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Champ Car might make TV switch Everyone is assuming that Champ Car would announce CNBC as their cable TV partner in the USA for 2005. However, a little research by AutoRacing1.com reveals that Champ Car may be changing their mind again. Back in June a Champ Car official asked AutoRacing1 what the Champ Car TV package should look like for 2005. The reply was CBS, SPEED Channel and Eurosport in Europe. The deal could have and should have been negotiated and signed back then. Instead it is now December 19th and the complete TV deal still isn't in place. The CBS piece is there (bravo), the Eurosport piece is there (bravo) and eventually we hope the SPEED Channel piece will be there in January. Unfortunately for teams shopping for sponsorship, having a TV deal completed and announced in June when it should be done would have been a lot better than January 2005. As a result many teams in Champ Car are uncertain of their future because they have not secured all their sponsorship and it may mean OWRS will have to once again reach into their bank accounts to complete an 18-car 2005 grid (ouch). As we have said for the umpteenth time, the following year's schedule and TV deal must be completed in June or July each year (even if there are some TBA's) so that sponsors, who do their advertising budgets for their next fiscal year, can include a line item for a Champ Car program in their August budgeting process rather than it coming out of a discretionary funding pool.
Cleveland GP to land title sponsor "We have four title proposals, all recognizable brand names, two in Cleveland and two nationally," race Cleveland GP General Manager Rena Shanaman said. "We hope, by the end of January, to have something to announce. Obviously, we are very pleased to be back on CBS." Race promoters have also kicked off a ticket renewal plan for the June 24-26 event.
There will be one- two- and three-day ticket packages available. The three-day package includes membership into the new Champions Club. The club, located behind the grandstands, will include concessions, as well as closed circuit TV and visits from competitors throughout the weekend. Club membership, along with a limited number of VIP parking spaces, will be available to those who renew tickets by Jan. 31, 2005.
"This is something we wanted to try to give our most loyal fans a little something extra," Shanaman said Those interested in renewing tickets should call 216-619-7223, or visit www.grandprixofcleveland.com.
Rumors in the ALMS paddockUPDATE See Hot News page for Mid-America Corvette announcement. We are bumping this rumor up to 'strong' as we await more announcements. 12/16/04 We are hearing that the ALMS has re-upped their tire deals with both Pirelli and Michelin for significant increases ... also hearing that a couple of new Corvette teams may be joining the series (GTS class) that could be a real force in 2005. Mark C.
Could Road America return?UPDATE #2 Doing a bit more research on an early May race at Road America - actually the weather isn't so bad--checking with the meteorologists at WBAY-TV 2 in Green Bay. For the dates of May 13-14-15, the precipitation was: 2004 - 1.6" rain 2003 - 0.16" rain 2002 - 0.03" rain 2001 - No record 2000 - trace 1999 - .02" rain 1998 - .07" rain 1997 - .18" rain The last snow was 1990, when there was 5.5 inches, but you can see that was an anomaly. It happened, but it was an anomaly.
Temperatures for the same years: Average high is 64 - 65 degrees, at 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Average low is 43 - 44 degrees, at 6 a.m. to 7 a.m.
This weekend, in fact, may be drier than the August dates Champ Cars have traditionally been at Road America. Bottom Line?
1. First and foremost, it is a date for Champ Cars at Road America--and that may be the most important consideration.
2. Champ Cars and Road America are good for each other. Road America brings out the best in Champ Car racing--speed, passing, intensity, braking, engineering. Champ Cars bring out the best in the track. Together it's a dynamite combination.
3. Things are changing in the front office of Road America. They are supportive of what the new CCWS management is trying to do and feel it is important to work with them.
4. The May date is a good spot in the CCWS '05 schedule because of the big gap between Long Beach and Monterrey, Mexico. If it's a good fit for Champ Cars, and it will work with Road America, then they should try to work it out -- because of #2, above. Yes, the weather will be risky, and it will be cold, but it could be done. Get those tire warmers ready. 12/18/04 This Sheboygan-Press newspaper article says, For the second time in three seasons, efforts are being made to revive the annual Champ Car race at Road America. Track officials confirmed Wednesday that talks are ongoing with Champ Car, the Indianapolis-based open-wheel series, to bring a race back to Elkhart Lake for a 23rd straight season. Road America was off Champ Car’s schedule when it was released last month. But talks between the track and Champ Car continued.
“The door never closed for 2005,” said RA president George Bruggenthies. “When Champ Car made the announcement, they indicated it was a work in progress. There were still negotiations in progress with Road America. But there’s not a lot of time left.”
RA and Champ Car president Dick Eidswick met Dec. 9 and talked again Wednesday about plans for 2005. Bruggenthies said a decision on the race’s future should be made in the next three weeks. The race would be scheduled for late April or early May, according to Cheryl Barnes, the track’s director of communications.
“We already have several dates booked throughout the summer, and they seem to like a May date,” Barnes said. “They have some space.”
The primary factor in the decision is revenue. In a press conference during August’s race weekend, Bruggenthies said RA has lost about $500,000 each of the last four years while hosting the Champ Car stop.
The track is working to secure sponsorship for the 2005 race. “We’re still talking (with sponsors),” said Barnes. “The issue the past three or four years is we’ve lost money.” Champ Car weekend has traditionally been one of the most anticipated events around the county. But attendance has fallen off during recent years in part because of the race’s uncertain future.
In 2003, the race was removed from the schedule because of lawsuits between CART (the former owner of the open-wheel series) and Road America. It took racing legend Mario Andretti’s intervention to get the two sides to agree on a two-year contract and restore the race.
This year’s race, held Aug. 8, drew only 30,000, a drop of about 30 percent from the previous year. In the early years, race day traditionally drew more than 75,000 spectators, many of them visitors from outside the area. “Road America is a huge part of our tourism package,” said Denny Moyer, Convention and Visitors Bureau manager for the Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce. “They fill the hotels regularly (around the county). That weekend is pretty much off the books.”
When asked if there will be a race in 2005, Bruggenthies wouldn’t venture a guess. “I just don’t know,” he said. “I couldn’t say. It’s 50/50 right now. A lot depends on how things come together. We’ve reached agreement on a business plan, now we have to get our partners together and make it happen. Securing sponsors is the critical key.”
10/29/04 To no one's surprise, Road America was left off the preliminary 2005 Champ Car schedule. However, the door is most definitely open. "We're in continuing discussions with Road America, Laguna Seca and Vancouver," stated Champ Car's Joe Chrnelich at Thursday's press conference announcing the 2005 schedule. "One thing we have to do is to make sure when we have an agreement that works for both sides, for both parties involved. It makes no sense for us to have a good agreement economically for ourselves or for other reasons and the promoter not have a good deal. It's got to be a balanced agreement." AutoRacing1.com contacted a Road America spokesperson late Thursday who informed us, "yes, we are most definitely still talking." Many within the Champ Car community lament the loss of Road America. It is one track where the Champ Cars can really stretch their legs because of the long straights and variety of turns. It is every driver's favorite track. Losing Road America, one of the oldest races on the schedule, is like ripping the guts out of the Champ Car series, which has lost all of its natural terrain road courses except two (Mexico City and Portland).
While the chances of Road America being reinstated are slim, apparently some of the talks are centered around what can be done to make the event more popular at the box office. Of course part of that is Champ Car's duty. This year the series has become largely invisible both on TV and any serious marketing campaign. That must change in 2005. As for the track, one option is to make the weekend a mini-24 Hours of LeMans event by bringing in a large carnival company a la LeMans and make the event a must place to be for Wisconsin residents who can come to beautiful Road America to take in racing and the carnival could be there for the whole family. Whereas street circuits have a great nightlife, remote circuits like Road America go black at night and there really isn't much to do except to camp out and enjoy the traditions and old acquaintances. With a carnival lighting up the night sky, Road America becomes the place to be for race fans as well as non-race fans for miles around. If advertised properly, it can be one of the biggest happenings in Wisconsin each year. The question is whether Road America President George Bruggenthies and his staff are ready to step up and make the commitment, or take the easy way out and forego returning the Champ Car weekend to the once big event it was. Mark C.
India plans F1 street raceUPDATE There is talk of a street race in Hyderabad in India but the project depends on the local government deciding to fund the program. The government of the state of Andhra Pradesh has already said it will not fund the costs of building a permanent state-of-the-art racing facility but might be convinced to fund a street race which would cost less money and would, in theory at least, generate just as much money and coverage for the city. The downside of the idea is that the ongoing costs of a temporary facility would be considerably more than would be the case if a permanent facility was built. A street track would also not help to generate any local racing industry which really needs a permanent facility. The idea is being pushed by the Federation of Motor Sports Club of India (FMSCI) which enjoyed some success this year with a street race in Kolkata (Calcutta) in February after 15 years during which such activities had almost completely disappeared in India. The Kolkata event was made possible with sponsorship from the local JK Tire company which has been funding a national racing championship for some years. The 1.7-mile circuit was laid out on the streets of the Rajarhat district and featured a race with classes for the local Formula Maruti, Formula LGB and saloon cars. At the time the FMSCI chairman Vicky Chandok said that he hoped that this event would lead to a Formula 3 race in the future. JK Tires has long supported the search for young Indian talents and is involved in karting in India. The company helped to nurture the young Narain Karthikeyan and there are plans for bigger and better events in Kolkata although the dream of an Indian Grand Prix still seems to centre on Hyderabad. The problem is not the cost of preparing a street circuit but rather finding the kind of money that is needed to get Formula One Management to stage a race. Grandprix.com11/30/04 (GMM) India still wants to host a Formula One race. Funding for a purpose-built track in Hyderabad were canned by a new government, but the Motor Sports Club of India is now working on a plan for a Monaco-like street event in Andhra Pradesh. That option would be cheaper and easier for a government to justify, an advisor to the MSCI told an Indian newspaper. ''When the F1 circus lands somewhere they require about 2500 (hotel) rooms alone,'' said Sanjay Sharmi, ''and if we consider the other economic benefits ... we can imagine the gain to India.''
Red Bull eyes CoulthardUPDATE #6 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. See Hot News item. 12/16/04 Red Bull Racing are expected to announce David Coulthard as their lead driver Friday. A report in The Independent (UK) newspaper said grand prix racing's newest team owner would let the news slip by issuing a press release some time on Friday. But the Milton-Keynes based outfit denied that an announcement - with Tonio Liuzzi and Christian Klien also in the frame - was necessarily imminent. ''We haven't decided on a (driver announcement) date,'' a press officer told us by telephone. 12/11/04 According to the Sun newspaper, "Scot David Coulthard has agreed terms to drive next season for Milton Keynes-based Red Bull Racing." The Daily Telegraph, though, reports that the two parties have yet to agree to a deal, although they are close. "Negotiations between Red Bull Racing and Coulthard are at an advanced stage with an official announcement expected next week," the newspaper said. Red Bull's owner Mateschitz says "There are two philosophies. Both have reasons to support them, both have reasons against," Mateschitz told Austrian newspaper Kleinen Zeitung. One philosophy is that we make a rookie team and we put in two youngsters. In terms of marketing that would be the best. We could have Christian Klien and Vitantonio Liuzzi - whoever. But then there is the other philosophy, which all teams pursue: a rookie with an experienced driver. For the moment it is easy to think about an experienced driver. It is probably also more intelligent because he can immediately develop the car for the 2006 season." 12/06/04 AutoRacing1.com sources tell us Coulthard has been offered a one year contract from Red Bull with an option for the second year, but he is holding out for two years. The offer is said to be high. 12/05/04 Autosport is reporting that Coulthard will have a seat fitting with Red Bull and will probably begin testing with them on Wednesday. 12/04/04 This rumor is close to going to 'fact' today. Britain's David Coulthard says "I'm going to be on the grid in Formula One and we just need to put everything in order before making the announcement," the 33-year-old Scot told Eurosport television when asked where he would be next year. The BBC had earlier quoted the Scot as saying at a charity 'Race of Champions' at the Stade de France in Paris that "I can't say today that I will drive for Red Bull Racing, but maybe in a few days I can say that. "Their position is that they are the team that's most likely because of the availability they have and the position they are in," added Coulthard. 12/02/04 Red Bull Racing owner Dietrich Mateschitz admitted that David Coulthard has a strong chance of driving for the Formula One new boys next year. It is now believed Red Bull will choose one young gun (Klien or Liuzzi) and one veteran. "I personally believe that he's one of the brightest characters in F1," Mateschitz told Autosport magazine on a visit to testing in Barcelona last week. "What our team needs now is experience, because it's difficult for us to have two rookies only. If we look at the drivers who are totally available, DC is on the very, very top because there are only two drivers who have proved to be both fast and experienced. Those are Nick Heidfeld and David Coulthard. I'm sure the team will talk to him and I believe that he's not only a good-looking driver but also a great racer."
Danica Patrick to be featured in new IRL Ad campaignUPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. As predicted on these pages months ago, The biggest opportunity in Danica Patrick's blossoming racing career also presents a golden opportunity for the Indy Racing League to broaden its fan base. Patrick, 22, who in 2005 will join Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice and Vitor Meira in a three-car program at Rahal Letterman Racing, is a marketer's dream. Her fashion-model appearance and brassy attitude, bolstered by the driving ability she has shown at racing's developmental levels, will put her front and center at every stop on the IRL schedule. Ken Ungar, the IRL's senior vice president for business affairs, conceded Patrick's arrival is as good news for the series as it is for her. "We plan to work very closely with the team and with Danica. We believe she can have a long and very popular career in IndyCar racing," Ungar said. "She'll be a great part of our marketing effort to the demographic she represents." That would be females of any age and males ages 18-35, neither of which is a particularly strong market for the IRL. Indy Star12/03/04 Based on our other rumors going to 'fact' that Danica Patrick will be a full-time driver in the IRL next year, does anyone doubt this rumor will soon be upgraded to 'fact' as well? 09/13/04 Rumor has it from our IRL informants that the series is secretly working on a new advertising campaign to include Danica Patrick. Although there has been no announcement by Rahal Letterman Racing or the IRL that Patrick will be driving Indy Cars in 2005, everyone with any common sense knows that is just a formality. The informants tell us Patrick will essentially become the new IRL poster girl, to replace former poster girl Sarah Fisher, whose career has essentially crashed and burned.
Kiesa may eye Champ Cars (GMM) Nicolas Kiesa is unlikely to return to Formula One next year with Minardi. The Dane, who had a fleeting grand prix flirt in 2003 following Justin Wilson's move from Minardi to Jaguar, was thought to have found enough sponsorship to renew the affection of owner Paul Stoddart. But a source at the Italian team now says the Minardi principal will almost certainly make a selection for 2005 'from among the list of drivers present at (the recent) Misano (test).' Kiesa did not test a black car in Italy. The Faenza-based source also advised media publications to ignore the tips of enthusiastic driver-management representatives. ''Anything that may be said,'' he added, ''falls into the realm of speculation.' Now will he take what sponsor money he does have and turn to Champ Car?
Hakkinen to rejoin McLarenUPDATE #2 (GMM) Mercedes-Benz has added its own denial to speculation that former double world champion Mika Hakkinen could return to F1 next year as McLaren 'third' driver. Some media commentators noted that McLaren's earlier denial had been 'deliberately vague.' The 'vague' statement said: ''No party ... (is) involved in any talks with regard to our F1 program.'' But now Mercedes, in an exclusive statement to this publication, repeated that 36-year-old Finnish-born Hakkinen's 'sole objective' in 2005 will be the DTM touring car championship. The spokesman also said: ''(Mika) will have no involvement in the (McLaren) Formula One program.'' 12/14/04 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. (GMM) F1 squad McLaren has denied their former double world champion will return in a testing capacity in 2005. Earlier, it was reported that the once-retired Mika Hakkinen - signed to race a Mercedes-powered touring car next season - may drive the silver F1 racer as 'third' pilot from January. But a McLaren statement insisted that 36-year-old Mika's 'sole objective' for 2005 is to race in the tin-top DTM category. It continued: ''No party from McLaren, Mercedes-Benz or Mika Hakkinen's management are involved in any talks with regard to our F1 program.'' Website grandprix.com, though - who broke the story - remain adamant that reliable (and multiple) sources did not get the rumor wrong, and noted that the statement's wording may be deliberately vague. ''There is or was a story ... somewhere,'' the publication maintained. 12/10/04 The latest whisper in F1 circles is that Mika Hakkinen may be named as the third driver of McLaren and will help the team to develop the MP4-20 in 2005 and will stand in for Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya if either has any reason to miss a race. The move would not be a surprise given that Hakkinen has signed to race for Mercedes-Benz in the DTM in 2005 and his experience in F1, which includes two World Championship titles, would be very useful to the team and perhaps to Hakkinen as well, who says that he would like to be back in F1. We await confirmation of the deal but expect to see Hakkinen join the team in January when testing resumes. Grandprix.com
Sauber to build own engine? (GMM) Peter Sauber has told customer engine supplier Ferrari that he's thinking about an alternate arrangement for 2006 and beyond, we can reveal. The current two-year contract, although the arrangement commenced almost a decade ago, will end in December next year. It was originally reported that Ferrari intended to conclude the deal so that it could work exclusively with new Russian-Canadian '06 entrant Midland F1. Sauber told us in an exclusive interview that the use of 'cheaper components' with the 2006 introduction of a 2.4 liter V8 formula may open 'different opportunities' for the Swiss-based team. Might that be a suggestion that Sauber, previously on a seemingly futile hunt for a carmaker partner, could build its own V8 engine? Sauber added: ''I will begin to evaluate all potential options, which naturally include Ferrari, at the beginning of the next season.''
ALMS signs Electronics deal We have it on good word that the ALMS has signed a deal with MB Quart to become the Official Audio-Electronics provider of the circuit. A formal announcement will be made at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Jan.5-8. Mark C.
Paul Page no longer IRL announcer According to this Indy Star article, As it stands today, the IRL's television broadcast team will be Todd Harris (last year's pit road reporter), Scott Goodyear and Gil de Ferran. Paul Page is definitely out of the equation. The hiring of a host for the Indianapolis 500 is being discussed, too. A name in the mix is Brent Musburger. None of this is official, however, until ABC/ESPN sign contracts and make confirmation.
