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Ferrari signs sponsor to replace VodafoneUPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'speculation' today. The existence of Ferrari's major new formula one team sponsorship with diamond company 'De Beers' has been cast into doubt.
American business and financial magazine 'Forbes' quoted a London based spokeswoman as denying that the South African and English based corporation would replace Vodafone in 2007.
''There is a natural association between diamonds and the glamorous world of F1,'' Lynne Hori said, ''but (De Beers) have no intention of sponsoring a formula one team.''
A spokeswoman at Ferrari shed no further light on the mystery, as the international press went into overdrive with reports that the deal was now struck.
''We know nothing about it,'' she told the German 'Express' publication. ''Furthermore, we do not comment on speculation.''
01/01/06 Ferrari's F1 team is rumored to have signed a multi-million pound sponsorship deal with De Beers, the world's largest diamond mining company for 2007 when Vodafone moves to McLaren Mercedes. The move is said to be part of De Beers's commitment to raise the amount it spends on marketing and promoting diamonds to around 10 per cent of its annual revenue.
De Beers is the world's dominant diamond mining and trading company, and is credited for penning the well-known 'A Diamond is Forever' motto.
Fernandez Racing to continue in IRL We have it on good word that in addition to running a full Grand-Am program in 2006, Super Aguri Fernandez will continue as a 2-car effort in the IRL in 2006. Scott Sharp is rumored to be one of the drivers.
Lowe’s to sponsor Fernandez RacingUPDATE This rumor is now 'fact' with today's announcement. See Hot News page. 01/04/06 Rumor has it that Home Improvement giant Lowe's will sponsor Fernandez Racing in the Rolex Daytona Prototype Series all year. An announcement is expected by tomorrow.
Rumored drivers are Adrian Fernandez, Mario Haberfeld and Scott Sharp. It will be interesting to see if Lowe's also sponsors the Fernandez team in the IRL. This appears to be the latest in the trend of IRL teams migrating to the Grand-Am Series. Rumor has it that the powerful France family is leveraging their NASCAR might and sending sponsors who want a smaller program, or a 2nd program in addition to NASCAR, over to the IRL.
Michael Shank to add high-profile driver, sponsor Word on the street is that team owner Michael Shank will soon be announcing a new title sponsor for the No. 6 Fusion Racing with MSR Lexus Riley entry as well as announcing a high-profile addition to his driver line-up for the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Karthikeyan still has F1 ’options’UPDATE #2 It's interesting that the author of this Grandprix.com article gets it - he understands why Narain is so important to a racing series that is international and mimics our feelings except that we feel Narain would be far better off in the USA because of the huge Indian population. In F1 he'll always just be a backmarker and will, therefore, never become a big hero to Indians worldwide. 01/04/06 (GMMf1NET) He has missed out on the coveted 'Friday' berth, but Narain Karthikeyan is still on Williams' 'radar'.
A spokeswoman at the Grove based team told 'Indian Express' that despite Alex Wurz's appointment as reserve driver at grands prix, there could still be a role for the 28-year-old Indian driver to fill.
''The announcement of Wurz does not mean Narain is not on the radar,'' she told the 'paper.
The 'Press Trust of India', meanwhile, added that an 'offer' from the squad led by Sir Frank Williams - surely a fourth 'test' driver spot - still stands.
''It is Narain's option,'' sources told the news agency. ''It is his to take.''
Another Williams spokesman confirmed to the 'Mumbai Mirror' that the team was indeed still talking to Chennai-born Karthikeyan.
Liam Clogger said: ''It is definitely a very active dialogue as of now.
''But it's not just for us to make offers, we're waiting for Narain to respond. He is currently weighing his options before he gets back, and it's impossible, right now, to tell when a decision on this will be taken.''
01/02/06 Williams' late Monday press release came as a blow to supporters of F1's first ever Indian driver, Narain Karthikeyan (pictured right).
However, though Alex Wurz's eight years of experience ultimately won the day over Karthikeyan's rookie season and sponsor funding, it is suggested in India that all is not yet lost for the 28-year-old national hero.
The 'Press Trust of India' claims that NK has a 'better option than Williams', adding that a secondary test spot at the Grove based team is also a possibility.
''Williams need two test drivers,'' PTI quoted one source close to the Chennai born racing driver as saying. The source added: ''Even if Wurz is signed, Narain still has a chance.'' GMM
[Editor's Note: Given the Indians are too smart to pay Bernie Ecclestone's ridiculously high sanction fees, plus the cost to build a track, and given there is a far larger population of Indians in the USA than anywhere F1 races, we think Narain would be better off with a career in Champ Car.]
Champ Car questions from overseas A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I wish you a successful and happy 2006. Each year I guess why Champ Car is not able to fill their grid early. As of today there are only a few confirmed drivers. Probably we will know the last drivers once again in Long Beach - the first race of the year. You wrote that there are many drivers failing to get rides in F1 who are looking to Champ Car. I do not see this. A lot of those drivers are going to other series like GP2, DTM, A1 Grand Prix, Formula Nippon and even F1 test drive. Let us hope that the starting grid is as strong as 2005. Do you know anything about European TV-coverage for 2006? Alexander Besserer, Karlsruhe, Germany
Dear Alexander, Champ Car teams can't hire drivers yet because they have no sponsorship and are, therefore, hoping to find funded drivers to fill their empty seats. The inability of most teams, and the series itself for that matter, to land their own sponsorship remains the major downfall of the series. Drivers, therefore, look to all those other series first because they have an opportunity to get paid to drive rather than paying for the drive. F1 teams also hire funded drivers, but primarily that is for test drives as most regular F1 drivers get paid to drive.
Champ Car could easily ensure that all the best funded drivers in the world look to Champ Car first, before say F1. How? If the Atlantic champion will earn $2 million in 2006, why does the Champ Car champion earn under $1 million? The Champ Car champion should earn $5 million, or dare we say $10 million, i.e. significantly more than the Atlantic champion. This opportunity to recoup your entire investment will draw drivers and new teams into the series like bees to honey, just like we see in Atlantics. The stipulation for winning the $5 or $10 million should be that the money stays in Champ Car and the champion must return to the series the following year to defend their title, with a portion of the money going to the team they drive for, the rest in the drivers bank account as earnings. Likewise, the Champ Car rookie of the year should earn at least $2 million with the same stipulation that the money remain in the series the following year.
How will Champ Car afford to offer lucrative payouts like this? By landing sponsors who will pay naming rights for having their name on the award. However, as we said before, the Achilles Tendon of the series is lack of sponsorship. There are three short months until the first race in Long Beach, let's see how many new sponsors the series is able to announce by then.
As for European TV coverage for Champ Car in 2006, we assume it will be on Eurosport again as most were reasonably satisfied last year with TV coverage in Europe. Mark C.
Aguri plan '06 'driver swap'? (GMMf1NET) F1's likely eleventh team, Super Aguri, may embark on a Red Bull-style driver swap in '06.
The prospective outfit's managing director, Daniele Audetto, is quoted as saying that Sakon Yamamoto - the Formula Nippon driver who steered Jordan's 'Friday' car at Suzuka - had moved into contention for the second race seat this year.
Yamamoto, to team up with countryman Takuma Sato, would be a healthy proposition in the team's bid to lure Japan's commercial backing. Another Formula Nippon star, Yuji Ide, was also linked to the ride, as is Super Aguri's IRL race driver, Kosuke Matsuura.
But Audetto also admitted that the experience and highly-rated talent of Honda tester Anthony Davidson would be an ideal choice.
However, he told Autosport magazine that it would not make sense to put the Briton in the initial Aguri car -- the four year old Arrows A23. The UK-based team plan to unveil a bespoke chassis for Imola and beyond.
''It is not likely we will be fully competitive (with the A23),'' Audetto explained. ''It is better for Anthony to carry on with his role developing the Honda F1 car.''
''But that may change when we have our new chassis,'' he suggested.
Super Aguri loses main sponsor? It's only a whisper at the moment, but one of Narain Karthikeyan's 'options' might be to re-join the racing grid. Speculation suggests that Super Aguri's main sponsor, Japanese corporation Softbank, could have pulled out. The replacement? Again, it's only a whisper, but 'Tata' - Karthikeyan's major backer - has been mentioned.
F1 to get eleventh teamUPDATE (GMMf1NET) An eleventh team for formula one will be confirmed by the governing body in the next few days, according to new reports.
Britain's Guardian newspaper said on Tuesday that the FIA was set to give Honda-backed 'Super Aguri' its official green light as early as this week.
The news follows the revelation that the Leafield-based Japanese team, run by former grand prix driver Aguri Suzuki, obtained the agreement of every other team to lodge a late entry, after hold-ups regarding the mandatory $48m start bond.
'Aguri' will start 2006 with defunct Arrows' four-year-old 'A23' (2002) car, but a bespoke racer should be ready to debut around the time of the Imola (April 23) or Nurburgring (May 7) races.
12/26/05 Ferrari's Jean Todt has added to a sense of growing anticipation that F1 will feature an eleventh team next year.
The French team boss, once thought opposed to the bid of 'Super Aguri' for a late 2006 entry, told a German newspaper that he believed the FIA would now grant the Honda linked 'b' team's application.
''A new team will race in the New Year,'' 59-year-old Todt said in Sport Bild.
It is expected, however, that the team run by former grand prix driver Aguri Suzuki will not be given the governing body's official green light until the first fortnight of January '06.
Spa in Bernie’s future, inks new dealUPDATE #5 Spa-Francorchamps' embattled spot on the formula one calendar is now nearly secured, according to reports in Belgium.
Newspaper 'La Libre Belgique' claims that a new three-year contract with Bernie Ecclestone will be penned, after the existing race promoter ran into financial trouble. The bankruptcy could have meant millions in fines, if staging the race proved too expensive for the regional Wallonian government.
As well as the shorter duration, the new deal will involve about $18m in renovations to the historic circuit, courtesy of the regional government, as well as several million more to stage the grand prix.
Ecclestone, the diminutive F1 supremo, is slated to meet again with Wallonian officials in London either this week or next.
01/03/06The Dutch news agency ANP is reporting that the Walloon government has signed a new contract with Formula One Management to preserve the Belgian Grand Prix (AutoRacing1.com readers already knew this last month.). The report says that the deal is understood to be for three years only. There was previously a 15-year deal in place, guaranteed by the government. The government will not only be responsible for track upgrades, but also to pay the new sanction fee, thought to be lower.
12/14/05 This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact.' In his London office on Monday, Bernie Ecclestone agreed a deal to take over the running of the Belgian grand prix.
The F1 supremo met with Spa Francorchamps and Wallonia government officials, and they reportedly shook hands on a long term arrangement to secure the future of the historic and popular race.
The seriousness of Ecclestone's recent hint that he would become promoter, meanwhile, was bolstered with news that the bankrupt promoter of the 2005 race was also at the meeting. Presumably, Bernie requested their presence as he prepares to take responsibility for the annual grand prix.
'Het Nieuwsblad' newspaper said on Tuesday that Bernie, 75, also agreed to scrap the need for the local government to financially 'guarantee' the promoters' agreement.
Indeed, the Belgian 'Expatica' publication cited him as saying that the new Spa deal - as well as being good for him - would also 'be beneficial' to the government.
12/08/05 Ecclestone told Belgian television station RTBF on Wednesday night he would take over promotion of the Spa F1 race and a deal would be reached at the beginning of next week. "We are in very serious negotiations" to secure Spa's long-term future," said Ecclestone.
The diminutive Briton told Belgian TV that he is in 'serious negotiations' with the government, which does not want to take over as promoter despite being contractually obliged to do so.
A deal, following the bankruptcy of the original promoter, is expected next week. Belgium's circuit at Spa-Francorchamps is one of the most loved and historic on the formula one calendar. It first hosted a modern grand prix in the championship's inaugural year, 1950. 11/19/05 The regional government wants some changes to the contract signed in 2003 between the promoters of the Spa Francorchamps circuit and FOA, explained Elio Di Rupo, President of the PS party (Parti Socialiste). "If we don't succeed, there will be no Grand Prix. Then, the British and Belgian court battles will begin," said Di Rupo after a long meeting of the government on that subject.
In the last few days, the Belgian media revealed many clauses of the contract that were seemingly to Bernie Ecclestone's advantage. "The only decision that could save the credibility of the regional government would be to immediately stop the idea of organizing a Formula One Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps" to "free itself from the grip of Ecclestone," noted Belgian paper La Libre.
11/18/05 Belgium's regional government is still talking to Bernie Ecclestone in a bid to secure the future of the country's grand prix, despite a row about the cost of a guarantee it might have to give the Formula One supremo. The government of the country's southern Walloon region was also continuing to look for private investors willing to help finance the race at Spa after Luxembourg declined earlier this month.
"We are searching for a solution for the grand prix but not at any price," said Philippe Malburny, spokesman for Walloon's economy minister, on Friday. There are two possibilities, either we organise it or we don't."
Although Spa is one of the great and historic Formula One circuits, its promoter has run into financial trouble after poor ticket sales this year. The government had to lend the promoter 15 million euros ($18 million) to pay Ecclestone for the 2005 race. One of the options it is considering is for the 75-year-old Briton to take over the running of the event. More at Reuters
’MF1’ to confirm Monteiro this month (GMMf1NET) 'MF1 Racing' has made the most obvious indication yet that Tiago Monteiro is the team's second race driver for the 2006 season.
Team owner Midland Group's head of communications, Ron Fine, said on Tuesday that the Silverstone based squad would finally let the cat out of the bag later in January.
He told us: ''An official statement regarding Tiago's position with the team will be made this month.''
The Midland official was responding to press speculation that - with the 2006 FIA entry list already naming Portugal-born Monteiro to partner Christijan Albers - a 'MF1' announcement would not be made.
''As Tiago drove for the team in 2005, with an option for 2006,'' Ron Fine continued, ''an announcement is not considered necessary.''
Champ Car to scrap 2006 calendar?UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. AutoRacing1.com has learned that the calendars are printed and will be for sale through Speedgear this week. AutoRacing1.com users get a 10% discount from Speedgear by going through our Racing Store page via our main menu above. Use AutoRacing1.com discount code SGAR52.
12/31/05 Champ Car may be forced to scrap their 2006 Champ Car Angels calendar even before it hits the shelves. While all other 2006 calendars were out months ago, Champ Car still hasn't released theirs. Why do today what can be put off until tomorrow. The holdup could be Ryan Hunter-Reay's girlfriend, Beccy Gordon, who is featured in the calendar. If Ryan Hunter-Reay goes to the IRL in 2006 as expected because there are no seats for him in Champ Car, she becomes an IRL Angel and every 2006 Champ Car calendar would be free advertising for the leagues arch enemy. Ms. Gordon is the woman in the middle with Paul Tracy's wife Patty on the left and Alex Tagliani’s wife Bronte on the right.
Ryan Hunter-Reay has built a substantial fan base, became a poster boy for Champ Car's marketing department and as the only American to have won races the past three years is a valuable asset. Hopefully Champ Car will 'Do The Right Thing' and ensure 'RHR' is in a competitive seat where he can win more races, attract more fans and he and his girlfriend will remain part of the Champ Car Family where they belong.
Wirdheim eyes Formula NipponUPDATE We are bumping this rumor up to 'strong' now. Bjorn Wirdheim has tested a Formula Nippon car at Mine. Wirdheim was one of four drivers testing with the DoCoMo Dandelion team. Also on track at Mine were Paolo Montin, Naoki Yokomizo and Katsuyuki Hiranaka. 01/03/06 Former F3000 champion and Champ Car driver Bjorn Wirdheim is reported to have his eyes on the revitalizing Formula Nippon series in 2006. Honda and Toyota are pumping money into the series and taking their old IRL engines, detuning them and supplying them to various engine builders. Although he excelled in F3000, Wirdheim found the Champ Cars a bit more difficult and did not finish out the 2005 season.
'Little Schu' unlikely to forge F1 career (GMMf1NET) 'Mick Schumacher' is unlikely to follow in his famous world championship-winning father's mighty footsteps. The seven time drivers' title winner, known at home as 'Dad', said his six-year-old son - to turn 7 in March - is not yet showing a passion for motor racing.
Undoubtedly, Michael Schumacher is happy about that. But it's not the danger that puts him off, it is the 'burden' of the inevitable comparisons that the son of a grand prix legend has to endure.
''I have seen this with Damon Hill or Jacques Villeneuve,'' he told the Independent newspaper.
''I would want my son to be able to make his own way, uncompared. But if he fell in love with racing and absolutely wanted to go this way, I'd support him.''
37-year-old Michael Schumacher, however, says little Mick is interested in many sports, 'and I don't see a preference (for racing)'.
Williams wanted Wurz for a reason Our European sources tell us that the WilliamsF1 team tried hard to sign Alex Wurz because of the many miles of experience he has testing Michelin F1 tires for McLaren and Michelin. Neither of Williams regular drivers, Mark Webber or rookie Nico Rosberg have a lot of current Michelin experience and Williams wanted at least one driver (with a lot of Michelin test miles under their belt) on the now Bridgestone shod team to be able to compare how Bridgestone is stacking up with their new tires as they try to play catch-up to the French rubber.
Schu’s last F1 birthday? (GMMf1NET) Willi Weber has paid tribute to birthday boy Michael Schumacher by writing an article in Germany's 'Bild' newspaper.
The seven time world champion's long time manager also said in his congratulatory message that 'everyone wants to know' whether Schumacher's 37th birthday will turn out to be his last as a F1 pilot.
