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DATE News (chronologically)
01/12/08
f1
Rumors fly over visit by F1 star  

Lewis Hamilton

British Formula One star Lewis Hamilton may be heading to New Zealand.  Hamilton, 23, the runner-up in last year's F1 championship, is one of the world's biggest sporting stars and recently moved from Britain to Switzerland, to escape the media spotlight.

Several New Zealand motor-racing sources told the Sunday Star-Times that rumors about Hamilton heading here this summer had circulated for months.

"I understand he is coming for a couple of weeks within the next month. He is apparently coming with a friend on a private visit. I was told about it before Christmas," one said.

Another source told the Star-Times Hamilton would be visiting a Kiwi friend, also involved in motorsport, but declined to say more. More ...

01/12/08
f1
Williams in talks with investor - report  UPDATE In a story broke here over a month ago, the WilliamsF1 team looks set to announce a major new deal that will see a portion of the team sold to Icelandic investment company, Baugur, which has had dealings with the squad for a number of years through its Hamleys toy-shop brand.

Although details are currently sketchy and have not been officially confirmed, rumors have been circulating at the Autosport International Show and it is thought an announcement could be made very soon and grandprix.com reported on Monday that a deal could be announced soon.

12/05/07 (GMM)  Williams is in talks with a potential investor, according to a report on Wednesday.

The German specialist publication Auto Motor und Sport claims that Baugur Group, an Icelandic investment company, wants to buy a share of the Grove based team.

It is suggested that Baugur, which owns the Williams sponsor Hamleys, a London based toy shop, originally intended to enter formula one with Prodrive in 2008 as the fledgling team's title sponsor.

Williams is currently owned by Sir Frank Williams (70pc) and Patrick Head (30pc), and the pair have historically insisted that they are not interested in selling up.

For example, when in financial strife a few years ago, the team's founders pledged some of their own money -- Williams by selling a $43m private jet, and Head a $4.5m helicopter.

01/12/08
industry news
Audi mulls its first auto plant in U.S.  Volkswagen AG's premium carmaker Audi, the underdog in the German luxury pack, is weighing whether to build vehicles in the United States as part of a plan to more than double its U.S. sales in the next decade.

"We're considering that," Audi CEO Rupert Stadler said Friday when asked if Audi might build a U.S. factory. With annual U.S. sales of around 90,000 vehicles, it makes little sense to produce cars and SUVs locally, he told The Detroit News. "But if you're dreaming about a 200,000 sales base, you have to make up your mind what you have to do."

Audi's German rivals BMW AG and Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz carmaker have assembly plants in the South, and BMW is expanding its Spartanburg, S.C., operations, in part to limit the impact of unfavorable currency swings.

The euro's steep rise against the dollar has hurt the European automakers' competitiveness and profitability in the United States.

Audi's sister brand, Volkswagen, appears close to announcing plans to build an assembly plant in the United States, but Stadler said the two brands would not necessarily share a factory. Audi is conducting its own study, he said.

Stadler is in Detroit for the North American International Auto Show, where Audi will display its redesigned 2009 Audi A4 sedan, the TTS, a performance version of its sporty TT, and a diesel-powered supercar concept.  Detroit News

01/11/08
industry news
nascar
Tata Motors unveils NASCAR's next entry  

What? Doesn't look like a NASCAR Sprint Cup car you say?  No worries.  Just change the decals on the NASCAR Car of Tomorrow and presto, you have a Tata Nano

For millions of people in the developing world, Tata Motors' new $2,500 four-door subcompact -- the world's cheapest car -- may yield a transportation revolution with as great an impact as Henry Ford's Model T, which rolled off an assembly line one century ago.  The potential impact of Tata's Nano has given environmentalists nightmares, with visions of the tiny cars clogging India's already-choked roads and collectively spewing millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the air.

Industry analysts, however, say the car may soon deliver to India and the rest of the developing world unprecedented mobility. It is a potentially gigantic development if it delivers what has been promised," said John Casesa, managing partner for the Casesa Shapiro Group, a New York auto industry financial advisory firm.

"I think there is immense unmet demand for a vehicle of this type, because it effectively eliminates the great leap currently required to go from a two-wheel to a four-wheel vehicle," Casesa said. "They are creating something that has never existed before, the utility of a car with the affordability of a motorcycle." More ...

01/11/08
industry news
Nissan, Renault looking for U.S. partner  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement.

12/20/07 Chrysler LLC and Nissan Motor Co. are considering some sort of partnership, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn told reporters in Brazil on Wednesday.

Such cooperation -- like sharing production facilities and possibly manufacturing joint vehicles -- could help each company develop new vehicles and obtain volume discounts on parts.

Ghosn said "there have been talks between Nissan and Chrysler," but the meetings have been a manufacturing discussion, "not talks for an alliance accord," Bloomberg News reported .

In the past year, Ghosn has said he hopes to bring a U.S. automaker into the Nissan-Renault alliance -- a pact between Japan's No. 3 automaker and France's Renault SA. More ...

01/11/08
irl
Sarah Fisher starting own team  Sarah Fisher was one of the 17 drivers singled out this week by the Indy Racing League for a photo shoot to promote the 2008 season, but the driver who has started her own team -- Sarah Fisher Racing -- said she doesn't have enough pieces together to discuss plans. Sixty-six drivers took physicals this week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in preparation for the upcoming IRL season, but that total includes confirmed and potential drivers for both the IndyCar Series and the Indy Pro Series.  IndyStar.com
01/11/08
nhra
NHRA to announce playoff races  The inaugural event at a new drag strip at Lowe’s Motor Speedway will also be the first in the National Hot Rod Association PowerAde Series’ revised Countdown to the Championship.  Details on the Sept. 11-14 event at the facility being built near Charlotte - still listed as “to be announced” on the NHRA schedule - are expected to be formally announced Jan. 24 during the annual preseason motorsports media tour hosted by LMS.

In the revised Countdown schedule, the Charlotte event will open a six-race championship playoff in the NHRA’s version of NASCAR’s “Chase” format.

The U.S. Nationals on Labor Day weekend in Indianapolis will conclude an 18-event regular season for Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock classes, and a 12-race season for Pro Stock Motorcycles.

Points will be reset with the top-10 drivers in each class advancing to compete for the championship over the final six events (five for motorcycles).

The regular-season leader’s total will be reset to 2,090 points. Second place will start the Countdown at 2,060 point, with third at 2,050, fourth at 2,040 and so on in 10-point increments.

In the first year of the Countdown in 2007, eight drivers in each class made the first of two cutoffs. Drivers making the first cut had their points reset, then competed in four events before the championship field was cut to four. After another reset, the final two races determined the champions. ThatsRacin.com

01/10/08
nascar
Villeneuve may not run full season  Jacques Villeneuve was to run for the 2008 Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award, but now according to rumors will run the first five races of the 2008 Sprint Cup season and see where the team is after those races and if they get in the top-35 in owners points and the guaranteed spot.
01/10/08
f1
Fisichella signed for Force India?  UPDATE #11 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Giancarlo Fisichella has been confirmed as race driver at Force India alongside Adrian Sutil, a move that comes as no surprise.  A full statement is expected later today, that will also confirm Tonio Liuzzi as the official third driver.

01/09/08 (GMM)  The structure of Force India's new driver lineup for 2008 is becoming ever clearer, with sources adamant that Vitantonio Liuzzi will be named official test and reserve driver on Thursday.

Ride-buyer Giancarlo Fisichella

Giancarlo Fisichella, meanwhile, is similarly yet to be confirmed as Adrian Sutil's race teammate, but the Roman veteran is widely reported to have now inked a contract for 2008.

The Indian newspaper Hindustan Times cited "sources in the team" as reporting on Tuesday that Liuzzi, the former Red Bull and Toro Rosso racer, will be assigned test driver in the official announcement from Mumbai on January 10.

The hardening information is bad news for the likes of Roldan Rodriguez and also Christian Klien, the ex Jaguar and Red Bull driver who left his Honda test post to try out for the Force India vacancy recently.

The Austrian news agency APA agrees that 24-year-old Klien now has "basically no chance" of returning to the grid this year, despite being the "fastest candidate" in the team's post-season tests.

01/08/08 Force India have revealed that they will confirm their 2008 driver lineup on Thursday. The team, who are part-owned by Indian billionaire Dr Vijay Mallya, had originally planned to announce their drivers before Christmas.

01/06/08 (GMM)  Giancarlo Fisichella is set to earn 400,000 euros as he races with Force India in 2008, according to the latest reports.

The German Sunday newspaper Bild am Sonntag is the latest authoritative publication to claim that the Roman 34-year-old, who since 2005 has driven for Renault, is set to occupy the sister car alongside Adrian Sutil this season. More ...

01/10/08
f1
Rodriguez to Force India?  UPDATE #4 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  Spanish rookie Roldan Rodriguez says he will not race for Force India in 2008 because Giancarlo Fisichella has landed the job.

The GP2 driver, who actually signed a contract for this year with the team's predecessor Spyker late in 2007, told the news agency EFE that he is disappointed team co-owner Vijay Mallya ultimately opted for experience over youth.

"The team has invested in the past and in experience," the 23-year-old, who has tested for Force India among several contenders this winter, said.

"I respect the decision, but from my point of view the future of formula one is the younger generation," Rodriguez added.

Fisichella, a veteran of nearly 200 grands prix who turns 35 next week, lost his Renault drive at the end of 2007.

Rodriguez said: "Certainly, when Fisichella was unemployed and expressed his desire to go to Force India, things became complicated for me."

He vowed not to let the setback affect him, and said he prefers to stay in the GP2 category this year rather than accept the job as Force India's tester.

"I am 23 years old, one door has closed but some others can open," Rodriguez said.

"Nothing is certain yet but we are talking about some things.  What is clear is that I want to race, not just be a test driver.

"A situation like that can be good for drivers like Klien or Liuzzi, where being in GP2 would be a step backwards.  But that is not the case for me," he insisted.

12/19/07 (GMM)  Roldan Rodriguez hopes to secure at least a testing role at Force India for 2008, although the rookie Spaniard is still hopeful of lining up on the formula one grid.

The news agency EFE reports that the 22-year-old, who is among several contenders for the vacant race seat, is the only candidate who is this week present at the team's Silverstone base.

"We are working on several improvements to the car for next year," he said, revealing that he expects a final decision from team owner Vijay Mallya either "this week or next".

Rodriguez admits that with some famous names also in the running, he faces an uphill battle to be named as Adrian Sutil's 2008 teammate.

"What will be will be," he explained.  "Fisichella and Liuzzi are highly experienced drivers, and there are six in total going for one position."

Rodriguez said that if he is not selected for the racing role, "being a test driver is a possibility, if I can also compete in GP2".

"I must race," he continued, "to keep showing the world that I am fast enough."

12/12/07 (GMM)  Despite facing some star-studded competition, rookie Spaniard Roldan Rodriguez is still confident he will line up for Force India on the 2008 formula one grid.

Established grand prix contenders including Giancarlo Fisichella, Ralf Schumacher, Christian Klien and Vitantonio Liuzzi are all also clamoring for the drive, but Rodriguez's ace-card is a reportedly $15 million sponsorship purse.

Roldan Rodriguez

The 22-year-old GP2 driver said before the recent Barcelona and Jerez tests that he estimated a "80 per cent chance" of making his debut with the Silverstone based outfit next year.

To the Spanish news agency EFE, he now says: "I feel better than I did one week ago.  I have a 75 per cent chance of making it.

"The die is cast, in Jerez I did a good job and now they have to decide between new drivers or old.

"And with the generational change that is going on in F1, it would not make sense to opt for the veterans," Rodriguez added.

08/23/07 (GMM) Spyker has admitted interest in the GP2 driver Roldan Rodriguez for 2008.

It was rumored in recent days that the 22-year-old Spaniard, thought to be promising as much as $15 million in sponsor funds for a race drive, had already signed a deal to debut next year for the Dutch team.

"I read them too," team principal Colin Kolles admitted on Wednesday, before referring to Rodriguez's links with Spanish motor racing figure Adrian Campos; who is reportedly interested in buying Spyker.

Kolles added: "After his podium in the GP2 race in Hungary, we are looking at the possibility of testing him fairly soon."

Kolles also played down any suggestion that Christijan Albers might soon return to the team, after the Dutch racer recently drove a Spyker single seater at an event in Rotterdam.

"This should not be taken as a sign of any change in the situation," said Kolles, who dropped Albers after the British grand prix because his sponsor Mingya had failed to pay.

08/20/07 (GMM)  Spyker team boss Colin Kolles has played down reports that GP2 driver Roldan Rodriguez has already been signed to race in 2008.

With impressive German rookie Adrian Sutil almost certain to stay at the Dutch squad, attention is now turning to the occupant of the sister car.

Japanese pay-driver Sakon Yamamoto is unlikely to stay beyond October's season-ending Brazilian grand prix, after failing to impress in Hungary in the place of ousted regular Christijan Albers.

Spanish reports say Rodriguez, who is 22, will soon be unveiled as a 2008 Spyker driver.

But "at present we have made no final decision regarding 2008 drivers," Kolles is quoted as saying by the website of American broadcaster Speed TV.

"We are very happy with Adrian and Sakon at this point in time and are fully concentrated on Turkey and the remainder of the 2007 season."

01/09/08
cc
Champ Car schedule to reduce to 12 races?  UPDATE As the Champ Car spokesperson told AutoRacing1.com in December, the approval by the FIA of the two European races by the FIA was just a formality. On Monday the FIA released this revised 2008 schedule (PDF) which now shows Champ Car at 14 races for 2008 and Zolder and Jerez have been added.

12/12/07 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com I have been following the problems with Champ Car this past season and I trust nothing that the ownership and management says without external confirmation of what they claim. With Champ Car recent 2007 cancellations and mind, I recently read the item in your news section about the FIA World Motorsports Council approving the 2008 Champ Car schedule with suspicion. I later checked with the Champ Car World Series web site and saw that they had their full fourteen race 2008 schedule up. Being still untrusting of this, I then went to the FIA site and looked into the calendars section. I found the attached PDF dated today that shows only 12 approved races. I do not see Zolder or Jerez listed. This does not surprise me. From what I have been told by several people I know inside the industry, both races had serious issues that needed resolution and that was unlikely unless the CCWS owners wrote yet another big large check. Apparently that has not happened. It seems like Champ Car has not learned from the disasters of 2007. Buddy Jobe

Dear Buddy, A Champ Car spokesperson told AutoRacing1.com that "Yes, the FIA requested some additional information, and we are complying with their requests and we fully expect the two races in question to get final FIA approval soon." Mark C.
01/09/08
industry news
Ford to shrink further  Ford Motor Co. might not be done shrinking.  A weakening U.S. economy, aggravated by aggressive expansion and price discounting by foreign-owned rivals, could mean further declines before Ford is able to stabilize sales and production levels and begin growing again, Ford President and Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally said Tuesday evening. At a roundtable dinner in Dearborn with reporters, I asked Mulally if he was willing to draw a line in the sand at a minimum retail share of 13% for the U.S. market -- Ford's stated sales goal last year.

"Absolutely not," he replied, saying that he's determined to keep adjusting Ford's output to match retail demand for its cars and trucks, and to keep a lid on incentive spending so that the company can be profitable at whatever level sales stabilize.

01/08/08
f1
cc
Neel Jani F1 bound  

Red Bull must have pulled the plug on their Champ Car sponsorship so Jani is headed elsewhere

Neel Jani, the 24-year-old Swiss driver who has been racing in Champ Car in 2007, is believed to be looking at opportunities to get back into Formula 1 in 2008. Jani raced for PKV Racing last year but it seems that the team is now looking elsewhere in 2008 and has signed Spain's Oriol Servia. This is an odd move given that Jani did a decent job in his rookie year (Red Bull must have pulled the plug on Champ Car).

He has also been doing well in the A1GP Series this winter with strong showings for A1 Team Switzerland.

Jani was a test driver for the Sauber Petronas team in 2004 and 2005 and was then named as the third driver of Scuderia Toro Rosso for the 2006 season. For 2007 he decided it was best to go back to racing but had funding for his efforts from Red Bull. His ambition remains to be a Formula 1 driver and it is worth noting that Red Bull Racing has yet to nominate a test driver for 2008. The work was done by several drivers in the course of 2007 with Michael Ammermuller starting the year before handing over to Sebastien Buemi. Beumi is probably too inexperienced to be much use to the team's engineers and it may be that they are pushing for someone with more time in F1. The obvious choice would be Tonio Liuzzi but the Italian seems to be weary of Red Bull politics and looks likely to end up with a testing role elsewhere, possibly with Force India, which was very keen on him until the decision was taken to use Giancarlo Fisichella.

