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FIA/Mosley trying to get Brundle axed
The BBC's decision to employ Martin Brundle as their Formula One commentator for next season has apparently not gone down well with the FIA.

Brundle is set to team up with current Red Bull driver David Coulthard, Jonathan Legard, Lee McKenzie and Jake Humphrey when the BBC takes over the F1 rights from next year.

However, the Daily Mail's Charles Sale claims the powers that be at the FIA are trying to convince the public broadcaster not to employ Brundle as they are still unhappy with him over his Sunday Times opinion piece on Spygate.

The FIA sued the paper for libel last year after Brundle said their "witch-hunt" against McLaren is threatening to the spoil title race.

Sale wrote: "The BBC's signing of Martin Brundle, widely acknowledged as the best Formula One pundit, for their new Grand Prix contract starting in March has not pleased motor sport's rulers.

"It is the talk of the F1 paddock that Alan Donnelly, the official representative at races of FIA chairman Max Mosley, has been trying to dissuade BBC executives from employing Brundle, who has been at odds with the governing body since he questioned their handling of last year's McLaren Spygate affair. " PlanetF1


GM forced to sell AC Delco to survive
Strapped for cash General Motors announced today that it is exploring a potential sale of ACDelco, its global independent aftermarket parts business, a brand of GM Service & Parts Operations. A sale is expected to promote more rapid growth of ACDelco globally.

As the company announced in July, GM is undertaking a number of initiatives to bolster its liquidity position by approximately $15 billion through year-end 2009, including the sale of assets which are expected to generate approximately $2-4 billion of liquidity. In addition to the ACDelco business, GM previously announced it is exploring the potential sale of its Hummer brand and its technical and manufacturing center in Strasbourg, France.

ACDelco provides light-duty maintenance and repair parts and associated services for both GM and non-GM vehicles in more than 100 countries. Part of GM Service & Parts Operations, ACDelco is headquartered in Grand  Blanc, MI, with approximately 600 employees worldwide.

GM has retained Merrill Lynch to assist in this initiative.


Bourdais 'too old' for Renault, eyes possible return to USA UPDATE (GMM)  Sebastien Bourdais has confirmed he is concerned about the dithering of his team bosses about 2009.

The Frenchman, who has had a mixed debut season in formula one, is believed to be under pressure to finalize his plans for next year, amid a raft of offers from America.

"The bosses of Toro Rosso seem in no hurry to decide my fate," 29-year-old Bourdais told the French sports daily L'Equipe.

"I am concerned about the other proposals I have received from outside of F1, and that soon they will need my answer," he explained.

"A time will come when I will have to take the responsibility."

Bourdais has had a run of better form in the past few weeks, and hopes it has been enough to earn a contract extension.

"I hope I will get a second chance, because it has been a difficult season; one of the worst of my whole career, without really being able to leave a lasting impression."

Bourdais (left) gets passed over by Flavio Briatore yet again.  Briatore would prefer to run a wanker such as Nelson Piquet Jr who has been made to look incompetent alongside Fernando Alonso all year long
10/22/08 (GMM)  Flavio Briatore has issued an abrupt denial to unlikely speculation that French racer Sebastien Bourdais might be an option for a Renault race seat in 2009.

Bourdais, the 29-year-old F1 rookie and a multiple title winner of the defunct American series Champ Car, is "too old" to be considered by Renault, team boss Briatore is quoted as saying in the French sports daily L'Equipe.

Briatore's comments reinforce expectations that, should a vacancy arise for next year, Renault-linked youngsters like Lucas di Grassi and Romain Grosjean are at the head of the queue.

Briatore also seems happier now with Nelson Piquet.  "Fuji and Shanghai were new circuits for him, and he learn them quickly.

"Previously, he was pretty weak on new tracks," the Italian told Auto Motor und Sport.

The German magazine also reports that Bourdais is only prepared to wait until the end of this month for Toro Rosso chiefs to sign him up for 2009.

Should he not find a job in F1 for next year, he is lining up options to return to the American scene (rumor has it that NHLR has not re-signed Justin Wilson waiting on Bourdais' decision).

"For sure, there are some options but for now the target is to stay here," Bourdais confirmed.

Auto Motor und Sport contends that Bourdais' biggest obstacle to a renewed contract at Toro Rosso is Helmut Marko, Red Bull's motor racing advisor.

Reportedly, Marko would like to see Sebastien Buemi line up alongside Force India test driver Vitantonio Liuzzi in 2009. [Editor's Note: Bourdais would bury both of these wankers]


Automakers could seek more funding
General Motors Corp. has talked with federal officials since the news of its negotiations with Chrysler LLC emerged, although it's not clear what role, if any, the government might be asked to play in a possible deal.

The talks between GM and Chrysler come as the industry prepares to lobby for an additional $25 billion in direct government loans, just a few weeks after Congress approved the first $25 billion to help build fuel-efficient vehicles. With the economy worsening and auto sales slumping, some in the industry hope to loosen the rules around the loans so they can be used to not just retool plants, but help the companies survive.

"We are certainly going to be making the case that the industry needs additional assistance," said UAW Legislative Director Alan Reuther.

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Nissan eyes possible equity position in Chrysler
The Renault-Nissan alliance is proposing to acquire around 20 percent of Chrysler LLC and bring the Auburn Hills automaker into the French-Japanese automotive partnership, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The offer is now before private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP, which also is in talks with General Motors Corp. about its Chrysler holding.

Sources familiar with the discussions said Carlos Ghosn, CEO of both Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co., sent a proposal in recent days that included revisions to a draft agreement prepared by Cerberus.

The sources said Tokyo-based Nissan would acquire the stake because it has cash on hand, whereas Renault now has debts of more than $5 billion.

Nissan and Chrysler already have several joint projects in the works, with Nissan planning to produce small cars for Chrysler and Chrysler scheduled to make the next generation Titan full-size pickup for Nissan. Chrysler and Nissan managers say the teams work well together.

But another source close to the talks has told The Detroit News that Cerberus founder and CEO Stephen Feinberg favors a deal with GM, viewing it as the best solution for the embattled U.S. auto industry. More at Detroit News


Petrobras wants young Brazilian at Honda
(GMM)  The chances are high that a young countryman will replace Brazilian veteran Rubens Barrichello at Honda next year.

Honda is set to take up sponsorship by Petrobras next year, following the Brazilian oil firm's long association with struggling independent team Williams.

Honda is still holding out hope that Fernando Alonso will accept its offer of a race seat next year.

But in the event that the Spaniard chooses another destination, it is believed that Petrobras would be willing to substantially support the election of a Brazilian youngster as Jenson Button's teammate.

In the box seat is the GP2 runner-up Bruno Senna, who is expected to be tested by the Honda team in the near future.

So desperate is 36-year-old Barrichello to keep the seat, however, it is believed he has offered to bring down his weight over the winter to match Button's 68kg -- which according to some sources could mean a necessary loss for the Brazilian of more than 8kg.

"Next year, experience is going to be essential," Barrichello, referring to the sweeping rules changes for 2009, is quoted as saying by Auto Motor und Sport.

Another Brazilian option for Honda, however, could be Nelson Piquet Jr, who it is believed has not had his automatic contract option renewed by Renault and is therefore potentially a free agent for 2009.


Alguersuari to pen Red Bull test deal - report
(GMM)  Spanish teenager Jamie Alguersuari has emerged as a front runner to become Red Bull's new formula one test driver in 2009.

According to the Spanish newspaper Diario Sport, the energy drink-backed 18-year-old, who is the British F3 champion, is close to penning a deal to replace current Red Bull test and reserve driver Sebastien Buemi.

The news is further evidence that Buemi, the Swiss 19-year-old, is set to move up to make his race debut for Red Bull junior team Toro Rosso next year.

Diario Sport said the Alguersuari deal would not be finalized until November.

He is tipped to combine the F1 role with competing in the support series GP2 in 2009.


IRL to award points for road course qualifying
In this ESPN.com article John Oreovicz recalculated the last three IRL championships using several alternate scoring systems and came up with some interesting results. 

There are also some interesting Brian Barnhart quotes in the story, especially  the one at the end where he says they may add road course qualifying points next year.

"As we move toward a more diversified schedule, the IndyCar Series is the truest test of a driver in the world," he said. "We just finished rule-book meetings, and one of the things we considered is more points for pole at road and street course meetings. It may be appropriate to award points for our Firestone Fast Six knockout format, and we're looking at that as a change for 2009."


Mosley still believes he was set up by someone in F1
FIA President Max Mosley has repeated his claim that he was 'stitched-up' by somebody in motor-racing when he was revealed to be a prostitute-visiting sadomasochistic.

Mosley was exposed earlier this year after being filmed during a five-hour orgy with five prostitutes. Having successfully resisted calls for him to resign, Mosley is now seeking to expose the person - or persons - behind his public humiliation.

"I think it's undoubtedly related to motor racing, it's just a question of who," he told The Guardian. "I've got some shrewd ideas. I've got my eye on them, let's put it like that."

It may be that Mosley suspects it was McLaren's Ron Dennis after the FIA slammed McLaren with a $100M fine for the Stepneygate affair last year.  Some suspect Dennis got revenge by exposing Mosley and, following that logic, this may be why it appears the FIA is screwing McLaren's Lewis Hamilton whenever they can with penalties that sometimes appear unwarranted.  If true, how will the FIA find a way to make sure Massa wins the title in Brazil?


Tight money could send GM into bankruptcy
The head of the California Auto Dealer Association warned that as many as 40 percent of California consumers wouldn't qualify for an auto loan under new stricter guidelines announced by GMAC last week and that many General Motors Corp. dealers could be forced into bankruptcy.  If they lose 40% of their sales GM may as well file for bankruptcy now.

In a letter late Monday to GMAC CEO Alvaro G. de Molina, the California auto dealers president and CEO Peter Welch warned that GMAC's curtailment of financing for dealers stock -- called floor plan financing -- would put dealers out of business. "Unless immediately stopped, GMAC's actions will directly lead to insolvency of a number of our GM dealer members and will significantly erode GM's California market share," Welch wrote in the letter that also went to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and a top Cerberus Capital Management LP official, William Richter. "At a time of their greatest need, our GM dealers feel completely abandoned by GMAC's rogue actions," according to the letter

GMAC said last week it was hiking interest rates it provides dealers for non-incentivized loans by 75 basis points.

The company said the decision to limit loans to the most creditworthy customers was based on "the lack of stability in the global capital and credit markets." GMAC's decision to restrict financing to customers with credit scores of 700 or higher "will leave 40 percent of Californians with no GMAC financing option. A large number of California's ethnically diverse population is contained within the 40 percent market share that GMAC has decided to shun."


McLaren to help Force India team UPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today.  It is now almost certain that Force India will team up with McLaren-Mercedes for the 2009 season and beyond.

McLaren boss Ron Dennis made clear at the Chinese grand prix that despite talks about a technical partnership with the independent Silverstone based team, a definitive deal has not yet been sealed.

But among Dennis' colleagues in team bosses meetings, the situation is fairly clear.

"As I understand it, Force India has for the coming year secured a customer car from McLaren," Toro Rosso co-owner Gerhard Berger is quoted as saying by the Cologne newspaper Express.

A Force India-McLaren deal is undoubtedly of great interest to Berger, whose team similarly uses a car built by another team (Red Bull).

Currently, the rules are due to change in 2010, when customer teams must become full constructors.

But we reported recently that the topic is now in a state of flux, with Bernie Ecclestone wanting to allow teams involved in F1 for more than a decade to be allowed to share technology.

"If Bernie's proposal actually goes through, I think it will be excellent for all independent teams and bring down costs substantially," Vijay Mallya, whose Force India team is currently powered by a customer Ferrari engine, said.

10/12/08 (GMM)  A deal to see Mercedes engines and other McLaren support could be in place with a customer team in the "next few days", Ron Dennis said at Fuji Speedway.

Speculation on the verge of the Japanese grand prix this weekend suggests the Woking based team is in detailed talks with Force India, and perhaps another private team, about a collaboration for 2009.

"Some form of collaboration might unfold during the next few days," Dennis confirmed to the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

"Our objective is to help F1 at every opportunity.  One of these entails assisting an independent team and that will be given serious consideration."

10/09/08 The McLaren-Mercedes and Force India F1 teams are currently negotiating a possible deal in which the former will supply both teams with engines and technical assistance, 'autosport' reports. This despite the Indian team having an engine supply contract with the Scuderia Ferrari until the end of 2010.

"Should we be in a position to cooperate with an independent team and should such a cooperation make economic sense, we would be prepared to do so. Nothing has been decided yet, but we are engaged in various discussions and will inform the media of their outcome as soon as we are able to do so," said a McLaren spokesperson to 'autosport', confirming the ongoing discussions between the two teams. "We are also in discussions with, and seeking the guidance of, FIA president Max Mosley in connection with the matter."


Penske to dump ALMS for Grand-Am UPDATE #5 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Penske Racing has made the decision and will drop out of ALMS and move to Grand-Am. 

10/16/08 Penske added fuel to rumors that his American Le Mans Series participation with Porsche will come to an end at the close of this season.

"Rule changes for next year will make it more difficult for our [LMP2-class cars] to compete with the [LMP1s] next year, and we don't want to race just for class victory," he said. "But we haven't made any decisions yet."

10/05/08 The Penske Team has reapplied for their car numbers for next year so it appears they have plans of returning.  But if not with Porsche then who?

09/22/08 The factory Penske Porsche ALMS entry could be discontinued at the end of the year but the new ACO rules could change this situation.

The new engine rules for 2011 sees their current engines being eligible for P2 and P1 in 2011, giving them an edge over most of their competitors (Audi, Acura, Peugeot, Aim, Judd) who will see their current engines become illegal in 2011.

By developing this engine and subsequent guises of this engine, Porsche could have a leg up on the opposition if they continue to seriously race their engine in a competitive series like the ALMS.

Porsche have always held the desire to enter the LMP1 class but have not done so for political and sporting reason and these new rules could open the way for a Porsche return to the highest class of sportscar racing.  Feedmesportscars

09/02/08 Hearing that Walker could be buying the Penske Porsches for the Mansells who are rumored to be wanting to run sportscars together - Dad Nigel and his two sons, who ran the Atlantic Series this year, neither showing the speed it takes to race and win at the top level of open wheel, hence a move to sportscars where outright speed is not as important.

08/30/08 According to this SPEEDTV.com article, Porsche is going to drop their factory support of the 2-car Penske ALMS LMP2 effort and Penske Racing is looking to sell their cars and equipment.  Derrick Walker is said to be considering running them as a privateer entry.  With Acura moving most of its factory effort up to LMP1 next year, the LMP2 scene will be dominated by privateer teams it would seem.


