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Champ Car grid set to expand Although perhaps only one new part-time single car team may come into Champ Car in 2006 (Eurointernational), we may see grids as high as 22 or more cars in some if not all races. How? If the sponsorship materializes look for Newman/Haas, Forsythe, Team Australia, PKV Racing and possibly HVM and RuSPORT to expand to 3-car teams. Add those to this year's 18 cars and 22 or more are possible. Now more than ever drivers from around the world are eyeing Champ Car because they see the series poised for a major comeback. 2007 will see new teams and we predict grids as large as 26 to 28 cars. Mark C.
Labonte to PettyUPDATE #5 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Bobby Labonte said Friday that he's "looking forward to being a part of the race team" when he joins Petty Enterprises to drive the No. 43 Dodges in 2006. "Being able to be part of the team is huge to me," said Labonte, the 2000 Cup Series champion who'll leave Joe Gibbs Racing after 11 seasons to replace Jeff Green in the Petty team's car. "I know about race cars and I still think I know what I want in a car. Sometimes you don't get that."
"We have some work to do," Labonte said. "We think we have all of the ingredients to get better and work in that direction. We know we can do it, it's a matter of getting everything together.
"Will that take one week or 10 weeks? I don't know that answer, but our heart is in this. That's how we got together."
"I haven't done this (change teams) in 11 years and back then it wasn't this big of a deal," Labonte said. "I am not used to this. ... Whatever you've read in the paper didn't come from my mouth. My mom didn't even know about this until this morning. My dad knew, but I told my mom, 'You know how you keep a secret? You don't know the secret.'"
Kyle Petty said that when Petty Enterprises employees were told that Labonte was coming to the team they cheered.
"Even when the rumor got out that a driver of Bobby Labonte's caliber could come to Petty Enterprises, the morale went sky high," Petty said. "Now we've got momentum going into this winter."
11/10/05 Bobby Labonte will be introduced as driver of the No. 43 Dodge fielded by Petty Enterprises for the 2006 Nextel Cup season during a news conference Friday at Phoenix International Raceway, an industry source said Wednesday night. Labonte, the 2000 Cup champion, announced Monday he would be leaving Joe Gibbs Racing at season's end. Jeff Green will vacate the No. 43 - made famous by seven-time Cup champion Richard Petty - at season's end. ThatsRacin11/10/05 Petty Enterprises is scheduled to make an announcement on Friday, Nov. 11th at Phoenix International Raceway. Could this be to announce Bobby Labonte as their driver? 11/07/05 Bobby Labonte has refused for several months to talk about his future plans, and he has become increasingly testy when pressed on the issue. Labonte is being actively wooed by both Bill Davis and Kyle Petty for 2006, and Joe Gibbs, Labonte's current car owner, has been told that Labonte won't be back, according to sources. Gibbs has tentatively set a press conference for next week at Phoenix to announce J. J. Yeley as Labonte's replacement, regardless of which direction Labonte takes. Winston Salem Journal11/01/05 Latest word is that Labonte is headed to the No. 42. 10/31/05 Bobby Labonte might be the most popular driver in the garage right now when it comes to teams that need drivers. What team wouldn't want to tease potential sponsors with a former champion? He has been mentioned as a candidate to drive the Nos. 43, 42 and 22. If Labonte drives the No. 43 for Petty Enterprises, Shell looks good as the sponsor. If Labonte jumps into the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing ride, that opens the door for Jamie McMurray to move to Roush Racing to drive the No. 97 (which could switch numbers and become the 28). Kurt Busch could in turn take over the No. 2 Penske Racing car after Rusty Wallace retires. Roger Penske admitted in Atlanta that he had spoken to Ricky Rudd about possibly doing a one-year deal if Busch were not released, but the surest bet in the driver's roulette would be on Busch in the No. 2 at Daytona. Sporting News
Cooper Series champion Howard eyes Champ CarUPDATE We told you Jay Howard was so fast he was demoralizing. Originally he was eyeing the Atlantics series for next year. Now he may have a shot to go straight to Champ Car. He told SPEEDTV “Not sure yet about my plans for 2006. We have lots of different offers on the table, which could lead us to either Champ Car or the IRL - actually, we may have the opportunity to move up straight into Champ Car next year, though I can’t say with which team yet! It’s difficult because I’m in a point in my career where I need to seize the opportunity while everybody is still talking about what I did this year. We also have an Atlantic test lined up soon but our priority would be to go and do Champ Car, that goes without saying. If we can’t do it, then Atlantics would definitely be a good option. I want to have everything sorted out in the next couple of weeks. To be honest, if I’m not in Champ Car or the IRL by 2007, I’ll give up racing. And I have no preference between the two series right now, though road courses are my specialty - I have never done a real oval race." [Editor's Note: Take this one to the bank, we doubt he will go to the IRL. The fact that Bruno Junqueira has two 14 inch long titanium rods screwed into his spine to support it the rest of his life as a result of being another oval track accident victim makes anyone who is a good road racer stand up and take notice, especially someone with Howard's ability.]
10/28/05 Remember we told you to keep your eye on Jay Howard. He's so quick he's demoralizing. Cooper Series F2000 champion Jay Howard, 24, from Basildon, Essex, England, has signed a long-term contract with Sam Schmidt’s new management team and is expected to step up into the exciting new Champ Car Atlantic Championship in 2006. In addition, Howard is currently in New Zealand, preparing to hone his skills during the northern off-season by contesting the burgeoning Toyota Racing Series, which begins early next month. (Photo right of Joey Foster, left, and Jay Howard by Curtis Boggs)
"It’s been an amazing year," says Howard, who won nine of this year’s 12 Cooper Series F2000 races. "I can’t believe how much publicity there has been and what it’s done for my career. [Editor's Note: Interesting that Sam Schmidt would guide Howard to the Atlantic Series and not the IPS Series where he owns about 50% of the grid.]
Blaney close to signing deal Blaney confirmed Tuesday that he expects to seal a deal for a full-time ride perhaps as soon as next week. He's in negotiations with more than one team. Once a contract is completed, the owner could have an announcement shortly thereafter. "Hopefully, we have a contract done enough where they can announce it when they want," Blaney said. "All I can say is that I think we're close." Tribune Chronicle
Roush team to stay 5 cars In this Hot News item we report NASCAR's new rules with regard to how many cars any given team can race in NASCAR. But that doesn't apply to Roush Racing we guess.
Roush officials were told in a recent private meeting with NASCAR that a "grandfather clause" would be included to allow them to keep their five teams at least through the 2009 season. All of their current contracts with sponsors and drivers at least run through then, but what happens when those deals expire remains somewhat murky. ESPN.com/AP
NASCAR/Champ Car relationship improving We have noted on a number of occasions that the relationship between the France family and Champ Car is improving, while the France's relationship with the IRL does not appear to be as solid as it once was. Here is more proof:
NASCAR's vice president Jim France was in Mexico City last Friday and Saturday with the Grand-Am series. There will be two Grand-Am races next year with Champ Car at Long Beach and Mexico City and ALMS at Houston.
NASCAR CEO Brian France also flew to Mexico from Texas on Saturday and Kalkhoven met with the Frances.
"We met and we talked about how to work together," Kalkhoven commented. "This has not been a series that has worked well together with other series in the past and part of everything we do is about building bridges."
He acknowledged that his talks with the Frances is another indicator of Champ Car's growth.
"I doubt if two years ago we would have been able to have the relationships we have today," Kalkhoven remarked. Champ Car
Ganassi to use Honda power too?UPDATE #3 Other rumors say Ganassi will indeed use Honda power and Dallara, instead of Panoz, chassis. With Panoz doing Champ Car in 2007, we suspect the IRL will become an all-Dallara series in 2007. 11/08/05 Another source is telling us Ganassi will stick with Toyota power and has lined up Wheldon to drive. This source says it will also include some F1 testing with the Toyota F1 team for Wheldon. Not sure which rumor to believe, Honda or Toyota for Ganassi, but either way it should all flush out soon. If Honda lost Wheldon to Toyota, ouch. 11/06/05 We hear that Ganassi has indeed signed the deal with Honda for engines in 2006 and that Dan Wheldon may be tied to it. Rumor has it that Wheldon left AGR because he wasn't getting paid as much as AGR teammate Dario Franchitti, though that may just be scuttlebutt. 11/04/05 Hot on the heels of Penske Racing announcing they will use Honda IRL engines next year comes word that Chip Ganassi has also done a deal with Honda. We asked Mike Hull to confirm but all he would tell AutoRacing1.com was "we have to improve the performance of our team next year." That doesn't tell us much, but reading between the lines.....
Atlantic series has new title sponsorUPDATE #2 We already had this rumor as 'fact' way back in July. Now in November SPEEDTV.com finally reports the same info. “We have a title sponsor in place for the 2006 Atlantic season, but we won’t release it until early next year. I have a theory about always keeping the news flowing…” said Kevin Kalkhoven. SPEEDTV.com07/31/05 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Kevin Kalkhoven told AutoRacing1.com that they have a title sponsor already, but they prefer to hold off and make that announcement later on. Mark C.07/31/05 Based on comments made Saturday by Kevin Kalkhoven, the new Champ Car Atlantic Series will likely soon be renamed with a new title sponsor. “We’ve got series sponsors signed already,” he said, “and announcements will be made regarding those sponsors in the future. But for now we wanted to focus on the developments with Swift and Cosworth.”
'Movistar' to F1? The Spanish 'Movistar' brand is on its way to formula one pitlane. 'Superbike' magazine is reporting that the 2005 Movistar-backed Gresini MotoGP team will run in different colors next year, ''since Movistar has decided'' to switch to four wheels. Telefonica, a major Renault sponsor in formula one, owns Movistar, the mobile phone operator.
Paffett and BMW Newly crowned DTM champion Gary Paffett has admitted contact with BMW. The English hopeful, who will soon test a McLaren and was strongly linked to the Sauber team a year ago, is almost certain to remain in the German touring car paddock in 2006.
''The most intensive contact is with McLaren and Mercedes,'' 24-year-old Paffett said. ''I also had a close connection with Peter Sauber, so that took care of (BMW).
''We also know other teams,'' Gary told Germany's Auto Bild, ''but I'm hoping that in the future ... they come to me, instead of me going to them.''
Paffett insists that F1 is no longer a 'dream'. He explained: ''I am too close to it for it to be a dream -- my dream is to become world champion.
''In the next two years or so, I intend to make the jump.''
So why hasn't he made 'the jump' already? ''Formula One is very much all about politics,'' said Paffett. ''You must get into the right position -- know the right people.''
Paffett, at least, has one eminent ally on-side -- twice a F1 world champion and Mercedes DTM teammate, Mika Hakkinen. ''If he can manage the DTM,'' the Finn told Autosport, ''then I think he can manage F1.''
Hamilton’s futureUPDATE #3 F3 Euroseries Champion Lewis Hamilton has told autosport.com that he is 'likely' to race for inaugural GP2 series champions ART next season.
Hamilton is scheduled to conduct his first test with the French squad at Jerez tomorrow, and the Briton said it is probable this test will lead to a race drive with the team next season.
"It's not signed yet, but I would say it is likely that I will race with ART next year," Hamilton told autosport.com. "We felt GP2 was the way forward for me and ART look amazing and are in good stead for the future.
"There is no reason I can't challenge for the title in my first year. ART have shown what a good team they are this season. However things could be different, you never know what will happen next season as teams get used to slick tires."
10/06/05 There's no doubt Lewis Hamilton is fast, very fast. With today's announcement that Cedric the Entertainer is now a team co-owner of CTE Racing-HVM, one would think that they would recruit Hamilton. The glow in the Champ Car paddock is so white, you have to wear sunglasses.
Even NASCAR is struggling to get their Diversity program off the ground, and here Champ Car has the 'gift horse' looking them in the face - a black team owner and a black driver. Makes a lot of sense, but we don't know if McLaren already re-signed Hamilton. Mark C.
09/19/05 Lewis Hamilton wins race 12 and 13 of 18 so far this season. Lausitzring Race 1: Starting second on the grid Sebastian Vettel at the wheel of a Mücke Motorsport Dallara Mercedes tried to hold off charging Hamilton who started third. After an exciting battle, Hamilton passed Vettel on lap eight and overtook leader and pole sitter Giedo van der Garde (Dallara-Opel) three laps later. After 20 laps on a drying track, Hamilton achieved an undisputed victory 8.410sec ahead of van der Garde. Race 2: Hamilton who had qualified second won the sprint to the first corner and was never headed.
Lewis Hamilton (ASM): “Saturday it was a tough race until I had passed Sebastian Vettel and Giedo van der Garde. Sunday was easier; after I had taken the lead at the start I was able to control the race. It is an outstanding season and I want to thank everybody in the team for their great efforts."
07/27/05 Ron Dennis has told protégé Lewis Hamilton to forget simply sliding into a McLaren cockpit despite dominating Euro F3. The Woking principal said it is 'impossible' to see the Briton - who would be the first black driver in F1 - race a silver Mercedes powered car 'in the immediate future.'
In fact, in Autosport, Dennis admitted to not even knowing if McLaren would continue to support the twenty year old driver. Recent speculation hinted that Ron and Lewis' management had fallen out over Hamilton's desire to attack GP2 next year. The category is a clash for McLaren-Mercedes as it is backed by Renault. ''You never know how they will do in Formula One,'' Dennis commented of Hamilton. [Editor's Note: For those of you who did not know it, soon to be Champ Car team co-owner Cedric the Entertainer, is black. Champ Car would be wise to pick up Lewis Hamilton, the fastest black driver in the world, and pair him up with Cedric to satisfy their need for minority involvement in a very 'white' sport.]
Simon Pagenaud eyes Atlantics for 2006 AutoRacing1.com has learned that French driver Simon Pagenaud, vice-champion of the Eurocup Formula Renault 2004, was in Mexico last weekend. He had been testing with the Condor and USRacetronics Atlantics teams the week before. Pagenaud drove in the World Series by Renault with Team Saulnier Racing in 2005.
New Zealand eyes A1GP race The founder of the A1 Grand Prix series has set the wheels in motion for a race to be held in New Zealand. Sheik Maktoum Hasher Maktoum al-Maktoum of the Dubai ruling family is in the country for a flying visit and says if the proposed Hampton Downs circuit south of Auckland is built, and the fans get behind it and the sponsors get on board, then New Zealand will host an A1 Grand Prix. He is impressed with what he has seen so far, having already studied the maps and the designs, and he hopes to go to look at the proposed site on Thursday. The backer of the New Zealand A1 Grand Prix car, Colin Giltrap believes resource consent for Hampton Downs could be granted by Christmas. Newstalk ZB
Drivers and tires undecided at STR Starting March 12, 2006, Formula 1 fans will be getting a taste of Red Bull in Italian: in Bahrain the new Squadra Toro Rosso is heading into its first season as the second team owned by the Red Bull company.
The decision to take over the former Minardi team came at Spa during the Belgian Grand Prix, making the real birthday of the new Squadra November 1, 2005. On that date the takeover became official and at the same time the first personnel decision was made: 49-year-old Austrian Franz Tost will spearhead the team.
Tost has lots of motorsport experience and Formula 1 know-how to contribute to the new team: he was formerly a driver for Formula Ford and Formula 3 and, among his other jobs, manager at the Walter Lechner Racing School before moving in 1993 to the team of Willi Weber. He was the driving force behind Ralf Schumacher’s career in Japan, advancing with his protégé to Formula 1. Since June 2000 Tost has been track operation manager at BMW Motorsport.
In accordance with the regulations, the Squadra Toro Rosso operates completely independently of Red Bull Racing and is also in a somewhat different position: it sees itself as a rookie team that will primarily provide opportunities for the up-and-coming talent from the Red Bull Junior Team to rise into the ranks of Formula 1.
The question of the 2006 cockpit occupants for the team based at Faenza, Italy is still open as is the name of the tire supplier. The Squadra Toro Rosso’s cars are powered by a Cosworth V10 engine. Source Red Bull
Grand-Am to overtake Champ Car in Mexico City? In this provocative Autoracing1.com interview with Grand-Am president Roger Edmondson, Edmondson hints that the Mexico City race promoter is building the Grand-Am race and not doing much promotion of the Champ Car race. Given this was the 2nd straight year weekend attendance dropped significantly, Champ Car had better wake up, open an office in Mexico City (across the street from the firmly established NASCAR office?) and look after what was once their biggest event (Surfers now has the #1 weekend attendance).
