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USGP to run in 2006UPDATE This rumor is now 'fact' with today's USGP announcement - see Hot News page. [Editor's Note: Did Bernie and Tony choose the July 4th weekend date to adversely affect a Champ Car race in Philly that weekend? The war goes on.....] 09/21/05 Indy Racing League President and COO Brian Barnhart announced the 2006 IRL schedule at a luncheon meeting of the Madison Ave. Sports Car Driving and Chowder Society at Sardi’s restaurant in Manhattan, and said that there will be a U.S. Grand Prix F-1 race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway next year. We await the formal announcement from IMS and F1.
New Champ Car and Atlantic Car updateUPDATE #2 Here is a list of teams that have expressed interest in competing in the 2006 Champ Car Atlantic Championship. Some interesting names. Quite impressive. More....09/21/05 Make that 44 Atlantic cars ordered now, including a rumored order from Forsythe Racing. 09/20/05 New Champ Car President Steve Johnson said on today's media teleconference that they are two weeks away from making the announcement on the new Champ Car. They have not yet selected who will get the contract (rumored to be Lola or Panoz). "It will be exciting," said Johnson.
"The new car, we're probably two weeks away from announcing the '07 chassis. Without tipping our hat, we haven't selected yet who that is going to be. Whichever way we go, it's going to be a major win for the series as well as for the team owners. The car looks fantastic. When we announce that, we're going to have a separate press conference on that so you can see it and be a part of that."
He also said 36 or 37 new Atlantic cars have been sold to date.
A1 GP deceived Ecclestone Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One's rights manager, gave advice to organizers of the A1 Grand Prix series, a potential rival to the most-watched motor sport. The first A1 race is at Brands Hatch, England, on Sunday, the same day as Formula One's Brazilian Grand Prix. The 28-year-old Sheikh Mohammed bin Hasher Maktoum al-Maktoum is chairman of the A1 series, which features 25 teams and is calling itself the "World Cup of Motor Sport." Ecclestone, 74, said he advised the Sheikh on the understanding that he was planning a series for veteran drivers in Asia and wanted an all-English team. "Since then they've forgotten what we agreed," Ecclestone said. "Now they don't want any help." AP Article
[Editor's Note: Bernie does not take being lied to lightly. With all the media coverage A1 GP is getting you can bet one thing, A1 GP is now in Bernie's crosshairs.....we anticipate he'll move to cut their legs out from under them if they meet with much success.]
Will Champ Car blow through the open IRL door? The door is open. Will anyone representing the Champ Car World Series walk through? With Chevrolet and Toyota on their way out, there's not much good news for the IRL. TV ratings were up this year, in part because of the success of rookie driver Danica Patrick, whom the series has marketed aggressively.
However, now it will give all those new fans 17-percent fewer chances to see Indy Racing League events. Not to mention sponsors will get less for their money. Will there be fewer full-time teams next season? Maybe. Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure, the IRL appears to have taken more than one step back. NSSN
ABC to pay IRL 25% more When Indy Racing League President and COO Brian Barnhart announced the 2006 IRL schedule at a luncheon meeting of the Madison Ave. Sports Car Driving and Chowder Society at Sardi’s restaurant in Manhattan, he said that a 25-percent increase in IRL TV rights fee payments is anticipated as payment for condensing the schedule. His closing line: “The IRL is the finest racing product in all of motorsport.” NSSN
[Editor's Note: Do IRL officials really believe some of the BS that they spout? We wonder what Bernie Ecclestone and the France family think about Barnhart's comment? They probably fell off their chair with laughter.]
Whither Klien? If statistics spoke for themselves, Christian Klien would be a dead-certainty to retain his Red Bull drive next to David Coulthard in 2006.
The young Austrian, by the end of the year, will have driven 15 to Vitantonio Liuzzi's 4 grands prix, indicating that Klien is the favored son of countryman and team owner Dietrich Mateschitz.
It might not be so.
Mateschitz, the Red Bull magnate and billionaire, is probably a greater admirer of Italian Liuzzi. Whether 'Tonio' or Christian get the Red Bull or Minardi ride next season, then, is far from settled.
He wondered in Motorsport Aktuell magazine: ''You have to ask, how much potential does Christian have up his sleeve?
''With experience he gets better, because that is a big part of being a quality driver. Whether Klien is at 90, 95, 97 or 100 per cent of his potential, we do not yet know.''
Liuzzi is definitely back in the game. Mateschitz reckons the 24-year-old's 'personality, charisma and natural speed' is perfect for Red Bull.
Demoting Klien to the 'Rookie' camp at Faenza, though, will not be done lightly, the energy drink magnate pledged. ''In order to question his place in the team,'' the team owner admitted, ''you must first also have a better alternative.''
Liuzzi to get 2006 ride He might be a bit bored at grands prix, but Vitantonio Liuzzi is just relieved that '06 will be his year in formula one. Red Bull's Italian driver, who had hoped to get more than a four-race chance in the racing cockpit, will definitely steer either a Red Bull Racing or 'Rookie' seat next year.
The energy drink-owned squad recently confirmed that Christian Klien would keep the drive next to David Coulthard in Brazil, Japan and China.
''It's a shame that I won't be driving,'' Liuzzi, 24, told the ITV website, ''but for me the most important thing is that I can get my chance in 2006.''
Disappointed about this season he may be, but 'Tonio' reckons sitting out the last few might actually be a quiet blessing. ''One full year,'' he admitted, ''will be much better than a part time season.
''I couldn't have a career in just three races.''
So will it be Red Bull, or the renamed and newly-acquired Minardi team? ''It's not clear yet,'' Tonio insisted.
But he did admit: ''It will be interesting to drive with Minardi, because ... they're Italian. (But) I'm trying to push to stay with Red Bull Racing because I feel really well in the team and it's like a family for me.''
Champ Car to increase network TV next yearUPDATE #2 AutoRacing1.com sources tell us again it's looking likely that 9 of 16 races will be on network TV in 2006, about six on CBS and about three on NBC. Mark C.08/08/05 Given that buying TV time is turning out to not be as expensive as originally thought since TV ad revenue is covering much of the cost, we are hearing that if the inventory is available, Champ Car is toying with the idea of putting all North America and South America races on network TV in the USA. Since South America (Brazil and Argentina) is geographically in the same time zones as North America, network TV would work. Pacific Rim races, given the time difference probably makes no sense to have on network TV unless the cost was significantly less for midnight to 2 AM broadcasts. 07/15/05 We have it on good word that 8, possible 9, Champ Car races will be on network TV in 2006. That would represent at least 50% on network TV. The plan is to go higher in 2007.
New teams eye Champ Car Steve Johnson, Champ Car's new President - "We are in talks with several other teams, so I see that number [number of teams] growing, and growing rapidly. Speaking of growing, take a look at what's happened with Atlantics. I think they've sold now 36 or 37 Atlantics for next year, which is a real healthy sign for our entire sport.
"But we're working on, again, creating value. That's what this series is all about. It's about an entertainment value. It's not an accident that we're averaging now -- that we'll average 150,000 people per event. We'll have 2.1 million spectators at our 14 races this year. Next year with 16 races, we'll be over two and a half million spectators. Not many organizations are able to do that. Again, it's not by accident. We're following our business plan. We're adding value. By doing those things, the return on investment is going to increase significantly for the teams.
"I've had a lot of discussions already with the team owners. We're in some major negotiations right now with several sponsors that are not only team sponsors but series sponsors. Boy, all I can say is stay tuned because we're going to have some big announcements coming up that has a lot to do with our teams as well as series. So things are actually looking very good there."
'07 schedule to be more compacted? New Champ Car President Steve Johnson said on today's media teleconference, "The '06 schedule was announced prior to my coming in. We'd love to have a more tight, compact schedule, but the schedule is what it is for '06. I had a meeting this morning to start talking already about the '07 schedule with Joe [Chrnelich]. We're going to do our best to make sure we put the best schedule out there and make sure that it works not only for us and for our teams but for the fans and for all our track partners, as well. There's a lot of complexities when you put a schedule on. There's a lot of people that you're serving when you are do that.
"I know they used their best efforts. I applaud them for getting the schedule out as early as they did, because that's always a challenge. I think you hit it. I think they were probably the first or second major series to have their schedule out. Boy, what a difference a year makes."
Champ Car to land some new major sponsors New Champ Car President Steve Johnson said on today's media teleconference that they are deep in talks with several major team and series sponsors and to stay tuned for some major announcements.
"We're working on, again, creating value. That's what this series is all about. It's about an entertainment value. It's not an accident that we're averaging now -- that we'll average 150,000 people per event. We'll have 2.1 million spectators at our 14 races this year. Next year with 16 races, we'll be over two and a half million spectators. Not many organizations are able to do that. Again, it's not by accident. We're following our business plan. We're adding value. By doing those things, the return on investment is going to increase significantly for the teams.
"I've had a lot of discussions already with the team owners. We're in some major negotiations right now with several sponsors that are not only team sponsors but series sponsors. Boy, all I can say is stay tuned because we're going to have some big announcements coming up that has a lot to do with our teams as well as series. So things are actually looking very good there."
Champ Car eyeing 16th race New Champ Car President Steve Johnson said on today's media teleconference that they are looking to add a 16th race for next year and he specifically mentioned Philadelphia as a real goal.
"It's no secret we're looking to add another race for '06. If Philadelphia has a secret, it's probably the worst-kept secret there ever was. But we are in discussions with Philadelphia as a market. We look to have this done in the real short-term."
Molson may help build oval for NASCAR in Calgary While there have been rumors that a new Ontario oval race track capable of playing host to a top NASCAR event is on the drawing board, no concrete or pavement has been poured or laid.
But yesterday a source close to Molson -- which is the biggest race promoter in Canada -- said that the company is in deep discussions to build such a track in Alberta.
Original plans for Molson and NASCAR to hold a Craftsman Truck Series race in Calgary using the Stampede grounds as a temporary race course have changed significantly, the source said.
"Molson is beyond just preliminary talk about building a track in Alberta," the source said. "The company isn't planning to build it by itself but with partners like the province of Alberta and the city of Calgary."
That would most likely mean a permanent, purpose- built oval track on the site of the Stampede grounds.
And it's also likely, the source said, that it would be its new corporate partner Coors Light -- a big backer of NASCAR in the U.S. -- that would be the brand that would be front and centre in any deal in Canada.
"Molson wants to keep its ties with Champ Car," the source said. "But it wants to be a part of any NASCAR business coming to Canada as well." Toronto Sun
NASCAR to drop NBC/TNT Word has already been leaked to the staff at NBC and TNT not to expect to come back following the 2006 [NASCAR Nextel Cup] season. Yahoo Sports. [Editor's Note: Champ Car has its new TV partner staring them in the face. Will they strike a deal? This also may mean ABC/ESPN is in at NASCAR....which will then smother the IRL.]
Button's $36m escape Jenson Button's reported escape from his 2006 Williams contract may have cost as much as $36 million. An official announcement is due as early as Tuesday or Wednesday, but no party was giving any hints on Monday night.
''I simply can't comment on this matter at the present time,'' 25-year-old Button's manager Richard Goddard told the British 'Guardian' newspaper.
Sir Frank's loss will not only be BAR-Honda's gain, but should help to cover the cost of Williams' customer Cosworth engines next year and the departure of title sponsor HP.
It is further speculated that BAR and Honda will help JB foot the multi-million dollar bill by offering an advance payment on a reported multiple year, $80m new contract. The news leaves Button to team up with Rubens Barrichello next year, a seat vacant at Williams, and Takuma Sato out in the F1 cold.
McMurray in the No. 97 instead of No. 6?UPDATE Jack Roush confirmed on Sunday that Jamie McMurray, who is slated to move from Chip Ganassi Racing to Roush Racing in 2007, might wind up in the #97 Ford, which is being vacated by Kurt Busch. McMurray originally was pegged as the driver to take over the #6 Ford driven by Mark Martin. "Yes, there is a possibility of that," Roush said. "We're having discussions right now with sponsors and have several things on the table." Roush said he's close to finalizing his 2006 plans. Atlanta Journal-Constitution09/13/05 When Jamie McMurray joins Roush Racing in 2007, he may drive [Kurt] Busch's #97 Ford rather than Martin's #6 Ford as originally planned, Roush said. McMurray is scheduled to join Roush in 2007, after his contract with Chip Ganassi Racing expires. Busch is leaving no later than 2007 to take over Rusty Wallace's #2 Miller Lite Dodge at Penske Racing South in 2007. Busch's contract with Roush runs through next year. Tampa Tribune
Will ISC refund some money?UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. There will be a partial refund issued by California Speedway to RV owners because there will be no IRL race. 09/15/05 We wonder if the ISC at Fontana is going to give RV infield reservation holders a partial refund for 2006 as they will not provide an IRL race. RV owners paid in June for the 2006 season for infield RV spots...now they announce no IRL race...hence a one race reduction....they should all get some money back.
IRL drivers concerned about The Glen Although on TV they are not saying anything (Dan Wheldon proclaimed on SPEED News Sunday that Watkins Glen is better than Spa, imagine that!), word we are getting from the IRL rumor mill is that the drivers who tested at The Glen are concerned about the safety. In particular the Armco Barriers, which are still everywhere. Given the track is fairly high speed, a major off can be trouble. We remember being at The Glen in 1973 when Francois Cevert was decapitated by the Armco in qualifying. It was not a pleasant sight. His Tyrrell teammate Jackie Stewart withdrew from the race. Recall that CART would not return to the track unless extensive safety upgrades were made.
It should be noted that Armco along the straights is not particularly troublesome as many new F1 tracks have them. It's in the turns where it is a concern, especially in the fast uphill esses at The Glen. F1 added a chicane in the esses in later years to slow the cars, but that Chicane is now gone and the cars fly through there. (Photo to left of Cup cars flying through esses surrounded by Armco courtesy of Dodge)
Williams strikes deal on Button 'Autosport' claims that the latest Jenson Button saga is nearing an end after Williams reportedly agreed a $19m deal to let him stay at BAR. BAR, Frank Williams' team and the 25-year-old driver's manager Richard Goddard all declined to comment.
Has Champ Car given up on Vegas oval? A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1, I live in Las Vegas and as of Sunday evening I have not seen or heard any promotion for Saturday's Champ Car race. The only promotion the track is doing is for next year's NASCAR Cup race. The track has already sold at least 80,000 tickets in a 5,000 tickets for $5000.00 promotion to local businesses for this weekend's NASCAR truck race/ Champ Car race. So the crowd will already be there. But Champ Car hasn't done squat to promote their race. I did hear an interview with Paul Tracy on the radio last week but if Champ Car can afford to give the speedway a large 6 figure check you'd think they might spend a little on some advertising. Jason White, Las Vegas
Dear Jason, That may be some indication that Champ Car will not return to the Vegas oval after this year and are hoping to move to the city streets in 2006. Even so, they need to build the brand name in Vegas but from what you are saying that isn't happening, which means after the truck race on Saturday we can again expect an embarrassing mass exodus from the grandstands before and during the Champ Car race. Mark C.
Team Australia looking at new Aussie Following his outstanding success in F4000 and his A1 Grand Prix test, 28-year old Peter Hackett has been invited to test for Craig Gore's Team Australia in America. Peter was a recent guest of the team at Montreal.
Peter was born in Sydney, Australia. Now aged 28, he is dedicated to fulfilling his ambition of becoming a world class, professional racing driver.
After graduating from the University of New South Wales with a Bachelor of Sports Science degree, Peter sold his car, and his beloved golf clubs, to finance a trip to England.
He enrolled in the world famous Jim Russell Drivers School. He made a considerable impression on the Managing Director of the school, who offered Peter a working position with the school, in order to provide him with more racing experience.
