Team Germany ran away to success in the Race of Champions Nation Cup last weekend, a victory on home soil in Dusseldorf for the pairing of Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher.
The pair overcame stiff competition from top motorsport countries of the world, as drivers from all motorsport disciplines tried their hand in a variety of cars on the circuit.
Meanwhile in the individual classification there was a surprise winner in Filipe Albuquerque, the relative unknown driver who has spent the last two seasons racing GT cars in Italy. He previously raced in Gp2 and Formula Renault 3.5.
“I was not really expecting to win. I just came here to do my best. I don’t know if it will open doors. I think I know what I want. But let’s see, take it day by day.
“I came here, did my best, when it counted it was good. Even if I had not won, even being so close to Sebastien [Loeb] in the end was already really good for me.”
Meanwhile there was drama for 2004 champion and Lotus F1 driver Heikki Kovalainen. Following victory in an Audi R8 race, the Finn crashed and knocked himself unconscious.
“Hardcore shunt with throttle jammed and rear suspension damaged, got knocked out, now some medical checkups,” he wrote on his Twitter page.
“Head’s a bit sore, I was unconscious for 30 seconds”
Lotus, who returned to Formula One for the 2010 season, have announced they plan to increase their involvement with the Indycar series from 2012.
The manufacturer, who won the prestigious Indianapolis 500 in 1965 and 1966, are currently running a car in the series fully liveried to match the Formula One cars. It is being driven by Takuma Sato, formerly of Honda and Jordan in F1.
Their increase in involvement is said to revolve around designing an aerodynamic package for the new Dallara chassis,a next generation chassis that teams can purchase and create various aerodynamic packs for. The packages of wings and aero have to be designed to work on ovals, and another to work on the street circuits that the series visits following its tie in with ChampCar some seasons ago.
Lotus Cars motorsport director Claudio Berro said: “We plan to do our own bodykit. It is a natural evolution of our involvement in the IndyCar Series.”
Former Williams F1 Team driver Alex Zanardi, who lost both legs in a freak accident in 2001 in Indycars has said he will be trying for a gold medal in the 2012 Paralympic Games which are set to be held in London following victory in a race in Rome.
The former F1 and World Touring Car driver, who raced for Williams alongisde Ralf Schumacher in 1999 has stepped up his training for the hand cycling event following his retirement from touring cars at the end of last season and hit gold in the Rome Marathon on Sunday.
“Racing here has been very exciting, a lot more than when I used to wait in a car for the lights to start a motor race – maybe because it had been habit,” Zanardi told Gazzetta dello Sport.
“To find myself among many people cheering me and pushing me on is completely different – you feel the warmth and the pleasure of the support right on your skin, you live it moment by moment.”
“I train practically every day for at least 60km and I’ve even done a 120km run to verify my stamina. The end result obtained here in Rome is excellent – it could have been better, but the route isn’t easy and I faced some winds towards the end.
“I have an objective and I won’t deny it. I hope to go to London for the 2012 Paralympic Games and fight for the podium.”
Zanardi is a hero and inspiration to us all, I wish him the best of luck for 2012.
Former Super Aguri and Toyota driver Franck Montagny has announced he will be racing in the Superleague Formula open wheel racing series in 2010.
The series uses powerful Formula One style cars, based on football teams and since its inception has seen its popularity significantly rise despite not having a permanent television deal. Many former F1 drivers have raced in the series including Sebastien Bourdais (Toro Rosso) and Antonio Pizzonia (Jaguar).
Montagny, a Frenchman will be driving for the French Premier League champions Bordeaux alongside his continuing commitment to the Peugeot 24h Le Mans programme.
“I’m very happy and I can’t wait to race in this championship which has a great future,” Montagny said. “Superleague will give me the opportnity to meet again with a lot of old familiar faces from F1 and other categories.
“The dedication of the Barazi-Epsilon team, who helped me to do some great things in the past, as well as the support from Bordeaux, the French champion football team, makes this challenge even more exciting for me.”
Ralf Schumacher, the former F1 driver with 6 Grand Prix wins to his name will be staying in the German Touring Car series DTM instead of jumping across to Formula One again after the team he was linked with, Stefan GP, were told they could not have an entry slot today.
Schumacher, whose elder brother Michael recently returned to F1 with Mercedes Benz, will stay in DTM where he has been struggling to find his feet since moving to the series 2 seasons ago, and having spent last season driving a brand new up to date car with the front running HWA team. Other former F1 drivers have struggled with the series, including Mika Hakkinen and Jean Alesi.