"Every billboard and TV ad I've seen (here in Mexico City) has only been about the sports car event (not about Champ Car). This promoter recognizes that what is today may not always be. So the day may come when he wants a free-standing Grand-Am event and it's in his best interest to educate the audience that we exist and here is what we do."
Newey lured by $10m check Although Adrian Newey may relish a new challenge, the talented engineer decided to make the switch on the promise of a $10m per year Red Bull pay check.
That's the news of a McLaren 'source', who told the respected Guardian newspaper that Ron Dennis' final offer stopped at around the $6m mark.
''Ron Dennis and chief executive Martin Whitmarsh did not feel such an investment could be justified,'' the newspaper wrote.
McLaren chairman Dennis, and 'F1 CEO' Whitmarsh, did not comment.
Just in case the more cynical Red Bull fans are worried that Newey might pull out of the deal, as he did when Jaguar achieved a similar coup in 2001, Christian Horner confirmed that McLaren's technical director had 'informed' Dennis this time.
A McLaren spokesperson, meanwhile, hinted that 'the pressures' of working for a truly top-line team may finally have got to the Briton.
''We have been aware ... that Adrian was looking for a new challenge with a smaller team,'' the spokesperson added. ''The decision to leave McLaren was both amicable and mutual.''
Other sources inside the Woking based team report that McLaren is now sufficiently structured to make do without a star individual at the helm.
Red Bull, however, are delighted with their star recruitment, and Horner said Newey's motivation is not money.
Horner, the team's principal, beamed: ''Given the choice of Newey or Michael Schumacher, I'd go for Adrian every time. 'It's of that kind of magnitude.''
Jaguar and Gentilozzi eye Grand-Am Should the Trans-Am Series not continue, see other rumor, we hear that Paul Gentilozzi might submit a modified version of the Jaguar Trans-Am engine to Grand-Am for approval and Rocketsports could start a Grand-Am team if the engine were approved. We did see Gentilozzi canvassing the Grand-Am paddock on Saturday in Mexico City, saying hello to old acquaintances. Mark C.
Trans-Am not dead yet We quizzed Paul Gentilozzi over the weekend about the status of the Trans-Am Series. Many are assuming it is dead. "We are trying to continue it," said Gentilozzi. "we were ready to announce a new sponsor, but then they had a glitch and we had to postpone it. It may be that we combine Trans-Am with the SCCA SPEED World Challenge series because they are struggling a bit. It is still possible that we won't continue with the Trans-Am series, but I'm very hopeful that it will continue."
If it continues, will Trans-Am race at Long Beach given Grand-Am is now on the schedule? "Yes," said Gentilozzi. "They reserved space for us in Long Beach should Trans-Am continue."
'Masters' to support F1? According to 1980 world champion Alan Jones, the novel 'Grand Prix Masters' could become a support category on the formula one tour. The Australian, 59, is one of 14 ex-F1 drivers - including Nigel Mansell and Emerson Fittipaldi - to debut the new open wheeler concept with a one-off race at Kyalami this weekend.
A five or six-race 2006 calendar is anticipated.
But Jones told Melbourne's 'The Age' newspaper: ''They're ... talking about the possibility of having (GPM) on the same bill as formula one, or (the) A1 GP series, which would make sense.'' 'AJ' is the Australian franchise holder in the similarly novel A1 'world cup'.
Any proposal to make 'GPM' a support category for F1, however, would seem unlikely in the context of earlier reports that Bernie Ecclestone lodged opposition to the series' use of the 'Grand Prix' trademark. The F1 supremo is also rumored to want to set up his own seniors tour with Porsche Boxters.
Newey set to leave McLarenUPDATE This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement. See Hot News page. 11/07/05 Technical director Adrian Newey is set to leave McLaren, the BBC understands, and join Red Bull. Newey would team up again with Scottish driver David Coulthard, with whom he worked at both McLaren and Williams.
BBC motor racing correspondent Maurice Hamilton said the move would destabilize McLaren in the long term. "It's not just the fact that he's designing the car, it's building up the structure within that team," he said. "If you take the king pin away, you get a knock-on effect. Other people might leave and some people might go with him." BBC Sport
Champ Car looking to set up offices worldwide We hear that Champ Car is looking to set up small regional offices in every country they race in. Look for one in Mexico City, another in Canada, Australia, South Korea and probably China. It's about time.
Champ Car to eventually drop ovals Oval track racing is on the way out in the Champ Car series, meaning the circuit could eventually pull out of Milwaukee and Las Vegas, says series co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven.
"If people are going to watch oval racing, they're going to watch NASCAR," Kalkhoven said.
Kalkhoven said of the oval tracks in Milwaukee and Las Vegas: "We have them on the schedule next year. We're going to wait and see how they do." AP
Bourdais to get snubbed by Renault again Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais, who won his second Champ Car title in a row this year (the first to ever do that), fears 2006 could be his last chance to break into Formula One. The 25-year-old's new contract with the Newman/Haas team in the US series has a clause allowing him to test F1 at any time should an opportunity come along.
But Bourdais, who was offered an F1 drive with Arrows in 2002 before they folded, says time is not on his side. "I'll be 28 (in 2007). And you don't break into F1 when you're 30," he said.
France was left without a regular F1 driver for the first time in 40 years when Olivier Panis, now a test driver for Toyota, retired at the end of the 2004 season.
France's Franck Montagny was Renault test driver this year but said last month he was leaving the team. The lack of a French presence on the F1 circuit led to a public row between Bourdais and Renault.
And Bourdais knows his accusation that the world champions are reluctant to hire a native driver has helped to effectively end his chances with them. "I don't expect anything from Renault. They have done enough bad-mouthing about me," he said.
"And (Renault F1 president) Patrick Faure's provocative comments on French drivers show they are looking for a reason to justify their policy not to recruit a French driver," he added.
"I don't know the real reasons and, in the end, I don't really care. I just want them to leave me in peace. They should stop having fun demolishing all the French drivers.
"That's the most frustrating thing," he continued. "They won in F1 this year and, sincerely, I say 'Bravo'. I also win and they should also say 'Bravo', even if they are not interested in working with me." BBC Sport
[Editor's Note: And as we know, Montagny was in Mexico City this past weekend eyeing Champ Car....another Frenchman snubbed by Renault because Briatore wasn't his agent. F1's loss could be Champ Car's gain.]
Rudd could replace the retiring WallaceUPDATE #3 You know, I've heard that they want him really bad in that car for next year. And the problem is the whole hang-up on this situation Dave seems to be who to put in that car because there's not a lot of veteran quality drivers to really go around right now. But Rudd's got a decision to make. He's either going to go in that 42 car, or he's going to retire. FoxSports.com11/06/05 Ricky Rudd plans to end one of NASCAR's storied careers this year, but says he could be lured back for another season to replace Rusty Wallace. Rudd's future hinges on a complicated deal among Chip Ganassi Racing, Roush Racing and Penske Racing South that will determine where Jamie McMurray and Kurt Busch, among others, drive next season.
Rudd is car owner Roger Penske's insurance policy if Busch cannot leave Roush Racing to replace the retiring Wallace next season. Busch has a contract with Roush Racing through next year and will join Penske's team in 2007 at the latest. If Busch can join Penske for next season, then Rudd will leave a sport that he's been a part of since 1975. His three-year contract with the Wood Brothers ends this season. Ken Schrader reportedly will replace Rudd next season.
Rudd admits that it "would be a little disappointing'' if Penske doesn't need him next year, but that doesn't mean he won't drive for Penske someday. Penske owns a sports car team and Rudd enjoys road racing. Roanoak.com
Ricky Rudd said Saturday that he could end up driving for Roger Penske, possibly in the American Le Mans Series, instead of in NASCAR. Rudd, an expert road racer, said he will drive Penske’s #2 Dodge Nextel Cup car in 2006 if Kurt Busch isn’t released from his contract with Roush Racing. But regardless of how that works out — and he put the odds at about 50-50 — Rudd said he’d like to have a shot at driving one of Penske’s new Porsches in the ALMS. “I’m pretty much just standing by for the No. 2 (Penske Nextel Cup) car,” Rudd said. “There have been other ones that have come to me, but what I like about the No. 2 car is that everything that is needed, from financials to personnel, sponsorship — everything there is in place. It’s not a building or rebuilding situation, and that’s what’s appealing to me right now. Rudd said if he doesn’t go Cup racing in 2006, that he had “a house to build and a house to knock down, and that’s the most immediate thing on my list. Once we get that going and under control, and June or July rolls around, I might do a few road races if the right opportunity exists if I’m not in the No. 2 car.”
As for the future of crew chief Michael “Fatback” McSwain, Rudd said he expects him to stay with the Wood Brothers #21 Ford next year, when Ken Schrader will take over behind the wheel. “I think that’s all done,” Rudd said. “He had a lot of great offers, but I believe he’s all squared away, and that’s great for the Wood Brothers.” And Rudd said he’s turned down a number of inquiries from other Cup teams. “There are options out there, but I’ve basically declined the other options,” he said. Speed Channel
NBC and NASCARUPDATE NBC might be interested in selling the final year of its NASCAR Nextel Cup contract (2006) to TV partner Turner (TNT), according to television sources. That could be seen as a blow to the sport. NBC's new National Football League contract kicks off next season, and NBC wants its Sunday night coverage to start at 7 p.m., which conflicts with some of NASCAR's weekend time-window desires. However, according to other reports, Brian France could be prepared to announce a new TV contract for 2007 through 2112 for as much as $4 billion. France said in late September he would probably make a TV announcement within four to six weeks. Turner officials say they want "as many (Cup) races as we can get." Turner currently splits the second half of the NASCAR season with NBC, though NBC carries the year's final eight events. Winston Salem Journal11/06/05 We hear that NASCAR has gone back to NBC to try and strike a deal to renew their NASCAR contract. Seems ABC/ESPN isn't willing to pay the outrageous over inflated dollars that NBC was losing their shirt on so NASCAR wants to see if NBC is willing to bend over again.
Da Matta has $2 million offer from IRLUPDATE #2 “PKV and I are still talking and we are not too far apart,” said da Matta at Mexico City. “But the Andretti-Green offer is a serious one. For sure the IRL is a mainly oval series and I mainly like road and street circuits in the Champ Car series, but the opportunity to go to the best team in the IRL is interesting. PKV is a good team but a young team and one that will take some time to be at the top of the game. “I think I will probably be back with PKV. I have a meeting with (co-owners) Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser this week and we will see what happens.” SPEEDTV.com11/06/05 Word from the Champ Car paddock is that there is absolutely no way that Cristiano would ever consider driving in the IRL. In the first place his parents are adamantly opposed to it as is Cristiano himself from both a personal and career point of view. He would drive Brazilian stock cars first. Steve Levinson11/06/05 AutoRacing1.com heard this morning at the Four Season Hotel in Mexico City that Cristiano da Matta may have a $2 million offer to race in the IRL in 2006. His agent, Fernando Paiva, has been hanging around the Newman/Haas folks all weekend, and it's assumed he is trying to get his driver back into that team. Steven Levinson/AutoRacing1.com Correspondent
Austrian eyes Champ CarUPDATE We spotted Siedler in the Champ Car paddock this weekend in Mexico City and it appears that he is getting real serious about having a go at Champ Car in 2006. As we predicted, the demand for rides in Champ Car will significantly exceed the supply of teams/cars. New teams are holding off until 2007, so existing teams are going to have to step up and run a third car wherever possible. Mark C.
08/22/05 "Taking it to the Streets!" - the way the American Champ Car World Series presented itself at the Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver was a new and most fascinating experience for 20-year old Norbert Siedler who has just attended his first race event in the States.
In the shadows of a dramatic battle between Sebastien Bourdais and Paul Tracy on the streets of Colorado's capital the next Austrian on the overtaking lane and his manager Edi Nikolic had a couple of meetings in order to intensify their US-ambitions for 2006.
The fair chance to compete with equal cars, the great show and the friendly atmosphere in the paddock have left their marks as Norbert defines his new goals: "Yes, I think it would be a good route for me and these races on street circuits where you have to adapt very quickly to new conditions is exactly what I like."
Not only that he had some important meetings with several team principals Norbert also met Champ Car co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven: "It was like a Hollywood movie for me because on the one hand side I have never met such a powerful person before, on the other side he was so friendly and down-to-earth that I will never forget that invitation into his motorhome."
Siedler was among a clutch of drivers - including Minardi F1 recruit Christijan Albers and fellow Dutchman Nicky Pastorelli - who tested with Derrick Walker's squad before it became Team Australia, and impressed the doughty Scot before missing out on a possible seat because of a budgetary shortfall. He returned to Europe to compete in the Italian 3000 series, but has kept in touch with the Walker operation, and Champ Car in general, in order to prepare for a possible graduation next year.
Davidson to get shot at Champ Car We hear that highly regarded BAR Honda F1 test driver Anthony Davidson will get a shot at a Champ Car ride if he again misses out on a full-time F1 ride in 2006. He is rumored to be aligned with the Super Aguri Honda B team. We hear he's keen on Champ Car as a real drivers championship vs. the computer programmer vs. computer programmer F1 championship. The diminutive speedster may find the heavier Champ Car with no power steering a real handful.
San Jose plans for 2006UPDATE We hear the changes that will be announced for San Jose involve no track reconfiguration changes, just widening, smoothing out the railroad tracks, building more bridges and grandstands and other minor improvements. Mark C. 11/04/05 Rumor has it that Canary fund founder, Don Listwin, San Jose Mayor, Ron Gonzales, Champ Car World Series driver and Los Gatos native, A. J. Allmendinger of RuSPORT Racing, Champ Car Race Director, Tony Cotman, San Jose Grand Prix President, Dale Jantzen, and San Jose GP VP and General Manager, Bob Singleton will hold a press conference on Wednesday November 9th to discuss next year's race. We assume they will discuss a revised circuit layout for 2006......among other things.
Team Mexico in the works Hot on the heels of our recent article on the Team Australia concept comes word that an effort is underway to create a team Mexico Champ Car team with two Champ Car drivers, or one Champ Car and one Atlantic driver. It would be with an existing team. The paint scheme that we saw is eye-catching and the driver lineup would be with two good Mexican drivers.
Forsythe eyes Hunter-Reay Word is that Hunter-Reay could get the 3rd Forsythe Racing entry for 2006. The team confirmed to AutoRacing1.com that they still have enough cars to field 3 entries in 2006. This would be good news for the young American who needs a shot with a top team to prove he can get the job done after a disastrous 2006 season. The pressure would then be on Hunter-Reay to produce results. "I welcome that challenge," Hunter-Reay told AutoRacing1.com. He has been added to our 2006 Champ Car Silly Season page above.
Forsythe told AutoRacing1.com, "Yes, we met with Ryan this morning. I told him that if he or we can find some sponsorship in the off-season we would like to give him a shot.. We do need more American drivers. Ryan's a good kid and Kevin and I stepped up last year to make sure he had a ride in Champ Car."
Is Ganassi still eyeing Champ Car?UPDATE AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that Chip Ganassi, along with NASCAR's Bill France Jr., Brian France, Jim France, and the top Grand-Am brass were at the dinner with people like Carlos Slim (father and son) so it appears as though this dinner was to further the relationship between NASCAR, Grand-Am and the Mexicans, and not much to do with Champ Car. This rumor is downgraded to 'false.' Chip's not coming to Champ Car, at least not in 2006. More telling perhaps is the fact this meeting took place in Mexico City on Champ Car's biggest race weekend. Our Mexican contacts tell us Carlos Slim Domit (the son) is a real pro-stock car guy, but that does not mean he doesn't like Champ Car. 11/04/05 Despite rumors to the contrary, it's interesting to see Chip Ganassi talking to many Champ Car folks here in Mexico City. On top of that we hear that Chip is having dinner tonight with some very important Mexican businessmen who want to do something in Champ Car as early as next year. Hmmm......Mark C.