Foyt IV could be NASCAR bound According to this Indy Star article, AJ Foyt said he plans to run A.J. IV in the IRL again next year. But he emphasized that he doesn't have the funding in place, and he's not going to get excited until he does. Tex also said some NASCAR team owners are interested in running his grandson, but he didn't elaborate.
IRL 10 mph slower and seemingly safer Believe it or not, there is a point in racing where cars can get too fast. Just ask the IRL, which this season took the bold step of slowing its cars down in the name of safety. It reduced engine size from 3.5 to 3 liters starting with the Indianapolis 500, along with aerodynamic changes.
Speeds fell nearly 10 mph (to about 220 mph at Indianapolis) than the previous year. The object was making races safer, particularly after Kenny Brack was seriously injured in a horrific wreck at Texas in the 2003 season finale.
"Looking back, it was an excellent move," says Brian Barnhart, the circuit's president and chief of operations. "We got tremendous cooperation from manufacturers, and our reliability actually increased (in terms of laps run)."
The IRL's accident rate on the eight tracks it shares with NASCAR was nearly identical. NASCAR, which runs about 1,600 more miles and fields nearly twice as many cars (43) a race as the IRL (22), averaged 1.5 accidents per 100 miles. The IRL averaged 1.1.
At 0.75-mile Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, both circuits averaged 2.7 wrecks per 100 miles. Only at Chicagoland (1.7) did the open-wheel series average more wrecks than NASCAR (1.0).
"I think there are some similarities between us and NASCAR at those shared tracks," Barnhart says. "Environments that breed accidents (contributed) to the reduction in speeds, which helped reduce accidents." Like NASCAR, rookies had the most accidents: Mark Taylor and Ed Carpenter each had six. Series champion Tony Kanaan had no incidents. USA TODAY
Sprint/Nextel merger talks and NASCARUPDATE #3 A Sprint and Nextel merger announced Wednesday morning won't change the name of NASCAR's Nextel Cup in 2005, but Gary D. Forsee, the president and CEO of the new company said Sprint Nextel would "work with the appropriate branding for that in the future." Sprint and Nextel, the No. 3 and No. 5 U.S. wireless telephone companies, made the announcement to merge their Overland Park, Kan.- and Reston, Va.-based businesses at a New York news conference led by Forsee, Sprint's chairman and CEO and Timothy M. Donahue, Nextel's chairman and CEO, who will become chairman of Sprint Nextel. The two companies, along with their affiliates and partners, operate networks that directly cover nearly 262 million people, more of the U.S. population than any other carrier.
When asked about the new company's involvement with NASCAR, Forsee and Donahue deferred to Tom Kelly, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Nextel, who will become Sprint Nextel's chief strategy officer. Kelly said he had spoken with NASCAR, and the sanctioning body was very excited "not only for a great sponsorship relationship, but also continuing to build this sport." An excerpt of the transcript from the news conference with complete answers from Forsee, Donahue and Kelly follows: Michael Bowen, Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co.: "Assuming that this closes in the second half of 2005, then how quickly will you move to integrate the Nextel Cup with the Sprint initiatives as well. Will we see immediate driver phones as well for Sprint customers on both networks and things like that?"
Gary D. Forsee, president and CEO of Sprint Nextel: "(That's) something that I'm particularly excited about, and as we've talked about the great relationships that we have within the two companies, certainly one that stands out is the NASCAR relationship. And I look forward to getting to know that team and some of that's going to be an important part of that. So certainly you can expect in 2005 — because we're in flight already with the planning for that — that it would be the Nextel Cup in 2005. And we'll certainly work with the appropriate branding for that in the future. Tim, I don't know if you want to comment further on that, but that's an exciting opportunity for us as a new company."
Timothy M. Donahue, chairman of Sprint Nextel: "Yeah, well, Tom Kelly was the architect — God bless him — of the Nextel NASCAR relationship, and he's probably more qualified than any of us to answer that question."
Tom Kelly, chief strategy officer of Sprint Nextel: "The only thing to really say about this is the NASCAR relationship has been a very exciting relationship for Nextel, probably the most or the best investment we have made in marketing since we have been in the business. It also expands the opportunity beyond the small to medium business category to all of the consumer category. For many of you who have talked to us before, you know that there are 75 million NASCAR fans out there, 40 million of which are avid. That is a mix of business and consumer. When you add the two of these together with the branding that we've done and the opportunities for the combined companies together, this opportunity is going to be probably one of the best marketing tools that we will have to continue to penetrate the marketplace we want with higher ARPU (average revenue per unit), more loyal and, frankly, more application-rich and open customers in the future. So I think it's going to be a fantastic time.
"I have spoken with the NASCAR family, the Frances (and) all the folks associated with this. They're very excited about it. They see it as a great opportunity, not only for a great sponsorship relationship, but also continuing to build this sport. And I think they are just as excited, in fact, I know they are as we are about this opportunity." transcript from FoxSports.com
12/15/04 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Sprint and Nextel Communications agreed Wednesday to a merger that will create the third largest U.S. wireless company. The stock-cash deal has an estimated value of more than $35 billion, depending on the value of Sprint stock when the deal closes in the second half 2005. Nextel shareholders will receive 1.3 Sprint shares and about 50 cents in cash for each Nextel share. Significant layoffs are expected. Upon completion the merged entity will have more than 35 million wireless subscribers, while Verizon Wireless has 42.1 million customers and Cingular Wireless, the market leader, has 47 million subscribers. The companies, which have yet to announce a formal name for the combination, will spinoff local phone operations, largely seen as cash businesses with little prospect for growth. Each company's boards will hold six seats on the new entity's board, and Sprint chief executive Gary Forsee will take the same job with the merged company. Nextel chief executive Timothy Donahue become chairman of the new company. Executive offices will be in Reston, Va., while operational headquarters will be in Overland Park, Kan., a suburb of Kansas City. The new company will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Big News Network12/12/04 Members of Sprint Corp.'s board of directors are scheduled to gather here beginning Sunday amid reports that the Overland Park, Kan.-based telecommunications company is near a merger with Nextel Communications. The possible merger between the companies — the country's third- and fifth-largest wireless carriers, respectively — raced through financial markets Friday. While neither company would confirm that a deal is in the works, industry observers, consumer advocates and investors took the speculation seriously. How such a merger would affect Nextel's sponsorship of NASCAR's Nextel Cup Series remained unclear late Saturday. "We don't comment on possible mergers or other speculation," said Nextel spokesman Mike Mooney, who works with motorsports media that cover NASCAR. In 2003, Nextel signed a 10-year deal to sponsor NASCAR's top series for reported $700 million. According to a report in the Washington Business Journal, in its first year as the Cup series sponsor, Nextel has already sold 40,000 NASCAR-branded phones, and other Nextel phone sales attributable to the sponsorship were listed in the "hundreds of thousands." Kansas City Star12/10/04 US mobile telephone groups Sprint and Nextel are engaged in merger talks which could create the third-biggest US mobile operator worth some 30 billion dollars, according to reports. The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal reported that a tie-up between Sprint and Nextel could create a new group with some 38.5 million customers. We wonder what effect this might have on NASCAR, perhaps a very positive effect.
More on ESPN/ABC and NASCAR There's a real feeling that ESPN and ABC will go after the NASCAR TV contract that NBC and TNT have now, which ends in 2006. Fox's half of the contract has an option through 2008. ESPN especially was bitter when it lost NASCAR rights, but there are multiple signs that ESPN wants to be a player again in auto-racing broadcasting, NASCAR in particular. One sign? ESPN just signed a deal to host and sponsor the top unofficial NASCAR Web site, jayski.com. in part from a story at Orlando Sentinel on the PRI show
Repsol eyes Red Bull team Spanish oil giant Repsol is close to agreeing a deal with Red Bull Racing to be its 2005 fuel and oil supplier. The company is increasing its motorsport involvement and will sponsor a GP2 team next year. Autosport Magazine
Danica Patrick to campaign Rahal FerrariUPDATE #2 This rumor is downgraded to 'false.' Team Rahal has abandoned its plans to run a solo Prodrive Ferrari in the American Le Mans Series. 12/03/04 With Rahal Letterman about to announce Danica Patrick as a full-time IRL driver, this ALMS deal, if it materializes, would be part-time at best because of conflicts between the IRL and ALMS schedules. 11/22/04 According to Autosport Magazine, Rahal Letterman Racing is working on a deal to run a Prodrive Ferrari 550 Maranello in next season’s American Le Mans Series. Team owner Bobby Rahal has been looking to expand into sportscars for the past couple of years. He revealed earlier this year that he wanted to become part of the Aston Martin DBR9 project. That car will not become available until 2006, so he is looking at the 550 Maranello as a stop-gap. Frédéric Dor, who finances and controls the 550 Maranello project, explained that a deal with Rahal could be confirmed by the end of the month. Rahal would run a solo car in the ALMS and at the Le Mans 24 Hours. His protégé, Danica Patrick, would be one of the drivers.
Chase to the Cup to be renamedUPDATE This rumor is bumped up to 'strong.' While NASCAR Chair & CEO Brian France today said the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series will keep its name for the ’05 season after news of Sprint’s acquisition of Nextel, Sprint Chair & CEO Gary Forsee, who becomes Sprint Nextel President & CEO, said that the company would “consider ‘new branding’ for the Nextel Cup” in ’06 BLOOMBERG NEWS. Sources told the AP that the ten-race “Chase for the Nextel Cup Championship” could be changed to the “Sprint for the Nextel Cup Championship” AP. 12/15/04 With Sprint merging with Nextel, a rumor has started that NASCAR will rename the 'Chase for the 'Nextel Cup' to the 'Sprint to the Nextel Cup.'
McLaren to run de la Rosa on Fridays McLaren looks almost certain to capitalize on its disappointing fifth-placed finish in this year's constructors' world championship by taking up the option it has to run a third car during the Friday of grand prix weekends during 2005. "At races where we consider it will be to the team's advantage to run a third car we will do so,” said a McLaren spokeswoman. The identity of a third driver has not been confirmed but with test driver Alexander Wurz too tall to fit into the current version of the MP4-20, it is likely the team will pick Pedro de la Rosa. Autosport
Champ Car eyes alternate to Long Beach Kevin Kalkhoven reveals in an exclusive interview with AutoRacing1.com that should Champ Car lose Long Beach to the IRL after 2005, they are prepared to race on the same day elsewhere in the LA area or in Las Vegas. That and a lot more here.....
Champ Car inks Drifting deal According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Champ Car has inked a deal with Formula D that will see drifting events take place at six of Champ Car's street venues in 2005. We hear one of the six may be in Canada. We also hear that Cosworth may take a more active role in drifting in the coming months. We await the official announcement from Champ Car and Formula D. Mark C.
MG Rover eyes DTM series According to this Grandprix.com article, the word on the street in Germany is that the British car company MG Rover is on the verge of announcing a project to take on Mercedes-Benz and Audi in the DTM. Opel will be present in 2005 but will then depart the series. MG Rover has been keen on competition since it was acquired from BMW by Phoenix Venture Holdings and ran teams at Le Mans and in the BTCC before money problems forced the programs to be stopped. It seems that the plan to merge the company with China's Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation has opened up the possibility of competition again and the company will go into action in Germany, probably with the Rover brand. The move follows the announcement a few days ago that Brilliance China Automotive is to become the first Chinese automobile maker to compete in an FIA World Championship having secured an entry in the new FIA World Touring Car Championship using its ZhongHua brand.
ALMS officials to make European tour According to AutoRacing1.com sources, ALMS President Scott Atherton, COO Tim Mayer and others will go to Europe next week on a four day trip where they will be meeting with potential car manufacturers in France, Germany and England in an effort to drum up more series participation. We also hear that the ALMS will announce a new manufacturer at the Detroit Auto Show in January.
Pacific Coast to run CorvettesUPDATE Just to be clear, Fogarty will not be driving for Pacific Coast, as he was announced for the Flying Lizards team. The rumor is whether Pacific Coast will enter the ALMS with Corvettes in 2005. 12/13/04 AutoRacing1.com has learned that since the factory Chevy team will be running Corvette C6-R's in 2005, the Toyota Atlantic Pacific Coast team that champion Jon Fogarty drove for last year has bought two available Corvette C5-R's and they will be competing in the ALMS (GTS) series next year. Mark C.
ASA in trouble, to change handsUPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. See hot news item. 12/14/04 The Daytona Beach News Journal reported today that a former NASCAR executive (also Trans Am) and Ormond Beach Florida resident has formed an LLC and is buying the remains of the ASA. The news article wasn't very clear on the details. 12/12/04 The final chapter in the American Speed Association's history may take place as early as next week when the sanctioning body files for bankruptcy. Sources have told RacingOne during the 17th annual Performance Racing Industry trade show that the troubled ASA will formally file for bankruptcy in the coming days. Neither a series sponsor or potential buyer has been found to save the ASA from finally going under. Series president Steve Dale had promised an answer as to the series' future by December 1st, a deadline that came and passed without any official announcement. Most all of the ASA's in-house staff was laid off weeks ago and only a skeleton crew remains in the sanctioning body's Pendleton, Indiana headquarters. RacingOne [Editor's Note: As predicted, as the NASCAR juggernaut rolls along all other racing series in the USA are seeing sponsor dollars dry up and staying in business is becoming increasingly more difficult. The USA is indeed becoming a NASCAR-only nation.]
Edmonton Champ Car race sales boomingUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. See hot news item. 12/12/04 We have it on good word that the excitement and energy in Edmonton for the first-ever Champ Car race is high. Our inside sources tell us that total sales, i.e. tickets, hospitality, sponsorship have already reached the $2 million mark since the launch a few short weeks ago. Over 165 companies have called looking for hospitality information. Thirty suites have already been sold and they have a track naming rights company locked in [we already rumored that (as fact now) that it will be called Fenning International Speedway]. We hear similar excitement is building in San Jose as well....helped by news on local prime-time TV every night last week. Mark C.
Kalkhoven hosts San Jose and Long Beach Word around Silicon Valley is that Kevin Kalkhoven recently held a big dinner party at his house. In attendance were the entire City Council from San Jose and Long Beach and actor Paul Newman was the big guest of honor. Word on the street is that the city of San Jose and Long Beach are ecstatic about their Champ Car races. We hear the City Council of Long Beach has made it clear to Dover Motorsports, the promoter of the Long Beach race, that they would not look favorably on a change from Champ Car to the IRL. Although Dover has the right to replace Champ Car with the IRL after 2005, the City Council could make life very difficult for Dover and ultimately the race would become unprofitable. We also hear that the City Council won't renew the contract with Dover when it expires if they drop Champ Car. With no long-term future in Long Beach if they drop Champ Car, the value of the LB event to Dover becomes essentially worthless, if, for example, they wanted to sell it.
Possible ’05 calendar changes Formula Superfund's non-championship race at the Lausitzring in Eastern Germany next year, could be awarded points-scoring status after some changes to the calendar were leaked this week. In addition, a second oval race could be added to the calendar, with a race taking place at Rockingham in the UK. Negotiations with the circuit are said to be ongoing, although a final decision is expected later this month. An earlier plan by the Italian F3000 championship to visit Rockingham, and race on the infield circuit is thought to have been dropped. There is still no confirmation on which French circuit Formula Superfund will race in its final unconfirmed calendar date next season, although there is growing speculation that it will be the street circuit at Pau. Formula-3000.net
Fittipladi might start Grand-Am team According to this SPEEDTV article, Emerson Fittipaldi is considering team ownership in Grand-Am: “My future son-in-law is trying to talk me into it,” he quips, in a reference to series champion Max Papis’ engagement to Juliana, one of Fittipaldi’s five children.
