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Andretti and ppc Racing in 2005UPDATE #2 The rumor of this new team and John Andretti is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement. 10/04/04 Talk around the Talladega garage was that Sunoco might be one of the primary sponsors for ppc Racing. But the media announcement from Lowe's mentioned that the sponsor would be "new to the sport", and since Sunoco supplies the "Official Fuel" for NASCAR, we are not sure you could call them new to the sport. Looks like we wait for the official announcement on Tuesday. 09/30/04 A brand new NASCAR NEXTEL Cup team with a sponsor new to the sport is planning to make their debut at the October 16 UAW-GM 500 and continue through the 2005 NNC season. While the official announcement will not come until October 5, all signs point to John Andretti and ppc Racing as the new team. Andretti and ppc Racing tested Tuesday at Lowes and just happened to turn in the fastest practice time of 181.751 mph in their #14 Ford which was purchased from Robert Yates Racing. Looking at ppc Racing's record in the CTS and NBS series, Andretti may finally get the chance to drive for a team that can field a quality car.
Ford to increase involvement with Champ CarAccording to this AutoWeek article, Ford’s decision to dump Cosworth Racing and the Jaguar F1 team will not affect its continued participation in the Champ Car World Series, according to Ford Racing boss Dan Davis. Apparently, the automaker doesn’t feel it needs to be a direct supplier to continue its marketing relationship with Champ Car. Ford still plans to return as a presenting sponsor, and to step up its marketing program (and likely its cash contribution) by involving sales divisions in Canada and Mexico in 2005. "It’s not even a bump in the road between us and Champ Car," said Davis regarding Ford’s planned divestiture of Cosworth and Jaguar F1. "There’s nothing tenuous about our intent. We’ve told Champ Car a few things need to be addressed, and if that happens we’ll be doing business again next year."
AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that one of the key things Ford wants is for Champ Car to be on network TV. Apparently a deal is close to being signed but internal disagreements have delayed the signing (rumored to be CBS and SPEED). Meanwhile with each passing day CBS is selling more of its inventory for 2005, i.e. each day the contract signing is delayed the chances decrease for the time slots for live race broadcasts. Taped delayed or cable broadcasts = lower TV ratings = less value for team sponsors = less revenue for TV ad time. As time marches on, and the TV and race schedule announcements get put off, Champ Car increases its opportunity to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Mark C.
USAC to build front-engine speedway carsRumor has it that the USAC brain trust has listened to Brock Yates and decided to make a Speedway car for the Silver Crown series (formerly Champ Dirt Car Series). This "Speedway" car is for the 1.0 and 1.5-mile banked and paved NASCAR tracks that the IRL runs on, perhaps to serve as another support series for the IRL (too much dead time for fans now). We are told it was designed by Riley & Scott. It is a front engine, solid axle, tube frame roadster type racer. Can you spell mangled and dead drivers? Shades of the speedway past. Mark C.
Ford to ramp up Grand-Am involvement?Ford Racing Technology director Dan Davis was on hand at Virginia International Raceway last weekend, insisting that the company would take a greater involvement in the series.
Davis was present to oversee the re-emergence of the Multimatic-Ford Daytona Prototype program that has lain all but dormant - even though a handful participated in the Rolex Series from late-2003 through early 2004 - since the car's class win in the 2003 Rolex 24 at Daytona. Maybe it was because Porsche was stepping up its DP program, or that Pontiac took out a chest-thumping, full-page USA Today 'victory' advertisement after Andy Wallace and Milka Duno won the recent Miami Grand Prix. Whatever it is, Davis emphatically made it clear that Ford was not going to languish in the series. "We're going to make this car work," he said, "Ford needs to be in the Daytona Prototypes - and not just for show."
Davis' was anxiously riding heard on the latest iteration of the Multimatic-produced Daytona Prototype, which was reportedly 'on legal weight' and is powered by a Robert Yates Racing engine and maintained at each race by RYR engine technician John Maddox. Davis sees the Ford modular overhead cam engine as NASCAR's engine of the future and the Rolex Series as being a great place to develop it. "We'll be way ahead of everyone else," he said of other engine manufacturers who haven't deployed newer-generation engine technologies in the racing world, "You can do all the theoretical stuff you want, but its real-world testing that tells you what you have."
Though it didn't cross Davis' lips, RYR Ford engines are being mounted in under-construction Riley and Crawford DPs which will debut at Fontana and Grand American's early-January test days. The apparent determination to ramp up its involvement in Grand-Am comes as something of a surprise as Ford recently axed its Formula One programs with Jaguar Racing and Cosworth, and has still to make up its mind over the future of its World Rally Championship campaign.
The Blue Oval remains committed to Grand-Aim’s 'sister' series NASCAR, while Cosworth has been the presenting sponsor of the Champ Car World Series for the past two seasons. Davis also spoke excitedly of the 2005 Ford Mustang destined for the Grand-Am Cup street stock series ,and which the company will introduce at Fontana's Cup finale at the end of the season. "We'll see how it actually performs under those race conditions, but we believe it's going to be a really good car." Crash.net
The Champ Car X Prize connectionWhile common sense will tell you that Kevin Kalkhoven got Champ Car involved in the X Prize competition to expose the series to wealthy individuals who like technology and competition and who may someday get involved with the series, there is one other connection that's worth speculating about. That's none other than billionaire Richard Branson.
Branson if you recall, was rumored to be one of the buyers of Champ Car a year ago when the Bernie Ecclestone rumors were swirling around. He was supposedly part of that deal that never materialized at the time. His 'Virgin' conglomerate was rumored to be a title sponsor of the series. At the time it all made perfectly good sense. Champ Car was a global sports entity and Virgin did business worldwide.
Interestingly, Branson and Kalkhoven are both involved in the X Prize and Branson has gone on record as saying he plans for Virgin to add commercial space travel in a few short years based on one of the rocket ships that come out of the X Prize competition. We can't help but wonder whether Branson, who loves F1, still has his eyes set on Champ Car, but this flamboyant businessman and his aggressive Virgin enterprise, are the perfect fit for Champ Car. Is there any doubt that Champ Car has its eyes set on becoming a lower cost version of F1, i.e. a global racing series? Somehow we think there's more to this story than meets the eye. Like Bernie Ecclestone, we suspect Kalkhoven is three steps ahead of what everyone else is thinking. Mark C.
Jordan may bid for F1 race(GMM) Middle Eastern country Jordan, not the yellow-liveried grand prix team, may bid for a Formula One race. The country's Prince Feisal Al-Hussein, son of the late King Hussein, said he was heading a new mission to make Jordan one of F1's seventeen annual grands prix. ''There is no guarantee a slot will open up to allow us in,'' he told UK newspaper Daily Telegraph.
A motor sport enthusiast, and once a rally co-driver in Jordan, Prince Feisal - also president of the Jordan Olympic Committee - is on a four-day 'fact finding' mission to London. He has met with, among others, UK sport minister Richard Caborn to - according to the newspaper report - 'learn more about the politics and business of hosting international events.' Prince Feisal admitted: ''There is an impetus to try and get something (like Formula One or World Rally) in the region.''
Could Road America be back on Champ Car schedule?UPDATE Road America released its preliminary 2005 schedule and no Champ Car race is listed, but note the last sentence of this update. The tentative Road America race schedule is: April 22-24 - Champion Cup Series (CCS) - top amateur motorcycle racing May 13-15 - Sports Car Vintage Racing Assoc. (SVRA) - vintage sports car racing June 2-5 - American Motorcyclist Assoc. (AMA) - pro motorcycle racing June 23-26 - Kohler/Chicago Region SCCA June Sprints - top amateur sports car racing July 14-17 - Brian Redman International Challenge (BRIC) - One of the largest vintage races in the U.S. Aug. 18-21 - American Le Mans Series (ALMS) - Exotic prototypes and production cars Sept. 16-18 - Vintage Sports Car Drivers Assoc. (VSCDA) - Bugatti the featured marque along with an Elva Reunion A Champ Car World Series weekend is in discussion and additional public events may be added to the schedule. 10/01/04 Our peek at the provisional 2005 Champ Car schedule showed no Road America race. However, in recent days we have heard it is possible the San Jose, California race might not happen and negotiations may have been reopened with Road America. San Jose was penciled in on the provisional schedule for July 31st, which is a week earlier than the Champ Cars have run at Road America in recent years, meaning it is quite conceivable Road America could run on that July 31st date. We heard rumblings there might be some legal dispute regarding San Jose, though that was awhile ago and may have been resolved. San Jose also wanted the Laguna Seca September date, but did not get it. Mark C.
NASCAR might can Happy HourNASCAR is considering reorganizing some Nextel Cup weekends for 2005, including cutting out Happy Hour. Many teams have complained there is too much idle time on the weekends and that the schedule should be more efficient. Under the usual schedule, teams show up, get inspected, practice and qualify on Friday, then have Happy Hour practice on Saturday afternoon. Dale Jarrett suggests teams could arrive and go through inspections on Friday but have practice and qualifying on Saturday. "We could definitely cut at least one day out of this," Jarrett says. Nextel Cup director John Darby says cutting a day would be difficult. But eliminating Happy Hour, which would save money and time, is a possibility. Because teams have Happy Hour to find the right race setups, they use qualifying practice to work on qualifying setups. Without Happy Hour, many teams wouldn't bother with the expense of qualifying setups. They'd practice and qualify in race setups. Eliminating Happy Hour also would give teams more down time on Saturday. Fox Sports/Sporting News
Red Bull Team Cheever rumorsEddie Cheever Jr.'s team has a strange situation. Thought to be signed for 2005 -- but unconfirmed -- is Champ Car driver Patrick Carpentier. But clearly unsigned are current drivers Alex Barron and Carpenter. Carpenter said the team did not pick up the option on his contract for next season. Barron said he is in limbo, too, although both drivers think it is possible to return to the Red Bull-sponsored team. "I'd like to stay here, but it depends on what happens in these next two races," Carpenter said before Sunday's race, where he finished a lap down in 12th. "At this point, everybody's fishing." Barron confirmed that his other option is to return to Morris Nunn's team, which appears set to part with Tora Takagi. Indy Star
McDowell eyes Champ CarsThis Arizona Republic article says, Michael McDowell wants to open eyes, just as he did Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway by leading all 75 laps for a convincing 6.883-second victory over runner-up Scott Jenkins in the Star Mazda Series. McDowell, 19, who lives in Chandler and is a part-time instructor at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, also closed in on the Star Mazda North American Championship Series title by increasing a tenuous five-point lead to 23 over teammate Dan Di Leo, who finished fourth. To clinch the title at the season finale at Monterey, Calif., in two weeks, McDowell, who has won seven of nine races this season, needs to finish 14th or better. "I'm here to win races," said McDowell, who grew up in North Phoenix. "I've talked to several Champ Car teams and they're looking for drivers who dominate the junior (circuits). It's tough for me to be conservative. In my career, people don't really remember championships. They remember your last race."
Glock to race in Japan(GMM) German youngster Timo Glock will drive the second Jordan at Suzuka and Interlagos. Northern Irishman Richard Lyons came close to stealing the yellow seat, vacated prior to Shanghai when Giorgio Pantano was mysteriously sacked, for Japan. ''I will be racing (in the final two grands prix of the season),'' Glock was reported as telling a German publication.
Dodge Charger to NASCAR in 2005Fresh off a big product year, DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group is preparing for what could be another hit, a resurrected version of its classic muscle car, the Dodge Charger. The new Charger, which debuts at the Detroit auto show in January, arrives as other Detroit automakers are trotting out modern updates of old road kings like the Ford Mustang and Pontiac GTO in hopes of winning back the hearts of U.S. car buyers. The new Charger is crucial to the Dodge brand’s attempt to revive its passenger car lineup and the Chrysler Group’s nascent turnaround. But the car’s return is generating nearly as much debate as enthusiasm. Fans of the original street rocket say a four-door sedan does not deserve the Charger name. Others are happy just to see the badge back in the lineup after disappearing in the late 1980s. One unknown, however, is the boost Dodge could experience from reintroducing Charger to NASCAR racing next year. The Hemi-powered Charger of the 1960s was once the car to beat on the circuit and helped drive consumer demand. The new Charger debuts at the Daytona 500 in February, one of the biggest sporting events of the year, and could attract notice. Excerpts from the Detroit News
Earnhardt to run trucksDuring the Truck Series race at California Speedway on SPEED Channel Saturday night, it was mentioned that Kerry Earnhardt might race the #15 Bill Ballew truck in 2005. Shane Hmiel has that ride this year, but rumors persist that he will move up to Nextel Cup in 2005, running the #23 Dodge.
More 3 and 4 car IRL teams in 2005According to this Indy Star article, the IRL will have a bigger grid in 2005 with current 2-car teams expanding to 3 and 4 car teams a la Andretti Green (and Roush Racing in NASCAR). Where Indy-car teams once had no more than two entries, Andretti has succeeded with four. One car, driven by Tony Kanaan, likely will win the Indy Racing League's championship today at California Speedway. Another, with Dan Wheldon in the seat, is second in the standings with two races to go.
Andretti's other two cars, driven by Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta, also have won races, helping the Indianapolis-based team score 10 victories over the past two seasons. Now, as IRL teams reach the part of the calendar that shapes next year, rivals are copying Andretti. Several teams are considering expansion.
Bobby Rahal's team, which is fielding two cars this season, seeks to have at least three in 2005, and it could have four -- or more -- at the Indianapolis 500. Rahal is close to announcing deals for 500 winner Buddy Rice, newcomer Danica Patrick and current team No. 2 driver Vitor Meira. Also under consideration are former 500 winner Kenny Brack, who is recovering from injuries, and Roger Yasukawa. Team owners Chip Ganassi and Adrian Fernandez are pursuing three-car efforts for 2005, too. Eddie Cheever Jr. isn't ruling it out.
Even the small teams now think bigger is better. Dreyer & Reinbold Racing hopes to add a second car next year, a goal shared by Access Motorsports. Morris Nunn's team looked to be on its way out of the IRL last month. Today it appears to have several options that could lead to a two-car effort down the road.
"Andretti Green Racing has certainly opened people's eyes," said Scott Roembke, general manager of Rahal Letterman Racing. "They've been able to run four cars and still help everybody (succeed). "You've got to give them credit. They've figured it out."
Enge bringing $$, will stay with Patrick in ’05Czech Tomas Enge, who is making his IndyCar racing debut with Pat Patrick's team this weekend at California Speedway, is likely to remain with the team for next year. The team claims it has replaced former driver Jaques Lazier before season's end as a way to get a 'jumpstart' for 2005. The Czech also brings some much-needed funds for Patrick Racing - the sidepods of the team's Dallara finally sport a sponsor, Czech insurance company Ceska Pojistovna (www.cpoj.cz/english/). Word in the paddock is Lazier might return for next year, as part of an expanded two-car outfit. Cassio Cortes
F1 will be back at SilverstoneUPDATE Like we said, we expect Silverstone to hold the British GP in 2005. Today comes news that F1 chief Ecclestone stressed that his body had slashed its demands for bringing the sport to the Northamptonshire venue, following a plea by Sports Minister Richard Caborn - he believes that by agreeing to forsake £1.5million of its initial demand, Formula One is making a significant gesture of goodwill, and one which should be seen as such. "In the end there was about £3million difference," Ecclestone told BBC Radio Five Live. "We agreed with the Minister of Sport Richard Caborn who asked me: 'Bernie can't you help, do something about it'. So we split the difference basically, so there was about £1.5million difference. But nobody's done any of those things, nobody wants to give anything, nobody wants to do anything. They expect us to do everything and we have, we have! We've met people halfway because that's what our sports minister asked us to do, and that's what we did." 10/01/04 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Now that Bernie Ecclestone has dropped Silverstone from the 2005 F1 calendar, is there a chance Champ Car could race there instead? Lars Ritter, Germany Dear Lars, Never happen. Bernie dropped the race to get the British government's attention so they will cough up more money to support the race. They stand to lose more money in lost tax revenue if the race doesn't happen than they do coughing up the extra 3 million pounds that Bernie wants. We have watched Ecclestone pull this stunt far too many times now. In fact, it's like a recurring nightmare. F1 will be back at Silverstone. Bank on it. As for Champ Car, if they return to England in 2006 it will likely be in Manchester as previously rumored. Mark C.