Kurt Busch staying with Penske
Walt Czarnecki, a top Penske Racing executive, denies speculation #2-Kurt Busch might be with another team next season. There are reports that at least one top team would be interested in talking with Busch if his Penske contract were up. But Czarnecki calls it “categorically untrue” that Busch might be moving on. Winston Salem Journal


NASCAR All-Star Race moving to Texas?
So how about moving NASCAR’s annual All-Star race to Texas Motor Speedway? 

Sure, Charlotte officials might complain, but that market has three major NASCAR Cup events, and it doesn’t sell out all its seats. Logical business would be to cut a race, and make the remaining seats more valuable.

So track owner Bruton Smith could well take one of those Texas Cup weekends and move it to his newly purchased Kentucky Speedway, and then move the May All-Star race from Lowe’s Motor Speedway down to Texas.

Certainly something has to shake out if Smith is to maximize his investment in the Cincinnati area track.

The NASCAR Frances, on the other hand, are looking for Cup date to move to their own Kansas City track, now that they’ve got the okay for a Hard Rock Casino at that speedway.

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Alonso, Kimi to swap seats for 2009 - report
(GMM)  While the whereabouts of Fernando Alonso for 2009 is not set in stone, speculation about the Spaniard's future is likely to remain rife.

Although the former double world champion is expected to stay at Renault next year, Honda is making no secret that it is keeping a seat open for him.

The 27-year-old, meanwhile, often says his real preference is Ferrari, the famous Italian team that has vowed to stick with Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa.

But until Alonso makes an official announcement some time after the Brazilian grand prix, the rumors are set to persist.

The latest speculation is in the Spanish newspaper AS, which says Alonso and Raikkonen could be the subject of a seat swap for 2009.

"I really believe that with whatever team I will be with next season that I will be able to fight for the championship," Alonso said in China.

The rumors were perhaps sparked by the interview given last weekend to La Gazzetta dello Sport by Flavio Briatore, who emphasized Renault's relationship with Ferrari.

"It is logical that I support Ferrari, as an Italian, as Flavio Briatore, as Renault, for the relationship we have with Ferrari," he said. (See related rumors)


Detroit Big 3 tell NASCAR to deep-six truck series UPDATE #3 Is NASCAR listening yet?  Well they had better.  With this announcement Ford has withdrawn from the truck series ala Dodge.  That leaves GM and Toyota.  When GM leaves (And they will - who is buying gas guzzling trucks these days?  Not many) NASCAR will be forced to shut down the truck series, which given the attendance it attracts should have been shuttered years ago.  What a waste for manufacturers to compete in all three NASCAR divisions?

09/16/08 Rumors continue to circulate that the NASCAR Craftsman Trucks could be in trouble. Reports tell of Ford, Dodge and Chevy telling NASCAR that they should nix the series because they are not selling trucks. That’s a fact and due to the spiking gas and diesel prices. If NASCAR did scratch the CTS, it would devastate the NASCAR ladder system and take out a lot of drivers and teams on the way up and those on the way down. Let’s hope that this rumor doesn’t ever become fact. Winston Salem Journal

09/09/08 Ford team owner Jack Roush, who once ran one of the country's top road racing operations, said: "I think there's a NASCAR road-racing series coming, regardless of whether the Truck series goes away. And for us to be able to road race again would be a great thing.

"It would be cool, and I would enjoy having a Daytona Prototype car for the 24 Hours in 2009, and for a handful of other races, too, but I think it may be too late to get that going for next year. But maybe 2010."

The Truck series currently is under some pressure, with Chrysler's abrupt decision to withdraw Dodge factory support. Dodge was once NASCAR's Truck series powerhouse, but it has only backed one team this season.

What will Dodge's withdrawal mean?

"I think there is a distinct possibility that in the foreseeable future, based on the economy and what the manufacturers have done, there is a reasonable chance that the Truck series will go away," Roush says. "Not in 2009, but maybe in 2010 or 2011.

"I hope that doesn't happen. You look at it, and 40 percent of the people who drive into these racetracks are coming in either SUVs or pickup trucks. So trucks are still relevant to what we're trying to do here. But there's a lot of pressure, and the Truck series may well be a casualty of that…."

J.D. Gibbs, a Toyota team owner, said: "Dodge pulling out of Trucks, that's not good. We had a Truck team for a while, and lost our shirts. Trucks have always been a hard sell."

"When Dodge first came into NASCAR Trucks, they came in with money and accepted half of what the going rate was for a sponsorship then. Dodge really set up the Truck series to be a ‘manufacturers' series, because of their money -- support which was unprecedented.

"And when Toyota came in, it took another turn.

"So right now, the Truck series, because NASCAR has been unable to manage it, is dependent on manufacturers to support it … because of what Dodge originally did and what Toyota has done." - journalnow.com

08/06/08 The implosion of the casual-use pickup truck market in the U.S. does not bode well for NASCAR's truck series. And the fact that NASCAR hasn't been able to land a sponsor to replace Craftsman doesn't bode well for the truck series either.  To reduce costs the Detroit manufacturers wouldn't mind if NASCAR's truck series went bye-bye. As a matter of fact, one of the manufacturers has already let it be known that they're as good as through with the truck series.  Autoextremist


KERS to be delayed by year?
Rumors from Shanghai suggest that the introduction of KERS could be delayed by a season, following this weekend’s FOTA meetings in China.  In the interim we may see a possible rev cut of 500rpm and an extension from the current two-race mileage for F1 engines to three races.

track news

NASCAR track to be built in Canada UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' for now.  NASCAR says they have no room in their schedule to add any dates at this time.

The promise of a new $172 million, state-of-the-art race track isn’t enough to lure NASCAR to Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada., a spokesman for the auto-racing organization said Friday. The group of investors planning a racing complex that would seat 65,000 spectators hopes to bring top-level auto racing to Southern Ontario, but NASCAR won’t be part of the project. “Our schedule is extremely full, especially in our top three national series,” NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston told The News, referring to the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Craftsman Truck series. “There’s really not much, if any, room to add any dates at this time.”

But local officials say there never was a commitment from NASCAR to bring a race to Fort Erie and the project is an economic engine that doesn’t hinge on NASCAR’s participation. In fact, one economic-development official involved in the project said NASCAR still could change its mind and bring a race here once they see the success of the finished track. “In the end, NASCAR may be approached, or be approachable,” said James A. Thibert, president of the Fort Erie Economic Development and Tourism Corp. Officials revealed plans for the project at a Tuesday news conference in Fort Erie, where a Kuwaiti financial company was identified as the lead investor. However, news of the race track began leaking out over the past week or so, and media reports referred to it as a “NASCAR-ready” or “NASCAR-level” track.

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Two loser Cup teams in talks to merge UPDATE Robbie Loomis said Petty Enterprises has been approached by at least three organizations about a possible alliance heading into next season.

The vice president of racing operations, speaking Friday at Martinsville Speedway, would not identify them, but published reports say Dale Earnhardt Inc. might be on that list.

DEI officials declined to comment.

"It's nothing any newer than it was a year ago," Loomis said. "The only difference is now we probably have people talking at the right level, or a higher level, than I could."

Richard Petty sold majority interest of Petty Enterprises to Boston Ventures earlier this year for financial help. But in order to keep up with the top teams merging with each other, a merger for Petty itself might become necessary.

"It won't be long and we're going to be racing against six- and eight-car teams," Loomis said, referring to alliances such as the five-car team at Roush Fenway and three-car team of Yates Racing. "When it's two against four it's not bad. When it's two versus six and eight it's a lot more complicated."

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Overheard at Watkins Glen - 3 (Barrichello to the IRL?) UPDATE #3 (GMM)  Rubens Barrichello has flatly denied reports he is set to test an Indy car following next month's Brazilian grand prix.

The 36-year-old Brazilian is openly fighting for his Honda seat and for his future in formula one, as the Japanese team courts potential successors to the longest driving career in F1 history.

Barrichello says no to the IndyCar Series
Reports from South America recently pointed at an opening for 2009 at the Honda-powered Penske Indy car team, stating that a test run at the Homestead track in Florida has been lined up.

"Someone invented that story," Barrichello said in Shanghai in interview with Eurosport Motormagazin.

"Because of my friendship with Tony Kanaan, I had the opportunity to go to the Indy 500.  Then my wife told me that was the only thing she didn't want me to do, (racing on) the ovals."

Barrichello does not totally rule out a future career on the American racing scene.

"It would be tempting to drive for a team like that of Roger Penske, but there is nothing to it (currently).  I don't have his phone number and we have never talked about it.

"I have only read about it on the internet, and, as you can imagine, I was pretty surprised!"

10/14/08 (GMM)  Rubens Barrichello is set to test an Indy car following next month's Interlagos race, which could turn out to be the last grand prix of his long formula one career.

The 36-year-old Brazilian said at Fuji last weekend that the "silence" at Honda is becoming "tiresome", as he bids to remain with the Japanese team in 2009.

Honda, however, seems more likely to sign either Fernando Alonso or Bruno Senna as Jenson Button's teammate next year, raising the prospect of F1's longest-running driver career coming to an end.

It was already rumored that Barrichello's best option outside of formula one was the premier Brazilian stock car series, which houses former Brazilian F1 racers Tarso Marques, Luciano Burti, Ricardo Zonta and Antonio Pizzonia.

But the South American motorsports portal Grande Premio claims that Barrichello is to test a Honda-powered Penske Indy car next month, possibly at the Homestead track in Florida.

10/13/08 According to motorsports portal Grande Premio, soon to be ex-Honda F1 driver Rubens Barrichello will test an Indy car in November, possibly at the Homestead road course.

Arranged by IndyCar engine supplier Honda, the test will see Barrichello in a Team Penske car and given the uncertainty regarding Helio Castroneves’ future in the wake of the two-time Indy 500 winner’s tax evasion indictment, it could be a perfect fit for all involved.

We are hearing that Tony Kanaan may not be back at Andretti Green Racing in 2009 and that Brazilian Honda F1 driver Rubens Barrichello, who is at the twilight of his career in F1 and is likely out after this year, will move stateside and take Kanaan's ride at Andretti Green Racing.  Another option could be a swap that would see Marco Andretti go to F1 to take Barrichello’s seat and Barrichello taking Andretti's seat at AGR.  We doubt that will happen until such time as Andretti proves himself by winning regularly in Indy Cars and takes home the championship. 

As for Kanaan, he and Graham Rahal could be under consideration to replace Ryan Briscoe at Team Penske with Briscoe possibly moving back to Penske's ALMS program.  Mark C reporting from Watkins Glen


Customer cars going to be allowed in F1
(GMM)  The future looks brighter for Toro Rosso.

Earlier this year, the partly Gerhard Berger-owned squad was in serious trouble, given Red Bull's dithering support and the looming end of the era when using a customer car is allowed.

But on both counts, the sand appears to have shifted somewhat.  Red Bull mogul Dietrich Mateschitz's support seems more secure, and there are significant movements on the customer car issue.

Berger, meanwhile, said on Friday that Sebastian Vettel's debut win has helped the former Minardi squad to "position ourselves in a good way".

"Also my partner Red Bull is still committed very much behind the team," he said in China.

On the topic of customer cars, meanwhile, it emerged recently that Bernie Ecclestone has proposed that teams already involved in formula one should be allowed to share technology, including the buying and selling of entire cars.

"If the regulations change in a way that the system we are using at the moment, and share costs and get synergies for both teams, I think the situation could change for us and could help us," Berger said.

It is understood that this potential rules shift led to Force India's talks with McLaren-Mercedes about a collaboration.

It is also clear that the Indian team is concerned about Ferrari's lagging progress with a KERS system for 2009, but it seems that a Force India-McLaren alliance would involve the sharing of engines, components and even aerodynamics.

"If Bernie's proposal actually goes through, I think it will be excellent for all independent teams and bring down costs substantially," Mallya said.


Troubles for F1 in Brazil
The Formula One season comes to a conclusion at Interlagos in just over two weeks time, but at the moment the city of Sao Paulo has its own issues with the police clashing with police.

Riot police were in action Thursday with tear gas and rubber bullets in use as striking police officers attempted to force their way into state Governor Jose Serra’s Bandeirantes Palace the BBC reports.

23 people were injured in the clash according to Xinhua, as the civil police seek to negotiate a 15 percent pay rise. The injured were treated at the nearby The Albert Einstein Hospital.

Speaking ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix weekend, Felipe Massa admitted that things were a little fraught in his home town.

The strike is now a month old and with the Formula One circus due in town in less than two weeks for the title decider between Massa and Lewis Hamilton, this could be another headache for Bernie Ecclestone and Formula One Management who are probably concerned that Hamilton's safety could be at stake.


Grand Prix of Cleveland still hopes to join IRL schedule
The Grand Prix of Cleveland remains in limbo, but race promoters remain optimistic that the event will return.

The Cleveland race was not among the three Champ Car events that were included as part of the new IRL schedule for 2008 following the unification of the two series.

At the time, it was anticipated that the race would be added for next year, but that didn't happen. Now, Cleveland promoters are working toward 2010.

"We still are very encouraged," said Chuck Kosich, general manager for MJ Promotions, which promotes the Cleveland race.

"They [the IRL] have our information. We're hoping by the middle of January we can hear something from them about what direction they are going for the 2010 schedule. We have sold none of our assets in hopes of something positive in the near future."  Cleveland Plain Dealer


More restrictions coming on testing
The Formula 1 team principals met yesterday in Shanghai to discuss sporting rules which would help to cut costs in F1. The principal decision appears to have been to further reduce testing so that teams do just 20,000km next year. It seems that, after the winter testing programs, the teams have now agreed to run only one car at every test.

This means that there is now no need for F1 test drivers, although youngsters will still get the chance to run in F1 machinery thanks to the four days of testing set aside for them. It is, however, bad news for the more experienced testers who will end up not being able to do anything as the race drivers will drive as much as they can.

With regard to the race meetings, things are not going to change in 2009 because there are too many complicated commitments to different promoters and so it is hard to come up with a new format. There has been talk of having a money race on a Friday to kick the weekend off with a bang, but there is also talk of reducing the race meetings to two-day affairs. Grandprix.com


TV may decide Surfers fate
Australian TV Channel Seven may ultimately determine the fate of Indy on the Gold Coast.

Amid mounting speculation over the future of the Surfers Paradise race, one week out from this year's event a Channel 7 source has effectively said it has to be October or bust.

