Here’s the news from the world of motorsports:
• Pre-Season Testing Ends: The Formula 1 teams wrapped up their pre-season testing last week, getting in their last laps even as the first shipping containers were arriving at the Bahrain International Circuit for next weekend’s season opener. Renault, Honda, McLaren, Williams, Toyota, and Red Bull were at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia, Spain, while Ferrari tested in seclusion at Italy’s Mugello circuit and Super Aguri put in one day at Silverstone. The teams really got down to business at Valencia, with McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen setting the track record for the new V8-spec F1 cars on Wednesday with a 1:09.423, only to be upstaged by Honda test driver Anthony Davidson on Thursday with a blistering 1:08.540 that was half a second faster than the outright track record. Down at Mugello, Ferrari’s last week of testing was fraught with rain, but Michael Schumacher managed to get in a dry lap of 1:21.974. Of course, testing times mean nothing, but over the last eight weeks the general trend has been that Renault, Honda, and McLaren are going to be at the front of the pack, perhaps with Ferrari. The second pack looks to be Toyota, BMW, and Williams, with all the rest fighting for the scraps. The top teams have compiled between 8000 and 10,000 miles of testing over the past couple of months, and next Friday we’ll see the definitive difference between the contenders and the pretenders.
• Prodrive Building Up: Prodrive, the renowned British engineering firm owned by former BAR director David Richards, has enjoyed great success in the World Rally Championship, British Touring Car Championship and in various sports car series fielding cars for a staggering variety of manufacturers. Now the company is setting its sights on Formula 1, announcing the development of a 200-acre parcel in Warwickshire, near Birmingham, England. Prodrive has a lot of experience in the sport, and a lot of experience in working with manufacturers. It may be a couple, or a few, years before we see any F1 cars rolling out of Warwickshire, but when we do you can count on them to be competitive.
• Williams to Use ‘Seamless Shift’ in Bahrain: Williams and engine supplier Cosworth have been developing a transmission they call “seamless shift,” which allows super-quick gearchanges with a minimal loss of power. The team says that, although they left themselves the option of going with a conventional shifter, they are now satisfied with the new system and will employ it in next weekend’s season opener.
• Charlotte Gets NASCAR Hall of Fame: As we reported last Thursday, it appears that Charlotte has landed the NASCAR Hall of Fame. A press conference will be held at the Charlotte Convention Center next Monday at 4:00 p.m. to make the official announcement. For the past year, Charlotte competed against Atlanta, Daytona Beach, Richmond, and Kansas City for the right to build a shrine to NASCAR. Richmond and Kansas City were eliminated from the competition two months ago. The package proposed by Charlotte totals $137.5m, more than $120m of which is public money. Most of the funding will come from a two-percent increase in the Mecklenburg County hotel tax. Other contributions will come from state government and local companies. All but $15m would be public money. The Charlotte group’s campaign was centered on a widespread advertising program featuring the slogan, “Racing was built here. Racing belongs here.”