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'Big Picture' powers NASCAR TV deals Why are networks about to agree to pay NASCAR around $4.4 billion in a new eight-year television contract when those who paid $2 billion less in a six-year deal that ends after 2006 lost money? Because people who worry about how the numbers add up in sports-rights-fee packages miss the big picture, said Neal Pilson, the former head of CBS Sports who now consults with NASCAR on television matters.
"It's not about whether you're profitable in a particular time slot on Sunday," Pilson said Wednesday at the Sports Business Daily/Sports Business Journal Motorsports Marketing Forum.
"It's like going into a store and buying three bottles of Gatorade for $1 on special," Pilson said. "If that's all you buy, you beat the store. But the stores know when you come into buy Gatorade you're also likely to get eggs, cheese, milk, butter and bread. When you do that, the store beats you."
To find the true value of a television sports package, Pilson said, a network must consider what having a property - or, for that matter, not having it - means in the context of its entire programming picture.
When Pilson worked at CBS Sports, he said, he argued with the network president that CBS could not afford to allow Fox to outbid it for rights to NFL games. The president disagreed and Fox got the rights.
During the years CBS did not have NFL games, Pilson said, it lost affiliate stations to Fox and suffered a decline in ratings for all of its programming.
Pilson left CBS believing there was a direct link. But that opinion is not universally held in the television industry.
NBC decided in October to pull out of the current round of television negotiations, and its officials have declared their unwillingness to make any sports-rights deal they feel cannot be profitable. But Pilson noted that NBC is getting back into the NFL business after making the same decision CBS did years earlier. NFL telecasts return to NBC with a Sunday night package beginning next season.
NASCAR's television future will involve ABC/ESPN and TNT, and their deals are essentially done.
According to Sports Business Daily, ABC/ESPN will pay $270 million per year for the season's final 17 Nextel Cup races and the entire Busch schedule. TNT will pay $80-$85 million for six Cup races in June and July. More at ThatsRacin.com
IPS name dead? Looks like Tony George can use the Indy Lights trademark, not used since the days of CART. One of his companies, Brickyard Trademarks, recently filed trademark paperwork. Could he be renaming the IPS for 2006? If so, perhaps Infiniti will soon be gone.
Atlantic cars might go to China ahead of Champ CarUPDATE We are hearing that Champ Car is still trying to make this happen. Given the situation in Beijing whereby 1) Goldenport does not have the money to upgrade its track only to see Champ Car move to the Olympic Village site in 2008, and 2) the Champ Car name is not well known, we don't see Champ Car racing in Beijing until the fall of 2008, after the 2008 Summer Olympics are over. Meanwhile, to introduce the Champ Car name in China and to begin to develop new Chinese drivers (Korean and Japanese too) we believe this idea to ship the existing Atlantic cars to Asia is brilliant, assuming the sponsorship is there to get the series off the ground. Unfortunately that would mean the Champ Cars won't be in China until 2008, but better late than sorry. Let's hope the Olympic Site is being laid out such that the race course can be a good one and not some Mickey Mouse twisty follow-the-leader layout. 10/13/05 We hear that talks are ongoing with the Chinese that could see the old Toyota Atlantic cars shipped to China to be used to form a new development series in and around China, including possible races in South Korea (to also develop South Korean drivers). Currently there is too large a step up in China and South Korea from Formula BMW Asia and F3 to either Champ Car or F1 and the thought is to start an Asia Atlantic (Pacific?) series to prepare Chinese drivers for the step up to the top rung. The cars will no longer be used in North America by the Champ Car Atlantic series as they get all new equipment next year.
If this plan, being hatched by Kevin Kalkhoven, comes to fruition, we wonder if the cars will run Toyota, Cosworth or some Chinese or Korean made engine.
Last year in F1 for Fisichella? Giancarlo Fisichella looks almost certain to face a major battle to keep hold of his Renault seat beyond next year after team boss Flavio Briatore revealed it was '90 percent' certain Heikki Kovalainen will race for the outfit in 2007.
Speaking to Autosport, Briatore said: "'Kovy' is going to drive for Renault next year and be our test driver. "We have invested a lot in him and he is an asset that we have to look after. We want him to drive 30-40 thousand kilometers next year to be ready to race in 2007. It is 90 percent likely that will be with Renault, and 10 percent with another team."
NASCAR TV rumorsUPDATE #3 NASCAR CEO Brian France said Thursday that NASCAR was on the "final lap" of its TV deal, in which ESPN is expected to replace NBC for 2007 and beyond. An announcement is expected before the end of the year. Richmond Times Dispatch11/30/05 NASCAR is expected to outline at least part of its television future Thursday at its annual championship week press conference in New York City. Sources told The Charlotte Observer on Wednesday that the ESPN/ABC and TNT portions of the deal for 2007 and beyond will be announced at the midday news conference and discussed in a conference call later in the afternoon.
Under the new deal, ESPN/ABC will get the Nextel Cup season's final 17 races, including the 10 races in the Chase for the Nextel Cup. ESPN is also expected to air all of the Busch Series races. The price for that deal has been reported at $270 million per year.
TNT will get six Nextel Cup races in June and July, including the July 4th weekend event at Daytona International Speedway.
Fox will remain in the NASCAR business, airing the first 13 races each season including each year's Daytona 500. Fox and NBC alternate showing the Daytona 500 under the current contract, with NBC airing that event in 2006. ThatsRacin.com [Editor's Note: This is bad news for the IRL as ABC/ESPN will now focus on NASCAR in order to generate enough ad revenue to pay the $270 million annual nut. Also, As part of the agreements, both ESPN and Turner will be able to show live races and highlight clips on various media platforms other than TV, including broadband and mobile phones. Turner previously controlled all interactive rights as part of its separate agreement to produce NASCAR.com. But under the new agreements, some rights previously exclusive to Turner will be shared by the other TV rights holders. In other words it will be more of NASCAR everywhere.]
11/29/05 NASCAR could announce as early as this week a TV rights deal that would see Fox broadcast the first half of the Nextel Cup season and TNT and ESPN/ABC sharing the back half starting in 2007, Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal reports. The sanctioning body could get as much as $550 million a year from TV rights, a 38% increase over the estimated $400 million a year it gets under the current arrangement with Fox, NBC and TNT. The story says industry insiders say the ABC/ESPN commitment alone is expected to be about $270 million a year. TNT and ESPN are expected to air six races each, reporter Scott Warfield writes, and ABC will air the final 11 races, including all 10 events in the Chase For The Nextel Cup. NASCAR Scene Daily Newsletter
In 36 total races: ESPN gets 6, TNT gets 6, ABC gets 11, and Fox/FX would get 15 including the Bud Shootout and Nextel Challenge.
10/02/05 Richard Glover, NASCAR's vice president of broadcasting, called from his cell phone while dashing between meetings late last week to offer this update on television negotiations. "There is no update," Glover said. "There's no change. There's nothing to report." Glover is NASCAR's point man for negotiations over the next cycle of television broadcast rights for the Nextel Cup, Busch Series and Craftsman Truck Series. NASCAR's current broadcast partners (NBC, Fox, TNT, FX) have the rights through the 2006 season based on the $2.4 billion contract signed in 1999.
The current Nextel/Busch broadcast cluster started televising races in the 2001 season, replacing CBS, ABC, ESPN and others. NASCAR will announce the new contract by the end of this year, which explains why Glover was out of breath during our short call. "Things are running on pace with the schedule that we set," Glover said. "The television negotiations are continuing." The ABC/ESPN group has shown interest in returning to the fold in some capacity. Daytona Beach News Journal
Road America could be special in 2006 A reader asks, Now that Champ Car returns to what could become its signature event besides street races (Long Beach is great but we are trying to copy it in other markets. My company purchases a suite at Long Beach). Champ Car should do everything in its power to make Road America a world class event – similar to the street races but different – and I believe special – just as the Indianapolis is different from all of the other IRL events.
Growing up, what made the Indy 500 special (before Tony ruined it for the lifelong fan like myself) was it drew drivers from all over the world, speed & risk were in the air, and it was a long grueling event. My fondest memories are sitting and listening to it with my father.
Therefore – I believe that they should make Road America a long event – maybe even 500 miles (I believe that would make it the longest open wheel street / road race in the world) but even 300 miles would be good.
Further – since I believe that it is going to be after the IRL season, somebody – somehow – should invite or encourage some of the IRL teams to participate – just as some Champ Car teams have participated at Indy. This of course may not be possible – particularly this year as the last of the Lolas are used.
This would be the last Champ Car race in the US for the season and it should finish with a bang – maybe it should even be worth a few more points than a normal race – therefore giving extra meaning to it as Champ Car goes to its out of the country races that set the finale up for the championship run.
What are your thoughts? Carl Forshage, Pasadena, Ca.
Dear Carl, Some good ideas here, but it is your last one that is key because drivers (heroes) draw fans not race distance. We hear that 'many' Champ Car teams will be looking to run a third car at most Champ Car races late in the season in 2006 because the need for their backup car past the end of the season will be gone. Hence we expect to see a whole plethora of extra drivers running a Champ Car race late in the season, especially after the IRL season has ended and drivers are looking for a challenge. You can also expect a lot of F1 wanna bees lining up at the door for a shot. Mark C.
Nissan also eyeing ALMSUPDATE Hearing that originally it wasn’t going to happen until 2007. The car is reportedly based on the Nismo version of the Skyline that will use the 4.5 liter Infiniti engine or an offshoot of the new Renault F1 V8. The idea was have one year of competition before the 2008 model was introduced. We had heard that that the consumer price was to be around $125k. More here.
There were rumors that they may bring it up a year if Lexus and Honda followed Porsche to ALMS. Lexus has and Honda could be too according to rumors.
12/01/05 Rumors are swirling that Nissan is looking to upgun their highly successful 350Z with a powerful V-8, possibly to compete in the ALMS. Already, “Z” cars compete in the Japanese Super GT series, the closest equivalent to the ALMS or LMES (the ALMS opposite number series in Europe). It would be not much of a stretch for them to compete in the ALMS.
But Nissan, a marquee that has won at Sebring before with Johnny O’Connell as one of the drivers behind the wheel, is not going to bring a knife to a gun fight.
Hence the 4.5 liter eight that will pump around 430 horsepower on the street version and probably more under the hood of a GT2 or possibly even a GT1 Nissan machine. Highlands Today
Indy will have 33 cars Rumors out of Indy say that Tony George will pay for a large number of cars to qualify for next year's Indy 500 using the large cash settlement the IRL will get from Toyota for leaving the IRL before their contract was up. This will ensure that the 500 again squeaks by with enough cars. The settlement is said to be in the many millions of dollars.
NASCAR lawsuit could move to Florida A federal judge said Wednesday he would decide soon whether to transfer Kentucky Speedway's $400 million antitrust lawsuit against NASCAR to a federal court in Florida. U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman heard oral arguments from both sides Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Covington.
NASCAR, which filed the motion to change the venue, argues that the racetrack near Sparta in Gallatin County agreed to litigate all disputes in the U.S. Middle District of Florida when it signed 11 different contracts with the Daytona Beach, Fla.-based auto racing organization from 1999 to 2005.
Kentucky Speedway argues that the consequences of NASCAR's alleged antitrust activity directly affect Kentucky Speedway and Kentucky, which also has spent money on infrastructure near the track. The case should remain in the Eastern District of Kentucky because the preference of the plaintiffs should have more weight than the choice of the defendants, said Arthur Miller, a Harvard law professor and one the Speedway's lawyers.
Kentucky Speedway sued NASCAR and International Speedway Corp. in July, alleging they kept the track from getting a lucrative Nextel Cup race.
The lawsuit says NASCAR and International Speedway are controlled by members of the France family, whose patriarch, Bill France, started NASCAR. Tracks affiliated with International Speedway host 20 of the 38 Nextel Cup series events.
The speedway is asking for $400 million in damages and wants NASCAR to establish a competitive bidding process for Nextel Cup races. More at Cincinnati Post
ALMS to announce another manufacturerUPDATE This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact' with the official announcement by ALMS and Lexus. 12/01/05 AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that the American Le Mans Series will make yet another announcement regarding a manufacturer's entry into the series. We're hearing it will be a two-car, factory-backed effort in one of the series' GT classes. This comes on the heels of BMW's confirmation of fielding two M3s in GT2S for 2006.
NASCAR looks international in the future NASCAR will steer a course overseas for growth since it cannot expand its 9-month U.S. season, the racing association's top executive said on Wednesday. "Where do you grow? Domestically, it's tough, super competitive out there. When you look around the world, auto racing is either No. 1 or No. 2 depending on where you are, behind only soccer," Brian France, chairman and chief executive of National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, said at the Reuters Media and Advertising Summit here. "Everybody understands auto racing," he said. NASCAR runs more than 100 races each year across the United States through three racing circuits -- its signature Nextel Cup Series, Busch and Craftsman Truck. Unlike some other U.S. sports leagues, NASCAR boasts rising television ratings as well as a fast growing, highly loyal fan base. France said its new TV contract, expected to be announced soon, will be "substantially better" than the current six-year $2.4 billion deal that expires after 2006. With a season that already runs from mid-February to mid-November, there is no room to expand in the United States. France said the sport looked into but dismissed the idea of splitting into divisions like football and baseball to allow more races and drivers. "We're in the early stages of outlining a long-range international strategy that could capitalize on an already existing appetite for auto racing all over the world," France said, citing NASCAR's Busch race in Mexico earlier this year. He said NASCAR would likely hold a Busch or Craftsman Truck race in Canada, given racing's popularity there. And he said NASCAR officials have met with people in Europe. "Europe has the greatest density of tracks and fan interest," he said. "South America has good auto racing interest, too." And he noted China's love of Formula 1 racing. Reuters
Jacques’ career in limboUPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' with today's news that BMW could not bring itself to pay Villeneuve $15 million per year to just weed his garden. He will line up alongside Nick Heidfeld in 2006, who will likely embarrass him.
11/17/05 As track testing prepares to fire-up again, 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve's grand prix career lingers in limbo.
The French-Canadian has a signed Sauber contract valid for 2006, but most insiders acknowledge the probability that the new team owner, BMW, might trigger a buyout clause.
It is reported that virtual radio silence exists between the Munich carmaker and 34-year-old JV, while it is known that BMW has negotiated with hopefuls like Heikki Kovalainen.
