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2007 Could Be Turnaround Year For Wood Bros. Missing nearly a day and a half of testing during the first two days of the second session of NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder at Daytona International Speedway didn’t seem to faze Jon Wood (No. 47 Clorox/Armor All/American Red Cross Ford).
Wood was battling flu-like symptoms last Sunday, the first day of the second test session, and was unable to participate. His new Wood Brothers/JTG Racing teammate Marcos Ambrose (No. 59 Kingsford Ford) shook down the No. 47 instead.
In better health Monday, Wood lost more time due to two rain delays that gobbled up four hours of testing. But not before he posted the day’s fastest time in the shortened afternoon drafting session (48.422 seconds/185.866 mph). More ...
2007 Champ Car lineup Based on what we have heard and how we think things will play out, here is our current best guess at a Champ Car lineup in 2007:
Newman/Haas: Bourdais and Rahal Forsythe: Tracy and Philippe or Verstappen RuSPORT: Wilson and Dominguez Minardi: Doornbos, Clarke and Legge or Philippe Conquest: Zwolsman and Simpson (Both iffy) Coyne Racing: Heylen and TBD (TBD could be any number of drivers, including Legge) Rocketsports: Tagliani and Pastorelli Team Australia: Power and Pagenaud PKV Racing: Jani and Servia Pacific Coast: Figge and Dalziel
Things can change but this is how we see the cards falling based on what we know today. Our Champ Car Silly Season page reflects these conclusions.
Legge to Minardi? While this was rumored previously, we heard again today in Sebring that Katherine Legge may drive for the Minardi team. Although if she keeps running as well with Dale Coyne Racing as she did this morning she might have second thoughts as she smoked all the men. Legge never felt welcomed at PKV we hear and they made life difficult for her. Therefore, it is quite possible she will surprise some people in a new environment.
Overheard in Sebring - IUPDATE We hear that Doornbos will probably drive for the Minardi Champ Car team and the team is still looking to run three cars in 2007.
01/23/07 According to our sources in the Sebring paddock Simon Pagenaud will soon be announced as the 2nd driver for Team Australia. Meanwhile over at Minardi we hear that Doornbos will race in Champ Car in 2007 and test for Red Bull in F1. We spoke to Nelson Philippe who said he is not signed with anyone yet but we hear his management has spoken to Forsythe Racing and they are not too far apart.
Announcements coming, the ’new’ Chase for oneUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement by NASCAR that 12 drivers will qualify for the Chase, up from 10, and race winners throughout the year will get 5 additional points for each race win, and 10 more during the Chase itself.
01/22/07 More than 200 print and electronic media members from 22 states and as far away as Germany are registered to participate in the Jan. 22-25 Nextel Cup Media Tour hosted by Lowe's Motor Speedway. The largest off-season media event in Nextel Cup racing, the 24th edition of this annual season preview begins Monday afternoon, Jan. 22, and continues through Thursday afternoon, Jan. 25. With support from sponsors Nextel and NASCAR, the Media Tour gives registered participants the opportunity to tour race shops; meet with drivers, crew chiefs and team owners; and discuss the latest developments and news with motorsports industry leaders. Many Nextel Cup teams scheduled to host Media Tour events. The Media Tour will also make its annual visit to the NASCAR Research and Development Center where officials are expected to make several announcements. A groundbreaking ceremony for the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte is also part of the schedule - Thursday, Jan 25th. LMS PR
Renault loses major F1 sponsorUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. See Hot News page about Telefonica sponsorship move.
01/18/07 (GMM) Telecommunications giant and major Renault sponsor Telefonica has left the French team.
Enstone based Renault's interim livery is currently running without reference to the Spanish company, but also missing are the logos of new title sponsor ING.
But it has now emerged that Renault is simply holding off the ING presence until the brand new livery is unveiled in Amsterdam this week.
Existing or renewing sponsors including PVAXX, Elf and Hanjin, meanwhile, remain displayed on the current paint job.
Telefonica's departure, which could leave an estimated $30m hole in the 2007 Renault budget, might be linked with world champion and Spaniard Fernando Alonso's switch to McLaren, where he is now sponsored by communications rival Vodafone.
Nathan Freke eyes Atlantic series 2006 UK Formula Ford Champion Nathan Freke will head to Florida this coming weekend to test in a Champ Car Atlantic at Sebring. Nathan will be testing in the 300 bhp car for last years Championship winning team Walker Racing/Team Australia. Champ Car Atlantic is the feeder series for the American version of F1 and is the USA equivalent of GP2, which feeds F1. Nathan's management team have arranged the test with a view to finding a seat in the series should the testing go as planned. Nathan's only slicks and wings experience was in a World Series Renault car at the Young Driver of the Year tests last November, but he adapted quickly to that in is confident of doing so in the Atlantic car.
'I have been working towards this all of my driving career, particularly in the last 18 months, I will have to adapt to the heavy down force of the cars, on a circuit I will be seeing for the first time, where there will be little data available, as this configuration of Sebring is not normally used. However it is an opportunity and I will have to take it the same way as I did in Formula Ford last year -- I am really looking forward to it. I have one offer on the table at the moment, but I am holding out for a drive in single seaters at Atlantic/F3 level which is where I need to be to progress my career.' www.nathanfreke.com
Budweiser Super Bowl ad to feature Dale Jr. It's an image of doomsday, Mad Max-style. Mud-streaked mutants racing down a desert highway in stripped-down muscle cars and motor bikes, lobbing Molotov cocktails at their prey — NASCAR hotshot Dale Earnhardt Jr. in his #8 Budweiser car. In an effort to stoke interest in its Super Bowl ads, Anheuser-Busch Cos. this week sent media outlets sneak previews of its "Apocalypse" ad, which may run during the Super Bowl as part of A-B's five minutes of commercials. The country's largest brewer has not yet determined its final lineup of commercials. St. Louis Post-Dispatch
New sponsor for Burton? Nextel Cup driver Jeff Burton and New Hampshire International Speedway will conduct a press conference on Thursday, Jan. 25 at 11:30am/et at Boston Park Plaza Hotel in Boston, MA. With recent news that Burton's Cingular sponsor has decided not to extend its relationship with Richard Childress Racing, its expected that Danvers-based Sylvania lighting company will become the #31 car's primary sponsor for the 2007 season. Sylvania also partners with NHIS by sponsoring the Sylvania 300 each September. Boston Herald
New sponsor for Red Bull team The word on the street in Austria is that Red Bull Racing will be sponsored this season by the Swiss engineering firm Oerlikon. The team says that it will have a major new technical partner and the indications are that this could be Oerlikon.
Established in 1906 as a machine tool company, Oerlikon is best known as the company that in 1914 created an anti-aircraft cannon which was so successful that it was used in both World Wars by both sides. Some of the derivatives of the original design are still used today. The company changed its name in 2000 to Unaxis but last year it was decided that the firm should return to its original name and it is in the process of undergoing a rebranding. Grandprix.com
Schu to attend European races in 2007 (GMM) Retired seven time world champion Michael Schumacher could still be a regular at European grands prix this year. The authoritative German newspaper 'Welt am Sonntag' reported on Sunday that the 38-year-old, in his unspecific role as a Ferrari advisor or assistant, is to make his first official re-appearance at the Spanish grand prix in May.
McLaren may test on Spanish island (GMM) McLaren could start using the Spanish island of Minorca as a private test venue, according to reports.
As the English Elvington Airfield is reducing its availability for local teams to conduct so-called straight-line tests, the local 'Diario de Menorca' said a private airport on the small Mediterranean Sea island has already been approved by Woking-based McLaren as an alternative.
Minorca, not far from the more famous Majorca, has a population of 80,000.
F1's super-rich to cop higher Swiss tax (GMM) A collection of F1's super-rich could soon be in for a shock, as the notorious tax haven Switzerland is considering making life more expensive for foreigners.
Some of the sport's highest earners are among scores who flock to live in the alpine country, because the government requires foreign residents to pay only 'direct' taxes rather than declare their mammoth income or assets.
According to sources, foreign Swiss residents including Michael Schumacher, Bernie Ecclestone and Fernando Alonso pay a comparatively paltry lump-sum of about $60,000 per year in tax to their local region.
Elsewhere, in Germany or France for example, income tax could cost them up to ten times as much or more.
Swiss finance ministers, however, reportedly met last Friday and discussed possibly changing the system within six months.
It could result in F1's Swiss-based multi-millionaires having to pay twice as much.
F1's David Coulthard, Kimi Raikkonen, Nick Heidfeld, Jarno Trulli, Jacques Villeneuve and Alain Prost also live in Switzerland.
Montoya to run 63 races in 2007 Look for Chip Ganassi to announce that Juan Montoya will race in 63 races this year for his Texaco Havoline team - all the Cup races plus 26 Busch races that run on the same weekend and at the same facility as Cup. He will also race in the standalone Mexico City Busch race. He will be a busy boy.
Indy to reveal ’F1 future’ next ThursdayUPDATE #2 This rumor is downgraded to 'false.' Chitwood spoke but he made no mention about the future of F1 at Indy. He says an announcement one way or the other probably won't be made until this year's race or soon thereafter.
01/11/07 Reminder - Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Joie Chitwood will address the future of Formula One in the U.S. as part of a global studies guest speaker series today at Marian College.
01/05/07 (GMM) The future of the United States grand prix at Indianapolis could be clearer by the end of next week.
The president of the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Joie Chitwood, will address "the future of formula one in the US" next Thursday at the city's Marian College, the newspaper Indy Star reported.
Race officials and Bernie Ecclestone last August penned only a one year deal for a United States grand prix in 2007.
Speedway CEO Tony George at the time cautioned that the deal is short because "there are too many unanswered questions to commit any longer than that".
He was referring to the sport's previously unresolved commercial and regulatory situation, but F1's relationship with Indianapolis was badly damaged when fourteen Michelin-shod cars pulled out of the 2005 race.
Williams signs deal with Lenovo? Photographs of a Williams decked out with Lenovo livery have created a great deal of speculation that the Grove team may have signed a major sponsorship with the Chinese computer - which is the third biggest computer manufacturer in the world, following its 2005 acquisition of IBM's PC Division.
The team is currently refusing to comment on the pictures but it seems like Lenovo was either being pitched by the team or a deal has been done and different branding was being tried to see how it worked on TV. All will be revealed on February 2. Grandprix.com
Danica Patrick to run 12 Hours of Sebring? According to AutoRacing1.com sources Danica Patrick has been added to the entry list and roster for Andretti Green Racing at the American Le Mans Series Winter Test at Sebring on Monday-Wednesday of next week (Jan. 22-24). The three-day test will serve as the first public running of the team's Acura-powered Courage for the Series' LMP2 class. Andretti Green is one of three teams -- Lowe's Fernandez Racing and Highcroft Racing are the others -- that are running under the Acura Motorsports factory banner for 2007.
It's not clear what role Patrick will play in AGR's sports car program for 2007. Bryan Herta will lead the team's lineup for the full season, his first in the Series since 2002. He will be joined by Dario Franchitti and brother Marino, and apparently Patrick as well at select events. Before making the leap to IRL stardom, Patrick competed in the American Le Mans Series for Prodrive and its Ferrari 550 Maranello in 2003 at Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
Where will Monteiro land?UPDATE #3 Former Midland/Spyker driver Tiago Monteiro, who lost his seat at the now Dutch owned team to German rookie Adrian Sutil recently, is on pole position to land a full time drive with the Scuderia Toro Rosso team for the 2007 Formula One championship season.
12/22/06 Toro Rosso team boss Gerhard Berger thinks Monteiro will be a useful addition to his team. He told F1 Racing.net: "Tiago has shown in the past two years he is very fast and professional. He is one of the drivers that is on our list." The 30-year-old Portuguese driver brings with him the bonus of being backed by a number of deep pocketed sponsors, making him a good prospect for Toro Rosso.
12/21/06 The Portuguese driver is currently saying on the situation he now finds himself in…
“In response to the high level of interest shown by the media, friends and fans from all over the world, as a result of today's press release by Spyker F1 Team, I will soon provide more detailed comments relative to the situation,” Tiago said in a statement. “I thank all of you for your support and I would like to extend my best wishes for the holidays and the New Year.”
12/21/06 Adrian Sutil replaces Tiago Monteiro (right) at Spyker, who has been with the squad for two years. The announcement, made on 21st December 2006, comes as somewhat of a surprise after it had originally been thought that Sutil would be given only the team's third-driver role.
So where does that leave Tiago Monteiro. Let's speculate. We hear he could drop down to be a test driver for Spyker, but somehow we just don't see him accepting that after being a regular driver. We expect he and his backers are already on the telephone with some Champ Car teams. He did well while in Champ Car when he was saddled with the Reynard chassis and a mediocre team. We spoke with Monteiro at last year's Denver Champ Car race. Why would Monteiro be at a Champ Car race in the middle of the F1 season? Perhaps to keep his contacts open in the Champ Car paddock?
We also know that both he and his backers want to land a race at Estoril but an F1 race was out of the question. With Champ Car looking to finalize a deal for a 2nd European race to partner with Assen, we would not be surprised one bit if that 2nd race ends up being Estoril. We heard that the 2nd European race wasn't on anyone's radar screen and that it would be on a natural terrain road course.
We did hear quite awhile ago Estoril mentioned but we never gave it a second thought because it was assumed Monteiro would remain in F1. However, could it be that the delay in Champ Car finalizing their 2nd European race be tied to the fact that Monteiro was keeping the Champ Car option open while he battled Sutil for the Spyker seat? Now that Sutil won the seat, what becomes of Monteiro and his home country that desperately wants a big race at the Estoril circuit? For the money they had to raise to run with the backmarker Spyker team, said to be well over $10M, Monteiro could have both a full-time Champ Car ride and a Champ Car race at Estoril.
Piccione and Jani for PKV in 2007UPDATE #2 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. Piccione has decided it is better for his career to stay in GP2 and race for the Durango team.
12/18/06 Those asking us about Clivio Piccione will be interested to know that in the 2004 British F3 Championship, Piccione finished ahead of Will Power, this year's sensational Champ Car Rookie of the Year. The British F3 championship is the hardest fought F3 championship in the world and typically attracts some of the best young talent from around the world.
12/03/06 Swiss Neel Jani was all but confirmed for one of the PKV Racing seats next year with Red Bull backing and while everyone thought Oriol Servia would be in the other seat, Robin Miller reported on The SPEED Report that 22-year old Italian Clivio Piccione, who lives in Monaco will line up alongside him. We have updated our 2007 Champ Car Silly Season page accordingly. Pictured right with Bernie Ecclestone after winning the GP2 race at Nurburgring
Piccione's Career Biography 2006 : GP2 Series Championship with David Price Racing Direxiv. • Mixed results, team struggled
2005 : GP2 Series Championship with Durango Racing team. • Won one race in Nürburgring • Set fastest lap in Hungary • Winner of the most exciting race in 2005 More ...