European Renault V6 cars to USA or AfricaUPDATE #3 The Renault V6 does sound like a proper race car. To watch a short video of the car at its North America launch click here and then choose the FR V6 launch video from the menu (under multimedia/videos) on the left of the Renault 2000 website. The car sounds like a low revving F1 car. There is no question that this car should replace the Toyota Atlantic car after next year. It blows the Atlantic car away in every respect and cost less to run. 24 of the 1-year old cars are for sale now and Champ Car should secure them at a reduced cost, similar to how the IRL secured the cars for the IPS series. The teams will save money by getting 1-year old cars rather than buying all-new cars in 2006. As with any new car, it did have a teething problem. The transmission was a bit problematic in the first year, so the Renault factory will have to make some commitment to fix the problem. If Toyota decides to stay in the series, which we doubt they will, we would like to see them step up and produce an engine for a car like this, i.e. making 450 HP in a F3000 size chassis. Mark C.08/11/04 It should also be noted that the costs quoted include preseason testing and some limited in-season testing. From our perspective, this is the right car at the right price for the next-to-last rung to the top-level open wheel series in North America - Champ Car. The Dubai race is October 6-8 (Thur - Fri.). 08/11/04
We have more info on this rumor today. Renault has definitely begun discussions with OWRS about bringing the Renault V6 cars under Champ Car. The used cars from Europe would cost about $75,000 for the teams to buy, and news ones complete with engine go for just $150,000. The cost to run a 20-race season (2 races x 10 events = 20 races) with these cars is $600,000 to $700,000. Compare that to the Toyota Atlantic series which costs more than that for just 12 races per year. The cars weigh just 580kg and have a 390 HP V6 engine that requires just one rebuild per year. The car uses a 6 speed gearbox with paddle shifters on the steering wheel and carbon fiber brakes. In Europe one race each weekend is a standing start and one race a rolling start. The races have one pitstop to give crews and drivers experience with pitstops. AutoRacing1.com has learned through its secret sources that Renault will meet with all three OWRS owners in Montreal and Paul Gentilozzi will be a guest of Renault at this year's Renault V6 finale in Dubai. 07/28/04 Renault 2000 announced that the V6 car would be racing in the USA in 2005. Since the cars will no longer be used in the Eurocup series in Europe after this year (Renault is focusing on the GP2 series) the cars will either race in the USA or in South Africa. According to Autosport, Renault Racing and Communications director Jean-Paul Marie revealed talks were taking place regarding the sale of the cars. “We are discussing selling the V6 cars to South Africa at the moment, and that is a possibility,” he said. “South Africa is very fond of motorsport and it would be a really good opportunity for us. It is an important market for Renault.” The idea is for a 10-race calendar. The cars would headline the Power Tour package, where it would join up with the V8 saloons, production cars, motorcycles and Formula Ford, which is currently the top single seater class in the country. The cars would be leased to teams for the full season, with organizers wanting to keep the cost down to $60,000 per year (no way). The plan is for a 20-car grid. The talks between Marie and PowerTour administrators have been ongoing since June. The USA is another possible outlet for the cars, which currently belong to the Eurocup teams. There are currently not enough of the Tatuus chassis for two series.
A 5th Mexican driver for Mexico City raceRumor has it that Champ Car's season finale in Mexico City on November 7th will see five Mexican drivers on the grid. We hear that Luis Diaz will possibly drive in front of his countrymen, alongside the other four Mexican drivers - Michel Jourdain Jr., Mario Dominguez, Roberto Gonzalez and Rodolfo Lavin. Sponsorship deals are being discussed.
More rumors of Kvapil to Cup2003 Truck Series Champ, Travis Kvapil recently tested a Nextel Cup #77 Dodge for Penske-Jasper Racing at Kansas Speedway, and several weeks ago was rumored to be the replacement for Nextel Cup rookie Brendan Gaughan for the 2005 season. Kvapil has been rumored for some time in Silly Season to be negotiating a Nextel ride. He confirmed as much Wednesday in a telephone conversation but declined to identify the team or elaborate further. "Hopefully in about a week we can talk a lot more about it," Kvapil said. "Participation at the Nextel Cup level, I would say that's accurate. I can't really say a team or car just yet." But Kvapil said he is fully committed to his job with Bang Racing. Kvapil, who has five career Craftsman wins, said he and owner Alex Meshkin are focused on making the move to the Busch Series. "Sounds like he's got a majority of the sponsorship pretty well wrapped up and moving forward," Kvapil said. "I've been in the Truck Series for four years and feel like I'm ready for the next challenge. Bang Racing has the same goals as I do, they want to move up the ladder in the series, just like me." Kvapil is under contract with Bang Racing through the 2005 season, and said he would request Meshkin's approval before taking part in any Nextel Cup project. "Right now, I would say for sure that I'm going to be Busch Series racing next season. Anything beyond that is definitely up in the air.". Capital Times
Penske driver rumorsSpeculation about Brendan Gaughan's future in the #77 Dodge is rampant this week after Craftsman Truck Series driver Travis Kvapil tested the car at Kansas Speedway and Chad Blount was hired to drive a fourth Penske Racing South car at Talladega. Penske South president Don Miller said Blount got the ride as a reward for all the testing he's done for the team. "We are not grooming anyone for Rusty Wallace's or Brendan Gaughan's seat," Miller said. "This is simply a reward for a job well done." There has been no word on who will take Wallace's #2 Miller Lite Dodge when he steps out of it for good at the end of the 2005 season. Atlanta Journal-Constitution
IPS to support USGPUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcements. See Hot News page. 09/15/04 Rumor has it that next year the IPS cars will be a support series at the USGP. Starting in 2005 the IPS cars will be road course ready. The IPS cars are built on the Nissan World Series Dallara chassis platform, which is of course a road racing series.
New series eyes NY City street race The AP’s Stephen Wade writes that the new A1 Grand Prix Series “will take place in the fall and winter when F1 is idle.” A1 Grand Prix Exec Dir Tony Teixeira: “The royal family [of Dubai] has the majority stake, and the money to get the thing going is unlimited. The royal family has an open checkbook to make this succeed.” Teixeira added that the U.S. “is likely to get two races –- one on each coast,” and the series is “likely to kick off in Dubai, or with a street race in New York” AP 10/1/04
Will Turkey track be ready in time?A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1, Many media sources covering F-1 keep mentioning a Turkey GP date in 2005. Has there been any news about construction of an F-1 circuit? I know there were proposals drawn out at the end of 2003 but unlike Shanghai and Bahrain, there have been no press releases of any kind regarding the progress of the construction. Not only am I skeptical such a race shall occur, I do not believe Turkey's will come anywhere near the success China had. They do not have the financial backing of Royal families like Bahrain either to pick up the tab. Alex Meil Dear Alex, Construction did start, but until we see the 2005 F1 calendar we do not know if there will be a Turkish GP in 2005 as anticipated, or perhaps delayed until 2006. Mark C.
2005 24 Hours of LeMans dates setUPDATE
This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. With the unveiling of the 2005 calendar of sporting events on the Le Mans Circuits, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest is making official the adoption of a new set-up concerning the “24 Heures du Mans”, by moving the dates of the preliminary practice sessions nearer to the race itself. Whereas before, this practice day took place at the end of April, or if not then, at the beginning of May, in 2005, it will take place on Sunday 5th June, with the 73rd edition of the “24 Heures du Mans” being down for Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th June. It is basically for two reasons that the calendar has been reorganised : firstly, in order to take the strain off competitors who are faced with high costs – notably, for those who come from faraway countries, this new organisation will save them having to make two journeys to the Sarthe with just some six weeks between each one. And secondly, this new structure will provide more flexibility in the planning of the endurance races in April and May, in particular with regard to the American Le Mans series. 09/13/04 Rumor has it that the ACO will hold its official 2005 24 Hours of LeMans test day on June 5th, and the 24 Hour race on June 18/19, 2005. Reference is made to the recent interview with ALMS President Scott Atherton whereby he talks about their 2005 schedule.
Trulli signs with ToyotaUPDATE #4 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Trulli is now a Toyota driver starting at Suzuka next week. 09/15/04 Italian Jarno Trulli is expected to be confirmed as a Toyota driver on Thursday after leaving the Renault Formula One team three races before the end of the season. "Toyota will make a driver announcement tomorrow," a Toyota spokesman said on Wednesday. It would be a major surprise if it was not about Trulli, the Monaco Grand Prix winner who announced in July that he was leaving Renault. He said at last weekend's Italian Grand Prix that he had a contract with another team. Italian Trulli told the ANSA news agency on Tuesday, after Renault announced that Canadian Jacques Villeneuve would be testing for them at Silverstone and possibly competing in the last three races of the season, that he was happy with the situation. "It's fine with me," he said. "Because Renault has agreed to all my requests and this gives me the opportunity to join my new team as soon as possible." Toyota have signed Ralf Schumacher from Williams for 2005 and also have French veteran Olivier Panis and Brazilian Ricardo Zonta, who replaced compatriot Cristiano da Matta last month, driving for them. Reuters09/10/04 AutoRacing1.com has learned from our European connections that Jarno Trulli will indeed be announced as a Toyota driver alongside Ralf Schumacher in about a week. Mark C.09/10/04 Jarno Trulli says that he has a deal for next year but will not say with which team the agreement has been made. It is fairly certain however that the contract is with Toyota and it is not clear why the Japanese car manufacturer is waiting to make an announcement. The fact that Olivier Panis has announced that he will be retiring and will become the team's test driver is a fair indication that he knows that there is no drive for him in races next year. The announcement of Panis as the team's third driver is bad news for Ricardo Zonta and Ryan Briscoe as one of the two is going to end up without a job, although it is believed that Toyota is doing its best to get Briscoe into a drive with another F1 team. Grandprix.com08/11/04 While the Formula 1 spotlight is currently on Jenson Button, we are hearing suggestions from Germany that Toyota has now finalised its deal for next year with Jarno Trulli, our sources saying that the contract was signed at the start of the week. Toyota said a few days ago that there was no intention to sign any deals in the near future with the replacement of Cristiano da Matta being justified because it offered the team the opportunity to try out Ricardo Zonta. If this is indeed the case then the signing of Trulli is unlikely although the source of the information is generally reliable. It is not unusual for Toyota to conclude a deal and then wait to announce it. The deal with Ralf Schumacher was done some weeks before the announcement was made. If Trulli has been signed, this will mean that Olivier Panis will be on the market for next year. Grandprix.com
Last race for Trulli at Renault, off to ToyotaUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' as Trulli did not drive in China and will drive for Toyota starting with the Japan Grand Prix at Suzuka. 09/12/04 Jarno Trulli had a second consecutive lacklustre race for Renault and while the Italian driver blames the car and the team blame the driver, it is clear that if Renault wants to compete with BAR it needs to do something dramatic as BAR has now moved into second place in the Constructors' Championship. Our sources suggest that the most likely course of action is for Trulli to be paid off and for Renault to look for another driver to finish the season because of the breakdown in the relationship after the team's odd decision to ditch the Italian, who has won the team's only victory this year.
The big problem for Renault is that it is not clear who would be the best choice as a replacement. The team has test driver Franck Montagny but he has never raced an F1 car and there is no guarantee that he could score points. Another option would be to get the 2003 test driver Allan McNish back in the car while the team might make a radical step and go for a big risk and a massive publicity coup and go for Jacques Villeneuve, who has everything to gain from making a big impression and would be delighted to be seen in a Renault. Such a move would also keep the French press happy as the team would obviously come in for criticism if it did not take Montagny.
Whatever the case, if there is going to be a change there needs to be rapid action so that any possible replacement can get into the car and do some testing this week. There might be a shuffle with Fisichella switching early to Renault and Villeneuve (or another driver) getting into the Sauber. Peter Sauber would probably not be interested in that but a little financial sweetening would probably help to convince him. Whatever the case we do not expect to see Trulli in China. Grandprix.com
Ecclestone could go to jailThe British government is steaming mad over Bernie Ecclestone's dropping of the British GP over a money dispute with the BRDC after the government spent so much money improving the roadway infrastructure around Silverstone. At the end of July 2005 anyone who is based in England and is involved in tobacco sponsorship intended to promote sales in the UK is liable to imprisonment per British anti-tobacco laws. Bernie Ecclestone produces TV feeds from a number of races and if these races appear on British TV he could be held responsible. The maximum sentence for this is two years in prison. Bernie likes pinstripe suits, but we doubt he would want the prison variety. With Ecclestone dumping the British GP, there is now even more reason for the government to come down hard on Ecclestone regarding tobacco legislation and throw him in the slammer to set an example. As they say, paybacks can be a bitch. Mark C.
Team Cheever to announce driver lineupRumor has it that Red Bull Cheever Racing plans to make an announcement about its driver's lineup for 2005 this weekend in Fontana. Patrick Carpentier is a strong contender as a third or second driver with Ed Carpenter. We are assuming stepson Carpenter's position is secured and Barron would be on the bubble for a two car team.
Carpentier has said he won't make a decision on anything until the end of the Champ Car season. It is our opinion Carpentier is driving the best of his career. He is now the only contender left to fight the Newman/Haas drivers. He's had his share of bad luck such as being taken out at Vancouver by Alex Sperafico and collected at Elkhart Lake on the first lap. Wonder where he'd be in the championship if he didn't have bad luck.
More on da Matta back to Champ CarUPDATE #3 This rumor is gaining strength. This Champ Car article says, Additionally, Haas confirmed that there’s substance to the rumors of the possibility of Newman/Haas running a third car next year for 2002 Champ Car champion Cristiano da Matta. “I guess there have been some rumors about Cristiano,” Haas admitted. “I’ve spoken to his agent. In fact, I had a phone call last week with Cristiano. I’ve got the highest regard for him and I don’t think what happened in Formula 1 had anything to do with his talent as a race car driver. I feel bad for him that that occurred. “I think da Matta wants to continue to race but I don’t think he has anything put together yet and I don’t have anything put together yet for a third car. But we’re exploring it. We definitely would have to find some additional sponsorship because it’s hard to cover everything as it is for two cars. It would be great if we could put it together, but I sure can’t commit to it today.” 08/31/04 According to this Toronto Star article, Molson's Bob Singleton says, "We know Tag (Alex Tagliani) is committed to Rocketsports. I hear people are talking to Dario (Franchitti) about coming back to this series (from the IRL) and we know (Cristiano) da Matta is coming back (from F1 to drive a third Newman/Haas car). It looks now that Newman/Haas is not going to go to the IRL so that means Junkie (Bruno Junqueira) is going to stay. I mean, this could get exciting again." 08/30/04
This SPEED TV article says, Carl Haas doesn't want to talk about it yet but Paul Newman made it official over the weekend at Montreal. "Carl and I are together forever," said Newman in response to the future of his 21-year partnership with Haas in Champ Car. "Now the cat's out of the bag." Haas had received a large financial offer from Tony George and Honda about jumping to the Indy Racing League but they demanded he close the doors of his Champ Car team. Newman, easily Champ Car's most vocal and visible supporter, vowed to continue the team if Haas left for the IRL but they've decided to stay together. "I haven't said anything yet and I won't," said Haas. An official announcement is expected next week and there's a good chance Cristiano da Matta may be in a third Newman-Haas entry in 2005 with Sebastien Bourdais and Bruno Junqueira. 07/14/04 The rumor we have been running since April (below) was getting long so we will continue with updates in this new rumor. Robin Miller reported on Wind Tunnel that he is hearing the same thing we have been telling you since April, that da Matta will be back in Champ Car with Newman/Haas in 2005. Robin is also reporting that the team will also run two cars in the IRL, paid for by Honda (rumors say $15 million), with Bruno Junqueira in one car and a Japanese driver chosen by Honda in the other. We originally heard the same thing but recently when we pressed this issue we were led to believe that the team could decide to expand to 3 or 4 cars in Champ Car instead. This could somewhat depend on whether Mario Andretti and Tom Cruise get involved with the team as rumored. Would Carl Haas walk away from all that Honda money? We suspect he'll chew through a few boxes of cigars over that decision, but he's not in need of the money as everyone tells us he is quite wealthy. Perhaps he just wants to relieve Honda of their money and use the profits to further his Champ Car efforts. Anything to improve the USA trade deficit with Japan we suppose. Mark C.
