Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tracy frozen out?

Talk about taking the shine off of Open Wheel Racing’s just concluded press conference officially announcing the consolidation of Champ Car and the IRL, as Forsythe Petitt Racing has dropped a bombshell…

With FPR’s Neil Micklewright announcing that the team would NOT be joining the 2008 Indy Car Series, as the team was unable to find the necessary sponsorship dollars to go forward, thus leaving CCWS’s elder statesman and most colourful driver Paul Tracy without a ride…

Yet, reportedly team owner Gerald Forsythe, who was the third signatory in the just completed takeover, has been throwing millions of his own cash into the running of Champ Car since its purchase from bankruptcy and one has to wonder why Gerry would suddenly pull such a ridiculous stunt, as we’ve all been led to believe that Paul Gentilozzi has been the one causing the most friction towards moving Open Wheel Racing forward.

And talk about your strange days as the Four Moosketeers who owned Champ Car have seemingly gone their separate (twisted) ways… As Dan Petitt seems to be taking it in the chops after his falling out with first Paul Gentilozzi and then Kevin Kalkhoven, or was it visa versa?

Petitt was the P in PKV Racing which Kalkhoven noted was now KV Racing during the hug-fest Wednesday. Last season Petitt and Gentilozzi formed RSPORTS, in order to merge their single car efforts into a two car operation before splitting towards the end of the season. Petitt then joined Forsythe Championship Racing who were expected to run a two car squad this season in CCWS…

Having the opportunity to attend my very first Champ Car Fan Forum last June in Portland, our guest driver was none other than the court jester himself, Paul “Chrome Horn” Tracy and it was pure entertainment to listen to him that evening. Thus I truly hope that ‘Ol PT will not be left out in the cold and indeed find new employment in Indy Car this season.

It will be interesting to see how this makes the dominoes fall as it would be nice to think Tracy can still command the necessary sponsorship backing to land a seat. Would KV Racing be willing to pick him up or would that strain his relationship with long time friend Jimmy Vasser? As I’d expected Alex Tagliani to fill their second seat, then again what about Team Minardi USA or Derrick Walker stepping up to a two car effort, or hell, how about Panther Racing making the leap?

F1 wraps up testing

In all of the excitement bubbling over merger fever, as I’ve been distracted by all of the numerous press conferences, news stories and fellow blogger’s outtake on the Tony & Kevin show…I’ve just realized that the Formula 1 circus has just completed their final winter test, prior to packing their freight in order to be shipped Down Under for the 2008 season opener in just over a fortnight from now.

While Ferrari and McLaren have consistently traded hot laps, the final day’s honours surprisingly went to Toyota’s Jarno Trulli, besting DC by a whisker. Coulthard had sat out the second day of testing after pinching a nerve in his neck, yet both teams were running their latest spec aero packages which allowed both drivers to find unknown quantities of speed upon doing light tanks qualie mode flier’s.

Nico Rosberg claimed the third quickest time, as the Williams/Toyota pairing of Nico and rookie Kazuki Nakajima has consistently run towards the top of the time sheets.

While apparently the news surrounding McLaren scuttlebutt lately has focused more upon their off track activities, with the Lewis Hamilton taunting issue in Spain and rumours that Ron Dennis could be leaving the team after Australia while Italian authorities visited the homes of several personnel as they continue their Stepney-gate witch hunt. Yet Heikki Kovalainen managed to finish fourth while Hamilton led the previous days running’s with DC’s teammate Mark Webber filling out the day’s top five runners.

After Giancarlo Fisichella teased us with a scintillating seventh fastest lap on Tuesday, Fishy-fella’s VJM01 settled back down to its proper grid position in 12th.

The Ferrari’s had an odd day out, with Felipe Massa logging the fewest laps of the day, while teammate Kimi Raikkonen also made a precautionary stop a la Massa, with both driver’s uncharacteristically finishing down the order, while arch nemesis Fernando Alonso logged the most laps of the day with 128, yet finished up behind rookie teammate Nelson Piquet Jr in 7th.

And both of the BMW Sauber’s seemed a bit off of the pace, while Honda continues to take up the tail gunner Charlie position, although the team will do a private test next week with a completely new aerodynamic package before sending it’s cars off to OZ, where hopefully Super Aguri will finally join the party!

Yet, looking thru the test times, makes me wonder if the Heavy Hitters, i.e.; Ferrari, BMW Sauber, Renault and McLaren were all focusing upon full tank race set-ups and letting the others temporarily flatter us with seeing their names adorn the top of the time sheets. We’ll soon find out as Melbourne is just around the corner…

Wednesday’s Barcelona test times:
Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Trulli, Toyota, 1:20.801, 83
2. Coulthard, Red Bull-Renault, 1:21.258, 76
3. Rosberg, Williams-Toyota, 1:21.293, 77
4. Kovalainen, McLaren-Mercedes, 1:21.309, 87
5. Webber, Red Bull-Renault, 1:21.368, 91
6. Piquet Renault, 1:21.443, 114
7. Alonso, Renault, 1:21.454, 128
8. Nakajima, Williams-Toyota, 1:21.796, 124
9. Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:21.933, 80
10. Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, 1:22.011, 88
11. Glock, Toyota, 1:22.155, 49
12. Fisichella, Force India-Ferrari, 1:22.233, 90
13. Massa, Ferrari, 1:22.286, 49
14. Kubica, BMW Sauber, 1:22.299, 93
15. Bourdais, Toro Rosso-Ferrari, 1:22.465, 79
16. Sutil, Force India-Ferrari, 1:22.521, 97
17. Heidfeld, BMW Sauber, 1:22.624, 61
18. Wurz, Honda, 1:24.154, 82
19. Button, Honda, 1:24.275, 73

Rotten apples (Part 2)

Interestingly while Formula 1 was going thru its own turmoil in the early 1980’s, a similar fate had occurred in American Open Wheel Racing, with the birth of Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) which had broken away from the previous sanctioning body, the United States Auto Club (USAC) which had controlled Championship Car along with the “Crown Jewell, ” known as the Indianapolis 500 since the early 1950’s.

Tony Hulman, who bought the decrepit Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1945 from Eddie Rickenbacker, rejuvenated the Speedway and saw it thru its glory days, prior to passing away just days after AJ Foyt set history by becoming the first four time Indy 500 winner in 1977.

Hulman’s grandson, Anton Hulman George, first tried his hand at becoming a racing driver, contesting the 1989 Indy Lights championship for AJ Foyt with Copenhagen sponsorship. George finished 12th overall, before being inserted as the President and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway upon Joe Cloutier’s death in 1989.

Tony then set about a course to totally transform the Speedway when it was announced that NASCAR would be holding its inaugural Brickyard 400 race in 1994. Subsequently George would build an infield road course to host the return of Formula 1 to the United States in 2000, which has now been replaced by the inaugural running of MOTO GP in 2008.

Tony was also determined to change the face of Open Wheel racing, as the IMS was only holding one event per year, the Indy 500 which was run in conjunction with the CART/PPG Championship,

Seeking a larger piece of the pie, in late 1991 George proposed to the 24 member board of CART a newly restructured alliance between CART and Indy, which would consolidate its board down to a total of seven members with Goodyear’s Leo Mehl as the new President. The CART board politely told George they’d have their current Chairman, A. William Stokkan get back to him. CART then proposed that George could have his way, but that he and Mehl would not be granted any voting rights. Thus Tony duly resigned from CART’s board and went back to Indiana determined to form his own racing series. In 1994 the Indy Racing League was created, spending two years forming the all Oval Track series,

In 1996 the inaugural race of the IRL was run at Disneyworld’s Florida facility, won by Buzz Calkins, with the Indy Racing League also sanctioning that year’s Indy 500, Recall this was the year of Tony George’s infamous 25-8 rule, which reserved the Speedway’s first 25 places for IRL contestants only, while CART interlopers had the option to fight for the remaining eight grid positions. CART elected to boycott that year’s Indy 500 and held its own race on the same day, the US 500, at Michigan International Speedway.

Thus began the war of words as CART touted that while Indy had the cars, they had all of the stars… Which unfortunately backfired on them, as their was a multi-car pile-up on the US 500’s very first lap, which saw a lengthy delay of the race in order to clean the track and reset the grid. The race was restarted an hour later and Jimmy Vasser won the race in his spare chassis for Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

In 2000, Chip Ganassi broke ranks and became the first major CART team owner to participate in the Indianapolis 500, as Juan Pablo Montoya would win the event, while the first six places were filled by CART drivers. Ganassi’s success caused Roger Penske to finally decide his long awaited return was now necessary, although his car won the 2001 race, it wasn’t allowed to sport any “BAD HABIT” (Marlboro) decals, as it had been previously agreed to that Tobacco sponsorship could only be run in one major series per entrant. Thus with the insistence of millions of Marlboro dinero, The Captain, fired the next salvo in the CART-IRL Split by jumping ship and moving to the Indy Racing League for 2002 in order to run full Marlboro livery at that year’s “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

Meanwhile, CART was in serious financial trouble after the final CART CEO Chris Pook burned thru a $100 million bank account to entice the remaining CART teams to stay loyal to the series. Yet, in 2003 Chip Ganassi and Andretti-Green Racing, along with two thirds of the remaining engine manufacturer’s announced their plans to abandon CART in favour of the IRL. CART then becoming insolvent, went into bankruptcy before being bought out by Kevin Kalkhoven, Gerald Forsythe and Paul Gentilozzi.

In 2004, just weeks prior to the start of the newly renamed Champ Car World Series, Bobby Rahal and Adrian Fernandez announced that they’d also jump ship and join the IRL, thus leaving Champ Car with just three loyal teams; Forsythe, Newman/Haas and Walker Motorsports.

Two of the longest running teams participating in Champ Car have been Carl Haas & Paul Newman and Derrick Walker. Newman/Haas began their multi-championship operation in 1983, as PL Newman has always been vehemently opposed to Tony George’s rival Oval racing series.

Team owner Derrick Walker has a long and storied career in CART, first being involved with Roger Penske in Formula 1 while following John Watson to the team, ultimately rising to team manager for Penske prior to taking over the Porsche Indy Car effort in 1988 and finally starting his own team in 1991 with driver Willy T. Ribbs.