“Ralf would like to continue his DTM career and we also think that the chances of continuing our co-operation look promising,” Norbert Haug, Mercedes Benz motorsport boss told dtm.de
“I think that we have come close to making a decision. It will be announced as soon as it has been made. Currently, however, the deal is not yet home and dry.”
Haug added that talks were still taking place with David Coulthard following his two tests with Mercedes in recent weeks.
“David did a good job and also had a lot of fun, so now we are talking about possibilities to make a solution,” he said.
“Maybe there will be a positive surprise but at this point in time I can’t make any promises.”
Superleague Formula, the new open wheel racing series based on football teams has come up with a new prize to match its healthy looking calendar for the 2010 season, €1 million and a test in a Formula One car.
The series, which has many entrants including a large number of former Formula One drivers including Sebastien Bourdais and Antonio Pizzonia, has been testing the waters for its survival in the past 2 years, since a demonstration run of its 800bhp car at the Donington Park round of the British Touring Car Championship in 2008.
It was expected to fold early, but has found success with the high powered cars and also success from football fans supporting their teams in the series through its unique selling point.
The boss of the series was adamant the new prizes, including that lucrative F1 test with an as ye unnamed team would be good enough to encourage more teams and drivers to the series.
“The new prize fund offers drivers and teams an even greater incentive to top the Superleague Formula table come November,” said Robin Webb, Competition Director for the series.
“I can’t think of anything else in Europe that offers this level of prize money for the winners, not to mention for individual races as in the Super Final’s case.
“All in all, the series really does now offer drivers the chance to earn a living from motorsport, something that’s not possible in single-seater racing outside of Formula 1.”
Will the million euro prize be enough though, as A1GP a fellow open wheel racing series and Formula One competitor looks to be nearing the end, can F1 competitors survive?
Bernie Ecclestone, the owner of the Formula One brand has joined forces with the new owners of the Renault Formula One Team, Genii Capital, with a bid for the struggling Swedish car manufacturer Saab.
Saab, a purveyor of luxury saloons and some fantastic concept cars have been owned up until now by General Motors. However in their “slim down” of assets following the economic crisis they are looking to sell the brand.
Ecclestone, who has a net worth of nearly $4billion, owns the Queens Park Rangers football club in London along with Flavio Briatore and Lakshmi Mittal, the metal baron. He appears to want to add Saab to his portfolio.
“It’s a good brand that has probably been neglected by the current owners,” Ecclestone, 79, said in a phone interview late yesterday.
“We don’t own it yet, so let’s see what happens.”
Spyker, a former F1 team and maker of very exclusive and luxury sportscars in the Netherlands such as the C8 Laviolette were considered to have almost signed a deal to buy the company, despite themselves struggling with finances and low sales. An unnamed Swedish company are also said to be in the running.
Hypercar manufacturer Koenigsegg, the makers of the CCX-R one of the world’s fastest cars had penned a deal with GM a few months ago, but boss Christian Koenigsegg pulled out of the deal with moments to spare.
Kimi Raikkonen is said to be on the verge of signing a lucrative deal for a season of racing in the World Rally Championship.
The Finnish driver parted company with Ferrari at the end of the season to make way for Fernando Alonso. Taking a £10million pay out across 2010 for not contuing in F1 for a season, Raikkonen’s sabbatical year seems to be taking him to gravel and sand as opposed to another circuit racing series.
The 2007 champion has tried his hand at rally driving before.
The deal is understood to be backed by Red Bull sponsorship, and would see Raikkonen driving the latest Citroen C4 machinery, which has propelled Sebastian Loeb to another World Championship in the sport last season. The Red Bull backing really does seem to cement the theory that in 2011 Raikkonen will make a shock move to the Red Bull Racing F1 team to partner Sebastian Vettel in place of Mark Webber.
It was published on a website tonight that Raikkonen “is understood to be ready to sign a deal”.
Former WRC champion Petter Solberg told WRC.com this evening; “With the proper practice, planning, and testing I think he will adapt quickly,”
“He’s a very, very good driver, and once he’s learned the basics, like how to work with pace notes, I think he will surprise many people.
“If he’s in a decent World Rally Car next season I think he could finish between third and fifth on some rallies,” Solberg predicted for the Finn’s maiden season. “The fact is, if you can drive, you can drive.
