Like most American kids that grew up in the 80's I watched the Indy 500 every year and became interested in motorsports thanks to that race, but I didn't really get hooked until I started watching Formula 1 racing in the late 90's. My favorite era were those years with the great Mika Hakkinen/Michael Schumacher battles. (I was a Mika Hakkinen fan) So my fondness for Formula 1 waned once Mika retired and Schumacher started winning everything, even at the expense of his teammate Rubens Barrichello. My interest in F1 has only been lukewarm since.

Then I turned to Champ Car racing here in the US for my motorsports fix. However that was quickly extinguished once Champ Car and Indy Car merged and we were stuck with Tony George and his many foibles. (It was entertaining to watch the Hulman/George drama I'll admit.) My interest has been less than lukewarm with Indy Car lately, even without Tony George at the helm.

Over time however, the excitement I once had for motorsports has slowly gone. Maybe it has to do with my age, I don't know. But I think I will pour my efforts into my Trooper and my interests in the outdoors to add excitement to my life.

Thanks for checking out my blog, I hope you enjoy it. I will still post racing news when I find something interesting or noteworthy.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

IMS makes CEO change

( 6-30-09)

Tony George is out effective Wednesday, but it appears the Indy Racing League’s immediate future is safe.

As first reported a month ago on and made official Tuesday, George is no longer president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway or CEO of the Hulman-George companies.

The 49-year-old grandson of IMS savior Tony Hulman, who took control of the Speedway in 1990, brought NASCAR to Indy in 1994 and started the IRL/CART war in 1996 before uniting open wheel racing last year, was expected to remain CEO of the IRL but has resigned that position.

Because George controlled the Hulman-George fund and used it to operate the IRL, the IndyCar community has been concerned about continuing this arrangement since SPEED broke the story that he was voted out of power on May 26. The owners even issued a statement of support for TG at Milwaukee last month.

A couple weeks ago when Tony’s Vision Racing team wasn’t able to acquire any more family money to run Ryan Hunter-Reay the rest of 2009 (he was farmed out to A.J. Foyt), it should have been obvious TG no longer controlled the checkbook.

But after IMS chairman Mari Hulman George announced Tuesday that longtime IMS executive Jeff Belskus would replace her son as CEO and president of the Speedway and Kurt Brighton would assume the same duties for Hulman & Company, the press release contained a vote of confidence regarding the IRL’s future.

“These changes underscore our family’s commitment going forward to all of our companies, especially our commitment to the growth of the Indy Racing League and the sport of open wheel racing,” said Mrs. George.

“We believe the Hulman-George family’s long stewardship of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, beginning in 1945, and our significant investment in the Speedway and the IRL demonstrates that we have full confidence in all of our companies and that we intend to grow them in the future.”

The immediate reaction from the IndyCar paddock was relief.

“When I first heard about this last month, I’ll admit it was a big worry because I knew Tony put out all the money and gave his life to the IRL,” said Tony Kanaan, the 2004 IRL champion. “So I’m glad to hear the direction the Hulman-George family is taking for the league.

“The good news is that Tony is still on the board of directors and now he can concentrate on his team.”

Chip Ganassi, whose cars have won five of the eight races this year and currently rank 1-2 in the point standings with Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon, admitted he had some trepidation.

“Anytime there’s uncertainty you are concerned but I think the Hulman-George family has shown a stewardship for Indy-car racing for many, many years and I hope it continues.

“It sounds like that’s their plan and that’s excellent.”

Kevin Kalkhoven, who co-owned Champ Car with Gerald Forsythe prior to unification and now competes in the IRL with KV Racing, remains concerned about the product.

“We’ll have to wait and see. I don’t know where we go from here but it sounds like the family wants to keep things going and maintain tradition,” said Kalkhoven.

“My immediate concern is the racing and our budgets. Clearly, we have a problem right now with boring races and old technology so we need new cars and engines as soon as possible. And we must reduce the costs of this series.”

It was estimated George had spent in excess of $600 million on the IRL in the past 13 years during the open wheel war and it was no secret his three sisters (Josie, Kathy and Nancy) were not happy with how the family money was being spent. TG also brought Formula One to IMS in 2000 and made massive physical changes to the track, reportedly at a cost of more than $60 million to accommodate Bernie Ecclestone and Company.

SPEED reported his sisters (also on the IMS board of directors) finally voted TG out of power, along with longtime IMS attorney Jack Snyder. It’s not known whether Mari cast a vote or not.

Since launching Vision Racing in 2005, George has not been involved with IMS or IndyCar on a day-to-day basis and the IRL will continue to operate under the direction of Brian Barnhart and Terry Angstadt. Joey Chitwood remains COO of the Speedway.

The Board of Directors of Hulman & Company and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced June 30 that a new management team comprised of veteran IMS executives W. Curtis Brighton and Jeffrey G. . Belskus will head the Hulman-George companies effective July 1.

Brighton, currently executive vice president and chief legal counsel, will become president and CEO of Hulman & Company. Belskus, currently executive vice president and chief financial officer for the companies, will become president and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation.

They will replace Tony George, who will no longer serve as president and chief executive officer of the Hulman-George companies but will remain a board member of the Hulman-George companies.

Our board had asked Tony to structure our executive staff to create efficiencies in our business structure and to concentrate his leadership efforts in the Indy Racing League, said Mari Hulman George, IMS chairman of the board. He has decided that with the recent unification of open-wheel racing and the experienced management team IMS has cultivated over the years, now would be the time for him to concentrate on his team ownership of Vision Racing with his family and other personal business interests he and his family share.

Tony will remain on the Board of Directors of all of our companies, and he will continue to work with the entire board to advance the interests of all of companies.