Champ Car inks CBS and NBC TV dealsUPDATE #10 This rumor is being upgraded to 'fact' today - see Hot News page for details of announcement. 12/12/04 We hear on Monday Champ Car will announce their 'network' TV deal only - 4 races on CBS and 2 on NBC, one of which will be Long Beach. We hear the cable part of the deal is not quite ready to be announced, though all indications are CNBC will get the nod over SPEED Channel. 12/04/04 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, If SPEED Channel was an option as rumors suggest, why did they go with CNBC? Joe Rocko, Anaheim, CA. Dear Joe, SPEED Channel most certainly would have been the better choice, but we suspect NBC wanted Champ Car to pick up CNBC as part of their agreement to come on board for two races. It remains to be seen whether NBC makes an effort to get behind Champ Car and do something meaningful with Champ Car. SPEED is so dominated by NASCAR one has to wonder whether Champ Car would have received much attention. The arguments against CNBC is that TV viewers not interested in that channel probably have their TV sets programmed to skip right over that channel, however, CNBC is in 104 million homes, far more than SPEED with 60 million. Sports fans also don't surf to that channel for sport programming. The other argument is that CNBC is usually included in a basic cable TV package whereas SPEED is sometimes in a premium package that not everyone subscribes to, so when SPEED says they are in 60 million homes, we believe that number may be misleading a bit. It remains to be seen whether the TV ratings will improve or get worse on CNBC versus SPIKE. Let's not forget that there is also CNBC Europe (87 million homes plus 340,000 hotel rooms in just about every European country) and CNBC Asia (40 million homes in Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Middle East, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea and Sri Lanka). It will be interesting to see if the races are shown on those overseas networks as well. Whether CNBC will exploit Europe and Asia for Champ Car in some way remains to be seen. Mark C.12/04/04 AutoRacing1.com has learned that indeed for 2005 there will be four Champ Car races on CBS, two on NBC and the rest on CNBC. CNBC will also have a 1/2 hour qualifying show on Saturdays. Hopefully the deal will include mention of Champ Car during the financial portions of CNBC's broadcasts, which dominate weekday broadcasts. The tie-in between business and Champ Car could indeed be good news for the race series if someone is astute enough to make that happen. Mark C.11/29/04 According to this SPEEDTV article, Champ Car's 2005 television deal may be announced before 2004 is over but if it's four on CBS, two on NBC and the rest on CNBC instead of SPEED, ugh... [Editor's Note: Let's hope CNBC will broadcast Saturday qualifying and have a weekly Champ Car show (don't hold your breath). The series and its drivers certainly need more air time. One advantage of CNBC is that they are on Sirius Satellite Radio, meaning the races on CNBC will get worldwide radio coverage. SPEED Channel was but was dropped, one of the reasons being the programming was not always the same as what was being shown on TV] 11/22/04 Negotiations are still ongoing but the TV deal is very close now. In the USA, it's looking like 4 on CBS, 4 on NBC and the rest (8 or 50%) on SPEED Channel. NBC still wants CNBC to do the cable portion we hear, but SPEED may get the nod. Yes, we expect the schedule to grow to 16, hence why we state 8 on cable would be 50% of the races. If Champ Car were smart they would announce their TV deal in NY City in early December when NASCAR and all the media are gathered for NASCAR's awards banquet. 11/21/04 This year is a big transition year for Champ Car - several new races and an all-new TV deal for 2005. Perhaps we were a bit too harsh on Champ Car for delaying the release of the schedule and TV deals this year, but under the circumstances (i.e. big changes) they can be excused. The new races and new TV deal will be worth the wait. However, there is no reason the 2006 schedule should be released this late, and July, 2005 should be the goal because most corporations are setting their budgets for the following year in the July-August timeframe so teams can make their pitch for sponsorship before advertising and marketing budgets and planning are locked down. 11/19/04 This week's AutoWeek Magazine reports that Champ Car will put 6 races on CBS and 4 on NBC for a total of 10 races of 16 or 17 on network TV. Long Beach, the season opener would be on NBC live, plus three others before the NBC NASCAR season kicks in around July 4th. The teams could really use the boost this would give them in their sponsorship hunt, but is it coming too late for that? With next year's budgets already set by September for most corporations, contingency money may be all they can hope for. Champ Car can't keep on publishing their schedules and TV deals this late in the year. Next year it needs to be out in August. As for the cable TV partner, look for it to be CNBC if NBC is indeed onboard. Mark C.10/15/04 CBS Sports has snared the rights to the Champ Car World Series auto-racing circuit next year, according to sources, but it's not going to cost the network a cent. Sources say Champ Car will pay the network $5 million to air seven races on weekend afternoons, and another $5 million to cover production costs. In exchange, Champ Car will get to sell advertising time. Leading Champ Car sponsor Ford Motor Co. will likely shoulder much of the costs, but not without collecting an added perk: discounted advertising time inside CBS' expensive NFL coverage. CBS will take over Champ Car from Spike TV, which saw meager ratings from the circuit. The remainder of the Champ Car races will air on either Speed Channel or Fox Sports Net. Broadcast exposure is a big boost for Champ Car; its popularity has lagged behind the competing open-wheel racing circuit Indy Racing League, which has a deal with ABC/ESPN. CBS declined comment. Hollywood Reporter [Editor's Note: This will remain a rumor until an official announcement is made by CBS or Champ Car. As long as Champ Car can sell all the TV ad slots, this deal will make them money, not cost them money. Look for more races on CBS in coming years. Perhaps even bigger news is the fact that we hear the international TV deal is good news too. Champ Car needs a decent international TV distribution, something it lacked in recent years.] 10/11/04 See update to other rumor on Champ Car's rumored new TV deal. Assuming all goes according to plan, Champ Car will once again have SPEED Channel as its cable partner and, therefore, should see its races back on the radio via Sirius (i.e. on Satellite radio and hence heard around the globe), as described below. 10/07/04 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I can understand Champ Car going back to CBS for some of its races in 2005, but I don't understand going back to SPEED Channel for the cable TV portion given their low TV ratings. Joe Stalin, Brooklyn, NY Dear Joe, From what we hear, the deal on the table that might get blown because of Champ Car's procrastination includes CBS and SPEED Channel. CBS likes to partner with SPEED Channel. Apparently they have a good working relationship. While SPEED's TV ratings are not stellar, they do bring Champ Car one key ingredient that everyone misses - radio. Champ Car (nee CART) used to have a radio network. However, it was a money loser and was axed. That was very shortsighted because radio is so important to grassroots America. A lot of people tune into NASCAR races on radio when they can't be at home watching on TV. All SPEED Channel TV broadcasts carry a simultaneous audio feed on SIRIUS radio worldwide. Yes worldwide. And a lot more car manufacturers are offering satellite radios in their cars (you can also buy a home system). So with SPEED Channel Champ Car gets its radio network back, essentially free of charge. People who have satellite radio love it. It works wherever they are....and NASCAR is on XM radio 24 x 7. And let me remind everyone that Howard Stern just signed a $0.5 billion deal to move his show to SIRIUS Radio exclusively. He has a lot of young male listeners who will now scramble to get SIRIUS radio. This was a blockbuster deal announced Wednesday for SIRIUS (although we're sure our female readers cringe when they hear his name mentioned). The next thing we'll hear is that Champ Car will announce their new schedule and TV deal while they are in faraway Australia, totally oblivious to the USA media. Here they are on the verge of one of their most important announcements and you can bet they will choose to do it in Australia and again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Mark C.
Laguna Seca won’t return Unlike Road America that has a reasonable chance of returning to the Champ Car calendar, Laguna Seca looks to be dead in the water, especially with San Jose now on the schedule. This The Reporter article says, "I'd love to see Champ Car racing in San Jose. It's a great cause," said Ed Nicholls, spokesman for Laguna-Seca. "Ideally, the San Jose race would be in the spring and our race would be in the fall. That way, they could complement each other and raise fan interest for both races." The schedule is far less than ideal for the Monterey permanent road course. Laguna-Seca had been holding its traditional date for the Champ Car World Series weekend, Sept. 9-11, waiting for a finalized schedule to be released from Indianapolis. Raceway officials were red with anger when they saw the schedule, which still has a couple of openings.
"We thought we had a date with Champ Car," Nicholls said, with an edge in his voice. "They didn't put us on their calendar and then they quit returning phone calls and e-mails. When pressed, they said they were still working with us, but they only put confirmed events on their schedule."
Champ Car, and its forerunner CART, had been the marquee event of the Grand Prix of Monterey for 25 years. The weekend is traditionally one of the highlights of the Laguna-Seca schedule. Champ Car officials didn't return messages left this week with their offices in Indianapolis.
Recent press releases from Champ Car and its support series, The Trans-Am Series, Toyota Atlantic and the Formula BMW Championships, say they are still in "serious negotiations" with venues, including Mazda Raceway Laguna-Seca, to fill the two remaining spots on the schedule. The confirmation of the San Jose Grand Prix raised questions about how much open-wheel racing Northern California would support in one season. The Indy Racing League is scheduled to visit Infineon Raceway for the first time Aug. 26-28, 2005. Two Champ Car races within miles of each other might have been a glut. Now, it seems Laguna-Seca could be left out in the cold. "There's not a whole lot of time left to fill that weekend," Nicholls said, sounding resigned to a season without Champ Car racing in Monterey.
Valiante to Grand-Am Could Champ Car be about to lose yet another Toyota Atlantic Series sensation to a rival series? Word on the street is that Michael Valiante will drive for Finlay Ten Motorsports in the upcoming Rolex 24 at Daytona on February 3-4, 2005. Another Champ Car hopeful, Memo Gidley will be one of his co-drivers along with 19-year old Michael McDowell. Whether this leads to a full-time ride in the Grand-Am for Valiante remains to be seen, but like Jon Fogarty who signed with an ALMS team, these talented drivers have to put food on the table and can't wait for the slim chance a Champ Car team will offer them a ride. Far too many Champ Car teams require a driver to bring money, and isn't that the most ridiculous thing? These young drivers, some fresh out of high school, and with acne, are supposed to go knock on doors of major corporations to bring sponsorship, yet the teams who have a staff and more senior individuals who are better equipped to sell to a corporation are waiting around for these kids to hand them a bag full of cash. In NASCAR the teams find the sponsor and then hire the best driver they can. The Champ Car model of ride-buying is broken and must be fixed. Why can't the teams hire a sales staff that works on commissions to find sponsors we ask? Mark C.
Changes afoot at Champ CarUPDATE Out of respect for those laid off, we refused to be the first to break the news, but according to this SPEEDTV article, Marketing head Tom Moser, PR head Wendy Gabers, technology head Lee Dykstra and Race Director Chris Kneifel lost their jobs at Champ Car on Friday, though we hear Kneifel may do some consulting for Champ Car. Also let go, much to our surprise, was Linda Rosenberg, who was heading up, among other things, the Champ Car Fan Club activities which had some huge turnouts this year. For Champ Car's sake that program needs to continue through the hard work of David and Linda Wood as it was gaining momentum. 12/10/04 A number of Champ Car employees have been let go and a number of organizational changes are being enacted to better position Champ Car for 2005. We saw a number of changes made at this time last year and it appears OWRS is still not satisfied with the performance of the organization, hence these latest moves. Out of respect for the individuals we won't list names but some of the people let go were in key positions. Mark C.
Manufacturers moving ahead with breakaway series Look for a big push in early 2005 by the GPWC to begin in earnest the creation of their new F1 series. A source close to GPWC told The Independent newspaper: “We are close to signing. This will set in motion the plans to set up the alternative series by 2008 at the latest." It is expected that the banks, who recently won their court case over Bernie Ecclestone for control of FOM will open up talks with the manufacturers soon. In doing so Bernie's control over F1 will begin to slip, but collectively do they have enough brainpower to outsmart Bernie? Only time will tell but don't bet against Bernie.
Team Penske in secret Champ Car testUPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' as this page of photos show evidence that Penske did indeed have their old Reynske out at Sebring recently trying to gain that 'unfair advantage' he is known for. 10/27/04 Some speculation is that if this rumor is true that Team Penske is simply using their old Champ Car to give Sam Hornish more badly needed road racing seat time without violating the IRL's restrictions on testing. As for what engine might be in the car, one can assume Toyota had plenty of their old Champ Car engines in mothballs. 10/26/04 Our spies in Florida tell us that Marlboro Team Penske was at Sebring today (Tuesday) and scheduled for tomorrow (Wednesday) testing what is reported to be a Champ Car, not an IRL car. Investigating further......stay tuned, but this is indeed interesting news if true.
Teams to agree to new test limit Autosport.com reports that they hear that with teams favoring keeping each test at a length of three days, especially considering the amount of long-distance running needed at tests to evaluate components for 2005's long-life regulations, agreement has been reached for 10 tests of three day's length. This makes most sense as it can easily be slotted into the gaps in the calendar – and any increase above that limit would actually be quite difficult. The move to 30 days is obviously up on the 24-day limit laid down by team bosses, but should still be a step forward over the mammoth 48-days of testing that the teams conducted during the season in 2004.
Toyota may move team Toyota is considering moving its Formula One base from Germany to Britain on the strength of the decision to keep a grand prix at Silverstone for the next five years. Currently situated in Cologne, Toyota is looking at joining six other Formula One teams within an hour's drive of the home of the British Grand Prix.
Final 2005 F1 calendar and GP2 CalendarUPDATE The final F1 calendar can be found on our Hot News page. It is expected that the Formula GP2 calendar previously announced will be changed to reflect the changes to the F1 calendar. Hence we expect the final GP2 calendar to look like the following: 23-24 April San Marino 7-8 May Spain 21-22 May Monaco 28-29 May Europe 2-3 July France 9-10 July Britain 23-24 July Germany 30-31 July Hungary 20-21 August Turkey 3-4 September Italy 10-11 September Belgium 24-25 September Bahrain 12/10/04 The final 2005 F1 calendar to be released today is expected to be:
Penske looking to replace GaughanUPDATE #4 Penske-Jasper Racing, which fields the #77 Kodak EasyShare Dodge Charger in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, today announced that 2003 NASCAR Truck Series Champion Travis Kvapil will be the team's driver and will compete for Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year honors in 2005. Travis succeeds Brendan Gaughan, who drove the Kodak car during the 2004 season. Kvapil participated in a development program during 2004 with Penske Racing and competed in three Nextel Cup Series races-Martinsville, Atlanta and Homestead. "Travis showed solid potential and demonstrated the skill and determination it takes to be a winner and we look forward to building on this foundation with our sponsor partners Kodak and Jasper," Roger Penske said. "Kodak is committed to fielding a winning and successful team in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Racing, and looks forward to leveraging our continued sponsorship and partnership with NASCAR and Penske-Jasper Racing during 2005," said Bud Denker, Vice President, Brand and Market Development. "We are excited to welcome Travis as the driver of the Kodak EasyShare Dodge Charger and feel that his experience in racing and his driving talents will provide our team with the success that we are seeking." "The opportunity to drive for Penske-Jasper Racing is more than a dream come true. I have been a fan of Roger Penske since I was a little kid watching Rick Mears. It's a once in a lifetime chance for a young driver and I'm excited to get that opportunity," Kvapil said. "I'm honored to represent Kodak. Their history in NASCAR racing is impressive and they are one of the longest running sponsors in the sport." A Wisconsin native, Kvapil resides in North Carolina with his wife, Jennifer, and their two children. Penske Racing South PR11/21/04 Brendan Gaughan still doesn't know if he is returning to his Penske-Jasper Racing team next season. Team officials have not yet picked up the option on Gaughan's contract. "I have some plans, and no matter what I do, I'm going to be back running some Truck races for my team," Gaughan said. "I could say yes to a lot of things, and I could say no to a lot of things. I think most other drivers are not in that position." ThatsRacin.com11/16/04 A decision has not yet been made on whether Brendan Gaughan will return to the #77 Penske-Jasper Racing Dodge for the 2005 season, Penske Racing South President Don Miller said Monday. Miller said Gaughan would drive the Kodak Easy Share Dodge in the NEXTEL Cup season finale at Homestead this weekend. Miller, who noted that Gaughan currently possesses second in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings, said a decision on Gaughan's status for next year wouldn't be made until after the season ended. "And that is after the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Awards Banquet in New York City," Miller added. The banquet is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 3. Penske Racing South PR11/15/04 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Brendan Gaughan was told his contract would not be renewed with Penske-Jasper Racing, and apparently Gene Haas has offered Gaughan, 29, the #0 Chevy seat for 2005. Haas-CNC G.M. Joe Custer added that Richard "Bootie" Barker would remain as crew chief on the #0 and has a three-year contract. Putting Travis Kvapil in the #77 next season is coming with a price. Alex Meshkin wanted compensation for letting Kvapil out of his Bang Racing contract, so Kvapil is expected to run 20 Busch events next season in a Dodge. FoxSports/Sporting News09/27/04 Roger Penske has been testing three Cup drivers for a possible driver change for next season, and that clearly puts rookie Brendan Gaughan on the hot seat. Winston Salem Journal
Walker Racing newsUPDATE It looks like our source took that fact that Walker Racing would have a show car at the event tonight as there would be some sort of merger with Stange Racing. That is not the case as we have learned, hence this rumor is downgraded to 'speculation' and could go to 'false.' However, a Walker Racing spokesperson told AutoRacing1.com, "We are testing Nicky Pastorelli and Christijan Albers next week in Sebring. Both of these drivers see Champ Car as a series that provides a competitive platform to showcase their talent, and they have chosen to work with us on putting together a program. Being from Europe, they both have aspirations of being in F1, and a successful Champ Car program is a better option than being a test driver. We have also had some very good meetings with potential sponsors from Canada for a Canadian driver (Valiante or Ranger we suppose) and we know of a few that would be good. As I said, Walker Racing is looking forward to 2005 with Lola chassis and very competitive drivers." 12/08/04 Team Stange Racing, a motorsports company, in association with Derrick Walker will be competing in the 2005 Champ Car World Series as Walker-Stange Racing, providing excellent marketing and sales opportunities within global markets across North America, Asia and Europe. Stange International are international importers and distributors of volume based quality apparel products. An announcement is expected Thursday night in Chicago. We also hear that one or two additional sponsors will be announced, one being a Japanese off-street motor bike company and another a financial consultation and asset based management company. Some are telling this is an "additional" Champ Car team, i.e. a 3rd and/or 4th car for Walker Racing, but we're thinking perhaps Walker is making his existing team stronger by bringing on a partner in John Stange Jr. We shall know soon enough. Mark C.
Edmonton race sponsorUPDATE #3 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today and is about to go to 'fact.' This Edmonton Journal article mentions that the track has been named Finning International Speedway as we rumored below. 12/08/04 Rumor has it that Molson or Finning (Canada) will sponsor the Champ Car race in Edmonton, Canada. Headquartered in Edmonton, Finning sells, services and finances the full line of Caterpillar and complementary equipment throughout British Columbia, Alberta, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories. Rumor also has it that if Finning does sponsor the race it will be a long-term deal and the circuit at the City Center Airport will be called Finning International Speedway. Mark C.11/19/04 With the Vancouver race now officially dead, look for Molson to move that sponsorship money to the Edmonton race, or so we hear. 11/17/04 [Editor's Note: Might this be a precursor to Molson sponsoring the new Champ Car race in Edmonton?] Coinciding with the Edmonton brewery's celebration of 100 years of brewing history, Molson announced today it will invest $12.3 million in upgrades at its Edmonton brewery. This investment is part of the company's Renaissance in Brewing initiative aimed at applying best-in-class practices to Molson breweries throughout Canada.
"Molson is dedicated to delivering world-class performance and this investment is an extension of that commitment," said Armand Thompson, Molson's Edmonton brewery manager. "The capital project upgrades combined with our experienced Molson brewmasters and brewing methods, that are rooted in an over 200 year-old tradition of quality, will allow Molson to continue to satisfy consumers with exceptional beers of uncompromising quality."
Scheduled for completion in January 2006, the planned improvements will significantly increase productivity and efficiency at the Edmonton brewery. The investment includes the addition of state-of-the-art technology to the brewery's bottle operations, including a new pasteurizer, filler and labeler. The upgrades enhance the Edmonton brewery's ability to specialize in bottle production and strengthen the brewery's strategic role in the company's operations.
"Molson has a long history in Edmonton and strong ties throughout Alberta," said Kevin Boyce, President and Chief Operating Officer, Molson North America. "We are the market leader in this province and we remain committed to competing aggressively and growing our business in the years ahead."