Tielemans eyes Champ Car Euro3000 Dutch youngster Olivier Tielemans is eyeing Champ Car and is trying to line up a test ride. When Tielemans raced against Will Power they were neck and neck all year. He is seen at right talking to Rocketsports team owner Paul Gentilozzi and his father in Mexico City Sunday morning. Gentilozzi tells us he has been approached by 10 drivers from Europe already about a ride in Champ Car. A test will be the first step.
George Clooney in Mexico CityUPDATE We heard this morning that Clooney is not able to make the event. 11/05/05 AutoRacing1.com has learned that movie star George Clooney will be at the track Sunday for the Champ Car race in Mexico City and if he wants, will get a 2-seat Champ Car ride with Ryan Hunter-Reay just before the start of the race.
Champ Car eyes new USA venue Champ Car co-owner Gerald Forsythe told AutoRacing1.com today in Mexico City, "We have some exciting new events to announce this fall, including a possible new race in the USA I can't talk about due to a non-disclosure agreement. " We asked him you mean Philadelphia or Las Vegas right? "No, another USA event," said Forsythe. "Those two are still out there too, but this one could happen even before those two. "
Mexico City promoter pulling a Montreal stunt? NoUPDATE #2 We are downgrading this rumor to 'false' today. Gerald Forsythe made it clear to AutoRacing1.com today that what happened in Montreal is nothing like what is going on in Mexico City. "This event is still our biggest event and it is absolutely true that there is construction back there (referring to the backside of the circuit where the grandstands are closed) that is preventing opening those grandstands. Rebars are sticking out of the ground and it was too dangerous to have fans back there. That is the real story." As a side note, you can go to any grandstand in Mexico City and you won't find a single piece of event merchandise being sold - i.e. no event posters or shirts, just Champ Car and team merchandise. We're not sure why the promoter would not want people to wear shirts that publicize the event for future years. 11/06/05 In a story broke by AutoRacing1.com two weeks ago, AutoRacing1.com can also tell you that there were big bullfight and soccer events on Saturday that held down attendance. Sunday's crowd will be telling. SPEEDTV.com reports - Tongues have been wagging -- and cyberspace sizzling -- with rumors of a Montreal-like conspiracy here at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. At issue is the mystery of the disappearing grandstands. You'll recall that upwards of 35,000 bleacher seats were missing from the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for this summer's Champ Car race, prompting all manner of speculation regarding devious plots by promoter Normand Legault to sabotage the Champ Car event in order to replace it with a NASCAR Busch and/or Craftsman Truck Series and/or Indy Racing League IndyCar Series event.
The Champ Car World Series arrived in Mexico City this week to find that tickets were not on sale for several large bleacher sections, while other bleachers had been removed. At issue were the empty bleachers in and around the Turns Six-Seven "stadium" section, as well as the missing bleachers overlooking the twisting Esses.
What's up with that?
"CIE (race promoter) and I don't own the property," said Gerald Forsythe, who together with CIE spent upwards of $60M renovating the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in time for the 2002 Champ Car race here. "The city does. And they tell us what we can and can't do with the property. (But) we own the rights to stage races here for seven years, beginning in ‘02.
"The city decided they want to use the property at that end of the circuit for new construction. So they wouldn't give us permission to utilize that area for grandstands this year. So some of those grandstands have been taken down, the rest will be taken down and we did not sell tickets for them.
"We are currently negotiating with the city to move some of the grandstands to the front straightaway for 2006. And we are also currently negotiating for the rights to stage races here for an additional seven years after the current agreement expires." More at SPEEDTV.com
10/18/05 As we saw with Montreal this year, when Champ Car arrived at the track the majority of grandstands had been removed. The theory was that Normand Legault was trying to kill the Champ Car event so he could replace Champ Car with the IRL and NASCAR. IRL rumors to Montreal surfaced soon thereafter. It appears the same thing might be happening in Mexico City. The diagram to the right shows all the grandstands as they existed in 2003 when the race drew over 400,000 fans for the weekend. The red down arrows show all the grandstands that have been removed (We compared the 2003 seating diagram against the track's website diagram this year). Without an office in Mexico to look after things, no TV package, and few Mexican sponsors, will Champ Car eventually lose their biggest race? Is the IRL or F1 trying to move into Mexico City? AutoRacing1.com will have more on this story in the coming weeks.
Fernandez to abandon IRL Hot on the heels of Adrian Fernandez team partner Aguri Suzuki announcing he is off to F1 to run the Honda B team next year comes word that NASCAR wants Adrian Fernandez driving In their series and they want him bad. If true, what will be left of the Fernandez IRL team given they have no sponsorship?
This Winston Salem Journal article says, Adrian Fernandez, a suave, cool, internationally sophisticated multi-lingual racer, with movie-star looks and a Richard Petty-plus personality, didn't expect it to be quite like this. Fernandez, an Indy-car star from Mexico City, signed on with NASCAR, Rick Hendrick and sponsor Lowe's earlier this year to headline NASCAR's new marketing foray into the Hispanic world. Fernandez figured to get a little pub, maybe pick up some more sponsorship for his own Indy Racing League operation, revitalize his career, and have a little fun at this roundy-round stuff in these awkward stock cars. But now he's found himself sucked into the NASCAR vortex. During these next two weeks he'll have to face one of the biggest decisions of his career. Does he really want to jump into NASCAR whole-heartedly, or, at 42 and freshly married, would he rather simply step back and enjoy the richly comfortable world he has created for himself during 24 years as a racer, and one of Mexico's most famous sports figures? NASCAR executives have made it quite clear what they want: "We've got to have this guy," said a top NASCAR marketing figure, marveling at all Fernandez's pluses. Lowe's certainly wants him too, because the home-improvements market in Mexico is a $13 billion a year enterprise, in which rival Home Depot is already well entrenched. And the home-improvement market on this side of the border is also a war zone. Fernandez realizes his next step could be big. First, he'd have to pull up roots and move from his Phoenix home to North Carolina. Then he'd have to dive headfirst into one of the most intense and long-running sports series in the country. "It's very tough, because you basically have to start all over again," Fernandez said. "When you think you've got it, and you're still only 20th; gosh, wow. "It's funny in the rookie meetings. I've been racing for 24 years and some of these guys could be my kids, you know. "But in a way it feels good to know I've already done it, and these kids still have to do some of the things I've already done. It does make you feel humble and appreciate how tough racing is. And it makes you value more what I've done in my career, if I can say that. Because it's not easy. And I can see why I was so successful in open-wheel racing, because I was 100-percent dedicated, and that was basically everything I did for 24 years. "But these stock cars are totally different. They react totally different. They don't drive as well. They are very heavy. They sit on top of the track and don't get into the track. They're not planted, like Indy cars. It's a totally different feel. "Qualifying has been tough, the toughest I think. I was only a tenth faster in qualifying than my best practice lap. That's something you don't practice a lot. It's like pit stops - how do I know how to get into my pit box, because I don't get to practice that until the race. So how do I know how I have to brake?
"That's why it's been so tough for all open-wheel racers to come over here. The bottom line is it's just so different." Talking with Hendrick Now the decision deadline looms. "We're talking with Rick and Lowe's, and what I told them was, first, I very honestly need to know if I have the patience, and if I can have the commitment. I just got married this year, and I'm doing things I haven't done for 24 years. And it wouldn't be fair for Rick and Lowe's just to do laps. And that's not what I want to do either; if I'm here, it's because I want to be competitive and I want to win. "So I have to make a decision if this is what I really want to do. "These three races (Texas, Phoenix and Homestead) I will see what it's all about and decide what I want to do. It's a lot of commitment, 30-some races, and I've never done that much before. "It's a complete change of lifestyle. And you have to live somewhere close to Charlotte. "That's all a big commitment. We're evaluating all that, to see if we want to do it."
IRL to go to spec engine in 2006 With Chevy already gone from the IRL and Toyota presumably out if Ganassi also did a deal with Honda, comes rumors that Honda will have to ramp up and supply the entire IRL grid a year early - in 2006. Given that, the talk is that Honda will need to supply a cheaper version of their engine in 2006, instead of waiting until 2007 when they proposed to supply a Cosworth-like longer-life engine to all the teams for around $1 million per year. The teams, without manufacturer subsidies, can't afford the current lease prices.
We also hear that Honda has many outs with the contract and can still decide to quit the IRL after 2006 if Japan decides that supplying the entire grid and not competing with anyone is not in their best interest. Scuttlebutt is that Honda announced they would extend their contract through 2009 to help the IRL land another engine manufacturer. We do not see anyone wanting to come into the IRL with an engine given that Honda has relationships with the best teams already and would likely smoke them on the track race in and race out. From where we sit, it appears that the IRL is stuck with a single engine supplier (Honda) for a long time to come.
Three-team deal with Busch, McMurray closeUPDATE #4 Expect to see #97-Kurt Busch and #42-Jamie McMurray be released from their respective contracts with Jack Roush and Chip Ganassi in short order. That’s the word from Roush, who said Friday he figures the deal to send McMurray to Roush’s #97 and Busch to Roger Penske’s #2 Dodge to be completed very soon. “I think that if Jamie and Kurt are going to be mutually released — and I would put it in that order — then I think it’s very close to the time that’s going to happen,” Roush said. None of the remaining Silly Season dominos, most notably who will replace McMurray in Ganassi’s #42 Dodge next season, were resolved on Friday, but could be before the weekend is out. Speed Channel
Jack Roush said yesterday afternoon that an agreement still hadn't been reached in the three-way negotiations to move Jamie McMurray to Roush Racing and Kurt Busch to Penske in 2006. The deal, which also would send an unnamed driver to Chip Ganassi Racing to replace McMurray, has been in the works for weeks and was reported done by ESPN on Monday. Richmond Times Dispatch
Kurt Busch and Jamie McMurray still don't know if they will be driving for new teams next year. The anticipated swap of drivers involving three teams isn't done. If a deal is done, the changes are these: Busch will leave Roush Racing and drive the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge next season, replacing Rusty Wallace. McMurray will replace Busch for Jack Roush. And someone – possibly Bobby Labonte or Ricky Rudd – will replace McMurray in the #42 Havoline Dodge. "Ultimately it's Jack's decision if we want to separate and move on," Busch said. "If we can work out all the details, great." Jack Roush said he isn't sure everything will get resolved. "I don't have a drop-dead date," he said. "Geoff Smith [team president] is handling those negotiations, and he said it needs to be done quickly." Roush was asked if he and Busch had spoken recently. "I haven't had a conversation with Kurt of any consequence since he told me he wanted to be released from his contract for 2006. I'm immune to frustration when it comes to Kurt Busch." Dallas Morning News.
Kenseth not happy Roush Racing’s Matt Kenseth, who recently lost his spotter and car chief (Jeff Vandermoss left to take a crew chief gig at Ganassi #40 team) NOT his crew chief (Robbie Reiser), said poaching of race-team employees is worse this year then he’s ever seen before. “I think we’ll probably lose some people at the end of this year, probably more than we have before as a group at Roush Racing,” said Kenseth, the 2003 Cup champion. “That happens. Roush has been really successful over the last three years, winning a couple championships and having all five cars in the Chase. When that happens, you always have other teams come in and offer them a bunch more money than they would offer them if we were running 15th every week. This year, I’ve seen a lot more teams come in and try to raid us than in years past and they seem to be more successful than they have in years past.” Speed Channel
Champ Car wooing Slim AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that Champ Car had a very good meeting with Carlos Slim Domit, who has now taken over as CEO of Telmex. He of course is son of Carlos Slim Helu (who has retired - pictured right) the 4th richest man in the world and worth an estimated $23.8 billion. Just call him Midas. Latin America's richest man upped his wealth this year by an incredible $10 billion, thanks to a growing and diverse empire that includes holdings in retail, banking and insurance, and auto parts manufacturing. Shares of his flagship wireless telecom outfit, América Movil, soared 76% during the year. And his fixed-line operator, Telefonos de Mexico, or Telmex, is reportedly gearing up to double its customer base this year, primarily in Mexico, by signing up 600,000 broadband Internet subscribers.
Telmex to sponsor Mexican in F1 In the Champ Car paddock in Mexico City this weekend sits not a Champ Car with Mexican telecommunications giant Telmex painted all over it, instead an F1 car (pictured right) with the Telmex colors. Our Mexican sources tell us that Telmex will sponsor Mexican driver Salvador Duran in F1 in 2 or 3 years, and by the looks of this show car, they mean business. Duran ran F3 last year, is running A1GP in this off-season and will probably race in GP2 in 2006. He has shown great promise.
Fittipaldi not racing Despite the Grand Prix Masters press release showing Emerson Fittipaldi as one of the 14 confirmed drivers in next weekend's opening race in South Africa, as of Tuesday in Las Vegas, Emerson was going to the first GP Masters race as a spectator only we have learned. If he felt comfortable with the series he would join in during the next race. Also, Danny Sullivan, had signed up but then pulled out for various reasons.
CTE-HVM eyeing da Matta We spotted Cristiano da Matta's agent Fernando Paiva meeting with CTE-HVM boss Keith Wiggins in Mexico City and speculation is that da Matta won't be back with PKV Racing next year, so it appears CTE-HVM is the hot rumor right now. In other CTE-HVM news, although Ronnie Bremer was announced to have a contract for next year with the team, it is not definite that he will drive for them, though Ronnie thinks "it's looking pretty good." Mark C.
Champ Car to announce TV scheduleUPDATE The schedule has been released and it's only 4 on CBS, not 5, and 8 races on SPEED, not 7. The last four races are on SPEED, not a good way to end the season. See Hot News for details soon. 11/04/05 We have it on good word that Champ Car will release their 2006 Champ Car TV schedule this weekend, probably today. We hear it will show 5 races on CBS, 3 on NBC and the remaining 7 on cable. Mark C.
Giebler eyes ride for ’06 We ran into American Phil Giebler here in Mexico City. He tells AutoRacing1.com that he is definitely trying to land a full-time Atlantic ride for 2006 and perhaps even a Champ Car ride. He tells us he has the most financial backing for next year that he ever has, but it is still not enough to guarantee him a ride. This guy is fast and deserves a shot...at least a proper test. Mark C.
Forsythe might sell spare Lolas AutoRacing1.com has learned that Forsythe has six Lolas for three drivers in 2006. We hear that if the team decides to stick with two drivers next year they will be looking to sell two of their Lolas given it is the last year they can be used. Given the number of drivers with money looking for a Champ Car ride next year, let the bidding begin. Mark C.
At least 4 companies eye gearbox contract AutoRacing1.com has learned that at least four companies are bidding to supply the new Champ Car transmission contract - Hewland, Ricardo, X-Trac and Mecachrome. The fact that Mecachrome is bidding has some very interesting ramifications given their past history with Patrick Carpentier and the IRL. Mark C.
Champ Car show to get international distribution AutoRacing1.com sources say that there is a lot of interest worldwide in the Champ Car reality show Race Car Driver. Look for an announcement in coming weeks for a big international distribution. We hear that ratings have increased each and every week for the show on Superstation WGN. Mark C.
Ford to renew sponsorship for NASCAR race Ford today will announce that it has renewed its NASCAR weekend title sponsorship at Homestead-Miami Speedway (HMS) through 2014. Ford will retain title sponsorship for the Craftsman Truck, Busch and Nextel Cup series’ season finales at HMS. Industry insiders said the company’s total commitment will be between $20-25M. Ford, which signed its original deal with Int’l Speedway Corp. and HMS in ‘02, will also continue to be the official car, truck and pace car for the Ford Championship Weekend, which this year is set for November 18-20.
Del Monte could miss Mexico City race UPDATE: Del Monte has not been cleared to drive and this rumor is upgraded to 'fact.' 11/04/05 Fabrizio del Monte might not race for the CTE-HVM team this weekend in Mexico City after crashing in an extra Thursday test session designed for rookies to get used to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez ahead of this weekend's Mexico City finale.