Villeneuve to announce NASCAR plans in ‘days’ Jacques Villeneuve and his manager Craig Pollock were in Villars-sur- Ollon, Switzerland last week to organize the 9th edition of a 24-hour ski marathon benefiting various children's charity.
They took time with a few reporters to give a little insight into their near future in motor racing and their prospects for NASCAR in 2007. They say that Villeneuve will be driving in NASCAR this year, with a prep program similar to the one that Juan Pablo Montoya undertook last year but ‘much more intense’.
According to Villeneuve, the first road course Mexico is too soon but that he could be ready in time for the August 4th Busch race in Montreal. More ...
Rossi's Ferrari link to strengthen in 2007? (GMM) A link between Valentino Rosso and Ferrari looks set to continue in 2007, with rumors that the Italian's MotoGP campaign this year could be sponsored by Fiat.
The flamboyant Italian rider tested extensively for Ferrari last year, but ultimately signed a contract to stay on two wheels in 2007 with Yamaha.
The Italian carmaker Fiat part-owns Ferrari.
Fiat's affection for 27-year-old Rossi is well known, and the Financial Times revealed this week that Fiat brand manager Lapo Elkann wears a 'Rossi' pendent around his neck.
Viso eyes Toro Rosso test role (GMM) Confusion surrounding Toro Rosso's 2007 driver lineup continues this week, with Venezuelan rookie Ernesto Viso claiming that he is close to landing a part-time seat to race for the Italian team in 2007.
Part Gerhard Berger-owned Toro Rosso is the only team in pitlane still to confirm its drivers for this year, amid speculation that Scott Speed and Vitantonio Liuzzi could be dropped.
Viso, who won two GP2 races last year and also Friday-tested for Spyker in Brazil, joins Dutchman Robert Doornbos as a speculated contender for an STR cockpit in 2007.
The magazine Formule 1 RaceReport claims that Viso is backed substantially by 'Petroleos de Venezuela' (PDVSA), an oil company.
He met with Berger on Wednesday. "We had a positive conversation," Viso, 21, said.
"We discussed the various possibilities for the coming season -- not only as the Friday tester but also to drive a couple of races.
"Now we are waiting for my sponsor to agree to this project, so that Venezuela can return to formula one."
Italian eyes Champ Car Atlantics Young Italian Giacomo Ricci did an outstanding job testing over the two days in the No. 4 Western Union Gelles Atlantic car. The track conditions were warm but very windy and made for a lot of debris across the track and fine sand on the track. There were damp conditions with intermittent rain showers as well, so overall the test times for everyone were down.
Overall Giacomo and the others received a lot of quality track time with both new and used tires. Two drivers from Newman-Wachs and four drivers for Gelles tested: Gelles Drivers Maxi Gotz Giacomo Ricci Richard Philippe Esteban Guerrieri Drivers for Newman-Wachs were: J.R. Hildebrand Daniel Herrington
Ricci turned the 2nd best times and impressed their Technical Director.
Scandal adds to Chinese GP financial bloodbathUPDATE (GMM) The Chinese grand prix will go ahead in October despite the Shanghai circuit general manager's implication in a major corruption scandal, an official says.
Last October, Yu Zhifei was put under investigation for alleged 'illegal operations' at the formula one circuit and the misuse of more than $400 million in city funds.
In a news conference on Tuesday, however, the Shanghai F1 promoter's chairman Mao Xiaohan - referring to the scandal - suggested that "some people acted completely alone".
"The (circuit), as a corporation, is not involved in the investigation at all," he is quoted as saying by the newspaper Shanghai Daily.
"Major (events) like the MotoGP and formula one Chinese grand prix will all go ahead as planned."
09/29/06 Recall that we told you that Beijing was very unhappy with Shanghai because the Chinese F1 race was a financial bloodbath, that Bernie is charging $30 to $50 million per year for the rights plus the track costs an enormous mount of money. Every F1 race promoter loses money. In addition, the ticket prices are so high very few Chinese can afford to buy grandstand seats, and the grandstands would be empty if not for free ticket giveaways.
Now comes this Grandprix.com article that substantiates these claims - Formula 1 in China has an unusual problem, according to reports in the China Daily newspaper. People in China want to see the Formula 1 racing but the tickets are so expensive that they cannot afford to buy them. In order to avoid having empty grandstands the circuit has taken to giving away a lot of free tickets in order to ensure that the grandstands are full so that advertisers are happy and the race has the right image.
The problem with this idea is that the free tickets are then being sold on the black market at a cheaper price than the official tickets.
According to the newspaper last year the Chinese racing magazine Formula One Race polled 100 spectators and discovered that 98 of them had bought black market tickets. Only two people had paid the full ticket office.
"We must take serious action against it, or the Formula 1 race will be greatly impaired," says Yu Zhifei, general manager of the Shanghai International Circuit Co Ltd. "It has become a matter of to be or not to be for the race in China."
Champ Car eyes race in AthensUPDATE #8 At Tuesday's Champ Car announcement for its two new Europe races, Champ Car president Steve Johnson was asked about the rumored Athens race and he left the door open for a possible third race in Europe.
"I would say it definitely would not happen in 2007. But we never say never, so we'll look at any opportunities that come along. If it makes good business sense and supports the direction that we're going, we would definitely be there.
"So I don't think anything other than there are no other venues right now that we're saying, no, we're not going to in Europe. We would look at expanding if it makes good sense for us.
"We are launching six new venues in one year [Las Vegas streets, Zhuhai, St Jovite and Phoenix streets are the others] which has never been done before in Champ Car or before that, CART, history.
"But thanks to the huge influx of European drivers and European sponsors, there is the chance for more races in Europe as soon as 2008. We want to do what's best by our series, our fans and our sponsors."
01/08/07 Vaso Gizikis told The Galveston County Daily News that everything is falling in place for Champ Car to race in Athens in 2008. "We're now in the final stages of the contract with Champ Car. It's really moving along," she added. "I don't like to wait until the last minute for anything. In fact I'll be ahead of time."
Planned for the second week of June 2008, the Greek Grand Prix is set to be contracted and approved by Champ Car in the very near future. Champ Car is, of course, the same people who race here in Houston. Expansion outside the United States isn’t irregular; just to Greek soil is. So this event will be a Greek — as well as a Champ Car — first.
How it came about was a little, well, chauvinistic.
“I was very upset,” Gizikis said in her thick Greek accent. “They had an F1 race in Turkey. So I approached Champ Car and asked them if they were interested in doing a race in Greece. They said they were, so I started doing the work.”
If you don’t know the history, Greece and Turkey have never had the best of relationships. Throughout the years, the two have had their skirmishes.
Eventually the Turks moved on; the Greeks, well, didn’t. They still harbor somewhat of a grudge. And seeing the GP in Turkey was enough to prompt Gizikis, a five-foot dynamo of a woman, to act quickly.
The Acropolis Rally, a World Champions event that’s been a tradition in Greece for decades, recently saw a huge surge of popularity when the first stages were contended in the Olympic Stadium in Athens.
So why not use the same strategy?
“It’s going to be run on the old airport in Athens, which is now an Olympic facility. We’re now in the final stages of contract with Champ Car. And already the Greek press is going crazy about it. Even the European press has been doing a lot about it. Autosport has done three stories on it. We brought a driver to test already. It’s really moving along.”
The old Athens International Airport, quaint as it was, was small by modern terms. But it was certainly big enough to host a Grand Prix race. Right on the Aegean Sea, it’s just a few miles from downtown Athens and the Pireaus port (gateway to the Greek islands). In addition, some of the most affluent neighborhoods are right there near the GP, so dining and nightclubs will be plentiful. And unlike the rest of Europe, Greece is still relatively inexpensive — even during a Grand Prix race.
11/27/06 As we told you below, we met Vasilis Zahos in Mexico City and this Hot News item confirms he will test an Atlantic car today with and eye toward Champ Car in 2008.
11/14/06 We can now reveal the proposed 4.1-km Athens Champ Car Circuit (subject to change) as provided to AutoRacing1.com by sources from Greece at this past weekend's Mexico City race. The cars would run clockwise around the airport track at the northwest end of the airport. The track surface would be a permanent installation with temporary bleachers erected each year. Mark C.
11/12/06 We met Greek youngster Vasilis Zahos (pictured right) in Mexico City Sunday and he is very enthusiastic about being in the Atlantic Series in 2007 and he hopes to move up to Champ Car in 2008, just in time for the Athens, Greece race to come onboard. We also met Ms. Vaso Gizikis who is the point person for the race promoter for the Athens race.
She told AutoRacing1.com, "Champ Car is doing everything right these days and we hope to complete a deal to run a Champ Car race in Athens in mid-June, 2008. Nothing is signed yet but things are falling into place and the negotiations are gaining great momentum."
We learned that indeed the plan is to hold the race at the old Athens airport shown below. A 4.1-km, 2.56-mile permanent track has been designed on the west-end of the airport near the Greek Olympic facilities that were built. "It is a spectacular setting," said Gizikis. "You won't believe how beautiful it is. All of Greece is behind this project. We will do it with pride." Mark C.
10/28/06 Recall Kevin Kalkhoven's quote that Champ Car must have "nationals" at every foreign venue they race at. Well, then Champ Car must seek a Greek driver if the Athens race is a real possibility. Autosport reports that Greek Racer Vasilis Zahos, younger brother of A1GP driver Nikos Zachos, has been linked to a Champ Car Atlantic ride with Conquest Racing. Of course Mike Lanigan of Mi-Jack is a key part of the Mi-Jack Conquest Champ Car team and also the race promoter in Houston and Cleveland. If the rumor is true that Lanigan and his race promoter partner Chuck Kosich are also behind the attempt to hold a race in Athens, it would make sense for him to arrange for a Greek youngster to get a year in Atlantics with the Conquest team ahead of an Athens Champ Car race in 2008. Mark C.
10/28/06 Although we were told by Champ Car sources that the Athens race won't happen in 2007, it could still happen in 2008 as we understand it. While we were asked to keep the location secret, Autosport Magazine let the cat out of the bag in their October 19th issue so here is what we know. The proposed race, led by the promoters of the Houston Champ Car race around the Astrodome, have proposed a 5-year deal to hold a Champ Car race at the old Athens Airport. Though not in the heart of the city, it right outside the heart to the south (between the suburb of Kalamaki and Gilifadha) and offers spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea. Autosport reports the sticking point is that the Greek Authorities want just a 3-year deal, not 5, but we hear it is more than that....i.e. money.
08/27/06 We heard that the Athens race location is pretty spectacular and that the promoter has some very big plans. Stay tuned as this rumor unfolds....... More ...
2nd Europe race at ZolderUPDATE #22 "We considered a number of options for our return to Europe, and these two events will prove to be very successful for our teams, fans and sponsor partners," Champ Car President Steve Johnson said in a statement.
01/15/07 The Indianapolis-based Champ Car World Series has added two European road course races to its 2007 schedule, pushing its total number of events for the season to 17. The new races will be in Holland and Belgium, marking the first time the series or its predecessor, CART, has staged races in those countries. The race in Assen, Holland, will be Sept. 2. It will be followed by the Sept. 9 race in Zolder, Belgium. The latter track once hosted Formula One races. Seventeen races are the most for Champ Car since the 2003 season. The Indy Racing League also will have 17 races this season. Indy Star
01/12/07 Champ Car has scheduled a media conference for Tuesday regarding an announcement on the 2007 race schedule. It is assumed the announcement will be for the two long awaited European races. We hear the deals have been signed. Meanwhile, according to this website, the necessary track modifications for Zolder have already started. In these photos it appears they are tightening up the chicanes to slow the cars down.
01/09/07 AutoRacing1.com has learned that the deal with Zolder will be signed this week and the track will make the safety upgrades that Tony Cotman required. This rumor is close to going to 'fact.'
01/09/07 In response to the reader Stuart Page below, Renault is not returning to Zolder with the World Series cars in 2007 and the Belgium event is scheduled at Spa on August 19. Zolder will have only the "slow" FR2000 and Megane cars this year. The track in its current state is very dangerous for Champ Car cars. The "improvements" made in 2006 did not make any real difference in the track safety. The track is said to be very fast with many elevation changes and blind corners, so it is questionable whether the race track owner will be willing to spend the money necessary to bring Zolder up to Champ Car standards and this may be the reason for the announcement delay.
We cannot see Champ Car going to Greece starting in June 2008 as a standalone event. That makes no sense because getting the series to Europe twice a year will be unnecessarily expensive and time consuming. The series should be looking to go to Europe once per year for 2 or 3 strong events. What should happen is that the rumored Athens race be paired up with Assen in September of 2007, or as the reader suggests, teaming LeMans up with Assen. And then of course Estoril, Portugal hangs out there should Tiago Monteiro be out of F1 and back to Champ Car. That race could also be teamed with Assen. As we previously stated, Monteiro's financial backers could, for the money they are spending in F1, have Monteiro in a top Champ Car ride and sponsor to have a race in their home country, something Bernie cannot deliver. Having Monteiro winning races instead of an F1 backmarker or a lowly test driver, will give his backers far more positive exposure. Mark C.
01/08/07 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I have been watching with interest the developments regarding the European Champ Car races as I hope to attend one, if not both of them. However, I find it quite amazing that Zolder is still under consideration. I don't know if this is indicative of Champ Car (or perhaps U.S. sports in general) not understanding the European racing scene, but I believe they would be crazy to hold to races so geographically close together on consecutive weekends. Both races are sure to fail, as Zolder and Assen are only about 4 hours drive from each other so anybody from Belgium or the Netherlands could attend either race fairly easily if they are so inclined. These are two small countries whose combined land area is smaller than 80% of U.S. states, and for all intents and purposes is the same market (Benelux). Would Champ Car hold two races in the same U.S. state on consecutive weekends? As much as I love the series, for most Europeans, it is just another open wheel series, of which we have many, such as GP2, World Series by Renault etc. You mention the WSR crowd of 30,000 - but I would question whether this was artificially inflated as some of these events are free admission (I don't know about Zolder), and therefore Champ Car should not expect to get anywhere near that number. From my perspective, the only logical venue for the second race is Le Mans Bugatti (but since when did anyone in motorsport do anything logical?). It's further from Assen (about 10 hours drive); the town has a rich racing heritage; the circuit has just lost its DTM date; and Champ Car may have four French drivers including 3-time series champion and hometown boy Sebastien Bourdais! Why is anywhere else even being considered? Stuart Page, England
01/08/07 This photo, taken at last year's Zolder World Series by Renault race shows that Zolder does have some elevation change, which is rumored to be of some concern as to whether the cars might become airborne. Note the decent size crowd for the Renault race, said to have been over 30,000.
01/03/07 According to this Dutch Champ Car website, the 2nd Champ Car race will indeed be held at Zolder in Belgium on September 9th, one week prior to the race in Assen, Holland. The article mentions some of the concerns we discussed below and what will be done to alleviate them.
