Turkey, BMW is currently awaiting the FIA's reply after an application was lodged for 19-year-old Vettel's F1 super license.
He has amassed the requisite 300kms of F1 running, with tests for BMW-powered Williams last year and again in 2006 in a BMW-Sauber car.
Blonde-haired Vettel is also highly-rated, and at the weekend won both rounds of the F3 Euroseries at the Nurburgring.
It was earlier speculated that a recent finger injury might have put paid to his F1 chances for the moment, but he was quoted by 'sid' as saying that the injury 'did not bother' him in Germany.
''He has the same determination and ambition as Michael (Schumacher),'' said Gerhard Noach, who was instrumental in the junior careers of both men.
Davison parts ways with Team AustraliaUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. See Hot News page for announcement of Davison's replacement by Team Australia.
08/20/06 Hearing that young Atlantic driver James Davison has parted ways with Team Australia. Davison made a challenging move to the Atlantic series this year without a testing program and has, therefore, had to learn a lot and has been overshadowed by his teammate Simon Pagenaud who is leading in the points. He has shown considerable improvement in the last 2 races at San Jose and Denver running in the top 10 and challenging his more experienced teammate. We don't know what his plans are, however, he is determined to continue in the series next year to apply what he learned this year. Interesting - Team Australia without an Aussie!
Kluever to take over Martin’s rideUPDATE #2 Todd Kluever had been anointed to be the heir to Mark Martin in Roush Racing's No. 6 Ford for the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series in 2007, but his struggles this season might throw a curveball in those plans.
Kluever finished 41st in his Nextel Cup debut at Chicago and then got caught up in an accident to finish last Sunday at Michigan International Speedway. He is 18th in his rookie season in the Busch Series.
He still has five more Cup races left this season, and his performance could determine how many Cup events he will compete in next year.
"We've got a number of possibilities," team owner Jack Roush said Sunday. "It's possible that Mark Martin could be in the 6 car again next year. It's possible that any one of our other rookies could be in there.
"I want to say it's likely that Todd Kluever will be in there, but where Todd is, I think it is less likely that he will be in there for all 36 races. We'll just have to watch and see what happens." Scenedaily
08/19/06 Jack Roush isn't convinced that Todd Kluever is ready to slide into Mark Martin's seat in the #6 car next season. "We need to see how he does in these Nextel Cup races and see what our sponsors say,'' Roush said after watching Kluever qualify 38th for Sunday's race at Michigan International Speedway. The outcome could have an affect on whether Martin, 47, runs a part-time or full-time schedule in NASCAR's premier series next season. Martin is going under the assumption Kluever will be in the 6 and he'll be running a part-time schedule, although Roush said he wouldn't hesitate to put any of his veteran drivers in the car if Kluever isn't ready. Martin said there have been no discussions with Roush about him staying in the 6. "The 6 car is set right now,'' he said before qualifying 14th. "Todd's going to drive the car. ... The whole plan for 2006 has been to work as hard as we could to get Todd ready to take over the 6 car. We're still doing that.'' NASCAR.com
08/18/06 Despite a steep learning curve, Todd Kluever is confident with his talent and job security as he prepares to take over Mark Martin's Nextel Cup Series seat in the #6 Roush Racing Ford next season. Martin, 47, is expected to run a full NASCAR Trucks Series slate in 2007. But since Kluever hasn't run well, it has been rumored the 20-year veteran will stick around Cup another season. Another possible scenario that has been floated is that Martin will run a 12-race Cup schedule and will run full-time in the Trucks Series, giving Kluever an additional season of experience in Busch. Kluever said in a telephone interview Tuesday that team owner Jack Roush has not indicated to him that he is dissatisfied with his results. "The rumors are just that - they're speculation," said Kluever, who spent one season in Trucks before moving to Busch this year. "In all honesty, and I've talked to Mark about this, I'm worried about this weekend. I'm not really worried about next year. I'm very realistic, I live for the weekend. Rumors are rumors and if I go out and win the Busch race this weekend, they all seem to disappear. ... The plans are still that I will be driving the #6 (Cup) car next year." More from the Capital Times
Da Matta’s replacementUPDATE A reader responds, Dear AutoRacing1.com, It’s disappointing a driver hasn’t been named to stand in for the injured Cristiano Da Matta but it is somewhat understandable however replacing him, much less waiting for, with an IRL driver is absolutely ludicrous. Buddy Rice? Please, give me a break. Rice has never done anything unless driving for a team with a huge engine advantage, like he had in the 2000 Formula Atlantics season (8 races) when his team had a special ‘engine development team’ relationship for the series engine builder and as Team Rahal enjoyed last year while running the superior Honda power plant in the IRL. Once all the IRL teams were powered by Honda Rice hasn’t won a race, currently sits 15th in the IRL standings, is consistently outqualified and beaten by his teammate Danica Patrick. In Champ Car, like the IRL now, Rice wouldn’t have the luxury of a big engine over other competitors. Rice raced against guys like Hunter-Reay and Fogarty in the Formula Atlantic series in 2002 and never even managed a top five compared to the their being in the top five every race, or winning, the races they all competed in that year. If they want an IRL driver with a record similar to Buddy Rice’s then Alex Barron is available immediately.
Dixon? While unlike Rice he has won road course races in the IRL (but failed to win a road or street race in 39 Champ Car starts) what would Dixon bring to the team or the Champ Car series? Dixon, currently 4th in IRL standings, best results in his CART rookie season where impressive, with a win and podium, but they were both on ovals and it doesn’t look like ovals are going to be a part of Champ Car for the next few years and Hunter-Reay equaled those results as a rookie and did it on a street course and a road course. From a marketing perspective Rice or Dixon vs. Hunter-Reay isn’t even close and Champ Car isn’t going to have a race in New Zealand but the majority of their races are in America and Champ Car desperately needs Americans that can deliver race wins and RuSPORT is a team that should be very attractive to a sponsor with the right driver.
Of the three you mentioned only Franchitti, currently 7th in IRL standings, registers as a real possibility as he has ten CART wins (at tracks like Rd. America, Vancouver, Toronto, Surfers Paradise, Cleveland, Montreal, etc.) and would bring some star power as his wife, American actress Ashley Judd, attends most of his races but at 33 years old is a bit long in the tooth for what most people consider a young mans game.
Hunter-Reay seems an obvious choice as a fill in for the last few races as he is a proven Champ Car race winner despite never having driven for a top team, (heck he sat on the outside pole and finished 4th on his last visit to Rd. America and has a win and a 5th at Surfers Paradise) is already known to the fans and would help the team’s, and Justin Wilson’s chances of capturing the Championship. It would also give RuSPORT’s engineers and marketing department plenty of time to see what Hunter-Reay could do with a top team, reach a conclusion if RHR is the ‘total package’ many, including me, think he is and decide if they want to offer Hunter-Reay or someone else the seat for 2007 if Cristiano is unable to return. It just seems to make too much sense but like they say you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. Darby Olson, New Rochelle, New York
Also, According to reports in the English press Super Aguri driver Franck Montagny could be on his way to America soon to race in the Champ Car series in order to substitute for the injured Cristiano da Matta at the RuSPORT team for the remainder of the 2006 season. We doubt this will happen.
08/20/06 Although he could change his mind, the latest word is that RuSPORT team boss Carl Russo is in no hurry to replace the injured Cristiano da Matta this year, but we hear they expect to be back with a 2-car effort in 2007. Rumor has it the 2nd driver currently drives in the IRL and it's thought to be either Buddy Rice, Scott Dixon or Dario Franchitti.
Rice has already been told by Rahal Letterman Racing that they have no sponsorship for him next year, while Franchitti (right) is contemplating an offer to drive for Andretti Green Racing in the ALMS with Honda. However, Franchitti knows that the cars are the stars in the ALMS and it will essentially be to just collect a paycheck while he slips into oblivion career wise.
Scott Dixon is also rumored to be testing the waters in Champ Car.
Albers on verge of new MF1 contract (GMM) Christijan Albers is on the verge of extending his F1 contract with the Midland team beyond the end of 2006, according to his manager.
Lodewijk Varossieau, attending MF1's Rotterdam event on Sunday, is quoted by the 'Formule 1 Race Report' publication in Holland as admitting that the Silverstone-based squad is 26-year-old Albers' 'best option' for next season.
Recent speculation in Albers' native country, however, also hinted that contact with BMW-Sauber and Japanese team Super Aguri had taken place.
MF1, meanwhile, is believed to be in conversation with impressive test driver Adrian Sutil about 2007, possibly as a replacement for Portugal's Tiago Monteiro.
'Formula 1 Race Report' also revealed apparent team discussions with GP2 driver Nelson Piquet Jr.
Exposing the F1 myth A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1.com, If F1 drivers are supposed to be the best in the world how come drivers like Mika Häkkinen and Heinz Herald Frentzen have not gone to the German DTM Series and cleaned house? In fact they are backmarkers most races. David Kennedy
Dear David, F1 drivers are as good as their equipment. It's a complete fallacy that they are the best drivers in the world. In fact, some of them who have come into Champ Car have stunk up the place with horrible performances. As we have stated in the past, a driver who drove rear-engined cars all their life many times has disappointing results switching to front-engine race cars, and vice-versa. This is why front-engine dirt track drivers do so well in front-engine stock cars, yet go to Indy Cars and perform horribly. Meanwhile we have seen many a Champ Car/Indy Car driver try NASCAR (rear engine to front engine switch) and perform horrible.
F1 drivers are good rear engine race car drivers, but it's hard to compare the different forms of racing and say who is the 'best.' It takes a special driver to excel at both rear and front engine race cars. Mark C.
Marco to F1 in 2008? Former world champion Mario Andretti says his grandson Marco could be ready to make the switch from IndyCars to Formula 1 as soon as 2008.
“He [Marco] can’t do it next year but maybe the year after,” Mario told F1 Racing magazine.
“It would be a waste if he spent a season testing; if you’re a special talent and the team give you the right preparation, it can happen.
“Look at Jacques Villeneuve and Juan Pablo Montoya – Williams gave them thousands of miles of testing over the winter.”
“He’s a road racer at heart,” he said.
“His style and persona would make him a perfect F1 driver – he’s aggressive and a quick learner.
“I see so much within him that would work in Formula 1.”
[Editor's Note: Won't happen unless Marco spends a season in a road racing series or as a F1 test driver. F1 teams do not view 100% throttle IRL racing as a true test of talent as other IRL drivers found out when they tried to land something in F1. Marco also has his Star Mazda season hanging over his head where he failed to win and was out run by other talented road racers such as Graham Rahal. As we said long ago, Marco should have spent a year in Champ Car Atlantic where he could have developed better road racing skills and measured his abilities against some very talented drivers.]
Mayfield signs with Bill Davis Racing Jeremy Mayfield has signed a 3-year contract with options with Bill Davis Racing. BDR will make the formal announcement during a press conference Friday at Bristol when the organization will map out it's plans for 2007 and beyond. Team General Manager Mike Brown says Mayfield "Is everything we've been looking for. He's the kind of driver that was available that was marketable. Obviously he's had success the last couple of years winning races and being in the chase. It's exactly what we needed to facilitate a multi-year deal with a new and exciting sponsor." Brown likes the Mayfield-Tommy Baldwin driver/crew chief combo saying "Tommy's spent a couple of years with him at Evernham so he knows what he likes in cars. From that standpoint we've got a bonus there." Mayfield may not race competitively the rest of this season however he is expected to test beginning next week at Kentucky and Nashville. PRN's Garage Pass Radio Show
Waltrip eyes 3 drivers for 3rd car Michael Waltrip said Friday he is close to signing a driver to fill his third car, which will be sponsored by Domino's Pizza and Burger King. Waltrip and Dale Jarrett already are signed to drive Toyotas for Michael Waltrip Racing next year, and Waltrip needs to fill that remaining seat. "I'd really like to get a kid or somebody that is young and try to work with them and see if they're the deal or not," Waltrip said. "You can't ever tell who is. We have a plan to get the guy that we want still, and hopefully in the next week we can do it." Waltrip already has a "youngster" in the not-so-young 36-year-old David Reutimann who will run the rest of the Busch Series events this year and will drive the entire Busch season next year. "Certainly he's somebody that we've considered running both," Waltrip said. "He's always hauled the mail in everything he's gotten in, so he is a possibility. If you will, we have to appreciate and think about every option that is available because it is getting late and the sponsors are getting nervous and they want us to show them who their guy is going to be." Waltrip said he checked with Mark Martin to see if he had any interest in the ride and Martin left the door open. But Waltrip said he would like someone to run a full schedule and only would run a combination of drivers if no other drivers he wants are available. "I saw Terry Labonte said that he would race if it paid enough," Waltrip said. SceneDaily.com
No one will replace da MattaUPDATE #5 Another reader chimes in, If you heard Tagliani during his San Jose tirade on PT said he was out of cars, and asked PT would he give him a car? Folks, this says to me, and counting the crashed cars so far this year, Champ Car has to be dangerously low on spare parts, tubs, you name it. I can't help but think RuSPORT running 1 car may be a way to assure there's enough to get at least 16-17 cars through to the end. RuSPORT going to 1 car for the rest of the season does one thing that could be huge; free up a primary, and I assume a spare car, so that Champ Car, if required at any of the remaining races, can meet an 18 car field minimum.