Busch Series may adopt Chase format The Chase for the Championship format was such a hit in the Nextel Cup series that NASCAR might apply it to the Busch series in 2006. Busch series director Joe Balish, visiting Wednesday with champion driver Martin Truex Jr., said that while the old format will be used again next year, some form of the Chase is possible for the next season. ``We don't know if we would do the exact same thing or we would reinvent it for the Busch series,'' Balish said before a luncheon at the Tampa Marriott Westshore. Tampa Bay Online
ESPN to get competition Chris Economaki reports in NSSN that Rupert Murdoch, who heads Fox Entertainment, has said he would like to start a new cable TV network to compete with ESPN. Insiders say ESPN, still smarting over being ousted by NASCAR, can’t wait to get back to the tracks. But ESPN’s recently announced entry into the cell-phone biz competing with Nextel will no doubt nix that possibility.
Toyota Nextel Cup entry to be delayed? Rumor has it that Toyota might delay its entry into Nextel Cup if NASCAR goes ahead with some rumored major engine changes. Toyota does not want to design an engine and then have to do it again a year or so later says the rumor.
Prost denies return at LeMans Responding to a story in French sports newspaper l'Equipe, a spokesman said that Alain Prost was heavily involved in preparations for this season's Andros Trophy ice-racing season - with de Chaunac's ORECA team - but considered the 24 Hours 'too risky.' "There is little truth in the story," de Chaunac confirmed in a subsequent interview with l'Equipe TV, "In the last eight days, I have announced that we will contest the 24 Hours with three French pilots and a car capable of winning, but I never specified that Alain was involved."
Johansson and Moreno eye Grand-Am Stefan Johansson and Roberto Moreno tested a Daytona Prototype for the first time last week at Homestead. Both said they were in negotiation to drive the Crawford-Pontiac owned by amateur racer Bob Ward. Johansson stated that he is exploring several options for Daytona and is determined to be on the grid for the February 3-4 race (the opening round of the Grand-American Sportscar Series) for the first time since 2002. Victory would make him only the eighth driver to have completed the hat-trick of wins in the Le Mans, Sebring and Daytona sportscar classics. Johansson, 48, said: “It’s a definite motivation on my part to try to win that race. I’d like to be part of that club. Driving with Bob is one option, but I’m talking to other teams as well. Daytona is always a fun race to do and I was surprised at the performance of the car.” Moreno, who admitted that he was exploring options in sportscar racing last summer (Autosport, July 1), said: “I didn’t get much time in the car, but it was good to drive again after sitting out 2004. “Daytona would be a good way to start the season and I’d look at doing some more Daytona Prototypes if I don’t get a drive in either Champ Cars or IRL IndyCars.” Autosport Magazine
Playa Del Racing team dead in waterUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. The owners of a proposed new IRL team, Playa Del Racing, have failed to muster sufficient finances on deadline to purchase the equipment of Kelley Racing, which closed its doors recently. The team was meant to have fielded Indianapolis chief Tony George’s stepson, Ed Carpenter, and Arie Luyendyk Jr, the son of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Sr. Autosport Magazine11/30/04 Word on the street in Indy is that the rumored new Playa Del Racing IRL team is dead in the water and Tony George's stepson Ed Carpenter is out on the street looking for a ride.
ROC may add overseas venues The promoter of this year's Race of Champions held last weekend in Paris is considering adding qualifying events in the USA and in Asia. Hopefully this "Race of Champions" continues to grow worldwide, and the silly USA IROC series geared to make NASCAR drivers look good, eventually goes away.
Honda to oppose testing limit Hopes that a move by nine of the Formula 1 teams to limit testing to just 24 days during the season will be rubber-stamped early next year appear to have been dashed, with Japanese car manufacturer Honda now set to reject the proposal.
Amid the controversy of Ferrari declining to go along with the scheme, because it does not believe it will reduce costs and particularly fears its tire development program for Bridgestone could be severely compromised by the move, Honda too has its reservations about the move.
Sources close to the Japanese company, which as part-owner of BAR now has a say in what decisions the team takes, indicate that it does not support the 50 per cent reduction in testing and it will not go along with the 24 day limit.
Instead, Honda is believed to welcome a much less dramatic testing limit - with a figure nearer the 30-day mark being suggested as the way forward for next year. The company is particularly keen to conduct as much testing as it believes to be feasible because it is on the verge of a fight for the world championship. More at Autosport.com
F1 to ditch Sunday qualifying Formula 1's controversial new qualifying system planned to be introduced from the start of next season now looks almost certain to be ditched, high level sources have told autosport.com. The dual session, with final qualifying due to take place on Sunday morning, has received a host of complaints since first being announced.
The move to abandon the Sunday morning session, first suggested after the success of such a scheme at this year's Japanese Grand Prix after Saturday running was cancelled because of a typhoon scare, has been prompted after television companies expressed their dislike for the new system.
Insiders claim that the television companies have said they will either not broadcast the qualifying session at all, or do so only as a highlights package before the race, because of their tight schedules and the fact that Formula 1 already fills a large part of their Sunday afternoon timetable.
Sources claim that F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone brought the matter up at this week's team bosses' meeting and that the teams have now vowed to go away and come back with a better suggestion for a system that can take place on Saturday afternoon.
One team boss told autosport.com: “It is clear that our customers [the television companies] are not happy and that means we have got to do something about it. We are all going to go away and think about it and I expect there to be some change – although a final decision may only be taken much closer to Melbourne.” More at Autosport.com
Kiesa may return to F1 (GMM) Danish driver Nicolas Kiesa could make a return to the Formula One grid next year. It's reported that the 25-year-old has found enough sponsorship to draw a positive initial response from the office of Minardi's Paul Stoddart. Copenhagen-born Nicolas Kiesa drove for the cash strapped Faenza-based team last year after Justin Wilson departed for Jaguar. The former F3000 driver won the F1 support event at Monaco in 2003. Then, Australian-born Stoddart said Nicolas came with 'impressive racing credentials.'
Danica Patrick IRL boundUPDATE #4 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I am going to sound like a Chauvinist, but so be it. I think it's great that Danica is going to the IRL and not Champ Car. There has never been a woman who can keep up with the best male drivers. For a woman she is great, but racing is a man's game, whether the women want to admit it or not. The fact of the matter is that just as in Major League Baseball, Football, Soccer, Basketball, etc, women should have their own league. Having a women in the IRL only degrades the sport further. Yes she's cute and yes she can drive faster than me, but she got smoked by Jon Fogarty and Ryan Dalziel this past year in Atlantics, and it's clear Champ Car would be too hard for her. The IRL can make her their poster girl, just like they made Sarah Fisher their poster girl. I emphasize the word 'girl' in a man's sport. I expect the IRL's TV ratings to fall further. Josh Cole, Huntsville, AL. 12/07/04 This Indy Star article reiterates what we already reported - Rahal Letterman Racing will be a three-car team in the Indy Racing League's 2005 season when team officials confirm Buddy Rice, Vitor Meira and newcomer Danica Patrick on Wednesday. Rice will return to defend his Indianapolis 500 victory. Meira drove the final 14 races of 2004 for Bobby Rahal's team, winning the pole at Milwaukee. Patrick will become the third female to compete in the IRL, following Lyn St. James and Sarah Fisher. The 22-year-old native of Roscoe, Ill., finished third in her 2nd Toyota Atlantics season in 2004. 12/03/04 As we have rumored since August, Rahal Letterman Racing is expected to announce next week that the 22-year-old Roscoe native will drive a full schedule in the Indy Racing League next season, including the Indianapolis 500. "I'm very excited. I've been working toward this my whole life," she said Tuesday from her home in the Phoenix area. "It kind of makes me speechless. It's like 'Wow. It's happening.'" he would be an additional IRL entry for the team, owned by former racer Bobby Rahal and TV personality David Letterman. The team fielded two cars this year, driven by Vitor Meira and Buddy Rice. Both of those drivers will return next season. 08/08/04 It should be noted that Danica Patrick was going to test a Champ Car in March but Champ Car nixed the idea after the team had booked their hotel rooms, airline tickets to test at Sebring and had the engines left over from 2003. Now they don't have engines and so she has no choice but to test an IRL car. It's interesting to note that the test was nixed right after Team Rahal announced they were going to the IRL exclusively. Perhaps to spite Bobby Rahal, Champ Car may have closed the door on any opportunity they would have had to bring Danica Patrick up to Champ Car. However, with that said, until she can beat the likes of Jon Fogarty and Ryan Dalziel, who certainly deserve a shot at Champ Car, another year in a development series like Atlantics or the IRL may help her because moving up to Champ Car is a major step. 08/06/04 Speculation yes, but Danica Patrick will be testing an IRL car later this year, not a Champ Car, and you can bet the IRL would love to find a replacement for Sarah Fisher, who is without sponsorship and, therefore, out of a ride. The team tells us she will race next year where her sponsor, Argent, wants her, and given their big involvement in the IRL now.........we're willing to bet she'll be an oval tracker in 2005..
French GP back to July The latest version of the Formula 1 calendar is expected to be different from the one published by the FIA back in October. The teams discussed the calendar during yesterday's meeting in London but it seems that they are currently sworn to secrecy over the dates - for reasons which are not entirely obvious. Not all the details are clear but we believe that the calendar which will be published on Friday will include the United States GP on June 19, just a week after the Canadian GP. The German GP looks to be on the move from July 17 to July 24 in order to fit in the British and French GPs on July 3 and July 10. It is not clear which race which will be on which weekend but what is clear is that Formula 1 is not going to be taking any holidays in July as there will be four races in five weekends. There will be a three-week gap before the Turkish GP in the middle of August. More at Grandprix.com
Champ Car to get additional programmngUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact.' What America One will do is broadcast re-runs of last year's races every week January through April. While this station only reaches 25 million homes, the more coverage the better for Champ Car. 12/07/04American One TV network, seen in only 25 million homes in the USA, will have prime time Champ Car programming during the week according to Adweek, probably some sort of race highlights show. Seen in only the 13 least populated states in the USA, this station will help Champ Car remain invisible. Other motorsports programming includes Corvette: The American Dream Freerider, GP Racing On the Edge, Motorworld, Raceline, and Wheel Power. America One Television is a full-service syndication and distribution network that provides direct access to over 25 million household distribution baseline. America One also provides Individual Market Placements for quality new programming. America One distributes to broadcast television, DTH, and cable affiliates in North America. They are looking for fresh adventure, action sports, and entertainment programming that provides the greatest opportunities for distributors, affiliates, and advertisers. This wide range of programming includes Extreme Sports, Rugby, Soccer, Auto Racing, Tennis, and more.
Melvin appointed Dir. of Operations Bang! Racing today announced the appointment of Jim Melvin as Director of Operations. Melvin will oversee the business operations of the race team and sponsor support services which includes the Show Vehicle Program and Sponsor Account Management. "Jim has made great contributions to the success of Bang! Racing in 2004," said Bang! Racing's CEO and owner Alex Meshkin. "Loyalty is an important factor in any business, but in this business loyalty is everything. Bang! Racing went through a lot this first year. There were many changes in our internal management structure, and Jim was a supportive key person within the company." Prior to Melvin joining Bang! Racing in 2003 as Director of Sponsor Relations for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams, Melvin was Director of Marketing and Media Relations for Spencer Motor Ventures. Previously, he served as Vice President of Sponsor Sales for Keystone Marketing.
Banks planning three more lawsuitsThis Grandprix.com article says, The Formula 1 banks are planning at least three more claims against Bernie Ecclestone, according to sources in Germany. These include two which will win them control of Formula One Administration and Formula One Management and there is rumored to be a third which will seek damages for the loss of value in their stake in SLEC. Ecclestone will remain in control of the business until these lawsuits are completed and will be trying in the meantime to convince the banks to compromise and sell the business back to him while at the same time he may try to convince the teams that they do not want to be involved in a business run by the GPWC and would be better off supporting a rival championship which he would run.
There has long been talk of a plan to use the new GP2 teams and turn their championship into something called GP1. But at 74 years of age, such an undertaking would be a massive challenge for Ecclestone as the teams involved in F1 are unlikely to interested in any championship in which the cars are made by a single chassis supplier and engines come from a single engine company. [Editor's Note: Like we have said, Bernie should now move to buy Champ Car, a series that is already established and a series that is turning around. With Ecclestone's assistance OWRS could turn the series around in a big way very quickly, far faster than OWRS can do it on their own. Certainly not all the F1 teams would switch, and perhaps none of the existing manufacturers would join Bernie, but then the series can be tailored with tight cost controls without intervention by the existing manufacturers. Cosworth can always supply the engines until such time as Ecclestone, Kalkhoven and company can convince new manufacturers to participate. Maybe Ford would want to badge all the engines in Bernie's Champ Car "World Series." Needless to say, if Bernie announces he is aligning with Champ Car, it will send shockwaves through the boardrooms of the manufacturers, because say what you like about Bernie, he knows how to be successful and the manufacturers all know that F1 is where it is today because of Bernie. We doubt they will feel very comfortable knowing he is a rival. In addition, we predict the GPWC will eventually implode because a manufacturer run series is never going to work long-term.]
Why Bernie may eventually buy Champ CarUPDATE #4 See Hot News item on Bernie's loss in court today. What's Bernie's next move? 12/05/04 This Times of London article says, Bernie Ecclestone will learn today if he can hang on to control of the Formula One empire he has ruled for more than 20 years. The first of a flurry of court rulings will precede more confrontation with team bosses amid warnings that the sport is in danger of imploding. A judge is expected to give his verdict this afternoon on the action brought by three German banks challenging Ecclestone’s supremacy over Formula One. A victory for Lehman Brothers, Bayrische Landesbank and JPMorgan, which own 75 per cent of the sport’s commercial business, will signal a shift in power from Ecclestone’s dictatorship and labyrinthine deals to a new era of compromise and financial transparency (AutoRacing1.com hears that Bernie feels he may lose the verdict).
If Ecclestone’s control of the board of the holding company does end in court, the banks are likely to start talks with the GPWC — the breakaway group formed by Ferrari, Renault, Mercedes and BMW, which is threatening to launch a rival series to Formula One — to heal the rift and set up a new financial structure with a fairer share of profits for the teams. The GPWC refuses to negotiate with Ecclestone and says that its rival series will go ahead with 80 per cent of revenues paid to the teams.
As the judgment is delivered in the High Court, Ecclestone will be facing Formula One’s ten team principals to explain why he has still not signed a contract with Silverstone to save the British Grand Prix. The meeting is likely to be an uncomfortable affair, the last act of a “will it, won’t it” plot worthy of a Christmas pantomime. Even though the teams put together a £40 million rescue package to empower Ecclestone and Silverstone to conclude a deal that would guarantee the race’s survival, there is still no contract. Instead, Silverstone has been drawn into the complex political web being spun by Ecclestone as he attempts to cling on to control of what is arguably the world’s richest sport. The row over the British Grand Prix stopped being about money months ago and is now part of Ecclestone’s defense mechanism against the twin threats from his own shareholders and GPWC.
It emerged last night that GPWC has met executives from the world’s leading race circuits, including five Formula One tracks — Silverstone, Monza, Imola, Hockenheim and the Nürburgring. Alain Prost, the four-times Formula One world champion, led the presentation last week and his approval of the manufacturers’ group lends weight to its claims that it will be ready to stage its own championship within three years. George Taylor, the man who will be Ecclestone’s equivalent as commercial director of the new group, is in London networking with key figures as the GPWC accelerates its plans. Key to those plans is securing leading venues, with Silverstone top of the list. More....
12/04/04 Our sources in Europe tell us that Bernie Ecclestone is extremely concerned that he will soon get very bad news and lose the court case with the banks and they will gain control of FOM by appointing the majority of board members to the organization. If that happens it is anticipated that the banks will align FOM with the manufacturers and Bernie will lose complete control of F1. The question now is who owns the F1 name, Bernie or FOM? If Bernie, he can simply buy Champ Car and resume the business of the F1 World Championship. If FOM owns it and sells the name to the GPWC, Bernie is toast. He will then have to decide whether to get out of the sport, or get involved with other motorsports, such as Champ Car. We maintain that F1 under the leadership of the manufacturers will eventually fail, but that could take five years or more. 11/24/04 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I find this speculation about Bernie buying Champ Car quite intriguing. I just can't see Bernie walking away quietly if he is forced out of F1. I don't think he has the stomach to start a whole new series from scratch using the F1 name he owns, but I do see him buying into Champ Car as a way to kick start his "new" F1 series. Whether you like Bernie or not, you have to admit that what he has done with F1 is nothing short of phenomenal. His influence and relationships in racing are far reaching. Just having his name associated with Champ Car will have companies and race promoters banging down Champ Car's door. Because it appears inevitable that the manufacturers will take control of the existing F1 teams (the teams are beholden to them via their huge financial backing) with their GPWC series, if I were OWRS I would be talking to Bernie now about a strategy on how to outsmart the manufacturers. Rest assured, the GPWC series won't be around along. Many a race series has died when manufacturers influence became too great. I cherish the thought of Ecclestone, Kalkhoven, Forsythe and Gentilozzi working together to make Champ Car the No. 1 form of motorsports in the world. I predict they will do it within three years of the day Bernie gets involved. Joel Richardson, San Diego, CA.11/24/04 While the world awaits the judges decision on who gets to control F1, a couple of key points must be remembered. Let's speculate using some of information from this FT.com article. Under the terms of the original sale of the SLEC stake to Kirch Mr. Ecclestone retained management control through FOA and FOM. The banks have had no say in running the F1 business itself. That would not be such a problem except that a dispute between Mr. Ecclestone and the carmakers taking part in F1 has led to the possibility of the manufacturers breaking away from Mr. Ecclestone and starting their own championship. Such a move could leave the banks' stake in SLEC virtually worthless - hence their desire now to wrest management control from Mr. Ecclestone.