Gerald Forsythe has been a series regular since contesting CART in 1983 as Forsythe Racing with rookie driver Teo Fabi, before selling his team in 1985. Gerry returned to racing with Barry Green, forming Forsythe/Green Racing which graduated into CART in 1994 with a single car entry for Jacques Villeneuve. The following year the two went their separate ways, with Green forming what would become known as Team Kool Green before ultimately merging with Michael Andretti. Meanwhile Forsythe formed his own operation with Combustion Engineering/Indeck sponsorship for Teo Fabi.

I’ve mentioned the following teams: Forsythe, Fernandez, Ganassi, Newman/Haas, Penske, Rahal/Truesports and Walker since these teams along with Dale Coyne, Barry Green and Pat Patrick formed the nucleus of the CART/PPG World Series during its heydays. (1980-2000)

Meanwhile George’s original vision for his all Oval Track series was to have a lower costing series that would comprise of American drivers. Yet, this formula hasn’t worked as there’s been a steady influx of paying foreign drivers, while in 2005 George changed his business model by including temporary street circuits and permanent road courses into the mix as the IRL effectively became “CART-Lite.” And while Tony digs into his pockets every May to ensure a field of just 33 entries for his Family Jewell, the Indy 500, Champ Car has remained on life support as they constantly struggle to field 17 cars, have an abysmal television package and the reigning Champ Car Atlantics champion has forgone his $2 million sponsorship prize in favour of going to the Indy Pro Series with a multi-year contract from Andretti Green Racing…

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Florida breeze

So did everybody catch the official consolidation press conference today at Homestead, Florida? Wasn’t it great to see those two goofy bastardo’s shakin’ hands while all of the popperatzi’s flashbulbs flashed. And speaking ‘O flash, where’s Danica…

But seriously, when’s the last time that SPEED interrupted regular broadcasting to feature a live news conference about something pertaining to other than RASSCAR!

Did we learn anything from this Dog ‘N Pony show? NOT Really, although its now confirmed that Long Beach and Motegi will run on the same weekend, but what’s this silly quip about some of the IRL’s drivers showing up to race in Long Beach? Does Marty Roth have an early flight back upon his early race retirement?

Otherwise I don’t think we really got any solid answers, like; what will Kevin K’s and Gerald Forsythe’s rolls eventually be in the long term, or when do we quit having to see Kalkhoven’s smiley face persona on the TV! And just who does get the new Dallara’s and full lease Honda engine packages this May…

OOPS! Gotta run, it’s time for the Sarah Fisher announcement, which will be followed up by the Helio “Dancin’ Fool” & Princess gala with reportedly some on track festivities later this evening…

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Stop the presses

SPEED TV and IndyCar. Com will cover the press conference live tomorrow at 12:30PM Eastern Time to officially announce the unification of Open Wheel Racing from Homestead, Florida prior to the IndyCar World Series first 2008 season test…

Conquest leads the parade

Former Champ Car team owner Eric Bachelart became the firs CCWS outfit to officially make the switch to the IRL by announcing he’ll field a two car operation in 2008.

Bachelart, who last contested the IRL in 2002 will return with just signed Atlantic standout Frank Perera, with the team’s second driver to be named shortly. It’s nice to see that Bachelart’s fortunes have swung around, since last year he was on the verge of shutting down upon long time partner Mike Lanagin leaving the team in order to join the Newman/Haas juggernaut as a co-owner. This led to Conquest employing three paying drivers to soldier thru the season before striking a new partnership arrangement with Opes Prime Ltd, an Australian based outfit which purchased a minority stake in Conquest in order to return to a two car operation for this year, albeit in CCWS.

So, I’m wondering if this means that Nelson Philippe who landed the team Juniper Soull backing just prior to last year’s event on the Gold Coast will be Perera’s partner? Philippe, the transplanted Frenchman has taken residency Down Under and Juniper Soul is a very sheik beachfront community on Surfer Paradise’s coast…

Rotten apples

Can it really be twelve years now since the infamous CART-INDY SPLIT occurred? And it seems more ‘N more evident that both warring factions were slowly sinking into the abyss, although both parties would still vehemently deny this a decade plus later.

Interestingly, Formula 1 was once at a somewhat similar crossroads nearly three decades ago. In the modern era of the sport; circa 1950-present, the Commission Sportive Internationale (CSI) was the original sanctioning body responsible for all of the rules, regulations and running of the Grand Prix circus.

Originally a young Englishman by the name of Bernard Ecclestone, who’d begun his fascination with motor vehicles upon racing “Scooter’s” with the help of his father at the age of 16, left school in favour of becoming a racing driver, Yet Ecclestone would eventually earn a degree in chemical engineering from Woolwich Polytechnic, but at the age of 19 he was competing in Formula 3 instead, prior to having a big shunt at Brands Hatch.

Thus Bernie decided to focus his attentions to his business interests instead, as his motorcycle & car dealership would become one of Britain’s largest. Ecclestone returned to motorsports in 1957 as Stuart Lewis-Evans manager prior to purchasing the Connaught Formula One team in 1958. He than ran cars for Lewis-Evans, Roy Salvadori, Archie Scott-Brown, and Ivor Bueb, even trying to qualify for that season’s Monaco Grand Prix, but was unsuccessful. Yet with Lewis-Evans Death the following year, Ecclestone quit Formula 1.

Bernie next returned to the sport as an young Austrian’s manager and business partner, his name was Jochen Rindt! Ecclestone would also be Involved with the Lotus Formula 2 team from 1968-69 with drivers Rindt and Graham Hill, yet upon Rindt’s death in 1970, Ecclestone would once again quit F1.

Bernie next bought the Braham Formula 1 team from Ron Tauranac in 1972 along with becoming the secretary of the Formula One Constructors Association. (FOCA)

Bernie diligently worked with the F1 Team Bosses, including Max Mosely, part owner of March, trying to implement a new team entry format as well as larger purses for the team’s appearances. Ecclestone would eventually become FOCA President in 1978 with Max Mosley as his legal advisor,

Also In 1978 the CSI was duly transformed into the Federation Internationale du Sport Automobile (FISA) with newly anointed President Jean-Marie Balestre, of whom originally had created the successful French magazine Auto Journal before ascending to the presidency of FISA. Yet Balestre and Ecclestone were at constant loggerheads in their showdown for the ultimate control of Formula 1, in what became known as the FISA-FOCA war.

In 1979 while the FISA wrestled to implement the banning of sliding “Skirts,” the FOCA refused to budge on the issue. These tensions came to a boil prior to that year’s Spanish Grand Prix, after the FOCA team drivers had all refused to attend the mandatory drivers meeting in Zolder and Monaco. Balestre responded by docking each offending driver a fine of $2,000 and suspension of their Licenses.

The Spanish Grand Prix then became a farce when the FISA attempted to cancel the race, which was then sanctioned by FOCA and run without Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and Renault, whom were all on the side of the FISA.

This controversy saw Formula 1 loose massive credibility with the public, as spectator attendance dropped, which in turn caused television broadcasters to ponder whether they should continue covering races live, which immediately made the sponsors rethink their position on the sport, as they would no longer amortize their massive capital investments into the participating teams since their products wouldn’t be seen on television. (Sound Familiar, Can you say CART vs. INDY?)

With the impending loss of sponsorship revenues, all of the parties involved agreed to table their feuding in favour of a “unified” sport and managed to finish out the season without further disruption.

But the bitter battle for control was nowhere near finished, as the 1980 season was barely over when Messer Ecclestone fired the next salvo in the FISA-FOCA war. At the beginning of November, he held a news conference to announce the formation of the newly created World Federation Motor Sport (WFMS) which would rest control of the sport from the FISA. The FISA immediately responded by stating that WFMS was disseminating false information and that very few Nation’s Automobile Clubs would endorse the non-affiliated series. Next the Grand Prix track promoters joined FISA’s side while the team’s sponsors stated that they would not support the renegade series.

On December 4, 1980, Goodyear whom provided rubber for the majority of the F1 circus dropped a bombshell by announcing its decision to withdraw from Formula 1, which left the majority of the British based teams without any source of tires for the fast approaching 1981 season. As the opening round, the Argentine Grand Prix was slated for January 25th.On January 19th, members of all racing teams met at Maranello for a meeting brokered by Enzo Ferrari. The meeting went for 13 straight hours, as they hammered out a working document, which would become known as the Concorde Agreement, named in honour of the Place de la Concorde where the FIA and FISA headquarters in Paris were located. This new agreement gave the two warring factions, clear stated responsibilities; with FISA remaining the FIA’s subordinate in control of running Formula 1, while FOCA was put in charge of negotiating the commercial aspects of the sport with the FIA’s concurrence.

The first Concorde Agreement ran from 1981-87, with subsequent extensions from; 1988-91, 1992-97 and 1998-2007 being signed by all signatories, although there has been some dissent over the years. Most notably in the early 1990’s when McLaren, Williams and Tyrrell refused to sign the Agreement in 1997 as they felt that Ecclestone had sold out the teams, as he’d coerced the transferring of FOCA’s control to the commercial arm of the FIA, the Formula One Administration. (FOA) for a 14 year span beginning in 1995, with “Uncle “Chopper” (Ken Tyrrell) being especially outraged, claiming that Ecclestone had sold the teams commercial rights to his own company, when FOCA granted Ecclestone the commercial properties of F1 In 1992. This was done via his newly founded Formula One Promotions and Administration Company. (FOPA)

In 1997 FOPA was lumped into a new umbrella company called SELC (Named after his wife, SLavica ECclestone) in order to prepare for Bernie’s ambitious plans of floating F1 on the stock market. Yet with mounting friction from several signatories as well as a looming European Commission investigation into SELC, the float was dropped and subsequently SELC has sold the majority of its company to CVC which now effectively runs Formula 1 under Ecclestone’s guidance.