''There is nothing new so far,'' said a BMW spokesman.
He added: ''We'll inform the public if there is news, but this is not the case at the moment.''
If, indeed, BMW want to replace Villeneuve - who under performed this season - the problem is that while keeping him in the car will cost about $3m, the buyout clause involves a $13m price tag.
Villeneuve has admitted that he is not aware of whether he will be driving at the newly renamed 'BMW Sauber F1' team's first winter test this month.
Meanwhile, the Canadian 'Globe and Mail' newspaper wrote that a planned October meeting between JV and BMW chief Mario Theissen in Shanghai 'failed to materialize'.
The story behind Villeneuve, Bourdais and BMWUPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement. Truth be told, BMW could not bring itself to pay Villeneuve $15 million per year to weed his garden. 11/23/05 Jacques Villeneuve’s chances of remaining at Sauber BMW appear to have been strengthened after Renault boss Flavio Briatore claimed Heikki Kovalainen will remain under his wing in 2006. Kovalainen was the favorite to take the Canadian’s place and BMW may have decided that it would cost too much money to pay Villeneuve off. 11/20/05 BMW seems to be balking at paying a reported $15-million (U.S.) buyout clause in Jacques Villeneuve's Sauber contract for 2006. His annual salary is thought to be about $2-million annually with an incentive program of a $100,000 bonus for each point he scores. This is the only way that the team is going to keep the Canadian and we're sure it's going to be an unpleasant season for the team and Villeneuve as BMW will resent being stuck with a driver they really didn't want. It is not a secret that Villeneuve clearly did not fit into BMW's long-term plans from the moment it bought the team in June.
"There were a few contacts with BMW and for a while I was pretty optimistic, but there was a holdup over Villeneuve's contract," Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais told the France's L'Équipe newspaper following his talks with BMW. "It seemed they could not part with him," because of the $15 million buyout clause so he signed on with Newman/Haas for a 4th year.
Katherine Legge to test A1GPUPDATE #2 We already made this rumor 'fact' days ago, but there is now an official announcement on our Hot News page from the British A1GP team. 11/26/05 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. AutoRacing1.com can now confirm that F1 great John Surtees was so impressed by Legge's performance in the Minardi F1 car that she will indeed get to test an A1GP car in the near future. We were not given the test date and are not sure if it has been set yet.
With that said, rest assured she will be racing in Atlantics or Champ Car in 2006 and beyond.
11/03/05 AutoRacing1.com sources are telling us that Champ Car Atlantic driver Katherine Legge will be testing an A1GP car in addition to a F1 and Champ Car in the off-season. The experience she gets will be fantastic.
Indian cars to hit world markets The last few days have seen some interesting developments in India with the news that Tata Motors, a sponsor of Narain Karthikeyan is planning to do a number of things to increase its international profile and sales - and its involved in automotive technology and in motorsport.
Tata Motors is looking abroad for more sales and is aiming to export half the cars it builds by 2010. At the moment that figure is only 20%. The company is about to start producing cars which meet the new European emissions regulations and has also announced that it is to establish a development centre near Coventry to learn and develop new ideas and technologies from the automotive world.
And on top of all this it is being reported in India that Tata Motors and GM India are about to unveil a single-seater racing car with which they intend to create a national championship in India. The full details of this program will be revealed in the next few days but there is no question that Tata is a company that is on the move. And that could be very good news for Karthikeyan. Grandprix.com
Is Legge faster than Raikkonen?UPDATE A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Look who is in that 2002 Formula Renault field: Euro Formula 3 champion and McLaren protégé Lewis Hamilton; Patrick Long, American and now a factory Porsche driver; and Susie Stoddart, another female prospect from the UK, and a host of other fast drivers.. John Cookie, Indiana11/30/05 Champ Car Atlantic star Katherine Legge has made quite an impression since she burst onto the scene, especially since she is a woman, a fast woman. To the right is a photocopy of the official time sheet that AutoRacing1.com has obtained for Oulton Park in the UK. This was where Katherine smashed Kimi Raikkonen's lap record in 2002 (which begs the question, is she a superstar in the making?). You’ll see some interesting names on the time sheet....One being A1GP GB’s current driver Alex Lloyd, who finished behind Katherine at Oulton.
We mentioned recently that Legge will test for the John Surtees British A1GP team. While Surtees makes the driver decisions for the A1GP team, his right-hand man on the business side is Brian Sims. (You can find more about Brian here - http://www.sportsmarketingskills.com/driving_force.htm). The combination of Katherine’s recent performance with the Minardi F1 test and her three wins in Atlantics in 2005 is what’s getting Surtees attention. Given the fact she has a solid fan following in the U.S., it's the type of exposure A1GP could desperately use as the fledgling series moves to the two North American circuits early in 2006.
Champ Car to Las Vegas?UPDATE Is Indy getting a bit worried about losing Champ Car ands its teams? This Indianapolis Business Journal article says, Area motorsports leaders are gearing up for another run at unifying the industry and assuring the region retains its status as one of the world's leading motorsports markets.
Organizers of the latest effort promise they won't spin their wheels this time around. They're casting a wider net--going statewide with a motorsports association--to attract more members and build more clout with the media, local and state lawmakers, and service providers, such as banks and insurance companies.
The Indiana Motorsports Association Inc. was officially launched last month with Gov. Mitch Daniels' blessing, and association leaders hope to have a full-time paid executive director hired by year's end.
"That's when we'll really start pushing our membership drive," said IMA Chairman Chris Paulsen, who is also president of C&R Racing Inc., an Indianapolis-based maker of auto racing components. "We think the interest in this association will be substantial, greater than it ever has been before, especially since we're taking it statewide."
U.S. Auto Club President Rollie Helmling, IMA's vice chairman, thinks at least 50 race teams alone will join the association next year, along with sanctioning bodies such as the Indy Racing League and Champ Car; facilities operators such as Indianapolis Raceway Park; and numerous race-related suppliers, manufacturers and other businesses.
The effort is coming at a critical time, said Mel Poole, president of Sponsorlogic, a Charlotte, N.C.-based motorsports marketing firm.
"With efforts in places like North Carolina, Virginia and Las Vegas attempting to grow their motorsports sectors, suddenly it has become real competitive in trying to attract and retain these types of businesses," Poole said.
11/15/05 AutoRacing1.com is hearing that Champ Car might stay in Indianapolis for three more years and then move the entire operation to Las Vegas in year 4. We hear teams could move too because of the huge tax incentives. Remember that Joe Heitzler hatched this idea several years ago, but at the time, CART had bigger fish to fry.
We suspect that this plan, if true, could be tied into the rumored Champ Car street race in Las Vegas. Just think about the ramifications. NASCAR races in its headquarter town of Daytona Beach, the IRL in Indy, and now possibly Champ Car in Vegas.
And what could the Mayor of Indianapolis do to keep Champ Car and all its teams in Indianapolis? Approve a street race in Indianapolis on Memorial Day weekend (Monday) so Champ Car can race where they are headquartered.
’06 could be last year for MontrealUPDATE #5 If Champ Car drops Montreal after 2006 it will likely replace it with a return to Vancouver. Although Quebec City has also been rumored, it is not as large a city as Vancouver. Champ Car held successful races in Vancouver for many years and yesterday, Champ Car's Joe Chrnelich dropped their name out of the blue. When talking about returning to past venues he said, "The long-term, if we can make it a winning proposition for both parties, we're certainly open to the notion of returning. Today is a great case in point or example of that occurring [back to Road America]. With George's [Bruggenthies] good work and his board and Steve Johnson and our team, we came back to the table and said, you know what, there is a plausible deal here that can work for both of us, and it came together. So I would tell you that we never rule out returning to a destination. Vancouver would be another great example of that. We just -- we always want to make sure that wherever we go, it is a viable proposition for both parties, so it's not just a one-way deal, which in those cases turns into a short-term proposition."
11/27/05 The Globe and Mail, reports that while Champ Car co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven said he's confident there will be a successful race in Montreal next season, he added that the series is already thinking about other Canadian venues in case there is no return to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 2007.
"I think that a third Canadian race is always going to be a part of our strategy," he said.
Kalkhoven refused to comment on the venues the series would consider as a replacement for Montreal but added: "There aren't too many [big] cities in Canada, so it makes the choice easier."
11/09/05 Rumor has it that Champ Car's Joe Chrnelich will meet with Normand Legault tomorrow in Montreal. Could it be a kiss and make up session? Mark C.
11/08/05 We have added an image of the article that appeared in today's paper to the right.
11/08/05 In the Journal de Montreal today, the famous B plan, Kevin Kalkhoven's plan in case Legault doesn't reach an agreement with Champ Car for 2007......The B plan could be St-Hubert airport.
When asked about the B plan this weekend, Kalkhoven said that Legault can prevent Champ Car from racing at Gilles-Villeneuve, but he can't prevent Champ Car from racing in Québec. When asked if an airport was in his mind he kind of smiled and when asked about St-Hubert, he kind of grinned, said the report.
This airport is 7 miles east of downtown Montreal in the suburb of Longueuil. With that said, we were under the impression the race would be in Quebec City, not Longueuil.
11/07/05 Unless the severely broken relationship can be fixed, which we doubt given Champ Car says it's reviewing its legal options over what happened in Montreal this past year, we hear that 2006 could be the final Champ Car race in Montreal. What city would replace it? Not sure, but given Quebec City's disgust with the IRL we suspect that city still wants a race. Calgary also comes to mind. Close to Edmonton, yes, but plenty room for both. With regard to growth, Calgary and Edmonton are booming right now because the price of gasoline has become very high, making the cost to extract the oil from the sands in the oil reserves up in Canada cost effective. These oil reserves are said to contain more oil than Saudi Arabia has in its reserves.
Can the relationship in Montreal be fixed? Perhaps, but Legault will always make Champ Car, the IRL or NASCAR play second fiddle to the F1 race weekend.
IRL and Champ Car teams to partnerUPDATE #6 Chip Ganassi said in yesterday's IRL media teleconference announcing Dan Wheldon being added to his team, when asked about this rumor - "I think you've heard me speak about my idea has been put forth out there about some car sharing in one or two races with some Champ Car teams, and those discussions are ongoing. There's news to come yet on that front."
11/27/05 We are downgrading this rumor to speculation. It appears now that the biggest obstacle to the partnering idea is the lack of Honda engines for the Champ Car teams because Honda will probably have to supply the entire IRL grid in 2006, something it did not plan on until 2007.
11/20/05 Hearing through our sources that this Ganassi teaming concept is still alive. A man who thinks exactly like we and many others do, Peter DeLorenzo of Autoextremist.com, recently said at a presentation at the SCCA/Milwaukee Region Annual Banquet, "I believe that what Tony George has done to major league open-wheel racing in this country is a complete travesty. In an effort to gain control over the sport, the scion of the Hulman family used his control over the Indianapolis 500 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to force a split in major league open-wheel racing that continues to leave the sport in shambles today.
"That said, however, I believe the Indianapolis 500 is still the greatest single motor race in the world and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the greatest race track in the world - sharing that title with the famed Nurburgring Nordschleife - which is the greatest road-racing course in the world.
"I believe that the split in major league open-wheel racing in this country set off a chain of events that played right into the hands of the France family in Daytona Beach, Florida - which helped propel NASCAR to the popularity that it enjoys today. And I predict that, short of a miracle, the sport of open-wheel racing in this country will never recover" [Exactly what we have been saying for years]
Perhaps if Tony George cannot bring himself to do the logical thing then perhaps some of the team owners will. After all in the final analysis they are the powerhouse behind motorsports and maybe finally they will stand up and be counted. Perhaps teams pairing up for road races might be the future, at least that is what we hear is still being batted around.
Road and street races are not as expensive as ovals, which tend to result in bone breaking, race car destroying, high-speed accidents. Teaming up on certain road and street circuits may make the most sense for all involved. The future of major league open-wheel racing in the USA may depend on it.
10/26/05 This SPEEDTV.com article gives a bit more detail to this story that we broke several weeks ago. We received a number of emails and saw a forum discussion thread doubting the validity of this rumor. We will re-state our policy, we do not make up rumors, we just report them. More ...
Champ Car to go oval-less in 2007 A reader writes, With today's announcement that CCWS is going back to Road America, you can kiss the Milwaukee Mile race goodbye. With the Las Vegas oval race being dropped, CCWS is not going to design the new car to race on one oval track a year plus have two races in the Wisconsin market. September is a great time of year in Wisconsin. Not very rainy and the temperature is normally in the 80's. The timing may also be good because the GB Packers are clearly in a rebuilding mode which will allow others sports such as racing and baseball to get more media coverage. I personally would like a late June date but I'm sure when CCWS drops the Milwaukee race, the IRL will grab that date which would only dilute the fan pool for both races. Arno Fritz, Milwaukee, WI
Dear Arno, This is probably true. Champ Car has not had much success on the ovals and the oval track cartel promoters don't want to help Champ Car succeed on the ovals. Hence we look for zero ovals on their schedule in 2007. Could they perhaps do an oval like EuroSpeedway in the future (i.e. outside the USA)? I would say yes, but then why have the teams tool up for just one oval race a year. It makes no sense given the cost vs. revenue. We stated this 7 years ago, i.e. NASCAR owns the ovals, so stick a fork in them, they're done....for open wheel racing. Mark C.
Major manufacturer to join ALMSUPDATE #3 BMW will also maintain their involvement in the Grand-AM series, but with private teams whereas the factory effort is moving to the ALMS (i.e. the big money is moving to the ALMS). 11/29/05 With an official announcement expected momentarily AutoRacing1.com can exclusively reveal that BMW will join the ALMS GT2 class starting in 2006. We await the official BMW press release. We can also exclusively reveal that there will be more manufacturer announcements by ALMS in the near future. Why is ALMS able to land so many new manufacturers? Because their rules are now an FIA standard, not just an ACO standard, so their cars can be raced not only in ALMS, but in LMES and FIA-GT, whereas the Grand-Am has cars that can only be raced in the Grand-Am, hence they will never land the large number of manufacturers who actually activate their involvement in a big way.