“You have to be on the case and you need some balls,” he added.
Former Ferrari F1 driver Nicola Larini has announced he will be retiring from the World Touring Car Championship series following the completion of the final round of the season this weekend in Macau.
The Italian drove in F1 between 1987 and 1997 completeing 48 GP’s and racing with teams such as Ferrari and Ligier. He got his only podium at the fateful 1994 San Marino Grand Prix where F1 lost Roland Ratzenberger and the great Ayrton Senna.
Outside of F1 he also drove in DTM and ETCC.
“Macau’s round will be my final races as a works drivers in the WTCC,” said Larini in a statement. “I came to the conclusion that it was the moment to move on and time to call it a career as a WTCC driver.
“Chevrolet RML has been my home for five years and I am happy to have spent this time around them, a spell nearly as long as I had with Alfa Romeo and Ferrari before.”
“I am saying goodbye to WTCC in Macau, but I am not saying I’m retiring for good. I still love to race, and if there is a series or an operation that I can join without this taking a toll on my personal life, then I’ll give a hard look to the opportunity,” he added.
Former F1 driver and occasional British TV pundit Johnny Herbert has announced he will be joining the British Touring Car Championship for the final three rounds of the season.
The popular Brit raced with Stewart, Benetton and Jaguar in his time in F1.
Team Dynamics are a successful independent team in BTCC racing Honda Civic’s. James Thompson, one of the best drivers in the series has been part of the team during the season scoring multiple race wins, but vacates his seat for the final three rounds which will be taken by Herbert.
He joins Jack Brabham and Nigel Mansell in being former F1 men to race in the series. Of course, Alex Zanardi of Williams fame drives in WTCC alongside Marc Gene [Ferrari Test]‘s brother.
Johnny has 3 Grand Prix wins to his name, and also a Le Mans 24hrs win in 1991 with Mazda.
“It will be a challenge, I have no doubt about that,” Herbert said.
“Guys like Fabrizio Giovanardi and Jason Plato just have so much experience in touring cars, but I’m very much looking forward to it.
“I haven’t raced a front-wheel drive car since I did a round of the Spanish SEAT Cup about seven years ago, and the Rockingham test, which was only an afternoon really and didn’t give me too much opportunity to really get down to business, so hopefully with a bit more track time I can be competitive.”
BMW have hinted at joining premier German touring car series DTM following their withdrawl from Formula One and increasing distaste towards World Touring Cars.
BMW have a huge presence in the WTCC and have been highly successful with Briton Andy Priaulx. However with new rules and regulations being brought in next season which BMW are not happy with, and their consistent clashes with the FIA they could be looking to move away from WTCC and into another series.
Following an interview with Mario Theissen, head of BMW motorsport in Autosport Magazine this week, he did not specify which series they would compete in.
DTM was one of the best series’ in the world, with multiple manufacturers taking part, including BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Alfa Romeo. After Opel left a few years ago, there are now only 2 manufacturers Mercedes and Audi left.
With 2011 technical regulations being imposed on DTM which sees development freeze and effectively start again it could be the perfect opportunity for BMW to join in.
“WTCC is part of the touring car spectrum. It is no secret that we aren’t particularly happy about the developments last year and this year, but no decision has been made.” Theissen wrote
“In any case, we will be present in touring car racing, both with works-supported programmes and in customer competition. We could also imagine other future projects, which we are not ready to talk about yet.”
If BMW kept some of their current drivers, we could see talented driver Andy Priaulx go to DTM and win a different title, if he then went to BTCC say he could become as great as Fabrizio Giovanardi on Touring Car records. Indeed we could also see the brilliant, amazing Alex Zanardi come to DTM.
Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 F1 World Champion and current Ferrari driver has crashed out of his first World Rally Championship event in Finland.
The accident happened yesterday while the Finn was competing on Stage 19 of the classic rally event, in an Arbath Punto S2000.
Kimi came in to the corner a bit too fast and wide, and while kicking the back end into a slide it caught some rocks and rolled multiple times down a rockface. Unfazed, Raikkonen pulled himself out of the car with sunglasses and Mubadala cap firmly on, living up to his Iceman nickname.
He later referred to the incident as just “part of the sport”.
“I knew that place but I came in with too wide a line,” he told WRC.com and Eurosport
“I thought we were going to go wide but then, unfortunately, there were a lot of rocks and when I hit them the car went over.”