The carmakers have long since become exasperated by what they regard as the outdated, dictatorial manner in which Mr. Ecclestone runs F1 as a personal fiefdom and the unfair share of F1 revenues received by the businesses he founded. Three years ago five carmakers - DaimlerChrysler, Fiat, Renault, BMW and Ford (no longer part of F1 after the sale of Jaguar Racing) - took the first step towards establishing what they insist will be a successful rival world championship. Scheduled to start in 2008, the "Grand Prix World Championship" series would guarantee that a much larger proportion of revenues went to the competing teams.
Offered such a substantial financial carrot, most of F1's teams have already signed up to the new championship in principle, even though it would not be able to use the term Formula One: Mr. Ecclestone bought 100-year rights to the name for $350m several years ago. Hence, if he loses this court case and buys Champ Car, he can rename Champ Car F1 and carry on. He also owns all the contracts with the race tracks. Where would GPWC race if Bernie's new F1 series is racing there?
Victory for the banks in the current court case would almost certainly lead them to forge an alliance with the big carmakers taking part in F1 and concede demands for a bigger share of income to be directed immediately towards the teams - potentially leaving Mr. Ecclestone sidelined. Bernie sidelined?
It is a stance rejected outright by Mr. Ecclestone. F1's commercial rights, he insists, are owned not by SLEC but FOA and FOM. "The banks don't have anything - no rights whatsoever. The banks are shareholders of SLEC, and SLEC has no rights. "I am the CEO of Formula One Management and Formula One Administration, which runs the business in F1. From this point of view, I own F1." Therein lies the dispute that the judge will rule on.
In spite of turning 74 last month Mr. Ecclestone shows not a shred of willingness to hand over the reins of a sport in which he has demanded high standards from all participants, even ensuring personally that team trucks are lined up inch-perfectly in the paddock. But the time is approaching when he may have no choice. Some see him as now facing a lose-lose situation. Even if he wins the action coming to court in London on Monday the car manufacturers in F1 will only accelerate their plans for a new championship in which Ecclestone would play no part.
The banks would not look to Bernie for a deal now; but if he made an offer maybe they would reconsider. But I doubt it will happen because he is so bitter. So bitter in fact that if he were to lose the business he built, would he go off and show the manufacturers what he could do without some of them? Would he indeed buy Champ Car from Messrs Kalkhoven, Forsythe and Gentilozzi and give them a big return on their investment far sooner than they expected?
Only Bernie knows for sure. We don't see Bernie taking orders from the banks or the manufacturers. He did after all, almost buy Champ Car two short years ago, so anything is possible. Mark C.
Champ Car hires TV directorUPDATE #2 We are bumping this rumor from 'false' up to 'speculation' today. Rumor on the street is that Rick Murphy has put a Request for Proposal out to several TV production companies to produce Champ Car races in 2005. If he is representing Champ Car then what is his role in the company? What is not clear at this time is whether Champ Car hired Murphy to be their TV Director or whether he was part of the rumored deal that Champ Car now owns Betelgeuse and that entity is overseeing all TV aspects. One way or the other it appears Murphy has found a way to stay involved with Champ Car. 11/05/04 This rumor is downgraded to 'false.' Champ Car President Dick Eidswick told AutoRacing1.com, "we have not hired anyone for that position." 11/04/04 We are hearing that Champ Car may have hired Rick Murphy of Betelgeuse to be their TV Director or some similar title.
Will the son join RCR? While there were only a few mistakes made on stage during the nearly three-hour event, one very glaring error raised more than a few eyebrows. During a video montage of comments by drivers and team owners discussing Nextel's impact upon the sport as series sponsor in 2004, a three-second clip showed Richard Childress on the left side of the screen with a split-screen of identical images of Dale Earnhardt Jr. on top of each other on the right. Rumors continue to build – and especially in light of this past week's shakeup at Dale Earnhardt Inc. – that Dale Earnhardt Jr. may jump ship after his contract with DEI expires following the 2006 season and join RCR, perhaps replacing Kevin Harvick. Yahoo Sports
Champ Car now owns TV production company Rumor has it that Champ Car now owns Betelgeuse Productions. According to our sources Champ Car had to lend(or give) Betelgeuse a couple of million dollars to pay the workers to finish the 2004 Champ Car TV season. Meanwhile Betelgeuse's stock became essentially worthless and in the end Champ Car became the proud (or not-so-proud) owner of a TV company. We hear most of the people left when they could and whether the company has any assets worth having is another story so we shall see if Champ Car simply shuts its doors or tries to do something with it.
IRL eyes NASCAR engines?UPDATE This AutoWeek article agrees with our assertion that production based engines for the IRL are not good and will certainly drive Honda out of the series. GM officials have stated their desire to see the latter, suggesting it might be enough to bring Chevy back to the series. Toyota might be interested in such a change, too, though no decision has been made. There is no questioning Honda’s preference. “We’ve told [the IRL] early on that we’re not interested in that, and nothing has changed,” said Robert Clarke, vice president and general manager of Honda Performance Development. (Honda does not have an overhead-cam V8 in its passenger-car lineup, or any V8, for that matter.)........“We will have to make a decision to attract the most manufacturers to us,” Barnhart said. Barnhart is concerned about jeopardizing reliability because he has endured the IRL’s long road of progress. The first equipment formula implemented by the IRL, in 1997, included production-based engines, and they failed regularly. The switch to a 3.5-liter engine came in 2000, and improvement followed. The drop to a 3.0-liter engine this past May further improved reliability. Although failures still occur as the builders seek the smallest of horsepower gains, the reliability of the engines has almost become a non-issue in the IRL. 11/29/04 With Honda and Toyota expected to go the way of Chevy and eventually exit the IRL series, they may be left with no engines after 2006. One rumor making the rounds is that the IRL could switch to Nextel Cup pushrod engines. Who dreams up these ideas anyway? On paper it may sound like a logical thing to do, but when you shoehorn in a behemoth NASCAR engine into the back end of the chassis, the light car becomes very heavy in the back and the engine cover very large. Besides looking silly, the rear wing won't be as efficient with the big and wide engine cover disturbing the airflow and, coupled with the tail heavy car, we will be back to the early production based engine days of the IRL when the tail-happy cars spun tail first into the walls on a regular basis breaking many a drivers back. Can you say Ka-Ching, Ka-Ching? The cash registers at Dallara, G-Force and Methodist Hospital in Indy are going to be singing and it won't be 'Back Home Again in Indiana'......more like 'We're in the Money.' Mark C.
Bernie to own ’Grand Prix’?UPDATE This NY Times article talks a bit more about this topic. 12/02/04 (GMM) F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone would like an even tighter grip on Formula One and 'Grand Prix' racing. Indeed, the 74-year-old - known aptly as 'supremo' - is trying to trademark or patent the words 'Grand Prix' and 'British Grand Prix.' He's made a claim for the former throughout Europe, UK Channel 4 News reported, and for 'British Grand Prix' at the UK Patent office. In late November, Europe granted the 'Grand Prix' application. ''I didn't know,'' said Jackie Stewart, president of the Club that owns Brit GP venue Silverstone. The Scot said a 'monopoly' is never a good thing. ''It's the same as a dictatorship -- eventually it ends in tears,'' he added. Presently, Ecclestone's Formula One Group owns the words Formula One, Formula 1 and F1.
What if IRL loses all manufacturers? At this week's Motorsports Forum in Indianapolis Tony George said, “Production engines are something that we will look at and consider as part of the process,” George said. However, he noted, the danger of building a series around production engines is what to do if the manufacturers that build those engines pack up and go home? “If all the manufacturers pull out, we need something we can go racing with,” said George. Specialty racing engine builders like Cosworth and Ilmor could easily fill that gap, which is part of the appeal of purpose-built engines.
The IRL’s primary goals for the new engines are stability and cost containment, George said. Rules written with those goals in mind should make the series more attractive to manufacturers and teams alike. The IRL has had “one very productive meeting with one manufacturer” regarding participation in the series, and has another expressing interest in the series, but with whom he has not yet met, George added.
Rahal-Letterman to announce ’05 lineupUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Rahal Letterman Racing will announce next week that the 22-year-old Danica Patrick will drive a full schedule in the Indy Racing League next season, including the Indianapolis 500. "I'm very excited. I've been working toward this my whole life," she said Tuesday from her home in the Phoenix area. "It kind of makes me speechless. It's like 'Wow. It's happening.'" She would be an additional IRL entry for the team, owned by former racer Bobby Rahal and TV personality David Letterman. The team fielded two cars this year, driven by Vitor Meira and Buddy Rice. Both of those drivers will return next season. 12/02/04 The Rahal Letterman team will announce their 2005 lineup of drivers on Wednesday December 8th in Indianapolis and it's expected they will announce a two or three car team to include Buddy Rice, Vitor Meira and Danica Patrick. Whether Patrick runs a full season or just the Indy 500 as we suspect, remains to be seen. She is rumored to be running a Ferrari GTS for Rahal in ALMS so we are speculating that the announcement could see her run the races up to (as a tune-up) and including the Indy 500. Could we see Kenny Brack take over for her after that? Assuming the ALMS rumor is true, it all seems quite possible.
Caution thrown for San Jose race Who hired this San Jose journalist to write this negative article about Champ Car's new San Jose race in the Monterey Herald newspaper? Was it the oval track cartel which holds races at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA.? Whichever it was, it continues the near perfect record of at least one negative newspaper article in every Champ Car market pretty much on an annual basis since the IRL was formed, but of course that is just a coincidence.....right? The most damaging quote - "do City Hall officials realize they have basically cut a deal with the third-string racing circuit in America? That would be the Champ Car operation, which a year ago was known as CART -- and was fighting for its life in bankruptcy court." More....
Hunter-Reay eyes Rocketsports Word on the street is that Rocketsports has had talks with Ryan Hunter-Reay about teaming with Alex Tagliani in 2005. The 2nd car at Rocketsports struggled this year (all drivers) so it will be important to get their 2-car team set early before winter testing kicks off in earnest. The team did win one race with Alex Tagliani at Road America in 2004, but otherwise had an up and down year while trying to get its house in order. Look for the team to be stronger in 2005.
War of the Worlds - NASCAR going global Back in April of 2003 our Mark Cipolloni penned one of his many forward looking articles and wrote "War of the Worlds." While everyone was focused on NASCAR as a domestic series he was already predicting that the Oval Track Cartel, led by NASCAR had their eyes set on the global market and that if Bernie Ecclestone didn't band together with Champ Car to shore up the road racing market, NASCAR and the oval track cartel would take aim to rule the world. Lo and behold, in today's USA Today supplement Brian France Jr. says, ....."We have an international strategy that makes sense and looks at the next 10 years carefully, as to how we can have NASCAR-style racing around the globe. It's going to take a long time to do that, but we are slowly but surely making progress.......[First] We're going to activate the Canadian and Mexican fan bases by taking events directly into the marketplace." Over the following 10 years you will see NASCAR branch out into Europe by buying or doing an agreement with the ASCAR/Days of Thunder series in England and Germany, and then with Toyota and Honda in the fold, they will make a full frontal assault on Asia. With the possibility of F1 self-destructing in 2008 in a war between GPWC and Bernie Ecclestone, NASCAR's future is looking bright indeed. Wake up Bernie and smell the roses, the War of the Worlds will soon be at full-tilt.
Michelin 'veto' Massa role (GMM) Sauber's new tire supplier Michelin will ban team driver Felipe Massa from testing for Ferrari in 2005, it was revealed in the UK's expert press. Ferrari-powered Sauber, a partner of Ferrari's near exclusive tire supplier Bridgestone until now, made the switch to French rubber in a bid to move up the F1 grid. It is reported that Michelin's 'veto' compelled Ferrari to sign Marc Gene as a second full time test driver. Massa, who often tested a scarlet car for Ferrari in 2005, is under long term contract to the Maranello-based Scuderia. Meanwhile, other sources revealed that Michelin will also forbid Sauber from testing at Ferrari's private Fiorano track.
Dyson team eyes Grand-Am race According to this Crash.net article Although they have been staunch supporters of the American Le Mans Series since Grand Am brought in their new Daytona Prototype rules, the team with the most overall Rolex Series wins in series history could be about to make a return in next year's Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. Father and son pairing Rob and Chris Dyson were both in evidence during the first day of Grand Am's Hoosier tire test at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in an effort to get to grips with Essex Racing's new Crawford-Ford.
While both spent time catching up with old friends, they also joined Essex's main drivers Harrison Brix and James Gue behind the wheel. “The idea is to see how the cars perform and enjoy the company of my son,” said Rob Dyson, whose Dyson Racing Team owns 15 overall Rolex Series triumphs. “Maybe we will put a program together to run the 24 Hours (at Daytona), which is a great event on anybody's racing calendar. To have won it twice, I'd like to win it a third time, but do it with Chris in the car with me.”
Both Dyson's admit that there is much work to be done before they commit to driving in the 2005 Rolex 24 At Daytona. Nevertheless, their appearance at the test is definitely a step in the right direction. “If I pass the test, which is mostly personal, then it will be a wonderful experience to race with these young men in an endurance race,” said Rob Dyson. “Right now, we're learning what the car is like. I drove a Crawford (Daytona) Prototype this summer and I'm just getting used to driving a closed-cockpit car again. It's been a long time. We'll get acquainted with the car, power and tires. It should be an interesting day tomorrow, and we'll see how the program progresses from there.” “My dad and I really want to do the Daytona race, and this opportunity came along,” added Chris. “We have an eye towards doing the Rolex 24, and we would really like to be there in February. At this point we're looking at this weekend, but with a view towards the Rolex. Beyond that, who knows? Right now we have a pretty full plate next season. This is a good place to be competing. The Rolex 24 At Daytona transcends everything, and we are hoping to be there.
Berger again linked to BAR Honda role Gerhard Berger has been linked with a senior team role at the newly re-structured BAR-Honda squad. Reports in the Japanese press have hinted that Honda F1 boss Takeo Kiuchi is keen to involve Berger, who he knows from their time spent together at McLaren-Honda. Autosport Magazine
Shakeup at DEI?UPDATE A restructuring of Dale Earnhardt Inc. is underway, the immediate result of which will include a new crew chief next season for Nextel Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. Tony Eury Sr., who has served as Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief since his debut in the series in the 2000 season, will step down and take a less prominent role at DEI, likely overseeing next year's part-time Cup program of 2004 Busch Series championship Martin Truex Jr., multiple sources confirmed Tuesday. Although final details have not been worked out, two scenarios remain regarding a replacement for Eury Sr. on Earnhardt Jr.'s #8 Budweiser Chevy. The most likely is Pete Rondeau, most recently crew chief for DEI teammate Michael Waltrip, taking the same role with Earnhardt Jr.'s team, sources said. A less likely possibility is Tony Eury Jr., currently Earnhardt Jr's car chief, moving to crew chief, with Tony Gibson - currently crew chief of DEI Busch driver Paul Menard - moving into the car chief position., sources said. Should Rondeau move to Earnhardt Jr.'s team, Eury Jr. would likely take over as crew chief of Waltrip's #15 NAPA Chevys, sources said. ThatsRacin.com11/30/04 Jayski.com reports that they are hearing there could be some crew changes/swapping within the DEI teams, nothing concrete yet, but they could come between the No. 8 Budweiser team of driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and No. 15 NAPA team of driver Michael Waltrip.
F2005 to have 'higher' nose (GMM) Next year's Ferrari F1 car may have a higher nose section than in 2004, we can reveal. The world champion team, conducting aerodynamic work for the revised 2005 regulations - including a mandatory raised front wing - at Circuit de Catalunya last week, tried the novel solution. Asked if the development gave a hint as to what F2005 might ultimately look like, a team member replied: 'It might.'
Who might badge Cosworth F1 engine? This Grandprix.com article speculates on which manufacturer might badge the Cosworth F1 engine. It is not a secret that teams in Formula 1 without manufacturer backing are at a massive disadvantage. One way this might be achieved is if a new manufacturer funded Cosworth to build F1 engines. This kind of "arms-length" deal could work out if the price of an involvement in F1 reduces as it is hoped will happen with the new engine regulations. The car companies which are not involved in F1 and perhaps might wish to be are General Motors, Volkswagen, Peugeot-Citroen, Hyundai, Suzuki and Porsche. There are others but they are probably too small to be able to compete effectively. GM and Peugeot seem intent on low-cost attacks on the World Touring Car Championship while Suzuki is said to be keen on the World Rally Championship. The obvious target for Sauber and Red Bull Racing is therefore going to be Volkswagen although Peter Sauber might aim to one day try to sell his team to BMW.
Hyundai has been sniffing around F1 for some time but has made no moves while Porsche is making too much money to need to advertise its products. Volkswagen has recently decided to strengthen its motorsport involvement and on November 1 established a company called Volkswagen Motorsport GmbH, which combines the various activities of Volkswagen in competition. The new body is to be headed by Denmark's Kris Nissen, who will report to board member Prof. Dr. Wilfried Bockelmann. Nissen, a former racer who had aspirations of F1 and tested a Zakspeed F1 car in the late 1980s, later had a terrible fiery accident in a sports car race in Japan but came back from that to be a frontrunner in the DTM and in 1994 was even given a Formula 1 test by Sauber. He has been responsible for the race and rally activities of VW since July 2003. The main activity of Volkswagen Motorsport at the moment is raid rallying with the VW Touareg and the organization has just announced its team for the 2005 Dakar with three former winners Jutta Kleinschmidt, Juha Kankkunen and Bruno Saby being joined by NASCAR driver Robby Gordon. "With the formation of Volkswagen Motorsport GmbH and the corresponding new structure, we have created an excellent base from which to compete in motorsport at the highest level in an objective, professional and successful way," Nissen said when the program was launched. It is no secret that Vow’s boss Bernd Pischetsrieder is a great fan of F1, having been behind the decision to get BMW into the sport when he was with the Munich car maker but he has been concentrating in recent years on getting some of VW's marques sorted out. He has often said that reviving the Bugatti name is VW's project equivalent to F1 at the moment. That job is now reaching its conclusion with the much-delayed Bugatti Veyron super car finally getting close to production and Thomas Bscher, an investment banker who enjoyed a very successful career in sports car racing in the 1990s, now looking ahead to new models which will be aimed at the Ferrari market.