Is this a major coup for ALMS? Absolutely, and hats off to Scott Atherton and his team Porsche, now BMW and more on the way. Mark C.11/29/05 Just to clarify, this will not be the Honda announcement, but it will be a major manufacturer nonetheless and it will come from Grand-Am. Look for it early Tuesday morning. We know who it is but the info is embargoed. And we can tell you that more manufacturers are close to coming on board as well. Mark C.11/28/05 AutoRacing1.com has it on good word that a major manufacturer is about to announce that they are moving their Grand-Am program to the ALMS. If true it just underscores how successful ALMS management has been in landing so many additional manufacturers, both car and tire manufacturers. Mark C.
Champ Car back to Road AmericaUPDATE #3 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. See Hot News page for more. 11/28/05 Champ Car has scheduled a media conference for a major series announcement for Tuesday at 1 PM ET. Perhaps this announcement is related to this rumor. 11/26/05 AutoRacing1.com has learned that Champ Car is close to announcing a return to the greatest road course in North America, Road America, in September 2006. A return to the picturesque 4.0-mile Wisconsin track has been high on the priority list of Champ Car fans, teams and drivers ever since they left.
We hear the announcement is a week or two away and will include a plan to return the race to the success it once was.
No word yet on an exact date in September, but weather-wise the earlier the better. This news comes on the back of the recent announcement by Road America of some major enhancements, especially to the paddock area.
11/06/05 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. "
Sobranie to sponsor Midland, tobacco to stay in F1 Benson & Hedges owner 'Gallaher' is expected to shortly sign a new contract to stay with Jordan's 2006 identity, Midland.
Although a Europe-wide cigarette advertising ban fell on F1 this year, Ferrari, Renault and Honda also intend to keep racing with smoke-funded liveries in 2006.
McLaren ended its 'West' association in Hungary (July).
However, contrary to speculation that another tobacco brand has raced away from formula one, Gallaher will - according to sources - sponsor 'MF1 Racing' next year, although probably with the 'Sobranie' label's branding.
It was earlier suggested that Gallaher was only interested in staying with the Alex Shnaider-owned team if a British driver - like Anthony Davidson - was in the cockpit.
Doornbos to seal ’06 dealUPDATE #3 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. See Hot News page for announcement. 11/28/05 Former Minardi racer Robert Doornbos is expected to land the 'Friday' seat at Red Bull's senior F1 team for next season.
Widespread media sources report that although Switzerland's Neel Jani was considered a shoe-in, Doornbos - the 24-year-old Dutchman - will attempt to qualify for the seat when he tests a RB1 at Barcelona this week.
He reportedly had a seat fitted at Milton-Keynes last Wednesday.
Jani, meanwhile - already confirmed in Red Bull's 2006 lineup - is likely to head off to a similar role at Scuderia Toro Rosso, even though the team formerly known as Minardi did not intend to finance a Friday car.
Rotterdam-born Doornbos drove Jordan's third car at the start of 2005, prior to replacing the axed Patrick Friesacher in Minardi's race lineup.
''Last year, my Christmas was way too stressful,'' Robert said recently. ''I'd like it to be a bit more relaxed this time around. We'll wait and see.''
11/23/05 Our sources tell us that Doornbos and his money are on their way to the Red Bull Ferrari team as their third driver in 2006. 11/23/05 2005 Minardi rookie Robert Doornbos is hoping to secure his F1 future before Christmas.
The Dutchman, whose countryman and former teammate Christijan Albers is off to Midland next year, revealed that he is 'almost done' in securing a job elsewhere.
''I do want to tell you,'' he told crash.net at Minardi's last ever test near Rome, ''but I can't release any details yet.''
24-year-old Doornbos added: ''I hope I can jump in the car soon. It's an investment in my career and I think it is great if it comes through because I'm still young and I feel I can have a good career in F1.''
BMW is on the lookout for a 'Friday' driver, as is Williams who have said that a pay-driver might fit the bill.
Paffett to become McLaren regular Gary Paffett may become a regular at McLaren test sessions in 2006. The DTM champion and Briton, who helped Alex Wurz kick off the Woking based team's winter program by running at Barcelona on Monday, will return to the wheel on Tuesday before traveling south to Jerez for the next test.
And Mercedes-Benz's competition director Norbert Haug agreed that 24-year-old Paffett is not testing merely 'as a reward' for his DTM crown.
''Gary is also integrated into our development program for the new season,'' the German explained.
In sunny but chilly Spain on Monday, Paffett - in one of the two V8-powered 2005 cars - managed to pip Wurz's best time, even if the latter Austrian grappled with transmission and hydraulics issues.
It was Gary's first F1 test for more than two years.
''The difference between the DTM and the F1 car is not as big as it was between the F3 and the F1 car three years ago,'' Paffett said on Monday.
The only other man on track, BMW-Sauber's Nick Heidfeld, also tested a V8 and lapped eight tenths of a second slower.
Priaulx in the running? BMW's world touring car champion Andy Priaulx has denied that he is now a frontrunner to become Williams' 'Friday' driver.
The Briton, under firm contract to Frank Williams' former works engine partner in 2006 and 2007, has been asked to drive the 'FW27C' as the Grove-based team kick off winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya.
It was earlier reported that either Narain Karthikeyan or Nicolas Kiesa would land the 'Friday' seat for next year, although the same sources insisted that one or the other would be confirmed prior to the Barcelona session.
Priaulx, 29, admitted that he is unable to match either pay-driver's sponsorship backing.
''I know that the third driver at Williams needs to bring a lot of money,'' Andy explained, ''which I don't have.
What, if anything, will Bernie own in F1 now?UPDATE #3 Bernie hints at why selling F1 to CVC will kill the idea of a breakaway series, but he dismisses the notion that the two companies will be leveraged.
"Stability," he said. "That's what the manufacturers want. This new company has been on the scene for a while. They're not people who buy shares just so that they can sell them again. They're stayers."
CVC, among its many activities, owns the Spanish company Dorna, which bought motorcycling's equivalent of formula one several years ago and turned it into MotoGP, with great success. A lot of people with an interest in formula one have jumped to the conclusion that CVC will use Dorna's expertise to rejuvenate the four-wheeled series. Ecclestone, however, was having none of it.
"I advised them on MotoGP," he pointed out. "And the two companies will be entirely separate."11/26/05 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Bernie, Bambino, and Formula One Management are stakeholders in Alpha Prema, a new company, NOT in CVC.
Alpha Prema now owns most (over 70%) of SLEC, but 100% of the voting rights in SLEC (the other two banks sold their voting rights).
CVC, not Alpha Prema, owns Dorna (MotoGP), so Bernie may have influence (i.e. schedule cooperation, joint TV package negotiation, etc.), but not control, of MotoGP.
Bernie may also have access to additional capital, but only to the extent CVC is willing to make further investments in Alpha Prema. That said, Bernie and CVC do share a common interest in the success of Alpha Prema, so effectively Bernie may have an increased war chest, and just as important, a powerful team of savvy venture capital managers going into battle with him. Larry Adcock, Muncie, IN
11/26/05 As we speculated below, it has been confirmed that Bernie Ecclestone as well as Bambino and another Ecclestone company, Formula One Management are now stakeholders in Alpha Prema, a CVC company. This means that Bernie Ecclestone now has influence in F1 and MotoGP through parent company CVC, for which he now has close ties and a close business relationship. More importantly he has CVC's vast financial resources behind him. Through the sale Bernie has increased his power and his wealth and the heads at Mercedes, BMW, Toyota, Honda and Renault are still spinning trying to figure it all out. Bernie is toying with them. To him power and control is all a game, a chess match if you will, and Bernie just yelled "check!"
11/25/05 There is considerable confusion about the deal that is currently going through involving the Formula One group and the venture capital company CVC Capital Partners. Although initial reports suggest that the Ecclestone Family shares have been sold to CVC, we are also hearing stories that the shares are remaining with Bernie and indeed that he may even have increased his shareholding a little. Until there is any official word however it is difficult to know the exact status of the deal. Given CVC's previous record the company will be keen to make an announcement as soon as the deal goes through.
It is believed that the man behind the new deal is American Hardy McLain, who was one of the founders of CVC, having previously worked for Citibank. He has been based in London for the last 20 years and has played an important role in the Dorna investment [in MotoGP]. Grandprix.com
[Editor's Note: While many are confused by the sale of F1, we're not. Now CVC has control of both MotoGP and F1, two of the hottest properties in sports. Bernie is always 5 steps ahead of everyone else, and he was again on this deal. By having both MotoGP and F1, CVC can negotiate better, combined, TV deals and offer TV stations racing every weekend, alternating between MotoGP and F1. MotoGP star Valentino Rossi's rumored move to F1 now becomes clearer as his publicity will bring wider attention to both MotoGP and F1. Just where Bernie fits in remains to be seen. For all we know, perhaps, as a result of this deal, now he is a partner in CVC and has a stake in both F1 and MotoGP. Nothing with Bernie would surprise us, and like we said, collectively the manufacturers trying to start a breakaway F1 series collectively don't have the wherewithal to outsmart or outmaneuver one Bernard Ecclestone]
GM boss in cash grab As General Motors slashes jobs, closes plants and battles to avoid bankruptcy, the company’s CEO has set up a retirement plan that will pay him at least $4.6 million a year – nearly twice his current salary.
G. Richard Wagoner, who the New York Post calls "the greediest, most undeserving CEO since Chainsaw Al Dunlap,” was named GM’s chief financial officer in 1992, when the company had a global payroll of 750,000 employees.
Under Wagoner’s command as CFO and, since 2000, CEO, the carmaker has seen its employees dwindle to 324,000.
Now the company has announced plans to cut 30,000 more jobs and close 12 North American plants, and Wagoner is denying rampant rumors that GM is preparing to file for bankruptcy protection. The carmaker’s pension fund is under-funded by more than $45 billion, according to the Post. But Wagoner has nothing to worry about. He has a Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan, which allows a company to use after-tax dollars "that rightly belong to shareholders to shower riches on the CEO instead,” the Post reports.
Best of all for Wagoner, this payout comes from funds that are separate from those underpinning the retirement programs of ordinary workers, which means he’ll pocket his $4.6 million-plus a year even if GM files for bankruptcy. More at NewsMax.com
Wheldon to leave AGR for Ganassi Racing, or BMWUPDATE #11 Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon will remain in the Indy Racing League after all, but he will defend his championship with a different team. After exploring options in Formula One, the 27-year-old British driver decided to sign with Ganassi Racing rather than Andretti Green Racing, his team of the past three seasons. A news conference to announce Wheldon's signing is scheduled for today at Ganassi headquarters in Indianapolis, team spokeswoman Pat Caporali said Sunday. Wheldon couldn't hide his enthusiasm for the switch.
"I can't talk about it right now, but it's good," he said.
Wheldon will be joined at the news conference by team owner Chip Ganassi and returning driver Scott Dixon, the IRL's 2003 champion, Caporali said. Ganassi is not expected to field three cars as he did this past season.
Caporali said Ganassi also will confirm equipment changes for next season. The addition of Wheldon means that Ganassi will use Honda engines and the Dallara chassis. Wheldon used that combination to win nine races over the past two seasons, including Honda's first two victories at the track it built and owns in Japan. He won a league-record six races last season. Indy Star
11/28/05 Target Chip Ganassi Racing has scheduled a press conference today at 2 PM for what they call some exciting announcements (note the plural). 11/27/05 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. We never thought for a second that Wheldon was F1 material, and he certainly was not going to go from IRL and Indy 500 champ to a test driver role in F1. SPEEDTV.com reports that Wheldon has signed a contract to drive for Target/Ganassi Racing and will be formally introduced Monday at a press conference in Indianapolis.
It's believed Wheldon and agent Julian Jakobi were unhappy with Andretti Green Racing (AGR) because they offered him less of a retainer than teammate Dario Franchitti. Jakobi also represents Franchitti.
We also expect Ganassi to soon announce he will be running Honda engines in 2006 because we doubt Wheldon would be at Ganassi without Honda engines as Honda would not want to lose its defending double champion.
11/01/05 This is one of the craziest rumors yet. Dan Wheldon has zipped his lip as speculation bubbles that the 2005 Indy 500 winner will soon be named as BMW's 'Friday' driver for next year.
The 27-year-old Englishman, who is also the new champion of the IRL, was earlier linked to Honda and Williams but is believed to have now agreed a deal in principle with the Munich carmaker.
''There's a lot going on right now,'' Wheldon told ITV, ''and I can't say anything.''
He sang a similar tune to British specialist magazine Autosport by saying: ''I've been told I can't say anything.''
Sir Frank Williams' Grove based team, meanwhile, is believed to have still counted Wheldon among candidates to fill the 'Friday' cockpit for next year, as recently as the weekend.
A spokesman said: ''We have not made a decision (and) are not intending to make an announcement ... for several weeks.''
11/01/05 More rumors that Ganassi was lying through his teeth about not talking to Wheldon. 24-Hour News 8 has learned that Wheldon will soon sign on with Ganassi Racing. The IRL champ has turned down offers to stay with AGR and from suitors in Formula One. Wheldon had no official comment and referred Sports 8 to his management team, but the top Indy Racing League driver is heading to Ganassi next year, probably joining forces with former champion Scott Dixon. WishTV.com
[Editor's Note: We never thought for one minute that Wheldon was F1 material. The coup for Ganassi is that he gets AGR's Indy 500 winner and Indy Car champion. Ouch. And did Honda lose its defending champion to archrival Toyota, or does Chip get Honda engines too? If so, bye-bye Toyota as they will have no choice but to exit the IRL a year early rather than risk complete embarrassment on the race track with sponsorless Team Cheever as their top team.] More ...
Hoover Orsi to test Champ CarUPDATE Hoover Orsi won today's Brazilian Stock Car season finale at Interlagos by 1.7 seconds over Antonio Jorge Neto. Giuliano Losacco was third and clinched his 2nd straight title. 11/27/05 Hearing from our Brazilian sources that Brazilian Hoover Orsi, who currently sits 3rd in the Brazilian Stock Car V8 series with one race remaining, will test a Champ Car with Dale Coyne Racing in December in Sebring, Florida.
Champion in Atlantics in 2001, Orsi was on his way to Champ Car the following season with Fittipaldi-Dingman Racing, but the team closed its doors before the chance came. He has five career Toyota Atlantic race victories, all in his 2001 championship season where he dominated with 11 podiums in the 12-race season.