Maybe RuSPORT goes with one car at Montreal, loans their cars to whomever needs one (Team Australia?), hopes to heck the entire field makes it through Montreal without totaling a car. If they go to 2 cars for Elkhart and beyond, then CC has 3 races to hope whatever spares are left, probably with RuSPORT, Forsythe, and NHR, can help sustain at least 16-17 cars.
What I hope CC would do is somehow reward a team with spares to either run or loan their car to a team who would then run an American like RHR at Elkhart, and Aussie like Briscoe at Australia, and a Mexican like Jourdain for the finale in Mexico City. The series is 4 races away from the end of the Lola Champ Car, and there isn't much of Lola to go around! Andy Fogiel, Lansing, MI
08/19/06 Another reader writes, Dear Autoracing.com, I take great offense at the writer that calls RuSPORT ‘deadbeat no counts.’ While I understand the anger of this fan, the characterization is uncalled for. The fact is that RuSPORT is a second year team that has had a very rough year.
Carl Russo is nothing if not a gentleman and a cornerstone of Champ Car these past few years. This is a man that stood up and wrote huge personal checks not only to enable the series to have their latest star, A.J. Allmendinger, (and have no doubt without Carl Russo there would be no A.J. Allmendinger) but was the epitome of a good corporate citizen when he was asked by the series, and agreed, to take on Michel Jourdain on short notice and at great personal expense and disruption to his stated business plan. When Fernandez and Rahal Racing bolted to the dark side Carl Russo stayed the course and was there for us in our time of need.
The recent interviews with A.J. Allmendinger make clear that A.J. was miserable and didn’t want to be at RuSPORT and for Russo to be forced to make the difficult decision for the good of his team at the same time actively assist Allmendinger into another top level seat at Forsythe (many team owners would have enforced their driver contract and had their fired out of favor driver on ‘gardening leave’ unable to drive for another team until the following year like Montoya finds himself) so the integrity of the team owner should not be in question as he has been spending millions and millions of his own money to field a top level competitive team.
That said a top Champ Car team not fielding a car for the second race in a row is nothing short of unprofessional and casts the Champ Car series in a very negative light. Racing is a tough dangerous business, as are many sports, however Cristiano would be the first one to say the show must go on and the team should act professionally. For RuSPORT to use the extremely unfortunate circumstance of the freak accident that befell one of the genuinely nicest, sincere and well liked drivers in the series as a crutch is a disservice not only to the tradition of racing but to the Champion of their fallen driver Cristiano da Matta. Many drivers, from the great to rookies, have been injured, or worse, but their seats have always been filled. In the NFL if a star quarterback is severely injured a backup is in on the next play and when they make an appearance at the next game there is a replacement and the playbook has been adjusted to accommodate the reality of the situation to put the team in a position to obtain the best results possible. The same for Formula One, the Indy Racing League, NASCAR, etc.
In this instance I think it is the management of RuSPORT, not Carl Russo, that is dropping the ball and acting unprofessionally. It is not only a disservice to the tradition of motorsport and the series but it is also substantially diminishing their teams and Justin Wilson’s ability to challenge for the Championship. There are experienced Champ Car drivers that know the tracks and have a record of winning that could be in the seat for not much more than a phone call. Look at the example of Newman/Haas Racing last year when they put in a substitute for their injured driver Bruno Junqueira without missing a race. The substitute, Servia, was immediately on the pace and took points away from the other drivers and greatly assisted Bourdais and the Newman/Haas Team in winning the Championship. Justin can still win this thing as can RuSPORT. When the going gets tough the tough get going.
Let’s all pray for the full recovery of a fantastic human being, Cristiano da Matta, and let's all hope RuSPORT quickly exhibits the level of professionalism expected of teams at this level of racing and names a replacement for our fallen hero. Alan Mendelson Lake Forest, Illinois
08/18/06 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' as AutoRacing1.com has been bombarded with emails from fans disappointed with Champ Car's low car count in Montreal and the fact that one of the top 3 teams cannot field a 2nd car, something that would NEVER happen in F1, NASCAR or the IRL.
One of Champ Car's staunchest supporters wrote, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Can this be true? One of the biggest teams in Champ Car acting like deadbeat no counts. At the very time CC needs to empower its teams to show its strength they fold? What is the story and what is the pathetic car count in Montreal? They need Carpentier in a car, and RuSPORT has a car. If they could afford to run da Matta without a sponsor they certainly can afford to run another driver. End of discussion. Is this the beginning of the end of Champ Car? Adolf Saul
08/18/06 Part of the rumor going around is that RuSPORT laid off 10 people as well. The team categorically denies this, so perhaps the rumor that they are shutting down the No. 10 car is false. Stay tuned.....for a press release on the future of the No. 10 car this afternoon.
08/18/06 There are unconfirmed rumors that RuSPORT, one of the top teams in Champ Car, has decided to not continue with the No.10 car and focus on Justin Wilson the rest of the year. However, when we tried to confirm this rumor with a team spokesperson we were told they cannot comment, but that there will be a press release later this afternoon.
If the rumor is true (could be false) it will be a major blow to Champ Car when one of its top-3 teams cannot field two cars, especially given the already low car count.
08/13/06 There is much speculation about who might replace the injured Cristiano da Matta at RuSPORT. Here are the names being mentioned:
Ryan Hunter-Reay - Clean cut American, a proven winner
Ryan Briscoe - Australian who crashes too much
Giorgio Pantano - Italian, with no experience in Champ Cars
Jacques Villeneuve - Canadian, his pride won't let him do it, said no
Patrick Carpentier - Canadian, a NASCAR boy now
Ricardo Zonta - Brazilian, would do zero for the series
Buddy Rice - American, still under contract in the IRL, gets beat by teammate Danica Patrick regularly. Enough said.
Dario Franchitti - Scottish, well known name, but under contract with Andretti Green Racing
Jamie Melo - Brazilian, not well known in the USA. 2002 Euro F3000 Champion
Champ Car eyes possible Germany return According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Champ Car may return to Germany in 2007, but not at the EuroSpeedway where they raced twice before under the CART name. We hear the same sponsors that want to sponsor the proposed race in Assen, Holland, want to also sponsor a race at the 2.279-mile 13 turn Oschersleben Circuit in Germany.
While not a done deal by any means, and while LeMans and another venue in Europe are still in the picture, Assen and Oschersleben appear to be the two leading candidates for a 2-race September 2007 European swing.
Too many cars in NASCAR NASCAR could have too much of a good thing next season. The open-wheel leagues of the IRL and Champ Car can't put 20 cars on the starting grid, but Nextel Cup may have too many cars in 2007.
It's a dilemma most racing leagues would love, but it has the potential to cause problems at the Cup level.
NASCAR may need to increase the 43-car field at each race to ensure that all the teams with major financial backing get on the track.
NASCAR officials don't want to see cars with top sponsors fail to qualify. The more cars you have, the better chance a big-money team will go home before the race.
"We have talked about how many cars we may have," said NASCAR vice president Jim Hunter. "I wouldn't say we're alarmed over it, but with Toyota coming in, it's automatically more cars."
Toyota is adding three Cup teams next year and at least seven cars. Two of those cars come from Bill Davis Racing, which is switching from Dodge. So it's a net gain of five cars.
Eddie D'Hondt, who left Robert Yates Racing last month, announced he is starting his own Cup team and plans to field two cars next season.
Kenny Wallace, who races part time in Cup, said he plans to race full time in 2007.
"But we don't know how many teams running this year will be back next year," Hunter said. "It always fluctuates." More at Dallas Morning News
2007 F1 schedule The 2007 F1 schedule is beginning to fall into place but there are still a lot of TBA dates. We also don't know whether the calendar will again be 19 races, or back to 18 with Imola or Hockenheim being dropped. And Honda is still trying to get Suzuka back on the schedule.
Date (all dates provisional) Formula 1 Race Mar 18 Australian Grand Prix (Melbourne - Australia) Apr 08 Malaysia Grand Prix (Kuala Lumpur - Malaysia) Apr 15 Bahrain Grand Prix (Sakhir - Bahrain) TBA San Marino Grand Prix (Imola - Italy) May 13 Spanish Grand Prix (Barcelona - Spain) TBA European Grand Prix (Nurburgring - Germany) TBA Monaco Grand Prix (Monaco) TBA British Grand Prix (Silverstone - Great Britain) Jun 10 Canadian Grand Prix (Montreal - Canada) Jun 17 United States Grand Prix (Indianapolis - USA) TBA French Grand Prix (Magny Cours - France) TBA German Grand Prix (Hockenheim - Germany) TBA Hungarian Grand Prix (Budapest - Hungary) TBA Turkish Grand Prix (Istanbul - Turkey) TBA Italian Grand Prix (Monza - Italy) TBA Belgian Grand Prix (Spa-Francorchamps - Belgium) TBA Chinese Grand Prix (Shanghai - China) TBA Japanese Grand Prix (Fuji - Japan) TBA Brazilian Grand Prix (Sao Paulo - Brazil)
BMW set to lose sponsor ’O2’ (GMM) At the end of the 2006 season, BMW looks set to lose British mobile phone company 'O2' as a sponsor of its formula one team.
According to reports, continuing Renault backer 'Telefonica' will pull the brand from its rival team's livery after the Spanish telecommunications giant bought 'O2' earlier this year.
It is therefore possible that the 'O2' logo will move to the cars steered by Giancarlo Fisichella and his unconfirmed Renault teammate for 2007, with speculation that - with the O2 brand - Telefonica is hoping to make a bigger mark in the European markets of Germany and the UK.
USGP faces an uncertain future The US grand prix faces an uncertain future. Tony George, chief executive of the Indianapolis circuit which hosts the race, blamed uncertainty within the sport after renewing its contract for only one event.
George has signed a one-year, $20m (£10.6m) deal with Bernie Ecclestone, the formula one commercial rights holder.
"It seemed appropriate to see how things shake out," said George, referring to the expiry next year of the Concorde agreement which regulates formula one. There are too many unanswered questions to commit any longer than that." The Guardian
Formula One returning to IndyUPDATE This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact' - see Hot News.
08/14/06 Indianapolis — After months of speculation and negotiations a source close to Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials tells Fox 59 the Formula One race is coming back in 2007. The source reports the deal is for one year.
"I think it's great," said Tom Weisenback, Director of Indiana Motorsports Association. "It continues to promote the Speedway and Indy as the racing capital."
The man in the driver's seat for just such a deal is F-1 top gun Bernie Ecclestone. Ecclestone's known not for negotiating but rather ordering up exactly the deal he'll get. Earlier this year Ecclestone said he didn't need or care about having a race in the U.S. market.
"I think Bernie's a shrewd businessman. I think you use every angle possible to get the most out of your company and that's what he does," said Weisenback. In recent months reports were that Ecclestone was talking with Las Vegas magnate and developer Steve Wynn, once owner of the Bellagio hotel. "Bernie wanted it on the strip," said Weisenback. But Vegas isn't as hungry to snag F-1 as track owner Tony George is to keep the race at IMS.
"I don't think Las Vegas needs the race to continue to keep their registers ringing," said Weisenback.