The Italian shared the track with Charles Zwolsman, but managed to crash his Lola-Cosworth in turn 13, sustaining heavy damage. The team had five Lolas. They gave one to Team Australia for their third car, leaving them with four. Del Monte wrote-off the 4th one yesterday leaving the team with three. Del Monte can race one of the remaining three cars, but do they risk then not having a backup car for local favorite Rodolfo Lavín. Given Del Monte's history, the likelihood of him crashing again is high.
Del Monte had been the fastest of the two drivers on track on Thursday, turning a 1 min 31.531secs lap.
Will Frentzen eye Champ Car again? With the news yesterday that Opel is withdrawing from German DTM after this year, former F1 driver Heinz Herald Frentzen is again out of a ride. He eyed Champ Car once before staying in Europe and the DTM, will he look to Champ Car again? Frentzen and Glock with DHL sponsorship sure would make a good Team Germany.
Does Aguri already have new car design started?UPDATE Mark Preston has confirmed that he is the Chief Technical Officer of the new Super Aguri F1 team, based at the team's headquarters at Leafield. Preston and his team of followers had been planning to start their own F1 team and had set up offices at Silverstone but it seems that they have since become integrated into the Super Aguri operation which is now being put together at Leafield. For most of the Preston group this will be a return to old times as they all worked together at Leafield in the days of the old Arrows F1 team. Grandprix.com11/03/05 The company, Super Aguri F1 Ltd was incorporated on October 31 this year with its address listed as the Leafield Technical Centre. The websites www.superagurif1.com and www.superaguri-f1.com have been registered by the new company, but what is most interesting is that the name listed as the contact person for the new team is Mark Preston.
Preston is a Formula 1 engineer who worked at Arrows before moving on for a couple of years at McLaren. He then decided that he was going to try to raise the money for his own F1 team. Preston now has offices in the new Silverstone Innovation Centre and lists a number of ex-Arrows and TWR staff as being involved in its plans. These include Paul Bowen, a British Aerospace and Marconi engineer who joined Arrows in 1987 as one of Ross Brawn's design team. He worked on the design team of the A10B chassis which in 1988 gave Arrows fourth place in the Constructors' Championship and was project engineer on the Arrows A11 in 1989. After Brawn and his replacement James Robinson moved on Bowen became chief engineer in 1990 and when Tom Walkinshaw took over the team Bowen became chief designer and led the team which produced the Arrows-Yamaha A18 of 1997. Bowen later followed Brawn to Ferrari where he headed mechanical design for a period.
Also mentioned is Dr Rob Neumann, another former Arrows design engineer who has since started his own composites business; plus Kevin Lee, a TWR man dating back to 1979 who was involved in the Silk Cut Jaguar program at Le Mans in the 1980s. Another ex-TWR man is finance executive Michael Boon. More at Grandprix.com
Marshall to drive in Mexico?UPDATE #2 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. The Supreme Court (in Australia) today dismissed an application by driver Marcus Marshall to compel Wright Patton Shakespeare to provide a drive for him with Team Australia in the final round of the Champ Car World Series in Mexico this weekend.
The court also ordered that Marshall pay WPS’s costs relating to today’s proceedings.
It was decided to terminate the agreement between Marshall and WPS last week because of certain breaches. The breaches were serious and substantial and occurred before the Surfers Paradise Champ Car event where Marshall drove for Team Australia.
Team Australia co-owner and leading Queensland businessman, Craig Gore, said that he was obviously pleased with the court’s ruling, but disappointed that the matter had gone that far.
“It was disappointing to have to endure the court process considering the circumstances involved in the action,” said Gore.
“Obviously it is satisfying to be vindicated and now it’s important we get on with the sport of motor racing and go win some races for Australia, which we have wanted to do for sometime and I believe are now in a position to do so.
“I don’t want to be drawn any further into this matter and will be making no further comment.”
The Champ Car World Series will continue with its final round in Mexico City this weekend and Team Australia will be represented by Alex Tagliani, Will Power and recently-crowned Toyota Atlantics Champion Charles Zwolsman.
11/03/05 Derrick Walker told AutoRacing1.com, "Right now Marcus Marshall is not racing for us this weekend. I have not heard anything from Craig Gore in Australia with regard to Marcus winning his lawsuit." 11/01/05 AutoRacing1.com sources in Australia tell us that Marcus Marshall is currently on a plane from Australia to Mexico and intends to be in the No. 5 Team Australia car this weekend. How can this be you ask? Well according to unconfirmed leaks, we are hearing that Team Australia co-owner Craig Gore was in court yesterday and again today. You have to note that John Marshall (father to Marcus Marshall)is a very powerful man in Queensland. Although the Team Australia press release stated that Marshall was released due to several serious breaches of contract, one has to wonder if these matters were resolved in court today and Marshall got the go ahead to fly to Mexico. Supposedly the settlement means he will be in the car next year as well.
If true, it will be very interesting to see who lines up for Team Australia this coming weekend. Who will be the odd man out, or will the team run all four of their Lolas? That scenario would leave no backup cars, so if anyone crashes one, their weekend may be over early. Mark C.
V8 teams 'worried' - report V8 powered teams are reportedly worried that 'Squadra Toro Rosso' - the renamed Minardi team - could show up at Bahrain next March with a distinct horse power advantage.
The Faenza based team, formerly run on a shoestring by Paul Stoddart, has been taken over by Red Bull -- a drinks company not short on cash.
Stoddart had lobbied the governing FIA to engineer a temporary relaxation into the new 2.4 liter V8 regulations, which would allow small teams like Minardi to run a performance-limited V10 in '06 and '07.
'Toro Rosso' do not intend to alter Stoddart's Cosworth plan, so have been told to limit V10 speed to 16,500 rpm along with a 77mm air restrictor.
However, Britain's Autosport magazine reckons the horse power of the V10 will drop from 900+ to around 750 in 2006 -- which could still outclass the initial V8 efforts of Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes, Renault, Honda and Toyota.
Moreover, the Red Bull Jr team could also have a clear advantage over other private teams like Williams, Midland and Super Aguri, who will shell out millions for their V8s.
''We need to sort this out,'' a 'source' told the publication, ''because the ... option was only introduced to allow Minardi to stay in business with a cheap engine.''
Elsewhere in the F1 media, grandprix.com reports that former Honda president Shoichi Tanaka could be installed as head of the carmakers' 'GPMA' association.
Williams and Toyota spell trouble for Cosworth Williams will almost certainly switch from Cosworth to Toyota V8 power at the end of 2006, rock-hard F1 speculation says.
After splitting with BMW after an unfriendly six year works deal, Sir Frank Williams turned to Cosworth - the independent UK-based company - rather than accept BMW's offer of a customer deal.
Williams had hoped to move immediately to the semi-works collaboration he had nearly finalized with Toyota, whereby the Japanese marque's V8 unit would be re-branded 'Lexus' in return for development support and a subsidized 2.4 liter engine bill.
The authoritative British 'Telegraph' newspaper reports that Williams-Toyota talks seem to be 'at an advanced stage' about 2007, after Toyota told the Grove based team that a decision had come too late to seal a deal for 2006.
Other sources reveal that it is no coincidence that both Toyota and Williams are concurrently defecting to Bridgestone, and it has been suggested that Toyota delayed confirming its deal so as to play down any link between the pair.
''I have absolutely no comment,'' a Williams source said. If Cosworth loses Williams, its F1 days may soon be over. It needs to get a car manufacturer to badge their engine.
Toronto deal a mega coup for Champ CarUPDATE #6 This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact.' We hear that Champ Car has closed the deal today with Molson and Exhibition Place that will see Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe own the Toronto race behind a new company called the Grand Prix Association of Toronto. Exhibition Place gave their final approval of the transfer of the event to the new owners and Molson will stay on as sponsor. Look for a press release from Champ Car later today or tomorrow. Mark C. 10/24/05 Another of Champ Car's premier events -- the Molson Indy Toronto -- has also been in the news lately, given Molson's announcement that it plans to get out of the sports/entertainment event management business. That news prompted speculation in some quarters that the rival Indy Racing League was making a bid to take over the Toronto street race.
Don't bet on that, said Kalkhoven before as much as saying Champ Car plans to acquire the event, much as it did the Long Beach race earlier this year.
"We'll be racing in Toronto for a long time to come," he said. "Long Beach is the jewel of the American portion of our series and we purchased the assets earlier this year. Mexico City is the jewel of the Mexican portion of our series and we own half of that. Do you see a trend there?" SPEEDTV
10/15/05 The broadcast arm of Molson Sports and Entertainment — the production unit that produces Champ Car's television package — is not part of the deal with the Toronto Indy race. Negotiations between Molson and Champ Car for the production unit to handle Champ Car's television package in 2006 are continuing. Toronto Star [Editor's Note: That's not what we are hearing.] 10/15/05 AutoRacing1.com is now hearing that Messrs. Kalkhoven and Forsythe may have pulled off another major coup for Champ Car. While most of the media is thinking they are just buying the rights to the Toronto race, our sources now tell us they are likely buying all of Molson Sports & Entertainment (Molstar until 2001) - a company that not only does event management, operations, marketing and public relations, but also TV production, which they currently do for Champ Car. By doing so Kalkhoven and Forsythe will not only own another company to help put on the increasing number of races they own, but they will have full control and ownership rights to the TV production and images just like Bernie Ecclestone does in F1. If this rumor is true, this is a mega deal for Champ Car and cements yet another brick in their foundation - this a major brick.
Molson Sports and Entertainment, was a division of Molson Canada, and is a dynamic company built on a solid foundation of expertise in producing world-class events. With a successful history as one of Canada’s leading corporate sports broadcasting companies, Molstar, as it is known, is uniquely positioned in the North American sports marketplace.
Molson S & E has become known internationally for successfully owning and operating the Molson Indy event in Toronto and previously in Vancouver. Molson S & E is unique in the North American sports marketplace due to its ability to handle all aspects of a large event, including management, operations, sponsorship, marketing, public relations and ticketing, as well as the ability to take the event to the broadcast community.
Now we know why the rumored purchase price was over $20 million, it wasn't just for the rights to the Toronto race.
10/13/05 Molson, Canada's largest beer maker, has given the Champ Car World Series an Oct. 31 deadline to purchase the assets of the Toronto Molson Indy or risk losing it to the Indy Racing League. The bombshell deal will not mean the end of Toronto's largest sporting event, however, as Molson virtually is certain to maintain primary sponsorship duties, no matter who takes over the weeklong summer festival of speed.
"What we have now is a memorandum of understanding that means if (Champ Car) wants to purchase the physical assets of the race -- which is the blocks, the fences and the bridges -- it has to do its due diligence now," Cynthea Galbraith, Molson Sports and Entertainment communications manager, said yesterday. [Editor's Note: We can tell you that they are going to buy it.]
Galbraith said that Molson remains very interested in continuing its involvement with the event, but not as a promoter. "Molson knows that this is one of its pillar events," she said. "It wants to keep it. It is important for the city."
Galbraith also said that if Champ Car decides to buy the race assets from the brewer, it would be a good thing for the event. "If Molson is not going to run it then Champ Car will and that's the next best thing," she said.
If Champ Car completes the deal to buy the Toronto assets, it will mark the second race purchase for it's two majority owners -- Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe -- this season. The pair outbid the IRL to take over the Grand Prix of Long Beach -- Champ Car's premier American event -- earlier this year.
Champ Car spokesman Steve Shunck said yesterday that the series is very interested in making sure Toronto stays on its race calendar. "There will be Champ Car people in Toronto talking with Molson people about the future of Molson Sports and Entertainment," he said. "Champ Car has had a great relationship over the years with Molson and with the Toronto Molson Indy race and we hope our relationship continues long into the future." Toronto Sun
10/12/05 We are upgrading this rumor to 'fact.' AutoRacing1.com has learned that Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe have bought the rights to the Toronto race from Molson. We await the official announcement. 10/12/05 Molson Sports and Entertainment is getting out of the auto racing business. The subsidiary of Molson Canada Inc. has reached a memorandum of understanding to sell the rights to stage the Toronto Indy back to Champ Car, the Star has learned. A source said the two sides have yet to agree on a price. By repurchasing the rights and running the race itself, Champ Car would be assured of maintaining one of its strongest events and would make it difficult for the rival IRL to step into the breach if the Toronto race were not run. Attendance has slipped slightly over the past three years — even with a 20 per cent drop in ticket prices last year — but the Toronto Indy continues to draw upwards of 160,000 for the three-day event. Molson has been gradually moving away from organizing auto races in Canada. When the Vancouver Indy was abandoned and a replacement race, which turned out to be a huge success, was organized in Edmonton, Molson waived its Canada-wide rights. The rights to the Montreal Champ Car race were also reassigned, going to Normand Legault of Grand Prix Canada. Grand Prix Canada holds the rights to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and stages the annual Formula One race. As it has done in both Edmonton and Montreal, however, Molson will likely retain either the sponsorship rights or exclusivity over beer sales and advertising rights at the Toronto Indy. "Molson is getting out of organizing events and going back to what it does best — sell beer," said the source. Neither Champ Car nor Molson officials returned calls yesterday. Toronto Star
600 HP Z06 Corvette in the works The powerful 505 HP Corvette C6 Z06 is finally hitting the showroom floors now and already there are rumors a 600 HP version could be just a year away. Starting with the already prodigiously endowed 505-hp, 470-lb-ft small-block LS7 V8 from the sixth-generation Corvette Z06, GM Performance project engineer Gary Mulder’s team used a high-output cam, headers, revised engine recalibration and a special induction system with a K&N filter to create an LS7 that produces 600 hp and 526 lb-ft of torque for Jay Leno's new Roadster that was on display at SEMA this week in Las Vegas. Can a 600 HP version of the Z06 Corvette be far behind?
Tanaka to head GPMA There has been talk for some days that the Grand Prix Manufacturers Association is to be headed by former Honda F1 president Shoichi Tanaka, who retired earlier this year as head of the Japanese company's F1 operations, after a long and successful career with Honda. The news has not been confirmed by the GPMA but an announcement is expected within the next few days.
Tanaka (62) worked with Honda from 1966 and after a series of high profile mainstream jobs, including being president of Honda France and senior vice-president of Honda North America, he was appointed head of Honda operations in Indonesia and in 1999 president of the new Honda racing Developments. For the last six years he has overseen activities until handing over the job to Yasuhiro Wada. Grandprix.com
Rosberg signs 5-year deal with WilliamsUPDATE #5 Nico Rosberg will race for Williams next season after signing a long-term contract, the Formula One team announced on Thursday. See Hot News page for more details.
11/03/05 On Thursday, Nico Rosberg will be officially unveiled as Mark Webber's 2006 teammate at Williams.
The British Guardian newspaper said Sir Frank Williams would 'announce today' that the 20-year-old, whose father won the drivers' title in 1982, had got the nod.
Rosberg, German born unlike his Finnish dad, won the inaugural 2005 'GP2' championship at the wheel of the ART team, which - incidentally - is run by the son of Ferrari boss Jean Todt.
The Guardian newspaper revealed that one of Rosberg's sponsors is 'Coutts private banking', which is owned by major Williams backer Royal Bank of Scotland.
10/30/05 Nico Rosberg, the son of ex-Formula One Champion Keke, is set to follow in his father's footsteps and drive for the Williams team next season with Bild daily claiming he has already agreed a five-year deal. The 20-year-old Rosberg, who won this year's GP2 Series championship, is expected to be a teammate to Mark Webber. 10/20/05 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today’s story in Autosport Magazine that Williams has chosen Nico Rosberg over Antonio Pizzonia for their second seat alongside Mark Webber. Although the news has not been officially confirmed, Autosport reports that an announcement should be made in a matter of days. Now we shall see if Pizzonia moves to a race seat in Champ Car after being shunned for the second straight year. 10/19/05 With one race seat up for grabs, GP2 Champion Nico Rosberg is confident that he is in with a good chance of landing the ride over Pizzonia.
"I hope I am racing,” Rosberg stated on the GP2 website. "I have proven I am worth it this year and I should be given a chance. It's still between Antonio, me and another driver. At the beginning of the week Frank (Williams) said I will be one of the three drivers so at least I will be test driver next year and hopefully race driver. It will be decided in the next week or two."
