Dec 24, 2009

No rest for the wicked

After barely getting a chance to catch their breath for the past 10 months, you’d think a NASCAR crew would savour the opportunity to relax in the shop without worrying about the next trip.

But, when normal is go-go-go every weekend, kicking your feet up doesn’t come easy, even at the end of a gruelling 36-race season.

“It’s hard to get used to and you get kind of anxious,” says Brian Vickers’ No. 83 Red Bull Toyota team crew chief Ryan Pemberton.

More at: Red Bull International

Dec 23, 2009

He's baaaaaaack!

It's official, seven-time Formula One World Champion Michael Schumacher will make his racing return in 2010 with Mercedes team.

Schumacher has 248 Grand Prix starts, 91 victories, 154 podium finishes and 68 pole positions, the 40-year old German needs no introduction following an illustrious and record-breaking Formula One career from 1991 to 2006 at the Jordan, Benetton and Ferrari teams.

The seven time f1 champion began his racing career in the Mercedes Junior Programme in 1990. He will partner with Nico Rosberg.

"I am convinced that together we will be involved in the fight for the Formula 1 World Championship next year and I am already looking forward to getting back onto the race track," Schumacher said. "For me, this partnership closes the circle. Mercedes supported me for so many years when I began my Formula 1 career and now I can hopefully give something back to the brand with the star."

Dec 16, 2009

Kenseth to appear at Canadian Motorsports Expo

2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Matt Kenseth will be coming to Toronto’s International Centre on Saturday, January 23, 2010 to meet with fans and sign autographs at the Canadian Motorsports Expo.

A winner in 18 Sprint Cup races, Kenseth is the defending champion of the Daytona 500 which he won last February. It was the first win for the Roush Fenway team.

Kenseth drives the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion for Roush Fenway Racing.

In addition to his championship, Kenseth was the series’ top rookie in 2000.

Further details of Kenseth’s appearance will be released soon.

Dec 15, 2009

2010 F1 grid

It seems that the 2010 Formula One grid is almost locked up. Only a few spots remain open and some of those already look filled.

One seat that's been in the spotlight of late is the second cockpit at the former Brawn outfit, now Mercedes, where it is thought that seven time world champion Michael Schumacher may land in un-retirement.

Renault is also set to announce its future plans in F1 on Wednesday and word is that might coincide with the return of 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve to grand prix racing.

Here's a look at the grid as it stands today...

1. Jenson Button
2. Lewis Hamilton

3. Nico Rosberg
4. Michael Schumacher*

Red Bull
5. Mark Webber
6. Sebastian Vettel

7. Felipe Massa
8. Fernando Alonso

9. Rubens Barrichello
10. Nico Hulkenburg

11. Robert Kubica
12. Jacques Villeneuve*

Force India
14. Adrian Sutil
15. Vitantonio Liuzzi

Toro Rosso
16. Sébastien Buemi
17. Jaime Alguersuari*

18. Jarno Trulli
19. Heikki Kovalainen

Campos Meta
20. Bruno Senna

22. José María López*
23. TBA

24. Lucas di Grassi
25. Timo Glock

26. TBA
27. TBA


Dec 13, 2009

Family guys

My latest story for Red Bull about its NASCAR team:

With a gruelling 36-race season running from February to November, downtime is not something in abundance for anyone competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Once you get past the more than 10,000 miles of racing at 24 different tracks, hundreds of pitstops, and thousands of hours of travel and preparation time, there’s little time left for much else.

Anyone who doubts the dedication of NASCAR crew need only to hear about the drama that unfolded in the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota pit shortly after the team’s first stop for fuel and tyres in October’s NASCAR Banking 500 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

Read more at: Red Bull International

Dec 11, 2009

World Motor Sport Council decisions on F1

F1 Stewards

A smaller permanent group of F1 Stewards will sit with experienced former F1 drivers to provide a permanent panel of three FIA stewards, together with one steward representing the National Sporting Authority, to deal with F1 at each Grand Prix.
There will no longer be a non-voting Chairman and each group of stewards will elect their own Chairman amongst themselves for each race. Utilising video and radio exchanges they should aim to reach decisions very efficiently.

The current observer programme for F1 stewards will continue, and training, distribution of decisions, and an annual meeting will be encouraged to raise the quality of decisions in this permanent group.

FIA F1 Ambassadors

An FIA F1 Ambassador will be appointed from the membership of the World Council for each event. The Ambassador will liaise with the National Sporting Authority (ASN) and organising team at the circuit. He will also meet with the ASN President, FIA VIP guests, Formula One Management, F1 Teams and other stakeholders and act as an Ambassador of FIA sport.


Due to the expanded grid of 13 teams, and further to the recommendation of the F1 Commission, a new points system will be in place for the 2010 season.

It's official, Montreal is an F1 town again

The World Motor Sport Council approved the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship calendar.

The Canadian Grand Priox is officially back on June 13.

14/3   Bahrain
28/3   Australia
4/4     Malaysia
18/4   China
9/5     Spain
16/5   Monaco
30/5   Turkey
13/6   Canada
27/6   Europe (Valencia)
11/7   Great Britain
25/7   Germany
1/8      Hungary
29/8    Belgium
12/9    Italy
26/9    Singapore
10/10  Japan
24/10  Korea*
7/11     Brazil
14/11   Abu Dhabi

*Subject to the homologation of the circuit

Dec 10, 2009

Danica Patrick to drive in both NASCAR, IndyCar

My latest column in the Globe and Mail:

The IndyCar Series may be about to lose its most marketable quantity, Danica Patrick, to NASCAR.

JR Motorsports announced Tuesday that the 27-year-old will race in NASCAR's season-opening weekend, participating in the Automobile Racing Club of America event at Daytona in February. She will also drive in NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide Series, although no dates were announced.

“It's been a long time coming,” she said of her NASCAR deal. “I have always said I love to drive, and if I could make it work to race in both IndyCar and NASCAR with the right sponsor ... then I'd love to drive in NASCAR.”

More at: Globe Drive

Nov 28, 2009

Johnson's not letting the talk go to his head

My latest column in the Globe and Mail:

Jimmie Johnson's fourth consecutive NASCAR Cup title celebration barely got started before the talk began of a run to match the record seven championships held by the late Dale Earnhardt, and Richard Petty.

Johnson wrapped up the NASCAR title in last weekend's Ford 400 at Miami-Homestead Speedway, dominating another Chase for the Cup after shifting into another gear once the 10-race playoff began.