''Here is the truth,'' German born Weber wrote. ''We don't know.''
He said to Schumacher: ''But for our friendship it is irrelevant whether you are still winning titles when you are 50 or not. You and I -- that's more than a contract.
''It is wonderful to have people like you around.''
In Germany, Ferrari-driver Schumacher is an indubitable hero. But in the English-speaking world, a constant argument has raged about his exceptional talent versus the stereotype as an emotionless, ruthless robot.
In 1994 and 1997, Michael did his image no favors in controversial title-deciding clashes with Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve. In more recent times, he has faced criticism for cutting across the grid at the start of a race, and last year was reportedly made to apologize by rival drivers after a collision with Nick Heidfeld.
''I am what I am,'' Schumacher told England's Independent newspaper. ''Some people understand me well, some less. ''The only thing to regret about this is that some don't even try.''
New NASCAR movie in the works National Lampoon writers Jason Jordan and Matthew Lawton have sold a NASCAR script to producer Barry Kemp. Jordan and Lawton have just finished working on National Lampoon's "Pledge This!” starring Paris Hilton. Rumor has it that the plot will feature an up-and-coming driver being forced to team up with a female cosmetics executive who is looking to expand her brand to the female NASCAR fan base.
Danica Patrick in NASCAR? NASCAR is racing in the USA. There isn't anything else as far as many Americans think or know. Even sports editors don't know the difference. This great picture of Danica Patrick in Sports Illustrated has a file name of NASCAR.jpg, which just goes to show that someone at Sports Illustrated thinks she drives in NASCAR and so named the photo. Tell us one more time why we needed to create the IRL, split the sport of Indy Car Racing, and kill it?
Wurz signs with WilliamsUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today with the announcement by WilliamsF1 that indeed have signed Wurz.
01/01/06 Reports in Austria claim that McLaren tester Alex Wurz has signed to swap to Sir Frank Williams' rival team.
The 31-year-old would become Grove's 'Friday' driver, TV network 'ORF' suggested, pipping previous favorite Narain Karthikeyan to the official '06 reserve role.
Wurz hopped into silver-clad McLaren's test seat in 2000, following a 52 grand prix tenure at Benetton.
ORF did not cite Wurz or any other sources for its report, but the broadcaster said Wurz will be Williams's official test driver, taking part in Friday practices next season as well as a stand-in on Grand Prix weekends for regular drivers Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg in case either can't race.
Red Bull to beat Ferrari? F1 team Red Bull Racing has set an ambitious target for 2006 -- Ferrari. Both team principal Christian Horner and technical boss Mark Smith reckon it - ie. beating the scarlet clad squad - can be done.
The Dietrich Mateschitz-owned outfit will, for the first time, be powered by a Ferrari V8 engine next year.
''If they are better than us,'' Horner told Autosport magazine, ''then we are not doing a good enough job or Bridgestone are doing a better job than Michelin.''
Smith, meanwhile - who has effectively led the design of the new 'RB2' car - said the engineering group at Milton Keynes is the 'strongest' he's ever worked with, including Renault.
That group will boast former McLaren technical director Adrian Newey in '06 and beyond.
Bernie wants to axe grands prix in Italy, Germany According to reports this week, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone keenly supports a novel idea to cut one of the two grands prix in Germany out of the calendar.
Nurburgring boss Dr. Walter Kafitz has floated the concept of annually switching between his track and financially embattled Hockenheim.
He told the German 'SID' sports news agency that the idea 'was welcomed' by the 75-year-old grand prix chief.
''It is well known that Bernie wants to organize new races in as many countries as possible,'' Kafitz explained.
Ecclestone, meanwhile, has told the 'Autocourse Annual' that he would indeed like to scrap a race in Germany and Italy -- both the scene of two grands prix every season.
''We ought to lose one Italian and one German,'' the Briton said, ''but realistically that would be difficult at the moment and I don't have the balls to put any more (races) in there until that happens.''
Bernie argues that despite Italy and Germany being two big markets for the sport, no-one really benefits from their double F1-dose.
He explained: ''If I say to the teams, 'Would you get another sponsor because we have two races in Italy and Germany?', the answer is probably 'No, one's enough.''
Swiss GP unlikely - Sauber Peter Sauber has played down the prospect of a Swiss grand prix. The F1 boss, who has sold his Hinwil (Switzerland) based team to BMW, reckons it would be 'nearly impossible' for a Swiss investor to find the money.
''To build a F1 circuit here would be extremely expensive,'' Sauber told the 'swissinfo' agency.
Switzerland's motor racing industry is lights years behind most of Europe, after a long ban following the Le Mans tragedy of 1955.
Because of that, there is not a single permanent race track in the country. Peter Sauber would like to see this change, even if the race circuit 'would not necessarily have to be for grands prix.'
He added: ''At the moment, F1 is moving away from Europe, so it makes no sense to have an additional race here.''
Scuderia Toro Rosso to have advantage Toyota's engine technical director Luca Marmorini has warned that the proposed rules to regulate the power of three-liter V10 engines in 2006 do not go far enough.
The Italian has joined a growing list of engine experts, including Honda Racing president Yasuhiro Wada, who are concerned about the new wave of 2.4-litre V8 engines.
The FIA allowed the use of V10s in 2006 to help the privateer teams that didn't have the finance to run the new engines, but now that Minardi has been sold to Red Bull this problem no longer exists.
"On the basis of the experimentations carried out so far, it's estimated that with the FIA-imposed limitation to V10 engines - that is a 77mm air intake and revs limited to 16,700rpm - these engines can reach a power output of around 800 horsepower," Marmorini told Autosport, after Toyota's customer team reported that V10s had a distinct advantage in a recent back-to-back test.
"Honestly, I don't think any of the current V8 engines can reach levels similar to these."
Hockenheim for sale? Nearly bankruptUPDATE #4 After first reporting Hockenheim's financial concerns nearly three weeks ago, we can now reveal that the German grand prix is likely to be saved by the local state of Baden-Wurttemberg.
The German 'SID' news agency quoted Hockenheim mayor Dieter Gummer, also chairman of the Hockenheimring, as saying that he was hopeful for the state's 'commitment' in helping to stave off bankruptcy.
He added that Hockenheim is missing just under $2m in annual income. ''That is our current problem,'' Gummer explained. An Ernst & Young advisory, meanwhile, said the circuit would run out of cash around April 2006.
With the state's assistance, Gummer vowed to change the F1 track's name to 'Hockenheimring Baden-Wurttemberg'.
''At the moment, I assume that the German grand prix will go ahead as planned in 2006, 2007 and 2008,'' he added.
12/27/05 The cost of hosting Formula 1 races is a nice little earner for Formula One Management, bringing in around $200m a year, with many of the contracts featuring clauses which increase the cost of the fees by 10% a year. Circuits are pressured into signing such deals because they do not want to lose the races but, increasingly, they are not able to make enough money to run operations in profit. Spa has been losing money for years while Magny-Cours has slashed prices in an effort to pull in more people. Australia, Malaysia and such races all lose money but the local government pays the difference. Grandprix.com12/26/05 F1 has bankrupted yet another race promoter. The German grand prix has been thrown into serious doubt with news that the Hockenheim circuit is nearly broke.
Major national daily 'Bild' reported in its Christmas edition that chartered accountant firm 'Ernst & Young' have advised that - even in the short term - the circuit in south western Germany does not have the means to sustain track operations.
The recently reported lease buy-back of part of the venue has apparently only postponed bankruptcy for mere months. By the time of the July 30 grand prix, Hockenheim will be in dire trouble.
Worse still, 'the politicians do not want to help,' the 'paper wrote.
Red Bull and 'Puma' According to a whisper on the formula one grapevine, energy drink Red Bull is on the verge of signing up a sponsor.
Although whether 'Puma' is bound for the senior team or Scuderia Toro Rosso is unknown, speculation indicates that the deal will include on-car branding, rather than the clothing agreements with many existing teams.
German-based Puma's logo features a leaping cat, similar to the Jaguar insignia that featured on the green cars between 2000 and 2004.
White slams the IRL According to Gordon Kirby on this week's Champ Car Audio Roundtable discussion Toyota USA motorsport boss Lee White said he would give Champ Car a 9 rating (out of 10) for what they accomplished in 2005 and the IRL a 1 rating for their 2005 performance.
Champ Car headed to South Africa?UPDATE #5 We are hearing that the target date for a Champ Car race in Cape Town is the end of April, 2007. From AutoRacing1.com sources in South Africa today we learned that a firm called Cape Town Grand Prix Company has a promoter agreement in-hand from Champ Car as well as Cape Town City Government approval for a street race. A partner of the Cape Town Grand Prix Co. is currently in Cape Town seeking sponsorship and of course Cape Town Grand Prix Company itself is currently seeking sponsorship. Getting all the funding in place remains the real holdup.
Meanwhile, this rumor about Bernie Ecclestone bringing F1 to Cape Town remains out there, though 10 times more money must be found for an F1 race than a Champ Car race.
Recall also this rumor that Bernie can't use the name 'South' African GP for his F1 race because the group trying to do the Champ Car race has bought that name, hence why the F1 folks are now calling their race the African Grand Prix. They didn't mention the fact that they can't get the South African GP name, so instead they use some lame excuse why they want to call the F1 race by the name of the Continent instead of the country, which is the norm.
Needless to say there is some real maneuvering going on the South Africa as to who will get the race. With the full F1 schedule, we simply can't see how Bernie could add a South Africa event given he's angling for races in so many other places. We suspect he's doing it to try and head off any worldwide advance by Champ Car. From Day 1 Bernie was very worried about Champ Car's ability to race outside the USA - recall how he used to badmouth CART every week and even got the FIA to ban CART from road racing outside of North America. While he hasn't been so vocal lately, he appears to be working behind the scenes to head off every Champ Car move. For example, as soon as Champ Car announced a race in South Korea, so did Bernie. South Africa - ditto. The rumored Manchester, England Champ Car street race mysteriously went away. When Ecclestone started to talk about a street race in London all talk of Manchester fell silent. Mark C.
08/05/05 As we understand it, the F1 race in Cape Town may be someone's pipe dream. Who is going to put up the money to build Bernie Ecclestone a brand spanking new F1 road course in time for their rumored 2009 race? We hear the government does not have the money to do it. With that said, Champ Car is much better positioned to land a race in Cape Town because the upfront costs of a street race are far less than a new road course that Bernie wants. Champ Car's sanctioning fee is far less than Bernie, and with Bernie no promoter makes any money, Bernie gets it all. An F1 promoter is lucky to break even.
The question really is whether Champ Car wants to go to South Africa. If they do we suspect a deal will be struck. If not, F1 might have a chance, but we suspect this is just another example of Bernie Ecclestone making it look like he has a plethora of new races waiting in the wings so he can bid one venue against another to extract maximum profit, when in fact he has no more room in the F1 schedule to add anymore races. Getting to South Africa is a long and expensive trip. The city is going to have to want this race bad enough.
07/30/05 This race is still on the table but still not sure it will materialize. The only comment we could get out of Champ Car was "you never know." We were assured by Champ Car that the '06 schedule will be released in Denver and it will contain 16, perhaps as many as 17 races. 06/03/05 Word here in Milwaukee is that the race in South Africa is iffy. Champ Car is not sure if Cape Town is really their target market. However, with that said, the government appears very interested. 05/27/05 This rumor is upgraded to 'near-fact' today. In another AutoRacing1.com exclusive, our sources in South Africa have learned that officials in the city of Cape Town, South Africa today signed a multi-year deal with a firm representing Champ Car (Media Wide Marketing we believe) to host a downtown waterfront Champ Car race as early as 2006, perhaps 2007. We hear an April or May date is being discussed but it is not a foregone conclusion that Champ Car has agreed to place the race on its 2006 calendar as of yet or that South Africa is a target market for Champ Car. We hope to have more details in the near future.
Cape Town is known as the Mother City of Africa, and the Western Cape, an area which is regarded as one of the most beautiful regions in the world. The City is a rare cultural gem, resulting from the amalgamation of Indonesian, French, Dutch, British and German settlers, the local Bushman and Hottentot tribes and the Bantu tribes from the north.
The impressive presence of Table Mountain, flanked by the legendary Devil's Peak and historical Signal Hill, stands proudly above the city. Beautiful white sandy beaches along a peaceful coastline frame the Cape Peninsula, which is famed for its unique floral kingdom, bountiful rivers, vleis and dams and magnificent countryside. The surrounding area extends far into the winelands, green in summer and red-gold in autumn.
05/13/05 Our sources tell us that a major city in a major overseas country has given preliminary approval to hold a Champ Car race in a beautiful downtown waterfront setting. We are embargoed from releasing the information until all the deals are signed but it is clear that Champ Car is on its way to becoming the 'other' Formula One Series and a true World Championship, without all the politics and without the high costs. We hear a major beer company will sponsor the event if it happens.
Milwaukee Mile race really 3-day affair Rumor has it that Champ Car's only oval race for 2006, Milwaukee, is a 3-day affair, though the official race weekend is listed as 2-days. Our sources tell us that Friday will be an open test day to give the drivers and teams more time to acclimate to the oval since it is the only one.
Albert eyes Atlantic Series Paul Albert has just completed an intensive four day test program in the Swift 014 Toyota Atlantic car with veteran Atlantic competitor Jensen MotorSport.
Albert, who hails from Ottawa Canada, completed two days each in December at Savannah Georgia and Carolina MotorSport Park. Team owner Eric Jensen stated, "Paul has an aggressive but intelligent plan to develop his skills to be a competitive professional race car driver. With only 2 years of racing experience, Paul quickly became a top driver in the Skip Barber National Series, and his plans to continue testing with our team should see him rapidly improve his skills to race competitively in a limited pro Atlantic schedule in 2006."
Paul Albert finished 7th overall in the 2005 Skip Barber National Series, with a best finish of 4th at Road America. About his test, Paul stated, "The Atlantic car is an awesome machine. Quick and responsive, the car is so much fun to drive. It was great to experience the car on both the technical Carolina circuit, and the high speed Savannah circuit. I look forward to our next test in Sebring Florida in January."
"Paul quickly adapted to the driving style of the Atlantic car" stated engineer Adam Marchitto. "His lap times were competitive with the experienced European drivers that we have tested this off-season at the Savannah circuit, which bodes well for Paul to be competitive in the new Atlantic series".
Peugeot eyes diesel power too Following their retirement from World Rally competition Peugeot is rumored to be building an LMP1 car and that it will be diesel powered. The car is slated for a debut in 2007 and Audi should welcome the competition, though they will have a year head start..
Not only in Philadelphia AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that Philadelphia is not the only big east coast (of the USA) city that Champ Car is in negotiations with for a race. Whether Champ Car has plans to add a 2nd east coast race, or whether they are negotiating with both in the hope of landing one or the other, is not known. In order to not jeopardize negotiations, we have been asked not to reveal the 2nd city just yet. We can tell you that Philadelphia is closer to becoming a reality than the 2nd city at the moment, though that could change.
A new promoter in Korea? According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Champ Car is working with a new promoter in Ansan, South Korea. The original promoter, The Racing Korea (TRK) was only able to deposit about 50% of the up-front sanctioning fees required to stage the race in 2005 and could not produce a letter of credit proving they had the financial backing to guarantee Champ Car would get paid the full contract amount. Champ Car felt that, plus the fact the track construction was behind schedule, was enough to cancel the 2005 event.
A new promoter, Sunny Kim et al, is now in the picture and supposedly has far more financial backing to ensure the race will happen in 2006. The new contract, which we're not so sure has been signed yet, is rumored to be for five years with an option for five additional years.
Penske eyes return to F1 Roger Penske is considering making a return to Formula One in 2008, providing the cost of competing is brought down, autosport.com reports.
With the FIA having announced this week the new 'low-cost' regulations that it will introduce from the start of 2008, speculation has been mounting that a number of independent teams are close to giving the green light to joining the sport.
And high-level sources have revealed that Penske boss Roger Penske has already approached Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone and told him that if budgets can be cut to around $80 million (USD), then he is ready to enter the fray.
Max Mosley all but confirmed the Penske approach in an interview with French newspaper L'Equipe, even though he did not specifically name the team.
"At the moment, F1 is too expensive," he said. "A big private team, very well known in America, recently told Bernie: 'We want to join F1, but only if we can do it with a budget of 80 million dollars' - because that is the level at which that team can make a profit. Frank (Williams) is now thinking along the same lines, Ferrari too..." [Editor's Note: If this happens, it will all but put an end to Penske's IRL program. Having moved the IRL team to his NASCAR shop in North Carolina, the handwriting is already on the wall that Roger is losing interest in Indy Car Racing having lived through the split for 10 years]
Not before 2010 until Champ Car allows others entry If this ChampCar.ws article can be believed, if the Champ Car series continues its healthy rebound through '09 it's likely that a competing engine manufacturer or two will want to come into the Champ Car World Series in 2010. If that happens I'm sure Champ Car will announce firm restrictions on engine supply rules and how and where the manufacturers can spend their money. That period of time, starting in 2010, will likely provide the first test of Champ Car's ability to work effectively with competing manufacturers, always the acid test for any automobile racing sanctioning body. The article goes on to talk about possible engines of the future, but draws no conclusion other than piston engines fueled with petrol will probably be around for quite awhile.