12/22/06 We are hearing from our sources in Europe that Zolder is looking doubtful for Champ Car because there are too many problems with the circuit (pit-lane, fences, etc.), but mainly the "Sacramentsheuvel", which is a steep 'hill', which might cause Champ Car cars to lift-off. Apparently the "Bourdais" family is trying to persuade the ACO and the Le Mans city council to organize a race in their hometown (don't forget there are at least two other Frenchmen in Champ Car as well) and of course the Athens airport circuit is still out there though that was planned to be a May or June race.
11/14/06 This article confirms the Zolder event, but we believe this announcement is premature. More ...
Devaney looks to the states and Atlantics Irishman Michael Devaney has decided to halt his A1 Team Ireland commitments and is now to focus his career on going stateside for the coming season. After 5 rounds of the A1GP series it is clear that the Irish team are struggling for speed and the team’s lack of pace is still unknown even after the experienced Richard Lyons drove and struggled in Indonesia. Last season Michael recorded some of Team Ireland’s best results with two 4th place finishes when he subbed for Ralph Firman at three events and this year he has shown to be the quickest driver in the Irish car all season. The team has now replaced engineer Andy Miller with Ex-Jordan man Gary Anderson and they hope this will lead to a more competitive car for the remainder of the season.
Devaney who was German F3 runner up in ‘05 missed out on racing during the 2006 season after holding off for the A1GP drive with Team Ireland but after the dismal start to the A1GP campaign he now needs to focus on racing elsewhere if he wants his career to move forward. The 22 year old is now looking at racing in Champ Car Atlantic’s which is a feeder series to America’s premier single-seater Championship the Champ Car World series. The Winner of the Champ Car Atlantic Championship will receive $2 million dollars which would secure a drive in the Champ Car World series the following year. More ...
Things that make you go hmm... There is a story going around that a high level person in the Champ Car offices, perhaps an attorney, we are not sure, made a call over to the IRL offices the other day with the message to tell Tony [George] that if he wants a merger now is the time to make the move.
While this story is unsubstantiated, if true, it could mean a couple of things. On the surface some may think that Champ Car is reeling from lack of sponsorship and now is the time for George to make a buyout offer. We read into it differently. With Champ Car about to enter into a contract for long-term deals in Europe (2 races, 3 if Athens, Greece is added in 2008) coupled with China (1 race) and Australia (1 race) Champ Car is committing itself to a long-term future as an international entity. Overseas travel is time-consuming. There won't be any room on the schedule for a merger.
Couple that with new cars, a reinvigorated Atlantic support series, new teams, and lower cost and the die has been cast for the two competing Indy Car Series to forever be competition to one another. The only way to merge then would be using the two league concept under one governing body, with a playoff system a la stick and ball sports, that we proposed years ago.
BTW, someone tell Tony to shave. He's looking a bit scruffy these days, don't you think? The above photo was taken at Daytona either before or after Tony crashed his Daytona Prototype while testing for the Rolex 24 Hour race. We have to give Tony credit for one thing, he truly loves racing and is the only race series president that gets behind the wheel in active competition. While he may be slow, he puts his life on the line for what he loves.
Spy photos of new Renault R27 The 2007 Renault R27 F1 car is still weeks away from official launch but here are some spy photos of the car snapped by a fan at the recent Renault shakedown run with Nelsinho Piquet at the wheel. Note the radical sidepods.
Champ Car rumor millUPDATE #2 This Hot News story makes the rumor about Vasser starting a Champ Car Atlantic team with Tom Knapp a 'fact.'
01/13/07 As we rumored below, we hear Australian Ryan Briscoe will indeed race for the Penske Porsche LMP2 RS Spyder team in the 2007 American Le Mans Series. A mid-January announcement is expected. We have removed Briscoe from our 2007 Champ Car Silly Season page.
01/12/07 Hearing that Jos Verstappen could land in the 2nd Forsythe Champ Car seat alongside Paul Tracy and Katherine Legge could land at the 2nd second RuSPORT seat alongside Justin Wilson. With Wilson and Legge being Brits there is some talk of RuSPORT being rebranded as a British team. Legge could also land in a third PKV car that is subbed out to Polestar out of the PKV shop or the third Minardi seat............Heard again that Scott Speed could end up at PKV alongside Neel Jani in an all-Red Bull team......Hearing that Ryan Briscoe will end up at Team Australia in Champ Car or in an ALMS ride........Hearing that Jimmy Vasser and Tom Knapp may form a new Champ Car Atlantic team. Tom engineered Indy Cars years ago, and we believe in CART before that......Look for Gehl to be the primary sponsor on the Graham Rahal Champ Car.......We hear Stephen Simpson definitely has sponsor backing and could very well end up at Mi-Jack as we rumored.........The same source tells us that Gelles Racing thought that Simpson would be moving up with them to Champ Car but something happened and when Gelles lost Simpson and his financial backing his Champ Car plans took a hit........Pacific Coast, PKV and Forsythe have taken delivery of their 2nd DP01, not sure who the other two teams were.......See our updated Champ Car Silly Season page.....If you walk around Las Vegas you know there is a GP coming to town - the race is being promoted heavily. It will be huge! Mark C.
Corvette will follow Aston MartinUPDATE Aston Martin's plans to return to the American Le Mans Series could have been dealt a fatal blow by the announcement this week that all four of the drivers who raced for them in 2006 have secured other opportunities for the coming year.
Pedro Lamy, Stephane Sarrazin, Darren Turner and Tomas Enge all confirmed drives elsewhere for the coming season.
Additionally, Prodrive, who run Aston Martin's ALMS effort, are likely to be concentrating on their forthcoming Formula One entry through the year.
Should Aston Martin pull out, it's doubtful Corvette will remain in ALMS and could move to Europe as rumored below to beat Aston Martin there. If this happens it could spell the end for the GT1 class in the ALMS.
What good is it if your top LMP class (LMP1 with Audi) and top GT class (GT1 with maybe Corvette) has only one brand parading around the track against itself? This is the danger you risk when you allow manufacturers to come in, spend lots of money, run roughshod over your series, and then leave it with no privateers when they pull out.
01/12/07 Corvette Racing are waiting to see what their rivals Aston Martin are doing in 2007, Corvette driver Oliver Gavin revealed.
"I'm not entirely sure where we are going to be racing," Gavin said at the Autosport show. "With the Corvettes, they're still deciding on whether it should be in Europe or in the ALMS again.
"We're waiting to see what Aston Martin are doing in terms of their program - we're hoping they're going to come back and race us in the ALMS.
"I had a very interesting season last year - frustrating at times, but ultimately it was successful for us, winning the championship and also beating them (Aston Martin) at Le Mans, which was a fantastic achievement for everybody involved in Corvette Racing."
"I think there's certainly a marketing benefit of just turning up and running the car," Gavin explained.
"But we do need competition, we do want to race against someone, and it was great last year, having the competition from Aston Martin, so we're just hoping they'll find the money to come back."
Ecclestone claims India closeUPDATE #2 India could host a grand prix in Delhi as early as 2009, a close Indian associate of Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone said. Leading businessman Vijay Mallya said after signing a sponsorship agreement between his Kingfisher Airlines and the Toyota team that he was confident the sport would come to the sub-continent.
"It has always been my dream to bring Formula One to India," he told a news conference on the sidelines of the launch of Toyota's new TF107 car. The government of Delhi I think really wants Formula One in India and I am optimistic that maybe we will be able to host our first race in 2009."
Ecclestone said last year that he was in negotiations with a regional government in India to build a race track, without identifying which one. The Briton is keen to expand the sport's reach further in Asia, with South Korea already promised a grand prix for 2010 and Singapore hoping for a street race as well. India, with a booming economy and more than 500 million people under the age of 20, is a strong candidate. NewsNineMSN
11/14/06 "There has been expression of interest to Bernie from parties from Punjab/Haryana, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu," Vicky Chandhok, chairman, Corporate Communications, Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India, told Reuters on Tuesday.
"Potential investors have been told to look at building a multi-utility complex to combine sport and fun and keep Formula One as an incidental activity," he added.
"In the next 10 years, Europe is going to become a third world economy," the Briton said two years ago. "There's no way Europe will be able to compete with China, Korea, India."
11/09/06 Bernie Ecclestone has revealed he has plans to bring Formula 1 to India as early as 2010. Ecclestone admitted in an interview he was 'far down the line' in negotiations with a regional government in India to build a racetrack. India is a country that is probably going to grow quicker than China," Ecclestone told Bloomberg. "We had to make sure we found the right place in India and we have."
Ecclestone also categorically ruled out the possibility of the San Marino GP being reinstated on the 2007 schedule.
Delays over a promised upgrade to the pits/paddock complex and arguments over tobacco advertising have left Imola on the sidelines.
“It’s bye bye to San Marino,” Ecclestone said. ITV/F1
Martin to drive Chevy?UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'partially fact' with today's announcement - see Hot News page. However, although Martin is switching from Ford to Chevy, this is still not the Hendrick Racing Busch announcement that still can be coming.
11/22/06 Mark Martin has won the most Busch Series races in NASCAR history, 47, and if Hendrick Motorsports gets its way, win No. 48 will be in one of its cars.
The team is talking with Martin about driving one of its Busch Series cars next season, but nothing has been decided, according to a statement released by Hendrick General Manager Marshall Carlson.
"We have had communication with Mark about the possibility of running select Busch Series races next season in one of our cars," Carlson said. "We're obviously excited about the possibility of working with a driver of his reputation, but discussions are in the preliminary stages, and at this point, we have not made firm plans." More at Scenedaily.com
Super Aguri also face legal threat (GMM) Along with Toro Rosso, formula one rival Super Aguri might also be facing a legal threat should it follow-through with its speculated plans for 2007.
After the Aguri Suzuki-owned squad ran a development version of Honda's works 2006 chassis in pre-Christmas testing, the magazine AutoWeek reports fellow teams' belief that Super Aguri will be breaking the rules if it races the car.
Super Aguri and F1's twelfth team Prodrive will almost certainly run 'customer cars' in 2008, when the more liberal Concorde agreement is in force, but other F1 teams are threatening arbitration if the current rules are breached this season.
Leafield based Super Aguri's apparent loophole is that the Honda RA106 has been handed over to PJUU, an independent engineering and design consultancy in Granborough, England, run by former Jordan designer Paul White.
Presumably, by re-"designing" the car, the intellectual property of the developed chassis can then be transferred from Honda to Super Aguri.
"The FIA has yet to approve (the design)," AutoWeek said.
Suzuki, meanwhile, told F1's official website that a date has "not yet" been set for the launch of the 2007 racer.
Toyota may add five plants in N. America Toyota Motor Corp., struggling to meet U.S. demand and facing a possible political backlash over its imports from Japan, may build as many as five North American assembly plants in the next 10 years, according to people familiar with the plans.
The Japanese automaker will build at least one factory in the southeastern United States and one in Mexico, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the company hasn't discussed the matter publicly.
Five more plants would give Toyota 12 in North America, about the same number Ford Motor Co. will have after its current round of closings. Based on Toyota's recent investments, five factories would create about 10,000 jobs and cost $5 billion.
Toyota's U.S. sales surged 13 percent last year to 2.54 million vehicles, pushing its market share to a record 15.4 percent from 13.3 percent a year earlier. Toyota overtook DaimlerChrysler AG for third place in United States sales behind General Motors Corp. and Ford. It may pass GM as the world's biggest automaker this year. Detroit News
Staff changes at Champ Car Word on the street is that Champ Car PR boss Steve Shunck has left the series and so too has Doug Bresnahan, who we hear will work for Andretti Green Racing in the IRL. Doug was one of the best Champ Car had in the client services department and was with the series for 9 years. Doug worked tirelessly to foster good sponsor relationships, sometimes having to walk the fine line between keeping the sponsor happy and doing what was right, and doing what management wanted. He will be missed, but will be a great asset to Andretti Green.
What of Katherine Legge in 2007?UPDATE #2 Some sources are saying that PKV has purchased an extra Panoz DP01 Champ Car which they may (or may not depending on pending sponsorship deal) allocate to Polestar. If so, Legge is the favorite for the seat. More should be known before the test in 2 weeks. However, we hear that Legge could also end up in the third Minardi seat or third PKV seat.
01/11/07 "I'm looking forward to the Rolex 24 race," Katherine Legge admitted, "It will be good experience for me, and I will get the chance to drive against the best drivers in the world. Racing for 24 hours will be a good way to keep my hand in before the Champ Car season starts, and I'm lucky to have great teammates to help me through."
Asked about that elusive Champ Car deal, Legge admitted that she was still waiting to discover exactly who she would be racing with when the season starts in Las Vegas.
"Nothing is sorted yet," she confirmed, "While Daytona gives me something to focus on, I want to know what is happening in Champ Cars as soon as possible. It's the best racing in the world and I really want to get on with 2007." crash.net
01/08/07 According to AutoRacing1.com sources Katherine Legge will have a Champ Car ride in 2007 as Kevin Kalkhoven previously stated. We hear that she has quite a few options and a decision will be announced soon.
Fernandez IRL sponsor According to AutoRacing1.com sources, 360 OTC (headache pill that also sponsors entries in Busch and Truck Series) will be sponsoring the Fernandez effort with PJ Chesson behind the wheel.
Penske, Rahal to enter IPS teamUPDATE We are told that the reason Penske and Rahal are looking at adding IPS teams is because they are then awarded additional "big car" test days, by the IRL, for doing so. That's why Ganassi has suddenly set up an IPS team and Andretti-Green did the in-house Schmidt deal last year. It's certainly not as a vote of confidence in the IPS series.
01/11/07 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Roger Penske has inquired about ownership of an IPS team...stay tuned. He would join Panther, AGR, Ganassi as IRL teams with cars in IPS. In related scuttlebutt, we hear that Rahal/Letterman will be teaming up with Brian Stewart Racing in IPS.
Red Bull to reveal rare team sponsor (GMM) Red Bull could be about to dispense with its policy on not wanting to clutter its formula one livery with sponsor logos.
Last year and in 2005, the only non-Red Bull company of note mentioned on the Austrian squad's single seater has been Rauch, a fruit juice manufacturer with strategic ties to Dietrich Mateschitz's firm.
According to whispers in the Austrian media, however, Red Bull Racing has put out a press call for an event in Salzburg on 23 January.
Reports speculate that a news conference at the Hangar-7 facility, to be attended by David Coulthard and Adrian Newey, will reveal a new and local team partner from the Austrian technology sector.
Plenty of drivers for the Indy 500 It looks like there won't be a shortage of drivers looking for rides for this years Indy 500, IndyCar season and Indy Pro season. Over 45 drivers took physicals at IMS yesterday with another 21 scheduled for this month.
GM may bid for stake in Malaysian firm General Motors Corp. may bid for a stake in Proton, Malaysia's biggest automaker, which is seeking a strategic partner to help reverse its dwindling fortunes, a report said Wednesday. Since late November, GM officials have met several times with Proton management and shareholders and may make an offer as early as this month, the Business Times quoted an unnamed industry executive as saying.