Along the way Ecclestone also orchestrated the outing of his arch nemesis
Jean-Marie Balestre, upon becoming appointed FISA’s vice president in charge of promotional affairs in 1987. He then focused upon the business side of F1 after selling Brabham and it seems too coincidental that his whipping boy, Max Mosley was elected as the FISA’s president in 1991. Recall that Mosley had served as Ecclestone’s FOCA lawyer. Also, the FISA was disbanded in 1993 and a new organization known as the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) took its place. Yes, the same WMSC which handed out the draconian penalties against McLaren for its involvement in Stepney Gate…

When the Automobile manufacturers attempted to form a rival breakaway series known as the Grand Prix World Championship (GPWC) Ecclestone targeted the sports biggest fish, successfully negotiating an agreement with Ferrari extending its participation in F1 under the Concorde Agreement thru 2012. This started the dominoes falling as Red Bull, Jordan/Midland and Williams soon sided with Ecclestone and the remaining manufacturers were given a new organization known as the Grand Prix Manufacturers Association (GPMA) in exchange for staying in the current Formula 1 fold. Although the current Concorde Agreement expired on December 31, 2007, it appears that a further extension has taken place as Messer Ecclestone continues to rule with an iron fist; hence Formula 1 maintains its lofty position as the piece de la resistance in the world of motorsports…

Monday, February 25, 2008

Princess gets her way

While I was eagerly awaiting the ensuing Cat Fight, Bitch Slap, Throw down between Champ Car’s Katherine Legge and the Princess, a.k.a Danica Patrick, sadly this will not occur.

For those of you unaware, unlike the Princess who has yet to win a single racing event (excluding go karts) Legge won three major races in her rookie North American season (2005) upon convincing CCWS’s boss Kevin Kalkhoven to give her a chance.

Debuting in the Toyota Atlantics championship, Legge recorded her maiden victory at Long Beach in her very first start! Katherine then went on to notch two more victories at Edmonton and San Jose, along with five podiums enroute to finishing third overall that season, prior to testing for Rocketsports and PKV Racing before the announcement was made that Legge would graduate to the Champ Car World Series with PKV Racing in 2006. After a tough rookie campaign with her ex-boss Kalkhoven, Legge was demoted to the continuously underfinanced Dale Coyne Racing operation for the 2007 season.

Prior to racing in the Atlantics, Legge became the first woman to score a pole in British Formula Ford racing (2000) before besting the lap record of a young Finnish driver named Raikkonen in 2001. Katherine is one of the few females to have sampled the ultimate rocket ship, better known as Formula 1, when she tested for Minardi in 2005. being the first female to do so since Sarah Fisher’s outing for McLaren, promoting the USGP in 2002. Legge was also the first female to give an A1 GP chassis a workout, which she did under the auspices of Team Britain/GBR.

Yet, with the continuous uncertainty that swirled over Champ Car this season, as apparently Kalkhoven wasn’t returning her telephone calls, Legge has signed a deal to contest DTM for Audi behind the wheel of an two year old Tin Top. I’m sure this news comes as a great relief to Tony George, who enjoys having the Princess as the IRL’s media darling, while Danica will have one less worry to think about between swimsuit shoots. Meanwhile, somebody better tell Ralfanso to keep a sharp eye in his rear view mirror!

Some Heads are gonna Roll

With the consolidation of Open Wheel Racing finally underway, just who are the winners (whiner’s) and losers in this horrendously long wasting of ego’s ‘N greenbacks…

As usual, the larger fish tend to eat the minnows in the aquarium, as reports suggest that all of the remaining “Heavy Hitters” (Knuckle Draggers?) in Champ Car will be joining the Indy Racing League, as Brian Barnhart will begin the festivities with an IRL Orientation meeting today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

According to Kurt Cabin, representatives from Conquest Racing, Forsythe Pettit Racing, Newman Haas Lanigan Racing, PKV Racing, Team Minardi USA and Walker Motorsports should hopefully be attending the meeting. Pacific Coast Motorsports, located in California is expected to miss the meeting due to the short notice, but Team Manager Tyler Tadevic of PCM has stated that they intend to be on the Homestead grid (“With bells on”) with a two car entry.

Barnhart is expecting Conquest, Forsythe Pettit, Newman Haas Lanigan and PKV to field two car teams, while Kieth Wiggins And Derrick Walker are set to run one car operations. This leaves just Dale Coyne and Paul Gentlozzi left out of the mix, with a total of seven of the nine CCWS teams making the jump with an estimated 12 cars joining the IRL circus.

While initial reports speculated that PCM would seek refuge in the American Le Mans Series, Tadevic is claiming that Tony George is sweetening the pot for former Champ Car teams to not only join the series, but contest the Long Beach Grand Prix as the CCWS’s farewell party by offering two Dallara tubs for every Panoz entered. Oh, crap! Why is that song Tiny bubbles coming to mind here? Can you say Sayonara Champ Car…

Meanwhile Paul Gentilozzi has apparently thrown in the towel, (HURRAH!) saying he can’t make the numbers work; which he’s also been unable to do with the Trans Am series and the various guises of his Champ Car operation. Let me be the first to wish Gentilozzi Good Ridance!

Yet unfortunately it looks like Dale Coyne, a longtime and staunch supporter of CART/PPG and CCWS is being left out in the cold? While consistently running a shoestring effort, Coyne has never lacked for enthusiasm, along with offering a truckload of talented drivers a place to shine. It would be nice to see Coyne potentially merge, err, join forces with one of the “floundering” single car teams on the IRL side of the ledger, i.e.; Citgo/SAMAX, Dreyer & Reinbold, Sarah Fisher or Panther.

Originally I was going to suggest that AJ Foyt merge operations with Wiggins, who always runs a first rate organization and took two wins last season on its way to winning Rookie of the Year with Robert Doornbos. As the Dutch ex-Formula 1 driver is seriously talented, but I was afraid I’d get decked by Super Tex! And hopefully “Bad Bobby D” (Doornbos) will indeed be the pilot of Team Minardi USA’s single car effort.

And if Dale Coyne doesn’t answer the bell, does this mean Bruno “Whiney Bags” Junqueira will land the second seat at Forsythe Petitt which previously looked set to hire ex-Formula 1 ace Frank Montagny. Psst, hey Booby Ruble, don’t you need a second car to keep up with Ganassi, Penske and N/H/L?

On the plus side, we’ll at last once again have a decent Television package, as we’ll get to dump that atrocious third rate deal CCWS was paying for, while I assume the sport will prosper as we’ll have a single direction for Open Wheel Racing, including quality fields at the Indianapolis 500.

Yet, the losers in this deal seem quite significant. I mean for starters what about all of the race promoters and tracks who’ve lost events: Houston; Laguna Seca; Zolder, Belgium; Jerez, Spain; Cleveland; Mont-Tremblant, Quebec; Toronto, Ontario; Portland; Elkhart Lake; Assen, Holland and Mexico City.

While I can understand the dropping of the European events, I’m sure that Spain is really glad that they decided to join Champ Car this season, eh? And from David Phillips reports last year, the Zolder and Assen tracks are wonderful, proper. Permanent Road Courses which would put many of our vaunted North Americana tracks to shame…

And how can you skip Road America? Or decide to cut ‘N run from major markets such as Cleveland, Houston and Portland? Okay, I know that Portland’s been being lambasted by CCWS over it’s poor attendance figures the last few years, but then again, look at the SORRY show they’ve been forcing us to partake the last five years. Yet, how can Indy Car skip the Pacific Northwest! Guess I’ll need to look into Sears Point, although it’s a real BUGGER for me to access…

And then, what about the Champ Car Atlantics championship, as well as the employees who stayed loyal to CCWS and reported for work everyday at Champ Car HQ in Indianapolis only to receive pink slips for the start of their weekend, not to mention the work forces at Cosworth and Elan Motorsports.

In case you were unaware, the Atlantics is an excellent feeder series and I find it much more palatable then the Indy Pro Series, which is essentially Indy Lights, as in they’ve hired ex-Indy Lights boss Roger Bailey to run it.

Last year the Atlantics regularly showed up with 27 entries featuring some great talent such as James Hinchcliffe, Robert Wichens, John Edwards, Kevin Lacroix, Frank Perera and Rafael Matos just to name a few. Thus, what happens to these teams, who many ironically are also run by Champ Car owners, i.e.; Eric Bachelart, Gerald Forsythe and Derrick Walker. (Hinchcliffe, Lacroix and Wickens are rising Canadian talent, while Edwards is from Little Rock, Arkansas)

Perhaps, although I doubt it’ll happen? Why not have a new and improved Indy Pro Series east and West divisions, which would double the amount of upcoming talent to race in the Indycar World Series, although I’ve seen a story claiming that the Atlantics will indeed continue,just under a different sanctioning body.

Well, at least Paul “Chrome Horn” Tracy will get another shot at winning the Indy 500!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Wind Tunnel

This weekend’s episode of Wind tunnel with Dave Despain will be co-hosted by Robin Miller and feature interviews with Mario andretti and Jacques Villeneuve, focusing upon Friday’s Open Wheel Unification. Check it out this Sunday @ 9PM Eastern…

Wimpey gets his way, FINALLY!

I promise you, I’ll gladly repay you Thursday for a “unified” Open Wheel Racing series today!
Well, it’s finally happened, as the cannon fodder seems to have ceased…
As Tony George stands victorious after outlasting his rivals at the Good Shipp Chump Carzs, as the padlocks were placed upon the CCWS HQ in Northern Indianapolis Friday afternoon.

Reportedly the Brinks armoured trucks are said to be making a plethora of scheduled stops in the outlying Indianapolis region this weekend, where several Champ Car teams are located…

Although it pains me to think that the smaller fish in the Champ Car aquarium have been throwing good money down the crapper the past three weeks, as Derrick Walker claimed he was burning up $100k per week while waiting for something to happen on last Sunday’s Speed Report, hopefully Tony George’s doling out of Dallara chassis, Honda lumps and $1.2 million (per car entered) will help lessen the monetary blow they’ve been forced to endure.