Thus Jani might have some hope as a test driver with Red Bull Racing as the Austrian drinks company has lost a lot of its experienced youngsters in recent years because of decisions to use drivers like David Coulthard, Mark Webber and Sebastien Bourdais, none of whom came from a Red Bull background.

Jani may have one other ace up his sleeve. It is often forgotten that while he races under the Swiss flag, his father is an Indian, who originated in the western Indian state of Gujarat before marrying a Swiss woman and settling in Switzerland.

There is much talk of Indian drivers Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok but it could be that the next Indian F1 driver will be Jani. Grandprix.com

01/08/08
cc
Rahal to drive McDonald's car  We have it on pretty good word that American Graham Rahal will move over to the NHLR McDonald's car in 2008.  Let's only hope McDonald's activates their sponsorship with Graham Rahal better than they did with Sebastien Bourdais.
01/08/08
f1
Liuzzi to be announced as Force India's third driver  According to Italian and German reports, Tonio Liuzzi will be able to stay in F1. The reports claim that Liuzzi will be announced as Force India's test- and reserve driver while Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella will be presented as race drivers for the newly renamed team. On Thursday, Force India will finally announce their 2008 driver lineup.
01/08/08
irl
cc
IRL teams make run at Tracy, but Tracy gives them the snub  UPDATE #3 The renewed deal came after Tracy was offered a lucrative opportunity to drive a Target Ganassi Racing Honda in the rival Indy Racing League.

The 39-year-old Scarborough native was mulling the Ganassi deal after being told that Forsythe was going to reorganize his race team with the lead building block being a much-smaller paycheck for Tracy.

A source close to the Tracy camp told Sun Media yesterday that Ganassi had made a substantial offer to lure Tracy to the IRL, if he could not come to terms with Forsythe.

01/07/08 Paul Tracy has put to rest rumors about his future in Champ Car, telling motorsport journalist Gordon Kirby that "everything is fine" with him and team owner Gerald Forsythe.

Following reports that Tracy was in danger of leaving the open-wheel series after being asked by Forsythe to renegotiate his contract, the Toronto racer met with team officials last week.

"The result of the meeting is that Kenny Siwieck is now in charge of my car and everything is squared away with me and Jerry," Tracy tells gordonkirby.com. "I went into the meeting believing that Jerry was going to renegotiate my contract to a very low amount or I would leave. And the conversation never even went that way. It was never brought up."

Siwieck was with championship outfit Newman/Haas/Lanigan until joining the newly formed Forsythe-Pettit operation last month.

Tracy says he was asked by Forsythe for his input into what has been going on with the team the last few years and as a result of that conversation, longtime general manager Neil Micklewright will no longer have any direct involvement in running Tracy's car.
 
"I told him there was obviously a conflict between me and Neil," Tracy tells Kirby. "I said I would prefer to have Kenny running my car and let him put together a team of engineers and crew guys who he believes have what it takes.

"I've also got a lot of confidence in Tom Brown and I have trust in their ability to put together a strong team for me.

"Everything is squared away and we're going racing and trying to win a championship."

Micklewright will continue with the team, overseeing a second car and possibly a third entry in 2008.

Siwieck added the team is almost fully staffed to campaign two cars and he is "hoping to run three cars".

Siwieck was chief strategist for departed Sebastien Bourdais' four straight championships at Newman-Haas-Lanigan Racing.

01/06/08 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' as we hear Tracy will remain in Champ Car and his deal is pretty much set as the issues with Forsythe have been resolved.

01/03/08 On Panther Racing's website the following question was posed to team owner John Barnes.

Q. Any interest in having Paul Tracy in the Panther stable? What are your thoughts on the rumors of him coming over to IRL?
A.
Absolutely we’d be interested in Paul Tracy. But he is under contract with another team. I think his move to the IndyCar Series – with Panther or another team – would be a major score for open-wheel racing and the Indianapolis 500. The biggest question would be: How quickly could the Indy Racing League organize an event in Canada?

Absolutely, if Champ Car loses Tracy to the IRL it just might be game, set and match in this silly open wheel war in the USA.

01/08/08
nascar
Carmichael could drive for DEI in 2008  

Ricky Carmichael

Mark Martin said DEI is negotiating to sign motocross star Ricky Carmichael to drive a full Camping World East Series (formerly Busch East) schedule this year. "Ricky has the fire, desire and talent to do this stuff,'' said Martin, who worked with Carmichael at Ginn Racing before the merger with DEI last season. ESPN.com
01/07/08
ga
cc
Da Matta could make racing return at Daytona  

Cristiano da Matta

AutoWeek rumors that The 2002 Champ Car World Series champion, Cristiano da Matta, could compete at this year's Rolex 24 at Daytona if he gets his doctor's clearance. This would be da Matta's first race since suffering severe head injuries after he hit a deer during a Champ Car test at Road America in August 2006.

Da Matta could drive a second car fielded by Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing, perhaps alongside fellow Champ Car veteran Jimmy Vasser, if Gainsco decides to run a second car reports AutoWeek.

01/07/08
industry news
Could GM's Salvation Be Stuff of Science Fiction?  

Team Tartan's DARPA entry on the road. Note the empty driver's seat.

Mired in the gloomy reality of a money-losing present, General Motors Corp. is prepared to spend millions of dollars in pursuit of something long viewed as science fiction: a car that drives itself.

Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner will outline GM's ambitions tomorrow in a keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas as part of a larger effort to change buyers' perceptions of the auto giant. In Mr. Wagoner's vision of the not-too-distant future, vehicles crammed with cameras, sensors, radar and navigation technology will be able to brake and accelerate on their own, avoid accidents and spot congestion. And he's determined to have GM be seen as leading the way.

Better than a human?

"We see vehicles going from being largely mechanical to becoming more and more electronic," Larry Burns, chief technologist at GM and a confidant of Mr. Wagoner's, said in an interview last week. "We can think of no auto maker that is better positioned to fully leverage this trend than us."

Pushing the technological envelope is a key element of Mr. Wagoner's strategy for turning GM around and positioning the company to compete with Toyota Motor Corp. in the long term. He is convinced being the first with game-changing innovations is the solution to one of GM's fundamental problems -- its battered image.

In Las Vegas, Mr. Wagoner will show an experimental sport-utility vehicle already capable of driving and navigating on its own. Developed by GM and a team from Carnegie Mellon University, the Tahoe Boss in November competed in a Defense Department competition in which unmanned vehicles had to travel 60 miles through a mock urban environment. It won the $2 million first prize.

Still, the technology is a long way from commercial use, and there's no guarantee GM will be first to offer it. Several other auto makers are also working toward autonomous vehicles. Both Toyota and Volkswagen have experimental vehicles like GM's. Daimler AG, maker of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, now builds trucks with "active brake assist" technology that scans the road ahead for obstacles or slowing vehicles and brakes if the driver is slow to respond.  More at Wall Street Journal

01/06/08
f1
Hamilton inks $138m McLaren deal - report  (GMM) McLaren has moved to bind Lewis Hamilton to the team until at least 2012 by inking a (US) $138 million deal with the British youngster, according to reports.

The British tabloid News of the World claims that Hamilton, who turns 23 on Monday, will make an average of more than $27 million per season for the next five years, despite making just $700,000 plus points bonuses while he raced to second place in the drivers' championship in 2007.

The newspaper says the McLaren driver's basic 2008 salary will be $17m, plus another $6m if he spearheads the Mercedes-powered squad's first title since Mika Hakkinen in 1999.

"I've always said I'm happy to stay at McLaren for the rest of my career if they want me to," Hamilton, who recently moved to Switzerland for personal and tax purposes, is quoted as saying.

"I have a great relationship with the team having been with them for so long, right from my days in karting, and I'm ready to lead them on the track this year.

"My relationship with the team only grew stronger last year with all that happened off the track and the way they supported me in the final races," he added.

01/06/08
nascar
Another NASCAR team could fold  With preseason testing beginning next week in Daytona, Sprint Cup teams are finalizing their plan of attack for the 2008 season. The approach at #4-Morgan-McClure Motorsports is radically different. Over the past few weeks, Southwest Virginia’s NASCAR team has lost its crew chief, primary sponsor and driver. “It feels like a hurricane,” MMM general manager Larry McClure said. “The way NASCAR has changed, I don’t know if its been good or not.”

The Morgan-McClure organization, which featured veteran driver Ward Burton last season, has struggled in recent years with lack of sponsorship and driver turnover. Just days before Christmas, McClure learned that State Water Heaters was leaving. According to media reports, the State Water Heaters sponsorship will move to the #66 Haas CNC Racing team with driver Scott Riggs. “I’ve heard the sponsorship went to the 66 car,” McClure said “Right now we don’t have a thing.” 

McClure said the agreement with State Water Heaters last year was for 10 races. He was surprised by the change in direction. “It must have been an instant decision because we had no idea it was going to happen,” McClure said. “We found out about this before Christmas, then it became official after the holiday. We’ll see how things work out.” Lucas Oil will return as an associate sponsor. As for a driver, it appears Burton is gone from the seat of the #4 MMM Chevy. Burton, a former Daytona 500 winner, joined the team with three races remaining in the 2006 season.

“[Burton] probably won’t be back,” McClure said. “We’re looking at using either Mike Wallace or P.J. Jones for testing next week, then we will go from there. “It’s not going to be hard to find somebody to drive at Daytona. Right now, I’ve got a couple options.” One of those options involves a driver bringing a financial package to the team. That step is common in the open-wheel ranks. “We’ve got capable people here for the crew chief role … the biggest thing we need are sponsorship dollars,” McClure said.

“We’ve been working on a deal with one of the bigger multicar teams where we could be a satellite team and share some information. That deal is on the table if we get our sponsorship stuff put together.” As for the big question of their 2008 schedule, the always-ambitious McClure said to stay tuned. “We’re just going to see how much money we get in the door,” McClure said. “We’re not going to race on our own money anymore.” On a related note, Abingdon’s Eric McClure plans to runs the Nationwide Series schedule with the Front Row Motorsports team. The Denver, N.C.-based team also plans to field a Sprint Cup car for McClure in the Daytona 500. Bristol Courier

01/06/08
industry news
Chrysler reportedly seeks a Mahindra partnership  Chrysler LLC, which is searching for partners to help give the Auburn Hills automaker a more global reach, is reportedly in talks with Indian automaker Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. over some sort of partnership.

Chrysler wants to tap the Indian company's engineering expertise to develop products for emerging markets, the Economic Times in India reported today, citing an unnamed industry source. Mahindra was reportedly in the bidding to purchase the Britain-based Jaguar and Land Rover brands from Ford Motor Co. Friday's report said the potential Chrysler and Mahindra deal could include an equity stake.

A spokeswoman for Mahindra could not be reached for comment, and a Chrysler spokeswoman was unable to comment Friday. Chrysler prepared Thursday for more global alliances, appointing Simon Boag executive vice president for global alliance operations.

"As outlined in the company's recovery and transformation plan, growth in markets outside of North America is critical to the success of Chrysler," President and Vice Chairman Tom LaSorda said in a statement. "We are looking for new alliances and growth opportunities all over the world."

01/05/08
industry news
Mahindra may pull out of venture with Renault & Nissan  Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd may pull out of a joint venture with Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co to build a 40-billion-rupee manufacturing plant in India, media reports said. The Business Standard newspaper quoted agency reports as saying that Mahindra was unhappy with both Renault and Nissan entering ventures with other partners in India.

Renault has tied up with Indian two-wheeler maker Bajaj Auto to build a low-cost car, while Nissan has signed three other joint ventures with Ashok Leyland. More ...
01/05/08
industry news
Audi R8 to get V12  Audi is bringing an R8 that packs a turbocharged diesel V12 to the Detroit auto show this month, according to an article in the latest issue of Germany's Auto Motor Und Sport magazine. This is not a surprise as Audi runs a V12 turbo diesel in the LeMans Series.
01/05/08
f1
Alonso has out with Renault  (GMM) Fernando Alonso has been quoted as suggesting he may be able to leave Renault at the end of 2008.

The term of the double world champion's new contract was not officially disclosed, but it was rumoured at the time that - prior to the deal being finalised - the parties were at loggerheads about how long the Spaniard should be committed to staying at the French team.

Most authoritative media sources at the time of the signing were convinced that the 26-year-old had inked a two-year deal, perhaps with an exit clause in the event that Renault does not perform in 2008.

Alonso told Sport Bild: "I have signed a contract until 2009, but it is very flexible."
01/04/08
cc
Toronto race sponsorship in doubt?  UPDATE #7 The Grand Prix of Toronto is being confronted with a pair of issues that affect the very core of the annual festival of speed in July on Toronto's lakefront.  GPT boss Charlie Johnstone told Sun Media that rumors Paul Tracy -- the 2003 Champ Car World Series champion -- may not be back this season could severely hurt ticket sales for the three-day event.

Johnstone also said he was notified in mid-December that Steelback Breweries would not be back as the title sponsor for the race.  But Johnstone said he is well on his way to landing a new title sponsor.

"It's going well. I'm very pleased at where we are at this point," he said. "We are well down the road with several candidates."

The deal with Steelback -- which took top billing after Molson withdrew its support after a 22-year run -- was estimated to be for $500,000 cash and a further $500,000 in promotional spending. Johnston admits it is a big commitment but he's confident it will be a done deal sooner rather than later.

The issue with Tracy is another matter all together and not one that Johnstone will have any input in fixing.

Although prior to assuming his role as CEO of the Toronto race, Johnstone was Tracy's Canadian agent, he said he won't be involved in any way with getting a new contract for the Scarborough native.

"I can't speak on anything regarding where negotiations are right now between Paul and Forsythia (Championship Racing)," Johnstone said. "I am not privy to those anymore."

But he did say that having Tracy in the race was vital to its success.  It's huge," Johnstone said. "To have a local hero like Paul and as many Canadians as we can get in all of the series is good for business.  But from an event standpoint to have Paul here in July is absolutely important."

Tracy signed a five-year deal with Forsythe in 2007 to keep him from jumping to NASCAR but with only one win in the past two seasons the team is now asking for a renegotiation of that contract for less money.

And those close to the 38-year-old Tracy say he is both hurt and angry. Angry enough, apparently, to put out feelers for a job in the rival Indy Racing League, although that could not be confirmed yesterday.  Toronto Sun



12/19/07 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Sputtering Steelback Breweries has spun out of the Grand Prix of Toronto.

The Grand Prix Association of Toronto confirmed yesterday that insolvent Steelback won't be the title sponsor for next year's car race.

"Steelback will not be returning as our title sponsor," said association president Charlie Johnstone.

Wasanda Enterprises, which has financed money-losing Steelback Breweries and related beverage producer D'Angelo Brands Ltd. since 2002, gained court protection from creditors for the two companies last month.

Court protection under the federal Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act negated all contracts with the two companies including the four-year sponsorship deal for the Grand Prix, according to Johnstone.

"We had been optimistic about them continuing until we saw the extent of their debts in published reports," Johnstone said.

Steelback and D'Angelo Brands owe Wasanda more than $120 million in loans and interest. Court filings show Steelback's spending on marketing and promotion far outpaced its beer revenue.

The brewery, which is a small player in the Canadian market, secured title sponsorship of the marquee summer event on Toronto's western waterfront for an undisclosed sum last March, replacing long-time sponsor Molson Breweries.

Sponsorship gave Steelback naming rights, extensive promotional opportunities and exclusive control of beer sales at the event and other accompanying festivities.

Johnstone stressed that even without Steelback, the event will proceed July 4-6. About six parties have expressed interest in becoming the event's title sponsor since Steelback's troubles emerged, Johnstone said. "There's a lot of interest out there," he said, without naming any of the inquiring companies.

Johnstone said Steelback has no debts with the Grand Prix. A creditors' list in Ontario court shows claims from numerous other sport-related entities, including the Toronto Argonauts football club, the Ottawa 67's junior hockey team and the Steelback Arena in Sault Ste. Marie. Toronto Star

12/06/07 Two big companies are already kicking the tires of the Grand Prix of Toronto for title sponsorship rights because of the financial uncertainty engulfing Steelback Breweries, says the race's president.