Seven's programming communications manager, Tony Stower, told The Bulletin the network could accommodate an Indy broadcast only on the two weekends of mid or late October, or February -- Queensland's most inhospitable month for weather and an unlikely option.

"February is a bit of a window, but really the (current) October date fits pretty well," he said.
Speculation over the future of the Surfers race has been rife since the merger of the Indy Racing League and Champ Cars series earlier this year resulted in the IRL requesting the Gold Coast race to be rescheduled to either late September or early March -- dates not palatable to the State Government or local organizers.

While the Government has maintained it will not budge from the late October date, Sports Minister Judy Spence told The Bulletin yesterday the Government had some alternative dates to offer to IRL powerbrokers when they hit the Coast next week.

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NASCAR forced to reduce size of fields UPDATE #2 This ESPN.com article goes into more depth of the struggles NASCAR teams are having finding sponsors.  When Toyota came in they raised the bar and the cost it takes to win.  Now as the economy has soured teams are finding it hard to raise enough money to field a winning car - close to $30M per year.

10/15/08 During testing at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Felix Sabates, Chip Ganassi's partner told reporters he thinks by 2010 eight cars will leave NASCAR and not be replaced and that will lead NASCAR to shrink race fields to 36 cars.

This as a byproduct of the toll the economy is taking on race teams.

It's an interesting take on the matter by a guy who knows the inner workings of the racing business.

And it makes a lot of sense. Owning a race-team is not a money-making proposition. At some point an owner has to wonder if it makes sense to keep running an underfunded team. Over the weekend Dale Earnhardt Jr. said his team will only run as many cars and as many races as it can afford to run. Seems like a simple idea, but a lot of owners don't stick to it. Ganassi, for example, spent several million of his own dollars to try to keep the No. 40 team afloat before finally giving up.

In the Cup garages as well as the Nationwide garages, there's a plethora of cars that don't have sponsors either on a steady basis or at all. And in a classic case of the rich getting richer. Teams with clout, like Richard Childress Racing, are acquiring sponsors that leave other, less successful teams.

Eventually, the less successful teams will hang it up.  Orlando Sentinel

10/13/08 NASCAR, like so many others, is hurting from the current economic chaos. Races feature grandstands with patches of empty seats. Fans can't afford to attend. Corporate sponsors are skittish about spending more cash on stock-car racing.

It could get worse.

In the aftermath of the near meltdown in financial markets last week, General Motors reportedly has held separate merger talks with both Ford and Chrysler.

Those three, along with Toyota, are the car makes used in NASCAR's premier Sprint Cup Series, and combining any of them would raise the obvious question: Would their involvement in NASCAR stay the same or be cut back? LA Times

Another sign of the times is the rumor that NASCAR has floated the possibility of a change in the field size for the Craftsman Truck and Nationwide Series to 28 vehicles and the Cup field down to 36 sometime in the future. Yahoo! Sports


Bourdais linked with Renault switch UPDATE #2 Bourdais has hinted that if Toro Rosso does not pick up his contract for next year soon, he may switch teams and Renault certainly would be better off with Bourdais than the hapless Nelson Piquet Jr.

"My team has not yet decided whether it will keep me next year," Bourdais wrote in his latest column for French sports newspaper L'Équipe. "If there comes a certain time when they have not taken a decision, it may be necessary for me to take it for myself. I am neither hopeful nor anxious."

10/10/08 (GMM)  French F1 driver Sebastien Bourdais on Friday said he would be happy to race for Renault in 2009.

We reported recently that the 29-year-old, who has had a mixed rookie season with Toro Rosso in 2008, could be in the frame to switch to the French manufacturer's squad next year -- despite his difficult past relationship with Renault.

"Nobody from Renault has spoken to me about it," the winner of multiple Champ Car titles told the French radio station RMC.

"It is obvious that for me to race with Renault would be super, but they pay for the progressive development of a number of drivers, so I don't know."

Bourdais is referring to the fact that, according to paddock gossip, Renault-backed youngsters Lucas di Grassi and Romain Grosjean are more strongly linked with a seat at the Enstone based team.

Bourdais said: "If they are thinking of me, all the better.  I am completely available, and I will be there if they need me."

He is also hoping to be retained by Toro Rosso for a second season in 2009.

"I will be judged on the whole of the season, not just on one good race.  For the moment, I think it is a little bit complicated.

"If there comes a certain time when they have not taken a decision, it may be necessary for me to take it for myself.  I am neither hopeful nor anxious," Bourdais said.

Sebastien Bourdais (L) has been overshadowed by his younger STR teammate Sebastian Vettel (R)
(GMM)  Sebastien Bourdais could be in the frame to remain in formula one next year by switching teams.

The French radio station RMC reports that the 29-year-old rookie, who has had a difficult season in 2008 since moving from Champ Cars to Toro Rosso, is in with a chance of racing next year for Renault.

Given Bourdais' history with Renault, the union seems unlikely.  A few years ago, bemoaning the French marque's reluctance to give him a chance in F1, Bourdais said "I know I don't belong there".

Renault's driver plans for 2009 are, however, in a state of flux.  The Flavio Briatore-led squad is trying to convince Fernando Alonso to stay, while considering whether or not to keep the struggling Nelson Piquet as his teammate.

Brazil's Lucas di Grassi is a candidate, but so too is another Renault test driver and GP2 competitor, the Swiss-French 22-year-old Romain Grosjean.

Frenchman Denis Chevrier, Renault's F1 engine chief, told a Spanish newspaper that he hopes Alonso stays for 2009.

Referring to the former double world champion's Singapore win, he told Marca: "75 per cent of it was down to Fernando, who drove flawlessly, brilliantly.

"I really hope he stays because there are very few drivers like him.  He is very important to us, especially for next year."


Spanish team's next step - F1 or IRL UPDATE #4 According to the Las Provincias newspaper in Spain, Adrian Campos is eyeing a possible move to the American IndyCar series in a joint effort with Mexican Adrian Fernandez.  F1 is thought to be cost prohibitive.

10/14/08 Added photo of Agag and Campos below right.

Alejandro Agag and Adrian Campos (right)
10/13/08 Autosport reports that Adrian Campos has decided to step down as team principal of the GP2 squad and sell his stake in the Spanish outfit.

The former grand prix driver, whose GP2 outfit won the teams' title this season, has sold his stake in the team to Alejandro Agag, who was already the majority stake holder and who now owns 100% of the team.

Campos will now focus on his F3 team and on another project he is yet to reveal details about, but could be a Spanish F1 team.

"I think it's the right time to think about other projects that I have had in mind for a long time," said Campos.

"I will continue with the F3 team, that I have left aside a bit over these years, and I will start another project that excites me, one which I have a lot of hopes for the future and that I hope to make public very soon.

"I leave the team in the best hands because I have an assurance for continuity from Alejandro and I'm sure that he will do as well as I may have done during these years."

[AutoRacing1.com perspective: We wouldn't be surprised if his next step is F1.  One of his drivers in GP2 in the past few years, including 2008, was Vitaly Petrov (a Russian driver with almost unlimited funds), who won in GP2 last year and this year.]

The team's sponsor in the past two years has been Barwa (http://www.barwa.com.qa/ and http://www.barwa.com.qa/english/eng.aspx), A Qatar based, innovative, real estate conglomerate (please see Barwa's website).

Another Campos sponsor is: Comunidad Valenciana, the Valencian Community http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valencian_Community, a local authority backing the team heavily for the last couple of years.

Adrian Campos: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adrian_Campos. His team is already called Campos Grand Prix http://www.camposgrandprix.com/?idioma=uk&t=1, which makes you wonder......

09/30/08 (GMM)  Adrian Campos has taken the next step to forming a Spanish formula one team, the country's press reports.

The national El Mundo newspaper claims that the former Minardi driver, who already co-owns a GP2 team with Alejandro Agag, has devised multi-million euro plans to build a wind tunnel "as the next step towards F1".

The project, comprising a 40 per cent scale wind tunnel and seven-poster rig, is to be based in Alzira, located in the Valencia province.

07/07/08 (GMM)  GP2 team boss Adrian Campos is interested in buying the assets of the defunct formula one team Super Aguri.

It emerged at the weekend that the assets of the Japanese team, including cars and transporters, will be auctioned on July 31.

It is often suggested that Campos, and fellow Spaniard Alejandro Agag, want to launch a Spanish F1 foray, and were even linked with Super Aguri prior to its collapse.

Campos confirmed to GPWeek that he held talks about buying Super Aguri's assets prior to the announcement about the auction.

"It's true I was there to talk with them about buying the assets.  That's all for the moment," he said.


F1 in for more night races UPDATE #2 (GMM)  The boss of next year's inaugural Abu Dhabi grand prix has played down the possibility that the race could be staged at night.

Bernie Ecclestone said this week: "At the moment, we do not have an agreement to run formula one at night in Abu Dhabi but we are discussing the possibility."

But Philippe Gurdjian, albeit an historical ally of the F1 chief executive, told the local newspaper Gulf News that it is currently "not an objective" to become the sport's next floodlit venue.

"Just a few days ago Bernie Ecclestone said that the 2009 calendar will have one night race and that is Singapore," the Frenchman, CEO of race promoter Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management, remarked.

Abu Dhabi, with a circuit currently under construction on its Yas Island, is scheduled to host a grand prix for the first time in November next year.

"I would personally like it to be a day race," Gurdjian said.

He admitted, however, that some thought has been devoted to the concept of installing lighting infrastructure at the track.

"But it is difficult to do it.

"Secondly we are concentrating more on the aesthetic side of the project.  But yes we are working on this aspect," Gurdjian answered.

10/14/08 (GMM)  Next year's season finale could be staged under floodlights, F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone has admitted.

It was rumored recently that, following the success of the inaugural night grand prix in Singapore, Ecclestone's next target for the spectacle is Abu Dhabi, a new event to be staged in the Arab emirate late next year.

Race organizers Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management would not comment on the speculation.

But Ecclestone told the local newspaper Khaleej Times: "At the moment, we do not have an agreement to run formula one at night in Abu Dhabi but we are discussing the possibility."

09/28/08 McLaren team boss Ron Dennis believes more Grands Prix could be staged at night following the success of Singapore. High-powered floodlights illuminated the streets of Singapore and Fernando Alonso claimed victory in the first-ever Formula One event staged in the dark.

"It is just a phenomenal spectacle" - Ron Dennis The race had a unique atmosphere and Dennis is convinced future races will be held at night as a result.

He said: "I don't think anybody does not appreciate the success of the concept of racing at night. The only negative comment I've heard throughout the weekend from any member of our team was that the circuit is a bit bumpy, but everyone adapts to that and it is easy to rectify for next year.

"The really impressive thing relates to the lighting. There are very few places that don't look even better at night because they are beautifully lit and it is the same of this city.

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Formula BMW

Formula BMW finale in Mexico to be cancelled
Today the newspaper Reforma of Mexico City printed a front page story about the FIA barring the Autodromo Hnos. Rodriguez from any international events because of a chicane.

This may be the saddest news in Mexican motorsport since the Formula 1 left the country in 1992, and again the people responsible are the Abed family.

The Abed family is well known in Mexico in the world of motorsports and they own the race track in Puebla where the WTCC races, but this track is well under the needed specs for a world event, but because Jose Abed is vice president of FIA they are allowed to race there. The Abed family thinks they can push the F-BMW World Final and the Formula 1 BMW-Sauber show to their track because they have a personal fight with the promoter of the BMW event in Mexico, the Suverville family, the same families that promote in the WRC event in Leon.

This is a sad story and the fans in Mexico are besides themselves we hear. Esteban Gutierrez is the European F-BMW champion and the best hope for Mexico to have a driver in F1, and all this politics and nonsense from the Abed family is hurting him and the fans.

If their plan goes through they are also going to kill the A1GP and Grand Am events we hear.


Toyota to enter Euro F3 series UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  The DAMS team of Jean-Paul Driot has decided to not enter the Euro F3 Series. The French team confirmed that they had talks with Tom's Toyota engines used in the Japanese F3 championship, but the cost was too high and DAMS decided to abort the project.

09/30/08 Toyota could be an additional engine supplier to the F3 Euroseries from next season onwards, making it three manufacturers in this championship. The other engine suppliers are Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen.

Toyota is in talks with F3 Euroseries regular team SG Formula from Stephane Guerin, who are already running Henkie Waldschmidt, a TDP (Toyota Driver Program) driver in this years F3 Euroseries, and with DAMS (owned by Jean-Paul Driot). DAMS would then be a new outfit to the F3 Euroseries next year. This year they ran teams in GP2 (with TDP driver Kamui Kobayashi) and A1GP (France and South-Africa).

Toyota has been very dominant in this years domestic Japanese F3 series, Dutchman Carlo van Dam clinching the title ten days ago. They were already very successful in last years blue ribbon event, the international Macau F3 race. Englishman Oliver Jarvis, last years Japanese F3 champion, ran away from the rest of the field to victory in the 2007 Macau race in his Tom's Toyota Dallara, leaving the other engine manufacturers behind.


Dirk Müller and Jorg Müller to lead the BMW M3 GT2 effort?
Rumor has it that Dirk Müller and Jorg Müller are most likely to drive the BMW M3 GT2 championship effort in the American Le Mans Series next year.


More moves to shake up F1 show UPDATE The Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) is holding meetings in Shanghai to work out ways to improve the sport with sweeping changes possible, http://www.autosport.com/ said.

A ban on refueling surfaced after numerous pit problems this year, highlighted by Felipe Massa's bungled stop in Singapore, when he drove off with the refueling pipe still attached to his car.

Any refueling ban would mean an overhaul of car design because of the size of current fuel tanks, with one way to minimize the impact being shorter races, the website said.

It cited McLaren chief executive Martin Whitmarsh as confirming that discussions in China would be about the race weekend format and a possible widespread testing ban.

"We're looking at the race format and testing," he said.

"I think there are quite a few good ideas on the agenda which would change the format of racing and change the format of the weekend.

"Hopefully, together we'll come up with some agreement on how we can change the weekend in a positive way. But we've got to be careful in making changes that we retain some of the purity that is important in Formula One.

"We've got to look at our agenda on Friday and decide whether that's a worthwhile agenda, where we can make it more of a spectacle and have a bit of competition on that day, and we're going to review what we do on Saturday and Sunday to see if we can make it a little bit less predictable.

"But you'd have to say, based on recent races, it's fairly unpredictable at the moment."  Fox Sports

10/12/08 (GMM) More moves are afoot to shake up the spectacle of formula one.