Wurz out at McLaren?UPDATE Refusing to be a McLaren test dummy any longer, Wurz is now rumored to be heading for the failing German DTM series where two of the four manufacturers recently pulled out. 12/12/05 According to a whisper, long time tester Alex Wurz has been told he won't be needed by McLaren at Jerez this week.
The rumor may be linked to the Austrian's imminent decision -- whether to stay at Woking in 2006, or accept BMW Sauber's 'Friday' seat offer.
But Germany's 'Bild' newspaper reckons 31-year-old Wurz is not the only blip on Munich based BMW's 'Friday' radar. It is reported that Gary Paffett and Lewis Hamilton - both with links to McLaren and Mercedes - were also approached about the job.
Paffett is the DTM champion, while Hamilton dominated the competitive F3 Euroseries in 2005.
Mercedes' Norbert Haug said the speculation is a 'compliment' to the German carmaker's new driver generation.
'''(But) all contracts will be honored,'' the competition director insisted.
Wurz eyes JV’s seatUPDATE #2 This rumor has been downgraded to 'false' since Villeneuve was announced by BMW Sauber. 12/09/05 Austria's Alex Wurz has rejected tabloid gossip that Friday is his 'deadline' to accept Ron Dennis' offer of another year as McLaren tester.
''I can take as long as I want,'' the tall 31-year-old said at Jerez, where he is driving a V8-powered MP4-20 car.
It is strongly suggested that Wurz, whose current Woking based deal runs out this month, has been offered the 'Friday' ride at BMW Sauber. And then - although there is no guarantee - he could slip into Jacques Villeneuve's '07 seat.
'Deadline' speculation quashed, Waidhofen-born Wurz - who last raced in F1 for Benetton in 2000 - did admit that he is likely to make a decision 'sooner rather than later'.
He continued to tell Autosport magazine: ''Well, I'm a pretty rational person. I will have to see all the facts first and then decide. I will find out more next week.'
12/06/05 Alexander Wurz says he has not yet decided whether to spend another year as McLaren's leading test driver.
It is reported this week that Woking-based principal Ron Dennis has imposed a Friday deadline for the 31-year-old Austrian to make the 2006 call.
Wurz, who admits contact with Mario Theissen about switching to the BMW Sauber team, is seemingly contemplating the move because it may involve graduating to the 2007 race seat in Jacques Villeneuve's place.
''What I am going to do (next year) is still open,'' Wurz told an Austrian newspaper on Monday.
The tall driver, who has raced fifty two times for Benetton (1997-2000) and once for McLaren (this year), admitted that he once hoped to land Jacques' 2006 race seat.
He said: ''But I knew BMW would probably not withdraw from the Villeneuve contract.''
Milka Duno eyes Champ Car rideUPDATE We reported this over a month ago, but now this story is becoming closer to reality. This SPEEDTV article says, Venezuelan driver Milka Duno expects to announce her 2006 plans soon. Duno, 33, will be changing Grand-Am teams and debuting in Champ Car in '06.
“We will carry on racing Daytona Prototypes in Grand Am - testing at Daytona begins on the first week of January, so we intend to announce the name of the team we’ll be racing with in the coming days," said Duno.
“After two seasons at Howard-Boss, we felt it was time for a change: we clinched great results and [three] victories together [in partnership with Andy Wallace] but the performance in the second half of this season wasn’t what we expected so it was time to go our separate ways.
“We also intend to have a significant amount of Champ Car testing in view of making out race debut before the end of next season.”
11/04/05 We hear that Milka Duno, who recently tested for HVM Racing, is talking to PKV Racing about a possible Champ Car ride in 2006. We confirmed with Jimmy Vasser and Dan Pettit, co-owners of PKV with Kevin Kalkhoven, that they have enough cars to run a 3-car team next year. We hear from other sources that there is a good chance Jimmy Vasser will race next year because he has done so well against his highly touted teammate Cristiano da Matta. Duno, from Venezuela, has solid financial backing. We added her name to our Silly Season page above.
Raikkonen to FerrariUPDATE #7 We are bumping this rumor up to 'strong' today. Kimi Raikkonen's future lies in Maranello, formula one supremo Bernie Ecclestone thinks. As the specialized press continue to grapple with the implications of Fernando Alonso's surprise McLaren switch for 2007, the 75-year-old boss chimed in by saying: ''Yes, I think (Kimi) will go to Ferrari.''
Some sources inside F1's inner sanctum report that monosyllabic Raikkonen, the 26-year-old Finn, may even have signed some sort of pre-agreement for a '07 move to Michael Schumacher's scarlet camp.
Bernie said Raikkonen in a Ferrari is 'in the interests' of both the former title-winning team, and the talented driver.
Ecclestone also told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper: ''But it's not certain it'll end up this way, because if Schumacher carries on beyond 2006 ... Raikkonen will have to find another place.''
12/19/05 With news that Alonso is moving to McLaren, either Raikkonen or Montoya are on their way out. We now await Ferrari's announcement that Kimi has joined their team effective 2007. We believe Dennis will keep Montoya because he knows Montoya is the faster driver now that he has settled into the team.
10/21/05 Former Formula 1 team owner Eddie Jordan says in his November column for F1 Racing magazine that Kimi's McLaren teammate Juan Pablo Montoya is more likely to switch to the Ferrari team than the Finn.
"I don't know who peddled the rumor about Kimi going to Ferrari, but I don't believe it for a second," he said. "He was made for McLaren and they gave him his best chance. The Kimi-to-Ferrari story is backfiring just like the Valentino Rossi spin. If I was a gambler I'd actually put money on Montoya going to Ferrari, not Raikkonen."
"There aren't many better at wheel-to-wheel combat than Juan Pablo, and in Brazil he showed that he still has it. JPM may have a temper on him but the flipside is his friendly demeanor – he smiles when he wins. In fact his distinctive personality doesn't really seem to suit McLaren's style."
10/15/05 "I have heard the rumors and want to say that I have definitely not signed anything with Ferrari," Raikkonen told Bild daily. "I want to be in the fastest car and as a young boy my dream was to join McLaren Mercedes because of Mika Hakkinen. I am here now and extremely happy to be so. It is even possible that I will stay at the team forever if both parties continue to be successful."
Louis "Topspeed" Albornoz eyes Indy ride OLM.net, a leading web hosting service provider, announced today their sponsorship of open-wheel, race car driver, Louis "Topspeed" Albornoz.
OLM.net will use the sponsorship to increase their visibility and the sponsorship is part of the marketing strategy they are using to stay on top in the highly competitive web hosting industry. "Auto racing is currently the most popular sport in the USA and has an extremely loyal fan base. We want to embrace this vast demographic," stated Chris Silkman, Business Manager of OLM.net. "Although motorsports is a new marketing avenue for us, we hope to grow because of it and we look forward to building relationships with other sponsors and fans of the sport," added Silkman.
"I am very pleased to have OLM.net as one of my newest sponsors. I'm looking forward to introducing the company to racing fans everywhere. I'm also glad that OLM.net is actively engaging the fans by offering them something worthwhile, such as discounts on their services," commented Louis "Topspeed" Albornoz.
The arrival of such a major player from the internet services industry will surely draw the attention of the countless technology companies who are already sponsors of professional, open-wheel racing.
"We're looking forward to being involved in motorsports. The fans are tech savvy and the state of the art technology used in auto racing perfectly parallels the technology we use to deliver the best web hosting available anywhere," stated Silkman. "We're also very happy to have 'Topspeed' representing our brand in the motorsports world. He has an excellent reputation with sponsors and especially with the fans. 'Topspeed' makes the fans, our consumers, a top priority," he added.
Another Adam Petty in the making? A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Marco Andretti driving in the IRL is initially a large PR boost for the failing venture. However, it has the potential to be a disaster. At best he will be uncompetitive. At worst... I do not even want to think of it (although I am reminded of a NASCAR dynasty family where the son was less successful than the grandfather, in an effort to revive the family name trotted out his very young son, unfortunately unqualified for the big cars, and Adam Petty was tragically lost soon thereafter).
What a shame, a crime almost, to put a fine young man at risk in the most inherently dangerous racing venue - oval track open wheel racing - where the injury record is unparalleled - just in the name of a PR stunt to juice up ratings and fill up a field that is dwindling due to the flaws in the business plan and product.
So AGR is racing 5 cars in the 500 now in a pathetic effort to prop up the IRL series and fill the 33-car field where they are at least 14-15 cars short? Hey Michael; got an extra car for me ? Glenn Tanner, Palos Verdes Estates
Dear Glenn, You make a valid point. However, the IRL cars next year will take even less talent to drive as they will be easy flat everywhere due to the drop in HP to get the engines to last 1,100 miles between rebuilds. So although they will be easy to drive, the lower horsepower will indeed bunch the cars up more and make the potential for a Ryan Briscoe, Kenny Brack or Tony Renna like accident. We pray not, but given all the injuries in the IRL since the day the series started, its drivers have always been sacrificial lambs, sacrificing life and limb for the 'vision.' Mark C.
Will the IRL take Danica’s advantage away? A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Any word on the IRL adjusting the rules so every driver has an equal weight advantage next?.......you know, as they said they would look at? (we all know how much weight those words hold). Derek Hughes, Cincinnati, OH Given how much media attention a win by Danica will bring the IRL, there's not much chance the IRL will take her advantage away. If it was a real sport, of course they would, but the IRL is an entertainment show first, sport second. Mark C.
Honda to sponsor Super Aguri team tooUPDATE Along with the Japanese carmaker's V8 engine and technical support, the 'Super Aguri' team will be sponsored by Honda. Honda's president and CEO Takeo Fukui confirmed the news at an annual media gathering in Tokyo (Japan).
In addition to Honda's newly-announced commercial backing, the prospective entrant - run by Aguri Suzuki and referred to in the press as a Honda 'b' team - will more than likely count on Japanese e-commerce company SoftBank's major sponsorship, which could extend to partial ownership of the Leafield based team.
It is also whispered on the F1 grapevine that Aguri is speaking to 'Yahoo!' and also 'Morningstar' -- an investment research company.
12/20/05 Honda says it is prepared to provide more than just engines and technology to the new Super Aguri Formula One team.
Honda Motor president Takeo Fukui says the Japanese manufacturer will also sponsor the new team. Fukui stopped short of saying whether or not the company would become the title sponsor of the new team.
Honda says its plans for the Aguri Suzuki team will in no way cut into its commitments to its own Formula One outfit.
Alonso deal worth $96mUPDATE New estimates are putting Fernando Alonso's '07 McLaren wage at as much as $30m a year. Over a maximum of four years, the title holding Spaniard could earn $120 million by 2010.
If true, the 24-year-old will soon become the second highest earner in formula one, just behind Michael Schumacher and ahead of 2005 rival Kimi Raikkonen.
At Renault next year, however, Fernando Alonso will earn about $9m. Not surprisingly, then, Spain's 'Marca' newspaper - happily pronouncing the McLaren contract - ran with a headline that yelled 'McLonso!'
However, Ferrari deflected suggestions that the movements at Renault and McLaren have much to do with them, even if it is suggested that Raikkonen's most likely move is to Maranello, and that Michael Schumacher might not want to stick around next to the Finn beyond 2006.
The red team's Schumacher-Felipe Massa pairing next year is only contractually in place for a single season.
''I expect it will be late spring before we have to make any decisions,'' a spokesman told the British 'Guardian' newspaper.
12/19/05 World champion Fernando Alonso's newly unveiled McLaren deal is for three years, not counting an optional fourth formula one season, to include 2010.
The F1 grapevine is also whispering that the 24-year-old's switch from Renault next year will almost certainly double his annual retainer, bringing his haul from $12m (US) to about $24m.
But some estimates, for example of London's authoritative 'Times' newspaper, put Alonso's yearly bill at up to $37m.
But as well as indicate that Kimi Raikkonen might vacate his silver seat, Monday's bombshell ends speculation that Michael Schumacher counted McLaren as an option for beyond next year.
Former German grand prix driver Hans-Joachim Stuck told Bild: ''If Schumacher has another flop year with Ferrari, he will (retire).''
German daily 'Bild' also revealed that McLaren's Ron Dennis only kicked off negotiations with Spaniard Alonso after the Chinese finale in October.
Teams try to lure Kimi from McLaren The fallout of Fernando Alonso's shock 2007 switch to McLaren continues, with new reports that Kimi Raikkonen is now F1's most wanted.
Even in the short hours since Woking based McLaren announced that Renault's world champion was en route, Raikkonen (pictured right) - the highly talented silver incumbent - has amassed at least four offers from carmaker-backed teams.
First, McLaren. Ron Dennis makes no secret of his desire for Prost-Senna-like superteams, and Alonso-Raikkonen would certainly look pretty super.
Second, Ferrari. Kimi, the 26-year-old Finn, is alleged to have signed some sort of Ferrari document this year, but his Maranello arrival really depends on what Michael Schumacher decides to do beyond his 2006 deal.
Third and fourth, Renault and BMW. Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport wrote on Tuesday that both teams have made Kimi an offer.
Renault, however, is the less obvious destination.
If the French carmaker could not match McLaren's asking price to retain its own world champion, then there is even less reason to believe that Renault can meet Kimi's demands.
McLaren's Tombazis back to Ferrari? McLaren defector Nicholas Tombazis looks set to return to Ferrari. The aerodynamics chief, who also studied an offer to switch to BMW Sauber since rumors of his McLaren exit broke, may - reportedly - assume Ross Brawn's coveted 'technical director' post at Maranello based Ferrari in '07.
According to information of the German 'Auto Motor und Sport' publication, Greece-born Tombazis' re-arrival at Ferrari could ultimately follow the retirement of Jean Todt, and Brawn's assumption of the top job.
Although McLaren won't confirm it, allegedly Tombazis decided to leave Woking when Ron Dennis told him that Adrian Newey's vacant technical directorship office was not up for grabs.
Previously, he was chief aerodynamicist at Ferrari between 1998 and 2003.
Marco Andretti to drive for Andretti GreenUPDATE #4 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. See related rumor. 12/19/05 Andretti Green Racing has scheduled an announcement for Tuesday 11:00 AM at their shop in Indianapolis. It is assumed that the announcement will be about Marco and possibly Michael making a comeback to help fill the Indy 500 field. A 5-car AGR onslaught. 12/15/05 A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Why does Michael Andretti hate Champ Car so much that he is willing to jeopardize both Marco's growth as a driver and his well-being, by having him run in the IRL? Is it Honda's money or that he knows that the IRL is dying a slow death and he will do anything not to lose? I find it perplexing that he would sacrifice his son's long-term future for his own short-term gains, especially if it is just about the money. I look at Bobby Rahal and see a man who listens to his son and lets him do what is right for his career and backs him all the way. Michael should observe and take a lesson from Rahal because he is one Briscoe type of accident from tragedy. The best place for Marco right now is in Atlantics where he can properly learn his craft, not propping up a failing series or lining his father’s pockets. Bradford Dunlop, Toronto Canada
Dear Bradford, It may be that they are pushing Marco in early to help prop up the failing IRL. If so, that's a terrible mistake. The kid is good, but he got his clock cleaned in Star Mazda, so he isn't the best out there yet. He should spend a year in Atlantics, but the IRL is primarily a 100% throttle series. With the reduced power for Honda to get more miles out of the engines and lower cost, it will be 'way easy' flat now (before it was easy flat), hence it won't take much talent to drive an IRL car, so this should mask his inexperience. We're not saying Marco is a wanker, we're just saying he is not ready for the big leagues like Champ Car or F1 where talent means something. And you wonder why American drivers struggle in F1? It's too easy to make it to the top in America riding on your family name. In Europe the competition is much more difficult and the training much more intense. A guy like Nico Rosberg does not make it to F1 on the Rosberg name, but on his performance on the race track......as it should be. Mark C.
12/14/05 This rumor appears to be close to going to 'fact.' According to this SPEEDTV.com article, Marco Andretti will be joining Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan and Bryan Herta on the IRL's most dominating team in '06 and his father, the all-time winner in CART who quit racing following the 2003 Indy 500, will be in a fifth car for May.
12/10/05 Bryan Herta said it was a bit of a surprising move by Wheldon, but not unexpected. "I guess a little surprised," Herta said when he heard Wheldon was leaving Andretti Green Racing for Ganassi's team. "Certainly it was a successful partnership. I guess he had his reasons. I can only speculate."
Herta said the Andretti Green Racing team has a short list of drivers, no more than three, that it is considering to be the fourth driver on the team.
Marco Andretti, son of team co-owner Michael Andretti, has been racing on the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, a developmental racing league for the IRL. He is a potential candidate to move up. LA Daily News
[Editor's Note: There has been no word on where Marco will race in 2006, hence it may be likely he will be introduced as the 4th AGR driver. This will garner the reeling IRL some much needed media headlines, we assume at an opportune moment. If true then the IRL will strategize their coverage around Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti, who carries one of the most famous last names in all of racing.]
AGR to help bail out the IPS too Andretti Green Racing is expected to announce a new two-car team for the IRL's IPS development series today. Like the IRL under Tony George's vision, the IPS is desperate for more cars, and Andretti Green, flush with sponsorship, is rumored to be saving the day again. With its five, count 'em five, cars in the Indy 500, perhaps they should rename the league the Andretti Green Racing League.