Charlie Johnstone, president of the Grand Prix Association of Toronto, revealed yesterday the unidentified "blue chip" firms contacted race organizers and expressed interest soon after Steelback, this year's title sponsor, moved under court protection from creditors last month.

"We are actively pursuing those opportunities," Johnstone said in an interview.

Title sponsorship gave Steelback naming rights, extensive promotional opportunities and exclusive control of beer sales at the event and other accompanying festivities.

Regardless if Steelback pulls out, Johnstone said, it will not jeopardize the marquee summer event on Toronto's western waterfront.

Wasanda Enterprises, which has financed money-losing Steelback Breweries and related beverage producer D'Angelo Brands Ltd. since 2002, gained court protection from creditors for the two companies under the federal Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.  Wheels.ca

11/21/07 The restructuring of insolvent Steelback Breweries is raising questions on whether the company can meet some of its sponsorship commitments, but an organizer for a major car race here says there won't be any change at his event.

Charlie Johnstone, president of the Grand Prix Association of Toronto, said yesterday Steelback's new management has assured the venerable July race that "it's business as usual" in maintaining the company's title sponsorship.

Johnstone said he is set to meet next month with the Sherman family whose Wasanda Enterprises controls Steelback and D'Angelo Brands, a related insolvent beverage company.

"I don't have any reason to expect that they won't go ahead with the sponsorship," Johnstone said, adding that the Shermans "love the event."

Earlier this year, Steelback trumpeted a new four-year contract for naming and so-called pouring rights for the auto race, which was known as the Molson Indy for many years.

However, Wasanda gained court protection for Steelback and D'Angelo from creditors last week so it can restructure operations. The companies have piled up more than $120 million in debt and interest to Wasanda in the past five years.

Jonathon Sherman, Steelback's chief executive officer, said the brewing company has cut staff and marketing costs and stopped production of four of its lowest selling brands. The company brews 11 different beers at its small brewery in Tiverton. But Sherman said those efforts are not enough and the two companies "must be substantially restructured."

Johnstone said Steelback has not missed any payments for the Grand Prix and it would be premature to contact other companies to become title sponsors.

However, one sports industry source said Steelback has defaulted on other marketing commitments.

"They stopped payment on all cheques and are not returning calls," the source said.

If Steelback does back out of its auto racing agreement, Johnstone and others will have a tough time finding a replacement, sponsorship consultants say.

"It's going to be pretty tough to go back out and sell a naming-rights title now," said Bob Stellick, a Toronto sports marketer. "It's not a good day for any of those guys."

11/05/07 This rumor is downgraded to 'false.  “We have a solid three years remaining on our contract with Steelback and expect to be working with the same management team moving forward. In fact, I’m meeting with the new President and his CFO later this week. It’s business as usual in Toronto, and we’re looking forward to the 2008 Steelback Grand Prix of Toronto."  Charlie Johnstone, President & CEO, Grand Prix Association of Toronto

11/04/07 A good article on Frank D'Angelo.  He's quite a character.

11/02/07 Frank D'Angelo is due to go to court for a rape charge this fall. Barry Sherman has been funding the game for the past two years. Without Sherman there would be no Toronto Grand Prix sponsorship.

11/02/07 Frank D'Angelo, the man behind Toronto race sponsor Steelback, has sold his majority stake in his Steelback Brewery as well as D'Angelo Brands, the juice-cum-power drink company that brought us DUH! (the can on my desk says it's 710 ml of highly sugared pomegranate cream soda) and Cheetah (a "power surge" energy drink promoted by the sprinting cheetah himself, Ben Johnson).

Yet D'Angelo insists he has never been happier in his life. "I'm moving up to chairman," he says. "I've decided to slow down."

This line is made problematic by the fact that D'Angelo is "excited to announce" that Jonathon Sherman, the 24-year-old son of Apotex Inc.'s Barry Sherman, is moving into the CEO's office. Given what would appear to be an absence of deep knowledge in either beer or apple juice, it's fair to wonder what it is that young Mr. Sherman, a graduate of Columbia University (it says so in the press release), can bring to the job.

"He's been working on and off with the company for the past year and a half," says D'Angelo, who adds that Jonathon "worked a bit at Apotex," the generic drug manufacturer that Barry Sherman built into a colossus.

01/04/08
cc
Champ Car eyes new street race  UPDATE American Racing Capital, Inc. and Joe Mattioli III, senior managing partner of AMRA subsidiary, Motorsports & Entertainment of Tennessee, operators of the Music City Motorplex have announced the proposed running of a ChampCar race in downtown Nashville. A race course has already been designed that would utilize LP Field's parking lots and surrounding streets. LP Field is home to the Tennessee Titans and the property is under the control of the Nashville Sports Authority. The temporary street circuit would have to be approved soon by the Sports Authority and Metro Government to become a reality for the 2009 racing season and beyond. Besides their NFL games, LP Field is used to hosting other big events such as the CMA Music Festival, and the Country Music Marathon. Music City Motorplex President Joe Mattioli, who is helping to spearhead the project, said such an undertaking is a commitment of time and resources familiar to him. His company has provided event management for similar events at Pocono International Raceway and the Grand Prix of Washington D.C. held on the streets and parking lots of RFK Stadium. Mattioli conceded that construction for such a racing event on the streets of Nashville is not insurmountable and that other cities hosting racing events have successfully worked around such distractions. "Consider this, in Las Vegas where they had an event last year on the city streets, were able to do what was needed and kept venues open," Mattioli said. "The major interference is the three days of the event."

Bob Koveleski, President of American Racing Capital, said, "Having Nashville host a ChampCar event on a yearly basis could add another feather to the city's cap. ChampCar races are world-class events which bring people in from all over the globe. Both in-house and independent studies show these people spend lots of money in hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions. It is the equivalent of a SuperBowl and therefore an incredible boost to the local economy." One of the more familiar street races, the Long Beach Grand Prix which is celebrating its 34th year (http://www.gplb.com), is a tremendous catalyst for the local economy, generating more than $30 million in direct economic impact and $150 million more in indirect economic impact. The ChampCar series race in the USA, Canada and Europe. More ...

01/03/08
industry news
GM, Ford December Drops May Cap Worst Year in Decade  General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. will probably say December U.S. auto sales fell as consumers reined in spending, ending a year with the lowest demand for cars and trucks in a decade.
Deliveries dropped about 5.6 percent at GM, 7.8 percent at Ford and 7.9 percent at Chrysler LLC, based on the average estimates of six analysts in a Bloomberg survey before tomorrow's reports. Smaller declines at Japanese rivals such as Toyota Motor Corp., which bumped Ford from the No. 2 spot at midyear, may help them gain market share over Detroit's money-losing trio.

Americans bought about 16.1 million cars and trucks for the year, the least since 1998, with year-end gasoline prices exceeding $3 a gallon for the first time and consumer confidence at a two-year low. Housing starts, one barometer for sales of profitable pickup trucks, are in the deepest slump in 16 years.

``The housing market and credit crunch are really affecting consumers,'' said Efraim Levy, an equity analyst with Standard & Poor's in New York and one of the forecasters predicting 2007 sales of 16.1 million. ``It's definitely been a weak year.''

All three of Japan's biggest automakers will probably report declines for December while collectively gaining market share, said Jesse Toprak, an analyst with Edmunds.com in Santa Monica, California. He predicts declines of 2.9 percent for Toyota, 0.8 percent at Nissan Motor Co. and 1.4 percent for Honda Motor Co. Bloomberg News

01/02/08
dtm
Ralf Schumacher to Audi DTM team?  (GMM)  Audi has repeated its denial that Ralf Schumacher may rescue his flagging career with the German manufacturer in DTM this year.

The Ingolstadt-based marque's motor sport boss Dr Wolfgang Ullrich earlier rubbished reports that he was behind a $3 million bid to woo the 32-year-old German for 2008, after Schumacher's formula one career stalled at Toyota last year.

The rumors, however, surfaced again on Wednesday, as the former six time grand prix winner was quoted as ruling out Le Mans, American oval racing and even the Dakar rally -- but not DTM, Germany's premier touring car category.

With twice world champion Mika Hakkinen retiring from DTM, the series' boss Hans-Werner Aufrecht is understood to be keen to attract a new well-known formula one figure to the category.

But Rupert Stadler, Audi chief executive, is quoted as responding to the new speculation about Schumacher: "There is absolutely no need for us to do that.

"It's our goal to get young and ambitious drivers and let them grow within our team.

"Martin Tomczyk, Mattias Ekstrom and even Tom Kristensen came to us as 'nobodies'.  And now they are very popular and famous," he said.

01/02/08
a1gp
cc
Ecclestone helped A1GP to hurt Champ Car  Over the years Bernie Ecclestone has done everything he could to badmouth and hurt CART and now Champ Car to ensure that the American series, a cheaper alternative to F1, did not gain traction in overseas markets.......and there's no reason to believe he has stopped.

According to rumors, the recent coup by A1GP to land Ferrari as an engine and car supplier was supported by Ecclestone after he saw how successful Champ Car was in Europe in 2007, long a F1 stronghold.  A deal with a company like Ferrari is just what Champ Car needs, but they have not been able to land one yet.

A1GP was on life support until the foreign "buy a ride" frenzy of the CCWS started invading the European scene and Bernie decided to provide visible support to A1GP, which has a similar business model to Champ Car.

A1GP chairman Tony Teixeira says that Bernie Ecclestone helped in the final stages of the championship's recent deal with Ferrari.

"I want to thank Bernie for the help he gave us in the final stages of the agreement," Teixeira told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"(Our relationship) is good, and he congratulated me at Monza for the deal closed with Ferrari."

"For A1GP there's nothing better than Ferrari, while as far as Ferrari is concerned, A1GP gives the company the opportunity of being present in several emerging countries," he said.

"We have already scheduled two races in China and one in Malaysia for 2007-08. Obviously we keep an eye on all the most relevant markets and we hope to announce new races soon."

01/02/08
f1
7 (now 5) drivers vie for Force India track cleaner seat  UPDATE (GMM)  Two more candidates have dropped out of the running to occupy the sister Force India race seat in 2008.

A multitude of apparent contenders for the berth alongside Adrian Sutil - including Giancarlo Fisichella, Ralf Schumacher, Tonio Liuzzi, Roldan Rodriguez, Franck Montagny, Christian Klien and Giedo van der Garde - recently tested for the newly acquired team.

Since then, Schumacher has ruled himself out, and it is reported that Montagny is also planning to leave F1 to possibly race either sports cars or American Champ Cars in 2008.

It now emerges that van der Garde, the young Dutchman who was stuck in a contractual dispute with Spyker and Super Aguri about a testing role this year, has signed to remain in the World Series by Renault in 2008.

He will drive for P1 Motorsport this year, after finishing the series fifth in 2007.

"It was a very difficult decision because I had several options in World Series as well as GP2," he said in a statement, which described van der Garde as 'part of the McLaren driver development program and test driver for Force India formula one'.

12/28/07 A multitude of apparent contenders for the Force India seat alongside Adrian Sutil - including Giancarlo Fisichella, Ralf Schumacher, Tonio Liuzzi, Roldan Rodriguez, Franck Montagny,

7 vie to be F1 track cleaner

Christian Klien and Giedo van der Garde - recently tested for the newly acquired team.

A backmarker team is sent out early in all F1 practice and qualifying sessions to blow the dust and rubber off the track for the fast teams, so in essence, these seven drivers are vying to be a lowly street cleaner.

01/02/08
f1
Ralf to take break in 2008, career over?  UPDATE #2 (GMM)  Ralf Schumacher has publicly acknowledged for the first time that he will not be a feature of the 2008 formula one grid.

The 32-year-old veteran confirmed to the German portal motorsport-total.com that, after eleven consecutive seasons at racing's pinnacle, he will minimally sit out this year.

Schumacher is also realistic about his chances of making a comeback in the future.

Ralf Schumacher

"Theoretically that may be possible, but practically you have to wait and see what happens.  Formula one waits for nothing and no-one," Ralf said.

But the winner of six grands prix, all for BMW-Williams, refuses to say he is turning his back on motor sport altogether.

"Until now it has been my life, and motor sport is certainly a big part of my future," Schumacher said.  "In which form, remains to be seen."

He said he has "no concrete ideas" about what he is going to do in 2008 and beyond, but ruled out racing at Le Mans or on American ovals.

"No matter what car, an oval will never see me, and I will never go to Le Mans, or Dakar," Schumacher said.

He recently tested for Force India, but has pre-empted the team's 2008 driver announcement by ruling himself out of the running for a race seat.

"They are starting from scratch and it is therefore not the right thing for me," Ralf said.

12/28/07 Former Formula 1 team owner Eddie Jordan says Ralf Schumacher may have been mistaken to follow his brother Michael's advice and take a sabbatical from the sport.

Schumacher quit the Toyota squad by mutual consent after a disappointing 2007 campaign, and while he briefly dallied with Force India – the only seat left available to him – Ralf opted out of the running for the seat in favor of keeping a watching brief in 2008.

But Jordan, Ralf's former team boss, says the 32-year-old German may now remain permanently on the F1 shelf.

"Not sure if it [Ralf's sabbatical] will work – there are too many young kids coming through and the door might not be open when he returns," Jordan said in his latest F1 Racing column.

"Ralf performed brilliantly for Jordan and Williams, but Toyota probably overpaid him, and he had an underperforming car which probably sapped his motivation."

Jordan reckons Ralf would have been a strong asset to his former team as Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya begins to rebuild it in the shape of Force India.

But with Schumacher out of the running, EJ advises Mallya to plump for F1's other out-of-work veteran Giancarlo Fisichella.

"The 1997 Jordan team of Fisichella and Schumacher were willing and able to test [for Force India], which showed their positive characters," he said.

"The team needs a balance of youth and experience.

"Force India already have one young, hungry driver, so who else should they go for?

"This much I know: when you need points and the car brought home in a tight situation at the fighting end of a race, Ralf or Giancarlo could do it every day." ITV-F1

12/27/07 (GMM)  Ralf Schumacher will not race in formula one in 2008 but may return in the future, an unnamed associate of the six time grand prix winner told the German news agency DPA on Thursday.

The German driver has also split with his manager Hans Mahr.  "We decided some time ago by mutual agreement to go separate ways," DPA quotes Mahr as saying.

The Schumacher insider insists that 32-year-old Ralf's sabbatical next year does not mean his F1 career is definitely over.

"There have been cases in which drivers have come back after a year," the so-called 'confidante' told the agency.

Schumacher is currently with his family at their home in Salzburg, Austria.

01/01/08
industry news
2008 car sales may get worse  Industry analysts predict a lackluster end to an already dismal year for automakers, likely the worst in nearly a decade.

Holiday discounts failed to bring consumers out of their funk, and December sales are expected to fall around 4%, which would bring the full-year total for U.S. auto sales to 16.1 million vehicles, the lowest volume since 1998.Sales have been hurt by consumer anxiety over gas prices, the housing crunch and the overall weakening economy.

Industry watchers warn that the 2008 auto sales performance could be even weaker.

"A lot of these economic issues are continuing to put more pressures on the economy and the consumer as time goes on," said Erich Merkle of IRN Inc. In 2008, "most of the weakness is going to come in the first half or perhaps the first nine months of the year. So there is not going to be much to write home about."

Bear Stearns analyst Peter Nesvold said in a recent note to investors that he is even more concerned about 2008 sales than he was a year ago, since consumer sentiment and employment levels are deteriorating. Nesvold said the country hasn't seen a meaningful downturn in auto sales in 15 years and is long overdue for one.

"In a nutshell, if consumers don't feel good about the world or employment is slipping, they tend to delay major expenditures such as a new house or car, if possible," he said. More ...

01/01/08
f1
Money not key to Force India seat? Yeah right  (GMM) Two candidates for a 2008 race seat with Force India have rubbished suggestions that the job will be handed to the highest bidder.

Recent media reports have indicated that Giancarlo Fisichella, the Roman veteran, and Spanish rookie Roldan Rodriguez, are high on the Silverstone based team's short-list because they can both apparently offer multiple millions in sponsorship euros.