Our family and the entire racing community are grateful to Tony for the leadership and direction he has provided since 1990. We are pleased that he will continue to be an important part of the Indy Racing League as a team owner and as a member of our Board of Directors, and we wish him every success.

Mrs. George underscored the confidence in the leadership of Belskus and Brighton, who both were originally hired by Tony George.

Jeff and Curt have both been with the company for many years in positions of top leadership, Mrs. George said. Tony, as well as the entire Board of Directors, has the utmost confidence in their capabilities.

Both of these men have years of experience and leadership within our companies. In addition, each of our companies has effective presidential leadership, and that will remain in place.

Joie Chitwood is president and chief operating officer (COO) of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC. Terry Angstadt is president of the commercial division of the Indy Racing League. Brian Barnhart is president of the competition division of the Indy Racing League. Charlie Morgan is president and COO of IMS Productions. Gary Morris is president and COO of Clabber Girl.

These changes underscore our familys commitment going forward to all of our companies, especially our commitment to the growth of the Indy Racing League and the sport of open-wheel racing, Mrs. George said. We believe the Hulman-George familys long stewardship of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, beginning in 1945, and our significant investment in the Speedway and in the IRL demonstrates that we have full confidence in all of our companies and that we intend to grow them in the future.

Jeffrey G. Belskus President and CEO, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation

In his role with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Jeff Belskus has had primary leadership responsibility for the financial operation of Hulman & Company in Terre Haute and its subsidiaries, including IMS and the Indy Racing League.

Terre Haute native Belskus joined the company in 1987 and was elevated to treasurer in 1989. Already functioning as the companys chief financial officer, he was promoted to vice president in 1991 and named the company's executive vice president in January 1994.

Belskus graduated with honors in 1981 from Indiana State University, where he received his bachelors degree in accounting, and earned his CPA designation in the state of Indiana in 1985.

His professional affiliations include the treasurer of the Rose-Hulmans Board of Trustees, American Institute of CPAs and the Indiana CPA Society, and the Indianapolis chapter of the Financial Executives International. Additionally, he serves on the Indiana State University Foundation board, where he is a member of the audit committee. He also serves on the board of directors of the Morris Plan Company of Terre Haute and the Indiana board of The Nature Conservancy.

Belskus and his wife, Debbie, reside in Zionsville, Ind.

W. Curtis Brighton President and CEO, Hulman & Company

Curt Brighton joined Hulman & Company in January 1994 as vice president and general counsel. Brighton was promoted in October 2002 to executive vice president and general counsel of Hulman & Company, and serves in a similar capacity for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Clabber Girl Corporation and Indy Racing League, the principal operating businesses in the Hulman family of companies.

Prior to joining Hulman & Company, Brighton practiced law in Terre Haute, Ind. In addition to his duties at Hulman & Company, Brighton is a board member of several business and civic organizations, including First Financial Corporation, First Financial Bank, Indiana State University Foundation, Princeton Mining Company, Templeton Coal Company, Union Hospital and United States Auto Club. His professional affiliations include the Indiana State Bar Association and the Iowa State Bar Association.

Brighton's responsibilities have included coordinating the legal, risk management, human resource, real estate and philanthropic activities for all Hulman-affiliated businesses. He is a 1976 graduate of Indiana State University and a 1981 graduate of Drake University Law School.

Brighton and his wife, Linda, reside in Terre Haute.

Tony George out as president and CEO of IMS

( 6-30-09)

The Board of Directors of Hulman & Company and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced Tuesday that a new management team comprised of veteran IMS executives W. Curtis Brighton and Jeffrey G. Belskus will head the Hulman-George companies effective July 1.

Brighton, currently executive vice president and chief legal counsel, will become president and CEO of Hulman & Company. Belskus, currently executive vice president and chief financial officer for the companies, will become president and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation.

They will replace Tony George, who will no longer serve as president and chief executive officer of the Hulman-George companies but will remain a board member of the Hulman-George companies.

“Our board had asked Tony to structure our executive staff to create efficiencies in our business structure and to concentrate his leadership efforts in the Indy Racing League,” said Mari Hulman George, IMS chairman of the board. “He has decided that with the recent unification of open-wheel racing and the experienced management team IMS has cultivated over the years, now would be the time for him to concentrate on his team ownership of Vision Racing with his family and other personal business interests he and his family share.

“Tony will remain on the Board of Directors of all of our companies, and he will continue to work with the entire board to advance the interests of all of companies.

“Our family and the entire racing community are grateful to Tony for the leadership and direction he has provided since 1990. We are pleased that he will continue to be an important part of the Indy Racing League as a team owner and as a member of our Board of Directors, and we wish him every success.”

In a letter sent out to industry insiders prior to the announcement, a copy of which has been seen by RACER, Mari Hulman George explained, “Our family believes the greatest opportunity we have for growth is the Indy Racing League, and we had hoped Tony would agree to continue to be its CEO and to use all of his talents to attain that end. He has decided not to do that, though he will continue to support the League as a team owner and as a member of our board. Our whole family is dedicated to the growth and the future of the Indy Racing League and of all of our companies.

Mrs. George expressed confidence in the leadership of Belskus and Brighton, who both were originally hired by Tony George.

“Jeff and Curt have both been with the company for many years in positions of top leadership,” Mrs. George said. “Tony, as well as the entire Board of Directors, has the utmost confidence in their capabilities.

“Both of these men have years of experience and leadership within our companies. In addition, each of our companies has effective presidential leadership, and that will remain in place.”

Joie Chitwood remains president and chief operating officer of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC. Terry Angstadt and Brian Barnhart also retain the current positions as presidents of the commercial and competition divisions, respectively, of the Indy Racing League.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Mosley: Deal reached for unified F1 championship

(by Associated Press 6-24-09)

PARIS (AP) - FIA president Max Mosley reached a deal Wednesday to stop eight rebel Formula One teams from forming a breakaway series but now will not seek re-election.