Andretti out of retirement for Indy 500 returnUPDATE #3 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Michael Andretti has raced his father, brother and cousin in the Indianapolis 500. Next he'll race his son. Andretti, 43, will confirm his return to racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a news conference today at Andretti Green Racing's headquarters, officials for the team and the Indy Racing League with knowledge of the situation said Monday. He will be joined by his son, Marco, who will drive one of AGR's four cars for the full Indy-car season. Marco, who will be 19 when the IRL's season begins, will replace league champion Dan Wheldon, who moved to Ganassi Racing. Returning to AGR will be Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta. Michael's return will be limited to the 500, where he last raced in 2003. He has not won the race in 14 attempts as a driver. Wheldon gave him his first Brickyard victory as a team owner. IndyStar
12/14/05 This rumor appears to be close to going to 'fact.' According to this SPEEDTV.com article, Marco Andretti will be joining Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan and Bryan Herta on the IRL's most dominating team in '06 and his father, the all-time winner in CART who quit racing following the 2003 Indy 500, will be in a fifth car for May.
With Five cars in the Indy 500 to help fill the field, how can Andretti Green not win?
12/10/05 We reported hearing this a month ago. Today's Indy Star newspaper finally got wind of it. Maybe it was the milk he drank as a winning car owner of the Indianapolis 500, but something has led Michael Andretti to reconsider his retirement from racing. Andretti, 43, has told friends he'll drive in the 2006 race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway if sponsorship materializes.
True to form, Andretti (Pictured right talking to father Mario) was guarded this week when asked to confirm his plans, but it's clear he is treating the idea seriously. "I might, but it depends on a lot of things," he said.
Andretti has driven in the race 14 times, most recently in 2003. His only Indy win came as an owner of Dan Wheldon's car in May. Ironically, one of the sticking points to Andretti's return is the vacancy created by Wheldon, who left Andretti Green Racing for Chip Ganassi's team. AGR must first solidify its four-car Indy Racing League program.
"Dan threw a monkey wrench into a lot of things we wanted to do," Andretti said.
[Editor's Note: If sponsorship can be found? The team has more sponsors than they know what to do with. The bottom-line reason Michael may have to drive in the Indy 500 is to help the desperate Indy Motor Speedway fill their 33 car field. Because of Tony George's vision, Indy Car racing is reeling and car count is at desperate levels. There needed to be a unification years ago, and it could have happened after 2006, but Honda decided to continue to supply engines to the IRL, which ensured it will survive, at least through 2009. However, by then NASCAR will be a complete monopoly and squash Indy Car Racing like a bug whenever they want.]
11/06/05 Here's a crazy one, we hear that Michael Andretti might come out of retirement to run the Indy 500 with his son Marco. If true, how many cars will AGR field next year? He's already supposedly signed Herta, Franchitti and Kanaan. The two Andrettis would make a 5-car assault on Indy.
Given how desperate things are getting in the IRL to fill next year's Indy 500 field, perhaps AGR can run all of its backup cars too, and field 10 cars in the 500! Steve Levinson
Newey to design for two teams Scuderia Toro Rosso are hoping to benefit from the help of Adrian Newey next season , but can the renowned designer work on both Red Bull teams and do a good job?.
"Under the current regulations the teams cannot work together as close as it could be," he said in an interview with the official Formula One website.
"Red Bull Racing will run the new RBR02 and the V8 Ferrari engine, while Toro Rosso will have the new STR 01 with the V10 Cosworth engine incorporating different torque curves from the engine side and with a different weight distribution, which will make it difficult to compare cars or data.
"Because of these differences the teams will operate independently and in their own separate way during the race weekends. We are all looking forward to seeing Adrian Newey starting at Red Bull. It would be a great pity not to ask him for advice with all his experience."
Williams to announce Narain soon?UPDATE #2 Contrary to previous reports, Narain Karthikeyan will endure a nervous Christmas as he waits to hear if Williams' 'Friday' cockpit will be his in 2006.
According to India's Telegraph newspaper in Calcutta, the 28-year-old has been told that no firm decision will be made until late January.
NK, the first Indian to drive in grands prix when he debuted for Jordan this year, has driven three days of tests with Sir Frank Williams' Grove based team.
''He has been brought in to do two tests but this is not an indication he will be the third ... driver,'' a team spokeswoman said.
She said Sir Frank Williams' outfit, located in Oxfordshire, England, has more than one name on a 'list' of candidates.
Referring to the list, the spokeswoman added: ''It's not extensive but there are others we are considering.
''(Karthikeyan) is a possibility.''
12/18/05 According to India's 'Economic Times', the local television audience for grands prix this year increased by nearly 100 per cent.
Statistics analysis outfit 'Tam Adex' counted 174 new advertisers for India's motor sport coverage - including A1 and MotoGP - and 374 brands for the January-November period.
It is no surprise, then, that F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is a keen supporter of Jordan's 2005 rookie, Indian Narain Karthikeyan.
The 28-year-old from Chennai had looked out of a job for 2006 after feeling the Midland boot. But he has re-emerged in Williams' test cockpit, and - according to speculation - can expect to land the Grove team's 'Friday' role before Christmas Day.
He has now tested the Cosworth-powered FW27C on three separate days, and impressed Sir Frank Williams' team not only with solid pace but also his technical feedback.
Karthikeyan also carries a sponsorship purse of around $5 million.
12/17/05 Narain Karthikeyan is expected to be announced as third driver by WilliamsF1 Team. He will be the team's main test driver and will also jump in the team's third car on Friday prior each Grand Prix.
F1’s next rookie eyes 2007UPDATE #3 Another reader disagrees with previous reader, Dear Autoracing1.com, With Ron Dennis saying don't count out a split in F1, I take very lightly any chance of a rumored McLaren B-team. It seems of all the teams and especially with Stoddart gone, the boys at McLaren seem to be the most likely to not do BE any favors, and really I am not sure why any organization would stretch itself that thin if they are serious about getting their A-team a championship. Then again, if there is a split, and McLaren bolts, perhaps they will need to have a couple teams in order to make up a respectable field. Andy Fogiel, Lansing, MI12/19/05 A reader points out, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Regarding your comment about Lewis Hamilton's chances of landing a McLaren seat is not true, you seem to have missed the strong rumors that McLaren is establishing a B-team from 2007. According to these rumors, it will be run out of McLarens HQ, with Mercedes engines and Jean Alesi as team boss. Frontrunners for the race seats in this "B-team" should be Mercedes/McLaren contracted drivers Lewis Hamilton, Gary Paffet (DTM champion 2005, 20001 German F3 champion, 2000 British F3 champion in the scholarship class, and who have recently impressed a lot testing for McLaren) and Jamie Green (6th in 2005 DTM with two poles and a podium - and rookie of the year, 2004 European F3 champion and second in British F3 in 2003 - his rookie season). All hugely promising drivers. Hans Vigen, Drammen, Norway12/19/05 With Fernando Alonso now signed by McLaren for 2007 and beyond, and Raikkonen or Montoya soon to be re-signed as the 2nd driver for another multi-year contract, rest assured there will be no room for Hamilton at McLaren for a very very long time. Bottom line is that all this talk about a seat for Hamilton in F1 is BS and only came about when a Champ Car team inquired about his services. It will be interesting to see what Hamilton decides to do after GP2 in 2006 knowing he can't get an F1 seat with McLaren. 12/19/05 F1's next rookie could be heading for a 2007 debut, according to McLaren boss Ron Dennis.
Lewis Hamilton, who would become the first black driver to race in grands prix, is backed by the Woking based formula one team and will step up to the GP2 support category next year.
The 20-year-old, who signed a ten-year McLaren contract in 1999, totally dominated the F3 Euroseries in 2005.
''If he dominates GP2,'' Dennis told the Reuters news agency, ''there is a very strong opportunity for him to immediately step into a formula one car and race.''
The team principal admitted, however, that it's 'highly unlikely' Hamilton's first car would be a top line McLaren.
And, even though F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone would be very keen to see a black driver on the grid, Dennis also played down the influence that Lewis' color had made.
McLaren's managing director Martin Whitmarsh admitted: "It is highly unlikely that the first grand prix drive he has will be in a McLaren, and he knows that.
"Equally, he knows that we will be supportive all the way through. We are not going to obstruct his career."
Whitmarsh has high hopes for Hamilton, believing he will ultimately return to McLaren and fight for titles.
"Lewis has extraordinary talents, developing year on year, getting stronger mentally and with technical approach.
"We believe he will be a McLaren driver in the future. We want to give him a sporting challenge, and we think he is good enough to consistently win in GP2.
"Once he has won that championship we can do some F1 testing and then if there is a good opportunity to go F1 racing in 2007 we would look at it seriously.
"We have paid his entire budget for the last eight or nine years and put a lot of time and effort in with Lewis.
"We wouldn't have been doing that unless we thought he will one day win a world championship in a McLaren."
And Hamilton recently told the Sunday Times: ''The bottom line is that (my color) is clearly not why I'm in this position. I want to win in F1 ... because I believe I'm good enough to do that.''
He will drive for GP2's pacesetting ART team in 2006.
Williams, MF1 Racing approve Super AguriUPDATE Although the team's late entry faced obvious opposition as recently as last Friday, a deal has apparently been struck to allow 'Super Aguri' to race on the 2006 grid.
Even Midland's MF1 team, according to speculation, has fallen in line to clear the path for the Japanese outfit - run by Aguri Suzuki with significant Honda backing - to lodge the late $48m bond and take a spot in pitlane.
The news, yet to be confirmed or verified, means that an eleventh team - propping up a 22-car grid - will be seen for the first time since 2001.
Super Aguri, based at Arrows' old Leafield HQ in south central England, will almost certainly start the year with four year old Arrows 'A23' chassis, powered by a Honda V8 engine, before a new car is debuted around May.
Moreover, a significant number of the current 50 or 60 staff are former Arrows employees.
The detail of the ten existing teams' unanimity is not clear, but F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is thought to have got involved, particularly as 'Aguri' has indicated that it will sign his new Concorde.
12/16/05 In another AutoRacing1.com exclusive, we have learned through inside sources that the WilliamsF1 team has already signed, this past Wednesday, an official document approving the addition of the Super Aguri team to the F1 grid in 2006. We await the official announcement. Mark C.
Toyota fires BrunnerUPDATE #2 Toyota has confirmed they let Brunner go so this rumor goes to 'fact' today.
"Toyota has made operational changes to its chassis department as part of a continuous improvement process which has seen the implementation of three chassis development project groups within its Formula 1 team," the team said in a statement. "With three groups running in parallel, one focusing on the current car, one concentrating on the next stage of development and the third looking at advanced design, the position of chief designer has become obsolete."
12/18/05 Brunner has been designing F1 cars since1978 when he was hired by the fledgling ATS F1 team. After a period in Formula 2 with Maurer he returned to F1 with ATS in 1981 and then moved on to RAM and then Ferrari where he designed the F187, with which Gerhard Berger won the Japanese and Australian GPs in 1987. In 1988 he designed the Ferrari Indycar - which never ran - before he went to Rial and from there to Zakspeed. After that his career took him to Leyton House Racing when he became technical director in 1992. He moved to Minardi in 1993 but was then taken back by Ferrari where he spent five years before returning to Minardi in 1998.
Given his Austrian nationality and his love of Italy, Brunner would seem to be a good candidate for a job with Scuderia Toro Rosso. Grandprix.com
12/18/05 According to the F1 grapevine, Toyota's chief designer Gustav Brunner has left the team.
The 55-year-old F1 veteran has worked at Cologne since the Japanese marque entered grands prix in 2002, but is thought to have not got along with technical director Mike Gascoyne since the Briton arrived late in 2003.
It is speculated that Brunner, who switched to Toyota from Minardi in the summer of 2001, did not leave voluntarily. In addition, no information is available as to a future employ for the Austrian.
Prodrive to start F1 team Former BAR-Honda team boss David Richards says he is considering a return to Formula 1 with his own team in 2008, but only if the sport becomes cost effective for small outfits once more.
Richards, whose Prodrive preparation company is planning an F1 facility in Warwickshire according to F1 Racing magazine.
"If the changes that Max [Mosley] is trying to bring forward in the next couple of years come to fruition, I firmly believe there will be room for small organizations to operate within F1," DR said in the January edition of the magazine, which goes on sale Tuesday, December 20.
"A small, nimble outfit can actually tip the balance in F1 and bring it back to where it rightfully belongs –where the fans are. The Toyotas won't be around for ever, though," he added.
"The car makers – for eminently valid reasons – use motorsport as long as its useful to them. Then they discard it. And the independent teams will be left to pick up the pieces. If Max isn't allowed to succeed in his crusade, then more fool F1."
Zanardi movie in worksUPDATE This story/rumor, first broke by AutoRacing1.com, is now upgraded to 'fact.' A US production company has bought the rights to Zanardi's autobiography and has already commissioned a screen play for 'My Sweetest Victory', the Italian told Italian magazine Autosprint.
Talks are now taking place between the studio and prospective production companies to start work on the project.
Zanardi said: "Almost all motor racing films flopped, and you always need lots of money to produce them. In this case, however, if the film stays close to the book, the scenes about racing would take a rather a limited amount."
11/02/05 AutoRacing1.com has learned that an Alex Zanardi movie deal may be in the works. Hopefully we will have more to report in the near future. Just think about what a great movie the story of Alex Zanardi will make if done right - a story of real bravery and courage that will pull at the heartstrings of movie viewers worldwide, yet have the happiest of endings when he overcomes tragedy to race and win again.
New NASCAR team in worksUPDATE The Premier Motorsports is owned by Daniel Kinney and located in Owensboro, KY. Kinney developed his #85 Busch team in 2000 and ran selected races for five years. The team is developing a cup team #64 for the 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup season and planning to run a full season. The team has a partial sponsorship "Speedway Fuel" for the 2006 season and is looking for additional sponsors. The team also plans to run selected Busch races as well in the 2006 season but will consider a full season if full sponsorship is obtained. They are expanding their race shop and should be completed by mid January 2006. The team is also looking to hire personnel and crew chiefs. Jayski.com12/13/05 Rumor has it that another Nextel Cup team is forming. The Premier Motorsports is expanding to the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series in 2006. The team looks to be based in Kentucky and their website shows a car #85. thepremiermotorsports.com
Legge to drive for Rocketsports We are hearing that Katherine Legge's test with Rocketsports this week could lead to a possible full-time Champ Car ride in 2006. Although she is managed by Kevin Kalkhoven, and although she will test with PKV at Sebring this week, we are hearing rumblings that in fact PKV might farm her out to Rocketsports her first year in Champ Car. If the rumors about the Canary Fund sponsoring her are true, they won't even have to repaint the yellow DHL cars! We will add her to our 2006 Champ Car Silly Season page listed above.
Stewart to start new Silver Crown team Rumor has it that Tony Stewart, having sided with the National Sprintcar League that folded before it started, is going to start a USAC Silver Crown team and run the new superspeedway car. Rumor is that the France family is concerned not enough teams will buy the superspeedway car to run on their superspeedway tracks and that the concept will fold. The France family wants to monopolize the short track oval market so they want the superspeedway concept to succeed. It will also keep the WoO in check as the teams who left to go to the NSL with Stewart may also run the superspeedway cars.
We hear Stewart has bought the old Dick Simon shop in Indy for this purpose. Maybe he will pull an AGR and run five cars to help fill the field.
IRL field to grow? IRL president Brian Barnhart believes the reduced cost of the spec Honda engine will increase the likelihood of new teams wanting to join.
"The only assurance I can give you is I think the biggest hurdle to participation is cost," Barnhart said. "Anything that we can do that can have this significant of a reduction in a team's cost to participate is certainly a move in the right direction and will help encourage participation.
"By reducing full-season costs by those amounts, both in '06 and again in '07, you should remove some of the hurdles or barriers to participation in the series."
"We haven't finalized exactly the costs associated with Indy-only programs yet," he added, "but I can assure you based on the direction and conversations that we've been having, there will also be a significant reduction in the cost of Indy-only programs, whether it's a full month of May program or one that takes place the second week of the month of May.
"But to help, again, accommodate teams, whether it's your full-time teams running additional cars or whether it's the one-offs at Indy like we've had in the past the cost to participate Indy-only programs will also be significantly reduced. " [Editor's Note: Unfortunately this is just a pipe dream. Why? Because crash damage in the 'pack racing' IRL will increase in 2006 as cars will be running even closer together with a spec engine and less HP. With subsidies from Honda, Chevy and Toyota now gone, many teams will find themselves in a bankrupt situation before long.]
Ferrari in financial trouble Ferrari have revealed that they wish to cut costs drastically in order for Formula 1 to survive. Ferrari have never been ones to demand the reduction of budgets and it may suggest that Ferrari is in some sort of trouble.
Ferrari's parent company Fiat has been in major financial difficulties for some time and this may be taking its toll on Ferrari itself. Despite Ferrari's massive income from their numerous marketing endeavors, one must wonder why Ferrari is suddenly calling for a reduction in costs. Ross Brawn had this to say about cost cutting in Formula 1:
"We need to make sure $100m is a more than adequate budget to compete and win in F1."
Schu set for last year in red, McLaren bound? The German press has gone into overdrive with speculation that 2006 may be Michael Schumacher's last season in a Ferrari car.
First, the 36-year-old has not yet renewed his Maranello contract - which runs out at the end of next year - after Ferrari endured its worst season, 2005, of the long Schumacher era.
Moreover, sources in the German media insist that major Ferrari backer Vodafone's switch to McLaren may be significant. It is pointed out that Michael, 36, is also personally sponsored by the mobile phone giant, thus reigniting gossip of his own silver clad swap.
Schumacher's Vodafone deal also runs out in 2006.