But Rodriguez, the 22-year-old GP2 driver, insists to the news agency EFE that he is "sure" that money matters "will not affect" new team co-owner Vijay Mallya's final decision.

An announcement about Force India's 2008 driver lineup is reportedly scheduled for January 11.

"The team wants to improve and achieve higher grid positions," Rodriguez said, "rather than think about its wealth." More ...
12/31/07
lmes
cc
Montagny to LMES or Champ Car series  UPDATE "I had opportunities to be in Formula One next year, but I eliminated them because I do not want to be a third driver again," the French racer stated on RMC.  “The rules changed so much that the third driver does not run very much anymore and is simply a spectator and I am not very good at just being a spectator!"

“The odds that it is Fisichella who will go to Force India are great. It is their choice. After three years at Renault, `Fisico' can be a good asset for a young team." 

But what for Montagny in 2008? 

"ChampCar? Perhaps. There are many negotiations in progress. I have received some strong offers from teams which are well positioned. I want to race and to be very busy racing-wise in 2008 and I think that this will be the case. It will most probably be a French team with international races on board a prototype car.” (read that LMES or ALMS)

12/30/07 With Frenchman Frank Montagny seemingly out of the F1 circle, rumors suggest he will end up in the Le Mans Series with a leading French team - Peugeot, Pescarolo or Oreca/Courage.  He will get paid to drive in the LeMans Series, unlike Champ Car where he was expected to buy his ride.  Too bad as Montagny is quite a good driver.
12/31/07
f1
Davidson to keep seat at Super Aguri  

Anthony Davidson

(GMM)  Super Aguri looks set to field an unchanged race driver lineup in 2008.

Takuma Sato, a strong performer this year and central to the small Japanese Honda-powered team's establishment two years ago, was always a certainty to retain his cockpit.

But the fate of his former works Honda colleague and 2007 teammate Anthony Davidson was less well known, with it believed that - unlike some of the British rookie's rivals near the back of the F1 grid - he does not provide any significant sponsorship to the financially embattled team run by former grand prix driver Aguri Suzuki.

Super Aguri's managing director Daniele Audetto has however told an ITV documentary that Davidson, who is 28, is likely to retain his seat in 2008.

"Definitely, 100 per cent," the Italian responded when he was asked if Davidson will be on the grid next March.

"He's doing a fantastic job.  I think Anthony is proving that he was a good choice: the speed is still there and the maturity is coming.

"So I expect that next year we are going to have two very good drivers," Audetto added.

Team owner Suzuki was less emphatic, insisting that he has "not decided anything for next year", but added that "personally, I like (Anthony)".

Sato's scored all of the Leafield based team's four points in 2007, but Davidson out-qualified his Japanese teammate on ten out of their seventeen Saturday contests.

Davidson says he is happy with his first full season on the grid this year, but expressed frustration that ability alone is sometimes not enough in F1.

"I think some of the driver choices that have happened in the past, and will continue to happen, have been shocking," he said.

"I mean, this is formula one -- we're supposed to be the best guys in the world driving these cars, and clearly history would suggest that hasn't been the case," Davidson added.

12/31/07
nhra
NHRA to new Concord drag strip?  Racing in the Charlotte area is going straight in 2008. With three major NASCAR weekends plus dozens of other events scheduled once again for Lowe's Motor Speedway -- which, in case you missed it, will be right where it has always been in Concord -- oval-track racing will once again bring thousands of people and millions of dollars to the area in the year ahead.

But something new is coming.

Although no official announcement has been made, it's an open secret that a "to be announced" event on the National Hot Rod Association's PowerAde Series schedule for Sept. 11-14 is planned for a new drag strip to be built across the highway from the 1.5-mile speedway. ThatsRacin.com

12/30/07
nascar
NASCAR: The fix is in?  Only in a sport where the eighth-fastest qualifier starts at the back of a 43-car field is something like this possible.

We're talking about the transfer of owners points from Kurt Busch to Sam Hornish Jr., which assures Hornish of a spot in the first five Sprint Cup races in '08.

On the surface, it's a minor story, one that seemingly won't have much impact beyond Bristol, when Hornish will have to get in on his own. But deeper down, the swap is yet another example of NASCAR playing God, which to the sporting fan translates to the fix being in.

Real quick, let's get this out of the way: We understand what NASCAR is trying to accomplish business-wise. We get that sponsors need to have certain assurances, and this points swap assures the sponsors for both Busch and Hornish that their logos will be racing around Daytona come the third Sunday in February. But here's a question: Who cares?

Sure, sponsors are forking over millions, but fans are, too. In fact, it could be argued that a $100 ticket, two nights at a $250, price-gouging hotel and a couple of days off work is a bigger financial burden on a fan than a $15 million primary sponsorship is on a Fortune 500 company.

What we're hearing over and over is fans don't care about whatever rules NASCAR has in place to take care of its owners and sponsors. They just want to see the fastest 43 cars race on Sunday. More at Yahoo Sports

12/28/07
cc
irl
Matos to the IRL?  A reader asks, There is a nasty rumor going round concerning Rafael Matos and ChampCar. Something about him threatening to take the $2 million and go to the AGR team in IRL. That doesn’t seem like something he would do. Can you cast any light on the matter?  Jonathan Long

Dear Jonathan, This rumor is false.  The $2M from Champ Car can only be used in Champ Car.  Should he choose to race in the IRL he would forego the $2M and it might go to the driver who finished 2nd in Champ Car Atlantic points - Franck Perera.  Mark C.

12/28/07
f1
Sutil to stay at Force India?  UPDATE (GMM)  Adrian Sutil's manager has dismissed renewed speculation that the young German is in talks with Toyota about a racing role in 2008.

Although Jarno Trulli has a contract to stay with the Japanese team next year, there is still some uncertainty about Toyota's intentions for the Italian veteran for 2008.

Adrian Sutil

Newly crowned GP2 champion Timo Glock has been confirmed as a race driver for the new season, and renewed rumors now suggest that Sutil, who is 24, could join his countryman on the Melbourne grid next March after travelling to Cologne with his manager Manfred Zimmerman last Monday.

"That's a lie," Zimmermann told the Dutch magazine Formule 1 Race Report.

"In the past six months Adrian nor myself have visited the Toyota factory," he insisted.

Zimmermann reiterated that it is "a hundred per cent certain" that Sutil will honor his contract to stay with Force India in 2008.

Beyond that, Sutil is keen to step up with a bigger team, Zimmermann admitted, revealing that he is "in conversation with several teams" about 2009, and not only Toyota.

Meanwhile, to the Spanish news agency EFE, rookie hopeful Roldan Rodriguez revealed that he is expecting Force India to finalize its 2008 driver lineup early in January.

12/04/07 (GMM)  Colin Kolles has rejected reports that Force India has already determined its driver lineup for the 2008 season.

No fewer than seven potential candidates for a seat with the newly-purchased outfit will test at Jerez this week, but rumors suggest that Vitantonio Liuzzi and Adrian Sutil have already been selected to race next year.

The pair, along with Spanish rookie Roldan Rodriguez, embarked on a fitness camp last week near Munich, but Kolles said the training session was not officially sanctioned by the team and therefore not a hint about the 2008 lineup.

"We have not yet made any decision about drivers next year," he told the Force India website.

Kolles added: "Adrian Sutil will stay with the team for at least one more year – we have always been very clear about this – but we do not have any other confirmed drivers.

"I have read some stories about Liuzzi training with Sutil and Rodriguez, but this was a private training session and not anything officially organized by the team," he said.

12/27/07
cc
Conquest Racing eyes expansion. With Winslow?  UPDATE #4 We spoke to team owner Eric Bachelart who told AutoRacing1.com that "We did test Winslow but he is not ready for Champ Car.  We are still talking to him regarding a possible Champ Car Atlantic ride for 2008, however."

12/26/07 We have added James Winslow to our 2008 Champ Car Silly Season page with the Conquest team based on this dialog:

Crash.net:
Of course, the other notable test you've had was with Conquest Racing in a Champ Car....

James Winslow

Winslow:
And that was fantastic! That's basically the way we want to go for 2008 and it's what we're working towards right now. I'm planning to test for Conquest again in January and we're hoping that we can get a drive in Champ Car. If not, we're also considering doing Champ Car Atlantic so that we can learn the circuits, learn the American way but, as a destination in motorsport, we're driving towards Champ Car, either in 2008 or 2009. That's what we really want to aim for.

Crash.net:
Opes Prime appeared on the Conquest car for the last couple of rounds of this year's series. Are they going to be going with you to the US?

Winslow:
Yes, Opes Prime are basically going to be involved with Conquest in some way, although I'm not sure exactly how it's going to work just yet. I'm sure that'll be revealed quite soon, but I'm hoping to do either Champ Car or Atlantic next season and we're talking to Conquest and a few other teams as well, so it's all quite exciting and, one way or another, we'll definitely be racing in America next season.

12/20/07 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement.

12/20/07 Expect this rumor, first broke by AutoRacing1.com back in August, to soon go to 'fact' as AutoRacing1.com has learned that Conquest Racing has landed a big sponsor and will soon announce they are committing to run a full 2-car Champ Car team in 2008, up from one car in 2007.  The good news about this is that the team found the sponsor on their own and did not require that a driver bring a large check.  We await the formal announcement.

08/23/07 AutoRacing1.com had a chance to speak to Eric Bachelart in Brussels today during the Champ Car driver presentation at the Autoworld Museum. He said that "we are aiming to expand to a 2-car team next year. We have a number of things we are working on that we hope will fall into place."

As one might expect, his Conquest Racing team was the center of attention with the Belgian media since he, his driver Jan Heylen, and the team sponsor are all from Belgium (See photo above right). More later.
12/25/07
cc
Dan Clarke to return to Champ Car for '08  

Dan Clarke

Dan Clarke has begun a rigorous training regime ahead of the new Champ Car season which starts in April, and is preparing to take part in a series of triathlons.

He said: “Winter training is the toughest for any racing driver.

“This year my trainers are  triathletes themselves, so they compete in adventure races, triathlons and duathlons all-year round.

“I’ve come back home to train with them and have formed a really good relationship with the people at SBR in Windsor, who sponsor the events.

“They have supplied me with a road racing bike to get me through these winter months at home.

“Of course Formula 1 is the ultimate aim. It’s something I have wanted to do since I was eight.  But for now I am concentrating on champ cars, I need to put in the hard work now and see what happens in the future.

Clarke finished on the podium once this season but is hoping next season will bring him more luck.

He added: “It’s been a tough year but  I want to build on that and see where that takes me.”  Clarke goes back to the USA in February and will also race in Belgium and Holland this year.

12/25/07
f1
Wurz eyes future in F1  UPDATE (GMM)  2007 Williams racer Alex Wurz has hinted that his next formula one foray could be in the commentary box.

The 33-year-old is believed to be negotiating an out-of-cockpit advisory role for the Grove-based squad, after relinquishing his race seat to Kazuki Nakajima prior to the season finale in October.

According to the Austrian magazine 'Weekend', however, Wurz's vast experience, as a veteran of nearly 70 grands prix and several years as a prominent test driver, might also be put to another use in the near future.

"I would enjoy illustrating to the best of my ability the extremes of this fascinating sport," he said.

Alex Wurz

12/20/07 (GMM)  Alex Wurz has not yet farewelled the world of formula one.

The Austrian veteran relinquished his Williams race seat to Kazuki Nakajima before the 2007 season finale, but speculation has linked him with a new role for next year and beyond.

Wurz, 33, remains under his current contract with the Grove team until December 31.

He told sportnet.at: "I am working on some things, but at the moment this is not for the media."

12/25/07
cc
Champ Car could return to Brazil  

Autodromo de Goiânia

According to this Brazilian article below, Champ Car race promoter in Assen Lee Van Dam, was in Goiânia, Brazil last week to visit some authorities and check the track conditions of the Autodromo de Goiânia and see if it was conducive for a Champ Car race. He proposed to governor Alcides Rodrigues a partnership to bring a Champ Car event to Goiania.

Lee walked around the track with the manager of the track, Sérgio Câmara, and the president of Goiania tourism agency, Alcides Barbosa. He said that the track is better than it was 5 years ago, but some upgrades are needed to host events such as Champ Car, Moto GP, trucks, A1GP...

He pointed that Goiania has less problems than other Brazil circuits such as Curitiba, Rio de Janeiro and even Sao Paulo to host international events, because of the logistics and location.  The city may host a Champ Car race in 2009. "The government and corporate sponsors are interested in investing enough money to make it real", assured Barbosa Neto.

The governor Alcides Rodrigures was invited by Lee to go to the Long Beach race next year to get a better understanding of what it will take to host a race.

In mid January both Sérgio Câmara and Barbosa Neto may visit Jerez. According to Lee, the upgrades at Jerez are similar to what has to be done at Goiania.

Promessa de emoção
Promotor de eventos internacionais visita o circuito de Goiânia e quer trazer para a cidade uma etapa da Champ Car
O Popular
December 23, 2007

Sérgio Câmara (left), Lee van Dam (middle) e Barbosa Neto (right) talk about upgrades for the track.


Carlos César Ibiapino

Para quem viu o Aut¢dromo de Goiânia voltar a receber uma grande competição, o que não ocorria desde 2005 – em setembro deste ano foi realizada a 6ª etapa do Brasileiro de F¢rmula Truck –, poderá ter a chance de ver eventos internacionais em 2009.  More ...

12/24/07
irl
IRL to drop more ISC races  Unsubstantiated rumors in the IRL paddock say that the IRL may drop two more money losing ISC races after 2008 - Watkins Glen and Homestead.  Perhaps the IRL is finally realizing that the NASCAR fraternity is no friend of open wheel racing. Rumors say the IRL is still trying to land a race in Las Vegas, but not on the oval.
12/24/07
alms
lmes
Acura P1 car in 2009  In this Endurance-Info interview, Honda HPD boss Robert Clarke says:
  • Still possibility of 4 P2 Acuras in ALMS, all with modified Courage chassis
  • No Acuras at Le Mans in 2008
  • Still aiming for all Acura P1 in 2009
12/21/07
irl
cc
Ganassi laying off, Forsythe hiring  Hearing that Ganassi Racing let 13 people go yesterday in Indianapolis. Now that’s a Merry Christmas if we ever heard one. And on another note we hear some former Newman/ Haas/Lanigan Racing  people are settling in pretty well at Forsythe Racing and they have now hired more than they let go a few weeks ago as they staff up for a 3-car Champ Car assault in 2008.
12/21/07
f1
BMW eyes major new F1 sponsor  (GMM)  BMW-Sauber could soon team up with a major new sponsor, according to the Swiss newspaper Blick.

It is reported that Deutsche Telekom, Germany's largest telecommunications company and the biggest in Europe, is considering backing the formula one team, possibly to advertise its 'T-Mobile' brand.

After Petronas and Credit Suisse, the Bonn-based company would reportedly become the Swiss based team's third most lucrative backer.

The news could be made official on 14 January, when the German-Swiss team unveils its 2008 car, the F1.08, in Munich.

12/20/07
Industry news
GM to sell medium truck division  General Motors Corp. has tentatively agreed to sell its medium-duty truck business to a unit of truck maker Navistar International Corp., the companies said Thursday.  No terms were disclosed, however, and GM said more work must be done on details of the deal. The sale would be part of GM's plan to focus on building and selling cars and light trucks worldwide.  International Truck and Engine Corp., the principal operating subsidiary of Warrenville, Ill.-based Navistar, and GM said they have entered into a non-binding memorandum of understanding about a sale.

Financial details of the deal, which is expected to close next year, weren't released. GM spokesman Rob Minton said the agreement could lead to a sale, but more work needs to be done on specifics.  Under the deal, Navistar would purchase certain assets, intellectual property and rights to manufacture medium-duty GMC and Chevrolet brand trucks, such as dump trucks, tow trucks and utility trucks.  It also includes purchase of the related service parts business, the companies said. Navistar would sell the vehicles and parts for service through GM's dealer network in the U.S. and Canada.

12/20/07
cc
Lauda to Champ Car?  UPDATE Autosport have pulled the Lauda story. It was an accidental re-print apparently from 2005.

12/20/07

Mathias Lauda

Autosport.com
reports that Mathias Lauda, the son of three-times world champion Niki Lauda, is looking increasingly likely to turn his back on racing in Europe this season and make the switch to the Champ Car World Series – probably with the front-running Forsythe Racing outfit.