Even though he now has a good relationship with NasrCastroneves Racing, the team he drives for in Brazilian Stock Cars, Hoover doesn't hide the fact that he wants to be back in an open-wheel car.
Todt hints at retirement Ferrari sporting director Jean Todt says it's about time Formula One got a new, younger generation of team bosses, because the current selection can't come to any agreement and have run out of ideas to keep the sport interesting. Tell me what comes out of their meetings," Todt told Autosport. "F1 is a great business, a great sport and a fantastic show. But I think most of the people running the business are now too old and we should change, refresh - including me. Sometimes I'm happy when I see young guys arriving, smiling, having good ideas and being open," he added.
Todt's current deal with Ferrari expires at the end of 2006. Will he retire the same time Michael Schumacher retires?
Starr eyes 10-12 NEXTEL races in ’06 David Starr will not return next season as the driver of the #75 Spears Manufacturing Chevy in the Truck Series, but he probably will drive for another team in 2006. Starr and team owner Wayne Spears agreed to part ways after the season finale last weekend at Homestead. Two Toyota teams and one Ford team have approached Starr about driving for them next season. Starr said those talks are ongoing, and he didn't want to name the teams. Starr also said he probably would compete in 10 to 12 Nextel Cup races in 2006 with a team that's forming a new partnership. Dallas Morning News
Yates to help Arnold Motorsports? There was talk early in November that Yates might form a third satellite team, perhaps merging assets from Arnold Motorsports or Cal Wells III’s PPI Racing. Instead, Yates says he’s committed to making his existing teams better before adding to his stable. Ford Racing
A1GP bleeding cash profusely We are hearing that the A1 Grand Prix series is bleeding cash profusely. With little in the way of revenue from sponsors or ticket sales, the series is spending a lot of money buying TV air time, new cars and flying the cars, equipment and personnel around the globe.
Doesn't Shaikh Maktoum (pictured right in right photo) have a bottomless pit of money? Well his family does but we are told he has little. If you look closely you will see that the A1GP management team is made up of some key players from South Africa, including South African businessman Tony Teixeira and General Manager Stephan Watson. AutoRacing1.com has learned that the money for the series is coming from South African investors whom Maktoum has convinced would be investing in something that would rival F1 in a few years. They were seriously mistaken because you are not going to make a low HP development series car into a top-line race series.
We have to give 20-something year old Maktoum credit though, he has been able to convince others to spend their money on his idea, but we suspect if the series doesn't start to turn a profit in a year or two, the investors will turn off the money supply. This may account for the overinflated race attendance figures that have been put out in the hope of convincing everyone the series is destined to be a huge success. The jury is definitely still out on that one.
The recently announced Durban, South Africa race has come about because of the series' South African connections.
No cooperation between Bridgestone teams Regarding the F1 agreement to again allow tire changes in F1 in 2006, Renault team boss Flavio Briatore told Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport, "We did it for the good of the sport, even though it's true we're taking an advantage away from McLaren because they could use the long-life harder Michelins better than us. But I don't think this will give an advantage to Bridgestone because Ferrari and Toyota don't talk to each other for that old espionage story [where Ferrari claimed Toyota stole their car designs and produced a car that looked just like a Ferrari], while we Michelin teams have agreed to cooperate."
IRL St. Pete race in jeopardy?UPDATE According to our St. Pete source this rumor is 'false' and the race is definitely on for March 31st to April 2nd. 11/26/05 We are hearing from various sources that the IRL season opener in St. Petersburg, Florida could be in jeopardy. We are told that the race was a loss to Honda to the tune of $6.5 million in 2005 and with Honda being asked to now supply the entire grid for the IRL in 2006, a year earlier than planned, they may not be able to sponsor the race again. We hear that either the IRL or Andretti Green recently went to the city asking for money and were told no.
We hear the promoter only sold around 5,000 tickets to fans in 2005, the rest being bought by Honda, Marlboro, GM and Firestone and given away to fans as promotional items.
And to add fuel to this rumor's fire, the St. Petersburg Grand Prix website has disappeared including any links to it from the IRL website. Perhaps the race will proceed as planned, but the rumor mill is beginning to churn.
Jourdain vs. Dominguez runoff AutoRacing1.com is hearing that Mexican driver Michel Jourdain Jr., although still hoping something materializes in the NASCAR Busch Series, is still interested in Champ Car and that the Forsythe team might test him head-to-head against Mexican driver Mario Dominguez who drove for Forsythe Racing in 2005. Mark C.
Scheckter talking to ForsytheUPDATE #2 See other rumor that is related to this one. We are hearing the Scheckters are very much interested in Champ Car. Tomas deserves a test drive in our opinion. We are upgrading this rumor to 'strong.' 09/24/05 On the heels of Tomas Scheckter's agent Toby Scheckter (pictured right) visiting here in Las Vegas comes rumors that Scheckter is talking to Forsythe Racing about a possible ride in 2006.
Tandy eyes America Joe Tandy, pictured right, has been crowned the Formula Palmer Audi Champion at the series finale at Brands Hatch on Sunday 25th September 2005. In addition he is one of six finalists for the prestigious 2005 McLaren Autosport BRDC award. He expects to spend his immediate racing future in America, one can assume in either Atlantic's or Champ Car where he hopes to propel his career to even greater heights.
"After driving in Formula Palmer Audi this year, my next move will probably be driving in the States but, if I'm lucky enough to win the Autosport Award, it opens up far more opportunities in Europe," said Tandy.
Honda to battle Porsche in ALMS, Grand-Am?UPDATE #3 AutoRacing1.com has learned that ALMS is expected to wrap up a major deal on Monday with an announcement slated to happen Tuesday. We speculate that it is an announcement that Honda (previously rumored) has entered the series and will compete against Porsche in the LMP2 class. We hope to find out more on Monday.
10/29/05 Hearing again that Honda representatives and Andretti-Green’s John Anderson are talking to both ALMS and Grand-Am. Like Toyota before them, will Honda pay their dues in Grand-Am before being allowed into NASCAR?
10/04/05 Hearing that Andretti Green Racing, a close partner with Honda in the IRL, might field a Honda powered car in the LMP2 class. They have admitted to be looking at it and Michael Andretti has stated that NASCAR is not out of the question for Marco Andretti. It will be interesting to see if Honda moves all of its IRL money to ALMS and NASCAR, leaving the IRL with zero engine manufacturers. Let's not forget Brian Barnhart's statement that the IRL doesn't need engine manufacturers, that given the TV ratings and attendance, they have done little to help his league. We bet that statement went over like a lead sinker in the boardroom of Honda and Toyota. Mark C.
10/04/05 Our sources tell us that on his way to Talladega to take in the Nextel Cup race last Sunday, Robert Clarke and the Honda executives were at Road Atlanta earlier in the weekend for a meeting with ALMS. We are told Robert Clarke was seen at a number of ALMS races this year. We hear Honda will be entering the LMP2 class with a Lola chassis. Penske Racing will field a new 3.4-liter V8 Porsche in the LMP2 class with its own chassis, its debut expected at Laguna Seca in this year's season finale.
If true, Honda's entry will be welcome news for ALMS which has seen its car count suffer terribly since the Grand-Am series was created. Whether Honda use a re-worked version of their old 3.5-liter IRL V8 down to 3.4-liter for this car is not known. The Lola B40/LMP2 (pictured right) is currently engineered to accept a Judd (or "MG") normally aspirated 3.4 liter V8, a AER turbo 2.0 liter I4, and a Nicholson-McLaren normally aspirated 3.4 liter V8
Honda's move to ALMS was rumored on these pages some time ago, but then fell somewhat silent. If this rumor turns out to be true, Honda will be sticking to its word that it must have another manufacturer to compete against or it won't race. This would not bode well for their future in the IRL, which lost both Chevy and Toyota and admits no one else has shown interest. Whether they would come into Champ Car to battle Ford remains to be seen, but our sources tell us a turbo engine is running on the Dyno at HPD and other sources told us months ago it appeared to be the old CART 2.65 liter turbo engine.
2006 IRL car countUPDATE #3 This Indy Star article outlines the low IRL car count, especially for the 2006 Indy 500 where 33 is just a number. The continued split is destroying open wheel racing. Honda did a tremendous disservice to open wheel racing by agreeing to continue providing engines to the IRL. By doing so they ensured the split would continue. 11/23/05 This SPEEDTV.com article paints a much more gloomy picture of the Panther Racing situation. "We've never, ever laid anyone off before but when you don't have any income what else can you do?," said Mike Griffin, one of the five co-owners of the Indianapolis-based team. "We wanted to be up front and honest about our situation. It's not like we shut things down, it's just that we don't have an operating budget at the moment.
"With our situation with Pennzoil, there's simply not enough cash to sustain 50 people and right now there's nothing for them to do anyway. We understand the consequences of letting guys go because they've got to look out for their families so we know they're out looking for jobs.
"We've still got 23 people on the payroll and, hopefully, we'll be calling people up to come back in a few weeks if one of our sponsorship deals comes through."
Panther Racing has been sponsored by Pennzoil since 1998 but that contract, estimated to be worth $4 million, expired two months ago so the principals of Panther have been scrambling to find money.
"We're looking at several options," said Griffin, whose group is thought to be talking with Pat Patrick and the sons of Jonathan Byrd about keeping Panther alive. "We've got five sponsorship deals in the hopper and several people have inquired about buying the place. The people we're talking to want us to stay in the IRL and, obviously, our druthers would be to keep going in the series we love.
"This has always been a family deal and we want to keep it going. But you can't do anything without money."
11/21/05 Hearing that the recent Panther Racing layoffs were their usual post-season pink slips. They are expecting to be back with only one car in 2006 as they kept Chief Engineer Andy Brown and most of their core guys. 11/17/05 The 2006 IRL grid looks surprisingly small at this stage. What’s even more alarming, it will take 20 to 21 more cars to hit the 33 mark at Indy.
Early IRL Silly Season List Penske 2 cars / Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish Rahal Letterman 2 cars / Danica Patrick and Buddy Rice (Meira rumored gone) AGR 4 cars / Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti, Bryan Herta, Marco Andretti or Vitor Meira (Wheldon F1 or Ganassi) Cheever 0 cars / (Red Bull and $4-5million gone) Aguri/Fernandez 2 cars /Scott Sharp's sponsor Delphi is bankrupt, Matsuura is gone and Aguri is gone to F1. Fernandez is doing some NASCAR) Target Ganassi 2 cars / Scott Dixon and Ryan Briscoe (or Wheldon) Panther Racing 0 or 1 cars (Pennzoil pulled the plug, reduced to Assoc. sponsor, Rockstar is gone, announcement will be forthcoming) Dreyer & Reinbold 1 car (giving the benefit, their struggling for $$$) Vision Racing 1 car / Ed Carpenter Ethanol 1 car / Paul Dana AJ Foyt 0 or 1 car (Foyt IV off to NASCAR)
Total: 15 cars. Eighteen more to get to 33 for Indy. And no additional 2 cars from Champ Car and Newman/Haas.
F1 hopefuls could test again F1 hopefuls Robert Kubica and Giorgio Mondini may be invited to test again for Renault if they impress next week at Barcelona (Spain).
''If we feel that there is some signs of promise in what they are doing,'' engineering director Pat Symonds suggested, ''it is very likely that we will invite them, or maybe one of them, back in a more intensive test.''
The pair won their opportunities to drive at Circuit de Catalunya by winning the 'World Series by Renault' (Kubica, Portuguese) and 'Eurocup Formula Renault V6' (Mondini, Italian) categories.
Bernie, bank, sell F1UPDATE This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact.' Bernie Ecclestone and a German bank confirmed early on Friday afternoon that the majority of F1 has been sold to 'CVC Capital Partners'.
A joint statement said Ecclestone, 75, would retain a small stake and stay as CEO of the F1 company.
The move gives CVC, a British company that buys other companies to 'build businesses in partnership with management', control of F1.
Bernie held 25 per cent of the sport's commercial stake, and Bayerische Landesbank's share - the biggest out of three equity-owning banks - was estimated at about 50 per cent.
11/25/05 It is believed that Bernie Ecclestone is in the process of selling his 25 per cent share in the formula one business.
Media sources are also reporting that German investment bank 'Bayerische Landesbank' - sharing a 75 per cent stake with two American banks - is also selling.
The buyer is CVC Capital Partners, a British investment company dedicated to private equity. ''We buy companies to build businesses in partnership with management,'' a description on 'cvc.com' says.
It is not known how much CVC paid for the at least 75 per cent stake in formula one, and no party has yet commented. Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan Chase, the other banks, have not sold but are negotiating with 'CVC'.
One source reckons the stake will have cost CVC around $1bn.
F1 'supremo' Ecclestone, however, will probably remain at the sport's steering wheel.
Chinese driver eyes Champ Car According to AutoRacing1.com sources in China, Chinese driver Marchy Lee (pictured right) is trying to line up a Champ Car test in December in Sebring. Lee began his racing career in karts at the age of 13, before moving up through the single seater categories and attending the famous La Filiere racing school in France. Best known for his Formula BMW Asia series wins, Lee has given up on his F1 aspirations because F1 teams want a driver to bring astronomical amounts of money.
Although not from mainland China, Lee, from Hong Kong, could be the best way for Champ Car to introduce their product in China ahead of racing there in future years. It is imperative that Champ Car have a Korean, Japanese and Chinese driver in their series ASAP, preferably 2006, if they are serious about racing in those countries in the future. It is pure folly for them to think that they can go into those countries and be successful without a local driver for the race promoter to market.
Ho-Pin Tung is another Chinese driver that Champ Car is looking at, but his citizenship is in Holland. Tung won the 2003 Formula BMW Asia championship. At least Lee lives in China, speaks fluent Chinese, and is very well known in China because he has been racing there.
Audi may quit DTM too Rumor at the Essen Motor show in Germany is that Audi could follow Opel and quit the German DTM series. That would leave only Mercedes left, and, of course, that would mean the DTM series will cease to exist. But, at the moment, only rumors!
Aguri to race 2002 F1 carUPDATE #2 Rumor has it that this is nothing other than a function of Bernie holding the axe over Honda for refusing to sign the new Concorde Agreement ensuring his coffers, and Formula One under Bernie, continue to be filled. Honda have been told if they will sign the Agreement then magically there would be no conflict with the existing Concorde Agreement and BAR would be free to sell their year old chassis and the intellectual property rights to Aguri and run the BAR 2005 cars next year.