Bourdais to Ford/Jaguar F1 team?UPDATE #7 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. This Champ Car article says, Haas confirmed he will run Bourdais and Junqueira in next year’s Champ Car World Series. “That’s the plan right now,” Haas said. “We’ll run the same two drivers, Sebastien and Bruno. I have contracts with both of them and they’re obviously happy with that.” 09/17/04 See hot news page, Ford has pulled Jaguar out of F1. 09/17/04 For the last few weeks there have been many rumours about the future of Jaguar Racing and with very obvious problems with Jaguar Cars and a cutback in the Ford World Rally Championship programme, the speculation has tended to be rather negative. It is without question that the team will be branded as a Ford operation in the future, rather than as Jaguar. The team has successfully changed the image of the Jaguar company but sales of the company's small road car range are not keeping up with projections and this has meant that the three Jaguar factories in Britain have been put on shorter than planned shifts. In the last few days no fewer than six members of parliament in Britain have written to Ford of Europe's Mark Fields, saying they have been led to believe Ford is planning to close Jaguar's Browns Lane plant in Coventry, and asking for an immediate meeting to discuss that possibility. Ford's Premier Automotive Group which includes Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin made a second quarter 2004 pre-tax loss of $362m. Grandprix.com09/14/04 The rumors of this team changing its name from Jaguar to Ford have died down in recent days, but we do hear that the Jaguar team still has their eye on Sebastien Bourdais and are trying to schedule a test with him. 08/31/04 This Grandprix.com article gives further credence to the rumor that broke here on these pages. Jaguar Racing will be transformed next year into a Ford-branded F1 team, according to the latest word from the F1 paddock. Using the Ford brand will open up many more possibilities for marketing but we hear that Ford wants to reduce its costs a little more and is looking for a partner to take over 30% of the team and help with the funding. The management of the team should not be affected by any of the changes. We hear that there was a poposal for a deal between Red Bull and Ford but that the Ford management in Dearborn, Michigan, decided that it did not want to enter into a partnership with the Austrian drink company, perhaps because of the fact that Red Bull is often mixed with vodka by the younger generations and automobile companies are very wary of associations with liquor companies. We have heard that the same deal is being discussed with the Korean conglomerate LG and it may be that we will end up with a team known as something like LG Ford Racing. There will be other sponsors involved and it is anticipated that HSBC will remain as a backer and it is possible that Red Bull will also have an involvement as a backer of Christian Klien. The question now is whether Sebastien Bourdais will join the team or stay in Champ Car. 08/19/04 Recall originally in this rumor that David Sears told AutoRacing1 that the Jaguar team might me renamed the Ford team. Now a report in Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, says that serious consideration is being given to renaming the Jaguar F1 team - Ford. For more on this see other rumor titled Ford to axe Jaguar F1 program. 08/14/04 This Rocky Mountain News article says, While Bourdais has his sights set on winning the series championship, he dreams of one day leaving the Champ Car series for Formula One. "F1 are the fastest cars on the planet," he said. "It's the best of the best." Bourdais thought he had a shot at F1 for 2005, but Team Williams, for whom he hoped to sign, signed two other drivers. "It's difficult to get in (to F1)," he said. "Once you're in, if you do a good job, you're going to stay in." If F1 comes calling in the future, Bourdais will jump at the chance, but for now, he's enjoying his stay at the top of the Champ Car series. "What's really important for us is to be able to win races," he said. "If (going to F1) does not happen, I'm not going to cry. I'm fine if my career is here (in Champ Cars)." 08/08/04 We spoke to F3000 team owner David Sears today at Road America. Sears is also the manager for Sebastien Bourdais who is currently leading the point standings in Champ Car .Quizzing him we learned that Bourdais may stay with Newman/Haas in Champ Car in 2005, but he is also talking to the Jaguar F1 team about a possible race seat for Bourdais in 2005. "We will have to see," said Sears. We may keep Sebastien here as he still is under contract for next year, but there may be an opportunity to drive for Jaguar in F1. We don't know if it makes sense to put him in a test seat in F1, but if there is an opportunity to race, it may be good. I have had a lot of top drivers come through my F3000 team including Montoya, and he is by far the most intelligent and the most mechanically minded. He was going to school for Mechanical Engineering." He also told AutoRacing1.com that in his discussions with Jaguar he learned that the team may be totally rebranded in 2005 as a Ford team. "This makes a lot of sense," said Sears. Jaguar is a much smaller company so it makes more sense for it to be a Ford team." Mark C.
Forstmann to buy IMG? Is there a Champ Car connection?UPDATE #3 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. IMG today announced that Ted Forstmann’s Forstmann Little & Co. will use its own capital to acquire IMG. Under the deal, IMG senior management will have an equity ownership in the company and late IMG Founder Mark McCormack’s family trust will keep a stake in the firm. Bob Kain and Alastair Johnston will continue to serve as co-Presidents & co-CEOs. The transaction is expected to close before the end of the year (IMG). Financial terms were not disclosed, but have been reported as high as $750M THE DAILY 09/30/04 The N.Y. TIMES reports that Forstmann Little & Co. Senior Founding Partner Ted Forstmann’s $750M cash acquisition of IMG will be announced this morning. The deal “was approved last night by the company’s board and the trustees” of late IMG Founder Mark McCormack’s family. Forstmann is expected to become IMG’s Chair, and will “most likely become a hands-on partner, using his skills as a salesman to make deals on behalf of the agency.” IMG co-CEOs Bob Kain and Alastair Johnston “will remain as the day-to-day managers” and will acquire equity stakes. N.Y. TIMES09/29/04 Ted Forstmann was the ex-CEO of Gulfstream. His venture capital firm, Forstmann Little, owned Gulfstream, and after several years sold it to General Dynamics. His venture capital firm does not play for small potatoes. Kevin Kalkhoven is of course very close with Gulfstream, in fact they even sponsor one of his Champ Cars. There might just be a lot more involved here than a Champ Car race in Australia. You can be sure Kevin and Forstmann have been involved in business deals in one form or another in the past. The kind of deals Forstmann Little puts together are several orders of magnitude greater than the size Champ Car in its current configuration would justify. Why does Forstmann want IMG? What are his plans? How might Champ Car fit in? What is Kevin's interest? F-1, Champ Car league? The key is what are Forstmann's plans for IMG! The numbers have to be large to get his attention. 09/29/04 N.Y.-based Forstmann Little & Co. Senior Founding Partner Ted Forstmann is expected to announce as early as this week that he will buy IMG in a deal worth more than $700M, according to a source. As previously reported, an IMG management group, led by co-CEOs Bob Kain and Alastair Johnston, had tried to buy the Cleveland-based company, but that bid was swamped by much higher offers from buyout firms, including Forstmann’s. [Editor's Note: IMG promotes Champ Car's Surfers Paradise Australia race.]
Cosworth sold to Renault?This F1Racing.net article says, Cosworth has flatly denied today's media reports suggesting the engine manufacturer has been acquired by Renault with assistance from the European Union. The reports suggested the Cosworth operations would continue in 2005, but be named Mecachrome in F1. Mecachrome would, according to these same reports, be led by Flavio Briatore from 2006. Mecachrome isn't an unfamiliar name in Formula One. The company supplied Renault engines to teams in the late '90's. Mecachrome supplied Williams and Benetton in the past. "Cosworth has not been sold at this moment," a Cosworth spokesman told F1Racing.net. "We can't comment on any talks going on at the moment, but as soon as a deal is done it will be announced officially." It is possible that Cosworth will be sold on its own and not in a bundle with the Jaguar Racing team. "Cosworth is a separate company. It's possible that Cosworth could be sold to one company and the Jaguar Racing team be sold to another company. It's also possible that both Cosworth and Jaguar are being sold to a company that has interest in the both of us," a Cosworth spokesman explained.
Audi Goh team won’t defend LeMans crownIt looks as though the Japanese Goh Audi team won’t defend its Le Mans 24 Hour crown next season. Privateer team owner Kazumichi Goh, who won the French enduro with Tom Kristensen, Rinaldo Capello and Seiji Ara in June, has revealed his team will not return to the Le Mans Endurance Series in 2005. Neither is there a guarantee, he said, the team will be at Le Mans with its 2002-spec R8 prototype next year. Goh, who has five Le Mans starts to his name as an entrant, said, "If I go back to Le Mans next year it will be with Audi. I feel emotionally attached to them, but I would say it is only 50-50 at the moment. Budget is the main issue. We are trying to find a sponsor." The only Audi team committed to returning to Le Mans is Champion Racing. The American Le Mans Series-winning team could run up to two R8s in the French enduro next June. AutoWeek
Two grands prix must be axed(GMM) Imola and Silverstone are most likely to make way for a reduced calendar of seventeen grands prix next season. In Shanghai, FIA president Max Mosley told the press that, contrary to the provisional calendar, there will not be an unprecedented nineteen races in 2005.
Seventeen grands prix is the maximum under the terms of the unanimous and binding Concorde Agreement. Minardi principal Paul Stoddart told the media weeks ago that there would only be seventeen (in '05) because no-one had consulted him about compensation for grands prix 18 and 19.
There were eighteen in 2004 because the teams agreed on a compensation package to run at Montreal. With the arrival of Turkey on the '05 schedule, at least two grands prix on the current calendar must now be axed.
Renault may keep Villeneuve for 2005(GMM) Renault's Flavio Briatore may be trying to broker a deal to keep Sauber-contracted Jacques Villeneuve in a blue and yellow car beyond the end of the current season. Speculation is doing the rounds that the flamboyant Renault principal may be willing to let Williams sign Giancarlo Fisichella, who is already confirmed at Enstone for 2005, so as to free-up the seat.
The loser in the deal would be Peter Sauber, who - in one foul swoop - would farewell 2004 ace Fisichella, and '97 champion Villeneuve, who has signed a two year contract. ''In this game you should expect everything,'' he told Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell, ''but if it happens then the moral integrity of Villeneuve would be put to the test. ''(If it does happen) then I can say one simple thing -- it would have cost a lot.''
The scenario also relies on the vacancy of Jenson Button's Williams seat, with gossip now strengthening that the decision of the Contract Recognition Board is likely to go BAR's way.
Replacement for Herdez sponsorship foundWhile at the Gevril gala last evening in Manhattan where the Herdez team, Mario Andretti and Paul Newman were the focus of attention, we noticed the President of Gevril, Samuel Friedman talking to an associate and gesturing with both hands over the Herdez sponsorship on the sidepod of the car as if he was telling him "this is where our name will go." Certainly we are speculating, but we're good at reading body language. We shall see.......
On another note, when it was announced that America's greatest ever driver Mario Andretti and actor and Champ Car team owner Paul Newman had entered the room, the crowd of well connected and rather wealthy individuals came alive with applause and clamored to get a peek, a handshake, a picture. Mario Andretti played the crowd like only Mario can, very polished, always smiling and always saying the right thing. Many were quick to tell him he was their hero. To this day his name is still known worldwide, he's instantly recognized wherever he goes. An all-around class act who is a great ambassador for the sport, who can never be equaled, and certainly never replaced. Like fine wine, he gets better with age. Mark C.
Ecclestone prepares to dump SilverstoneThe death sentence hangs over the British Grand Prix today as the deadline for its retention on the Formula One calendar passes. The British Racing Drivers Club, owner of Silverstone, have appealed to the Government for financial help to retain the grand prix at Britain's only viable venue - Brands Hatch having failed to get the backing to improve its infrastructure - but with the deadline set at close of business today, none has been forthcoming. F1 commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone has set the fee to promote the race at £9 million per year, the market rate for established grands prix in Europe. The BRDC's original offer for 2005 and 2006 fell £6m short over the two-year period. An improved offer to promote the race until 2007 has been submitted, but with the BRDC unable to stretch beyond the break-even figure of £6million per race, the short-term fate of the oldest grand prix in the world championship appears doomed. BRDC president Sir Jackie Stewart has met with Sports Minister Richard Caborn and Prime Minister Tony Blair to plead the case for the retention of the event, vital for the survival of the British motor sport industry, valued at £5 billion a year. Stewart is asking the government to make up the £3 million shortfall in the BRDC offer to Ecclestone. In effect the government would become a partner with a number of proposals tabled that would eventually offer a return on any investment. Sport.Telegraph
Panoz to use Courage chassisUPDATE Here is a link to a website that shows the Courage chassis Panoz might use. 09/29/04 The week's Autosport magazine reports that The Panoz and Courage teams are in negotiation to join forces for an attack on next year’s American Le Mans Series. The US Panoz organization is under pressure to return to the prototype class of the ALMS, which is owned by Don Panoz. He has entered into negotiations with a view to putting his Ford-based Elan V8 into the back of one of French constructor Courage’s chassis. Panoz, who stressed that he had no intention of bringing back the front-engined LMP-01 Evo chassis last raced in 2003, said: “I believe I’ve got the best engine out there, but our biggest problem is that we had a seven-year-old chassis design [the LMP-01was based on the 1997-vintage GTR-1]. That’s why we are working on marrying our V8 motor with someone else’s chassis.” Courage boss Yves Courage admitted that the negotiations were already advanced. It is unclear whether the Elan V8 would be fitted to the existing C60 chassis or a new rules version of the French manufacturer’s LMP1 design. Panoz said: “It would be great if we could buddy up with Courage. I think they saw the potential of our engine at the Le Mans 24 Hours last year when our car outgunned them at the end of the race.” He added that there was no decision on whether he would run one or more Courage-Elans himself or link up with another team. Panoz explained that his works operation would concentrate on its Esperante GT-LM next year, possibly running up to two cars. is under pressure to return to the prototype class of the ALMS, which is owned by Don Panoz. He has entered into negotiations with a view to putting his Ford-based Elan V8 into the back of one of French constructor Courage’s chassis. Panoz, who stressed that he had no intention of bringing back the front-engined LMP-01 Evo chassis last raced in 2003, said: “I believe I’ve got the best engine out there, but our biggest problem is that we had a seven-year-old chassis design [the LMP-01was based on the 1997-vintage GTR-1]. That’s why we are working on marrying our V8 motor with someone else’s chassis.” Courage boss Yves Courage admitted that the negotiations were already advanced. It is unclear whether the Elan V8 would be fitted to the existing C60 chassis or a newr ules version of the French manufacturer’s LMP1 design. Panoz said: “It would be great if we could buddy up with Courage. I think they saw the potential of our engine at the Le Mans 24 Hours last year when our car outgunned them at the end of the race.” He added that there was no decision on whether he would run one or more Courage-Elans himself or link up with another team. Panoz explained that his works operation would concentrate on its Esperante GT-LM next year, possibly running up to two cars.
Renault could leave F1This week's Autosport magazine reports that the future of Renault’s Formula 1 program could be axed. Autosport has learned the company has begun a full examination of every aspect of its global motorsport programme, from F1 down to its Formula Renault junior category. A source said: “Everything is up for grabs at the moment. No decision has been made yet, but there are no sacred cows. Every racing programme is going to have to justify its existence. Nothing will be allowed to continue just because it’s there already.”
The review has been prompted by the imminent arrival of Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn, who replaces Louis Schweitzer at Renault and has previously expressed serious doubts about the expense involved in top-level motorsport. Ghosn is understood to question the value of F1 for any team not winning regularly. The company spends approximately $300-$350 million per season on F1 [Editor's Note: We have repeatedly questioned this very issue when year in and year out a small Italian company called Ferrari makes the big automotive giants look like monkeys.].
Simon Sproule, Nissan’s vice president of global communications, explained Ghosn’s motorsport philosophy: “His attitude is, ‘How is this helping to sell cars?’ Since he joined Nissan in 1999 we have started a Dakar program and introduced the 350Z in Japanese GT. If he was anti-motorsport this would not have happened. We see motorsport purely as a marketing activity.”
The combined motorsport commitment of Renault and Nissan comprises Formula 1, the World Series by Nissan, Formula Renault V6 and 2000, Clio one-make racing, Japanese GTs,rally raiding and off-road racing in the United States. Next year this will swell to include GP2 and the Megane Trophy silhouette championship, while World Series by Nissan and FRV6 are being merged to form the World Series by Renault. Senior management is understood to want its efforts streamlined. Renault communications chief Jean-Francois Caubet denied that the company’s F1 program would be scrapped. “For Renault it is quite clear,” he said. “While we have good results and good sponsors we will continue as we want to be champions. We will continue for the long term and we are investing for the long term.”
ALMS to cut testing to save moneyThe week's Autosport magazine reports that the American Le Mans Series is set to announce a series of cost-saving measures for next year. New rules designed to save teams money will focus on the amount of private testing allowed and tyre restrictions. They are likely to be announced at this year’s series finale at Laguna Seca on October 16. The move is the result of the establishment of a new technical committee for the series. This has brought together series bosses and competitors to discuss the way the ALMS is run.
China: F1 leads the way, will Champ Car follow?A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I read with great interest your latest article by Steven Levinson on the Chinese GP. America had better wake up and smell the roses because China is coming on strong. When is Champ Car going to race in China? William Reed, Chicago Dear William, If rumors are to be believed, Champ Car will race in Sanya, China as early as 2005. Whereas Shanghai is a major commercial center, Sanya is a resort city. As we understand it, the Chinese government wants to make the entire tropical island off the coast of Vietnam their "Hawaii." As such, the commercial interest for the Champ Car race will be to promote tourism and luxurious condos and townhouses, whereas the commercial interest in Shanghai is much more big business. It remains to be seen whether the Sanya event happens and whether the government is solidly behind it. Mark C.
Cingular Wireless to MexicoCingular Wireless is getting into Mexico to compete for the Mexican cellular market, a market that will have 40 million users by 2005, where Telcel (team Herdez sponsor), Nextel (Roberto Gonzalez's sponsor) and Lusacell (Lavin's) reign. Will they get into racing too? Hector Serrano
Car dealer might buy NazarethThe co-owner of one of Northampton County's largest car dealership chains is interested in adding something else to his collection: the Nazareth Speedway. Andy Daub, of the Brown-Daub Dealerships, said Thursday he may want to buy the Speedway if its owners can't find a new tenant for the property. The Lower Nazareth Township track, which hosted its final race Aug. 29, is owned by International Speedway Corp. of Daytona Beach, Fla. ''I have talked with ,'' Daub said. ''They do not know what they're going to do yet.'' Daub said the owners would try to rent the 100-acre property first, looking for proposals from possible tenants. If nothing pans out, he said, ''then they will consider selling. I told them, 'I'd appreciate it if you contact me.'' Speedway President Craig Rust could not be reached for comment. Brown-Daub's Chevrolet, Oldsmobile and Volvo dealership borders the racetrack, on Route 191 just outside Nazareth borough. Daub said he could potentially take a portion of the speedway property to expand the dealership. The rest of it would be developed in a way consistent with the property's zoning. But for now, Daub said, talking about plans for the property is all anyone is doing. The track owners, he said, haven't indicated they've begun looking at proposals. ''I didn't get the impression they were in any hurry,'' he said. The Morning Call
Enge to drive for Patrick RacingUPDATE #3 The IRL also put out a press release today saying Enge would drive for Patrick Racing effective immediately. See Hot News page. 09/12/04 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Enge confirmed the drive live on Motors TV while competing at the LMES finale in Belgium. Enge confirmed that he will be flying back to the United States to race the red Dallara-Chevrolet in one or both of the series' two remaining races. He will replace Jaques Lazier behind the wheel. 09/12/04 Jaques Lazier and Patrick Racing have looked better with each Indy Racing League event together this season. But their seven-race association might end with today's Delphi Indy 300 if the Indianapolis-based team replaces Lazier with a driver who has the funding to offset costs. Lazier has been told that European Formula 3000 driver Tomas Enge is on pace to be in the team's car for the IRL's next race, Oct. 3 at California Speedway. That would leave Lazier without a ride, but he accepts that as part of the business of the sport. "(Funding) is what it's going to take to get the consistency we need," Lazier said Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway. Indy Star09/11/04 Our sources in Europe tell us that Czech driver Tomas Enge will drive for Patrick Racing with Chevy power in the IRL in 2005. Mark C.