His manager Willi Weber, in the 'TZ' publication, said Vodafone's move does not 'necessarily' mean that Schumacher will follow, but added that 'everything is possible'.
The 'Bild' newspaper, meanwhile, reports that Ferrari's Vodafone loss will leave a hole of about $50 million in the reds' annual budget.
The daily tabloid also said that team boss Jean Todt is looking to retire in Malaysia at the end of 2006, and also that technical brain Ross Brawn - similarly out of contract for 2007 and beyond - is beating off the offers of rival teams.
Alex Lloyd eyes switch to Champ Car Atlantics, Champ Car Alex Lloyd, the 20 year old BRDC McLaren Autosport Young Driver of the Year Award winner, has been offered a two-day test in America in a leftover Toyota Atlantic Car with top team Jensen Motorsport on the 19th and 20th of December.
"I am very much looking forward to doing these tests with Jensen Motorsport. I am keen to make a move to America and continue my career in the USA, where I have friends and family. I have raced and won in Fran-Am in Florida, in Formula 3000 in Europe and I have tested a McLaren F1 car, and I believe Toyota Atlantic – to be renamed ChampCar Atlantic in 2006 - is where I can best showcase my skills, with the intention of winning and moving on to Champ Cars or IRL", said Alex.
Alex started his career in karts at the age of nine, and progressed into cars at the age of 15 with a year in Formula Ford and then UK Formula Renault for 2 years, finishing as Vice-Champion.
Following this, in December 2003, Alex was short listed down to one of only six drivers to take part in a shoot-out to win one of the most prestigious awards available in the motorsport world, the BRDC McLaren Autosport Young Driver of the Year Award. Alex duly won the Award, and was heralded as ‘Britain’s Next F1 Hope’.
Since then, Alex has struggled to find a budget, but last year competed in selected rounds of the Euro F3000 Championship, entering the last 7 rounds only. He had 3 pole positions and 1 win despite suffering from a number of mechanical failures. His immediate success in this championship impressed many and led to him being chosen, following another shoot-out, to be part of the British A1GP team.
With Alex eyeing a career move to the USA, these two days of testing will be invaluable and a great chance to work with Jensen Motorsport.
"We are very much looking forward to this test", says Jensen MotorSport team owner Eric Jensen. "Alex has a terrific racing resume, which ranks him among the most promising young driving talents looking to enter the 2006 ChampCar Atlantic grid. Alex should learn a great deal about driving the Atlantic car by working for 2 days with our race engineer Adam Marchitto, and we hope that a successful test will be followed shortly thereafter with news that Alex will join Jensen MotorSport full-time for the 2006 season."
IRL poised to become even more dangerous The IRL is poised to have more serious crashes in 2006 and beyond on the high-speed ovals as the spec Honda engine will mean the gap between the front of the field to the back will become even closer. It will be true pack racing NASCAR style, but with open wheel cars, when they touch, they will fly - Ryan Briscoe style.
Brian Barnhart waffled around that question when asked Thursday.
"Well, I guess that's kind of what I was laughing about when somebody asked about the level playing field. I don't think anybody's got one more level than the one we’ve got now, said Barnhart.
"That being said, I know we just said you allow for factory teams, but there are other rules in place that just create the close competition that we have. The difference from the front of our field to the back of our field is three- to four-tenths of a second, which has certainly reset the standard in terms of competition in open-wheel racing.
"By doing this now, we're not going to move the bar forward for the front teams, we're just going to give better opportunities for the teams that have been struggling in the past. I mean, now everyone will have the same specification of engine.
I guess I go back to, again, one of the best things about this announcement is that it very much falls in line with some of the founding principles of Tony George when he founded the IRL and announced in 1994, our first race in January of '96. The fundamental and founding principles that Tony brought to the series, first and foremost, included cost reduction. This is certainly going to play into that. The next one was the availability of equipment. This will be now in a scenario that is much better for everyone to be guaranteed to be getting the same equipment to get on the racetrack and a chance to compete and win.
Kvapil to No. 4 ride? This weeks NASCAR Scene reports that Travis Kvapil, recently released from the #77 Penske Racing team that is taking the year off, is rumored to be a candidate for the #4 Morgan-McClure Motorsports Lucas Oil Chevy ride.
Red Bull Volkswagen? Red Bull Racing may have a deal to run Ferrari engines at the moment, but Dietrich Mateschitz's motorsport interests are becoming increasingly aligned to the German Volkswagen group. Could we see Red Bull Volkswagen in the future?
Volkswagen is the only large German carmaker without a presence in F1. The Volkswagen group is made up of Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Seat, Skoda & VW.
Skoda last week announced its withdrawal from the World Rally Championship, although in reality, they are merely transferring to a Red Bull team. Skoda will still provide cars, development and engineers for the Austrian based BRR team which is financed by Red Bull
It is clear from this that Red Bull has what amounts to a works deal in all but name and that its money is being used to build up Skoda's challenge in the WRC with the possibility that later, if the team is successful. Skoda will return as a factory team - probably still with Red Bull backing.
Red Bull also provide backing to the VW Entry in the Dakar Rally, The SEAT World Touring Car, and the Audi DTM car. VW have often been touted as the most likely manufacturer to enter F1, and the Red Bull links would be the obvious route.
Red Bull would be keen on similar partnership with Volkswagen in F1 which would allow VW to enter F1 using Red Bull money and then take over the program if all went well, while keeping Red Bull on as a sponsor. Sportnetwork
Will Michelin now switch to Champ Car?UPDATE #2 To add a little fuel to the fire about Michelin, they were very close to purchasing the PPG Pace Car team after the company dropped the sponsorship. The deal fell through, though, after CART announced that Bridgestone was going to be the series official tire. 12/14/05 Since 2004 we have been hearing rumors that Michelin has a keen eye on Champ Car because the USA is by far its most lucrative market. With Michelin's announced withdrawal from F1 after 2006, with Champ Car's new car due out in 2007, with speculation that Champ Car may soon have no ovals on their schedule, and with Al Speyer previously saying that Bridgestone would welcome competition, this rumor may have just taken on new life.
Michelin has little oval track experience, which has kept it out of Indy Car racing until now. And their experience at the USGP this year (and last) that saw its tires fail on the high-speed oval part of the track, does not leave the French company with a love for oval racing.
Couple that with the fact Champ Car is now down to one oval, Milwaukee, and Milwaukee's attendance as been dismal at best, the time is ripe for Michelin to jump into Champ Car in 2007.
Many people say a tire war is bad and it drives cost and speeds up because the tire companies want to test a lot. However, if testing remains limited, the tire companies can't keep on changing their tires because no one is going to test them, at least not significantly, because test days will be limited. If the rules state specific tire test dates and venues during pre-season and 2 or 3 times during the year, the number of new compounds that the tire companies will be able to roll out will be limited. This will curb tire development. If the tires must last an entire race, marbles will be limited because the tires will have to be reasonably hard to last the full race distance.
Will the Michelin Man soon do battle with Bridgestone in Champ Car?
11/19/04 Although Michelin will supply 60% of the F1 grid next year, they were left out of a recent meeting at the Heathrow Airport Hilton to discuss the possibility of going to a single tire supplier, and they are not happy about it. Is this a sign that F1 will choose Bridgestone as their sole source supplier? Meanwhile, we keep hearing rumors that Michelin has shown some interest in the Champ Car World Series. With the USA being its biggest market, it's quite possible they will throw their hat in the ring with Champ Car, especially since Champ Car will soon be as "international" as F1, yet deliver a far greater presence in North America. Bridgestone's Al Speyer has gone on record as saying they would welcome a challenge in Champ Car. The question is whether Champ Car is capable of managing a tire war that will result in increased speeds. Given the Champ Cars are too slow, perhaps that is not a bad thing, but marbles caused by soft tires are. Mark C.
Motor Racing coming to Israel Until now, the concept of a grand prix in Israel was sheer fantasy.
Motor racing in the country was all but non-existent thanks to legislation that failed to protect drivers and teams from normal road rules.
But in Jerusalem on Wednesday, parliament green-lighted the 'Sports Drivers Bill' that lifts the obstacles that hinder the development of motor sport in the country.
''It is absolutely crazy that until today Israel was one of only a few countries in the world where racing was forbidden by law,'' politician Ehud Rassabi told The Jerusalem Post.
Israeli rally driver Danny Levy admitted that a F1 track in Tel Aviv is a long term goal, but said 2005 Minardi test driver Chanoch Nissany proved that 'Israel is making a name for itself' on the world's racing stage.
3 into 1 doesn't go Alexander Wurz, Gary Paffett and Lewis Hamilton are all in line for the second testing role at McLaren, alongside Pedro de la Rosa, who already has a contract for 2006. McLaren boss Ron Dennis said that a decision will be made shortly but that all three drivers want to be part of the McLaren team, despite offers from elsewhere. It is believed that all three men have received offers to be the third driver at BMW.
The team implied that the most likely scenario would be Hamilton to race in GP2 and not do any F1 testing until after that series is over before moving into a fulltime testing job in 2007. The team said that it would be funding Hamilton's drive in GP2 and that the youngster could join the champions ART without having to sign a Ferrari option, as was the case this year with Nico Rosberg and Alexandre Premat. Grandprix.com
Hunter-Reay IRL boundUPDATE #2 With Marco Andretti supposedly signing with AGR, Ryan Hunter-Reay won't be driving for them in the IRL. 12/09/05 According to the IndyStar, Ryan Hunter-Reay visited Andretti Green Racing last Thursday. He appears IRL bound and we suspect he will jump at the vacated Dan Wheldon seat. 12/04/05 Rumor has it that Ryan Hunter-Reay has an offer from Andretti Green Racing to run in the IRL in 2006. Although loyal to Champ Car, no one has offered him a decent ride for 2006 after struggling so much in 2005. If this rumor is true, we assume Hunter-Reay will jump at the opportunity to move to the best team in the IRL and into Dan Wheldon's vacated seat, arguably the best seat in the IRL. He'll even have a shot at winning the most coveted prize in open wheel racing, the Indy 500. If true, Champ Car's loss of another American driver is the IRL's gain. If Jimmy Vasser retires, Champ Car will be left with one American (Allmendinger) with not a single win to his name.....as the revolving door of drivers takes with it Hunter-Reay fans.
Intel and BMW It is expected that Intel will sign a major sponsorship deal with the BMW team, having failed to secure a deal with McLaren. The talks with McLaren reached a very advanced stage but in the end it was decided that Vodafone was a better long-term choice for the team and so Intel is believed to have moved on to BMW which is looking for sponsorship for its new factory team. GrandPrix.Com
Two more from Champ Car to drive in Rolex 24UPDATE #2 AutoRacing1.com has learned that Jimmy Vasser and Rocky Moran will be announced today as the two Americans that will team with Alex Gurney for the Rolex 24. 12/14/05 We are hearing this will be an all-American driver lineup. Names to be announced later today. 12/13/05 Rumor has it that GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing will soon announce co-driver Alex Gurney and two drivers with a strong affiliation to the Champ Car World Series as the team’s driver lineup for the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Ferrari to lose Vodafone sponsorshipUPDATE This rumor moves to 'fact' today as it was announced today that Vodafone will be the primary sponsor for McLaren in 2007 and beyond. The Ferrari contract runs through 2006. See Hot News page for announcement. 12/06/05 Vodafone is reviewing its £50m sponsorship of the Ferrari Formula 1 racing team just weeks after it forced an early end to its Manchester United sponsorship.
Although its contract with Ferrari does not expire until the end of 2006, the mobile phone operator is believed to be considering ending the tie early. It follows the team's underperformance this season.
If Vodafone does end the deal it is expected to switch its investment to another team.
A Vodafone spokeswoman confirmed the sponsorship was under review but denied a decision had been made or that it was pulling out of F1. An announcement is expected imminently.
Sato to get nod over Monteiro at 'MF1'? MF1's first formula one car, the M16, will debut during the tests in late January or early February, according to the team's sporting relations manager.
Johnny Herbert, a veteran of 165 grands prix who retired in 2000, insisted that the Silverstone based squad - formerly owned by Eddie Jordan - has designed a totally new car 'from the wheels to the engine'.
But the 41-year-old gave no hints as to why Tiago Monteiro's 2006 race contract has not yet been confirmed, amid renewed speculation that axed Honda driver Takuma Sato is still in the running.
''Soon we will have our second driver confirmed,'' Herbert told f1.com.
He also said: ''We want to be more competitive in 2006 and the all new M16 car is the first step.''
GP Masters plan another series Grand Prix Masters is considering attracting younger drivers by creating a second-tier formula for 35 to 45 year olds, autosport.com reports. The plan is one of a number of different ideas being looked at to add to the on-track entertainment package for the six events planned for 2006.
A GP Masters spokesperson told autosport.com that the idea for a series for younger drivers was being considered: "It is one of a number of ideas in the mix. Although Kyalami was considered a success, we have just dipped our feet into the water are still working on ways to improve both on track and off track entertainment.
"There are plenty of drivers around with nothing to do but are not yet eligible for Grand Prix Masters and a support race formula would be one way of appealing to the younger participant."
Davidson, Sato, Karthikeyan could scramble for Champ Car seatsUPDATE #2 Axed Honda driver Takuma Sato was spotted in Leafield, in central England, last Thursday. The Japanese, a stalwart of the carmaker's participation in F1 since he debuted in a Jordan-Honda in 2002, was visiting the 'Super Aguri' HQ -- home of the former Arrows team.
Like Honda test driver Anthony Davidson, Sato - 28 - is strongly linked to the hopeful Honda 'b' team, even though it is yet to gain an official entry for an '06 debut.
He is not thought to have signed a contract.
Moreover, 'Taku' is not linked with any other role next year, including a test spot at Honda. He negotiated with the Midland-owned 'MF1' team some weeks ago but reportedly missed a deadline to sign a preliminary contract.
Again we repeat, with the future of the Super Aguri team still in doubt and time quickly running out, we still think one or more of these three drivers will scramble for a seat in Champ Car in the 11th hour.
12/13/05 Anthony Davidson's advisors have reportedly told the Honda tester to turn down the offer of a 'Super Aguri' race drive. Hemel Hempstead-born Davidson, 26, is desperate to find the formula one grid after years in the supporting role.
If 'Ant' stays at the Brackley based works team, he is guaranteed the 'Friday' role, which involves driving during practice at grands prix. But team boss Nick Fry has admitted that Honda is contractually obliged to let him leave if offered a race seat.
A source told the Sunday Mirror: ''It would make more sense (for Anthony) to drive ... in 2007 when ... (Super Aguri) is up and running properly.'' 'Aguri' will almost certainly, if granted an entry for 2006, start the year with Arrows' old 2002 car, albeit with Honda engines.
To the Autosport magazine, however, Davidson denied that he will definitely snub the Leafield based Honda 'b' team. ''If an opportunity came along, it would be tempting,'' he said. ''I haven't yet spoken to anybody at Suzuki, but I plan to in the very near future.''
With the future of the Super Aguri team still in doubt and time quickly running out, we still think one or more of these three drivers will scramble for a seat in Champ Car in the 11th hour. And if they do race for the Super Aguri "wanker " team in 2006 - they can kiss their careers goodbye as they will look like moving chicanes on the race track.
12/01/05 Anthony Davidson, Takuma Sato, Narain Karthikeyan, all rumored to be driving for the Super Aguri F1 team in 2006, could soon be scrambling for a ride in Champ Car if the team does not answer the bell for 2006 in F1. Super Aguri is their only shot in F1 now as all the other seats are gone for 2006.
Recall we rumored Anthony Davidson will test a Champ Car if he does not land a F1 ride, and Champ Car would do well to grab Sato for its Japanese race in 2007 and Karthikeyan because the USA has such a large contingent of Indians.
As we said all along, there won't be enough Champ Car seats for the long list of drivers wanting a drive in 2006. What the Champ Car (OWRS) owners are going to have to decide is which drivers fit best into the long-range plans for the series, not their short-term wallet needs. It's time to solidify a solid base of drivers upon which heroes can be made. The revolving door of drivers which Champ Car finds itself currently means that they will never build a fan following as they will revolve in and out through that same door. Mark C.
Top Star Mazda driver to AtlanticsUPDATE This rumor is now 'fact' - see Hot News Page. 12/12/05 AutoRacing1.com has learned that besides Graham Rahal, another top driver from the Star Mazda series in 2005 will be moving up to the Champ Car Atlantic Series in 2006. Check back with AutoRacing1.com as another driver who has shown the skills to be a future star joins the best open wheel development series in the world.
IRL forced to buy TV time nowUPDATE We are downgrading this rumor to 'speculation' and it may soon go to 'false.' The contract before the renewal last year was $15M a year for 5 years. Two sources say that ABC pays for the rights. It is NOT a time buy. However, things most likely will change in 2007 we hear. 12/11/05 While many IRL fans think the IRL is paid by ABC/ESPN to air their race, think again. According to this Charlotte Observer article by David Poole, except for Indy, the IRL buys its TV time just like Champ Car and all the rest of the racing series in the USA, and then sells back the time on their own to try and recoup the cost.
To make matters worse for the IRL, the France family has done a deal with their TV partner for NASCAR that will require ABC/ESPN to pay them huge amounts of money. Hence ABC/ESPN will do everything in their power to promote NASCAR and the IRL will play second fiddle.
Not only is the France family moved to cut off the supply chain of the IRL (grassroots open wheel racing) they have now done a deal to squash them on TV. Oh, and the IRL races at France family tracks are a thing of the past too. It's possible they are going for the IRL's jugular, to bleed it to death and then squash it like a bug as they may be seeking to rid the sport of the fan confusion caused by too many forms of motorsport.