"I am just blown away by the things we've been able to accomplish over the last eight years in the sport. Obviously the last four years have been just unbelievable," Johnson said after winning the championship by a margin of 141 points.

More at Globe Sports

Nov 27, 2009

It's official: F1 is back in Montreal

As already noted here, the governments of Canada and Québec, Montréal and Tourisme Montréal have made the official announcement of the return of the Canadian Grand Prix to Montreal.

The cost is $75 million over five years, with the Government of Canada and Tourisme Montréal will each contribute $5 million of this amount. The Government of Québec will provide $4 million and the city of Montréal will add $1 million.

Montréal and its partners will in return receive 30 per cent shares from ticket sales.

The race is a huge tourist attraction with 25 per cent of the usual 300,000 spectators coming from outside Québec. The race brings about $90 million in economic activity each year, including 75,000 overnight hotel stays.

"The return of the Formula One to Montréal attests to our sustained efforts and determination," said Montréal Mayor Gérald Tremblay.

"This win-win deal falls in line with the terms we set and the taxpayer’s ability to pay and will create stability for the next five years. I am very pleased that our metropolis is bringing back this crucial stage in the Formula One series for fans from around the world and an outstanding opportunity in terms of the event’s international reach."

The deal is substantially less than F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone demanded to save the race last year, with his final offer being a five-year deal for $175-million.

One more thing: It's nice to be right!

Nov 26, 2009

Brazil to open 2010 IndyCar season

One of the worst kept secrets is out: The IndyCar Series will start its 2010 season in Sao Paulo, Brazil, that is already home to Formula One's Brazilian Grand Prix.

The IndyCar's first venture into the South American country happens with a street race on Mar. 14. The race will mark the first time the series has begun its season outside the U.S. The 2010 IndyCar schedule has 17 races.

The deal was rumoured for almost two years. No details on the venue have been made public.

It is not the first time a U.S.-based series heads to Brazil after the old Championship Auto Racing Teams ran the Rio 400 a couple of times in the late 1990s.

The move will also cash in on the popularity of the series' high profile Brazilian drivers in the series: three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, 2004 IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan, veteran driver Vitor Meira, the 2009 Rookie of the Year Raphael Matos, and Sao Paulo native Mario Moraes.

The news comes only days after Indy Racing League vice-president of public relations John Griffin submitted his resignation effective Dec. 18. No replacement has been named.

Nov 25, 2009

Canadian Grand Prix announcement imminent?

It seems the Ts have been crossed and the Is dotted on the contract to remove the asterisk beside Canada's Formula One date on the 2010 grand prix calendar.

Sources close to the new promoter, Francois Dumontier of the Octane group, has agreed to a deal with F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone take control of the Canadian Grand Prix for the next five years beginning in 2010.

Dumontier's organization also runs the NASCAR Nationwide race at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

The deal appears to be the same one a source in the F1 paddock told me was done months ago.

At the time, the source said Canadian officials were in London in late July to offer F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone $75-million over five years to bring the race back.

That amount was considerably less than the offer rejected by Ecclestone last year when the city came to the table with a five-year package for $110-million in sanctioning fees as well as profit sharing and the proceeds from advertising and luxury boxes.

At the time, Ecclestone held to his demand of a guaranteed $175-million over five years. No deal was reached and the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve was silent in June during its traditional Canadian Grand Prix date.

But things have now changed with only three manufacturers left in the series – Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault – and the downturn continuing to eat away at sponsor involvement and corporate investments in racing programs.

And although Renault voted to stick around in F1 a few days after Toyota decided to pull the plug on its grand prix operation, many feel it's not long before the French manufacturer also departs the scene.

So a deal at this time for $75 million may be good for Ecclestone, who may be looking at a two manufacturer series before long.

In addition, the deal may have been drawn out to keep the promoters at Britain's Silverstone track from seeing what Ecclestone agreed to in Montreal as they negotiated a contract to host the 2010 British Grand Prix.

That reported 10-year deal is thought to be worth much more than the $15-million annual payment Ecclestone will get from Montreal.

The Federation Internationale de l'Automobile's World Motor Sport votes to approve the final 2010 Formula One calendar next week.

Nov 24, 2009

Hildebrand not testing with US F1?

Further to post yesterday about flexible principles at US F1, just wondering if anyone is asking Peter Windsor why Indy Lights champion and up-and-coming U.S. driver J. R. Hildebrand gets a test with Force India and not with the North Carolina-based team.

The 21-year-old from California will drive the Force India 2009 car in Jerez, Spain, for two days beginning Dec. 1.

Hildebrand dominated the 2009 Indy Lights series, taking four wins and six poles in 15 starts. His 545 points was 98 better than second place finisher James Davidson.

You would think that a resume like that and a U.S. passport would at least get him a sniff from the folks at US F1. Maybe it's because he doesn't have those two things AND $8 million in the bank?

Anyway, he'll share the car with DTM standout Paul di Resta, 23, of Scotland. He finished third overall in 2009.

Word on the street is that Hildebrand may be in line for a reserve role at Force India. So, maybe there will be a U.S. driver in F1 next year even if US F1's bosses don't make it happen.

Nov 23, 2009

Vickers puts it down to experience

My latest effort for Red Bull on Brian Vickers and his first Chase for the Cup experience:

It’s said that, in sports, you’ve got to learn how to lose a championship before you can win one. If that’s the case, Brian Vickers and his No. 83 Red Bull Toyota should clean up in NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup next season.

The 26-year-old driver’s first appearance in the 10-race championship-deciding play-off ended, almost mercifully, on Sunday at Miami-Homestead Speedway with the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota a whopping 723pts behind 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.

Vickers summed up his maiden Chase experience quite succinctly following the season finale in Miami: “Getting in our first Chase was pretty exciting – the Chase itself sucked.”

More at: Red Bull International

Do you know the way Jose?

A couple of months ago, Us F1 co-founder Peter Windsor criticized Formula One for not taking the time to nurture great young U.S. drivers and to give them more opportunity.

It seems that Windsor only took a few weeks to change gears and become part of the F1 establishment he so quickly admonished in August in the pages of Sports Illustrated magazine.

It's funny how $8-million can make those principles more flexible.

News that Argentine driver Jose Maria Lopez has a deal to race with US F1 have been making the rounds over the weekend.

He's a former Renault F1 test driver who raced a couple of years in GP2. His time in the F1 feeder series ended in 2006 after he failed to show that he could win on a regular basis. Lately, he's been driving touring cars in relative obscurity.

One could assume Lopez is one of the drivers with GP2 experience and lots of money that Windsor said they would not hire because they wanted to remain true to their convictions.