Harvick to stay at RCRUPDATE #5 Kevin Harvick has been noticeably unhappy this season. And even Friday's unusual announcement by car owner Richard Childress that he and Harvick would be living up to their contract and sticking together through the 2006 season hasn't diminished speculation that Harvick has something in the works. There's speculation that he might have a 2007 game plan with car owners Roger Penske or Chip Ganassi. The Ganassi option seems logical. Jamie McMurray has signed a 2007 contract to take Mark Martin's place with Jack Roush, so Ganassi has that hole to fill. So this year's version of NASCAR's annual game of musical chairs has taken on an unusual tone. Now, might Ganassi release McMurray to Roush for 2006, if Ganassi could get Harvick from Childress, and would that be enough inducement for Roush to release Kurt Busch to Penske for 2006? Winston Salem Journal
09/16/05 Kevin Harvick will be back behind the wheel of Richard Childress Racing’s (RCR) No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet for the 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season. Speculation has fueled rumors that the 2001 NEXTEL Cup Series Rookie of the Year would move to another team at the end of this season. RCR President and CEO Richard Childress hopes to put that speculation to rest.
“Kevin will be the driver of the No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevy next season,” said Childress. “He and I have committed to moving forward together in fulfilling our current agreement, which runs through 2006, and we anticipate being together for many years beyond that. Our focus is on continuing to improve our performance this year and being a championship contender in 2006.”
Harvick is in his fifth year of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series competition, all with RCR, and has five victories, 30 top-five and 63 top-10 finishes, and four poles. He is currently 14th in this season’s point standings with one victory, three top-five and seven top-10 finishes. In his sixth season of driving in the NASCAR Busch Series for RCR, he has 16 victories, 60 top-five and 85 top-10 finishes, and 13 poles.
“Richard has made key additions to RCR that will benefit the organization,” said Harvick. We are both committed to make 2006 a successful season. I’ve always intended to fulfill my obligations to Richard, RCR and all of our sponsors.” RCR
09/05/05 Rumors here [California Speedway] are widespread that Kevin Harvick may be headed to Ganassi’s #42 Texaco Dodge, thus freeing Jamie McMurray to move to Roush Racing [#6] a year early [he signed for 2007]. Richard Childress, who owns the cars Harvick currently drives, wouldn’t comment directly on speculation that the team might be breaking up. Childress did, however, reminisce on the longstanding relationship between him and the late Dale Earnhardt. “He (Earnhardt) had a chance to leave,” said Childress. “I told him in 1985 after we had blown 11 engines that year and run horrible. I told him on the way back from Pocono, we met out by my pool, and I said, ‘Dale, you’re too good of a race driver to be here.’ He said, ‘We made a commitment together, and we’re going to finish it together.’ That was 1985 and we came back next year and won 11 races and the championship, and the same thing in 1987, and the rest is history.” Gaston Gazette
08/30/05 After Kevin Harvick was caught up in the Jarrett-Newman [2nd] wreck, he got out of his car and ripped his team and his spotter on camera. “Happy” has been increasingly vocal in his public criticism of his RCR team, leading to speculation that he’s angling to leave for what he perceives to be greener pastures. The buzz is that he wants to replace Jamie McMurray next year in Chip Ganassi’s #42 Texaco Dodge, which would free McMurray to replace Mark Martin in Jack Roush’s #6 Ford in 2006, which in turn would mean Roush might allow Kurt Busch to leave to join Roger Penske’s team next year, replacing Rusty Wallace. And with Scott Riggs leaving MB2 Motorsports to drive Ray Evernham’s third [#10] car next year, soon-to-be-former-Ganassi-driver Sterling Marlin might take Riggs’s spot with MB2 next year. Speed Channel [Editor's Note: If Harvick leaves RCR that will open the door for Paul Tracy, but why would Tracy want to drive for a team that appears to have lost their way? Why would Tracy ruin his career going from a winner in Champ Car to a loser in NASCAR?]
Bill Davis Racing to expandUPDATE See also this related rumor. 09/15/05 Bill Davis hopes to improve that situation [one car team] by having his second [Cup] entry return to the tour full-time next year. He intends to announce details of the program this week. Garage speculation in recent weeks has targeted Michael Waltrip as the driver. "Like every one over here, we were looking at ways to get better," Davis said. "Going to a two-car team will help, with all the advantages that entails from testing and sharing information." Also of note, when Mike Skinner won a truck race a few weeks ago Davis became just the sixth owner in history to win in all of NASCAR's top three series, joining Jack Roush, Rick Hendrick, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Richard Childress. High Point Enterprise
No. 21 Team Close to a Sponsor The Wood Brothers, #21 Ford with Ricky Rudd as the driver, are close to securing a final sponsor for next year. Motorcraft will return as a primary sponsor for a selected number of races, and the Air Force is expected to return as well. A third primary sponsor still is being sought. Roanoke Times
Again the IRL covets what Champ Car has This Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article says that the IRL would have loved to have Champ Car's week-after-Indy Milwaukee Mile date but instead were forced to choose the road course at Watkins Glen instead. If Champ Car drops the race after 2006 (we predict another horrible race-day attendance) the IRL could have the date, but then Watkins Glen will get miffed if they lose that coveted date.
Yamaha boss thinks Rossi will stayUPDATE Valentino Rossi isn’t going anywhere. That was the unmistakable message after the pre-race press conference for the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi.
The soon-to-be seven-time world champion denied in the strongest possible terms that his move to the Ferrari Formula One team was imminent, even using a mild expletive to refute a report from a senior Ferrari official.
“When I hear this interview from Ross Brawn, for me it’s very funny because I don’t know,” he said, referring to comments made by the Ferrari technical director that Rossi would be testing as often as once a month beginning later this year. “For me, is a lot of bullshit, because if I decide…I already decide for another year of MotoGP for sure. And for sure if I do another year is for try to win, so I think it’s already a big effort to try for the championship.”
As far as testing once a month, Rossi said, “For sure I don’t have time to do a lot of tests for the car. And especially at this point, I don’t make my decision. So this is at the end the most important. So I don’t know also if I go to the car. Maybe yes, but maybe no. Speaking already about tests for me is like speaking in ten years. I don’t know what happens next week in my life. For sure in two years, I don’t know.”
Rossi said that the switch to four wheels would have to be clean. “If I want to try a lot in Formula One, I decide to stop at the end of this year and next year to change sport,” he said, “but if I am here, I am here to win. To win I need to personally be 100% at this sport. Is not easy win for me. Is not possible. So I make another year with bike just to wait and win like this? Is not real.
“Maybe Ferrari need to speak also with me because the very important thing is don’t make decision for the future. So maybe also I never race with Formula One. And if I decide yes, for sure next year I don’t do a lot of tests, because I race with MotoGP. In all my life I am a motorcycle rider for 100%. Sometimes I make some tests, maybe in the future. I don’t know. Next year for sure I race here for Yamaha; my effort is 100% of this championship and after we see.” Cycle News
09/08/05 Yamaha team boss Davide Brivio told Motor Cycle News: "I am not convinced that Valentino Rossi will leave at the end of 2006. We were informed the last time he tested the Ferrari that this would happen. There was no surprise with the latest announcements.
"He is intelligent enough to choose to test at the best times so it doesn't interfere with his racing program in MotoGP. I am sure that while he races motorcycles his target will be to win. Yamaha has complete trust in Valentino and believes he is capable of making the right decisions, so that what he does in his free time over the next year won't distract him from his number one job of winning motorcycle GPs."
Dale Jr. buys Busch shop? Dale Earnhardt Jr is rumored to have purchased a building in the South Iredell Industrial Park in Mooresville, NC for Jr. Motorsports. The building used to be owned by a financial securities company (and a race shop before that) is down the street from Joe Nemechek's NEMCO Motorsports. The building is not extremely large, but is a comfortable size to house a Busch Series team, which is what Dale Earnhardt Jr is apparently going to use it for. The South Iredell Industrial Park is located a few miles north of the Hwy 150 and 115 intersection in Mooresville, NC. Motorsports Lounge PR
’B’ Toyota to race in 2005?UPDATE #2 It is now very unlikely that Toyota will debut its 'b' spec 2005 car at the Brazilian grand prix. The Cologne based team can blame the English rain. Ralf Schumacher was all set to do back-to-back runs in a regular TF105 and its updated successor on Thursday -- and then the Silverstone skies opened.
''The rain made it impossible to get a realistic idea of the relative performance,'' said the German. Toyota admit that while the 'b' car has a new suspension system, it might not actually be any quicker than the current racer.
Olivier Panis spent the week in the TF105B, and says major technical trouble of the pre-Monza test now seems sorted out. ''It seems to have less understeer than the old car,'' said the French tester, ''and more front grip in general.''
Toyota's technical coordinator Keizo Takahashi, though, is reported to have said the chances of a Brazilian debut is 'very minute.
09/15/05 Toyota's 'b' car might be used in the final three grands prix of the season after all. It was earlier reported that the heavily revised car, which had been intended for a Monza debut, had been scrapped after terminal vibration problems with a reworked front suspension system.
But Cologne based technical director Mike Gascoyne now says the problems - which were not as serious as first thought - have now been addressed. ''It all depends on how well it goes with this test,'' Gascoyne told Autosport at Silverstone. We will have two cars ready and we intend to race the two cars for the next three races.''
There is, however, some speculation that while the new Toyota might mechanically now be sound, it is not significantly quicker than the regular TF105 contender. Indeed, on Wednesday, it was actually slower than the old car. Gascoyne also ruled out a 'b' car debut in Japan or China, because air freight from the next Brazilian grand prix heads straight to Suzuka, and so on.
''If we are to introduce it at all,'' he told the website, ''we have to do that in Brazil. We will decide (on Thursday).''
09/14/05 Contrary to some reports, Toyota's 'b' version 2005 racer may not yet be a dead duck.
After a brief test run for the TF105B recently, Jarno Trulli told the media that problems with the radical front suspension had made a grand prix debut near impossible.
However, the car made an appearance at the Silverstone test on Tuesday, and chief engineer Dieter Gass insisted that the plan - if improbable - was to race it later this year.
''I don't know about Brazil,' he admitted, ''because I am not sure we could have a second car ready as quickly (as that). Much more important for us is that this is a development car for next year, so the work we do on (it) won't be lost.''
Heidfeld to BMW SauberUPDATE #4 This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact,' with today's announcement. 09/15/05 Reports out of Salzburg say that Nick Heidfeld signed with Sauber BMW for $10 million a year. 09/12/05 Nick Heidfeld's manager has confirmed that the German will not contest the Brazilian grand prix in two weeks. Werner Heinz said Williams' German pilot - already out of action with headaches and neck problems - was bicycle training in Switzerland when he was struck by a motorcycle.
The timing of the subsequent injury, certainly, is coincidental, amid existing speculation that 'Quick Nick' has signed a 2007-2008 deal to switch to BMW. Williams' 2006 option on the Moenchengladbach-born driver expires on Thursday, the day he was scheduled to return to the cockpit for a Silverstone test. ''Unfortunately, Nick's injuries mean he can not participate in the next formula one race,'' Heinz revealed.
Heidfeld is apparently suffering from a cracked shoulder bone, several dislocated fingers and grazes. At present, the conspiracy theorists - who earlier enjoyed Juan Pablo Montoya's similarly iffy 'tennis' story - are having a field day with the news. One hypothesis is that Heidfeld's alleged 'injuries' may convince Sir Frank Williams to release the hapless German racer to Sauber-bound BMW an early as 2006.
Another theory is that the story is a cover for Williams' plans to further test potential candidates for a 2006 seat, in the event that Jenson Button stays at BAR. Antonio Pizzonia has had a two-race turn, and 20-year-old Nico Rosberg's name is now attached to the story, even though the German is in the running for the GP2 title.
Asked if any of the conspiracy theorists were right, technical director Sam Michael slammed: ''Absolutely not.''
09/11/05 As the Formula 1 teams were packing up at Spa on Sunday afternoon word came from Switzerland that Nick Heidfeld has injured his shoulder while riding a mountain bike in the town of Stafa in Switzerland. It seems that Nick was in collision with a motorcycle. According to a statement from Heidfeld's management Nick may not be fit to race in the weeks ahead, having torn the ligaments of his shoulder and suffered an injuries to his finger and cuts and grazes.
The timing of the whole incident is most bizarre given what is happening in the contractual negotiations between Williams and Heidfeld. There were rumors during the weekend that suggested that the team might be thinking of dropping Nick for the rest of the year because of his decision (yet to be made public) that he has signed for BMW for 2007 and 2008. This being the case, it is logical for Heidfeld to try to get out of his Williams arrangements for 2006 and then sign a three-year deal with BMW. The crux on the problem is the option date which is on September 15. If Williams takes up the option, Heidfeld's BMW future is in difficulties but at the same time the team is not quite sure whether or not it needs Heidfeld next year and that will not be known until there is resolution of the Jenson Button problem.
And into the middle of all this comes a second medical incident which looks like keeping Nick out of the car in Brazil! Grandprix.com
09/10/05 In all probability, Williams' Nick Heidfeld will return to the cockpit of his FW27 in Brazil. The German, reportedly suffering from concussion and damaged neck muscles after a 150mph Monza test shunt, is - at Spa Francorchamps - sitting out a second grand prix.
Speculation, though, insisted that 28-year-old 'Quick Nick' - replaced by Antonio Pizzonia - is actually fully recovered, giving rise to gossip that his absence is perhaps more to do with his link to the new BMW works team.
Heidfeld has reportedly signed a 2007-2008 BMW deal, but Sir Frank Williams - whose team will be powered by Cosworth next year - is understood to have until next Thursday to exercise an option on the highly rated star.
The outcome will depend much on the ongoing 'Buttongate II' saga. Williams' technical director Sam Michael said in Belgium: ''(Heidfeld) should be fine (for Brazil). ''If he's ok next week, we'll run him for a day at Silverstone (before the race).''
Michael reckons the Grove based team brought Heidfeld 'back from the grave' after spending last year in a Jordan. ''He's a good little driver,'' the Australian admitted.
Klien to BMW in 2006? Red Bull are said to be trying to place Christian Klien with the new Sauber/BMW alliance next year, a move that would allow the Austrian company to squeeze five of its drivers on to the F1 grid in 2006. It seems that the plan being considered should Klien land a drive elsewhere is to put Vitantonio Liuzzi in with David Coulthard at Red Bull Racing, a move that would leave a seat free for Swiss GP2 driver Neel Jani alongside Scott Speed at the team currently known as Minardi. That would make the latter into a genuine junior team, with two rookies.
Speed is considered by all parties to be definite choice for Minardi next year. Ironically is seems that, while Red Bull is trying to place Klien, it is equally keen to hang on to Speed. Shortly before Red Bull's negotiations with Paul Stoddart became public it was announced that Speed would become a test driver for Red Bull Racing. At the time Williams were taking a keen interest in him, and it is thought that the announcement was made as a signal that the American would not be available.
Intriguingly, Speed drives for the iSport GP2 outfit, in which Sir Frank's son Jonathan - the F1 team's influential talent scout - is involved. He would also clearly be of interest to Budweiser, one of the few current sponsors expected to stay with Williams next year. More at Sky Sports
Revised San Jose Track Below is the proposed new San Jose track for 2006 per eTracksonline.co.uk. The new addition should add a bit more flair as it travels directly in front of the Fairmont Hotel. The track map shows a chicane type kink where the track crosses San Carlos Ave, but in reality it is just a gentle bend so expect higher speeds as the cars travel down Market St. to Balbach Street. Add about 2/10ths of a mile to the track's 2005 1.4-mile distance, making it a 1.6-mile track.
Also noted that if they do use this plan it appears that they still plan to use the narrow side of Park Ave, where the apex is only 20 feet wide and that entire side of the street is only 23 feet in width!! Just about every Champ Car crash/incident that occurred during the 2005 race was due to a car hitting the Turn 4 barrier. We simply don't understand this thinking....One reason Park Ave was so narrow, is that the concrete blocks lining the track were set on the asphalt instead of the curbing. If they had been on the curbing, the track would have been at least 4.5 feet wider.
Irvine to start own team? Former Ferrari star Eddie Irvine is considering setting up a brand new Formula 1 team after a failed bid to buy Minardi, according to this week’s Autosport magazine. After failing in his bid to buy Midland Jordan and then most recently Minardi, Russian entrepreneur Rustam Tariko and Irvine are believed to be exploring the idea of building a new team from scratch, perhaps engaging a car manufacturer like Dallara or Lola.
Pikes Peak track to be sold? Absent from the Indy Racing League's 2006 schedule is a race at Pikes Peak International Raceway, one of the sanctioning body's longest-tenured tracks, which the IRL said is close to being sold.