What this demonstrates quite clearly is that Honda have decided to hold out despite the huge advantages to its new team to sign and therefore Honda are obviously still actively considering participating in a breakaway league with the other Manufactures, less Ferrari.
At the end of the day (Dec 2006) Bernie will most likely still win out because he controls all the premium track agreements, broadcast rights and time slots, etc. and the impact not to go with Bernie would hugely impact all the sponsors to an extent that it would make if very difficult for the threatened breakaway series ever to see the light of day.
11/24/05 Paul Stoddart believes his four-year old Arrows cars represent Super Aguri's only option to race on the 2006 tracks.
But the departing team boss, at Vallelunga where he will clock up Minardi's last ever lap after the sale to Red Bull, clarified reports in the German media that he had already sold the four or five Mike Coughlan-penned A23s and their intellectual property rights.
''We are negotiating with (Aguri),'' Australian-born Stoddart told Reuters. ''It is something that is very do-able.''
The Arrows option, that would see the formerly orange-painted, four-year-old (2002) F1 cars on the 2006 grid, is a last resort after the FIA warned that running a season-old BAR-Honda would contravene the binding 'Concorde Agreement'.
Building a car from scratch, too, is impossible within the now 3.5 month timescale to Bahrain.
11/22/05 Honda B-team? Aguri Suzuki's prospective 2006 outfit, Super Aguri F1, could probably be more aptly described as 'Arrows reincarnated'.
Based at Arrows' old Leafield HQ, it is now reported that the Japanese team has bought four 2002-spec 'A23' Arrows cars from Minardi boss Paul Stoddart.
Because it does not have time to build a unique car, and FIA regulations forbid the use of BAR-Honda's '007' challenger, Suzuki's latest plan could put a four-year-old chassis on the 2006 F1 grid.
Arrows' '02 car was designed by the highly rated Mike Coughlan, who moved to McLaren when Tom Walkinshaw's British based F1 team collapsed.
Stoddart bought the orange cars at auction and re-painted them black in 2003, but conducted back-to-back tests and decided that the A23 was not significantly faster than the 2003 Minardi model.
Montagny back to Renault?UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' given that Kovalainen will be Renault's third driver next year. See Hot News page. 11/09/05 It is now reported that Renault, which earlier moved Franck Montagny aside to make room for Finland-born GP2 runner up Kovalainen as tester, is reconsidering.
On the back of rumors that Renault development driver Kovalainen has in fact been released to sign a two-year BMW race deal, Montagny says he has now been asked to test for the Enstone based team in December.
It could mean that the Frenchman will again fill the official test driver spot while Kovalainen, 24, earns race experience ahead of a possible Renault return in 2008.
Montagny told the French L'Equipe daily sports newspaper: ''(Renault) told me that it was finished between us.
''But they called me ... to ask if I could drive in December. I wasn't supposed to be with them next year but here I am developing their car!''
At this stage Franck will test for Renault on November 30th through December 2nd in Barcelona, and the Dev 7-10 in Jerez after being called up by the French squad. There is every chance he will make a return flight to the US in between these commitments to test a Champ Car for Rocketsports.
Kovalainen to BMWUPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' with today's announcement by Briatore that Kovalainen will be the third driver for Renault. 11/07/05 Heikki Kovalainen will replace Jacques Villeneuve at the newly BMW-owned formula one team Sauber next year, a Finnish media source has said.
The 24-year-old GP2 runner-up, who is under long term contract to Renault and Flavio Briatore, would be released to race alongside Nick Heidfeld both next year and 2007, the source reported.
Kovalainen, from Finland like Kimi Raikkonen, is well known for beating Michael Schumacher at Paris' Stade de France for the 2004 Race of Champions.
The source also doubted reports that BMW's bill to buy-out Villeneuve's signed and sealed '06 Sauber contract would be just $3m or $4m.
Indeed, it was claimed that the Munich manufacturer would need to give Canada's JV a tidy $15m - significantly more than his '06 retainer - to spend the year gardening.
Philippe to test two cars next weekUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' based on the test report we published yesterday. 11/04/05 AutoRacing1.com has it on good word that Formula BMW champion Richard Philippe, younger brother of Nelson, will test an Atlantic car and a Reynard Champ Car for the Mi-Jack Conquest team next week at Putnam Park. This rumor is expected to go to 'fact' soon. Mark C.
F1 teams won't limit testing in 2006 Because of Ferrari's refusal to limit testing, it is not likely the other nine teams will in 2006. Despite a possible new test limit agreement, Formula 1's teams are not likely to allow Ferrari a testing advantage in 2006. BAR Honda's Nick Fry had this to say about Ferrari and testing in general:
"There is a draft agreement for 2006, but unlike this year, I think we'll see a restriction only if ten teams agree. We can't allow a competitor like Ferrari to maintain a competitive advantage like that."
Since Ferrari will likely not sign any new agreement on testing it is very likely for the wealthy teams in Formula 1 to be testing almost as often as Ferrari. Ferrari tested for about 80 days this season, more than twice as much as the 30 day testing limit agreed to by the other nine Formula 1 teams and if testing continues like this, cost cutting goals will certainly not be reached.
Many clouds hang over Champ Car Despite the hype, this SPEEDTV.com article by David Phillips, a regular writer for Champ Car's own website, outlines the many clouds that hang over Champ Car's future. With anticipated announcements never materializing after new President Steve Johnson made some very public comments about big news coming, fans and the media are beginning to ask questions. The article forgets to mention that Champ Car also announced a Memorandum of Understanding for a race in Beijing in April and now all has gone silent on that front.
The open wheel war is wearing on both sides of the fence, with the IRL in no better shape and taking on water fast.
German eyes Midland test job Markus Winkelhock could end up as a full time Midland test driver.
The German hopeful, to make his F1 car debut with the team at Jerez next month, is not in line for a race seat or even the 'Friday' practice cockpit, which is already occupied by Dutchman Nicky Pastorelli.
But Winkelhock (right), whose F1-driving father died in a sports car crash in 1985, says he might still land a job.
''If I am good enough,'' he told sport1.de, ''maybe I have a chance to be test driver. The team has a big test program for the coming year.''
Markus' uncle, Joachim Winkelhock, also had a brief formula one foray, failing to pre-qualify for 7 races in 1989.
Priaulx eyes Williams roleUPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false.' A rumor that Andy Priaulx was lining up Williams' 'Friday' drive for 2006 has been queried.
Although the 31-year-old world touring car champion was unavailable for comment, 'This is Guernsey' quoted Autosport writer Edd Straw - a close follower of Priaulx's career - as discounting the move.
Although the third driver role has yet to be filled, Priaulx would be a 'quite unlikely' choice, Straw reckons.
Indeed, Grove based Williams is fairly openly eyeing pay drivers like Robert Doornbos and Narain Karthikeyan for the vacancy, with the price tag likely to near the $9m mark.
Britain's Andy Priaulx, although hoping for more Williams test drives, said recently: ''Everyone knows you need money for formula one and I just don't have that.''
11/16/05 Andy Priaulx is aiming for a role as Williams' Formula One test driver. Priaulx is the reigning European World Touring Car champion and enters this weekend's last round of world championship locked in a three-way battle for the title.
"I did an F1 test this season and hopefully that increases next year. It's looking positive," he said. "If I can become the Michael Schumacher of touring cars and be a full-time F1 tester I will have done pretty well."
"The young guns can drive one lap quickly but ask them what needs to be done to go faster and they don't know," he added. "That's where with my experience I could contribute.
"Everyone knows you need money for Formula One and I just don't have that. I've had to graft results out of whatever I could drive. When I finished in Formula Three I was ready for F1 but it didn't happen. It's unlikely now but I've learned never to say never."
NASCAR eyes Denver Denver still is a potential market for NASCAR despite the closing of Pikes Peak International Raceway, according to Lenny Santiago, senior investment relations analyst for International Speedway Corporation. PPIR had held Craftsman Truck and Busch Series races in the past, but Rocky Mountain Speedway Corporation, a subsidiary of ISC, purchased the assets of PPIR last month and the track has been closed.
ISC owns 11 tracks, including superspeedways in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Talladega, Ala.
"Denver is definitely a very important market for us," Santiago said Monday. "ISC tried to do some projects there many, many years ago, but it still remains a priority in our forward growth. Right now, we have our (Nextel Cup) projects out near Seattle and Staten Island (N.Y.). Over the long term, we believe there is a potential in the Denver market for some NASCAR racing, whether it be Cup or Busch. We would definitely explore that opportunity.
"I'm just looking at something here for our TV stats for the Nextel Cup through the year, and the Denver market is up over double digits in terms of households in and ratings." Rocky Mountain News
GM woes not expected to impact ALMS program We hear that the impact of GM's recent layoffs likely won't affect Corvette Racing's ALMS program, which has won the last five GT1 team championships and three of the last four class titles at Le Mans, at least in the short-term. The Corvette program is a bright spot in the GM cache, as Corvette Racing is expected to field two new C6.Rs in the 2006 American Le Mans Series, starting at Sebring.
GM’s and Ford’s NASCAR future cloudy A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1, What will the future hold for NASCAR if GM and Ford's marketshare continues to be eroded by the Asian automakers, (Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, etc...) and consequentially their profits continue to go south? Will the big $$ continue to be spent in support of NASCAR at the same level as it is now? I imagine that some teams currently get a lot of money from Detroit, and if that flow of cash diminishes, won't it affect what happens on the track? And what happens when Toyota and Honda get into NASCAR and start spending their war chest when the domestics start to reel in their support? Will GM and Ford eventually pull out of NASCAR like Chevrolet did in the IRL? Dan Wilk
Dear Dan, If the Asian car companies are eventually able to bankrupt and then put the American car companies out of business, GM, Ford and Dodge's participation in NASCAR would cease. Even if they do survive the onslaught (just wait until the Chinese cars hit these shores at 50% the price of American vehicles) we suspect they will stay in NASCAR for as long as they perceive the benefit outweighs the cost. In a free enterprise system, nothing is guaranteed and nothing is forever. Now that we are in a global economy, there are far more variables than ever before. Only the strong and most resourceful will survive. China is producing far more engineers through its education system than the USA. Hence, they will eventually out engineer us.
In addition, The United States faces a severe shortage of skilled workers if current employment and job training trends continue. By 2020, the shortage could be more than 10 million workers, according to a Washington trade group, which has more than 14,000 companies as members.
The emerging problem in manufacturing is not a shortage of jobs, but rather a shortage of qualified applicants. People applying for manufacturing jobs today simply do not have the math, science and technological aptitude they need to work in modern manufacturing. Mark C.
Changes ahead for PPI Car owner Cal Wells still isn't revealing his plans for 2006, but he said that tentative plans to do some deal next season with Doug and Robert Yates didn't get off the planning board. There has been considerable speculation about Wells, a longtime Chevy man, and the Yateses, with Fords, doing a team together. But Wells said he'll remain with Chevrolet. "I've heard everything, and things are going on that will be exciting - but I'm not part of that," Wells said. "There was a door that opened and closed a couple of weeks ago. Doug and I are good personal friends, and I would do whatever he might want. I have immense respect for Doug. And we kicked around some ideas, that probably got talked about around the garage. But all of that was incredibly premature." So what will Wells have for 2006? "We're all racing for our jobs, Bobby Hamilton Jr. included," Wells said. "But Bobby is my driver today, and we'll see where it goes." Winston Salem Journal
Liuzzi seems Faenza bound Vitantonio Liuzzi has admitted that Squadra Toro Rosso, the renamed Minardi team, is his likely 2006 home.
But the Italian, who raced just four times for Red Bull's senior team this year, admitted that slotting in next to veteran David Coulthard is still a 'possibility'.
''Nothing is fixed at the moment,'' the 24-year-old said. ''One will be V8, one will be V10 -- we have to wait and see.''
With less experience than Red Bull regular Christian Klien, however - and therefore more fitting of Squadra Toro Rosso's rookie status - Faenza seems the likely destination.
And 'Tonio' Liuzzi, the 2001 world karting champion and F3000 title winner last year, agreed: ''They call me the Italian Stallion, and that could go well with Toro Rosso.''
He called watching Klien from the sideline, as a 'Friday' test driver, 'difficult' in '05. ''But I'm really optimistic,'' Liuzzi told his website, ''because I had to think not so much of racing this year ... but of my future.
''I am pretty happy with my season. I think we showed that we can be pretty strong.''
Racy Rossi rumor reignited MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi has vowed to take his time in deciding whether to switch from two wheels to formula one.
The colorful Italian, who finished an impressive second at the Monza Rally last weekend, said F1 was a 'big step' that he'd only take 'to win'.
Speculation that Ferrari's 2007 offer to Rossi is genuine has been reignited since his last outing in the scarlet single seater. Not only did 'Vale', 26, test recently at Mugello, he ran at Fiorano -- just one day earlier.
''I have nothing to say for the moment,'' Rossi said at Monza. ''F1 is a long road that requires proper preparation.''
In his rally Subaru, Rossi showed he is made of the right stuff by not only winning an 'exhibition' stage, but beating former world rally champion Colin McRae to second in the main race.
But in an attempt to calm the Rossi rumor, Luca di Montezemolo - Ferrari president - called a halt to media gossip by insisting that Vale 'will know what to do'.
''Maybe there's already been too much said about him regarding this issue,'' he told 'La Gazzetta dello Sport'.
Test limit faces axe F1 teams' voluntary 30-day test agreement will be scrapped if Ferrari do not come to the party.
BAR-Honda principal Nick Fry warned that the Italian team, which refused to sign the 'gentleman's agreement' adhered to by every other squad in 2005, will not be given the same advantage next year.
Ferrari tested for about 80 days this season, arguing that - as the only main Bridgestone team - it should be allowed more miles than Michelin's seven tire partners.
But with Williams and Toyota switching camps for 2006, that justification is now defunct.
''There is a draft agreement (for 2006),'' Fry revealed to f1total.com, ''but unlike this year, I think we'll see a restriction only if ten teams agree.''
Ultimately in 2005, even Ferrari's unfettered approach to in-season testing did not help the scarlet marque out of an unusual competitive hole. But Fry, 49, is not so sure the team's rivals will be so 'lucky' next time around.