Apparently, Lopez needs to find another couple million dollars to secure the seat and, one assumes, diminish the influence of convictions in the driver selection process.

So, it seem that all the U.S. drivers out there that were hoping for a break from US F1 will have to keep hoping. Or pull together $8-million to buy a ride with US F1.

The team plans to make its F1 debut at the March 2010 season opener in Australia.

Nov 18, 2009

A thought

Considering that Ross Brawn paid £1 for the old Honda Formula One team earlier this year and received operating money from the manufacturer to get through 2009, the sale of the team to Mercedes et al has got to be a record for return on investment.

My calculations put it at $1.096 million US for every penny invested less expenses incurred through the season not covered by the Honda money.

Apparently in addition to his strategic genius in racing, Brawn is quite a businessman too.

Button to McLaren a bad move

If the rumours are to be believed, 2009 F1 world champion Jenson Button will sign with McLaren this week and be partnered with 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton next season.

Frankly, there probably can’t be a worse thing for Button to do.

Let’s see the positives. Can’t think of anything, except that he’ll be given equal equipment as per the McLaren tradition.

Apart from that, there’s really no upside.

Considering that Hamilton gave double world champion and F1's biggest talent Fernando Alonso a run when they were teammates in 2007, Button will likely be humbled beside his younger, more talented stable mate. The McLaren team has also been built around Hamilton, which won’t help either. And, Hamilton is a driver whose peak is ahead of him while Button is nearing or at his, and still not a match for the 2008 champion. He’ll be trounced and it can only get worse, not better.

This would not be an Ayrton Senna-Alain Prost situation. So, the question is: Why in the world would anyone knowingly put themselves in that position?

Not to mention the fact that Hamilton remains a media darling with the British press, and should Button fail to match him, they will be ruthless.

Besides, with Mercedes taking control of Brawn, staying put may be a better place anyway.

Let’s hope that Mercedes Grand Prix boss Ross Brawn is right in his assessment of the McLaren rumours.

“His best future is with our team, where he has a good group around him, and there's a lot to be said for that,” he told the Independent. “The logical thing would be for him to stay with us, but of course logic doesn't always prevail.”

Nov 16, 2009

Anniversary Blues

My latest effort for Red Bull on Brian Vickers:

Sunday marked the sixth anniversary of Brian Vickers becoming NASCAR’s youngest ever champion.

Funny, he didn’t feel much like celebrating.

Maybe that’s because the Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway offered only more Chase for the Cup frustration for the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota driver.

Vickers got caught up in a 10-car pile-up on the front straight about halfway through the race and sustained heavy damage to the left front of the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota. The wreck started when Dale Earnhardt got loose and turned sideways with the field rounding turn four.

More at: Red Bull International

Welcome Mercedes Grand Prix

McLaren and Mercedes made a bunch of announcements this morning about their long-term relationship in Formula One.

The “realigned long-term strategic alliance” essentially paved the way for a takeover of the Brawn outfit by Mercedes, which needed to dump its 40 per cent stake in McLaren for the deal to go through.

Mercedes also announced it has bought a 75.1 per cent stake in Brawn and will rename the outfit Mercedes Grand Prix. It will begin competing in 2010.

The agreement with McLaren covers the next six F1 seasons with a possibility of an extension beyond 2015.

The key points in the deal are that McLaren will keep Mercedes-Benz engines until 2015, bringing the partnership between the two to 21 years. The team will continue to be known as Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, its distinctive silver-with-red livery will remain unchanged.

McLaren Group will purchase Daimler AG’s 40 per cent shareholding in a deal to be completed by 2011. The result will be a fully independent stand-alone corporate entity in F1.

In addition, McLaren Automotive, which manufactures high-performance production sports cars, will be spun out of the McLaren Group and focus on F1. It will continue as the parent company of McLaren Racing, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, McLaren Marketing, McLaren Electronic Systems, McLaren Applied Technologies and McLaren Electronics Inc (USA).

“This is a win-win situation, for both McLaren and Daimler,” said Ron Dennis, McLaren Automotive executive chairman and founding shareholder, of the McLaren Group, in a release.

“The next few years will be a very exciting time for McLaren, during which period we intend to become an ever-stronger technological and economic force. F1 will always be a core activity, for sound business reasons as well as for historical sporting reasons.”

Nov 13, 2009

Canada's F1 hope may need deep pockets to realize dream

Here is my latest story in the Globe and Mail about Robert Wickens, Canada's most talented young driver who now may be without a backer:

By finishing second over all in the revived Formula Two Series, Toronto's Robert Wickens has punched his ticket to Formula One.

The performance netted Wickens the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) super-licence he needs to fulfill his dream of racing in the pinnacle of motorsport.

Not surprisingly, the talented driver who is Canada's best F1 hope has already had some informal talks with some teams about a grand prix drive next year.

More at Globesports

Nov 12, 2009

NASCAR finds itself up against the wall

My latest column in the Globe and Mail:

Jimmie Johnson's crash four laps into last Sunday's Dickies 500 may be the best thing that's happened so far in the 2009 Chase for the Cup.

Ok, maybe it's not great that many of the fans packing the Texas Motor Speedway cheered the No. 48 driver's misfortune, but having Johnson knocked out of contention early breathed some life into a boring Chase for the Cup.

The runaway leader in the Chase going into Texas threw the door wide open when he got together with Sam Hornish Jr. just three laps into the 334-lap race, trying to pass his rival on the outside. Hornish wobbled just as the reigning three-time NASCAR champion pulled alongside, sending the championship leader into the wall. The No. 48 then careened back into Hornish and spun into the inside retaining wall.

More at: Globesports

Nov 11, 2009

Where's the F1 test for Wickens?

Italian teenager Mirko Bortolotti gets a test with Formula One’s Toro Rosso team next month after finishing fourth in this year's Formula Two Championship.

Meanwhile, Canadian Robert Wickens who was second overall in F2 gets nothing. Remember that the Canadian holds a Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) superlicence due to his top finish in F2. Bortolotti does not.

Like Bortolotti, Wickens, 20, is a member of the Red Bull Junior programme. But Wickens was the top driver racing for the energy drink company in F2.

Rumours has it that Red Bull is about to drop Wickens, which would be a bit of a puzzling decision.

Let’s also remember that although the cars in F2 were strictly controlled during the season to ensure they are as equal as possible, many drivers used their deep pockets to gain an advantage. Series champion Andy Soucek apparently had personal engineers working for his for the season. No wonder he had a great car each race weekend.