No one from the Speedway would confirm the F-1 one year deal. One spokesman told Fox 59 "There's nothing to report at this time." Another said "Negotiations are still in progress." Still F-1's return is mouth watering news to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse downtown. "We do a huge business that whole weekend Thursday to Sunday." More at Fox 59
Major layoffs at Cosworth Engine maker Cosworth will lay off around 40% of its UK workforce at the end of the Formula One season in light of the engine regulation changes in Formula One according to autosport.com.
Following the decision by the sport's governing body to freeze engine development as of next season, Cosworth UK decided to make up to 150 employees redundant at the end of the 2006 season according to autosport.
The company's commercial director Bernard Ferguson confirmed the news, although he said the exact magnitude of the redundancy program remains undetermined.
"We haven't finalized any numbers yet, but for sure we'll be reducing our workforce at the end of the race season," Ferguson told autosport.com.
"I think it's fair to say that it will be a significant percentage of our people, and it will be due to the change in the regulations.
"There's been a steady reduction in the demands for engines over the last two or three years. It used to be that an engine life was the span of a race, and now it has to run for two race weekends, so we need to produce fewer engines.
"The second impact comes now, as the development is more or less finished due to [the engine freeze] rules, and at least 50% of the engines that we produce are for development rather than to go racing.
"So the combined effect of those events means we have considerably less work to do than what we had in the past.
"That affects people at all levels - whether they're designing engines, or assembling. So unfortunately we got a fairly severe impact on our business."
Telefonica set to extend Renault deal (GMM) Spanish telecommunication giant Telefonica is set to remain a key sponsor of the Renault team in 2007, according to reports.
Even though the presence of compatriot Fernando Alonso at the squad lured the Madrid-based company to formula one, Telefonica is due to stay on despite the Spanish racer's switch at the end of the year to rival Vodafone-backed McLaren.
The Dutch, British and German press agree that a new Telefonica/Renault contract is likely, but whether it will replace departing cigarette brand Mild Seven as title sponsor is less certain.
One report estimated the 2007 Telefonica deal at about (US) $30m.
Renault originally announced the Telefonica coup at the start of 2004, in what it called a 'substantial multi-year partnership agreement'.
Kentucky race’s future in doubtUPDATE #2 Let's face facts. Nextel Cup isn't coming [to Kentucky Speedway]. It never was.
Now many of the fans who bought personal seat licenses and season tickets in hopes of being first in line when the Cup cars rolled in are starting to lose hope. At the very least, they're not simply coming to the races anymore.
Not anything outside of a Cup-driver led NASCAR Busch race.
It'll be interesting to see how Kentucky Speedway responds. The lawsuit with NASCAR is pending in court. (They're due back in court in February.) They've tried to move the IRL race in the past, preferring to run it at night under the lights, but ABC Sports/ESPN has never signed off on the move.
That leaves the Speedway between a rock and hard place. Rumblings are that the truck race will be moved to a later date next season, and that Speedway officials are tinkering with IRL. But the crux of the matter is NASCAR and Nextel Cup.
Without Cup racing, it's hard to see how Kentucky will survive, outside of the Busch race of course.
It's hard to imagine fans coming back year after year for second, third and even fourth class racing series (IRL, trucks, etc.). Especially when the big boys stop coming.
What does the future hold for Kentucky Speedway? It's hard to tell, but one thing is for certain: things need to change.
08/14/06 "Only" 35,814 were in the stands here yesterday to see Indianapolis 500 champion Sam Hornish Jr. hold off Scott Dixon to win the Indy Racing League's Meijer Indy 300.
It represented a free fall of almost 27,000 fans from the 62,595 who attended this race one year ago. In the seven-year history of Jerry Carroll's motorsports palace, yesterday's was the smallest crowd by almost 12,000 (47,323 in 2001) ever to see the IRL run. Lexington Herald Leader
[Editor's Note: Like we said, there were not 35K in attendance on Sunday. The track only seats 66,000 and there is no way it was even close to 1/2 full. Merger? Still no merger....as the IRL's oval business plan continues to show weakness.]
Photos courtesy of the IRL
08/14/06 According to this Indy Star article, the announced crowd for Sunday's IRL race was 35,814, and the article says this is down 50% from just one year ago. And 35,814 was a very high number. As can be seen in the photo to the right, the grandstands were sparse at best and one has to question the future viability of this event. (Photo courtesy of Honda)
Many IRL fans received vouchers in the mail from Marlboro for two free tickets to the race. When the USA government forces Marlboro out of the sport after this year, many of the IRL races are going to take a big hit in attendance because of all the free tickets they give away to IRL races.
Kentucky race to move to Saturday night Moving the Indy Racing League race to Saturday night is among changes the operators of the Kentucky Speedway will make after what has been a disappointing year.
Marketing, advertising, staffing and operations will be studied, general manager Mark Cassis said Tuesday.
"We are going to address all phases of our business," Cassis said. "How we market, how we sell season tickets, group tickets, block tickets ... how we are staffed, how we operate, our perception in the marketplace, everything."
Cassis' comments came after a rough 10-day stretch.
On Aug. 4, a country music concert was canceled less than 24 hours before showtime.
On Sunday, the Meijer Indy 300 drew almost 30,000 fewer fans than the more than 60,000 it did a year ago.
Both events spurred operators to study what changes should be made.
"This is by far the worst year we've had," Cassis said. "But we are going to fix it."
One change will be in next year's IRL race. Instead of holding it on Sunday afternoon, which is when the race has been run since the Speedway opened, it will move to Saturday night.
Cassis said Saturday is a more popular night to run a race; all of the Speedway's other major races are on Saturday nights.
"Moving the race will help dramatically," he said. "It should be huge."
The Speedway also is looking to improve group sales, marketing strategy and attracting major sponsors that can make a long-term commitment to backing the IRL race. Cincinnati Enquirer
Conspiracy or coincidence? During a Chrysler Group news conference Tuesday showcasing the Dodge Challenger concept, a General Motors Corp. truck drove by with two Chevrolet Camaro concepts in tow.
The original Challenger and Camaro were rivals in the 1970s. The Challenger returns in 2008; the Camaro (pictured right) in 2009.
After the cars crossed paths Tuesday morning on Woodward Avenue in Royal Oak, Jalopnik.com, a popular auto Web site, declared: "The Muscle Car Wars Are On!" The event took place just days before the Woodward Dream Cruise, a moving shrine to muscle and classic cars.
Jason Vines, Chrysler's head of communications, stoked the controversy with a quick reply on the Web site.
"Notice the two Challengers (left), including the concept-to-be-production-in-'08, drove into our event while the two Camaros had to be towed," Vines said.
The folks at GM claim they weren't trying to upstage the Challenger: The Camaro concepts were simply being moved between two scheduled appearances of their own on Woodward.
"It was completely coincidental," said Chevy spokesman Travis Parman.
And, yes, Mr. Vines, the Camaros can be driven, Parman responded. Under its own power, a Camaro was driven at Detroit's North American International Auto Show in January and an unveiling last week in Warren.
"We're happy to remind Jason Vines that the engine roared quite nicely," Parman said. More at Detroit Free Press
Atlantics could lose teams to IndyProUPDATE To clarify this rumor, it's about existing Formula BMW teams and where they might move next year, not about existing Atlantic teams moving to IPS. On that same note, we hear that Kevin Kalkhoven is planning to continue the $2 million prize to the Atlantic championship. Some were speculating that it was just for 2006, which is not true. Separately, whether there is any change to the Atlantic purse payout for 2nd through 30th remains to be seen.
08/14/06 Spoke to several teams in Denver this weekend about plans for next year. The folks from the FBMW paddock are circling around IPS for next year based simply on the way the IPS pays out its prize fund. For most teams, simply showing up at the event pays them approx $13,000 and for most team owners this makes more sense than going Atlantic. The Atlantic paddock is very competitive and based on this most new teams have little chance to make any prize money to attempt to offset the costs of running. Atlantics needs to really look at this situation seriously and soon if they want to ensure that new potential Atlantic teams stay in the CC circle and do not run to TG. There needs to be a better payout further down the finishing order. We can tell you from firsthand discussions that more than one team is looking at IPS as opposed to Atlantic. Champ Car needs to make a very quick decision (less than 30 days in our opinion) if they wish to get these potential new teams in their camp. The best way forward may be to change the prize pool to $1M for the championship winner and take another $1M to $2M and increase the purse further down the finishing order.
That's assuming a 'young' driver wants to drive in a 100% throttle training series running at high speeds on tracks lined with concrete walls, or one where you really learn to drive like the Atlantic Series.
Ferrari set for Schu-Kimi lineupUPDATE #2 (GMM) Tuesday's reports that Michael Schumacher will sign a new Ferrari contract for 2007 are gathering strength.
Ahead of the German driver's public announcement at Monza, 'Auto Bild Motorsport' claimed this week that Schumacher is to race next year - and possibly also in 2008 - alongside Kimi Raikkonen.
A similar story has now appeared at 'sport.rtl.de'; which is particularly significant, because the German publication also hosts 37-year-old Schumacher's official website.
The headline reads: 'At least one more year for Schumi'.
Reportedly, Schumacher - who is holidaying with his family on the small Mediterranean island of Formentera - decided to delay retirement for the time being and has now told long-time manager Willi Weber.
'sport.rtl.de' quoted a close friend of Schumacher's as saying: ''I believe that Michael thinks himself capable of matching up to Raikkonen.''
08/15/06 (GMM) Yet another racing publication has claimed inside knowledge of Michael Schumacher's decision, due to be publicly announced at Monza, about his future in formula one beyond 2006.
Recent reports suggested that the 37-year-old German was set to retire, but 'Auto Bild Motorsport' - citing 'sources' - now adds to claims in Britain that Schumacher is in fact due to sign a new contract for 2007.
The seven time world champion's Ferrari deal will also include an 'option' for 2008, the German publication added, with Kimi Raikkonen as his new joint number-one teammate.
With Schumacher-Raikkonen in the race cockpits, Maranello incumbent Felipe Massa is most likely to slip into a highly-paid role as a Ferrari test driver.
07/06/06 (GMM) Ferrari are heading towards a dream driver lineup pairing Michael Schumacher alongside Kimi Raikkonen for 2007.
That's the opinion of rival team principal Sir Frank Williams, who scoffed at his counterpart's constant pleas for cost cuts in F1.
''Ferrari have a massive budget and probably a $60m driver bill next year –- that's the way it looks,'' Williams told Speed TV.
Hinting at Schumacher-Raikkonen, despite rumors linking the latter Finn with Renault, he added: ''You know what I'm talking about; the two drivers.''
Williams' sneer at Ferrari's finances follows Jean Todt's caution at Indianapolis in signing off an otherwise unanimous agreement to soften the cost-slashing engine 'freeze' rules for 2008.
''They're saying we must save money, we must save money,'' Sir Frank, 64, continued. ''I fell out of my chair when (Todt) said that.''
Ferrari chief Todt admits that Ferrari is holding a full deck of cards in terms of commercial sponsorship for 2007, but commented: ''It doesn't mean that we have to spend money for the pleasure of spending money.''
Williams also suggested that McLaren's Vodafone sponsorship, to commence in 2007, tips the scales at $55 million.
Mayfield might fill-in for the No. 38, NO!UPDATE Driver David Gilliland tested Robert Yates Racing's No. 38 NASCAR Nextel Cup Ford at Kentucky Speedway, returning to the site of his June 18 Busch Series victory in the Meijer 300.
The 30-year-old driver, who tested the car with crew chief Todd Parrott, said he is close to a deal that would see him take over from veteran Elliott Sadler in a move that could come as early as this weekend at Michigan International Speedway, but he said nothing is for sure.
"We're getting closer. I believe I'm going to finish off the year in the car, and I'm real excited," Gilliland said in a news release from Kentucky Speedway. "It's just a great opportunity. After we won the Busch race here, it opened up a ton of doors. [Owners] Robert and Doug [Yates] have been great, and everyone at M&M's is willing to give me an opportunity.