GM, the world's largest automaker, has proposed to take up a small stake at Proton's holding company as well as acquire a stake in Proton's manufacturing arm, the executive told the daily. GM's proposal includes helping Proton build a car for the U.S. market in five years, he said.
Malaysia is the biggest passenger car market in Southeast Asia. Gaining a stake in Proton will help GM, which has operations in Thailand, South Korea, India and China, consolidate its position as a key player in Asia's booming automotive market, the report added.
GM spokeswoman Renee Rashid-Meren told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the automaker "declined to comment on rumor and speculation." More at Detroit News
VISA to sponsor Phoenix race tooUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today - see Hot News page for announcement of title sponsor for the GP of Arizona. Although not technically VISA, it is First Data Independent Sales® Fresno by Cardservice International, a nationwide credit card processor that is very much linked to VISA.
12/11/06 Hot on the heels of today's announcement that VISA will sponsor the Champ Car Las Vegas GP comes rumor that Phoenix will also sponsor the Champ Car Phoenix race in some capacity as well.
Tagliani back to Rocketsports We heard some scuttlebutt today that supports this French Radio-Canada article whereby Alex Tagliani pretty much says he will return to drive for Paul Gentilozzi's Rocketsports team in 2007. This is now shown as 'strong' on our 2007 Champ Car Silly Season page. Tagliani and Rocketsports won a single Champ Car race together at Road America a couple of years ago.
Audi to forego LMES in 2007 Word on the street is that Audi is not happy with the European LMES series and will only run in the 24 Hours of LeMans. As such, look for the factory Audi drivers and team personnel to be clamoring to get onto Dave Maraj's Champion Audi ALMS team in the USA for 2007. We assume that will be just a 2-car effort, but with all the excess staff, perhaps we will see three Audi's in ALMS.
Some feel Audi is hesitant to go head-to-head with the new Peugeot diesel in LMES for fear of getting beat.
Bourdais, Villeneuve and Gené to teamUPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement - see Hot News page.
01/09/07 (GMM) Former world champion and ousted BMW-Sauber racer Jacques Villeneuve will race at Le Mans in June, according to widespread reports on Tuesday.
The news means that French Canadian Villeneuve, 35, will have a shot at becoming the first driver in history to collect motor racing's 'big four' crowns -- F1, the Indy 500, America's premier open wheel title and the famous 24 hour endurance event.
Peugeot will shortly name Villeneuve, who is also linked with full time rides in NASCAR or DTM, alongside Marc Gene and Sebastian Bourdais and up to four others to steer the V12 diesel 908, the French publication L'Equipe said.
Peugeot has already confirmed Stephane Sarrazin, Nicolas Minassian and Pedro Lamy.
01/09/07 Peugeot Sport will be announcing its official program for the 2007 season tomorrow at a location “near” Paris. According to French press, the 908 V12 HDi diesel-powered LMP1 coupe has apparently already completed a private test at Paul Ricard last week. Nicolas Minassian, Stephane Sarrazin and Sebastien Bourdais are nearly certain to be announced as drivers while Marco Werner, Guy Smith, Marc Gene and Pedro Lamy have all been rumored of being part of the lineup as well. And Sebastien Bourdais, Jacques Villeneuve and Marc Gené will probably make up one of the teams. Everything should become clear on Wednesday with the French manufacturer also expecting to reveal its race schedule.
New Renault running at Silverstone today? (GMM) Following the unconfirmed shakedown of Toyota's 2007 car at Paul Ricard on Tuesday, it is understood that Renault is on Wednesday conducting a similar shakedown test for its 'R27'.
Reports in Europe indicate that the French squad, which is based at Enstone (England), is running the new single seater at the British grand prix circuit Silverstone.
Test driver Nelson Piquet Jr is apparently at the wheel of the car for the brief test session, before it makes its official track debut with an interim livery at Jerez next Tuesday.
A week later, the R27 will be launched in Amsterdam on January 24.
IRL to have 3 females Sports car driver Milka Duno passed her Indy Racing League physical Tuesday.
The 34-year-old Venezuelan will drive for Cahill Racing, which is returning to the IRL for the first time since 2002. Duno will team with sprint car veteran Jeff Mitrisin, who also passed his physical Tuesday. If Sarah Fisher lands a ride with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, as seems possible, the IndyCar Series will have three female drivers. Danica Patrick will drive for Andretti Green Racing.
Cahill's two drivers push the series total to 18 confirmed participants with at least two more expected, including Buddy Rice at D&R and P.J. Chesson at Fernandez Racing. The first race is March 24 in Homestead, Fla. Indy Star
Will VW's Bernhard return to Detroit? Speculation is mounting that former top Chrysler executive Wolfgang Bernhard will leave his job at Volkswagen AG, perhaps as early as this week, as part of a reorganization of Europe's largest carmaker. Porsche AG CEO Wendelin Wiedeking, the head of VW's biggest shareholder, didn't dispel rumors when he spoke with reporters Tuesday in Detroit. "The success of this company isn't based on one, two or three guys. It's the whole team," he said when asked if he wanted to keep Bernhard on board.
Wiedeking said Volkswagen has many talented, high-level managers. "It's a question of how you work together."
VW is racked with tensions among its top managers and also among its biggest shareholders -- Porsche, with just under 30 percent, and the German state of Lower Saxony, with 21 percent.
Bernhard, the former chief operating officer of DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group, brought a touch of star quality to the Auburn Hills automaker. But he left the company in 2004 after clashing with former CEO Jürgen Schrempp. More at Detroit News
New F1 track in Portugal Back in 2003 the town of Portimao, on Portugal's Algarve coast, announced that it was going to build a Formula 1 spec racing facility in order to revive the Portuguese Grand Prix. Two years later the Portuguese Ministry of the Economy and the Ministry of the Environment issued a joint statement supporting the plans to give the region an economic boost by creating new jobs and attracting more tourists.
In recent weeks, despite opposition from various political parties, the Portimao Municipal Assembly has allocated two plots of land totaling 800 acres for the new Autodrome and agreed to concessions to help the private company Parkalgar, including a 10-year tax break and a low annual rent for the land. Parkalgar says it is going to invest $250m in the project, which will include a 200-room five-star hotel and 160 apartments in addition to a technology centre, which will service the automobile industry. The aim is to start work as soon as possible and to have the track finished by September 2008. The plan is, apparently, to try to negotiate for a Formula 1 Grand Prix at some point after that, presumably because that would attract large numbers of Spanish fans. The local authorities are going to fund the construction of a viaduct from the A22 highway to the track, thus making access much easier. Grandprix.com
GP2 rumors Arden Motorsports will announce its much anticipated driver lineup at Birmingham's MotorShow later this week. Meanwhile Supernova is likely to announce their lineup in the next few days. Luca Filippi and Mike Conway are rumored to be paired up in the team's Dallaras, while talks with Alex Danielsson fell apart.
BCN Racing may get an unexpected driver. Sakon Yamamoto would be interested in a GP2 season together with his Super Aguri F1 testing role. The Japanese driver is close to signing a deal, while for the second seat the main candidates are Spain's Borja Garcia and Hiroki Yoshimoto.
Only a few places remain open: Adrian Valles and Riccardo Risatti are rumored to be Campos' main choices to line up alongside the confirmed Giorgio Pantano, while Luiz Razia seems to be close to a Racing Engineering deal. The Durango and Carlin seats are still up in the air, but many drivers are still interested in joining the two teams.
The end of Zakspeed Despite a successful 2006 season in FIA-GT German team Zakspeed may be forced to close its doors. The city of Koblenz’s Public Prosecutor's Department have started investigations regarding possible fraud against team executives Peter Zakowski, Dr. Hans-Peter Huppert Nieder & Erich Schulz. Reason for the investigations are questionable sources of money which may have been used to fund the team's FIA-GT season. At the same time Peter Zakowski has also declared personal bankruptcy. All this makes us question whether Zakspeed will ever see the light of day in 2007 and beyond.
New Ferrari to look different for '07 start (GMM) Ferrari's new single seater for 2007, to be launched on Sunday, will undergo a major visual bodywork overhaul before it makes its race debut in Australia, we can reveal.
It is understood that substantial elements of the car's aerodynamic profile are still in the design phase, which could explain speculation that the so-far unnamed car may not be "ready" for the official unveiling in Italy.
Team CEO and principal Jean told the newspaper Corriere della Sera that Ferrari aims to give Felipe Massa - who will debut the car at Fiorano on Monday - and Kimi Raikkonen a "great car".
He said: "Schumacher wouldn't have won 72 grands prix with Ferrari if he didn't have a great team made of excellent professionals and if he didn't race with a very strong car.
"We'll do the utmost to put Raikkonen and Massa in those same conditions."
DEI could dump Earnhardt Jr.UPDATE #3 We are downgrading this rumor to 'false' today. Negotiations to re-sign the signature driver of Dale Earnhardt Inc. are on the fast track and likely will be finalized by May if not sooner, DEI director of motorsports Richie Gilmore said on Monday.
"Before we come back here in February [for the Daytona 500] would be my wish [to have a deal done] so we wouldn't have the distraction of that every week," Gilmore said during the first day of preseason testing at Daytona International Speedway. "I would say, realistically, probably May."
Gilmore said losing the most popular driver on the Nextel Cup Series and the son of seven-time Cup champion Dale Earnhardt never has been a consideration for anybody at DEI, including owner Teresa Earnhardt.
"He's just like Derek Jeter to the Yankees," Gilmore said. "He's our star player. It would be fair when you compare Junior to other famous athletes like Michael Jordan with the Bulls. He's a franchise player.
"We feel confident we're going to get it all worked out and we'll have an announcement shortly."
Gilmore discounted comments in the Dec. 14 edition of The Wall Street Journal in which Teresa said: "Right now the ball's in [Earnhardt's] court to decide on whether he wants to be a NASCAR driver or whether he wants to be a public personality."
"I'm around Teresa pretty much every day and I've never heard her comment that way," Gilmore said. "Teresa doesn't get out there a lot to the media, but when I talk to her, it's never negative against Junior that way."
Gilmore said every conversation he's had with Teresa involved re-signing her stepson.
Richie Gilmore "That's what's best for the company," he said. "That's what's best for Junior and that's what's best for DEI. We'll get the deal done and move forward."
Gilmore said Teresa has tried to remove herself from negotiations as much as possible "because she thinks it will happen faster maybe if she takes the personal side out of it." ESPN.com
12/21/06 Don't be completely shocked if, a year from now, Dale Earnhardt Jr. walks away from his famous No. 8 Chevrolet, and possibly even his popular and lucrative Budweiser sponsorship, to drive for another Nextel Cup team.
It's unlikely, but not out of the question given the tense relationship between him and his stepmother, Teresa Earnhardt, the owner of his Dale Earnhardt Inc. team.
The relationship between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and step mom/boss Teresa has been frosty at times. Their relationship has always been a bit rocky. Since his father died in 2001, Junior's boss has been Teresa, and he has not always been happy with the way she runs the team that bears his father's name.
Three years ago, the two had an ugly contract dispute, with Earnhardt Jr. at one point saying it was difficult to negotiate when Teresa was rarely around.
A year ago, Earnhardt Jr. had to battle the company just to get the rights to his own name.
Now, Teresa has fired the latest salvo when she questioned Earnhardt Jr.'s commitment, telling the Wall Street Journal that he needed to decide "whether he wants to be a NASCAR driver or whether he wants to be a public personality." More at CBSSportsline.com
12/20/06 Now we know why Theresa Earnhardt was questioning whether Dale Earnhardt Jr. really wants to be a race car driver or just a celebrity. Here he is posing with Playboy's Dahm triplets, and we warn you do NOT click the link if you are offended by naked woman. He's even seen taking some photos of the naked woman himself, perhaps for his own collection. NASCAR isn't the 'family' sport it once was when its biggest star is seen as a porn lover. AutoRacing1.com finds the website linked rather disgusting, but since it relates to auto racing news we provided it. In no way do we endorse such smut.
12/15/06 Dale Earnhardt Inc. team owner Teresa Earnhardt appears to be questioning stepson Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s commitment to racing in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
The story in Thursday's edition says Earnhardt Jr.'s contract with the team founded by his father, the late Dale Earnhardt, expires after the 2007 season, but Teresa Earnhardt expressed uncertainty about his future.
"Right now the ball's in his court to decided on whether he wants to be a NASCAR driver or whether he wants to be a public personality."
Earnhardt Jr., who drives the team's No. 8 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series and finished fifth in the standings this season with one win, "was not available for comment" on the statement, the story said. DailyScene
Maldonado in GP2, Champ Car or DTM In 2006 Pastor Maldonado won five World Series by Renault races and now his Venezuelan backers want to move him up to GP1, Champ Car or DTM.
Maldonado is confident that he will secure a competitive drive for the coming season, citing BCN's GP2 team as his primary hope after previously admitting his performance with Trident's GP2 team was disappointing in testing. "We are continuing to explore scenarios in the GP2 Series, where we have already achieved excellent results," he said. "However, we have not distanced ourselves either from taking part in the DTM or even in the Champ Car Series in the States.
"I have a commitment to Venezuela and with my supporters, and this will be taken in account when it comes to determining my involvement in the 2007 season. We are close to making a decision regarding next season."
Ferrari to launch unseen F1 car on Sunday (GMM) The world will get its first glimpse of Ferrari's 2007 formula one car on 14 January.
Numerous media sources, including the major European newspaper Bild and Italian news agency Ansa, reported that the team's first post-Schumacher single seater will be presented at its Maranello headquarters this Sunday.
On Monday, Felipe Massa will then give the new car its track debut at Fiorano, Ferrari's private test circuit, the reports said.
Sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport added that the testing will continue on Tuesday, also with Massa at the wheel.
There are some suggestions, however, that the car itself will not actually be present at Sunday's official event, and that only official photographs will be presented to the assembled media.
Contrary to some reports that say the new Ferrari may not be 'ready' for the launch, though, it is understood that the car's possible absence on Sunday will be more to do with the Italian team wanting to control how much of the red single seater is able to be seen by the world's media and F1 rivals.
Photographers, for instance, have been banned for the Fiorano debut.
The car's official launch and test debut follows this week's traditional 'Vroom' event for Ferrari drivers and the media at the Italian ski resort Madonna di Campiglio.
It will be the first time Kimi Raikkonen will be seen in red gear, although the Finn is not expected to make his test debut in the new Ferrari until later this month.
Nemechek buys land from Irvan Rumor has it that Ernie Irvan has sold many acres of his property (where his home burned years ago) in Rowan County, NC to Joe Nemechek. We hear the plan is to turn the land into an Equestrian “country club” with homes & riding facilities.
Split beginning to affect Grand-Am tooUPDATE #2 Verified, the GTO Grand-Am program with Kevin Bucklers TRG is history. It's also interesting to see what Porsche thinks about the Grand-Am after Brumos Racing made a fuss about all the Porsche involvement in their racing program and the big names from Porsche jumping into their Grand -Am program. A check of the "official Porsche website" shows nothing at all about the Grand-Am, but lots of stuff on the ALMS.