PPIR president Rob Johnson, who denied a sale is in the works, said he bowed out of negotiations with the IRL because the track wasn't given an early or midsummer date next year.
But the IRL said two additional issues played into the separation: the track's pending change of ownership, and Johnson's inability to promise the current or future owners' commitment to install the SAFER Barrier, a shock-absorber wall inside the permanent wall.
"The truth is we couldn't get a date that we liked, so that's why we didn't get an event," Johnson said Tuesday when the IRL released a 14-race schedule, three fewer events than this year. "As for the SAFER Barrier, it's no issue. We'll put them in for next year. We've known for months that we'd need SAFER Barriers for NASCAR and the IRL. I talked to the IRL in the middle of the summer and told them of our plans."
IRL executive Ken Ungar said he has discussed the SAFER Barrier with Johnson. But we don't have a definite promise from the track to install it, (and) coupled with the fact the ownership with the track is uncertain, we wouldn't know who would install it," he said.
He added, "I asked Rob to specifically identify the owners, and he couldn't." Said Johnson, who works for PPIR Investments LLC, "We have no deal to announce as far as new ownership." Denver Post
Bernie and Max behind the Minardi deal Rumor has it that Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley are somehow behind the Minardi sale to Red Bull deal to garner enough votes for the new Concorde Agreement. It is clearly a political purchase. If Red Bull just wanted somewhere to place its drivers and devote a team to the USA as they stated they could have just come in as team title sponsors with driver naming rights. That would’ve cost them less than half of what they paid for the whole team, so there’s more to it than the drivers. ITV-F1
Plus, we suspect Mosley had another motive - to remove Paul Stoddart from the F1 paddock for constantly opening his mouth and calling for Mosley’s ouster.
Bridgestone to catch Michelin in 2006? Those who have seen Bridgestone’s developments for 2006 say that they were are impressive/aggressive, and to not assume that Bridgestone can't catch up to Michelin before the 2006 season begins.
Will this help push Honda out too? The Orange County California Press-Enterprise quotes a Toyota motorsports manager who said, "I'm quite disappointed that between the Indy Racing League and ISC they couldn't arrive at satisfactory dates in the second-largest media market in the U. S (Los Angeles). to continue having the race [in Fontana]. For sure, we're not pleased about it, and I can't imagine Honda is too pleased." Both TRD and HPD are also located in that market, so it's sort of a home race for both. With Chevy and Toyota already leaving the IRL, it's moves like this that can drive Honda out the door too. However, we believe HPD is aiming to be the sole supplier of engines to the IRL in 2007 and beyond - essentially a for-profit engine rebuild deal.
Jean Alesi, F1 boss Former grand prix driver Jean Alesi would become F1 principal if McLaren got a 'b-team' up and racing. German sources claim that the current DTM pilot, who drove for twelve years in formula one for names including Ferrari and Benetton, was instrumental in finding the supposed backer of the project, Japanese company Direxiv.
France's 41-year-old Alesi, committed to the German touring car category for 2006, allegedly has excellent Japanese contacts, and is of course married to a Japanese wife.
It is further claimed that Alesi is keen to promote GP2 driver Olivier Pla, although McLaren protégés Gary Paffett and Lewis Hamilton would also be prime candidates for seats.
There is, however, a serious spanner in the works of any plans to support a 'b' team by supplying them with year-old formula one cars and engines. McLaren's 'F1 CEO' Martin Whitmarsh admits that 'the majority' of teams 'do not agree' with proposed rule changes that would allow just that.
Quebec miffed with the IRL According to sources, the IRL backed out of the Quebec City deal as late as last Friday thinking they could swoop into Montreal and make Champ Car look like chumps. We hear the promoter in Quebec City was fit to be tied when they learned the IRL dumped them in the 11th hour, without warning. Then to make matters worse, Kevin Kalkhoven and company cut their legs out from under them in Montreal so not only did the IRL not get a race in Montreal, they lost their chance for a race at a pretty decent venue in Quebec City. Sometimes you're the windshield, and sometimes you're the bug.
Champ Car might sue IRL According to this Champ Car article, over the weekend, Champ Car contacted Montreal promoter Normand Legault to voice its displeasure over his and the IRL's comments in the media regarding a possible IRL race in Montreal in 2006. Sources close to Champ Car tell me [Robin Miller] that they are extremely disturbed by the efforts of the IRL and others to undermine their promoter and venue relationships and that Champ Car is quite close to taking formal action against those parties which illegally interfere with its business.
We're not attorney's but we do know that the actual 'Tort' is "Interference with Contractual Relations." (That would be when an actual contract exists.) If there was no contract, or if it had already expired, and Champ Car was trying to get a contract then it would be "Interference with Prospective Advantage."
We're certain Kevin Kalkhoven knew what it was. He's a Venture Capitalist who has much experience with making deals. He makes Tony George and the IRL look like idiots at times.
The article goes on to point out that the Kool-Aid drinkers in this country will simply say the IRL never wanted Montreal. Just like it didn't want Long Beach. Or CART's assets. Or Cosworth. Or St. Petersburg. Or Honda. Or Toyota. Or engine leases. Or Roger Penske. Like we have said before, the IRL wants everything Champ Car has. And until Kevin Kalkhoven and company came into the picture, they were getting everything they pretty much wanted. Kalkhoven and company have now drawn a line in the sand, and if the IRL keeps it up we suspect they'll find themselves in court one day. Who knows, maybe KK and company will own the Speedway someday as part of a lawsuit settlement. Wouldn't that be ironic?
Champ Car as fast as F1 car soon Interesting that the new Mercedes V8 was EIGHT SECONDS a lap slower at Silverstone. Will the 2007 Champ Car be quicker than F1? The possibility boggles the mind......Trey Wilson Dear Trey, Wouldn't that be something, and at 1/50th of the cost. We doubt it though as the V8 is just in early phases of development. Expect a lot more HP before the first race next year. Mark C.
Montreal or Mexico City, NASCAR can’t have bothUPDATE A reader adds, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I have to agree with your assessment that it makes far more sense to have a Champ Car/Busch doubleheader than a IRL/Busch doubleheader in Montreal.
First of all Montreal fans know and like Champ Car. The IRL has not had good luck following Champ Car into a market, every one has failed. What does the IRL bring to the table for Legault, that Champ Car does not? Why would Legault want to risk having to now sell two new series to the Montreal fans (both Busch and IRL) when he could keep Champ Car and just add Busch?
The only thing I could think of is Tony George is lining Legault's pockets with money and/or Bernie's involved as some have suggested. I feel a Busch/Champ Car doubleheader could be huge, especially if Paul Tracy drives in both races.
What will the IRL bring to the table in 2007? By then Toyota and Chevy will be gone and we still don't know if Honda will stick around. The series will be a shell of its former self, and financially much worse off as the gravy train of money dries up.
Last, I forgot about Forsythe's ties with the France family in Mexico. If he does indeed pull that trump card I can see NASCAR dropping the IRL doubleheader idea in Montreal and suggest to Legault the Busch/Champ Car doubleheader instead. I'm sure that's the easy way out for NASCAR because I doubt they want to lose the Hispanic/Mexico market. They get to have their cake and eat it too by maintaining their relationship with Forsythe.
Has OWRS/Champ Car trumped Tony George yet again? Nick Marone, San Francisco, CA Dear Nick, we don't know if Champ Car has trumped Tony yet again, it's only a rumor that we heard, but it certainly sounds plausible. Mark C.
09/13/05 Rumor has it that Champ Car owner Gerald Forsythe is prepared to kick NASCAR out of his Mexico City track should they go forward with plans to bring the IRL in with them to Montreal, thereby leaving Champ Car out to dry. If true, NASCAR has to decide which market is more important to them, Mexico City or Montreal.
Given that Forsythe also is letting the France family's Grand-Am series into Mexico City to run with Champ Car this November, that series also risks losing the huge Mexico City market.
We think what makes more sense for Montreal in 2007 and beyond, is as we have written previously, a Champ Car/Busch Series doubleheader.
This rumor of the IRL taking over from Champ Car in Montreal is the latest in a long list of attempts Tony George has made to undermine CART/Champ Car over the years, while Champ Car goes about its own business, not once trying to steal a race from the IRL. It just goes to show how destructive Tony George and his IRL has been to the entire sport of open wheel racing. Instead of finding a way to work together for the good of the sport, Tony wants to be king and kill the opponent. Years of wasted effort, countless dollars, and countless driver injuries. For what? Is the IRL prospering? No, in fact they appear to be in deep trouble. Chevy leaving, Toyota leaving, sponsors leaving, races being dropped. Tony George has set the sport of Indy Car Racing back 10 years. It may never recover. Mark C.
Berger and Minardi Gerhard Berger would be the perfect front-man for Red Bull's newly acquired Minardi outfit. That was the rumor mill's most recent suggestion, which has now been denied by the energy drink mogul Dietrich Mateschitz.
Berger, a former 10-grand prix winner and BMW motor sport director, is - like Mateschitz - Austrian and a great friend of the billionaire.
But he told Motorsport Aktuell: ''Gerhard is an entrepreneur in the transportation business and has a full-time job ... not to mention a nice big family.''
Mateschitz, who said Red Bull has not yet decided on management or drivers for 2006-spec Minardi, did hint at a possible new name for the team. ''Perhaps we will call it Red Bull Rookie,'' he let slip.
Champ Car eyes another step on ladder AutoRacing1.com has learned that Champ Car is in talks with the Formula Ford Zetec Cooper Tire Championship Series as a possible step on the ladder below Champ Car Atlantics. Since this series is "Ford" powered it is a perfect fit with the Ford powered Champ Car series.
Sharpie to leave Roush? Sharpie will grace Kurt Busch's #97 Ford this weekend at New Hampshire, but there has been talk that the sponsor's parent company, Newell-Rubbermaid, could be interested in spending its money elsewhere in 2007. One possibility could be securing the naming rights to Bristol Motor Speedway. Sporting News
2006 IRL ScheduleUPDATE #3 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's schedule release by the IRL. 09/12/05 We have it on good word that when the IRL releases its 2006 schedule on Tuesday Chicagoland will indeed be the season finale as shown below. We hear the schedule will be two less than 2005, with Fontana and Phoenix being dropped.....two more events in a long list of ex-CART races that the IRL has failed at. The IRL might add a Canada race later. 09/10/05 AutoRacing1.com asked Tim Sullivan, IRL Public Relations, this morning at Chicagoland whether their 2006 schedule will be out this weekend.
AutoRacing1.com: Tim do you have a preliminary race schedule for 2006? Sullivan: No we do not.
AutoRacing1.com: Do you know if the Chicago race will be scheduled for about this same date next year? Sullivan: More than likely. We are hoping to release our schedule soon but not everything is buttoned up yet.
09/09/05 The Indy Racing League will announce a 2006 schedule this weekend that trims two months from its season. Next season is expected to begin March 26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway -- three weeks later than this year's event at the same track -- and end Sept. 10 at Chicagoland Speedway. Confirmed Dates March 26 Homestead April 2 St. Petersburg April ?? Motegi, Japan May 28 Indy 500 June 4 Watkins Glen June 10 Texas Motor Speedway June 24 Richmond (Va.) International Raceway July 2 Kansas Speedway July 15 Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway July 30 Michigan International Speedway Aug. 13 Kentucky Speedway Aug 27 Infineon Raceway Sep. 10 Chicagoland Unconfirmed Dates Fontana Quebec City Milwaukee Pikes Peak
Pikes Peak dumps IRL too?UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's schedule release by the IRL. 09/13/05 Hot on the heels of Fontana and Phoenix dropping their IRL race for 2006 comes word in today's Indy Star that the IRL is expected to be without most of its tracks in the Western half of the country when officials announce the 2006 season schedule today. Phoenix International Raceway, California Speedway and Pikes Peak (Colo.) International Raceway figure to be absent from what could be a 14-race schedule. Contracts with the tracks had not been signed as of Monday. There are 17 races this season. Phoenix has been an IRL track since the league's inaugural season in 1996; Pikes Peak came on board the following year. California has hosted league races annually since 2002 and will host the season-ending race next month, in front of a small crowd. The only Western track to remain is Infineon Raceway, a road course in Sonoma, Calif. [and even their attendance is suspect for the long-term].
Fontana to axe IRL, IRL won't replace Champ Car in MontrealUPDATE #5 This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact' with the press release put out today by Normand Legault's office - see Hot News page. The IRL will NOT be replacing Champ Car in Montreal. 09/12/05 The IRL expects to announce its 2006 schedule Tuesday. Whether it includes a race in Canada remains to be seen. Ken Ungar, the league's senior vice president of business affairs and chief schedule-maker, said there is currently no deal with officials from any Canadian city, including Montreal, which is considering replacing its Champ Car race with the IRL. "We still have options in Canada," Ungar said Sunday. Ungar said that Tuesday is not a deadline for the Canadians. He noted that last year the IRL added the street course race in St. Petersburg, Fla., after the schedule had been released. Indy StarAND The Toronto Sun reports that NASCAR officials said they won't hold any races in 2006 in Canada, but are hoping to put something together for 2007, so it looks like the part of this rumor that has the IRL racing in Montreal in 2006 is 'false.' "There's just not enough time to get a date for 2006," said NASCAR Chief Operating Officer George Pyne. "But we are still very interested in a North American expansion strategy that includes Canada." 09/11/05 According to Robin Miller on Wind Tunnel, Legault may have purposely not put grandstands up for this year's Champ Car race to discourage fans from coming to the race. This resulted in much lower attendance and it is thought that the contract may have said that if attendance was below a certain level the promoter has the option to find an alternate event.
If this is the case, we expect to see this one decided in the courtroom. But even if Champ Car wins, the relationship is soured so how poorly will next year's event be promoted?
09/10/05 The IRL won't be returning to Fontana in 2006 so that part of this rumor is now 'fact.' Robin Miller writes on SPEEDTV.com, "Originally, it was believed the IRL schedule was being delayed because of Fontana, which hosts Nextel Cup in the spring and fall. The IRL didn't want to run in the heat of July and offered to go on Friday night with NASCAR during Labor Day weekend but was turned down by Brian France.
"So now there will be two International Speedway Corporation tracks missing from the '06 schedule. As first reported last July on SPEEDTV.com, Phoenix, a staple of Indy cars since the mid-1960s, has been dropped and California Speedway is also being axed."
Meanwhile, the same article reports that Ken Ungar, IRL senior vice-president of Business Affairs, and IRL chief operating officer Brian Barnhart have reportedly reached a handshake agreement with Montreal promoter Normand Legault to bring the IRL to Ontario [We assume Robin means Quebec] in '06 with NASCAR's Busch or Craftsman Truck series.
Supposedly, Legault told IRL officials that Champ Car has breached its contract and attorneys are examining the documents but Kevin Kalkhoven, co-owner of Champ Car, refuted the IRL being in Montreal in '06.
"It wouldn't surprise me if that happens in 2007 but we've got a contract with Montreal for 2006," said Kalkhoven, speaking from Belgium where he's attending the Formula One race at Spa.
"And we've also got a backup plan if Montreal does go away."
08/22/05 IRL president Brian Barnhart said finalizing the league's 2006 schedule will come when issues regarding the proposed street course race in Quebec City are resolved. Barnhart said the race, to be held on an 18-turn, 3-mile downtown course, would be a fall event if it happens. If it doesn't, the race at California Speedway likely will be in that slot.
The California race also could be held the week following the Indianapolis 500, he said. Barnhart said there was talk of the IRL staging its California race on the Labor Day weekend as a Friday night support event to the NASCAR Nextel Cup and Busch Series races. But there were too many issues to resolve for 2006, he said. "It's something we want to take another look at for 2007," he said. "We think it would be good." Indy Star
08/22/05 According to Robin Miller on SPEED News Sunday, the IRL is having difficulty fitting the Fontana race in next year's schedule. They want to wrap up their season right after Labor Day and NASCAR does not want the IRL to run with the Cup cars on Labor Day weekend at Fontana and there is another Cup race in the spring. With the pitiful crowd that the IRL gets at Fontana, it's thought this race could go away and spare everyone the trouble and embarrassment. We have said all along that the France family does not need the IRL anymore now that it accomplished what they wanted (destruction of Indy Car racing by splitting it and killing it off), so we are not surprised that they are not willing to do them any favors and allow them to run with the Cup cars on a Friday night.