Sponsor saved Gordon his rideCar owner Richard Childress was ready to release driver Robby Gordon last week after his run-in at Loudon, N.H., but sponsors intervened on Gordon's behalf, according to sources close to Gordon. Gordon has been toying with the idea of expanding his Busch operation into a full Cup operation next season. However, he's also under consideration for the ride with Gene Haas, depending on what Haas and current driver Ward Burton do, according to team sources. Winston Salem Journal
Champ Car eyes Vegas streetsThis Las Vegas Review Journal article says, The smooth racecourse with its ample room for passing. The bright desert sun with its warm, chamber-of-commerce welcome. Race fans cheering their favorite drivers from temporary grandstands. A black-tie gala the night before that drew celebrities from far and wide. Two decades have passed. Hundreds of like races have since been run.
But Paul Gentilozzi remembers well the last motorsports venture that used the Las Vegas Strip as its glitzy backdrop and, frankly, he can't get the neon vision out of his mind. "It was all overwhelming," Gentilozzi says of the 1984 Caesars Palace Grand Prix. "There was a lot of Hollywood glamour and international flavor. Just really neat stuff."
Which is why Gentilozzi, co-owner of the Champ Car Series that races tonight in a double-header event with NASCAR's Craftsman Trucks at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, has designs -- early though they may be -- on bringing open-wheel racing back to the city proper. No, it won't be on the Strip -- "That would be like closing Fifth Avenue in New York or Lake Shore (Drive) in Chicago," Gentilozzi acknowledges -- nor will it be on a temporary course set up in a hotel parking lot, such as the four-year Caesars Palace Grand Prix was. Rather, Gentilozzi is eyeing service roads just off the Strip, still with the glorious resort skyline as a backdrop, for a possible road race in 2006.
"Every day in Vegas, there's something special going on. We think we could be one of those special things," he says unabashedly. Just the mention of a possible road race in the resort corridor brings back fond memories of the Caesars Palace Grand Prix, first held in 1981. It was a special event at a special time in the city's history. It was a grand local production at a time when the city was beginning to spread its wings internationally. More....
Ralf fired?UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false.' Pitpass.com reports that a high level source within WIlliams said Ralf will race in Japan. 09/27/04 (GMM - Shanghai) A source inside the Williams team said Sir Frank Williams and engineering veteran Frank Dernie were 'absolutely furious' when Ralf Schumacher gave up the Shanghai race. The German stopped for a check after colliding with McLaren's David Coulthard, but the car was quickly cleared to the garage because team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya's scheduled pit stop was imminent. Ralf claims 'too much time' had elapsed before new tires were fitted, making a track return pointless 'as I would have been two laps down.' But Williams and Dernie do not agree, claiming that anything could have happened in the grand prix' final laps, opening a much-needed points-collecting finish. For Ralf, the worse case scenario is a relocation to the bench - where he has sat injured since June - and a return to the race cockpit for impressive tester Antonio Pizzonia.
Trans-Am might get televised in 2005We hear that the Trans-Am Series might get a much needed TV package for 2005. After being largely invisible with none of its races broadcast (some highlights during Dangerous Curves and a miniscule audience on HDNet), rumor has it that the Trans-Am series could be on SPEED TV in 2005. If so, this is welcome news for the participants who, without a TV presence, have a hard time getting sponsorship for their team. Suffering with low car count, the series will get a boost, but it will cost as we assume it will be a time-buy. However, if Champ Car's production team is already at the race track, doing the Trans-Am races too should not be that much added expense. Mark C.
Pizzonia back to Williams?Ralf Schumacher did a good job in Shanghai, up until lap 37 when he collided with David Coulthard at the hairpin. The German then went into the pits, arriving just before Juan Pablo Montoya was due to arrive. This was unfortunate but team sources report that things might have been helped if Ralf had used the radio and informed the team of what was going on. The result of this was that when Ralf arrived the team decided that the car should be parked to one side until Montoya had been sent on his way. The team then looked at the car, put new tyres on and refueled the car but Ralf made it very clear that he was not interested in rejoining the race. "After a careful look the engineers decided that I could continue the race," said Ralf. "However too much time had elapsed by then and it was too late to get out on track again because I would have been two laps down." This was not decided by the engineers but rather by Ralf making it very clear that he was not interested in going out again, a strange decision given that there were around 18 laps to go and no hint of how many cars were going to retire. In such circumstances it is usual for a driver to go out and continue just in case a lot of cars stopped and some points became available. Williams needs all the points it can get because McLaren is closing in on the Constructors' Championship and the difference between fourth and fifth positions is several million dollars. Our sources say that the team was very unhappy with what happened and we believe that the team may decide to stand Ralf down for the final two races of the year and put Antonio Pizzonia back in the car again. Grandprix.com
Leffler talking to a few Cup teamsNASCAR Busch Series driver Jason Leffler confirmed Friday he has spoken with officials from Joe Gibbs Racing, among others, about driving next season in the Nextel Cup Series. Leffler declined to name the other teams, but said he could have "an exciting thing going on next year." Leffler, 29, has emerged as the leading candidate for Gibbs' #11 Chevrolet, which will debut next season. The team will be sponsored by FedEx. "Gibbs is one of the teams I've talked to. I hope to make an annoucement here in the next couple of weeks," Leffler said. Leffler said even if he joins the Cup series next season, he may still run a partial schedule in the Busch Series. Leffler started his NASCAR career as a Busch driver with Gibbs before moving to Cup and Chip Ganassi Racing in 2001. He struggled in Cup, but did win a pole and was fourth in the rookie standings in his first full season. Leffler left Ganassi at the end of the year and moved to Craftsman Truck Series and Ultra Motorsports. Since the middle of last season, Leffler has driven in Cup (2003) and Busch (2004) with Haas CNC Racing. "I've learned so much since the last time I did (Cup), so I know what expect," Leffler said. "It's going to be tough, but I'm looking forward to it." ThatsRacin.com
Hill eyes Champ Car rideDerek Hill, son of former F1 World Driving Champion Phil Hill was in the paddock in Las Vegas. He told AutoRacing1.com, "I am trying to line up a test with a couple of teams in the off-season. I want to get back into open-wheel racing after doing some ALMS." Hill drove several seasons of F3000 in Europe - he was Sebastien Bourdais' Super Nova teammate in the Frenchman's championship-winning 2002 season - and had some success in the now-defunct Italian F3000 series.
Lyons could race Jordan in JapanUPDATE A reader writes, Just a quick thought re your piece on Richard Lyons. When Eddie Irvine made his debut at Suzuka in ’93, it was Senna who hit him, not the other way round. The Brazilian was incensed that Irvine has unlapped himself and confronted him in the pit lane after the race. Hard to imagine, but Eddie was actually the injured party! Neil Tipton, England09/25/04 (GMM - Shanghai) A sillier-than-usual silly-season in Formula One is set to get even sillier with reports that Ireland's Richard Lyons might race a Jordan at Suzuka. Autosport magazine said the 24-year-old, who has contested Japan's premier Formula Nippon category in 2004, has almost raised the requisite $500,000 for the one-off seat. Germany's Timo Glock is in the yellow car in China, after regular racer Giorgio Pantano's contract was terminated, but he might not have the budget for Japan and Brazil. Compatriot Eddie Irvine, who retired in 2002, debuted at the Suzuka track back in 1993, hitting Ayrton Senna for good measure. ''We'll just have to find someone for (Lyons) to hit,'' his advisor, David Kennedy, joked. Meanwhile, FIA president Max Mosley said in China on Saturday that, contrary to speculation, there will only be seventeen grands prix next season.
YokeTV woesA reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Earlier in the year I took advantage of Dale Coyne’s sponsor, YokeTV.com, which actually was fairly decent (if not real small on my screen). However, in my attempts to use them again to watch tonight’s race, I find they have disappeared from the Face of the Net. As of this posting, neither YokeTV.com nor www.YokeTV.com comes up with any results. Any ideas as to their situation? They were still on the side of Servia’s car at the Seca. Any information you might have in this regard would be greatly appreciated. Richard Ramage Dear Richard, We heard there was a lawsuit between Yoke TV and the internet service provider who was supposed to provide them the bandwidth necessary to broadcast over the internet. We also heard that one of the Yoke TV principals has some recent health problems. As far as we know they are trying to regroup for 2005, hence why they are still on the car. Mark C.
NASCAR to announce Washington site for new trackUPDATE This Seattle Times article talks more about the impact a NASCAR track will have on the local community using Fontana as an example. 09/24/04 A developer of NASCAR racetracks has selected Snohomish County, Washington as its preferred site for a Northwest speedway, county officials and executives from International Speedway Corp. will announce Monday. The decision eliminates a site in Kitsap County and at least two near Portland that were vying for the track, a source said. A speedway has been coveted by the communities because of the income and jobs it is expected to bring, thanks to NASCAR's growing popularity. A site near Yelm, Thurston County, was removed from the list last week.
Snohomish County and Marysville officials had been trying since April to lure International Speedway Corp. (ISC) to 600 acres of farmland between Marysville and Arlington, east of Interstate 5. An economic study indicated the proposed ¾-mile track, which would seat about 75,000 people, would generate between $87.3 million and $121.8 million in new revenue every year.
Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon yesterday said he couldn't confirm or deny that ISC's preferred site was in Snohomish County. He told a reporter that he could say more if a story on the decision could be held until Monday. He didn't give a reason for delaying the announcement, but said he would take the story to other media if The Seattle Times didn't agree to hold it. He later called the reporter to see if a story on the decision would be delayed. When told it would not, he then said ISC will be in Snohomish County on Monday to announce its decision. But he insisted he didn't know what the decision would be.
"I feel good about it," he said of the impending announcement. "I think it's a positive sign that they're coming to Washington state." But after his telephone conversation with a reporter, Reardon inadvertently left his phone off the hook and could be heard telling other county officials in his office that he was only "playing dumb" and that he had told another official Marysville would be the site. A source familiar with the decision said ISC surprised local officials by choosing a site so early. They had expected the company to narrow the sites to one in Oregon and one in Washington and see which state would offer the best incentives.
Tom Valley, the director of corporate development for the Florida-based track developer, said ISC's board of directors met Wednesday but didn't vote on the site. "I don't know if there's going to be an announcement next week," he said. None of the company's 14 board members could be reached last night for comment. Seattle Times
Domed race track developer eyes NASCAR, Champ Car, IRLAccording to this AP story, There was little standing room left in the Town Hall auditorium as a lawyer presented plans for a 140,000-seat domed auto racetrack/convention center for the first time at a public hearing before a town committee. All 370 chairs were taken and more than 100 people packed themselves into the rear of the auditorium Thursday night as lawyer Harry Heller asked the Planning and Zoning Commission to change the town's zoning regulations to allow the $343 million facility.
North Stonington-based New England Raceway LLC hopes to draw a yearly Nextel Cup race or Tier One National Drag Race, two Busch National Races or two CART Champ Car events, two Indy car races and four amateur events. The developer also plans to hold 23 concerts a year and about a dozen trade shows annually [Editor's Note: This developer is a bit delusional if he thinks he's going to get all, if not any, of those races].
New England Raceway, led by Trumbull developer Gene Arganese, is asking the town for a zoned area that would permit entertainment and amusement venues, stadiums, motor vehicle racing facilities, hotels and motels and satellite parking areas. No decision on the zone change request was made. The zoning commission continued the public hearing to Oct. 14 at Town Hall.
The domed stadium would include a 1-mile oval track and a quarter-mile drag strip. New England Raceway also wants to build a 700-room, 70,000-square-foot hotel and an 800,000-square-foot retail complex. The motel and retail area would cost another $190 million. Supporters and opponents were out in force, with supporters appearing to be the larger group. Heller said tourism is the region's economic future, especially with the two American Indian casinos in southeastern Connecticut. "The die has been cast. We all need to realize it," he said. (Related article Another related Article)
Champ Car to revise aero package for Vegas in 2005Part of a racing doubleheader, the Champ Car event is scheduled to begin about 10 p.m., or roughly 30 minutes after the end of the Las Vegas 350 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, which begins at 7:30 p.m. Between races, Champ Car safety and rescue personnel will remove residual tire rubber from the track because Champ Car (Bridgestone) and the truck series (Goodyear) use different brands of tires. "Every time we've tested or run after the trucks, the rubber (from the trucks) isn't 100 percent compatible with ours," Carpentier said. "At first it will be a little more slippery." One of the reasons Champ Car chose the aerodynamic package they did was the concern for the NASCAR rubber that the Champ Car drivers will have to contend with.
Drivers expect to race full throttle under green-flag conditions on the banked Las Vegas oval. They used a late-evening practice session Friday to prepare for the race setups and conditions they expect tonight. "It feels good to be back on an oval, especially here in Vegas, where everything is so familiar and exciting," Tagliani said. "It's sort of a comfort to be racing at home. But I've been focused on the race, just like any other."
Forsythe Racing back to two carsPaul Tracy said team owner Gerald Forsythe's decision to field three cars this season may have stretched the team's personnel a little too thin. Forsythe also fields cars for Patrick Carpentier and Rodolfo Lavin. "We expanded to three cars and maybe that has hurt us a little bit," Tracy said when explaining why he is not dominating like he did when winning the title in 2003. “Expanding to three cars spread a lot of the crew guys a lot thinner. We'll probably be back to two cars next year and we can all get fully focused again." If true, this spells the end to Patrick Carpentier's Champ Car career unless another team picks him up.
Only 17 races in 2005According to FIA President Max Mosley there will be only 17 Grands Prix next year. This is no surprise as the F1 teams have made it very clear that they are not going to do more races unless they get paid considerably more money and cannot be forced to accept more races because the Concorde Agreement allows for only 16 races and a 17th in exceptional circumstances. This will help reduce costs for the teams but will mean that the Formula One group of companies will make less money because the organization will not be receiving any fees from additional events. With fees as high as $40m at some of the intercontinental races this will reduce the income. The big question is which races will get chopped from the World Championship. The speculation is that one of the races to go will be Imola and there must be queston marks over Silverstone although it would be a major step for F1 and the FIA to dump the British GP. We have heard stories that the Japanese GP might go but this sounds more like an attempt to push up the price rather than a realistic threat. Grandprix.com
Rossi to Ferrari?The Italian fans can barely contain their excitement with a new rumor that has been ventilated during the Shanghai race weekend: if F1's top teams are forced to field a third car next year, MotoGP superstar Valentino Rossi could become Schumacher and Barrichello's new teammate at Ferrari. Barrichello admits the idea is "exciting." "I would be completely in favor of seeing him in F1 - I am a big fan of his," the Brazilian said. "If he can do in a car the things he does on a bike, it would be fantastic," Rubens continued, before concluding with a somewhat scary thought - to himself, at least - "He could beat everybody else in F1."
No push-to-pass in Vegas?UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. You can't have push-to-pass if the cars are always 100% throttle. 09/23/04 Comments from the Newman/Haas drivers lead us to believe there either is no push-to-pass at all in Las Vegas this weekend, or they are back to the 60 second limit.
“Racing in Las Vegas is a lot about the team effort and how good they are and how good your wind tunnel program is,” said Bourdais. “(Engineer) Craig (Hampson) is very good at sorting out the best package to show up with to make the car as fast as we can. There are going to be some surprises though. The outcome isn’t going to rely so much on the driver but it’s going to be an exciting race because it’s going to be close racing, hard racing and very fast and we cannot afford to make a mistake in those kinds of conditions.”
“The McDonald's car is going to be trimmed as much as it can because, with the banking of the race track and the layout, it’s just going to be ‘Go as fast as you can’ racing and in order to do that you have to take out so much downforce and drag,” said Bourdais. “We’re going to be flat (on the gas pedal) a long, long, long time and reliability could have been a big issue if we were to have the extra boost the Push to Pass button gives as it’s probably not too good for the engine. I think it’s a good decision that the series made. Without it, it’s going to be really hard racing already. Passing will be a challenge but I think people are going to show up with solution that could be somewhat risky with very, very low downforce to try desperately to take out some drag. That could be interesting.”
The race is being billed as part of a “Double Down in the Desert” as the Champ Cars will cap an unprecedented double header with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series running prior to the Champ Car event. Both drivers are looking forward to the experience.
“We tested in the night conditions and everything was good,” said Bourdais. “The lights are great in Las Vegas. They are used to having races at night time because it is so hot during the day. It’s going to be a lot of fun and it sounds like there will be a big crowd. I hope they will continue the party the whole night long and hopefully we can join them to celebrate a good finish. It should be a very nice party weekend for the fans.”