While the Rolex 24 draws a lot of big name drivers who have nothing better to do in January, the remainder of the Rolex Series still suffers from a lack of serious fan interest both at the track and in front of the TV. Yet sponsors continue to put their names on the sides of the cars and drivers continue to collect reasonable paychecks. Ever wonder where all the prize money comes from? Is the France family paying the purse for all the races as rumored? Can the sponsors be paying much for near zero fans at the track and on TV? It's one of the great mysteries of American motorsport. What is most likely going on is the Grand-Am is a major tax write-off for the France family who hates to pay too much to Uncle Sam from the huge profits they make off of NASCAR. If true, they should be able to keep the Grand-Am going for as long as the ALMS is around.
01/07/07 The decline of NASCAR in 2006 (look for more and in some case "massive" reductions in corporate sponsorship in NASCAR) combined with the open wheel and sports car splits will put millions of dollars of team funding in play. The key driver for sponsors will be fan/consumer demographics. NASCAR clearly can't deliver upscale consumers and has failed to capture the imagination of Gen X-Y-Z, other than in the south. This bodes well for open wheel and sports cars.
01/07/07 It seems that the split in open wheel racing isn't the only facet of racing being negatively impacted by a "split." Sports car racing, and the split between Grand-Am and ALMS isn't doing anyone any good in that form of racing either. The ALMS has been suffering from low car count, especially considering they run 4 classes yet only get fields in the low 20s. And the Grand-Am series, if not propped up by the Lexus money would not be looking so healthy either. The Fernandez team is gone (to ALMS), so is Derhaag (driver Randy Ruhlman has joined Southard Motorsports for 2007 Grand Am Daytona Prototype season), and don't look for Gentilozzi’s' team back any time soon (Paul Gentilozzi will be part of the RVO Motorsports DP lineup for the 24 hr race - his company is building the Pontiac "stock blocks" that the team will use) and several others have scaled back their Grand-Am operations.....also the GTO program with Kevin Bucklers TRG is said to be history, but we're not so sure about that.
Forsythe to scale back to one car? Recall we reported awhile ago that Forsythe Racing had laid off a significant number of staff. At first it was thought to be just cleaning house of deadwood, but that now does not appear to be the case. In what is sure to send major negative shockwaves through the Champ Car paddock, Forsythe will only run one car for Paul Tracy unless a sponsor can be found for the 2nd car. In other words, one of the best seats in the paddock is open to a ride-buyer and we suspect that will get the attention of some funded drivers who want a chance at winning. However, bringing $5M to the table is no easy matter..
"We haven't had a sponsor since Player's was forced out by the tobacco legislation and Gerry has threatened to run only one car unless we found a sponsor for the past few years but always ran two to make sure we had enough cars," Neil Micklewright, the vice president of operations for Forsythe Racing, told SPEEDTV.com.
"But this time he's serious. We've let a bunch of people go and we only have enough crew to run one car.
"Losing AJ Allmendinger bothered him, as it should have since he felt like he saved A.J.'s career," Paul Tracy told SPEEDTV.com. "But he's been helping fund other teams in our series and his people haven't been able to find a sponsor in three years so I think he just said 'that's it, no sponsor, no second car.'"
Servia eyes return to Champ Car According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Spaniard Oriol Servia is hopeful of retaining a ride in Champ Car in 2007. With one win to his credit (Montreal for Newman/Haas) Servia has proven he can get the job done. To date he has had two teammates that were champions (Bourdais being the latest) and he has given them a good run for the money. The other teammates he simply smoked. However, with money tight in Champ Car there is no telling where he will end up but we hear PKV and RuSPORT are at least possibilities.
With the first test just two weeks away one would have thought most of the teams would have their 2007 drivers set so they can take maximum advantage of every open test day allowed. Teams that start at Sebring in two weeks with both drivers getting seat time will have a distinct advantage over those who don't sign their drivers until the 11th hour resulting in minimum, or zero, preseason seat time. If that happens the opportunity for the "little" guy to beat the big boys with the new car is marginalized.
Pastorelli to return to Champ Car According to AutoRacing1.com sources, there is a good chance that Nicky Pastorelli will make a return to Champ Car this year in a Dutch backed car that will be used all season to promote the two European races. Pastorelli ran a good portion of 2006 with Rocketsports before running out of money. His results were lackluster but with a new car in 2007 that will put everyone on a more even keel expect to see better results from Pastorelli if he is able to get some seat time in the new car before the season begins.
Dome to enter ALMS Dome is poised to enter the final two rounds of the American Le Mans Series this year, according to Endurance-Info. The Japanese LMP constructor has expressed interest to compete in North America after the 24 Hours of Le Mans, ideally with development partner Racing for Holland.
Jan Lammers’ team will field the new S101.5 chassis in Europe in 2007. Hiroshi Yuchi, Race and Development Manager of Dome said that Racing For Holland is the ideal choice of team to run the car stateside.
“Of course, ideally, we would go there with Jan, but we must find another team if they cannot commit to the ALMS.” Yuchi said.
Meanwhile, the tub of the S101.5 is nearly completed, after suffering from a slight delay. Shakedown of the chassis is expected to come in March. T2M Motorsport has also confirmed that it will take delivery of a S101.5, but for instead in LMP2 specifications.
NASCAR door still open to Villeneuve - managerUPDATE #7 (GMM) Jacques Villeneuve's manager has dismissed as "ludicrous" newspaper reports that said the 1997 world champion had missed his chance to switch to NASCAR in 2007.
Craig Pollock, who also ran the BAR team for several years, told the 'Montreal Gazette' that a deal could be in place by the end of the month.
Earlier reports indicated that Canadian Villeneuve, 35, had failed to find the requisite $18m in backing to drive for Roush this year, having lost his BMW seat in F1.
Pollock said: "We're in a very strong position with any team he wants to go to and there are many, many teams really interested in Jacques."
He dismissed as "the biggest load of **** I've ever heard" suggestions that his demand for a major management role scuppered Villeneuve's hopes for a deal with Roush.
Pollock added: "We're going to take our time to do things properly. Then we'll choose whether we want to go with Roush or go elsewhere.
"I get many calls every week from many teams, but we're looking at things very logically. Jacques still has 15 years to go (in motor racing), so why run into things when we can take our time and do it right?"
01/02/07 Former Formula One driver Jacques Villeneuve's road to the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) continues to hit speed bumps.
After weeks of searching for a sponsor to come up with the roughly $18-million (U.S.) he needs to secure a ride in the NASCAR Busch Series, the 1997 F1 world champion has apparently set his sights a bit lower.
A source close to the 35-year-old from Iberville, Que., said that the former Williams driver is now looking at other ways of getting into a stock car.
"He's even talking about doing the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series now and then do some Busch to try to get into it," the source said.
"You know if you haven't driven these cars, there aren't a lot of people who want to touch you. The teams think there's steep learning curve which takes time and experience and they don't want to finance it."
The truck series is considered the bottom of the NASCAR ladder for young up-and-coming talents in stock car racing and not exactly a place where a 10-year F1 veteran would prefer to cut his teeth. More at Globesports.com
[Editor's Note: Having driven rear engine open wheel cars all his life we predicted awhile ago that Villeneuve would fail miserably at front engine stock cars. Those in NASCAR must agree because as you can see no one will touch him and he has to buy his ride by bringing sponsorship money. He should have returned to Champ Car where he started, but he thought himself too good for that.] More ...
NASCAR will expand Chase for the Cup field this seasonUPDATE NASCAR isn’t commenting beyond spokesman Jim Hunter’s statement Thursday that the Chase for the Nextel Cup will include more than 10 drivers this year. But Speedway Motorsports Inc. president Bruton Smith hinted Friday the new number could be 12. "I think you can look for 12, but that’s just my opinion,” Smith said on Sirius Satellite Radio’s new NASCAR channel. Smith also said he believes the winner of each race will get an additional 10 points in the changes expected to be announced later this month.
01/04/07 The NASCAR Nextel Cup 2007 season will feature more points for victories and more drivers in the Chase for the Cup, NASCAR vice president of corporate communications Jim Hunter said this afternoon. How many points and how many drivers are being determined, Hunter said during a visit to USA TODAY's newsroom in McLean, Va. "We're still running the models," Hunter said, adding that an official announcement will be made during NASCAR's media tour Jan. 22-26 in Charlotte.
Another banner year for Atlantic Series Word in the Champ Car Atlantic paddock is that the series is in for another banner year with upwards of 25 cars expected. The $2M carrot that goes to the championship winner has a lot of talented drivers from around the world after it. If big brother Champ Car offered, say, $5M to the championship winner, that series too would garner a lot more interest and by some heavy hitters (both teams and drivers).
Walker Racing close to finalizing 2007 lineup Derrick Walker and Team Australia are close to finalizing their 2007 driver lineup. Walker tells AutoRacing1.com, "Certainly Will Power (pictured right) is back, the second driver is yet to be determined. I am continuing to talk to possible candidates and of course Simon Pagenaud is high on our list needless to say. We expect to have completed the selection process within the next seven days."
RuSPORT is soldUPDATE #7 As we reported below, now Jimmy Vasser has confirmed that PKV Racing will continue to operate under that name in 2007, despite co-owner Dan Pettit having bought Carl Russo's RuSPORT operation when other business interests forced him to sell the team. Pettit continues to have an involvement in PKV, and the team will continue to run under the acronym formed by the initials of its three owners, Pettit, Kevin Kalkhoven and Vasser.
12/06/06Correction: Dan Pettit will stay involved in the PKV team as well, or so he says. "I will be working with Kevin in the future to ensure the success of both teams. We look forward to building upon the championship culture and traditions that Carl Russo and the entire RuSPORT team have already established."
11/28/06 Dan Pettit has indeed bought RuSPORT and we understand he will no longer be involved in PKV Racing as this would be a conflict of interest having insight into two competing teams. We await the formal press release.
It was a long and winding road but I'm happy to report that Dan has purchased the team from Carl (Russo), we're staying in Colorado and we'll have two cars on the grid in 2007," said Jeremy Dale, who will retain his role as team president .
"It was important to keep this group together because there's a lot here that's very good and fortunately Dan recognized that. He's going to be a great fit."
"We've still got CDW as a primary sponsor and they love Justin like we do so I'm hoping we can have some more good news next week," said Dale to SPEEDTV.com
11/28/06 Have since heard that one of the possible buyers of RuSPORT is indeed Dan Pettit, but he denied that when we asked him. We are told the deal is not done yet....whoever the buyer is.
11/20/06 When the new owners of RuSPORT are announced, they will surprise you.
11/11/06 Kevin Kalkhoven told AutoRacing1.com that Carl Russo was forced to sell the RuSPORT team because of the demands on him by the investors in his Calix company. However, he tells us everything is settled with the team and the team will stay exactly as it is but with a new internal ownership structure. Jeremy Dale will still manage the team. They will field two cars next year with CDW backing for Wilson and we hear from another source that the No. 10 car will also have sponsorship. "Everything is rather boring with Champ Car right now," said Kalkhoven. Everything is fine with RuSPORT, our car count is going up, the number of races will be up, Paul Stoddart is coming, our new TV package will be really good. There is no bad news and everything is falling into place exactly as planned."
11/09/06 We hear that the team indeed could be sold and that every effort is being made to keep the 2-car team intact.
11/08/06 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I see where you reported that Paul Stoddart looked at RuSPORT but decided not to buy it. Is it true the team is for sale and if not Stoddart, who will buy it? Dan Bedard, Dallas, TX
Dear Dan, Yes, we hear that Stoddart has decided against buying RuSPORT because he and Carl Russo could not agree on a price and we still think he will buy into the CTE Racing HVM team as originally reported when we broke this rumor. As to who will buy RuSPORT, we are not sure whether Russo is getting out totally. We hear he may be looking for a partner because he is too busy, rather than selling outright. The only person we hear that might be looking to partner with another team is Dan Pettit, but we are not sure of the validity of that rumor. Pettit is of course also partnered with Kalkhoven at PKV Racing, and no, there has been no falling out between Pettit and Kalkhoven. Mark C.
Status of Champ Car drivers/teams A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, OK in 2007 I know who is driving for which team in all the major racing series around the world, but what about Champ Car? Is this another year of teams waiting for Daddy's check to clear. We are two weeks away from the first big test in Sebring and no announcements. The silence is deafening. Alice Connor, Minneapolis
Dear Alice, The status of who is driving for whom in Champ Car in 2007 is best depicted by our Silly Season page. As can be seen, there is a lot of uncertainty as to who will drive for whom and whether or not they have a sponsor. The Gelles team appears to be DOA despite the teams announcement and press conference that they would have a Champ Car team in 2007. We will likely get a better idea of who the likely drivers will be for each team by who shows up at the Sebring test. We probably won't know the full slate until the third test at Laguna Seca in March, including sponsorship. It will be a better year for Champ Car, but clearly things are not yet where they need to be regarding sponsorship.
Years of lowly TV ratings on SPEED, and no signature event like the Indy 500, make the sponsorship hunt quite difficult. Now that talks of a merger with the IRL appear over for good, it's time Champ Car announce a signature event for Memorial Day weekend, the biggest race weekend of the year. They should have never stopped the USA 500 after one year. After drawing over 100,000 fans that year on the same day as the Indy 500 who knows how big that race would be by now. While it would not exceed the Indy 500 in stature, it certainly would be a big event, Champ Car's signature event, run on Memorial Day Saturday so as to avoid a TV conflict with the Indy 500. Mark C.
How Red Bull and Toro Rosso cheat F1 rules It seems that Red Bull will be building the same chassis for Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2007. This is being achieved by using a third party company which is not a signatory to the Concorde Agreement. This has been achieved by turning the old holding company, Red Bull Racing Holdings Ltd, into a company called Red Bull Technology Ltd. This was done on December 20 2006, at least according to Companies House in England, where these matters are officially registered. It is listed as being headquartered at Building 1, Bradbourne Drive in Tilbrook, Milton Keynes. Red Bull Racing Ltd, the signatory of the Concorde Agreement, which was formerly known as Stewart Grand Prix and then Jaguar Racing. This is headquartered at Building 2 in Bradbourne Drive. More at Grandprix.com
Gene, de la Rosa, may race Le Mans in 2007UPDATE (GMM) Ferrari test driver Marc Gene has successfully negotiated a seat for June's 24 hour Le Mans race.
According to reports earlier this week, the Spaniard's rumored links to Peugeot's lineup for the world famous endurance race in 2007 became the subject of an intense discussion between the two marques.
32-year-old Gene's F1 role at Ferrari this year will likely be limited, due to the new agreement to limit testing.
He raced once in 2006 in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), and his brother Jordi is a Le Mans regular.
The Spanish newspaper 'Diario As' claims that Ferrari boss Jean Todt has now given his approval to Gene's contract, and that McLaren tester Pedro de la Rosa could be his teammate for the diesel-powered Peugeot 908.