Bruni threatened with lawsuit Coloni Motorsport have issued a press release advising that Gianmaria Bruni was instructed not to drive with any other teams in GP2 at Spa-Francorchamps last weekend under threat of legal action. The statement advised that the team, via the International Sports Tribunal, warned Bruni against racing with other teams because the contract between the Italian driver and the Coloni team is still valid. Coloni also contacted the Royal Automobile Club Belgium, the organizing body behind the race weekend, who also instructed Bruni to not race with other teams after reading a contract presented to them. Bruni ignored both requests and raced for Durango. Bruni is believed to owe the team substantial funds from earlier in the year. Autosport-Atlas
Ford might sell off HertzUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Ford Motor Co. agreed to sell Hertz Corp., the largest U.S. car-rental company, to a group of buyout firms for $15 billion. Investors the Carlyle Group, Clayton, Dubilier & Rice Inc., and Merrill Lynch & Co.'s buyout unit will pay $5.6 billion in cash for Hertz and assume $9.4 billion in debt. Financially strapped Ford, which is being pummeled by increasing competition from rivals such as Toyota and labor woes, this year had been considering other options for Hertz, including taking the rental-car company public, to raise much-needed cash.
But the automaker, which has been unprofitable three of the last four quarters and reported a loss of $907 million from its North American automotive business in the second quarter, wanted to reduce debt, and the Hertz sale provides Ford with more money more quickly than a public offering would have. The deal is expected to close by the end of the year.
"The transaction provides a strong value to Ford," said Becky Sanch, a Ford spokeswoman. "It provides upfront cash proceeds and it eliminates the risks associated with an initial public offering."
04/21/05 Ford Motor Co. held out the prospect on Wednesday that it might sell its profitable car-rental business, the New Jersey-based Hertz Corp. -- a move that could generate a lot of cash to improve the automaker's balance sheet. Hertz, which also rents trucks and equipment, earned just under $500 million in pretax profit last year and about $33 million in the first quarter of 2005, up $40 million from a year ago, Ford Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bill Ford said in a conference call. But with rest of this year expected to be fiercely competitive for Ford Motor, and the likelihood of a loss in the second quarter, Bill Ford acknowledged that the company was exploring whether to change its relationship with Hertz. That could mean selling it outright, selling part of the company or some other new arrangement. The idea seemed to generate a lot of interest by industry analysts on a conference call with Ford. "Hertz is a great, well-managed business, and as a result of their strong performance and our continued de-emphasis of selling vehicles to the daily rental companies, we are beginning to evaluate long-term strategic objectives for Hertz," Bill Ford said during the call. "We can't share all of our plans with you today," he said, "but we can tell you that we have plans and we'll be rolling out our plans to you as it makes sense over the next several months." Detroit Free Press
Behind the scenes at the Belgian GP There were some tearful farewells in the Spa paddock on Sunday night, as the Red Bull Racing crew started to pack up the Energy Station for the last time this year. Some of the staff will be coming with us to the final three “flyaways” of the season, but the rest of them and the unit itself go into mothballs until the first European race of 2006.
Usually that means Imola and the San Marino Grand Prix, but the F1 calendar rumors are in full swing and it seems that this really popular event as far as the F1 worker bees are concerned might be shelved by Queen Bee Bernie E.
There are all sorts of strange changes planned for the calendar and, having listened to complaints that too many back-to-back sets of races (we had six double headers this year) are taking their toll, it seems that the racing season might extend into November. That in itself is nothing new, as the eleventh month was often time for the season finale in Adelaide in the good old days. Another change would see the French and British races move to June rather than July, to avoid a clash with the Football World Cup, which for some inexplicable reason is reputed to draw as big a TV audience as F1. Amazing what some people will watch on telly!
We now come to the final three races and without the motorhomes in attendance, the paddock population drops by a considerable number and one person who might not be making the trip is Nick Heidfeld. The Williams driver must rank as unluckiest man of the season. Having crashed heavily in Monza testing, he missed the last two Grands Prix. But this weekend, while out training on his bike to get fit, he had an accident which has left him with a cracked shoulder blade and dislocated fingers. Get well soon is what we all say: maybe all except his stand-in Antonio Pizzonia.
Rumor has it that an orang-utan called King Louis will be swelling the numbers flying to Brazil. As the Red Bull Racing mechanics traveled back to the hotel on Sunday night, they stopped off for some fun and frolics at a fairground and one of them won the huge stuffed toy, named after the “Jungle Book” character. Will King Louis be traveling Business or Economy Class to Sao Paulo? Who knows? These days, F1 mechanics are highly skilled technicians, but twenty years ago, you might have been hard-pressed to tell the difference between a spanner-man and an orang-utan! Red Bull Racing
Monteiro eyes 2006 seat The race is hotting up for Midland's two 2006 race seats. While BAR tester Anthony Davidson and Minardi's Christijan Albers appear at the front of the queue, existing Jordan driver Tiago Monteiro reckons he has also staked a claim to hang around.
The Portuguese rookie, pretty impressive in his run to eighth in the Belgian grand prix, revealed that he met with managing director Colin Kolles on the morning of the race.
''We talked about next year,'' Monteiro, 28, told Autosport, ''and I think I have good chances to race for Midland.''
He added: ''Nothing is signed yet.''
Renault's Franck Montagny is also linked with a Silverstone based ride, but he would also be required to bring along a bag of sponsorship.
November finale in 2006? The last grand prix of 2006 might be held in November, according to whispers in the Paddock.
A Red Bull Racing news release said that Bernie Ecclestone's response to widespread complaints about the whopping 19-race schedule this year - and a record six back-to-backs - could be to extend the finale from October.
The behind-the-scenes Red Bull document also cast doubt on the future of Imola, scene of the traditional San Marino grand prix in the north of Italy.
Albers to Midland in '06 The Rotterdam newspaper Het Algemene Dagblad this morning published a story suggesting that Christijan Albers has signed a two-year deal with Midland F1. Swift action is probably a good idea now that Minardi has been taken over and the number of a rent-a-car F1 drives is down to two for 2006, unless any new teams actually appear, which is not very likely in the time available.
Albers knows team boss Colin Kolles from German Formula 3 back in 1999 when Team Kolles Racing was starting out and Albers was driving for the super-successful Bertrand Schafer team.
Our spies suggest that Albers is keen to do a deal but there are one or two questions over whether he has the sponsorship money that is needed to get the Midland F1 drive. The suggestion we have heard is that the drive will cost $6m in 2006.
Will Stoddart quit F1? It is not clear whether Paul Stoddart will be handed a job after Red Bull take over his Minardi team on November the 1st. Certainly, the $47m sale contract states that Australia's Stoddart, who bought the Faenza team from Gian Carlo Minardi in 2001, will walk away from the squad.
But new owner Dietrich Mateschitz's 'right hand man' Dany Bahar admitted at Spa that whether or not Paul is retained as a consultant is 'not defined.
He told Autosport: ''I'm sure we'll need (him) in some way and he'll be very close to our team. Much more, I can't say.''
51-year-old Stoddart agreed that he still loves the sport. ''I am going to miss it so, so much,'' Paul lamented. ''I don't think I'm finished in this Paddock,'' he insisted. Interestingly, Stoddart still owns much of Arrows' team assets from the 2002 collapse, and will retain his Ledbury (UK) factory despite the Minardi sale.
He says the 'saddest thing' about the Spa announcement is that the 20 year old Minardi name will probably disappear from the category next season.
Bahar, though, denied reports that Minardi is to be renamed 'Red Bull USA'. ''We don't know what we will call it yet,'' he insisted. What is clear, is that guys like Tonio Liuzzi and American driver Scott Speed are in the pole position to race.
McCune to train in Europe in off-season AutoRacing1.com spoke to Sarah McCune this morning at Chicagoland. We asked her if she had any road course experience and she told us no, but she is looking forward to learning in Europe in the off season so she is ready for next year's IPS road races. Rick Schenk
Toyota making gains on Honda "Toyota has really improved the performance of their engine lately," said Patrick Carpentier who was the highest Toyota finisher, other than the Penske drivers. "For the first time this year, I could keep up with the leaders without relying on race cautions to maintain contact with them. We are still lacking a bit of power to go for the win on a regular basis, but we are getting there. Toyota is really working hard to catch up to Honda. We are going to Watkins Glen next week for a day of testing in order to be more competitive for the penultimate race of the 2005 season."
Chase field could expand in 2006 There were rumors in the Nextel Cup garage at Richmond International Raceway that the field for the Chase for the Nextel Cup could grow from 10 to 12 next season. The argument is based on the fact that there have been at least 12 drivers in contention for a Chase berth up until the final laps of the final race of the "regular season." And it would be two more chances to get top drawing cards like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon into the run for the title if they struggled at some point during the season as they both have this year. NASCAR president Mike Helton said sanctioning body officials will review the Chase at the end of the season to see if adjustments to the format are warranted. "When it was all said and done last year and the dust had settled, we took a look at things and were pretty pleased," he said. "We'll do the same thing at the end of this year. But I can't see anything major coming along." Atlanta Journal-Constitution
TV fools the public On TV the IRL grandstands Sunday at Chicagoland looked packed. Then we see photos like the one to the right taken during a pitstop and wonder just how is it that the IRL TV cameras fill in all these empty seats with bodies. Photo courtesy of Honda
Ganassi to use auctioned carUPDATE The total crash dollars for 2005 are interesting. We estimate that Chip Ganassi by himself has more damage in total dollars this year in the IRL than the complete Champ Car Series. If you take the Ganassi team's 25 wrecks and average the damage at $175,000, and we know that there have been more large ones like the one today at near $500,000, he would have over $4,000,000, which is what the Champ Car World Series has in total this year according to our estimates! Mark C.09/11/05 Good news for Chip Ganassi - he bought one of Mo Nunn's Panoz race cars at the auction for $125,000. After yet another car destroying wreck at Chicagoland Sunday that saw Ryan Briscoe's car explode in a fireball he better hurry to get it modified to fit a Toyota engine because he's running out of cars. We never saw one team owner lose so many cars in one year. He must be the Panoz factory's best customer.
JB told to honor contract David Coulthard has publicly urged friend and F1 rival Jenson Button to honor his Williams contract.
The 34-year-old Scot suggested that his fellow Brit is doing the wrong thing in trying to squeeze out of his commitment, and stay at BAR.
DC said it is the first time he has ever offered Button advice about his grand prix career.
''(And) I've talked over all kinds of things with (him),'' including personal relationships,'' Coulthard said in his Daily Record column.
''He has to face his responsibilities, do the job he has signed to do, and next time the merry-go-round stops, make sure he gets the right seat.
''No one, not even Schumi, has the best seat year-in, year-out.''
Coulthard apparently fears that the continuing tussle over the 25-year-old Englishman could result in Button having to sit out next year. ''That would be a very damaging thing for British motorsport,'' the Red Bull driver warned.
DC also said Red Bull's buyout of Minardi is 'fine by me', so long as it 'doesn't change how the main team race.'
Kimi to impede Alonso crown If you study the timesheets, you might conclude that the 2005 Belgian grand prix in the east of the country will be a close-run thing.
F1 pacesetter Kimi Raikkonen has struggled for setup and balance all weekend, leaving title rival Fernando Alonso just a few tenths behind him on the grid and McLaren teammate Juan Pablo Montoya on pole.
''This morning I went off,'' the Finn said on Saturday, ''and I didn't want to do it again in qualifying. It looks close but it could turn out to be not as close as that.''
Thus, 25-year-old Raikkonen intimates that he has more fuel on board for the first stint, and - therefore - guys like Fisichella, Alonso and Toyota's Jarno Trulli, a bit less.
Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella, who qualified third but will start 13th after an engine change, agrees that the MP4-20 is still the quickest car. ''I think we are on different strategies,'' the Roman suggests, ''but you never know.''
He added: ''We expected to be much slower than McLaren here, but the car seems alright.''
Their pace may or may not be close, but Raikkonen has a joker up his sleeve in the battle to prevent Alonso from becoming champion on Sunday -- pole man and teammate, Montoya. The Colombian said: ''Kimi can still win the championship so if I can help him, I will.''
'Tire' is Belgian buzzword The sale of Minardi aside, tires - and their future - were the buzzwords in the Spa Francorchamps paddock on Saturday.
The day started off with speculation that Williams and Toyota would soon confirm their switch from Michelin to Bridgestone.
Williams duly concurred.
The Japanese tire marque, presently struggling with just Jordan and Minardi failing to complement Ferrari's development, announced a 'multi year' agreement with Williams from 2006.
''I would like to thank (Frank) for his faith in our technological capabilities,'' said Bridgestone's Hiroshi Yasukawa.
It soon became clear, though, that Red Bull - previously the most strongly linked with a switch - would not be following suit. A statement said the team 'enjoyed significant success' with French marque Michelin this year.
With 2006 Ferrari power, it was strongly rumored that Red Bull would be Bridgestone clad. But Christian Horner explained: ''(Michelin's) professionalism in dealing with the new single tire regulations was a key factor in our decision.''
The only thing lacking, then, was a Toyota-Bridgestone announcement. It didn't come, although every sign - even from within the Cologne team - suggests that a deal is all but done. Indeed, Edouard Michelin said at Spa: ''We will no longer supply Toyota.''
Will Williams switch to Bridgestone?UPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. See Hot News page for announcement. 08/13/05 We believe that Williams and Michelin are in the final stages of negotiating a new deal for 2006 and beyond, despite rumors of a deal with Bridgestone. The rumors may be related to the negotiations although staying with Michelin makes a lot more sense than switching to Bridgestone. Williams, it should be remembered, was the first Michelin team in the modern era. It is thought that Red Bull Racing will switch but that Williams will stay where it is. Grandprix.com08/11/05 Rumors has it that the Williams, soon to be Williams Cosworth, team will likely switch to Bridgestone tires in 2006.
Red Bull, Irvine and MinardiUPDATE #9 This rumor is now 'fact' with today's announcement that Minardi was sold to Red Bull. See Hot News page. 09/10/05 Sunday at Spa, September the eleventh, could well be the day when Paul Stoddart reveals that his Minardi F1 team has been sold to Red Bull. According to solid speculation in Belgium, the deal was done on Friday afternoon, even though the rumor mill's 6pm official buyout announcement never occurred.
It is now reported that Dietrich Mateschitz - not a regular in the Paddock - and right-hand-man Dany Bahar, will arrive at Spa Francorchamps on Saturday evening, possibly to let the cat out of the bag sometime Sunday.
Stoddart admitted that some sort of announcement 'could be' made in the Belgian Ardennes, ''but my gut feeling is (that it's more likely) closer to Brazil,'' he told the Autosport website. ''I would miss it unbelievably ... but the team is more important than any individual,'' the Australian added.
09/09/05 Minardi boss Paul Stoddart has confirmed that negotiations with energy drink and existing formula one team owner Red Bull have taken place. But the Australian businessman warned that a deal might simply involve Red Bull buying a couple of 2006 race seats for Vitantonio Liuzzi and perhaps Scott Speed.
Speculation is adamant that an agreement to sell the back of the grid team is already signed, giving exclusive negotiations to Red Bull pending due diligence enquiries. It evidently expires on Saturday. 'Until it is reality,'' Red Bull sporting director Christian Horner remarked at Spa Francorchamps, ''it is not worth me speaking about it.''
Similarly, Stoddart refused to go much further into detail about a deal that could result in Red Bull buying Minardi and re-branding the team 'Red Bull USA'. He insisted: ''Where they are now is for them to say. They had a look at things during the (Italian grand prix) weekend but I cannot speculate on what they might do.''
09/08/05 Minardi boss Paul Stoddart confirmed here Thursday that he is in negotiations with Red Bull over a possible buy-out of the Formula One backmarker team. "I had a positive talk with Red Bull last weekend, they have had a chance to look at things throughout the week and where they are now is really for them to say," he said. "There simply is nothing and I cannot speculate on what they might or might not do, but with it being Red Bull you wouldn't want to write them off because we are not talking about a total and utter timewaster.