''So we can't allow a competitor like Ferrari to maintain a competitive advantage like that,'' Fry said.
Brown Team probably not until 2007 Former NFL star Tim Brown still is trying to put together a Nextel Cup team for 2006, but the team probably will not be full-time until 2007. Still to be determined is how NASCAR will treat Brown’s partnership with Roush Racing in light of its four-car team cap that will be enacted next year. Speed Channel
Blaney in the No. 22 car?UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Dave Blaney will drive the #22 for Bill Davis Racing next season, replacing Scott Wimmer. Blaney says a decision has not been made on a crew chief, but he's content to have Derrick Finley remain in that position. Sporting News11/19/05 Bill Davis Racing is expected to announce soon it has signed Dave Blaney to replace Scott Wimmer for next season [in the #22 Caterpillar Dodge]. Mike Brown, general manager at Bill Davis Racing, said the team has made its selection and expects to make an announcement in about 10 days. Brown wouldn't confirm Blaney as the choice, but acknowledged Blaney would make a good fit for the High Point-based team. "It would be a welcome sight for the guys at the shop," Brown said of Blaney returning. Blaney drove for the team from 1999-2001. He also drove six Cup races for Davis in 2004 before joining Richard Childress Racing for this season. Roanoke Times
Chase Drivers may get separate point system NASCAR may consider a separate point system for the 10 drivers in the Chase for the Championship. The sanctioning body wants to reduce the penalty for a bad finish to promote more racing by the leaders. In the first two years of the Chase, the winners have combined to win only one race during the playoffs. Augusta Chronicle
NASCAR chairman Brian France said the Chase format is working and NASCAR doesn't plan any major changes in the off-season. "We will look at it when the season ends," France told Speed Channel on Sunday. "But my sense is anything we do would be a small adjustment." France didn't say what that adjustment might be, but he did clarify one point. The Chase won't change to a separate points system for the 10 drivers in the playoff, as some of the Chase contenders have suggested. Dallas Morning News
Slugger to No. 88; Baldwin to No. 38 Look for some organizational changes at Robert Yates Racing. Slugger Labbe will take over as crew chief of the #88, which is driven by Dale Jarrett, and Tommy Baldwin will lead the #38 crew and Elliott Sadler. Yates ended rumors that he will start a third team; he says he first wants to make the 88 and 38 teams stronger. But there still are plans for additional buildings on Yates' property in Mooresville, N.C. Sporting News
New team marketing strategy in the works Although we are not permitted to give you any details right now, a new Champ Car team marketing strategy is in the works that will be a huge step forward in 2006....and a long time coming. Negotiations are at a delicate stage. Mark C.
New team in works We are getting whispers of information that a possible new Champ Car team is in the works. Of course, as always funding is the issue, but if it happens they may field a team in Formula BMW, Atlantics and Champ Car, much like Team Australia does. We will reveal more when permitted. Mark C.
McIntosh eyes World Series by Renault Vancouver native Sean McIntosh has his sights set on the next step in Renault's development ladder, the World Series, for 2006. Last year he ran in the Formula Renault UK Championship and he currently represents Canada in the A1 Grand Prix series.
AutoRacing1.com subscriber to be namedUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' tonight as longtime AutoRacing1.com subscriber Mike Jablo was named Tunnelhead of the Year on Wind Tunnel. Mike handled himself very well on TV and won some great prizes including a $3900 3-day Skip Barber driving class. 11/20/05 Rumor has it that a longtime AutoRacing1.com subscriber will be named the 2005 Tunnelhead of the Year on Speed Channel tonight. Watch Wind Tunnel tonight at 9 PM ET to find out if this rumor will move from “strong” to “fact.”
Toyota to quit the IRL year earlyUPDATE #5 We are hearing that Toyota will announce their withdrawal from the IRL effective immediately by Thursday of this week. 11/19/05 The Indy Racing League will become a one-engine series one year earlier than it anticipated because Toyota is not going to answer the bell in 2006.
As predicted on SPEED NEWS three months ago, SPEEDTV has learned that Toyota will officially announce its withdrawal from Indy cars in the next few days and Honda will power the entire IRL field in '06.
"I don't have anything I can confirm for you, that's pretty much where it's at," said Jim Aust, president and CEO of Toyota Racing Development, late Saturday afternoon. "I guess you should probably keep in touch with Brian Barnhart."
Reached Saturday afternoon at Homestead, Fla., Ganassi was asked about Toyota's early withdrawal. "We'll see what happens. Call me Monday," replied Ganassi, thought to be the only IRL owner receiving money from Toyota. "All I will say that we had some good years with Toyota." More at SPEEDTV.com
11/19/05 This rumor moves even closer to 'fact' today. This Racing-Live article says (excerpts), Honda is poised to become the sole engine supplier to the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series a year earlier than anticipated. Though not desired by Honda, who covets having a competitor to beat, it is becoming increasingly apparent that Toyota will execute their announced withdrawal prior to the 2006 season instead of at the conclusion.
Sources close to the situation within the IndyCar community have stated that Toyota will leave early due to a lack of competitive teams and the high cost of attempting to catch up to Honda. Heavily contributing to this decision is Toyota's plan to enter the NASCAR Busch and Nextel Cup Series in 2007.
Overcoming entrenched competition from Chevrolet, Ford, and Dodge in NASCAR will require tremendous resources from Toyota and the Toyota Racing Development group. The shifting of those resources from the IRL program to the NASCAR program, a long running rumor, now seems inevitable.
The biggest blow to Toyota's hopes for 2006 in the IRL came a few weeks ago when Penske Racing announced they would switch to Honda engines. Penske was Toyota's brightest star, but the Toyota horsepower deficiency became too much to continually overcome resulting in the biggest name in US open wheel racing moving in to the Honda camp.
Information from those close to the deal indicates Toyota has not officially withdrawn. However, faced with no prospects for winning in 2005 unless they spend an obscene amount of money the manufacturer is instead negotiating their exit. Items subject to those negotiations include the manufacturers marketing obligations for 2006 such at their title sponsorship of the season opening Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
If Toyota does indeed leave as expected, Honda will then be faced with supplying the eighteen to twenty odd full-time cars as well as the thirty-three car field for the Indianapolis 500. Performing that task will likely be accomplished by freezing development aimed at horsepower increases, with the new focus being reliability and longevity.
There have been indications that the IRL could mandate the Honda engines last multiple race weekends in 2006, as a way to reduce rebuild costs to both teams and the manufacturer.
Teams which receive considerable Honda financial support could find themselves collecting smaller and smaller checks as the manufacturer would have a monopoly on the victory stand. Conversely, teams that pay the full retail price for engines are expecting the 2006 lease price to drop to between $1.25million and $1.4million for the fourteen races on the 2006 schedule.
Resolution of the IRL's 2006 engine situation is expected within the next 10 days.
[Editor's Note: In order to get the kind of longevity Cosworth gets for the turbo Champ Car engine, Honda will likely have to reduce the RPM on its normally aspirated IRL engine to the 8,500 RPM range making the car sound worse than it already does and, therefore, producing much less HP. The other option is to increase the displacement back up from 3.0 to 3.5 L to keep HP at the same levels at the lower RPM. Bottom line - Toyota's early exit is another major blow for the IRL and further validates the IRL 5-year business plan, that Honda touted when they signed up to, as a complete and utter failure. The benefactor is Honda's HPD, which can now become a profit center a year earlier.]
11/18/05 We are upgrading this rumor to 'strong' and it will probably go to 'fact' before long. The Indy Star reports that officials from the IRL and Honda met this week in a move to have the engine manufacturer prepared to supply the entire field next season, if necessary. Toyota is losing teams; Chevrolet has withdrawn. Two key factors here are the fact that Toyota may leave the IRL a year ahead of schedule, a headline news story in itself, and do any current Honda contracts preclude them giving 100% equal engines to the entire grid, or will some Hondas be better than others, i.e. 'factory' teams, and will all teams pay the same amount, or will some get engines for free? More ...
Ganassi may release McMurrayUPDATE #2 This rumor is of course 'fact' now based on recent news. 10/16/05 Penske South officials remain optimistic that Kurt Busch will replace Rusty Wallace in 2006, but they say it will not happen unless Jamie McMurray is released to join Roush Racing. That would open the door for a three-way deal in which Penske would get Busch, Roush would get McMurray and Chip Ganassi Racing would get a driver to replace McMurray. “Jamie has to get free first,” said Penske Race president Don Miller before Saturday night’s Nextel Cup race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. “That’s the only way it’s going to work.” Roush president Geoff Smith agreed. “For us, that’s step one,” he said of McMurray, who is signed for the 2007 season to drive Busch’s No. 97 car. “They know what our criteria are. I believe there are discussions with Chip from Penske.” Ganassi, who has insisted for months that he would not release McMurray, softened his stance this weekend, saying he would be willing to listen. “I need a solution, not a pile of money,” he told reporters. “I need a driver to replace Jamie.” Because of tampering rules, most of the talks are between Busch’s attorneys and the attorneys at Penske and Roush Racing. Smith said he has made sure Busch’s lawyers have a list of available drivers that might interest Ganassi. But Smith and team owner Jack Roush said that driver will not come from Roush Racing. “I am not in negotiations for, nor do I have any personal preference to having him driving my car in 2006,” Roush said of McMurray, who originally was signed to replace Mark Martin in the No. 6 before Busch announced his deal with Penske for 2007. “I want him in my car in 2007. If things develop so he’s available, then there will be something (done) about that. I’m not going to offer up a junior driver and two choices in the future.” The State
10/15/05 Chip Ganassi has softened his stance regarding driver Jamie McMurray, who wants out of his contract so he can drive for Roush Racing. McMurray signed a contract in July to drive for Roush beginning in 2007, hoping that the early announcement would force Ganassi to let him leave at the end of this year. Ganassi steadfastly refused to even negotiate an early release. But on Friday, Ganassi sounded a little bit more flexible about finding a solution. More ...
Homestead to add seats Given today's Cup race has been a sellout for a good number of weeks, our sources inside ISC tell us that they will add at least 6,000 seats to the current 65,000 seats in time for next year's race. Hospitality and the RV area are also sold out and of course Ford recently signed to be the sponsor for 10 years. Today's race will start at 4 PM ET and end under the lights in what is sure to be a spectacular championship celebration. Mark C.
Fernandez Racing back with 2 cars According to a radio interview with Adrian Fernandez today in Homestead, Super Aguri Fernandez Racing will be back with a 2-car effort in the IRL in 2006 with Scott Sharp and Kosuke Matsuura. Rumor has it that Honda is helping fund the effort. Mark C.
Tracy, NASCAR eye Canada Champ Car veteran Paul Tracy still hasn't given up on the idea of competing in some NASCAR events in 2006. ''I want to do a handful of races next year,'' Tracy told the Toronto Sun. ''I had a nice meetings with (NASCAR boss) Brian France and talked to him about what's going on in Canada.''
Tracy wants to be involved if NASCAR comes to Canada.
''I am absolutely convinced that NASCAR will have one of its top races in Canada in 2007,'' Tracy told the Toronto Sun. ''They are pretty tight-lipped but I took away from my meeting with Brian that their focus is on Canada.
Rossi’s June deadlineUPDATE Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has denied reports they have given Moto GP champion Valentino Rossi until June 2006 to decide if he will make the switch to F1.
"Maybe there's already been too much said about him regarding this issue," Montezemolo told the Gazzetta dello Sport. "I'm certain that a person who has been so successful on motorbikes will know what to do.
"In the meantime we're glad we've been able to give him the chance to test and enjoy himself and it's been good for him to see how much attention to detail there is in F1," Montezemolo added. "Switching to four wheels is a decision he needs to take without any pressure. Valentino knows that if he decides to come to F1 it is because he knows he can win here too."
11/17/05 Ferrari has reportedly imposed a June 2006 deadline for Valentino Rossi to decide to switch to F1.
'Motorcycle News' said the Italian, and multiple MotoGP champion - who has tested the Italian team's grand prix single seater three times - had still not committed for 2007.
''I've never said I've decided to go to F1 and I still can't say that,'' the 26-year-old told the magazine.
''The problem is that I am still a motorcycle rider in my mind.''
Legge could be in Champ Car in 2006UPDATE Katherine Legge said on a crash.net radio interview when asked about her upcoming F1 and Champ Car tests, "Both are massive, enormous. I don't really know what to do, but I'm training so hard at the moment. I don't want fitness to come into it.
"Being female, that's what you get thrown in your face all the time. Are you fit enough to do it? Are you strong enough to do it? Women will never be able to drive a race car because it's too physical, you'll never take the g-forces, etc, etc... I am just making sure that that is not an issue.
"Of course, jumping into a Formula One car is going to be a big jump, but people have done it before me and people will do it again. I just have to do a really solid professional job, do the very best I can and hope that I impress the right people.
"However, I have no delusions about doing Formula One next year - which is where the Champ Car test comes in. I have to offer massive thanks and admiration to Kevin Kalkhoven for giving me the opportunity, because I have two days at Sebring in December where, really, they will be evaluating me to see if I do Champ Car or Atlantic next year.
"If I do a good job, then I go Champ Car racing. That's a realistic possibility, whereas no one's offering me a Formula One drive at the moment!"
"Until I drive the [Champ] car, I just don't know if I'm ready," she admitted, "I have such a lack of experience...
"I'm kind of torn - part of me wants to stay in Atlantics because next year's series is going to be awesome. You've got the $2million prize fund, which is a big draw, as well as the new car, more horsepower. It's going to be very competitive. There are a lot of drivers talking about doing it, and they've sold 30-40 cars.. So, half of me wants to stay there and try and win a championship, go there with a solid amount of driving behind me and then make the jump into Champ Car in 2007 with the new car and a level playing field.
"I really don't know what's best. I could jump in the Champ Car in December and say 'yes, I'm ready, I feel comfortable, I'm on the pace, let's do it', or we could decide that 'okay, yes, I'm on the pace, but would it be better cementing my reputation by doing another year in Atlantics?'. I think my ego wants to do Champ Car - it's like 'yeah, give me a big car to drive' but, until I'm in the car and think 'yeah, I feel comfortable' or 'you know what, maybe I'm not', we'll see..."