“The aerodynamic package is going to be like a road course package with a little bit of change that will give the car more speed,” added Junqueira. “There is going to be a lot of downforce so it will be a very close race. We’re going to run two or three wide in the corner. You’re going to see a lot of passing and side-by-side racing. It’s going to be incredible. I think it will be a really exciting race for the fans and I hope we can put the PacifiCare car in front.”
Young Finn to get F1 testThis Observer article says, Valle Makela, Bishop’s Stortford’s very own flying Finn, has been promised a test drive with either the Jaguar or Jordan Formula 1 teams before the end of the year, writes sports editor Steven Franklin. Makela secured his shot at the big time by winning this year’s UK Formula Ford Championship. The Finnish driver, who lives in Mathams Way, Thorley, England secured the title at Belgian track Spa-Francorchamps with two rounds of the 20-race series remaining.
The pressure may now be off in terms of the championship, but Makela has new challenges to meet in the shape of the prestigious Formula Ford Festival in October and, more importantly, his forthcoming F1 test.
Nexa Racing team boss Andy Kidby believes his young driver has what it takes to reach the top and said an unnamed F1 team had already made a tentative approach, although Makela’s most likely destination next season is in Formula GP2. “People are interested in him from higher Formulas. He is a driver in fashion: he’s young, bright and fresh,” said Kidby. “The F1 test is a chance of a lifetime and I am confident Valle will deal with it very well.”
Gentilozzi to retireAutoRacing1.com hears that Trans-Am owner and Champion Paul Gentilozzi will race just three races in 2005 which will give him an even 200 starts and then he will announce his retirement as a driver. Mark C.
New Champ Car sponsor to be announcedChamp Car will hold a press conference tomorrow at 11:45am at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to announce a new series sponsor. Whether this will be a new title sponsor (that is what we hear) or another "official partnership," remains to be seen. Cassio Cortes
Gaughan back in #77 in 2005Brendan Gaughan told MRN/Sirius Radio Speedway host Dave Moody Tuesday that he expects to remain in the Penske/Jasper Racing Kodak Dodge. "I'm sitting here in the shop, signing a pile of pictures and posters and diecast cars," said Gaughan. "Everyone is talking to me, we're working on cars for the rest of the year...everything's just like it ever was. If I'm getting fired, they've got a funny way of letting me know." Responding to published reports of unhappiness with the team's performance, Gaughan laughed, "No kidding. There's nobody that wants to run well more than I do. I'm not happy with the way things have gone, either, but we're working hard to improve our performances, and I honestly think you'll see some results before the end of the season. We're getting some new cars to work with, and I think it's going to make a big difference." MRN/Sirius Speedway Sirius Radio Show
IRL road course test timesThe IRL test in Homestead this week was closed to the media and the public but that didn't stop our spies from picking up some sample lap times today. So far the best time we clocked was a mid-1:13 lap, about 2 seconds per lap faster than the lethargically slow Grand-Am Daytona prototypes. The cars looked very slow in the corners and the cars appeared to suffer with understeer. One must remember however, that these cars are not yet tuned for optimum road course performance.
Bernie expects Minardi and Jordan to fold"With the demise of Ford, I think in the end Jordan and Minardi are going to find it not easy to survive," Bernie Ecclestone told reporters in Shanghai. "It certainly doesn't look too healthy at the moment." Minardi boss Paul Stoddart has hit back at comments by Bernie Ecclestone that his team may not be around for the 2005 season. "I can assure you that Minardi will be on the grid in 2005 in Melbourne, even if we have to do it with our own engine," said Paul Stoddart. Eddie Jordan admitted he was not in a position to guarantee the future of his team. "If one has to be realistic about the situation, I'm an absolute fighter. I will fight tooth and nail to be on the grid in Australia next year," he said. "But can I guarantee anything? I'm not prepared to discuss that at the moment but for sure I won't go down without a big fight." Stoddart insisted that even if a deal is not concluded with Cosworth, Minardi would compete in 2005. "Recent announcements with Cosworth have made it very, very difficult but I can assure you that Minardi will be on the grid in 2005 in Melbourne, even if we have to do it with our own engine," he told Reuters. "In 2001 we ran our own engine. If we have to do it in 2005, so be it."
Chinese version for F1 website in worksUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. See Hot News page for the details. 09/20/04 Ahead of this weekend's inaugural Chinese GP in Shanghai, rumor has it that SOHU and Formula One Management Limited (FOM) have signed a deal that will see the creation of a Chinese version of Formula One's official website. The new website will be found at http://china.formula1.com and will mimic the English version, but in Chinese. [Editor's Note: If the rumors are true that Champ Car will also race in China in 2005, they would be wise to create a Chinese version of their website.]
Leffler to join Joe GibbsJason Leffler is expected to join Joe Gibbs racing next season as part of a three car effort with Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte. The Winston Salem Journal quotes team sources who say an announcement could be made in the next few days. "He is in the hunt, very seriously in the hunt," team manager Jimmy Makar tells the newspaper. "But I'm not at liberty at this moment to speculate on who it is going to be, but he is certainly there." Leffler, who is good friends with Stewart, appeared headed for a NASCAR career with Gibbs when he signed on to drive for his Busch Grand National team in 2000. He scored two top-five and four top-10 finishes on his way to a 20th-place ranking in the point standings. But at the end of that year, Leffler accepted a chance to drive in NASCAR's premier series with Chip Ganassi. In 2004, Leffler took over Haas CNC's Busch Series ride and currently sits third in the championship with one win in 26 starts. He also made one Cup start, the Brickyard 400, and finished 43rd. TSN.ca
Filipino driver has sights set on F1Talks are now underway for the possibility of a first-ever Filipino driver competing in Formula One racing. And the distinction could belong to young rider Enzo Pastor. Pastor has been invited by Team Minardi to try out for its renowned F1 team, a plan which hopefully ends up with the Filipino racing alongside some of the world’s best drivers. Pastor was a guest at Tuesday’s Philippine Sporstwriters Association Forum at the Manila Pavilion, together with racing brother Don, their father Tom, a former driver himself, and Asian Formula 3 (AF3) Chairman Ed Peña. “There are current negotiations on the probable stint by a Filipino in Formula One racing. Of course, I’m excited about the prospect. Who wouldn’t be?” said the 22-year-old Pastor at the public sports program sponsored by Red Bull, Agfa Colors and PAGCOR.
The development came barely days before China hosts Formula One races for the very first time at the newly built, state-of-the-art race track in Shanghai. Pastor hopes to make the Team Minardi tryouts by November. If he makes it, he’ll be test driving for another year before plunging in F1 action. As expected, it will be for a cost. “We’re trying to come up with a funding on that. We’re already negotiating with some probable sponsors,” said the Pastor patriach.
Peña stressed that a Filipino breakthrough in F1 would be very satisfying on the part of the AF3 since, “that has always been our objective. Only few are given this opportunity, so we should really be very proud of it,” added the AF3 head. The AF3 will hold another leg of its races on October 3 in Indonesia. Besides the Pastor brothers, other Filipino riders to action at the Super Prix are reigning champion Pepon Marave, Dado Peña and Tyson Sy. ABS-CBN News
Banks to sue BernieThe Bavarian National Bank as well as investment banks JP Morgan and Lehman Brothers are preparing compensation claims against Formula One boss, Bernie Ecclestone. The Financial Times Deutschland reported two of the complaints to be against the Formula One Assets company. After the collapse of the Kirch group, these banks received 75% of the F1 company, SLEC, while the Ecclestone family holding company, Bambino, received 25%. The banks are planning legal action against Bambino because although they have far more shares than Ecclestone's company, they still have no say in the running of the company. Furthermore all profit made by SLEC, estimated at $1.6 billion, goes towards payment of an Ecclestone-loan, better known as the "Bernie-Bond". Both complaints are likely to be submitted within the next two weeks. Car manufacturers and F1 teams have been threatening to start the GPWC in 2008, should they not receive more of the profits or more influence. If the GPWC gets off the ground as the premier motorsport series, the banks' F1 shares would drop rapidly and this would cause them to file a third complaint against the F1 boss, which intends to make him or firms controlled by him responsible for loss in value of F1 shares. Should the Bernie-bond be paid off and motor manufacturers get more say as well as their share of the profit, F1 business' value is estimated at over 3 billion Euros. PlanetF1
Pantano Champ Car bound?We hear that Pantano has decided to move on from F1 because there were no guarantees for a drive next year and there is little point in trying to make an impression with the current Jordan-Ford package. Pantano has had a very disappointing season in F1 and it seems that the Italian has decided that his future is probably going to be in the United States of America, where there may be some openings in the Champ Car series. Grandprix.com
RCR to fire Robby GordonUPDATE #3 This rumor is downgraded to 'speculation' today. Robby is definitely in the car this weekend at Dover. The rumors about Craven driving the #31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet at Dover are completely false and unfounded. RCR placed a call to the reporter from the Boston Herald asking him about his source but that was unreturned as of late Tuesday afternoon. RCR PR09/21/04 After last weekends "incident" with Greg Biffle (which also adversely effected Tony Stewart and Jeremy Mayfield), it appears that Robby Gordon may have driven his last race for Richard Childress Racing. Although Gordon has apologized for his on track and off track behavior at Loudon, it may not be enough to save his job at RCR. Latest word has Gordon being released from his contract as early as today, and the anticipated announcement that Ricky Craven or John Andretti may be given the remainder of the season to try to win the ride for next year. One word of caution here is that the Cingular sponsorship may be tied to keeping Gordon in the 31 as per rules defined by NEXTEL. 09/20/04 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. According to this article in the Boston Herald, Ricky Craven will replace the embattled Robby Gordon behind the wheel of the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing machine at Dover (Del.) this Sunday. Gordon’s contract was to expire at the end of the season and RCR is not seeking to re-sign him. Craven, of Newburgh, Maine, could not be reached for comment. Childress is expected to fire Gordon later this week after a poor showing at NHIS. Craven is without a ride after being replaced earlier this month by Bobby Hamilton Jr. He was asked to race the No. 32 Tide car at NHIS for the Sylvania 300, in which he finished 17th. 09/19/04 It's been more than a year since one of his [Richard Childress] teams last won, and that was Robby Gordon at Watkins Glen. Now Gordon is expected to be replaced by Dave Blaney. Winston Salem Journal
Why Foyt was faster in ChicagoRumor has it that AJ Foyt hired an Engineer (Tim Wardrop we hear) for AJ Foyt IV at Chicagoland two weeks ago instead of trying to engineer the car himself. If true, this might explain Foyt IV's better qualifying performance. Of course in the race his talent got the better of him and he moved up into another car and crashed them both out......again. What we want to know is who paid for all the cars Foyt has wrecked the past couple of seasons?
Sauber swap for Villeneuve after ChinaUPDATE his rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. Team boss Peter Sauber has ruled out the possibility of an early swap between Jacques Villeneuve and Giancarlo Fisichella – even though both drivers are perfectly placed to make an immediate change to the teams they will be racing for in 2005. Renault was understood to have made an attempt to lure Fisichella from Sauber for the final three races of the year in the immediate wake of it splitting with Jarno Trulli, but that move was scuppered because of resistance from the Swiss team. When asked about a swap, Sauber said: “We thought about that, but then we figured it might be better to finish the season with Giancarlo.” Sauber has spoken openly about his decision to sign Villeneuve and he is convinced he will be able to temper the former world champion's acknowledged wild side. “I know that he is a driver with rough edges,” said Sauber. “And there is of course potential for trouble. But I see much more potential for a huge challenge to rise and grow with him. We have worked with a various mixture of drivers in F1 and Jean Alesi, for instance, was also not known to be easy to work with. We still did.” He added: “We are a team which has an image of a very good relationship with drivers and we think we will get along fine. I know it is a risk, but it is much more a challenge. But still I believe that the two coming years will be the toughest since joining F1 in 1993.” Autosport09/18/04 (GMM) Giancarlo Fisichella may get an early Sauber release so he can join Renault for the '04-ending Japanese and Brazilian races. Flavio Briatore tried to convince Peter Sauber, to lose the rated Roman in '05 anyway, to let Fisichella go for the Shanghai event. But, those failed, talks ensue about the final two grands prix. According to gossip on Thursday and Friday morning, Fisichella's departure would clear the Sauber seat for Jacques Villeneuve.
Glock to replace Pantano for Chinese GPJordan third driver Timo Glock is poised to finish the season racing for the team with regular Giorgio Pantano almost certainly having competed in his last grand prix for the Silverstone-based outfit. Glock has impressed for Jordan in his Friday outings this year and boosted his credentials when he took a fortunate seventh place on his debut in the Canadian Grand Prix following the disqualification of the Williams and Toyota cars for brake duct infringements. Although the team has refused to comment on the speculation that Glock will race from this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix, it is understood that an announcement about Jordan's driver line-up will be made on Wednesday. A team spokeswoman told autosport.com: “Tomorrow we will be in a position to confirm the situation with regards to drivers at this grand prix.” Autosport [Editor's Note: And to think, Michael Valiante destroyed Timo Glock when they both tested the same Champ Car on the same day earlier this year. Yet Valiante continues to get overlooked in the Champ Car paddock because he isn't a ride-buyer. Like Jon Fogarty they deserve a shot at Champ Car because of their proven talent. Interestingly, when Toyota Atlantic Lynx team honcho Steve Cameron was blindsided at Laguna Seca with the question of what he thought of Valiante his response was "He's the best I have ever seen. Him not getting a ride in Champ Car's is akin to Michael Schumacher never getting a shot in F1." What more can be said?]
Leaked memo - Is Vancouver on or off?This Canadian Press article says, A Molson Canada official refused comment Monday on a leaked memo that suggested the future of the Molson Indy Champ Car race in Vancouver might be in doubt. David Jones, director of public relations for Molson, said an announcement will be made in a couple of weeks concerning "the full status of the Molson Indy races in Canada." Jones refused to say if Molson will continue sponsoring races in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.
"I don't want to make it seem like it's one way or the other," he said in a telephone interview. "We will remain neutral right now and talk about the details when they come up. Everything is still in negotiations right now with the exception of Montreal. It's a little too early for us to characterize where the races are going." The contract for the Vancouver and Toronto Indy races expired this year. Montreal has two years remaining on its contract.
The Vancouver Sun reported Saturday that an internal Molson memo says a deadline has passed for the Vancouver business community and government at all levels to commit to funding a $3.5-million shortfall required to offset the cost of staging the race. In the memo, Ferg Devins, vice-president of industry and regulatory affairs with Molson Canada, said a Labor Day deadline was established for raising the money.
"Since that time we believe we have exhausted our efforts and have not yet received the commitments required to continue the event in Vancouver," the memo says. Jones denied comment on the memo or its implications. "That was clearly an international communication that got leaked out," he said. "That's unfortunate. We haven't made final decisions yet. I don't want to get into speculating or characterizing or giving a variety of degrees as to which race is safe, which race is not. It wouldn't be fair to our employees, sponsors or volunteers to start getting into guessing about whether we think it's going to come back or not."
A Vancouver city spokesman said no one has approached it about funding for the race and no one from Molson had said anything about the event not returning next year. The three-day attendance at this year's Vancouver Molson Indy was 158,420, down from the 162,271 the year before. It was the 11th consecutive year that total attendance has exceeded 155,000.
One concern for Vancouver is the site of the race. The 2.866-kilometre temporary street circuit runs through the downtown False Creek district which will be developed for the athletes village for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. During this year's race, Mayor Larry Campbell said the event could be held for sure next year, and possibly for the next two, before any Olympic development begins. "That site will cease to be available to us at some point and in the not too distance future," said Jones. "It certainly is a consideration as we look at the event going forward."
"We're certainly committed to Champ Car," said Jones. "We're looking forward to being partners with Champ Car for the years ahead." There has been speculation in the past the Vancouver race might be moved to an Alberta city. [Editor's Note: Our sources tell us both Vancouver and Calgary are on the soon-to-be-released 2005 Champ Car schedule.]
Hunter-Reay looking for LeMans rideUPDATE #2 This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact.' Said Hunter-Reay to AutoRacing1.com, "I do have an interest in expanding my driving experience and would very much, at some time, like to win LeMans, Sebring and Daytona as they are very significant road course events. That said, a lot of things would have to fall into place to allow me to compete at any of those. First, it would have to be with a front line team with co-drivers capable of winning, second I would have to obtain the permission of Keith Wiggins and Herdez. So please do not read my attending a sports car race in my back yard, where I enjoyed visiting some old friends, as anything other than it was... a weekend off and a sports car race in my back yard." 09/20/04 AutoRacing1.com did more research on this topic and learned that Hunter-Reay fully intends to drive Champ Cars next year for Herdez and Keith Wiggins, but is also hoping to drive an Audi R8 at Sebring and LeMans if the Herdez team allows it. 09/19/04 Our sources tell us that Champ Car driver Ryan Hunter-Reay was at the Homestead track this weekend for the Rolex 250 Grand-Am race. From what we hear he was at the race to meet with some "business associates," presumably to talk about 2005. We hear he would love to do some sports car racing.
