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Racing News and Notes, Jan. 16, 2006


 

By John Gardner

 

Here’s the news from the world of motorsports:

 

Formula 1:

 

Testing atJerez: For all intents and purposes, the 2006 Formula 1 season got underway on Tuesday at Spain’s Jerez de la Frontera circuit with the first big multi-team test of the year. All but the Midland (formerly Jordan) team showed up to work on development of their 2006 cars, some with new cars but most with modified 2005 cars (with restricted V-10 engines to simulate the V-8 power they’ll have this year). Renault and Red Bull Racing ran their 2006 cars for the first time, and Toyota ran the 2006 car it has been testing since late November. McLaren’s test driver Pedro de la Rosa topped the week’s time sheets at 1:16.509 in a restricted 2005 V-10 car (painted in a nostalgic orange McLaren livery), and Rubens Barrichello was second-fastest at 1:16.732 in his first outing with the Honda team, also driving a restricted V-10 car. Of the new cars, reigning World Champion Fernando Alonso was the fastest in the new Renault R26 at 1:18.508, but the new Toyota posted a 1:18.541 with test driver Ricardo Zonta. Ferrari and Honda also hovered near the top of the charts throughout the week. Testing continues next week at Valencia.

 

Toyota Unveiling: Toyota had the public unveiling of the new TF106 on Saturday at its manufacturing facility in Valenciennes, France, where the popular Yaris model is built. Technical director Mike Gascoyne pointed out that the traditional “unveiling” is obsolete now, because the cars are constantly evolving. The team already has a TF106B in the works that will debut at Monaco in May. The team continues with drivers Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli, with Ricardo Zonta handing the testing/third driver chores. The next team debut will be BMW Sauber, scheduled for today (Monday, Jan. 16).

 

Personnel News: Renowned McLaren designer Adrian Newey turned up at Jerez this past week, joining Red Bull Racing a month earlier than had been planned.... BMW Sauber has hired Willem Toet to take over its aerodynamics department. Toet has previously worked with Honda, Ferrari, and Benetton and has more than 20 years’ experience in F1.... Williams has promoted team manager Dickie Stanford to a factory-based job, taking him off the road for the first time in eleven years. His replacement will be Tim Newton, who previously managed the Williams test team.

 

Track News: It looks like the future may be secure for Belgium’s legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit. The track, which had been facing the possibility of cancelling the Belgian GP due to financial concerns, apparently has put together a deal between the local government and Formula One Management that will allow the race to continue.... Another historic circuit, Italy’s Monza, is going to court to fight a recent court order restricting noise levels that would have spelled doom for the Italian GP and other professional racing events. The court date is March 7.... Italy’s Imola circuit has received a $12.8m grant from the local government to carry out needed updating and improvements.

 

Bernie Says USGP Future Uncertain: At the Autosport International Show in London this past week, F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone said that the contract between Formula One Management and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the United States Grand Prix expires after the 2006 race, and the future of the event will depend heavily on the spectator turnout this year. All eyes will be on Indy on July 2 to see if spectators will come back after the embarrassing fiasco last year when Michelin teams boycotted the race and only six Bridgestone-shod cars took the grid. Of course, the spectator gate is one of the track’s only sources of income from the event, since FOM gets the TV money and all sponsorship revenue, so it will probably come down to whether or not Indy feels it can generate enough gate revenue to warrant the exorbitant fees it will have to pay FOM.

 

 

NASCAR:

 

Daytona Testing Begins: The high banks of Daytona International Speedway reverberated with the sound of plate-restricted V-8s again last week as NASCAR began its pre-season testing. This three-day test (Monday through Wednesday) was for teams ranked in the odd-numbered positions in the 2005 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series car owner point standings (as of July 13, 2005). Looks like not much has changed since last year, though: Hendrick Motorsports engined-cars dominated the top of the time sheets, and defending Daytona 500 winner Jeff Gordon was fastest in both single-car and drafting practice. In single-car testing, Bill Elliott was second-fastest in a Hendrick-powered MB2 Chevy. Ford’s new Fusion saw its first action, and Elliott Sadler was third-fastest for the week in his Robert Yates Racing Fusion. Gordon’s teammate Jimmie Johnson was fourth-fastest, with Roush Racing’s Matt Kenseth fifth. Rounding out the top ten for the week were Mike McLaughlin (filling in for Tony Stewart), Jeremy Mayfield, Bobby Labonte (debuting with Petty Enterprises), Jeff Burton, and Jeff Fuller (filling in for J.J Yeley/Joe Gibbs Racing). Testing continues next week for the even-numbered points cars.


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