His brother Lukas, who is managing Mathias' career, has admitted that a switch to Champ Car is an attractive option.

“It is easier to find a budget of three million dollars for ChampCar racing than 1.2 million dollars for a series such as the GP2, where no one knows how it will evolve,” he said.

“More so, if you are performing nicely in Champ Car racing as a rookie, as seventh or so, you are the hero. If you finish third or fourth in GP2, no one will give a toss.”

Lukas Lauda is understood to be in Chicago this week finalizing a deal with Forsythe to see his brother become a part of its four-car effort this year.

“Mr. Forsythe is not only interested, he even wants to invest some money into the career of Mathias,” he said.

12/20/07
cc
irl
Champ Car may finally get its death wish  UPDATE A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Since the end of the season, there has been so little news (except for the bad news) coming from Champ Car can you please provide us with your prognosis on where the series is heading?  I am staunch Champ Car supporter, but I am getting the genuine sense that Champ Car is in its last days.  What makes things worse for me, and I suspect many others, is if Champ Car should finally give up the ghost, I refuse to spend my money on or even follow any series led by Tony George.  This is a very painful notion.  Please help me out... Mark Maslona - Cleveland, Ohio

Dear Mark, From where just about everyone sits, it appears the plan is to keep Champ Car alive by feeding on the various ride-buyer checks that come along each year.  Apparently this was the five year plan we never saw because we see zero growth - no new major sponsors, no new teams, no manufacturers, no hiring of big name drivers, just more of the same wait for the last minute and see which drivers can bring the most money to the table before the first race in April.  It's too bad Tony Cochrane turned down Champ Car's attempt to hire him as he would have been the shot in the arm the series needed.  Yes, Cochrane denied he was talking to Champ Car but in fact he was.  Mark C.

12/19/07 This ESPN.com article paints the real picture of Paul Tracy going to the IRL out of disgust for being asked to take a large pay cut by Forsythe Racing.  As the article says, "given Champ Car's record, it's only natural that they would try to sabotage themselves by forcing out their only recognizable star driver."  It would be the final nail in Champ Car's coffin, their final death wish come true.
12/20/07
roc
Race of Champions to Miami?  The Race of Champions is truly a splendid event, one brimming with national pride, international camaraderie and precision competition among some of the greatest and most respected racing drivers in the world, from all disciplines of motorsport.

That makes it a coveted commodity. And it makes event founder Fredrik Johnnson an influential man. We've been chasing Fredrik for a few years now," Terry Bassett, Miami Dolphins vice president of business development, told ESPN.com Sunday while attending the event in London. "I hate to stand here in Wembley and say, 'Hey, we want your event.' But we want their event."

Dolphin Stadium executives are interested in luring ROC to the United States.

"When I went to [work for] Dolphin Stadium and the Miami Dolphins, part of my marching orders is to bring new events to the stadium," said Bassett, a former executive at International Speedway Corp., which owns 12 tracks on which the Nextel Cup Series competes. "We did a big renovation, about $350 million, to our building and … how are you going to fill it up? More ...

12/19/07
f1
Chandok eyes F1 drive in 2009  Karun Chandok is confident of clinching a 2009 Formula One drive if he produces a strong second season in the feeder GP2 European series next year.  The 23-year-old has signed for UK's I-Sport International, the top GP2 team, after winning the driver and team championships this season.

"GP2 was always going to be a two-year plan," Chandok told a news conference on Wednesday.

"Realistically if we finish in the top five in the championship in 2008, that will put me in a very good position to move up to a Formula One drive for 2009."

He will race in the GP2 Asia series starting next month before the European series begins in April.

12/19/07
f1
Valencia F1 under threat  The EU has admitted a complaint from the ecologist group, Fórmula Verda

There are problems for the Formula One race which is planned for the first time next season on a new urban circuit in Valencia port.

The European Union has admitted a complaint from the Valencia ecologist group, Fórmula Verda which has demanded that the construction of the new track not go ahead without a previous environmental impact report.

Opposition has come also from the Ecologistes en Acció group. Spokesman Luis Cerillo said that the complaint to the EU was based on the lack of an environmental study, the modification of the City Hall of the Strategic Plan for Valencia, and the lack of public notices regarding the tenders to carry out the work. He claimed that an environmental study has not been carried out because it would clear come back negative.

Residents in the Nazaret area fear that the work to create the track could cause the flooding of their homes, given that the flow of the Turia river has already been affected by large mountains of earth from the construction. TypicallySpanish
12/18/07
nascar
Another NASCAR team folds  After much fanfare, the partnership between Bill Riley and former Yates Racing general manager Eddie D'Hondt is no more. The two announced goals to form an ambitious Cup and Busch program back in August, 2006, aligning themselves with Toyota [#91]. But sponsorship never materialized, and the team only made one Nextel Cup race throughout its existence; Marc Goossens finished 38th last June at Infineon Raceway. The Busch program appeared in better shape, with veteran David Green driving a handful of races; however, he and development driver Bobby Santos never could drudge up the financial support to go with them. In half-a-dozen events, their highest finish was 11th with Green at Nashville. While that team has dissolved, Eddie D'Hondt supposedly still plans to remain in the ownership business – he hopes to run some Busch and ARCA races in 2008 under the D'Hondt Motorsports banner. Frontstretch
12/17/07
cc
Is Kalkhoven counting penguins again?  A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Is Kevin Kalkhoven away counting penguins again?  The driver lineups are almost all set in F1, NASCAR and the IRL yet Champ Car is in its usual off-season disarray with no driver news and sponsor announcements.  Your Silly Season page shows just how bad things are.  George Heel

Dear George, With no sponsors coming into the series as of yet it's likely the team owners are waiting to see who gets an F1 seat and then who has money (a check) to bring to Champ Car. Then Champ Car will have its annual owners meeting and decide which teams are short of cash and somehow juggle it so everything falls into place before Long Beach.  Most races will be in low definition on ESPN and ESPN2 next year so sponsors won't be knocking down the doors anytime soon, preferring instead to spend their money in NASCAR, the IRL and F1, all of which broadcast in high-definition where their logos show up much better.  Mark C.

12/17/07
roc
RoC to invite Hamilton in ’08  McLaren ace Lewis Hamilton could become the star attraction of next year's Race of Champions, particularly if the end-of-season extravaganza returns to Wembley Stadium in 12 month's time.

This year's event, starring Michael Schumacher, Jenson Button, David Coulthard and eventual winner Matthias Ekstrom,  played out in front of more than 50,000 people.

But RoC co-founder and organizer Fredrik Jonsson reckons the stadium could have been sold-out if F1's 22-year-old super-rookie had been in attendance.

"Obviously with it being just before Christmas there is a lot of people shopping, so that might have had an effect," he said.  "But I'm sure if Lewis had been involved then we would also have had a bigger crowd because he did a fantastic job this year, and he is so popular.  Lewis has always said he wants to do it, and we certainly hope we can work something out so he can make it next year."

"There is every chance we will come back," said Jonsson. "We are very happy with how it all went. Brent Council and Wembley Stadium were very helpful in the planning of this event.  We had been hoping for a sellout, but we sold more than 50,000 tickets, which is good."

12/17/07
f1
Filippi in running for Super Aguri seat  UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' with today's announcement that Filippi has signed to drive for former GP2 champions ART Grand Prix in next year's GP2 Series

12/12/07 (GMM)  Luca Filippi is in the running to secure a formula one race seat in 2008, according to a Swiss newspaper report.

Blick, the high circulation daily, says the Italian is a contender to be Takuma Sato's new teammate at Super Aguri.

Leafield based Super Aguri is known to be struggling financially at present, and Blick claims that 22-year-old Filippi could bring around 10 million Euros to the team in the form of personal backing.

Filippi finished the 2007 GP2 championship in fourth place, driving for Super Nova.

He is also in the running to be Honda's new official test driver for 2008, but also ran in Super Aguri colors in the post-season Barcelona and Jerez tests.

12/17/07
f1
Coulthard eyes possible NASCAR future  (GMM)  David Coulthard on Sunday said he would one day consider following his friend Jacques Villeneuve from formula one to NASCAR.

The Scottish veteran, who at 36 is the oldest current driver on the grid, will in 2008 contest his fourteenth full season in F1, with Red Bull Racing.

"I would consider something like NASCAR," Coulthard told ESPN at the scene of the Race of Champions event at London's Wembley stadium.

"I don't think I would consider IRL.  The only thing is, America, you have to commit to it absolutely.  Which means you move out there, take your family there.

"But I'd certainly consider it.  This will be my fifteenth season in formula one.  After that ... I'll do this as long as I'm having fun, as long as they keep saying 'Would you like to continue?'", he added.

Coulthard said even NASCAR's 38-week schedule, which is several weeks longer than the March-November racing calendar he is accustomed to, would not bother him.

12/16/07
cc
irl
Monday: Seen at Sebring testing  UPDATE #7 The last original Indy Racing League driver is heading for sports cars. SPEEDTV.com reports that Scott Sharp is taking his Patron sponsorship to Highcroft Racing in the American Le Mans series for 2008. Sharp, who turns 40 in February, will team with David Brabham and replace Stefan Johansson on the Acura-powered P2 team owned by Duncan Dayton. SPEEDTV.com

12/08/07 AutoRacing1.com has confirmed that Sharp was absolutely in Europe. In reading the lawsuit Sharp asked Rahal to do a program for him in the ALMS but they were unable to get a factory program together so he was stuck staying in the IRL which Sharp does not want to do. In reading the lawsuit Rahal appears to have the upper hand and we predict he will win the lawsuit. BTW, the Patron deal was for $5.2M per year.

12/08/07 This rumor is still being denied by the Sharp camp.

12/08/07 Ryan Hunter-Reay's teammate, Scott Sharp, is seeking to not be his teammate, and Rahal Letterman Racing has fought back with a lawsuit in the United States District Court Southern District of the Florida Miami Division that alleges Sharp, a Jupiter resident, has breached his contract and another with his sponsor, Patron Spirits, for interference. Sharp also has filed suit, claiming Rahal Letterman is not committed to IndyCar racing and cites the team's release of several key personnel.

Both may be looking to jump to the Champ Car World Series. Sharp was spotted at Sebring when the CCWS was testing there and Patron is interested in that series and the American Le Mans Series. Sun-Sentinel.com [Editor's Note: It's interesting that when we rumored below that Sharp was seen at the Champ Car test in Sebring it was denied (covered up) but it seems this reporter saw him too.]

09/25/07 Nelson Philippe was hanging around the Sebring paddock yesterday and word is he still would like to land a Champ Car ride.  There is some question whether Jan Heylen has enough money to finish the year out.

09/24/07 Been told that Scott Sharp is in Scotland, so he must have a twin brother.

09/24/07 David Martinez is testing today.  Servia is in Tracy's car.  Tracy will test tomorrow.

09/24/07 Scott Sharp is at Sebring this morning with his Patron people for the Champ Car testing. They (both Sharp and his sponsor Patron) are rumored to be leaving the Rahal Letterman Racing IRL team. Are they here just to watch or might one read more into this.....we will try to find out............All teams are here except RuSPORT and Rocketsports...........Oriol Servia is in the Forsythe car. We would have thought David Martinez would be getting some seat time. Maybe later today or tomorrow.....
12/16/07
tv news
nascar
John Kernan Leaving Sirius And PRN  The buzz on the street and in the Sirius Satellite Radio forum is that John Kernan is leaving his job hosting The Driver's Seat and relocating to Chicago, IL.

The Driver's Seat is produced by PRN, and aired on Sirius. Kernan is moving for family reasons, and he is going to be unable to do the show from his new home-base in Chicago.

This does make Kernan available for some additional weekend TV duties beyond his limited NHRA commitments. It certainly would be interesting to see Kernan sitting in the Infield Studio at Daytona for the first Nationwide Series race. That would get a big fan reaction.

Kernan has been a steady voice in the sport for a long time, and seems to have the type of personality that lends itself to simply "directing traffic" as a host and letting the other guests and announcers shine. That certainly is rare these days.

Kernan's departure from PRN and Sirius brings another interesting scenario to mind. If Kernan moves to the Infield Studio for the Nationwide races, will that mean Suzy Kolber will be doing the "top end" interviews for the NHRA coverage? DailyPlanet

12/16/07
irl
Marco Andretti now 6 feet tall!  His IRL stats list him as, a very generous, 5’6”.  It’s more like 5’ 3” as Tony Kanaan stats list him at 5’5” and it’s obvious when Marco and Tony are standing together that Tony is taller by a few inches than Marco.

The sale of the Firestone 'standees' is for a good cause (CARA Charities) and haven’t attracted any significant bids so far so maybe the Champ Car Fanatics could buy some to burn at BBQs and the like (there is even one of Michael Andretti that they LOVE to hate).

12/15/07
industry news
Chevy Volt to get around 150 MPG  

Chevy Volt cutaway

GM has high hopes for the Volt, which would be powered by an electric motor fed by lithium-ion batteries. Fully charged, the car could go around 65 kilometers without using any gasoline. A small conventional engine would recharge the Volt, extending its range and allowing it to get the equivalent of 150 miles per gallon (about 64 kilometers per liter). GM also is developing a hydrogen fuel cell version of the car.
12/15/07
industry news
GM boss may retire in 2010  Automotive industry icon Robert Lutz wants to retire from General Motors Corp. after the company brings a plug-in electric car to market, possibly sometime in 2010, he said Tuesday. The 75-year-old Lutz, now GM's vice-chairman for global product development, is shepherding development of the Chevrolet Volt, which the company sees as a mainstream electric sedan that can be recharged by plugging it into a household outlet.

"I'd like to see the Volt launched because I think that is an absolutely critical product," Lutz said in an interview with The Associated Press. The company has set sometime in 2010 as a loose date to roll out the Volt.

12/15/07
cc
Tagliani eyes PKV seat  

Alex Tagliani

Canadian veteran Alexandre Tagliani would like to obtain a drive at PKV he told Radio-Canada Sports, Thursday. He has been added to our 2008 Champ Car Silly Season page.

In 2007, Neel Jani finished three times on the podium, and Oriol Servia once. "I believe that if there is a team that can fight with Newman/Haas/Lanigan for the title in 2008, it's PKV", he indicated. "I haven't signed anything, but things are going well'', Tagliani admitted.  "I talked with Jimmy Vasser and Mark Johnson (general manager). 'They know that I can go quickly in a car if one can give me a little stability in a team."

"I do not know if I have to fight against other drivers for the ride. ''I have the advantage that Kevin Kalkhoven recognizes the importance of the Canadian market for the series."

Tagliani confirmed he would continue his association with the "Victory lap" program, of Wal-Mart and Tide, for the Canadian network "Children's miracle network." "That is what's planned for the Canadian races'', he said, ''but we still have presentations to make, and perhaps we will be able to find other companies interested in helping us for the remainder of season." Tagliani does not know yet if PKV will have one or two cars in 2008. "It's a premature question, we are not there yet.''

12/14/07
f1
McLaren to pick Heikki for 2008  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement.

12/14/07 (GMM)  McLaren has hinted for the first time that it could be interested in hiring Heikki Kovalainen to race alongside Lewis Hamilton in 2008.

The rookie Finn, who is 26, was not included in Renault's official lineup for next season, amid strong speculation that he is in contention for the Mercedes-powered seat that was recently vacated by Fernando Alonso.

Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren's veteran Spanish test driver, said on Thursday that team chiefs would determine the identity of Hamilton's new teammate, from a shortlist of two, within a week.

"I think Heikki looks like a very interesting driver," McLaren chief executive Martin Whitmarsh told the Guardian newspaper.

The Briton also acknowledged that de la Rosa is pushing hard for the drive, the newspaper added.

12/14/07
f1
Honda to hire Wurz  According to inside AutoRacing1.com sources, the Honda F1 team will soon announce that they have hired Alex Wurz to be one of their test drivers for 2008.  We await the announcement.
12/14/07
industry news
Nissan, Renault looking for U.S. partner  UPDATE Chrysler LLC and Nissan Motor Co., a Japanese automaker in search of an American partner, are in talks on possible ways to help each other develop new vehicles, people familiar with the situation said Thursday.

They said the discussions began in the summer after Daimler AG agreed to sell Chrysler to Cerberus Capital Management LP.

