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DATE News (chronologically)

LMP1 Acuras to be tested this week
One of our sources spotted the Highcroft and de Ferran ALMS teams today setting up to test on Monday at Sebring. They were very cagey about folks peering into their tents; the cars on the chassis stands were definitely their LMP1 spyder, but over in a corner under a cover lurked a very coupe-like shape.......

Our source did not get a good look at the spyders since they were being prepped (and guarded) but the nose seems very Pescarolo-esque and pointy.


Labonte to #8? Target to #42?
There have been numerous Bobby Labonte sightings at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, but the latest twist places the 2000 Cup champion in the #8 Chevy where he would be reunited with his former Petty crew chief Doug Randolph. Randolph moved to DEI last year to become crew chief for Paul Menard. Labonte worked with Jeff Meendering on the #43 Petty Dodge in 2007. Meendering has since left to be the car chief for Tony Stewart. It's also been rumored that the Target sponsorship will move to the #42 Dodge and Juan Pablo Montoya. Fox Sports


Changes afoot to fix boring F1
McLaren-Mercedes team principal Ron Dennis said at the Autosport show in Birmingham, England that, "Within a few days, we will get the results of a global market research into the perception of F1 by the public, by the audience.  It might mean by varying the qualifying format, it might be varying the race format, or it might be by changing the accessibility of F1."

"I am pure," he argued, "but it can be pretty boring - not to me, but it can be pretty boring for you guys if the race is a procession.

"We have to be mindful of the fact that those people who are captured by F1, their interest is maintained."


US Senate poised to pass alarming bills
The U.S. Senate is poised to act as early as Sunday on a massive package of public lands bills that would shut motorcyclists out of more than 1 million acres without adequate public comment, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports.

The last-minute move just as the newly elected Congress takes over has raised the ire of the AMA and at least one congressman, who believe the proposal and process deserve more public participation.

"Those who say things get better with time obviously never encountered the public lands omnibus bill," said U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah). "This bill was a bad idea last Congress, and it's only gotten worse over the past month." Ed Moreland, AMA vice president for government relations, agreed. "It makes little sense to lump together more than 160 very important public lands bills into one package that is nearly 1,300 pages long, and then expect the public to digest it all -- and to rush a vote through the Senate on a weekend," Moreland said.

Read more & Comment...

Allmendinger to drive part-time for GEM
GEM Chief Executive Officer Tom Reddin said in an interview Friday that Sadler will drive the No. 19 and Sorenson will drive the No. 43 car. The plan is for a fourth car – possibly with Allmendinger – to compete in the first five races and at least eight total.

Reddin said he believes all four cars will be guaranteed spots in the first five races because the Dale Earnhardt Inc.-Chip Ganassi Racing merger resulted in a drop of two cars out of the top 35, putting GEM’s No. 10 from 2008 in the top 35.

“We’re working on a deal with AJ to get him into our fourth car, and as of now we have an eight-race package put together,” Reddin said.


Montagny to Andretti Green IndyCar team? UPDATE At this week's Autosport show in England Franck Montagny said he is still discussing the possibility of a limited program with AGR, including Indianapolis.

"America is not easy so far," he said during an interview on the Central Stage at Autosport International. "It's crisis, as it is in Europe. It's not easy over there either.

"We wanted to work together for a couple of races but it looks a little bit difficult - but I'm still in contact with them and I still hope to do some stuff with them, especially in the Indy 500. That's something I've really wanted to do.

"I tried the car on the ovals and road courses and I feel happy with the car, the team was really happy with me. When both parts are very happy you can make it happen, so we'll see."

07/30/08 Franck Montagny could replace Tony Kanaan as the lead IndyCar driver in the AGR team in 2009 if Kanaan leaves as expected. Kanaan is less than happy with the team that favors Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick.

Montagny will have his first test in the IndyCar Series on Thursday 31st of July and Friday 1st of August. He will drive on Friday an Andretti-Green Racing's Dallara-Honda on the Kentucky Speedway. Montagny drives for AGR in the American Le Mans Series since the beginning of July.

It will be the very first test for the French driver on a oval track. He will probably have a second test, on a road track this time, later in the month of August. Montagny could compete in the IndyCar Series next season, but nothing has been decided for now.

After this test, Montagny will have two days testing at Road America in ALMS on Monday 4th and Tuesday 5th of August, before the next race of the series the following weekend.


Ride-buyer Buemi close to 2009 STR race seat UPDATE #4 This rumor is upgrade to 'fact' with today's announcement.

01/05/09 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today.  It is now almost beyond doubt that Sebastien Buemi, a Swiss rookie, will be confirmed as a Toro Rosso race driver for the 2009 season.

Sebastien Buemi is a good driver but is rumored to be buying his seat at STR
A formal announcement is presumably imminent, given the most recent media utterings of insiders, including the 20-year-old himself, the Faenza team's boss Franz Tost, and the now departed co-owner Gerhard Berger.

As a parting note to the Ferrari-powered squad, Berger told the Swiss newspaper Blick that the team is in good shape for 2009 because "Toro Rosso will have a good and fast driver in Buemi".

Buemi himself is also now speaking with certainty about his future, telling Auto Motor und Sport that his debut will be somewhat bittersweet because "you work towards your goal for so long and then when you're finally there, the sport is in crisis".

Team principal Tost, meanwhile, is already thinking of how to manage the arrival of another rookie to the team.

"Buemi is going to stay close to Faenza," he said, referring to Toro Rosso's Italian headquarters.  "If we can work together each and every day, we will be getting the maximum out of him."

Read more & Comment...

Kawasaki out of MotoGP UPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Kawasaki said it has pulled out of motorcycling's MotoGP world championship as part of the company's efforts to cut costs.

"We took the final decision not to continue in MotoGP yesterday," Kawasaki's Katsuhiro Sato told Reuters. "It is something we have been considering since mid-December. "In the current economic climate and unless the situation improves it is difficult to say if we will return."

Kawasaki, which has competed in MotoGP since 2003, follows in the wake of three other high profile withdrawals from motor sport. Honda pulled out of Formula One and Subaru and Suzuki have pulled out of the world rally championship.

01/05/09 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today.  In yet another ominous sign of premier motor sport's struggle amid the global financial crisis, the Japanese manufacturer Kawasaki is expected to announce on Monday its decision to pull out of MotoGP.

"There will be an official press release very soon, where we can confirm or deny all rumors," the Kawasaki rider John Hopkins wrote on his website.

The news follows a recent exodus of manufacturers from top categories, including Honda from formula one, as well as Audi, Porsche, Suzuki and Subaru from other top series.

12/30/08 Californian John Hopkins has confirmed reports that Kawasaki may be on the verge of pulling out of the 2009 MotoGP World Championship, though he hasn’t heard anything official at this point.

“I heard it’s up in the air, but I haven’t heard anything confirmed yet,” Hopkins said from his home in Rancho Santa Fe, California, today. “I got some calls from the team manager [Michael Bartholemy] and he said that everything could be up in the air as to whether they run it or not, but nothing has been confirmed. I don’t know what it would do to me. I’m really not sure. I’ve been talking to my managers and seeing what the plan is and they’ve been on the phone to Japan trying to figure it out as well. Right now I’m still contracted to them so I’m not sure what the plan is.”

Read more & Comment...

Petty/GEM deal off, both teams circling drain? UPDATE #3 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' with yesterday's merger announcement.

01/07/09 The expected Petty Enterprises-Gillett Evernham Motorsports merger likely won't be announced Monday, and the Petty Enterprises shop was fairly quiet. There were only about 15 cars parked in the Petty parking lot Monday morning. Sources have indicated that the team has laid off most of its employees. It is expected that the two teams will merge, with Petty's famed No. 43 car joining the GEM stable. With the No. 43 car guaranteed a spot in the first five races of the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup season and GEM's No. 10 not guaranteed a position, the No. 43 could be driven by Reed Sorenson, who has already signed to drive for GEM. GEM also could face a lawsuit over its driver stable. Elliott Sadler, who reportedly has been dropped in favor of AJ Allmendinger, has filed a notice with North Carolina Superior Court in Statesville, N.C., that claims that GEM breached its contract with Sadler.  SceneDaily.com

12/29/08 Sources tell Sirius Speedway that Gillett is heavily leveraged from the original Evernham buyout, as well as from a number of automobile dealerships he purchased earlier this year. He reportedly faces a major payment on his Liverpool Football Club, which plays in the English Premier League, as well. A deal that would have merged GEM with Bill Davis Racing fell by the wayside a few weeks ago, reportedly after Gillett was unable to obtain financing to complete the transaction.

Gillett has recently been involved in negotiations to merge GEM with Petty Enterprises. Sirius Speedway reported two weeks ago that the merger had stalled, and while that report was immediately denied by a GEM spokesman, Sadler’s release appears to indicate that the deal is indeed in jeopardy.

A combined GEM/Petty operation was expected to field four cars in 2009; enough to retain Kasey Kahne, Reed Sorenson, Sadler and Allmendinger.

GEM announced earlier this month that it will scale back its 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series operation, after losing sponsor Unilever to JR Motorsports. The team recently laid off approximately 65 employees.  Sirius-Speedway

12/16/08 Sirius Speedway is reporting that the much-discussed merger between Gillett Evernham Motorsports and Petty Enterprises has run aground. Anonymous sources say that GEM laid off approximately 50 employees today, and that its NASCAR Nationwide Series team will either be eliminated or cut back dramatically. In addition, multiple sources say that GEM’s #10 Sprint Cup team and driver Reed Sorenson will also run only a partial schedule.

While not commenting on the reported demise of the Petty deal, Gillett Evernham Motorsports CEO Tom Reddin confirmed today that major changes are underway.

"We are a Sprint Cup team first and foremost, and winning in that series needs to be our primary focus,” he said. “The Nationwide Series is a fantastic series and we certainly look forward to racing a partial schedule in 2009, but we will not run the full season next year. We will remained focused on putting all of our effort behind the Cup program in 2009. GEM is very fortunate to have nearly all of our Cup sponsors returning in 2009 in addition to the new arrival of others."

Reddin said that GEM will also restructure its engine department for 2009, to align with a reduced number of engine leasing customers next season.


Strikes would imperil bailout funding
General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC would be in default of up to $17.4 billion in federal loans if the United Auto Workers or another union engaged in a strike or work stoppage, a loan provision that essentially strips the union of a powerful negotiating tactic it has used several times in recent years.

The provision is buried deep in the Loan and Security Agreement between GM and the U.S. Treasury Department governing the use of up to $13.4 billion in short-term loans that prevented the automaker's collapse, according to documents filed Wednesday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Other events that would trigger a default include failing to make a payment on time or voluntarily filing bankruptcy.

Read more & Comment...

KERS-snub by some F1 teams possible - report
(GMM)  It is possible that some teams will race through the entire 2009 season without using a KERS system.

The German magazine Auto Motor und Sport reports that only BMW-Sauber and McLaren are on schedule with development of the complex energy-recovery technology for the forthcoming season.

Reigning constructors' champions Ferrari are grappling with serious problems in the joint project with electronics partner Magneti-Marelli, and may have commenced an alternate parallel project for the development of a KERS unit.

Engine and electronics director Gilles Simon said: "At the end of February, we must determine whether to proceed with or without KERS."

Renault and Toyota, also believed to be working with Magneti-Marelli, are also yet to test KERS, with Toyota admitting late last season that they are unlikely to begin 2009 with the voluntary technology.

Introducing a KERS system after the Australian grand prix will be difficult, given the new total ban on in-season testing.

Read more & Comment...

Nick Fry in frame for Honda buyout
(GMM)  Just over a month after Honda's shock decision to withdraw from formula one, hopes are still alive that the Brackley based team will be rescued in time for the 2009 formula one season.

Representatives of the outfit currently known as Honda Racing F1 attended the Heathrow meeting of the FOTA team alliance on Thursday, and afterwards made a point of distributing the joint press release.

In the statement, FOTA said all other F1 teams "wished to express their support for the entrant currently known as Honda and they will agree to any name change registered".

A former boss of the team, however, Prodrive's David Richards, indicated at the Autosport International show in Birmingham that he is now less interested in becoming the new owner.

"I just personally feel that the current environment is too unsettled," Richards said on Thursday, adding that the "burden of overhead" is still a problem for teams despite moves to cut costs.

But Honda Racing's current chief executive, Nick Fry, insists that about a dozen serious buyers are still in the frame, while the Daily Telegraph claims that the 52-year-old Briton himself may be positioning as one of them.

Read more & Comment...

Richards and Arabs may buy Honda F1 team UPDATE #2 Prodrive boss David Richards has ruled himself out as a contender to buy the Honda Racing team, autosport.com reports.  Richards had been rumored to be interested.

However, sources have told autosport.com that despite Richards talking about a takeover with potential backers from Kuwait, plus the outfit's chiefs Nick Fry and Ross Brawn, he has now officially pulled himself out of the discussions.

"All I can say is that I have made it very clear that the only terms (under which) I would ever consider a return or an involvement was if I felt we could be competitive - and nobody expects to win in their first year of Formula One," he said on the main Autosport stage.

"It has also got to be financially viable. You expect to (have to) invest but you also expect it to work. I just personally feel that the current environment is too unsettled.

"The cost-cutting process that has been put in place has not yet seen its full benefit, and I don't think it will be until 2010 that you will see those issues roll out properly. The teams have still got a burden of overhead that is unsustainable. So consequently, with the window of time for entry, I just question whether it is right at the moment."

"I would regard those cuts as modest inroads if I am honest with you," he said. "When you make changes to things, and you have to make a radical shift to get back to a sustainable level, you make that one-hit, one cut very quickly to get it done and then move forward from that point.

"You don't do it by a series of 1000 cuts. If I was involved I would be pushed hard for a lot deeper cuts a lot quicker."

12/22/08 There is much talk of David Richards taking over the Honda F1 team, and there are clear signs that is his intention. The big question is where he will find the money to run the team for the next two-three years as F1 restructures and downsizes to balance its books. His usual source of funding is Kuwait but Investment Dar is struggling right now and is mortgaging assets so an F1 investment, even to support Aston Martin, is not likely.