According to Kurt Cabin of the Indy Star, Tony G’s right hand man Brian Barnhart has been busy checking his list twice; to see who’ll be naughty or nice? (Cheep ‘N Roger: Nice, Super Tex: Naughty, definitely Naughty!) As Bryan has been checking to find out which IRL owners will play ball by taking a (straw) poll with all of the current IRL fraternity to see just how many spare Dallara/Honda’s are currently available, claiming there’s a fleet of 60 cars in various state of repair, with his boss’s team having ten on hand…

And instead of trying to rehash what the Open Wheel pundits are saying, (Robin Miller and Curt Cabin) I’ll simply defer to the Indy star whose already done the heavy lifting on yesterday’s Really Big announcement; US Open Wheel Racing will now have one series

And does this TAKEOVER, Err, Merger mean that Gene “I AM INDY” Simonize will be making future cameo appearances as the series top pitchman… Or can somebody put a fork into him, eh?

Now, “Somebody give me a Cheeseburger!”

EMMO, Corvette and Orange juice?

Perhaps you’ve heard the announcement (NO! Not that OWR announcement) that Chevrolet’s Corvette will once again be the official pace car of this year’s Indianapolis 500 for the umpteenth time.

And this year’s pace car pilot will be none other than two time Speedway victor Emerson Fittipaldi, whom perhaps you’ll recall refused to take the ceremonious swig ‘O milk in victory lane. As Emmo who’s hugely involved in Orange juice decided to forgo the $5,000 gratuity check from the Dairy Farmer’s association in order to promote his Brazilian Orange Julius connection.

Adding a twist to this year’s pacing of the field by Chebbie; GM will have not one but two Corvette Z06’s at the head of the field, as Emmo will drive a lime green Corvette modified to run on E85 Ethanol for pace car duties, while a second black ‘N silver Z06 will join in for pre-race festivities to honour the 30th Anniversary of Chebbie’s 1978 pace car…

Friday, February 22, 2008


Turn out the lights, the party’s OVER…

Or as in the most emphatic words of a part time racing enthusiast.

In case you haven’t heard… Champ Car and IRL have FINALLY MERGED! As the Takeover was signed into effect by the three leading lights of the two rival series this afternoon…

Open wheel Unification Deal Announced

Jimmy Clark film festival

Reports claim that Kevin K’s G5 aeroplane lifted off from Indianapolis this morning around 11:40AM. Seems that Messer Kalkhoven was in a hurry to get back to Bloody ‘Ol England in order to make both days of some cinema shows…

On a somewhat more serious note, it’s hard to imagine that Scotland’s Jim Clark perished forty years ago, as this truly legendary Formula 1 World Champion was fatally injured while contesting a non-championship event at Hockenheim on April 7, 1968.

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of this very sad occurrence, there will be a special film festival held this weekend in Oxford shire, England to honour Jimmy Clark’s magnificent motor racing achievements…

Jim Clark Film Festival

Dinner at Bernie’s

Apparently crack Motorsports reporter Derrick Daly was dining at the Eagle's Nest, a restaurant atop the Downtown Hyatt Regency. (Where only the Eagles soar, Err, apparently they’ll let anybody dine there, eh?) Last evening and was seated next to one of the hottest couples currently in Indianapolis. Thus, Daly recanted the story later that evening on the local KTEL affiliate’s 11PM newscast. Yes, that’s right Jerry, I was seated right next to the couple. Can you tell us what they had for dinner Derrick?

Well for starters, they both had the Genilozzi chowder, while it looked like Tony had Netherlands crab cakes bis with a Zolder fondue, while Kevin had Long Beach jubilee.

Then for the first course Tony had the stuffed Toronto pheasant, while Kevin had leg ‘O Petitt, or was that the Tokyo sushi as apparently he couldn’t make up his mind.

For the main course Kevin ordered the Fillet Motegi, with the steamed CCWS asparagus smothered in a rich Road America cheese sauce. Tony had the Brickyard special, with the 33 prawns, Champ Car tar tar (well done) and a tossed Panoz salad with the Newman’s finest on top of it.

And did they have anything to drink with their meal Derrick? Yes, the maitre d recommended them a Chateau Portland Rose Cup sauvignon, of which I believe Kevin selected a bottle circa 1993.

What were the two men talking about Derrick? Well Jerry they kept their backs turned to me, but I think it was something to do with motor racing…

And for desert Derrick? Kevin had the cooked Spanish ice cream a la mode, while Tony had the Cosworth Flambahe… And who picked up the check? Well that was the interesting part Jerry, Kevin wanted Tony to pick up the tab and Tony wanted to go Dutch. So the waiter just left two checks with some Mexico City jumping bean candy on top…

Tin tops for Ralfanso

While big brother Michael was winging his way towards his personal island, Il Wurld der Schuey after a round of golf and catching some tin top racing, baby huey, err, Ralfanso was busy kicking the tires on Mercedes Benz saloons as he was busy auditioning for the DTM circus for the upcoming season.

Ralf Schumacher has twice tested the C class Merc in preparations for joining the German Touring Car series this year, as Mercedes Benz has just announced that indeed the Junior Schuey will drive for the factory team in 2008. Apparently the Stuttgart firm was desperate to find somebody to replace Mika Hakkinen, whom retired at the end of 2007…

And perhaps Norbert Haag will want to keep this in mind when it comes time to renegotiate Ralfanso’s contract; Schuey Jr makes up bogus F1 talk

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Watch the birdie

Okay, so we’re still waiting for that REALLY-REALLY-REALLY BIG ANNOUNCEMENT! Right, now lets see, Robin, can you pick up Kevin from the airport tomorrow? Uhm, Tony, have you kissed Super Tex’s pinky, Err, has anybody seen Gerald? And where’s that pesky Cabin fella. Right, I’ve got it! We’ll hold a press conference on… Somebody hand me the darts, BRILLIANT!

Actually the on again, off again press shin-dig is now tentatively slated for sometime this Friday?

"We're (down to) just grinding out the details," (Kevin Kalkhoven) said by telephone from London. "You know what happens when you get attorneys involved."

(Source: My Name is IRL)

Somewhere down that Crazy River

(Original lyrics: Somewhere down that Crazy River by Robbie Robertson)

Yea! , I can see it now
(A single, consolidated Open Wheel Racing series)

The sycamore shriveling in the winter cold
I was feeling like a stranger in a strange land

You know where people play games with the few remaining fans

But, it was too hot to sleep

So I followed the call of a lone Open Wheel reporter (Robin Miller) warily poundin’ away at his keyboard in the dead ‘O night
All of a sudden I could hear somebody whistling Dixie

From right behind meI turned around and she said"

Why do you always end up reading SPEED TV in the middle of the night?
I said "I don't know, I just keep hopin’ there’ll finally be a
She said "Hang the RICH!"

And catch the blue train

To places you’ve never been before,
Darling, You should just really
Come back to bed
‘Cause I’ve been having crazy dreams about going

Somewhere down a crazy river

Somewhere down a crazy river
So perhaps we should Just hop the blue train

All the way to 16th Street and Georgetown

Before we end up

Somewhere down the crazy river

Somewhere down the crazy river

Quick! Take a picture of this

The grandstands are full at PIR,
Lola, Reynard, Swift, Truesport, AAR and Penske chassis abound
While I listen to Elton John beltin’ out
“Saturday Nite’s alright for fighting”
But hey, back in ‘dem Good ‘Ol Days
When Bloody Nige drove for Newman Haas,
That's when time stood still

You know, Tony George once went
Down to Madam X’s

To let her read his palm

She said if you build it
(Your own racing series)
They’ll come
(Or was that Bill France Jr?)
And Tony said good ‘cause
I'm a man with a clear destination

I'm a man with a broad imagination

But he had clouded visions ‘O grandeur
While his counterparts at CCWS
Promised to stir our souls
With the rebirth of Champ Car
Yet, I can't find them anywhere on the Disney World Networks
Quick pass me that remote control

Gotta run, because it’s almost time to
Catch that blue train to places I’ve never been before

But look for me

Somewhere down that crazy river

Somewhere down that crazy river

'Cause I’m catchin’ that blue train

All the way to 16th Street and Georgetown
Unless the merger talks once again
End up

Somewhere down that crazy river

Somewhere down that crazy river

Wait, did you hear that?
There’s gonna be a press conference

Which is sure stirring up some ghosts for me

As Tony George said, Son; "There's one thing you've got to learn Not to be afraid of!

"I said "No, I like it, I like it, (Geez, what did you think I meant?)
I really like Open Wheel Racing, ‘cause its good!"
(Beats the HELL outta RASSCAR!!!)

That’s good boy
‘Cause if "You like it nowThen you'll learn to love it later."
(Watchin’ us pound around those “Bull Ring” Ovals…)

As I’ll bet you’ll become dizzy
Watching us race at places like Iowa and Kansas City
Damn, Tony! All that Oval talk is enough To give me shivers - chills and fever
Which makes me wonder if it’s just all a

Bizarre dream of going
somewhere down a crazy river…

Have you seen ANT?

And while we’re all holding our breath, (Well Ok, at least one curmudgeon at SPEED who claims he may be the last person to care about Open Wheel Racing!) has anybody seen “ANT”? Err, you know, Anthony Davidson, the cheeky Brit who drives for Super Best Friends.

It seems that his team, Super Aguri F1 has been doing their best impersonation of the Tony ‘N Kevin show… As apparently Aguri Suzuki has been struggling to find sufficient funding to run his “B Team” Honda squad for the upcoming season, thus the team has been largely MIA from this year’s “Winter Olympics,” having made only a few token appearances to date.

Although the team showed up for an early season test with test driver James Rossiter and Anthony Davidson on hand, Rossiter was only able to run 10 laps as the team’s website claims that replacement parts were unable to be obtained in time upon a company plane being forced to cut its flight short due to problems.

The team did show up for the last test at Jerez with an SA07B mule chassis for Taku-sun (Takuma Sato) and ANT to share and upon the teams 2008 SA08 chassis passing the mandatory FIA certification, the team had planned to launch the new car this week at Barcelona.

But then, borrowing a page from the Champ Car press corps, Super Aguri made the following announcement after cancelling the planned car launch; Super Aguri will host a Q&A session with team boss Aguri Suzuki and technical director Mark Preston on Tuesday.