01/04/07 Ferrari test driver Marc Gene has been invited by Peugeot to join the car manufacturer in the 24 hours of Le Mans this year. Gene has yet to react on the invitation. It is uncertain if Ferrari will allow Gene to race for a different car brand in the worlds oldest car race. Champ Car driver Sebastien Bourdais, who is French, is also trying to land a ride with the French manufacturer for the twice around the clock classic. The event will be held on the 16th and 17th of June.
Karthikeyan might drive GP Fridays in 2007 (GMM) Narain Karthikeyan has suggested that 2007 should be an "even more exciting" year for him in F1. The sport's first Indian driver, who debuted for Jordan in 2005, turned to Williams' second test seat last year, but Alex Wurz enjoyed the privilege of appearing for the Grove team on the Fridays of race weekends.
Austrian Wurz, however, has now moved into the race seat, effectively promoting 29-year-old Karthikeyan to the primary test role alongside rookie Kazuki Nakajima.
The third car rule for Fridays has been scrapped for 2007, but some teams are nonetheless planning to still use a test driver for the new three hours of unrestricted free practice.
Karthikeyan said: "I'm excited about continuing my role as the test driver for Williams, with the added possible benefit of driving on some of the Fridays of race weekends."
Dario to team with brother, Herta Rumor has it that recently re-signed AGR driver Dario Franchitti will team with Bryan Herta and his brother, Marino Franchitti, for the Andretti-Green Acura Courage ALMS 2007 program for the longer races - Sebring, LeMans and Petit LeMans.
Toro Rosso use loophole to justify 2007 plans (GMM) It is looking increasingly likely that Toro Rosso and Red Bull will race effectively the same formula one chassis in 2007.
The move - as is Super Aguri and Honda's similar plan - is highly controversial, as the spirit of the F1 regulations forbids the use of customer cars until a rule change for 2008.
Running basically a 2005 Red Bull last year, Toro Rosso sidestepped the regulation by arguing that the 'STR1' had actually been built by a Ford subsidiary from the Jaguar days.
For 2007, their argument is that Red Bull and Toro Rosso's near-identical cars - to be respectively named 'RB3' and 'STR2' - have been designed and built by third party Red Bull Technologies, who employ Adrian Newey.
Toro Rosso team co-owner Gerhard Berger said: "We are confident the FIA will approve our car. Toro Rosso will fully own the intellectual rights."
The Faenza based team will return to the test tracks with STR2 in early February.
Champ Car eyes Europe street raceUPDATE Further research tells us that the rumored street race would most probably be in place of Zolder. It is quite possible that Zolder is being used for only one year and then from 2008 onwards Europe Champ Car race promoter Bart Rietbergen can plan other venues, for example in a major European city (Hamburg, Germany or Birmingham, England) or a possibly the airport race in Athens.
01/03/07 According to this Dutch Champ Car website, Bart Rietbergen promoter of the two Champ Car races in Europe is looking at a street race in either Germany or England for 2008.
Jon Herb to run According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Jon Herb will be contesting 4-7 IRL races this year in addition to Homestead and Indy. With Foyt IV announced today, the IRL now have fulltime 18 drivers listed on their website, that includes Sarah Fisher listed with the Dreyer & Reinbold and Marty Roth in a Roth entry.
Hendricks signs 17-year old Landon Cassill, a 17-year-old senior at Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School, has signed a contract to drive for NASCAR's Hendrick Motorsports, he told The Gazette Tuesday. Cassill joins a powerhouse race team that includes Nextel Cup champions #48-Jimmie Johnson and #24-Jeff Gordon, as well as #5-Kyle Busch and #25-Casey Mears. "I feel really, really honored to be part of this organization," Cassill said. "I'm honored to be in such an elite group." it says to "See more of this story in Wednesday's Gazette." The Gazette
Landon will move to North Carolina in March to begin working full time for Hendrick Motorsports. kcrg.com
Alonso is F1's highest paid racer - report (GMM) World champion Fernando Alonso will be the highest paid formula one racer in 2007, according to new reports.
While it has been suggested that Kimi Raikkonen inherited Michael Schumacher's legendary pay-packet for being 'number one' at Ferrari, the Spanish newspaper Diario As claims that the Finn's new salary is actually eclipsed by F1's reigning title winner.
McLaren will supposedly pay Alonso, 25, nearly (US) $40m this year, compared to Raikkonen's $24m.
'As' adds that the retired Schumacher's last Ferrari pay packet tipped the scales at $46m.
Why the wheels came off the Staten Island NASCAR plan This was supposed to be the year the fastest-growing sport in the country would secure its spot in the premier city in the country.
In the end, it was a year of paramount loss.
At the outset of 2006, the executives who run NASCAR and the company that develops many of its racetracks, International Speedway Corp., were optimistic about their plans to build a three-quarter-mile raceway on Staten Island's West Shore and secure the sport's place in New York City.
Michael Printup, ISC's manager for the Island track project, repeatedly referred to 2006 as the project's "hump year," and enthusiastically talked about the marriage between the sport with deep Southern roots, and the city that never sleeps.
But ISC, a company accustomed to success, did not anticipate the land use bureaucracy, the strong political will and the tremendous traffic woes that define this city, and ultimately cost the $2.7 billion company its plan to build a track here, with a view of the Manhattan skyline in the backdrop.
"I think they're figuratively limping out of there like Napoleon out of Russia," said racing writer Monte Dutton of the Gaston Gazette in North Carolina. "They're not used to losing. They're extremely adept." More at Staten Island Advance
Tony George undermining his own IRL Bob Varsha writes in this SPEEDTV.com article - "In a December edition of his widely-read ‘Editor's Notebook' column in National Speed Sport News, Chris Economaki cites a reader survey in Sports Business Journal in which respondents who consider themselves open-wheel fans say they prefer F-1 over the domestic IRL and Champ Car series by a wide margin. You know what Mark Twain said about statistics being right up there among falsehoods, but I think the data says something important about the growth of the F1 audience. I also wonder what Tony George and his staff at the Speedway think about all the time and money they've sunk into the USGP arguably helping to upstage their own open-wheel championship."
Not only has bringing NASCAR to the Brickyard helped destroy IndyCar Racing, so too has bringing in the USGP F1 race apparently. We don't see IndyCars racing at Monaco and Daytona now do we. Bernie E. and the France Family are too smart for that, yet Tony George gives them free reign over what was once IndyCar's hallowed ground. A lot of people blame Tony George for the destruction of American Indy Car racing. The evidence is mounting.....
Senna to test for Toro Rosso? Ayrton Senna's nephew has played down renewed speculation that he is in pole position to debut in formula one for Toro Rosso next year.
23-year-old Bruno Senna, whose late uncle won three world championships for McLaren, will graduate from British F3 to F1's feeder series - GP2 - in 2007.
But although he maintains close links with Ayrton Senna's former McLaren teammate and friend Gerhard Berger - who co-owns Red Bull sister team Toro Rosso - Bruno denied that his sole objective is to attract an offer for 2008 from the Faenza based F1 squad.
Senna, nonetheless, is likely to test for STR this year. More ...
New generation to unseat F1 veterans - Fry (GMM) A wave of young chargers is on the verge of stealing formula one race seats from experienced veterans, according to a team principal.
Honda's Nick Fry is quoted by the newspaper 'USA Today' as saying the pinnacle of motor sport "needs" its new injection of youth.
"We've got that with Lewis (Hamilton), (Robert) Kubica and (Heikki) Kovalainen," the Briton said, after giving young American Marco Andretti his first taste of F1 power with a pre-Christmas test.
In addition to Fry's aforementioned three, youngsters including Sebastian Vettel, Nelson Piquet Jr and Bruno Senna are also tipped to be among rookies lining up on the formula one grid of the near future.
Fry added: "There's a number of drivers in F1 who have been there a long time and I wouldn't anticipate that a number of them are going to be there much longer."
Hedge funds eye Aston Martin? Among the year-ahead predictions from Bloomberg columnist Matthew Lynn is:
A hedge-fund manager will buy Aston Martin.
"Ford Motor Co. has already put its world-beating luxury-car unit Aston Martin up for sale. The hedge funds are awash with money and have been snapping up all sorts of interesting companies. London-based RAB Capital Plc, for example, just took control of the A1 Grand Prix motor-racing business.
"London's loaded hedgehogs love to drive around in their shiny new Astons. What better synergies could there be than owning the company that makes them? You can sell it to the investors as a great deal and have fun messing around in the factory at the same time."
Latest ALMS rumorsUPDATE #6 Latest word is that Audi will probably be back with its two R10s to go against a lone Autocon entry. Creation Autosportif was having a look but probably will not come over from Europe. Audi will of course destroy the privateer entries, so why would they bother? We also hear that Aston Martin and Corvette will probably both be back with two cars each to give the GT1 class four entries. However, A Ford GT (GT1 class) project may be in the works with a Yates/Roush normally aspirated Ford engine.
12/23/06 This rumor is downgraded to 'speculation' and may go to 'false.' Although Yves Courage was quoted at length about the sale of two, perhaps three chassis. Kevin Kalkhoven provided no details when we asked him about it in Mexico City, but his reference to a confidentiality agreement regarding a Cosworth engine in ALMS wasn’t a denial, either. Word is that Cosworth went so far as to sign a contract and seems to have been hopeful that they had a deal even after funds failed to arrive in early November as expected. According to dailysportscar, Cosworth admitted being “a long way down the road with an installation in a LMP1 Courage chassis.”
This is now bad news for ALMS because as of now they have no LMP1 entries committed for next year, not even the Audi diesels, probably because they don't want to just race against themselves. Peugeot is looking at a diesel LMP1 entry but they won't race at Sebring, with LeMans being their goal. It's doubtful we will see the Peugeot in ALMS in 2007, with 2008 being more likely. No privateer entry can beat the factory Audi effort, so why bother? Even Dyson has moved to LMP2 with Porsche, probably because he felt it was hopeless to compete against the Audi diesel given the rules give the diesel a decided advantage. So unless Audi agrees to race against just themselves in 2007, we may see ALMS with zero LMP1 entries, which is sure to give the France family, with their lower cost Grand-Am series that doesn't allow the factories to dictate their future, quite a chuckle.
And so far in GT1 neither Corvette nor Aston Martin have committed for 2007. We doubt one will race without the other as competition. Although we do expect Corvette to return if the rules are changed back in their favor, it may be that ALMS will be faced with a healthy LMP2 and GT2 class and nothing else. This story should unfold, one way or the other, in early 2007. Mark C.
11/14/06 The yet-to-be announced Cosworth-powered Courage entry might be run by a new team. The cars are said to be just about ready. The car may be unveiled in Bandol, France, in less than three week’s time.
10/21/06 When asked about the Cosworth entry into the ALMS on Saturday in Surfers, Champ Car and Cosworth boss Kevin Kalkhoven responded with "we are looking into it, the time frame is next year, but I cannot say more because of a confidentiality agreement."
10/05/06 Hearing that the Cosworth engine may go in a Lola chassis and the Courage is still in the picture as well.
10/05/06 News and rumor has been going around for a while about the Cosworth entry into the ALMS.
Now this link seems to be growing stronger. It can be assumed that ALMS and the Champ Car World Series (CCWS) want a partnership at races (i.e. Long Beach and Road America spring to mind) but how does a nice tie-in come to pass? Who has what to gain. CCWS, who basically own Cosworth now have a bunch of man-hours spare since no one will want their engines in F1 next year. They also want to protect their business and keep going racing. A logical spot would be in the ALMS and LMS. So Cosworth could have a ‘factory’ effort soon in the ALMS to see if they can create a customer base for the engine. It also has the advantage of strengthening the ties between CCWS and the ALMS – giving a nice advantage to race partnerships and the like.
FMSC thinks this one will probably happen. It is in the interests of all parties and will also make the ALMS racing better. Whether it happens in 2007 or 2008 is still unknown. It could be an LMP1 engine too – what better way to show the power of CCWS than winning outright at Sebring or Petit? Feedmesportscars.com
09/25/06 Hearing rumors, faint as they may be, that we could see a couple of Courages in ALMS with Cosworth power. Next year? Perhaps.
Our Scott Morris snapped a photo of the engine at last year's PRI show (pictured left and right).
Another new Champ Car team in worksUPDATE #2 Here is the website for ALFA Livery Design, owned by Aldo Falla, the guy who is responsible for the Hylton Racing graphic designs. He has made numerous graphic designs for many teams in Champ Car and Champ Car Atlantic. He writes, This site is dedicated to Champ Car and its beautiful racing machines. Stay tuned for great new things to come in '07. If you would like to commission an original livery for a team please feel free to contact me.
12/30/06 Here are some more companies that Hylton Racing is pitching and the graphic designs they had prepared. Again, fabulous graphics that one would hope other teams will aspire to.
12/29/06 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, former Toyota Atlantic team owner Keith Hylton (Pictured right with Hoover Orsi - his team won the 2001 Atlantic Championship with Orsi driving) is making a serious marketing pitch to at&t and others to sponsor a Champ Car team that he is attempting to establish. The goal is to make it happen for 2007 or 2008.
We were able to obtain some of the Photoshop images of what the cars might look like should he be successful in landing one of the companies. Our hats off to his graphic design team as they understand how to make a car's paint scheme look professional and properly represent a sponsor's company. That has been a beef of ours for years - just how unprofessional some of the Champ Car teams paint schemes look because they refuse to hire a professional graphic artist.
The end of IROC?UPDATE A reader writes, When push comes to shove the France family is probably more concerned about getting a sponsor for the Busch series which also needs a sponsor. I remember the first IROC in 1974 when it was done the right way. All the drivers drove Porsches on road courses and no NASCAR drivers won. One driver, Bobby Allison called the Porsches "expensive Corvairs." What a dolt! Doug Ferguson
12/30/06 One can only hope as this NASCAR-centric series is so one-sided it proves nothing. With Crown Royal’s backing now over, the hunt for a 2007 sponsor has so far come up empty handed. The France family will have to step in and bail this series out so IROC can, with all the advantage it gives to NASCAR drivers, continue to make it look like NASCAR drivers are the best. We have said for a long time that IROC should be run in open wheel cars, where NASCAR drivers will finish last each and every race. In fact no NASCAR driver has ever run well in an open wheel car. Meanwhile open wheel drivers go to NASCAR and dominate (Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart the two latest).
Toyota to unveil hybrid sports car Toyota at the Detroit auto show will unveil the FT-HS Hybrid Sports Concept — a two-door sports coupe that could provide clues to the next Supra. Toyota says the 400 horsepower hybrid would do zero to 60 mph in around four seconds, and cost somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000.
Power comes from a 3.5 liter V6 coupled with the electric motor used in the GS 450h. The car seats four and has a 50:50 weight balance. Notice the retractable roof that folds back onto the back seats in the first photo.
Ford and Microsoft to announce alliance Ford Motor Co. is expected to announce an alliance with Microsoft Corp. next month that will bring wireless Windows connectivity into the automobile, a move that could give the automaker a major competitive advantage as it struggles to turn around its North American business. The new technology will be called Sync, according to a report in Friday's Wall Street Journal, which cited sources familiar with the deal.