11/13/05 Kevin Kalkhoven stated on Wind Tunnel that Katherine Legge will do a Champ Car test in December under the watchful eye of Jimmy Vasser and depending how she does, could move up to Champ Car in 2006. If not, she will stay in Atlantics one more year.
He was asked about suing the folks in Montreal, or the IRL over this year's race shenanigans, but he took the high road and said basically that he had more important things to do than file a lawsuit.
Regarding a possible Champ Car race in Philadelphia, he had no new news to report, it's still a work in progress.
France may tweak Chase NASCAR chairman Brian France is pleased with the second season of his Chase for the championship format, but suspects there will be tweaks to the system. "We are going to look at the Chase when the season clears, but my sense of it is that it isn't going to be anything more than a small adjustment," France said Saturday. France would not elaborate on plans, although he ruled out the possibility of a separate points system for the drivers racing for the Nextel Cup title.
Television Talks Ongoing: He expects negotiations on NASCAR's new TV deal to be completed before the end of the season. Although NBC executives have said they have ended contract talks because of NASCAR's asking price, France hasn't ruled the network out of remaining involved with the sport in some capacity. He also said nothing would change next season, and Fox and NBC would continue splitting the schedule.
Roush's decision: NASCAR could have attempted to keep Jack Roush from kicking Busch out of his car for the final two races, but chose not to. "But it never came to that because from the very beginning we felt that should have been a team decision, and we stand by Jack calling it," he said. CNNSI
RuSPORT lands one sponsorUPDATE This rumor is close to going to 'fact,' a rumor broke by AutoRacing1.com in September. According to the CDW quarterly newsletter, they've signed a 2-year deal to sponsor Justin Wilson. 09/23/05 AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that CDW has agreed to sponsor the Justin Wilson RuSPORT car in 2006. It is also interesting to see that the Intel sponsorship has moved from Wilson's car to Allmendinger's car this weekend. Wilson is carrying CDW this weekend.
Busch may skip NASCAR banquet Car owner Jack Roush said Friday that he wasn’t sure whether fired Roush driver Kurt Busch would represent the team at the NASCAR Annual Awards Banquet Dec. 2 in New York [he will finish 10th]. Asked about the upcoming awards banquet, Roush added, “I’m not sure. I haven’t really contemplated that. I don’t know about the banquet. I don’t know what convention requires or what (series sponsor) Nextel will require there.” Speed Channel
Will Kurt Busch Represent Roush Racing at the NASCAR Banquet in New York? A) “I haven’t got a clue. I’m not sure. I hadn’t contemplated that. They said that the manager of the race track came and told me the 97 flag was going to be taken down from the flag stand on Sunday here and Kurt will not be involved in that procedure. Jimmy Fennig and I will go up and take the flag, but I don’t know about the banquet. I’m not sure what convention requires or what Nextel will require there. I’m just not sure.” Ford Racing
BAR Honda team to be renamed BAR chief Nick Fry may have inadvertently let slip the Honda-owned Formula One team's new name for next season. ''Honda Racing F1 team'' was clearly printed on the slides in his presentation at the Global Motorsports Congress near Frankfurt today.
''Maybe, maybe,'' Fry said when asked if he had just given away the name, which has not yet been made public. ''Was that really up there (on the screen)?'' Honda, who previously owned 45 per cent of BAR, last month announced they were buying out founders British American Tobacco.
''We want to race as Honda and we want to challenge for the championship,'' Honda's operating officer Hiroshi Oshima said at the time. The name will be Honda something-or-other but we will have to talk with the sponsors before making that decision.''
Another track losing its shirt on F1 race Rumor has it that not many race promoters are making money on their F1 race. In fact they are all losing money. The only way to justify an F1 race is if the government owns the event and reaps the tax revenues that the event generates. Sepang in Malaysia is the latest track that has to be sold after suffering a financial bloodbath.
The proposed disposal of the Sepang International F1 Circuit, which is part of the restructuring exercise of Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd, is still on, Sepang International Circuit Sdn Bhd general manager Datuk Ahmad Mustafa said.
He says the issue withholding back the sale is the promoter’s agreement between the Formula 1 management and Malaysia Airports Technologies Sdn Bhd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Malaysia Airport.
“If they were to novate the promoter’s agreement, then the Formula 1 management requires the government to guarantee the performance. However, as a sovereign country, the government could not be taken to court,” he told reporters at the Proton A1 Grand Prix Pro Celebrity Race unveiling of cars in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 17.
“They, the promoters and the Formula 1 management, are working out a formula and I believe they would announce it soon,” Ahmad said. SIC is the organizer of the F1 Grand Prix in Sepang. More at The EdgeDaily
NASCAR to abolish impound rules Impound races in the Nextel Cup Series – at least the model that was used this season – are on their way out. "The impound rules are under review," said NASCAR vice president of corporate communication Jim Hunter. "It is safe to say there will be significant changes to the impound model that we rolled out this season."
The impound rules were implemented in Cup during a majority of race weekends this season.
The sudden about-face on impound weekends appears to be directly related to the ongoing negotiations between NASCAR and its TV partners, as well as several tracks, sources said.
NASCAR's current TV deal expires at the conclusion of next season and it has been in negotiations with several partners – Fox, TNT and ESPN – on a new deal. The TV networks, particularly ESPN, have indicated a desire for an increase in on-track activity that could be broadcast, sources said. ThatsRacin.com
Piquet Jr. eyes third BAR Honda seat According to Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, Nelson Piquet Jr. will test with the BAR Honda team at the Jerez de la Frontera circuit in Spain on December 15-16. Anthony Davidson says he does not want to be a test driver anymore and is hoping to land a seat as a regular driver on the Aguri Suzuki Honda 'B' team. This means the Friday driver seat is open for the 'A' team and the test will serve as an audition for that seat.
Some teams to switch back to IntrepidUPDATE #2 Don Miller, President of Penske Racing South told Claire B. Lang XM Satellite NASCAR Radio that: "We wanted to run ( an 04 Dodge) one earlier in the season and Dodge asked us to hold off until we did some further testing but now we fully intend to run it here and if it works out like we think it will, we will probably run it again next season on certain race tracks. We had trouble with the 2005 being so pitch sensitive on smooth high speed one and a half mile race tracks. Everyplace else the other car is just fine. Definitely the #12 is going to run an 04 this weekend." Miller says the 2 and the 77 will run the 2005 Dodge Charger this weekend at Homestead. Claire B. Lang XM Satellite NASCAR Radio11/18/05 Ray Evernham of Evernham Motorsports told Claire B. Lang of XM Satellite NASCAR Radio that he's going to run a 2004 Dodge as a test this weekend in an effort to find why the Dodges have been struggling: "The car shows great numbers in the wind tunnel, it qualifies great but it seems to struggle in traffic. This week going to Miami, we're going to run a 2004 Dodge as a test....Just a comparison you know we'll basically have two cars with identical chassis set ups prepared by basically the same people just different bodies so hopefully we'll be able to get some feedback on how each car handles in traffic......Car number 9 with Kasey Kahne will run the older model and Jeremy Mayfield will run the 2005 Charger." XM Satellite NASCAR Radio11/14/05 It was reported during NBC's coverage of the Checker Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway that some Dodge teams would roll out a Dodge Intrepid in place of the Dodge Charger for the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway as it is felt that car is better suited to that track.
GM headed toward bankruptcyUPDATE If Delphi Corp.'s unionized workers go on strike, not only would General Motors Corp.'s plants start slowing down in just 48 hours, but the giant automaker could see one of its biggest assets, its stockpile of cash, rapidly dwindle, industry experts say.
And if its cash is depleted, GM might be forced to declare bankruptcy, which would have grim implications for the U.S. auto industry, the Michigan economy and hundreds of thousands of workers and investors. But GM's chief reiterated Wednesday that bankruptcy is not an option.
Industry observer David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, says GM, which uses Delphi components on all its vehicles, would see plant disruptions within two days of a strike by unions representing the nation's largest auto-parts supplier.
And if a strike drags out more than three months, GM could burn through most of its $19 billion in cash, increasing the risk the automaker would go bankrupt, says Rod Lache, who studies GM for investors at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc.
GM Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner, fed up with such dire predictions, sent an e-mail to employees Wednesday vehemently denying that a bankruptcy filing is on the table.
"We're going through a rough patch of road these days, and it's attracting a lot of opinions about our company and its future. ... I'd like to just set the record straight here and now: there is absolutely no plan, strategy or intention for GM to file for bankruptcy," he wrote.
But such a scenario, however unlikely, would be a major blow. GM employs 142,000 people in the United States and spends $85 billion annually on parts and services from more than 3,000 suppliers. Nearly 80,000 workers are in Michigan. More at Detroit Free Press
11/11/05 General Motors Corp. is unraveling -- fast. Its stock price plunged to a 13-year low Thursday after the latest in a string of financial problems dismayed shareholders once again.
Wall Street experts say the unthinkable is more likely than ever before: Michigan's largest company could be bought by a corporate raider like Las Vegas billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, forced to file for bankruptcy, or both.
Getting GM out of bankruptcy could require the same drastic cost-cutting that is racking Delphi, its largest parts supplier. Lower wages, less generous benefits and fewer jobs would not only be devastating for the automaker's 142,000 U.S. employees. It would hurt everyone who makes parts for GM cars and trucks, sells furniture and homes to GM workers, or treats their children for the flu.
Almost everyone in Michigan has a stake in GM's future. But the facts are unavoidable: You can now buy every single share of GM stock for a mere $13.5 billion, or about $3.5 billion less than last spring.
Experts say a buyer like Kerkorian could sell GMAC (the division that lends money for everything from cars and homes to Manhattan skyscrapers) for $10 billion to $15 billion, take GM's $15 billion in cash and stock, put GM's automaking business into bankruptcy, and walk away with a huge profit.
There is a growing sense that GM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner, as well as the company, is running out of time. More at Detroit Free Press
German talking to PKV Racing We hear that German Champ Car Rookie Of The Year, Timo Glock, is talking to several teams about next year, one of which is supposedly PKV Racing. We hear that PKV Racing will be testing a number of drivers in Sebring next month including Glock. Darren Manning is mentioned as another driver that the team may test.
A lot of rumors are swirling around PKV right now, including whether Jimmy Vasser will retire or not, whether Cristiano da Matta will stay, and the rumors about Milka Duno are also still out there.
Because many Champ Car races are still on SPEED Channel for 2006 instead of network TV (therefore, dismal TV ratings are assured), many teams will struggle once again to land sponsorship next year and we suspect there will be a host of rumors throughout the off-season as to who will drive where. Ride-buyers from Europe, who finally realize there's nothing for them in F1, will figure in the rumors at some point in time.
With that said, we do, however, believe overall team sponsorship will be somewhat improved in Champ Car next year. Meanwhile, in NASCAR and F1 where TV exposure is huge and where, therefore, sponsorship is pretty much already locked up for 2006, the team lineups are nearly set.
Ford, GM playing with fireUPDATE #2 DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group said Thursday it will give two years of free gas to customers who buy a 2005 or 2006 vehicle before Jan. 3, following announcements of new discounts by rivals General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co.
Chrysler will also kick in two years of free scheduled maintenance and increase the warranty on mechanical parts to five years or 60,000 miles. Chrysler now offers a three-year, 36,000-mile warranty. The offer, called the ``Miles of Freedom'' plan, begins Monday.
``The combination of free gasoline, free scheduled maintenance and a full warranty puts our customers' mind at ease and allows them to fully experience the joy of driving one of our vehicles,'' said Joe Eberhardt, Chrysler's executive vice president of global sales, marketing and service.
The company said the free gas will come in the form of a $2,400 debit card that can be used for anything. Alan Helfman, manager of River Oaks Chrysler Jeep in Houston, said the free maintenance is worth $200 to $300 and the extended warranty is worth $600 to $700.
11/17/05 A reader responds, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I think you should make it quite clear that Ford Europe does make cars that people want - the Focus, Mondeo and Fiesta have all been long-term top sellers in the UK. What's more they are all decent cars (I speak as Mondeo owner and former Focus driver) which are genuinely well-built (in a way that American cars can only dream of). Seems the next generation of Fords here will be even more appealing too. I doubt they will drop out of the top 10 in sales and look set to cement Ford Europe's reputation for producing reliable, dynamic vehicles. The drawback - to get them this good has cost an absolute fortune, meaning profit margins are again slim or non-existent. Seems you can't win whichever way you do it! Neil Tipton, UK
11/16/05 While their Japanese rivals sit back and rake in the profits, GM and Ford continue to basically give away cars for near-zero profit. And you wonder why they are in trouble financially. Rather than build cars consumers actually want they sell cars at no-profit just to stay in business. The Chevy Corvette is one example that proves GM could build a car that people want and make a profit on it. Too bad the rest of their car lineup wasn't in such demand. The quality of the interiors of most American cars is downright insulting, yet that is the place people sit in to drive. And they wonder why no one is buying.
Ford Motor Co. on Wednesday rolled out a new incentive program that cuts thousands of dollars off most of its new cars and trucks. The new incentives follow cross-town rival General Motors Corp.'s (GM.N: Quote, Profile, Research) "Red Tag" sale, which allows anyone in the United States to buy vehicles at the same price employees of GM's auto parts suppliers pay. GM, which announced the deal on Monday, has led Detroit's profit-draining price war for four years.
Ford's program, called the "Keep It Simple" plan, will be available through January 3. It comes after Ford and GM suffered a 23-percent decline in U.S. October sales and lost market share to Japanese rivals.
Yates and Baldwin expected to start Cup team Doug Yates, son of Robert Yates Racing Owner Robert Yates and leader of Team Ford Racing’s NASCAR Nextel Cup engine program, and Tommy Baldwin, who served as Kasey Kahne’s crew chief the last two seasons, “are expected to partner together to own a Nextel Cup team” that could start full-time in ’07. A formal announcement is scheduled for Saturday morning at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Sources said that the new team “is not expected to field a full-time effort next season and is not expected to be a third entry” for Robert Yates Racing THATSRACIN.com
Karthikeyan to pay $5M to be test driverUPDATE #2 The folly of F1 is such that Karthikeyan will pay $5 million to be a test driver in F1 next year after being a regular driver this year. You don't go backwards in F1. Period. His sponsors are pissing away $5 million and the guy will never race in F1 again. 11/15/05 After missing out on the Midland-Jordan seat, Narain Karthikeyan may secure a 'Friday' or 'third' driver job with another grand prix team.