Mosley agreed to the Formula One Teams Association's demand to scrap a voluntary $65 million budget cap for next season.

Instead, a watered-down agreement over cost-cutting was approved by the FOTA members — Ferrari, McLaren, BMW Sauber, Renault, Toyota, Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Brawn GP.

"There will be no split. We have agreed to a reduction of costs," Mosley said. "There will be one F1 championship, but the objective is to get back to the spending levels of the early '90s within two years."

Mosley said the deal still maintains the "financial viability" of teams that he had been targeting with the initial cap. As part of the agreement, existing teams must help new outfits with their engines and chassis.

Mosley has been the president of the FIA, the international automobile federation that governs Formula One, since 1993. His leadership style has been criticized as too autocratic, and many of the teams blamed him for precipitating the split between FOTA and the FIA. Still, Mosley announced over the weekend that he was seriously considering running for a fifth term.

"I will not be up for re-election now we have peace," Mosley said at FIA's Paris headquarters.

"This for me is an enormous relief," he added, referring to "personal difficulties" he has faced.

His son, Alexander Mosley, was found dead at his luxury apartment May 5 after an accidental drug overdose.

The 69-year-old FIA president, the son of former British fascist leader Oswald Mosley, was at the center of a media frenzy last year when a tabloid newspaper reported he took part in a sadomasochistic orgy with five prostitutes in London. A video of the incident was widely circulated on the Internet.

Mosley successfully sued the News of the World for invasion of privacy.

The episode brought calls for Mosley's ouster as FIA president, but he won an overwhelming vote of confidence to stay on.

Champ Car revisited

( 6-24-09)

The Drivers

Mario Andretti: Three-time USAC champion in the 1960s, Andretti returned to Champ Cars after a successful Formula One career and gave CART credibility during the early 1980s. Won regularly through the 1980s and scored last triumph at Phoenix in 1993.

Michael Andretti: Emerged as a top contender in 1986 and remained the man to beat through 1992. Returned to CART after abortive attempt at F-1 and still won races, but lacked the edge that made his early career so exciting.

Danny Sullivan: His good looks (not to mention a spectacular spin and win ’85 Indy victory) propelled the CART series into the mainstream media. Also won the ’88 series championship.

Al Unser, Jr.: A true star before substance abuse problems derailed his career. Master of street courses, including five consecutive wins at Long Beach. Won championships for Galles Racing and Penske Racing, as well as a pair of Indy 500s.

Paul Tracy: Champ Car’s sole survivor of the CART era, PT arrived in the early 1990s and never really shook off the ‘wild child’ tag. Known as much for his colorful quotes and silly accidents as his 31 victories and 2003 CART championship.

Jimmy Vasser: Champ Car’s last American champion, way back in 1996. Enhanced his reputation as the ultimate teammate by coaching Zanardi and Montoya to CART titles, making four straight for Ganassi Racing.

Alex Zanardi: This exuberant Italian was relatively unknown until Chip Ganassi brought him to America and teamed him with Jimmy Vasser for a remarkable three-year run that brought two championships.

Emerson Fittipaldi: Two-time F-1 champ triggered a wave of foreign involvement when he came stateside in the mid-80s. Won the ’89 CART championship and a pair of Indy 500s.

Juan Pablo Montoya: Was a rough-hewn 23-year old when he replaced Zanardi at Ganassi Racing, but picked up where the two-time series champ left off. Remarkable rookie year produced seven wins and CART title.

Bobby Rahal: Won all three of his CART championships in tight battles with Michael Andretti and claimed the 1986 Indy 500 victory just days before the death of mentor/team owner Jim Trueman.

Gil de Ferran: Nicknamed ‘The Professor,’ this brainy Brazilian’s career took off when he joined Penske Racing for the 2001 season. Won the ’00 and ’01 CART crowns before Penske moved his operation to the IRL.

Rick Mears: A smooth, speedy racer who dominated CART from 1979 to 1984 before severely injuring his feet in an accident at Sanair Speedway. Unrivaled at Indy with six poles and four wins in half the starts it took A.J. Foyt and Al Unser.

Sebastien Bourdais: The undisputed class of the field during the post-CART era, winning all four championships sanctioned by Champ Car. A cool, analytical racer who didn’t always connect with the fans.

The Venues

Burke Lakefront Airport, Cleveland: A series stalwart from 1982-2007, this circuit (above) was unique because it was fast and utilized a wide-open airport circuit.

Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wis.: The four-mile road course allowed the Champ Cars to really stretch their legs with a 140 mile per hour average speed.

The Milwaukee (Wis.) Mile: This mile oval’s racing history is even longer than Indy’s.

Twin Ring Motegi: The Japanese oval built by Honda sets the standard for race tracks of any kind.

Exhibition Place, Toronto, Ontario: This Canadian street circuit enjoyed a successful 20-year run.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway: The 500 remained under USAC sanction from 1979-95, but counted toward CART championship.

Surfers Paradise: Street race in exotic locale was worth the agonizing trip to Australia.


Denver Grand Prix: Original track had 80 mph pole speed, later iteration was called the bumpiest track of all time.

Bayside Park, Miami: Another ridiculous Mickey Mouse street course that produced zero excitement.

Chicago Motor Speedway, Cicero, Ill.: Designed to improve on Milwaukee, the ‘Paper
Clip’ was a victim of poor aero regulations.

San Jose (Calif.) Grand Prix: What other track in the world forced open-wheelers to cross railroad tracks?

Nazareth (Pa.) Speedway: The hometown track of the Andretti family never did attract a crowd and has now been razed.

Homestead-Miami Speedway: Three different track designs failed to create great open-wheel racing or an audience.