Those sources said it will use Bluetooth technology to allow wireless connections between Ford automobiles and devices like the Apple iPod or cellular telephones. Drivers would then be able to use the system for hands-free calling, as well as for music and a variety of other applications.
Brawn to return to Ferrari Ferrari’s former technical director Ross Brawn says he hopes to renew his professional relationship with the Maranello squad after his current sabbatical.
Brawn’s departure from Ferrari – coinciding with the retirement of Michael Schumacher, in whose career he played such a central role – was confirmed at the end of the 2006 season.
At the time it was not clarified whether it would be permanent – or temporary, presaging his return, possibly as team principal, in 2008.
In an exclusive interview with ITV Sport’s James Allen, Brawn confirmed that he would like to work for Ferrari again in the future.
“I felt 10 years for me at Ferrari would be a milestone and that it would be a good time at 52 years old to take a gap year and then look for the next challenge, which I hope comes from within Ferrari,” he said.
“But 10 years of doing what I’ve been doing has been fantastic, a great opportunity, wonderful experience and I just felt that personally I need the next challenge.” ITV/F1
Will DTM’s departure pave way for Champ Car? Will there be two European races added to the 2007 Champ Car schedule? We know that Assen is a go if a 2nd suitable race can be found to partner Assen. A number of circuits have been mentioned including Zolder, Athens, Oschersleben and LeMans.
The DTM won't return to Le Mans for their France Round. The 2006 event at the circuit Bugatti did not attract as many spectators as both the DTM and the ACO had expected. Why would it when the DTM is primarily a German series?
However, Champ Car has a real "French" connection with a number of drivers from France - Bourdais, Philippe and Pagenaud with Premat and Moreau knocking on the door. A Champ Car race at LeMans therefore, may attract a lot of fan interest.
Frenchman eyes Champ Car for 2007UPDATE Guillaume Moreau had a two-day test at the wheel of a Mi-Jack Conquest Racing Champ Car in late November at MSR Houston, Texas. It was supposed to be a tough challenge for the Formula 3 Euro Series regular, considering the fact that the Ford-engined Lola was three times as powerful as an F3 car. He could have also been overwhelmed by the “American way of racing”… But Guillaume proved to be fast and consistent. After this positive experience, the driver and the team will evaluate the possibility to continue to work together in 2007.
Before leaving France, Guillaume was informed that his “teammate” for the test would be Alexandre Prémat, who shined in GP2 and took the A1 Grand Prix World Cup title with the French squad this year. “It was really good news” said Guillaume. “Alex is a very competitive racer, he tested in Formula One recently and he is used to driving powerful single-seater cars. He would be the benchmark of my Champ Car maiden test.” Guillaume’s American dream began at Indianapolis, where the team is based. He was introduced to the team personnel, molded his seat and then could visit the speedway and its museum, before flying to Houston.
On Monday November the 27th, Guillaume completed a couple of laps at the wheel of a Dodge Touring Car, in order to discover the bends and chicanes of the Texan racetrack. More ...
Toro Rosso to announce drivers by Monday (GMM) Gerhard Berger and his fellow Toro Rosso chiefs are hard at work to finalize the Faenza based team's driver lineup for 2007 in the coming days, we can reveal.
It is understood that the Austrian, who co-owns Toro Rosso alongside Red Bull magnate Dietrich Mateschitz, is staging decisive meetings at his office in Tyrol with the goal of confirming the lineup before the new year dawns.
The 47-year-old former grand prix winner, Berger, has apparently called off a traditional event for local media in order to meet his deadline, amid speculation that Vitantonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed's seats are not assured for next year.
Spyker refugee Tiago Monteiro and Sebastien Bourdais could be among the contenders for the roles, despite the Champ Car champion's insistence that he will only be considered for 2008.
2006 'Friday' driver Neel Jani, meanwhile, has left the team in order to pursue a Champ Car seat, opening up a possible test ride for Red Bull junior driver Michael Ammermuller, 21.
Are Ford and Toyota talking alliance?UPDATE #2 Despite a meeting between chief executives of Toyota Motor Corp. and Ford Motor Co., analysts said today that ties between the two were likely to be limited to Toyota passing green technology on to Ford.
Reports that Toyota Chairman Fujio Cho had recently met in Tokyo with Ford Motor Co. President and Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally at the latter’s request sparked investor hopes about a potential alliance between the two rivals and sent their shares higher Wednesday.
Neither company offered any details about what the two executives had discussed. But analysts said cooperation between the two would likely be restricted to Japan’s Toyota sharing technology.
“Remember, it was Ford that came to Toyota,” Shinko Securities senior analyst Shinji Kitayama said Thursday. “Toyota probably doesn’t feel it has anything in particular to gain from closer ties with Ford, but for Ford Toyota’s green technology is attractive.”
12/27/06 Ford Motor Co. acknowledged that its top executive had met with leaders of Japan's Toyota, but gave no indication of the nature of the discussions. The number two US automaker said in a statement on its website that chief executive Alan Mulally met with Toyota's leadership.
"We meet regularly with other automakers on a variety of topics of mutual interest," the statement said. More ...
ESPN2 Garage Programs Set for January 6 Debut Motorsports and automotive enthusiasts will be able to continue their celebration of the New Year during the first weekend of January with three new television programs that will premiere on ESPN2.
All part of the new ESPN2 Garage block of programming, Truck Stop, Chopper Nation and Autotrader.com DRIVE in HD will debut on ESPN2, while Michael Waltrip Racing: A New Era will continue its run, giving viewers the opportunity to catch up on episodes they may have missed since the show’s early-December debut.
Designed to complement ESPN’s extensive coverage of NASCAR, IndyCar, Champ Car and NHRA racing in 2007, ESPN2 Garage is dedicated to the automotive, motorcycle and motorsports world. ESPN2 will air more than 500 hours of motorsports programming in 2007.
The first episode of Truck Stop will air at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday, January 6, followed at 10:30 a.m. by the premiere of Chopper Nation. The next day, a one-hour episode of Michael Waltrip Racing: A New Era airs at 10 a.m., followed at 11 a.m. by Autotrader.com DRIVE in HD. More ...
Audi, Toro Rosso after MontoyaUPDATE (GMM) Toro Rosso tried to convince Juan Pablo Montoya to skip NASCAR, according to a source close to the former formula one winner.
The source was quoted by Spanish 'Marca' journalist Marco Canseco as admitting that Montoya, who left McLaren in mid 2006 to drive for Chip Ganassi's NASCAR team, received an approach from the Faenza based squad.
"Yes, he received some interest from Toro Rosso," the source reportedly said, "but at the moment (Juan Pablo) is like a kid in a candy store (in NASCAR)."
It is not known when Montoya was approached by the part Gerhard Berger-owned Toro Rosso team, but it has yet to name its 2007 driver lineup. The latest driver linked with a seat for 2007 is Tiago Monteiro, having lost his Spyker drive last week to rookie Adrian Sutil.
Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais, meanwhile, is in the frame for 2008.
The source said Montoya, 31, is far from regretting his decision to join the popular American series.
"He is completely focused on NASCAR and all they want him to do is drive," the source added.
12/23/06 According to this German Bild article, after Toro Rosso was turned down by Juan Montoya in F1, Audi is willing to pay both Juan Montoya and Jacques Villeneuve $8M each to race for them in DTM. We expect Montoya will turn down Audi as well because he cannot break his NASCAR contract, and has no desire to because he wants to raise his family in America after being treated poorly in Europe.
Verstappen still trying to land Champ Car rideUPDATE #7 According to this Dutch article, "We're actively negotiating with four drivers as we speak. I'm pretty sure there will be at least one Dutch driver in our team but negotiations are not finalized yet so we've got to wait and see how that turns out. But I am confident there will be at least one Dutch driver in the team," says Paul Stoddart.
"Jos is at the top of our list. Obviously a driver of Jos' pedigree and talent makes him that. There are sponsorship issues and we've got to get to terms with all of that. That's what we're working on now and I'm hoping to announce one if not both the drivers before 15 January."
"We have the capability for a third car. What it comes down to is funding. We have a fully funded two-car program at the moment and with the right level of sponsorship that could obviously turn to a three-car program."
"Cedric is very involved with the third car. What will happen is if we have a third car some of his sponsorship connections will help fund that car and don't be surprised to see his name on one or more of the cars. The team will be running as Minardi Team USA because we hope to enhance and develop the role with Cedric and I think there's quite a lot of work being put into that and it will be a shame to lose that."
"First of all their talent - there's no question about that. We're not open to pay drivers without talent. Secondly, especially with regards to the third car they need to have some sponsorship money."
12/19/06 Although Verstappen has yet to test with Forsythe Racing as we were told he would, in Holland there are rumors of Jos moving in at Forsythe Racing, alongside Paul Tracy (At right testing for HVM Racing at Sebring in 2005, Photos by Mark Cipolloni). It is quite possible that Verstappen is trying to get some leverage in his negotiations with Stoddart, but if there is a lot of Trust money behind Verstappen, he may be able to land in one of Forsythe's coveted seats..
12/18/06 Today Paul Stoddart said the Jos Verstappen is definitely in the mix to possibly land a ride in one of Minardi Team USA's 2 or 3 cars for 2007. More.....
04/28/05 From our sources in Holland - Dutch computer company Trust was ordered to pay Jos Verstappen $200,000. Trust, a long-time Verstappen sponsor, decided to terminate all its motorsport activities according to a recent press release. The judge also ordered Trust to stop all its activities sponsoring Minardi driver Christijan Albers immediately. This is based on the exclusivity contract signed on February 5, 2002 with Verstappen. Not much later Verstappen was dumped by Arrows.
Trust has to pay Verstappen $200,000 because the contract stipulates that Verstappen is entitled to 20 per cent of the amount Trust paid as sponsor of the Jordan team in 2004. Trust paid Jordan 1 million dollars when Verstappen agreed to a one time exemption from the exclusive contract for 2004.
Trust didn't agree with Verstappen's demands. In court they claimed Verstappen refused to do a test for Jordan early in June 2004. Verstappen claimed he did not fit in the car. The judge ruled against Trust and for Verstappen.
According to the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper, negotiations are going on behind closed doors to come to an agreement. Trust is said to be willing to, in conjunction with CO2, to get Verstappen a ride starting with the second Champ Car race on May 22nd in Monterrey, Mexico. AutoRacing1.com sources tell us it could be in a 3rd Forsythe car. Part of the negotiations would be a resumption of the sponsorship of Albers and Minardi whereby Trust would act as primary sponsor of the Italian team, preferably starting with the upcoming Spanish Grand Prix. Another point of negotiation is supposed to be support for Formula 3 driver Giedo van der Garde to develop new young talent. Mark C.
04/21/05 The Netherlands' Christijan Albers has lost a main F1 backer. Computer firm Trust (pictured right, a longtime sponsor of Jos Verstappen), who used to sponsor Jos Verstappen, has withdrawn from Formula One. Minardi rookie Albers, 26, previously wore the 'Trust' logo on his helmet, cap and overalls. This means one of two things, Verstappen and Trust have reached an agreement that will see them both come to Champ Car, or the negotiations broke down and Verstappen demanded Trust withdraw from F1 because his contract forbids Trust from sponsoring anyone else without his permission. 04/11/05 News in the Netherlands is that there might be a deal between Verstappen's management and Trust. Trust wants to sponsor Christijan Albers at Minardi but is not allowed to do so because of an exclusive contract he has with Verstappen. Both sides have been negotiating lately and rumor has it Verstappen is allowing Trust to sponsor Minardi if in return Trust puts in some kind of sponsoring for Verstappen in Champ Car. 04/07/05 Rumors in Europe continue to insist that Verstappen would like to start in Monterrey, Mexico either with a 3rd Forsythe car or as a replacement for another driver. 04/04/05 Jos Verstappen and his manager are still working hard to get a drive in this years Champ Car World Series according to his website. According to his manager, there have been a couple of offers from different teams, but they were all short term contracts just for a couple of races. Verstappen only drives if he is able to drive a full season. Verstappen will probably not compete in the first race at Long Beach. He also needs some more money for a seat in the CCWS.
Villeneuve to DTM with AudiUPDATE (GMM) Jacques Villeneuve says "some news" about his racing future may soon be forthcoming.
The former world champion, who was ousted by the BMW-Sauber F1 team in mid 2006, has been linked with a move to the NASCAR or DTM categories for next year.
French Canadian Villeneuve, 35, said at Christmas: "(I) will be hoping to have some news about my future in racing sometime. At the moment it's too soon to say anything specific but watch this space."
Jacques said he was currently spending time in Canada with his wife Johanna and their baby son Jules, but planned to travel to Europe in January.
12/22/06 (GMM) Audi has admitted interest in putting 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve behind the wheel of a DTM car in 2007.
With Heinz-Harald Frentzen no longer a part of the Ingolstadt based carmaker's foray in the German touring car series, a spokesman said Villeneuve and fellow F1 refugee Juan Pablo Montoya are top of Audi's Christmas wish list.
"They would of course be great for the series," Jurgen Pippig is quoted as saying by Sport-Informations-Dienst.
Villeneuve and Montoya both raced in formula one this year, but respectively departed the BMW and McLaren teams before the end of the season.
Montoya's long term NASCAR foray with Chip Ganassi is assured, but French Canadian Villeneuve has penned a deal that is conditional on him finding millions in backing.
The news agency 'sid' speculated that the DTM route with Audi could earn the 35-year-old nearly $8 million a year.
Audi chief Wolfgang Ullrich said: "No question about it, big names are good for the DTM."
Rudd to return to Yates with Snickers sponsorshipUPDATE #3 Rudd will pilot a Yates Ford Fusion in 2007, with sponsorship from Masterfoods USA. The primary Masterfoods brand on Rudd’s car will be Snickers, which will sponsor the car for 29 races, with Masterfoods’ Pedigree Brand Food for Dogs and Combos Brand Snacks combining to sponsor the car for seven races. Car owner Robert Yates said he has not yet decided whether the Snickers car will carry the #28 or #88. An announcement on that will be expected soon, though Yates hinted the #28 might carry the day, which Rudd said would be fine with him. “From a driver’s standpoint, I was always proud to drive the #28 because of the history of the car,” Rudd said. … I guess if I had a preference, I’d take the #28.” Ford Racing
12/21/06 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Masterfoods USA announced it will sponsor a second entry with Robert Yates Racing in 2007 with Snickers Brand as the primary sponsor. Veteran driver Ricky Rudd will return to RYR to drive after a one-year break from competition. Joining Snickers to support the program are Pedigree Brand Food for Dogs and Combos Brand Snacks. Each will hold the primary sponsor position on the second car for a combined seven events during the 2007 season. Additionally, Masterfoods’ brands Twix, Milky Way, Skittles and Starburst will serve as associate sponsors on Rudd’s Ford during the 36-race schedule. Elevation Group PR
12/18/06 Previously paired for the 2000-2002 seasons, Ricky Rudd and Robert Yates Racing on Monday will announce that Rudd will take over the driving duties vacated by 1999 Cup champ Dale Jarrett at the end of the 2006 season, joining David Gilliland, who will drive the #38 M&M's RYR Ford.