"Hopefully, we can take full advantage. It definitely happened faster than a lot of people thought it would. We worked hard to get here, and feel I deserve to be here." Scenedaily.com
08/13/06 As David Gilliland contemplates his immediate future with Robert Yates Racing -- namely whether or not to lose his rookie status in 2007 by taking a Nextel Cup ride now -- sources close to RYR told NASCAR.com the organization is also in discussion with Jeremy Mayfield about a potential fill-in role in the #38 Ford. Mayfield, released by Evernham Motorsports earlier this week, would only be a temporary fill-in for Yates, and would not sign a multi-year deal. Sources said Gilliland is expected to man the #38 Ford for the final 12 races, but his participation in the fall race at Talladega remains in doubt. He has not yet been approved for racing on NASCAR's superspeedways. Mayfield's termination from Evernham Motorsports earlier this week opens the seat of the #19 Dodge for the current driver of the #38 Ford, Elliott Sadler. Sadler may be in the #19 before season's end, depending largely on the resolutions of various contractual agreements, sources said. NASCAR.com
Sadler to leave Yates. GoneUPDATE #4 Elliott Sadler cleaned out his locker Monday at Robert Yates Racing, clearing the way for David Gilliland to take over the #38 M&M's Ford. Gilliland, 30, will make his second Nextel Cup start, his first for RYR, Sunday in the GFS Marketplace 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Gilliland's name has been painted on the #38 M&M's Ford Fusion, and all signs point to a formal announcement within days. Gilliland will be in the car as early as Tuesday for testing at Kentucky Speedway. Sadler most likely will be released from his contract with RYR this week, and he is expected to take over the #19 Dodge Dealers Dodge at Evernham Motorsports, which became open when Jeremy Mayfield was released last week. Sporting News
07/20/06 Today the Yates team officially announced that Sadler has requested and has been granted a release from his contract that will take effect after the 2006 season.
"We would like to thank Elliott for his commitment to our organization over the past four seasons and for all the success we've enjoyed together," Robert Yates said. "We are excited about the opportunity to find a new driver who will continue the successful run of the No. 38 Ford as we maintain our focus on the future of our organization."
"Our objective this year is to finish the season on a strong note," Doug Yates said. "It is our goal to continue to build this team so we will be better positioned next season to contend for the championship."
07/18/06 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Though he denies any contact with Ray Evernham, Elliott Sadler will drive the #19 Evernham Motorsports Dodge in 2007, multiple sources close to Robert Yates Racing have confirmed. Contrary to recent speculation, M&Ms, Sadler's current primary sponsor at Yates, will not accompany him to Evernham, those same sources say. NASCAR.com
06/19/06 Car owner Robert Yates denied Internet reports that Elliott Sadler is unhappy and wants out of his contract to drive the #38 Ford that runs through 2008. "That's not what he's telling me," Yates said. "That's all I can really say. I guess the grandstand can start speculating anything. So far, he hasn't communicated that with me yet." Atlanta Journal-Constitution
06/17/06 Elliott Sadler has let it be known he isn't happy in the team's [Robert Yates Racing] #38 car and appears to be looking for a way out, especially after teammate #88-Dale Jarrett accepted a Toyota pension for 2007, with Michael Waltrip. Where exactly Sadler would go is a question, although everyone who is anyone is churning in Toyota's rumor mill right now. Speed Channel
Senna to Toro Rosso? (GMM) Bruno Senna has played down renewed speculation that he could soon be at the wheel of a 'Toro Rosso' formula one racer.
The 22-year-old, who is the nephew of late triple world champion Ayrton Senna, is reportedly on the cusp of an F1 breakthrough via his solid links with the Faenza based team's co-owner, Gerhard Berger.
A test later this year is rumored, but the move into GP2 for 2007 is more likely than an imminent formula one debut.
Asked about the rumored test, Senna told sport1.de: ''So far I have heard nothing about it -- it's only speculation.''
The Brazilian did, however, admit that being associated with Berger - Ayrton Senna's former McLaren teammate and a friend of the family - is not a hindrance.
''Gerhard could help me to get an impression of formula one,'' said Bruno, who this season is racing in British F3.
He insisted, though, that having good contacts is not going to be enough. ''With or without my name, if I do not do a good enough job, then I will be nowhere,'' 'Senna Jr' said.
Toyota’s withdrawal could be beginning of end for GPMAUPDATE "The GPMA respects Toyota's decision to leave the GPMA and wishes to thank Toyota for the support and dedication it has shown to the other manufacturers and the sport. During Toyota's tenure, the GPMA has agreed a Memorandum of Understanding with the sport's commercial rights holder and made progress in its discussions with the governing body” the GPMA stated.
"The GPMA will continue its efforts to address the long term-strategic issues of Formula One, and the manufacturers and their teams remain dedicated to establishing a satisfactory regulatory structure and finalizing a new Concorde Agreement. The GPMA already cooperates with car manufacturers who are not formal members and Toyota will remain an intrinsic part of that process. Toyota will be welcome to rejoin the manufacturers' alliance at a later stage."
08/14/06 Toyota Motorsport GmbH has confirmed today that it will leave the GPMA (Grand Prix Manufacturers Association). Toyota, one of the 5 founding members of the association, believes the GPMA has achieved its initial goals, particularly with regards to the Memorandum of Understanding recently signed with the commercial rights holder for the 2008-2012 seasons.
Toyota has always believed that the fundamental role of the GPMA is to make constructive contributions in an advisory capacity to the sport in the pursuit of protecting Formula 1 as the forerunner of technological innovation. However, Toyota believes that the GPMA is currently focused more on operational details rather than the long-term strategic outlook for the future technology of Formula 1.
As a result, Toyota will step down from the GPMA to avoid inhibiting activities which the majority of other members may wish to pursue.
Nevertheless, Toyota fully recognizes the role of the GPMA and will remain open to dialogue and cooperation in the future. Should the overall situation change, Toyota would consider rejoining the GPMA at that point.
Toyota reconfirms its long-term commitment to Formula 1 until 2012. This commitment is underlined by Toyota's current supply of engines to Midland and its future engagement to supply engines to Williams F1 for the coming three years. Toyota believes that engine supply to private teams should be a central pillar of the objectives of those manufacturers' competing in F1.
Chairman and Team Principal Tsutomu Tomita stated, "We appreciate the contribution of the GPMA to date, but now it is important for us to shift our efforts and focus on our own sporting development. Toyota's position has already been put forward in the past: we want to retain F1 as the pinnacle of motorsport, to keep the technical challenge by not imposing unnatural restrictions on the technology used in F1 car development, to continue to attract and provide excitement to fans and importantly to adopt a positive attitude towards independent teams through offering technical support and supplying engines. At the same time we cannot forget that all cars makers are making significant investments to protect the global environment and F1 manufacturers should actively propose concrete technical rules that lead the FIA in this direction."
Champ Car eyes race in HollandUPDATE #5 Correction, the Assen race promoters announced that 46,000 people attended the Formula 3 race weekend at Assen, not the 30,000 we originally estimated.
Champ Car lap time: Jos Verstappen was only allowed 4 laps in his A1GP car, (due to noise restrictions). This was the first time he drove on the new circuit and he did a 1.32.184 lap time. He reckons he could have at least gone 3 -4 seconds quicker (1.28.5 sec.). This would mean a ’06 Lola Champ Car would be able to do a lap time of around 1.19.0 (We looked at and compared the Monterrey lap times of both A1GP and Champ Car this year to come up with this conclusion.)
“Great, all these people along the track. Assen is an incredibly interesting circuit," said Verstappen. It offers several possibilities for great overtaking action. The TT circuit has some very fast corners, ideal for open wheel racing. You never know what the future brings. In any case: it’s a serious circuit!”
08/13/06 At right Dutch hero Jos Verstappen does some demo laps in his A1GP car before 30,000 spectators for today's German F3 race at Assen, Holland. The track appears to be wide enough for Champ Car and the pitlane is wider than the one in Montreal.
The grandstands in Assen were packed today and the front straight is also quite wide, much wider than many Champ Car street races.
07/29/06 AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that Champ Car and the Holland promoter are close to signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for a race at Assen in September of 2007, either on the weekend of September 9th or September 16th. Although there is a verbal agreement of some sort, the MOU is not signed yet, but could be within days.
As we understand it, the Assen race will be on the 2007 Champ Car schedule if the MOU is signed and the first deposit made, but the race that it will be teamed with in Europe probably will not initially be on the schedule. If this goes forward, we hear we might begin to see advertisement for the event on Nicky Pastorelli's car as early as Denver.
As for the track being a bit narrow, it's wider than the track here in San Jose, so we suppose that issue can be put to bed.
What may stop this race from happening according to our Champ Car sources is the fear of taking the series outside the USA for both the month of September (Europe) and October (Australia/Mexico City). We hear Champ Car has other race venues stateside that want to get on the calendar in September so they are juggling a bunch of balls up in the air right now. Mark C.
07/19/06 Besides Morocco and a venue in Eastern Europe, LeMans is also being pushed by one group. Hockenheim could have been an alternative but now it appears likely the German GP could alternate years between Hockenheim and Nurburgring. It is doubtful that Bernie Ecclestone would look kindly on a Champ Car race at a European F1 venue. Both Assen and its paired race, if they are to happen, will be on back-to-back weekends in September.
IRL rules make for dangerous driving With 100% throttle driving, the same engines, the same chassis and the same tires, the IRL formula produces artificially close racing. That results in a lot of accidents (open wheel cars usually crash when they touch). It also results in some weaving and blocking to keep a competitor from slingshotting past. This Express Times article talks about Danica Patrick's complaints about drivers Tomas Scheckter and Tony Kanaan during the Meijer 300 IndyCar race in Kentucky Sunday. Kanaan blocked Patrick to prevent her from passing....could there be a bit of jealously there given Patrick will drive with Kanaan next year for AGR and she comes in with a $21 million sponsorship and she will be the 'star' of the team immediately?
New Champ Car passes all tests According to AutoRacing1.com sources here in Denver, the new Champ Car has now passed all FIA crash tests with flying colors and on the first try, something unheard of in the F1 world. We expect to hear a formal announcement on Tuesday or Wednesday. Mark C.
Audi threatens to pull out of ALMS On 20 August, the Audi Sport squad is busy on "two fronts” once again: While the second-half of the DTM season starts at the Nürburgring, the American Le Mans Series at Road America (USA) already enters its crucial phase at the seventh round of the ten race championship. Dindo Capello and Allan McNish have a 39-point lead before the race in Wisconsin. The two Audi drivers could actually make a decisive early step towards clinching the title there.
However, this will be tough challenge: The American Le Mans Series organizers are attempting to stop the revolutionary Audi R10 TDI prototype’s winning streak by making the competition even more new concessions. At Road America the LM P1 Lolas entered by the Dyson team can race with 65 kilograms less than the Audi R10 TDI. Furthermore, from the following race at Mosport, the Dyson Lolas will be granted a five-liter larger fuel tank. That’s why Audi’s further participation in the American Le Mans Series is under discussion.
The Audi Sport engineers have calculated with computer simulation that ten kilograms at Road America is worth at least two-tenths-of-a-second per lap. Despite being deeply disappointed about the random decisions of the IMSA organization, the Audi Sport North America team would nevertheless like do everything in its power to achieve a good result also at Road America. The layout of the 4.048-mile circuit approximately 60 miles north of Milwaukee should suit the R10 TDI. It is one of the most fluid and fastest on the calendar.
A cat fight in Kentucky?UPDATE This Indy Star article talks about the battle shaping up between former IRL poster girl, Sarah Fisher, and her replacement, Danica Patrick at Kentucky today. Fisher was able to step right in after a 3 year absence and immediately be on the pace because the IRL is a 100% throttle, no talent required formula.
08/12/06 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Danica MUST be great! Ms. Wonderful almost kinda sorta nearly got out qualified by Sarah Fisher in a B-Team car and after a two or three year absence away from the hallowed corridors of IRL POWER!!!! With them starting side-by-side in 11th and 12th what's the chances they'll take each other out and we'll see a cat fight break out? Bart Freeman
Dear Bart, We think a cat fight would be great PR for the IRL. Mark C.
Another reader writes, I can't believe the advertising for the Kentucky 300. It's like Beauty vs. the Beast. I think they could have chosen a better picture of Sarah Fisher. Terence Fischer
Rice to NASCAR A reader asks, The SPEED crew on the Craftsman Truck Series race today mentioned that Buddy Rice had been in discussions with Red Horse Racing about running a Tundra next season with Red Bull on board. Is this rumor floating around elsewhere? Paul Brittain, Hillsboro, MO
Dear Paul, Buddy's manager is also fishing around the Champ Car paddock, but I suspect there's a better chance you will see him in NASCAR than Champ Car next year. Where you probably won't see him is in the IRL. Mark C.