The other name that we have heard mentioned is that of Korea's Hyundai Kia Automotive Group. This is the world's fifth largest automaker, producing 1.6 million units annually, but it has no profile at all in the sport at the moment, although the company was involved in the World Rally Championship until 2003. Its aim is to become a global quality brand and the company is understood to be heavily involved in the planned Korean GP that will begin in 2010. Hyundai Kia is also expanding into hybrid technology and there may be some value in taking on Honda's environmental message (although some sponsorship would definitely help).  Grandprix.com

12/20/08 The man who took Jenson Button to Honda was in the Middle East yesterday attempting to broker a deal to save the Formula One team from going out of business.

David Richards flew by private jet from Southampton on Friday night to brief investors with an interest in the Northamptonshire-based team, who are threatened with extinction and the loss of 700 jobs by the end of next month.

Button is the highest-paid employee, on a three-year contract worth £24million, and Richards suggested the British driver’s future could be secure when he said: ‘Jenson is an outstanding grand prix driver, the kind you would want to build a team around.’

Button expressed a desire in The Mail on Sunday last week to remain loyal to the team- but the clock is running down. It is understood that Honda have given senior executives Ross Brawn and Nick Fry until January 31 to find a buyer after being dissuaded by the two Englishmen from shutting down the team with immediate effect when they announced their shock withdrawal three weeks ago.

Richards, 56, has the expertise, experience and drive to compete in Formula One, a complex amalgam of business, politics and sport.

He spent three years as team principal of BAR Honda, signing Button after the British driver was jettisoned by Renault six years ago, before the Japanese car company took full ownership of the team at the end of 2004.

He had a £60m budget, pledged ironically by a failed Icelandic financial corporation, to return to F1 this year with a ‘customer car’ from McLaren until other teams vetoed the arrangement.

Richards has strong Middle Eastern contacts after last month selling a 40 per cent stake in his company, Prodrive, to Kuwaiti investors, The Investment Dar Company (TID).

‘There are a group of people in the Middle East who want to support a Formula One entry for me and have been very specific about it for a year now,’ explained Richards, who is also chairman of Aston Martin, having led a consortium who paid Ford $1.2billion for the elite British sportscar company 21 months ago.

‘But we have to agree when the timing is right.’ More at Dailymail.co.uk


Villeneuve to race V8 Supercars
(GMM)  1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve is in talks to contest this year's championship of Australian V8 Supercars.

The Melbourne newspaper Herald Sun said the French-Canadian is the first choice to become Russell Ingall's teammate at the Super Cheap Racing team.

"This is real.  Absolutely.  He is pretty keen to do it," team owner Paul Morris said.

"Man, how good would it be?  How long since we've had a formula one driver in touring cars in Australia?  The last one was Alan Jones.  And if he drives as good as AJ, he will be all right," he enthused.

Morris explained that about $2 million in sponsorship to run the car and pay the 37-year-old driver needs to be raised.

On a trip to the US next week, Morris plans to meet with Barry Green, Villeneuve's former IndyCar boss who is still part of his management team.


Danica takes a shower
Rumor has it that Danica takes a shower in her GoDaddy Super Bowl ad.  Viewer discretion always advised.


Ferrari to test KERS in Peugeot sportscar?
(GMM)  According to rumors in motor racing circles, Ferrari may have teamed up with Peugeot to accelerate the development of the Italian F1 team's KERS system for the 2009 season.

The unconfirmed reports, citing unnamed 'F1 sources', say part of the marques' new relationship will involve Peugeot running Ferrari's F1 KERS system on a test version of its Le Mans-style 908 prototype.

Ferrari is developing its KERS system with its electronics partner Magneti-Marelli, but the Maranello based team has admitted it is struggling with development of the technology and is yet to actually track-test a functioning unit.

It is suggested that the Ferrari-Peugeot tie-in could be one way for the Italian team to handle its lagging KERS track program in the face of the looming in-season test ban, to take effect from the Australian grand prix in March.

However, it is also suggested that Ferrari may be exploring making its KERS available to teams in other categories of racing.

In 2008, Peugeot said it would campaign a hybrid electric variant of its diesel 908, complete with a KERS system, in this year's Le Mans Series.


Another NASCAR team circling the drain UPDATE #2 With speculation that HOF Racing will not run a complete NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule in ’09, team co-Owner Tom Garfinkel said in an e-mail the team "will be racing" at the Daytona 500 and in 2009. The single-car team has a sponsorship deal with DLP, “but that deal is not believed to be for the entire season.” The team in the offseason cut its technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing and “laid off several employees”  NASCAR.com

01/06/09 Rumor has it the #96 Hall of Fame Racing Toyota team is selling off cars and equipment, and most of the workforce has been laid off and is not expected to start the season.

01/03/09 Rumors are that the #96 Hall of Fame Racing Toyota team have been laying off most of the employees, losing support from Joe Gibbs Racing and having only partial sponsorship for the 2009 season.


NASCAR to deep-six Truck Series after 2009? UPDATE Let’s start with a theory that is actually more like a fact: For a racing series to be optimally competitive, it must first have enough competitors.

Sounds simple enough, right?

Unfortunately, there’s no simple fix to the waning participation haunting the newly named NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Barely a month away from the start of the 15th season for NASCAR’s No. 3 series, you can count the number of Truck drivers with confirmed full-time rides on two hands.

And the number of drivers with a confirmed full-time primary sponsor is even fewer.

At last check, Ron Hornaday (Kevin Harvick Inc.), Colin Braun (Roush Fenway Racing), Matt Crafton (ThorSport Racing), Johnny Benson (Red Horse Racing), David Starr (Red Horse), Rick Crawford (Circle Bar Racing) and Todd Bodine (Germain Racing) were the only definite driver-team pairings in place for the upcoming season.

Notably absent from the list are three-time series champion Jack Sprague (who may return to Wyler Racing, where he finished out ’08) and Mike Skinner, a former champion and 25-time Truck winner whose status is in limbo partly because of the change in ownership at the team formerly known as Bill Davis Racing.

Among the teams with a seat yet to be filled are KHI, Randy Moss Motorsports, ThorSport and possibly the new Triad Racing Technologies group that replaced BDR.

Meanwhile, at least two organizations that fielded trucks in 2008 – Bobby Hamilton Racing-Virginia and Wood Brothers Racing – won’t be doing so this year, now that BHR has closed its doors and the Wood Brothers have folded their Truck program until further notice.

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Schumacher a player for ex-Honda team? UPDATE (GMM)  Michael Schumacher's press spokeswoman has played down reports the retired seven time world champion might get involved in the rescue of the embattled Honda Racing F1 team.

It was suggested the 40-year-old could have been in talks with his former Ferrari colleague Ross Brawn, now the Brackley based team's boss, about investing some of his own money in the wake of Honda's decision to withdraw from the sport.

But to the German language portal motorsport-total.com, Schumacher's representative Sabine Kehm rubbished the rumor.

"Ross and Michael are still friends, that's true," she said.

"But Michael's involvement with Honda is limited to the IDM (German Superbike series)," Kehm added.

01/05/09 One intriguing rumor to surface over the Christmas period is the suggestion that Honda Racing F1's Ross Brawn may have been talking seriously to Michael Schumacher about working together to save the Brackley team. Schumacher has plenty of private money but it is unrealistic to believe that anyone will spend their own cash to pay the running costs of an F1 team. However, the Schumacher name does have a great deal of clout in the commercial world and it is possible, although rather unlikely in the current financial climate, that his involvement in a team could bring in the kind of money needed to run Honda for the next couple of years. This would give the team the opportunity to show an improvement in performance and allow the global economy to rebound and would perhaps end up being a sound investment for him.

The big question therefore is whether sponsors will join the party. The Honda team is an impressive operation and it should be getting better in 2009. The package being developed will have to be slightly modified because Honda will not be supplying engines and so commercial arrangements will be necessary with another manufacturer. The obvious choice is Ferrari, but we believe that there are other options available, largely because of capacity that will become available as a result the F1 testing ban that will begin in March.

Our spies at Brackley tell us that there has been a lot of interest in the team with perhaps as many as 25 different enquiries. Probably five or six of these are considered to be serious. We do not believe that any of them are automobile manufacturers as the world's car markets are in such a mess that no company can even consider such a step, despite the fact that a great asset that is available at a fraction of its actual cost.

The details of who is involved in these five or six bids is not clear but we hear that some of them are big organizations which see F1 as a good investment to support their business development. A great deal of effort is thus going on at the moment to finalize a deal by the end of January, when engine contracts will need to be organized in order for the team to be ready to run in Australia. Grandprix.com


Vettel to eventually end up at Ferrari
Sebastian Vettel
(GMM)  Sebastian Vettel insists he is happy to be moving up to Red Bull's senior team in 2009.

At the Ferrari-powered Toro Rosso outfit this year, the German youngster was arguably formula one's find of the season, and he subsequently admitted that driving for the works Ferrari team would be a "dream".

But in an interview with the Welt am Sonntag newspaper, the 21-year-old concedes that his promising career is nevertheless on the right track.

"It has always been my goal to one day drive for Ferrari," Vettel told the German newspaper, "but continuity is also really important and that's why I am with Red Bull."

A protégé of his countryman Michael Schumacher, however, Vettel does not attempt to hide his affection for Ferrari, with which the great German achieved five of his record seven world titles.

Vettel said it is only possible to become world champion "if you sit in one of the best cars".

"And Ferrari knows how to build them.  They will be right at the front all of the time, because their resources are on a completely different level to ours at Red Bull."

He answered "I don't know" when asked if Schumacher will be recommending him to Ferrari decision-makers like Stefano Domenicali and Luca di Montezemolo.

"But I hope I will be making my own luck," he grinned.

track news

Texas World Speedway to benefit from testing ban UPDATE Texas World Speedway in College Station, Texas is pleased to announce that the initial phase of repair to its historical Super Oval is near completion and is expected to be completed in 7-10 days. This phase is designed to get the Oval in “test ready” condition through a combination of grinding, asphalt rejuvenation and general maintenance. TWS is now accepting rental bookings for its Super Oval and Grand Prix tracks. For more information about Texas World Speedway, see contact info at www.texasworldspeedway.com

12/20/08 With the news that NASCAR has banned testing at its sanctioned tracks for its three national series in 2009, a few people wondered if that might mean increased curiosity in Texas World Speedway, which last hosted a Cup event in 1981. But if Sprint Cup teams have shown increased interest in testing at the 2-mile oval that is a carbon copy of Michigan International Speedway, they haven't made that known to track president Bill Mather, who hadn't even considered the idea of NASCAR teams visiting College Station until he read a recent magazine article about the testing ban. "I have been focusing on the testing business but the AutoWeek story was the first time I ever thought about NASCAR," Mather said. "NASCAR's a different world to me. I've never met anybody affiliated with NASCAR. I'd like to. But I've been focused in on the road racing world. None of [the Sprint Cup teams] have set foot on the track, I can tell you that much."

Read more & Comment...

Alonso said no to 2009 Ferrari switch - report
Alonso was smart enough to know that Ferrari may be behind the 8-ball with KERS and hence will wait until 2011 to join Ferrari
(GMM)  Fernando Alonso turned down an opportunity to switch immediately to Ferrari out of loyalty to his current F1 employer Renault.

That is the claim of a Spanish newspaper, following authoritative reports from Italy that the former double world champion has now penned a deal to race with the famous Maranello based team in 2010 or 2011.

Diario AS said Ferrari were prepared to put Alonso, 27, into the 2009 race seat of Kimi Raikkonen, who despite winning the title in 2007 had a disappointing season last year.

But Alonso, said the newspaper, put a stop to the deal because it would have left Renault in the lurch less than three months from the start of the 2009 season.

"In short, the Italian team's sudden interest came too late for Fernando," AS said.


Ralf may bow out of motor racing
Ralf Schumacher never really measured up
(GMM)  Ralf Schumacher is facing the prospect of bowing out of motor racing altogether.

The 33-year-old German, who left formula one at the end of 2007 following a disappointing three seasons with Toyota, also had a lackluster debut in the German touring car series DTM this year.

Driving for Mercedes' effort, he failed to win a race and finished the championship just fourteenth.

The German newspaper Bild reports that his contract ran out on 31 December, and that discussions for an extension have so far "brought no result".

Schumacher, who won six grands prix with Williams, said: "Nobody should be worried about me.  Apart from race driving I have enough projects to keep me busy."

Bild said one of Schumacher's other pursuits is yacht racing, in collaboration with his friend and boat designer Albert Drettmann.


Toyota's secret new car
Toyota Motor Corp. is secretly developing a vehicle that will be powered solely by solar energy in an effort to turn around its struggling business with a futuristic ecological car, a top business daily reported Thursday. The Nikkei newspaper, however, said it will be years before the planned vehicle will be available on the market. Toyota’s offices were closed Thursday and officials were not immediately available for comment. According to The Nikkei, Toyota is working on an electric vehicle that will get some of its power from solar cells equipped on the vehicle, and that can be recharged with electricity generated from solar panels on the roofs of homes. The automaker later hopes to develop a model totally powered by solar cells on the vehicle, the newspaper said without citing sources.

The solar car is part of efforts by Japan’s top automaker to grow during hard times, The Nikkei said.

In December, Toyota stunned the nation by announcing it will slip into its first operating loss in 70 years, as it gets battered by a global slump, especially in the key U.S. market. The surging yen has also hurt the earnings of Japanese automakers.

Still, Toyota is a leader in green technology and executives have stressed they won’t cut back on environmental research despite its troubles. Toyota, the manufacturer of the Lexus luxury car and Camry sedan, has already begun using solar panels at its Tsutsumi plant in central Japan to produce some of its own electricity.

The solar panels on the roofs add up in size to the equivalent of 60 tennis courts and produce enough electricity to power 500 homes, according to Toyota. That reduces 740 tons a year of carbon dioxide emissions and is equal to using 1,500 barrels of crude oil.