"It would be very nice to race for Williams, it would be Williams-Cosworth-Rosberg and that was a World Championship-winning combination 24 years ago so it would be very nice," he concluded with reference to father Keke.
10/14/05 Nico Rosberg insists he is "110% ready" to step up to Formula One and revealed he has already been guaranteed at least a third driver role at Williams next season. The German, son of former world champion Keke, won this year's GP2 Series whilst also testing for Williams.
They have a spare race seat after Jenson Button bought his way out of a contract, and Rosberg is favorite to beat off the claims of Antonio Pizzonia and an unnamed third driver, possibly Anthony Davidson.
Rosberg has no doubts he is good enough to step up to the race team but has already secured a role as third driver if he misses out.
He said: "Am I ready? Yes, definitely, 110% ready.
"I hope I am racing. I have proven I am worth it this year and I should be given a chance. We will see what they decide.
"It's still between Antonio, me and another driver. At the beginning of the week Frank Williams said I will be one of the three drivers so at least I will be test driver next year and hopefully race driver. It will be decided in the next week or two."
Brit to land McLaren test One young British hopeful will be handed a McLaren formula one test. Oliver Jarvis, Joe Tandy, Duncan Tappy, Sam Bird, Joey Foster and James Jakes are nominated for the 2005 'McLaren Autosport BRDC Award', which features the coveted F1 test run as a prize. Jenson Button and David Coulthard are previous winners of the honor, which includes a check for $89,000. The 2005 winner will be selected after a 'shootout' at the Snetterton track, and crowned in December.
Narain still on shortlist Narain Karthikeyan's F1 dream is not yet over, with renewed speculation that the Indian rookie is still in the running to keep his 'Midland' drive.
With Minardi debutant Christijan Albers moving into a Silverstone-built seat for 2006, 28-year-old Karthikeyan (pictured right) was thought to have switched focus to Williams' 'Friday' drive.
But a new report in 'The Hindu' newspaper, which is well connected to 'NK', says Narain is on a 'shortlist of three' to become Albers' teammate.
Elsewhere, two more drivers have been added to the 'F1x2' two-seater race lineup, to be held at Kyalami (South Africa) in November. 24-year-old American Ryan Hunter-Reay, and former Minardi racer Tarso Marques, will each pilot a Minardi-built car, a statement revealed.
''The two seaters are a lot of fun,'' said Marques, who last raced in F1 in 2001. Fellow ex-Minardi racers Zsolt Baumgartner and Patrick Friesacher are also slated to star.
Aguri to race 2005 'BAR'? F1's governing body contacted 'Super Aguri' on Wednesday to inform the prospective team that its application to debut next year had now been received. The formal documents were 'being reviewed', an 'AP' news report claimed, citing the advice of Aguri Suzuki's business partner, Fumito Akita.
''It's going to be tough, but we're going to fly the Japanese flag on a grand prix podium,'' Akita said from Tokyo.
The FIA's decision is due in December.
Making Aguri's challenge so 'tough' is that the binding Concorde agreement prohibits a team from simply buying a car.
''They can be (built) by an independent, non-competing third party,'' Max Mosley advised. Could Aguri, then, use the '007' car raced by BAR in 2005? Technically, with Honda buying the Brackley team, 'BAR' is arguably a third party.
Suzuki suggested that he was hoping for such a loophole. He said: ''We cannot compete without help from Honda and BAR.''
On the sponsor front, Aguri Suzuka admitted to the 'Bloomberg' agency that Japanese internet company 'Softbank' was a good possibility. ''We want big companies like Softbank to be our major sponsor,'' the Japanese confirmed.
Champ Car pace car team sponsorUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's Sherwin-Williams announcement by Champ Car. 11/02/05 Rumor has it that Champ Car will soon announce a sponsor at the upcoming SEMA show in Las Vegas for their popular pace car program that gives many corporate guests high-speed thrill rides around the track.
Monkey See Monkey DoUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today based on the recent IRL announcement of a threefold increase in the IPS purse for 2006 (won't help, series formula is all wrong) and today's announcement that an Indy Car team will get extra test days if they test an IPS driver. 10/17/05 Word in Fontana was that the IRL will copy Champ Car again. Some business plan when all you do is copy your opponent. We hear that the IRL will offer a $1 million prize to the winner of the IPS championship in 2006 and that number could go up to $3 million in 2007. Sound similar to Champ Car's $2 million prize for the new Atlantic series in 2006? We also hear that IndyCar teams who give IPS drivers a test will get additional test days and more. Word is they have to do this because the IPS Series is not producing the results intended. This won't help because bouncing off walls is cost prohibitive and ovals teach a young driver very little.
Pizzonia eyes Aguri seat Antonio Pizzonia does not expect to be retained by Williams next season and is looking elsewhere for a Formula 1 drive. According to reports on SpeedTV.com, Pizzonia has set his sights on BMW’s new works team or the Super Aguri squad launched by former racer Aguri Suzuki yesterday.
Despite being linked with the A1 Grand Prix and Champ Car series in the past, Pizzonia indicated that his priority is to stay in F1, even if he has to settle for a third driver role.
“I am talking with BMW, Super Aguri and all the other teams that will have a third Friday car next year,” Pizzonia is quoted as saying.
“I have just turned 25 and am still very young. I have received offers from other series (Champ Car) but I want to stay in F1 - I think I deserve to be in it.”
With that said, we here at AutoRacing1.com believe Aguri will use two Japanese drivers, hence Pizzonia's chances of a ride will be as a test driver, something he refuses to do at Williams.
2006 F1 driver lineup Provisional driver lineup for F1 season 2006.
FERRARI Michael Schumacher (seven time world champion to contest fifteenth full season in F1) Felipe Massa (youngster's first year as race driver at team) Luca Badoer (test, 1992 F3000 champion) Marc Gene (test, formerly at Williams and ex-Minardi racer)
WILLIAMS-COSWORTH Mark Webber (Australian's second year at Grove) Nico Rosberg* (likely, 20-year-old son of 1982 champion Keke) Antonio Pizzonia^ (considering race move to America) Narain Karthikeyan^ (Indian pay-driver) Dan Wheldon^ (2005 Indy 500 and IRL champion) ^ possible 'Friday' driver
McLAREN-MERCEDES Kimi Raikkonen (2004 title runner-up) Juan Pablo Montoya (30-year-old Colombian, 7-time race winner) Alex Wurz* (long time Austrian tester, seeking race drive elsewhere) Pedro de la Rosa (test, set fastest race lap at Bahrain 2005)
RENAULT Fernando Alonso (Spain's first reigning drivers' champion) Giancarlo Fisichella (2005 Australian GP winner) Heikki Kovalainen* (likely test driver, GP2 runner-up to Rosberg in 2005)
BMW** Nick Heidfeld (missed final five grands prix in 2005 for Williams) Jacques Villeneuve* (holds 2006 contract, 1997 world champion) Heikki Kovalainen* (possible) Dan Wheldon* (possible 'Friday' driver)
RED BULL-FERRARI David Coulthard (second oldest driver on 2006 grid) Christian Klien* (likely, Coulthard's regular 2005 teammate) Vitantonio Liuzzi* (possible) Neel Jani* (likely 'Friday' driver, Swiss former Sauber tester)
HONDA** Jenson Button (cancelled 2006 Williams contract by paying) Rubens Barrichello (Honda is 33-year-old's fourth F1 employer) Anthony Davidson* (likely 'Friday' driver, seeking first full time race drive elsewhere) Adam Carroll (test, young Englishman)
MIDLAND-TOYOTA Christijan Albers (Minardi's Dutch rookie in 2005) Anthony Davidson* (likely) Takuma Sato* (possible, dumped by Honda's works team) Tiago Monteiro* (possible, Portuguese pay driver) Narain Karthikeyan* (possible)
TOYOTA Jarno Trulli (qualifying specialist, 2004 Monaco winner for Renault) Ralf Schumacher (German brother of multiple champion, 6-time winner) Ricardo Zonta (test, former BAR racer) Olivier Panis (test, veteran of 158 grands prix)
SQUADRA TORO ROSSO-COSWORTH Vitantonio Liuzzi* (likely, raced four times for Red Bull in 2005) Scott Speed* (likely, to be first full-time American in F1 since Michael Andretti in 1993) Neel Jani* (possible)
SUPER AGURI F1-HONDA** Takuma Sato (likely) Anthony Davidson (possible) Kosuke Matsuura (possible, 'Super Aguri' driver in IRL)
Carpentier to AGR Hearing that Patrick Carpentier is the top choice to replace a departing Dan Wheldon at AGR. Putting the Canadian in a winning car will be a big boost to interest from Canada in the series. Mark C.
Tagliani to PKV in ’06 Rumors has it that if Jimmy Vasser retires look for Alex Tagliani to possibly move from Team Australia to PKV Racing, opening the door for Team Australia to have two Australian drivers in the cars, Will Power and Marcus Marshall. Also hearing that Ryan Hunter-Reay could team with Tagliani at PKV Racing if Cristiano da Matta moves on. Ah, don't you just love the Silly Season? We have updated our 2006 Champ Car Silly Season page above. Mark C.
PKV shootout - add Timo Glock to the mix, noUPDATE #4 Timo Glock stated on today's teleconference that he is looking for a team that can run in the top-5 consistently next year, be that Rocketsports or another team. He pointed out that this is Silly Season in all leagues and everyone is talking to everyone else, so the rumors are flying hot and heavy. He hopes that DHL will stick with him next year, either in Champ Car or F1, though he admits F1 appears doubtful at this time. Mark C.10/27/05 This latest SPEEDTV interview with Timo Glock says:
Q: Have you heard about the rumored PKV driver shootout to replace Jimmy Vasser? Will you be a part of it?
“I read about it today, actually! We’re talking to several teams, but so far nobody told me anything about a shootout - maybe they’ll ask me in Mexico City. I wouldn’t mind taking part in a shootout, no problem.”
Q: What about your DHL sponsorship? Do you expect it to retain it for ’06?
“That’s still being finalized as it’s all pending on what I will do next year. We have to see what’s happening [with F1 rides] in Europe and also if we are able to land a top Champ Car seat. I expect to have it all sorted out in three or four weeks, and then we’ll be able to know what kind of program DHL will want to do with us.”
Q: Any chance you could be linked to DHL’s new ALMS program with Porsche?
A “No, that’s a completely separate deal.”
10/27/05 According to our sources, Timo's manager claims to have had no contact with PKV Racing and was surprised by this story that Glock may test for PKV Racing. In addition, the team claims there is no driver shootout planned. 10/26/05 Add Timo Glock's name to the PKV shootout list. AUTOSPORT has learned that Ryan Dalziel, Darren Manning, Timo Glock and possibly Ryan Briscoe will be competing for the ride. SPEEDTV's Robin Miller reports that Glock earned rookie-of-the-year honors in Champ Car this season for Rocketsports but the ex-Formula One shoe has made it no secret he wants to move on following the '05 finale at Mexico City. 10/24/05 Rumor has it according to SPEED News Sunday that PKV Racing will do a shootout between Ryan Briscoe, Darren Manning and Ryan Dalziel and others in the off-season for an eye toward a ride in 2006.
Former IRL star Fisher to get the boot Rumor has it that Sarah Fisher and RCR will announce next week that they will part ways. After a horrible season in the lowly NASCAR Grand National West Series where she finished out of the top 10 in points (there were only 13 full time cars in the series) RCR seems to be looking at Allison Duncan to fill their Diversity program quota. Rumor has it that Sarah is trying to get a deal together for another shot at the 100% throttle IRL series.
As we have stated on numerous occasions, a 100% throttle racing series is not a measure of driver talent whatsoever. It's a show.
Who will drive for BAM in ’06? BAM Racing co-owners Beth Ann and Tony Morgenthau are uncertain who will drive the #49 Dodge next season after several major teams' negotiations intensified. BAM Racing co-owners Beth Ann and Tony Morgenthau are unwittingly in a high-stakes game of musical Nextel Cup drivers. The couple isn't sure if veteran Ken Schrader still will be sitting in the cockpit of their #49 Dodge, as he has for three seasons, or if he will be taking over Ricky Rudd's #21 Ford ride for the legendary Wood Brothers. "We're going to let the Wood Brothers say it," Beth Ann Morgenthau said Monday. "We're not going to say anything. Schrader popped it on us.'' The Morgenthaus are two seasons into a three-year deal with primary sponsor Schwan's. The 50-year-old Schrader said in February he planned to end his Cup career when that deal ended in 2007. The team publicists were considering a farewell tour called: ``Schrader's Schwan Song.'' Miami Herald
Will Penske take Honda to NASCAR? Hot on the heels of Penske thumbing his nose at Toyota and switching to rival Honda in the IRL a year early for 2006 comes word that - Although Honda has not made formal inquiries with NASCAR, certain engineers in the garage have been approached about a program that would begin in 2010.(Sporting News) and who better than Penske to bring them in given his Dodge contract is probably up by then.
Suzuki to quit IRL With today's announcement that Aguri Suzuki will run the Honda 'B' F1 team, and the fact that he will be scrambling to make the grid in time for the 2006 season, it's expected that he will quit his IRL team with Fernandez Racing because he simply won't have time to be involved with both. Whether Fernandez Racing answers the bell with 2 cars in 2006 remains to be seen.
Albers signs 2-year deal at MidlandUPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement by the team. We have updated our 2006 F1 Silly Season page above. 10/31/05 Our sources in Europe tell us that Albers is definitely signed at Midland and the announcement is simply a formality. 10/31/05 On Tuesday Christijan Albers will officially be announced as Midland's first official driver. Christijan Albers impressed with his Formula One debut this season at Minardi, scoring four points and showing a strong performance in most of his races at the Italian team. F1Racing.net sources suggest that Midland and Christijan Albers signed a two-year contract. Details about their deal will be announced on Tuesday. F1Racing.net
Game over for VilleneuveUPDATE #3 For the second time in three years, 1997 champion Jacques Villeneuve could be about to find himself without an F1 home.
Although the French Canadian last year signed a 2005 and 2006 contract to drive for Sauber, the Swiss team has been bought and taken over by BMW.
While that does not affect the status of Peter Sauber's legal agreement, the Munich based carmaker did not choose the 34-year-old, and therefore might not want him at Hinwil.
To sidestep its contractual obligation, then, BMW could simply pay Jacques his modest $3m retainer to do little more than gardening next year.
It is believed that Alex Wurz (McLaren tester) and Heikki Kovalainen (Renault RDD driver) are further up BMW's wish list to be Nick Heidfeld's BMW teammate in 2006.
Villeneuve told 'f1total.com' that there has been no dialogue between himself and likely 2006 BMW principal Mario Theissen. ''I find that surprising,'' he told the German language internet website.
Jacques added: ''I always adhere to my contracts, so I would be surprised if (BMW) did not see it the same way.''
Villeneuve added that he had not been advised when he might be required for pre-2006 winter testing, which is set to kick off in late November.
09/24/05 While Jacques Villeneuve remains confident that he will hold on to one of the two BMW drives next year, there are rumors in F1 circles that Alexander Wurz may be pushing hard for the job. The McLaren test driver has tried several times to restart his racing career on a fulltime basis, including earlier this year when he stood in for the injured Juan Pablo Montoya. The Austrian is hugely experienced as a tester and would be a big asset to the BMW team as it tries to get Sauber up to speed. This might create some legal questions. There is also speculation, incidentally, that Anthony Davidson is on the short list for a job at BMW. Grandprix.com09/24/05 Despite the Canadian insisting that he has a contract with the new BMW 'works' team for next season, likely team boss Mario Theissen claims that no decision has been taken regarding the identity of Nick Heidfeld's teammate.
Villeneuve maintains that, as he signed a two-year deal with the Sauber team recently acquired by BMW, he has a right to remain on board next year. Theissen, however, clearly does not see the situation as binding.
"We have been fully focused on getting Nick under contract for next year and now we are looking into the other issue," the German told Reuters at the Brazilian Grand Prix, "We all saw that even a world champion could not return after a period out of the sport and be competitive right from the start.
"Now he is catching up and we just decided we wanted to see him in the second half of the season. We don't see ourselves under any time pressure, but that's on our table now. You will see the definite line-up at the first race."