But this has since been curtailed as the team has now made the following statement. “The Super Aguri F1 team will not be participating at the test in Barcelona this week due to circumstances beyond our control,”
“We would like to apologize to our colleagues in the media who had made arrangements to attend our Q&A tomorrow."
The uncertainty over the team's future has ensured that neither Takuma Sato or Anthony Davidson have yet had their contracts to drive in 2008 renewed, although the team has continued to insist it intends to retain both drivers. Yet, we are planning to attend the test at the Circuit de Cataluna next week with two cars.
Hopefully both Taku & ANT can finally get down to the business of racing and propel Super Best Friends up the grid. C’mon Honda, throw Aguri-sun a bone! And hey, since you’re doling out free engines and last years Factory chariot, the RA107 was a DAWG, perhaps the team could use some of those left over Panoz’s, eh?

Is today the day?

I’ve seen multiple reports on le Blogosphere indicating that today is the day indeed that we’ll have a REALLY- REALLY- REALLY BIG ANNOUNCEMENT regarding the much ballyhooed consolidation of Open Wheel Racing, although there still seems to be an ridiculous air of plausible deniability from the Champ Car’s Northern Indiana HQ, See;
Champ owner sees few teams in IRL

Of course, let’s consider the source of this protagonist, as it’s none other than Paul Gentilozzi, who’s the “Goofy” of the Four Moosketeers Kalkhoven and Forsythe have been letting run Champ Car into the weeds according to Robin Miller.

So stay tuned, keep ‘dem rabbit ears pointed towards the SPEED channel. Gotta run, the Bat phone’s ringing… Apparently Kevin Kalkhoven wanted to know what Robin Miller’s number was.

And it’ll be interesting to hear what the OWR Wanderer has to say tonight on Autosport Radio…

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Terre Haute Trio

This is the type of feel good story that makes you want to immediately get involved with the project, as the amount of positive energy soothing out of my ‘lil confuzers pocket sized speakers was overwhelming…

Yet, how often do you hear about race tracks getting saved from the grim reaper? As Dave King has convinced Brian Dorsett and Davey Hamilton to partner him in an effort to bring an ‘Ol Dirt Track back to prominence and I only learned about this via Don Kay’s interview on his Autosport Radio show, where he cleverly billed his week’s guests as the Terre Haute Trio. After explaining who they were, Don let two thirds of the triumberant run rough shod over his program as Dave and Bryan explained what their vision was for the Terre Haute Action Track, while unfortunately the third hombre Davey Hamilton was tied up in a meeting. You may wish to check out this interview with Dave King; Terre Haute Action Track Special. As I wish them all the best with their new Endeavour. Hell makes me want to check out this race track and I’m NOT even a Sprint Car fan…

Is it over?

While some of us eagerly await the official press conference, there appears to have finally been a truce in the war ‘O Northern Aggression, as according to My Name is IRL; SPEED’s Robin Miller has broke the news that a Takeover, Err, Merger has finally occurred between the IRL and Champ Car.

And is it just me or isn’t it ironic that Tony George had to fly all the way to England under the guise of going to Scott Dixon’s wedding and now we’re all waiting for Kevin Kalkhoven to return from that very same country…

Now, I’ve gotta crank out some Robin sound bites, Danny! And while I’m all in favour of this ridiculously overdue consolidation of Open Wheel Racing occurring, I’ll be very SAD if Portland goes on the “New ‘N Improved” OWR schedule…

Monday, February 18, 2008

Running out of time

And the drama continues over the future state of Open Wheel racing and more specifically Champ Car, as the Wurld ‘O Chump Carzs Turns. Ever so slowly, as it seems to be like so many pebbles on a beach being washed away by the tide…

Apparently things have gotten even stranger at the listing ship SS Chump Carzs, as rumours suggested that there had been further divisions inside the organizations HQ in Indianapolis.

Apparently while the staff was told that Champ Car would not be filing for bankruptcy, it was just another crazy rumour that majority co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven’s office belongings were being packed and he no longer sees eye to eye with the other Moosketeers in charge of the floundering series; Gerry Forsythe, Paul Gentilozzi and Dan Pettit. (Who are rumoured to have had a conference call on Friday to discuss CCWS’s future)

Further reports claim that long time participant Derrick Walker is now focusing upon switching allegiances to the Indy Racing League for 2008, having grown tired of the continuous mis-management of CCWS. Walker claims it would have cost him $150,000 to take part in the just concluded Sebring test session, which he decided to forgo, noting that he’s still owed money from team co-owner Craig Gore.

Taking a cursory look at the 2008 CCWS participants, shows that there’s currently only one team with a complete line-up; Newman Haas Lanigan, while the remaining entities are still attempting to finalize their team rosters. Thus, currently a total of seven drivers are confirmed for the upcoming season, although Alex Tagliani is expected to drive for PKV Racing, while Conquest, Dale Coyne, Forsythe Pettit and Pacific Coast all plan on having two car efforts.

If all nine of the current teams showed up with full squads, this would net a total of 17 cars, which seems to be the minimum CCWS can contractually get away with running, since I seem to recall that the original contracts called for 18 cars, which CCWS managed to get around last season.

Thus, if Kevin Kalkhoven was to take his two car team to the IRL along with Derrick Walker and possibly Newman Haas Lanigan, CCWS would be left with a pitiful car count of 11, which I can assure you, wouldn’t be pretty!

There have been further stories about the PI representatives taking equipment out of the CCWS HQ, which if true, makes me wonder if there’s something funny going on between Kalkhoven and Forsythe?

For humour, imagine if a rift between Kalkhoven and Forsythe really exists? Would Kalkhoven try issuing a restraining order against Champ Car from using the Cosworth engines that he’s half owner of. Or banning CCWS access to the PI electronics making the cars run? Yet, according to the Toronto Sun, Kalkhoven has scoffed at all of the above and still claims that the Champ Car circus will indeed perform in 2008.

It’s worth noting that Kalkhoven and Forsythe are co-promoters of Long Beach, Toronto and Portland, while Mike Lanigan; the “L” in Newman Haas Lanigan Racing, promotes Cleveland and Houston, with Forsythe running the Mexico City event.

Thus, it appears that Forsythe & Kalkhoven are most likely angling to get a deal for the Long Beach event which was supposedly the deal breaker towards the impending merger. And although Edmonton has been named as one of the three events to be added to the IRL’s schedule, rumours persist that it lost $7 million last year.

Next, if N/H/L was bold enough to move to the rival Indy car series, what would happen to the Houston and Cleveland events? But would this occur as reports claim that Haas is currently holding $2 million in Panoz parts. Ahem, Mr. Haas, perhaps you’ll wish to hold a “Going out of business” sale on these items? (As it seems only a matter of time before CCWS implodes) Note that Dan D. Jones & Associates, who repaired the faulty DP-01 fuel tanks last year has just filed court papers upon CCWS for failure to pay the $300,000 it owes.

And what do you do if you’re a current CCWS Team Owner, as such dedicated entrants as Paul Newman & Carl Haas, Eric Bachelart, Dale Coyne, Tom Figge and Derrick Walker have supposedly been kept out of Champ Car management’s information loop. This lack of communication led to Bachelart plunking down a million dollars on a new Panoz DP-01 in order to become a two car operation before hearing of the latest merger rumours from Robin Miller.

Yet, adding further insult to injury comes news that Ziggy Harcus, the former Director of Race Operations, speculated to be taking over Tony Cotman's duties as VP of Operations and potentially as Race Director, has also “Left the Building.” (Champ Car)

And I suppose CCws will host their upcoming Spring Training March 13-15 at Laguna Seca, yet I’d guess that PKV Racing and Team Australia will sit out the test as Champ Car works overtime to deny the inevitable. I mean if Graham Rahal can figure it out;

"I used to say specifically that I wanted Champ Car to live and I wanted the IRL to die off, but the truth is, the IRL isn't going to die off because they've got the Indy 500. Right now, the way I look at it we need to have one series, whatever way we can achieve that."

Then it don’t take NO Rocket Scientist to figure out its time for Champ Car to throw in the towel. Then again CCWS could always file for bankruptcy at any moment. Hmm? Does anybody know when Tony George gets back from Scott Dixon’s wedding?

Open Wheel participants

This is just a quick listing of what I could decipher for car counts of the Family Fued occurring in OWR and by NO means 100% accurate, as I’ve never before pursued making an Indy Racing League team score card.

And while things may be bleak on the CCWS’s side of the roster, it’s not all peaches ‘N cream on the IRL’s side either, as there’s at least three teams (Dreyer & Reinbold, Panther and Rahal Letterman Racing) who’ve all dropped a car for their 2008 efforts.

Meanwhile it appears that Tony George himself has given two of his three drivers their walking papers, (AJ Foyt IV & Tomas Scheckter) while son-in-law Ed Carpenter’s ride is still in limbo. Two other teams programs remain unknown; As I know nothing about Danny B’s favourite Milka Duno, while Sarah Fisher is busy trying to put together funding for her own team.

Yet, perhaps the most entertaining tidbit towards the future consolidation plans concerning CCWS’s plight is the latest press release from their official website promoting the upcoming golfing ad created for Bridgestone tires which is set to debut shortly on the Golf channel. Can you say FOUR!