Toyota is also likely to indirectly gain expertise in solar energy when its partner in developing and producing hybrid batteries, Panasonic Corp., takes over Japanese rival Sanyo Electric Co., a leader in solar energy, early next year. Ottawa Sun

track news

SMI expected to announced Kentucky deal complete
Speedway Motorsports Inc. is expected to announce sometime Wednesday that its purchase of Kentucky Speedway is complete. The company agreed in May to buy the Sparta [KY] track from Jerry Carroll and his partners for $78.3 million, including the assumption of $63.3 million in debt, and has been targeting a late December closing. Kentucky Speedway will become the eighth track in SMI’s lineup. The company’s other tracks – Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Infineon Raceway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Lowe’s Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway - host a combined 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup events each year. The changeover will come as Kentucky Speedway’s original ownership group continues to challenge in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati the dismissal of its antitrust lawsuit against NASCAR and its sister company International Speedway Corp. All final briefs in the appeal must be filed by Jan. 28. The sale of the track is separate from the lawsuit. Cincinnati Enquirer


Petty team to fold into GEM UPDATE #4 As 2008 comes to an end, so will the Petty Enterprises that NASCAR fans and racers came to admire.
Multiple sources have confirmed that after 60 seasons of stock car racing and 10 championships, America's first family of stock car racing will shut its doors and merge with the team currently known as Gillett Evernham Motorsports.

A deal was inked between Petty Enterprises and team owner George Gillett on Christmas Eve, but the terms of that agreement have yet to be divulged. A formal announcement is expected early next week.

The venerable No. 43 Dodge covered with the trademarked Petty blue glaze will become part of the Gillett stable with Reed Sorenson expected to be behind the wheel. Bobby Labonte, who finished 21st in the point standings, parted ways with the Pettys on Dec. 11 following a three-year stint in the No. 43 car.

Most of the remaining 39 employees at Petty Enterprises will conclude their duties at the Mooresville-based shop on Wednesday. The company moved from its original shop adjacent to the Petty homestead in Level Cross, N.C., in January to what was formerly the Yates Racing complex.

Robbie Loomis, Petty Executive VP of Racing Operations, is expected to assume a managerial role under the new partnership, which will likely be rebranded under the Petty banner. Former car chief Ray Fox Jr. will assume a similar role at JTG-Daugherty Racing with the No. 47 team.

David Zucker, who was named CEO of the team when private equity firm Boston Ventures purchased controlling interest in June, is expected to be reassigned to the Petty Driving Experience. Fox Sports

12/10/08 The future of Petty Enterprises could be determined as soon as Thursday morning. The once-great NASCAR organization, which won 268 races and 10 championships before falling on hard times due to a lack of sponsorship, will make an announcement -- most likely regarding driver Bobby Labonte and the team's flagship No. 43 car -- on Thursday.

The Petty franchise has reportedly been in negotiations with Gillett-Evernham Motorsports about a possible merger. Representatives for Petty Enterprises did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment. A GEM spokesman said the team "has no plans to make any announcement" on Thursday.

Speculation about some sort of merger between the Petty and GEM teams has raged since last week, although indications are that any deal would be less of a merger and more GEM absorbing some of the assets of the Petty team.

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Di Resta 'close' to F1 contract
Paul di Resta
(GMM)  Paul di Resta has revealed he is "close" to securing a formula one role for 2009.

It was believed the 22-year-old Scot had dropped out of contention, after Force India confirmed an unchanged driver lineup for next year.

But the Daily Record newspaper reports that a test role remains a possibility.

"I'm close to putting pen to paper on a deal.  Formula one remains a possibility," di Resta, who drives for Mercedes in the DTM series, said.

The report said di Resta, who is being managed by Lewis Hamilton's father Anthony, might assume a straight testing role, or split his duties with staying in the German touring car category.


Evernham quitting NASCAR to buy a track? UPDATE #3 Sadler’s ouster also appears to have angered GEM founder Ray Evernham, who removed all his personal property and mementos from the team’s shop late last week. Since selling a majority share of the team to Gillett, Evernham has had little hands-on involvement with the team, and has reportedly been working to divest his remaining ownership stake. He declined to comment on the move yesterday, saying, “I got a call from a friend last night asking what I knew about it, but I really don’t know anything. I haven’t even read about it on the internet, so there’s really no way for me to comment until I know what I’m talking about.”

12/29/08 Ray Evernham, who founded the GEM team and sold majority ownership to George Gillett, cleared out all personal possessions from the team's shop.

12/01/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Cup team co-owner Ray Evernham has completed his deal to purchase East Lincoln Speedway and said that might not be the last track he buys. “I will try to save race tracks to keep them from becoming shopping malls,” Evernham said on Sirius NASCAR Radio. Charlotte Observer

11/22/08 NASCAR team owner Ray Evernham announced Thursday night in Lincolnton [NC] that he is in advanced negotiations to purchase the East Lincoln Speedway and plans to retire from NASCAR. Evernham and partner Bob Mack of Cornelius-based RPM Group Holdings said they had hoped to have the keys to the speedway in their hands when they appeared at the Lincolnton-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce’s Business After-Hours event to make the announcement, but were prevented from doing so as negotiations continued. Evernham said he has already sold off most of his interest in the Gillett-Evernham Motorsports race team and is ending his career with NASCAR. “I want to get back into grassroots racing,” he told the gathering of area community leaders and businesspeople. Contacted by the Times-News Friday morning, current track owner Ralph Nantz said he couldn’t “talk much about it right now,” but confirmed that “serious” negotiations with Evernham were under way. “You might say he is showing some interest,” Nantz said. The East Lincoln Speedway has been in operation since 1991 and is a 3/8 mile clay oval track. Lincoln Times-News


Honda team sold to Carlos Slim? UPDATE #3 (GMM)  Team boss Ross Brawn has added his denial to reports that Honda Racing F1 is being bought by the Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.

He admitted that while "a number of interested parties" are in talks with the Brackley based team, any suggestion that Slim or his company Telmex are close to finalizing a deal is not true.

"We would love it if it were true," Brawn told the Daily Telegraph, "but it's pure speculation from various members of the media.  It's just been one of those rumors which has developed a life of its own."

Brawn is, however, remaining positive, insisting that "everything is in place" for a buyer to pick up and take the team to the 2009 season opener in Australia.

"We haven't really lost anything yet as it has still only been a few weeks.  Everything is in place although we have had to turn down various programs," he said.

"We have enough funding to get us through to Melbourne and we still have a competitive package."

Brawn said there has been so much interest from potential buyers that one of the tasks now is to sort "the serious from the not so serious".

"We're all hopeful that something will happen and we're anxious to turn up the wick again in the new year."

12/28/08 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim has not bought the Honda Formula One team and is not even in negotiations for the Japanese outfit, a source at the businessman's industrial and financial empire said on Sunday.

"There is no deal for the Honda team. There is neither agreement nor negotiations," the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Honda, with an annual racing budget of around 400 million dollars, pulled out of the Formula One world championship earlier this month and was put up for sale with the Japanese manufacturer struggling in the current global economic slowdown.

Earlier Sunday, Slim's son had also told the Mexican media that reports of a deal to save Honda were also without foundation. 

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Penske-Jasper split
Rumor has it that Penske Motorsports and Jasper engines will end their engine building business.  Why?  Who wants engines that don't make enough HP to win races on a regular basis?


Jarno Trulli may be replaced UPDATE #2 (GMM)  Jarno Trulli's manager has added another denial to speculation that the Toyota driver might be replaced before the start of the 2009 season.

John Howett, the Cologne based team's president, has already been quoted as confirming the 34-year-old's existing contract, following reports that third driver Kamui Kobayashi may be drafted in to partner Timo Glock next year.

The Italian's manager, Lucio Cavuto, told 422race.com: "Somebody envies Jarno, but in life it is better to be envied than pitied."

He therefore slammed the rumors, which originated on the internet, as "without foundation".

12/22/08 (GMM)  Toyota has dismissed reports that Jarno Trulli, the team's Italian race driver, could be replaced before the start of the 2009 season.

The Cologne based squad has already said that 34-year-old Trulli, who switched to the Japanese marque from Renault at the end of 2004, will once again line up alongside teammate Timo Glock next year.

But there have been rumors from Japan in recent days that the young Japanese Kamui Kobayashi, Toyota's third driver and a GP2 race winner in 2008, is being lined up to replace Trulli with immediate effect.

Toyota also strongly supports Kazuki Nakajima, who is currently placed with the Toyota-powered Williams team.

But team president John Howett told The Times: "We have a contract with Jarno in place."

12/19/08 There are persistent rumors in Japan that Jarno Trulli may be replaced at Panasonic Toyota Racing next year by Kamui Kobayashi and that Toyota is on the verge of disassembling its young driver program because of the need to cut costs.

Trulli has a year to run on his Toyota contract but has been with the team since 2005 and in the four years has failed to produce much in the way of results. He is very fast over one lap but tends to race poorly although he does seem to have improved this in recent years. In 2008 he managed to get a podium in France but otherwise was soon being matched by his novice team-mate Timo Glock.


Ecclestone rescues marriage in Serbia
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone rescued his ailing marriage with a post-Christmas visit to Belgrade, according to local media.

Slavica Ecclestone, in whose name much of the billionaire F1 chief executive's fortune is filed, last month formally confirmed their pending divorce.

But after the Swiss newspaper Blick revealed that Ecclestone, 78, spent Christmas Eve alone at their London marital home, Serbian media published photos of the couple together in Belgrade.

The reports said the Ecclestones are staying together in the capital city with friends in a private apartment.


Raikkonen facing Ferrari sack
(GMM)  Former Ferrari racer Eddie Irvine believes the Italian team should sack Kimi Raikkonen or slash his pay if the Finn fails to perform in 2009.

"If you're the highest paid you have to be the best and he's not doing the job, simple as that," the Ulsterman, who was Michael Schumacher's teammate between 1996 and 1999, told Virgin Media.

In his season as reigning champion, Raikkonen had a lackluster 2008, failing to win a race after April's Spanish grand prix and finishing 22 points behind his Brazilian teammate Felipe Massa.

It is believed Massa, just one point shy of winning the 2008 drivers' championship, earns only one third of Raikkonen's Ferrari retainer.

Both drivers have contracts to the end of 2010.

Irvine said of Raikkonen, 29: "If he doesn't beat Massa next year I'd be sacking him or reducing his wages massively.

"In sport if you perform you get paid and if you don't perform you're out."


Allmendinger to replace Sadler UPDATE #2 AJ Allmendinger will take over for Elliott Sadler behind the wheel of the No. 19 Dodge at Gillett Evernham Motorsports next season.

Sadler's possibilities are rumored to include the No. 41 Chevrolet at Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing or the No. 77 Dodge at Penske Racing should Sam Hornish Jr. replace Helio Castroneves in the IRL IndyCar Series.

Allmendinger will join Kasey Kahne in the flagship No. 9 GEM Dodge and newcomer Reed Sorenson, who will pilot the No. 43 Dodge following the imminent announcement of the merger between owner George Gillett and Richard Petty.

Rumor also has it that Raybestos Rookie of the Year recipient Regan Smith will drive for Furniture Row Racing in 2009. Foxsports

12/28/08 AJ Allmendinger is set to replace Elliott Sadler in the #19 Dodge in 2009, multiple Gillett Evernham Motorsports team sources told ESPN.com on Saturday. GEM CEO Tom Reddin told team employees and sponsors the news just before Christmas, causing some sponsors to consider leaving, according to team sources. Reached for comment Saturday, GEM spokesman Drew Brown chose not to comment. Sources also said Ray Evernham, who founded the team and sold majority ownership to George Gillett, cleared out all personal possessions from the team's shop, including the 2002 Brickyard 400 trophy he won as owner of Bill Elliott's #9 Dodge. Calls placed to Evernham and Sadler's representation were not immediately returned. ESPN.com

AJ Allmendinger reportedly moving from Red Bull Toyota team to struggling GEM Dodge team
12/28/08 Gillett Evernham Motorsports is working on replacing NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Elliott Sadler with AJ Allmendinger, according to sources familiar with the situation.

GEM spokesman Drew Brown said Saturday night he had no comment on the situation and Allmendinger business manager Tara Ragan told the Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service that Allmendinger is finalizing a contract with the team.

“We’re in the final stages of negotiations with Gillett Evernham,” Ragan said. “I think things will be sorted out within the next week. Nothing’s done till it’s done – knock on wood – but I think we’re all eager to make that work, and I think it’s safe to say we’re in the fine details and the fine-tuning of that.

“I don’t foresee any problems coming up, and I don’t think they do, either. But is it signed, sealed and delivered? No, not quite, but hopefully it will be in the next few days.”

Sadler's business manager couldn't be reached for comment.

Allmendinger drove the final five races of last season in the No. 10 car for GEM with an average finish of 16.4.  Scenedaily.com


BDR lays off entire team
Rumor has it that most of Bill Davis Racing’s employees were laid-off earlier this week following the sale of the team to Marty Gaunt and Mike Held.  The same source says that all team members are getting a chance to reapply for their position with the team, but probably at a lower salary.


Frozen engines to stay in F1
FIA president Max Mosley believes that the current engine freeze policy is set to stay in Formula 1.

"The plan, of course, was not so much a single engine, as for a single level of performance and a much cheaper engine. This will become increasingly necessary if we lose any more manufacturers," he told the official Formula 1 website.

Mosley believes frozen engines are here to stay, as long as the playing fields are leveled for all teams.

"I think we will end up with a frozen engine, regulated in such a way that independent teams can obtain inexpensive supplies," he said.

"I think we ought to try to have at least one independent outside engine supplier, because of the risk that we will lose another manufacturer or even two.

"The only problem with the original engine freeze was that in rectifying reliability problems, some teams appear to have gained somewhat in performance. We simply intend to ensure that the sporting contest remains fair."


Rumored to be unveiled at Detroit Auto Show

Toyota and Honda are rumored to be unveiling two of their most important new models in Detroit -- the next-generation Toyota Prius, and a re-conceived Honda Insight hybrid. Compared with the original quirky two-seater, the new Insight is more versatile and seats five.