Feud brewing at DEI?DEI teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Waltrip had a close call when their Chevrolets exited the pits side by side after the Dale Earnhardt Inc. teammates made their final stop under green with about 40 laps left. "He drove the car all the way up to the yellow line as if I wasn't even there," said Earnhardt, who took the points lead by finishing third yesterday. "I'd about wreck into the side of him for three or four laps. I was just trying to figure out where he was getting his team orders from because whoever was giving them to him needs a new [pay]check. Whoever they're working for, we need to see where they're getting their kickbacks from. I was [ticked] about it. I'm sure Michael didn't mean anything by it." Richmond Times Dispatch
2005 F1 calendar to lose some races?(GMM) Formula One may not race at an unprecedented nineteen grand prix venues next year, McLaren principal Ron Dennis has warned. An unofficial calendar was recently distributed to teams but Dennis said 'absolutely no (talks)' about it have taken place. Silverstone, for example, has no contract for 2005. RD said at least two other events similarly don't have a deal. ''At the moment we have a contract that provides for (a maximum) 17 races,'' he added, ''but we don't know which are confirmed.'' If Bernie Ecclestone does confirm 19 races, Dennis said the number must drop 'or we find a financial solution' for more. There were 18 grands prix on the 2005 calendar.
Grand-Am to get network TV coverageRumor has it that the France family will offer NBC & FOX some discount on their NASCAR Broadcast rights fees in exchange for Grand-Am network TVcoverage in 2005. It is our belief that ISC is not really all that interested in the "Grand-Am" fan because there are no fans of Grand-Am. They will likely market the Grand-Am series directly to the NASCAR fan. Expect many more Nextel Cup Drivers to participate in next years 24 Hours of Daytona and more Cup Teams starting Grand-Am Teams. We see IRL teams doing the same. Our analysis on the Hot News page (What if they raced and nobody came?) explains why the Grand-Am Series is a complete and utter failure despite the full field of cars. The France family doesn't understand road racing fans, but perhaps they can convince NASCAR fans to accept their dumbed-down vision of what a sports car should be.
New springs for TalladegaNASCAR spokesman Mike Zizzo confirmed Sunday the sanctioning body is contemplating a rule change for the Oct. 3 EA Sports 500 race at Talladega. NASCAR already mandates rear shocks and a restrictor-plate for all superspeedway races and beginning at Talladega this fall, NASCAR is also expected to mandate the rear springs teams can use. If adapted, the rule will require NASCAR to issue rear springs to teams at the start of the weekend and will maintain control over them as they do rear shocks and the plates. The rear springs issued by NASCAR are expected to rate between 375 and 400 pounds, likely to fall on the lower end of the scale, Zizzo said. ThatsRacin.com
BAM Racing to expand to two carsBAM Racing is planning to run a two-car Nextel Cup operation next season, but the schedule for the second team has yet to be determined, said team manager, Eddie Jones. "At this point, we plan to run a second car in some form or another. It could be 12 races, it could be all 36, we have laid the groundwork for that and have the people to make it a reality," Jones said. Veteran Ken Schrader will again drive BAM's #49 Schwan's Food Service Dodges next season, while Klaus Graf [#59?] is the likely candidate for the second team. Graf, 32, a sports car driver from Germany, has driven a limited schedule in Cup and the Automobile Racing Club of America series for BAM this season. Graf is going to run the ARCA race at Talladega this season as well as Cup races at Martinsville, Va., Homestead, Fla. Charlotte is also a possibility. "He is very adaptable," Jones said. "I think that's one of his strongest points is his adaptability." Jones, who named Donnie Richeson as interim crew chief for Schrader's team this week, hopes to have a permanent replacement in place by the end of the season. "We have conducted several interviews and the names will not be unrecognizable by anybody," Jones said. "They're very highly regarded and it will be the next step in the evolution of BAM Racing." ThatsRacin.com
Labor Day weekend for CalgaryUPDATE #5 A reader writes, First off, I think the race will be well recieved and a success, and I am looking forward to seeing Champcars racing in my backyard, but there are a few small reservations. Most of them being fan-base and not the weather. Labour Day is the same holiday in Canada that it is in the United States. (With or without the letter "u" it's the same day) and traditionally, it is the end of summer. Calgary is actually part of the great plains, very arrid country, verging on dessert. There isn't any tundra within 1000 miles of here. The landscape and city itself are very similar to that of Denver.
As for it being in the 40's, yes it is cool right now, but it has been an exceptionally cold & wet summer. Usually Labour day is warm enough for short sleeves, maybe a light jacket in the morning. Labour Day is usually not cold, and is always one of the nicest days of the year, not to hot, not to cold. Don't forget the Vancouver race was traditionally on the Labour Day weekend for years. The weather in Calgary is similar to Vancouver during Labour Day, perhaps a couple degrees cooler, but winter is still a long way off. Let's put it this way, the leaves are just starting to turn yellow.
I am less concerned about the weather, than I am about over-saturating the Canadian Market. I think that the three races in Canada are probably just enough. As much as I would love to see a race here, I think they may be splitting the western Canadian fanbase. many people come from Alberta to see the race in Vancouver, (planes going back to Edmonton and Calgary after the race are usually full of race fans,) and I think Vancouver could be affected. Calgary has just under one million people total, as does Edmonton. The fanbase for the entire province is smaller than the fanbase for just Metro Vancouver. The population here is just not that big. And there is little population close by. The next closest big city is Vancouver, and the west coast cities, (Seattle/Portland) and after that, perhaps Denver. Look at a map and you'll see what I mean.
One positive is that Labour day weekend is the traditional "Battle Of Alberta" in the CFL. The Edmonton Eskimos play in Calgary against the Stampeders, and it's the biggest, most anticipated sporting weekend of the year in Calgary. The Race would happen on the Sunday, and the game on the Monday. So there already is a big "sports buzz" for that weekend. The race could play off that excitement. One disadvantage is that it's the last long weekend of summer and school is about to start. So that weekend is largely spent away from the city by families. Lots of people head out for one last weekend of camping, or a vacation in the mountains. Jason Hoehn, Calgary, Canada Dear Jason, Thanks for the insight. I think perhaps Molson will make Calgary a big event so instead of going away for the last weekend of summer, locals will look forward to the race as their last chance to get out and enjoy the outdoors before school begins. Mark C.09/19/04 According to our sources in Canada, Calgary has indeed been given a tentative Labor Day (a USA holiday) weekend date for 2005. Looking at a calendar, that would put the race on Sunday September 4, 2005. We shall see. Calgary is pretty far north. As such, its summers are short. Today is September 19th and already the temps are in the 40's F so this race must be run every year in the summer months between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Mark C.09/13/04 A reader from Canada writes, Dear AutoRacing1, It's quite possible that there will be a race on the weekend of Labor Day, but highly unlikely that the race will actually happen On Labor Day in Calgary. The annual "Labor Day Classic" happens every year in Calgary, and it's the "Battle of Alberta" football style, when the Calgary Stampeders host the Edmonton Eskimos on Labor Day for the annual CFL classic. It's always the biggest game of the year, and the most anticipated sporting weekend of the year in Calgary, and has been a CFL tradition for decades. So there is pretty much no way that the race would be happeneing on the same day as the big game. That would be a BIG mistake. However, The race could go the day before, on Sunday quite nicely. You would have a lot of good Edmonton Eskimo fans in town for the weekend, and that may add incentive for Alberta sports fans to attend the Champ Car race as well. make it a doubleheader weekend for Calgary. As a diehard Edmonton Eskimo fan (and season ticket owner) who lives in Calgary, putting the The Labor Day Classic and the Champ Car race together on the same weekend?, I'm drooling all over ... Jason Hoehn, Calgary, Canada Dear Jason, the race would be on Sunday, therefore, your wish might come true. Mark C. 09/12/04 Besides Calgary on Labor Day weekend, we expect to see the rumored race in Buenos Aires, Argentina to start the 2005 Champ Car season in March, the race in San Jose to probably get either the Laguna Seca September date or be in May if Laguna Seca keeps its place on the schedule. The last new race that we are aware of, China, will happen the week before Surfers in October of 2005. Mark C. 09/12/04 Assuming the schedule does not get a last minute change, look for Champ Car to add a race in Calgary, Canada on Labor Day weekend, 2005. Calgary was previosly rumored, but not the date. Mark C.
Will Sauber be effected by Jaguar's departure?As we rumored on these pages on several occasions, the Ford Board of Directors supposedly gave their blessing to the sale of the Jaguar F1 team to Red Bull months ago. Assuming this is true and Red Bull does start their all-American team like they said they would, the Sauber team would probably lose their Red Bull backing. Mark C.
IRL attendance a subterfuge?UPDATE #3 Another reader writes, I was at Chicagoland Speedway last Sunday (I got my four free tickets from Honda, two of which I could not give away, even though I know a lot of racing enthusiasts at the Acura dealership where I work), and it was my observation that it was Wheldon, not Rice, who was driving a "very wide" race car. Rice didn't seem to be doing anything that the rest of the drivers were not doing. Also, it was my estimate that, at the start of the race, the seats were about 65% full. To back this up, go to the IRL website, and look at the photos they have posted. Particularly, the one that shows the parachute guys landing. Observe the background on that photo. Daniel Manchester 09/16/04 Another reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1, I just wanted to let you guys know that the Texas Motor Speedway is giving away masses of tickets for the IRL race in October. My friends and I went to the TCU vs. SMU game last weekend and TMS had people there giving away bundles of tickets. The lady I talked to had a stack of 1000 tickets and ask me how many I wanted. I asked her how many could I have and she replied as many as I want. I casually asked for 10 tickets and now I am the holder of 10 free tickets to the race. I am almost convinced that over 75% of the people at the race won't even pay for their tickets. So how is the IRL winning the war again, at least Champ Car fans actually pay for their tickets. Mike Devine09/16/04 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, A subterfuge indeed! My son just received his 2 free tickets to the IRL race at Fontana via Marlboro. If he is one of the first 1,500 at the track that day he gets a garage pass too. Michael Reid, Fountain Valley, CA 09/16/04 Think those IRL grandstands are full because fans are buying tickets? Think again. Chris Economaki writes in his NSSN column this week, There is agreement that the spectator turnout for the recent IRL race at Pikes Peak Int’l. Raceway was the largest in the history of this one-mile oval. Nearly all of its 42,000 seats were occupied. Track prexy Rob Johnson, without giving numbers, declared it the biggest turnout ever. There were two plus factors affecting this Colorado Springs area event; music mega-star Martina McBride in concert after the checkered flag waved and the purchase of 20,000 tickets by the El Pomar Foundation for free distribution to the military. The track had named race day “A Salute to the Troops.” By our calculations, the 20,000 alone were half the tickets. Add in the usual Marlboro, Honda and/or Toyota giveaways an we are left to wonder whether any fans bought any tickets at all. Chicagoland last weekend was another stellar attendance turnout for the IRL. Again, were most of them free ticket giveaways? How else does one explain the low TV ratings for the IRL? If they really had all those fans they would be watching on TV week in and week out. We're told it's all a subterfuge to hide how bleak things really are. One thing we know for sure, Champ Car isn't giving any tickets away. The turnout was so low at Laguna Seca it was an embarrassment to the series. How they can make a business case for going back there is beyond us. Great facility, great people, horrible attendance.
Will Paffett and Albers turn to Champ Car?(GMM) Gary Paffett will no longer test a Sauber F1 car. The British ace, so impressive in German touring car (DTM) series, had been unofficially told to expect the call in October. Sauber said in a statement earlier this month that the Hinwil-based team is 'planning to invite' another young driver to test. Vitantonio Liuzzi did laps of Jerez on Thursday. But with '97 world champion Jacques Villeneuve signed as Giancarlo Fisichella's '05 successor, Gary's turn is off. Dutch rival Christijan Albers might also have got a Sauber run. Might Paffett and Albers now turn to Champ Car for 2005 or be relegated to DTM and/or Formula GP2 forever?
Coulthard may be rideless in 2005David Coulthard's future suffered a massive setback yesterday when Jaguar Racing pulled out of Formula One. The Scot was hoping to land a drive with the team in 2005 after losing his seat with McLaren. His only hope now is BAR, with the new owners of the ex-Jaguar team, or to seek a ride in Champ Car.
Champ Car to open and close 2005 season offshoreOwing to its international focus, our sources tell us that Champ Car will open and close its 2005 season outside the USA the same way F1 opens and closes its season outside of Europe. We hear Buenos Aires will open the season in March and Mexico City will, as it is in 2004, close the season in November. Mark C.
Argentina race close to done dealUPDATE #3 Our sources in Argentina tell us that Champ Car has tentatively given Buenos Aires race authorities a March 20, 2005 date for their inaugural Buenos Aires Champ Car street race and it will be the 2005 season opener as of right now. Buenos Aires will be huge as about 90% of Argentina's population lives in and around Buenos Aires. It's a nice place to visit - VERY European. Mark C.09/01/04 According to our Argentinean sources, the Champ Car race in Buenos Aires will probably be run in March of next year and be the season opener. It remains to be seen whether a Brazil race also happens and is run back-to-back with Buenos Aires. Mark C.08/14/04 One of the Argentineans here is Dr. Jorge Rapaport, Director General of the Department of Tourism of Buenos Aires, Argentina. 08/14/04 We spotted a contingent of high-level dignitaries from Argentina here in Denver who were surveying the scene. We hear they are happy with what they see so far and the deal is either already done, or will soon be done that will see Champ Car racing in Buenos Aires in 2005 and beyond. Mark C.
Who will buy Cosworth?UPDATE #2 This SPEED TV article has some quotes related to the effects, if any, the announced sale of Cosworth will have on both the Champ Car and IRL series. Not much more than was previously reported, just some assurances by all parties that they hope it will be business as usual after the sale. Hope. 09/17/04 We did some more research and analysis on this sale and here is how we think it will be structured by HSBC who are responsible for the sale. HSBC has not yet announced the sequencing of the sale but we have to believe that whoever buys the Jaguar F1 team will have first shot at buying Cosworth. The team could end up in the hands of the Canadian steel company Dofasco, which is planning its own F1 program according to Grandprix.com and had been planning to build the team from nothing. If they buy the team they might buy Cosworth too. Should that entitiy (or another buyer of the team) not want to buy it, next it will be offered to Cosworth management. If they do not want to buy Cosworth then we think a conglomerate made up of Minardi F1, Jordan, F1 and Champ Car/OWRS will buy it to protect their own interests. Mark C.09/17/04 Our sources tell us that Audi may buy Cosworth to make its race engines and to make it their equivalent to Mercedes AMG deal. Will they now enter F1, either Audi or VW?
F1's loss could be Champ Car's gainSpeculation has it that F1's loss (today's F1 pullout announcement) could be Champ Car's gain. With the $150 million or more Ford will save by cancelling its Jaguar F1 program it is thought they can plow some of the money into the Champ Car World Series and get more return for their investment. First, they win races in Champ Car. Second, Champ Car will be much more international starting in 2005 (you will see when schedule is announced) hence over time Champ Car will begin to deliver the same international exposure that F1 does. Ford finally realized it was not doing their image any good losing to a small Italian company like Ferrari year after year, so they pulled the plug on their F1 program. Who will be next?
More speculation on Audi rumorUPDATE Another reader reminds us, Audi used to own Cosworth before, but they split it into two, Cosworth Technology (http://www.cosworth-technology.co.uk/) which they still own to this day, and Cosworth Racing (http://www.cosworth.com/) which they sold to Ford. A history link: http://www.cosworth-technology.co.uk/700_information/721_history4.htm "Cosworth is acquired by the Audi Group from Vickers with the Engineering, Manufacturing, Casting units (trading as Cosworth Technology Ltd). Racing unit trading as Cosworth Racing Ltd sold to Ford Motor Co; Dr Klaus Blickle and David Bate become Joint Chief Executives of Cosworth Technology." Paul Kroker 09/17/04 A reader writes, Now that is an interesting rumor. While it may, as you speculated, lead to Audi or VW moving into F-1, my thought is that might not happen right away. Audi has shown itself to be a company that wants to be at the top of the heap, at the forefront of innovation and on track results. The R8, remember those four minute rear end changes at LeMans, and the current Audi RS 6 success in the Speed World Challenge GT series are examples. It is hard to imagine Audi entering F-1 with an engine, with all due respect to Cosworth, that is a mid pack runner at best, and usually not even that good. Certainly the combination of Audi/VW and Cosworth could lead to some very exciting engines in the future (once the upcoming new engine specs are finalized)." But something you didn't mention would be the opportunity to take over the already up and running Champ Car program very quickly. This would allow Audi to market itself to an entirely new group of fans/customers, primarily in the North American market, which as you know, is very important to the company. They would also be able to instantly become involved in Champ Car's own upcoming decision about its own engine formula. If F1 can be convinced to stay with those glorious V-10 engines, and if Champ Car moves in that direction, it would allow racing fans, (and auto buyers worldwide) all to hear those wonderful sounds, as I know AutoRacing1 has been advocating for quite a while now. Here's to hoping this rumor comes to fruition. Bob Kachel, Ceres, CA
16 or 17 races for Champ Car?UPDATE We are bumping this rumor up to 'strong' today as we hear the 2005 Champ Car schedule could now be 17 races, one more than originally stated by OWRS as their goal. All we can say right now is that it's an exciting schedule. OWRS/Champ Car have done well. Mark C. 09/12/04 Will Champ Car have 16 or 17 races in 2005? The 2004 schedule ended up with just 14 races. If Road America goes away, that's 13. Rumor has it there will be four new additions to the 2005 schedule - Calgary, Buenos Aires, San Jose and China. Assuming all four happen, 13 + 4 = 17 races. However, OWRS has stated 16 was the goal. Will another race be dropped, such as Laguna Seca, which has had declining attendance, to make it 16 races, will another event be dropped, or will Champ Car have a 17-race schedule in 2005? We will know soon because we hear meetings this week will see the schedule finalized on Wednesday. Mark C.