"We all know the reputation of Red Bull and it is a proper company, so you are not going to treat them the way you would someone who you didn't know who called you out the blue and said they have a bucket load of money.
"Can (Red Bull boss) Dietrich Mateschitz do this deal if there is a deal and he wants to do it? Unequivocally yes. Does he want to do it? You have to ask him. The talk last weekend centered as much around drivers as it did around the team, and I have not seen any deals on the table at all, not from anyone, to even consider yet."
09/06/05 Red Bull might already have bought a controlling stake in Paul Stoddart's hard-up Minardi team.
According to speculation, the deal - to re-brand the Faenza based team 'Red Bull USA' and use it to place drivers like Tonio Liuzzi, Scott Speed and Neel Jani from next year - could be revealed at Spa on Friday.
Australian entrepreneur Stoddart called Dieter Mateschitz and his energy drink brand 'the kind of people' he would talk to about selling his struggling team.
'Red Bull USA' would become a junior team, to house young leadership and up and coming drivers. It would run this year's RB1 car, and - crucially - give Bernie Ecclestone another political ally in his quest for F1 control.
However, it has been claimed that the Red Bull-Minardi rumor came about after Mateschitz and Stoddart negotiated for a simple 'driver placement' deal for 2006.
Sources, though, insist that Red Bull is doing due diligence this week, and - if given the financial all clear - will honor some sort of document that was signed at Monza.
Indy may not bring back F1UPDATE Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Joie Chitwood said Friday a statement regarding the future of Formula One's U.S. Grand Prix in Indianapolis will come next week with the distribution of refund checks for this year's race. All indications are the event will return in 2006. Indy Star 08/11/05 Two months after the embarrassment of the U.S. Grand Prix, Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials apparently aren't quite ready to forgive - or forget. Speedway president Joie Chitwood made it clear after Sunday's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard that he is still debating whether to bring the race back to Indianapolis for a seventh season. "It's important to us because we've made a huge investment in the sport by building the road course and adding the buildings to Gasoline Alley," Chitwood said. "But we have to decide what's in the best interest of our fans, the speedway and the city."
Chitwood acknowledged he has been discussing another race with F-1 officials but declined to characterize the talks or offer a timeline for an announcement. Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone contends there is still one more year on the current contract, although speedway officials would not confirm that.
"We have a contract with them, so I don't see any problem," Ecclestone said Monday. "From our point of view, we don't have a problem. Tony (George) and I are discussing another five years after that."
George lured F-1 to Indy in 2000 and his family still owns the track. But George turned over the day-to-day track operations in December, and Chitwood is more concerned about 2006 than the five years after that. What worries Chitwood is that the memories of this year's race will linger and depress turnout next year.
Ecclestone avoided placing blame on the F-1 brass, the teams or the speedway for the debacle, instead criticizing Michelin, which is now offering refunds to fans. "It would have been dangerous to run," Ecclestone said. "In hindsight, the more we looked at it the worse it was. Whatever the cure was, the side effects were worse." More at Autonet.ca [Editor's Note: Tony George and his family would be far better off financially if they replace F1 with Champ Car on the road course at Indy. Champ Car's sanctioning fees are far less than Bernie charges for F1, and although the attendance might be off slightly, we doubt it would be down that much, meaning the Speedway could actually turn a profit instead of losing their shirt. Unfortunately, Tony George wants Champ Car dead, so that will never happen even though from a business perspective that is what they should do. It is interesting to note that Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe are willing to supply Cosworth engines to the IRL badged with whatever manufacturer, but Tony George won't do business with Champ Car, which says a lot about this ugly war.]
DEI close to signing Eury JrUPDATE #4 Richie Gilmore, vice president of motorsports at Dale Earnhardt Inc., hinted Friday that Dale Earnhardt Jr. and crew chief Tony Eury Jr. could be reunited as soon as next week at New Hampshire International Speedway. "If me and Tony Jr. are going to work together next year, that'd be a good idea to begin working on that relationship,'' Earnhardt said. Gilmore said the team announced all its changes for next year to its employees but is waiting to make those decisions public. "We don't really feel like we need to take away from anybody in the chase,'' Gilmore said. "Maybe at Loudon, we'll go there and we'll announce our plans there.'' Gilmore said the team plans to use the last 10 races preparing for next season. "I feel we can go to Daytona and run great again with our plate program, but I want to focus on ... California and Las Vegas,'' Gilmore said of the second and third race next season. "Coming out of the box those have never been great race tracks for us and we can work on that the rest of the year. Looking at the season as one big test.'' Roanoke Times08/18/05 This rumor us upgraded to 'fact' today. See Hot News page for press release. 08/15/05 Tony Eury Jr. was scheduled to meet with Teresa Earnhardt Monday to talk about signing a contract with DEI. Eury said has had talks with several other teams although he would not name names. “Yeah, I probably got about four or five teams and there have been some pretty impressive offers but like I told Dale Jr. I don’t really have a desire to leave this company. It’s just a matter of I want what the going rate is for Tony Jr. I’ve been there for 14 years and I’ve never really asked for a raise so I’m just listening and seeing what people have to say.” Eury Jr. has never had a formal contract with DEI saying “Dale Sr. wanted me to sign a contract about seven years ago and me and him left on a handshake. We had that kind of trust in each other…and like I told him…you don’t ever screw me around and take care of me and I’m always here. I have the same attitude toward Dale Jr.” PRN's Garage Pass Radio Show
Where will Marlin end up?UPDATE #2 This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact.' Sterling Marlin confirmed yesterday that he will race the next two seasons for MB2 Motorsports as a teammate of Joe Nemechek. "I've got a deal," Marlin said, "and it's a good one." The 48-year-old racer from Columbia will replace Scott Riggs, who is jumping to Evernham Motorsports next year. MB2, based in Concord, N.C., could have followed the recent trend in NASCAR and picked one of a dozen young drivers with a more polished image than Marlin, a self-described "country boy." But team official Jay Frye said "age equates to experience," and that Marlin's lack of pretension is appealing. "Sterling has no baggage," Frye said. "Everybody likes him." And it wasn't just Marlin's personality that landed him the ride. "We think he can still do it," Frye said. "We're very excited about the next couple of years." Frye said details on Marlin's new sponsor and car number are still being finalized. "They've got good people and a good motor program," Marlin said. "It's a team with a great future." Marlin said he is relieved to get his new deal finalized because it's the last one he will have to negotiate. "Two more years is all I want," he said. "After that I'm done." Tennessean
The signing of Sterling Marlin to drive the #10 Chevrolet of MB2 Motorsports is still in the works, but an insider estimated the official announcement may be a month away. Apparently the sponsorship details are still being worked out, and it’s unlikely that an official announcement will be made until the sponsor is officially signed. Gaston Gazette
08/27/05 Sterling Marlin appears headed to MB2 Motorsports next season as a teammate of Joe Nemechek, although the veteran racer from Columbia said yesterday the deal is not finalized. "It's a good team with a good engine program," Marlin said. "Joe has won with it." Marlin is expected to take over the team's #10 Chevrolet currently driven by Scott Riggs. Riggs will move to Evernham Motorsports next year. "We're still talking," Marlin said of MB2. "We should know something soon." Tennessean08/07/05 "Nope, nothin' yet," Sterling Marlin said as a reporter approached him in the infield at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where rain washed out a scheduled practice session yesterday. The veteran racer from Columbia is searching for a new Nextel Cup ride, having been informed that he won't be retained at Chip Ganassi Racing after this season — 16 more races. "I'm still talking to some people," Marlin said. "In fact I've had a couple of conversations this week. But there's a lot of things involved — sponsors and stuff like that — so I don't know anything definite yet." Marlin said he won't settle "for just any ride. I want to go with a team that can give me a good car, good motor, and a good pit crew. I want to be with a competitive team that can win races." And if such an opportunity fails to present itself? "It won't be the end of the world," Marlin said. "If I can get with a good team, that'll be great. If not … well, life goes on."
There had been speculation that Marlin might join Richard Childress Racing [#07], having been offered a ride there toward the end of last season, but Childress recently indicated he will stick with his present drivers. Another scenario had Marlin replacing retiring #6-Mark Martin at Roush Racing, but Roush is trying to talk Martin into racing one more year before turning the car over to Jamie McMurray in 2007. Another report has linked Marlin with Richard Petty's famous #43 as a replacement for Jeff Green. Marlin declined to comment on any of the reports, probably out of courtesy to the drivers who currently have the rides. "I figure we'll know something before long," said Marlin, "I'll keep looking and see what turns up." Tennessean
Loomis will not be Gordon's Crew Chief in 2006UPDATE #2 This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact.' Robbie Loomis doesn't know what he'll do next season, but he does know he'll do something other than serve as crew chief for four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon. "I know that I am getting ready for a change," Loomis said Friday at Richmond International Raceway. "We have been preparing for that for a year, and it could be within Hendrick Motorsports and it might be something completely different." "I'm ready for like a change of season, like winter, fall, spring and summer," Loomis said. "That's been brought on more by the emotions I went through last year with my mom." 09/09/05 Robbie Loomis says his adoration for stock car racing hasn't waned, but his desire to so ardently pursue it has. So much so, he says, that he's uncertain he wants to continue the year-round grind. "I told my buddy over the winter I've never been so uncertain in all my life about my future, but I've never felt so good about where I stand with everything," Loomis said Friday at Richmond. "In life, for years, it was racing, God then family. I'm trying to get it God, family then racing.
"I have some things I need to work through. But I've been trying not to talk with anyone or do anything that takes my mind off getting this car in the Chase."
A recent report stated that Loomis had confirmed he wouldn't be back as crew chief for Jeff Gordon's team in 2006. The report said Loomis was ready for a change and that the team had been preparing for his departure for quite some time.
Gordon echoed that sentiment Friday before qualifying sixth for Saturday's Chevy Rock & Roll 400. "Truth of the matter is, he and I had talked about his future with the Hendrick Motorsports organization prior to the season even starting," Gordon said.
"A lot of it had to do with his mom, his family and his priorities and, you know, the intensity that comes with being a crew chief and whether he wanted to continue to do that, and for how long." NASCAR.com
09/06/05 It appears the successful crew chief/driver combination of Robbie Loomis and four-time Nextel Cup champion Jeff Gordon is drawing to an end. During a national teleconference call Tuesday, Gordon said he wasn't sure whether Loomis would return as his crew chief in 2006.
"Well, I mean, we talked before this season even started about Robbie's future and what he wanted to do. If it's up to me, yeah, I'd love to have him as, you know, my crew chief. Robbie, with his mom and some of the illnesses she's gone through, you know, he's trying to decide right now what his plans are and has nothing to do with our performance this year," Gordon said.
"I believe 100 percent in Robbie Loomis and in his abilities. You know, when we're on, there's nobody better and because of our lack of performance this year I really don't think that, you know, Robbie should be put to blame for that.
"It really has nothing to do with whether he's my crew chief next year or not. It has nothing to do with the performance that we've had this year." There was no immediate comment from Hendrick Motorsports or Loomis on Tuesday. More at ThatsRacin.com
Spa future in doubt The average F1 driver will utter a three-letter word if you ask him what the best circuit in the world is called -- 'Spa'.
In the Belgian paddock, though, it's apparently not all hunky-dory for the future of Spa Francorchamps' beloved event.
Like last year, government officials will probably leap to the rescue as ticket sales again fail to match up to the point of breaking even. The news follows Monza, where even Ferrari's ardent Tifosi did not turn out in their masses.
''Francorchamps has a future, but only at a reasonable cost,'' Jean-Claude Marcourt, the regional economics minister in Belgium, told Friday's daily 'Le Soir' newspaper.
Blamed for the recent drop in F1 interest are escalated ticket prices and the slouching economy, but also F1 regulations that discourage practice running and cars that are near-useless when it comes to overtaking.
The cheapest race-day ticket at Spa is $186, but if you want a seat, be prepared to fork out $455.
Title leader Fernando Alonso, though, said the problem is not widespread. At his home grand prix, in Barcelona, the grandstands were completely full.
''F1 is still the world's biggest event,'' the Spaniard claimed. BAR's Jenson Button told a similar story -- Silverstone, home of the British grand prix, was a sell-out.
Crazy Kimi at it again According to speculation, formula one party animal Kimi Raikkonen has been at it again. McLaren's pace setting Finn, who has already been verbally warned about his alcohol-fuelled escapades by Ron Dennis, has apparently now received a formal written reprimand from the Woking chief.
The gossip in the Spa paddock is that a drunk Raikkonen, 25, was somehow caught - in northern Italy - in public with his pants down in the week prior to last Sunday's Monza race. Mercedes boss Norbert Haug called the story a 'completely unfair attack' and 'a lie'.
Spa could be postponed Friday's second practice session around the forested Spa Francorchamps circuit was a wash-out when heavy rain made the track completely undriveable and none of the 25 drivers set a time.
Only a handful of laps were run in the first session and with the weather predicted to worsen rather than improve even world champion Michael Schumacher was left wondering whether the race will go ahead.
"A normal race in these conditions is not possible," said Schumacher. "Maybe it can get better, but if conditions are like this then it is not possible to race apart from behind the safety car."
"I think this is the best (conditions) it will be this weekend. As far as we know now it is predicted to get worse and at the moment they are predicting heavy rain on Sunday. Today was supposed to be the best in terms of rain, so we still have to find out what that means for the weekend. It is difficult to explain how difficult it is driving in these conditions."
"It is too much rain. We probably needed a propeller to make it through this amount of water! You could see when the drivers that went out were on track that they couldn't really drive. In these conditions nobody can drive except maybe the safety car. In the end, you can only do things that are possible. If it is impossible to drive we will have to find another way."
Drivers can use wet weather tires in the rain and there are specially designed extreme weather' tires, but Michelin boss Pierre Dupasquier said even those were not good enough to tackle the amount of water on track here Friday.
Jenson Button backed Schumacher's claims that the race cannot go ahead if conditions persist and explained: "It is disappointing for the fans but we can't really help with that situation. We can't stop it raining here. It's been a pretty boring day for all of us, not being able to do any running, but there was no chance and if it is raining like that we can't race on Sunday. It would be too wet. It is dangerous."
"You are not in control of the car in any way. If you hit a big puddle like Liuzzi did that's it, it could be a massive accident. You are not in control and that's not what we're here to do. And the forecast is for rain on Sunday."
Legge might move up to Champ Car in ’06 Katherine Legge told the Autosport Radio Show: "I'm in two minds about next season. At the moment the plan is Atlantics unless I do something stunning in this test, but I don't know. My ego wants to go to Champ Car right now. Then I'd be ready for the new chassis formula in 2007. I'm going to wait and see how I do in that test. "I don't want to be driving around for a year gaining experience. I want to be finishing on the podium. I'm not coming back to race in the Europe, that's for sure. My future has Champ Car written all over it."
Mark Martin to postpone retirement It isn't much of a surprise, but it looks like Mark Martin's retirement from Nextel Cup Series is going to be postponed for a year. In the afterglow of a victory in Thursday night's IROC race at Richmond, Martin said it appears he will be back in Jack Roush's #6 Ford next season, after all. "It really looks like I'm going to be in the 6 car next year," Martin said. "It's looking more and more like that all the time." Martin said he had planned to spend next season driving a handful of Busch Series races, as well as racing for his own new team in NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series. But things got complicated recently when Roush signed Jamie McMurray away from Chip Ganassi Racing. McMurray signed for 2007, with the hope that he or Roush could convince Ganassi not to pick up his option for 2006. Ganassi has refused to let McMurray go next season, though, apparently leaving Roush a driver short. Instead of trying to find an interim driver, Roush has begged Martin, who came to the Cup Series with Roush in 1988, to help him out and stay on for one more year. Apparently, Martin has indeed decided to continue in the #6 through 2006. ESPN.com/AP
Champ Car can now run on Brands long course When Champ Car ran on the ridiculous short 1.1-mile Indy course at Brands Hatch two years ago everyone thought it was rather silly and said they should have run on the longer 2.6-mile track. However, at the time the track was not safe enough. Now it is, but will it be enough for Champ Car to return to this historic track outside of London?