Wickens on the other hand, made do with what he was given and still shined in the series and finished second overall despite three mechanical DNFs which stole several points from the Canadian.

What Wickens will do without Red Bull remains to be seen, but it is hoped that a Canadian company steps forward and to keep his career on track.

Nov 9, 2009

Vickers learns NASCAR lessons

Latest effort for the Red Bull International on Brain Vickers' Chase for the Cup experience in NASCAR.

After slipping out of contention early on for the Chase title, Brian Vickers and the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota team decided to use the championship play-off as a learning experience. Unfortunately, the team seems to be enrolled in the NASCAR school of hard knocks.

With its first Chase appearance continuing to return disappointing results, what the team learned in a hurry was that the 10-race play-off is a completely different level of competition.

Vickers said: “We definitely needed to be more prepared going into the Chase but we were one of the best teams in the 10 races leading up to it.

More at: Red Bull International

Nov 6, 2009

Looking for a record run

My latest story for Red Bull on Brian Vickers last gasp to not set a record:

With three races left his inaugural Chase for the Cup appearance, Brian Vickers starts the final stretch at a track where he holds the qualifying record.

That was three years ago but, unfortunately, the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota driver hasn’t been able to crack the top-10 on the grid or in a race at the Texas Motor Speedway since. In fact, Vickers’ average start at Texas is 21st and his average finish is one place worse, 22nd.

“Although all of the finishes don’t show it, Texas really is my kind of track. It’s wide with multiple grooves. You can move your car around to find where it works the best,” he said. “The important thing is to just be there at the end. Because it is such a fast track and the race is bumper to bumper, it is easy to get caught up in a racing mistake.”

More at: Red Bull International

Nov 5, 2009

Toyota's exit a blow to U.S. F1 fans?

Lost in the discussion of Toyota's exit from Formula One announced this week has been the impact it may have on the sports plans to get back into the U.S. market.

The announcement of Toyota's withdrawal from the sport came Wednesday.

Make no mistake, the departure of Toyota from Formula One threatens to derail any plans the teams had to force the sport to hold a race in the U.S.

At the least, it would seem that the loss of another manufacturer will certainly take some of the pressure off Bernie Ecclestone to deliver a U.S. venue quickly.

Earlier this year, the pressure was on Ecclestone as the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) looked serious in its plans to establish a breakaway series and leave Formula One without any manufacturers.

That was before BMW and Toyota decided to leave, joining Honda which exited the sport last year.

So, considering that Formula One now only has two manufacturers -- Ferrari and Mercedes -- that sell cars in the North American market, perhaps Ecclestone will get a reprieve.

Yes, the sponsors still have some influence, but there's no doubt that a three-manufacturer FOTA is considerably weaker than it was only six months ago.

In addition, it's a chicken and egg scenario for the big name American sponsors in Formula One. They will sit on the sidelines until the sport gets a solid U.S. venue and Formula One will wait to get a solid venue until U.S. sponsorship materializes.

And it's not like anyone is pounding down teams doors looking to drop buckets of cash in their coffers. In fact, the opposite continues to be true. Look at the short list of big names leaving the sport this year alone: ING, Panasonic, and Royal Bank of Scotland.

And while the manufacturers do supply engines to the smaller outfits, the lesser teams really have no incentive to side with the manufacturers.The new teams, plus Williams, will have Cosworth power, so that has one-third of the grid already out of the manufacturers' sphere of influence.

Unless they have top name U.S. sponsors on their cars, what need do they have to be in that market anyway? Heck, it wouldn't be surprising if the new teams don't even make it to the end of the season, or actually even how up in Australia next March anyway.

So, U.S. race fans may just have to wait for Formula One to return.

Until then, we keep hearing the Montreal will be back but no announcement seems forthcoming.

Nov 4, 2009

Canada also loses big name in national championship

As Toyota stole the headlines with its decision to leave Formula One, motorcycle racing in Canada got some bad news of its own.

Yamaha Motor Canada has announced its withdrawal from the Parts Canada Superbike Championship yesterday a meeting of the series manufacturers in Toronto.

The manufacturer is a key player in two-wheeled racing around the world, as evidenced by this year’s second consecutive MotoGP title atop a Yamaha by Valentino Rossi and the 2009 world superbike championship run by Yamaha ride Ben Spies.

In Canada, Yamahas has won six Canadian national superbike titles and seven national Pro 600 championships. Pascal Picotte was the last Yamaha rider to win both titles having scored the double in 2004.

Brantford, Ont.’s Jordan Szoke took his record fourth straight superbike title and his sixth career national crown. Szoke rides for Kawasaki. The national series saw Buell, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha bikes compete in a seven race championship.

The series expects to announce its 2010 schedule in the next few weeks.

Ferrari blames FIA for exodus from F1

Ferrari believes that the pullouts from F1 by Honda, Toyota and Bridgestone are a result of the sport's governing body and not the downturn. The Scuderia's statement is below:

It seems like a parody of Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians", published in England for the first time in the year 1939, but reality is much more serious. Formula 1 continues loosing important parts: over the last 12 months Honda, BMW, Bridgestone and this morning Toyota announced their retirements.

In exchange, if one could call it that, Manor, Lotus (because of the team of Colin Chapman, Jim Clark and Ayrton Senna, to name a few, there is hardly more than the name), USF1 and Campos Meta arrived.

You might say "same-same", because it is enough if there are participants. But that's not entirely true and then we've got to see if next year we'll be really as many in Bahrain for the first starting grid of the 2010 season and how many will make it to the end of the season.

In reality the steady trickle of desertion is more the result of a war against the big car manufacturers by those who managed the sport, than the effects of the economical that affected Formula 1 over the last years.

In Christie's detective novel the guilty person is only discovered when everybody else is dead, one after the other.

Do we want to wait until this happens or should we write Formula 1's book with a different closing chapter?

The Federation Internationale de l'Automobile reacts to Toyota and Bridgestone exits

The Federation Internationale de l'Automobile statement on this week's departures of Toyota and Bridgestone from F1:

The announcements this week by Toyota and Bridgestone of their withdrawal from Formula One are of concern to the FIA.

Bridgestone has given almost 18 months’ notice of its intentions, thereby allowing the necessary arrangements to be made for the future supply of tyres to the championship.

Toyota’s decision, however, comes just weeks after its F1 team signed the new Concorde Agreement until 2012.

Urgent clarification is now being sought from the Toyota F1 team as to its legal position in relation to the championship. This will have a direct bearing on the admission of any future 13th entry.