Ford to axe Jaguar F1 and Ford WRC programsUPDATE #7 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement. See Hot News page. 09/13/04 This PlanetF1 article says, Jaguar's future was in doubt last week after reports emerged suggesting that Ford would either scrap the Big Cat's F1 project or run it under the Ford branding in 2005. However, those rumours appear to be off the mark, as according to Jaguar Racing's managing director David Pitchforth the team will be given a budget next season that will allow them to be competitive. Jag's budget for this year is believed to have been around the 180 million dollar mark, whereas reigning Champions Ferrari spent around 600 million. "We already get a lot of money from Ford Motor Company. We got more money this year than we did last year. I have put in my budget for next season and we have a budget that will make us a competitive team," Pitchforth told AFP. Pitchforth also vowed to hang onto one of Jaguar's biggest sponsors, HSBC. The bank is reportedly dissatisfied with the team's performances and is considering withdrawing its sponsorship at the end of the season. "They are good sponsors and we continue to work with them to maintain them as sponsors," he said. "Those negotiations are ongoing and the speculation was based on a comment made at an HSBC board meeting." "A member of HSBC was asked if he was happy with the recent race result and it had been preceded by a poor race result so he said 'no I wasn't happy about the weekend'. So that's a non story and there have been no announcements." "I am not confident either way (that HSBC will stay or leave the team) but its a negotiation and we have to do something that's good for the team. The budget involves lots and lots of things and we will just try to work through it." 09/12/04 Ford Motor Company is to release François Duval from his contract to drive for the team in the FIA World Rally Championship at the end of this season. The 23-year-old Belgian has driven for Ford since the beginning of 2003. Given the ongoing review over Ford's WRC future beyond the end of this season, the company informed Duval that it could not guarantee him a full WRC programme for 2005 by the end of August and he would be free to talk to other teams. FordTeamRS director Jost Capito said: "If we continue in WRC next year we would very much like to have François and his co-driver, Stéphane Prévot, on board. However, as we are not in a position to give a commitment to them right now, we agreed with François to release him in order not to deny him the opportunity to further his WRC career. "François has contributed much to Ford's WRC programme and, this season especially, has been a solid and consistent points scorer for the team. Ford would like to thank François and Stéphane for their efforts and wish them both the best of luck for the future," added Capito. Ford PR09/12/04 The candle may still be burning bright for the future of Jaguar Racing. Amidst speculations that the team will become a fully owned Ford team, changing their name to 'Ford F1', is still not a certainty according to Jaguar’s managing director, David Pitchforth. Pitchforth currently with the team at Monza for the Italian Grand Prix, kept the speculation going when he discussed the thought of a Ford F1 team next year. ''I can see why people make that connection. But actually that is very difficult to do. I actually haven't heard anything (from Ford) about that.'' Earlier on in the year, when asked by Bernie Ecclestone whether Jaguar Racing would be lining up in 2005, Tony Purnell, the team's Premier Performance Division CEO, could not confirm only suggesting, “I would be surprised if we are not here.” Purnell Later admitted that the comment was taken out of context. The team seems to be in disarray with major sponsors including HSBC and Becks believed to be withdrawing their sponsorship from Jaguar Racing at season's end, and no driver lineup confirmed for 2005 as of yet. Pitchforth has assured that this is because the team is waiting on the verdict of the ‘Jenson-gate’ saga, “We're talking to quite a lot of drivers. Some of that does depend on how we get the budget sorted out.” Within the next week the Ford Management will be holding a meeting, believed to be regarding the future of the team. DailyF1News09/08/04 This week's Autosport Magazine reports that Ford is planning to axe the Jaguar Racing name (as reported here first in the beginning of August), step back from a full World Rally Championship program and re-introduce its own brand into Formula 1 in a radical restructuring of its motorsport activities for 2005. High-level meetings over the last few weeks have forced a brainstorm on motorsport policy within the top management of the world’s third biggest car manufacturer. Investment in Jaguar’s F1 project has not yet reaped sufficient reward in the all important US market, so Ford is planning to restructure the Milton Keynes-based operation and use its own brand instead. However, even if it gets the green light at a final meeting next week, ‘Ford GP’ is likely to involve backing from outside – sources indicate that management are close to securing investment from the Far East, probably China, and that the deal could extend to part-ownership of the F1 team. Some rumours link a consortium of Chinese investors with a 50/50 buy-in, potentially freeing up considerably more budget to the operation, and the forthcoming Paris Motor Show – which coincides with the inaugural Chinese Grand Prix – would be the ideal time to make an announcement.
Tony Purnell, the CEO of Ford’s Premier Performance Division (which includes Jaguar Racing, Cosworth Racing and Pi Group), has already hinted at an improved situation for 2005. He told Autosport’s sister title F1 Racing: “If several other teams had the opportunities that are on my plate at the moment, they’d be very envious.” While Ford’s decision to rebrand Jaguar has been rumoured in F1 circles for some weeks, its rethink on world rallying seems to have occurred in the space of the last fortnight. Autosport understands that, while no official announcement has been made on the future of the WRC programme, team boss Malcolm Wilson – who flew back from last weekend’s Rally Japan before the event started to attend meetings with Ford top brass – has been told that there is insufficient funding for a full campaign in 2005. Last Friday the team took the exceptional step of releasing its young talent Francois Duval onto the driver market.
08/19/04 A report in Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, says that serious consideration is being given to renaming the Jaguar F1 team - Ford. Faced with the prospect of losing a couple of sponsors, most notably HSBC, which is pulling out of F1 sponsorship at the end of the year, Ford is faced with having to increase its own financial amount. The article reports that HSBC currently contributes $38m a year, and that if it pulls out, Ford would have to up its contribution to $80m. Despite rumours linking the Milton Keynes outfit with a buy-out by Red Bull, which apparently contributes $50m a year, it appears that the deal won't happen, the situation being hampered by a disagreement over naming rights - basically the new name of the team. Furthermore, Christian Klien looks likely to be leaving the team at the end of the year, Red Bull boss Dieter Mateschitz unhappy with the Austrian's progress. Ford's management have made it quite clear that they will not get involved in a spending war with Toyota, BMW, Honda or Mercedes, and only recently team boss Tony Purnell couldn't guarantee, when asked by Bernie Ecclestone, whether Jaguar/Ford will be on the grid in 2005. So if the Red Bull deal is indeed dead, the Ford/Jaguar team could either migrate down the grid to the Minardi level due to inadequate funding, or be axed like we originally rumored. 08/18/04 This week's Autosport Magazine reports that Jaguar will almost certainly be present on the 2005 Formula 1 grids – even if the team has to be sold to guarantee its future. Autosport understands that a final decision on funding from parent company Ford will be made by September 15, by which time the team must have secured some sponsorship for 2005 [its deals with HSBC, Beck’s and DuPont all run out this year]. However, if its future has not been guaranteed by that point, there are still a number of alternatives on the table. One of these is for Formula 3000 champion team Arden to buy into the outfit or even purchase it outright with backing from energy drinks giant Red Bull. Indeed, sources claim that Arden boss Christian Horner has already held talks with Jaguar chiefs. Horner declined to comment about the matter in depth last weekend, but makes no secret of his desire to move up to F1 in 2005. “I am still looking at F1, working on things and considering all the possibilities,” he said. Horner has also been linked with a possible buyout of the Minardi team. The other alternative is for Red Bull to either buy or bankroll Jaguar in its bid to create an all-American F1 outfit. It is understood that the company has already expressed a willingness to invest, as long as its financial pledges are matched by Ford. It has yet to receive a response. Tony Purnell, boss of Ford’s Premier Performance Division that oversees Jaguar, claimed there was no chance of a team funded entirely by Ford, but he was optimistic that a package would be put in place in order to secure the outfit’s future. “A naked car is not going to work, but the sponsorship market is not bad and I am surprised by the number of people we are talking to and about how active and capable our commercial guys are,” said Purnell. [Editor's Note: AutoRacing1 sources tell us the Ford Board has tentatively blessed a Red Bull deal.] 08/18/04
The Ford Motor Company announced its second quarter profits of $1.2 Billion, but Ford's automotive operations are losing money and the Premier Automotive Group (PAG), which includes Jaguar, Volvo, Land Rover and Aston Martin, posted a loss of $359 million despite increased sales. Ford warned that PAG will probably finish the year with a loss and said that it needs to undertake more restructuring at Jaguar. Whether that will affect the F1 program remains to be seen. 6/20/04 - This week's Autosport magazine reports that Red Bull has denied reports in the Austrian media that it has purchased the Jaguar Formula 1 team and that Gerhard Berger would be the team principal. “I’m the last person to hear this,” said Berger. The story also suggested that Vitantonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed, leaders of the Formula 3000 International and Formula Renault Eurocup series respectively, would be driving for the team in 2005. AutoRacing1.com can tell you that although Red Bull has not bought the Jaguar team yet, they probably will. 6/29/04 - Our moles in Formula One tell us the deal for Red Bull to buy Jaguar is nearly complete, the deposit has been made and the due diligence is being carried out. We hear Cosworth will still supply engines and Ford will still own Cosworth. Mark C.6/24/04 - AutoRacing1 has learned that if anyone buys the Jaguar F1 team, it will be Red Bull. That choice has been made by Nick Shayla and Bill Ford. Now it remains to be seen whether it happens. If not the team could be disbanded, unless another manufacturer buys it. 6/24/04 - We are bumping this rumor up to 'strong' and it may go to 'fact' before this season is over. A respected, very connected reader writes, I spoke to a friend of mine who works for PAG (Premier Auto Group - U.S. headquarters for Jaguar, Volvo, Aston Martin, Land Rover) today. I asked him if he had heard anything about what's going on with Jaguar's Formula 1 program. He said that Jaguar was pulling out of F1 after this season - there will be no Jaguar F1 program for 2005. He said that they will continue their support of Trans-Am, a series that they are more than pleased to be involved with due to the excellent return on their investment. He also said he wouldn't be surprised if Jaguar did a feasibility study in the next year or two with regard to a possible return to sports cars by racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. One has to think that Jackie Stewart, when he learned of Jaguar's F1 pullout recently, went to the Royal Bank of Scotland (of which he is a member) as a sports advisor and may have unleashed his trademark charm and business acumen to persuade the financial institution to begin a marketing program centered around F1. Jaguar may be leaving the F1 circus, but perhaps Jackie isn't! If Jaguar leaves, do you think Cosworth will remain as an engine supplier? If they do bail, what are Jordan and my beloved Minardi going to do for engines? Name withheld by request, Newport Beach, California6/23/04 - This week's Autosport Magazine reports, Jaguar team chief Tony Purnell has warned fellow Formula 1 bosses that he cannot be absolutely sure the outfit will be in grand prix racing next year. With Jaguar ninth in the constructors’ standings, speculation has heightened that the team will be canned, despite public assurances from parent company Ford that it intends to continue with the project. Sources told Autosport that Purnell was recently asked in a team principals’ meeting by F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone whether or not he could guarantee Jaguar’s participation in 2005 and he responded in the negative. In public Purnell is bullish about Jaguar’s future in the sport. “In the last week we signed off an enormous piece of work in the wind tunnel, and to sign a check like that and pull out the following week doesn’t make sense,” he said.
When asked why he lacked the guarantee to tell Ecclestone Jaguar would definitely be in F1 next year, Purnell explained he was merely being honest about the situation and that there was nothing to stop a sudden change of heart from Ford about its long-term commitment.
“I try to keep everything on the straight and narrow and I have got a cast-in-stone contract I can tell you about,” he said. “I would be surprised if we are not here.” It remains a possibility that the team could be sold at the end of the year, but the complete closure of the outfit has been ruled out. To do so, sources claim it would cost around £120 million in contractual and redundancy payments.
Walker Racing getting new carsIn an AutoRacing1.com exclusive, we hear that Walker Racing has secured some Lola cars, but no word on if they will be run this year or next. We hear that an announcement from the team will be coming soon. If this rumor turns out to be true, which we think is the case, all the teams on the Champ Car grid will soon have the Lola chassis and be on near-equal playing ground. Walker Racing was the last team still running with the Reynard chassis. Mark C.
Chevrolet to become a global brandUPDATE With news today that Ford is selling Cosworth, and with this rumor that Chevrolet will become a global brand, and with Chevy using Cosworth engines in the IRL, might we see Chevy buy Cosworth? Could Chevy replace Ford in Champ Car, or would they scupper that program? Stranger things have happened....stay tuned. Mark C.09/17/04 GM has decided to rename its Daewoo company Chevrolet. Until now the Chevy Corvette has been the only car sold in Europe with the Chevy name. Rumor has it that Chevy boss Bob Lutz plans to make Chevrolet a global brand and this might have far-reaching ramifications in racing. Chevy has long been a domestic (USA) racing brand but might this new strategy eventually lead to a F1 or Champ Car entry, both of which can deliver a global exposure? Mark C.
Champ Car/NASCAR doubleheader back to Vegas in 2005Rumor has it that Las Vegas Motor Speedway is so thrilled with advance ticket sales for next weekend's NASCAR Truck/Champ Car doubleheader that there will be announcement next weekend that the doubleheader will be back next year, the date rumored to be September 24, 2005. 80,000 to 100,000 people are expected to attend next weekend. Champ Car is also expected to announce their full 2005 schedule that weekend.
The crowd for the Sept. 25th event this year could top last year's track record for any race other than NASCAR's Nextel Cup or Busch series, the Busch series drawing 95,000 and Nextel Cup around 130,000. It is believed that the same amount of $5,000 packages have been sold this year. Track honcho Chris Powell told the Las Vegas Review Journal tickets have been selling "pretty well" since the addition of the Champ Car race in July. Four Las Vegas residents will be among 18 drivers in the starting field for the Champ Car race: reigning series champion Paul Tracy, 1996 season champ Jimmy Vasser, Patrick Carpentier and Alex Tagliani. Mark C.
Ford to close Jaguar factoryThe Ford Motor Company will announce today that it is to close its Browns Lane plant in Coventry, which employs 2,000 workers and builds the XK sports coupe and XJ luxury saloon. The move is aimed at stemming losses at Jaguar and will come as a painful blow to one of Britain's proudest brands. Under British law, Ford is required to give union officials advance notice of plans to close a factory. The law, which kicks in when 100 or more workers are involved, provides for a 90-day consultation period, during which affected workers may draft and submit a rescue plan. At a time like this, it is not likely that Ford will continue to spend large sums of money on a Jaguar-branded F1 team but this does not mean that the company will abandon all of its F1 activity. According to reports in America Ford will end the year with a ninth consecutive year of dropping market share. The company is now down to 16.6% of the market, although it remains the nation's best-selling automotive brand. Ten years ago Ford had a market of nearly 22%. Grandprix.com
Formula GP2 to be stillborn?UPDATE #2 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. There was a meeting of potential teams in GP2 at Monza and we hear that as many as 32 teams were represented and told that there would be space for only 12 teams in the new series. The big Formula 3000 teams are all going to take entries but may sell them on to others at a later date if better alternatives appear. The general feeling is that there will be 12 teams next year although some of them may not be very well funded. The championship which will probably benefit most from the demise of the FIA Formula 3000 Championship is the Superfund Euro 3000 series, which is being funded by the Austrian finance company Quadriga, a hedge fund which has assets of more than $800m. The series currently has only around 12 drivers competing but is much cheaper than the alternative GP2. The series races in Europe but will go to Dubai for the final round this year on November 28. There are plans for the series to have a new chassis and new engines next year. Grandprix.com09/03/04 Lending more credence to this rumor comes word that Christian Horner, boss of the Arden Motorsports team, winner of the last three FIA F3000 championships, sees no future in the new GP2 series and is looking to race his team elsewhere. He is trying to move up to F1 but that is a very big step and we would be surprised if he was able to raise the necessary funds. Unless Renault, or the owners of GP2, are prepared to subsidize a lot of teams to run the expensive GP2 series (way too expensive for a support series), it will be stillborn caused by a lack of teams. 08/11/04 Our sources in Europe tell us that the Formula GP2 series may never happen. Why? Because the costs are simply too high at 1.5 million Euros per year. Instead, they think the new Renault Series, that will be a merger of the Nissan World Series and the Renault V6 series using new Dallara cars with a 480HP engine, will become the step right below F1. We shall see.......