The new FOTA alliance of F1 teams is already contemplating a proposal whereby Friday's fastest driver is awarded $1m.

It now emerges that more tweaks to the Friday practice format are possible, with some bosses pushing for a total of six hours of testing on the first day of a grand prix weekend.

The format would accompany a total ban on in-season testing, with only limited post and pre-season testing allowed in the name of reducing costs.

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#00 team to fold, McDowell axed
Michael McDowell
Michael Waltrip Racing will field cars for #55-Michael Waltrip and David Reutimann and then partner with JTG Daugherty Racing to field the car for Marcos Ambrose [#47] in the Sprint Cup Series in 2009. The fate of the current #00 MWR team is still to be determined. Running that car would depend on sponsorship, MWR Executive Vice President Cal Wells said Saturday at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. “Our plan right now is two plus one, and we’re working on some other opportunities for next year,” Wells said.

“We’re all in to make those three cars race-winning contenders every week. We’re not going to spread our resources unless we can really find the right kind of deal. We did this year, but next year we’re going to make sure that we’re sponsored.”

The team currently fields three cars, including one that has primarily been driven by Michael McDowell. But McDowell hasn’t driven the last two weeks. AJ Allmendinger drove the car Saturday night at Lowe’s Motor Speedway and Wells said he considers him a candidate for a full-time ride if sponsorship is found for the fourth car. McDowell didn’t seem very optimistic about returning to MWR when talking Saturday.

“They didn’t exercise the option on me,” McDowell said. “I know it’s due to not having funding, but being out these few races here, I’m not really sure where that’s driven from. I don’t know if I’m racing next week. Hopefully I’ll be in at Martinsville or in at some races before the end of the year. But in the meantime, they’re working hard on sponsorship and I’m working hard on trying to stay in the garage.”

Wells said there is a plan for the rest of the year that includes McDowell and wouldn’t say who would drive next week at Martinsville. He said the situation is “fluid,” but did say that J.J. Yeley, rumored to have been driving the car, will not be driving it.

“I just want to race – I don’t care if it’s a truck, Nationwide or a Cup car,” McDowell said. “I’m ready for any of the above. You’re not going to be extremely picky, choosy at this point. I need a job.” Wells said he was unsure exactly will happen with the points and which cars’ points the JTG Daugherty team will get. SceneDaily


Will F1 copy Champ Car yet again? UPDATE This article outlines how F1, like the IRL, is set to copy the top ideas of Champ Car, a series that had it right technically, but got it all wrong when it came to marketing of the series and the selling of sponsorship.

07/05/07 Champ Car uses option tires.  F1 has copied the idea.

Champ Car allows customer cars.  F1 has copied the idea.

Champ Car mandates a spec ECU to control things like traction control.  F1 is copying the idea.

Champ Car uses turbo engines, F1 is talking about using turbos in 2011.

The list goes on.

In an Autosport.com interview, Williams technical director Sam Michael has suggested that a reintroduction of ground effect cars could be the answer to improving the opportunities for overtaking in Formula One.

According to Michael, the return of ground effect - where a low-pressure area is created below the car, effectively sucking it to the road – is an idea worthy of consideration.

"When you have cars that create loads of downforce, it's pretty difficult to achieve passing," he said. "Going towards categories that have less downforce and power doesn't seem like the solution. Look at F3; it's the most boring racing you can ever watch. Reducing the downforce isn't the solution for F1.

"I do think you can benefit from following the experience F1 had in the 1980s of using ground effect more than we do now. The things that have probably made F1 worse is getting rid of ground effect, and lifting the front wing – it's gone up 150mm in the last five years. Both those things made the cars very sensitive to onset flow."

"Every time we've looked at doing that before, we've seen that it costs £2m to make two cars and everyone says they can't be bothered paying for that.

"I don't think it's too risky to go to a ground effect car. The OWG [Overtaking Working Group] proposal does not include adjustable wings."

Ground effect is currently featured in the Champ Car World Series, but flat undertrays were made mandatory in F1 since 1983.


Will Honda again sponsor Surfers race?
Not only will every IndyCar car in the 2008 Nikon Indy 300 be Honda powered, Honda will also supply the official vehicles for the event which will be held on the streets of the Gold Coast from October 23-26.

The announcement sees a welcome return of the Honda name to the Event for the first time since its role as the Naming Rights Sponsor of the Event came to a close after three years in 2002, to be replaced by Lexmark through until 2007 before Nikon took over the role for 2008.

The fleet of Honda vehicles will include CR-V, Accord Euro and Civic Type R models which will carry prominent event signage through to the Event.

Nikon Indy 300 General Manager Greg Hooton said he was thrilled to welcome the famous manufacturer back to the Gold Coast event as the official car supplier.

“Our Event has always enjoyed a beneficial relationship with Honda in the past,” said Hooton.

“Thinking back on that relationship, I am more than happy to welcome Honda and their vehicles back as we get set for the 2008 Event over October 23-26.”

Honda Australia Managing Director & CEO, Mr. Yasuhide Mizuno, said the company was looking forward to being part of the Gold Coast Event once again.

“We are looking forward to renewing our partnership with the Gold Coast event, which has been very successful for Honda both on and off the track." said Mizuno.

Honda dropped the race when it split with CART and went IndyCar racing.  With the event now an IndyCar race, could this be the first step toward Honda returning as title sponsor of the race when the Nikon contract runs out?


Trouble for Ferrari too?
The turbulent financial markets are causing problems for the supercar companies such as Ferrari. According to reports in Australia, dealers are finding an increasing number of young executives trying to sell their cars as they have less ready cash than previously to make the necessary payments. The car companies say that they do not expect the number of buyers to reduce but there is no doubt that there are a great deal more secondhand Ferraris on the market than there were six months ago and this may have a dramatic effect on the earnings of the parent company as buyers can get almost new cars for a knockdown price.

Australian dealer Normal Elkordi told the Sydney Morning Herald that "I have never seen it like this before."


McLaren pushes for di Resta debut UPDATE (GMM)  Norbert Haug, the boss of Mercedes' F1 program, has played down rumors that Paul di Resta may be pushed onto the grand prix grid as early as next year.

"The options for Paul next year are either to stay in DTM or go into GP2 -- but nothing is decided," said the German.

It emerged in the Fuji paddock last weekend that di Resta, the 22-year-old Scottish driver, will possibly be bundled with a customer McLaren package at a small F1 team next year.

He currently races for Mercedes' premier effort in the German touring car series DTM, and recently made his test debut for McLaren.

"We have a policy of trying to promote young drivers into formula one," team boss Ron Dennis confirmed.

It is also now clear that di Resta is being managed by Anthony Hamilton, the father of the most famous McLaren protégé, championship leader Lewis.

Dennis said a program for di Resta will gather more momentum after the season.

"That may not necessarily be with McLaren or any specific team.  But obviously to put your weight behind someone you have to have a clear perspective of what they can do, so that is why we are going through this process," he added.

10/11/08 (GMM)  According to a strong rumor in the Fuji paddock, McLaren-Mercedes is looking to give Paul di Resta his formula one debut as soon as possible.

The 22-year-old Scot, however, would not be housed at the Woking based team, but at a customer Mercedes-powered partner outfit.

The speculation ties in with stories that McLaren is close to an agreement with Force India about 2009.

The deal would see Mercedes engines, a McLaren KERS system, and possibly other technical support delivered to the Silverstone based team, which is currently powered by customer Ferrari engines.

Di Resta, who races for Mercedes' premier effort in the DTM series, may also be part of the deal, although other private teams are also rumored to be in similar talks with McLaren.

The British driver recently made his test debut in a McLaren.  "I don't want people jumping to conclusions but I was quite happy with the way it went," di Resta said.

"I felt I belong in F1 from the moment I saw the car.  Sebastian Vettel was my (F3) teammate in 2006 and managed to beat me once in 20 races.

"The future is the future.  Whatever happens next season, it would be nice to do it as the DTM champion," he added.


Young Italian to get Ferrari F1 test?
There are reports in Italy that Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro will offer the winner of the Italian Formula 3 championship a test with the F1 team. This is believed to part of the deal that has been organized for engines to be supplied to the series by Fiat Powertrain Technologies, a company that is managed by Ferrari's former head of engines Paolo Martinelli. The three men in the running for the first test are Mirko Bortolotti, Edoardo Piscopo and Salvatore Cicatelli.


Did Bernie bribe Blair on Tobacco? UPDATE #3  Evidence is mounting that Bernie may have bribed Blair.  Commons Speaker Michael Martin last night launched an investigation into whether Tony Blair 'deliberately misled' Parliament over New Labor’s first sleaze scandal.

The Speaker said he was 'deeply concerned' by claims that the former prime minister 'lied' to MPs over how Formula 1 came to be exempted from a ban on tobacco advertising.

Documents released at the weekend suggest Mr. Blair personally ordered the move hours after meeting the sport's billionaire boss Bernie Ecclestone, who had donated £1million to Labour.

They appear to show that he instructed his chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, to signal his support for an exemption just hours after meeting Mr. Ecclestone on October 16, 1997.

At the time of the scandal, Mr. Blair said the decision was taken several weeks later and famously protested that he was a 'pretty straight sort of guy'.

Mr. Martin promised to intervene after Conservative MPs John Maples and Peter Luff told the House the new evidence proved Mr. Blair had misled Parliament

The previously secret briefing notes, obtained under a Freedom of Information request, reveal that Whitehall officials had been concerned that an answer being prepared to a parliamentary question, tabled by Mr. Maples in 1997, might be 'disingenuous'.

He wanted to know on what date the decision was taken to exempt Formula 1 from the ban.

But before that answer could be given, on November 12, Mr. Blair told the Commons it had been a ' collective decision, made in the normal way'.

He also told MPs that 'no decisions were taken' when he met Formula 1 chiefs.

Mr. Luff told MPs yesterday: 'I understand we would know what to do were he (Mr. Blair) still a Member of this House. That is not the case but it's all the more important that the record is corrected.' Mail Online

10/13/08 Tony Blair has rejected claims he "deliberately misled" Parliament when he was prime minister over sleaze allegations.

Previously secret documents appear to show Blair personally intervened to secure Formula One's exemption from a tobacco advertising ban hours after meeting the sport's boss, Bernie Ecclestone.

Commons Speaker Michael Martin pledged to look into MPs' complaints that the documents, released under the Freedom of Information Act, showed the then prime minister lied about his involvement.

The Government has always maintained that the meeting did not influence the final decision - even though Ecclestone was a major party donor at the time.

A spokesman for Blair insisted: "There is nothing new here.

"All these issues were known and debated at the time, and the documents released are entirely consistent with Tony Blair's answers at the time." Sporting Life

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Goodyear may be forced to build different tires
Goodyear could be forced to build different tires for NASCAR’s Sprint Cup and Nationwide series in 2010 when the Nationwide car of tomorrow is rolled out, a top official from the sanctioning body says.

Currently, Goodyear uses the same tire when both series run on the same weekend, even thought the Cup series is using a new-model car.

But NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton said differences in the 2010 models for both series will be substantial, and that could mean a different tire for each.

“That’s been discussed,” Pemberton said. “We’ll see how that goes when Goodyear does their tire test on what things they have to change to make both cars happy.”

When the Nationwide car is introduced in 2010, it will have less horsepower and more downforce than the Cup version. NASCAR wants to make the cars “significantly different” for drivers, Pemberton said.  Scendaily.com


Nationwide COT will not make its race debut until 2010
NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton said Monday at Lowe’s Motor Speedway that the Nationwide Series car of tomorrow would not be rolled out until 2010, setting a firm introduction of the new car for the first time.

NASCAR had originally discussed introducing the car as early as August 2009, but teams in the Nationwide Series complained about the cost of switching over to the new car and running the current version at the same time.

“We will not roll this thing out in 2009,” Pemberton said. “In talking with the teams, we think it’s better for development to have a series of tests during 2009. We’ll continue to talk with them and to get it out there as early as possible.

“But as we run through the middle course of the summer, it appears that 2010 for the full season, starting in Daytona, will be the best option for us.”

The Nationwide COT is a modified version of the Sprint Cup car, using the same chassis – with altered suspension – and a different body, including a spoiler instead of a wing and a smaller splitter.  Scenedaily.com


GM-Chrysler talk faces big test when markets open
The opening of trading this morning on the New York Stock Exchange will give investors a chance to put their money on what they think of the possibility of General Motors Corp. merging with rival Chrysler LLC.

Revelations that GM officials were talking with Chrysler's majority owner Cerberus Capital Management -- and reports that the odds of a deal happening are as high as 50% -- came to light late Friday. So Monday's trading will be the first opportunity for investors -- coming off of one of their worst weeks ever -- to pass judgment.

Several industry analysts were skeptical that Wall Street would greet the news positively. "I don't know if the market is going to receive this well," said Erich Merkle, an analyst from Crowe Horwath LLP. "You've got GM, who most people think is on the verge of bankruptcy in the not-so-distant future, given their cash position. And then taking on Chrysler at this point -- I just don't know if the market is going to look at that favorably, unless there is something more under the surface."

Aaron Bragman, an industry analyst with Global Insight, echoed those thoughts. "Basically, everybody I've talked to from the analyst community is like, 'Really? What?' " Bragman said. "For GM, I don't see how this is a positive." Detroit Free Press


Stewards contradicted Whiting's advice
It has emerged that in penalizing Sebastien Bourdais for the collision with Felipe Massa that occurred as the Toro Rosso driver left the pits during the Japanese GP, the stewards directly contradicted the advice given to the drivers by Race Director Charlie Whiting.

The retrospective 25-second punishment meted out against the Frenchman caused outrage, especially as it had been thought that the post-race investigation would focus on Massa's role in the accident. Instead, the stewards opted to punish Bourdais, thereby promoting the Ferrari driver to seventh place and further reducing his deficit to Lewis Hamilton in the World Championship.

Replays of the incident show Bourdais tucked in to the right-hand side of the track as he left the pits. With his wheels on the edge of the track, Bourdais was then struck by Massa's Ferrari as the Brazilian sought to overtake.

Branding the decision to punish Bourdais as 'ridiculous', ITV's James Allen revealed in his post-race commentary that 'the team managers I spoke to after the race all said that FIA race director Charlie Whiting had briefed them in Singapore and again in Fuji that the car exiting the pits has right of way.'

If so, it would be the second occasion in four races that the stewards have ignored the advice given to the teams by Whiting after the Race Director assured McLaren that Lewis Hamilton's move past Kimi Raikkonen in Belgium was "ok". As with Bourdais, the stewards then imposed a retrospective drive-through penalty.