At this stage, the talks are limited to technical cooperation: Nissan is interested in Chrysler's expertise in full-size truck manufacturing, while the newly private Auburn Hills automaker wants to tap Nissan's strength in developing appealing small cars.

The two automakers are not discussing the kind of over-arching alliance, including equity stakes, that Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn was seeking last year with General Motors Corp., the sources said.

GM's management, backed by its board, rebuffed Ghosn's proposal last year to form a three-way alliance of GM, Nissan and its controlling shareholder, France's Renault SA.

Chrysler Chairman and CEO Bob Nardelli told reporters at the automaker's holiday party Thursday that he had not spoken with Ghosn. But he said Chrysler needed to look at potential global partnerships.

Nissan declined to comment on the talks, which were first reported by Bloomberg News.

"Nissan has no comment on this," said Fred Standish, a U.S.-based Nissan spokesman. More at Detroit News

10/27/07 Carlos Ghosn, who heads the automakers Nissan of Japan and Renault of France, said Wednesday he remains interested in a partnership with a major U.S. automaker, although he is not in talks or aggressively looking just yet.

Nissan Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn told reporters the timing wasn’t right to expand the Nissan-Renault alliance, formed in 1999, because Nissan Motor Co. is now in a lull of “consolidation” before going to the next stage of growth. The only partner that would make sense is somebody who is very big in North America,” he said at a hotel on the sidelines of the Tokyo Motor Show.

He did not mention by name any of the three biggest U.S. automakers — General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. or Chrysler LLC.

Speculation has been growing that Chrysler and Ford may be looking for partners as they struggle to restructure their operations and boost profits. More ...

12/13/07
f1
F1 might stick with grooved tires  F1 is supposed to switch to slick tires in 2009, but if the reduction in aerodynamic downforce doesn't slow the speeds enough, F1 might stick with their grooved tires.

The theory is: much less downforce and more mechanical grip should improve the racing and overtaking," FIA President Max Mosley told Autosport.

"If it turns out that the promised reduction in downforce hasn't happened and the cornering speeds go up, we'll just put the grooves back in.

"We don't want to do that, but sometimes we've been promised by the aerodynamicists a 50 percent reduction in downforce and it doesn't materialize. Then the speeds rocket up again. We've got the answer if we have to."

12/12/07
ga
Heylen and Doornbos to run Rolex 24  Hearing that Champ Car drivers Jan Heylen and Robert Doornbos are entered to run in the 2008 Rolex 24 race at Daytona.
12/12/07
nascar
NASCAR out to strip open wheel of biggest names  A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I was reading this article that talks about how NASCAR teams are all of a sudden hiring open wheel racing's biggest names instead of the traditional farm boys.  It would seem to me there is a concerted effort by the NASCAR contingent to strip open wheel racing of its best and brightest and put that form of racing out of business.  So far it's working. Doug Hebron

Dear Doug, It certainly would appear to be the case, though one can say that the stupidity of the powers to be in open wheel racing in the USA, that allow the split to continue, are equally to blame.  Mark C.

12/12/07
cc
Forsythe/Pettit Racing to make driver change?  UPDATE #3 In this SPEEDTV.com article Robin Miller hits the nail on the head.  "In the worst case scenario, Tracy refuses to renegotiate, gets cut loose by Forsythe and is out of Champ Car. Can you imagine having three races in Canada without Paul Tracy? The Toronto promoter can't.

The best case scenario for Champ Car is that Paul Newman, Carl Haas and Mike Lanigan sign him to replace Sebastien Bourdais and team with young Rahal.

But, if I was Tony George, I'd do whatever it took to get Tracy into an Indy Racing League ride. Honda always had a good relationship with him and maybe they'd help with his salary like they have other drivers.

Because, if the heart of Champ Car ends up in the IRL, this insane, costly, brutal open wheel war would be over.

Game, set and match."  Champ Car may as well close the doors.

12/07/07 Another reader writes, If indeed the PT rumor is true, not only will Champ Car lose half the Canadian fans at the 3 Canadian races, the entire series would be in deep trouble.  The #1 driver in Champ Car is PT!!.....Sure he hasn't been competitive in the last couple of years but you just have to LOVE his style!

I give full credit to SeaBass for all his success in the last 4 years but he was not a fan favorite.  He has no personality.  I think PT is what keeps this series alive.  He is the one driver that continues to support the series and refuses to bail out for more money or more exposure.  His commitment to Champ Car cannot be questioned and should PT find himself without a ride in '08, the entire series might as well pack up the transporters for good. Bruce Davidson

12/06/07 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, It would not surprise me if Champ Car gets rid of their most popular driver, Paul Tracy.  After all, they appear to have a death wish and everything they do appears to be in preparation to downsize the company and eventually close it down.  Rest assured, if Tracy goes they may as well deep-six the three Canadian races as ticket sales will drop in half. Robert Monk

12/05/07 There are rumors going around in Champ Car circles saying that Forsythe/Pettit Racing may be looking to replace Champ Car's most popular driver Paul Tracy.  AutoRacing1.com spoke to Tracy Wednesday night to find out if there was any truth to the rumor.

Paul Tracy

"The only thing I know for sure is that I have an ironclad contract to drive for Forsythe for the next four years and I intend to honor it," Tracy told AutoRacing1.com. 

"I have been training hard in the off-season, my back finally feels 100% since I broke it in Long Beach last year and my goal is to work with the team in the off-season to get us back to our winning ways. 

"Since our new engineer, Tom Brown, came on board, the new car is finally to the point where I can drive it fast and feel comfortable.  Before it felt like the car was driving me and we were crashing a lot.  Since Tom is there we have had two solid races - we qualified well and raced well - so I have high hopes for 2008."

With that said, the rumors are still out there so we will have to see just how this rumor plays itself out.  Last year the team ran only one car in pre-season testing and it had a negative impact on the team all year long.  It will be interesting to see if the team has both of its drivers in place before the first test in Sebring in February. Mark C.

12/12/07
f1
Kovalainen dropped because he was too fast  Heikki Kovalainen was reportedly jettisoned by Renault in favor of Nelson Piquet junior because Fernando Alonso was wary of the Finn's pace.

While confirmation of Alonso's return to Renault this week was not a surprise, the ousting of Kovalainen was unexpected. The youngster excelled during the second half of his debut season, comfortably eclipsing the lackluster Giancarlo Fisichella.

Pointedly, team boss Flavio Briatore was unable to provide a satisfactory explanation for Kovalainen's dismissal in his farewell to both drivers, instead praising the Finn as "a fast, intelligent and engaging driver, who is definitely capable of winning races in the future."

That capability may have proved his undoing, however, with Autosport disclosing:

'It is understood that his speed ultimately cost him the chance of staying on board at Renault, because the returning Fernando Alonso did not want a team-mate to pose the kind of challenge that he faced with Lewis Hamilton at McLaren this year.'  PlanetF1

12/12/07
f1
Kovalainen eyes McLaren, Toyota for ’08  UPDATE (GMM)  There is a "100 per cent chance" that Heikki Kovalainen will still be on the formula one grid when the 2008 season kicks off next March.

A source close to the Finn relayed the information to Sport Bild, amid concerns that Kovalainen's career may have stalled after just a single season with Renault in 2007.

It is speculated that Kovalainen was left out of Renault's plans for next year because he would have posed too big a threat to the crucial new number one status of the returning Fernando Alonso.

He is now being linked with moves to McLaren or Toyota.  Toyota is still strongly in the frame apparently due to McLaren boss Ron Dennis' concerns not only about Kovalainen's speed, but because of his lingering management links with Flavio Briatore.

Test driver Pedro de la Rosa is apparently the favorite for the McLaren seat due to the pressure of the team's Spanish sponsors, including Santander.

But Umberto Zapelloni, a renowned journalist for La Gazzetta dello Sport, played down the de la Rosa reports, arguing that comparing the veteran Spaniard with Alonso is like "comparing Kaka with (fellow AC Milan football player) Brocchi."

Speaking to the Finnish television station MTV3, Kovalainen said he was not surprised when Renault elected to run with Alonso alongside Nelson Piquet Jr in 2008.

"For some time we have been going through other options," he said.

"Renault made this kind of a decision, but luckily there are two other options with interesting offers," he added.

Heikki Kovalainen

12/11/07 (GMM)  Heikki Kovalainen's career at the highest level of motor racing is not over, Renault boss Flavio Briatore suggested on Monday.

As the French team announced that the rookie Finn had not been included in the 2008 race or test lineup, Briatore played down the obvious conclusion that Kovalainen, who is 26, is therefore facing dark days.

"We are proud to have given him his start in formula one, and wish him the very best for what is sure to be an outstanding career," Italian Briatore said.

Unlike his 2007 teammate Giancarlo Fisichella, who is pinning his hopes on racing with the backmarker team Force India next season, Kovalainen is being linked not only with McLaren but also Toyota for 2008.

McLaren is yet to fill Fernando Alonso's recently vacated seat alongside Lewis Hamilton, while Toyota is believed to be open to the idea of sidelining Jarno Trulli, who has an ongoing contract for the Japanese team.

"The decision is still to be taken," Mercedes' Norbert Haug answered when asked by the German newspaper Bild about the available McLaren cockpit.

Team testers Pedro de la Rosa and Gary Paffett, as well as young hopefuls Bruno Spengler and Paul di Resta, have also been linked with the seat at the Woking based team.

Bild explained that Adrian Sutil has, however, been ruled out by McLaren because Force India is demanding a "double digit" million-dollar figure for the sale of his 2008 contract.

12/12/07
f1
The race to be Alonso's Renault deputy  (GMM)  Giancarlo Fisichella has hinted that he was Fernando Alonso's preferred Renault teammate for 2008.

The Spanish sports daily Marca quotes the Roman veteran as telling journalists last week at Jerez: "If I was the second driver, Fernando would already have signed for Renault."

Also in the frame to be double world champion Alonso's Renault teammate for 2008 was Heikki Kovalainen, who is understood to have been deemed by team boss Flavio Briatore as an inappropriate 'number two' driver.

The Finn is now strongly linked with the vacant McLaren seat, as well as with Toyota to replace Jarno Trulli.

Ultimately, Renault plumped for rookie tester Nelson Piquet Jr, whose appointment as a race driver was believed to be a condition of the possible financial involvement of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.

But Piquet's famous triple world champion father recently suggested that his son has no intention of settling for a number two seat in formula one.

Spanish rookie Roldan Rodriguez, who drove for Piquet Snr's GP2 team in 2007, praised Alonso's new teammate.

"Piquet is a very good guy," Rodriguez told Marca.

"He helped me a lot when I was in his father's team.  As a driver he is a specialist over a single lap and not quite as good in race pace, although he is very fast."

12/11/07
f1
cc
2008 F1 Silly Season page  As Renault confirmed its 2008 driver lineup we have updated our 2008 F1 Silly Season page. There are (officially) four seats still available for the 2008 season. McLaren has to appoint Alonso's replacement. Super Aguri has yet to confirm its two drivers but will most likely continue with Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson. And at Force India F1 four drivers are shooting for the 2nd seat.

Compare the F1 page to the 2008 Champ Car Silly Season page where very few seats are confirmed and this off-season looks to be yet another PR nightmare for the reeling organization. With little or no sponsorship teams await last minute checks from ride-buyers before announcing their driver lineup, sometimes just days before the first race.  The same mistake is made year-in and year-out and the owners wonder why Champ Car cannot get any traction.

12/11/07
f1
Press split over term of new Alonso deal  (GMM)  The media is split over the uncertain length of Fernando Alonso's new Renault contract.

The French team on Monday did not reveal the crucial detail in its announcement of the Spaniard's 2008 return, following weeks of speculation that Alonso, 26, was desperate to commit himself only for one season.

The German news agency DPA, however, cites the information of a Renault spokesman in claiming that Alonso will stay at the Enstone based team to the end of 2009.  The Spanish sports daily Marca reported a similar finding.

But Auto Motor und Sport, the authoritative German magazine, does not agree, saying the contract is for three years and a record $147 million retainer.

The British newspapers The Times and The Independent also said Alonso's deal is for three years.

The Daily Mail, another English newspaper, said Alonso has signed a multi-year contract, but with exit clauses that will make it possible for the former McLaren driver to leave for Ferrari after just one season.

Spain's El Mundo Deportivo says the deal is for one year only, while Diario AS reports that Alonso and Renault will have the option to automatically renew for 2009.

Meanwhile, following initial reports that Nico Rosberg has penned a new contract with Williams through to 2010, it is now clear that the German's more lucrative deal is actually only valid for 2008 and 2009.

12/10/07
f1
Alonso-Renault announcement ’imminent’  UPDATE #5 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement.

12/10/07

Fernando Alonso, the $146M man?

Not sure which report to believe here.  According to the British newspaper The Times, Fernando Alonso will become the highest-paid driver in the history of F1 if he moves back to Renault. The newspaper reports that Alonso will earn €100 million ($146M) over three years.

12/10/07 (GMM)  Fernando Alonso's new Renault contract will make him formula one's highest current earner, the Spanish daily El Mundo claims.

In a deal that is set to be signed by the Spaniard and announced by Renault imminently, Alonso, 26, will earn even more than Ferrari's reigning world champion Kimi Raikkonen in 2008, the newspaper said.

Brazilian rookie Nelson Piquet Jr will be his teammate, while Alonso's initially two-year contract - estimated at $50m per season - will assign him minimal sponsor commitments, contain an 'exit' clause, as well as clear number one status.

"Renault has won the race," El Mundo declared, referring to recent speculation of the double world champion's links with Red Bull, Toyota and Honda.

"Alonso will return to the team where he amassed his glory."

Another Spanish newspaper, El Pais, reports that McLaren boss Ron Dennis is waiting to know Alonso's final plans for 2008 before deciding between Pedro de la Rosa, Heikki Kovalainen and Adrian Sutil for the vacant seat alongside Lewis Hamilton.

Alonso is expected to make his Renault test debut in late January at Valencia, in the new car.

12/07/07 (GMM)  With Renault spared sanctions for possessing McLaren secrets, the path is now clear for Fernando Alonso to sign with the French team in 2008.

The Spaniard had delayed his final decision about next year until it was clear that he would not bear the burden of any penalties; or whether in fact Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn would pull the plug on the F1 program altogether in the face of a hefty fine.

But Spanish media, including the newspaper Diario AS, report that 26-year-old will certainly now sign a two-year contract to drive for Renault in 2008, after racing to back to back titles with the team in 2005 and 2006 before the ill-fated switch to McLaren.

Alonso's contract will include an exit clause in the event that the new collaboration "does not work" for unspecified reasons, AS added.

"The announcement is imminent," the newspaper predicted, speculating that next Monday could be the day. More ...

12/09/07
f1
De la Rosa to be Hamilton's teammate  Pedro de la Rosa has reportedly been promoted to pole position in the race to be Lewis Hamilton's team-mate at McLaren next season.

According to The Daily Mail, De la Rosa, who has been a test driver for the team for the past five years, 'has jumped to the head of a three-man shortlist to partner Hamilton.'

'The 36-year-old from Barcelona would fill the void with McLaren's Spanish sponsors created by the sacking of Fernando Alonso', claimed the newspaper.

'Rivals Heikki Kovalainen and Gary Paffett both appear to be losing support.'

The newspaper also says of De la Rosa, he 'will pose no threat to Hamilton's world title ambitions.'

12/08/07
irl
cc
Hunter-Reay faster than Dixon at Infineon?  

Hunter-Reay - Champ Car's loss is the IRL's gain

According to the Rahal Letterman press release Hunter-Reay posted a time during the IRL IndyCar test at Infineon Raceway faster than the time released by the Infineon track for defending race winner, and IRL Championship runner-up, Scott Dixon. 

Dixon and Hunter-Reay are both ex-Champ Car drivers known for their road course expertise but Hunter-Reay seems to have elevated the Rahal program almost overnight since being hired to drive the last six races of the season.  RHR was the only driver in the IRL to be able to break the ‘Big 3’ (Andretti Green Racing, Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing) stranglehold on the front of the IRL qualifying grid and if Hunter-Reay was faster than CGR’s Dixon on his first outing preparing for the 2008 season it would be a big accomplishment for the Rahal Letterman Team. 

Hunter-Reay was courted by Chip Ganassi Racing in 2005 before accepting an offer and making an agreement with Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe to race in Champ Car for a top team capable of challenging for the overall Championship.  Hunter-Reay was then forced to drive for Rocketsports and that union ended in disaster. 