09/16/05 A reader asks, It looks as though Jacques Villeneuve won't be back with Sauber racing in 2006 if the reports are true that Christian Klien will replace him because of Red Bull's influence. BMW has already hired Nick Heidfeld too. What are the chances that the 1995 Champ Car Champion will be racing in Champ Car if he doesn't have a ride in Formula One? Alistair Fannell, Springfield MO. Dear Alistair, We doubt Jacques will come back to Champ Car. He does not need the money and his ego makes him think he is too good for Champ Car when in fact he's not the same Jacques Villeneuve we saw in 1995. If he loses his F1 seat we assume he will simply retire. Mark C.
JV’s eyes slow him down?UPDATE Hmm, another Villeneuve-bashing story eh? I'm sure JV doesn't have 20-20 vision - but then neither does anyone else in the paddock. I'd wager that purely because he wears contacts, JV's eyesight is a lot closer to 20-20 than many of the other drivers. Without them, for sure he would struggle, but then so would I! Without my glasses I can barely see, with them there is no problem, and I can see things a lot more clearly than many of my friends. No, the thing that is slowing Jacques down is being in a Sauber... Neil Tipton, UK10/31/05 Jacques Villeneuve has played down suggestions that deteriorating eyesight is slowing him down in formula one. Like a few other drivers, the 34-year-old Canadian wears contact lenses while at the wheel of his grand prix racer.
But, unlike Ralf Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello, the French Canadian - who may stay at Hinwil (Sauber) next year to drive for BMW - is seldom seem anywhere in the paddock without a pair of glasses.
It has led to speculation that JV has the worst eyesight in formula one. Moreover, it is understood that contact lenses do not restore his vision to '20-20'.
''If my eyesight was bad,'' Jacques told F1 Racing magazine, ''then I would have hit a guardrail at Monaco. Well, I was very quick at Monaco.''
Villeneuve reckons some other drivers - not just Ralf and Rubens - 'hide the fact' that they also wear contact lenses.
Papis eyeing NASCAR? Add road racer and former Indy car driver Max Papis to the list of drivers looking to NASCAR for their future. The 2004 Grand Am Series co-champion has tested the No. 48 car for Hendrick Motorsports with good results. Papis is a proven winner in open wheel and sports cars, and along with Sebastien Bourdais deserves a real shot in stock cars. NASCAR now is attracting more and more of the world's best drivers because of its close competition – and, of course, it's where the money is. Yahoo! Sports
Teams tell Toyota No Thanks! The teams expected to go Toyota in 2007 (yes, they are coming in both Busch and Cup in '07) have told the Japanese manufacturer "thanks, but no thanks" to having Toyota build their cars and motors for Nextel Cup competition. Toyota currently builds the trucks and engines for all of their teams in the Craftsman Truck Series. Where does that leave Toyota Racing Development? Yahoo! Sports
Atlanta unlikely to get HOF Expect an announcement about the NASCAR Hall of Fame before the end of the year. We saw posters and billboards for the Hall of Fame plastered everywhere in the Charlotte area a few weeks ago, but the best Atlanta could muster were buttons being worn by several people at the track. It made Atlanta's effort to get the Hall look very weak.
The grandstands at Atlanta Motor Speedway were conspicuously sparse – especially the back straight and Turn 3 grandstands. Let's not blame it on the Atlanta Falcons, who had a bye week. Something tells me that Georgia may produce some of NASCAR's best race car drivers but not many race fans. Those empty stands surely hurt Atlanta's chances at getting the Hall of Fame. Yahoo! Sports
Toyota to leave IRL year early?UPDATE #5 Honda's announcement (see Hot News page) that it will indeed supply Toyota's most successful team, Penske Racing, with engines in 2006 is certainly not going to make Toyota's last year in the IRL a pleasant one. 10/31/05 Hearing that Honda can't supply the entire IRL grid in 2006 as they are not ready. Hence Penske may be the last team they take on, leaving Target Chip Ganassi Racing stuck with the Toyota engine. Toyota was gaining ground at the end of the year, but Honda won't be asleep over the winter. 10/30/05 Robin Miller reported on Wind Tunnel and SPEEDTV that Marlboro Team Penske will switch to Honda power in 2006. With Ganassi looking to do the same, where does that leave Toyota? Answer - with zero chance of winning, so why bother? 10/17/05 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. According to this Indy Star article, Chip Ganassi said his Indianapolis-based team will not compete in the Champ Car World Series in 2006. He confirmed that he is talking with Honda about switching to that engine manufacturer for next season. Team Penske, another Toyota team, is doing likewise......which means there won't be any good teams left to run Toyota in 2006 and they will probably bail at that point. This means the IRL may be an all-Honda show as early as 2006. 09/22/05 Still hearing rumors that TRD will buy out contracts and leave the IRL at the end of this year. Not sure what/who to believe at this point. Stay tuned..... 09/13/05 The rumor that won't go away is that Toyota is prepared to buy its way out of its contracts with Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi and cease its IRL involvement after two more races. ........Les Unger, national motorsports manager for Toyota Motor Sales USA, remained adamant. "Toyota and Toyota Racing Development are committed to fulfill our contractual obligations with the Indy Racing League as we have stated many times over and we fully intend to complete in what we hope to be a successful 2006 season. We'd like to win Indy again, as well as the driver's and manufacturer’s championships like we did in 2003." SPEEDTV.com
Switch not working for Ganassi Roush Racing president Geoff Smith said Sunday morning that behind-the-scene activities during the next seven days likely will determine whether Jamie McMurray replaces Kurt Busch in the No. 97 Ford next season or the two drivers stay put.
It's already agreed that McMurray will replace Busch in 2007, the same year Busch is set to become the driver of Penske Racing's No. 2 Dodge, which is being vacated by the retiring Rusty Wallace. But efforts are ongoing to accelerate the swap. it's going to happen, it'll happen this week," Smith said. "I think the probability is much more toward a transaction working than it is falling apart."
The key player at this point appears to be McMurray's current owner, Chip Ganassi, who has been reluctant to let McMurray leave one season earlier than planned unless he can sign a top-notch replacement.
"In order for it to work, there has to be a driver for Chip," Smith said. "All I can say is 10 days ago it wasn't going to work for Chip, and now it can work. I assume he's got somebody."
Ganassi said that's not so. "I don't know what [Smith] is thinking," Ganassi said. "I need a driver. Nothing's changed on my end." AJC.com
Will Vasser retire?UPDATE Third-place finishes in the past two Champ Car World Series races have convinced Jimmy Vasser he still can compete against drivers nearly half his age. Still to be answered is whether he has the desire to keep doing it. The Champ Car season ends Nov. 6 in Mexico City. Two weeks later, Vasser turns 40. He is sixth in the standings, one point behind 23-year-old A.J. Allmendinger. "I'm not contemplating resigning my Champ Car seat because of lack of performance. I feel like I'm on top of my machine," the 1996 series champion said after another strong run last weekend in Australia. "We're going to base our decision about my driving or not pretty much on what's best for the race team." Vasser is a partner with series co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven and Dan Pettit in PKV Racing. He wants to sit down with them and discuss his future and expects to have a decision by mid-December. "I can drive another one or two years for sure and still be competitive," he said. "But in today's Champ Car climate, it might be better that we get to work on building for the future." Indy Star08/27/05 There has been a lot of speculation of whether veteran Champ Car driver Jimmy Vasser will retire after the 2005 season. If performance is any indication, no. He has been faster than his younger teammate Cristiano da Matta most of the year and once again this weekend in Montreal. In fact Vasser had the fastest lap in morning warm-up but the red flag came out at the end and Champ Car took it away. Clearly Vasser still has what it takes to do the job. If anything, we 're a bit surprised that his younger teammate da Matta isn't doing better than he is despite winning a race on pit strategy. One would have thought that coming out of F1 he would be closer to the sharp end of the grid. Then again a Champ Car is harder to drive than a F1 car, so success in F1 does not necessarily equate to success in Champ Car.
NHRA expected to announce extended TV deal The NHRA this week will announce a five-year extension of its TV deal with ESPN2 through at least 2011, with a two-year option that could put the series on the net through 2013. NHRA President Tom Compton said that the network “pays the series a rights fee and in return sells a majority of the advertising.” The NHRA is responsible for broadcast production. Also, the NHRA today will announce a multi-year extension with Accor North America making Motel 6 the series’ official motel. SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL
Softbank behind Honda B team Softbank, Japan's biggest IT business, is rumored to be the funding behind the rumored Honda B team. The company is controlled by 48-year-old billionaire Masayoshi Son, who has been using sports to promote his business in the past few years, buying the naming rights to the Green Stadium in Kobe, and renaming it after Yahoo! BB, one of his most successful businesses. Son also acquired the Fukuoka Hawks baseball teams, which is based in the area of southern Japan where he grew up.
At the height of the dot.com boom Softbank was valued at $140bn and while many of the businesses later ran into trouble, Son's successes easily outweighed the failures and by reducing his stake in Yahoo! he was able to fund other acquisitions, notably in the broadband industry and in telecommunications. Softbank recently bought Japan Telecom for $3bn. Grandprix.com
Hamlin top candidate for No. 11 rideUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. Denny Hamlin will be named as the driver for the No. 11 Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing. Hamlin, who is fifth in Busch Series points, has been auditioning for the ride in the past four races. He has two eighth-place finishes in that time. Sporting News10/29/05 Denny Hamlin has emerged as the top candidate for Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 11 Nextel Cup Series ride and JGR could make his hiring official as soon as next week, ThatsRacin.com has learned. Hamlin, who drives JGR's No. 20 Chevrolet in the Busch Series, has driven three races in the No. 11 this season while JGR has utilized different drivers to find a permanent replacement. Gibbs Busch driver J.J. Yeley has also driven four races with the team.
In his past two races with the No. 11, Hamlin has finished eighth at Charlotte and Martinsville, Va. His best start was fifth at Martinsville. Earlier this week, JGR president J.D. Gibbs said he told his employees a decision on the No. 11 would be made after the Oct. 29 race at Atlanta. "Obviously, we are very impressed with Denny," Gibbs said. "Denny and J.J. have both done well with the opportunities they've been given."
Hamlin is fifth in points in the Busch Series this season, with one top-five and 10 top-10 finishes. His best finish is third at New Hampshire. ThatsRacin
Blaney to BAM In other driver moves, Blaney is also under consideration for the ride with Beth Ann Morgenthau, replacing Ken Schrader, who is headed to the Wood brothers. Blaney and the Morgenthau have been talking since July, according to sources. Blaney current runs for Richard Childress. Winston Salem-Journal
Michelin and Bridgestone to bid for NASCAR When Goodyear's exclusive contract with NASCAR runs out, apparently at the end of 2007, both Bridgestone and Michelin are expected to bid for the new deal. The end of the season is 21 days away, and weary drivers and crews are looking ahead to some time off. For Jimmie Johnson that means an African safari. Winston Salem Journal
Baldwin to stay with Evernham? Slugger Labbe and Evernham Motorsports parted ways after Labbe asked to be reassigned from his job as crew chief for Jeremy Mayfield at the end of the season. As of Sunday, Labbe had three crew chief job offers and expected to make a decision this week. There were rumors Tommy Baldwin, crew chief for Mayfield's teammate Kasey Kahne, wanted out, too. Baldwin said he's not going anywhere. Sporting News
Honda announcing new B team tomorrow There will be a press conference at Honda headquarters in Tokyo tomorrow announcing that Aguri Suzuki will enter a Honda second team in next year's Formula 1 World Championship. It is expected that this will confirm the involvement of the Softbank company and that Honda has acquired Menard Engineering Ltd, which owns the old Arrows F1 facility at Leafield.
Robby Gordon, the NASCAR owner-driver, has confirmed to the Winston Salem Journal that Menard, which provides him with his NASCAR engines, is in negotiation with Honda.
Menard Engineering Ltd is in effect, a slimmed-down version of the old TWR company, which was acquired by home-improvements billionaire John Menard in 2003 when Menard and Eddie Cheever, a former TWR driver and longtime associate of former TWR boss Tom Walkinshaw, decided to use the business to improve their efforts in the Indy Racing League. Grandprix.com
What's 'EJ' smiling about? Former formula one team owner Eddie Jordan woke up with a smile on his face on Monday morning. The Irishman had traveled to Spain's Costa del Sol with countryman and golfer Paul McGinley, for the 'Volvo Masters'.
Spotting odds for a McGinley win at 33-1, 'EJ' placed a 'five figure' bet in British pounds -- and the rest is history.
Jordan's windfall, for a bet of 10,000 pounds (the lowest possible five-figure flutter), was at least (US) $585,000. A bet of 50,000 pounds would've put an extra $2.92m in the former F1 boss' wallet.
''I've known Eddie for 20 years,'' McGinley said of 'EJ', who caddied for him at the BMW championship at Wentworth, ''he's been a great friend.
''Since he sold his team, I've spent more time with him. I think he has been very instrumental in this win. He's been down here all week.''
IRL eyes NY City race Development proposals for Governors Island, NY (pictured right) will be sought in February, Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff told the NY Daily News. The Governors Island Preservation & Education Corp., a city-state agency that Doctoroff took over in May, got title to the once-bustling island off the southern tip of Manhattan from the federal government for $1 in 2003.
The agency is completing the details of a request for proposals - the next big step in a drawn-out effort to put most of the island's 172 acres and many handsome brick buildings to commercial, educational or cultural use.
"We were in an exploratory phase and needed to examine conditions on the island," Doctoroff said. "We're through that now and it's time to get out into the marketplace." (Governors Island, in the foreground right, is close to the lower tip of Manhattan)
A few familiar names have already expressed interest, such as the City University of New York, Phoenix House, the Indy Racing League, and The Related Cos., which co-developed Time Warner Center.
Fans would have to be ferried to and from the island but in NY City that is not an uncommon thing as thousands of workers use the ferries to and from Manhattan each workday. What we scratch our head about is the 3/4-mile oval track that ISC is building on Staten Island. Why wouldn't the IRL (an oval series right?) join their oval track brethren and race at that track? Unless of course the IRL is no longer desirable to the France family as recent actions would suggest.
Valiante to team with Finlay in Mexico CityUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today based on announcement. See Hot News page. It's also confirmed that the team will switch to a Crawford chassis in 2006. We hear Finlay could field a 2-car Champ Car team in 2007 (when new ChampCar debuts) with McDowell and Valiante as drivers. 10/20/05 Rumor has it that Michael Valiante will team with team owner Rob Finlay in the Mexico City Grand-Am race while Michael McDowell pulls double duty driving a Daytona Prototype and also a Champ Car. McDowell will be co-driving with Memo Gidley in the team's #19 Air Force Reserve / Make-A-Wish Foundation / Commercial Defeasance Dinan-powered Riley Daytona Prototype. Valiante will co-drive with Finlay in a Ford-powered Crawford. Why a Crawford? Because the team feels Riley is not giving them all their best development pieces.
Marco to replace Wheldon The IRL is rift with speculation that with the departure of Dan Wheldon from the 4-car Andretti Green team, it opens the door for Marco Andretti to move up full-time to Indy Cars in 2006. We don't think he's ready, but it's not for us to decide. The kid really needs another year in Atlantics or some other good training series. Having an Andretti in the IRL will help the series gain some needed media attention.
Champ Car Silly Season We have started our 2006 Champ Car Silly Season page and will maintain it until the start of the 2006 season. See link above. Champ Car is in desperate need of either more teams, or teams expanding from 2 to 3 cars in 2006 because there are so many drivers looking for a ride. We expect a minimum of 20 cars on the grid in 2006. The problem with going beyond that is the short supply of soon to be obsolete Lolas. No one is buying more from Lola knowing 2006 is the final year they can be used.
New Ferrari won't be late this year The 2005 F1 Ferrari was said to be slow because it was late in hitting the test trail in 2005. Not so with next year's car. “We’re preparing as well as we can – I can’t say that we can prepare more thoroughly but we are attempting to reply to the problems that we’ve had this year,” he explained. “Even if next year’s car won’t be in its latest specification for the beginning of the season, considering the introduction of the new V8, 2.4 liter engine, we have decided to introduce the car as early as possible which is why we will introduce it by mid-January ’06.” Jean Todt
Montagny may stay Renault test driver Franck Montagny said he would not be a test driver anymore and would only stay in F1 if he could race. However, things may be changing. “I don’t really know,” he said when asked if he was really leaving. “They told me that they will no longer need my services next year because I was to be replaced with an RDD driver for the sake of continuity in the Renault team. Everyone has known about this within the team for a while now, but it could change after all.”