The FIA has repeatedly warned that motor sport cannot outpace the world economic crisis. That is why the competing teams have been asked to cut costs and the entry of independent teams has been encouraged.

The FIA accepted the cost-reduction measures put forward by the teams on the basis that they would ensure a long-term commitment to the championship. Toyota’s announcement demonstrates the importance of the original cost-reduction measures set out by the FIA.

The FIA will now work to ensure that Toyota’s departure is managed in the best interests of the championship and will continue to encourage the F1 teams to undertake the necessary cost-cutting measures for the good of the sport.

Formula One Teams Association reacts to Toyota's exit

Here is the Formula One Teams Association's statement on Toyota's decision to leave F1 with immediate effect:

The Formula One Teams Association today expressed sadness at the unexpected decision by Toyota to withdraw from Formula One and be absent from the 2010 World Championship. Toyota has made a significant contribution to the success of Formula One for the past eight seasons, having recorded a number of podium finishes and other points-scoring results in that time.

Regrettably, notwithstanding Toyota’s commitment to compete until 2012 deriving from the signature of the Concorde Agreement, the particular financial pressures within the car manufacturing industry - together with a period of uncertainty and unnecessary confrontation in F1 that is now finally over - created conditions which have made it difficult for Toyota to stay in the sport at this time.

We hope very much that Toyota will return to the world’s most technologically-advanced racing competition in the not too distant future, but in the meantime every effort must be made by the sport’s management to ensure that the 2010 season is as successful as we all hope.

These efforts should include ensuring that the 2010 grid remains fully subscribed - and we should remember that there are still more teams entered than in any year since 1995 -- that our sport remains a focus for technological innovation and competitive racing. The departure of an important car manufacturer cannot be underestimated and its reasons need to be addressed.

All the FOTA Teams send sincere messages of goodwill to all at Toyota -- staff, drivers and sponsors -- and thank them for the positive contribution they have made to Formula One in recent years.

FOTA also wishes to put on record its thanks to John Howett for his great passion and his fundamental contribution, in his role as Vice Chairman of FOTA, in helping negotiate the new Concorde Agreement, securing longer term stability in F1’s rules and a more constructive, collaborative environment with all stakeholders.

And then there were three...

While not a huge surprise, Toyota has announced today that it was pulling out of Formula One with immediate effect.

The Japanese manufacture is the third to jump ship after Honda left before the 2009 season and BMW announced in July it would withdraw at the end of this year.

The move leaves Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault as the only manufacturers in the sport.

"Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) announces it plans to withdraw from the FIA Formula One world championship at the end of the 2009 season," the company said in a prepared statement.

"TMC, which had viewed its participation in F1 as contributing to the prosperity of automotive culture, remained dedicated to competing at the pinnacle of motor sports even in the face of the abrupt economic changes that started last year. However, when considering TMC's motorsports activities next year and beyond from a comprehensive mid-term viewpoint reflecting the current severe economic realities, TMC decided to withdraw from F1."

Conservative estimates have Toyota spending several billion dollars in F1 for little return. Since its debut in 2002, it had no wins, and only 13 podiums and three poles in 139 races. Its fourth place overall in the in the 2005 constructors' standings was its best showing.

The decision comes after Toyota announced a record $4.4 billion loss when it revealed its balance sheets for the year ending Mar. 31, 2009. It will likely announce more red ink on Thursday when its number for the first six months of this fiscal are revealed.  

It also arrives on the heels of Bridgestone Tire Company's announcement that it would let its contract as F1's sole tire supplier lapse when expires at the end of 2010.

But it's not all bad news. Certainly the former BMW-Sauber team is just a bit pleased to see Toyota go as it needed an existing outfit to drop out for it to claim a grid spot for 2010.

Nov 2, 2009

Bridgestone to leave F1 after next season

It was known since July that the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix would be the last race for BMW in Formula One.

Hours after the chequered flag flew in Abu Dhabi, Bridgestone Motorsport announced it too would be leaving F1.

“It is with deep regret that Bridgestone Motorsport confirms that at 10 a.m. (Japan standard time) today, the Bridgestone Corp. announced its decision to not enter into a new tire supply contract with the FIA Formula One World Championship series,” Hiroshi Yasukawa, director of Bridgestone Motorsport, said in a statement.

“The decision made by the Board of Directors of Bridgestone comes after considerable and lengthy evaluations and has been based on the company’s need to redirect its resources towards the further intensive development of innovative technologies and strategic products.”

Bridgestone’s contract is set to expire at the end of the 2010 season. What will happen after that is anybody’s guess.

Michelin left F1 after not even bidding on the sole supplier contract that made Bridgestone the exclusive rubber provider in the sport beginning last year. At the time, Michelin said competition was necessary for it to remain involved.

Goodyear has looked into F1 a couple of times in the past few years and always stayed away. They are not likely to return. Besides, they have NASCAR.

Remember that several other companies, such as ING, have also announced their exit from the sport.

With Bridgestone now joining the pack on the way out the door, it wouldn’t be too outlandish to wonder if more companies might decide to forgo F1 too.

It may be an interesting few months for F1.

Oct 31, 2009

Remembering Greg Moore (Apr. 22, 1975 - Oct. 31, 1999)

As hard as it is to believe, it’s been 10 years since Greg Moore died 10 laps into the 1999 CART finale at the California Speedway. He was only 24.

Yes, its sounds like a cliche, but Moore died just as his star was beginning to rise. Widely thought to be one of the most talented drivers to hit the series in years, Moore won five times and scored 17 podiums in 72 starts. His fatal crash came in the final race of 1999 just as he was preparing to make the jump to the powerful Penske Team in 2000.

“Sometimes I'm sitting around with Tony [Kanaan] or Max [Papis] and with some of the younger drivers like Marco [Andretti], and we tell them if Greg were here driving with Penske, there would be days we shouldn't even show up,” 2009 IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti told me a couple of years ago.

Franchitti recalled watching the 1996 CART season opener on television with Mercedes Motorsport boss Norbert Haug. At the time, Franchitti was racing in the FIA International Touring Car Championship.

“I said to Norbert: ‘Who's this kid driving up against the wall in the marbles blasting by everybody sideways?’ And then after the race this guy got out of the car wearing these little round glasses and that was Greg Moore. From that day on, he showed the world what he could do.”

A year later, a 22-year-old Moore became the youngest driver to win an IndyCar race when he took the chequered flag in Milwaukee.

Had Moore joined Penske, former Player’s teammate Patrick Carpentier feels he would have dominated and likely won multiple Indianapolis 500 and CART championships.