Another fast young charismatic American, precisely what Champ Car desperately needs, lost to the IRL.

12/07/07
f1
Renault case could be reopened  The FIA claims that if any new evidence might suggest that Renault gained advantage from the McLaren technical information, the team might still face a heavy penalty.

The statement on the decision of the FIA said: "Although a number of very unsatisfactory elements were noted during the deliberations, the WMSC concluded that there was insufficient evidence to establish that the information was used in such a way as to interfere with or to have an impact on the championship. It should be noted that in the event of new information coming to light which calls into question the WMSC's conclusions in this decision, this matter may be re-opened by the FIA."

12/07/07
f1
Ferrari simulator to be best in F1 - report  (GMM)  Ferrari is hard at work on a new formula one simulator, according to reports in the Spanish press.

The sports daily Marca claims that Marc Gene is at the forefront of the high-tech equipment's development, and that his test at Jerez this week was almost exclusively centered on collecting information for the simulator.

McLaren's top secret state-of-the-art simulator is known as being currently the best among F1 teams, and it took much of the credit for Lewis Hamilton's sensational rookie season in 2007.

Red Bull was believed to be building a similar unit and software for its own factory.

But Marca believes that Ferrari's new simulator will be superior to all others in F1, following more than 18 months of development led by Felipe Massa's former race engineer Gabriele Delli Colli.

Gene, Ferrari's secondary test driver, commented that the simulator is already operating at an advanced level.

"I haven't tested like this for nearly a year and I should be a lot more rusty," the Spaniard said at Jerez earlier this week, "but I am only a half or second or so away from Raikkonen.

"This is thanks to the simulator, which allows you to keep pace.  It is a very big help," he added.

12/07/07
f1
Ralf's F1 career could be over  

Ralf Schumacher

(GMM)  After testing for Force India on Thursday, Ralf Schumacher acknowledged that it may have been his last time at the wheel of a formula one car.

At the end of eleven seasons in the sport with Jordan, Williams and Toyota, the winner of six grands prix said at Jerez: "It is not planned that I will drive for Force India in 2008."

Schumacher, 32, endured a difficult day at the wheel of Spyker's re-liveried 2007 car, including an hydraulic problem and two spins.

He was also the slowest of the 20 testers on duty, and more than six tenths off the pace of the other Force India contender, Vitantonio Liuzzi.

The German told reporters late on Thursday that he has been contemplating the possible end of his career since the middle of the 2007 season.

"I do not believe that next year I will be here (at Force India)," Schumacher is quoted as saying by the German press.

"It looks as though that was my last ride in a F1 car.

"I now have to consider what is best for me.  Maybe it means I will stay at home," Ralf added.

"Of course I am not blindly slamming the door, but it (any offer) would really have to make sense."

The 2007 testing year concludes at the Spanish circuit on Friday, although McLaren and Renault will not be in action after already reaching their 30,000km annual mileage limits.

12/06/07
cc
Champ Car eyes Donington  UPDATE #2 The December 4th date has come and gone.  This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  A spokesperson for Champ Car told AutoRacing1.com today, "Our 2008 schedule has been released and we have no current plans to change it."

11/26/07 We are upgrading this rumor to 'strong' as we hear Champ Car is hoping to add a September 14th or 21st race at Donington in 2008 to be paired up with the Assen race.  This does not mean it will happen, but it would have to be approved at the December 4th World Council Meeting for it to be added in 2008.  Tony Cotman has been appointed to the FIA's Circuits & Safety Commission.  Will that help Champ Car gain approval?  Can't hurt.  The clock is ticking.....

The 2.5-mile Donington circuit

07/28/07 We are hearing that Donington Park in England is definitely in the running to possibly get a Champ Car event in 2008. The 2.5-mile track, which is under new ownership is getting a facelift (See related Hot News item).

Donington’s parkland setting provides a natural amphitheatre for spectators, and the track's layout - with fast, sweeping curves and undulation changes - makes it challenging for competitors.  The race of course would be contingent on Champ Car finding a race to pair it with.  You already read our Greece rumors, but other tracks are possible as well.
12/06/07
cc
Forsythe/Pettit Racing might expand  UPDATE #5 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com,  Your site certainly has a reputation of being spot on and getting the scoop over the other journalists when it comes to Champ Car but are you sure about your source that says Forsythe/Pettit Racing firing Phil LePan?  It is one thing to let a popular driver like PT go as he is getting a little long in the tooth and it’s a young man's game but Phil LePan was not just an ‘employee’ he is, or was, Forsythe/Pettit Racing’s TEAM MANAGER.  No one could understand how Forsythe let Mike Cannon get away but releasing someone of LePan's competency who is universally respected in the industry is madness.  What the heck is going on? John Preston, Bangor Maine

Dear John,  Yes we are sure, Phil has been laid off by the team.  Mark C.

12/06/07 We now hear that longtime Forsythe employee Phil LePan was let go.  LePan came to Forsythe many years ago from the Lotus F1 team along with Neil Micklewright.  The Help Want ads continue in AutoWeek.

11/30/07 We hear that Forsythe/Pettit Racing fired several people this afternoon, just before the holidays.  No word on who exactly was let go.  By doing these “mass assassinations” twice in two years they should have a tough time getting anyone good to go to work there.

11/07/07 "As of right now, [Forsythe] is committed to a two-car team, and there is some talk of possibly a third if somebody comes along with some funding," veteran Forsythe driver Paul Tracy said in an ESPN.com interview.

09/28/07 The Forsythe Championship Racing team is running a classified ad in the latest edition of AutoWeek looking for mechanics, transport drivers, machinists, fabricators, engineers, and more as it appears the team is looking to strengthen its base significantly after letting go some of those who the team felt were not performing.

09/21/07 Paul Tracy says changes are coming to his Forsythe Championship Racing Champ Car team following yet another disappointing season.

"If you're a Champ Car fan you'll be well aware that at Forsythe Championship Racing, we spent the summer pissing in the dark on setup," he writes in his autosport.com racing column. "What we didn't realize until just before Zolder - our 11th round - is that we've been pissing both in the dark and into the wind.

"Not a pretty picture."

Tracy says the addition of Tom Brown as the team's Technical Director following Elkhart Lake has given him hope that the situation can be reversed.

"We lost our way big time in the middle of the season just through not having the basic setup right," says Tracy. "We had it running like an old Lola - nose-up, tail-down - and it needs to be the other way round on the DP01. Once Tom arrived, that was the first thing he corrected. He has a better understanding of the car, and now we're going in the right direction."

"I see good things happening, and about freakin' time!"

Tracy says while he's encouraged by the upcoming changes within the team, the same can't be said for the most recent decision to drop teammate Oriol Servia for the last two races of the season in favor of David Martinez.

"He is probably the closest teammate I've had in my career in terms of what we want and need from a car," explained Tracy.

"Right from the get-go of his deal, I think it was made pretty clear that this might happen. It was a race-by-race gig, and we need a Mexican driver for the Mexico City race."

"It's sad. Oriol's done a really good job for us, he's been a really good teammate and he's also been useful." TSN.ca

12/06/07
f1
F1 drivers not good enough to handle low-downforce rules?  UPDATE More proof F1 drivers may be inferior.  Felipe Massa believes the ban on traction control might improve the spectacle of racing, but will also cause more crashes to happen. According to the Brazilian it is now much harder to keep the car under control coming out of slow corners.

Speaking about his day of testing without the use of traction control Massa told GPUpdate.net: "It's a big difference, good fun and a better show for the fans. I do expect more crashes though. Some might expect it will cause more overtaking maneuvers but I can't agree with them. It is more dangerous as we lose some grip, especially with slicks. The car is really tricky coming out of the corner and thus it is more difficult to have a good exit out of the corner. You can easily lose the rear end of the car now so you need to be a lot smoother on the throttle."

12/06/07 Nick Heidfeld scared himself Wednesday's test at Jerez after having tested slicks and a 2009-spec aero package in his BMW and revealed that F1 drivers may not be as good as one thought - only able to drive a high-downforce ride-on-rails car.  The 2009 rules cut downforce by half, and with slicks that are not up to temperature Heidfeld has warned of serious dangers.

"If it will stay like this and the tires will stay like this, it will be extremely dangerous in 2009," he warned. "On my outlap I even thought about coming back in, because there were so many drivers flying past me. You feel like you're standing still compared to the others and it's very easy to spin the car. It's very, very dangerous."

"Bridgestone could turn this around by making better tires, but the question is: does it make sense for them?" Heidfeld said. "If there's another tire supplier and there is competition, it would be solved. If the tires become softer, it will help a lot. But I'm not a tire expert, maybe the mixture of the compound should change, but like this, it will be extremely dangerous. They should change the tires, or they should allow tire heaters for 2009.

"Without traction control it's even worse, but if we would run with traction control (in 2009), it would still be very, very difficult. Even if the tires are hot, you have so little grip with the new package. We have too much power and too little grip. I don't like it at all," a disappointed Heidfeld said.

12/06/07
industry news
Chrysler to lose $1.6B in 2007  Chrysler LLC CEO Robert Nardelli told a group of workers Wednesday that the automaker will lose $1.6 billion this year, according to a source familiar with the meeting.

Nardelli, addressing a group of designers and engineers at a town hall style session, said the company's 2007 revenues will be less than $63 billion and its costs will exceed $64 billion.

Nardelli is the third current or former Chrysler executive to predict a loss for the automaker, which is majority-owned by Cerberus Capital Management LP. As a privately held company, Chrysler does not release its financial figures.

12/06/07
f1
Zuber eyes Honda test spot  

Andreas Zuber

(GMM)  Honda will select a primary test driver for 2008 in the 'coming weeks', according to one hopeful for the job, rookie Austrian Andreas Zuber.

After making his first appearance in Barcelona recently, the 24-year-old returned to the wheel of the RA107 at Jerez.

Controversially, Zuber on Wednesday emerged from the Honda-powered Super Aguri garage with a car adorned in the satellite team's sponsor logos, sparking renewed accusations that Honda is evading its 30,000km test mileage limit.

The young Austrian, however, appeared satisfied with his day's work.

"I think that I will have fulfilled Honda's expectations," he said, after going quicker than both Anthony Davidson and Rubens Barrichello in similar cars.

"Your confidence is increased when you are only 1.1 seconds slower than the world champion (Raikkonen)," Zuber is quoted as saying by motorline.cc.

On Tuesday, Mike Conway and James Rossiter tested the Honda/Aguri cars, and Luca Filippi is also in the running for the test seat recently vacated by Christian Klien.

12/06/07
f1
Kimi slip reveals Ferrari launch date?  

Will the F2008 be faster than the F2007?

(GMM)  Ferrari's 2008 car is to be launched on 7 January, according to an apparent slip-of-the-tongue by new world champion Kimi Raikkonen.

The German magazine Auto Motor und Sport suggests that the Finn mistakenly revealed the information to the media, thinking that his Maranello based employer had already announced the news.

Ferrari's head of track activities Luca Baldisserri had already revealed that the new car, to be an "evolution" of the current F2007, will be tested for the first time at Jerez on 14 January.

Auto Motor und Sport also reports that McLaren intends to have its MP4-23 completed by the first week of January, while Toyota and Williams all want to go to the Jerez test in mid-January with their 2008 cars.

BMW-Sauber will launch the F1.08 on 14 January before testing it at Valencia a day later, while Red Bull has scheduled to have its Adrian Newey-penned RB4 up and running around the same time.

Honda will reportedly present the new RA108 at Valencia on 21 January, while Renault appears headed for a launch in the last week of the month.

Force India, meanwhile, is expected to launch its first formula one campaign under new ownership in Delhi, the Indian capital.

It is believed that Super Aguri and Toro Rosso will begin the 2008 season with their existing cars.

12/05/07
irl
IRL to use different configuration at Infineon  Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay could help create more passing opportunities for the 2008 IndyCar Series race at Infineon Raceway.

The Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Rahal Letterman Racing drivers will test on the 12-turn, 2.26-mile road course Dec. 6-7, navigating the circuit that will include a slight modification to Turns 6-7. The test (8 a.m.-5 p.m. local) is free and open to the public. Tickets for the Aug. 22-24 race weekend, which also includes two Indy Pro Series races, are on sale now.

Brian Barnhart, president of the competition and operations divisions of the sanctioning Indy Racing League, requested the course alteration in an effort to potentially create a corner conducive to more passing.

"About halfway down the drag strip we go to the left and then do the loop around, which is our Turn 7, and head back for the Esses," Barnhart said. "I'd like to have our drivers try staying on the drag strip where it stays straight all the way down and then take the longer loop, which (the track has) listed as 7a, and then head back to the Esses. Hopefully, getting feedback from our drivers, what I'd like to see is if by staying straight we create a harder braking area and thus a better passing zone going into Turn 7."

Dixon won the Motorola Indy 300 at Infineon Raceway, completing a sweep of the three road-course events on the 2007 schedule, and was runner-up in the series championship race.  IndyCar.com

12/05/07
f1
Alonso could reunite with McLaren - report  UPDATE (GMM)  McLaren on Wednesday played down reports that the Woking based team and Fernando Alonso could reunite in 2008.

The Spanish newspaper Diario AS claimed that McLaren had reopened the lines of communication with the 26-year-old's management after Spanish team sponsors reacted badly to news of their split.

It was said Ron Dennis touted a new one year contract, on the same terms as Alonso's 2007 tenure.

'AS' claims the response from Alonso's camp was composed, followed by the presentation to McLaren of a list of conditions, such as the freedom to determine independent race strategies.

Reacting to the story, the Mercedes-powered team said: "McLaren is unaware of any current discussions with Fernando or his management."

12/05/07 (GMM)  Speculation surrounding Fernando Alonso's uncertain future has taken yet another sharp turn.

The Spanish newspaper Diario AS claims that, despite their recent unhappy split, McLaren has joined the race to accommodate the 26-year-old Spaniard in 2008.

Honda has seemingly dropped out of the running, but Renault, Red Bull and Toyota are thought to have presented Alonso with standing offers for next season and beyond -- with none willing to accept his demands for a single-season deal.

'AS' reports that McLaren has reopened the lines of communication with Alonso's management after Spanish team sponsors reacted badly to news of the split after just one year of collaboration.

Almost unbelievably, McLaren is now considered a real contender to welcome Alonso back to the Mercedes-powered team for 2008, due to Ron Dennis' similar desire for a merely one year contract.

'AS' claims the response from Alonso's camp so far has been composed, followed by the presentation to McLaren of a list of conditions, such as the freedom to determine independent race strategies.

But with Ron Dennis still in charge of the team, the newspaper speculates that a reunion is "unlikely".

12/05/07
industry news
Auto production cuts likelier than incentives  If the United States slips into a recession next year, it could unfold very differently in Detroit than it did in 2001.

That time, automakers offered generous incentives to buyers in the wake of 9/11, rather than let demand fall and plants go idle. GM kicked off the no-interest loan craze with its Keep America Rolling campaign.

Incentives won't go away, but this time it appears that automakers are more likely to accept fewer sales at higher prices. Automakers are already choosing to cut production to meet reduced demand.

To be clear: No Detroit automaker is talking recession publicly, but on Monday, GM and Ford both announced lower production plans for the first quarter of 2008 -- the lowest since at least the recession of 1991.

Analysts such as Brian Johnson of Lehman Brothers say the automakers appear to be going to a more traditional game plan to deal with the possibility of tough times.

"We believe that participants in the automotive economic cycle are likely to go back to the older recession playbook," Johnson said in a note to investors. Automakers "may not step up with incentives in 2008 and let demand and production fall -- while ideally using the opportunity to further reduce structural costs." Detroit Free Press

12/04/07
alms
Dyson to drop to one car  Rumor has it that Dyson Racing may drop back to just a 1-car Porsche RS Spyder in ALMS in 2008 now that they see they cannot compete with the Penske factory effort.
12/04/07
f1
Alonso to drive for Honda team?  UPDATE #2 (GMM)  A new report has contradicted Honda's claim that Fernando Alonso did not recently visit the team's headquarters.

Sport Bild last week said the Spaniard, who is yet to outline his plans for the 2008 season after splitting with McLaren, spent an entire day at Brackley.