Looking at the strategic maneuvering NASCAR is doing, the IRL is in trouble and the future of open wheel racing in the USA is in serious jeopardy. If Tony George doesn't agree to a 50/50 deal with Champ Car soon to bolster open wheel racing, it could be lights out forever before long.
Mexicans to start NASCAR teamUPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Adal Ramones and Jorge Goeters launched the Latin American Racing Busch Team last Friday which will be running Dodges with Technical and logistical partnership of Akins Motorsports the 38 Great Clips car. Below are photos of the announcement party in Mexico City Friday night.
12/05/05 We have also learned that one of the new team's owners is Adal Ramones, a Mexican TV Star with his own show. 12/05/05 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Jorge and Eduardo Goeters from Mexico are starting a NASCAR Busch team. Jorge Goeters (right) ran some Busch and Cup races in '05, the highlight being the pole in Mexico , 9th in Watkins Glen, and the first Mexican in many years in Cup at Watkins Glen. They are starting their own Busch Team which will run selected or a full '06 Season in Busch and possibly the two Cup road course races. Look for a formal announcement this weekend.
Kvapil to PPI Travis Kvapil recently received his release from #77 Penske Racing, but he is not expected to be out of work for long. Kvapil, 29, is the latest candidate for the #32 PPI Motorsports ride. Bobby Hamilton Jr. has not been re-signed. Sporting News
F3 star Ryan Lewis eyes Atlantics Ryan Lewis returned to the UK this weekend after an exciting two-week trip to the United States to try his hand at Formula Atlantic racing. The 2004 British F3 Scholarship Champion is eager to move upwards in his single-seater career and believes that America offers the best chance of progression.
Ryan's first taste of a Formula Atlantic car came at Buttonwillow Raceway in California, where the 21-year-old drove for the Conquest Racing Team. Despite a few technical problems Ryan was immediately on the pace and earned praise from Team Principal, Eric Bachelart.
“Ryan did a really good job in varying and deteriorating track conditions,” said Bachelart after the test. “I was greatly impressed by his level of professionalism and the way he integrated with the entire team. If he comes to the Atlantic series in 2006 he is definitely going to be a strong contender.”
Staying on at Buttonwillow, Ryan then began testing for the Brooks team. Again he was on the pace straight away. He had to share a car on the second day due to technical problems but still managed 60 laps and finished the day as the fastest driver. John Brooks, Brooks Associate Racing, Team Principal commented:
“It was good to work with Ryan; he is quick, professional and will be a great asset to any Atlantic team in 2006. His European race background will make him quick from the word go.”
“Formula Atlantic is my best opportunity to go forward as it seems to me that the ladder is much shorter,” said Ryan on his return home. “If I stay in Europe then I have to go to the World Series or GP2 and stay there for at least two years; but if I do well in Atlantics the opportunity is there to progress very quickly to Champ Car. The cars are fun to drive; they are different to F3 cars in that they have a different aerodynamic set-up. They are ground effect cars and therefore pitch sensitive. The trick is to keep the car as flat as possible but once you master that it's ok. I hope we can get the right deal done as I think I'll enjoy America. The quality of life is good, Atlantics looks like just the challenge I need and I'm motivated to make a success of it.”
News of Ryan Lewis' destination for 2006 will be announced soon.
Schumacher after life at Ferrari Christian Horner has giggled at suggestions that Michael Schumacher's is the next name on the Red Bull Racing wish list.
After Red Bull acquired Schumacher's equivalent in the engineering world - Adrian Newey - Horner, the team's F1 boss, was asked whether a certain seven time champion might ever find himself in a switch from red to blue.
Curiously, he offered no denials.
''It would all depend on (Schumacher's) motivation and if the timing was right,'' Horner said.
He added: ''It's a difficult question to answer.''
36-year-old Schumacher, yet to decide what to do after his Ferrari contract expires at the end of next year, was earlier linked with a possible switch to McLaren-Mercedes.
Red Bull's senior team, meanwhile, will launch into the 2006 season with an old Schumacher-foe - David Coulthard - at the wheel, and young Austrian Christian Klien.
''Our focus is on our current drivers for the time being,'' Christian Horner added. ''We're happy with them and will evaluate things as they evolve.''
Honda is F1's big spender Japan's Honda spent more money on F1 this year than any other carmaker.
That is the information of 'BusinessF1' magazine, which claimed that a gigantic budget totaling (US) $560 million was splashed out on the Brackley based BAR-Honda team.
It must be remembered, however, that Honda recently acquired 100 per cent of its now eponymous grand prix outfit.
Major expenditure on a new state of the art wind tunnel would also account for a chunk of the more than half-billion dollar figure, and Honda reportedly also chipped in to help Jenson Button buy his way out of a Williams deal.
In a more normal year, Honda would have spent about $250 million in 2005, followed closely by Mercedes ($236m) and Toyota ($212m). BMW ploughed in $160 million, while Renault won both drivers' and constructors' titles by spending just $113m.
These figures are estimated based on what the car manufacturer, rather than what the team on a whole, spent.
It is therefore less astonishing that Fiat spent a mere $10 million on Ferrari's F1 program this year. Maranello's real budget is pumped up by huge sponsors including Vodafone and Marlboro, with the latter paying Michael Schumacher's salary.
CVC eyes McNally's F1 empire When it comes to taking control of formula one, 'CVC' will not stop at 100 per cent ownership, according to reports.
After snapping up 86 per cent, courtesy of two banks and Bernie Ecclestone's shares, it is known that the British company is now in talks to take the final 14 per cent from an American bank.
But 'The Business Online' publication says CVC is also negotiating with Paddy McNally about buying F1's lucrative trackside advertising rights. It would involve the total sale of his 'Allsport Management' company.
Allsport also owns the Paddock Club, which offers high price corporate hospitality at all grands prix.
Sources said McNally's business is worth at least $1bn. Interestingly, he refused to sell the company in 2002.
''(CVC) will wait to secure its ownership in the core F1 business before it makes a formal bid,'' Business Online said.
NBA compete for rights to Chinese team If Champ Car has any hopes of racing successfully in China, it is going to have to do some PR work in China, get its races on Chinese TV starting in 2006, and get a Chinese driver in the series soon. Perhaps they will take an idea being tried by the NBA as that league looks to make inroads into the lucrative Chinese market.
Competition for the marketing rights to China's men's national basketball team is heating up between the NBA and Switzerland's Infront Sports & Media. At stake is the right to arrange competition and events for the Chinese men's national team, along with control of sponsorship and merchandising opportunities.
The deal, which leads up to the 2008 Beijing Games is a key opportunity to tap into the vast but unproven Chinese basketball market. Landing the men's national team would play directly into the NBA's plans to expand its international footprint. Chinese interest in USA basketball is fueled by Yao Ming's success with the Houston Rockets in the NBA.
"Whoever gets the business will be able to position themselves for the future," said Bruce O'Neil, president of the US National Basketball Academy. "The NBA would be able to control the schedule of events and sponsorships leading up to the Olympics, and then they'd be in the driver's seat after the Games. It could pay huge dividends down the road."
It will be interesting to see if Champ Car leverages a sponsorship role in the Olympics to increase awareness of Champ Car in Beijing ahead of a possible race in the fall of 2008 on the Summer Olympic site. Ahead of the Champ Car's going to China, introducing a Champ Car Atlantics Series in China using the existing leftover Atlantic cars (see other rumor) is somewhat analogous to the NBA's idea with the China men's basketball team.
NASCAR oval to be built in Canada by '08 With NASCAR officials talking about expanding into Canada, a group of Canadian investors and developers is looking to build a race track on what is now a Fort Erie golf course in Ontario, Canada.
"We've been working at this for about 15 months," James Thibert, general manager of the Fort Erie Economic Development & Tourism Corp., said this week.
A group of investors has an option on an almost 1,000-acre site that includes the International Country Club in Stevensville, Thibert said. The proposed seven-eighths of a mile track would have seating for as many as 65,000 spectators.
"It's perfect because it's very close to the [Queen Elizabeth Way]. It's got entrance ramps to it [at Netherby Road]," Thibert said. "Not a lot of residential development around."
NASCAR ventured across the border earlier this year for a Busch Series race in Mexico City.
"I'd love to see us in Canada," driver Jeff Gordon later was quoted in an Associated Press report. "Staying in North America is extremely important. Canada seems like the next natural place."
Last year, NASCAR and TSN, a division of Bell Globalmedia, formed NASCAR Canada. A news release from TSN, which has been broadcasting NASCAR since the network was established more than 20 years ago, says NASCAR is the top-rated motor sport on Canadian television.
Completion is projected for late 2008. "It's not that far away," Thibert said.
"We have to finalize the development of the team that puts this all together," he said. The bureaucratic process will follow designation of the principal developer.
But Thibert said he is confident the proposal will work, saying the question isn't "if" but how quickly. Buffalo News
Coast Guard to sponsor Harvick It appears Richard Childress Racing has secured sponsorship to help its Nextel Cup driver, Kevin Harvick, run the entire NASCAR Busch Series schedule in 2006 as well. RCR is expected to sign the Coast Guard as sponsor of its No. 21 Chevrolet next season, sources confirmed Sunday. RCR also plans to hire Shane Wilson as the team's crew chief, sources said. Wilson spent the past two seasons as crew chief of Penske Racing South's No. 77 Dodge in the Cup series. Penske has shut down the team. ThatsRacin.com
Legge sponsor for 2006 Word on the street is that Don Listwin's Canary Fund has shown an interest in sponsoring Katherine Legge in 2006. Our source thinks it's for the Atlantic's series. If she moves up to Champ Car in 2006, then perhaps The Canary Fund will become an associate sponsor. We think she will drive in Atlantics one more year, however.
Atlantic team eyes Champ CarUPDATE We can confirm that Polestar has ordered two new Swift Atlantic cars, and they have hired an architect to design a new shop. We suspect the goal is to have the new shop built and ready in time for their planned move up to Champ Car. Our original source said they would move up in 2007, but more recently we're hearing it may not be until 2008. 11/14/05 Look for Polestar to run a 2-car Atlantic program in 2006, where Katherine Legge will be one of the drivers if she does not move up to Champ Car one year early. We also hear from reliable sources that the team is looking to move up to a Champ Car program in 2007. Mark C.
With new engine Toyota further aligns with Oval Track Cartel There is no secret that the France family is getting its fingers in all aspect of oval track racing as it looks to cement its monopoly on oval track motorsports in the USA. Increasingly the France family is working to have the short track open wheel drivers across the USA to aspire to stock cars, not Indy Cars. Tony George has already lost that war and his Road to Indy hat campaign from years ago is just a fleeting memory. Tony George has been totally snookered into thinking NASCAR and the France family were an ally when all along the stock car boys were making inroads into the grassroots fabric of open wheel racing and cutting off the legs of the IRL's feeder system.
Toyota, which has thrown its hat in the ring with the France family in NASCAR and Grand-Am, while abandoning CART and then the IRL, has made another step, this time into the grassroots’ open wheel market.
At the Performance Racing Industry show last week its new four-cylinder USAC midget engine was introduced. The 166-cubic-inch pushrod engine was displayed on the TRD (Toyota Racing Development) booth in a Beast chassis owned by Steve Lewis, who has abandoned Ford power to run the new car in his midget team.
And Toyota is now positioning itself to dominate the open wheel grassroots ranks as it tries to shed its Japanese image and become, at least appearance wise, and American company. It's strategically positioning itself to be accepted by the American oval track race fans when it makes its step into the top series of NASCAR.
"This is our first step into grass roots oval racing," said Gary Reed, TRD's vice president of special projects. "I would like to see us in sprint cars, in Silver Crown and in regional NASCAR programs." Recall that USAC is pushing for the new Silver Crown superspeedway car so they can race on France family owned (ISC) oval tracks against the team owners wishes. USAC, not the IRL, is aligning itself with NASCAR. Tony George and the IRL have been cast aside, whether they realize it yet or not.
Lewis added: "It's no secret that we would eventually like to be in Busch and Nextel Cup."
Rumors are that Toyota will announce a timetable to enter NASCAR's Busch and Nextel Cup series later in December, thereby fully engaging itself in the France family's monopolization of oval track racing in the USA.
Cosworth V8 first to crack 20,000 RPM barrier Cosworth claims to have made history by becoming the first manufacturer to have broken the 20,000rpm limit on track. According to a report in this week's Autosport, Cosworth ran its new CA-2006 V8 engine to a new rev record during testing with Williams at the recent Barcelona test - and it has now set its sights on reaching 21,000rpm before the end of next season.
Alex Hitzinger, Cosworth's head of F1 development, said: "We had to be prepared to move the benchmark again in 2006 and 20,000rpm was our target. "We don't plan to run the engine to 20,000rpm as a matter of course, but it will be available to us."
New Crew Chief for No. 21 Jayski reports hearing that David Hyder will be the new crew chief for the #21 Wood Brothers team and driver Ken Schrader. Hyder comes over from the #49 BAM Racing team which Schrader drove for in 2005. Ron Otto was recently named the crew chief for the #49 car. Former #21 crew chief, Michael 'Fatback' McSwain will take on a Team Manager/General Manager type role.
Earnhardt breaks arm?UPDATE We are told Earnhardt does not have any fractures of his left arm. Supposedly he had a minor procedure done to remove calcium build-up in his wrist. It's a chronic condition he's had for several years, and apparently decided to have it taken care of Friday morning. Or maybe he decided to punch a hole in a wall and no one wants to admit it.12/10/05 Dale Earnhardt Jr. showed up at the Busch Series Awards banquet recently with his left wrist in a cast. There has been no news of how he broke it, or whether it was an operation to correct a nagging ailment.
It's surprising that with the media frenzy that surrounds NASCAR, no one seems to know what happened to Junior. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Forsythe eyes Atlantics teamUPDATE Here is a list of 26 teams that are hoping to field 1 or 2 cars in the 2006 Atlantics series. Imagine if each team ran two cars, that would be a 52-car field. If the rest of the Champ Car teams were smart they would partner up with some of the teams on the list. Given this, it's looking like 40-car fields in Atlantics next year could be quite common - - very NASCAR-like. 12/10/05 Word on the street is that Forsythe Racing is eyeing an entry into the ever-popular Champ Car Atlantics Series in 2006 and have hired an ex-Barber Dodge manager to oversee the effort. If true they will be the 4th such team to do so behind Team Australia, Mi-Jack Conquest Racing and Paul Newman. The advantages to having such a program are enormous. Besides being a training ground for mechanics, engineers and drivers, it also enables a team owner who is talking to a driver with partial funding for a Champ Car program, to offer a ride in Atlantics until enough additional sponsorship is found to fund a full Champ Car effort.
Soon it will be too late for the teams who have not committed to an Atlantics program. With 40 cars on order already, at some point Champ Car will have to cap the grid size.
Penske Racing to pull plug on UK factory With little chassis development allowed in the IRL, look for Penske Racing to possibly pull the plug on its Poole, England factory. We suspect some race team in the UK will acquire the shop and personnel if it goes on the block.
The shop's real claim to fame is the Penske Champ Car Reynard chassis (dubbed the Reynske), which was superior to the factory Reynard chassis. The factory made some great cars in the Rick Mears days, but then had some very lean years where its cars were inferior to Lola and Reynard.
PDM switches from IRL to USAC Silver Crown Long time IRL campaigners PDM Racing are rumored to have given up on the IRL IndyCar Series and will instead focus on the prestigious USAC Silver Crown series in 2006 with driver Aaron Pierce.
Future of Trans-Am Series in doubt Trans-Am star Randy Ruhlman was testing a Daytona Prototype car at Miami-Homestead Speedway, and had this to say:
"I have always loved driving in the Trans-Am series and we had a great season in 2005, coming just short of winning the Driver's Championship. Last week while we were in South Africa, the opportunity came up for me to drive at this Grand-Am DP test here at Homestead. Now, as we are coming to find out down here, the future of Trans-Am has become increasingly questionable. "
Paul Gentilozzi told AutoRacing1.com in Mexico City that he was still trying to work deals to continue with the series, though he was looking at possibly merging with the SPEED World Challenge Series, which would make a lot of sense. Divided, both series are weak, united they would be far stronger.
AGR keeps Wheldon's number Perhaps out of spite, perhaps not, the Andretti Green team has kept the No. 1 that went to Dan Wheldon as this year's IRL champion. Wheldon will, therefore, drive the No. 10 car for Ganassi in 2006.
Carpentier’s ride for 2006 still up in air According to this article by Patrick Carpentier he says he has just begun with training for next year last week because he might participate in Rolex 24 with Eddie Cheever's Grand-Am team. He said there might be tests at the end of December or at the beginning of January, he'll see...
He also says that besides IRL teams he was also contacted by some Champ Car teams but nothing serious. "I would be glad to return to Champ Car because they have three races in Canada" (at the time of the races in Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton.) He said before Christmas nothing will be finalized and where he drives all depends on Mécachrome who own his contract. They are trying hard to find him a ride in 2006. He had a one-year contract with Cheever, which is expired, and one more year left on his Mecachrome contract.
Monteiro lands 2nd Midland F1 seat?UPDATE #3 Portuguese driver Tiago Monteiro is not yet all signed up to race for Midland's 'MF1' team next year.