IROC eyes St. Pete street race The St. Petersburg Times reports that International Race of Champions and Grand Prix of St. Petersburg executives discussed bringing the all-star series to the April 2 Indy Racing League weekend, but logistics have scuttled the plan at least for this year, IROC president Jay Signore said.
"We left it open for 2007," Grand Prix vice president Tim Ramsberger said. "We're definitely interested. It would be great to have IROC here."
"You never say never, but St. Pete would be a tough grind for this year," Signore said.
Ganassi eyes Champ CarUPDATE #15 Perhaps more evidence that Ganassi is not going to enter Champ Car - we hear that Target and Ganassi are looking at putting Dixon and Wheldon (Dixon's rumored new teammate) in eleven of 14 Rolex Series Daytona Prototype races in 2006 since the IRL season is so short.
10/20/05 AutoRacing1.com has learned that Walker Racing tested Diaz a couple of years ago and he was very good… on pace with Manning and only a matter of days in the car. Anyway, that was backed in large part by Carlos Slim and his various business partners with his company Telmex. Walker had Motorola, Sun Microsystems, and Telcel (Telmex mobile phone division). Now that Carlos is in partnership with Chip on the Grand Am program (he owns CompUSA as well), it may be very likely that Diaz is trying to convince Slim to put something together for him. It will be very easy for Chip to “borrow” a car, as Forsythe and PKV have cars that could be used, and it may be a better deal if Chip and them did a swap, as Chip's cars probably have less miles on them.
10/20/05 One issue preventing Ganassi from using his Lolas was the fact that they had to be sent back to Lola to be retrofitted from Toyota engine mount points to Ford Cosworth. A costly and time-consuming proposition given Lola is all the way in England. There are still rumors floating around in the Mexican media that Ganassi is trying to borrow a Lola to run Diaz in Mexico City, however, we don't believe the rumors.
10/17/05 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. According to this Indy Star article, Chip Ganassi said his Indianapolis-based team will not compete in the Champ Car World Series in 2006. He confirmed that he is talking with Honda about switching to that engine manufacturer for next season. Team Penske, another Toyota team, is doing likewise.
Penske and Porsche eyeing Rolex 24? Penske and Porsche are now in the ALMS in the LMP2 class but we are hearing that Penske may put a Porsche engine in a Crawford Daytona Prototype and enter it in the Rolex 24 Grand-Am race in January.
Honda B Team Might Have a HomeUPDATE #2 We are moving this rumor back up to 'speculation' based on the latest news that the Honda B team is still hiring. See Hot News page for story. 10/29/05 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' as the FIA will not allow a team to buy a car. See Hot News page for more detail. Did you really think that Mosley and Ecclestone were going to compromise their bargaining position with the threatened breakaway series by allowing one of their teams to have four cars on the grid? 10/17/05 Our spies in Japan are reporting that the much-vaunted second Honda team will be based at the old Arrows factory in Leafield, Oxfordshire. The 30-acre site was acquired in May 2003 by Menard Inc, the company run by home-improvement billionaire John Menard, a great fan of racing who has been involved in the sport for more than 30 years. The plan was to use the facility to run an automotive consultancy business. At the moment that world has very tight margins and it may be that Menard will be willing to do a deal with the Japanese behind the second Honda team, which might even result in Menard having a presence on the car. The Leafield facility was built to house the TWR empire in 1995 and became the home of the Arrows F1 team. It features autoclaves, clean rooms, research and development laboratories, models shops, patterns shops, fabrication and machine shops, dynos for engines and transmissions and race team facilities. Much of the smaller equipment was sold off when TWR closed down but there is certainly enough left to make Leafield the obvious place to set up a new team.
It is worth noting that former Arrows commercial director Daniele Audetto turned up in the paddock in Shanghai and it is believed that he will be involved in helping the Japanese to put a team together. Audetto previously ran the Lamborghini Formula 1 operation.
The funding appears to be in place and the only real question is whether it is logistically possible to build the cars in the time available. The deadline for entries is November 15 and so Aguri Suzuki and his backers will need to move quickly.
Goodyear and GM eye F1? There are stories circulating in the United States suggesting that General Motors has been approached about an American-based Formula 1 team. Given the company's financial situation they have not been very enthusiastic about the idea but the stories we have heard say that the plan might include financial support from tire giant Goodyear.
There is speculation that Goodyear may make a bid for the F1 tire supply contract because it wants to stop Bridgestone gaining ground in Europe and wants to increase its presence in Asia. Goodyear's Stu Grant says that Goodyear could make a bid for the F1 deal if it makes sense for the company's marketing plans but at the moment is giving nothing away.
Goodyear has been coming and going from racing for more than 100 years, playing a key role in the sport between 1919 and 1922 and then disappearing until 1959 when the firm came back and in the years that followed won the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Indianapolis 500. From 1968 onwards Goodyear was the dominant force in racing in the United States and the firm also began challenging for the Formula 1 World Championship. Goodyear went on to win 361 Grand Prix victories before withdrawing in 1998. The company pulled out of CART and IRL in 1999 but remained the major force in NASCAR. Goodyear has won more racing championships than any other tire company.
However, there are signs that Goodyear may get some serious opposition when the NASCAR tire contract comes up for renewal at the end of 2007 and there are stories circulating in the United States that both Bridgestone and Michelin want the NASCAR deal (through their Firestone and BF Goodrich subsidiaries respectively).
It is also worth noting that the Korean tire company Kumho has announced plans to enter Formula 1 so it too may decide that it wants to bid for the F1 contract. The interesting point in all of this is that with a single tire formula there is no real need for huge sums to be spent on tire development and thus the money being used for that now could be used to secure the deal. The downside of the situation is that a single tire supplier rarely gets mentioned unless there are problems with the tires. Grandprix.com
Schrader to the No. 21UPDATE Ken Schrader will be driving for the Wood brothers next season, replacing Ricky Rudd, sources close to the negotiations have confirmed. Neither the Wood brothers nor Schrader would discuss the situation. "It depends on what Ricky does," Schrader said. "We're waiting for Kenny or the Woods to make a comment, and then we'll comment," Tony Morgenthau, Schrader's current car owner, said. Rudd could now be key to the Chip Ganassi-Jack Roush-Roger Penske deadlock over drivers, if Rudd were willing to move to Ganassi's Texaco-sponsored team. Ganassi tried to hire Rudd a few years ago. Rudd spent several years as a Texaco-sponsored driver for Robert Yates. The future of Rudd's crew chief, Michael "Fatback" McSwain is up in the air too. McSwain said yesterday he doesn't know if he'll be back with the Wood brothers next season. Winston Salem Journal10/28/05 Veteran Ken Schrader will move to the Wood Brothers' No. 21 Ford next season, replacing veteran Ricky Rudd, several sources confirmed Friday. Rudd's future remains unclear. He could retire from the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, or perhaps still drive on a one-year basis as a fill-in should the Jamie McMurray/Kurt Busch swap not work out, sources said.
Schrader, who has driven the No. 49 Dodge for BAM Racing the past two seasons, is expected to drive the No. 21 for one season, then turn the car over to Jon Wood, son of Wood Brothers co-owner Eddie Wood.
Georgia-Pacific to sponsor GordonUPDATE Georgia-Pacific on Friday announced a multi-year agreement to put its Sparkle brand of paper towels on the #24 Chevrolet of four-time champion Jeff Gordon, beginning in 2006. Sheila Weidman, vice president of corporate communications and marketing for Georgia-Pacific, said the associate sponsorship deal will not take away from its other NASCAR sponsorships, including qualifying night at Atlanta Motor Speedway's fall race, as well as primary sponsorship of Kyle Petty's #45 Brawny Dodge. G-P also is a sponsor of the Victory Junction Gang Camp. AMS Pit Notes 10/28/05 Georgia-Pacific Corp. (GP) is expected to announce later today a multi-year associate sponsorship deal with NASCAR Nextel Cup driver Jeff Gordon and his Hendrick Motorsports team. Terms of the deal were not released, but industry insiders peg a deal like this in the low to mid-seven figures per year. As an associate sponsor, the GP brand and its Sparkle brand of paper towels will be featured on Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet, as well as on his uniform and driving gloves. GP is expected to activate the sponsorship with various advertising, promotion, business-to-business and corporate hospitality activities. Sports Business Daily
Toyota Pro-Celebrity race changeUPDATE Toyota Motorsports and Scion announced today the Scion tC sports coupe will be the new official vehicle of the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race. The 2006 Pro/Celebrity Race celebrates the 30th anniversary of this charity event held annually as part of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Race weekend. It also marks the first time in the race's history that a vehicle other than Celica will be featured.
"Being such an integral part of the Pro/Celebrity race and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is a great opportunity for Scion and the tC," said Mark Templin, vice president, Scion. "The tC will be right at home and able to showcase its performance capabilities on the historic street course."
The race-ready, identically-prepared tCs will produce 170-horsepower at 5,700 rpm. They will be equipped with performance enhancements that include a DC Sports stainless steel exhaust and ceramic header, Centerforce single-disc racing clutch, Progress Technology racing coil-over shocks and springs, Stop-Tech brakes and full roll cage.
"The Scion tC sports coupes are being prepared to debut in time to celebrate the anniversary of one of America's favorite motorsports events," said Les Unger, Toyota national motorsports manager. "The 2006 Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race will feature race-ready Scion tCs in which celebrities will compete for a chance at year-long bragging rights and charity donations made on their behalf. In addition, we are pleased to have recently announced an extension of our title sponsorship of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach through 2010."
10/28/05 Rumor has it that Toyota will soon announce that the Toyota Pro Celebrity race run during the Grand Prix of Long Beach Champ Car event will switch to identically prepared Toyota Scion tC's in 2006.
No IROC return to Richmond International Race of Champions [IROC] officials said yesterday the series won't return to Richmond International Raceway next season. The all-star circuit raced in tandem with the Craftsman Truck Series on Thursdays the past two Septembers. RIR is cutting Thursday from its fall weekend and squeezing an IROC event into a two-day Busch-Cup schedule isn't feasible. Richmond was the shortest track to hold an IROC race in the series' 31-year history. Richmond Times Dispatch
TNT to be third TV partner The shape of NASCAR's television future continues to emerge, with TNT as the "third partner" Brian France spoke about during an interview at Kansas Speedway three weeks ago. It appears TNT will air at least six mid-season Nextel Cup races in the new contract, which will begin with the 2007 season.
Three of those - June races at Pocono, Michigan and Sonoma - would come from the portion of the schedule Fox now airs. The other three, at Daytona, Chicagoland and New Hampshire in July, would come from the package now shared by NBC and TNT.
It is possible the second Pocono race in July also could be part of the TNT deal, giving it a seventh race. That would make the Allstate 400 at Indianapolis the first race each year for ABC/ESPN, which is expected to get the final portion of each season - including the Chase for the Nextel Cup races - in the new contract. TSN.ca
IRL courts title sponsorUPDATE Georgia-Pacific Corp. (GP) is expected to announce later today a multi-year associate sponsorship deal with NASCAR Nextel Cup driver Jeff Gordon and his Hendrick Motorsports team. Terms of the deal were not released, but industry insiders peg a deal like this in the low to mid-seven figures per year. So much for that IRL title sponsorship. 10/26/05 Georgia Pacific is leaving Kyle Petty's NASCAR team and talking with the IRL about a possible title sponsorship. SPEEDTV.com [Editor's Note: To the IRL? Think again. Hearing that Georgia Pacific, current sponsor for #45 Kyle Petty, will go to Hendrick Motorsports in some capacity. Could be as a full associate and part-time primary one or more of the Hendrick teams. Petty had announced midseason Georgia Pacific would not be back. Georgia Pacific is scheduled to make an announcement of some sort at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday when the NASCAR Cup teams are getting ready to race this weekend....so what does that tell you about the IRL or NASCAR.]
Bernie bankrupts Spa promoterUPDATE #4 The Belgian grand prix is not dead yet. The local Wallonian government insists there are 'several options' still open, even if the race promoter has been declared bankrupt. ''We are pursuing (the options),'' government spokesman Phillippe Malburny told 'AP' on Friday.
He said talks had been held with Bernie Ecclestone, who gave Spa-Francorchamps a provisional September 17 date for 2006, and a government meeting would discuss the issue next month. Malburny added: ''We want to hold on to the (grand prix) but not at all costs.''
10/27/05 This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact' as the promoter is indeed bankrupt due to the huge fees required by F1. DDGP, the company that has been the promoter of the Belgian Grand Prix for the last couple of years, has been declared bankrupt by commercial court of Liege. The company has losses amounting to $11.75m and is in dispute with the local authorities over other payments.
The onus is now on the Societe de Promotion du circuit de Spa-Francorchamps (SPSF) and its chairman Yves Bacquelaine, who is the man in charge of sport at the Royal Automobile Club de Belgique, to find a new promoter for the race. SPSF was established in October 2003 to replace Bernie Ecclestone's Spa Activities and has a contract with Formula One Management until 2010 but finding another sub-contractor is not going to be easy given the losses made by DDGP, which lost $5.4m in 2004 and lost even more this year. DDGP was hoping that the regional government would come to its rescue to cover the losses and supply the $17m needed in race fees next year but the word in Belgium is that the Societe Wallonne de Gestion et de Participation (the regional investment corporation) took a look at the books of DDGP and declined an involvement. The region has already loaned (and now lost) $18m in trying to keep the event alive. Grandprix.com
10/22/05 Luxembourg has declined to help fund next year's Formula One grand prix at Belgium's famous circuit in Spa which has been hit by financial problems. Belgium has sounded out the Grand Duchy in a search for funding to secure the future of its Spa grand prix.
"Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker has stated...that the current budgetary situation does not allow Luxembourg's authorities to participate financially in this event," the Luxembourg government said in a statement late on Friday.
Spa is one of Formula One's great and historic circuits but last month's race had poor ticket sales. The regional Walloon government lent 15 million euros ($18 million) to the promoter to pay Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone for the 2005 race and needs a partner to help fund the future.
Ecclestone's company, Formula One Management, holds the commercial rights to the sport. The government is considering having Ecclestone replace the promoter should it be forced to withdraw. More from Reuters
10/21/05 Belgium has sounded out the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in a search for funding to secure the future of its grand prix at Spa after the race promoter hit financial problems. Spa is one of Formula One's great and historic circuits but last month's race had poor ticket sales.
The regional Walloon government lent 15 million euros to the promoter to pay Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone for the 2005 race and needs a partner to help fund the future.
"We hope we can keep it going," a tourism ministry official told Reuters on Friday. "We are talking with the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, but there could be other partners involved."
The government is considering having Ecclestone replace the promoter should it be forced to withdraw. A major shareholder of the track, the government will meet on Nov. 8 to make a final decision, the official said. Eurosport
10/20/05 The promoter of the Belgian Grand Prix, DDGP, is close to being declared bankrupt [after having to pay F1 outrageous sanctioning fees]. The company has a contract to promote the F1 race at Spa-Francorchamps until 2010 and the race could be at risk if it goes under. DDGP has been struggling over the past two years as ticket sales for the race did not meet expectations. The company is now in debt to the tune of 10 million Euros.
On Friday the Walloon government of Belgium will meet to deliberate the future of the Belgian Grand Prix. DDGP confirmed the problems to F1Racing.net but was unable to go into detail. "We can not say anything about it currently and we do not know what the consequences could be for the Belgian Grand Prix," a spokesperson told F1Racing.net (F1Racing.net)
Frentzen turns to Champ Car Although now out of hospital, former GP winner Heinz-Harald Frentzen could also find himself out of the DTM category.
The German, 38, who crashed heavily at the Hockenheim finale last weekend, will not return in the German tin-top category for Opel next year, as the carmaker has vowed to quit.