Toyota is rumored to be unveiling a new Lexus hybrid built on the same platform as the Prius, and a concept for an affordable Toyota-brand electric city car.

Chevrolet will introduce the 2010 Equinox compact crossover and Kia will display a concept vehicle that it has not described but is derived from its new Kia Soul.

GM will display three vehicles that made their world debut in Paris in October -- the 2010 Cadillac CTS sport wagon, the Chevrolet Cruze small car and the Chevrolet Orlando concept.

The Cruze, a five-passenger subcompact, will go on sale first in Europe in March. The American version, to be built in Lordstown, Ohio, will be rolled out later, as a replacement for the Chevrolet Cobalt.

Ford Motor Co. will show the mid-size Ford Taurus sedan, a key vehicle in their car lineup, and the Lincoln MKT, the Lincoln brand's version of the Ford Flex crossover.

Chrysler will show a concept for an electric vehicle but has disclosed no other details, while Daimler AG's Smart carmaker will display the electric ForTwo that it unveiled in Paris.


PJ Jones to ARCA?
In addition to the cast of ARCA RE/MAX Series regulars and a brand new crop of rookies, several well known racing personalities were seen in the ARCA garage during the [Daytona] test, including PJ Jones. Jones, a veteran of NASCAR and the IndyCar Series, is the son of open wheel racing legend and 1963 Indy 500 winner Parnelli Jones. So just what was Jones doing in Daytona, testing the #37 Spraker Racing Chevy? "PJ and I go way back, and we're trying to put a deal together for him to run here in '09," stated Jeff Spraker, the team owner. "It's interesting. I've been out trying to put some sponsorship together for next year, and one of the companies I talked to was looking for a way to make a little more impact. When I mentioned the possibility of PJ, they said ‘Parnelli's kid?' I said yes, and we agreed to continue to talk." ARCARacing.com


What happened to the new IRL engine manufacturers
A reader writes, Dear AR1.com, The IRL (Brian Barnhart I think) was on record that they had to announce the engine manufacturers for the new IndyCar engine by the end of this year, in order for them to be ready for the 2011 season.  The end of this year is just 8 days away.  Where is the announcement?  Will Honda again be the lone engine supplier?  Jeff Gables, Miami

Dear Jeff, Indeed the IRL did say they had to announce the engine formula and who the manufacturers would be by the end of 2008, but in reality they have more time.  It does not take an engine manufacturer 2 full years to design and test an engine these days with the advent of advanced computer modeling and manufacturing techniques.  The real concern is that with the economy and the Versa TV package that will see ratings plummet in the USA, those who expressed interest may be having second thoughts.  Porsche has already backed away.  Let's hope the others (Audi, Alfa Romeo, Fiat) don't follow suit.  An IndyCar race (or two) in Europe certainly would help sway those European manufacturers.  Mark C.


Others may follow Honda out of F1 UPDATE #2 Toyota said that it remained committed to grand-prix racing, however. "We have absolutely no plans to withdraw from formula one," a spokeswoman, Yoshie Matsuura, told the Guardian newspaper.  When asked about the company's plans for the coming season, a Toyota executive was more vague. "Formula one and motor sport in general are very popular among young people, and we are committed to keeping it that way," he said.

12/22/08 (GMM)  The eyes of the formula one world have flicked nervously to Toyota, not yet three weeks after fellow struggling Japanese carmaker Honda announced it is withdrawing from the sport.

Toyota, the world's largest automaker, said in a statement on Monday it expected to record its first ever operating loss, to the tune of $1.7 billion in the year through March.

The projected loss replaces the previous prediction of a $6.7 billion profit, raising serious questions about the manufacturer's commitment to its Cologne based formula one team.

"The environment we're in is extremely tough," president Katsuaki Watanabe told reporters in Nagoya.  "We're facing an unprecedented emergency situation.  Unfortunately, we can't see the bottom."

In an attempt to cut costs due to the slumping demand for new cars and the stronger yen, Toyota has already cut contract jobs, production and executive pay including board members' bonuses.

12/05/08 Motorsport boss Max Mosley has warned that there is a "serious danger" another car manufacturer could follow Honda out of Formula One.

Mosley, president of governing body the International Automobile Federation (FIA), said Honda's exit was "very sad but it's not entirely a surprise".

Mosley said it was imperative the sport cut its soaring costs - with top teams spending about £300m a year.

Mosley derided the team's cost-cutting proposals as "fiddling about".

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Carroll to become F1 driver?
Although we would rate his chances at slim to none, A1GP driver Adam Carroll still has illusions of becoming a Formula 1 driver one day.

Carroll told British newspaper The Sun: "F1 is always extremely difficult to get into. It's such a small world, especially when you have drivers who stay in teams for a long time. Opportunities are very limited, more so because of things like the Renault and Red Bull young driver programs, which provide a ladder for those in them.

"So I think you just have to be smart. I'm really enjoying A1 at the moment and putting all my effort and concentration into going out to win this championship. And I believe only good can come of it. Hopefully I can go from there and put a program together to have another crack at Formula 1. That is still the main goal. Hopefully I can sneak in the back door. I haven't given up yet!"


Is Sirius XM circling the drain?
Sirius XM (SIRI) is racing to get its financial house in order before a meeting with restive shareholders scheduled for Dec. 18.

As chief executive officer of a company whose shares have plunged more than 85%, to 14¢, in the past three months, Mel Karmazin needs to refinance debt and demonstrate he's reining in expenses while convincing shareholders to back a reverse stock-split measure aimed at keeping the company from being delisted from the Nasdaq stock market in the coming months.

Some investors are dead set against the move, which involves the issuance of more shares as well as a reverse split that would boost the value of the stock to a level acceptable to Nasdaq. "I just don't feel there's been enough discussion about why it's needed," says shareholder Michael Harradine, who voted against the reverse split. Another shareholder, Michael Hartleib, who's coordinating the efforts of more than 1,000 individual Sirius shareholders, plans to vote against the reverse split at the meeting.

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Wealthy Mexican eyes Honda purchase
(GMM)  As the Honda Motor Company pushes for a buyer, a list of potential saviors of the Brackley based formula one team is becoming ever clearer.

It is already known that Prodrive's David Richards, who ran the Benetton and BAR teams in the past, has travelled to the Middle East for talks with investors.

Carlos Slim
But another serious candidate is Carlos Slim, a Mexican billionaire who is the second richest man in the world.

68-year-old Slim, who controls the telecommunications company Telmex, gave the game away when he visited the embattled team's UK headquarters last week.

His helicopter, displaying his official crest, was too big to be landed on the helipad, so the team had to clear the carpark, the British newspaper The Sun reported.

A takeover by Slim would boost the chances of GP2 driver Bruno Senna, who is backed by the Telmex subsidiary Embratel.

It is also believed that Force India's Vijay Mallya has expressed an interest in the team, as has a Swiss hedge fund and Greek shipping tycoon Achilleas Kallakis.

Team chief executive Nick Fry said: "We have had a high level of interest in the team since Honda announced their withdrawal from formula one.

"Work on the build of our 2009 car continues to ensure our objective of being on the grid at Melbourne in March will be achieved."


UK mulls possible bailout of India owned Jaguar
UK government may help bail out Jaguar even though it is now owned by Indian company Tata
British Ministers are weighing up a direct loan worth hundreds of millions of pounds to ailing carmaker Jaguar Land Rover, it was reported.  Business Secretary Lord Mandelson could approve a £500 million loan to the company, which employs around 15,000 people in the UK, the Sunday Times claimed.

The possibility of a loan comes amid fears of thousands of job losses across the industry as car sales fall away in the credit crunch.

The lack of loan availability saw new car sales plummet by more than a third in November compared to 12 months earlier.

And on Friday President Bush came to the rescue of the US car industry by offering 17.4 billion dollars (£11.5 billion) in emergency loans in exchange for concessions from the companies and workers.

According to the newspaper, talks of a Government guarantee for a commercial loan to the firm have shifted towards a potential direct loan because there was still no certainty that it would be able to borrow the cash. Jaguar Land Rover chief executive David Smith is said to be working on a contingency plan to cut thousands of jobs if aid is not forthcoming.

State help for the business would be controversial however because the firm is owned by Indian conglomerate Tata. But industry bosses told the Sunday Times that around 100,000 jobs from the 850,000 supported by the industry could go by next Easter.

A spokesman for the Department of Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform declined to comment on speculation of a loan. Sunday Express


Labonte to Earnhardt Ganassi UPDATE #2 Sirius Speedway reported earlier this week that veteran Bobby Labonte will drive the #41 next season, and he remains the leading candidate for the ride. However, a sponsor Labonte hopes to bring to the team has not yet come through, putting the partnership – at least temporarily -- on hold. Sirius Speedway/Motorsports Soapbox

12/17/08 Bobby Labonte will drive the #41 Target Chevrolet for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing in 2009, joining Martin Truex, Jr., Juan Pablo Montoya and Aric Almirola as part of a newly merged, four-car team. Labonte has not commented since announcing his split from Petty Enterprises last week, and the new Earnhardt-Ganassi operation remains in a virtual media lockdown. However, multiple sources close to the situation tell Sirius Speedway that a deal to put Labonte in the #41 is signed, sealed and delivered, after receiving the approval of sponsor Target. Work has already begun on the necessary promotional infrastructure -- photo shoots, marketing campaigns, ancillary programs, etc. -- for the coming season. Sirius Speedway/Motorsports Soapbox

12/16/08 Bobby Labonte has talked to Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing about their #41 opening, but said Tuesday a deal with the Sprint Cup team isn't imminent. "There are a lot of things that have to develop to make it happen," Labonte said in his first comments since leaving Petty Enterprises on Dec. 11. "Talks are happening, but that's not happened yet," Labonte said in a telephone interview. "I feel like they've got a great program, it's just a matter of they have to put their deal together before I come into the picture." USA Today


Bridgestone-Firestone preparing to blow Goodyear out
After years of enduring millions of dollars in equipment damage due to blown Goodyear race tires, will NASCAR finally put an end to their misery and switch to another brand?  Only time will tell, but it appears Bridgestone's USA arm, Firestone, are getting ready to bid against Goodyear as the tire of choice in stock car racing.

Robin Miller reports on SPEEDTV.com that Scott Pruett was testing one of Chip Ganassi's ARCA stock cars this week on the road course at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Firestone tires.

"It was not a Firestone test and it was not a NASCAR test, it was a technical exercise to try and develop current stock car technology," said Al Speyer, executive director of Firestone/Bridgestone motorsports.

"It was a brandless program. There was no name on the tires or the uniforms or even the tire machines. And the car was painted gray. We were just trying to be as low key as possible."

"We were quite encouraged," he said. "We ran a lot of different constructions and compounds and we learned a ton. Like I said, this environment is so much different than Indy cars.

"We used the road course because the natural progression is to start out with an easier application and work our way up to a super speedway. We've got things started, we'll gather our results and we'll continue testing in 2009."

Goodyear's exclusive contract with NASCAR ends in 2011.  Look for Firestone to be prepared to blow Goodyear right out of the sport.

Recall when the Corvette team switched from Goodyear rubber to Michelin at LeMans their lap times dropped 7 seconds (per lap).  Enough said.  Likewise, NASCAR will be easy pick'ens for Firestone.

This past Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis was Goodyear's darkest day as tires only lasted 10-12 laps and the race was a fiasco of mandatory yellows and pit stops to try and avoid accidents.  It will be a day few in NASCAR will ever forget. 

Order the flowers and plan the funeral....Goodyear's that is.


Is Dodge's NASCAR program circling the drain? UPDATE #7 With Chrysler going on what may be a permanent Christmas vacation, things aren’t going good at all round Auburn Hills way. Especially with the Cerburian masters busy sweating the GMAC situation. Automotive News communicates the urgency of the situation the only way it knows: by extolling how much more necessary this makes a bailout. But you won’t learn much by reading the rhetorical flailings of bailout-backing legislators. No, to get the real skinny on how bad things are you need a good old-fashioned racing metaphor from Dodge Motorsports director Mike Accavitti. “We are going to throttle back,” he tells Automotive News. “We have to reduce our spend. We have to get our expenses in line with our revenues.” Madness. And what of the literally hundreds of people who buy Avengers because of their epic oval exploits? “NASCAR is not exempt from anything else that we do to market and promote vehicles,” reveals Accavitti, who says Chrysler has plans to cut its NASCAR spending by more than 30 percent next year. Not too shabby for a company that’s literally at death’s door. Honda, Subaru and Suzuki ditched high-profile racing programs this year due to declining sales. And they all plan on staying open past December without receiving government aid. What’s wrong with this picture? TheTruthAboutCars

12/18/08 Indications are that Chrysler's involvement in NASCAR "will not change" on the heels of yesterday's announcement that the automaker will close all 30 of its plants for 30 days, effective tomorrow, "because of sagging sales.” A source said that the closings "will not alter Dodge's involvement in NASCAR," which includes deals with Gillett Evernham Motorsports, Penske Racing and Petty Enterprises. All three of those deals will be "honored next season"  ESPN.com

[Editor's Note: Order the flowers and plan the funeral.  Unless they get help from NASCAR (the call), the meager Dodge effort will be dwarfed by the mighty Toyota budget.]

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Toyota vehicle operations to post loss
Toyota's mainstay vehicle operations are likely to post their first ever loss for the fiscal year through March 2009, Japanese media reports said Friday, highlighting the dire conditions faced by global automakers.

The Nikkei, Japan's top business daily, said Toyota's standalone operating result will be a loss for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2009. It did not cite sources. Kyodo News had a similar report.

The reports said that the Toyota group of companies -- including Daihatsu Motor Co., which makes small cars, and truckmaker Hino Motors -- will manage to post a profit for the fiscal year through March 2009.

Toyota declined comment on the reports.


GM and Chrysler close to getting loans UPDATE #2 Statement from GM on approval of the loan - "We appreciate the President extending a financial bridge at this most critical time for the U.S. auto industry and our nation's economy.  This action helps to preserve many jobs, and supports the continued operation of GM and the many suppliers, dealers and small businesses across the country that depend on us.