IRL future at TMS uncertainUPDATE #5 Reaction from TMS president Eddie Gossage about losing the race after the Indy 500 to Milwaukee was muted as his latest attempt to persuade the IRL to return the Bombardier Learjet 500 night race to its former coveted post-Indy slot failed. And while Lewis said it was safe to "probably assume" that TMS would host its annual summer event next June 9, Gossage noted he has not signed a sanctioning agreement with the league founded by Tony George.
"I can't tell you what's next," Gossage said. "We don't have a deal with the IRL. I'd like to think we can work everything out, but I can't guarantee we will."
At one point, Lewis said Gossage and the TMS staff were "very happy that we're going to Milwaukee after Indy," rather than visit the 1.5-mile quadoval in Fort Worth.
"John Lewis is one of my favorite people, but he's doing a tremendous spin job there," Gossage said. "It's obviously a major issue and...they made a choice. We believe we deserve better. It is the best race in the country."
TMS hosted the first race after Indy from its inaugural season of 1997 through 2005. League officials filled the open weekend after Indy with a race on the road course at Watkins Glen International this season.
In June, Gossage began lobbying IRL officials to return the open date after Indy en route to TMS. Gossage suggested the open week would best be used to promote the winner of the Indy 500 via various ABC/ESPN properties. Gossage also said the Bombardier Learjet 500 -- second only to the Indy 500 in attendance -- deserved to be carried live on ABC, rather than cable partner ESPN. Gossage said his proposal, e-mailed to George, apparently was overlooked by IRL and network officials.
"We are going to market the race bigger and better for the fans," Gossage said, "and that's going to happen if we can reach a deal." Star-Telegram
08/12/06 Texas Motor Speedway's slot on the 2007 IRL schedule remains unannounced. TMS president Eddie Gossage has not signed a contract for next year, although conversations with league representatives continue.
"We've pretty much got the money [sanction fee] resolved," said Gossage, who still is hopeful of returning TMS to its previous slot as the first race after the Indianapolis 500. "We have been told they don't know if there will be something between Indy and Texas."
Gossage added there has not been much support for his idea to run the Bombardier Learjet 500 -- the league's first Saturday night race of the season -- at TMS two weeks after the Indy 500 and in primetime on ABC. Gossage has proposed that ABC/ESPN use its array of media properties to promote and showcase the Indy 500 winner and build momentum heading into Fort Worth. Gossage said he recently e-mailed IRL founder Tony George to suggest setting up a meeting with ABC officials in New York to discuss the plan. "I have not heard back a word about it," Gossage said.
Meanwhile, Gossage said he has signed contracts for TMS' two 2007 NASCAR Nextel Cup dates, leaving the IRL as the piece needed to announce the schedule this month. Star telegram
08/12/06 Negotiations between Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage and officials of the IRL IndyCar Series for a spot on the 2007 schedule remain stalled, and Gossage does not expect any movement this week.
IRL founder Tony George, who also is president/CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, is busy hosting Formula One for the seventh annual United States Grand Prix. The contract for that event expires with Sunday's race, and George will be negotiating with Bernie Ecclestone, CEO of Formula One Management, to the last moment. Meanwhile, IRL officials are busy with the Kansas Lottery Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway, also on Sunday.
"We don't have an agreement with them," said Gossage, who wants to return the Bombardier Learjet 500 night race to its former slot as the first event after the Indianapolis 500, two weeks after the big race. "Negotiations...we're really not negotiating. They seem quite busy with what they have on their plate. But they're well aware of our needs. I have every reason to believe they will be racing at Texas Motor Speedway for an 11th straight year [in 2007]."
Gossage outlined his proposal to have the event at TMS in primetime on ABC in high-definition in a letter delivered to George during the Bombardier Learjet 500 weekend. Star-Telegram
[Editor's Note: If indeed a merger is in the works for Champ Car and the IRL for 2008, it will be interesting to see how flexible the two groups are with their schedules such that they both don't race on the same weekend in 2007 whenever humanly possible. If there is an air of cooperation, and the desire to work together, then perhaps we will only see them racing on the same weekend when they race together at places such as St. Pete and Long Beach. Brian Barnhart was quoted as saying he is developing the 2007 IRL schedule with flexibility in mind, supposedly to accommodate joint race weekends.]
06/16/06 This Star Telegram article talks about the worsening relationship between the IRL and Texas Motor Speedway. It is interesting to read that track President Eddie Gossage is threatening the IRL with a "It's my way or the highway" attitude.
Hunter-Reay being consideredUPDATE As we rumored below, Ryan Hunter-Reay was in negotiations with a top Grand-Am team. That part of this rumor is upgraded to ‘fact’ with today’s announcement that Hunter-Reay will drive for the defending Champions in Grand-Am, SunTrust, in the season finale. See Hot News page for details.
08/07/06 Robin Miller reports that Ryan Hunter-Reay is being considered by RuSPORT to step in for the injured Cristiano da Matta. RHR is a 2-time Champ Car winner, who happens to be American, and with only one American in the series it would be nice to see this proven race winner back.
On another note we spotted Hunter-Reay at both IRP (ORP) and IMS this past weekend where he was seen repeatedly with Robby Gordon and talking with Rick Hendrick. We saw him in and out of the Toyota suite, visiting executives. We also hear he is in negotiations with a top Grand-Am team.
Will this be another bright young American that open wheel loses to NASCAR?
No Champ Car teams at Indy 500 If the rumored Zhuhai, China race happens in 2007, don't look for any Champ Car teams at next year's Indy 500. According to our sources, the inaugural Zhuhai race will be May 20, 2007 because that is the date the promoter wants. With the first weekend of Indy 500 qualifying the weekend before, and the 20th being the 2nd weekend of Indy qualifying, it makes it logistically impossible for any Champ Car teams to run at Indy next year. And with Champ Car teams having to buy new Panoz DP01 Champ Cars for 2007, we do not see any having the money needed to also field an Indy 500 effort. The official schedule won't be announced until sometime in September and we hear it can contain some other surprises as well.
Engine failures could cancel GP Masters race A spat of 10 engine failures in the last two days has caused Grand Prix Masters race officials to scramble to rectify the situation or be forced to cancel this weekend's race at Silverstone. A crankcase redesign over the winter results in main crank bearings being starved for oil and the engines are spinning bearings or breaking cranks. The engine builder is scrambling to rectify the engine in order to get 15 cars ready for the race.
Denver race will go on despite uncertainty The fifth Grand Prix of Denver begins today with a shaky local ownership group, no sponsor before its name, and the backing of a racing series that is negotiating to merge with its rival.
While none of that sounds promising, the road ahead appears clear for the Champ Car World Series event to continue in Denver.
"I can absolutely assure you that it will continue," said Champ Car co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven, the lead negotiator in merger meetings with Indy Racing League president Tony George. "It is a race that has evolved over the years. It is very unique and attractive, and I promise you it will continue."
The Grand Prix's local owner is Centennial businessman Robert E. Sutton, founder of Sutton International Motorsports. Champ Car stepped in last month to help finance and ensure that this weekend's race would take place.
Sutton, CEO of Centrix Financial - the Grand Prix's title sponsor from 2003-05 - is being sued by five Centrix investors for fraud, and he was prepared to cancel this weekend's race before Champ Car rescued it, a source familiar with the negotiations said.
"The race was in jeopardy," said Jim Hancock, a Centrix/Sutton executive.
Sutton's problems could lead to another local ownership group joining forces with Champ Car, the city and Pepsi Center landowner Kroenke Sports Enterprises. Meetings about that were held Thursday in Denver and more are scheduled today and Saturday, Hancock said. "There is a support for the event. Everybody wants it to continue."
Asked if Sutton is among those supporters, Hancock said: "We're not really at liberty to say yet. We still have an ownership involvement in the event. There will be an announcement soon."
The race is under contract through 2013 with the city. However, when Sutton bought it in 2004 from Dover Motorsports, a termination option was given to the city to be considered at the end of 2006. Sutton has a similar option after the 2008 race.
Assistant city attorney Maria Kayser said Denver is happy with the event and there have been no discussions to use its termination right by Dec. 31.
"No one has raised that issue," she said. "It has been going well, and it's a great thing for the city."
Kalkhoven reiterated the race is on solid ground. "Champ Car has the right to race there for some time to come," he said. "This year is a transition year between Centrix and ourselves. At the end of this race we'll be announcing who will be running this race in the future. But to be sure, it will be running in the future." More at Denver Post
Fuji set to get F1 race, will Champ Car get Suzuka?UPDATE #14 Honda is making a last-ditch bid to ensure that its Suzuka circuit keeps a place in the Formula 1 world championship. It was announced last March that the Japanese Grand Prix would move to Toyota-owned Fuji International Speedway in 2007. The deal was a major coup for Toyota, which had been trying to lure the country’s big race away from its rival manufacturer for several years.
However, Autosport reports that Honda is now lobbying Toyota to come to an arrangement whereby the race would alternate between the two venues. Yasuhiro Wada, head of Honda Racing Development, told the magazine: “We want to see if there is any possibility of both circuits sharing the Japanese GP.
“I cannot blame Toyota for wanting to host the race. But Suzuka is one of F1’s classic tracks, like Spa or Monza, and to lose it would be a great pity.” Fuji staged Japan’s first two world championship grands prix in 1976 and 1977, but the race has been held at Suzuka since 1987.
When the Fuji deal was announced, F1 impresario Bernie Ecclestone handed Suzuka a lifeline by holding out the possibility of a second Japanese race. It has been suggested that a ‘Pacific GP’ at Suzuka could slot into the three-week gap on the current draft calendar between the Australian GP (March 18) and the Malaysian GP (April 8). ITV-F1
03/15/06 In the 'Yomiuri Shimbun' newspaper, the 75-year-old F1 supremo was quoted as saying that Fuji - owned by Toyota - had convinced him to take the race away from Honda-owned Suzuka, home of the GP since 1987.
The newspaper said the deal was for multiple years, and does not include the possibility of a second Japanese race, such as a 'Pacific' or 'Asian' GP.
We said this a long time ago which is what generated the possibility of a Champ Car race at Suzuka since the track will no longer have a 'big' race after this year. Sure Champ Car is talking to Otaru officials, but this race would have the backing of Honda, a major plus, especially if the two series merge. Would Honda want back-to-back weekend races at Motegi and Suzuka? Seems far-fetched, but the cars and teams would already be in Japan so the incremental cost would not be as great. The tracks are also far enough apart, but in the end it may simply be too much for Honda to support two races, which is really too bad for Suzuka as it is a great facility.
03/14/06 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Toyota's Fuji Speedway will host the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix, replacing Honda's Suzuka circuit as the venue for the event. The news was confirmed to the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper by Bernie Ecclestone.
03/13/06 Reports from Japan on Monday suggest Suzuka has lost its race, with the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper claiming Formula One commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone has confirmed the deal. But Ecclestone offered hope to Suzuka, suggesting a second race in Japan, as happened in the 1990s, could yet be arranged. Suzuka president Ikuo Shimizu told Yomiuri Shimbun: "I'm not surprised at all. I'm going to keep on negotiating."
With Honda and Ford set to compete head-to-head in a merged IRL/Champ Car series (rumored) would it make sense for them to continue to race at Motegi, or race at Motegi and then Suzuka on consecutive weekends (both tracks are owned by Honda). Of course this assumes Suzuka does not get a 2nd Japanese GP. We doubt they will unless they line Bernie's pockets with gold...er, money, because the F1 schedule already has too many races on it.
12/03/05 Fuji can seat up to 120,000 spectators, plus general admission. The new track will have 20,000 permanent covered seats and 100,000 temporary seats. 11/22/05 This rumor is close to going to 'fact.' Bernie Ecclestone has reportedly granted Toyota's wish by adding the renovated 'Fuji Speedway' to the 2007 calendar.
Toyota, with the Cologne based grand prix team, also owns the track situated at the foot of Mt. Fuji in Japan.
Fuji hosted the pinnacle of racing in 1976 and '77, but every other F1 race in Japan has been staged at Suzuka, run by arch carmaker-rival Honda.