'If the teams cannot believe the race director, what hope have the rest of us and the wider public got?' asks Allen. 'The FIA styles itself as the referee in this sport, but surely it cannot afford to keep sending out such mixed messages.' Planet F1


Pathetic Dodge teams in turmoil, to merge
Trying to pin down the state of Petty Enterprises, under its new Boston Ventures’ management, and the future of the Chip Ganassi operation has been tough enough the last few weeks, but now the speculation of a GM-Chrysler corporate merger has thrown things into a real tizzy.

Insiders at both the Petty and Ganassi Dodge camps say there is speculation that the two struggling teams may somehow merge, and that that speculation is fueled by the sense that fellow Dodge owner George Gillett, who has majority interest in Gillett-Evernham-Motorsports, is “99 percent” certain to jump to Toyota.

Ray Evernham was Dodge’s mainstay in NASCAR racing, making such a move highly unusual. Dodge officials a few weeks ago denied such a change might be coming.

One major complication for Dodge teams like Petty’s and Ganassi’s is that Gillett-Evernham has been a major Dodge engine operation. If Gillett moves to Toyota, then Dodge loses a very big player. Independent Tribune


Alonso poised for $15m Honda switch - report UPDATE #5 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' with reports Alonso will stay at Renault like we predicted.

Fernando Alonso salutes the crowd
10/11/08 (GMM)  Honda chief executive Nick Fry on Saturday admitted Fernando Alonso is holding up the Japanese team's driver plans for 2009.

The Brackley based squad hosted its usual pre-Japanese grand prix press conference in the week, where it was expected next year's driver lineup would be announced.

But Fry said at Fuji Speedway that Honda is not ready.

"We want to announce both drivers at the same time, and at the moment we're not in a position to do that because we're awaiting a yes or a no from a certain person," he told the British broadcaster ITV.

"So until we get that we're just going to hang on."

Pressed for confirmation that the "certain person" is former double world champion Alonso, Fry replied: "You're a good guesser."

It is expected that, if signed, Alonso would partner Jenson Button next year rather than the Briton's current teammate Rubens Barrichello.

"We'll announce that when we announce both drivers," Fry explained.

The Honda Formula 1 team is in no rush to announce its drivers for next season team boss Ross Brawn revealed on Saturday. The Briton has said the team will make a final decision on its driver line-up after the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Current Honda F1 drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello are uncertain about their future. Jenson Button is most likely to stay for another season with Honda while Barrichello is likely to be replaced.

Team boss Ross Brawn explains the team's current situation: "We haven't set a date to make a final decision on our drivers but it will be after the season has come to an end. We're not in a rush."

09/06/08 (GMM)  Honda principal Ross Brawn on Saturday left the Japanese team's own drivers out of his assessment of the top three or four drivers in formula one.

It is known that the Brackley based squad wants to sign former double world champion Fernando Alonso for the 2009 season, and Brawn told reporters at Spa-Francorchamps that he thinks the Spaniard is the best driver on the grid.

"My view is that he's the best driver in formula one at the moment and we're happy to wait and hope that he makes a positive decision for us," the Briton said in Belgium.

Brawn said he would put two other "very quick drivers" in the same league as Alonso.

"There's Lewis, there's Kimi and Fernando.  And Felipe is coming up very quickly and closely behind," he said, without mentioning Honda's own Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello.

Brawn explained that if he had a free pick of any of the drivers he mentioned, he would hire Alonso.

"Lewis is clearly very quick, a super guy but doesn't have the experience yet.  Kimi doesn't have the reputation of being a person who can develop a car strongly but is very quick," he added.

08/04/08 (GMM)  Fernando Alonso is set to sign a $15m deal to race with Honda in 2009, according to the British newspaper The Guardian.

The former double world champion is keen to return to winning ways as soon as possible following his disastrous McLaren tenure in 2007 and a return to an uncompetitive Renault team this year.

But he may not see Honda, the Japanese squad based in Brackley (UK), as a long-term employer, as speculation still reigns that the 27-year-old faces an open door to switch to Ferrari perhaps in 2010.

The Guardian said veteran racer Rubens Barrichello would be the one to make way for Alonso in 2009.

"Fernando is a wonderful driver who would be a fantastic asset to any of the top teams, including this one," said team chief executive Nick Fry.

"The job Ross and I have is to build a world championship-winning team," he added.

08/02/08 (GMM)  Honda chiefs in Hungary stepped up the rhetoric as they bid to attract Fernando Alonso to the Japanese team for 2009 and beyond.

"We'd love to have him," team principal Ross Brawn said, "because he is the best.

"Of all the drivers right now, he is the only one that I see as totally complete, as Michael (Schumacher) was," the Briton is quoted as saying by the Spanish newspaper El Pais.

Alonso, 27, is a former double world champion, but his run of titles stopped when he made his disastrous move to McLaren in 2007, and subsequently returned to a less competitive Renault team this year.

Honda chief executive Nick Fry said: "Hopefully Fernando decides to come to us.

"We have developed a very advanced KERS system and we are working very hard on the car for next year.

"We have four wind tunnels, one of them in Japan, working on the project, which is well under way.

"If Alonso is with us, we can have a winning team," Fry added.

It is understood Alonso is seeking a one-year contract for 2009, amid speculation he wants to move on to Ferrari in 2010.

Brawn, however, said Honda want minimally a firm two-year commitment from Alonso.

"It would have to be at least for two years because that is the time we would need, with Fernando's help, to become a winning team and then convince him to be with us even longer.

"But when someone gets married, they always think it is for life," Brawn told the Spanish language newspaper.

He suggested that only the arrival of Alonso for next year would convince Honda to replace either Jenson Button or Rubens Barrichello, who are both out of contract.

"We are happy with the performance of our drivers.  At this time, I don't know which one of them would move for Fernando, because Rubens is doing well at the moment."

07/22/08 (GMM)  Honda is stepping up its efforts to lure Fernando Alonso to the Japanese team for 2009 and beyond, according to a British newspaper on Tuesday.

The Daily Telegraph says that while team bosses Ross Brawn and Nick Fry are not interested in a single-season deal as has been speculated, they see the Spaniard as the ideal teammate for Jenson Button going forwards.

"I don't think it's anything specific to Fernando but in my view it's too short a period to be able to integrate a driver and get full benefit," Fry said at Hockenheim, when asked about rumors linking Alonso with Honda only for 2009.

The Telegraph claims Fry and Brawn have "made Alonso a name-your-price offer" for a longer-term deal, even though Brawn answered "yes" at Hockenheim when asked if Honda plans to use its current driver lineup in 2009.

The very next day, he backtracked, insisting "nothing is certain" in terms of next year's team.

Brackley based Honda, although an under-performer particularly this year and last, has resources to match top teams McLaren-Mercedes and Ferrari.

Moreover, it is no secret that the team has effectively shelved the 2008 season in the hope of capitalizing fully on the major regulations changes for 2009.

"The plan is really designing the car Ross wants for next year, and this year is about getting everything as Ross wants it in the way the team operates," Fry, team CEO, confirmed.


Mika Salo to NASCAR? UPDATE 41-year-old Salo was in attendance at Lowe's Motor Speedway this weekend, as he explores the possibility of NASCAR.

"I have a little interest, yeah, so just having a look to see if there's any opportunity or anything for me to at least try the thing and know if I like it," Salo told autosport.com while visiting the Sprint Cup garage. "I've driven everything else in the world, not NASCAR, so that's why I want to try it."

"I've been in contact with a few teams and yeah, there's serious contact," Salo said. "But I'd like to try the car first before I sort of go any further. Just trying to work on a test day for now and see then.

"I haven't signed anything for next year yet but I will probably next week. Then I'm stuck but maybe next year I can try one."

"They are good races. If I could choose I'd probably go to a road course first before the oval."

10/05/08 During SPEED's broadcast of "The Petit Le Mans" American Le Mans Series Sports car race from Road Atlanta Saturday, it was reported that Mika Salo is talking to NASCAR teams about a switch to stock cars in 2009.  We doubt it will happen.


Global auto market could collapse in 2009
The global auto market may experience an "outright collapse" in 2009 amid growing concerns around credit availability of credit and general economic stress, an influential industry tracking firm said on Thursday.

J.D. Power and Associates forecast U.S. light vehicle sales would fall to 13.2 million units in 2009 after likely settling at 13.6 million units this year, adding that a pronounced recovery is more than 18 months away.

"While the global automotive industry is clearly experiencing a slowdown in 2008, the global market in 2009 may experience an outright collapse," said Jeff Schuster, executive director of automotive forecasting for J.D. Power.

"While mature markets are being impacted more severely than emerging markets, no country or region is completely immune to the turmoil," Schuster said.  Reuters


Alonso signs three-year BMW deal - report UPDATE #7 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' with this week's announcement that BMW is retaining the same two drivers - Kubica and Heidfeld.

09/15/08 (GMM)  A spokesman for the Spanish arm of the German manufacturer BMW has admitted that Fernando Alonso is in talks to switch to the BMW-Sauber F1 team in 2009.

Figures in the Monza paddock over the weekend were careful to play down or sidestep the raging speculation about the Spaniard's future.

But Gigi Corbetta, communication director for BMW Spain, told Spanish radio that talks are taking place.

"And the news of the renewal of Raikkonen (at Ferrari) has accelerated the process," Corbetta is quoted as saying by the Spanish newspaper Marca.

"Now it is necessary to wait until the end of the season."

27-year-old Alonso, meanwhile, confirmed that his future is not due to be clarified before the Singapore grand prix in two weeks.

09/14/08 BMW Motorsport director Mario Theissen said that they are waiting on Fernando Alonso for the 2009 season. These are his comments.

"There are several people and a few teams who have to make a decision – it is just not necessarily a joint decision,"

"We are still evaluating the situation and it is apparent we are the strongest team now which has an open seat for next year, so we will see what happens."

Theissen expressed that the Raikkonen contract news had very little impact on his decision,  "one piece in a big jigsaw, nothing more."

09/13/08 (GMM)  The Italian grand prix weekend has so far done little to reveal more about the 2009 plans of BMW-Sauber.

The German team's driver lineup for next year is still unclear, with Robert Kubica often openly critical, and Nick Heidfeld struggling to return to top form.

And even though it was recently suggested that Kubica has re-signed for 2009, the 23-year-old Pole would not confirm that at Monza on Saturday.

"Discussions are taking place," he said.  "As long as a contract is not signed, I cannot say anything.  We will see.  From my side I do not see any hurry."

Asked whether he is in talks with any other teams, Kubica added: "Perhaps, perhaps not."

Heidfeld, meanwhile, denied that confirmation of Ferrari's plans for 2009 changes his situation at all.

"Nothing has really changed," the German said, when asked how Kimi Raikkonen's renewed stay at Maranello might affect him.

"The situation was already pretty clear.  It was announced yesterday but I would say (Ferrari's plans were) already quite well known," Heidfeld added.

09/11/08 (GMM)  Fernando Alonso on Thursday did little to ease the flames of speculation that he may be joining BMW-Sauber next year.

Asked by reporters at Monza if he would enjoy being Robert Kubica's teammate, the former double world champion replied: "Robert and I drove together in karts.  He is a very good friend of mine."

So can the Spaniard see himself sharing a formula one team with the 23-year-old Pole?  "Why not?" he smiled, according to the German news agency SID.

But Alonso, 27, was not giving away any other clues about his possible move from Renault.

"I will decide in the next weeks, possibly in September, what I am going to do," he said.

09/10/08 (GMM)  BMW-Sauber boss Mario Theissen has refused to comment on intensifying speculation that Fernando Alonso has signed a three-year contract to begin driving for the team in 2009.

Shortly after the checkered flag at Spa-Francorchamps, it was reported that the Spaniard would replace Nick Heidfeld to race alongside his friend Robert Kubica from next year.

"I do not take part in speculation," Theissen told the German newspaper Bild.

"Our driver decision has been postponed.  At the latest we will announce our drivers at the end of the season."

A BMW spokesman also would not comment.

The Spanish sports newspaper Marca believes BMW will confirm the Alonso news on the Monday after this weekend's Italian grand prix at Monza.

09/09/08 The paddock is buzzing with rumors about possible driver swaps. According to gossip, Fernando Alonso and Nick Heidfeld will switch teams in 2009. Alonso would take over Heidfeld's race seat at BMW next season while the German will move in the opposite direction to Renault.  Fernando Alonso still denies the rumors. The Spaniard declared to 'Auto Motor und Sport': "For weeks I have said I will only consider my future at the end of September. My priority at the moment is to help Renault to fourth place in the constructors' championship."

09/07/08 (GMM)  In the buzz of the post-race paddock at Spa-Francorchamps, it was rumored and reported that former double world champion Fernando Alonso will switch from Renault to BMW-Sauber for the 2009 season and beyond.

The information was transmitted from the Belgian venue by the Italian television channel Sky, who said the Spaniard's contract could be for a three-year period.

The rumor comes just one day after Honda boss Ross Brawn admitted he is also waiting on the 27-year-old's decision, and ongoing speculation that Alonso wants to use his team for next year only as a springboard to a Ferrari seat perhaps in 2010.

Alonso would not be drawn on the reports.

"For weeks I have said I will only consider my future at the end of September.  My priority at the moment is to help Renault to fourth place in the constructors' championship," he is quoted as saying by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.


Todt to leave Ferrari
Jean Todt
The word in the paddock in Fuji is that Jean Todt will leave Ferrari at the end of the month and it is expected that he will take a new role at the FIA at the next General Assembly in November. The question that is being asked in F1 circles is whether this will be as the replacement for Marco Piccinini, the FIA Deputy-President (Sport). The Italian will step down at the meeting. If Todt gets the sporting role it will be a clear sign that he is the candidate to replace Max Mosley at the FIA in the autumn of 2009. This will not be popular in Formula 1 circles as Todt's all-too-obvious links with Ferrari will simply serve to underline the perceived links between the FIA and Ferrari.

We understand that while there are a number of FIA delegates who have serious reservations about Todt becoming a top FIA official, there are also fears that there is no-one within the federation who would be better-suited to the role. Todt has always been a very effective manager in his jobs at Peugeot and Ferrari and his dedication to winning has been spectacular. He has some serious weaknesses, not least the fact that his methods have not always been seen as sporting and his understanding of how to deal with the media has been seriously flawed. The very fact that he may end up as the FIA President would also compound many of the perception problems that the federation has, particularly in F1 circles. The 62-year-old Frenchman has been involved in the sport since the late 1960s when he was a rally co-driver. He has been involved with the federation since 1975 when he first represented the rally drivers. When he retired from active competition in 1982, he set up Peugeot Talbot Sport and in 1984 the Peugeot 205 won two World Championships. After a major fall out with the federation, Peugeot switched to raid rallying before moving on to sports car racing in 1990. The team won Le Mans twice and took the World Championship in 1993. When the Peugeot board turned down his plans to enter a factory team in F1, Todt departed and went to work at Ferrari where the team finally began to win titles after five years of trying.