"This will allow us to accelerate the completion of our aggressive restructuring plan for long-term, sustainable success.  It will lead to a leaner, stronger General Motors, a GM that is:

*dedicated to great products, exciting design, and world-class quality

*fully committed to leading in energy-saving vehicles and technologies,

*responsive to the needs of our customers, our stakeholders and the communities we live in and serve.

"We know we have much work in front of us to accomplish our plan.  It is our intention to continue to be transparent as we execute our plan, and we will provide regular updates on our progress.  We again thank the Administration for this important support of our industry at this challenging time, and we look forward to proving what American ingenuity can achieve."

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MIS to replace Belle Isle?
"MIS president Roger Curtis, whose track hosts two NASCAR events next year (June 14 and August 16), also was disappointed with the news.

"Our core business is NASCAR, but the IRL has always been important to MIS," Curtis said. "It's never been MIS vs. Belle Isle.

"(But) it's definitely worth a phone call to the IRL (about the possibility of bringing the race to MIS).

"The calendar is certainly not an issue. The concept is very exciting. We'll have to see what happens." Detroit News


GP2 engine supplier on brink of collapse
(GMM)  Mecachrome, the Renault-linked motor sport engineering company, seems on the brink of collapse.

The struggling Montreal based firm last week sought court protection from its creditors under the Companies Creditor Arrangement Act, which relates to bankruptcy procedures in Canada.

The company, involved in the preparation of Renault's F1 engines and also the chief supplier to GP2, also said its French subsidiaries have obtained similar creditor protection.

"Our goal is to allow Mecachrome to continue to operate as a going concern for the benefit of all those affected, including our many loyal employees, customers and suppliers," Mecachrome president Christian Jacqmin said.

Last month, however, the company admitted it had "substantial doubt" about its "ability to continue as a going concern".

The news about Mecachrome comes amid the global financial crisis, with Jacqmin admitting the "industry-wide challenges" and the company's "inability to raise capital in the current market environment".


Detroit IndyCar and ALMS races to be axed UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  “This is a real economic time of distress for everyone,” said Penske, who labeled the decision a postponement. “We couldn’t sit here and count on a lot of things happening (from a sponsorship standpoint) that we knew weren’t going to happen knowing that (Detroit) is so distressed with unemployment and all the things going on.”  The loss of the event reduced the IndyCar Series’ schedule to 17 races next season. More at AutoWeek

12/18/08 SPEEDTV.com reports that next year's Detroit Grand Prix has been postponed and there will be an official announcement Friday.  Roger Penske had revived the race, held on Belle Isle, in 2007 after getting the city to spend an estimated $7 million of taxpayer money to upgrade the paddock and temporary road course bordered by the Detroit River.

In addition to getting presenting sponsorship from Firestone and Bosch, Penske reportedly also spent his own personal money the past two years because the event was a money-loser. But, according to sources in Detroit, the corporate sponsorship for the Sept. 6, 2009 event have "dried up" thereby making the race even less feasible financially, and the decision has been made to axe the 16th of 18 races on the '09 IndyCar schedule. It's not known whether IndyCar will try to replace Detroit  but plenty of other venues were interested including Cleveland, Portland, a street race in Nashville, Utah, Barber Motorsports Park, and others.

"We look at that weekend as a very valuable part of our schedule," said John Griffin, vice president of IRL public relations. "It's a big motorsports weekend. "But what we're going to do, short term or longterm, won't be decided quickly."


GM May Shrink Pontiac lineup to just one model
General Motors Corp. peddled Pontiacs for years with the slogan “We Build Excitement.” To stay afloat, it’s producing fewer thrills -- and models.

The company may shrink the Pontiac division to a single model from six following a drop in sales every year since 1999. “It might be just one model,” Mark LaNeve, GM’s North American sales chief, said in an interview.

GM joins Chrysler LLC and Ford Motor Co. in trimming brands as U.S. sales sag amid the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. GM has said it will run out of cash by the end of the month and is seeking financial aid from the government to avoid a collapse.

While GM told Congress on Dec. 2 that it would shrink the number of models it sells, including at Pontiac, it hasn’t said previously that it might jettison all but one Pontiac brand.

Paring Pontiac to a lone model would deprive GM of its third highest-selling brand after Chevrolet and GMC, and almost 2.2 points of U.S. market share accounted for by Pontiac’s sales of 358,022 vehicles in 2007. GM’s market share has dwindled to 22.1 percent from a peak of 51.1 percent in 1962.  Bloomberg


French GP may not return until 2011 UPDATE #2 Public documents which have come to light in France give more details of the plans to build a Formula 1 circuit in the Seine Valley. The project at Flins, close to one of the major Renault factories, has the support of Prime Minister Francois Fillon. Tenders for the design and construction have been requested and a decision is due to be made in March or April next year. Construction is planned to begin in April 2010 and the circuit should be finished in March 2011, in time for a Grand Prix later that summer.

The plan is for a 235-acre site between the Seine river and the main Paris-Le Havre railway line. At the moment this is farmland but the property, called La Ferme La Haye, has been acquired by the authorities. The site is located 28 miles to the west of Paris and is within half a mile of the main A13 motorway from Paris to Rouen. The SNCF is rumored to be studying the possibilities of putting a new station next to the race track. The journey at the moment from the nearby station at Les Mureaux to the Gare St Lazare in Paris is 37 minutes, but this would be reduced if trains did not stop en route. The project is the brainchild of Pierre Bedier, the president of the Conseil General of the Yvelines department, who believes that a circuit will create jobs and economic growth in the area.

There is opposition from the communes on the northern side of the river where the town of Mezy would be affected by the noise of an F1 circuit and would not gain any advantage as it is inaccessible from the southern side of the Seine. The authorities say that any new circuit would have to have a high ecological standards. Grandprix.com

11/23/08 (GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone has confirmed reports that France is likely to be missing from at least the next two formula one calendars.

The F1 chief executive was responding to news that the prospective Disneyland Paris project pulled out for financial reasons.

Asked by the French daily L'Equipe if it means France will therefore be missing from the calendar both next year and in 2010, the 78-year-old billionaire answered: "I think it is quite sure.

"We went to Magny Cours for the wrong reasons, for political reasons.  Let's try and avoid a repeat.  What we want for sure is to find the right spot because the French grand prix has to be long lasting."

Ecclestone said he would now look into two alternate locations near Paris, including Sarcelles, a commune in the capital's northern suburbs, and also Flins-fur-Seine, in the north west.

"The first thing now is that I want to go there and see for myself how it looks," he said.

France's motor racing federation the FFSA said last month that Disneyland Paris was among five "serious" alternatives for the grand prix.

11/22/08 Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone believes it is imperative that the right venue is found before the French Grand Prix can return to the calendar. The French Grand Prix was removed from the 2009 Formula 1 calendar after the French Motorsports Federation (FFSA) announced that it would stop financing the event and Ecclestone has warned that it could be 2011 before the race is staged again. Euro Disney and Lagardere Sports had planned to bring the race to the outskirts of Paris but earlier this week they abandoned the project after concluding that it was not in their best interests economically.

"I've always thought it was the right spot for us, that it was the new location that suited the French Grand Prix," Ecclestone is quoted as saying in French daily L'Equipe. "I think it is quite sure (that there will be no race in 2010). We went to Magny-Cours for the wrong reasons, for political reasons

"Let's try and avoid a repeat. What we want is to find for sure the right spot because the French GP has to be long-lasting."

Ecclestone has plans to visit two other possible venues - in Sarcelles and Flins - before any decision is made on the future of the French race. "The first thing now is that I want to go there myself and see by myself how it looks like," he added. Setanta Sports


F1 crisis to impact driver salaries
(GMM)  F1's high-earning race drivers will not be able to avoid the impact of the financial crisis, according to leading team bosses.

Amid the global economic downturn, and Honda's withdrawal from the sport, the teams and the FIA agreed a radical raft of cost-cutting measures that should slash current annual budgets in half by 2010.

Mercedes' Norbert Haug admitted earlier this week that possible cuts in the drivers' wages will be handled internally in compliance with market forces.

Stefano Domenicali tells the Italian magazine Autosprint: "I feel in the current climate the big teams won't have the ability any more to think of offering certain amounts of money that some drivers get.

"So discussions can be held on this issue," the Ferrari team principal said.

The brunt of the global crisis struck late in 2008, after Kimi Raikkonen for example agreed a new contract believed to be in excess of $30m per season.

Domenicali said: "Anything can be modified in life.  The important thing is wanting to do it.

"I'm convinced this issue will soon be discussed among all the teams and with every driver."


Jerez may cease to be F1 test venue
(GMM)  Jerez may cease to be a formula one test location in the future, due to the sport's radical new in-season testing ban.

The southern circuit, and other Spanish venues including Barcelona and Valencia, is a favorite location for F1 test teams, mainly due to the country's temperate climate.

Kimi Raikkonen testing at Jerez last winter
F1 testing is therefore a source of income for these circuits, with the average rental per team amounting to about 7000 euros per day.

Jerez alone hosted 22 days of testing in 2008.  Of the 63 days of testing this year, 47 of them were in Spain.

"Jerez is the preferred circuit of the F1 teams and many efforts on our part have been applied in this area.

"At the moment it is really difficult.  So far we only have eight days of testing confirmed for next year," Jerez circuit director Juan Alvarez told the Spanish sports daily Marca.

"We are approved with formula one until 2011 but after that we'll have to see.  It is too early to say right now but it does not look very good.

"I think if the situation stays the same, we will have to think seriously.  I don't know if we will be interested to continue with the tests because it costs too much.

"If we get 20 days it is profitable, but seven or eight ...?"


Most teams may not use KERS in Australia
(GMM)  It is possible that many - or most - formula one cars will take to the grid for March's 2009 season opener without active KERS systems.

One high-level source a few days ago suggested that BMW-Sauber, seemingly the strongest advocate of the new energy-recovery technology, could be the only team committed to using KERS in Australia.

But even the team's driver Robert Kubica, concerned that his excessive height and therefore weight could hinder him in 2009, hints that KERS is far from a closed topic.

2008 constructors' champions Ferrari, openly critical of the voluntary KERS deployment next year, is yet to track test a working system, and admits the development phase has cost "much more" than initially thought.

"Our goal is to be ready with a working KERS for the first race, meanwhile we're also appraising the car without KERS," technical director Aldo Costa admitted.

Given the weight disadvantage of the 2009-style KERS systems, Kubica suggests that Ferrari's approach is not unique.

"We have to see in the later stages when we are closer to the first race which configuration is the quicker one -- I think this is the most important issue," the Polish racer told F1's official website.


Lenovo to McLaren UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Global PC manufacturer Lenovo and the McLaren Mercedes team have announced a partnership ahead of the 2009 Formula 1 season. Lenovo notebook and desktop PCs will provide the team's computing solutions, both at the race track and at its headquarters.

The announcement confirms the termination of Lenovo's previous sponsorship with the Williams team.

Engineers and technology specialists from the Chinese manufacturer have already begun to specify the mobile wireless computing technology required by McLaren Mercedes, as well as desktop computing needs for the pit garage and pit wall battle stations.

"Both Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and Lenovo are committed to the competitive advantages from exceptional engineering," said Martin Whitmarsh, the team's CEO Formula One. "We are looking forward to the significant technology contribution that Lenovo will provide through its notebooks and desktop computer solutions."

"Vodafone McLaren Mercedes performs at the highest level in Formula 1 and integrates PC technology into every aspect of its car design, development and racing -- as well as its business operations," said Deepak Advani, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Lenovo. 

"Lenovo has an excellent heritage of computing performance and reliability in complex, high-profile, global events -- such as the Olympic Games -- and we look forward to making a significant contribution to the team."

12/08/08 We hear that Lenovo will announce tomorrow that it is to sponsor the McLaren team next year. The company has been involved with Williams in recent years, but decided not to continue the arrangement. McLaren is not offering on-car sponsorship as was the case at Williams but the Lenovo marketing men seem to have decided that a sponsorship with McLaren plus trackside advertising will bring better returns on the F1 investment. Grandprix.com


Teams will be invited to field third cars
(GMM)  To boost the 2009 formula one grid from its current 18 cars, teams may be invited to field third cars.

That is the information of the Swiss motor racing weekly Motorsport Aktuell, which said Honda's withdrawal has left the sport in breach of its contracts with TV broadcasters.

To get the numbers back up to the minimum 20 competitors, top teams including Ferrari and McLaren could be urged to each voluntarily field a third non-points scoring car.


U.S. May Give Car Czar Power to Force Bankruptcies of GM, Chrysler
The U.S. Treasury may adopt a plan that would let a car czar or the Treasury secretary force General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC into bankruptcy if the automakers don’t show they can survive without government aid, a U.S. senator said.

GM and Chrysler would be required to submit viability plans by March 31 or lose any further U.S. support, Carl Levin, a Democrat from Michigan, told reporters in Detroit yesterday. The Treasury plan would resemble a measure passed by the U.S. House last week that was rejected by the Senate.

“I expect that the terms would be similar to the ones that were in the House bill,” Levin said. “The power rests in the hands of either the czar or the Secretary of the Treasury to force bankruptcy by March 31.”

GM and Chrysler are seeking $14 billion to keep operating through the first quarter of next year. Without an infusion of cash, the largest U.S. automaker and No. 3 Chrysler may be only weeks from insolvency.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto declined to speculate on when a plan might be finished, though he said yesterday on Bloomberg Television that the administration wants to make sure taxpayers will get their money back.

‘Rigorous Oversight’

“Of course there will be conditions to any taxpayer financing,” Fratto said. “There will be rigorous oversight to make sure that these companies are doing what they promised to do, and we want to make sure that everyone is making the concessions that they’re going to have to commit to make.”

The administration may approve the loans today or tomorrow, Levin said. “Everyone knows it’s urgent,” he said. “It’s a matter of weeks before they absolutely must have the funds in hand.” More at Bloomberg.com

formula bmw

Rossi's future to be cemented
According to AR1.com sources, a big announcement will soon be made for a 2009 Formula BMW Europe Championship run with the Eurointernational Team under a very famous driver's junior program. This can guarantee the future for young American Alexander Rossi, recent winner of the Formula BMW World Finals against some of the best young driving talent in the world.