Doing Donuts: Alex Zanardi was so excited to win the 1998 Long Beach Grand Prix he spun a few donuts in his Chip Ganassi Racing machine. It became his trademark celebration.

Assen 2007: Champ Car’s final moment of glory on the world stage, appreciated by 60,000 knowledgeable and enthusiastic Dutch fans.

The Magic 240: Mauricio Gugelmin (1997) and Gil de Ferran (2000) each ran 240-mile-per-hour qualifying laps at California Speedway and ‘Big Mo’ topped 242 during practice.

Fantastic Finishes: The 1995 and 2000 Michigan 500s were spellbinding. The wheel-banging last lap between Michael Andretti and winner Juan Pablo Montoya in 2000 was particularly stunning.


Moore’s Death: For many, Oct. 31, 1999, was the day that CART really died. Rising star Greg Moore was killed in a vicious accident at California Speedway.

Texas 2001: CART management failed to listen to widespread concerns and scheduled a race at Texas Motor Speedway. It was canceled two hours prior to the start after G-load related driver blackouts.

EuroSpeedway 2001: A CART race in Germany was one of the few American sporting events run in the wake of Sept. 11. Alex Zanardi lost his legs in a late-race accident.

Indecision: CART owners couldn’t settle on future engine regulations, driving Toyota and Honda to the rival Indy Racing League and hastening the demise of the series.

Stock Sale: CART raised more than $100 million in a 1998 Initial Public Offering, only to watch its top team owners cash out and defect to the IRL. By the end of 2003, CART was bankrupt.

Champ Car Records (1979-2007)

8 -- Most wins in a season (Al Unser, Jr., 1994)

42 -- Most race wins (Michael Andretti)

4 -- Most championships (Sebastien Bourdais, 2004-07)

309 -- Most race starts (Michael Andretti,1983-2002)

0 -- Smallest championship margin (1999, Juan Montoya/Dario Franchitti)

127 -- Biggest championship margin (Rick Mears, 1981)

505 -- Longest race (miles, 1995 Indianapolis 500)

0 -- Shortest race (miles, 2001 Texas 600k)

35 -- Biggest field (1979 Indianapolis 500)

17 -- Smallest field (2007 season)

3.8 -- Best Average finish (Alex Zanardi 1998)


1978 Dan Gurney’s “white paper” inspires a group of USAC Champ Car teams to form an owner’s group known as CART, or Championship Auto Racing Teams.

1979 CART stages a 12-race championship in competition with USAC, won by Penske Racing’s Rick Mears; USAC tries but fails to ban CART teams from the Indy 500.

1980 USAC and CART forge a brief truce known as the Championship Racing League (CRL), which falls apart post-Indy; John Frasco named CEO.

1981 CART establishes itself as the chief sanctioning body for Indy-style racing in America. Mears wins second title.

1982 Epic Indy 500 results in close victory for Gordon Johncock over Mears, who wins third and final championship crown; first Cleveland GP; Jim Hickman killed at Milwaukee.

1983 March chassis dominates series while rival Lola returns to Champ car fold to supply new team Newman/Haas Racing.

1984 NHR’s Mario Andretti wins fourth U.S. National Championship; Long Beach GP converts from F-1 to CART; Mears severely injures his feet.

1985 Danny Sullivan’s Indy “spin and win;” championship battle between Al Unser and namesake son goes down to final lap of final race.

1986 Bobby Rahal wins Indy and CART championship; Michael Andretti scores first of 42 Champ Car race wins; first race on Toronto street course.

1987 Second title for Rahal despite switch from March to Lola chassis; Ilmor/Chevrolet engine scores first race win.

1988 Return to form for Penske with PC17 chassis, including championship for Sullivan; last win for March chassis.

1989 Emerson Fittipaldi wins Indy and CART title for Patrick Racing; team is then sold to Chip Ganassi; Michael Andretti joins father Mario at Newman/Haas.

1990 Arie Luyendyk wins fastest-ever Indy; Al Unser, Jr. wins first series title for Galles Racing; Frasco replaced by Bill Stokkan.

1991 Michael Andretti dominates with record eight wins and series crown; Mears wins fourth and final Indy.

1992 Ford-Cosworth engine introduced that quickly rivals dominant Ilmor/Chevy; Third title for Rahal, first as an owner/driver.

1993 Andrew Craig is new CART leader; reigning F-1 champion Nigel joins series and wins championship as a 40-year old “rookie.”

1994 Penske Racing wins 12 of 16 races with Unser, Jr. taking eight wins including Indy and second title; Honda joins as engine supplier; Chevy ends badging of Ilmor engine.

1995 Reynard takes over as customer chassis of choice; Jacques Villeneuve is champ, then leaves for F-1; Honda scores first win; Mercedes badges Ilmor engine; Last year Indy is on CART schedule.

1996 First year of competition against IRL; Inaugural race in Brazil; U.S. 500 marred by embarrassing crash at the start; Jimmy Vasser is last American champion; Toyota joins as engine supplier; Jeff Krosnoff dies at Toronto.

1997 Alex Zanardi wins championship; Mauricio Gugelmin turns 240 mph laps at California Speedway; Swift chassis is first American winner since 1982 Wildcat.

1998 CART’s IPO stock sale raises nearly $100 million; Zanardi inaugurates tradition of victory donuts on way to second title; Japanese round added to championship.

1999 23-year-old Juan Montoya wins seven races and championship as rookie; Greg Moore killed in season finale, weeks after death of Gonzalo Rodriguez at Laguna Seca; 20-race slate is largest ever.

2000 Penske Racing ends four-year slump; Gil de Ferran wins teams’ 100th race and takes CART crown; Mercedes’ sudden pullout leaves several teams struggling; Andrew Craig dismissed, replaced on interim basis by Bobby Rahal.