Following a track inspection by FIA circuit inspector Roland Bruynseraede, Brands Hatch's full Grand Prix circuit has been formally granted a Grade 2 circuit license by motorsport's governing body, in readiness for the world debut of the A1 Grand Prix series on September 24/25.
MotorSport Vision, the owner of the legendary Kent circuit, has worked closely with the Motor Sports Association in order to establish and implement the safety upgrades required to extend the Grade 2 license from the Brands Hatch Indy circuit to the magnificent, full-length 2.6-mile Grand Prix circuit that will be used during the A1GP event.
The main part of the work involved increasing safety at Westfield corner. This has been achieved partly by realigning the double apex corner so that the first bend is slower and later than the original, leaving the second more of a flat out kink than a corner. A further big change is a huge 45m increase in run off area in the head-on aspect. A new gravel trap has been installed and all remnants of the old original Westfield removed for safety and neatness.
At Hawthorns corner the effectiveness of the gravel trap has been much improved by a major earthworks project involving the importation of 5,000 tons of material to raise the outside of the gravel trap by a full two meters, tapering down to the track edge. Instead of the gravel trap formerly falling away from the plane of the track, leaving cars skimming over, its retardation capability will be much more effective.
Further improvements were also made to the Indy circuit last winter, including the extending of run-off areas on the exit of Druids hairpin and Graham Hill Bend, although these upgrades were not necessary for the Grade 2 license.
The FIA's Grade 2 license is required for Brands Hatch to run the A1GP event and also now enables all other championships except Formula 1 to be run on the much-loved full Grand Prix circuit.
MotorSport Vision Chief Executive Jonathan Palmer said: "I'm delighted that we have been successful in obtaining the Grade 2 license for our GP circuit. I was determined that this glorious track should not be left to fade like so many others, but instead progress and update so Brands Hatch can host some of the most prestigious motor racing events in the world.
"It is a renowned drivers' circuit, providing enormous challenge and satisfaction, and MSV considers the substantial investment involved well worthwhile to preserve Brands Hatch's Grand Prix circuit's heritage of hosting some of Britain's most famous events. To host the inaugural A1 Grand Prix event is a great privilege and it is exciting to know that we are once again creating history."
How Players can again back Forsythe team The tobacco companies in Formula 1 appear to be developing new marketing theories around Formula 1 which do not involve the use of branding on Formula 1 cars. The tobacco industry makes no secret about the power of motor racing in marketing. The racing driver is seen by the tobacco industry (and apparently by the public as well) as being a modern-day version of the lone cowboy. Freedom and independence are recurring themes in tobacco promotion and this theme is especially appealing to adolescents, who are looking for ways to project that image to their peers. These policies have been revealed not just by anti-smoking campaigners but also from tobacco industry documents.
Obviously the tobacco industry does not wish to give up these strong connections but being unable to put the tobacco logos on cars does not mean the end of the association because tobacco companies have realized that reverse marketing will work just as well and so are now beginning to put racing cars onto cigarette packets. It is expected that three or four of the companies in F1 will therefore continue to receive tobacco money and will allow the tobacco companies to associate themselves with the image of the racing cars. Grandprix.com
Michelin could withdraw from F1UPDATE Our spies tell us that the French tire company will announce that it will not enter the bidding for a series in which there is a control tire. This will leave the field open to Bridgestone or to anyone else who wishes to bid for the deal. It remains to be seen if there will be any serious bidders. Grandprix.com09/05/05 Michelin have given strong indication that they will leave Formula One competition if the series goes ahead with plans for a single tire supplier in 2008. Motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier says he is not interested in being part of a series in which tire development has no added value in the outcome. Indications are Michelin are expected to announce their withdrawal from Formula One at next weekend's Belgian Grand Prix.
"As the world's leading tire manufacturer, that is something we cannot accept," he said in a prepared statement. "In day to day life, road car and truck manufacturers are forever coming to us with a view to developing new tires that optimize the running, comfort, road holding and energy efficiency of their vehicles, while in Formula One, a technological showcase if ever there was one, you're talking about tires becoming something banal."
"When you are the leading tire manufacturer, you have a responsibility vis-à-vis your profession, or in any case a responsibility as we see it at Michelin." FIA, the governing body of motorsports, has proposed a single tire manufacturer for Formula One starting in 2008 as part of a plan to control costs, reduce speeds and improve safety.
Dupasquier says he agrees with FIA's motives but says there are other ways to create a more level playing field with multiple tire manufacturers.
"We have two proposals for bringing down costs: fewer tire types and restrictions concerning the distances covered in testing," he said. "At $800 per kilometer covered in testing, that soon adds up to an appreciable saving. You could reasonably reduce the distance covered annually by each team by 20,000 km. Multiply that by ten teams, that comes to 200,000 km; a saving to F1 of $160-million"
Is it end of the road for Narain? In its efforts to identify its driver line-up for the 2006 season, Team Jordan today announced it was roping in BAR Honda's Anthony Davidson as a test driver, fuelling speculation over the future of India's Narain Karthikeyan with the team.
Davidson, who currently fills up the third driver spot for BAR Honda, will test the Jordan Grand Prix (EJ15) car at the Silverstone circuit on September 13.
"As part of Midland's process of identifying its driver line-up in the 2006 Formula One World Championship, we are pleased to announce that British driver Anthony Davidson will test a Jordan Grand Prix car at Silverstone on Sep 13," Colin Kolles, Managing Director of Jordan Grand Prix, said.
Analysts say that if Jordan is to dump one of its current drivers, it is more likely to be Karthikeyan than Tiago Monteiro, thanks to his having completed just 11 of the 15 races this season compared to Monteiro’s all 15 and languishing on position 17 in the driver's championship, three positions behind his teammate from Portugal.
"We're looking forward to working with Anthony during the test and to continuing discussions regarding a longer-term role into Midland's entry into the 2006 Formula One World Championship," Kolles said adding that Davidson "definitely deserves an opportunity to race in Formula one".
"Davidson has proved himself to be quick and outstandingly talented in junior Formulae and as an official third driver for BAR Honda. He definitely deserves an opportunity to race in Formula One," Kolles said.
"We're looking forward to working with Anthony during the test and to continuing discussions regarding a longer-term role into Midland's entry into the 2006 Formula One World Championship."
Davidson, on his part, said he was looking forward to test drive with Jordan.
"I'm really looking forward to testing with the Jordan team at Silverstone next week and the EJ15 will certainly be an exciting new challenge.
"This test shows how serious I am about finding a race drive for next year and I would like to thank BAR Honda for allowing me to stand down from the team's Barcelona test and take up this opportunity. I'm hoping it will be a very positive experience for myself and the Jordan team."
Ferrari/Bridgestone relationship starting to sourUPDATE Pierre Dupasquier doubts that Ferrari's 2005 slump will convince the Prancing Horse to dump tire supplier Bridgestone. At any rate, it's not completely certain that Michelin, for whom the 67-year-old competition director works, would want the marque on side. ''I don't think they'll ask to have our tires,'' Dupasquier told Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.
Meanwhile, ''Some rudeness can't be forgotten easily.'' The 'rudeness' remark, clearly, is a reference to September 2003, when Ferrari and Bridgestone questioned the legality of Michelin's tire.
Frenchman Dupasquier added: ''But that certainly wouldn't be an obstacle, because - from a commercial point of view - we have an excellent relationship with Maranello.'' He scratches his head as to how the Ferrari-Bridgestone combo haven't managed to dig itself out of the current hole. ''(It) confirms that it's no good to work with just one strong team,'' Pierre insisted.
09/08/05 Up until this year Ferrari and Bridgestone have enjoyed great success, winning many championships, but now that Michelin has taken a major step forward with their tires, Ferrari are just backmarkers. In reality, F1 is a tire manufacturer championship now, which is bad, and hence why the FIA will mandate a single tire supplier in 2008 and beyond. It simply makes too much sense.
For the time being, we are seeing Ferrari and Bridgestone beginning to point fingers at one another, and it would not surprise us at all to see Ferrari switch to Michelin tires soon.
"Chronic lack of grip, which we have suffered from since the start of the season, prevented us from running competitively right from the start of this weekend," team principal Jean Todt said in Ferrari's post Turkey report.
Monza, meanwhile, was even worse. With crowd numbers expected to fall by up to 50% on previous years due to Ferrari's lack of success, the team qualified their cars on strategically low fuel loads in order to give some glimmer of hope to the tifosi. However, despite starting fifth and sixth on the grid, both Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello were once again asked to fight a losing battle as the grip-less Bridgestone tires left them trailing in tenth and twelfth respectively. "Generally, the cars performed okay, but we simply did not have the overall performance we needed and we must continue working to try and understand and rectify that situation," commented technical director Ross Brawn, indirectly pointing the finger at the tires.
Schumacher, meanwhile, was surprisingly frank as to who was to blame as he confronted the disappointed Italian media at Monza. "Clearly we are too slow," he moaned. "It's very obvious why we have been so slow but I don't know if that is all the reason." Asked to clarify his comment, Schumacher made a clear reference to Bridgestone tires: "I think it's quite clear that we speak about the 'black gold'."
The comments have clearly annoyed Bridgestone who this week responded by claiming that the Italian team took too long to design this year's car. "Mutual accusations will not help us and do not solve problems," Bridgestone boss Hiroshi Yasukawa told the German daily 'Bild' newspaper. "Ferrari have also made mistakes," he added, referring to the late arrival of the F2005. '"Two months were missing for testing and fine tuning the tires." In part from Auto.Web-log.nl
Klien to get nod over Liuzzi It is possible that Red Bull could call off the 2005 driver swap and leave Christian Klien in his seat. The Austrian, who was scheduled to once again step aside for Vitantonio Liuzzi in Turkey, was given a further two-grand prix chance.
After Monza, Red Bull then said 22-year-old Klien could retain the top spot this weekend.
''In Hungary (31 July), I thought it would be my last race this year,'' he said at Spa Francorchamps, where Liuzzi will plug away as man 'Friday'.
Klien added: ''The team believe in me and the last three races are still open -- it's possible I'll do another one.''
Red Bull will choose either Klien or Italy's Liuzzi to be David Coulthard's full time teammate in 2006. Christian Klien sees himself as favorite.
''Put it this way,'' he added in Belgium, ''we were supposed to split the races 50-50 but I have done a lot more (than Tonio). It seems that the team have confidence in me.''
Hilton to sponsor McLarenUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. See Hot News page for press release. 09/02/05 There are rumors that Hilton Hotels may be on the verge of becoming a Formula 1 sponsor. Rumors have the hotel firm linked with McLaren.
Long Beach to replace Infineon Rumor has it that when the 2006 ALMS schedule is released Infineon Raceway will no longer be on the schedule, and Long Beach (in conjunction with Champ Car in early April) will replace it. A deal is not done yet, but both sides are trying to make it happen we hear. We also hear that a second ALMS/Champ Car doubleheader weekend is being discussed. Where? West of the Mississippi River we are told. Mark C.
Eric Crocker to run full Busch Series schedule in 2006 Erin Crocker will run a full NASCAR Busch Series schedule in a No. 98 Dodge owned by Ray Evernham and backed by General Mills. Crocker, 24, is scheduled to make her Busch Series debut Friday at Richmond International Raceway in the Emerson 250. Before making her qualifying attempt this afternoon, the deal for her to run next year is scheduled to be announced at the track.
Sept. 15th key date for Button decisionUPDATE Jenson Button revealed today that talks between himself, BAR and Williams are "going in the right direction" hinting that he might just get to stay at BAR next season. Amongst speculation of million dollar offers of compensation to Williams from BAR to get to keep the English driver, Jenson Button claimed today that negotiations were going well dropping the biggest hint so far that he might just get his wish in this never ending saga. "We have talked and I think that it is going in the right direction," he said. "I think it is going in the right direction for both of us, and we both need to get this cleared up as soon as possible. We all want to get everything sorted out before the end of the year so that we can just concentrate on next season." 09/05/05 Jenson Button's management have been quick to deny suggestions that they are moving closer to a deal with Sir Frank Williams in the English driver's contractual dispute, even though his representative, Richard Goddard, met Williams's Chris Chappell on Saturday in Monza.
"We've been talking," Goddard said, "but there has been no progress so far. Various things have been batted about, but we have definitely not discussed things such as how much or when. We have not yet reached a bartering stage."
Button said: "I have been to Grove [the Williams team headquarters in Oxfordshire] to see Frank and we have talked, but not yet to my satisfaction."
Goddard is hoping that 15 September might bring some pressure to bear, as that is when Williams-BMW have to decide whether to take up an option on their current driver, Nick Heidfeld. The young German missed last weekend's Italian Grand Prix after complaining of headaches on Saturday morning after a crash in testing. He will drive again at Spa this Friday, before making a decision whether to compete in next weekend's Belgian Grand Prix. The Independent
Mo Nunn back to Ganassi? They say racing is addictive, and some just can't stay away. According to this SPEED TV article, Chip Ganassi wants Mo Nunn back as an engineer. "I had lunch with Mike Hull (Ganassi's general manager) and Scott Dixon the other day and I'm going to Chicago this week to have a look at what they're doing," said Nunn, referring to the IRL race at Joliet. "I don't know, we'll see."
Unless Chip Ganassi talks him into coming back as an engineer, Morris Nunn's run with motorsports is over after a 43-year career that was as remarkable as it was improbable. He auctioned off all his cars and equipment Thursday in Indianapolis -- ending his second stint as a car owner.
Zwolsman to make Champ Car debut in Mexico City Rumors suggest that Mexican Homero Richards and Venezuelan Luis Schiavo will make their Champ Car debuts in Mexico City in November. Add another name to the field for Mexico City it appears. Toyota Atlantic champion Charles Zwolsman (pictured right) is now set for a subsidized one-off ride on Champ Car’s Mexico City season finale in November. “I am very excited about racing in Champ Car. I hope that it will open some doors for next year in Champ Car. I guess it is going to be very different than racing in Atlantic, but I take this as an opportunity and I will do my very best.”
Rumors also suggest that Canadian Michael Valiante might yet run a race or two before the year is out with backing from a South Korea sponsor, so we are seeing a lot of interest in drivers wanting to get a race in this year with hopes of landing a full-time ride in 2006.
Brit GP still endangered Whether Bernie Ecclestone is on side or not, the British grand prix at Silverstone will once again become an endangered species. That is the warning of Chris Aylett, boss of Britain's 'Motorsport Industry Association'.
He said the rise of Turkey, Malaysia, Bahrain and China - all backed by their governments - is driving up the cost of hosting a grand prix.
Britain has waged a constant battle to win similar government funds, but the race is solely promoted by the British Racing Drivers' Club, and still lacking in terms of F1 circuit facilities.
''(The race) is becoming too expensive for the private sector to bear alone,'' he warned in the Telegraph newspaper.
Team boss Sir Frank Williams backs up the view by saying that the government's outlook on a British motor industry 'awash with cash' is 'mistaken.'
Bridgestone and McLaren F1 pacesetter McLaren has reportedly entered negotiations to switch from Michelin to Ferrari's struggling tire supplier Bridgestone.
The Woking based marque, like Red Bull, Williams and Toyota, is the fourth presently French-shod outfit seriously linked with Bridgestone for 2006 and beyond.
Ferrari, with Michael Schumacher, has won just a single grand prix this year on the Japanese-made rubber -- the scandalous US grand prix at Indianapolis, in which only five other cars raced.
''They are negotiating,'' an 'insider' was quoted by Germany's daily 'Bild' tabloid.
The likely Michelin-exodus no doubt has much to do with the teams' near-unanimous agreement that a 'control tire' formula would be a good thing for the sport. Michelin has made it clear that it is not interested in sticking around if there is no rival tire supplier to beat.
Mercedes powered McLaren might consider, then, that getting an early Bridgestone jump - as opposed to compulsorily switching in 2007 or 2008 - is a clever idea.
McLaren plan second F1 team? With Red Bull apparently contemplating a 'junior' formula one team, so too - it is reported - is McLaren.
'Auto, Motor Und Sport' claims this week that, with the support of Mercedes, the silver marque could race onto the 2007 grid with a 'b' team.
McLaren was involved in the stillborn 'Dubai F1' project, but seemingly has decided that supplying another outfit with year-old cars and engines might not be a bad idea.