Gordon to switch to Toyota UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Robby Gordon Motorsports officials announced today that the organization will partner with Toyota beginning with the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. RGM fields the No. 7, driven by Robby Gordon.

The team switched from Ford to Dodge for the 2008 season.

“We are excited to be partnering with Toyota in NASCAR in 2009. After watching their progress last season, we decided that a switch to Toyota was the right package for our team,” team owner Gordon said. “We are confident that fielding a Toyota Camry will add to the success of our organization and the competitiveness of our performance on the race track.”

Toyota was first involved with Gordon in 1989, when he became the youngest Grand National Sport Truck driver to win a championship in a truck from the manufacturer.

“I’ve known Robby as a driver, team owner and fierce competitor since 1990,” said Lee White, president of TRD, U.S.A. “We’ve raced together in off-road, IMSA, SCCA and IndyCar and have shared many memorable challenges and victories. It will be exciting to see how the association between Robby, his team, Toyota and TRD will develop in 2009. I promise you that it will not be boring to watch.”

Financial terms of the contract were not disclosed.

12/11/08 After years of being a backmarker due to inferior equipment, Robby Gordon is rumored to be moving to Toyota in 2009.


Williams to rethink need for test team UPDATE (GMM)  Williams is preparing to scrap its formula one test team, according to reports.

The Dutch portal f1today.nl quoted an unnamed mechanic, based at the British team's Grove headquarters, as saying the test team is expected to be wound up.

The news is almost certainly a reaction to F1's radical cost cutting reforms, including the total banning of in-season circuit testing from 2009.

The Williams test mechanic said: "We are open to (getting jobs with) all the other formula one teams and also to other categories in Europe."

He said the news is "not official yet" but "only a matter of time".

It is reported that, beginning next month, Williams' formula one test activities will instead be handled by members of the race team.

12/15/08 It appears that the Williams F1 Team may be letting go their test team. Several mechanics of the test team declared to f1today.nl that they are already searching for a new job, and as of January the race team will take over the test sessions. However nothing has been made official yet and the team denies that the test team will be dismissed.


French carmaker eyes Honda F1 team UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false.'  Reports that the French carmaker PSA Peugeot-Citroen is seriously considering buying Honda's formula one team have been denied.

Anonymous sources had apparently told a Belgian motor racing magazine that the manufacturer, last involved in F1 as an engine supplier to Prost, had made enquiries to acquire the Brackley based squad.

"It's totally false," the spokesman for Peugeot Sport Jean-Claude Lefebvre, who was involved with the marque's most recent F1 project, is quoted as saying by La Gazzetta dello Sport.

He played down the suggestion that PSA is able to consider entering F1 at this time because it is being less affected by the global financial crisis.

Lefebvre said: "We are having big problems with sales, just like all the manufacturers.  We have other things to think about other than considering going to F1."

La Gazzetta dello Sport said David Richards, believed to be backed by Arab money, as well as the GP2 team ART's Nicolas Todt, have also considered buying Honda.

12/15/08 (GMM)  The French manufacturer PSA, selling cars under the names Peugeot and Citroen, has reportedly expressed interest in buying Honda's beleaguered formula one team.

Anonymous sources apparently told the Belgian motor racing magazine Autosportnieuws that the carmaker, last involved in F1 as an engine supplier with the now-defunct Prost team, has made enquiries to buy the Brackley based team as an active F1 competitor.

Citroen's world rally team is the reigning drivers' and constructors' champion, and Peugeot is involved in Le Mans racing.

It is suggested that, given F1's willingness to vastly reduce operating costs, PSA is interested in stepping up because it has not been hit as hard by the world economic crisis than some of its peers abroad.

The French government is also pledging financial support to the car sector, in return for Renault and Peugeot-Citroen promising to limit job cuts and plant closures.

It is suggested that Sebastien Bourdais, the French F1 driver whose Toro Rosso seat is in doubt for 2009, would be part of a PSA buyout, with Jenson Button as his teammate.


Rule changes ahead for Truck Series?
In an effort to help save the teams money for the 2009 season and beyond, we are hearing that NASCAR may be ready to announce a couple of rule changes for the Truck Series. First, teams will be limited on the number of hard cards (annual credentials) they can purchase for the season. This will help control the number of people teams are bringing to the track each weekend. The other rule change rumor that is going around, is that NASCAR will limit the number of guys that can go over the wall during a pit stop. NASCAR will go from allowing seven men over the wall, to six. If this happens, expect teams to take away one of the tire carriers. Again, this would in theory help teams save money, as they would need one less crew member for pit stops. TheNASCARInsiders.com


No full time ride for Chrissy Wallace?
In a NASCAR.com article about Mike Wallace it was mentioned: Mike's not the only one in the family on pins and needles these days. He said Chrissy's 2009 schedule with Germain Racing is far from definitive, with that ugliest of terms -- "sponsorship" -- being the apparent hang-up. "Chrissy started out looking at a full schedule in the Camping World Truck Series, but now it doesn't look like that's going to happen," Mike said. "There was talk about doing the full Camping World East Series, but we're not sure about that, either. We're waiting to see what happens." NASCAR.com

track news

GM out, Toyota in at New Hampshire?
For nearly 18 years Chevrolet has served as the official car and truck of New Hampshire Motor Speedway but officials at the Loudon track, which hosts two high-profile and sold-out NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races a year, have learned that their Detroit-based deal with the financially troubled auto manufacturer is done.  That doesn’t mean Chevrolet is necessarily out though.

Thursday night speedway GM Jerry Gappens said negotiations have already begun toward forging a local-regional deal to replace the Detroit-direct pact that provided staff vehicles, pace cars and trucks along with courtesy cars, trucks and vans. They are typically all painted up and logo-ed with speedway insignia and sponsors serving a second purpose as rolling billboards. But a new opportunistic player has jumped into the exclusive NASCAR market offered by NHMS — Toyota. It certainly will put the pressure on the regional Chevy dealers and Gappens sounded upbeat in speaking about the tone of negotiations with the Japanese auto manufacturer, which is also firmly entrenched in NASCAR racing.

I’ll have more outtakes and a few strolls down memory lane this upcoming week from the annual NHMS track champions holiday dinner that was held at the Holiday Inn Thursday night. And later this month in the print edition I’ll present my annual top-10 New Hampshire racing people, places and events. The winner may surprise you. Unionleader.com


South Africa getting serious about F1? UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today.  South Africa look set to make a concerted effort to bring Formula One back to Africa, and in particular the Kyalami race track.  The Gauteng Motorsport Company was launched yesterday with the primary objective of ensuring that South Africa host an F1 race at Kyalami.

Kyalami from the air
The circuit, which is situated between Johannesburg and Pretoria, first played host to a grand prix in 1967, with the last race taking place in 1993.

The circuit is scheduled to hold an A1GP race as well as a round of the World Superbike Championship in 2009, but organizers are hoping to lure back Formula One.

"We are delighted that the day has finally come where we are able to share with you our vision for the future of motorsport in Gauteng, South Africa," Gauteng Member of the Executive Council Mandla Nkomfe said at the launch.

Kyalami in 1978 - Andretti leads Peterson
"Gauteng has the ability and the competency to deliver world class events with excellent facilities and it's high time we bring these events back to the country for our people.

"We plan to have a busy year with many exciting events to look forward to as part of our commitment to develop motorsport in Gauteng," Nkomfe added.

12/02/08 There are reports in The Citizen newspaper in South Africa that a new company called GP Motorsport (which apparently stands for Gauteng Province) has been formed with the goal of bringing Formula 1 back to the country.

According to these stories the ownership of the new company includes the provincial government, which seems to be willing to find the construction of an F1-standard track and pay the fees that are demanded by the Formula One group. Gauteng Premier Paul Mashatile, who took office only two months ago, was previously in charge of the province's Finance and Economic Affairs and was the man who instigated the deal to sponsor the Renault F1 team in January 2008. As a result there was a Renault F1 Roadshow on the streets of the Johannesburg suburb of Sandton last summer, at which Nelson Piquet and Lucas Di Grassi entertained a crowd of 60,000 people.

Kyalami today - still needs a lot of work to bring it up to current F1 standards
Paul Josephson/AR1.com
Mashatile was also behind a deal that will see Kyalami hosting a round of the A1GP Series in February next year. That deal is believed to run for several years.

The aim of all of these projects is to promote Gauteng as an investment and tourism destination.

The government of Gauteng Province believes that hosting world class events will bring in more people and that this will lead to economic growth.

Also involved in the project is Stephen Watson, a former driver who began work five years ago to try to bring open-wheeler racing back to South Africa, initially with a plan to take Champ Cars to a street circuit in Durban. Watson later became general manager of the A1GP Series and the Durban event ended up being for A1 Grand Prix cars.

The story in The Citizen indicates that track designer Hermann Tilke has been to Guateng in the last month and spent three days looking at a disused quarry near Kyalami which is believed to have been earmarked for the project by Mashatile's government.  Grandprix.com


Spy photos of Acura LMP1 car
Below are spy photos of the Acura ARX-02 LMP1 car testing.  Word is that Acura is very unhappy that Audi has announced that they are not going to compete in LMP1 next year except the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of LeMans.  That plus there is no official word that Porsche is going to enter LMP1 as rumored.  In fact they have dropped their LMP2 ALMS program and moved their efforts to the competing Grand-Am series.  Given all that it remains to be seen whether Acura decides to move forward with their LMP1 program.


Teams to sign up for spec Cosworth engine? UPDATE #3 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact with today's announcement that the idea of using standard Cosworth engines was approved for 2010 and beyond.

12/10/08 This rumor is close to being upgraded to 'fact' as AR1.com has learned that teams/FOTA did agree to the use of a standard FIA engine as an option for teams.

12/10/08 The Renault F1 team have played down suggestions that they are interested in using the standard Cosworth Formula One engine.  In a brief statement released on Wednesday morning, the French manufacturer said:

"Following speculation that appeared this morning in the Italian press, the ING Renault F1 Team would like to state that the positions of the Team and Renault are in complete accordance to those of the FOTA," said Renault in a statement.

"We would like to point out that neither Mr. Briatore nor Renault have spoken to the press regarding this matter before this official press release."

12/10/08 (GMM)  It is believed five teams have indicated they would consider signing up to Max Mosley's offer of a low-cost Cosworth powertrain package in 2010 and beyond.

As the formula one world reeled with the news that Honda is pulling out of the sport, the FIA president said he needed at least four teams to urgently sign up or the cost - 2m euros plus 5.5m euros per season per team - might increase.

It has been reported that, among presumably the four non-manufacturer backed teams in pitlane, Renault has also expressed interest in taking an inexpensive supply of Cosworth power.

"Since the president's letter last Friday, there has been a very positive response from F1 teams regarding our engine proposals," a spokesman for the governing FIA said.

He would not comment specifically on the suggestion that Renault is among the teams interested in the plans.

Renault also declined to comment.

The issue of engines will be central to the FOTA alliance's meeting with Mosley on Wednesday in Monaco, with Friday's World Motor Sport Council looking to urgently ratify cost-cutting measures.

12/09/08 Rumor has it that the Force India, Renault, Red Bull, Williams and Toro Rosso F1 teams will agree to run the spec Cosworth F1 engine starting in 2010.  This will dramatically reduce costs.  Expect more teams to agree to this huge cost savings.  No engine will be allowed to have more power than the Cosworth so it would be downright stupid to spend a lot of money on your own engine for nothing.

FIA president Max Mosley has given teams until Thursday afternoon to sign up to the option of having a standard-specification Cosworth engine from 2010.

In a letter to the teams last week, he said the deal would go ahead as long as a minimum of four outfits were interested in a three-year deal - which will cost them an upfront fee of £1.68 million and an annual charge of £5.49 million.


GM may lose 30-40% of its dealerships
General Motors Corp. may lose as many as 40 percent of its 6,500 U.S. dealerships should lender GMAC LLC default, a key retailer for the automaker said.

"There's so many dealers on the edge, if GMAC goes out of business 30 to 40 percent of dealers won't be able to get financing from anywhere else," Martin NeSmith, a liaison to GMAC as member of GM's National Dealer Council, said in an interview. "They'll go out of business."

Dealers face a double threat as GMAC and GM teeter toward insolvency. GMAC said Wednesday that it lacks the funding it needs to become a bank holding company and free up more money for dealer-inventory financing, called floorplan. GM, which owns 49 percent of GMAC, said it may run out of cash this month without at least $4 billion in federal loans ensnared in a U.S. Senate debate.

"The likelihood of getting floorplan from anyone else is very much in doubt," said NeSmith, a Claxton, Ga.-based retailer of Chevrolets, Buicks, Pontiacs and GMC trucks. Dealers are scared to death.

track news

GM may axe Daytona sponsorship
General Motors Corp. has not decided whether to renew a decades-long sponsorship of the Daytona International Speedway and its signature stock car race, the Daytona 500, despite the deal's expiration in three weeks.

GM has a multiyear agreement that ends Dec. 31 to serve as the official car and truck provider of the speedway and the Daytona 500, NASCAR's most prestigious event, speedway spokesman Andrew Booth said Thursday. The race is Feb. 15.

"I know we've had some talks with them but right now, we are continuing to explore opportunities," he said. "We don't comment on our prospects."

GM said discussions are under way about the Daytona sponsorship but the automaker has not reached an agreement.

Read more & Comment...

WMSC to rubber-stamp FIA-FOTA cost cutting
(GMM)  Friday morning's meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Monaco is expected to rubber-stamp cost-slashing proposals that will avoid the need to install a standard engine formula in 2010.

The proposals, although not yet publicly confirmed, were agreed between FIA president Max Mosley and F1's nine teams at a meeting in the Principality earlier this week.

Following Honda's shock departure from the sport, FOTA chairman Luca di Montezemolo said the teams had been motivated to act in unison due to the economically "difficult moment of our sport".