Read more & Comment...

Kimi sure to play spoiler role - Haug
(GMM)  McLaren-Mercedes' Norbert Haug is not worried that Kimi Raikkonen may be planning "unfair" tactics for Sunday's Japanese grand prix.

Despite not looking quick all weekend at Fuji Speedway, the Ferrari driver was suddenly competitive in the final fuel-affected segment of qualifying.

The turn of pace suggests that the Italian team has fuelled the Finn light in order to disrupt title rival McLaren's charge.

Indeed, after Felipe Massa qualified a disappointing fifth with a lack of grip, his engineer Rob Smedley was quoted by the German press as saying he "expects" Raikkonen to play a spoiler role from the front.

"Naturally he will have the task to disturb us as well as possible," Mercedes' Haug told the German broadcaster RTL.

"I do not consider Kimi to be at all unfair; he will not drive Lewis into the wall.  But he will definitely try to disrupt us if he can.

"As long as whatever happens is not below the belt, that is okay, because Heikki can also disrupt Kimi if necessary," Haug, Mercedes' competition chief, added.


Force India admits Ferrari switch possible
(GMM)  A Force India chief has admitted the team is on the market to potentially switch engine partners ahead of the 2009 season.

Ian Phillips, the Silverstone based squad's director of business affairs, said current customer supplier Ferrari is being "non-committal" about packaging a KERS system to go with its engine next year.

"Ferrari don't want us to develop our own system, but are being a bit non-committal about whether they are even going to start the season with KERS," he said on BBC's radio Five Live from Fuji Speedway.

"Force India has to build a new car for the new regulations, and can't afford to build a non-KERS car and then have whoever turn around and say that KERS will be available from July or whatever," Phillips added.

He said it is "natural" that Force India, already linked with switches to Honda or Mercedes-Benz, is therefore asking other manufacturers about what they can offer.


Big 3 headed for bankruptcy - may kill off NASCAR UPDATE General Motors Corp. said in a statement this morning that it is not considering bankruptcy (famous last words) even as its shares drop to historic lows and fears about its liquidity continue to rise amid the global economic turmoil.

“Clearly we face unprecedented challenges related to uncertainty in the financial markets globally and weakening economic fundamentals in many key markets,” the automaker said in the statement. “But bankruptcy protection is not an option GM is considering. It would not be in the interests of our employees, stockholders, suppliers or customers, and we believe speculation about a possible filing is exaggerated and unconstructive.”

GM is expected to announce further production cuts at stamping or powertrain plants as early as next week.

10/10/08 General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC may be forced into bankruptcy by slowing economies and dwindling U.S. auto sales, Standard & Poor's analyst Robert Schulz said today.

``Macro factors could overwhelm them at some point'' even with the three biggest U.S. automakers committed to turnarounds, Schulz said in a Bloomberg Television interview. S&P said yesterday it may cut GM and Ford debt deeper into junk on forecasts for 2009 auto demand falling to the lowest since 1992.

GM, Ford and Chrysler are under pressure as the worsening global credit crisis makes it harder for buyers to get loans and dealers to finance their operations. U.S. industry wide sales tumbled 27 percent in September, the most in 17 years.

GM fell 17 cents, or 3.6 percent, to $4.59 at 9:52 a.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading, while Ford added 7 cents to $2.15. GM slumped to a 58-year low yesterday and Ford closed at its lowest since 1982. Chrysler is closely held.

With all three companies working to boost cash, any bankruptcy filing would be a last resort, not a ``strategic'' decision, said Schulz, who is based in New York.

``We don't see that as something they would choose,'' he said. Schulz said the ``trigger'' for a forced restructuring under bankruptcy protection would be based on the automakers' ability to preserve liquidity as sales decline. Bloomberg

[Editor's Note: If all three file for bankruptcy it is quite possible all three may be forced out of NASCAR, which could destroy the series.  Alternatively we could see a 43-car Toyota field.  Just change the headlight and front grille decals.  The fans don't care what is under the hood.]


GM to close plants
General Motors Corp. could announce more production cuts and plant closures later this month, a company source said this morning.

The disclosure comes a day after the company's shares lost almost one-third of their value, hitting lows unseen in more than 58 years as GM copes with a credit crunch, concerns over the company's access to cash and an 18.1 percent slump in sales this year.


Another nail in DEI's coffin, Army to Newman UPDATE #2 They haven't replaced engine dynos and chassis bays with statues and paintings just yet, but Tony Stewart's prediction for the future of Dale Earnhardt Inc. is close to becoming dangerously true. Teresa Earnhardt's decision to not give her famous stepson 51 percent controlling interest of the company has resulted in a serious slide for the team the late Dale Earnhardt founded. Last week's decision by Paul Menard to bolt DEI and bring his father's lucrative home improvement store sponsorship with him to Yates Racing is just the latest blow to the beleaguered team that only a year ago looked like it was headed in the right direction. What seemed like a promising foundation has crumbled in a short period of time. Mark Martin will leave at year's end for Hendrick Motorsports with the No. 8's U.S. Army sponsorship headed for Stewart-Haas Racing and Ryan Newman in 2009. While Martin Truex Jr. and sponsor Bass Pro Shops are locked in for 2009, Menard's departure leaves DEI with only Armirola and Smith, neither of whom has a sponsor for next season. It's a situation that has thrown the company's management into a defensive mode of fighting the perception DEI is heading for the extinct list.  CBS SportsLine

10/08/08 Another piece of the Stewart-Haas Racing puzzle will be fit into place Thursday when the race team will unveil the U.S. Army as primary sponsor of Ryan Newman's No. 39 car for next season, sources have confirmed to NASCAR.COM.

The announcement is scheduled to be made at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Lowe's Motor Speedway, site of this weekend's Sprint Cup event. The Stewart-Haas organization now has both its Chevrolets sponsored for next season -- no small feat in this economy -- with Office Depot and Old Spice set to back the car of team co-owner Tony Stewart.

It's another setback for Dale Earnhardt Inc., which had the Army on its No. 8 car this season. DEI driver Paul Menard announced last week that he and his Menard's sponsorship would be moving to Yates Racing for the 2009 campaign.

09/30/08 Sources close to the situation confirmed today that the U.S. Army would not be renewing their sponsorship with Dale Earnhardt, Inc. after the 2008 season. Representatives from the U.S. Army let Dale Earnhardt, Inc. know this afternoon that they would not be returning to the #8 for 2009. Beginning in 2009 the U.S. Army will be the primary sponsor of Ryan Newman in the newly formed Stewart-Haas Racing venture led by two-time Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart. The formal announcement will be delivered at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway on Friday October 10th when Stewart-Haas Racing and the U.S. Army unveil Newman’s new #39 racecar. Sources also said that representatives from the U.S. Army have asked Dale Earnhardt, Inc. for permission to make the announcement, and that the U.S. Army did not have an interest in negotiating with Dale Earnhardt, Inc. about future opportunities. Captain Thunder Racing


F1 could cease to exist in 2 years UPDATE Adam Parr, the chief executive of the Williams F1 team, has warned that the sports independent teams aren't the only ones that could be hit by the current uncertainty over the global economic market.

"There is a serious possibility that one or two teams may pull out and they could be manufacturer teams," he told BBC Oxford. "The assumption is that it would be an independent team, but I don't think this is necessarily the case.

"What is broken in Formula One is, in broad terms, the revenue available to the teams is less than the costs of participating in the sport."

Max Mosley warns F1 days could be numbered
GMM)  Formula one might not survive much beyond one more season if teams do not drastically slash costs, FIA president Max Mosley has warned.

On the same day that the World Motor Sport Council gave him the authority to enter talks with the teams' FOTA alliance about "radical" cost cutting measures, Mosley said the futures of up to three teams could be in doubt.

In interview with BBC Sport, he insisted that the problem existed long before the current global financial crisis.

"It really is a very serious situation.  If we can't get this done for 2010, we will be in serious difficulty," Mosley said.

He said the loss of two or three teams would mean F1 no longer has a "credible grid".

"We can survive through 2009, but I'm not too sure about after," Mosley said.

He said small teams like Toro Rosso and Force India are being "subsidized" only by billionaires like Dietrich Mateschitz and Vijay Mallya.

"It depends at the moment on millionaires -- billionaires, we don't have millionaires now.  Without them, those teams wouldn't be there," he added, suggesting that not only the small teams are in trouble.

"You cannot run a business when the outgoings are two to three times more than what's coming in.

"Some of the manufacturers are already having difficulty if you look at their share prices," he added.

It is clear that Mosley is targeting the standardization of engines and gearboxes, which he admits would be "draconian" but necessary, as a way to cut millions out of annual budgets.


Edwards, Harvick involved in garage altercation
Sprint Cup drivers Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick were involved in an altercation Thursday in the Nationwide Series garage at Lowe's Motor Speedway, multiple witnesses confirmed.

Witnesses said Edwards approached Harvick in the garage stall housing Harvick's No. 33 Chevrolet and engaged in conversation. Following what a witness called a heated discussion, Harvick turned to walk away and Edwards grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him around.

According to reports Harvick then shoved Edwards in retaliation, forcing Edwards onto the hood of the No. 33 Chevy. No. 33 crew chief Rick Ren pointed to a dent in the hood where he said Edwards landed. Others on site then proceeded to separate the drivers, and witnesses said Edwards was grabbed around the neck in a headlock by Harvick's motor-home driver, Jeff Smith.

No punches were thrown, witnesses said.

NASCAR did not immediately comment on the issue.

Edwards and Harvick were not immediately available to comment.

Witnesses claim the verbal exchange Thursday was in reference to a handwritten note Edwards left in a seat on Harvick's airplane following the AMP Energy 500 last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. The note facetiously thanked Harvick for disparaging comments he made toward Edwards on ABC following a multi-car wreck on Lap 174 of 188, which was triggered when Edwards tapped teammate Greg Biffle. Harvick was collected in the incident. ESPN.com


IRL may deep-six Surfers race UPDATE #5 This rumor is upgraded (like a seesaw) to 'speculation.'  [This may be an old article so take it with a grain of salt.] Sports Minister Judy Spence last night said she was confident the event would run until 2013. More than 100 guests, including Indy chairman Terry Mackenroth, Indy CEO Greg Hooton, Team Australia boss Craig Gore and V8 Supremo Tony Cochrane, were at Q Deck at Surfers Paradise last night.  Ms Spence said Indy would be on the Gold Coast until at least 2013 and her trip to Indianapolis with Mr. Mackenroth to negotiate with the IRL owners earlier this year helped.

"We talked to Tony George (IRL boss) and they were very interested in the Gold Coast race and I'm very confident we will have Indy until 2013," said Ms Spence.

Mr. Mackenroth said the event, which had been surrounded by uncertainty, would remain as strong as ever and they would like to see at least 300,000 people this year.

"On the way to this event the cabbie said to me that Indy was the second busiest time for him during the year," said Mr. Mackenroth.

He said there would be no change in 2008 despite the IRL taking over this year's event.

"We've had strong sales and hope to get the same number of people as last year (312,000) over the four days.

"Everyone is really excited about this event and we want to see the 20th Indy, which is next year."

Nikon, which was announced the naming rights sponsor last month, said that it was looking forward to taking part in the event

"Indy is a very good product and we are very happy to be involved with the race," said Nikon marketing manager James Murray. Goldcoast.com.au

10/08/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  The Surfers Paradise IndyCar race is dead after this year's event, says Gold Coast MP Steve Ciobo.

The Federal Opposition MP for Moncrieff said a source close to the event had confirmed to him that the Indy Racing League had absolutely no intention of racing in Surfers Paradise beyond 2008.

Blaming the State Government for the death of Indy, Mr. Ciobo accused Sports Minister Judy Spence of bungling negotiations in the US earlier this year with IRL bosses to retain the Surfers event beyond 2008, by failing to get agreement on a date change.

"The Government has completely dropped the ball on this, the biggest event to the Gold Coast," said Mr. Ciobo. Goldcoast.com

09/22/08 IRL officials continue to work with former Champ Car co-owner and IndyCar team owner Kevin Kalkhoven to have the IndyCar Series race in Australia for years to come.

At present, the 24 full-time cars making the trip in October are guaranteed to receive $59,000, with the winner receiving an additional $70,000.

The 2009 schedule has been announced, and a plan for 2010 is in the works.

Terry Angstadt, the league's commercial division president, said the focus will be on adding races in the Pacific Northwest (Portland) and the Northeast (New Hampshire). Angstadt said that Surfers Paradise is the one venue that could still be added to next year's calendar.

He also noted that any teams contemplating not competing in Australia this year had better think again: If they don't make the trip, they won't receive their share of money from the IRL for racing this season. AutoWeek

09/07/08 The clock is ticking not only for the future of the street course race in Australia but the future of the IndyCar Series team tied to that country.  KV Racing Technology, which has an Australian owner (Kevin Kalkhoven) and an Australian sponsor (Aussie Vineyards), needs the Surfers Paradise event to continue in 2009 for it to have any reasonable chance to duplicate its performance this season and grow.  Team co-owner Jimmy Vasser said Saturday at Chicagoland that the financial backing of Aussie Vineyards represents "half of our budget. It's key," he said.  Indy Racing League officials hope to resolve the Surfers Paradise race before the Oct. 26 event, which was added to the schedule as a non-points race during the unification process with Champ Car. Vasser, who won CART's driving championship in 1996, said he has been pushing Kalkhoven to commit to continuing the team regardless of what happens to the Australian race, but Vasser said: "He's not there yet."  Indy Star [Which is what AR1.com reported to you back on August 19th in this rumor i.e. no Surfers race, no KV Racing.]

08/27/08 IndyCar Series teams are not thrilled with the financial prospect of racing in Australia on Oct. 26. Various team officials say they still don't know how much money they will receive for making the trip but have been told it will be between $10,000 and $30,000 per car. That's not enough, they say.