2001 Joe Heitzler takes over as CART CEO; Rio and Texas events canceled, Texas on race morning; popoff valve scandal breaks at Detroit; Zanardi returns but loses legs in accident at EuroSpeedway in Germany; CART can’t decide on future engine formula.

2002 Heitzler fired and replaced by Chris Pook; Penske departs for IRL; Cristiano da Matta wins first championship for Newman/Haas in nine years; Honda and Toyota pull out in favor of IRL program.

2003 Michael Andretti buys Team Green and moves to IRL; Ford-Cosworth becomes spec powerplant; Paul Tracy wins championship; Last win for Reynard as Lola becomes de facto spec chassis.

2004 Newman/Haas drivers Sebastien Bourdais and Bruno Junqueira dispute title; Rahal and Fernandez teams bolt for IRL two weeks before start of season.

2005 Tony Cotman named chief steward; Korea race cancelled for second- straight year; another title for Bourdais; successful new event added in Edmonton.

2006 Unsuccessful attempt to race in China; easiest title yet for Bourdais; Another unification effort with IRL fails in June; Milwaukee is series’s last oval race.

2007 New Panoz spec chassis introduced; Bourdais wins record fourth-consecutive championship; One-off Vegas GP opens season, Phoenix GP scheduled but not run.

2008 Long Beach Grand Prix is last Champ Car-sanctioned race; five teams join IRL IndyCar Series.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Danica and friend

Who is this slightly roomy woman always seen with Danica? What position does she hold that makes her so important that she would be the first one on the scene after Danica won in Japan to give her the first congratulatory hug? Is she PR?, or more of a "handeler"? Afterall, we did see her sprint down pit-lane at the Indy 500 in 2008 to stop Danica from making a fool of herself as she went to scold Briscoe after their pit exit coming-together. Or could she be someone even closer?

F1 to sue eight breakaway teams over plans for rival series

(by Associated Press 6-19-09)

SILVERSTONE, England (AP) -- Formula One intends to sue the eight teams that announced plans for a rival series next season - the biggest crisis to engulf the sport since the championship began in 1950.

The governing body accused the Formula One Teams Association of "serious violations of law.'' The breakaway came after Ferrari, championship leader Brawn GP and six other teams failed to resolve a dispute over the introduction of a budget cap for next season.

The ruling body, known as FIA, cited "willful interference with contractual relations, direct breaches of Ferrari's legal obligations and a grave violation of competition law.''

Ferrari has been part of Formula One from the outset. In addition to Brawn GP, the rebel group includes McLaren, Renault, Toyota, BMW Sauber, Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso.

F1 would lose some of its biggest names to the rival series, including reigning world champ Lewis Hamilton, championship leader Jenson Button of Brawn, Ferrari's Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull rising star Sebastian Vettel.

FOTA said its new series will have "transparent governance, one set of regulations, encourage more entrants and listen to the wishes of the fans, including offering lower prices for spectators worldwide, partners and other important stakeholders.''

FIA has delayed publishing the final entry list for the 2010 season and said it will begin legal proceedings "without delay.'' Ferrari is already countersuing to "protect its contractual rights.''

FIA president Max Mosley is "completely confident'' the breakaway series will not come to pass, predicting sponsor pressure will end the revolt.

"In the end, people do what it's in their interests to do and it's in the interest of teams to be in F1 world championship, and there is actually no fundamental, or even important issue, preventing them from taking part,'' Mosley said.

"It's all about personalities and power and who can grab what from whom, which is easy when nothing's at stake. But, when it comes to the first race and it's make-your-mind-up time, they will be there.''

Mosley plans to stay as FIA president beyond October to ensure the 2010 championship begins as usual - with the eight breakaway teams.

"I'd be much more likely to step down if there was peace because I am nearly 70,'' he said.

Negotiations stalled over plans for a voluntary $65 million budget cap. The FOTA teams entered the 2010 series provided there would be changes to the budget cap. But FIA did not give ground, saying the sport cannot survive in this economy without such restrictions. The eight FOTA teams said they would not "compromise on the fundamental values of the sport.''

Brawn GP chief executive Nick Fry said Friday his group negotiated "at some length in good faith and not quite got to where we want to be.'' He said he would like talks to continue, but the "ball is now in Max's court.''

Of the existing teams, Williams and Force India have broken ranks with FOTA and are unconditionally entered for 2010. They will be joined by three new outfits - Campos Racing, Team US F1 and Manor F1 Team. The exodus means that teams that were overlooked for 2010 may now get another chance.

The split will have serious ramifications for broadcasters with rights to what will be a diminished F1 without big-name teams and drivers. Also, the venues hosting F1 races may want to hold breakaway events.

The breakaway teams announced their decision after meeting Thursday night near Silverstone. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said there was "no alternative.''

"If you want to keep competing then you've got to look at something else,'' he said.

FOTA criticized the FIA's "uncompromising'' stance and its attempts, along with the commercial rights holder group headed by Bernie Ecclestone, to divide its member teams.

Fry said that because Brawn is a smaller team, complying with FIA restrictions wouldn't have been a problem. But he wanted to keep the new team aligned with the sport's leading entrants.

"We want to compete against the best in the business,'' said Fry, whose Brawn team emerged from the ashes of Honda this year. "The reason that we were very keen to be with the group of eight is that it contains the best motor racing teams in the world."

All-out war brewing in Formula One

(by Ed Hinton 6-19-09)

The big teams are in full revolt, according to the storm warning that arrived in my e-mail Thursday evening from the Formula One Teams Association.

I know, I know: Teams have threatened a breakaway series before, a few years ago when the big European manufacturers, especially BMW and Mercedes-Benz, grew weary of the greedy shenanigans of F1 rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone and his FIA chief, Max Mosley.