2008 CCWS Teams
(Possible total Car Count = 17)

Conquest Racing
R-Frank Perera, TBA

Dale Coyne Racing
Bruno Junqueira, TBA

Forsythe Pettit Racing
Paul Tracy, TBA

Newman Haas Lanigan Racing
Justin Wilson, Graham Rahal

Pacific Coast Motorsports
Alex Figge, TBA

PKV Racing
Oriel Servia, TBA

Rocketsports Racing
R-Enrique Bernoldi

Team Australia
Will Power, TBA

Team Minardi USA

2008 IRL Teams
(Possible total Car Count = 17)

AJ Foyt Enterprises
Darren Manning

Andretti Green Racing
Marco Andretti
Tony Kanaan
R-Hideki Mutoh
Danica Patrick

Dreyer & Reinbold
Buddy Rice

Sarah Fisher Racing*
Sarah Fisher

Luczo Dragon Racing
Tomas Scheckter#

Panther Racing
Vitor Meira

Team Penske
Helio Castroneves
Ryan Briscoe

Rahal Letterman Racing
Ryan Hunter Reay

Roth Racing
Marty Roth
R-Jay Howard

Citgo SAMAX Racing*
Milka Duno

Target Chip Ganassi Racing
Scott Dixon
Dan Wheldon
+ R-Alex Lloyd#

Vision Racing*
Ed Carpenter

(* = Sarah Fisher Racing, SAMAX Racing and Vision Racing yet to confirm programs. # = LDR to run limited race schedule)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Love stinks, yeah-yeah

While Tony’s away in Jolly ‘Ol England witnessing the nuptial of the Cheepster’s Scott Dixon, I spotted the following video while surfing the net for any further media leaks upon the OWR situation. And I found it pretty funny to notice that Dan “Spike” Wheldon has cut the following video. You know, he’s the guy who once courted Nicole Manske when she was a blonde.

Yet, apparently it wasn’t all roses ‘N chocolates for the Ronster, as apparently He and Mrs. Dennis have filed for divorce after a partnership of 22 years. Perhaps Stepney-gate wasn’t the only spy scandal going on in Woking?

Meanwhile, Booby Ruble and Scott Sharp obviously weren’t sending each other any Valentine’s cards, as Rahal has won a judge’s preliminary ruling that Sharp indeed breached his contract by leaving RLR in order to jump ship to the American Le Man Series. But the judge told Rahal not to get too excited as he wouldn’t grant him his request to bar Sharp from driving in 2008…

Happy Birthday DR-800

Although I traditionally don’t make motorsports birthday wishes, just to get off of the RASSCAR luv-fest (Is there a race somewhere this weekend?) I’d like to change tact’s completely by giving the following shout out to “The Doctor.”

The racer in questione is from some place named Urbino and he’s “Juan” of the most successful Scooter pilotes of all time. Have I given it away yet? Yeah, that’s right… Today is Valentino Rossi’s birthday, as rumours claim he’ll be turning 29.

As many of you’ll be aware of, this feisty Italian MOTO GP superstar, has won seven FIM World Championships a la Michael Schumacher’s seven Formula 1 crowns, albeit Rossi’s titles were in four different disciplines; 125cc, 250cc, 500cc and MOTO GP.

Rossi is also zeroing in on eclipsing Ferrari legend Schumacher’s unprecedented record of 91 Grand Prix victories, as statistics suggest that the Doctor is currently sitting on 88! Although Valentino has some distance to go in order to surpass Schumacher’s career pole positions tally of 68, as the Italian currently has 49.

Further comparisons between Herr Schumacher’s dominance of Formula 1 reveals that upon Rossi finishing third in the championship last year, it Was the first time he’d been outside of the top two positions since his rookie campaign in 2000.

Continuing this very loosely constructed theme of Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro brethren, it’s entertaining to note that they’re both proud offspring from the same stable, as its hilarious that Rossi rides for FIAT-Yamaha, while Herr Schumacher’s Formula 1 dynasty centers around his Prancing Horse career. Like Schumacher, Rossi also has claimed five consecutive championships, (2001-05) albeit with two different manufacturers, (Honda, Yamaha) while Schuey ran away with five consecutive titles for Ferrari. (2000-04)

Both men brought key personnel with them during their respective moves between World Championships, as Schumacher brought a large portion of the Benetton staff along with him; Rory Byrne, Ross Brawn, Nigel Stepney to name a few, while Rossi enticed chief Honda mechanic Jeremy Burgess to follow him to Yamaha.

The two racing phenoms have also been handsomely rewarded for their services, as Schuey was unquestionably the highest paid F1 pilote of his time, as even in semi-retirement, he’s set to become the very first Billionaire Formula 1 driver! While it’s suggested that Valentino is plodding along on a paltry $30m yearly retainer.

And lastly, both men have not only tested for the Scuderia, with Rossi trying out Michaels “Schues” in 2006 at Valencia, where Rossi clocked in faster lap times than accomplished F1 pilots David Coulthard, Mark Webber and Jarno Trulli, upon finishing just one half second slower then Schumacher’s fastest lap.

Not to be outdone, Schuey at the tender age of 38 (who’s 10 years older than Valentino) recently tried his hand aboard 2007 MOTO GP Champion Casey Stoner’s Ducati at testing in Valencia the day after the MOTO GP Championship’s penultimate round, where Schumacher electrified the press by being only a scant five seconds plus off of Dani Pedrosa’s new lap record! Thus, it seems clear that both of these mega superstars share many passions alike. Wonder if Michael will share a Bitburger and stogey with ze Doctor…


For those of you interested, you can now double your pleasure of two wheel thunder, as there are now two US rounds on the MOTO GP calendar.

2008 MOTO GP Calendar
March 9 Qatar Doha/Losail
March 30 Spain Jerez de la Frontera
April 13 Portugal Estoril
May 4 China Shanghai
May 18 France Le Mans
June 1 Italy Mugello
June 8 Catalunya Montmelo
June 22 Great Britain Donington Park
June 28 Netherlands Assen **
July 13 Germany Sachsenring
July 20 United States Laguna Seca *
August 17 Czech Republic Brno
August 31 San Marino Misano
September 14 Indianapolis Indianapolis
September 28 Japan Motegi
October 5 Australia Phillip Island
October 19 Malaysia Sepang
October 26 Valencia Ricardo Tormo - Valencia

Friday, February 15, 2008


(Original lyrics: Blondie; Rapture)

Toe to toe
Dancing very slow
Barely breathing

Almost comatose

Wall to wall
People hypnotized
And they're stepping lightly
Hang each night in Rapture

Back to back
Spineless movement
And a wild attack

Face to face
Sadly solitude
And it's finger popping
Twenty-four hour shopping
In Junior Nation

“Flavour Flav Five” told me everybody's high
DJ's spinning' are saving' my mind
Flash is Fast, Flash is cool
Jacke Vanilla sez fast, Flashe' no do

And you try to stop
((Watching’ MAC Montoya & ALL those Open Wheel DEFECTORS!)
Sure shit
Just go out to the parking lot
Get in your car and you drive real far
(Away from the track!)
After you drive all night, you see a light
And it comes right down and lands on the ground
And out comes a man from RASSCAR!
(Mike Helton)

And you try to run but he's got a gun
and he shoots you dead and he eats your head
And then you're in the man from RASSCAR

You go out at night, eatin' cars
You eat Chargers, Fusion’s, Impalas And “Toy-yoter” Camaries too
And you don't stop, you keep on eatin' cars
Then, when there's no more cars
You go out at night and eat up Single Seater racing series
Like Champ Car and the IRL
While ‘Ol timers desperately cling to fantasies of a renaissance

Face to face, dance cheek to cheek
One to one, man to man
Dance toe to toe
Don't move to slow, 'cause the man from RASSCAR is cutting thru
(Excuse me Helio)

But Mr. Helton’s through with the competition
‘cause he's been eatin' a ton ‘O snicker bars

Yeah, wall to wall, door to door, hall to hall
He's gonna eat 'em all

Be pure
Take a tour; through the sewer
Don't strain your brain
Just say Boog-itee- Boog-itee- Boog-itee!
Paint a train, cause you’ll be singing' in the rain
If dare ain’t some RASSCAR on real soon

I say stop throwin those mountain dew cans at Pretty Boy Floyd
Junior Nation!
Just be good ‘ol boyzs

Well now you see what you want to be
Just like Mike, who’s trying to pump up his ratings on TV

'Cause the man from RASSCAR won't eat up bars when the TV's on
And now he's gone back up to MARS
Where he won't have a hassle with
The human race

And you hip-hop, and you don't stop
Just blast off, sure shot
'Cause the man from RASSCAR stopped eatin' cars
And now he only eats guitars, get up; ‘Cause he’s gone Hollywood…

Swimsuits and Eskimo pies

While another day has passed without any hullabaloo over the latest status of Open Wheel Racing, as Mr. George is off to BLOODY England and the Four Moosketeers are busy holding a conference call… Err, hold ALL of our calls and tell Robin Miller we’re NOT here!

For those of you keeping score, Team Canada will be traveling back North, Eh? As both Jack Vanilla and Pat the Carpenter failed to race their way into this weekend’s Daytona 500. Villeneuve spun and crashed, taking out three competitors’s including Dario “Where’s my pants?” Franchitti…

But never fear, Dario and Sam “I am” Hornish are assured of making the cut this Sunday as they both have top 35 rides, which guarantees them entry into the first five events. Hornish’s points come courtesy of Curt Busch, who’ll use his Champion’s provisional to make the races if necessary…

Meanwhile, needing to cool off from all of the firestorms surrounding the potential Open Wheel consolidation, making a big splash all by herself, is none other than the Princess. As Danica Patrick graces the pages of Sports illustrated swimsuit issue with a four page spread. It’s on your newsstands now…

Roundy-round’s back

And so are we… As there’s nothing like the mysteries of ze internets to drive a person nutty when it decides not to cooperate! Thus, hopefully we’ll be able to resume our normal programming here at No Fenders…

As Holy Sprint Cup, Batman! There’s ONLY 427hrs ‘O RASSCAR left to go… Although I do look forward to the beginning of each New Years “Speed Weeks” at Daytona, since it signifies that motor racing has once again gotten underway with the season opening Rolex 24. And the running of the Daytona 500 signifies the return of Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain…

But I’m NOT sure how much of Duh RASSCAR Shoppin’ Networks blather I can tolerate over the Daytona 5000!

Geez, all of this Roundy-round speak made mezs thirsty on Valentines Day, so I slipped out and ventured off to the local 7/11 to grab a Big Gulp, Err,
Gatorade, while waiting for the damn internets to start cooperating. (Gots-duh support ‘dem $ponsors, eh?) Hey, isn’t that the Princess posing for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue?

Err, I’d better hightail it back in order to turn on the telie and catch the remainder of those Monster Ball Park Franks (“they plump when uze cooks dem’”) Slim Jim Twin 427’s.