'Sources close to the negotiations' told Japanese publication Asahi Weekly that Ecclestone, the F1 boss, and the FIA, have decided - but not announced - the Fuji coup.
Suzuka's F1 contract runs out in 2006.
''One possible outcome of negotiations,'' Asahi Weekly wrote, ''would be for Suzuka ... to share the event with (Fuji).''......or for Champ Car to race at Suzuka when Bernie drops Honda (Suzuka) in favor of Toyota (Fuji).
[In a related report, Grandprix.com reports Suzuka's contract with Formula One Management is understood to expire after the 2006 event and much effort was being made by Suzuka and the local government to keep the race but it seems that Toyota (with its much deeper pockets) has outbid Honda for the event, despite fears that Fuji might not have sufficient hotel capacity. Toyota, it appears, has undertaken to sort out this problem in the time available and construction of new hotels is expected shortly in the towns of Gotemba and Hakone. Access to the track is also expected to be improved.]
09/09/05 The word on the street in Japan is that Toyota is pushing hard for a Grand Prix at Mount Fuji early next year, presumably fitting it in with the plan to hold the first three races in Bahrain, Malaysia and Australia. Logically-speaking if there was to be a fourth race on the early season swing to the Orient it would have to take place on April 16 when the teams would be on the their way back from Australia. This would mean that either the San Marino Grand Prix is dumped from the calendar, easy enough given the recent tobacco legislation decision in Italy and the poor crowd numbers at recent years, or the Imola race would have to be slotted into the calendar later in the year.
There have been two races in Japan in a year before but they were close together on the calendar and thus took spectators away from one another. With a race in the spring at Fuji and another in the autumn at Suzuka, Japanese fans would get the chance to see F1 twice in the same year. Grandprix.com
03/01/05 Added photos courtesy of Reuters below showing Ralf's run at Fuji and an aerial view of the revised circuit with the snowcapped Mt. Fuji in the background. 02/28/05 A handful of laps by F1 ace Ralf Schumacher gave life to Fuji's plan to sneak the Japanese GP. Owned by Toyota, current F1 venue, Suzuka, is run by arch Japanese carmaker rival, Honda. Fuji, after extensive modifications, is now F1-ready, having won a Grade-1 FIA license. ''It looks really great,'' said 29-year-old Schumacher, who steered a year-old TF104 prior to setting off to Melbourne. "While the changes have been great, the long straight is still there, so the character of the circuit is still there," said the German. "It's great. It's obviously a bit difficult, but I was enjoying it."
The circuit, at the foot of Mount Fuji, will formally open with a ceremony on 10 April, with its first race a Super GT Fuji 500km race on 3-4 May. Toyota executive director Tetsuo Hattori said the company wanted to bring F1 back to the circuit, which held Grands Prix in 1976 and 1977. "We want to do it (F1) here by all means," he said.
Three strikes and Ansan’s outUPDATE #4 We forgot to make this rumor, first reported at AutoRacing1.com, 'fact' when it was announced that the race was cancelled.
06/11/06 Our sources in South Korea tell us that Champ Car did receive major dollars in advance last year, whereas the year before they received nothing. Our Korea sources tell us that Ansan can happen, but Champ Car needs to be nurturing the final steps of the process. Why throw away a track that has already been built for $10m plus dollars? To put it in better context, when a U.S. company goes bankrupt and owes people money, it takes time to clean up the situation and pass it along to a new owner, i.e. CCWS. Throw in public dollars and it gets tougher due to the politics.
Our source tell us that Mayor Song did not run again. The election was last month. The new Mayor is supportive of the new group. Champ Car should be back in there rolling up their sleeves to push it forward. We hear it is a good new promoter with solid financial backing. The only holdup was getting management control of the track from the City which was contingent upon creditors being satisfied. That is a normal business process but it takes time.
If Champ Car walks out on South Korea, A1 Grand Prix will march right into Ansan and profit from all the work Champ Car did on the project. David Clare is now the Chief Operating Officer of A1GP and lives in Seoul. Does not take a lot of thought to see this one coming.
05/02/06 In a story first broke right here on AutoRacing1.com, look for Champ Car to soon announce that Ansan, South Korea has been cancelled, this time for good, and to counter that we were told a month or two ago that Zhuhai, China would take its place on the 2007 schedule. Zhuhai, rather than Beijing because until the Olympics are over, Beijing is not prepared to host an event. Zhuhai (right) is across the Delta from Hong Kong and is practically ready to host a race now - the natural terrain road course is built to F1 standards and stands ready.
04/07/06 We are bumping this rumor up to strong. AutoRacing1.com sources are telling us that Ansan probably is not going to happen. The primary reason is the political in-fighting going on in South Korea. Despite building a track and having sponsors for the race, it appears the political issues will kill this event.
On a more positive front, we are told much progress has been made in China and an announcement can be forthcoming in the near future.
03/25/06 According to AutoRacing1.com sources in South Korea, after recent visits Champ Car has asked the City of Ansan for a final decision by end of March regarding this year's scheduled race on October 15th. However, our sources hear that Ansan City has no intention to hold a Champ Car race this year and that Ansan City will develop a plan on what to do with the race track they built after the Mayor’s Election Day ( 31st of May ) with the new elected city mayor.
If this rumor is true, this would be the third time South Korea has cancelled the race, and as they say....three strikes and you're out.
However, we suspect there may be more behind this rumor because in a Champ Car/IRL merger (rumor) there would simply be too many races on a combined schedule and some would have to be dropped. With the Honda race at Motegi plus the Champ Car race possibly in Beijing, coupled with Suzuka who needs a race now that they lost F1, one has to wonder whether Ansan would survive the chopping block. If not, why run there for one year?
Logic tells us the 2006 Champ Car schedule could soon be reduced to 14 races, the same as the IRL schedule. 14+14 = 28 races. We see the 8 weakest races being dropped and a 20-race schedule in a merged series scenario.
In shambles, Ford to ask Mark Martin to stayUPDATE Mark Martin has talked about racing in some Cup races next season although he's scheduled to compete full time in the Truck series next year. Todd Kluever is scheduled to take over Martin's Cup ride next year. So, if Martin runs in select Cup races, whom will it be with? Roush Racing is above the NASCAR-maximum four teams per organization. Geoff Smith, president of Roush Racing, said an option could be to have Martin drive for Boris Said's #60 team. Said receives support from Roush Racing. Smith said he does not see Yates as an option, although it's a fellow Ford team. Another option, though, could be for Martin to return full time and give Kluever another year of seasoning in the Busch series or give Roush another year to find a replacement. Roanoke Times
08/07/06 Roush Racing and Ford officials say they are re-evaluating their plans in the face of a) the Toyota challenge, b) the debacle at Robert Yates Racing, and c) the failure of some young recruits to pan out, thus leaving holes open at Yates's and, possibly, Roush's. Sources say Roush and/or Ford have offered Mark Martin $8m to stay yet another year in the No. 6 car. Martin, who had planned to retire after 2005, stayed one more year to help Roush plug a gap after the departure of Kurt Busch last summer. More at Speed Channel
2007 Nextel Cup Schedule Below is the tentative 2007 Nextel Cup schedule as compiled by Jayski:
Date Location 2/10 Sat Daytona, FL 2/15 Thur Daytona, FL 2/18 Sun Daytona, FL 2/25 Sun Fontana, CA 3/4 Sun OFF 3/11 Las Vegas, NV 3/18 Sun Hampton, GA 3/25 Sun Bristol, TN COT 4/1 Sun Martinsville, VA COT (Unconfirmed) 4/8 Easter - OFF 4/15 Sun Fort Worth, TX (Unconfirmed) 4/21 Sat night Phoenix, AZ COT (Unconfirmed) 4/29 Sun Talladega, AL 5/5 Sat Night Richmond, VA COT 5/12 Sat Night Darlington, SC Mother's Day Weekend COT 5/19 Sat Night Lowe's Motor Speedway 5/19 Sat Night Lowe's Motor Speedway 5/27 Sun night Lowe's Motor Speedway 6/3 Sun Dover, DE COT (Unconfirmed) 6/10 Sun Pocono, PA 6/17 Sun Brooklyn, MI (Unconfirmed) 6/24 Sun Sonoma, CA COT (Unconfirmed) 7/1 Sun Loudon, NH COT 7/7 Sat Night Daytona, FL 7/15 Sun Joliet, IL (Unconfirmed) 7/22 OFF 7/29 Sun Indianapolis, IN 8/5 Sun Pocono, PA 8/12 Sun Watkins Glen, NY COT (Unconfirmed) 8/19 Sun Brooklyn, MI (Unconfirmed) 8/25 Sat Night Bristol, TN COT 9/2 Sun Night Fontana, CA (Unconfirmed) 9/8 Sat Night Richmond, VA COT (Unconfirmed) 9/16 Sun Loudon, NH COT 9/23 Sun Dover, DE COT (Unconfirmed) 9/30 Sun Kansas City, KS (Unconfirmed) 10/7 Sun Talladega, AL COT (Unconfirmed) 10/13 Sat Night Charlotte, NC 10/21 Sun Martinsville, VA COT (Unconfirmed) 10/28 Sun Hampton, GA (Unconfirmed) 11/4 Sun Fort Worth, TX (Unconfirmed) 11/11 Sun Phoenix, AZ COT (Unconfirmed) 11/18 Sun Homestead, FL (Unconfirmed)
Ranger to miss racesUPDATE #2 Ranger will drive in Denver. From the team press release - Andrew Ranger is back up to fifth in the Championship standings en route to Denver, despite suffering his first DNF of the season due to on-track contact at the last race. Leaving San Jose, Ranger had fallen to sixth, but following Champ Car's decision to take away seven points from Paul Tracy, because of on- and off-track events in San Jose, he has moved back up one position. In the last three races, the young Canadian has qualified in the top-eight and has finished in the top-ten twice. Last season in Denver, Ranger overcame all sorts of difficulties - black flag and slight contact at the start - to finish tenth.
08/07/06 Correction, Ranger is 5th in points, not 6th. His participation in the Denver race in four days from now has yet to be confirmed.
08/06/06 Fears that Canadian Andrew Ranger will not race the whole Champ Car season because of financial woes appears to be coming true. Ranger's No. 27 Mi-Jack/Conquest Lola was being driven by Italian Enrico Toccacelo at the team's test at Road America. Toccacelo previously raced in the F3000 and A1GP series and as a test driver for the Minardi F-1 team. Toronto Sun
[Editor's Note: Ranger is 6th in points and not very far out of 4th. He is Canadian and last time we checked, Champ Car has three races in Canada, and none in Italy where Toccacelo is from. With just 5 races to go, it makes zero sense to replace Ranger at this point, and if it's being done for money (i.e. ride buyer) then it is going to cast doubts in Champ Car's ability to come out strong in 2007. If some teams cannot afford to finish out this year how will they afford new cars in 2007? Of course just because Toccacelo was tested, it may not mean he will replace Ranger, as the team might have taken the opportunity to evaluate fresh talent for next year.]
Champ Car will not return to Milwaukee MileUPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. The Milwaukee Mile will return to tradition next spring, hosting the drivers and teams of the Indianapolis 500 in the following weekend. An announcement by track and Indy Racing League officials is scheduled for Thursday in downtown Milwaukee, meaning Champ Car has given up on the famous Mile and its last oval track.
07/15/06 While a published report speculated that the Champ Car World Series will not return to The Milwaukee Mile next season, track president Andy Randall has not received a decision from the open-wheel series.
A report by Speed Channel and its Web site, speedtv.com, indicated that Champ Car drivers will not compete at the legendary oval in 2007. Champ Car has competed at the track for 28 consecutive years, and this season, The Mile is the only oval on the schedule.
Champ Car will debut a new car in 2007, and Randall said series executives are mulling whether an oval venue will be a part of their schedule next season. If an oval is included, Randall said The Mile will be the track of choice.
"We've had many conversations - beginning in May and they've continued since then - centering around 2007," said Randall, who is set to talk with Champ Car president Steve Johnson in the next few days. "Officials are weighing cost and education factors for the series."
Meanwhile, in comments to speedtv.com, Champ Car series co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven is less committed to oval racing. The series will race on street, permanent and semi-permanent road courses this season, besides its one visit to The Mile.