“I learned lots of stuff from him: Greg taught me how to get around Mid-Ohio where I won my first race in Champ Car. He was fast — very, very, fast,” Carpentier said.

“On ovals, Greg could run so close to the wall in the marbles and for the rest of us, it was impossible. Sometimes I think about him and where he would be today, and I think he would have had amazing success.”

Moore’s death brought many changes to racing, including spurring the development of the HANS device and the paving of infields at high-banked ovals to help cars stay on their wheels when they spun.

Two years ago, the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame opened a new 800 sq. ft. Greg Moore Wing in its Vancouver museum. The new Canadian Motorsport Heritage Museum plans a permanent Greg Moore display when it opens next year.

“It was interesting for me to walk around and see the little bits and pieces that [his father] Rick had kept and people had donated,” Franchitti said at the Toronto Indy when asked about his visit to the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame. “I think the one thing that really sticks in my mind was seeing his first go-kart licence.”

That licence was the reason he raced under the No. 99. He was the 99th member of the Westwood Kart Track.

Team bosses speak some sense on British GP

While Bernie Ecclestone seems to have a take it or leave it attitude towards a Formula One race in England, the sport’s teams seem to understand history a bit better.

Asked in the regular press conference prior to the Abu Dhabi race to comment on Ecclestone’s suggestion that the sport does not need the British Grand Prix, the team bosses present disagreed.

Formula One is what it is because of the balance of races it has, the history it has, the heritage it has and the reason that Formula One as a championship and as a series is so attractive to countries like Abu Dhabi and the new races we're going to is because of that heritage and that history, and if we destroy that, then perhaps we don't remain as attractive for countries in the future,” said Brawn boss Ross Brawn.

“So we've got to get a balance between keeping the history and heritage of Formula One and the new opportunities we have at fantastic circuits like this, so I think it would be a tragedy if we lost Silverstone and I hope Bernie can find a solution with Silverstone to keep the race there.”

On the other hand, Ecclestone seems to have adopted a “take it or leave it” attitude toward the British Grand Prix, insisting that the deal he offered Silverstone is fair and will not be re-visited despite the circuit’s position that it’s not a viable deal.

“They've got a contract, if they want to sign it, we'd be delighted, if they don't want to sign, it's okay,” Ecclestone said in the paddock at Abu Dhabi. “But the negotiations are finished, we've been negotiating too long.”

Silverstone moved back into the F1 picture after Donington Park could not come up with the funds it needs to host the race. The circuit was to host the race for 10 seasons beginning in 2010. Silverstone has hosted the British Grand Prix since 1987.

“I really sincerely hope that now that the Donington bit appears to have stumbled, that a solution can be found between Silverstone and FOM, and I'm sure that every effort is being made to achieve that,” said Red Bull Boss Christian Horner.

“We would certainly see Silverstone as a great loss from the calendar should it not be there in 2010.”

Oct 30, 2009

Drivers seem to like Abu Dhabi

What the drivers are saying about the new Abu Dhabi circuit where McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton was quickest in the first practice while teammate Heikki Kovalainen topped the timesheets in the second practice.

Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren: The circuit is cool – it's very smooth with good grip and the kerbs are nice. Turns Two and Three are not easy-flat, but, with the good balance of the car, they're fun. On the straight, KERS gives us an additional benefit. We can use it for maximum performance and it's worth three-and-a-half to four tenths. The light is no problem with our slightly tinted tear-off visors, which we could remove once the sun had set.

Sebastien Vettel, Red Bull: Abu Dhabi is a new circuit, so new conditions – including starting driving in the daylight and finishing the session at night, which is quite exciting. Obviously, the circuit was very green and slippery to begin with, but overall it's quite a thrill to drive, with some good corners. It's also pretty special to go under a hotel! Performance wise, we're looking quite good. We didn't know what to expect around here, but it seems as though we're quite competitive, although we will have to wait to see how competitive. Even though it's a new track, it was a normal Friday practice and we were testing which tire works best.

Jenson Button, Brawn: The Yas Marina circuit is certainly an interesting one. When you look at the layout, it doesn't seem that exciting but when you actually drive it, it's fantastic. The track has a bit of everything with high and low speed corners, positive and negative camber and the walls are pretty close to you most of the way round. We had a good first day of practice here with just a few balance issues to work on overnight.

Fernando Alonso, Renault: Today we experienced Yas Marina for the first time so we had to learn the circuit and work out the best way to set the car up. As we expected, the track was a bit dirty to begin with, but when more rubber was laid down I started to get a good feeling for the circuit and the car. We have a lot of information to look over tonight so that we can make some changes in the morning to find some more performance from the car before qualifying.

Nico Rosberg, Williams: I enjoyed driving the track for the first time today. It was dirty to begin with and then of course in the second session we were interested in the artificial lighting conditions in the dark and the effect on the tyres of the temperature dropping. Visibility-wise it was fine in the second practice session and again, the temperature change didn't seem to have too big an effect on us. The more unknown element is the choice of tire and it is hard to say which is better. In terms of set-up, we have definitely found a direction especially on the mechanical side. All in all, a good day which has given me confidence that we can score some points here this weekend.

Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber: The track offers everything you can ask for. The tarmac is good and the lay-out is quite good with the first sector having the fast corners, the second sector providing this endless straight and a possibility for overtaking, and the third one being rather narrow and windy, but flowing nicely. I'm not happy with the car's set-up and balance yet. This is especially for a single quick lap as on the long runs the lap times were improving. The visibility during sunset and twilight wasn't an issue today. I hope this doesn't change if we get more dust in the air. In respect of the total darkness and floodlighting, I have the feeling it was brighter in Singapore.

Jarno Trulli, Toyota: I must say that was an enjoyable day for me and it was interesting to drive on the new track for the first time. It was good fun and I am looking forward to racing here. They have done a great job with the facilities and the track is really well built, so I am impressed. The first laps were difficult because there was just no grip, but that is normal for a new circuit like this and as the day went on the situation improved. Driving during twilight was a new experience for me and the view does change a little, with some shadows, but generally it is similar to Singapore so it's not a problem. All in all, the car seemed competitive and well-balanced so if we can improve again tomorrow we can have another strong weekend.

Rubens Barrichello, Brawn: First of all, I'm really pleased with the new track here in Abu Dhabi. The venue looks sensational and it's quite challenging to drive which is makes it a lot more fun for the drivers. The car felt good here over the two sessions and we were able to make several improvements over the course of the day. I'm quite happy with the balance and looking forward to tomorrow.

Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso: This new circuit has some interesting features which we are not used to, like the tunnel and it's a nice feeling to start running in daylight and going into the dark. This morning was a bit difficult, but we improved the car quite a lot in the afternoon, so I am not unhappy. You have to consider that there is a huge difference in the track between the first session and the second, as it is a lot quicker in the evening when it's cooler. It was a bit difficult to get the tires working properly, especially the Option, but apart from that, the car is not too bad. Now we have to see what we can do for tomorrow, when it will be important to qualify well.

Excited Vickers prepared for the 'Big One'

My latest effort for Red Bull:

The key to winning at the Talladega Superspeedway is simple – stay out front to avoid the 'Big One' and have enough left to fight off challengers at the finish.

But the three, four and sometimes even five-wide, flat-out racing at the 2.66-mile Alabama tri-oval doesn't make it easy. Add 33-degree banked turns and restrictor plate-enabled packs and NASCAR's biggest track often becomes something of a lottery.

A restrictor plate is a device bolted between a car's carburettor and engine intake manifold that reduces horsepower by limiting the amount of fuel mixture reaching the combustion chamber. Used at Daytona and Talladega, the restrictor plates keep the cars bunched up in tight formations where one miscue can lead to disaster. And make no mistake, it's really a question of when — not if — the 'Big One' happens.

More at:

Oct 29, 2009

It is said that timing is everything

So, one can't help but wonder what A.J. Allmendinger was thinking last night/early this morning when he got behind the wheel and then failed a sobriety test after being pulled over by police in Mooresville, N.C.

He was arrested for drunk driving. The legal limit in North Carolina is .08.

The incident came less than 24 hours after news that the NASCAR driver would move to the famed No. 43 at Richard Petty Motorsports in 2010, with sponsor Best Buy on the car.

No comment from the team as yet, but considering that Petty's team has historically stayed from any alcohol sponsors and even refused to race in the Nationwide Series when it was know as Busch (sponsored by Anheuser-Busch, makers of Budweiser among others).

Allmendinger, 27, is slated to driver the Petty No. 44 at the Talladega Superspeedway this weekend.

The 2003 Champ Car Atlantic Champion joined NASCAR in 2007 after being identified as a rising U.S. star in the now defunct Champ Car Series. He joined the fledgling Red Bull team behind the wheel of the No. 84.

He is 25th in the Sprint Cup standings with one top-5 (a third in his Daytona 500 debut) and four top-10s, driving the No. 44 for Petty this season.

It has not been a good month for NASCAR on the impaired driving front.

Less than a week ago, Michael Waltrip was involved in a Mooresville crash with a motorcycle where alcohol was thought to be a factor but he registered .06 when tested.

In Daytona Beach, J.C. France, a grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France, was arrested early Thursday on suspicion of driving under the influence and drug-related charges.

Canadian tribute to racing classics

My latest column in the Globe and Mail:

When the Canadian Motorsports Heritage Museum (CMHM) opens its doors next year, racing fans will have two additional historic cars to drool over.

The CMHM is expected to announce today that it will add the late Greg Moore's Formula Ford 1600 from the early days of his open-wheel career and the original Chaparral 1 driven by Jim Hall, who also designed the car.

Moore's Formula Ford was donated by Jeremy Hinchcliffe, the father of Indy Lights driver James Hinchcliffe. The car was driven by Jeremy Hinchcliffe, a Maple Ridge, B.C., native, in the 1991 Esso Protec Formula Ford 1600 Championship, where he was named rookie of the year.

More at:

Oct 27, 2009

A tale of two racers

In one corner, Jenson Button who clinched the F1 world championship in the season’s penultimate race in Brazil a week ago. In the other, Valentino Rossi, who clinched the MotoGP title in Sunday's penultimate round in Malaysia.

Button qualified 14th for his race to the title, albeit in changing conditions. Button’s effort was aided immensely by a pair of first lap incidents that eliminated four cars in front of him. And yes, he made a couple of good moves to climb to fifth by the end, although that was also helped by a flat tire suffered by Rubens Barrichello near the end of the race.

But after dominating the first half of the F1 season, no one could argue that Button did anything but back into the title.

Rossi’s story was a bit different. He also clinched with one event to go but his race was slightly different from Button’s.

While Rossi started on pole, he made a giant mistake at the start and ran wide in the first corner, which found him mired in 10th spot. From there he passed seven bikes to climb to third with about one-third of the race left and then reeled off several fastest laps in an effort to get to second by the end. One of the riders he overtook was title challenger and teammate Jorge Lorenzo. Once past, Rossi powered away to take third. That was a significant move as Rossi could have simply followed Lorenzo to the line and still won the title by virtue of the fourth place he would have picked up.

But it’s not really a fair comparison. Rossi took his seventh MotoGP/500-cc crown in 10 tries and his ninth world title overall, while it was Button’s first championship in 10 F1 seasons.

Rossi is perhaps the greatest racer in any sport, including seven time F1 world champion Michael Schumacher. The numbers don’t lie: Rossi has seven titles, 77 wins, and 58 poles in 10 seasons of MotoGP/500-cc competition, and a world title in both 250-cc and 125-cc. And he is only 30.

If Rossi races six more seasons to match Schumacher’s 16 in F1, the numbers say that even if he only had average years, “The Doctor” would have 123 wins, 93 poles, and 11 world championships in MotoGP/500-cc competition.

Unfortunately, Rossi does not get the recognition he deserves.

A new obstacle for Formula One in Montreal?

Alleged ties to organized crime, companies conspiring to fix the tendering process, and syndicates artificially inflating bids has added interest to the mayoral race in Montreal.


But while fun to watch and an fascinating study in corruption, a question remains: Will the growing controversy put Montreal's return to the Formula One calendar in jeopardy?

With public money under the microscope and the Canadian Grand Prix requiring $millions in logistics help, could gun shy civic politicians put the brakes on new contacts for the F1 race in Montreal.

Although the work would be done through the promoter group, perhaps the idea of committing $millions that soon after the election will be enough to make the city hesitate.

Although word is that a deal is done and an announcement is on the way, maybe the city will want to avoid signing a multi-million dollar deal in this climate of corruption.

Just a thought...

Oct 26, 2009

It's Sweet Virginia for Vickers

My latest story on Brian Vickers for

After five frustrating races where anything that could go wrong did, Brian Vickers' Twitter feed said it all: "Not bad. Was in the top five for a bit. Much better than the past few weeks. We will take it…"

Maybe it was having his 26th birthday on the eve of the Martinsville race. Perhaps it was the simple fact that a guy just can't have that much bad luck. Whatever it was, something actually went Vickers' way in a Chase race.