A spokeswoman for the Northamptonshire based grand prix outfit insisted on Friday that, although the FIA published the 28-year-old's name on the official entry list, the Monteiro deal is 'still not completely finalized'.
''We have an option on Tiago,'' she explained, ''and that is why the FIA listed him.'' The Midland spokeswoman also told us: ''But until such time as everything is fully resolved, we will not be making an official announcement.''
Monteiro will test alongside confirmed '06 driver Christijan Albers at Jerez on Friday.
11/15/05 MF1 Racing's press release letterhead today was quite revealing - Gone are Narain Karthikeyan's main sponsors (Tata, Speed), but still displayed are Galp and the 'Portugal' logo, indicating that Tiago Monteiro has indeed signed to drive alongside Christijan Albers. 11/11/05 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. See Hot News page for details. Our F1 Silly Season page above has been updated. 11/07/05 Portuguese sports newspaper Record reports that Tiago Monteiro has already signed with Midland F1 to be the squad’s second race driver alongside Dutchman Christijan Albers in the 2006 season. This of course means Indian Narain Karthikeyan is out of a ride. We have updated our 2005 F1 Silly Season page above.
Marques to ink F1 dealUPDATE Suddenly, former Minardi racer Tarso Marques' claim that he is on the way back to formula one does not seem so odd.
The 29-year-old pay-driver said last week that - after racing in 1997 and 2001 - he was on the verge of returning to the pinnacle of motor sport.
At the time, he said he would test in 2006 'and race in 2007'.
Moreover, speculation insisted that the 26-grand prix veteran was always bound for Midland, even if 'MF1' appeared to have tied up the lineup.
But now, with Nicky Pastorelli likely to lose his 'Friday' ride because a sponsor pulled out, Marques told the Brazilian 'Grande Premio' website that he had already signed a preliminary contract.
''They called me,'' the Brazilian added, ''and asked me if I wanted the seat. I'm now standing by -- I wish things could be resolved quickly so I can already test.''
11/29/05 According to this Brazilian website, part-time Champ Car driver Tarso Marques will soon announce a deal in F1 to test in 2006 and race in 2007.
The 29-year-old, who bought pay-drives at the Faenza team in 1997 and 2001, has reportedly turned down a full time ride in the Brazilian Stock Car series because of a successful bid to return to F1.
''I'm waiting to announce a formula one contract ... this week,'' he was quoted as telling the 'Formulanews' website.
Tarso Marques, from Curitiba (Brazil), last raced competitively in a one-off Champ Car ride this year. He claims his new F1 contract is to test in 2006 'and race in 2007'.
Vacant test rides at Williams, BMW Sauber, BAR-Honda and even Toro Rosso are considered unlikely for Marques. Speculation is therefore strongest that the 26-grand prix veteran is Midland-bound, even if the Russian team appears to have already locked out its lineup.
It should also be noted that Marques' father's Stock Car team is sponsored by Petrobras -- a Williams backer.
Pastorelli to lose MF1 seatUPDATE #2 Nicky Pastorelli has admitted he could lose his 'Friday' job at MF1 after a backer pulled out. The Dutchman, 22, phoned the Midland-owned team's F1 boss, Colin Kolles, with the bad news.
''Maybe there is a way to solve this problem shortly, but maybe not,'' he said on Thursday.
Pastorelli was scheduled to test for the Silverstone based team at Jerez this week. But he added: ''I won't burden (them) unnecessarily if it is not clear whether there is a future for me with (the team).''
In the event that Pastorelli loses his seat, 2005 'Friday' driver Nicolas Kiesa was thought the most likely stand-in.
But former Minardi racer Tarso Marques told 'Grande Premio' on Thursday that he has already been offered the ride.
12/08/05 Tarso Marques and Fabrizio Del Monte are both rumored to be testing for the team in the near future to replace Pastorelli. Recall Tarso's recent remarks about having an F1 ride soon. 12/08/05 Nicky Pastorelli, although already confirmed in the 'Friday' role, could lose his 2006 seat at Midland's 'MF1' squad.
It is understood that the Dutchman's contract is on the verge of being declared null and void because one of his major sponsors has pulled out.
A source explained that, with his financial situation so unsteady, Pastorelli has been told not to travel to Jerez for Midland's maiden winter test.
''It is true,'' said a source close to the 22-year-old driver, ''one of Nicky's sponsors decided to go. He will not do the Spanish tests.''
Although a few hopefuls will test for the Alex Shnaider-owned team this week, the most likely replacement for pay-driver Pastorelli would be Denmark's Nicolas Kiesa, who drove the third Jordan in '05.
Pastorelli was in line for the Eurointernational Champ Car ride before he decided to go to F1 and pay a lot more money for a Friday drive. This development could see him back eyeing Champ Car again.
Honda: Everyone must pay except AGRUPDATE Also hearing that Danica Patrick will get free Honda engines, or at least substantial financial support, in 2006. We also hear that an associate sponsor has left Danica's car and the IRL, and will go with Graham Rahal to the Champ Car Atlantics series in 2006. 12/08/05 The rumor in IRL circles is that supposedly Honda has told its teams that they will not be giving free engines to anyone except AGR next year. Everyone else may have to pay the $1.5 million lease per car. If true, we wonder if AGR's Hondas will also have the latest trick pieces that the others will get later.
A1GP grid expected to increase According to Sheik Maktoum, six young drivers are already being groomed to be part of A1 Team Dubai in the 2006/07 campaign. A total of five new franchises are set to become available by this season’s end, expanding the series’ grid to a total of 30 entries.
Haberfeld eyes Grand-Am Former Champ Car regular Mario Haberfeld (pictured below right)joined the Tuttle Team Racing/Samax Daytona Prototype squad for this week's big Grand-Am test at the Homestead-Miami Speedway road course. Belgian born Marc Goossens was also present alongside Haberfeld and team boss Brian Tuttle for the test. Also joining the team for the session was engineer Buddy Fey, who formerly worked in the series with Jim Matthews Racing.
The real reason the IRL shortened its season? Rumor in the IRL circles is that the real reason the IRL shortened their season was because ABC wanted the end of the NASCAR season (recently announced) and didn’t want competition for the “Chase” that they are now televising. We hear ESPN would not give IRL the best times because they indicated there was no availability, but we guess they have suddenly found availability for the Busch Series.
With ABC/ESPN having to pay NASCAR so much money for their TV rights, they will put all their efforts in marketing around NASCAR to get as high a rating for those NASCAR races they can, and totally neglect the IRL races because every advertiser for an IRL race is one less for their NASCAR races, which require a lot of revenue to pay NASCAR. In effect, NASCAR with this deal, have hammered another nail in open wheel's coffin, in particular the IRL. We would not want to be in the IRL's shoes right now. With Toyota and Chevy gone, who is going to buy all those now vacant TV ad slots?
Honda eyes Piquet The word in Brazil is that Nelson Piquet Jr could be seen in 2006 as the second test driver of Honda Racing F1. The team has confirmed drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello and it is clear that Anthony Davidson will be the third driver once again. However the word in Sao Paulo is that Nelson Piquet Sr wants his son to get some F1 testing mileage and that there may be a backer to get Nelson Jr into the car. Honda sources are not denying the possibility but they say that there is no money involved. Such a decision would be rather odd given that the team has Adam Carroll, James Rossiter, Danilo Dirani and Alan Van der Merwe under contract. Grandprix.com
Craven back to No. 32 Already having turned down what he termed "intriguing offers" to fill full-time rides in Busch and Truck, Ricky Craven's plan is essentially to sit on the sidelines and wait for temporary openings to appear in the Nextel Cup circuit next season. The goal is to impress owners in whatever limited opportunities he has, thereby putting himself in position to secure a permanent seat in 2007. There's an outside chance Craven could return to the Nextel Cup circuit with former boss Cal Wells for the coming season. Talks with the PPI Motorsports team continue, though it's getting late in Silly Season and circumstances would need to change for that offer to be acceptable. Craven is interested in signing a one-year deal with a competitive, multi-car operation that will give him a crack at achieving the coveted win that drives his determination to this day: victory at New Hampshire International Speedway. And he's confident that opportunity will come along. "I absolutely believe I'll be racing again, and I expect to race Nextel Cup," Craven said. "I just don't know where, or when, or who it will be with. At this time it doesn't appear it's going to be full-time in 2006, and I'm okay with that."
Wells and Craven parted ways prior to the finish of 2004, but the driver would not deny that it is Wells with whom he is currently negotiating his Cup return. As the only driver in the past five years to win as part of a single-car team, Craven said after the split he would return only to a multi-car outfit. He intends to honor that statement -and it could be part of a PPI expansion. "The fact is, Cal and I have had discussions," said Craven, who has raced for eight owners in parts of 11 Cup seasons. "Cal is a friend, and although the circumstances in 2004 were uncomfortable for both of us, we'd certainly entertain racing together again. Part of my criteria is that he become a bigger company, because that is key in all of us having success together. He certainly is headed in that direction. He's working hard to build his race team and his company, and I'm not sure that's going to happen, but I wouldn't rule out racing with the Tide team again. We've had discussions, but we're not there. I think it's a stretch to think that could happen right now." It is expected that Bobby Hamilton Jr., who replaced Craven, will be out of the #32 Tide car next season after he finished 36th, but the point is fast approaching when it will be too tough to start a second team in time for the season opener at Daytona in February. Concord Monitor
Sam Schmidt to enter Atlantics Rumor has it that IRL stalwart Sam Schmidt and his Sam Schmidt Motorsports organization, who fielded at times what seemed like half of the IPS field in 2005, has put a deposit on a new Champ Car Atlantic chassis. One of the drivers that Schmidt manages is Jay Howard, who you have read a lot about on these pages. We asked whether he was the next Ayrton Senna. Might Schmidt see that $2 million carrot to the Atlantic champion hanging out there, and knowing Howard's apparent talent, think they can win that the $2 million prize in a walk and take Howard to Champ Car with it in 2007?
35+ car Atlantic grids expectedUPDATE Q. Steve Johnson (Champ Car President), do you project a size of the Atlantic field for next year, the number of entries?
STEVE JOHNSON: Upper 30s.
Q. Upper 30s?
STEVE JOHNSON: Yes. That's anything 35 and above. There's been like 40 plus chassis sold. It depends. You could have anywhere from 30 to that many. That's a good number to shoot for. [Editor's Note: Backup cars are not allowed, so theoretically all 40+ cars can try to qualify - a NASCAR size field.]
12/06/05 "One of the things we're going to have to very carefully monitor in the first few races is track support," Cosworth's Bruce Wood said to ChampCar.ws. "Obviously from the financial perspective there will be very limited track support. Currently we're looking at four people for the whole field, but the size of the field is a lot bigger than when we started. Originally we were planning for a twenty-car field. Now we're expecting thirty-two cars and up to as many as thirty-six. "At all the races we'll have the sixteen people involved in the Champ Car track support program and, depending on schedules, they'll be able to help out on Atlantic. But we will have four dedicated Atlantic people and we'll have to observe at the first few races to see if that's the right number."
Penske South to drop team - For 1 yearUPDATE #4 Eastman Kodak Co. has asked Penske Racing South for a one-year hiatus of its primary sponsorship of the No. 77 Dodge to allow the organization "to field a more competitive team," a company spokesman confirmed Wednesday night. "We have asked Penske to take a year off, come back to us with a plan to field a Nextel Cup program that is more competitive in 2007," said David Kassnoff, manager of communications and public relations for Eastman Kodak.
"Penske has three teams, two of which made the Chase for the Championship this season. So, you know the ingredients are there to be successful. "We would like to see a similar competitive level from the No. 77." ThatsRacin.com
12/05/05 Despite repeated denials from Penske Racing, Kodak is pulling its sponsorship, and the #77 team is being dismantled. This is a sticky situation because Doug Bawel entered into a partnership with Penske Racing two seasons ago, and now he's on the outside looking in. The move comes on the heels of a major restructuring at Penske's Mooresville, N.C.-based campus. Sporting News11/29/05 This rumor goes from 'false' to 'true' in one fell swoop as the #77 team was shut down today after Kodak decided to not renew. 11/17/05 According to Jayski, he was told today that this rumor is not true and that Penske managed to keep Kodak. 11/16/05 Rumor has it that Penske Racing South with drop the #77 Kodak team at the end of the 2005 season because Kodak is leaving as a sponsor.
Mi-Jack Conquest team to run two PhilippesUPDATE #3 After announcing Graham Rahal as one of his Atlantic drivers for 2006, team owner Eric Bachelart said he will run a 2nd car in 2006 and we're willing to bet it will be Richard Philippe.
Q. Eric, do you intend to campaign two Atlantic cars next year? If so, when do you expect to announce the second driver?
ERIC BACHELART: Yes, we do expect to run a second car. We're working on the second driver. We have done a test last week in California, evaluating one driver over there. We are in contact with quite a few. We want to have a second driver that is going to be hopefully the same talent as Graham so we can have a good stimulation between both drivers, keep on building a very strong team. It would be good if, again, we can have two drivers of similar talent. I think it's going to be a good help.
11/23/05 In what is old news to AutoRacing1.com readers, but perhaps new news to readers of other publications, Richard Philippe tells SPEEDTV.com:
Q: The logical path for 2006 seems to be the new Atlantic series then - will that be with Conquest or somebody else?
“That is completely open right now. We’ll try and test with everybody we can to see how I like each team, because knowing who you’ll be working with is very, very important. Hopefully we’ll be able to decide after the test with all Atlantic teams, on December 6-7 at Buttonwillow.”
Q: As for Champ Car in ‘07...
“Yeah… It all depends on how next year goes though. In a way I’m coming in with perfect timing, because it will be a new Atlantic car next season with everybody starting from zero, then an all-new Champ Car in ‘07 again with everybody starting from zero. So I honestly think it’s possible for us to win the Atlantic title in ‘06 and be in Champ Car in ‘07.”
09/15/05 We hear Richard Philippe's manager is currently speaking to a couple of Champ Car Atlantic teams. Rumor has it that Sierra Sierra might be doing a shootout of a couple of drivers, and we hear Philippe might have a go at that if it happens. From our spies at Conquest Racing and Brooks Associates comes word Philippe's manager has been in talks with both teams. We hear Philippe will be testing the existing Atlantic car after his last round of Formula BMW world run-off pitting the best Formula BMW drivers from around the world later this year. As we told you, keep your eye on this guy, he's good. 08/13/05 AutoRacing1.com has learned that the Mi-Jack Conquest team has ordered two new Formula Atlantic cars for 2006. Speculation is that team boss Eric Bachelart will run Formula BMW standout Richard Philippe who is looking to move up in 2006. Richard (right) is the younger 16-year old brother of Champ Car driver Nelson Philippe who also drives for Mi-Jack Conquest. Might we see both Philippe brothers being teammates in Champ Car in 2007?
“We have put a deposit down on two Atlantic cars, and are looking forward to the opportunity to join the Atlantic series in 2006,” said Bachelart. “With a spec engine and chassis rules package, the competition should be very close, and competing in the series will help us create a ladder within the team for drivers, mechanics, and engineers to get experience and prove themselves before they move up, as we continue to develop and grow our Champ Car operation.”
Richard won the pole position for round 11 of the Formula BMW Series on Friday in Denver. He has won the most pole positions of any driver this year and is 2nd in points not far behind first place. See related rumor on Richard Philippe from two weeks ago.
Champ Car closes on sponsor for Atlantics series In today's Champ Car Atlantic Teleconference, Champ Car President Steve Johnson was asked about the status of a sponsor to replace Toyota for the Atlantics series.
Q. Steve, what is the current status of a sponsor for Atlantics? Do you expect to have one for this season?
STEVE JOHNSON: Actually, we had meetings this week on that. I know if I say yes, I'll end up jinxing it. But we're working closely with a sponsor to replace Toyota, and feel good about the progress that we've made.
Rahal to drive for Mi-Jack/ConquestUPDATE This rumor is now 'fact' with today's announcement. 12/06/05 Look for Graham Rahal to be announced as a driver for the new Mi-Jack Conquest Racing Champ Car Atlantic team on Wednesday. If they run a 2nd car we expect it will be for Richard Philippe.
The Zwolsman name in HollandUPDATE AutoRacing1.com is told that it is the younger Zwolsman's father (below, right), who has been out of jail on and off for years and is one of the first big drug lords in Holland. Again we know why the son has fled Holland for the USA. We have to feel sorry for his son, having to live with a father like that, and having to carry the weight of that baggage on his shoulders. This should not be held against the son, who has no involvement whatsoever. 12/07/05 Champ Car Atlantic champion Charles Zwolsman, from Holland, shares the same name (different person) with a Charles Zwolsman in Holland. Born in 1955, that Charles Zwolsman is one of the biggest drug dealers in the world (source). Maybe that's why the young Zwolsman has left Holland and moved to the USA to race, to stay clear of the name confusion.
Todd Parrott Toyota bound?UPDATE This rumor is now 'false' with today's news that Parrott signed with Petty. See Hot News page. 12/05/05 Todd Parrott, recently fired by Robert Yates Racing, won't be unemployed for long--he's weighing the options on two crew chief offers and a Toyota research and development role. Sporting News [Editor's Note: Will Parrott take many of Ford's secrets to Toyota? Ouch!]
Champ Car drivers eye Rolex 24 rideUPDATE #2 We are told the Ganassi car had only Telmex on it because it still had its paint scheme from the season-ending Mexico City race where Telmex sponsored the car. Look for CompUSA to be back on the car in 2006. 12/05/05 Photos from today's testing at Homestead courtesy of our partners South Florida Motorsports. Officially Tracy is just testing and hasn't signed on with any team. The Ganassi Cars are sponsored by Telmex. The only sign of Target is on some of the crews shirts.