"When open-wheel fans show they want ovals back, then we'll go back to them," said Kalkhoven. "The past few years have shown us that's NASCAR's domain." More at Capital Times
06/30/06 Marketing-type survey from the Milwaukee Mile, we assume to their ticket holder list. Interesting that there is absolutely no mention of the Champ Car event in the survey -- we assume they are implying Champ Car will no longer be back.
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IRL ready to grab Champ Car Milwaukee dateUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. The Milwaukee Mile will return to tradition next spring, hosting the drivers and teams of the Indianapolis 500 in the following weekend. An announcement by track and Indy Racing League officials is scheduled for Thursday in downtown Milwaukee. The race will be on Sunday June 3rd.
06/14/06 IRL sources tell us that the series is ready to make Milwaukee their weekend after the Indy 500 race as soon as Champ Car drops Milwaukee from its schedule. Through 1995 Milwaukee was always the weekend after the Indy 500. After the horrible attendance for the recent Champ Car race at Milwaukee, it's doubtful the race will appear on the 2007 schedule, and if it does, it should be the week of the Wisconsin State Fair in August at the fairgrounds so Champ Car can make it into one of their "city festivals" that they tout. We expect that if the IRL gets the Champ Car date in Milwaukee it will draw a good crowd.
New Champ Car venue surfacesUPDATE We can reveal more about this mega-project. No city commission approval required. Zoning is completed as well. Noise abatements are already done too. The track is part of a $3 billion development that will generate over $1 billion in economic impact per year for the local community. This project is moving so fast it may yet make it on the 2007 Champ Car schedule, but later in the season as the track still has to be built. Discussions with Champ Car are on-going and there may be more to report after this weekend. The developer will build the track, but a promoter still must be identified.
08/03/06 AutoRacing1.com has been told in confidence about a new permanent 2.33-mile road course venue in a major USA city that is a very popular destination point. This developer wants to host a Champ Car race, and if it happens, it will catch everyone by surprise. The track layout that we saw is a good one and is integrated into the planned development around it. Unfortunately we cannot reveal anymore details. There is a very slight chance it could happen for 2007, but we suspect 2008 is far more likely. Stay tuned........
Earnhardt to re-sign with DEI With Dale Earnhardt Jr. set to become a free agent at the end of next season, constant but casual negotiations are under way to at Dale Earnhardt Inc. re-sign NASCAR's most popular driver. "We talk about it all the time," director of motorsports Richie Gilmore said. "It's different when you work on his contract because it's business, it's family. It's very complicated when you work with Dale Jr. and (stepmother/team owner) Teresa because there's so many different parts to it. It's his dad's business and it's complicated. I know Teresa wants it to be Dale Jr.'s and Kelley's and Kerry's (also Dale Earnhardt's children) someday because that's what Dale built it for and that's in the long-term plans." Gilmore said he personally avoids the talks though he is the team's highest-ranking executive in the racing operation. Earnhardt Jr. is signed to a typical driver contract, he said. "Never mix business and family and when you do, you let the family handle it," he said. Earnhardt has several times entertained the idea of driving the #3 Chevrolet made legendary by his late father, but that number is owned by Richard Childress Racing. Still, Gilmore thinks Earnhardt Jr. will remain at DEI. At least, he hopes so. "It's tough to tell," he said. "You never know how things are going to happen, but you would think so, with the name on the building and the billboard." St. Petersburg Times
USAC to be devastated by splitUPDATE This rumor should have been upgraded to 'fact' long ago. The Premier Racing Association was formed using the old Silver Crown cars and is holding races with big fields, though they too are struggling. Meanwhile the France-family ISC funded Speedway Silver Crown Cars are failing miserably and the "split and soon die" strategy for another traditional open wheel series is working as planned. The conspiracy theorists will tell you that the divide and conquer strategy will eventually lead to nothing standing but NASCAR, and NASCAR will be racing in the USA.
01/05/06 With USAC's push for the new Silver Crown SuperSpeedway car on NASCAR high-banked ovals being shunned by most teams, we hear there is movement afoot by many of the teams to breakaway and start a new dirt track series. Stay tuned as this story develops, but isn't it ironic that the entire open wheel racing industry is in a split- divide and die mode.
USACers resisting move to buy Superspeedway carsUPDATE #4 The ISC funded next-generation USAC Silver Crown cars at O'Reilly Raceway Park this past Thursday night saw just 14 cars on the starting grid, and by lap 51 only five cars were running. Five. A couple of cars spent long periods pitside and returned to the track dozens of laps down, perhaps hoping to score a top-five finish. The entire night of racing encompassed 42 minutes.
Contrast this to past years, when 40-some cars would battle for 32 starting spots. Dave Argabright writes in NSSN, "This night felt hollow and empty. As I sat there watching five cars circle this famed 0.686-mile oval, I couldn't shake a powerful sense of sadness, sharpened by grim black clouds circling overhead..........When only 12 cars showed up for the Phoenix opener this past February, disappointment was tempered with the reality that this was essentially a brand-new series, and it was going to take some time to grow.
That was six months ago, and the Silver Crown field has grown by just two cars during that span. There is no way to look at this situation with anything but alarm."
01/20/06 U.S. Auto Club officials hope there is a silver lining to the sluggish start of the revamped Silver Crown series.
With no more than 12 cars expected for Sunday's season-opening Copper World Classic at Phoenix International Raceway, there is optimism a two-month break before the next race will allow former competitors to see value in the controversial new speedway program.
USAC changed cars to be able to run on some of the nation's larger paved tracks, a recommendation that came from NASCAR's sister company, International Speedway Corp. Most of USAC's old guard has been leery about buying new equipment.
"There's been a lot of talk about this series, but the bottom line is, people have wanted to see it get off the ground before they commit to it," said Owen Snyder, USAC's new competition director. "Well, now we're here and we're going to race.
"Having two more months until the next race (March 25 at Homestead, Fla.) buys us more time to get people on board."
Snyder hopes to have 16 to 20 cars at Homestead. He said USAC's partners -- ISC, specifically -- are "satisfied with our growth."
Practice at Phoenix begins today. The field includes two-time defending series champion Dave Steele, former series champion Dave Darland and veteran Brian Tyler.
But it's not the Silver Crown field USAC supporters are used to seeing. Phoenix had 48 entries last year and 49 in 2004. Missing are Tony Stewart, J.J. Yeley and Carl Edwards, NASCAR stars who have raced Copper World in the past. Indy Star
[Editor's Note: With an ISC exec now on the USAC board and wielding his influence, this Speedway car that most USAC car owners don't want is just the latest attempt by the NASCAR family to muscle in and eventually take over the short track open wheel oval business, i.e. they want to control everything. 12 cars down from 48 and 49 in previous years. That ought to go over well with fans in Phoenix.....not!]
10/24/05 The U.S. Auto Club showed the public its first two new Silver Crown speedway cars at Kansas Speedway, but the 10-lap exhibition left a lot to be desired.
There were only two cars at Kansas, and only two more have been ordered. The series, which averaged 41.6 cars on its five pavement tracks in 2005, is set to start with the controversial new cars Jan. 21-22, 2006, at the Copper World Classic in Phoenix.
There has been considerable opposition to the program backed by former NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr., who wants the Silver Crown division to race on his larger tracks, such as Kansas, Chicagoland and Homestead. Critics argue the cars will be too fast, too dangerous and too expensive, particularly in light of the cars that have been good enough in the past to produce such stars as Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman, all former champions.
“I’m worried because I’ve raced with these people my whole life,” said Bob East, the most successful car builder in USAC’s modern era. “They are stepping over their danger line here.” More at AutoWeek
08/10/05 Here we go again with the same inane leadership that has been a trademark of USAC for over 30 years.
1. Split the Champ Car series when they removed the Dirt Cars from the points and started a separate series for them. This was done because of the few owners with Road Racing background whining about having to go to the nasty dirt tracks. At that time they all used Offy Engines. 2. Removed the rear engine cars from the Sprint Car series because Tom Sneva was kicking their butts. A few whining owners, Lloyd Weaver, Louie Seymour were the leaders. 3. Effectively, Removed the Roadster from the Sprint Car Series by adding weight to them. They had been in the series since the 60's, Don Brown, Greg Weld, Joe Saldana, (The Mechanical Rabbit) and no owner complained because they weren't BIG winners until Steve Chassey kicked their butts every time out in 1979 & 1980. 4. Lost the Speedway sanction because of ridiculous officiating. Guess what they still have some of the same ones working in the series today. 5. Raced the Champ Cars on 1/2 mile tracks!! These cars are for 1 mile dirt & pavement tracks. 6. Now, with over 50 cars available for the series they are throwing them away for the new mandated car? This is not a series of large sponsorship, this is series of Sportsmen. As one said, "How can I be expected to be able to afford to race against owners like Ray Evernham and Richard Childress with my budget"?
Mayfield to get the boot Rumor has it that Dodge team owner Ray Evernham may drop Jeremy Mayfield (pictured right) effectively immediately after having learned he is going to bolt to a Toyota Nextel Cup team in 2007 with Bill Davis Racing or Michael Waltrip Racing.
Veteran Bill Elliott has replaced Mayfield on the NASCAR Nextel Cup entry list as the driver of the No. 19 Evernham Motorsports Dodge for this weekend's AMD at the Glen Nextel Cup race.
"This team has a great deal of potential and we just haven't met the expectations this year," team owner Ray Evernham said in a news release. "We will do whatever we need to get this car in the show for Watkins Glen. It's important to our sponsors and it's important to this team. Having Bill in the driver's seat gives us this guarantee. I believe in our system, our process and our people, and am committed to getting this program where it needs to be."
Sources indicate that Mayfield's release would likely be announced this week.
It is expected that Elliott Sadler will drive the No. 19 car in 2007.
Long-term viability of new races A reader asks, I am a subscriber to your website and visit every day to get the latest news and stories from you. I am a long time Champ Car fan. I've been going to Long Beach for years, as well as Portland and San Jose.
With the addition of races in Las Vegas and Phoenix (hopefully), I have to ask: What do you think about the long-term viability of these races staying alive beyond the initial couple years?
I've been to San Jose both years it has been around. This year was infinitely better. Long Beach isn't going anywhere anytime soon. I know Champ Car is trying to replicate the success of Long Beach in other markets. Both Phoenix and Las Vegas have hosted open-wheel street races in the past that haven't panned out as hoped. I am a believer in the street race success of the event in Long Beach. As you are deeply involved with motorsports, why do you think these two races will be successful? Why would they fail and how does Champ Car prevent them from possibly failing? I also hate to bring the word up, but I like being optimistic: unification. If we do see a merger, would these two races stand a chance at making it on to a unified schedule that would seem to be packed full with possible races. They are "new" and may not be seen as viable as existing races. I respect your opinions and want to get input from someone who isn't going to float me a line just to make me feel better. Rob Zaebst
Dear Rob, The long-term viability of these two races is good because both races are being put on by wealthy businessman Dale Jensen, who owns major league sports teams and plans to make money from huge downtown redevelopment plans he has in both Las Vegas and Phoenix. He promises to make the races the centerpiece of his redevelopment. We also hear that Long Beach promoter Jim Michaelian is being consulted on both projects and that has to be a good thing.
With any race, it comes down to race promotion and whether fans enjoy the event enough to come back every year like they do in Long Beach. Long Beach is on the waterfront and that certainly gives them a distinct advantage. In that regard LB is sometimes called America's Monaco.
Las Vegas of course has the attraction of gambling and if worked in properly with the casinos, the race can be a huge success. Phoenix we're not so sure about. The downtown area isn't that attractive right now. It might be in 5 years after much of the redevelopment is done, but right now it really has nothing very compelling to make people want to come back year after year. And where the pits are located in Phoenix (according to the track diagram on their website) is downright ludicrous. For now we'll take a wait and see attitude. Perhaps Jensen has some big plans for the race that we have not seen yet.
As for the two races surviving if there is a merger, both are 5 year deals so they have to. The bigger question is whether there will be a merger, and when. As I recently wrote, I don't see it happening before 2009 or 2010 because of recent events. I hope I'm wrong and that it happens sooner, but as I understand it, Tony George wants final say (i.e. at least 51%) in a merger scenario and that isn't going to happen (50/50 or no deal), so we have a stalemate. Mark C.
CVC 'nervous' about F1 investment - source (GMM) F1's new owner, 'CVC', is becoming increasingly 'nervous' about its latest investment, according to reports on Tuesday.