He started 24th in the Tums Fast Relief 500 and drove a trouble-free race to move up 13 spots to 11th at the chequered flag, a banner day considering the horrible luck the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota driver has experienced so far in his first Chase for the Cup. "I don't know what it is, I can't explain it, I can't figure it out," he said. "But our luck definitely turned on us once the Chase started."

More at:

Tradition in Formula One? Not on Bernie's watch

Anyone having any doubts that Formula One is no longer about racing might want to pay attention.

In an interview with the Daily Express, Bernie Ecclestone says F1 does not need a British Grand Prix. Who is he kidding?

The comments were made after Donington Park filed to raise the cash it needed to host the race beginning next year. Despite the fact that Britain is a key market for the sport and a country that has hosted a grand prix since the beginning of F1, Ecclestone doesn't see its importance.

"Italy is a traditional race because they have always raced at Monza," he said.

"Monaco is traditional as they have always had the same track. Britain and France have raced at three different circuits. They want a cut-price deal because it is traditional. That's not traditional to me. Britain is not protected. I would like a new plane because it's traditional as I have had one for 40 years but no one is offering me a cheap deal. That's not how it works."

Unfortunately, it also doesn't work by offering racetrack contracts that are not commercially viable, which Ecclestone apparently has with Silverstone, which is the only option available for a 2010 British Grand Prix. To that Ecclestone simply said no one is forcing them to have a race.

But F1 is no longer about the fans or tradition or racing. It's all about money.

Imagine what the National Hockey League would do if the Montreal Canadiens looked to be threatened. Or what Mayor League Baseball would do if the New York Yankees were on the brink of failure.

Can anyone even contemplate NASCAR racing without a stop in Daytona? Or Charlotte. Or Martinsville?

But Formula One can go without Britain? France has already dropped off the calendar. Now it may be that only Monaco, Monza, home of the Italian Grand Prix, and Spa Francorchamps in Belgium will remain as historic races as Formula One moves to its focus to the motorsport hotbeds of Abu Dhabi, or Bahrain, or Korea.

But then again, what else would fans expect from a sport whose former governing body president, Max Mosley, said only months ago that it did not need Ferrari?

Oct 23, 2009

Getting off the ground floor

My latest story on Brian Vickers for

Long shot doesn't even begin to describe Brian Vickers' chances of coming out on top of NASCAR's Chase for the Cup. Even if he were to win the last five Chase races, and led the most laps along the way, points leader Jimmie Johnson would have to finish 22nd or worse every time out for the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota driver to catch up.

And, with 10 other drivers between Vickers and Johnson in the Chase standings, even if the leader had a gigantic meltdown, odds are another car would take full advantage before the No. 83 made it into top spot.

"It's not very likely, but as far as I'm concerned, as long we're mathematically in it, we're in it. We're going to maintain that attitude for the rest of the year. Anything can happen," he said.

"Now, a lot is going to have to happen for us to get back in the hunt for the championship, but we're going to do our best: run as best as we can and finish as high as we can in the points. Where we finish is where we finish. Just enjoy it and try to learn something for next year."

More at:

Todt wins FIA vote

The Federation Internationale de l'Automobile went for the status quo today electing former Ferrari Formula One boss Jean Todt as its president.

The chosen successor of retiring FIA president Max Mosley, Todt was seen by many as the continuity candidate. He gets a four-year term.

Before the vote, Todt said his team would look for consensus not confrontation.

"We want to further develop F1 so that it benefits all those involved, from teams to fans," he said.

"As the regulator of a hugely competitive and technically complex sport we will also establish an independent disciplinary panel to investigate breaches of the rules and to recommend the most appropriate response."

His plan includes commissioners for the various sports governed by the FIA, including F1.

He defeated former world rally champion Ari Vatanen, who campaigned on bring change and openness to the governing body.

The FIA general assembly has 221 delegates from sporting clubs in 132 countries. Todt won convincingly, 135-49, apparently recovering nicely from a perceived sag in support near the end of the campaign. Twelve voters abstained.

The campaign itself was marred by allegations of favouritism, intimidation and vote-buying.

FOTA chairman  Luca  di  Montezemolo congratulated Todt on his victory in the FIA presidential election, saying he expects the incoming president to bring a climate open to dialogue and constructive collaboration with the teams and FOTA.

"Formula  One  is  about  to  embark  on  a  new  phase," he said.

"All the stakeholders must work together with an eye to the future, to increase the credibility and interest generated by this sport, tackling the technical and environmental challenges that await it, while keeping unchanged, those characteristics that have made it one of the most popular disciplines on the world stage."

Vatanen expressed his doubts the new president would bring major change to the governing body.

"Let's hope I'm wrong," he said." He has got to renew it and if he doesn't get rid of the ancient guard and all the people who worked with Mosley, he won't succeed."

To complicate matters, Mosley stays on the scene in the FIA senate, and many feel he might still be able to exert influence on the organisation from that seat.

Oct 22, 2009

Election fever hits FIA

My latest column in the Globe and Mail explores tomorrow's election and the infighting that seems to be dividing the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile as it head to a vote to replace the outgoing Max Mosley.

A snippet:

The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) general assembly votes tomorrow to elect a new president after 16 years under Max Mosley's direction. It promises to be a divisive affair.

In one corner is Mosley's chosen successor, former Ferrari boss Jean Todt, who is seen as the status quo candidate, while in the other is independent candidate Ari Vatanen, a former world rally champion, who looks to have reform on his mind.

Unfortunately, the presidential campaign may be remembered for its infighting, impropriety and the inappropriateness of FIA officials' actions. And it points to a desperate need for new blood at the top of the FIA, which governs Formula One and several other racing championships, including world touring cars and world rally.

For more:

Oct 21, 2009

A painful coming of age

My latest story for Red Bull on Brian Vickers' Chase troubles.

After an incredible 10-race run to make Chase for the Cup, the Team Red Bull and Brian Vickers stumbled through the first five races of NASCAR's championship playoff.

With Vickers mired in 12th and last place in the Chase standings, 485 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson, it might seem that all the team's hard work went for naught.

But veteran Canadian racer Ron Fellows feels that discounting the accomplishment of making the Chase as a third year team would be a mistake.  "They have done an awesome job, and it will just help them raise their game," says Fellows, a road course ringer in Sprint Cup and Nationwide events. He has four Nationwide victories to his credit.

More at: Red Bull International