That rebellion failed because Ferrari, the most popular racing team in the world, bailed on the others and sided with the FIA.

Here is the titanic difference: The advisory sent out by Silverstone on Thursday evening -- actually around midnight Greenwich Mean Time -- was signed: "Statement issued by FOTA on behalf of BMW-Sauber, BrawnGP, Scuderia Ferrari, McLaren-Mercedes, Red Bull Racing, Renault, Scuderia Toro Rossa, Toyota." (Bold is mine, for emphasis.)

Not only is Ferrari in this time, but Ferrari is the ring leader. Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo was the first to howl when Mosley came up with his ludicrous $60 million spending cap for teams accustomed to spending up to half a billion dollars a year each.

Ecclestone, known to bail on Mosley in a pinch, this time tweaked the noses of the big guns by supporting the cost-cutting measures.

So now, allied with di Montezemolo are some of the toughest hard-ballers ever to walk the F1 paddocks: Renault's maverick Flavio Briatore, McLaren's icy-blooded Ron Dennis, Mercedes' Norbert Haug and the skyrocketing engineer who bought out Honda and made it the best team in F1, Ross Brawn.

This is the big one, all right, if Ecclestone and Mosley don't back down. And they never have before.

To FOTA, this is some hybrid of the last straw and the perfect excuse to pounce. It's been no secret for a decade that the big European manufacturers, especially the Germans, believe they could run F1 far better than Mosley does and make vastly more money without Ecclestone's notorious raking in of personal profits.

This time, the teams are calling out the kingpins: "The FIA [Mosley] and the commercial rights holder [Ecclestone] have campaigned to divide FOTA," the statement read. The implication: This time, no way.

"These teams … have no alternative other than to commence the preparation for a new championship which reflects the values of its participants and partners," the statement continued.

In other words, Mosley and Ecclestone aren't going to force a junk division into the world's most sophisticated form of motor racing. A $60 million cap would have done that -- let upstart teams come in with technological leeway over the established, higher-spending teams.

"This series will have transparent governance," the statement read, another slap at the old regime.

Mosley, of course, has been under fire from the teams on a separate issue, last year's release by a London tabloid of video of him in an escapade with prostitutes in a Chelsea "dungeon." Teams called for his resignation, but he has refused.

Now, all the winds of war have gathered from every corner: the long-running resentment of Ecclestone's power -- "tens of millions of dollars have been withheld from many teams by the commercial rights holder [Ecclestone], going back as far as 2006," the FOTA statement charged … the disgust with Mosley's rule-making, his arrogance and his scandal … and now the junk-racing, low-budget retreat the two old bosses want F1 to enter into.

There might not be all-out war in F1. But the only chance of avoiding it now, it surely seems, would be if Mosley and Ecclestone heard and obeyed that ancient British admonition, delivered first by Oliver Cromwell to the Rump Parliament and again at the precipice of World War II by Leo Amery to disgraced Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.

"You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go."

Methinks that this time, icy Englishman Ron Dennis of McLaren would be an excellent choice to deliver it to Mosley and Ecclestone.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Spain's Gene and Peugeot end Audi's run at 24 Hours of Le Mans

(by the Accociated Press 6-14-09)

LE MANS, France (AP) -- Peugeot driver Marc Gene of Spain won the 24 Hours of Le Mans on Sunday, ending Audi's five-year domination.

The diesel-powered Peugeot No. 9 was one of the few cars to enjoy a trouble-free run in the world's most famous endurance race.

"To win such a race is the nicest thing I've enjoyed in my life," Gene said. "I was really emotional on the last lap. I've never had such a feeling in a race. Tears were coming to my eyes on the last lap."

Gene and supporting drivers David Brabham of Britain and Alexander Wurz of Austria completed 382 laps in 24 hours, one lap more than the Peugeot No. 8 driven by French trio Sebastien Bourdais, Franck Montagny and Stephane Sarrazin.

It was the second victory at Le Mans for Wurz, who won in a Porsche in 1996.

The two Peugeots were challenged by Audi's No. 1 car until the 21st hour. The Audi car had to pit twice within the space of a few minutes, first by Allan McNish of Britain to change a steering wheel and then by Rinaldo Capello of Italy to fix an engine problem.

Defending champions McNish, Capello and Tom Kristensen of Denmark finished third, six laps behind.

Peugeot has made efforts to improve the reliability of its cars this season while Audi has developed a faster model, the R15, to replace the aging R10. But the change did not pay off for the German manufacturer.

"The Peugeot cars were more consistent," said Wolfgang Ullrich, the head of Audi Sport. "They did not have any big problem. We didn't really manage to find a good rhythm in the first hours of the race."

Stefan Mucke of Germany and Czech drivers Jan Charouz and Thomas Enge came in fourth, nine laps off the pace, but their Lola Aston Martin No. 007 was the best gasoline car as the Peugeots and Audis are powered by diesel.

Audi and Peugeot had their share of problems throughout the race.

The Peugeot No. 8 led from the start until the sixth hour when a transmission problem forced Bourdais -- the former four-time Champ Car series winner and now Formula One driver -- to pit and change the left rear axle. Wurz took advantage of Bourdais' lengthy pit stop to take the lead.

Pedro Lamy of Portugal lost 24 minutes for repairs after his Peugeot No. 7 collided in the pitlane with Jean-Christophe Boullion's Pescarolo No. 17 in the first hour. But Nicolas Minassian then clocked the fastest lap in 3 minutes, 24.352 seconds on the 13.629-kilometer (8.45-mile) circuit to put the car back into sixth place, 13 laps behind Gene.

"Our team was so much criticized last year that it's a nice revenge," said Olivier Quesnel, the head of Peugeot Sport. "I'm very proud of my team today."