I mean c’mon, y’all must have been watchin them Twin Monster Energy/Coca Cola/Mountain Dew/BUTTWEIPER Qualifiers with your sweetheart, eh? And only in America can a top news headline proclaim that Dominoes will deliver 1.2 million cheese pizzas during the STUPOR Bowl, while Poppa John’s expected to sell 750,000 of it’s shake ‘N bake ovals…

And can you believe it? Wasn’t ‘dat nice of SPEED to replay those dueling gator-aides last night during supper time… Oh crap, there’s the doorbell, must be the Dominoes delivery specialist. But Honey, I got us pizza for dinner…

Blogger Spin Cycle

Ah, NOTHING like sharing the LUV… On Valentines Day, eh?

As for reasons unknown, we here at No Fenders are still experiencing the wrath of Technical Difficulties being caused by, which have been occurring since the beginning of Valentine’s day!

Hhopefully we’ll return as soon as possible! Sorry for the delay! As apparently there was too many Valentine's being sent over ze internets...

More to follow shortly...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Bankruptcy du jour?

According to the just published article by Robin Miller,Champ Car may be on the verge of filing for Bankruptcy within the next 24-48 hours, although Steve Johnson, CCWS’s president is doing his best damage control by stating that rumour has been circulating for the past 18 months.

Nevertheless, something definitely seems to be going on in Indianapolis, where both Champ Car and the Indy Racing League headquarters are located, as CCWS seems to be not answering their phones and telling all of their employees to keep the lights turned off!

As Miller notes, could this be just one part of the end game to see the consolidation of the two warring entities finally emerge as a unified Open Wheel racing series.

While Tony George is still optimistic of making something happen for 2008, Kevin Kalkhoven still vehemently denies that Champ Car is going anywhere soon. But, it’s interesting to note that Carl Haas will be potentially left holding $2 million of Panoz parts if (when) Champ Car implodes, as the losers in this sweepstakes seem to be the track operators who aren’t in cahoots with Champ Car owners…

MAC leads the way

By now you’re painfully aware of the impending influx of Open Wheel talent poised to flood the ranks of the 2008 RASSCAR Sprint Cup series.

Like many in the motorsports arena, I was simply flabbergasted when Juan Pablo Montoya dropped his bombshell, deciding to leave the glamorous life as a top notch Formula 1 star and switch to the “World ‘O Roundy-round for 2007!

Yet MAC has adapted quickly to the variety of the Cheepster’s machinery he’s been given the task of chauffeuring, as he began the 2007 season by winning the Rolex 24 on his first try. He followed this up by punting his teammate and fellow Rolex 24 co-pilot Scot “Juicy fruit” Pruett off track in Monterey, Mexico to score his first Busch Cup victory. Then Monty put on a drivin’ clinic at Sears Point Infineon Raceway to claim his very first Nextell Cup victory and has since collected a second consecutive Rolex timepiece with his good buddies Pruett and Franchitti.

Thus the floodgates were soon opened for the influx of Open wheel talent to migrate to the World Federation ‘O Rasslin,’ better known as Nextell Cup, err, Sprint Cup. As Champ Car rising star AJ Almendinger also made the jump to “Bombers” for the 2007 season with the enticement of “Deeter Majestic’s nine million offer to drive one of his Red Bull Toyota Camry’s.

Joining the parade next was ex-Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve, who made his Cup debut at Talladega and is currently racing Craftsman Trucks also, as “Jack Vanilla” plans to run a full season in 2008 for Bill Davis Racing, also running Toy-yoter’s. (Now all he needs to do is find a sponsor)

Joining the party from Up North, Eh? Is former Open Wheel standout Patrick Carpentier, who ran selected Nextell Cup events last year and will run full time this season for Gilette-Evernham Racing.

Yet the biggest Open Wheel shoes flocking south (for the winter) are the past two year’s Indianapolis 500 and Indy Car champions, Dario Franchitti and Sam Hornish Jr. Franchitti will partner Montoya at Chip Ganassi, with Hornish driving a third Roger Penske entry. Thus, we’ll potentially see a total of four ex-Indy 500 champions contesting the high banks of Daytona this February.

Meanwhile American ex-Formula 1 pilot Scott Speed has landed in the ARCA series upon being released from Scuderia Toro Rosso last year in order to make room for the Hamburgular’s impending arrival. Speed will contest the entire 2008 ARCA/Re Max series with aspirations of graduating to RASSCAR’s top tier in the near future. Now all wee need is for the Princess and that blue suede shoe guy to join the fray…

Merger Fever

Otay, so I know I’m NOT supposed to be following RASSCAR!!! But hey, when you’re checking’ the media daily for stories to report about, or turning on the RASSCAR Shopin’ Network; nee, the SPEED channel, It’s just about impossible to escape the continuous hyping the virtues ‘O Nexxtell Cup. Or is it Sprint-Nextel, Singular/AT & T or Cyalus/Viagra Cup?

I mean HELL! There were even silly stories about the Hamburgular (Sebastian Bourdais) racing in France Cup last year, prior to his departure Across the Pond. Perhaps this is why I found it entertaining to read about the Merger fever that’s been sweeping the Roundy Round Nation. With Jack Roush starting the impetus towards mega deals, when the “Cat in the Hat” sold 50% of his racing empire to John Henry, with Henry forking out $62 million in order to get into the premiere North Americana racing league,

Interestingly Roush was rated as the most valued team at: $317m, while 2007 Rextel Cup champions Hendrix Motorsports were ranked No. 2 at: $297m according to USA Today, while its estimated that a single car entry into RASSCAR will set you back approximately $30-40 million!

Following John Henry’s lead, professional sports owner George Gillette decided to buy into Ray Evernham’s Dodge racing team, thus making way for fellow Canadian driver “Pat the Carpenter” (Carpentier) to get a full time Cup ride for 2008 alongside Casey Kahne and Elliot Sadler.

Then Newman Haas Lanigan Racing was all set to join the party with their proposed takeover, err, merger of Robert Yates Racing. But apparently the deal fell thru as Roush Fenway Racing has now gobbled up the beleaguered Yeats/Ford operation in order to beat them impending Rextell Cup rule allowing a team owner to only have four Sprint Cup teams. With Jack Roush currently the largest owner with five entities, look for Yates Racing to become their satellite organization with potentially three Cup entries being co-housed on the massive Roush Fenway grounds. Although after a surprise visit by the Sprint Cup goons, Roushie was given the all clear towards these two organizations being independent. Psst! Hey, buddy, wanna buy some waterfront property in Arizona?

And it looks like the Open Wheel Fav Five will have duh race dare way into the Day-toner 5000… Yikes! I must have finally caught the flu bug, as I’ve just realized that I’m blathering on ‘bout RASSCAR. SHEISA!!!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Orient express

Hello Mr. George,
How would you like your tea?

One lump or two?

Nothing new to report on
The state of Open Wheel racing,
Be Berry, Berry, Quiet!
We’re tryin’ to sign some contracts here…
SHEISA!!! I forgot to bring my pen with me

Excuse me, Mr. George,
There’s a Mr. Kevin Kalkhoven
On line three, he says it’s urgent,
He cannot find his copy of the memo…

And there’s a Mr. Carl Haas and Derrick Walker
Who would like to talk to you on the speaker phone
And we’ve scheduled your massage for 5PM
Will that be alright with you?
Mr. George…


Mellow Yellow

While the eyes of Texas (amongst others) are focused upon some ‘lil ol frilling' RASSCAR barbeque going' on down in Florida, I just had to watch The SPEED Report to see if there had been any further leaks to the media on the Indiana big shots business trip to the Orient…

And wallah, there was the ‘ol leak master himself… Hey Robin,
What are you doin?' Leaking that story about Tony & Co. possibly getting together, aren’t you aware of the firestorm you’ve created?

But hey, isn’t that your job as a reporter?

And apparently Nicole Manske must have been wandering’ the motor coach parking lots, as she and her sidekick had the night off… Or did they jump ship to a bigger network?

So, I'm glad that Bob Varsha brought up the matter during his interview with Robin, who noted that if the deal falls thru, it could still very well be over if Carl Haas and Derrick Walker decided to jump ship? Miller noted that Walker already has an IRL chassis in his shop and that Champ Car owes him about $1.5 million as they haven’t paid anybody their prize money from last season…

And that was pretty amazing that Robin 'N Open Wheel got to be the second story behind RASSCAR for a whole four minutes. Speaking’ about Kevin “What Memo” Kalkhoven, I enjoyed Robin’s comments on the nature of his being all over the map on the subject, claiming that it was one of his own owners who leaked the previous merger talks to Autoweek. Kevin’s just confused…

Next, I decided to listen to Speed Freaks to see if they’d have anything to say about the current status of Open Wheels possible consolidation…

So, prior to introducing Booby Ruble, Kenny Sergeant went on a rant ‘bout Little E having the worst uniform ever, saying it has Grandpa pockets and is looser fitting than ‘ol Jack Vanilla’s leisure suits…
Let’s welcome CART Champion, Indy 500 Champion, etc Bobby Rahal… Bobby did you ever have any ugly uniforms? Well I don’t know if it was ugly? But back in 1989 when I drove for Kraco, my uniform had a lot of yellow win it. In fact it had so much yellow that Arie Luyendyk constantly called me Big Bird!

And Crash Gladys said, I’ve got to ask you about the status of Open Wheel or I’ll get deluged with emails… So, do you know anything we don’t? NO, I just read what gets reported; I read SPEED and the SPEED TV Forums… Robin Miller probably knows the most about what’s going on…

Of course, I think we’ve been down this road about 15 times in the last 15 years, so, hopefully this will be the last year we have to worry about this.

Later in the program, Gladys talked with Indy Star’s Kurt Cabin to see what the latest was? Kurt said he felt like it was a bit of a ping pong match trying to get information… Hoping he’d be the first to break the story. I spoke to Brian Barnhart about 4hrs ago and he was just finishing breakfast before going to the meeting. Hopefully they’ll answer their phones and have something to tell us. But hey, a merged single Open Wheel schedule would be a good thing, of course there’d be some contracts to settle, but Tony’s got a checkbook and it would be a lot cheaper to go to Kansas over going to Europe…

Sunday, February 10, 2008


(I’ve got dibs on the bathroom… I don’t feel so good!)