Seen at Baja 1000UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. According to a Rahal Letterman spokesperson, Bobby Rahal was not at the Baja race. 11/25/04 Paul Newman was seen talking to Bobby Rahal at the recent Baja 1000 for about two hours. Rahal was then seen talking to Michel Jourdain Jr. Rahal is rumored to be running Danica Patrick in ALMS next year and it is thought he and Honda still want to run a third IRL car. We assume that is what the discussions with Jourdain were about, or would team Rahal make a return to Champ Car? We doubt the Honda contract would permit the team to dilute their resources in another series, so any talk of a return to Champ Car has to be pure speculation at this point.
Aprilia to quit MotoGP According to cyclenews.com, Piaggio - the company on the verge of becoming Aprilia's new owner - has decided to terminate the factory's RS Cube MotoGP project, putting Shane Bryne and Jeremy McWilliams out of a 2005 ride. "The racing schedule of Derbi and Gilera will not change and about Aprilia we haven't any doubt to maintain our involvement in 125 and 250 GP classes," cyclenews.com reports Piaggio CEO Rocco Sabelli as saying. "Regarding MotoGP, we think that Aprilia's presence on the challenge was not economic, not competitive and absolutely without positive effect in the commercial activity," he added. "Contrary, we will study the possibility to re-enter very soon in the World Superbike. To stay in MotoGP could to cost a lot of money and damage our firm."
Paul Page to be replaced for IRL broadcasts According to this SPEEDTV article, ABC's Todd Harris did the sideline reporting Saturday night from the USC/Notre Dame football game but I hear he'll be replacing Paul Page as the IRL's play-by-play man in 2005. Also, look for Brent Musburger to host an elaborate pre-race show and it appears Scott Goodyear will be retained as analyst after auditioning against Gil de Ferran and Jack Arute.
Brno keeps an eye on Champ Car As the new owners of Champ Car bring the series slowly back to prominence as a top international racing organization, racing circuits around the world are keeping an eye on the series as a possibility for their circuit. As an example, the Chairman of the board of directors, Executive director, and Business director of the beautiful Brno circuit in the Czech Republic, Ludek Starha, told AutoRacing1.com, "We regularly consider a lot of options how to improve our calendar and how to bring new events to the Czech Republic. Champ Car was one of the options we have discussed with BPA agency from Prague. But it will not be in the 2005." Mark C.
Blaney to drive for Childress Dave Blaney is expected to be named as the fulltime driver for Richard Childress' third racing team during the events surrounding the awards banquet. Speculation is that Jack Daniel's will sponsor the team and that Philippe Lopez will serve as crew chief. The news couldn't come at a better time for the Hartford [OH] native and Badger High School graduate. Blaney is coming off a season in which he wasn't able to land a fulltime ride. He had a few rides for Bill Davis Racing's No. 23 team early in the season, and he landed a spot on RCR's No. 30 AOL team for a few races. With sponsorship money hard to come by and Blaney at the age of 42, it appeared he might not get another chance at NASCAR's elite circuit. "It crossed my mind,'' he said. "But I really thought the way things were going that I would get a chance to get with a good team and have a chance to continue on with my career.'' Childress, who also owns teams for drivers No. 29-Kevin Harvick and Robby Gordon, has reportedly long been impressed with Blaney's driving skills. Blaney likes what Childress has to offer in terms of support. "It's not like we knew each other (well),'' Blaney said. "I knew him and had respect for what he's done. He's a really good guy. He's hard working. He's got his stuff together. He knows what he's doing and can make things happen.'' Childress called on Blaney midway through the season when rookie Johnny Sauter was dropped from the AOL car. Blaney thought there was a chance that the deal might have secured him a ride for the remainder of the season, but he was replaced after Jeff Burton was released from Jack Roush Racing. "It was kind of a race-to-race thing,'' Blaney said. "He (Childress) told me up front that they were trying to sign Jeff Burton, so it wasn't a shock to me. When he told me I didn't think it would happen because I didn't think Roush would let Jeff Burton go. But what are you going to tell Richard Childress, no, I don't want to drive your car?" More at the Tribune Chronicle
Hungarian eyes IRL ride According to Hungarian sources, ex-Minardi F1 driver Zsolt Baumgartner has a concrete offer from an IRL team for 2005. The name of this team is being kept under wraps. It seems staying in F1 will almost be impossible financially for him because Minardi wants at least $4 million, so this is a much better opportunity for him. Baumgartner refused to comment on this rumor.
Forsythe to test four driversUPDATE AutoRacing1.com has learned that Tomas Enge will not be testing next week with Forsythe Racing, but instead another Czech, Jarek Janis will test instead. Janis drove one Champ Car race for Dale Coyne earlier this year and then quit, blaming the equipment for his poor performance. Mark C.11/23/04 AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that Forsythe Racing will test four drivers next Monday and Tuesday at Sebring. The four drivers are Toyota Atlantic driver Alex Figge, ALMS and F3000 driver Tomas Enge, Toyota Atlantic driver Andrew Ranger and a 4th driver from Poland. Mark C.
Sauber to lose Ferrari engines Sauber could lose its supply of Ferrari V10 engines in 12 months time, when the current contract between the two companies expires, according to reports in Italy. The news has already been communicated internally at Ferrari's factory in Maranello and engineers currently involved on the Sauber program are reported to have been told they'll be moved to other areas of the company. The Swiss team claims it has no knowledge of this and Peter Sauber, present at Barcelona for the first winter test, denied he knew anything about it.
But the Swiss team owner, who watched his new signing Jacques Villeneuve make his debut for Sauber on Friday in Spain, did not deny that his team could swap engine supplies for 2006. “It's true the contract with Ferrari expires at the end of 2005 and with the engine situation changing a lot for 2006 we have to look around to see what's best for the team. We've seen Toyota supply engines to Jordan for 2005 and there seems to be a bigger overture from most engine manufacturers currently involved in Formula 1 to supply engines to more than one team. "I have to speak with everybody to see what opportunities are available for Sauber – that's my job – but nothing at the moment tells me we are not continuing our relationship with Ferrari beyond the end of the current contract.”
The Swiss manager surprised everyone in Interlagos, when he signed the same document as the other eight team principals which called for a serious reduction in testing. This left Ferrari, which does not support the proposals, isolated. This didn't please Jean Todt and even though the two men claim to remain in excellent terms, the relationship between their companies is certainly strained and could come to an end soon. More at Autosport.com
Renault to add 50 HP to start 2005 This Autosport.com article says, Renault plans to start the 2005 season with a massive power hike that could put it on level power terms with BMW, Honda and Ferrari. The team reckons it could have at least 50bhp more than it had available in the Brazilian Grand Prix last month, according to sources inside Renault. Renault switched to a conventional angle 3-litre V10 engine at the beginning of 2004 (having pioneered a wide-angle V10 when it re-entered F1) and the engine has long been considered the weak link in the package. Now the French manufacturer reckons the new engines, designed to rules that demand them to last two entire grand prix weekends, will put the team on an equal footing with F1's top engine makers.
“In Viry-Châtillon they've done a really great job," a source told autosport.com. "The new engine is smaller, lighter and already more powerful than the units we have here, so we expect to start the new season with quite a lot more horsepower than we had in Brazil. As everyone else seems to be happy to keep the same level of power they had at the end of the season, this should put us in a good position, engine-wise.”
According to sources Renault only managed to get 890bhp from its V10 at the end of the 2004, but expects to start the season with at least 940bhp from the new engine. ......"I know the work that is currently being done by the engine engineers is quite good and I think we'll be in pretty good shape from the engine side," said Fisichella, who is testing for the team at Barcelona for the first time since re-joining from Sauber. "People were talking about massive losses of power because the engines will have to last two GP distances, but I don't think that will be the case. In our case, at least” said the Italian driver, smiling broadly!
Penske turned down Jack Daniel's? Per Speedway Scene's S-Notes, Penske Racing had plans for a 4th full-time Cup team for Travis Kvapil as the driver and Jack Daniel's as the sponsor. However someone within the 'Penske Family' found an issue with alcohol sponsorships, so the full-time 4th team was scrapped. That is leading to the rumors that Kvapil could replace Brendan Gaughan in the No. 77 Kodak Dodge, since it looks like Kvapil doesn't have a full-time gig in 2005 in any series. And while it is widely speculated that Jack Daniel's will go to Richard Childress Racing for the #30 car and driver Dave Blaney, rumor has it that NASCAR may have Jack Daniel's as a NASCAR Sponsor. Speedway Scene Print Edition
Daré Bent on Returning to IndyCars One may argue one win in 38 starts isn’t exactly a stellar resume, but to former AJ Foyt IndyCar driver Airton Daré, that meant something different: at least, he was winning. Upon leaving American open-wheel racing with absolutely no love lost for the, in his words, “obsolete” four-time Indy500 winner, Daré has been trying to pick his paces in the Brazilian Stock Car V8 series, which uses the same engines of NASCAR’s Busch Series. But as many open-wheel drivers who tried a NASCAR jump have learned, these heavy V8 beasts are a wholly different ballgame. With one race to go in the championship, Daré sits 26th in the standings. “I’m very dissatisfied with my performance,” he tells the Brazilian press. “The U.S. provides a much better environment, not only because salaries are higher, but also since the teams, not the drivers, are usually the ones responsible for finding sponsors. Maybe if I were winning races I’d have the motivation to chase the money, but with an 11th as my best finishing position this year, finding the motivation becomes hard,” continues the 2002 IRL Kansas City winner, who’s had his IndyCar career cut short by a horrific accident at Texas Motor Speedway in June ‘03 (he broke his right femur, losing the remainder of the season and never getting a chance to return)..........Daré expects to announce his 2005 plans - which he hopes will mean a return to IRL IndyCars - before the end of the year. SPEEDTV.com
Fernandez trying to lure Gigante and Jourdain Rumor here in Mexico is that Adrian Fernandez has had talks with Gigante and Michel Jourdain Jr. for the last 6 months trying to get Jourdain to his team, promising them that with Fernandez Racing in the IRL he will have a car that will help him get to the podiums he had last year with Rahal. Jose Arrambide
BAT wants to buy Forsythe and Pollock outUPDATE A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, My understanding is that ALL of the outstanding shares not owned by BAT where pledged as collateral in 2001 (??) for the loans BAT advanced the team to stay afloat when the team had spent its way through the original allocation of investment in record time. The non-BAT owned shares were in excess of thirty percent however the majority of those have simply been 'converted' to BAT ownership in lieu of repaying the loans they collateralized. The liened shares did not affect the owners of the shares voting rights, which is the reason Pollock and others managed to stay on the board after Pollock was pushed out.
The fact that the remaining shares outstanding were used as collateral for loans that have not been repaid to date makes it basically an accounting / administrative move for BAT to declare the loans in default, since BAR still can't repay the loans and in any event BAR would not want to service the loans if it would give Pollock any advantage, to find the team in default forcing it into administration ('receivership' in US terms) in an effort to collect the monies owed and then simply negotiate with the receiver to 'pay' the loans to itself for a minimal amount in exchange for the shares as the bottom line on the balance sheets for the team remain all red ink. Unless there are other substantial creditors in line demanding payment in full it should be a pretty straight forward process.
In essence a booking move to avoid having to pay original investors. While legal it is not entirely ethical from the perspective of many as Mr. Forsythe and the others invested in good faith and the F1 community does not want the stigma of stiffing investors to negatively impact future investors from minority participation in F1 teams or the industry in general.
By the way great web site, very current with lots of information and breaking news on Champ Car particularly. Champ Car is getting more and more interest 'across the pond' and with its new owners many think it is on the road to becoming the only relevant North American based open wheel series. Kindest Regards, Name withheld by Request11/24/04 BAR F1 team owner British American Tobacco may be forced to put the team into bankruptcy in order to complete Honda’s 45 per cent buy-in, Autosport reports. The dramatic move may become necessary because a 10 per cent stake is still held in the team by Adrian Reynard, Craig Pollock, Rick Gorne and Gerry Forsythe, four of BAR’s founders. Honda only wants its stake if the minority shareholders are removed, and an offer has been made to buy them out. Should they refuse to accept that offer by the end of this week, BAT would put the team into bankruptcy – in effect putting the minority stake into the hands of receivers–and then buy it back. This will have the effect of removing the four minority shareholders and clarifying ownership of the team, with BAT holding 55 per cent and Honda 45 per cent. Autosport Magazine
Breakaway series 'certain to happen' The Formula 1 manufacturer-led breakaway series will go ahead come what may and will become F1’s rival or its successor, according to sources. The four car manufacturers behind the GPWC breakaway series (BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari and Renault) are set to leave F1 by 2008 at the latest. A GPWC source revealed to Autosport that the manufacturers are no longer looking for a reconciliation with the owners of F1 (i.e. Bernie Ecclestone).
The companies which control F1 are currently the subject of a legal battle to decide who runs them (see above). Three banks own 75 per cent but they claim that power is in the hands of the Ecclestone family trust which holds the remaining 25 per cent. Irrespective of the outcome of the legal battle, however, the source says the GPWC is not negotiating with the banks or F1’s management companies to buy into it.
“We will be watching the lawsuit with interest. Whatever happens it won’t stop GPWC pushing ahead with the new series,” said the source. “GPWC does not consider buying the banks’ shares as part of its strategy.”
The most the GPWC could get from the banks would be a 75 per cent stake in F1 and it would also inherit a complex web of companies based in Jersey, the Netherlands and the UK. By establishing its own series, GPWC has 100 per cent ownership and the simple structure of one company (the recently-appointed marketing group iSe) to develop, manage and sell the commercial rights to the series. Transparency has been a key GPWC objective since it was set up in 2001. GPWC appointed iSe to create its new series and this includes building the commercial, operational, administrative and racing structure.
The main benefit to the teams is that they will have access to all revenue streams from the series and receive a far greater share of the profit than they currently do. Renault team president Patrick Faure said: “Seventy-five or 80 per cent of F1’s profits stay with the ‘Bernie system’, and the teams receive just 20 or 25 per cent. I don’t know any other sport that has that kind of statistic.” Autosport Magazine [Editor's Note: One can argue that without Bernie the new GPWC series will fall flat on its face from internal political disagreements between manufacturers and then the teams will be wishing they were still getting Bernie's 20 to 25 percent. See related rumor - will Ecclestone eventually buy Champ Car, rename it to F1 and carry on? Hmm.....]
Imola may lose GP (GMM -- Nov.24) F1 might lose 'a couple' of European events to make way for Russian and Indian grands prix, Bernie Ecclestone suggested. Despite Imola's declaration of a 'verbal' new five-year deal for the San Marino grand prix, the 74-year-old 'impresario' warned on Sunday that - if Europe was to lose a race or two - he'd pluck them from Italy and Germany. Both countries, with the European grand prix staged annually at Nurburgring (Germany), stage more than a single race per season. ''Maybe we lose two (European grands prix),'' Bernie told the Scotland on Sunday newspaper.
Fogarty signs with Grand-Am teamUPDATE #3 Hearing that Fogarty has either signed or will be signing soon with the Flying Lizard team in ALMS. We also hear that he may be paired with Johannes van Overbeek. 11/08/04 As a further update, we can tell you that Jon Fogarty signed with an un-named ALMS team for 2005. Fogarty was married this past weekend to his long-time girlfriend. 11/07/04 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. AutoRacing1.com has learned that the Pacific Coast team has decided not to field a team in Grand-Am as the funding did not materialize. Now it will be curious to see where Jon Fogarty lands. Mark C.11/01/04 Rumor has it that 2-time Toyota Atlantic champion Jon Fogarty has signed to drive with a Grand-Am team next year. Pacific Coast, the team he drove for this year in Atlantics, was rumored to have bought Grand-Am equipment, but no word on whether that is the team he will be driving for. Supposedly two Champ Car teams were interested in Fogarty and were waiting to see how he did in his up-coming Champ Car test he won as a result of being Toyota Atlantic Champion, but if this rumor is true, and we believe it is, that's all for naught. There is a lot of France family and Toyota money flowing in Grand-Am right now, so we suspect Fogarty took a sure salary when the offer arose. Mark C.
Jourdain Jr. out at RuSPORT?UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's RuSPORT announcement that Justin Wilson will join AJ Allmendinger at RuSPORT. We have updated our 2005 Champ Car Silly Season page. 11/23/04 Michel Jourdain Jr. has disappeared from the RuSPORT website ahead of today's announcement for the team's 2005 plans. Could this mean he is off to another team, or could it be he is out of a ride? There was a rumor that Gigante was not doing well financially and that they might pull out of Champ Car. With Herdez already gone, Telmex and Quaker State gone with Fernandez, and if Gigante is also gone, Champ Car's Mexican support may be quickly shutting down. Will our prediction come true that with NASCAR now established in Mexico, they will, one-by-one, suck Champ Car's Mexican sponsorship dry? Monterrey attendance was down in 2004 and weekend Mexico City attendance was down about 65,000 from last year. Not a good trend, which was partially brought on by Champ Car's non-existent TV presence in Mexico. We shall know soon enough. Who is minding the store for Champ Car in Mexico?
Will Champ Car get F1 star? With each passing day it appears there is no place for F1 star and former McLaren driver David Coulthard. It's not that he is slow, it's just that all the teams want young drivers who have the best reflexes. With Champ Car in desperate need of more "star power" to bolster its popularity, and with its growing international presence, will they try to make Coulthard an offer to drive in Champ Car? They tried to get Villeneuve two years ago, but he wanted back into F1 where he will drive around as a backmarker with no hope of ever winning a race. Recall our previous arguments that heroes make a sport great and you can't make heroes out of wankers. Champ Car needs more heroes. Although Coulthard in not a "super" hero, he is quite popular worldwide nonetheless. With that said, he will probably take an obscure job as a F1 test driver, which pays more than most Champ Car teams pay to be a regular driver.
Ganassi trying to steal Hunter-Reay from Champ CarUPDATE #2 Our Ganassi Racing moles tell us the team will probably test four drivers to fill the third team entry. 11/12/04 AutoRacing1.com has learned through its Ganassi Racing moles that Ryan Hunter-Reay was in their shop for two days recently getting a seat fitting and talking to their engineers with an eye toward an upcoming test.