Audi's hopes were seriously dented on the third lap when Alexandre Premat's No. 3 car veered off the track to go into the gravel trap. The car became unstable after that and quickly fell out of contention. In the seventh hour, Lucas Luhr's Audi No. 2, running third, smashed into the tire barrier and he had to retire.

McNish also wasted time in the pits after damaging his nosecone in the second hour. His Audi No. 1 suffered from turbo overheating later on Sunday morning.

McNish put pressure on the pole-sitting Peugeot No. 8 in the rolling start, but Montagny held off the charge at the first curve to keep the lead.

The Corvette No. 63, driven by Jan Magnussen of Denmark, Antonio Garcia of Spain and Johnny O'Connell of the United States, completed 342 laps to finish 15th overall but first in the GT1 class.

A total of 55 cars started the 77th edition of the French endurance race, but 21 failed to finish.

Pics of Le Mans 2009

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

What has happened to AGR?

(by George Phillips 6-9-09)

One of the most puzzling developments for the past year and a half is the rapid decline of one of the premier IndyCar teams – Andretti-Green Racing. By the end of the 2007 season, AGR had won three of the four previous IndyCar championships and captured two of the previous three Indianapolis 500 crowns. During this time, fans witnessed an almost nauseating display of team unity, as teammates would kiss each other in victory circle when one of them won. I always wondered what would have happened if George “Ziggy” Snider had ever approached AJ Foyt with a congratulatory smooch.

Since the 2007 season, Andretti-Green Racing has fallen into a sea of mediocrity accompanied by turmoil, poor results and finger pointing. It’s hard to determine one single event that has triggered this decline. In fact, it could be a cumulative effect of several occurrences that have taken place.

In the summer of 2002, Michael Andretti announced that he, Kim Green and Kevin Savoree were buying Team Green from Kim’s brother Barry. They were moving the team from CART over to the rival Indy Racing League for the 2003 season and would be Honda’s” works” team as Honda debuted in the IRL.

Dario Franchitti moved with the team and retained his familiar #27. Michael recruited rising CART star Tony Kanaan to join the team. This was also to serve as Michael’s move into retirement from driving. After Michael drove at Indy, the team would continue as a three-car effort with newcomer Dan Wheldon taking over for Michael in a #26 Jim Beam car. Wheldon actually ran Motegi and Indianapolis, finishing Indy upside-down on the north end of the track.

Prior to Indy, Franchitti had fractured his back in a motorcycle crash in Scotland. Robby Gordon was chosen to replace Franchitti at Indy, but Bryan Herta was tabbed for the remainder of the year to sub for Dario. Herta won the race at Kansas and was rewarded the #7 XM-Radio car as AGR expanded to four cars in 2004.

With the aid of the powerful Honda engine, AGR had quickly become a juggernaut in the IndyCar Series. By 2004, Wheldon was clearly becoming a force, taking his first win at Motegi on his way to three victories for the season. Franchitti regained his form after his injury and Kanaan had an almost magical run on his way to the IndyCar title.

The following year saw Wheldon win the Indianapolis 500, giving owner Michael Andretti his first trip to victory lane at Indy. Wheldon also won the 2005 championship that season giving AGR two consecutive titles. Along the way, the four drivers seemed to be best friends on and off the track. Practical jokes between the four were common and they all seemed to embrace the team concept. There was an undeniable chemistry between them, although they seemed to take it a bit far with the celebratory kissing.

At the end of the 2005 season, the first crack formed at AGR. Wheldon announced he would leave the team to join Target Chip Ganassi. The Ganassi team had fallen on hard times as they had been saddled with the Toyota engine. The second crack formed about the same time when Chevy and Toyota announced their intentions to leave. For 2006, Honda would be the sole engine provider for the series. This meant that there were no longer factory or works teams for Honda. This was a double-hit for AGR – not only were they not getting the “special” Honda parts for their engines, but Honda would be forced to no longer provide the additional funding they were providing to Andretti-Green.

For 2006, Michael made a curious decision. To replace Dan Wheldon, Michael chose his nineteen year-old son Marco to fill the seat in the #26 car. The move looked to be the right one at first, as Marco came within a few feet of becoming the first teenager to win the Indianapolis 500. Andretti would later win on the road course at Sonoma to become the youngest winner in IndyCar Series history. The season proved to be a step back for the team however, as Andretti-Green didn’t win the IRL title for the first time since their first season.

The team rebounded for 2007, but with challenges. Bryan Herta had been replaced in the cockpit with third-year driver Danica Patrick. Marco had six DNF’s in his first seven starts, quickly acquiring a reputation for boneheaded moves. He finished the season eleventh in points and had definitely regressed for his sophomore campaign. Tony Kanaan had his usual strong season, finishing with five wins and third in points; while Dario Franchitti won Indy and won the title.

While Franchitti was battling for the championship at Sonoma, Marco made what had become a typical Marco move and collided with Franchitti while leaving the pits. In typical Andretti fashion, Michael chose to blame Dario for the transgression. Franchitti’s response was that Michael needed to separate himself from his roles as father and car-owner. Dario left the team for Chip Ganassi’s NASCAR team at season’s end.

Surprisingly, AGR tabbed rookie driver Hideki Mutoh to replace Franchitti. The face of Andretti-Green had changed dramatically for the 2008 season. The only remaining driver from that core that had so much chemistry just three years earlier was Kanaan. His teammates were a kid who was the boss’s son, a self-serving star of the league who had questionable driving skills and a rookie that could barely speak English.

