Nov 28, 2009
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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.