With that said, we stake our reputation on our prediction that, at the end of the day, Hunter-Reay will stay in Champ Car. Why? Because Ryan is intelligent and we simply don't see him staking his wellbeing and his future bouncing off walls IRL-style. Hunter-Reay is a road racer with F1 aspirations. The road to F1 simply is not through the IRL. Mark C.
11/12/04 Ganassi Racing plans to add a third IRL car next year. The team plans to test two drivers, including Champ Car's Ryan Hunter-Reay, later this month. Indy Star Like Carpentier, who had no offers from Champ Car unless he brought sponsors or money, it is tough in Champ Car (unless you have a billionaire team owner who is committed to the extent that it is not imperative to have a sponsor supported budget). Champ Car needs to make sure that it does not lose Hunter-Reay as he is part of the solution to Champ Car making a comeback, and has proven that he is a fast talented driver that is an asset both on and off the track. Not only was he the first American in over 20 years to win a Champ Car race in his rookie season, this year he shattered another series record while winning the Milwaukee race from the pole by leading the most laps in a single race in the history of Champ Car.
Ryan has been a devout Champ Car disciple and done everything within his power to stay in Champ Car and deserves better than driving for teams that financially flounder mid-season and then go out of business as he has for the last three years (Atlantics: Hylton, CART: ASTJ and now Herdez which is on the ropes and will not be Herdez in 2005 if Keith Wiggins does not manage to find sufficient sponsorship to run one or two cars which we all hope he does).
There is not an engine manufacturer in Champ Car (the engines are owned by Champ Car and prepared by Cosworth a company that builds and rebuilds engines for a number of clients) and Toyota and Honda both compete in the IRL and in F1 which is Ryan's goal. Certainly, it is debatable what winning a series Championship in a series that primarily runs on ovals would do for any driver in the eyes of F1 team principals but an American driver that a major manufacturer that is high on that driver and competes in F1 cannot be ignored.
Cosworth’s future in F1 at riskUPDATE A reader writes, I strongly disagree with your assessment that the Cosworth engines are underpowered. A lot of the time differences between the F1 teams has to do with the chassis development. Chassis development is THE budget burner. Look at Sauber, they have a Ferrari engine right? How many races have Ferrari won so far? When was the last time a Ferrari engine blew up? And the Saubers were not precisely fighting for the podiums with the McLarens, the Williams and the Ferraris. Look at Toyota, arguably the MOST POWERFUL ENGINE, the team with a budget compared only to that of Ferrari in the F1 grid and yet they still can't make it to the front. So it is not the engine alone that makes a competitive car it is the balance between the chassis, the engine and the tires. Roberto Reyes, Mexico City11/22/04 F1's newest team, Red Bull Racing, could switch to BMW power in the future, once the team's contractual commitment to Cosworth comes to an end. "There are good relations with Munich," said Red Bull team owner Dietrich Mateschitz. "Honda, Ferrari, BMW - I believe are all good manufacturers, and we will have the chance to get an engine. If we change, we want to go with the best one available." Unless Cosworth's new owners Messrs. Kalkhoven and Forsythe step up their horsepower, Cosworth could soon find itself out of the F1 business now that the other engine manufacturers have shown an increasing willingness to sell customer engines. Mark C.
Tony Stewart to get F1 test Former NASCAR and IRL champ and Indy 500 participant Tony Stewart craves the chance to test a Formula 1 car to find out if he is quick enough to make the grade. The 33-year-old says his enthusiasm was fired when fellow NASCAR star Jeff Gordon tested a Williams at Indianapolis last year. Stewart told Autosport: “I would love to have the chance to do what Jeff did, especially at Indianapolis. To be able to run an F1 car there would be a dream come true.” Stewart also encouraged more European racers to try to break into NASCAR. “Their car control is pretty phenomenal from what we see on TV,” he said. “I’d enjoy seeing someone come over here – I think they would enjoy these cars.” [Editor's Note: This would be nothing more than a PR gimmick. Stewart was outdistanced by his Champ Car teammates with Ganassi Racing at the Indy 500 and the overweight Stewart would never come close to the lap times of the F1 drivers if they lapped in anger. In addition, Stewart's experience in an open wheel car on a road course is limited. Everyone made a big deal about Jeff Gordon's F1 test at Indy but in fact the stopwatch showed he was miles slower than the F1 pole speed that year at Indy. It was just another PR gimmick to bolster interest in the USGP.]
RuSPORT picks up Tracy's engineer Word on the street is that RuSport has acquired Todd Malloy from Forsythe Racing. Malloy was PT's engineer. Rumor also has it that Patrick Carpentier's engineer may move over to Tracy's car. Carpentier left for Team Cheever and the IRL.
Jordan could run Lexus engines Speculation has it that although Toyota will supply the Jordan team with engines in 2005, they might be badged Lexus instead of Toyota as a way to bolster the Lexus brand name in Europe. Lexus is of course Toyota's luxury car division.
Ferrari to ignore testing limitUPDATE Ferrari announced that it has signed an agreement with the driver Marc Gené who will join Scuderia Ferrari as from today, for the 2005 race season, as a test driver, working alongside test driver Luca Badoer. This rumor is upgraded to 'fact.' 11/22/04 Rumor has it that Ferrari will soon name Marc Gene as their second test driver, indicating they have no plans to accept the test ban limits agreed to by the other nine F1 teams. Ferrari was shunned by not being invited to that meeting, so as a matter of principle, you can bet they won't abide by any decisions made at that meeting. Without a 100% agreement of all teams, the new rule is not binding and Ferrari will test huge amounts and gain an even bigger advantage than they already have over the other teams. This will force the other teams to not follow the test limits or risk being blown away by an even wider margin by Ferrari in 2005.
Possible street race eyed for India The change of guard in Andhra Pradesh may have put the Formula 1 project in Hyderabad on the back burner, but the Federation of Motorsports Club of India has not given up on the idea of holding the premier event in the country.
FMCI is in talks with the Centre about a proposal on the lines of the "low-investment" Monaco Grand Prix model promoting it as a tourism-cum-sports event.
"Considering the exorbitant cost involved in building a F-1 track no government is likely to come ahead. So now we are looking at the Monaco Grand Prix mode, in which the day-to-day used roads are only converted into tracks," Head-Motorsports J K Industries and advisor to FMCI Sanjay Sharma said here today.
Sharma, who is here in connection with the first India-ASEAN car rally, said that if the model was accepted the only cost incurred would be on the safety aspects instead of the approximate Rs 400 crore required for construction of tracks.
"When the F-1 circus lands somewhere they require about 2,500 rooms alone and if we consider the other economic benefits coupled with it we can imagine the gain to the country." PTI
Gonzalez out at PKV RacingUPDATE #2Correction: We erroneously reported incorrect information with regard to NII Holdings. NII holdings owns the cellular franchise for Nextel in Mexico NOT Nextel in the states. Nextel USA is worth about $30 billion, Nextel Mexico about $3 billion. NII was a subsidiary of Nextel that went bankrupt a couple of years ago and, at the time, Nextel USA was in no position to help out because they were in a tough financial position themselves, hence they let the Mexican subsidiary go to Chapter 11...it was reorganized in Chapter 11 and came out 2 years ago...since then it has been an awesome stock. 11/21/04 As we said when this rumor was first posted, Nextel of Mexico will remain with the team as it is no longer tied to Roberto Gonzalez. However, whether they can still use the Nextel name in the USA is still being debated. Mark C.11/18/04 Rumor has it that Roberto Gonzalez will not be back at PKV Racing in 2005. The sponsor Nextel Mexico will remain with the team.
Possible trouble for San Jose race?UPDATE In doing some investigation into why the taxpayers association objects to tax dollars being spent for the San Jose Champ Car race AutoRacing1.com has learned the following - They have no position for or against having a Grand Prix style race in San Jose because they have not seen enough information come out to take a position. What concerns them is the level at which the city participates. If the proponents can make a clear case for something of this nature, and if the citizenry are in agreement, then they feel the role of the city should be in enabling or expediting the process - not in becoming a co-investor in a risk venture. They feel that if the venture is expected to be wildly successful, then the promoters should cover the complete cost. They feel their city does not have a great track record in the manner in which it has subsidized what should be purely private enterprise projects - mismanagement of their tax dollars has long been the norm there.
They feel the RDA is an agency which should not exist - for many reasons. It drains funds from other services, it encourages the city to take actions they should never do which results in the stomping on property rights, and it ultimately bankrupts the city treasury, as is occurring in So Cal. So they don't think it is good policy to give large amounts of cash to Barry Swenson or any other developer through the RDA.
They feel it is not the place of a city to "invest" its funds in an exercise best performed by private industry. The Shark's arena was not a good idea from that standpoint. Any investment of this nature puts public funds at risk. They feel that as stewards, the city council has no business playing fast and loose with tax dollars. The arena is a good example - suppose the team had chosen to leave shortly after it was built? Would the city not have lost a whole lot of tax money on that venture? They feel that taxes are extracted by threat of force from citizens - and that it is incumbent on their elected officials to make absolutely sure it is used only for legitimate purposes. They feel Ice hockey, race events, etc. are private enterprises and should be financed by private individuals and companies, not government.
They feel that although the city of Long Beach may have benefited enormously from the Grand Prix - not every city that tries it has, noting Champ Car has left a number of failed events in its wake. Their position is that it's better to let private parties take the risk willingly rather than force the taxpayers to do so.
11/20/04 San Jose officials said Friday they have reached a tentative agreement to stage a grand prix car race in the streets surrounding HP Pavilion in July. The five-year deal with the race promoter -- the Woodside-based Canary Fund, a non-profit corporation dedicated to early cancer detection -- is being applauded by city officials who say the Champ Car World Series event could generate millions of dollars for businesses and the city treasury while raising San Jose's profile.
``It gets our name and our identity out literally across the world, so from that perspective, you can't buy better PR,'' said Councilwoman Cindy Chavez, whose district includes downtown. The race is contingent on the city council approving $650,000 to help shoulder the $3 million needed to prepare the course and pay for public safety services during the race, which could attract 120,000 people downtown. The promoter will be responsible for funding the remaining $2.35 million.
The proposal is scheduled for the council's Dec. 7 agenda, said Mayor Ron Gonzales' budget and policy director, Joe Guerra. ``We're optimistic about getting this thing going,'' said Canary Fund President Dale Jantzen.
The $650,000 investment request comes just weeks after city officials announced San Jose was facing a $60 million budget shortage next year. However, Guerra said the money being proposed would come from funds that don't finance city services.
The proposal calls for tapping $250,000 from a redevelopment agency business grant fund and $400,000 from a city Office of Economic Development fund dedicated for small business loans, Guerra said. The plan calls for the city to be repaid with race revenues.
The agreement to hold races with the Canary Fund -- founded by former Cisco senior executive Don Listwin -- would end after five years with an opportunity to renew for another five years, said David Vossbrink, the mayor's spokesman.
The agreement, reached Friday morning, ends six months of negotiations between the Canary Fund and city officials, who say the July 29-31 event could nourish cash-strapped downtown businesses and pour $10 million to $20 million in local sales-tax revenue into the treasury.
``Revenues generated by the event will bring real economic benefit to our community and local businesses,'' Gonzales said in a news release. But others, such as the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association, aren't sold on the race being financed with public money. ``There is a more critical need for the money and higher priorities,'' association president Dennis Umphress said. ``I think it's inappropriate for the city to be in the racing business.'' Association board member George Swenson said he didn't trust the city's revenue projection. ``I would believe their estimates are overly optimistic,'' he said. Excerpts from Mercury News
Champ Car will not reinstate Laguna Seca Laguna Seca was not on the 2005 Champ Car schedule and we never expected it to return despite some saying it would because reportedly last year's race only drew a paid attendance of around 5,000 on race day. Not too many people wanted to come and see those turbocharged cars a couple thousand fans think are the lifeblood of Champ Car. The Champ Car community had better wake up to a dose of reality. The product is in need of a major overhaul. Since the tuner crowd all have mufflers on their cars that make them scream, perhaps if the Champ Car engines screamed, as in a normally aspirated V10 scream, they might take notice. This Monterey Herald article says, Champ Car has left Laguna Seca hanging while it works on the Silicon Valley Grand Prix and that appears to be the fly in the ointment. If it were to be based on emotion alone, the deal would already be done with the Monterey circuit, according to Joe Chrnelich, Champ Car's Executive Vice President -- Development, Government Affairs & Planning. However, "Because we're a private company again, the new owners want us to run it like a business," Chrnelich said by phone Friday afternoon. "We have to make some tough and sometimes unpopular decisions. We need to look at the whole package." There are apparently a number of factors involved, including other potential venues and business decisions that must fall into place before the final decision on Laguna Seca, Chrnelich said. He said early December would be a good target date to look for an announcement (for final cancellation). "You look at Laguna Seca and, obviously, we have had a long relationship (22 years)," Chrnelich said. "It's a great track and a great place. Economics is one of the major factors."
Jimmie Johnson team sandbaggingUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Jimmie Johnson, disappointed with a provisional starting spot (39th) in Friday's time trials, bounced back in Saturday's opening practice, posting the second-fastest time. Johnson, 18 points behind leader Kurt Busch heading into Sunday's season-ending Ford 400, made a best lap of Homestead-Miami Speedway in 30.772sec (175.484mph), just a shade behind Greg Biffle (30.763), who will start second Sunday. Johnson still has a lot of ground to cover from 39th at the start. His speed was just about what he showed in qualifying, indicating the team may have attempted to qualify in race set-up. SPEEDTV.com11/19/04 The car cover was wrapped tightly around the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, its driver and crew long gone for the day. All around the garage, teams worked feverishly on their cars, but Jimmie Johnson was nowhere to be found. The absence of the Hendrick Motorsports team after qualifying Friday raised eyebrows everywhere at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Did they go home in disgust after qualifying 39th for Sunday's season finale -- Johnson's worst starting position of the year? Or were they playing mind games with the competition? No one was really sure. All that was certain was that it was unusual for Johnson to qualify so poorly. His effort was the worst of his career, surpassing two 37th-place starting spots last season. But even stranger was that noted perfectionist Chad Knaus, the crew chief, wasn't tearing the car apart trying to figure out what went wrong. "I heard him on the radio -- it didn't sound like he was disappointed in the lap," Jeff Gordon, Johnson's teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, said. "It sounded like the speed wasn't there." Johnson heads into Sunday's season finale trailing series leader Kurt Busch by 18 points in the race for the Nextel Cup. Gordon is third in the standings, three points behind Johnson. Robbie Loomis, Gordon's crew chief and Knaus' partner in strategy, said it was way too early to count Johnson out. "They probably are as strong as anybody in this garage when they have their backs stacked up against the wall," Loomis said. AP/CBS Sportsline
Dave Richards could return with new team David Richards has refused to rule out a return to F1 with a new team in 2006. Richards left his role as BAR team principal on Friday, more than a year before his contract was due to expire. The 52-year-old intends to immerse himself in his other motorsport interests in the coming months. However, he admitted that he may still be tempted back to F1. He said: “I've learnt in this business that you never say never and it would be foolish to close the door on something now. But at the same time, don't expect to see me in the pitlane very much next year.”
He said: “I've never been short of things to do. “Obviously at Prodrive we've just taken on the Aston Martin contract with the challenge of Le Mans ahead of us, which is going to be exciting. Clearly the World Rally Championship has many issues that I'd like to be involved in and I feel it's slightly remiss that I haven't given it the attention it deserves in the last few years. “But I think above everything else I haven't given my family enough time over the past few years and I really need to address that.”
Robby Gordon to switch to Ford Robby Gordon is ramping up his own NASCAR Cup tour team for 2005. While Gordon has strong NASCAR ties with Chevrolet, Ford officials have reportedly made him a lavish sponsorship offer to field a Ford next season on the NASCAR tour, and it is unclear if GM executives are willing spend what it would take to keep Gordon in the fold. Gordon, though, said he would prefer to stay with Chevrolet. Winston Salem Journal
NetZero to follow Burton from HaasUPDATE Is NetZero getting out of racing altogether? Their racing website, www.netzeroracing.com, now forwards to their regular website. Hmm...... 09/20/04 Ward Burton, who learned his contract with the No. 0 Haas CNC Racing Chevrolet will not be renewed, is a man of principle, so it's not surprising that he would contemplate retirement rather than suffer the humiliation of finding a ride with a second-rate Cup team. "I still want to drive, and I know I can still win races," Burton says. His sponsor, NetZero HiSpeed, thinks so, too, and will follow him if he signs with another team. But the problem is simple: The seats of the cars capable of winning are filled. Jason Leffler has been rumored to be moving into the No. 0, and his name also has been mentioned in connection with the new No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing ride. If Leffler graduates from the Busch Series to Cup, it's possible that truck series driver David Starr could join Haas CNC Racing. Sporting News
Ranger to replace CarpentierUPDATE Autoracing1.com has learned that Tide (Procter and Gamble), Ranger's sponsor in Toyota Atlantics, has agreed to increase their sponsorship for Ranger to help him land a Champ Car ride. (Photo courtesy Toyota Atlantic) 11/19/04 According to this RDS article, there is a good chance young Andrew Ranger will replace the departing Patrick Carpentier at Forsythe Racing. One Canadian gone, one Canadian replaced. Mark C.