FIA president Max Mosley revealed at Monza that the regulations will soon allow teams to sell previously exclusive cars and parts to other teams. ''Entry level people will simply be able to buy a car from a big team,'' Mosley explained. ''That will help new teams come in.'' The mandatory $48m 'new team bond' is also set for the chop.
A Tokyo-based investment company, 'Directive' - already a sponsor in the GP2 and GT categories - is thought involved in the backing of the McLaren junior team, and may already have signed contracts for five years.
One of the reasons for the rumors about Minardi being up for sale is that with the emergence of B teams fielded by the big teams, the smaller less competitive operations will slip behind the new operations and gradually be forced out of F1. So it is better to sell now for a profit then be forced out by bankruptcy later. Now that Williams has lost BMW backing, they may soon fall into that B team category and be absorbed someday by a factory backed team.
Scary tittle-tattle in the Financial Times It is worth reporting a passing comment, which appeared in today's Financial Times, which may strike fear into Ferrari hearts down in Maranello. The newspaper was commenting on the launch of the new Fiat Punto, a car which Fiat chairman Luca di Montezemolo sees as being the car that will revive the fortunes of the car company, which owns Ferrari.
"Success," remarked the FT, "is not only crucial for the company, but to silence the growing rumblings that some of Fiat's big Italian banks are manoeuvring behind the scenes to try to push the chairman out."
The loss of Montezemolo could be a disaster for Ferrari in Formula 1 as he, more than any other executive, protects the F1 programme. As a former sporting director of Ferrari in F1 and then the chief executive of the firm, Montezemolo, more than anyone, understands the finances of Ferrari and the problems these present to Fiat, which cannot afford to fund the racing against the giant car companies such as Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, BMW, Honda and Renault. Ferrari spends most of its current profits on racing and Ferrari shareholders are forced to accept this situation because Fiat retains control of the business. If Montezemolo were to depart, any new chairman would be likely to look less lovingly at Ferrari and F1. As finance becomes more and more of an issue at Fiat, so pressure will grow on Ferrari. Grandprix.com
Crisis meeting at Maranello Ferrari spent Tuesday in a 'crisis meeting' at Maranello, the German 'Bild' newspaper claims. The reason, of course, is obvious. Even the most trivial glance at the motor sport section of any publication will tell you that the Prancing Horse is in trouble.
Michael Schumacher's mood is a dim one ahead of his favorite circuit, Spa Francorchamps. ''I always have special feelings when this race comes around,'' the German said.
''But I have to admit that our recent performances are dampening my enthusiasm. I don't have the impression we will do all that well at Spa.''
The Italian crisis was felt right in the hip pocket of the Monza organizers. Early estimates put the grand prix ticket decline at around 15 per cent, but the final count shows that 30 per cent less Italians rolled through the gates. And that's not all. An enormous 2.7 million less Italians than last year tuned into the Italian GP TV coverage.
Perhaps also discussed at the Ferrari meeting was the pressing issue of 'continuity' beyond next year. It is not inconceivable that the team could lose Michael Schumacher, Ross Brawn and Jean Todt in one swift stroke.
''Ferrari will move forwards,'' Todt - asked about Kimi Raikkonen, Valentino Rossi and the future - replied. He added: ''When we need new people -- drivers, engineers, team principal -- we try to find the best.''
Heidfeld move likelyUPDATE Nick Heidfeld has reportedly signed a two-year contract to race for BMW's new works team from 2007.
With Sir Frank Williams believed to have already taken up a 2006 option on the German that expires next Thursday, 'Autosport' claims that BMW has won 'Quick Nick' for the future after a negotiating game with BAR-Honda.
However, 28-year-old Heidfeld might still switch to BMW - which recently bought Sauber - next year. It is speculated that if Williams does not (or did not) take up the 2006 option, Nick's two year deal would be turned into a three year BMW agreement.
BMW motor sport director Mario Theissen said he does not think that Williams would take up the Heidfeld option merely to jack up Nick's price.
The German said: ''(Frank) repeatedly has said that he does not consider drivers to be merchandise.''
Holding it all up, of course, is the 'Buttongate II' saga, or - in other words - uncertainty in the stalled driver market about the whereabouts of Jenson Button in 2006. The mystery is also affecting the market for names like Antonio Pizzonia, Anthony Davidson, Jacques Villeneuve and Vitantonio Liuzzi.
08/24/05 Williams' Nick Heidfeld has refused to rule out making a change of F1 employer next year. The German, a stand-out of the season with the Grove based team, was tipped as a logical mover with BMW to Sauber, but is perhaps even more strongly linked with BAR.
28-year-old 'Quick Nick' has visited the podium twice this year, while his much more highly paid teammate Mark Webber only scraped together a third in Monaco -- where Heidfeld finished a solid second.
''I feel comfortable here (at Williams),'' Nick Heidfeld said, ''but my main ambition is to become champion, not to drive for a particular team.''
Will Champ Car return to Road America? Here is a Speed TV forum post from an insider to what's going on at Road America with regard to politics and Champ Car's chances of returning. Below is the opinion of the anonymous author (Barbarossa) and not that of AutoRacing1.com or its staff. Whether factual or not, an interesting read nonetheless.
Here's some inside dirt on Road America (RA). RA is a privately held corporation with very tight rules on board election - I know we tried to figure how to get some new blood on the board last year. Basically, you have to be approved for the board to be elected to the board is what it comes down to. The Majority of the stock is still held by non-board members, but there is some division there. The folks with businesses in town have been hurt by current management over the last five years very badly - and are pretty steamed.
A buy out was tried by a fairly large real estate owner in the area a decade or so back, who really didn't like racing and thought it would make a good subdivision - one of the big reasons it didn't go through. Carl Hass was on the board, as was Rahal. Carl resigned to take over management of the Milwaukee Mile (conflict of interest which is no longer there).
Current management has, sorry Oops, but this is true, ticked off just about every sanctioning body out there from karting to top level open wheel and sports cars. Briggs and Stratton, the title sponsor of the Karting track - which is a real gem, folks - have given their sports marketing people the ok to pull sponsorship whenever they want. Also, word from my friends in advertising is that a lot of sponsors are not happy, so selling space is a lot tougher sell now.
Schiavo eyes Champ CarUPDATE #5 See Hot News page for Schiavo's test time Tuesday at Sebring. 08/12/05 Venezuelan Luis Schiavo has agreed to a testing deal with Dale Coyne Racing which could see the Star Mazda driver make his Champ Car debut at the season ending race in Mexico City. Coming off a successful two-day test at Putnam Park, Schiavo says he's 70-percent sure of making his debut in Mexico with the goal being to put together a full time ride in time for 2006.
"This will be my last year in Mazda, and I now believe that I am ready to take the next step," he said. "Of course, it will all depend on the support that I can get from businesses back in Venezuela, but I hope that they will see the value of having one of their countrymen in a Champ Car."
Coyne, who has had a revolving door of drivers this season, came away impressed with Schiavo's times over the last two days.
"I am very pleased," said Coyne. "Yesterday, Luis was only two-and-a-half seconds off the times of Oriol Servia. We have had different drivers here and the fastest one was Servia, who is a very competitive driver. So, if, on your first day, you are that close, it is very good."
"You were able to see the difference today - Luis felt more comfortable, and felt less pressure than yesterday. This is a monstrous step - one of more than 500 horsepower - but he was simply professional in the way he went about his work."
"I know that Champ Car is his objective, and I think that this test was important," he explained. "Every driver that has tested with us tells us that they 'can do it', but it is one thing to be fast in a lower category, but can they be fast in a car that has this sort of power? That is very different! But Luis showed in this test that he can be quick in a Champ Car." TSN.ca
08/11/05Reports out of Venezuela say that Schiavo's sponsorship money is secured and he will contest the final Champ Car race in Mexico City this year and then contest a full season in 2006, both with Dale Coyne Racing. Schiavo will become the first Venezuelan Champ Car driver. 07/19/05 We are hearing that Venezuelan driver Luis Schiavo has landed sponsorship and will begin to try and line up a Champ Car ride for 2006. More details as we get them. 05/09/05 Venezuelan driver Luis Alberto Schiavo will test one of Dale Coyne Racing's Champ Cars at Putnam Park next week, with a view to possibly graduating to the series in the next year or so. Coyne, who currently runs a pair of Lola-Cosworths in the Champ Car series, will run the 23-year old Formula Mazda racer at the well-known test venue next Monday and Tuesday [9-10 May], when Schiavo will become the first Venezuelan to test one of the 750bhp machines.
Having moved to America in an attempt to further his racing career, Schiavo clinched the 2003 Star Mazda single-seater title, before returning to defend his crown in 2004. On that occasion, he only managed fifth overall, and currently lies fourth in the Formula Mazda standings. "I am very keen on these tests," Schiavo commented, "My engineer at the HASA Mazda team made contact with Dale Coyne and, this week, we finally confirmed the date and venue of the test.
"During the recent Long Beach weekend, we met with different owners to both get myself known to them and to get to know a little more about the Champ Car, which has three times the power of my Formula Mazda machine. The Champ Car also doesn't have traction control, so all the power is controlled by your right foot, so the test is going to be a spectacular experience. My intention is to compete in Champ Cars next year although, of course, we will need to find the sponsorship to achieve that." As well as Champ Cars, Schiavo is also looking into the possibility of racing in the burgeoning Grand-Am Daytona Prototype category this year, although he insists that his primary objective is the Formula Mazda title, which he is competing for with as many as 40 other drivers. Cantv.net
Heidfeld could also miss SpaUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. The BMW WilliamsF1 Team confirmed today that Antonio Pizzonia will race for the team at the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa- Francorchamps this weekend, in place of Nick Heidfeld.
Antonio Pizzonia, the team's long-term test driver, stepped into Heidfeld's shoes last weekend in Monza, after he was declared unfit after Friday practice at the Italian Grand Prix following a testing accident on August 26. Given the intense schedule of back-to-back races, the team have decided to allow Nick sufficient time to fully recuperate. In addition, the team will avoid the need to make fitness assessments and driver nominations on the Friday of the Belgian Grand Prix, which would otherwise handicap the team by requiring Antonio Pizzonia to run first in the Belgian qualifying session.
In relation to this decision, Frank Williams said, "Our first priority is prudence in relation to Nick's condition. Although the broad view is that he may well be ready to race by Friday, the back-to-back calendar at this time does not allow the luxury of more time to reach this conclusion, so it is best both for Nick, and indeed the team if we make a clear and early decision that Antonio will race this weekend. In addition to allowing Nick more time to recover, we can nominate Antonio now and he can benefit on Saturday in Belgium with a good starting position for qualifying from the strong seventh place finish he secured in Monza."
09/05/05 Nick Heidfeld may be forced to sit out yet another grand prix after the Williams driver missed Monza with a bad headache.
The German, who knocked his head in a fairly big shunt at the Lesmo corner in pre-Italian grand prix test running, was checked on Saturday at a specialist hospital in Spain (Barcelona).
''Everything is okay in terms of my long term health,'' the 28-year-old commented ahead of Sunday's Belgian grand prix.
''Doctors are of the opinion that I should be fit to race at Spa.''
'Quick Nick' will, though, be checked again on Wednesday, and then at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in eastern Belgium by FIA doctors.
Grove based Williams, meanwhile, conceded that it 'remains to be seen' whether the probably BMW-bound driver will be fit to drive this weekend.
Leinders eyes Champ Car seat for '06 Frustrated in his efforts to break into Formula 1, Belgium's Bas Leinders, Minardi's test and reserve driver in 2004, has decided expand his horizons and has established the Bas Leinders Junior Racing Team, which will enter cars in the Formula 3 Euroseries in 2006 and has negotiated a deal with HWM for the supply of its Mercedes-Benz engines, which are currently dominant in F3 in Europe. The 30-year-old Belgium says that this is not the end of his own racing career and that he is working to get a Champ Car drive for next season but it is something he wanted to do.
"I have been playing with the idea to start a team for a couple of years now, to help young Belgian drivers and give them more chances to get into Formula 1," he says. "Now I have the perfect opportunity to do all this." Grandprix.com
Behind the scenes at the Italian GP If the Istanbul paddock looked a bit empty and sterile a fortnight ago, Formula 1 came back to life with a vengeance in Monza. The paddock itself is an odd shape and a central area takes on the look of a typical Italian Piazza on race day, with a huge crowd of Italy’s beautiful people doing what they do best – posing!
The interesting thing about them is that the majority seem to have got in without the all-important pass around their necks. The best disguise to get into F1’s “holy of holies” without going through those irritating formalities is to dress up as a member of the clergy, the armed forces or the police!
A survey among the F1 drivers about who they would like to have dinner with came up with some odd results. Our very own DC chose fellow Scotsman and comedian Billy Connolly, which seems fair enough, but rather more strangely, octogenarian former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, “but when she was younger and a bit hotter than she is now,” he added. You are joking, aren’t you, David?
The combined ages of Eddie Irvine, Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi is well over eighty, but all three of them have turned down the idea of entering the veteran F1 series known as the GP Masters, on the grounds that they are too young, they told us while sharing a table at the Energy Station in the Monza paddock. That did not stop Irvine from having a little senior moment over the weekend when he accidentally filled his diesel car with petrol and had to pay heavily to have it cleaned out. A former Grand Prix driver in a diesel? Whatever next!
Ferrari stuck to their tradition of inviting all the F1 press to a gala dinner on Saturday night in the paddock. Even though the team is struggling this year, President Montezemolo seems to have maintained his sense of humor, introducing Michael Schumacher on stage as “a promising young driver who has not won enough races yet!” The dinner ended just as a major storm hit Monza, but the guests were all given bright red rain capes to wear on the way back to the car park. It looked less like a glamorous dinner and more like the end of Little Red Riding Hood convention.
It seems that more countries are cottoning onto the idea that if you want your letters to get to their destination quickly, you should put an F1 person on the stamp. When we were in Hungary, that country’s postal service issued stamps with a picture of Bernie Ecclestone on them and now Austria has come up with a Niki Lauda postage stamp. A case of philately will get you everywhere! Red Bull Racing
IRL delays engine plans, hmmm....UPDATE Well, the Indy 500 is over and we are still waiting for the IRL to announce their new engines rules that were supposedly ready to go before Indy. What is taking so long? Answer, they had no plan or it would have been announced by now. Now that Honda is the only company left, the new rules will be just what Honda's Robert Clarke said they should be - no major change from the current formula. And who are the IRL to argue. They are beholden to Honda, for should Honda also pull the plug (a la Toyota and Chevy) it would probably be curtains for the IRL. We wonder if this sequence of events was outlined all along in the IRL's much touted 5-year business plan. 05/12/05 The IRL is delaying the announcement on its 2007 engine formula until after the Indy 500. IRL president Brian Barnhart said he didn't want it to become a distraction to the manufacturers or the teams. Indy Star [Editor's Note: The IRL has always made big announcements when there was good news for the series during the month of May when all the media is present at Indy. We take this delay as meaning one of two things. Is it a further indication that Honda and Toyota won't announce they are behind IRL's new engine rules which will generate a lot of negative media and doom and gloom, or are there talks between Champ Car and the IRL going on behind the scenes thereby delaying things? After all, if a common engine platform is in the works, and the IRL is thinking production based (which will fail miserably - they tried that already) and Champ Car thinking pure racing as in Cosworth quality, there must be a meeting of the minds. Honda's Robert Clarke has already gone on record as saying they won't support a dumbed down production based engine formula. We have heard rumblings that what might be planned to try and keep Honda in the fold is for a Cosworth powerplant to be badged with an American manufacturer such as Chevy or Ford (Cosworth has a relationship with both) to compete head-to-head with Honda, and to come up with a common engine for the two series that is appealing to the manufacturers as well as the fans. We have to think that Honda would want to see a merged series as well. Since Champ Car wants to stay turbo to attract the tuner crowd, we go back to the 1.8-liter turbo idea floated by the manufacturers years ago. It's small, it's light and it's a challenge to make big HP from such a small displacement - but small displacement turbos are the future in passenger cars - decent power and high fuel mileage.]