“I thought we wouldn’t finish the rally because we had too many problems with the engine! But it was good fun and nobody got hurt. It happens – it’s part of rallying,” he added.
The first round of the brand new MotoGP season was scheduled to take place last night, the the Losail Circuit, Doha, Qatar. It is a night event, and a spectacular one at that.
However, what was not banked on was the rain. And it poured down, pushing the race back to this evening [13th April].
After F1′s twilight farce in Sepang, and now the Malaysian Circuit’s idea to run racing at night, both for bikes and F1 cars, one of the greatest motorbike riders of all time Valentino Rossi has called for an end to night circuit events.
If riders, and F1 drivers came together against the odd start times it could spell the end of any night racing, rendering expensive equipment invested in by both Singapore and Abu Dhabi motorsport councils, useless.
“First of all, since they want to race at night at Sepang too, this maybe will make them throw away that unhealthy idea,” the world champion told Italia1 television.
“In my opinion we must race during the day. If we raced at two in the afternoon it would have been better.”
AJ Allmendinger, a ChampCar race winner and NASCAR driver has said he is not interested in racing for the USF1 team which is to be launched in the next few days.
The driver, currently racing in the Sprint Cup series in America, would like to sample an F1 car but admitted that it is not his current focus.
His last experience of open wheel racing was in ChampCar, where he drove for RuSport before switching to Forsythe Racing, a team he won 5 races for.
“I’m not focused on that,” said Allmendinger. “I loved being a part of NASCAR. Going to all these races and being around the fans, I enjoy being here. I enjoy the racing… I enjoy all that.
“I’m a true American at heart; I like to in-between races…watch my NFL on Sunday and all that. I’ve learned in this sport, after everything that has happened to me the last couple of years, don’t deny anything. Just nod your head and smile and say there’s a chance.”
“Driving a racecar, no matter what it is, has intrigue to me. That (F1 car) is something that I haven’t driven before, so it’s intriguing, but it’s not my focus either.”
In other American racing news, former Minardi and Red Bull Racing driver Robert Doornbos has secured a seat in the Indy Racing League (IRL).
Doornbos drove for Italian minnows Minardi in F1 in 2005, before moving to test with Red Bull Racing in 2006. He has driven in races for the team in 2006 after Christian Klien left the team. He performed well, qualifying in the top 10 on his first attempt at the Chinese Grand Prix.
He has also competed in various demonstrations of F1 machinery, in ChampCar where he won 2 races and more recently in the Superleague Formula.
He will drive for the Newman/Haas/Lanigan team.
“I’m very happy and proud to get this chance to race with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing,” Doornbos said.
“Racing in the IndyCar Series has been my biggest dream and especially to do it with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. The history of the team and the big success they have had in the past really attracted me, and it makes me proud to become part of this winning team.”
“It will be tough, but I’m training as much as possible and am in good condition and ready to achieve results. I’m also excited to race in the legendary Indy 500.”
Former Toyota and Williams F1 driver Ralf Schumacher has silenced those who believed he was to retire from motorosport by unvieling himself to be in a brand new Mercedes Benz for the 2009 DTM Series.
The German, whose brother Michael is one of the most successful racing drivers of all time, left F1 at the end of 2007 and spent 2008 in DTM, driving a 1 year old Mercedes. It was a steep learning curve for Ralf, something evident from the other former F1 drivers who have dabbled in DTM before him including Mika Hakkinen and Jean Alesi.
With paddock rumour suggesting Schumacher was quitting motorsport to go and race yachts, it is a real suprise to see him in a brand new 2009 specification Mercedes Benz C-Class.
“It was clear for all of us that 2008 would be a learning year for me, therefore I am satisfied with my achievements,” Schumacher told DTM.com
“The 2009 C-Class is a big chance for me and I want to justify the trust Mercedes-Benz put in me with good results.
“In my opinion, the DTM is the best touring car series in the world. Here we fight hard for every metre and every tenth of a second. As I know from many encounters in the paddock, the fans like this as much as me. From my point of view, the spectators don’t get more value for their money in any other top racing series.”
David Richards completely dispelled rumours that he would buy the remains of the Honda F1 Team today by stating he hoped they found a buyer before the start of the season, but that it would not be him.
The motor racing veteran has decided against purchasing the team in the current economic climate, especially with dark clouds hanging over the British supercar manufacturer Aston Martin which he also owns.