They estimate it will cost $100,000 per car (assuming that no crash damage occurs in the race), and teams will only be able to bring a skeleton crew, since they will receive just 15 airline tickets--and those are only from Los Angeles, meaning that they would have to pay their own way to reach L.A.  AutoWeek

08/19/08 Per previous rumors and this ESPN.com article the IRL may deep-six the Surfers race after this year.  We hear if that happens, KV Racing Technology will leave the IRL.  Word is that some shortsighted IRL team owners don't want to go all the way to Surfers even though the promoter pays the entire bill from LA to Surfers and back.  The team just has to get its equipment and personnel to LA.

Despite Surfers being a huge event it seems some team owners would prefer to race with the hillbillies at a place like Barber Motorsports Park, or with the crickets in the cornfields of Iowa.  Can't imagine too many sponsors want to be wined and dined at places like that.  And with the Versus TV deal, TV ratings will be so small the sponsors won't get much exposure regardless of where they race.

It's the same selfish, shortsighted mentality that has hurt open wheel racing in North America for decades, and why open wheel racing in North America with never grow to be more than a blemish on NASCAR's posterior.  It's the same mentality that permeates throughout America, setting America on a downward spiral in the global economy to what someday may turn this once great country into a third-world country as the American dollar sinks to "junk" status on the global financial markets.


IRL to go turbo, F1 to follow? UPDATE #4 We hear there is a good chance that the next generation Honda 2-seat S2000 roadster will get a turbo 4-cylinder engine - more evidence that Honda will agree to a turbo 4-cylinder configuration.  They tried to tell AutoRacing1.com that a normally aspirated engine was better when they made the switch to the IRL from the turbo CART series and now will eat their words and adopt a turbo not only in the IRL but also in F1.  Recall this article we published in 2003 - Why turbo engines are superior.  How many years did the IRL and F1 waste going backwards?

08/29/08 Two of Formula 1's major manufacturers are believed to be keen to see a return of turbo power to the top flight in the near future – whilst drivers suggest the sport's new regulations will promote far greater overtaking from as early as next season.

Earlier this year, FIA President Max Mosley gave teams an ultimatum to come up with new ways to cut costs, improve energy efficiency and create a better spectacle in F1 – or else have the rules imposed upon them.

Amongst the discussions, there have been moves for a radical change on the engine front, with calls for the introduction of smaller, 1.5-litre turbocharged powerplants to replace the current, 2.4-litre normally-aspirated V8s from 2012.

According to the largest Austrian daily newspaper, Kronen Zeitung, both BMW and Renault are keen on this idea as a way to end Ferrari's present monopoly. Despite the Scuderia's ongoing reliability problems – with Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen having suffered a failure apiece in the last two grands prix – Ferrari-powered drivers filled the top five spots through the speed traps in Valencia last weekend, in the shape of Sébastien Bourdais (313km/h), Raikkonen (313km/h), Sebastian Vettel (313km/h), Massa (312km/h) and Adrian Sutil (311km/h). Crash.net

08/29/08 While change is certain, the upcoming meeting will focus on deciding which formula to use exactly. Erik Berkman, president of Honda Performance Development, said the debate "is over four (cylinders) or six."

It is still unclear what the specific configuration will be, but considering "one concerns a twin-turbo", we estimate the choice will be between a twin-turbo 4 cylinder or a turbocharged 6 cylinder engine.

08/27/08 (GMM)  In the current trackside discussions about possible new rules for the future, some teams are pushing for a radical change on the engine front.

According to the largest Austrian daily, Kronen Zeitung, Renault and also BMW are fully behind the push for small turbo-charged engines for the 2012 season and beyond.

The newspaper said those teams have proposed a 1.5 liter capacity for the turbos, with 1.5 bar boost.

Ferrari's current reliability problems aside, it is no surprise the Italian marque's rivals are pushing for the end to the current 2.4 liter normally-aspirated V8 era.

One key speed trap at the Valencia circuit last weekend captured Sebastien Bourdais (313kmh), Kimi Raikkonen (313), Sebastian Vettel (313), Felipe Massa (312) and Adrian Sutil (311) monopolizing the top five positions in terms of sheer top-end grunt.

All of the aforementioned drivers use Ferrari engines.

08/26/08 The Indy Racing League is set to switch away from normally-aspirated engines in 2011, and intends to adopt rules with small displacement turbo engines.

IndyCar officials told the Indianapolis Star that they will write rules for such power units, although it is not yet clear how big these engines will be.

Such a move will be popular with the automobile manufacturers as they work with four conflicting demands: customers want good performance, fuel efficiency, low emissions and value for money. A year ago researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) developed a new engine configuration that can match the performance of the modern hybrids, at a fraction of the development cost. This was achieved by using small turbocharged engines fitted with direct fuel injection, using an ethanol-gasoline mixture. With direct injection into each cylinder fuel economy improves dramatically, while the turbochargers use wasted energy from the exhaust gases to produce more power. The smaller engines not only lower emissions, but also improve fuel consumption because they reduce the weight of the cars and thus the amount of fuel needed to move them.

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GM Is Said to Offer U.S. Dealers 1% Incentive on 2009 Models
General Motors Corp., trying a new tactic to stem its sales decline, is offering U.S. dealers a cash incentive of 1 percent on each 2009 vehicle they sell, according to 3 people with knowledge of the strategy.

The so-called marketing stimulus payments will be made six months after a vehicle is sold and will be computed from the base-model invoice price, said the people, who didn't want to be identified because the plan hasn't been made public. The program will run to the end of this year, they said.

GM's offer follows the industry's 27 percent sales slide in September, the worst month since 1991. The automaker's decline was narrower at 16 percent, as it gave all customers the discount prices paid by its employees. GM's 18 percent drop this year through last month is more than the industry's 13 percent. Bloomberg


Toro Rosso could fold
Toro Rosso co-owner Gerhard Berger has suggested the future is looking pretty bleak for his team. The Austrian believes the pinch of the global credit crunch combined with a new regulation that every team must have a car designed and built at its own factory from 2010 could spell the end for Toro Rosso. The team is currently heavily reliant on sister team Red Bull to design and build its cars,  Berger said:

“I would struggle to carry on alone (without Red Bull). I need the backing of a car manufacturer, which isn’t there.”


Marty Roth told to park it? UPDATE Rumors are that Roth laid off almost all his staff yesterday and is contemplating his future involvement in racing.  He wanted to race IndyCars but the league told him he is too slow so word is he is selling the IndyCar team and its assets.

09/10/08 According to a report on crash.net, IndyCar Series backmarker Marty Roth is rumored to have been asked by the IRL to turn his car over to a younger man (or woman) for 2009.


Ecclestone ready to hold Montreal hostage
Canada is in shock today following the news that the Formula 1 race in Montreal in 2009 has been cancelled and its slot on the calendar taken by Turkey.

"It was voted on by the FIA and that's really the end of it," Roger Peart, a Canadian FIA official told the Montreal Gazette. "It's a done deal. It's sad news for Montreal. It's sad for racing in Canada but I don't think anyone can do anything about it."

Peart, who designed the original track on the Ile de Notre Dame, said that the problem was entirely commercial.

Or to put it another way, Canada did not pay.

One can deduce this from the fact that fees to host races are written into the contracts by Formula One Management. They may increase annually by 10% but all of this is written down so there are no arguments. Thus the only explanation for FOM being able to walk away is if the money owed has not been paid. The Canadian deal is believed to cost about $20m a year.

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A 'Fuji special' for Toyota, or not?
(GMM)  Toyota has prepared a special "Fuji package" in a bid to win its home Japanese grand prix this weekend, team boss Tadashi Yamashina said at a pre-race media event.

"We have made preparations with different test runs and different things attached to our machines.  Now we can do a Fuji special right on the spot," he said.

Technical chassis chief Pascal Vasselon admitted that Toyota has this year been working on a "Fuji package".

"We call it our Fuji package but in fact some bits are already on the car and the most recent item can be used at all the last three grands prix of the season," he said.

In a communique to the specialist media, Vasselon further played down suggestions that the Cologne built 2008 car has been specifically upgraded, despite the fact that Toyota's home race is "massively important" to the marque.

"We are always asked if we prepare specially for Fuji Speedway but, if we did, I guess you could say we were neglecting the other races, which is not the case," he insisted.

"And as far as other developments go, it would make no sense for us to delay the introduction of new parts until Fuji because that would mean compromising our package for other races," Vasselon said.


700 U.S. dealerships could close this year
The nation’s economic crisis is hurting automotive dealers across the country and could contribute to an estimated 700 dealerships closing this year, National Automobile Dealers Association Chairwoman Annette Sykora said today.

The NADA says the United States has more than 43,000 dealerships, so about 2% could close this year.

Sykora, whose organization lobbied for the passage of the $700-billion Wall Street bailout, praised Congress for passing the bill but said relief has yet to trickle down to dealers.

“The rescue plan is designed to free up credit markets,” she said in a Detroit speech sponsored by the Automotive Press Association. “But it’s too early to know whether the fix will work.”

Without consumer financing, an automotive dealership’s business can come to a halt because 94% of car buyers finance their vehicles, Sykora said.

Dealers have told the NADA that they have been unable to obtain financing even for buyers with credit scores above 700. In the eyes of most lenders, FICO (Fair Isaac Corp.) credit scores above 700 are very good, according to Consumer Federation of America.

“Dealers who have been in business for decades say they have never seen anything like this before,” Sykora said.

The result: Consumer confidence has been shaken because credit, the lifeblood of auto dealerships, is frozen.  Detroit Free Press


Luczo Dragon Racing to announce new driver UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today with the announcement that Atlantics and Indy Lights champion Raphael Matos will take over the ride in 2009.

10/06/08 Look for an announcement tomorrow on Luczo Dragon Racing's new IndyCar driver for the 2009 season.  We hear it may just be a part-time deal to start.


Boss hints at BBC move for Coulthard
(GMM)  Red Bull mogul Dietrich Mateschitz has hinted that David Coulthard will indeed move into the F1 commentary box after he hangs up his racing helmet in 2008.

Speculation throughout the season has suggested that the Scottish veteran is set to join his manager Martin Brundle for the television coverage of formula one on Britain's BBC next year.

Mateschitz, who owns Coulthard's current employer Red Bull Racing, is quoted as saying by Motorsport Aktuell: "He is going to remain with us, but will have commitments outside of the team as well."

37-year-old Coulthard's replacement at RBR will be the highly rated Sebastian Vettel, leaving potentially two openings at the sister team Toro Rosso.

"We are exploring all possibilities and (Sebastien) Bourdais is still in the race," Mateschitz confirmed.  "Overall the alternatives are not abundant."


FIA could ban unsafe Ferrari pit stop system UPDATE #2 (GMM)  Ferrari has decided to bring back the pitstop 'lollipop' for the three final races of the 2008 championship battle.

Following problems with the Italian squad's unique 'traffic lights' system in Singapore and also elsewhere, team principal Stefano Domenicali confirmed to Sky Italia that Ferrari will fall in line with the rest of the formula one teams for the decisive races in October and November.

He insists that the traffic lights system usually delivers "significant time savings" at pitstops.

"But we are going back to the old system, with a lollipop, because we have recognized that the team needs to be calm," Domenicali said.

At the last race in Singapore, when a mechanic wrongly pressed a button while Felipe Massa's car was still being refueled, the Brazilian driver ripped the hose from the rig and dragged it the entire length of the pits.

Instead of taking the championship lead from McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, he fell a potentially terminal seven points behind with just the Japanese, Chinese and Brazilian grands prix to go.

Domenicali continued: "At this stage of the season and with all the tension, it is better for everyone who works in the heat of the battle to do so with as little stress as possible."

He acknowledges that Massa's points position now makes the title less likely, but vowed to push hard to the finish.

"I am convinced that we have the right ingredients to win the next three races," Domenicali said.

"It will not be an easy task, but it is definitely not impossible either," he added.

09/30/08 (GMM)  Ferrari should simply abandon its unique electronic 'traffic lights' approach to F1 pitstops, former team driver and triple world champion Niki Lauda insists.

"They need to act now.  New technologies are not always better," the great Austrian told Bild newspaper.

Not for the first time in 2008, the system - operated either by automated sensors, or by mechanic-controlled buttons - failed spectacularly in Singapore, in a botched pitstop that could cost Felipe Massa the title.

Massa said after the race that one option for Ferrari is to revert to the more customary 'lollipop' solution.

Team boss Stefano Domenicali vowed to analyze the situation prior to the next outing in Japan.

09/29/08 The FIA are considering banning Ferrari's electronic pit system after yet another botched pit stop left a mechanic lying on the ground and put an F2008 into the path of another car.

This year's Championship has seen Ferrari replace the traditional lollipop man, who stands with a stick that reads "stop" or "go", with an electronic system linked to the refueling rig.

The system includes lights that go through a red, amber, green sequence hanging on a pod that is situated in front of the driver, telling them when they can go.

The system, though, has already done more harm than good, resulting in two mechanics lying flat on their backs on the ground and two unsafe releases that came within a whisker of causing pit lane accidents. 

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Castroneves to get hammered UPDATE A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I personally hope that Helio gets hammered big time, loses his ride, pays the millions he is alleged to have stolen from this country, and gets deported.  I also hope that Roger Penske sits him down immediately.  I have not an ounce of sympathy for some foreign national that comes to the US, takes advantage of the opportunity given to him by this country and its great racing institutions (not to mention its entertainment industry) and then turns around and cheats this country by (allegedly) committing major tax fraud.  As the Speed TV article points out, it is likely not just some small accident that Helio is in this situation.  On one hand he is innocent until proven guilty, and on the other hand, as I watched him from Road Atlanta I just wanted to tell him to turn off the phony smile, shut up and act contrite because I am no longer your fan and I am tired of this little crying/smiling act.  Time for you to go away, Helio.  - name withheld

10/06/08 According to this SPEEDTV.com article, the situation Helio Castroneves has got himself in with regard to evading taxes is going to cost him millions of dollars, or jail time, or both.  It very well may leave him broke and deported back to Brazil.  Why is that every time the IRL bases their marketing around a driver they inevitably end up crashing and burning or leaving the series?  Who will be next?


NASCAR robbed Regan Smith at Talladega
A few weeks ago, I wrote that Lewis Hamilton had been robbed when he was unjustly penalized by the stewards at the Belgian Grand Prix. He appealed – but it turned out the penalty was unappealable (shades of Paul Tracy at Indianapolis!)

Yesterday, NASCAR driver Regan Smith was robbed blind at Talladega, and the people who make the rules in the Sprint Cup series had better go back to the drawing board fast before people start getting hurt.

An explanation is in order.