(L to R) Cheever's new Crawford Lexus, The Rahals, Paul Tracy, Tracy's car, Ganassi Telmex car
Silver Crown Cars
12/05/05 Seen testing a Grand-Am prototype car today in Homestead were Champ Car regulars Paul Tracy (driving this time for Andy Wallace) and RuSPORT drivers AJ Allmendinger and Justin Wilson. Ryan Briscoe is testing with the SunTrust team, last year's winners. We assume it is in anticipation for a Rolex 24 ride in January where 40 prototypes are expected (at 3 drivers each that's 120 drivers needed). The Grand-Am cars have the track today and tomorrow.
Also on hand are Ryan Hunter-Reay, Bobby and Graham Rahal (Bobby is watching his son test a GT2 Porsche), Eddie Cheever with his new Grand-Am Daytona Prototype team and Leonardo Maia who is still looking for a ride in Champ Car or Grand-Am after dominating the last year of the Barber Dodge Pro Series. The Honda IRL trailer is parked here, we assume for an upcoming IRL test, and the new USAC Silver Crown superspeedway cars. Mark C.
Money just shows up at the door We hear that some Grand-Am team owners have never met anyone from their sponsor.....the check just shows up in the mailbox every month. While everyone involved is pretty hush-hush about it, it seems the powerful France family may be leveraging their influence with many of its NASCAR sponsors to throw a bone the way of various Grand-Am teams. If true, it explains why new Grand-Am teams pop up out of nowhere all the time. "There're a dime a dozen" quipped one source.
Sorenson won't ride in a helicopter again Ganassi Racing's rookie driver Reed Sorenson was waiting to board one of the two helicopters that crashed at the Homestead helipad after the race. “I was the next one in line to go,” he told Chris Economaki. “I saw them hit. One went straight down and the other tried to land in the grass nearby. I took off running because I thought parts were going everywhere.” After finishing 28th in a one-off drive for car-owner James Finch, Sorenson said, “After seeing that I don’t think I’ll ever fly in a helicopter again.”
NASCAR making inroads into FIA Those who doubt NASCAR's drive to eventually dominate the world of motorsports globally, and displace F1 as the most popular form of motorsports, need look no further than the behind the scenes maneuvering being done. One example is John Joseph Cassidy, NASCAR’s Washington-based attorney, being named by the FIA to its high appeals court as a judge. Cassidy recently visited Europe in connection with this new international racing responsibility. Once there's a crack in the dam......
Red Bull ’B’ team to get major boostUPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' with today's statement (see Hot News page) that the Scuderia Torro Rosso will build their own new car for 2006. 11/22/05 Sources tell us that the Red Bull Cosworth car will be VERY SIMILAR to the Red Bull Ferrari car in 2006, with just enough design changes (flip-ups, barge boards, exhaust chimneys, etc.) to satisfy the FIA rules - just like Sauber did with Ferrari.
The F1 minnow Minardi team suffered for many years at the back of the grid. If the V10 Cosworth has enough HP in 2006, the Red Bull Cosworth (Scuderia Toro Rosso) may surprise some folks in 2006.
Karthikeyan and ’Super Aguri’ or WilliamsUPDATE #2 With today's announcement that Karthikeyan will be testing for Williams, it supports the notion that Super Aguri may never see the light of day, though career-wise, Williams would be much better than Super Aguri. 11/23/05 Hearing again that Karthikeyan (pictured right) will sign with Aguri, and we believe it will be as their third driver, assuring the end of his career. If he does land a regular seat, Anthony Davidson and Takumo Sato will be out of a ride. Unless the team is desperate for money, we don't see Karthikeyan beating Sato or Davidson for a seat. If he does, look for Davidson or Sato to head to the USA. Karthikeyan has been added to our F1 Silly Season page above.
11/18/05 One name on Narain Karthikeyan's 2006 wish list is 'Super Aguri'. Prior to returning to his home country this week, the Indian rookie - who can not afford to stay at Jordan/Midland next year - said he engaged in talks with several other teams in England.
A 'Friday' or test role with Williams was slated as Narain's most likely 2006 home.
But, asked about Aguri Suzuki's proposed Honda-backed team, he said in Calcutta on Thursday: ''It's a good thing to happen for sure. But we are negotiating with a lot of people right now.'' The Indian 'Express' newspaper claims that Karthikeyan knows Aguri Suzuki from his World Nissan days.
Meanwhile, it is also suggested that NK could make a guest appearance for the Indian 'A1GP' team this winter. He answered to the speculation: ''I haven't thought about it ... but I may take part in a race or two.''
Wilson and Allmendinger to drive in Rolex 24UPDATE This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement. 12/05/05 Rumor has it that Champ Car RuSPORT drivers AJ Allmendinger and Justin Wilson will drive in the 2006 Rolex 24 race at Daytona for Michael Shank Racing. We hear an announcement is due Tuesday. Both were testing at Homestead today.
New Champ Car Autocourse bookUPDATE Speedgear will have the new Champ Car book for sale. More....12/06/05 We hear from our sources at Autocourse that the new 2005/2006 Champ Car annual book, a must-have for all Champ Car fans, has been written and it might even be done before Christmas. Given that, we're surprised no one is taking orders for it yet. Meanwhile the F1 version is for sale everywhere. Last year the Champ Car version was available on Champ Car's website and through Speedgear. Go there now and not only is there no word on the book, the 2006 Autocourse Champ Car calendar isn't even available this year.
Tombazis leaving McLaren? McLaren have moved to deny speculation that aerodynamicist Nicholas Tombazis is about to leave the team and follow technical director Adrian Newey to Red Bull Racing, according to Autosport.com.
"Following Adrian's departure inevitably there is a lot of speculation ," said a McLaren spokeswoman. "We will not be replacing Adrian and our technical organization will continue to operate within the current structure. Nicholas remains working on aerodynamics within McLaren."
F1 sale to CVC in danger of collapseUPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'speculation' and will probably soon go to 'false.' JP Morgan has sold its 14.175% shareholding in the Formula One group to Alpha Prema UK Ltd, the company controlled by CVC Capital Partners. This means that Alpha Prema, which previously owned 71.65% of the shares, now has 86% of the company and 100% of the voting shares. It means that the only company other than Alpha Prema now involved is the US investment bank Lehman Brothers which has a shareholding of 14.175%. Look for them to see to Alpha as well. 12/03/05 The future of CVC Capital Partners’ $2bn (£1.15bn, E1.70bn) bid for a majority stake in Bernie Ecclestone’s Formula One business was in danger of collapsing this weekend. JP Morgan and Lehman Brothers, who both own a minority stake in the motor racing series, have a pre-emption right over the 50% stake that CVC Capital Partners wants to buy from Germany’s Bayerische Landesbank (BLB).
This legally binds Bayerische Landesbank to offering the 50% stake in Formula One to the two American Banks in the event of any sale – and industry sources say that both American banks are insisting this weekend that the clause is honored.
CVC thinks the transaction is a done deal, but the American banks privately believe the agreement is worthless. The first the American banks learned about the deal was in a letter. They were furious they had been kept in the dark and denied their legal rights.
The Americans will decide in the next few days what they want to do. Perhaps F1 will be 50% owned by Americans when it is all over.
Karthikeyan or Kiesa for 3rd Williams seatUPDATE See Hot News page with announcement that Karthikeyan will join team for their next test. No word on whether he will be their Friday driver. We suppose he is auditioning. 11/26/05 Williams is on the verge of naming its 2006 'Friday' driver.
Sources indicate that India's Narain Karthikeyan is the front runner for the pay-drive, although Nicolas Kiesa (Denmark) is also believed to be offering around $7.5m to the Grove team.
With less cash to offer, the highly rated Anthony Davidson and current McLaren test driver Alex Wurz are also believed to have courted Sir Frank Williams, while former Minardi driver Robert Doornbos is healthily backed.
''We're still talking to Williams,'' Karthikeyan's manager Piers Hunnisett said, ''but we've had discussions with BMW as well.''
Williams, to run with a Cosworth V8-powered FW27 at Barcelona, will apparently confirm the new signing ahead of the first test of the winter off-season period, to kick off on Tuesday.
Bernie could support Aguri It is a remote possibility that the formula one grid will still feature an eleventh team in 2006. Although the FIA left Japan's 'Super Aguri' off the official entry list, the existing ten teams could - as they did when Williams missed the entry deadline in 1993 - agree to let their new rival race.
Indeed, an 'insider' - with links to Bernie Ecclestone - hinted that the 75-year-old F1 supremo could convince the ten bosses to signal a green light.
''If Bernie wants Suzuki to race,'' the insider told Germany's 'Auto, Motor und Sport', ''he will get them to agree.''
Moreover, it is suggested elsewhere that Ecclestone will vigorously defend Aguri Suzuki's late 2006 application, especially if it only failed to lodge a bit of paperwork.
The reported absence of the mandatory $48 million FIA bond, however, might be a more serious transgression to overlook, speculation suggests.
San Jose GP sponsor to step down a notchUPDATE 2 First revealed by AutoRacing1.com weeks ago, this rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today with this report. The San Jose Grand Prix has lost Taylor Woodrow as its title sponsor after race organizers nearly doubled its price tag for the privilege.
The $600,000 or so asking price for the 2006 title sponsor was apparently too steep for Taylor Woodrow, a real estate and housing concern with six subdivisions under construction and several more in the planning stages. The company will instead be the "presenting sponsor" of the race for about the same $320,000 price tag it paid in 2005 to become title sponsor. Taylor Woodrow signed a two-year contract to sponsor the Champ Car series race in San Jose, with the option of being either the title sponsor or presenting sponsor. The deal also gives Taylor Woodrow three one-year sponsorship options running through 2009.The inaugural Grand Prix lost several million dollars in 2005, organizers say, despite drawing 153,767 for the three-day event. The event did earn about $520,000 for the Canary Fund, the race's official charity.
Organizers blamed startup costs for the first year lost and said the 2006 race would likely be in the red too, whether or not the Grand Prix gets a new title sponsor.
Grand Prix organizers are talking with several potential sponsors to replace Taylor Woodrow as title sponsor, reportedly including Comcast and Budweiser but no announcement is imminent, organizers say.
Michael Waltrip to become Toyota team owner Michael Waltrip plans to be a Toyota team owner down the road, and he had productive meetings in New York with prospective sponsors and NASCAR's Jim France. Next year Waltrip will race out of Bill Davis' High Point, N.C., shop with Derrick Finley as his crew chief. Teammate Dave Blaney will work with former Richard Childress Racing crew chief Kevin Hamlin. Sporting News
Kansas City to get NASCAR Hall 610 Sports racing show Inside Motorsports in Kansas City Saturday, December 3rd at 12:30pm/cst was the first nationally to break the story that Kansas City, Kansas would reportedly get the NASCAR hall of fame. Hosts Mark Merrell and Ryck Sanders stated that a source had reportedly told them of a meeting in New York this week between NASCAR officials, International Speedway, and Speedway Motorsports Incorporated. Reportedly in that meeting, Brian France, relenting to pressure from SMI president Bruton Smith, reportedly told Smith that NASCAR would award the NASCAR Hall of Fame to Atlanta (an SMI owned track), but that the track would have to give up a race date, and that that race date (Nextel Cup) would go to Kansas Speedway (an ISC owned track) (creating two NEXTEL Cup races at Kansas). Smith at first reportedly agreed to the deal, but days later reportedly re-approached NASCAR with the idea to take a NEXTEL CUP race date from the Texas Motor Speedway, and move it to Atlanta, leaving Texas Motorspeedway with one date, and Atlanta with the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and two NEXTEL Cup race dates, and Kansas Speedway with two NEXTEL Cup race dates. NASCAR officials, reportedly tired from Smith, pulled the deal, and reportedly will award Kansas Speedway with the NASCAR hall of fame, all according to an unnamed source. The story was related to race fans live on Inside Motorsports, a weekly comprehensive racing show hosted by Mark Merrell and Ryck Sanders Saturday, December 3rd at 12:30pm central. A subsequent story was posted on their web site, Insidemotorsports.com, and also presented on KCPT, TV-19, a PBS station in Kansas City during a pledge break by Merrell while co-hosting show featuring the 25th anniversary of Motorweek later that same day. The show aired live in Kansas City at 2:30pm/cst. The story is unconfirmed by NASCAR and ISC officials as of today's date. Mark Merrell/Inside Motorsports/The Race Report/610 Sports KCSP
Things desperate in Champ Car tooUPDATE Another reader responds, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I have to take issue with Jeff Smith’s suggestion that potential Champ Car drivers who bring money are comparable to wanker baseball players buying their way onto the New York Yankees roster. A couple of points:
- Yes, it would be preferable that Champ Car had the visibility and TV ratings to bring in the team sponsorship dollars that would pay every driver in the field a salary based purely on talent. That’s not the case as Champ Car continues the slow climb back to prosperity.
- In the rest of the world, the two big sports are soccer and auto racing. If auto racing is a major sport in your country, that means there is a strong grass-roots ladder system for drivers that is directly supported by sponsors at each level. In the USA, and in the absence of the strong open-wheel growth the sport saw before the split, NASCAR is getting to that point as a good driver can find local sponsorship to run on the local Saturday night short track, then progress through the ranks. There are a lot of drivers in NASCAR who have close personal relations with corporate sponsors that have helped them throughout their careers. In open wheel racing outside North America, the same thing happens – good drivers develop relationships with corporate benefactors who provide the funding to go race and move up the ladder. As you observe, Mr. Smith fails to make the distinction between personal-wealth ride-buyers and good drivers who bring personal sponsors to the table. This used to happen a lot in pre-split Indy Cars (Provimi Veal, Kraco, etc), but the grassroots of the sport in the USA is not back to that point yet, at least for open wheel. A driver who brings money is not necessarily a wanker. Often, it’s exactly the opposite – he or she has developed corporate benefactors due to success in a ladder series.
- To say that it will be a cold day in hell before he buys a ticket to a race full of drivers who bring money to the table is to say that he will not participate in the rebuilding of the sport. In my humble opinion, that’s his loss. While not many Americans will be able to join the field under this scenario (since there is a lack of grassroots sponsor support for open wheel in this country while it is strong in other parts of the world), some of the best young drivers in the world will be in the field.
- Can Champ Car get back to the point where the majority of drivers in the field get paid a salary to driver? Yes, but it’s going to take years. One of the strongest indicators of recovery is the health of the ladder series. If you look at Atlantic versus IPS, it’s pretty evident that the powers that be at Champ Car have come up with a formula that will bring not just new talent into the racing world, but new sponsor relationships also. Atlantics is not just a training ground for drivers and teams, it’s also a training ground for corporate sponsors.
- The difference between Champ Car and the IRL in this regard is that IRL is on the decline while Champ Car is growing. That’s a huge difference. Has the split damaged the sport? Obviously, it has. Is it time to give up and quit buying race tickets? Hardly; in fact, now is the time to redouble your support if you claim to be a fan. For me, I’m going to attend as many events as I can afford, buy merchandise, be an active participant in the recovery of the sport I love and count the days until the IRL collapses under the weight of its failed smoke-and-mirrors business plan. Trey Wilson, Houston, Texas To read original letter press
Things becoming desperate in the IRL Now, irony of irony, John Barnes is seeking Honda‘s help to carry on with Panther Racing in 2006. While critics decry the single-manufacturer format that’s likely to be in place next season, it has one notable advantage: Everyone is on the same footing. With Honda, Panther probably won’t be asking a potential sponsor to pony up $6 million. That fact might be the team’s savior, since that kind of money isn’t easy to come by, and it’s not going to be directed freely toward a racing series that many consider – rightly or wrongly – still to be fledgling 10 years into its life.
At times, it’s difficult to think of the IRL as anything other than fledgling, especially after the developments of ’05. Its original engine manufacturer left in an embarrassing huff. Another manufacturer is leaving because it covets NASCAR more than the Indy 500. A series that was supposed to have been growing suddenly lost three races. The western half of the U.S. doesn’t seem to be much of a priority anymore. The move to road and street courses, which appeared to be a solid addition and one of the true bright points of 2005, didn’t result in further expansion in 2006.
The murkiness and uncertainty are reflected in personnel decisions. Resumes are floating around Indy race shops like so much ticker tape. Talented people are out of work, wondering if they will – or should – return to the business. Vitor Meira, who shouldn’t have been a free agent for 30 seconds, is still a free agent as the holidays roll closer. There wasn’t funding to continue a third car at Rahal Letterman Racing, so Meira – one of Honda’s favorites because of his feedback – is facing another round of interviews. One of the teams that wants him is Panther. If only it could put together the funding. More at SPEEDTV.com
Sponsors on Honda teams pay nil It's long been rumored that sponsors on the cars of Honda teams in the IRL pay very little to nothing to have their name displayed because Honda was footing a large portion of the cost. In this SPEEDTV.com article Jeff Olson writes, "Honda’s nine-figure budget not only subsidized teams, it drove down sponsorship value. Non-Honda teams were approaching potential sponsors with what they thought was a reasonable figure. Potential sponsors told them they were being quoted a fraction of that figure by Honda teams."
Further proof that the IRL business plan/model is not sustainable. The day Honda decides to pull back its subsidies is the day the teams will have to scramble to find proper funding.
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