The details are expected to be unveiled later on Friday, but it is understood that - instead of going ahead with Mosley's standard Cosworth engine proposal - it has been agreed that F1's current generation of 2.4 liter V8s can be detuned to cut costs.

This will be achieved by expanding mandatory engine unit life from two races in 2008 to four races in 2009, and also reducing the rev limit from 19,000 to 18,000 rpm.

Additionally, the manufacturers will commit to making available customer engines to potentially two independent teams apiece for no more than 5 million euros per season.

This undertaking will have the natural effect of drastically containing engine development and running costs.

Another huge saving will be the total ban on circuit testing between the season opening Australian grand prix until November's final race of 2009 in Abu Dhabi.

It is also believed that teams have agreed to cut out at least one complete shift in their daily wind tunnel programs, and by 2010 reduce staff numbers from the current up to 1000 to no more than 250 per team.


Green light for F1 'medals' unlikely UPDATE (GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone's proposal to replace the formula one points system with Olympic Games-style 'medals' in 2009 is expected to be voted down this morning.

The F1 chief executive's idea, where the amount of wins rather than points will crown the drivers' world champion, may be presented to Friday morning's meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Monaco.

But FIA president Max Mosley, who earlier this week met with the F1 teams' alliance FOTA in Monaco, told the Daily Mail newspaper that he is not sure the proposal will attract sufficient support.

"Medals can't be done in 2009 without a unanimous agreement and that may not be forthcoming," he said.

11/27/08 (GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone's plan to install an Olympics-style 'medals' scoring system for formula one in 2009 may not be approved, British newspapers report.

After former team owner Eddie Jordan slammed the idea as "nonsense", the London newspaper The Times said it "is likely to be rejected by the FIA".

F1 chief executive Ecclestone, 78, insists that the teams fully support the proposal, but it must first be approved by the FIA at a forthcoming meeting of the World Motor Sport Council.

The Times said the FIA "is not expected" to support the scheme, and even if a green light is shown, "it would not be implemented" until 2010.

An unnamed 'team insider', meanwhile, told The Guardian that the concept "has certainly not been agreed by all the teams".

The Daily Telegraph said Ecclestone's proposal "may not even be formally on the agenda" for the FIA meeting.


Dyson to take over Mazda ALMS effort UPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement - see Hot News page.

11/29/08 We are upgrading this rumor from 'speculation' to 'strong' based on inside information obtained by AR1.com.

11/28/08 As we reported earlier, B-K Motorsports has shut down.  Meanwhile Dyson Racing has split with Porsche in a surprise and bewildering move. Spies spotted Dyson's truck at B-K Motorsports this week.  Does this mean Mazda is switching from B-K to Dyson Racing for the 2009 season?  All signs point that way.


Labonte wants to switch to Chevy, leaves Petty UPDATE #2 Bobby Labonte and Petty Enterprises have reached a mutual agreement to separate, the team confirmed on Thursday. The 2000 Sprint Cup champion signed a four-year extension with partial ownership to remain in the famed #43 car that Richard Petty drove to seven titles earlier this season when Boston Ventures purchased majority interest in NASCAR's most storied organization. But with the car unsponsored -- General Mills is moving to #33 Clint Bowyer Richard Childress Racing in 2009 -- and the future of the organization in doubt he has opted to seek employment elsewhere. A possible scenario for Labonte could be the new Earnhardt-Ganassi team that has an open spot in the #41 Target car. Sources said the organization has had informal discussions with Labonte and would be interested if he were available, although his car number may not be the #41. Labonte, in a prepared statement, said only that he did not have a contract for 2009 and that he was ready to explore all options.

"In over 15 years of racing in the Sprint Cup Series, I can't remember a time when the sport's landscape looks as it does today,'' he said. "Saying that, Petty Enterprises and I had serious and very sincere discussions about what was best for myself and everyone involved at Petty Enterprises moving forward. These discussions culminated with us agreeing that moving in a separate direction will be the greatest way to reach our end goals. It was by no means an easy decision. I am, and will always be, very appreciative of what Richard Petty and the Petty family, every employee of Petty Enterprises and members of Boston Ventures did to invest in bettering my career the past three seasons.''

The Pettys have been in negotiations with Gillett Evernham regarding a possible merger into a four-car team. Under that scenario, the #43 would become the fourth car with the #9 Kasey Kahne, #19 Elliott Sadler and #10 Reed Sorenson of GEM. "We can confirm Gillett Evernham Motorsports is in exclusive negotiations with Petty Holdings," Tom Reddin, CEO of Gillett Evernham Motorsports, said "GEM has a very solid foundation and this is an exciting opportunity to build on that foundation with one of the greatest names in the history of motorsports. We will work diligently over the next several weeks and make further comment at the appropriate time."

Petty officials were not immediately available for comment, but it obvious they are in a state of flux. Approximately 65 employees have been released since the season ended. Thirty-nine were let go on Monday. ESPN

12/09/08 Adding another layer of intrigue to the Ganassi-DEI merger story are unconfirmed reports that Bobby Labonte may be negotiating to jump to DEI-Ganassi Racing, driving the #41 Target car. The deal would be contingent on Labonte's ability to negotiate an exit from Petty Enterprises, where he is signed through the 2012 season.

With rumors of Dodge's eventual demise, Bobby Labonte wants to move to a Chevy team
A spokesman for DEI-Ganassi Racing said today that while he has heard Labonte’s name as one of many rumored to be in the running for the #41 car, he has no knowledge of any ongoing negotiations. A number of cards obviously remain to be dealt at this point. But at present, the most likely scenario appears to be for Labonte to negotiate his departure from Petty Enterprises, allowing him to move to DEI-Ganassi Racing with sponsorship from Target. That would keep Truex and his Bass Pro Shops sponsorship in-house, opening the door for AJ Allmendinger to drive the #43 Dodge next season for the newly merged Gillett-Evernham/Petty Enterprises tandem. Sirius Speedway/Motorsports Soapbox

12/09/08 A possible scenario that could play out if the Petty-GEM merger goes through would place Reed Sorensen, who signed with GEM in August, in the #43. AJ Allmendinger, who parted ways with Red Bull Racing after the Kansas Speedway race in September and drove the #10 GEM Dodge for the final five races of the season, would remain in that ride according to sources. Bobby Labonte, who signed a four-year extension with the new BV regime and was given ownership as part of his benefit package. Now, it appears that Labonte could drive the #41 Target car for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing. FoxSports


Analyst: Chrysler can't survive UPDATE #2 Chrysler LLC does not have the scale to survive as a standalone automaker, with or without a government loan, CSM Worldwide forecasters said today in laying out the grim road ahead for the remaining "Detroit Two" which also would continue to diminish in importance against the growing presence of foreign automakers in North America.

It would be best for everyone involved if Chrysler were allowed to gracefully wind down and go away in a controlled, staged process, leaving a Detroit Two, said Michael Robinet, CSM vice president of global vehicle forecasts, at an Automotive Press Association event in Detroit.

Assessing General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler in terms of scale, efficiency, products consumers want to buy and the ability to make money on those products, "one of those manufacturers doesn't really have the scale, at least in most vehicle lines, that is required to survive in this market," Robinet said in singling out Chrysler.

It wasn't all Chrysler's fault, said CSM CEO Craig Cather, laying much of the blame at the feet of Daimler which owned Chrysler before Cerberus Capital Management LP bought a majority stake. Daimler handicapped Chrysler and its ability to expand internationally, Cather said.  Detroit News

12/03/08 Unlike Ford and General Motors, Chrysler is a private company. As the Detroit Free Press and others have pointed out, that makes the company less appealing when it comes to a bailout loan:

David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, said he believes Chrysler's status as a private company "adds to the complexity" of a loan arrangement.

To combat the concerns, Chrysler Chief Executive Officer Bob Nardelli has said that private-equity owner Cerberus Capital Management will pledge to forgo any profits from a Chrysler sale if the government helps out. Nardelli also told lawmakers during congressional hearings last week that he'll work for $1. No one in Congress has suggested treating Chrysler differently from the other Detroit automakers.

While Cole disagrees with the idea of excluding Chrysler for help, he said he understands the argument against lending it federal money.

Chrysler said Tuesday that sales dropped 47 percent compared with a year ago, the largest drop of all the major automakers.  Chrysler would be wise to merge with GM, as we cannot see it surviving much longer.

Read more & Comment...

Ganassi shuts down Nationwide team UPDATE This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact.'  The newly merged Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team has shut down its NASCAR Nationwide Series operation, former crew chief Brad Parrott confirmed Wednesday.  Parrott said seven crew members were laid off from the team, which originally planned to run the full Nationwide schedule next year with driver Bryan Clauson.  The laid-off crew members were told Monday, Parrott said, and Earnhardt Ganassi trying to sell its inventory of Nationwide Dodges.  Clauson’s status with the team is unknown. The 19-year-old finished second in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings in the Nationwide Series this season.

12/10/08 Rumor has it that the #40 Chip Ganassi Nationwide team was shut down yesterday. Crew chief Brad Parrott, a majority of the road crew and several shop personnel were released.


DirecTV cancels NASCAR Hot Pass
The email is flying around the Internet, but as of Tuesday evening we [Daly Planet] are being told that DirecTV has cancelled NASCAR Hot Pass for 2009. Official word should come sometime on Wednesday. This service, which provided four "mini-networks" to subscribers, featured two announcers calling the race from the perspective of each driver. Fans got to hear all the in-car radio traffic, see the various in-car cameras and switch between the four feeds anytime during the race. Daly Planet


Petty to drive for Wood Brothers?
Now that Kyle Petty has been axed by Petty Enterprises, he said would be open to running a part time schedule and there is some speculation that he may be in line for one of the Wood Brothers part time teams in 2009. The Wood Brothers recently announced that they would only campaign in 12 races next season primarily at the larger tracks where they have had good performances in the past. Although veteran Bill Elliott was originally named as the driver for those 12 races, now that Petty has thrown his hat into the ring, there could be a possibility that Petty may share the seat with Elliott.

In 86 starts with the Wood Brothers, Petty scored 2 victories, 17 top 5 and 40 top-10 finishes. Cupscene.com


Some of 9 remaining F1 teams circling the drain
The nine remaining teams in Formula One motor racing have been dealt a fresh blow after last week’s sudden announcement that Honda, the Japanese car manufacturer, will be pulling out of the sport.

A new study by the German division of Dun & Bradstreet, the business intelligence group, has questioned the creditworthiness of the majority of F1’s teams by revealing that on average only two of them paid their bills on or before the due date in 2008.

The D&B F1 Paydex study ranks the teams based on their payment behavior and financial statements, and highlights those that are running healthy businesses and those that may be the next to reverse out of the sport.

Leading the pack is Toyota, which, on average, pays its invoices five days before they are due, with only 11 per cent of its bills being late.

It is followed by Toro Rosso and Red Bull Racing, which both pay 99 per cent of their bills on time – unsurprising given that the teams share the common ownership of the Red Bull drinks company.

Read more & Comment...

Truex/Bass Pro Shops could leave DEI
Sirius Speedway has learned that DEI-Ganassi Racing is making a serious push to add another sponsor to its lineup, in an effort to avoid the possible loss of driver #1-Martin Truex, Jr., and sponsor, Bass Pro Shops. Language in the contracts of both Truex and Bass Pro Shops reportedly requires DEI to field at least two fulltime teammates for Truex next season, and with only Aric Almirola’s unsponsored #8 car likely to return, sources say DEI had little choice but to merge with Ganassi, in an effort to retain their only funded driver. The merged DEI-Ganassi stable now includes Truex’s Bass Pro Shops-sponsored #1, Juan Pablo Montoya’s #42 with partial sponsorship from Wrigley’s, the #41 car with Target sponsorship, and Almirola’s unsponsored #8. Sources say the [Ganassi] team made a major push recently to upgrade Fastenal’s Nationwide Series sponsorship to a Sprint Cup deal, but were left high and dry when Fastenal declined the offer in order to begin discussions with another major NASCAR team [no word who].

Speculation centers on Stewart-Haas Racing getting Truex and Bass Pro Shops, with Truex teaming with #14-Tony Stewart and #39-Ryan Newman. Stewart said weeks ago that his team is not looking to field a third car next season, and team spokesman Mike Arning echoed those thoughts today. “We would obviously have to take a good, hard look at a situation like that, but I think we would be hard-pressed to make it happen,” said Arning. “We have a lot to prove to people next year; specifically that we can compete right out of the box as a two-car team. Adding a third car at this late date would be extremely difficult, and while it’s obviously not my call, my guess is that it might be too much to take on.” Sirius Speedway/Motorsports Soapbox


Ford may sell Volvo unit UPDATE Ford Motor is in talks to sell its Volvo car business to its China partner Changan Automobile Group, the National Business Daily reported on Tuesday, citing an unnamed source at the Chinese company.  Changan president Xu Liuping held discussions with Ford and Volvo during last month's auto show in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, the newspaper said.  The report did not provide details of the talks, but quoted an unidentified Changan executive as saying there was a chance for a deal. Changan is one of China's six biggest auto groups.

10/27/08 Ford Motor Co. may sell Swedish carmaker Volvo to BMW in order to raise cash, according to a report on Monday. Preliminary discussions have taken place between the two auto makers, according to the U.K.'s The Sunday Times, citing senior industry sources.  Both firms denied talks, the newspaper said.


Congress to appoint "car czar"
Congress' Democratic leaders plan to establish a "car czar" with sweeping powers to oversee the U.S. automakers' restructuring efforts.

The president would appoint the car czar or have the czar head a board of officials with financial expertise to supervise both short-term lending to Detroit's struggling automakers as well as their long-term efforts to become viable businesses. The provision is part of legislation introduced Monday that would provide automakers with up to $15 billion in emergency loans.

Any transaction valued at more than $25 million made by an automaker taking federal loans would be subject to the car czar's approval.

The cash-strapped automakers expressed no objection to the appointment of a car czar, and some executives said the companies might benefit from having an administration official who could bring pressure to bear on creditors and other stakeholders as they restructure.

Read more & Comment...