With few options in Germany, then, Heinz-Harald - who won races for Williams and Jordan in a 160 grand prix career but has failed to shine in touring cars - may turn to the open wheel Champ Car option.
''It is not a secret that I would gladly drive in America,'' he told the 'SID' agency.
IRL eyes Los Angeles Our inside sources in Los Angeles tell us that the IRL is talking to the Mayor's office in Los Angeles about a street race. Apparently the businessmen in downtown don't want it on their doorstep, so they're currently discussing Chavez Ravine, where Dodger Stadium is. At first blush, this could seem like a good idea... sort of a Mexico City format (a parking lot course that goes in and out of a big sports stadium) in Los Angeles, a city that is more than 50% Latino. However, while the parking lot and access roads are certainly big enough, Dodger Stadium is far too small and would require structural modifications... even if you could get the owners to let you pave over the baseball diamond for a weekend. No, along with the developing San Antonio debacle, this seems like more floundering from a mortally wounded organization. Mark C.
USGP puts screws to entire 2006 F1 scheduleUPDATE Fuming Silverstone bosses are on collision course with Bernie Ecclestone over the British Grand Prix's date change. Britain's top motorsport event, featuring new champion Fernando Alonso, will switch from July to June 11 as exclusively revealed in the Daily Mirror last month because Bernie Ecclestone wanted to give Tony George a July 2nd date. And it will clash with the first Sunday of the football World Cup in Germany. To make matters worse, the French Grand Prix, which is unpopular and badly attended, has been handed Silverstone's July 16 slot. Behind the scenes Silverstone bosses are expected to lobby the billionaire businessman to switch dates back to July.
"It's not a surprise dates have been switched around but, because of the time difference, TV schedules and potential clashes with the World Cup we are being realistic," said a circuit spokesman. "We are hoping we will be able to restore our July date." The Mirror
10/13/05 Tony George's and/or Bernie Ecclestone's scheme to have the 2006 USGP on July 4th weekend (actually July 2nd), possibly as an attempt to thwart a Philadelphia Champ Car race on that big holiday weekend, has thrown the entire 2006 F1 schedule in a turmoil and caused its delay in being released.
According to Grandprix.com, The news in Shanghai is that the British Grand Prix is on the move from its traditional mid-July date. The problem has been caused by the decision that the United States Grand Prix be held on July 2 next year. This has had a number of knock-on effects, the most serious being that the French Grand Prix's plans to mark the centenary of Grand Prix racing have been ruined. The original Grand Prix de l'Automobile Club de France took place at Le Mans on June 26-27 1906. The US dates makes it impossible for the French to have either June 18 or July 9 and things have not been helped by the World Cup soccer competition in Germany. This runs from June 9 until July 9 and there are matches on June 18, June 25 and July 9. June 18 is best avoided by F1 as there are three first round World Cup matches which will grab the TV viewers from 3pm until 10.30pm. On June 25 there are two matches and on July 9 there is the World Cup Final, which would destroy any audience for F1. The obvious thing in the circumstances would be to move Indianapolis to another date but the Americans do not appear to wish to play ball, given what happened at Indianapolis this year.
If the Americans will not move then the only sensible thing is to have Canada on June 25, a week before the United States race, but it seems that the soccer will make this impossible. It makes little sense to ship everything to the United States for just one race and so the option is to keep the equipment in America and run the Canadian GP on July 16, which screws the traditional date for the British GP and means that costs will go up as teams are likely to fly staff back to Europe between races, rather than keeping them in expensive hotels for a 10-day period. This means that F1 costs are going to go up more and the French and British organizers will both be unhappy.
The knock-on effect of this is that the French GP could end up in April and British would have to be the third race in a triple-header with Monaco, Nurburgring and Silverstone on May 28, June 4 and June 11.
Karthikeyan to Williams? India’s Narain Karthikeyan could be roped in by Williams as a “pay driver” for the new Formula One season as the F1 team is on the lookout for drivers for test and reserve positions. The possibility of Karthikeyan making it to the Williams’ team has strengthened after its chief Frank Williams went on record to say it would run a third car on the Fridays in 2006 even if it meant stretching his already thin financial resources, an automobile magazine has reported. A number of “pay drivers” who might be considered, include Narain, Christijan Albers and Robert Doornbos — all of whom raced in F1 this year, it said. The Telegraph [Editor's Note: Karthikeyan is key to whoever gets a race in India first. We assume that will be F1 as we have not heard of Champ Car trying to do a street race in the "next China."]
Belgian youngster eyes Champ Car Jan Heylen, the newly crowned Renault Megane Turbo Champion at Monza last weekend is eyeing a Champ Car drive for 2006 and told the Belgian Press it's looking pretty good. Heylen drove for Kolles in the Euroseries F3 in 2003, then left for the German Recaro Cup F3, where he nearly missed the title because of missing the first race, and re-established himself in touring cars. According Belgian sources the deal is 99% done.
Labonte denies HOF connection, maybe Native Texan Terry Labonte said he is not a candidate for the Cup ride at Hall of Fame Racing, the start-up team co-owned by former Cowboys quarterbacks Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. "I've got a job," said Labonte, a two-time Cup champ who plans to retire in 2006. "I'm going to run 10 races for Hendrick Motorsports next year. That's for sure." Labonte's name surfaced here as a good fit for the Staubach-Aikman ride. The native of Corpus Christi carries with him a champion's provisional that would guarantee the team a starting spot in the season-opening Daytona 500 -- NASCAR's Super Bowl. Fort Worth Star Telegram
Switch to V8 to cost F1 teams more money The V8 may look like a sawn-off V10 with the same cylinder angle, but technically it is an entirely separate concept. The ignition sequence and intervals are different and this means a new situation in terms of vibrations. The critical area for a V10 lies between 12,000 and 14,000 rpm – not a rev band where the engines spend a lot of time. Instead, they operate mostly at peak revs and that creates problems in the V8. Vibrations enter a critical area at 16,000 rpm and continue to increase from there onwards."
"The best V8 will be the one which boasts the most effective solution to the vibrations issue. Calculations and analysis of the individual components and simulation of the overall system are the key tools here. In terms of output – proportional to displacement – we’re talking about a drop of 20 percent. The size of the radiators can also be reduced by 20 percent as a result."
"Engine speeds will remain in around the same band as with the V10. What is more difficult to achieve is good drivability because, from 2006, the regulations stipulate a fixed duct length for the intake pipes. Variable intake pipes used to allow us to optimize the torque curve. Now we have to find a compromise between maximum power and drivability. Here, factors such as the nature of the track and even the weather conditions play a role. In theory you need different pipe lengths to suit different conditions. In practical terms, the switch to V8 engines flies in the face of the goal to reduce costs. Mario Theissen, BMW
An Arab driver for F1? Reports that Lebanese 'A1 grand prix' driver Khalil Beschir may wind up in the formula one paddock next year have been denied. A story on the Lebanese 'Libansport' publication claimed that the 23-year-old had signed a three year deal to test for the Honda 'B' team.
Beschir, who also drove in the European F3000 championship this year, allegedly has a connection with Gil de Ferran, sporting director of the Honda works team.
The report said Beschir would test in 2006 'to let him be ready to fight on the 2007 ... grid'. Lebanon's A1 Team, however, issued a statement insisting that Beschir 'cannot enter into ... any outside commitments' while under contract.
''Mr. Beschir does aspire to be the first Arab driver in formula one,'' the statement agreed, ''but (he) will not undertake any extra commitments without the agreement of A1 Team Lebanon.''
Spy Photo: Rossi in secret Ferrari test MotoGP great Valentino Rossi destroyed the lap record at Fiorano today in a Ferrari and our spies snapped off this photo of the test which shows why the Italian was so bloody fast. Let's see Ferrari great Michael Schumacher top this one.
Other IRL Pink Slips Besides Panther Racing and Cheever Racing, hearing that Rahal Letterman had some people leave after the season and others were given their pink slips when they did not figure in the team's future. We expect to hear of others both in the IRL and Champ Car after the seasons are over. With so many teams based in Indy, we see crew members moving about every off-season. Some teams also can't afford to pay salaries 12 months a year.
Panther Racing/Champ Car rumorsUPDATE Panther Racing cut loose 12 mechanics in the first of what figures to be many layoffs in the Indy Racing League. SPEEDTV.com10/14/05 Panther Racing could lose its entire driver lineup to Champ Car. The rumor mill says Vitor Meira has been spending a lot of time over at the Panther shop and may be moving to that team in 2006 from Team Rahal. Rumor is that Pennzoil will be back as an associate and John Mansville (without) Menards will be his sponsor. Tomas Scheckter may run for the South African A1GP team and there have been previous rumors that he is eyeing Champ Car (his manager was at the last Champ Car race and Champ Car is eyeing a possible South Africa race). Tomas Enge and his Rockstar sponsorship may be moving to Champ Car. Rockstar had a definite presence at the last Champ Car race in Las Vegas.
What of Team Cheever?UPDATE #2 Panther Racing cut loose 12 mechanics and Eddie Cheever gave eight their walking papers last week in the first of what figures to be many layoffs in the Indy Racing League. Cheever has taken delivery of a Grand Am sports car and it's also believed that Tony George met with Grand-Am officials here Tuesday to discuss joining the series. SPEEDTV.com10/20/05 Hearing that Eddie Cheever called everyone into the shop Wednesday and told them they were all laid off. We await an official statement from the team as to what is going on, but right now the future looks grim and we hear Patrick Carpentier might be eyeing a return to Champ Car. On a related note, some team members from Fernandez Racing are here in Surfers this weekend helping out with the third Walker Racing car and they are ecstatic to be here. 10/18/05 Some people claim to have heard Eddie Cheever say at Fontana this weekend that unless he finds a big sponsor to replace Red Bull, he won't be back next year in the IRL, this despite Cheever's public insistence that not only will he be back with two cars next year, he will also be starting a Grand-Am team because of the short IRL season. The Silly Season is well underway. We suspect Tony George will help his buddy Cheever out because he's desperate for cars next year.
Green to the No. 0? Labonte to the No. 42? No.18?UPDATE Native Texan Bobby Labonte laughed off a rumor that he is being considered for the driver's job with Hall of Fame Racing, the start-up Cup team co-owned by former Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach. Labonte, the 2000 Cup champion, has driven for Joe Gibbs Racing since 1995. Interestingly, Hall of Fame Racing's 2006 Chevrolets will be supplied by Gibbs, making the team a satellite operation of Joe Gibbs Racing. Labonte declined to divulge the duration of his current contract with Gibbs. "That's my business, not yours," Labonte said. "As far as I know, I'm driving their car." Fort Worth Star Telegram10/17/05 Mike Bliss is the latest driver to learn he's out after the season finale at Homestead. Jeff Green appears to be the top candidate for Bliss' #0 Haas CNC ride. If he gets it, the dominoes really would start to fall. The most curious possible replacement? Bobby Labonte for the Petty Enterprises ride Green would vacate. Labonte, who drives the #18 for Joe Gibbs Racing, has been less than thrilled lately, and his name was mentioned earlier as a candidate for the Penske Racing #2 and Richard Childress Racing #29. Gibbs is auditioning Busch drivers Denny Hamlin and J.J. Yeley for the #11 Chevrolet. Hamlin finished eighth in Saturday night's crashfest at Charlotte, so give him the nod. But should Labonte leave, it would open the door for both drivers to move up to Cup in 2006. Sporting News
Da Matta may have to fire his manager According to SPEEDTV.com, Kevin Kalkhoven attempted to sign the 2002 CART champ Cristiano da Matta to a three-year deal but withdrew the offer after becoming frustrated with da Matta's manager, Fernando Paiva. It's believed that PKV will not negotiate with da Matta again if Paiva is involved. We completely understand why.
Rudd to Ganassi? Speculation has run rampant around what Ricky Rudd's plans are for next season, but thus far he's kept quiet. But I heard an unconfirmed rumor Friday at Martinsville that perhaps makes the most sense of any buzz that I've heard in a long time. Instead of retiring at the end of this year, Rudd could leave the No. 21 car to drive the No. 42 car for Chip Ganassi next season.
Jamie McMurray would be released from the final year of his contract with Ganassi so that he can drive the No. 97 Ford for Roush Racing, thus freeing up Kurt Busch to get out of his contract with Roush one year early to replace Rusty Wallace in the No. 2 Dodge next season. Sources indicate that Ganassi could also receive payment from the Roush camp, which in turn likely would receive funds from Penske Racing South and primary sponsor Miller Lite for Busch's early release to replace Wallace.
Consider who the sponsor of the No. 42 car is: Texaco Havoline, the same colors Rudd flew for three seasons (2000-2002) during his term with Robert Yates Racing. From what I've heard, Texaco Havoline is not pleased with having McMurray as a moody, unhappy lame-duck driver in '06 and has been applying pressure to Ganassi to let McMurray go. Texaco Havoline would then build a significant one-year farewell tour marketing campaign around Rudd. More at Yahoo! Sports
Argentina in F1 bid, and what of Champ Car?UPDATE With 19 races already on the F1 schedule and rumors suggesting that there could be 20 rounds next year, the fight to get a race on the calendar is a tough one. Argentina, Russia, India and South Africa all have hopes of hosting a round of the F1 Championship in the next few years.
Meanwhile, Champ Car was eyeing both Argentina and South Africa as well. It will be interesting to see if Champ Car tries to land the countries that don't get an F1 race. Champ Car is also trying to get back to Brazil. Of the above countries, which one makes most sense for Champ Car? India without a doubt. With races in China, Japan, and South Korea by 2007, India would be a strategic Pacific Rim race for Champ Car. India is poised to be the 'next China' and the USA has a huge Indian population. With that said, we suspect Bernie Ecclestone, will land India for F1 because he too recognizes that India is poised to be the next China.
10/26/05 Argentina is bidding for a surprise return to the F1 calendar. While Buenos Aires hosted the last grand prix in the country eight years ago, the San Luis province has requested a meeting with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, the local 'Clarin' newspaper said.
''We haven't had any replies yet but we're optimistic,'' provincial secretary of sports, Eduardo Arce, revealed.
A track called 'Rosendo Hernandez', which is 4.612kms in length, is undergoing renovations, the newspaper said.
Bourdais wants to jump to F1 in 2007 Two-time Champ Car title winner Sebastien Bourdais has called on Renault to give him a chance to prove himself in Formula One.
He was missed out on a grand prix drive after winning the Formula 3000 title in 2002 when Arrows, who had offered him a deal, went bankrupt, while his refusal to sign a management contract with Renault chief Flavio Briatore hurt his chances there.
Fernando Alonso helped Renault to both world titles this year and Sebastien Bourdais (who once tested for Renault, did well, but never got called back), 26, said: "Would I have been to be able achieve that? I have no idea, I have never been handed the chance.
"All I can ask for right now is to try and start the relationship in 2006 with the team, try to test a few times, which is going to be added to my [Champ Car] contract, and to start in 2007.
"So far nothing really happened and all I can say is I am pretty successful and happy in Champ Cars, and there's not much I can do about not being handed an opportunity in Formula One. So we'll see what the future comes up with.
"In 2007 obviously it will probably be my last chance to make it to Formula One and I'd very much like to make the jump."
Which tire for F1 '07? Neither Bridgestone or Michelin want to commit to tendering for a likely 'control tire' scenario in post-'07 formula one.
On Monday, the F1 Commission voted to send the proposal to the 'technical working group' for analysis, where a probable 8-10 majority vote may be achieved to accelerate the plan to 2007 rather than '08.
Interestingly, however, even Bridgestone - which has indicated that it would stay in F1 whether monopolized by one supplier or not - declined to commit to tendering.
''We prefer competition,'' director of motorsport Hiroshi Yasukawa told Autosport.
''We will wait and see.''
Michelin's retiring Pierre Dupasquier, similarly, did not answer 'yes' or 'no', despite the French company's recent musings that F1 without competition is not appealing.
He said: ''We will review closely what has been agreed on, and we will make a decision ... in the near future.''
FIA president Max Mosley, meanwhile, said all major tire manufacturers will be invited to tender, which could result in neither Bridgestone or Michelin being awarded the exclusive contract.
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