'The Business' publication claims that the British company, whose investment is worth about $1 billion, is unable to secure a bond against the future revenue of the sport until carmakers and the FIA stop rowing about rules.
Although a broad commercial agreement was reached some time ago, it is understood that while an actual 'Concorde agreement' remains unsigned, CVC may have to consider 'refinancing its business model'.
Intriguingly, the FIA appeared to jump the gun on the thorny 'engine freeze' argument, by proclaiming an agreement on Monday without all GPMA manufacturers' consent.
A source explained: ''CVC is getting nervous. They expected to get agreement much earlier.
''CVC has contacted the teams and told them the dispute has to stop.''
Pickup sales slide could spell trouble for Big 3 U.S. sales of full-sized pickups are down, and trade-in data suggest owners are moving out of pickups into cheaper, more fuel-efficient vehicles. But don't call it "SUV Collapse: The Sequel" just yet.
Through July, full-sized pickup sales were down 15.3 percent, and some pickup owners are switching to smaller vehicles. The defection rate peaked in April, when gasoline prices spiked to $3 a gallon.
But data from J.D. Power and Associates suggest that the migration to smaller vehicles has eased in the past two months. And the full-sized pickup's status as America's workhorse should keep it from tanking as badly as SUVs.
That's because 75 percent of full-sized pickup owners use the trucks for business, says Ford sales analyst George Pipas. "The full-sized truck segment is going to remain a very large segment in the United States," he says. "I wouldn't expect personal-use buyers to exit this market at the same rate we've seen full-size utility buyers in the last two years."
Still, full-sized pickup sales were down a whopping 35.9 percent in July. The decline comes as General Motors and Toyota prepare to launch updated versions of their full-sized pickups. As part of its turnaround effort, GM accelerated the launch of the 2007 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra by 13 weeks, to this October.
Meanwhile, Toyota has built an assembly plant in Texas to carve out a bigger share of the segment. More At AutoWeek
Button may shave now After finally winning his first Grand prix, what happens next for Jenson Button. Button admits he may pick up his razor and remove his beard.
"I said I was considering having a shave if I won a race," he said, "but I didn't think I was going to win one. But I think I'm going to have to shave now." He gestured to second place finisher, the saturnine, smooth-cheeked Pedro de la Rosa: "But if I shave we'll all look like Pedro, all clean-shaven, all the same. We've got to have a bit of style, you know..."
DC to stay, Klien to go - MateschitzUPDATE #4 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today - see Hot News page. We have updated our Silly Season page above as well.
08/06/06 (GMM) David Coulthard will have his contract extended, but the future of Red Bull teammate Christian Klien is far from secure.
That was the message delivered to the press in Hungary as the energy drink-owned team's boss, Dietrich Mateschitz, made a rare appearance in the pit lane.
''David Coulthard will be there (in 2007),'' the Austrian billionaire claimed. ''The contract is only a formality.''
The fate of Mateschitz's 23-year-old countryman Klien, however, appears far less rosy.
The 'almost independent' paddock magazine Red Bulletin last weekend predicted a move to an American series at the end of the year, and Mateschitz suggested that Klien has 'stopped making progress' after three years on the grid.
Mark Webber is likely to replace him for 2007, paddock speculation suggests.
Asked if Klien's heritage might save him, Mateschitz said: ''We cannot make decisions on the basis of nationality. We have to have the best people we can get.''
08/03/06 (GMM) Christian Klien says he is hopeful of remaining at the Red Bull team next year.
After a long wait and a lot of bad luck, the 23-year-old Austrian scored his second point of the season at Hockenheim and, in the Budapest paddock on Thursday, sounded bullish about the future when speaking to reporters.
''It is looking quite good and now there are a lot of discussions about next year,'' he said.
''Now we try to do the same in Hungary and in Turkey and I think it is looking quite good that I continue next year.''
07/29/06 (GMM) Boss Christian Horner and the Red Bull squad have played down a self-made rumor that Christian Klien will be shipped off to an American series at the end of the year.
The 'almost independent' paddock newspaper Red Bulletin gave 23-year-old Klien a shock on Friday morning when he read the story, and vowed to ask Horner for his reaction.
So, too, did reporters at Hockenheim.
''Our situation as regards drivers is that, and with Christian in particular, no decision has been made yet,'' Horner insisted, ''and once it is, it will be announced through the team and not via the Red Bulletin.''
He added that Red Bull is 'not short of choice' to complete next year's team lineup.
Red Bull's PR department, meanwhile, towed a similar line but called the Red Bulletin team 'naughty children'.
07/28/06 (GMM) Christian Klien's exit at the end of the year from Red Bull's lineup and also formula one now appears certain.
The team's 'almost independent' paddock newspaper, 'Red Bulletin', is reporting that the 23-year-old from Austria is set to leave the pinnacle of motor sport to race in an American series in 2007.
''I was a little surprised when I read that this morning,'' he was quoted as saying by 'Premiere' at Hockenheim.
''I will ask (team boss) Christian Horner what he knows about it.''
Klien insists that he does not yet know whether he will still be a Red Bull driver beyond the end of this season.
He said: ''It is my goal to sit in the car next year and I can only achieve that with good results.''
Asked if - Juan Pablo Montoya-style - he was interested in switching to NASCAR, in which Red Bull is also involved, Christian replied: ''No, not really.
''I am 100 per cent focused on formula one.''
[Editor's Note: We would not be at all surprised to see Red Bull place Klien in Champ Car, as previously rumored on these pages.]
Webber to Red Bull - reportsUPDATE #3 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today - see Hot News page.
08/06/06 (GMM) Mark Webber indicated on Sunday that his future in formula one will be clarified in the coming days.
The Australian, who had been linked with the vacant Renault seat alongside Giancarlo Fisichella after his Williams departure was confirmed, is now almost certain to be heading to Red Bull in 2007.
Asked in Budapest about rumors of an imminent confirmation of the drive, 29-year-old Webber told Australian TV broadcaster 10: ''It shouldn't be a million miles away.
''I'd love to tell the guys back at home a little bit more but the world is so small these days that I can't say anything.''
In a final message to his fans, though, Webber said: ''We'll be fine and they'll enjoy the journey with me.
''We'll be right.''
08/06/06 (GMM) Red Bull is on the verge of announcing that Mark Webber will spearhead the 2007 lineup alongside Scottish veteran David Coulthard.
Team owner Dietrich Mateschitz, who is visiting the Budapest paddock this weekend, is quoted by Austria's national broadcaster 'Osterreichischer Rundfunk' (ORF) as offering high praise for 29-year-old Webber.
Australia's Webber, who raced for Jaguar before Ford sold it to Mateschitz, is presently 'on the market' after failing to agree terms to stay at Williams beyond this year.
Mateschitz said: ''Webber is a very pleasant and fair sportsman. He has a high marketing value but, most importantly, is very fast.
''Nobody questions his qualities.''
After delaying the driver decision, Red Bull is now expected to confirm its 2007 race lineup in the coming days.
08/04/06 (GMM) According to reports in the Spanish press, departing Williams driver Mark Webber is likely to move to the Red Bull team - not Renault - for the 2007 season.
'AS' newspaper contradicted rumors in the Budapest paddock on Thursday that put Renault and McLaren higher on the Australian's list of potential employers, after Sir Frank Williams could not meet his salary demands.
Mark Webber, 29, was asked on Thursday whether his team next year begins with the letters 'RE'.
''Clever,'' he laughed. ''That's two teams, isn't it?''
Kovalainen signs Renault deal - report (GMM) Kimi Raikkonen will move to Ferrari in 2007, inspiring Renault boss Flavio Briatore to sign Heikki Kovalainen, reports in the Finnish press say.
Newspaper 'Helsingin Sanomat' quoted Kovalainen, the Enstone-based team's current test driver, as rejecting the story, but interestingly he also did not deny speculation about his impending grand prix debut.
''I have not signed anything,'' the 24-year-old said, ''but I am sure that next year I will race.
''The announcement will take place in the right moment.''
It had been rumored that - although Raikkonen was top of Briatore's list - Mark Webber could be Renault-bound, after his split with the Williams team was confirmed.
But Briatore said: ''Webber is not available. It is not up to me to say where he will go. Perhaps somebody else will say something about it soon.''
Indeed, Red Bull is now expected to spill the beans about Webber either on Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning.
It is interesting that the driver market, after months of stagnation, has now begun to move, indicating that something significant within the 'silly season' sphere has occurred.
Clearly, Italian sports newspaper 'Tuttosport', has its own theory about what uncorked the market's bottle, writing that it is 'a shame' that Michael Schumacher's career is 'at an end'.
Martin to continue in 2007? Roush Racing’s Nextel Cup lineup for 2007 is set, a high-ranking source within the team told team Ford Racing Sunday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with the last detail to be worked out a multiple sponsorship package for one car. The plan right now at Roush remains for Mark Martin to drive a Ford F-150 in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2007, though that could change. Ford Racing
Jacques not returning, Kubica manager hintsUPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. See Hot News page for announcement.
“Last week, the team informed us of its decision to review its options for next year, including assessing Robert Kubica in a race environment at Hungary without offering me any assurance about my race seat beyond Hungary," Jacques Villeneuve said on his official website. "Therefore, the team and I agreed to part ways with immediate effect.
"This is really disappointing as I was looking forward to working with BMW on longer terms - going into next season capitalizing on our common experiences. I will now have more time to concentrate on future projects. Finally, I would like to thank the team, especially my engineers and the team's sponsors with whom I have had real pleasure working with in the last year."
Just what these options are not known at this time, however the Canadian press are adamant that their man will be racing in NASCAR next season, even if the NASCAR community are refusing to acknowledge the possible move.
08/03/06 (GMM) Jacques Villeneuve's future on the F1 grid, both in 2006 and for next year, hung in the balance as the grand prix world congregated in Budapest on Thursday.
The French Canadian veteran has been replaced by BMW-Sauber's flourishing test driver Robert Kubica, after team boss Mario Theissen explained in the paddock that 35-year-old Villeneuve suffered from a persistent 'headache' in the days following his shunt in Germany.
But this week's press release hinted that Jacques might not return to the controls of his race car this year.
21-year-old Kubica shod no light on the subject in a press conference.
''I don't know. You will have to ask Mario,'' reporters were told by Kubica, who is the first driver from Poland to race in the series.
He did suggest, though, that the Villeneuve affair was not contrived, by revealing that he only knew about his Hungarian opportunity an hour before the official announcement.
Theissen, meanwhile, said a decision about the rest of the season would be taken after Sunday's race, and replied to a question about whether Villeneuve was likely to return that there are 'no guarantees in life'.
08/02/06 (GMM) Robert Kubica is a 'sensation', according to the Polish press which has begun to leap onto the bandwagon as the 21-year-old is promoted into the BMW-Sauber race seat in Hungary.
Newspaper 'Zycie Warszawy' made the 'sensation' claim, but on Wednesday the former test driver's manager revved up speculation that the Budapest bombshell is the beginning of the end for the man he replaces, Jacques Villeneuve.
Although BMW carefully worded its press statement on Tuesday, manager Marcin Czachorski suggested to 'dpa' in an interview that 35-year-old Villeneuve will not be returning to the race berth.
''The most important thing is that BMW does not look outside of the team for a replacement for Villeneuve,'' he said.
Czachorski recalled the phone call from team chief Mario Theissen as 'like lightening from a cheerful sky'.
''The joy is enormous,'' he admitted, ''but we do not lose contact with reality.''
Hamilton to get McLaren start in China McLaren is expected to announce shortly that Pedro de la Rosa will now race for the team in Turkey and at Monza following his impressive second place in Hungary.
The team has yet to decide what it is going to do next year when Kimi Raikkonen goes to Ferrari but it is hard to imagine that Pedro will stay alongside Fernando Alonso, creating an all-Spanish team. If one assumes that this is not going to happen the team needs to look elsewhere for a driver and must either pick an experienced runner or take a risk on one of its test drivers.
The obvious choice is Lewis Hamilton and he could begin testing immediately Italian Grand Prix and make his debut in China. This would be a risk but if the team wants to use him next year it makes sense to give him the chance to learn the three tracks in China, Japan and Brazil as he cannot test at them otherwise. Grandprix.com
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