Red Bull plans to sell Toro Rosso UPDATE #2 This rumor is downgraded back to 'speculation' today.  Red Bull's motorsport advisor Helmut Marko says that rumors of Red Bull Racing or Scuderia Toro Rosso quitting F1 are simply not true.  Marko said: "They (both teams) are safe right now. But Red Bull Racing could save 30 percent of their budget."

11/27/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Former co-owner Gerhard Berger has confirmed reports that he abandoned the Toro Rosso project because Red Bull wants to sell the team.

Red Bull, previously with half-ownership of the Faenza based team, announced this week that it has taken over the other 50 per cent stake, controlled since 1996 by the former grand prix winner Berger.

The Austrian told the Tiroler newspaper that he started thinking about pulling out "when Didi (Mateschitz) said that because of the changes in regulations he wanted to sell".

"I would have gladly continued with Toro Rosso, but I could not finance it by myself," Berger added.

He said that without Red Bull's support, Toro Rosso would revert to its Minardi-like days of mere survival rather than competing with the other teams.

"The conditions in order to make the next step are no longer there, and it has never been my style just to be here (in F1) for the sake of it," said Berger.

Dietrich Mateschitz
11/26/08 (GMM)  Gerhard Berger sold his 50 per cent share of the Toro Rosso team back to Red Bull because of the 'customer car' issue.

It was previously understood that Dietrich Mateschitz, the owner of Red Bull Racing, wanted to offload his 50 per cent STR share, because of the tightening rules about non-constructors.

Like Red Bull, Toro Rosso races a car designed by Red Bull Technologies.

The practice has been highly controversial, and all teams have now been told categorically they must design and build their own cars by 2010.

"The rules about non-designers makes it very difficult for Toro Rosso to continue to develop," Berger, a former winner of 10 grands prix, told Austria's APA news agency.

"(Red Bull's) support for Toro Rosso no longer exists to the extent that we can continue to make progress.  The precondition for me (to be involved) is the chance of success."

In a statement issued by Red Bull, Berger said: "A 100 per cent financing of a joint project by one partner can only make sense, to my mind, at an initial stage.  This stage is over now.

"That's why Red Bull will take over the shares again."

It is understood that Red Bull's full control will make Toro Rosso easier to sell.

Berger told APA that he will no longer be involved at all.  "This is no big secret," he explained.


Williams CEO: More teams will go
Honda are likely to be followed out of Formula One by another manufacturer before the start of next season, Williams chief executive Adam Parr has said.

"I had expected one or two teams to pull out of Formula One imminently. And I also said that it was not necessarily going to be just independent teams that were involved," he said.

"I believe that we probably will lose another team before the beginning of next season and there is a very high chance it will be a manufacturer."

Parr said Honda's departure was "entirely predictable."

"Honda didn't have to leave Formula One, it chose to," he said, depicting the Japanese manufacturer's departure as a "natural consequence of unlimited and unrestrained spending."

Read more & Comment...

Paffett hopes Force India door to open
(GMM)  With just over 100 days to go to the first race of 2009, Gary Paffett has admitted his links with McLaren-Mercedes could "open the door" to his formula one debut.

The 27-year-old Briton, a McLaren test driver for the past three years who in 2008 raced in the DTM series, admitted his experience would be useful for Force India.

"That in itself is invaluable for a team trying to develop a car and would certainly put the pieces of the puzzle together for the relationship between Force India and McLaren," he told The Sun at a British motor racing awards evening in London.

For 2009 and beyond, Silverstone based Force India will receive technical support from McLaren, and engines from Mercedes, in a deal that has already seen McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa test for the team.

And Paffett said: "I feel I am ready to race in formula one."

He admitted that the McLaren-Force India collaboration has boosted his chances of joining the grand prix action next year.

"There's certainly a door to be opened with McLaren teaming up with Force India technically and with Mercedes engines and gearboxes," said Paffett, although admitting that Honda's withdrawal from the sport was an unexpected shot of news.

"Things seem to be a little bit difficult in general at the moment.

"We'll just have to get through this patch and see what happens.  But I am doing everything I can to get myself racing again," he said.

track news

IndyCar series to test at Barber
The Indy Racing League will use Barber Motorsports Park for a full-field, three-day IndyCar Series test session just prior to the season.

The test will be one of just two preseason tests that the IRL will hold in 2009. The other will be at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

IRL spokesman John Griffin confirmed the Barber Motorsports Park test on March 20-22 and said the IRL will make an official announcement on Monday. He said he expects all IndyCar Series drivers will participate, including stars such as Danica Patrick and Helio Castroneves.

The Firestone Indy Light Series, a developmental series sanctioned by the IRL, will also test that weekend.

Barber Motorsports Park officials said the three-day test session will be open to the public, and tickets will go on sale Monday. They will range from $10 per day in advance to $15 on the day of the test. Three-day tickets will also be available and those will range from $25 in advance to $35 on the first day of the event.

Read more & Comment...

Fry hopeful Honda team will be sold UPDATE #3 (GMM)  David Richards has not denied reports he could be interested in taking over the Honda team.

In the wake of the Japanese manufacturer's decision to pull out of the sport, Richards - the Prodrive boss who ran the team's previous BAR incarnation until 2004 - has been cited as being possibly involved in the rescue of the Brackley based outfit.

The Daily Mail claims that the 56-year-old Briton, who fell out with Jenson Button prior to leaving the team four years ago, has been in touch with two interested buyers who want him to lead the project.

It is believed the two parties could be Dubai Investment Capital, who through Magma Group nearly bought Honda-powered Super Aguri earlier this year, and Formula 3 figure Trevor Carlin.

"I'm keeping an open mind," Richards said.  "You could say that the facilities Honda have make it an attractive proposition but I disagree.

"The overheads are not what would be needed in an age when formula one is cutting costs.  I won't rush into anything," he added.

12/06/08 "In the last 12 hours, we've had three serious people come to us and suggest they would like to buy the team, so we're still hoping to be there in Melbourne," Honda Racing CEO Nick Fry told the BBC.

A source told The Daily Telegraph in London that a deal could be announced "by the end of the weekend." The newspaper said the team would then operate with a budget one-third the size of Honda's, about £50-million ($93.5-million).

It is believed the chief potential buyer is Dave Richards, the chairman of Prodrive, a British automotive technology company. Richard ran the BAR team in 2001 but was replaced by Fry when Honda took over the team in 2004.

12/05/08 (GMM)  Nick Fry on Friday said he is confident Honda will find a buyer for the Brackley based formula one team and be on the grid as scheduled in Melbourne next March.

Citing the world economic situation, in which sales of motor cars has crashed, Honda Motor Company announced from Tokyo that it will no longer be involved with the sport.

Nick Fry
The team is therefore currently on the market, and in a race against time to find a buyer before the factory doors are closed.

Team chief executive Fry told the BBC: "In the last 12 hours we've had three serious people come and suggest they'd like to buy the team."

Honda, although uncompetitive in the last two years, spent most of last season working on its 2009 car.

Honda is prepared to assume any debts, and sell the team as a going concern for a nominal sum.

"I've no doubt Honda would have been in the top four next year without any problems," said F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.

"They've spent a lot of money to put themselves in that position so if anyone does want to be in F1 this is a team they should look to buy.

"It's a big opportunity for any company that's run efficiently to benefit," he said.

Fry revealed that should the team survive, Jenson Button is first in line for a race seat.

"He has a contract with the team for next year," Fry said, referring to the 28-year-old British driver.

Read more & Comment...

Cup field dwindling fast UPDATE Correction: Max Papis is not gone and he will run a partial 18-race schedule in 2009.  He has a 4-year deal with Geico.

12/06/08 46 Cup cars were entered at Homestead for this year's Sprint Cup finale.  Looks like as many as 11 could be gone from the field (in bold) for next year or are only running a partial season.  And of the 35 full-time teams we know of,  five teams will make up 20 of 35 -  Roush 5, Hendrick 4, Childress 4, Gibbs 3 and GEM 4

1 4 99 Carl Edwards Ford Office Depot Roush 1
2 5 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil Childress 1
3 7 26 Jamie McMurray Ford Crown Royal Roush 2
4 37 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet DuPont Hendrick 1
5 27 07 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet Jack Daniel's Childress 2
6 18 9 Kasey Kahne Dodge Budweiser GEM 1
7 19 28 Travis Kvapil Ford All Sport Yates 1
8 12 5 Casey Mears Chevrolet Kellogg's / CARQUEST Hendrick 2
9 13 20 Tony Stewart Toyota The Home Depot Gibbs 1
10 10 1 Martin Truex Jr. Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker DEI 1
11 43 10 A.J. Allmendinger Dodge Valvoline ????
12 15 21 Bill Elliott Ford Motorcraft 10 of 36 races
13 25 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Express Gibbs 2
14 39 66 Scott Riggs Chevrolet State Water Heaters Stewart 1
15 30 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's / Kobalt Tools Hendrick 3
16 2 83 Scott Speed Toyota Red Bull Red Bull 1
17 11 42 Juan Montoya Dodge Juicy Fruit Slim Pack Ganassi/DEI 2
18 23 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M Roush 3
19 8 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's Gibbs 3
20 1 44 David Reutimann Toyota UPS MWR 1
21 29 12 Ryan Newman Dodge Alltel Penske 1
22 33 22 Dave Blaney Toyota Bad Boy Mowers GONE
23 31 25 Brad Keselowski Chevrolet GoDaddy.com GONE
24 6 6 David Ragan Ford AAA Roush 4
25 3 17 Matt Kenseth Ford DEWALT Roush 5
26 14 7 Robby Gordon Dodge Jim Beam Gordon 1
27 34 38 David Gilliland Ford Digital TV Transition Yates 2 (Roush Satellite)
28 24 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge Hellmann's GEM 2
29 21 109 Sterling Marlin Chevrolet Miccosukee Resort & GONE
30 36 15 Paul Menard Chevrolet Johns Manville / Menards Yates 3
31 9 41 Reed Sorenson Dodge Target Ganassi/DEI 3
32 20 84 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull Red Bull 2
33 35 43 Bobby Labonte Dodge Liberty Medical GEM 4
34 26 01 Regan Smith * Chevrolet DEI / Principal Financial G GONE ???
35 40 8 Aric Almirola Chevrolet U.S. Army GONE
36 16 78 Joe Nemechek Chevrolet Furniture Row Racing GONE
37 32 70 Tony Raines Chevrolet Haas Automation Stewart 2
38 42 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota NAPA AUTO PARTS MWR 2
39 28 45 Chad McCumbee Dodge Marathon American Spirit GONE
40 17 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet AT&T Mobility Childress 4
41 22 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet National Guard / AMP Energy Hendrick 4
42 41 347 Marcos Ambrose Toyota Little Debbie New w/MWR
43 38 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite Penske 2
44 - 96 Ken Schrader Toyota DLP HDTV GONE???
45 - 213 Max Papis Toyota GEICO 18 Races
46 - 77 Sam Hornish Jr. * Dodge Mobil 1 PENSKE 3


One more team could follow Honda exit
(GMM)  As the shock news of Honda's formula one departure sinks in, fears that another team could drop off the 2009 grid are rising.

It was thought Japanese rival Toyota could be the most likely to follow the auto making giant out of the paddock, amid an even worse slump in car sales figures in the key US market.

But it is Red Bull, the Austrian energy drinks company, and owner of two teams, that has issued the most worrying statement, stating it is "not surprised" by Honda's decision.

"Numerous other race teams are having similar thoughts," the Austrian group is quoted as saying by AFP.

"The main issue now is whether the reductions in costs all of us must make will come quickly enough to guarantee a sufficient number of teams carrying on."

Even the sport's major players, like 2008 drivers' world champions McLaren, are feeling the pinch, with team boss Ron Dennis telling The Observer that annual turnover is likely to drop nearly $150m because of the downturn.

"Our budgets come from the advertising budgets of the companies that support us, and inevitably advertising budgets get slashed or, at least are significantly trimmed in times of economic strife," he said.

Ferrari and McLaren's ongoing participation is solid, but all the signs suggest that one more team could go missing ahead of next March's Australian grand prix.

Williams' chief executive Adam Parr told The Times that he expects eight teams to line up on the Melbourne grid.  Similarly, Gerhard Berger, the recently departed Toro Rosso co-owner, told Germany's Der Spiegel that "the only question is 'who is next?'"

Asked by the Press Association if he can imagine another team following Honda out the door, FIA president Max Mosley answered "yes".


McLaren to lose a third of revenues
Ron Dennis, boss of Formula One racing team McLaren, expects his team's revenue to fall by over a third - more than $147m- as the economic downturn bites. Last week, Honda shocked the motorsports industry when it announced it was withdrawing from Formula One because of the 'quickly deteriorating operating environment'.

And in an exclusive interview with The Observer, Dennis admitted that McLaren, one of the most successful - and biggest spending - teams in the sport, would also suffer.

'Our budgets come from the advertising budgets of the companies that support us, and inevitably advertising budgets get slashed or, at least are significantly trimmed in times of economic strife,' he said. 'We know we have to reduce our costs to cater for the inevitable downturn in income that is coming in 2010 and 2011.'

He added: 'We make no secret of the fact that we will try to do whatever it takes to be the best. It's an intensely competitive world but if the economics don't work then we will change them.'

Dennis, who was speaking before Honda had announced its withdrawal, said his team's turnover would fall by 37 per cent. 'We predict that our turnover will drop from $411m a year to as low as $257m a year,' he said. The Observer


Renault to exit F1
Tim Urquhart, analyst at Global Insight and former editor of F1 Business magazine, said: 'There is no business rationale for owning a F1 team. Now that times are tough for the major car manufacturers it's much harder for them to justify spending vast amounts of money on F1.'

The talk now is which team may be next to pull out of F1. Urquhart said the most likely was Renault. Its sponsorship deal with ING is thought to expire at the end of next season and, given the credit crunch, it's unlikely the Dutch bank will renew it. Carlos Ghosn, chief executive of the French car maker, has already promised to keep Renault's involvement under review. The betting is that come next year he will hit the brakes, which could put the team's 500 workers at its base in Oxfordshire out of jobs. More at The Observer

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