Jordan eyes Davidson for 2006 Anthony Davidson, BAR Honda's test and reserve driver, will be driving a sole Jordan at Silverstone on Tuesday 13 September. The test is very much a one-off, and currently no contracts have been signed for 2006.
However, Jordan's top brass have never hidden their admiration for Davidson, with Adrian Burgess, the Silverstone teams Sporting Director, commenting recently that the team "would definitely be interested in Anthony, as he is a good talent. If we had a driver of that experience and ability, he'd be able to tell us a huge amount about the car and how to develop it."
Jordan's new Sporting Relations Manager, Johnny Herbert, feels the same. "He's the type of driver that would be a very good core part of the future here, so hopefully that would be something we can get together," Herbert told Reuters.
"He's one that you would seriously look at and say he'd be your leader, he's one of the better ones out there for sure," continued the three time Grand Prix winner. "If we can all get together and get into a position where we can do the right deal for both of us for the future of his career and the new career with Midland, I think it will be a very positive thing.
Davidson's test clashes with a planned three day test for BAR Honda in Barcelona, but the team have allowed the Briton to fly to Spain a day late, joining the Brackley squad on Wednesday.
American F1 team in the works?UPDATE We did a bit more investigation on this so-called rumored USA -F1 team and we found a domain registration AmericanSpiritF1.com registered in 2002. Chris James was a co-founder of Andor Capital, the world's largest hedge fund in 2003, and one of two principals behind American Spirit Team Johansson (the other being Dan Benton).
Chris James headed a group that had negotiated for Arrows F1 until it got to the due diligence and they determined they didn’t like the Arrows books and backed out subsequently funding the American Spirit Champ Car Team that fielded Jimmy Vasser and Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2003. Amazingly, for a team that was put together overnight and fielded Reynards, the team ended their rookie season with a record similar to RuSPORT’s first year, several well earned podiums –including a win-, a front row start, fast race time, etc.
It is our understanding that Chris James and Dan Benton have gone their separate ways. We contacted someone in the Ryan Hunter-Reay camp who advised that while both gentlemen remain steadfast supporters of Ryan they were adamant that neither Messers. James or Benton are in any way connected to the current rumored American F1 Team and Ryan’s focus was on securing a competitive Champ Car seat for 2006. Mark C.
09/04/05 From the pure speculation department comes word that a USA-based Formula One team is in the works. No relationship to Red Bull or the recent effort by Phil Hill and Dan Gurney. The agency of record is not ready to release their name yet. Supposedly we would know them very well. We are told this is a fresh team with younger principals in their 40's. They looked into buying a team, but opted to start fresh.
Word is that some major key people are in place from USA racing circles and F1 racing circles. The manufacturing facilities will be located on US soil. The team will employ at least one American driver. A race and logistics shop will be used in Europe, but all will be USA owned. Their plan is to build USAF1 into a major brand.
The principals asked that we make mention of this. They are fed up hearing about the so-called USA team from Red Bull, which they feel is just PR BS.
A search on USAF1.com shows no website up but the domain is owned by RDCMeda, which is a web hosting/design firm, so that gives us no clue.
Why are Michelin teams approaching Bridgestone?UPDATE Tire supplier Michelin is set to shed at least two, and possibly three, F1 teams next year. The dominant rubber maker, presently with 70 per cent of the grand prix grid covered, will reveal who is off to Bridgestone at Spa this weekend, amid speculation that the French marque could pull out of F1 at the end of 2006.
Nick Shorrock, a Michelin F1 chief, insisted that it is Bibendum's 'desire' to reconfigure the split of teams - with just three supplied by Bridgestone - in pitlane.
''So, certainly, yes,'' he told Reuters, ''we will be ending up with a reduction of partners for the 2006 season.''
Red Bull has almost certainly penned a Bridgestone deal, and the latest word is that Williams may also follow suit. Toyota is under perpetual pressure to team up with the fellow Japanese company. Michelin CEO Edouard Michelin is tipped to front the announcement in the Spa paddock.
Williams is one team rumored to be switching to Bridgestone. Cosworth will be blamed for the poor performance of the Williams team in 2006 when in fact if this year is any indication, it will be the tires at fault. Too bad for Cosworth because their future in F1 hinges on them doing well with Williams. 07/28/05 Five of the seven Michelin-contracted Formula One teams have approached rivals Bridgestone about a possible switch in 2006, the Japanese tire company said on Wednesday. A Bridgestone spokeswoman, speaking before Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix, said the approaches were to be expected at a stage in the season when teams were reviewing contracts.
Michelin currently supply championship-leaders Renault, McLaren, Williams, Toyota, BAR, Red Bull and Sauber while Bridgestone have just champions Ferrari with struggling Jordan and Minardi. The French company said in a statement earlier this month that they had been approached by one of Bridgestone's three teams but would be happy to supply fewer in 2006.
"We weren't surprised to read the Michelin statement but the facts are that we have been approached by five non-Bridgestone teams," said the spokeswoman, who gave no names. "If we do secure further teams it will be on the basis of mutually agreeable commercial terms." Reuters
With Michelin clad teams steamrolling over Bridgestone shod teams this year, why would Michelin teams be looking to make a switch to what some would call an inferior tire? Rumor has it they might get free tires, or a reduced price, from Bridgestone, whereas Michelin wants a hefty fee for what they may deem to be a superior product. Other speculation says that F1 will go to a single tire manufacturer soon and Bridgestone might get the nod, so it's better to get in now and become one of the Bridgestone 'factory' teams.
DEI and RCR to merge A merger between RCR and Dale Earnhardt Inc. is rumored to be in the works. Although DEI vice president Richie Gilmore says the partnership will involve nothing more than promotional plans, the two organizations enjoyed a beneficial aerodynamic alliance several years ago. Considering the strength of powerhouses Roush and Hendrick Motorsports, a marriage between RCR and DEI would move their programs up a level. Another benefit? Dale Earnhardt Jr. could follow in his late father's footsteps in an RCR car. Sporting News
Tim Brown's team still up in air Tim Brown, the former NFL star making the transition to NASCAR team owner, said he'll leave it up to Jack Roush as to whom to put behind the wheel of his cars next season. "I was very happy I had the Roush Racing infrastructure," Brown said. "When I connected with them, I realized I had a legitimate shot at this. We think we are going to be able to race Cup in '06. We have two or three companies very interested (in sponsorship). I'm not afraid of calling on these CEOs and asking for $50 million. All they can do is say no. If they do, then you just move on." Winston Salem Journal
New team in the works Sean W. Holley, in partnership with The Wayans Brothers, has established STAR Motorsports, Inc. STAR is composed of a unique mix of experienced motorsports professionals, experienced sports and entertainment executives, sports and entertainment celebrities, and most importantly diversity. STAR will lead by example to ensure that minorities, including women, will become more aware and more involved with motorsports in all facets of the business. STAR fully supports and develops initiatives that encourage diversity throughout the motorsports industry. STAR is committed to partnering with leading corporations, associations, non-profit organizations, and educational institutions to foster this result. STAR will field competitive NASCAR Nextel Cup, Busch, and Craftsman Truck Series teams. STAR Motorsports is announcing the launch of its first car, STAR-TEAM WAYANS, which will compete in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series in 2006. The Wayans Brothers are credited for their stand-up comedy, television production such as In Living Color, and movies such as I’m Gonna Get You Sucka!, Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, White Chicks, and Scary Movie 1 & 2. STAR acknowledges the tremendous and sincere efforts NASCAR has exercised in its Drive for Diversity. “NASCAR, under the direction of Tish Sheets, continues to be brilliant in its numerous efforts, and STAR looks forward to extending assistance to NASCAR in a cohesive manner to enhance this cause,” said Holley. The NASCAR industry already has significant gems of minority influence that transcend ethnic lines, in particular Sam Belnavis. “Sam is an extremely well-respected motorsports pioneer and executive, with a wealth of knowledge,” states Holley. “Someone, who I proudly watch and listen to!” STAR is developing its main operations in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. Additionally, STAR will have offices in the Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and New York areas. Insiderracingnews.com
Will A1GP undermine Champ Car? A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1.com, The new A1GP appears to be getting a lot of press lately, they have a huge amount of Arab money behind them, they are doing some urban races and they are using the same team-by-country concept that Champ Car is trying to do. They use the term Grand Prix in their title, yet Bernie does not come down on them at all, but he does come down hard on the use of Grand Prix by the new Grand Prix Masters series. What is really going on here? Dave Westphall, Miami, FL.
Dear Dave, we can only speculate what Bernie is up to. Yes it does appear that A1GP has adopted some of the same business strategy that Champ Car has and they use Grand Prix in their title which is a definite plus as most people in the world understand what Grand Prix means - a sort of universal branded name. (See related article on the use of the word Grand Prix)
We are not sure how popular this series will be as the cars are smaller and have less HP than F1 and Champ Car. It was originally meant to be a winter series focused on the Middle East as a way to train drivers from that part of the world. It has evolved into much more than that, a true world series. Like we said many times, it will be interesting to see what the new Champ Car is and where the series positions itself in the World Order of Motorsports. If they move Champ Car closer to F1 in performance then A1GP will be less of a threat. We expect news about the new Champ Car later this week. By all accounts it should be lighter and faster than the current car.
In a way it is too bad that there is the proliferation of junior open wheel formulas around the world as it only serves to dilute the marketplace and make it more difficult for anyone to succeed. Imagine how strong Champ Car could be if Sheikh Maktoum (A1GP owner) had combined his resources with OWRS rather than go off and start their own series. Then again perhaps that's the way Bernie likes it - divide and conquer, hence why he hasn't tried to stop them from using the Grand Prix title. Mark C.
Bourdais won’t rule out move to NASCARUPDATE Bourdais confirmed on Wind Tunnel Sunday night that he will race in Champ Car in 2006. 09/02/05 Bourdais won't rule out move to NASCAR: Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais, on his way to a second consecutive Champ Car title, doesn't rule out a move to NASCAR in the future. "Before I say it is my dream to race in NASCAR, I need to see if I am good first," Bourdais said on a conference call Tuesday. "I'm not closing the door on it. I have a good time in the [IROC] stock cars. Maybe somebody will give me a chance to test and see if I'm good." Bourdais, 26, won the IROC event at Texas Motor Speedway in April, proving his skills against top NASCAR drivers on an oval track. He gets a short-track test Thursday night in the IROC race at Richmond. "I've received a lot of help from the NASCAR guys," Bourdais said. "This experience has taught me that NASCAR racing is a whole lot more than just turning left. I'm enjoying the whole thing." Dallas Morning News
Marlboro's Ferrari plan? With news that Ferrari and Marlboro had extended their cigarette sponsorship deal, an interesting rumor did the rounds in Sunday's Monza paddock.
With tobacco branding now banned not only all over Europe but also elsewhere, it is perhaps hard to see the logic in renewing the multi million dollar deal until 2011.
It is perpetually speculated, though, that Marlboro's parent company, Philip Morris, will pay not just for the occasional branding, but for the entire - and otherwise blank - red car livery.
Another rumor joined the speculation in Italy, meanwhile. It was claimed that Philip Morris is looking into putting Ferrari's Prancing Horse badge on Marlboro cigarette packets, thus continuing their direct link.
''(We are) going to comply with the rules and regulations wherever we do business,'' Philip Morris spokesman Tommaso di Giovanni confirmed.
Kimi 'better than Schu'? Kimi Raikkonen is more naturally talented than Michael Schumacher. That's the claim of David Coulthard, who said his former teammate at McLaren is 'amazing' at the grand prix wheel.
''Every time he gets in the car it is amazing,'' the 34-year-old Scot told his Daily Record column, ''even after he's been off for three weeks.''
On the other hand, DC called his Woking replacement - Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya - a ''disappointment. Many of us expected him to give Kimi a run for his money,'' David added.
''His blundering performance in Turkey could cost Kimi the title.''
Meanwhile, it has been suggested that - without a signed Red Bull contract in the filing cabinet - Coulthard might have stood a chance of joining Michael Schumacher at Ferrari next year.
''Well,'' DC grinningly mused, ''I believe I could do a better job than (Felipe) Massa.''
$90m may change Frank’s mindUPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false.' BAR has all but ruled out paying Williams a ludicrous $90m so it can keep Jenson Button in 2006.
The Brackley based team's principal, Nick Fry, told The Times newspaper at Monza: ''Newcastle United only had to pay $30m for Michael Owen.''
It is now suggested that the only way out for 25-year-old Button, who does not want to stagnate at a customer engine-powered Williams team, may be to sit next year on the bench.
That might even involve BAR-Honda helping Button to pay compensation to Frank Williams. Fry added: ''Jenson has made it abundantly clear that he wants to drive for BAR and nobody else. ''No matter what happens, we will stand by him.''
08/30/05 A staggering $90 million, it is reported, may convince Sir Frank Williams to let Jenson Button stay at BAR next season. UK tabloid 'News Of The World' said that, although Williams seemed recently unwilling to negotiate, the ballpark figure was hit back into the Honda co-owned team's court after Frank knocked back an earlier $36m plea.
''Frank can play hardball on this,'' a supposed 'insider' told the newspaper, ''because we have a watertight contact with Jenson for next season.''
BAR principal Nick Fry is unwilling to put a figure on the value of 25 year old Button to the Brackley team, but he did say that it's 'a lot.' "There has been a number of letters going backwards and forwards,'' he also revealed, ''and ... discussions.''
Button is, no doubt, perhaps keener than all to find a compromise. As well as baulking at the concept of a Cosworth-powered Williams, he reportedly has a five year, $18m per-year BAR deal in sight.
Rossi, Kimi and FerrariUPDATE While Ron Dennis bets on Kimi Raikkonen, billionaire Bernie Ecclestone would put money on the Finnish driver sliding into a pair of red overalls in 2007.
''I think (Michael) Schumacher will stop at the end of 2006,'' the 74-year-old supremo - who also hopes that Valentino Rossi is Kimi's teammate - told the Italian 'La Gazzetta dello Sport' newspaper on Saturday.
''I am ready to bet that, in 2007, Raikkonen will be in a Ferrari.''
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, meanwhile, hinted strongly at Monza that Rossi - the Italian MotoGP sensation - does indeed have an eye on switching to four wheels.
''He is a nice guy and very popular with Italians, but we don't need popularity -- we need a winning driver,'' he said, referring to the 26-year-old's Ferrari test arrangement.
British F1 commentator Martin Brundle brushed aside those who doubt that Rossi's talent would translate into a race car.
''He's used to more space on the track for overtaking,'' the ex-driver told the Sunday Times, ''so he would trip over people.
'''But it wouldn't be a problem for long. If he wants to be a Ferrari driver he'll be pushing on an open door.''
09/03/05 MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi is set to become a regular Ferrari tester next year, and may drive the car once a month.
Maranello's technical director, Ross Brawn, said at Monza that the 26-year-old Italian sensation had 'huge potential' but needs a 'reasonable' program in order to be assessed properly.
Speculation is rabid that Rossi, signed with Yamaha for 2006 only, is eying a four wheel switch to coincide with the end of Michael Schumacher or Felipe Massa's F1 contracts.
Some, though, remain amazed that the team appear serious about giving flamboyant 'Vale' his first ever four wheeled race experience at the wheel of a red grand prix car.
Brawn also did not kick away rumors that Kimi Raikkonen is firmly in the Scuderia's sights.
''It has a nice ring to it,'' he grinned, ''Raikkonen and Rossi. ''(Kimi) would be a catch for Ferrari. Michael's got to stop one day and two guys (who) appeal are Alonso and Raikkonen.''
New Dodge nose close to approval Dodge teams have struggled with downforce-to-drag balance on the new Charger all year, but a new nose for 2006 could correct the problem. The design for the new nose has been submitted to NASCAR, and approval could come within the next couple of weeks, Dodge director of motorsports John Fernandez said Friday. Dodge has three drivers ranked in the top 10 (Rusty Wallace, Jeremy Mayfield and Ryan Newman) but has won only two of 24 races this year. Teams have complained that the current nose isn't very good aerodynamically and that the cross-haired grille collects debris and causes engine overheating. Fernandez said the Dodge nose is actually no worse at collecting debris than the Ford or Chevy nose, but that the aero issue is legitimate and has been addressed in the redesign. Tampa Tribune
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