Papis looking for NASCAR gigUPDATE From Miami we are getting reports that Max Papis is hoping to land a Busch Series ride with either Hendrick or PPI, with PPI being more likely. He has made friends with Earnhardt Jr. and apparently he is helping open some doors for Papis. Mark C.11/07/04 Rolex Sports Car champion Max Papis was hanging out behind Jimmie Johnson's hauler after yesterday's final Nextel Cup practice. Papis, who clinched this year's title with co-driver Scott Pruett by winning the season finale at California Speedway last week, would like to secure a Busch Series ride and has tested Dodges with Evernham Motorsports. "I feel very comfortable every time I come to a Cup race," said the Italian, who won in CART driving for Bobby Rahal. "I'm a European, but I feel American in my heart. It's not about the race cars, it's about the people you have around. People have adopted me here." Richmond Times Dispatch
Christian Fittipaldi warming up for open wheel return?UPDATE #5 We are dropping this rumor to 'speculation' today. Fittipaldi tells one of our colleagues that he will run the 24 Hours of Daytona next year, and possibly some touring cars in Brazil, but he does not have much hope of landing a Champ Car ride in 2005, none of the owners appear interested. Mark C.10/06/04 This new article on Champ Car's website sheds more light on Fittipaldi's desire to return to Champ Car. We are bumping this rumor up to 'strong.' 09/30/04 This Champ Car article says, Christian Fittipaldi was a visitor in Las Vegas last weekend. It was the first time Fittipaldi has been to a Champ Car race since his last race with Newman/Haas at the end of 2002 after a seven-year tenure with the team. Fittipaldi tried to make a move to NASCAR but is now looking to return to either Champ Car or sports car racing. We’ll talk to Christian in detail next week in this space about his hopes for 2005. “It was nice to see him,” Haas said fondly about Fittipaldi. “I don’t know exactly what he’s doing yet. I guess he wants to race and I hope he finds something, regardless of what it is. I’d love to see him come back into Champ Car. Christian is a very good driver and a very good guy as well. We were together for a long time. I like and respect him a great deal but I don’t have anything for him right now.” 09/24/04 We talked to Christian Fittipaldi who is here visiting with his old friends at Newman/Haas. When quizzed about a possible return to Champ Cars as we rumored before he said, “only if the right situation presented itself.” While he did not give us any indication that he was in serious talks, the fact that he is in Vegas at all might tell us something. Mark C.08/25/04 If reports in German newspapers are to be believed, with the return of Champ Car to South America, Christian Fittipaldi will be back in a Champ Car in 2005. We shall see..... 08/10/04Former Minardi star, Christian Fittipaldi, who came straight to the circuit after arriving in Johannesburg on a flight from Miami to help raise money for the South African needy. After a seat-fitting and a quick run-through with the controls of the F1x2 car, took to the track for some familiarization laps, only to discover the circuit layout had changed somewhat since the last time he had raced at Kyalami. He took Andrea, his wife for a ride, she was astonished: " The acceleration of the car is amazing, but I couldn't handle my neck more than 3 laps. Was a great and unique experience that I'll never forget." Drivers due to appear yesterday included Johnny Herbert, Marc Gené, Alex Wurz, Gianmaria Bruni and Ralph Firman. In addition, South Africa’s 1979 Formula One World Drivers’ Champion, Jody Scheckter, made a special appearance, demonstrating his title-winning Ferrari 312 T4 to what was a sell-out crowd of enthusiastic South African motorsport fans.
Button might not want to leave BAR now David Richards believes BAR stands a much greater chance of keeping Jenson Button after Honda bought into the team today. Button tried to use a loophole in the deal between Honda and BAR for engines next season when he attempted to move to Williams for 2005.
“I certainly hope he would consider that. I’m sure that when he sees the performance of the car next year and the team next year he will realize there are great foundations here and a great team of people to go forward with. “That’s something for him to address and I don’t suppose he’ll be making that decision in the short term, he’ll wait to see how next season pans out.”
“The car will be extremely competitive next year. Honda have done a great job on the new engine and the chassis is looking good. “I think that the elusive win we were looking for this year is just around the corner. “Despite everyone expecting Ferrari to be extremely strong next year, there is every chance BAR can challenge them right the way down the line next year. The arrival of Honda and their investment clearly is a very solid and positive sign for the team,” he said. “With Honda’s commitment to the team – a wind tunnel starts building here on Monday – and other investment from them in the long term, it means everyone here now has total security of their jobs with the Formula One team going forward.”
IRL may go back to production engines IRL officials have had preliminary discussions about returning to a production-based engine, league operations director Brian Barnhart said. General Motors cited that as a key to returning to the series it will leave after the 2005 season. The IRL is due to renew its equipment after 2006. "We'll make our decision based on input from our current manufacturers as well as potential ones," Barnhart said. The IRL didn't have the best reliability when it used production-based engines from 1997-99. Barnhart said the cost of switching is another consideration. A decision is due by May, he said, giving manufacturers at least 18 months to prepare for the start of the 2007 season. Indy Star
Does NASCAR fix races? Tony Kanaan, the 2004 Indy Racing League champion, will surely piss off a few NASCAR fans after comments he made on a late night auto racing talk show in Brazil. ”There’s no doubt NASCAR is akin to a religion in the USA right now, but many people – and most open-wheel fans for that matter – question the way their races always seem to have a Hollywood ending,” he declared. “Not to take anything away from Dale [Earnhardt] Jr.’s victory right after his father died, or Jimmie Johnson’s successes following the Hendrick plane tragedy,” Kanaan continued, “but these sorts of ‘coincidences’ can make you go ‘hmm’ sometimes.”
Albers to test for JordanUPDATE This rumor is now 'fact.' Christijan Albers visited Jordan Grand Prix’s Silverstone factory this week for a seat fitting in preparation for a test with the team on December 1st at Jerez. In September, Albers postponed a scheduled test with the squad in order to focus on his DTM championship battle.
The 25-year-old Dutchman will begin Jordan’s first test session since the end of the 2004 season and the team will test for an additional three days in Jerez until December 4th with an interim chassis and 2004 specification Cosworth engines. The team will announce who is driving on the remaining test days shortly.
“Christijan is a quick and committed up-and-coming talent, as we’ve seen in German F3 and this year in DTM," said Eddie Jordan. "We have a mutual sponsor in Trust so we have been watching his career with interest. I have wanted to test him for some time so I am glad that the opportunity has finally come - it’s an exciting time for all of us.” Toyota will power the Jordan Ford team in the championship next season and the team are currently working on a chassis to house the Toyota powerplant.
Christijan Albers Career to date
1997: Champion - Dutch National Kart (ICA 100cc) - Champion - Formula Ford 1800 (Holland) - Champion - Formula Ford 1800 (Belgium) - Champion - Renault Megane Marlboro Masters. 1998: German F3 (5th place, 2 wins, 5 podiums) 1999: Champion - German F3 (6 wins, 10 poles) 2000: International F3000 (European Arrows) 2001: DTM Mercedes (best result 3rd in training, 2nd in race), best driver year old car FIA Formula One Test and Reserve driver - European Minardi F1 2002: DTM Mercedes in Team Rosberg, best driver year old car. Test driver KL Minardi F1 Team 2003: DTM Mercedes in Team HWA 1st win Adria, 2nd win Nürburgring, 3rd win Norisring, 4th win Zandvoort most victories in DTM championship 2003 2004: DTM Mercedes in Team DaimlerChrysler Bank AMG-Mercedes 1 win, 6 podium finishes, several fastest laps and lap records and 3rd in championship. Jordan
11/18/04 DTM driver Christijan Albers has had a seat fitting at Jordan prior to an expected pre-Christmas test. The Dutch driver has previously tested for Minardi and is close to Dutch computer manufacturer Trust. The company, which sponsored Jordan this season, is expected to pay for the test. Autosport Magazine
American might get F1 test role Red Bull Racing owner Dieter Mateschitz has not made his final choice for his team's drivers line-up but he is not hiding his actual preferences. "I want to test young drivers and others with more experience before taking the final decision. The only thing that I can say is that Liuzzi and Klien will be testing next week and they also have a good chance of being our drivers for 2005. As for Scott Speed, we are considering him as a choice for test driver." Scott Speed - who will turn 22 on 24 January - won the 2002 Red Bull Driver Search program and is now a member of the Red Bull Junior Team. With the help of this sponsor, he had a brilliant and successful 2004 season, winning the Formula Renault 2000 Eurocup championship title. Coincidence or not, Scott is now living in Milton Keynes... a few kilometers from the former Jaguar facility, now owned by Red Bull! F1.Racing-Live.com
Carpentier’s engineer rejects the IRL Word on the street is that Patrick Carpentier's race engineer, Eric Zeto, at Forsythe has chosen not to follow him to Cheever Racing and the IRL. Carpentier has already announced his 2005 plans yet Zeto still is working at Forsythe Racing. Some might say that with the recent arrival of Henri Durand, Mecachrome, and Iain Watt this past season he may not have made Zeto welcome at Cheever. But Watt is the engineer on Barron's car and Durand is not a race engineer. Zeto must have based his decision on the relative merits of the two series and chosen to stay where the pastures are greener and more secure. Mark C.
Sponsorship uncertain for No. 99 According to Roush Racing president, Geoff Smith, the No. 99 Roush Racing Ford Taurus will likely once again carry a mosaic of sponsors during the 2005 season. Smith says that there could be up to four different sponsors on the Carl Edwards entry. Edwards was asked at Darlington if he knew his 2005 plans, a question he answered with one word -drive. "I don't know if it'll be Trucks, Busch or Cup," Edwards added, "but whatever they want me to drive I'm going to drive it as hard as I can; and get the best result I can." Smith agreed. "We're going to run him hard," said Smith with a grin. Smith is very pleased with the results Edwards is showing so far, and that was before he popped of his seventh place finish at Darlington this week. "He's just so smooth and knows when to let it all hang out. He never fails to impress when he's behind the wheel." Smith did tell TFR that in 2006 he'd have a full sponsorship package for the #99. Team Ford Racing
Verstappen again makes Champ Car noises Every year we hear the same rumors, but this F1 wanna-bee has not even tested a Champ Car and at this point we doubt he has what it takes anymore. Jos Verstappen may race in the DTM touring car championship, or the America-based Champ Car category, next season. The 32-year-old Dutch driver, who narrowly missed a Jordan seat in 2004 after a year with Minardi, is keen to return to the motor racing circuit. But his manager Huub Rothengatter admitted that Jos' chances now rest 'entirely' on sponsorship. ''We (maintain) many contacts in Formula One,'' he said, ''but it makes no sense to talk (without) having backing behind you.'' Rothengatter appeared to admit that possibilities elsewhere in global motor sport, such as the top German tin-top category or Champ Car, remain 'open.' He added: ''That (also) goes for F1. I would like to be able to say that a deal is done, but it is too early to say anything yet.''
Italian F3000 may include Brit round The new-for-2005 Italian Formula 3000 series looks set to include a British round at an as-yet unnamed venue. Team boss Paolo Coloni, son of championship coordinator Enzo, said that the venue could be announced as early as next month. Autosport Magazine
Toyota Nextel Cup plans on hold? In this week's Automotive News, Mark Rechtin quoted from an interview with Jim Aust, president of Toyota Racing Development, that Toyota has put its plans on hold for NEXTEL Cup because NASCAR is considering announcing major changes to its chassis and engine specifications either after this year or after the 2005 season. Toyota had originally planned on being at Daytona in February, 2007, but those plans seem uncertain now.
Coulthard could get Ferrari test role David Coulthard admitted that a testing role with the Ferrari or Renault teams is possible next season with a view to returning to racing “at the earliest opportunity.” Coulthard told Autosport: “If a sensible opportunity to race doesn’t arise, then it would be foolish to rule out a serious testing opportunity. I have had conversations along these lines and if that would enable me stay in F1 next year, with the freedom to return to racing whenever an opportunity came up, I wouldn’t turn it away. Obviously by far my preferred option is to race, but if there are no seats available, then I have to keep an open mind,” said Coulthard. “I’m convinced it would be better to remain sharp by driving the cars all year rather than hoping to keep race fit by spending a year in the gym. Jacques [Villeneuve] found coming back very difficult, even though he’s in good shape, simply because of the pounding your internal organs take from being thrown around.”
Herdez team has sponsors on hook We are hearing that the Herdez (now HVM Racing) team has lined up new sponsors for next year to replace Herdez and "everything is looking good" according to our sources in the team.
Brit eyes Champ Car British F3 runner up Adam Carroll visited the Champ Car paddock at Mexico City recently and hopes to test a car soon. He said: “Champ Car is going to get stronger and stronger. I’m not really interested in the IRL.” Autosport Magazine
Pizzonia to land 2nd Williams Seat Williams F1 team boss Sir Frank Williams has told Eurosport.com in an exclusive interview that current test driver Antonio Pizzonia is the 'most likely occupant' for the seat alongside Mark Webber next season despite Nick Heidfeld and Anthony Davidson testing with the team at Barcelona next week. Germany's Nick Heidfeld and Britain's Anthony Davidson were reported to be in a shoot-out for the second seat alongside Mark Webber, but Sir Frank Williams has admitted that the tests were pre-arranged and that he would prefer an experienced driver next season. It is not as straight forward as that," Williams responded when asked if Heidfeld and Davidson were the favorites for the seat. "We are testing the two new drivers subject to contract. "Grand Prix cars are very expensive to operate so you don't want your driver to be on a learning curve," he adds. We are looking for effective results each and every time that the driver will run the car, and each punch must count. "We would prefer an experienced driver." When pressed further on the question of the second driver, Williams declined comment on talk of David Coulthard possibly joining the team, but admitted that current test driver Antonio Pizzonia was the favorite. "We consider that our current test driver Antonio Pizzonia is the most likely occupant of the second seat," he said, "but it's not a foregone conclusion." [Editor's Note: We have updated our 2005 F1 Silly Season page]
Ferrari or Cosworth for Midland? Midland Formula One have reportedly approached Ferrari about supplying the new team with engines when they make their debut in 2006. "It would be good to have a Ferrari engine on the Midland cars," Russian-born Canadian Alex Shnaider tells the Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport. Currently, Ferrari supply F1 engines to the Swiss-based Sauber team, which are rebadged Petronas. Changes to the rules which govern engine size and cost over the next two years is expected to allow manufacturer teams to supply more than one team in the future. Shnaider says he hopes to have a decision made within three months. Midland is also exploring options with Cosworth, which was purchased earlier this week by Champ Car owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe. They plan to supply both Red Bull Racing - formerly Jaguar - and Minardi with engines this year. Midland plans to use cars built by Italian firm Dallara, which competed in Formula One from 1988 to 1992. Shnaider says the team will be based at Carlin Motorsports near Silverstone in England but the cars will be built in Italy. The team hopes to begin a testing program next summer and Shnaider says they will likely opt for experienced drivers when they make their F1 debut the following year. "We'll start with two experienced drivers plus a Russian one for the tests," he says. "There are two or three Eastern drivers who show a lot of promise." TSN.ca
Honda poised to buy BAR Japanese car giant Honda is set to become a Formula One team owner with BAR, BBC Sport has learned. Honda has supplied engines to BAR for four years but wants to increase its commitment to winning in F1. A deal is said to be agreed, but sources differ on whether Honda will buy BAR outright or become a co-owner with a 40% shareholding. BAR team principal David Richards is expected to move on, with managing director Nick Fry taking the reins. The team would continue to be based in Brackley in Oxforshire, with Jenson Button and Takuma Sato as the drivers. It will be the first time Honda has been an F1 team owner since 1968, despite dominating the sport as an engine supplier with Williams and McLaren in the 1980s and early 1990s, and returning with BAR in 2000. Honda and BAR were unavailable for comment. Richards told fellow team principals last week that he was unable to agree any proposals for rule changes because the team was being sold and he had to report back to Honda. said: "Honda will buy the team eventually - some time in the next 12 months." Another added: "My understanding is that Honda is going to buy a percentage of BAR, but not a controlling interest. "There is a deal done, but there are some loose ends to tie up." BBC Sport
Scheele to stay with Ford Ford Motor Co. is dismissing as speculation British newspaper reports that company president Nick Scheele, 60, will retire before the year is out. The Sunday Times of London cited industry experts in saying that Scheele would retire rather than return to work after he recovers from late-September hip surgery. The Guardian said sources indicated Scheele is leaving because his relationship with CEO Bill Ford soured in April when Jim Padilla replaced Scheele as chief operating officer. Scheele expects to return to work late this month or early in December, said Ford spokesman Jim Bright.
Gordon to run Dodges? Robby Gordon will part ways with Richard Childress Racing at the end of this season and will become partners with Ultra Motorsports owner Jim Smith and form the No. 7 Cup team in 2005. When asked about the challenge of a single-car team competing against well-funded, factory-backed, multicar operations, Gordon points out that his existing Busch team had no problem holding its own against Cup-backed programs. Gordon has not signed a manufacturer deal yet, but it's possible the team will sign with Dodge, considering the Ultra Motorsports truck program runs Dodges.. Fox Sports
Giaffone to Dreyer and Reinbold team This IndyRacing.com article indicates that Brazilian Felipe Giaffone will drive for the Dreyer and Reinbold again in 2005, but with what engines? Will they be a Chevy team again, or switch to Japanese power?
Austrian GP revived? Dietrich Mateschitz's newest foray into Formula One team ownership may revive the beleaguered Austrian grand prix. It should be remembered that - as well as the team formerly known as Jaguar - the billionaire's Austrian company, popular energy drink brand Red Bull, also owns the F1 circuit 'A1-Ring' in Zeltweg. Mateschitz is presently funding the total refurbishment of the venue - despite one or two planning permission hitches - that last hosted a Michael Schumacher win in 2003. It was reported in April that the pit facilities and main straight grandstands at the A1-Ring were demolished as part of the 200 million Euro work. GMM
However, this Grandprix.com article says, there are reports from Austria that Red Bull's master plan for the A1 Ring may not be running smoothly as first reports would suggest. Building permits have been granted and old buildings have been demolished and there has been considerable leveling work. The governments involved have even paid the money promised. The route of the circuit is almost visible. To get everything done in time for 2006 it was necessary to have this work finished by the winter. However we hear that the Arbesser Rastburg family, which owns a property next to the track, has raised a question about the building works, worried that the constant noise of the new facility will disturb the local wildlife, notably the deer. As a result of this the permits granted are reportedly frozen until the question is resolved. This may take two months by which time the ground will probably be frozen and the project could fall behind schedule. The Arbesser Rastburg family has been the dominant local family since the 19th century. They are influential in political circles thanks to Maximilian Arbesser Rastburg, who is an economist and industrialist and a leading player amongst Austrian employers and indeed at European level.
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