10/08/06 Ricky Rudd is on the verge of running a part-time schedule next season. David Wyler, president of Wyler Racing, told me [Dustin Long] Saturday at Talladega that provided the team can find sponsorship -- which he is confident they will -- Rudd will drive in 16 races for the Toyota team. Efforts to reach Rudd on Saturday were unsuccessful. Those 16 races would be events with NASCAR's car of tomorrow, a boxier car that is supposed to provide more driver safety and balance the competition by making the cars similar (think IROC). The car will race at such tracks as Richmond, Martinsville, Dover, Watkins Glen and Infineon -- places Rudd has won often in his career. Rudd is scheduled to drive for the team in a car of tomorrow test Monday at Talladega and also drive the car in a test at Homestead Oct. 16-18. Wyler says Rudd is ready to return based on a few visits to the team’s race shop. HamptonRoads.com
F1 to copy Champ Car ideaUPDATE #2 This rumor is inching toward 'fact.' Despite Bridgestone's saying that the 'red' option tire idea was still in the proposal stages, it appears that this may not be the case.
We read through of the 2007 Sporting Regulations for Formula One under the section concerning supply of tires, and specifically clause 77, entitled ‘Use of Tires’:
77) Use of tires a) Each team will be allocated eight sets of dry-weather tires, four of each specification, for use during P1 and P2. These are the only dry-weather tires which may be used during these sessions and must be returned to the tire supplier before the start of P3.
b) Each driver will be allocated ten further sets of dry-weather tires, five of each specification, for use during the remainder of the Event. However, one set of each specification must be returned to the tire supplier before the start of the qualifying practice session and may not be used during the remainder of the Event.
c) Prior to the start of the qualifying practice session wet and extreme-weather tires may only be used after the track has been declared wet by the race director, following which extreme, wet or dry weather tires may be used for the remainder of the session.
d) Unless he has used wet or extreme-weather tires during the race, each driver must use at least one set of each specification of dry-weather tires during the race.
The above, particularly section ‘d’, implies that, in the event of two compounds being supplied to the teams by Bridgestone, the team will be obliged to use both compounds in a dry race.
12/05/06 Speaking to autosport.com about the proposed softer red-tire rules for 2007, Bridgestone's technical manager Hisao Suganuma said: "Everybody asks me this, but we have not decided yet. We are going to speak with the FIA.
"For example if the FIA decided to mark different colors, we will consider as we are happy to cooperate. To me it is a big matter for us if it makes F1 more interesting."
Suganuma warned, however, that there would be complications in producing red sidewalled tires – because of the different requirements of tires at each track.
"Taking account of the production of such tires, we need to think," he explained. "For example, in Champ Car softer tires have the red mark on the sidewall.
"Maybe we would have some difficulty because the softer tire on a circuit may be the harder tire on another circuit, which means we need to have all the different specifications in double colors – one with a standard sidewall and the other with a colored sidewall.
"That makes it more difficult. If we need to do that we should think about the best way to do it.
"Personally in theory we can do it, but it is the discussion between the FIA and the Bridgestone teams. If F1 requires us to consider it we will co-operate."
09/15/06 According to rumors out of Monza, F1 will copy Champ Car in 2007 and use a softer option tire on race weekends. For the race each driver will have to use at least one set of hard rubber and one soft at least once. In Champ Car this system often produces some interesting races because the performance of the two compounds is very often completely different and the soft rubber goes off faster. Like in Champ Car, it's then a game of strategy. Similar to Champ Car, fans will be able to identify which tire the drivers are using by the red sidewalls
Toyota output could make it world’s No.1 automakerUPDATE This NY Times article talks in more detail about Toyota becoming #1.
12/22/06 Toyota Motor Corp. said on Friday it expects to produce a record 9.42 million vehicles in 2007 -- a 4 percent rise that should see it overtake General Motors Corp. as the world's biggest auto maker. As the Japanese firm lures buyers worldwide with cars that are safe, affordable and fuel efficient, U.S. rivals GM and Ford Motor Co. battle falling market share, closing factories and shedding thousands of jobs.
Soaring fuel prices have battered Detroit's auto heartland, with customers shunning gas-guzzling pickups in favor of cheaper-to-run models from Japanese and South Korean car makers.
Toyota, which makes the Camry, Yaris and popular Prius hybrid cars, has overtaken Chrysler Group in the United States and is expected to pass Ford next year, market forecaster Edmunds.com says.
In the first 11 months of this year, Ford had a 16.6 percent share of the U.S. market, while Toyota's share was 15.3 percent. Ford has said it expects its U.S. market share to slip to 14-15 percent next year. More at Yahoo.com
Port Authority to buy failed ISC property With NASCAR's hopes of finding a home on Staten Island dashed, there’s word the Port Authority is now considering buying the land instead. A spokesman for the Port Authority confirms the agency may be interested in using the site to expand the New York Container Terminal, a cargo handling facility located nearby. However, the agency stresses that any plans are in preliminary stages.
The International Speedway Corporation bought the land in 2004 with the hopes of using it as a racetrack, but community opposition killed the project. The ISC says it hasn't heard from the Port Authority yet, but adds the property will undergo a financial evaluation before any decisions are made. ny1.com
Winkelhock eyes Spyker's 'third' seat (GMM) Markus Winkelhock says he is focused on becoming a primary test driver for the Spyker team next year.
The 26-year-old, whose late father Manfred and uncle Joachim also competed in formula one, appeared four times on Fridays for the Silverstone based team this year and had hoped to land the race seat alongside Christijan Albers for 2007.
He told adrivo.com, however, that he is not overly disappointed about losing the seat to countryman Adrian Sutil.
"No, obviously my goal was to get the seat, but it became clear in recent days that Adrian had a good package and was looking good to get it."
German Winkelhock nonetheless expressed confidence that he will still be involved with Spyker next year, even though the Dutch squad is not sure if it will use test drivers on GP Fridays due to the scrapping of third cars.
He revealed: "The opportunity to stay involved with the team is still open.
"It would be a good thing for me if I could be the third driver."
Champ Car puts the kibosh on FF2000 DallaraUPDATE #2 Word on the street is that the Cooper Tires Formula Ford 2000 Series has been cancelled for 2007. As we said a long time ago, there simply are too many open wheel series and there needs to be some consolidation of the sport so that it may strengthen.
11/27/06 Being told from high levels within Champ Car that there is no truth to this rumor.
11/27/06 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, there is a rumor going around that the Cooper Tires Championship Series FF2000 new car, which was a detuned Dallara F3 car, will not be raced by the series in 2007. Apparently, Champ Car was uneasy with the prospect of the slick Dallaras ($200,000 annual budget - see related Hot News item) running on the same tracks as the Atlantics (Million dollar annual budget), and suddenly the FF2000 series was unable to confirm many pre-negotiated dates with Champ Car, including Toronto. FF2000 was made aware that the Dallara was not welcome at Champ Car events. Accordingly, the Cooper series will announce a schedule within the next week using the Van Diemen chassis which has been the standard chassis for the series. Champ Car does not mind the (older) Van Diemen running at their events.
Previously, FF2000 was told by Champ Car that the Dallaras would have to run lap times 4 seconds a lap slower than the Atlantics. Accordingly, the FF2000 series planned on using a 180 hp version of the Ford Zetec (as opposed to a 215 hp F3 spec motor, which would have made the cars faster, more nimble, better looking and much, much less expensive to purchase and run than the Atlantic cars). The series will apparently try to run with the IRL and IndyPro Series on road courses in 2008 with a full spec Dallara with proper F3 horsepower.
Ford to slip to No. 3 spot in U.S. in 2007 Ford Motor Co. will slip to become the No. 3 automaker in the United States next year as Japanese rival Toyota Motor Corp. powers ahead in the industry's largest market, according to a sales forecast released on Thursday.
Edmunds.com, which provides information on the U.S. auto market, said Toyota will overtake Ford by mid-2007 in sales volume.
Toyota now often outpaces DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group and for two months this year sold more vehicles than Ford, which has seen sales drop almost 8 percent in 2006. Toyota's U.S. sales, meanwhile, have increased nearly 13 percent over the same period.
Ford, which is struggling with mounting losses in North America, has said it is aiming to hold its overall share of the U.S. light vehicle market at between 14 percent to 15 percent, including fleet sales, from the current 17.7 percent as it restructures by shutting 16 plants and cutting more than 50,000 jobs.
Ford expects a sharp fall in share next year as it is trying to pull away from sales of vehicles to car rental companies that typically carry steep discounts in favor of more profitable showroom sales. More at Reuters
Speed to Champ Car?UPDATE #3 With Meurmans making it clear that Robert Doornbos will stay in F1 (Doornbos is said to have $5m and $10m - available from Muermans) it now becomes quite possible that he could replace Scott Speed at Toro Rosso opening the door for Red Bull to move Scott Speed to Champ Car which certainly could use another American driver. This all made sense to us when we first surfaced this rumor way back on October 23rd and it still makes sense to us today.
12/11/06 This rumor is upgraded back to 'speculation' per this SPEEDTV article which says that Scott Speed's F1 ride could be in jeopardy, especially with Sebastien Bourdais testing for the team this week. "At the end of the day we’ll chose the one who will be the quickest in our car. I would like to give him [Bourdais] a chance," said Berger. "I think he’s a guy doing an extremely good job in the States, and I would like to see where he is. He did quite well in Europe, and he’s doing very well in the States, and I’d like to see where his potential is."
10/26/06 Based on this related rumor, this rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.
10/23/06 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, If Robert Doornbos is indeed going to take Scott Speed's ride in F1, why doesn't Champ Car jump in and see if they can get Speed to drive in Champ Car. It would benefit the series with another American driver to replace NASCAR bound Allmendinger. Rod, Orlando, FL.
Dear Rod, If the rumor is true about Speed, then yes, it would make sense for him to move to Champ Car. Having another American driver in Champ Car would indeed be a plus for the American-based series, but it will be a loss to the series if they lose the sponsorship backing Doornbos had and the potential of a new team that it brought. Scott Speed is also a Red Bull driver, as is Allmendinger, it's quite possible that Red Bull will move Allmendinger to NASCAR and SPEED to Champ Car. Mark C.
Sutil, Glock, near F1 deals for 2007UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement by Spyker. We also reported below that Glock signed to be 2nd test driver with BMW.
12/15/06 (GMM) Adrian Sutil will be a regular at Formula One circuits in 2007, according to his manager.
The 23-year-old German, who is the reigning champion of Japanese F3, appeared a few times for Spyker as a 'Friday' driver this year, and retains links with the Dutch owned team.
Silverstone based Spyker has not named a race teammate for Christijan Albers in 2007, but incumbent Tiago Monteiro has been widely tipped to get the nod some time next week.
If he fails to secure the Spyker race seat, Sutil could end up in Toyota's test camp next year, the Dutch magazine Formule 1 Race Report said.
His manager, Manfred Zimmermann, is quoted as saying: "In 2007, you will see Adrian again in Formula One.
"He will be completely integrated with a team," Zimmermann told another publication, Auto Bild.
Meanwhile, as BMW-Sauber unveiled a new $10m Intel supercomputer to international journalists at Hinwil on Thursday, team boss Mario Theissen said a decision about Germany's Timo Glock will be made before Christmas.
Glock could become a "fourth driver" alongside Friday regular Sebastian Vettel next year, but Theissen also insisted: "Nothing is decided yet."
Sutil, not Klien, on verge of Spyker dealUPDATE #5 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement by Spyker.
11/21/06 "F1 is the place to be as a racing driver," says Sutil, who won the Japanese Formula 3 Championship last month. "I love to be in the F1 paddock and to be able to drive those cars. I hope that I can get at least a real test driver's job next year, where I can do all the Fridays and all the test work, and after that for sure I want to race."
11/18/06 (GMM) Adrian Sutil, a part time Midland-Spyker test driver in 2006, says he is toying with a second option to stay in the Formula One paddock next year.
The 23-year-old German - and newly crowned Japanese F3 champion - was arguably the most impressive of the Dutch-owned team's raft of Friday runners this year.
Spyker says it is 'working hard' to retain him.
German news agency Sport-Informations-Dienst, meanwhile, quoted Sutil as saying: "I have two options (for F1 in 2007). I will make my decision next week." More ...
F1, not Champ Car for DoornbosUPDATE #4 (GMM) Robert Doornbos' sponsor has rejected 'Minardi Team USA' boss Paul Stoddart's claim that the Dutchman is in the frame for a Champ Car seat.
Stoddart revealed this week that he was "talking to" Doornbos, 25, about moving to his new team in the American series in 2007.
Doornbos, who raced for Red Bull in the last few grands prix this year, is notably yet to agree a new test contract with the Milton Keynes based team.
"We are staying in Formula One," Harry Muermans, Doornbos' sponsor, told the magazine Formule 1 Race Report.
Stoddart, 51, also told reporters this week that Muermans would have "some involvement" in the Champ Car team in 2007.
If Doornbos takes a race seat at Toro Rosso as rumored, look for red Bull to move American Scott Speed to Champ Car.
11/21/06 (GMM) After completing a three race stint alongside David Coulthard at Red Bull late this season, Robert Doornbos is still not ready to divulge his plans for 2007.
The Dutchman, who spent the majority of 2006 as the Austrian team's 'Friday' test driver, has been at the centre of recent gossip that he might replace Scott Speed at the sister Toro Rosso squad next year.
After post-season trips to the US and the coral islands of Maldives, and returning home to Rotterdam, the 25-year-old insists that he is now 'fully ready' for 2007.
Pressed for his precise plans, Doornbos said: "As I've said before, we're very busy with that, and I'm determined to stay in the Red Bull family next year.
"My fans don't have to worry, and I won't either," he added. "Just be a bit more patient!"
As the Toro Rosso options appears less and less likely, however, Doornbos is tipped to stay at Red Bull as a tester, despite also toying with a switch to the American Champ Car series.
11/15/06 Although Robert Doornbos' hopes of driving for the Toro Rosso outfit were recently dashed, the Dutchman is nonetheless hoping to remain in Formula One next season.
According to reports, Doornbos's management was in talks with Red Bull's junior team, Scuderia Toro Rosso, about the possibility of him replacing Scott Speed in 2007.
However, any chance of that came to an end when STR co-owner, Gerhard Berger, claimed to have heard nothing about the rumor.
He also hinted that it was only a matter of time before the team announced that both Speed and Tonio Liuzzi would be staying on for another year.
But despite that blow to his chances of racing next season, Doornbos is still hoping to remain in Formula One.
"For next year my focus goes out to F1, only!" the Dutchman told the official F1 website.
Doornbos will now be hoping to extend his deal with Red Bull Racing as their official 2007 test driver having filled the role during the 2006 season before being promoted to race-driver following the dismissal of Christian Klien. More ...
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