In yeoman-like fashion, Kanaan pushed on through the 2008 season that saw him win only one race, yet he still managed to finish third in points. Marco made a ridiculous move at Indy, which put Kanaan into the wall while he was leading. Danica Patrick won a fuel-mileage race at Motegi that created an unbelievable amount of hoopla. She then followed that with her infamous march down pit lane at Indy, to do God knows what, to Ryan Briscoe. Marco drove a good race in Texas to put himself in position to win, but tangled late with Ryan Hunter-Reay. As is part of his DNA, he made sure the cameras knew it was not his fault. Mutoh kept his mouth shut, finished seventh at Indy and tenth in points – an admirable, yet unspectacular rookie season.

Four teammates with different agendas plodded forward through a notably unremarkable season, in 2008. Things finally came to a head in Edmonton. Kanaan was the only car on the pace throughout the race. As he came upon his lapped teammates, Danica and Marco, they inexplicably would not let him by as they waged their own battle. Kanaan pleaded over the radio to get them to let him by. Finally, Marco punted Danica from behind essentially ruining the day for both. At that point, Kanaan finally made it past. After the race, a team meeting ensued where Michael reportedly blew up.

The next weekend found Kanaan reportedly agreeing with Ganassi to replace Dan Wheldon, as Kanaan’s contract was expiring. When Michael got word of this, he knew he had to do whatever it took to keep his lone voice of reason on the team. Kanaan re-signed for five years.

Six races into the 2009 campaign finds Kanaan mired in seventh place. He was leading the points entering Indy, but two DNF’s dropped him to seventh. At Texas, Marco and Danica provided the only excitement late in the race, while racing for fifth and sixth. Danica seemingly held her line and raced him clean, but afterwards Marco complained that she was not being a good teammate and suggested she was the only team member not enjoying the camaraderie at Andretti-Green.

The wheels seem to have come off at AGR. The team that used to exemplify team spirit has now devolved into four individuals obviously going in different directions, while squabbling along the way. Consequently, AGR has practically fallen into obscurity, causing the big three to become the big two.

Is it lack of chemistry? Perhaps the original combination of drivers, were the only ones to have the chemistry to ever pull off a four-car effort. Is there a leadership void with Herta and Franchitti gone? Has the quality of team personnel declined? Kanaan has had bad cars almost all year. Why? Is Marco the problem? Is Danica? Do Marco and Danica compete for the team limelight? Is Kanaan strong enough to serve as baby-sitter while he tries to focus on another championship?

And what of the owners? Different reports last year said that either Kim Green and/or Kevin Savoree wanted out, yet they are still there. One thing is certain – there are more questions than answers. But until Michael Andretti starts being a team owner and stops being a Dad, the problems will continue…and so will the losing.

pics of 2009 Indy 500

Vitor Miera goes hard into Turn 1.

Danica and PT racing hard.

David Letterman aging roughly.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Lack of side-by-side racing mars Texas race

(by John Oreovicz 6-7-09)

Whether you watched it in person at Texas Motor Speedway or on television from anywhere else, the Bombardier Learjet 550 must have left you underwhelmed. You're probably also wondering where went the spectacular side-by-side speedway racing that the IndyCar Series used to be known for, because it was almost nonexistent at a track that is tailor-made for spine-tingling open-wheel action.

After a two-hour race that pretty much resembled a 172-mph parade, the most interesting part of the night was the postrace interviews.

Scott Dixon rightfully complained about the lack of excitement, and put the blame squarely on the fact that the IndyCar Series has degenerated into a spec-car series in which no one is able or allowed to gain enough of an advantage to push their maxed-out 7-year-old Dallara-Honda past the next guy's identical car.

Racing used to be all about trying to make cars faster. Then safety concerns correctly led to an effort to slow down the cars. Now, with advances like carbon fiber tubs, the HANS device and the SAFER barrier, racing is about as safe as it is going to be, and the current trend -- not just in the IndyCar Series -- is to make the cars as equal as possible.

It's not working.

Saturday night at Texas, Ryan Briscoe clearly had the fastest car, and he built an 11-second lead during a 140-lap stretch of green flag racing that included two rounds of pit stops. Then the caution flag flew, for some debris, we were told.

"I didn't see any debris. I don't know if you did," Briscoe deadpanned appraisal.

Artificially brought back to the pack, the Australian was unable to break free. During the final round of pit stops, under yellow on Lap 175, Helio Castroneves took advantage of having the last pit stall to snatch the lead from his Penske Racing teammate in the pits.

Advantage, Helio. Over the final 46 laps, Briscoe was never able to get close enough to think about trying to pass the identical No. 3 car, which won for the second time in three weeks.

"The last 20 laps were some of the most frustrating I've ever driven," Briscoe said on the telecast. "You lead the whole race and get done in pit lane after leading the whole race. It's not that we did a slow stop; the advantage that pit-out has gave the 3-car guys so much of an advantage.

"The cars are just so evenly matched and it's so hard to pass," he added. "I'd try to get a bit of a run and go on the high line, but I just couldn't get it done. It was very frustrating to know I was going to come second after dominating the race."

Two-time IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, who finished third behind the two Penske cars, was -- by modern standards -- pretty outspoken in his immediate postrace comments.

"The racing needs to get better," Dixon observed on TV. "We used to be able to go around the outside and have side-by-side racing here, but at the moment, you just can't do it.

"I think the cars are too identical, and they need to open up the rules again to get a bit of difference between the cars."

A bit later in the top-three news conference, Dixon elaborated. "You used to be able to run a lot of different things, even down to mirrors," he said. "I think we need to open a few things up and see how it works. Maybe they need to trim the cars out a bit. When we first came here, we were running 223 mph and now we're at 210 in the race.

"The cars by all means aren't easy to drive," he added. "Your grandma couldn't get in and go out there. But it's too even, I think. I know it's a growing process with the series and the drivers. But at the moment it just doesn't put on the show it should, and has done before."