Honey I shrunk the kids… Have you seen my car keys? I’m gonna be late for my meeting with Tony George, he wants to talk (again) about us combining forces with him to save his family jewels, you know that ‘lil sandbox of his over on 16th & Georgetown… Yeah, that’s right, the Brickyard. Well, we’ll see what happens…

Perhaps you’re aware of the latest buzz surrounding the possible ending of the war of Northern Aggression, as Robin Miller has published the story claiming possible unity between ‘lil Napoleon and The Four Moosketeers…

As it happens to be all over the blogosphere as well as the various media outlets that cover such things, although I particularly enjoyed a certain Doubting Thomas’s jaundiced view towards this latest headline… Claiming it was Open Wheel merger number 4,764!!! (And how us CART, err, nee Champ Car tifosi are always good for a laugh after you’ve had a bad day at the office)

Meanwhile, as Tony, Terry Angstadt and Brian Barnhart are winging their way towards Tokyo, chaperoned by Robert Clarke to visit Honda’s corporate boardrooms, Kevin Kalkhoven is going to the loo once again, claiming he still hasn’t gotten the memo…

And seeing that this is the world of Open Wheel racing
And once was the top echelon of motorsports
Here in the land of the free and home of the brave
Well, in all of the excitement
I’ve lost track of how many mergers have been proposed
As you’ve gotta ask yourself
Did I really offer to fix the mess I made 13+ years ago
Well, did I?

Yet, for Open Wheel’s sake, I hope this latest attempt actually happens, as it’s splashed all about the media, including international sites… Which means our paltry (if ANY?) credibility will be even further lambasted if the deal falls thru.

Otay, now Gerry and Kevin, you can each have a chocolate if you let Tony play first with his toys in the sandbox. And don’t worry Paul & Dan; you’ll get a turn after Kevin & Gerry finish playing. But first, everybody take off your shoes and go wash your hands and then come into the living room for some sushi.

Meanwhile, I’ve gotta go kick the dog after writing some more snarky comments about those Oval track single sweater do-gooders, as I think I can hear the sycamore crashing down…

FOUR!!! Quick, has somebody seen my lawn darts? You know that close is only good in horseshoes and hand grenades. Now somebody toss me a biscuit, err, pass me the Saki!

And will somebody please get Kevin some Kleenex so he can blow his nose. Wonder if Tony’s taking any jerky with him for his long flight across the Pacific, eh?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Could Open Wheel Racing finally merge?

I’ve just been alerted to the SPEED TV article penned by Robin Miller claiming that the War of Northern Aggression may finally be over, as Miller has written that Champ Car World Series co-owners Gerald Forsythe and Kevin Kalkhoven have come to an agreement with Indy Racing League’s Tony George…

Thus, it appears that CCWS will indeed take up George on his offer of “FREE” Dallara chassis and Honda engines plus the $1.2 million per team entry prize sharing caveat for running an entire Indycar season.

Obviously, there are still many details to be ironed out, especially what the reconstituted 2008 Open Wheel calendar will look like, as the newly proposed season sees the addition of only three CCWS events; Long Beach, Edmonton and Surfers Paradise, yet the problem with the Long Beach date is that it clashes with Indy car’s traditional Japanese race weekend at the Honda owned Twin Ring Motegi track, which means that this event will need to be re-scheduled as both the Long Beach and Kansas race dates are locked-in for ’08.

And I’m unsure of what happens to the remainder of the CCWS scheduled events, as I assume they have already inked contracts? Also, it’s rumoured that there are up to 50 Panoz chassis floating about that will effectively become show cars.

And what will happen with the Champ Car Atlantics series which has a contingent of 24+ team entries for 2008. Stay tuned, as they’re will undoubtedly be more to follow on this most encouraging development! Looks like we’ll actually have bumping on “BOOMP” Day this year, eh? So, hopefully ‘ol Gomer’s vocal chords will be good ‘N rested…

Olli Olli Umcoom Free?

With the just concluded launching of the Force India VJM01, , there are now only two teams left to launch their respective 2008 challengers; Scuderia Toro Rosso and Super Aguri.

“Team Sebastian” (Toro Rosso) is reputed to be utilizing an updated ’07 STR-02 chassis, ironically designated the STR-02S, as “Super Best Friends” is rumoured to be having financial difficulties and is searching for a potential investor. The team will unveil its 2008 challenger, the SA08 in Spain on February 19th…

Force India VJM01

Talk about making a statement by having a Formula 1 chassis named after yourself, which is exactly what Indian billionaire tycoon Vijay Mallya has done upon launching the newly christened 2008 Force India challenger. But hey, when you’re putting up a budget of $120 million, I suppose you can name your car whatever you feel like, eh?

The car is a heavily revised Spyker F8VII chassis that Chief Technical Officer Mike Gascoyn and his staff have brought up to 2008 regulations. The VJM01 debuted its new team livery during its glitzy launch, which was held on February 6th in Mumbai, India…

Bachelart bleu

As previously noted, after making the most of his first outing aboard a Champ Car, Conquest Racing team owner Eric bachelart has hired Champ Car Atlantics standout Franck Perera as one of his drivers for the upcoming season. The second seat is rumoured to be up for grabs between Simon Pagenaud and Nelson Philippe, although Pagenaud tested for Conquest at the just concluded Sebring test and most likely has the inside track as the team co-owned by Opes Prime Limited, a Australian entity looks set to become loosely known as Team France.

It would be nice to see Pagenaud end up with the ride since it would be a farce if the original Champ Car Atlantics champion was bounced out of Open Wheel racing after just one season, showing that the $2 million prize check didn’t account for much, if he couldn’t stick around.

And of course, Bachelart is a little perturbed, having just ordered a brand new Panoz DP01 for the upcoming season, upon receiving the news that The Split may be over?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Champ Car testing begins

With little or no fanfare, Champ Car held its first official testing session of 2008 in Sebring, Florida. And while many of us have predicted gloom ‘N doom for the despondent Open Wheel racing series, I must say it was surprising to read that 14 drivers/car combinations showed up for the first day of testing… I mean c’mon, that’s almost a full Champ Car grid. (OUCH!) And while the majority of last year’s contestants were present, Team Australia was MIA.

With seven drivers confirmed for the upcoming season, the other half of the grid was made up by a variety of Open Wheel talent hoping to convince their possible suitors to ink them to the upcoming Champ Car season, albeit contingent upon bank wire transfers occurring.

While Alex Figge struck first blood by being quickest in the first testing session, the man atop the timing sheet for the first two days was ex-Formula 1 driver Frank Montagny testing alongside Paul “Bite Me-Micklewright” Tracy for Forsythe Petitt Racing.

In the never ending game of Pop goes the Weasel. 2006 Champ Car Atlantics champion Simon Pagenaud, who drove for Team Australia last year spent the test auditioning for a seat at Conquest Racing alongside 2006 Champ Car Atlantics runner-up Franck Perera who set the overall fastest lap time on the final day of testing. The blitzing of the field convinced team owner Eric Bachelart to sign Perera for 2008, as part of his two car effort which could become Team France.

Mexican David Martinez tested for Pacific Coast Motorsports and hopes to land a ride for the season as Mario “Boom Boom” Dominguez’s replacement in the team’s sophomore season.

Team Minardi USA ran a single car for VenezuelanErnesto Viso, who’s spent the last three seasons contesting F3000 & GP2 for Durango, BCN Competition and Racing Engineering respectively, along with also driving the third Spyker F1 chassis. Meanwhile 2007 Champ Car Rookie of the year Robert Doornbos claims he’ll be back with the team this season, yet he’s still waiting for the best Euros conversion rate before exchanging into the necessary dinero needed to obtain the drive.

And surprisingly Dale Coyne ran Mario Moraes aboard what was Katherine Legge’s mount last season, for the three day test. The Brazilian native has contested Formula 3 with Carlin Motorsports, finishing 14th overall. Does this mean that Legge is looking for a ride elsewhere? Certainly Kevin K. will not let Legge slip off of the Champ Car grid as she’s the only female currently contesting Champ Car and it would be another huge gaf by Chump Carzs to let this fan favourite disappear.

Testing will continue at Laguna Seca March 13-14, during Champ Car’s designated Spring Training session.

Final combined test times from Sebring testing

(Pos., driver name, team, lap time, mph, total laps for the 3 days)

1. Franck Perera, #24 Conquest Racing, 49.806 seconds, 120.636 mph, 205 laps

2. Graham Rahal, #2 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, 49.950 seconds, 120.288 mph, 238 laps

3. Alex Tagliani, #21 PKV Racing, 50.173 seconds, 119.754 mph, 281 laps

4. Oriol Servia, #22 PKV Racing, 50.178 seconds, 119.742 mph, 288 laps

5. Justin Wilson, #1 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, 50.207 seconds, 119.673 mph, 269 laps

6. Franck Montagny, #7 Forsythe/Pettit Racing, 50.209 seconds, 119.668 mph, 207 laps

7. Bruno Junqueira, #19 Dale Coyne Racing, 50.507 seconds, 118.962 mph, 247 laps

8. Alex Figge, #29 Pacific Coast Motorsports, 50.521 seconds, 118.929 mph, 247 laps

9. Simon Pagenaud, #34 Conquest Racing, 50.702 seconds, 118.504 mph, 186 laps

10. Enrique Bernoldi, #8 Rocketsports Racing, 50.714 seconds, 118.476 mph, 255 laps

11. Paul Tracy, #3 Forsythe/Pettit Racing, 50.732 seconds, 118.434 mph, 179 laps

12. David Martinez, #28 Pacific Coast Motorsports, 50.736 seconds, 118.425 mph, 255 laps

13. Ernesto Viso, #4 Minardi Team USA, 50.800 seconds, 118.276 mph, 164 laps

14. Mario Moraes, #11 Dale Coyne Racing, 50.930 seconds, 117.974 mph, 241 laps