An associate close to the first Indian on the grid told 'Business Standard' that a 2006 deal could be announced as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday.
The news comes amid reports that Karthikeyan, 28, will remain under contract to at least seven sponsors next year, meaning that they would expect his presence in pitlane.
Narain's 'associate' said the former Jordan driver is spending the week in England during talks about the test seat. Williams, who earlier approached Karthikeyan's 2005 teammate Tiago Monteiro, is on the lookout for a paying driver to fill its 'Friday' spot.
The seat is expected to cost Karthikeyan's backers around $5m.
11/10/05 F1 team 'Midland' has denied Narain Karthikeyan's claim that the Indian is out of the running for the second race seat in 2006.
Although the 28-year-old rookie said his sponsors could not afford the $9 - $14 million price tag, a spokeswoman at the team originally known as Jordan insisted that Karthikeyan had received 'an offer for 2006-2007'.
''We have announced one driver ... and there is still a slot for a second driver available.''
With Christijan Albers all signed up, though, and Tiago Monteiro just awaiting official confirmation, it might be assessed that Midland is indulging in a damage-limiting mission to effectively dump the Indian driver.
The spokeswoman persisted: ''No, no, we are very happy with the way he has been driving.'' She did admit that the hold-up was about money.
''(But) the figure that he mentioned,'' she continued, ''... it's not that. It's less.''
Bourdais faster than Raikkonen, Alonso "I think Sebastien Bourdais is the fastest man on the planet,” the Spaniard said in an interview with the official ChampCar.ws site. “I'm not going to say he's the best driver on the planet, but I do believe he's the fastest. I think he's extremely fast in terms of pure speed.”
Bourdais has now completed three seasons in Champ Car after dominating the F3000 series with Super Nova in 2002. In his 45 Champ Car starts Bourdais has taken 16 wins, 24 podiums and 19 Poles…
“When he raced against Alonso in F3000 he did better than Alonso,” Servia continued. “He at least deserves a chance to prove that he is faster than Raikkonen and Alonso, and I think he's the fastest guy."
Could Porsche entry kill ALMS? Porsche's entry into the LMP2 class of ALMS (with Honda rumored to be close behind) could ultimately doom the series says Grand-Am President Roger Edmondson.
"If you look at ALMS and the new Porsche LMP2 car . . . I think it’s the biggest threat to their existence. And there’s a view into the difference in these two companies (Grand-Am and ALMS).
"They believe – and I’m not saying they are wrong – the Porsche LMP2 is the great white hope, the car that’s going to change the course that ALMS has been on. They’ve either been stagnant or had a little dip (in entries) the past two years.
"We believe the introduction of that new car, with the factory budget, is going to have a chilling effect. There’s two ways to look at it. There’s going to be spectators that get in their cars and go to the races because they want to see this new car. So there’ll be a positive effect in that sense. But if they wind up with 19-car fields instead of 25-car fields, because of it, that’s gonna make some people who came and watched this time not want to come and watch next time. So it all balances out. But I believe it’s a mistake . . .
"Let me suggest that Porsche doesn’t care about the LMP2 class. What happens anytime you hang your hat on the manufacturers is that somebody in a boardroom decides that racing will help them sell cars. And once they’ve accomplished that goal, they’re done with it. Whatever they leave behind, whether it’s no privateers or a series in shambles, it’s not their concern." Roger Edmondson, Grand-Am President
Ralf to be own manager Ralf Schumacher will not seek a replacement for his fired long-time manager Willi Weber.
It is reported in the German press that the 30-year-old Toyota driver will handle his own business affairs, out of a newly established HQ called 'RSC Office' (Ralf Schumacher Office) near his Austrian home.
It is also claimed that Ralf and Weber were never close. Ralf told 'Bild' newspaper that he 'doesn't need' a manager.
Weber, however, told the German tabloid that 'Schu Jr' is heavily influenced by wife Cora, who is a growing celebrity in Germany. ''I don't know anyone,'' Willi said, ''who Ralf listens to, except her.
''Hopefully it all goes well for him. I will always remain his friend.'' Bild said Cora's own manager, Alain Midzic, may be involved in Schumacher's new business affairs.
Gidley to be featured in Grand-Am promotions We hear that the Grand Am people are thinking about using Finlay Motorsports driver Memo Gidley's image on a T-shirt as part of their new merchandising program designed to 'make heroes of the drivers.'
Gentilozzi and Tracy eye Rolex 24 rides Rumor has it that Champ Car co-owner and team owner Paul Gentilozzi and Champ Car driver Paul Tracy, are both angling to get a ride in the Rolex 24 Hour race in January 2006. Tracy drove in the race this past February and Gentilozzi is rumored to be eyeing Grand-Am should the Trans-Am series go into hibernation.
Peek at MidlandF1 colors Midland gives us a peek at what their new colors and new logo will look like. From what we can tell, the team has completely dropped any hint of yellow from the former Jordan team.
California Speedway expected to announce $10 M upgradeUPDATE #2 This rumor is now fact - see Hot News page for press release from the speedway. 11/14/05 The 23.8-acre midway will incorporate 12 acres that are currently the “front door” of the track. The entertainment area, which will be open on race weekends and be sponsored by an unnamed ISC corporate partner, is also designed to “steer racing fans into the increasingly elaborate tents” set up by sponsors to promote their products. The project would also “improve traffic flow into and out of” the track’s 32,000 parking spaces, in addition to Metrolink train service to the track L.A. TIMES11/14/05 ISC today will unveil a $10M-plus plan “to create a family-friendly entertainment area” at California Speedway. The area, which will be open on race weekends and be sponsored by an ISC corporate partner, will have a Wolfgang Puck-designed restaurant, a concert area and shade structures “to help shelter fans who arrive early on race days.” The 23.8-acre midway will include 12 acres that currently serve as the front entrance to the track. L.A. TIMES
VW could be Cosworth's last chance in F1 In 2006 Cosworth will supply V10 engines to the Minardi (Now Red Bull) team and V8 engines to Williams. Williams is reported to be switching to Toyota power in 2007 and that would leave Cosworth with just the lowly ex-Minardi team. However, The latest rumor in Germany suggests that VW's Audi offshoot may enter F1 and provide engines to Red Bull Racing and Squadra Toro Rosso in 2008. If that is successful, so goes the theory, the German car manufacturer would then take over Squadra Toro Rosso and run the team with Volkswagen branding. The theory is that the Audi engines would be built for the German company by Mario Illien or former Toyota man Norbert Kreyer.
Bottom line, if Cosworth can't get VW to badge their F1 engine rather than produce it in-house, Cosworth will be out of the F1 business, perhaps for good. What's bad for F1 is that the independent engine companies like Cosworth will be pushed out of the sport and car manufacturers will have direct or indirect control of the entire F1 grid. At that point Bernie Ecclestone will be at their mercy in regards to a new Concord agreement for 2008.
There appears to be a concerted effort by the car manufacturers to cut off and kill Cosworth at every turn, and they will be successful unless Cosworth can get someone to badge their engine soon.
Ralf splits with manager According to reports from Germany, Panasonic Toyota Racing driver Ralf Schumacher has parted ways with his long term manager, the same one who manages his highly successful seven time championship winning brother Michael, Willi Weber.
According to the younger Schumacher, “We've had good times together and we've experienced success together, but it’s just not working anymore,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Weber will continue to manage his brother, Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher, and has confirmed that there is no animosity whatsoever with Ralf. No new manager for Ralf has been named.
China to surpass Germany China's assemblers are likely to make and sell 6.4 million passenger cars, vans, buses and trucks in 2006, spurring the nation to surpass Germany as the world's third-largest vehicle maker, according to government research.
Vehicle sales in Asia's second-largest economy may rise by up to 13% this year to 5.6 million units, according to a paper presented at a National Development and Reform Commission conference Sunday in Beijing.
The growth forecast follows a recovery in consumer spending in the world's most-populous nation, with the economy expanding 9.4% in the third quarter. General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG said they sold more vehicles in China in the first nine months of 2005, even as sales fell in North America and Europe. Detroit Free Press
VW, again, in F1 link German carmaker Volkswagen, with the Audi brand, could be planning to enter formula one, a newspaper in Munich has reported.
'TZ' wrote on Saturday that 'VW' may be considering a collaboration with Red Bull to first be an engine supplier in 2008 before later launching a full works outfit.
The newspaper said 'Audi' - in 2009 or 2010 - could be built out of Red Bull's newly acquired Minardi junior team, which was recently renamed 'Squadra Toro Rosso' for next year.
For the F1 foray, Audi would withdraw from DTM (German touring cars) and the Dakar Rally, freeing up the funds to partly finance the operation.
Predictably, there was no comment at Volkswagen or Audi, while Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko brushed the media speculation - now almost an annual tradition - aside. ''I can't imagine Volkswagen wanting to go into formula one,'' said the 'advisor'.
VW boss Bernd Pischetsrieder, involved in BMW's decision to return to the sport, is an unabashed fan of grands prix racing.
'TZ' also linked former BMW man and ex-F1 driver Gerhard Berger with the Audi/VW project.
Rossi will drive for Ferrari in 2007 Valentino Rossi's father Graziano has told the Italian media that his great MotoGP champion son Valentino will be in F1 in 2007. "Valentino will need to concentrate the entire 2006 season with Yamaha, but starting next November he will begin to test many kilometers in order to be ready for his first F1 season in 2007," said the senior Rossi. Rossi is expected to replace Michael Schumacher who will likely retire from the sport.
Yeley to replace LabonteUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement. See Hot News page. 11/10/05 J.J. Yeley, who drives in the NASCAR Busch Series for Joe Gibbs Racing, will replace Bobby Labonte in JGR's No. 18 Nextel Cup Series ride next season, ThatsRacin.com has learned. Labonte announced earlier this week he would be leaving JGR at the end of this season. Yeley, 29, will become the second JGR Busch driver in as many weeks to get promoted to Cup. Last weekend, Denny Hamlin was named the driver of JGR's No. 11 Cup ride for 2005. An official announcement of Yeley's promotion is expected Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway, sources said. A team spokesman declined comment late Wednesday. ThatsRacin
Champ Car eyes Otaru, JapanUPDATE #11 AutoRacing1.com can reveal one of the two choices for the location of the Otaru, Japan track. This one is on the waterfront, and much like Monte Carlo, the mountains rise up from the sea to make a spectacular backdrop.
(L) View from helicopter out at sea. (R) Aerial view of possible track location
11/11/05 The Japanese contingent from Otaru, Japan stayed on the day after the Surfers race and were quite impressed how quickly the race track was dismantled, particularly the walls and fencing, so that the roads could be open to traffic on Monday. AutoRacing1.com has learned that instead of the six people that came to Surfers this year, next year they will bring 20 to 30 people who will be involved in their event the following year (2007). In addition, look for a Champ Car demonstration run in the streets of Otaru next September or October when the PR campaign will begin in earnest for their race. They expect to get FIA approval for their circuit in the first quarter of 2006. Two alternatives are still being evaluated, but the waterfront location appears most likely right now. Mark C.10/25/05 The Otaru Grand Prix now has an official website. Our story that this race is 80% certain to happen as told to AutoRacing1.com by the Chairman of the event, Yukihiro Arasawa begins to look more believable. This related website has photos of the various visits by Champ Car officials and shows some photos along the proposed track(s).
10/24/05 AutoRacing1.com has learned that two dates are being discussed by the promoters for the inaugural Otaru Grand Prix in Japan - Sunday, September 23, 2007 and Sunday, September 30, 2007. Don't book those hotel rooms just yet though because a lot depends on scheduling with South Korea, China, and Australia. Would Champ Car do a whirlwind 4-race Pacific Rim tour on consecutive weekends? Doubtful, but that would be the most economical from a transportation standpoint.
10/23/05 As promised you can find a full report on the status of the Otaru Grand Prix on our Home page.
10/22/05 Six delegates from Otaru, Japan are here in Surfers Paradise surveying the action, and we hear they are quite impressed. We spotted them meeting with Champ Car President Steve Johnson and Marketing Director Will Wilson. We will have more on this story Sunday.
The delegates from Otaru already have their Otaru Grand Prix garments made (right) Standing in the back in the left photo is Chairman Yukihiro Arasawa Photos by Mark Cipolloni
10/15/05 Kevin Kalkhoven and his entourage were in Otaru, Japan last week as reported here elsewhere. We hear that good progress is being made with this event and the goal is still a 2007 race.
08/27/05 AutoRacing1.com has learned that a track designer from the USA will be visiting Otaru, Japan next week to review 3 or 4 possible track layouts, measure them, and recommend which one is most likely to get FIA certification. The track designer will do the preliminary design of the chosen circuit. The Otaru project team will meet with local businesses to solicit their feedback and to present the preliminary plans for the event. The Japanese police will be in attendance as an observer. The police department ultimately must approve the race.
08/12/05 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. The Otaru race press conference held in Tokyo made headlines in the Japan newspapers as can be seen from the image to the right. Pictured meeting Japanese dignitaries is Jim Michaelian, boss of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Jim made the trip to lend his expertise to the planning of the race. Kevin Kalkhoven said to AutoRacing1.com Friday, "If there ever was a challenger to Monte Carlo, Otaru is it. It is absolutely beautiful and much like Monte Carlo with the mountains right there and the track overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Things are moving ahead nicely for this race. The Japanese are doing their usual thorough job of planning the event." The headline above reads, Otaru Street Race in 2007, First time in Japan, will bring Champ Car from America." Mark C. More ...
New Crew Chief for KahneUPDATE Crew chief Tommy Baldwin was noncommittal yesterday about his future plans, despite increasing speculation he wouldn't be back with car owner Ray Evernham as head of Kasey Kahne's team. Evernham released crew chief Richard 'Slugger' Labbe three weeks ago. Winston Salem Journal11/11/05 Kasey Kahne could have a new crew chief next season, with Chris Andrews taking over for Tommy Baldwin, according to team sources. Where Baldwin might wind up is unclear. At the moment Andrews said he expects to be working with Scott Riggs, the newest addition to Ray Evernham's lineup. Winston Salem Journal
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