But a Honda spokeswoman rapidly ended the speculation by insisting that Alonso, 26, "has not visited our factory, and Honda Racing confirmed their drivers for the 2008 season back in July".

Auto Motor und Sport, however, is now echoing Sport Bild's assertion that the Spaniard met with Honda officials last week.

The German specialist magazine said Alonso's visit was preceded by contact between Honda and his manager Luis Garcia Abad, before Alonso went to Brackley to "enquire about the team's long term plans".

Honda's new boss Ross Brawn interestingly said this week that Rubens Barrichello has "one year remaining of his contract".

Fernando Alonso

The latest rumors suggest that Alonso is struggling to find accommodation on the 2008 grid because he is strictly on the market only for a one-year deal.

David Coulthard endorsed the speculation on Monday by suggesting that not racing in 2008 would not be a problem for Alonso.

"Prost was the last guy to do that, and he came back and won the world championship," the Scot mused.

Auto Motor und Sport on Tuesday quotes Brawn as saying: "We cannot offer a winning car to anybody in the next year.

"A driver like Alonso would strengthen any team, but he wants to win.  In 2008 we will have highs and lows, which is completely normal for a consolidation phase.

"For what we want to achieve next year, with Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello we have the best drivers you could possibly want."

Auto Motor und Sport concludes that a cooperation between Honda and Alonso post-2008 cannot therefore be ruled out. More ...

12/04/07
nascar
NASCAR to lose another major sponsor  UPDATE Craftsman will be out as title sponsor of NASCAR’s truck-racing series beginning with the 2009 season, The Star has learned.

No new title sponsor has been found to replace Craftsman, but a search will soon be getting under way, said Steve Phelps, marketing director for NASCAR.

He said he believes NASCAR will have little problem finding a new title sponsor because of the increasing popularity of the series.

“We haven’t started a search, per se,” Phelps said. “But what we want to try to do is identify companies that we believe would be a great fit for the series and a great fit for the fan base. So we’ll get out there in 2008, the new year, and start discussions with new companies. No real timelines on when it’s going to get done. But it will obviously get done.”

Craftsman has been the title sponsor since 1995, the year NASCAR founded the series. Over the past 13 series, the trucks have featured some of NASCAR’s best racing. Television ratings in terms of total viewership have grown every season.

Craftsman’s contract with NASCAR ends after the 2008 series.

Scott Howard, manager of marketing partnerships and activation for Sears, said his company had been in discussions with NASCAR about continuing sponsorship of the series for the past several months.

But, he said, “We have come to the decision that we’re going to be giving up our title sponsorship to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck series at the end of 2008. We are fully committed to the series until the end of next season.” KansasCity.com

12/03/07 Rumor has it that Craftsman will soon drop its title sponsorship of the NASCAR Truck series in yet another major blow to the France dynasty.
12/04/07
f1
Hulkenberg eyes Williams role  

Nico Hulkenberg

(GMM)  Nico Hulkenberg is hoping to turn his Williams test into a more regular role in formula one, his manager on Tuesday confirmed.

The 20-year-old German, who impressed not only by winning the 2006-7 A1 Grand Prix title but also with his third in the F3 Euro Series this year, will make his F1 test debut with Williams over two days this week at Jerez.

Hulkenberg is expected to stay in the F3 category in 2008, but his Williams link now makes him a strong candidate to succeed Kazuki Nakajima as the Grove team's official test and reserve driver.

His famous manager Willi Weber, who guided Michael Schumacher's ultra successful career, confirmed that Hulkenberg intends to try to use the Williams opportunity as a door into motor racing's highest category.

"I hope that he continues with Williams after the test in Jerez," Weber, who is 65, told the German news agency SID.

Hulkenberg is scheduled to drive on Tuesday and Wednesday; the opening two days of the last test of 2007.

Meanwhile, Weber's former charge, Ralf Schumacher, is testing for the Force India team at Jerez this week.  The German veteran is expected to appear for a full day's running on Wednesday.

12/03/07
alms
Audi not yet committed to the American Le Mans Series  Contrary to our previous report that Audi confirmed it will return to American Le Mans Series competition in 2008, the company will not commit to a return until it knows if the ALMS will impose a 50-kilogram (110-pound) weight penalty--mandated for the 2008 24 Hours of Le Mans--on LMP2-class cars.

Audi believes that the extra weight will allow its LMP1 prototypes to compete with the Penske-run Porsche RS Spyders, which won eight of 12 races in 2007. It wants IMSA, the ALMS sanctioning body, to impose the full weight, but Audi Sport boss Wolfgang Ullrich has suggested he will accept a compromise.

"The full 50 kilograms would be the best that could happen, because I always ask for consistency of rules [between Le Mans and the ALMS]," he said. Will he accept the 25-kilogram (55-pound) compromise rumored to be IMSA's favored option? "I don't want to go into details, but we have to see that we have a fair chance to win this championship." AutoWeek

12/03/07
v8
f1
V8s make F1 Singapore night race pitch  The V8 Supercars are making an ambitious bid to become involved in Formula One's night race in Singapore which starts next year.

V8 Supercars chairman Tony Cochrane has had discussions with those involved in organizing the F1 street race - the first to be held under lights.

The V8s are keen to race in Singapore to bolster their international program in future years, with or without piggy-backing on to the F1 event.

But Cochrane has flagged the prospect of the V8s taking on a supporting role for the F1 in Singapore - the V8s racing during the day before the F1s race at night.

"Wouldn't it be great if when the F1s raced at night, we raced during the day," he said. 

"What an unbelievable double-header. It would be bigger than Ben Hur."

The V8s have only just returned to the F1 fold in Australia, scheduling a non-championship support event as part of the 2008 Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park after a one-year stand-off with that race's organizers.

But if the bold plan for Singapore was to be realized, it would not be until 2009 at the earliest.

Next year's F1 race will be held on September 28 - falling midway between the new Phillip Island 500 endurance race and the sport's premier event, the Bathurst 1000 on October 9-12. News.com.au

12/03/07
industry news
Chrysler, VW Getting Closer?  The ink is hardly dry on the Chrysler-Daimler divorce papers, but already, another German carmaker could be waiting in the wings for the American carmaker.
David Cole, chairman of the Center For Automotive Research, said competition is forcing automakers to consider options they might not have contemplated only 12 months ago.

"There is going to be another round of mergers in the auto industry and the one company that matches up well with Volkswagen is Chrysler," he noted.

Volkswagen already has a joint project with Chrysler to develop a new minivan, which will be assembled by Chrysler in the next couple of years and will be sold in the U.S.

"VW needs a strong presence in North America. In a complimentary and synergistic relationship, Chrysler has got a lot to offer. The scale that General Motors and Toyota have are absolute killers. The only thing you can do is match up to them. GM will have taken $5,000 out of the cost of a car soon," Cole noted.

Carlos Ghosn, the chairman of Renault/Nissan, has expressed an interest in Chrysler, Cole said. Ghosn said he had not spoken with anybody at Chrysler about an alliance. However, he noted, for strategic reasons, the Renault-Nissan alliance needed to bolster its relatively small presence in North America.

Cole, however, said there is little doubt VW is going to have to move quickly to develop a new North American strategy. A new study by CAR indicated autoworkers in western Europe are making almost $10 more per hour than their counterparts in the U.S.  The study was finished even before the U.S. dollar began its most recent slide.  The Car Connection

12/03/07
industry news
Ford takes risk, could destroy Volvo  Ford Motor Co., after abandoning plans to sell Volvo Car Corp., now wants to move the brand more upmarket in a bid to boost sales and profits. But it is a risky strategy that is making Volvo executives in Sweden jittery because it could alienate traditional buyers.

Last month, the day after Ford said it would keep Volvo -- at least for now -- the chief of Ford's European operations flew to Sweden to deliver a tough-love message to the folks in Gothenberg.

Inside the ultramodern Volvohallen, some 300 of Volvo's top managers sat uneasily in blond wooden chairs as Lewis Booth ran through a few slides detailing the company's third-quarter financial results. Once again, Volvo had failed to turn a profit.

His message was simple and direct: Volvo must become competitive on costs and revenues and it must do it by becoming a legitimate premium alternative to rivals like Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz -- not by reinventing Volvo, but by intensifying its focus on safety, simplicity and Scandinavian design. More ...

12/02/07
f1
Stuck switch spurs VW rumors  

Hans-Joachim Stuck

(GMM) A management appointment at one of the world's largest carmakers has caught the attention of formula one observers.

Hans-Joachim Stuck, a famous German racing driver who started more than 74 grands prix in the 70s, will next year become 'Motorsport Representative' for Volkswagen, the fourth largest automobile manufacturer in the world.

The 57-year-old is a regular in the formula one paddock, commentating for German television and acting as an ambassador for BMW.

This weekend, he was farewelled in Munich on the occasion of BMW's end of season Motorsport Party.

In his new VW role, to commence on January 1, Stuck will advise the carmaker's board on motor sport issues and work on the "strategic development of new motor sport opportunities for the Group brands", a spokesman explained.

Volkswagen, or its sporty Audi arm, is often linked with a formula one foray.

12/01/07
nascar
NASCAR truck team folds  SPEED NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series reporter Ray Dunlap is reporting the No. 75 Spears Manufacturing race team closed its doors today, releasing all employees.
12/01/07
nascar
Busch Series to use Pony Car decals  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today.  A source at Ford Motor Company says the motorsports division expects the Ford Mustang decals to replace the Fusion decals in the NASCAR Busch series. "We're expecting to run the Mustang decals in 2009," the source said.

It's the first confirmation from a manufacturer what I first reported in early 2006 - that the cars in the NASCAR Busch series, which will be called the Nationwide series in 2008 and beyond - may soon be substantially different from the cars in the top-tier NASCAR Nextel Cup series.

It makes sense for the manufacturers, who find themselves plugging the same car decals in the Saturday Busch races as they do for the Sunday Cup races - the Chevrolet Impala, Ford Fusion, Dodge Charger and Toyota Camry. By differentiating the two series with different decals, it would allow the companies to give some exposure to four different nameplates.

It also makes sense for NASCAR, which has been looking for a way to give the Busch series its own identity, after the invasion of Nextel Cup regulars has partly erased the training-ground aspect for the second-tier series. Twelve of the top 20 Busch drivers in 2007 also had a full-time Nextel Cup ride. Many of those Cup regulars run the Saturday Busch race as unofficial practice for the Sunday Cup race on dates where the two intersect - changing the Busch cars to a different body style would limit the amount of data drivers and teams can gather on Saturday that would effectively transfer to Sunday, but still all the cars on Saturday will be the same, with only the decals differentiating them. 

NASCAR is expected to require the Busch cars to be built to a safety specification similar to the Nextel Cup "Car of Tomorrow," which becomes the standard car after the Daytona 500 in February. If a makeover will be required anyway for the 2009 season, logic suggests that would be a good time for a nameplate change, as well.  Orlando Sentinel

10/27/07 Rumors continue to circulate that NASCAR will convert the Nationwide Series (formally Busch Series) to a so-called “Pony Car” class in 2009, utilizing Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger and (possibly) Toyota Solara sheetmetal, in an effort to give the circuit a new and unique identity.
11/30/07
Industry News
Chrysler revenues poised to fall $1 billion short  Spending is outpacing revenues at Chrysler LLC, which has kept its financial information secret since going private in August. It appears the company will spend $1 billion more than it is to take in this year.

That revelation was not delivered to industry analysts but reportedly to business students in Nova Scotia. They also apparently learned that the automaker, which already has announced plans to slash as many as 25,000 jobs and four nameplates, could be making plans to cut deeper into its vehicle lineup -- axing maybe another four models, though no timeline was given.

Steven Landry, Chrysler's executive vice president of North American sales, gave the students a window into Chrysler as the automaker is remaking itself rapidly under Cerberus Capital Management's control.

The Auburn Hills automaker is on target to generate $64 billion in revenue this year -- $1 billion short of what the company plans to spend.

That's according to the Daily News in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Landry delivered a talk Wednesday at St. Mary's University in his hometown.

Landry is said to have talked about what efforts Chrysler is making to become profitable.

"You can't stand around and complain about the yen or the manipulation of currency around the world. You've got to roll up your sleeves, do some hard work and build cars people want to drive," he said, according to the Daily News.

11/30/07
irl
Is Hough Castroneves’ new squeeze?  UPDATE #2 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  Don't believe the rumors that Julianne Hough and Helio Castroneves are the latest 'Dancing with the Stars' tandem to fall in love off-stage, the 19-year-old dancing starlet says.  Hough tells PEOPLE that Castroneves is "like he is my brother," and that the two are "the best of friends." But when asked if they're an item, she declares "Oh my gosh! No!"

Upon finishing their final dance on Tuesday, Hough and Castroneves shared a kiss on the lips. On Wednesday, the day after he and Hough won the 'Dancing' championship, Castroneves announced that he and his fiancée had called off their engagement.

This isn't the first time that Hough has had to battle rumors about dating a 'Dancing' partner. Last May, she called off her own engagement, leading many to speculate that she was romantically involved with her then-partner, speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno. The two always denied the rumor. AOL News

11/28/07 Helio Castroneves won the mirrorball trophy on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars," but lost his fiancée, Aliette Vazquez.

Less than a day after Castroneves was declared the winner, Vazquez, a Miami-based business executive, announced she had called off her engagement to the Brazilian race-car driver.

"There's been a lot of rumors and a lot of stuff said, and she just wanted confirmed that they are no longer engaged. There's no animosity, there's nothing mean. Just a simple confirmation," Vazquez's publicist, Howard Bragman, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Was Bragman hinting at viewer speculation that something seemed to be brewing between Castroneves and his dance partner, Julianne Hough?

"I'm not gonna talk about the rumors. I mean, they're clearly out there," said Bragman, who wouldn't comment on when the engagement ended.

"I will tell you (that) we wanted to be respectful and wait until the show was over," he said. "We did not want to affect the outcome of the show." Indy.com



11/28/07 Helio may have waltzed into winning "Dancing With the Stars" by doing a Paso Doble ... but the Paso Uno is what he's doing now!

TMZ has confirmed business executive Aliette Vazquez has broken off her engagement to the "Dancing" winner. Vazquez and the race car driver had been dating for more than six years and have been engaged for a year. "There have been a lot of rumors and a lot of misinformation out there," Vazquez's rep Howard Bragman tells us, and she "wanted to set the record straight."

Hough and Castroneves - are they lovers too?

Bragman told us, "This is a personal decision and I ask the media to respect the privacy of Miss Vazquez and her family. She has no plans to talk to the media, but reserves that right if she needs to clarify misinformation or defend her reputation."

There is much speculation that Castroneves has taken a real liking to his dance partner Julianne Hough and even kissed her live on air after one of the dances.

11/30/07
f1
Villa in running for BMW-Sauber test seat  (GMM)  Javier Villa has been mentioned as a contender to become BMW-Sauber's primary test and reserve driver in 2008.

The 20-year-old Spaniard, who won three GP2 sprint races in 2007 and finished the series for the Racing Engineering team in sixth place, will "almost certainly" test for BMW in the near future, the sports daily Marca said on Friday.

Several other drivers are also rumored to be in the running to replace the Toyota-bound Timo Glock at BMW.

The Hinwil based team is expected to make its decision in December, after a handful of candidates - possibly including the Estonian Marko Asmer, Willi Weber protégé Nico Hulkenberg or Robert Doornbos - test at Jerez next week.

Marca reports that Villa, managed by Racing Engineering owner Alfonso de Orleans, and BMW-Sauber team officials met at the Formula BMW World Finals at Valencia last weekend.

11/30/07
nascar
Penske to form a test team  Kurt Busch said Penske Racing has plans to form a designated test team to prepare for the 2008 Sprint Cup Series season when all 36 races will feature the car of tomorrow.

"We need more laps, more time with the new car to be more competitive," said Busch, who finished seventh in points this year, following the NMPA Myers Bothers Awards Luncheon at Cipriani's.

With the addition of new teammate Sam Hornish Jr. in the No. 06 Dodge, the fourth team is expected to focus solely on testing. Busch said teammate Ryan Newman, Hornish, himself or an "outside driver" could all be involved in the tests.

Busch, who has already tested at Atlanta, said the remainder of his offseason schedule includes scheduled stops at Daytona International Speedway, Lakeland, California and Las Vegas. Nashville is also a possibility if the weather cooperates, he said. InsideRacingNews

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