Tony Stewart was in first place yesterday afternoon as the field approached the finish line of the Amp Energy 500. Smith was right on his tail.

Smith faked a move to the right and Stewart went up the track to block him. Smith then dove low and, the way I saw it, had the inside lane fair and square by the time Stewart moved down to block.

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Death knell nears for A1GP series UPDATE (GMM)  Series boss Pete da Silva has responded to reports that the future of A1GP does not look bright.

After a diminished field raced in Holland last weekend, amid a raft of last-minute rule changes, serious questions are being asked about whether the self-styled 'World Cup of Motorsport' can survive its fourth season.

A spokesperson last week said the absence of six teams was simply the result of build delays with the series' new powered-by-Ferrari car, but Team Germany chief Willi Weber said financial holdups could mean the squad does not return to the grid at all.

The Indian publication DNA, meanwhile, claims that the CEO of a majority stakeholder in the series has been removed for bad investments.

Da Silva links A1's problems with the global financial crisis.

"It has affected everyone," he said.  "There has been a massive downturn and it would be foolish to say that we have remained insulated from it.  We are facing the pinch like every other industry.

"And yet, we are hoping to get a return of investments by the end of this year.  A1GP is in good health," Pete da Silva added.

He said comparisons with formula one, or its feeder category GP2, are unfair.

"A1GP is like the world cup of football.  It's a nation versus nation contest.  Besides, our footprint is much larger than GP2," he remarked.

10/03/08 (GMM)  As a diminished field gathers for the first race of the fourth season in Holland, serious questions are being asked about the future of the A1GP series.

Bursting onto the scene as the self-proclaimed World Cup of Motorsport three years ago, the category is now beset with problems.

Delays in the completion of the new Ferrari designed and powered car meant that the season opener scheduled for Mugello was cancelled.

Now, as practice prepares to kick off in Zandvoort, five team countries - Britain, India, Germany, Mexico and Canada - are absent.

And according to the Dutch press, the future of five more teams - Brazil, China, France, Portugal and Switzerland - is in doubt.

"We put our hands up," said a series spokesperson, according to Press Association.  "To design, build and test 23 cars in just 11 months, we were always going to be up against it."

Willi Weber's Team Germany, meanwhile, looks unlikely to return to the series at all.

"(2006-7 champion) Nico (Hulkenberg) is still waiting for his prize money.  I have written ten reminder letters," Weber, who famously managed Michael Schumacher's F1 career, told the Cologne newspaper Express.

The A1 spokesperson, meanwhile, played down suggestions the series' problems could prove terminal.

"As far as we are concerned we don't anticipate anything other than a full grid for the following race.

"We would have liked 23 cars on the grid this weekend, but despite that, we will still put on a great show and go racing for the championship, as we will in years to come," she said.


Rosberg rumors will not go away
(GMM)  Despite persistent signals that Nico Rosberg is staying at Williams next year, speculation linking the 23-year-old German with a change of teams will simply not desist.

The official announcement last week that Rosberg is definitely staying at British independent team was not popular in the German press; the broadcaster RTL suggested that the contract is akin to "imprisonment".

The Cologne newspaper Express, meanwhile, claims that Rosberg's famous father Keke is - despite the 2009 Williams contract - in talks with both McLaren and BMW-Sauber.

Express is usually an informed and reliable source, but it is notable that while there is a potential vacancy at BMW for next year, McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen is firmly under contract for 2009.


Did Hamilton receive land illegally? UPDATE (GMM)  An investigation into an investment deal involving championship leader Lewis Hamilton has been given a clean bill of health.

We reported that the McLaren driver's $35m deal to buy a luxury beachside hotel development on the Caribbean island was being probed, following a change of government.

But Grenada tourism minister Peter David says the review showed the deal to be "completely legitimate", according to the news agency Associated Press.

"The attorney general has reviewed the contractual deal ... and has found no case of impropriety on the part of the Lewis Hamilton team," he said.

David added: "To suggest any underhanded dealing by the purchaser or his agents is not only unfortunate, but incorrect."

10/05/08 A land deal involving Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton is under investigation on the Caribbean island of Grenada.  Prime Minister Tillman Thomas told a news conference Friday that he has ordered an investigation into the deal, which occurred before he took office.

The deed for the property shows that the government transferred property worth $15 million to the British driver "free from encumbrances" in exchange for using his image and name for the next four years, apparently to promote tourism.

However Hamilton's group did pay $35 million for the Grenada Grand Beach Resort built on the property, according to a copy of the deed seen by the Associated Press. The deed was signed July 7 of this year, a day before the general elections.

The deal is controversial in part because Grenada's government owns nearly all beachfront land and leases it to developers for an annual fee. Some local journalists complained that taxpayers received no payment for transfer of the land.

Daniella Mitchell, who works for the local law firm listed in the deed, did not immediately return a call for comment.  Former prime minister Keith Mitchell told legislators Thursday that Hamilton's image would bring in millions of dollars in revenue.  Hamilton has not done any promotional work so far.

Hamilton's grandfather lives in Grenada.


Toro Rosso to be sold? UPDATE #7 (GMM)  Dietrich Mateschitz has hinted he might reconsider his earlier pledge to sell his 50 per cent share in the formula one team Toro Rosso.

With the customer car saga possibly back in a state of flux, and Sebastian Vettel's breakthrough Monza win, the Red Bull mogul told an Austrian newspaper "It is possible that we leave everything as it is".

Billionaire Mateschitz earlier baulked at the looming end of the customer car era, arguing that it makes no sense to bankroll two full F1 constructors.

But he now tells Salzburger Nachrichten that he is waiting for the actual rules for 2010 to be written before making a final decision.

"It will show us whether we have an interested buyer, and it could also be that we no longer want to sell," Mateschitz, 64, said.

At the same time, Gerhard Berger, the other half-owner of the Faenza based team, has been publicly and privately urging his Austrian countryman to stay on board.

And, referring to Mateschitz, the former ten-time grand prix winner told Austria's O3 radio: "He manages a fantastic balance of business sense, private life and the joy of living."

Dietrich Mateschitz
07/01/08 (GMM)  Toro Rosso will remain "stable" for the 2009 season, despite constant rumors that the Faenza based formula one team is being sold.

Red Bull magnate Dietrich Mateschitz earlier announced that he is looking to offload his 50 per cent share due to the impending end of the 'customer car' era.

The news threw into doubt not only the funding stream guaranteed by the Austrian billionaire, but also the team's links to Mateschitz's senior outfit, from whom Toro Rosso sources its actual chassis.

But while admitting that the rumors "did have an effect" on STR, which is also currently owned by Gerhard Berger, team boss Franz Tost said on Tuesday that he has received an important assurance from Mateschitz.

"The message from Dietrich Mateschitz is clear, that for 2009, everything will remain stable, not just in terms of employment but also in terms of the budget.

"Then, from 2010 we will see what happens.  At the moment the team is stable," Tost added.

He also said he has been happy with the performance of both race drivers this year, amid speculation about the future of the team's Champ Car racing recruit in 2008,
Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais.

"Bourdais had a fantastic start in Melbourne and he has also had some other good races.  He is improving and we can expect to see more good races from him," Tost said.

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Gordon back with own team in 2009
Robby Gordon says he has enough sponsorship to run the full Sprint Cup Series schedule next season and has no interest in driving for anyone but himself. Gordon said Menards is among the sponsors coming back. Gordon has had sponsorship mainly from Menards and Jim Beam this year. Jim Beam announced last November that it would sponsor Gordon through 2008 and has not yet announced its plans for 2009. As far as a possible merger – Gordon had agreed in January to be bought out by Gillett Evernham Motorsports but that deal fell through – Gordon says he is not going to drive for anyone else. Gordon recently began a four-race engine-leasing deal with Penske Racing. SceneDaily


Castroneves case could bring down Danica and other stars
Indy Racing League officials are about to find out if the old adage “There is no bad PR” holds true. The tax dodging scandal involving Helio Castroneves is about to get ugly. Very, very ugly. Forget the fact that Castroneves—sans his usual smile—was hauled into court today in shackles. This thing could engulf some very high profile NASCAR drivers. Trust me, the questioning on this has just begun.

Apparently, Castroneves’ tax and legal adviser Alan Miller also works with several NASCAR drivers who reside near the top of the leader board. No telling—yet anyway—if Miller has ties to other IRL drivers. A series-wide tax evasion scandal could bring the IRL—or NASCAR for that matter—to its knees.

Jimmie Johnson told reporters today he was “shocked” to learn of the tax-evasion charges made against Miller, who he called his friend and attorney. A federal indictment accuses Miller of directing Castroneves in failing to report $5.55 million in income to the Internal Revenue Service between 1999 and 2002. Miller, who also represents NASCAR driver Casey Mears among others, faces 20 years in prison if convicted. The prospect of spending 20 years in the big house should get Miller talking, if there are others to implicate.  IBJ.com

“Mr. Miller represents or has represented a substantial number of NASCAR teams and drivers including, Jimmie Johnson, (2006 – 2007 NASCAR Champion); Clint Bowyer (2007 3rd place); Casey Mears; David Gilliland, Erin Crocker, Bill Lester, Robert Yates Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing Holdings, LLC (NASCAR); Helio Castroneves, Adrian Fernandez, Danica Patrick Racing, Anthony Foyt IV, Alex Zanardi, Gil de Ferran; Ron Fellows, Marty Smith (ESPN), Mark Dyer (Motorsports Authentics), Subway Franchisee Advertising Fund Trust, Just Marketing, Honda Performance Development, Herb Fishel, Mike Kranefuss and numerous other teams, drivers, manufacturers and motorsports related persons or entities.”


Did someone sabotage Busch's engine in Kansas?
Strange how these things happen in NASCAR.  Two weeks ago then points leader Kyle Bush blew an engine on his usually reliable Toyota and last weekend a different engine problem that the team cannot duplicate.  Did someone slip something into Busch's Toyota fuel can to prevent a Toyota from winning the Cup title just yet?  They already won the Truck and Nationwide title, and there is a fear in NASCAR that the series will be run over by Toyota.


Jimmy Makar, senior vice president for Joe Gibbs Racing, says the team is unsure what caused Kyle Busch's engine woes during last weekend. Busch reported that he was losing power but then things improved. Still, he finished 28th, his best finish in the first three races of the Chase. "I wish I could tell you,'' Makar said of what was wrong. "We've looked at the fuel system. We've run everything across the dyno. We've run it across the lab in the shop. We've actually taken everything and gone to Kentucky and tested with it [Thursday]. I haven't found anything. I think it was fuel related, but we can't find anything that says this is it. Whatever caused it is ... it came and went and we haven't been able to locate the problem. That's your worst nightmare, when you can't find a reason for your problem.'' Roanoke Times


Castroneves could be deported
While the charges shocked many in the motor sports and entertainment worlds, they were years in the making.

The 25-page indictment showed that Helio Castroneves, Kati Castroneves and a Michigan-based lawyer, Alan R. Miller, testified in a civil case in 2004 about their involvement with Seven Promotions. The indictment alleges that all three testified falsely.

Since then, government officials have investigated many entities financially associated with Castroneves and his company, Castroneves Racing, including his employer and friends such as Kanaan, Gil de Ferran and Felipe Giaffone. The fellow Brazilians wrote checks to Castroneves Racing to pay for such things as travel expenses from their mutual base in Miami to races.

Roger Penske described his company as "a witness" in the investigation.

The predicament is precarious at a minimum. Not only is Castroneves, 33, facing significant federal charges, he has his U.S. residency and career at stake.

Born a Brazilian, Castroneves lives in the Miami suburb of Coral Gables, Fla., on a U.S. visa. Such licenses have specific guidelines regarding abiding the laws.

Vitor Meira, another Brazilian who drives in the IndyCar Series, said such holders must be careful "not to even get a DUI (for impaired driving)."

Castroneves has worked and lived in the U.S. since 1996. Indy Star


F1's Mallya to join football foray
(GMM)  Another formula one luminary looks set to get behind the London football club Queens Park Rangers.

Bought in August last year by F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone and Renault's Flavio Briatore, QPR could now be set to welcome a new chief backer -- Force India's billionaire mogul, Vijay Mallya.

The British newspaper The Daily Mail reports that the club is close to agreeing a five-year $35 million shirt sponsorship deal, and a naming rights deal for the Loftus Road stadium, to be named after Mallya's Kingfisher brand.

With Briton Ecclestone and 20 per cent owner Lakshmi Mittal, Indian countryman Mallya would be the third billionaire involved with Queens  Park Rangers.

An announcement about Mallya's involvement is expected as early as next week.


Phoenix could be Petty's last race
Unless sponsorship is obtained to fund a ride for him next season, the Nov. 9 Sprint Cup race at Phoenix could be Kyle Petty's last at Petty Enterprises. Robbie Loomis, vice president of race operations at Petty, confirmed Friday that Kyle Petty was still scheduled to drive the No. 45 at Phoenix, despite reports this week that the Kansas race might have been his last race with the organization.


Surfers race will go on with or without the IRL
The Indy Racing League still does not have a contract with officials in Surfers Paradise, Australia, for a race in 2009, but the Aussies have announced when their event will be held, with or without the IRL joining with the Aussie-based V-8 Supercar Series.

According to the Supercar Web site, the event will be Oct. 22-25, which means for the Indy cars to participate it would either have to be a championship decided on foreign soil or a non-points race like this year's event, which will be conducted on Oct. 26.

The IRL has announced that the final IndyCar points race of 2009 will be Oct. 10 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. League spokesman John Griffin said a possible return to Australia will be discussed when they arrive in Surfers Paradise later this month. Indy Star

[Editor's Note: Rumor is that Team Penske really does not want to fly all the way to Surfers for a non-points race and since Roger runs the IRL (Tony only thinks he does) this will probably be the final year for IndyCars in Surfers.  Does Penske still own a huge amount of shares in ISC.  The season finale points race is at an ISC track.  It was held at Chicagoland this year but moves to Homestead next year - so Homestead gets both the IRL and NASCAR season finale in an effort to bolster this otherwise marginal ISC holding.]


Could Alonso end up at STR with Ferrari engines?
Formula One's newest race winners, Toro Rosso, have admitted an interest in signing Fernando Alonso - but concede it's unlikely to happen.

Alonso is out of contract with Renault at the end of this season, with rumors linking him to a possible move to either BMW or Honda.

However, another team that would like to sign the double world champion is Toro Rosso, with co-owner Gerhard Berger admitting he would be keen on the idea.

"Of course I am interested (in Alonso)," Berger told French sports daily newspaper L'Équipe, "But so is everybody else."

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