Zero promotion for Vegas raceUPDATE Another reader writes, Uh, I don't know where this person is living in Vegas...but I LIVE in Vegas and have seen plenty of advertising for the upcoming race. Both promoting of the Champ Cars and the NASCAR Trucks. Usually mentioning both series in the TV commercials I've seen, the radio adverts. I've heard, the newspaper adds I've read. That pretty much covers all the possible ways of advertising I can think of, besides internet. Of course there's a THREE STORY billboard advertisement at the Speedway that you can't possibly miss. So I respectfully suggest that this Las Vegas resident GET OUT of their house and look, listen, and read. It's there. It's not as blatant as NASCRAP(nothing is) but it's there. James M. Shaw, Las Vegas09/15/04 [Editor's Note: We accidentially lost the previous readers letter saying he saw almost no promotion for the Vegas race in Las Vegas.]
IRL tries to poach from Champ Car againUPDATE #3 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. We finally got a statement from Slipstream on this. As it stands today Slipstream nor our brand Formula D have any contractual relationship with any racing series at all. We are exploring opportunities with a number of groups and have had conversations with SCCA WC, ALMS, IRL, Twin 25's and Champ Car. As far as IRL trying to "poach" that is not true as we have had conversations with them and others dating back to almost a year ago. As far as our dealing with all groups I can honestly say everyone we have dealt with has been top notch. The demo we did at Laguna Seca created quite the stir. Ryan Sage, Slipstream09/16/04 This SPEED TV article talks more about the drifting business. It is interesting to note that since we posted this rumor another call was made by the IRL (we hear Ken Ungar or someone from his goup) to the drifting company that was at Laguna Seca last weekend wanting to know if they had an exclusive deal with Champ Car and how they could do a deal. The poaching goes on...... 09/14/04 A reader writes, Dear Autoracing1.com, I have been a Champ Car fan since the early '90s. I was checking out some drifting web pages to find out a little more about them as I had never heard about drifting before reading about it on your web page last week. It's kind of street cars racing off the street legally. This has a lot in common with Champ Cars which are race cars that race on street courses. I think it's a smart move by Champ Car because from what I read on the drifting web pages, this sport is starting to break out in a big way. Maybe they could help each other become successful. Also a few of the web pages were sponsored by Kumho Tires. Would Kumho Tires be more inclined to join the Champ Car Series now? I think this makes sense for all parties involved. Rod Orlando, FL. Dear Rod, Kumho recently announced they are going F1 racing, so unless the next generation Champ Car has tires and wheels the same size as F1, we doubt they would be inclined to do Champ Car too. Some other series have adopted F1 size wheels and tires as well for next year. That means a lot of tire companies will be making tires to those dimensions. Champ Car would be wise to adopt the same size tires on their next-gen car in 2006 so they increase their chances of landing more tire manufacturers in the series. That means they probably won't do it. Mark C.09/14/04 Never known for an original idea as just about everyone involved and everything the IRL does was poached from CART/Champ Car, at least everything they do right was poached from CART/Champ Car. All their original ideas, including their business plan, had to be scrapped and they have had to morph into CART to survive. We thought you might find humor in the fact that the IRL contacted Slipstream (Formula D) less than 24 hours after the Champ Car Drifting event at Laguna Seca, to pitch the merits of an alliance with "The League" and attempt to contract their services to bring Drifting to IRL events. Rumor has it that Slipstream is very happy with their relationship with Champ Car and MediaWide Marketing and is uninterested in switching sides. Mark C.
Changes in the rookie requirements in store?Carl Edwards and Bobby Hamilton Jr. might be in the right place at the right time for more than merely a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup ride. Their unforeseen good fortune involves NASCAR's rookie program and a possible change in eligibility rules that could allow these two drivers to compete for Raybestos Rookie of the Year Cup honors. To qualify to compete for the rookie program a driver can't have more than seven starts in a series prior to announcing their intentions to run a full season in pursuit of rookie honors. Compliance with the current rules will be impossible since both drivers will far exceed the limit. Edwards will have 14 starts by the end of this year and Hamilton will have approximately 17 this year between his service with James Finch and his new owner, Cal Wells III. Hamilton also has 14 starts in previous years with a variety of owners, which pushes his total to 31. In speaking with the Raybestos Rookie of the year communications manager, James B. White, www.teamfordracing.com learned that no qualified driver is on the horizon for 2005 Cup rookie honors, but beyond that he wasn't sure what might be in the cards for 2005 and his program. The issue came to light in Hamilton's strong suggestion at Richmond International Raceway that he and Edwards were going to be allowed to run for ROTY honors, despite lacking qualified status. NASCAR's deal with Raybestos to administer the Rookie of the Year program runs several more years. It would be highly irregular for NASCAR's premier series to be void of eligible Rookie of the Year contestants, and obviously problematic for Raybestos, which has purchased the right to promote them. Raybestos, according to motto, the best in brakes, handles ROTY programs for NASCAR's top-three touring division. Team Ford Racing
One more year for Laguna SecaUPDATE According to a report in National Speed Sport News, Champ Car Series and Laguna Seca track officials met last Sunday morning and reportedly reached an agreement for a September 18, 2005 Champ Car date. The San Jose event will likely be staged in late July. Champ Car hopes to make a 2005 schedule announcement in 1.5 weeks at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. 09/14/04 Despite a horrendously low attendance for last Sunday's Laguna Seca race (10,000 or less), we hear that the track has some new members on the Board of Directors that are real heavy hitters and that may be enough for OWRS to give the track one more year to turn things around. We hear they agreed to a race at Laguna Seca for September of 2005, which would mean the rumored San Jose race will probably run in the spring of 2005, probably in May. Why is OWRS willing to give Laguna Seca another try and not Road America? We are told because Laguna Seca is willing to work with OWRS to turn the race around whereas Road America is not. Mark C.
Champ Car looking at ways to reduce costThe rumor mill says that Champ Car is considering awarding a contract to one company for both the new 2006 Champ Car and the new 2006 Support Series car (whatever it is called at that point) as a way to reduce costs for both series through economies of scale. If true, certainly there is some merit to this strategy though we are not sure putting one's eggs all in one basket is the prudent thing to do for two reasons - 1) a hungry company usually gives a better deal and 2) if the company falls on hard times and goes out of business, what then?
GM woos PapisWe are hearing that GM would like to sign Max Papis for an exclusive 2005 deal that would see him run for the Corvette team in ALMS and possibly a Pontiac team in Grand-Am series. Papis currently drives for Chip Ganassi's Lexus Daytona Prototype team and drives alongside Scott Pruett. We also hear GM wants Papis wheeling one of their Chevy powered cars in the Indy 500. They tried to do a deal this year but it came together too late.
Villeneuve signs with SauberUPDATE This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact.' Jacques Villeneuve has been signed by the Sauber team for 2005 and 2006. The team confirmed the news this afternoon. "I am extremely excited to be back in Formula 1 with the Sauber team," Villeneuve said. "I appreciate the confidence everybody is showing in me. It is my goal to work with Peter and his team to bring them forward in the championship during the next two seasons. In my recent visit to Sauber I have been extremely impressed by the professionalism which is apparent throughout the factory. I am looking forward to seeing the results that will be developed by the state-of-the-art wind tunnel." "When I was talking to Jacques, I could feel that he is absolutely keen and committed to return to Formula 1," said Peter Sauber. "He was always a great fighter and I am convinced that together we can achieve a lot." 09/15/04 It just gets better and better for Jacques Villeneuve fans. Just hours after it was confirmed that JV is returning to F1 with Renault, P-F1 understands that Sauber are on the verge of announcing that the 1997 World Champion will return to the grid on a full-time basis in 2005. Almost exactly a year after his last F1 outing, Villeneuve returns to action today (Wednesday) at Silverstone, testing for Renault with a view to replacing the ousted Jarno Trulli for the remaining three races of the season. However, JV's Renault association is a strictly short-term deal, with the team already having Giancarlo Fisichella and Fernando Alonso in place for 2005. For his part, Villeneuve is simply delighted to have the opportunity to drive a competitive car and to return to the grid. According to the F1 rumour-mill, though, Jacques' return to the grid for 2005 with Sauber as Fisi's replacement is also already signed and sealed. It's thought that the French/Canadian may have even stopped off on route to his Renault seat-fitting on Tuesday in Switzerland to finalise his contract with Sauber. Eager to ensure that news of JV's return with Renault isn't misconstrued, it's thought that Sauber may make an official announcement before the end of the week. Planet-F1
No more Indy 500/Coca-Cola 600 doublesWith yesterday's announcement that after 41 years the Indy 500 will start one hour later (1:00 EST) beginning in 2005 to help improve TV ratings, and with the Charlotte Coca Cola 600 starting at 5:30 PM EST it looks to be nearly inpossible for drivers like Tony Stewart and Robby Gordon to run both races on the same day.
Walker Racing to become 2-car team againThis Champ Car World Series article says, Walker hopes to run two Lolas in 2005 for Haberfeld and another driver. “We have to find the sponsorship and we have to become more competitive,” Walker remarks. “They go hand in hand. We’re working very hard on trying to make that happen. We’d love to keep Mario and it’s essential we have a two-car team of Lolas. We’re very close to knowing whether we’re going to achieve all that.”
Villeneuve to join RenaultUPDATE #2 This rumor is getting closer to becoming 'fact' by the hour. The Renault F1 Team announced that 1997 F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve will test for the team at Silverstone on Wednesday and Thursday. Villeneuve conducted a seat-fitting at the team's Enstone base this evening, and will begin acclimatising himself to the Renault R24 tomorrow at the Northamptonshire circuit. "We have reached an agreement for Jacques to test for the team at Silverstone on Wednesday and Thursday," commented team boss, Flavio Briatore. 09/14/04 Jacques Villeneuve popped up in England on Tuesday and it is expected that the French-Canadian will test for the Renault F1 team tomorrow if a suitable settlement can be agreed with Jarno Trulli, the man who would have to stand aside if the team takes on Villeneuve for the rest of the season. This could be complicated as Renault F1 boss Flavio Briatore may have to negotiate with himself because he represents both the team and Trulli in different roles as the team boss and Trulli's manager. The latter deal comes to an end this year (after 10 years) and it is thought that this might be the reason why Trulli's much-discussed deal with Toyota is yet to be formalised as a deal concluded under an old management might still require payment if it is done before the contract runs out. It is not clear when Trulli's deal with Briatore ends but it began at some point in the autumn of 1994. The deal opened the way for Trulli to jump straight into German Formula 3 in 1995. Briatore's investment in Trulli has paid off handsomely but this year Trulli expressed the desire to manage his own career in the future and it seems that this led to Renault's decision not to retain him next year. Since that decision was made Trulli has not scored a World Championship point and Renault has slipped to third place in the Constructors' Championship. Our spies tell us that if all goes to plan Villeneuve will drive tomorrow and if all goes well will be a Renault driver in China. If things do not go well the drive will go to test driver Franck Montagny. Grandprix.com09/14/04 There are strong rumours that Jacques Villeneuve will be named to replace Jarno Trulli at Renault on Tuesday. Our sources say that if the deal is confirmed the French-Canadian will test for the team at Jerez de la Frontera before flying out to partner Fernando Alonso in China. In recent weeks Renault has scored just 12 points while BAR has collected 32 and at Monza BAR moved ahead in the Constructors' title with 94 points to Renault's 91. The major problem is not the performance of the cars but rather the fact that Jarno Trulli has not scored a point since it was revealed that Renault F1 boss Flavio Briatore, until recently Trulli's manager, was having him booted out of the team at the end of the season, despite the fact that in terms of results he has out-performed Fernando Alonso this year. Despite not scoring in the last five races, Trulli is still one point ahead of Alonso in the Drivers' championship.
Villeneuve would be a good choice as he wants to return to F1 next year; would love to have the chance to beat BAR-Honda and would be a competitive and high profile driver for the team, notably for Mild Seven which has important markets in China. He would also be cheap as he would probably race for bonus money on any points he scores. Signing Villeneuve would also keep the French press off Renault's back as Villeneuve is seen as being a Frenchman when he is doing well and as a Canadian when things are not going so well.
The only other rumor that might have made sense was that Renault would take Giancarlo Fisichella early from Sauber. But Peter Sauber made it very clear that he has no plans to sell his star driver.
"I do not think that Renault would want to spend the kind of money that I would want to do that," Sauber said. "Flavio Briatore has made his bed and now he has to lie in it." Grandprix.com
Gaughan under pressureRookie Brendan Gaughan is being pressed quietly to pick up his performance in the final 10 Nextel Cup races by his Penske Racing South team. The first-year Cup driver and veteran of the Truck series apparently is being held to the same standard as Ryan Newman, who has 10 wins, 41 top fives, 23 poles and a rookie of the year award in his third full Cup season for Penske. Gaughan has denied there is a performance clause in his contract. St Petersburg Times
Joe Gibbs Racing looking for crew chief for No. 11Joe Gibbs Racing still is looking for a crew chief to lead the #11 FedEx car in 2005. Sources say Slugger Labbe, crew chief for #15-Michael Waltrip, is a candidate. Labbe is one of the best crew chiefs in the garage and would be great for a start-up team. Finding a driver is another matter. Although JGR is expected to run J.J. Yeley in additional races this season, sources say FedEx is looking for a more experienced driver. Jamie McMurray, Robby Gordon and Dave Blaney have been mentioned as prospects. FoxSports/Sporting News Speculation continues about owner Joe Gibbs' planned third Nextel Cup team. #20 Crew Chief Greg Zipadelli declined to talk about the possibility that Dave Blaney might be hired to drive Gibbs' new third team. Blaney - a sprint-car veteran like Stewart and a good buddy of Stewart's - has been hired to coach rookie J. J. Yeley, who Gibbs hopes to hone into a Cup driver, though that project could take a few years longer than expected. And the latest rumor is that Gibbs would like to hire Richard "Slugger" Labbe, a two-time Daytona 500 winning crew chief, to run that third team. "Dave is just to help J.J.," Zipadelli said. "He's got three more Cup races this year and some Busch races, and Dave is a good driver, with a good, level head on his shoulders, knows what's going on. He knows what you should do and shouldn't do. He should help accelerate J.J.'s learning curve. He won't have to go through everything, because Dave has already been there and can explain why you don't do this or that. It's different if it comes from a driver than if it comes from us." But what about the story that Gibbs has hired Blaney to drive the third car? "Good story, huh?" Zipadelli said with a grin. "You ain't going to find anything out here. Don't try to read anything more into this." Winston Salem Journal
A future Champ Car track for Chicago?UPDATE #3 We have confirmed per the track's designer - Although the track and safety systems will work for any form of racing, Champ Car included, (some minor additions to initial installations would be needed, but the track is masterplanned to accommodate all forms of racing) there would have to be numerous additions in infrastructure, most concerned with spectator facilities to make it work for a major event. Yes, it could be upgraded on a temporary nature, as per street racing, but questions of parking would still have to be addressed. 09/14/04 AutoRacing1.com had published an article penned by our Paul Josephson on this track. Here is the link. 09/14/04UPDATE #2 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, You talked about the Autobahn Country Club (CC) and you hit the nail on the head. As a member and a race club director it is great. You forgot one major bit of inside info, the founder of the CC is a guy named Steve whose his wife is the owner of C-Saw marketing (csawmarketing.com) who was the CART race promoter here in Chicago. We wonder if Champ Car would stage an event like the PGA does at a CC - just build temporary grandstands, the blueprints allow for that. Bill Miller09/14/04 This article from the website of the Autobahn Country Club, a private 3.56-mile race track being built in Joliet, Illinois, just outside of Chicago, says that On the weekend of the IRL Race at Chicagoland Speedway we (Autobahn management) spoke with many of the professional drivers and Team Owners. Eddie Cheever who is the head of the RedBull Cheevers Racing was impressed with our vision for the Country Club and the progress that has been made at the facility. The two RedBull Drivers, Alex Barron and Ed Carpenter, visited the Autobahn CC facility on Friday evening and were thrilled with the place. Autobahn CC recently signed a multi-year strategic partnership with RedBull. [Editor's Note: Although the Autobahn CC is being built for car clubs and owners of exotic cars to race for fun, Champ Car may have missed an opportunity to race there if the Autobahn CC ever decides to upgrade the track to accommodate Champ Car-style racing.]
Indy 500 to get later startThe Indianapolis 500 next year will have a new starting time for only the second time in its history after Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Tony George announces several event changes today. The race, which in 2005 will be held for the 89th time, will begin at noon on May 29 after opening at 11 a.m. the past 41 years. The inaugural 500, in 1911, began at 10 a.m., and it remained that way until 1963, when officials began starting the race an hour later. Speedway spokesman Ron Green declined to confirm the race's time change Monday, but two company officials who asked for anonymity confirmed the move. The switch is seen as a way to improve television ratings that have sagged in recent years.
Green said there will be multiple changes to the May format, although he declined to elaborate. Chief among them will be the move of Carburetion Day to the Friday before the race, the sources said. The session, which includes the race's final practice and the pit stop contest, has traditionally been held on the Thursday before the race. In recent years, it has been the month's second-most popular day. Moving Carb Day is seen as a way to make the race weekend schedule more compact and give the event more momentum. Among other expected changes is the move of the rookie orientation program to May.
Also expected to be announced today is a change in qualifications, although details are uncertain. The track has used both a two-day and a three-day format in recent years, a deviation from the four-day setup used for years prior to that. The event changes have been a closely kept secret. The IRL staff is expected to be briefed before today's 11 a.m. news conference at the track. Indy Star
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