It will be sad not to see Richards back in the pitlane, whose most recent F1 extroverts were with the BAR Honda team, and subsequently with the Prodrive F1 Team which never quite took off.
“I really hope there is a solution there because there are a lot of great people at that team.” Richards told Autosport in an exclusive interview.
“It is a team that should be racing and I am still a great supporter of Jenson Button. I think he has never had his fair opportunity to shine and show his true talents.
“But being realistic, in the current world, it’s going to be a very difficult uphill battle.”
Meanwhile, despite no buyer being found Norbert Haug of Mercedes Benz claims that their engine offer is still on the table and will be for the foreseeable future.
“The timing is anything else but fantastic, but we can still do it. There is not a deadline like tomorrow or next week, but time is running.” Haug said.
For Richards though, today was cause for a small celebration.
His Aston Martin company have unveiled ambitious plans to design and build a Le Mans Prototype car capable of winning the entire Le Mans 24h Endurance Race.
Richards has entered various Aston Martin DBR9′s in recent years into the GT1 category and they have achieved much success. Aston Martin have sold cars onto customers who get frequent race wins in various GT1 series’ around the world. At Autosport International show, Prodrive, Richards’ motorsport company took the covers of an Aston Martin Vantage GT4 to conincide with their Vantage GT2 car allowing them to race in lots of categories and series’.
However, this is the first indicaiton that they are going all out to win the 24h title.
Audi and Peugeot have been at the top of the standings for many years, especially now with their diesel powered cars. But in 2003 Bentley won the 24h race, and with new regulations to make diesel and petrol powered cars more alike in the race for competition, Aston’s V12 project seems viable.
“How on earth did we get here? How could Aston Martin be so audacious as to go to Le Mans and challenge the benchmark teams with their turbo-diesel engines and the record of experience that they have had over the last years?” said Richards.
“2009 is a hugely significant year for Aston Martin at Le Mans and the challenge of reclaiming victory in this famous race for Aston Martin and Great Britain was simply too great to ignore. It’s a leap of faith and a step into the unknown for us, it really is a David and Goliath exercise, but it is that British fighting spirit that we are going to give it a try and see what we can do.
“However, we do not underestimate the task. While we have won the GT1 class for the last two years, competing against the proven speed and endurance of the diesel-powered cars, with all their years of winning the prototype class, will be a massive undertaking. But one thing is for certain that unless you give it a go, you are not going to achieve anything.”
The car will be painted in Gulf racing colours, a classic racer scheme. There are likely to be 3 cars entered, but only 5 drivers have been confirmed; Stefan Muecke, Jan Charoz, Thomas Enge, Harold Primat and Darren Turner. With Honda not finding a buyer, could Jenson Button come into the team? Or maybe even Anthony Davidson?
Former F1 World Champion Niki Lauda has told journalists that he would like to see F1 drivers competing in more than their single series during the season, and cited the German Touring Car series DTM as a possible second race for them.
The DTM series is a pinnacle world touring car series, but has been suffering in recent years with reduced entries, rule changes and drivers leaving. Despite this it has been successful in expanding various rounds outside of Germany, to locations such as Zandvoort in the Netherlands and also Brands Hatch in the United Kingdom.
Former F1 drivers have competed in the series, including Mika Hakkinen, Heinz Harald Frentzen, Ralf Schumahcer and Jean Alesi. Michael Schumacher also did a short stint in DTM with Mercedes before hitting the F1 scene.
Lauda reckons that someone like Lewis Hamilton could race for AMG Mercedes in the series, and Sebastian Vettel could drive for Red Bull Audi. He also believes that this would be a good way for the drivers to justify their salaries.
On the subject of salary capping, Lauda said “[the idea is] utter nonsense. It is a free market,”
Silverstone Circuit have today shown their “compensation” for the loss of the Formula One World Championship event to rival circuit Donington Park by unveiling a contract with the premeire motorcycling world championship MotoGP.
The MotoGP event formerly ran at Donington Park, and 2010 will mark the first MotoGP event at the circuit since 1986.
“We are delighted that the MotoGP World Championship is returning to Silverstone as of 2010,” Carmelo Ezpeleta, the boss of MotoGP promoter Dorna said.
“The venue has excellent facilities and a circuit with a great heritage, having hosted some superb grand prix racing in the 1970s and 1980s.
“We are sure that MotoGP’s visits to the UK will continue to be highly successful when we make the historic move back to Silverstone next year.”
NASCAR driver Carl Edwards has won a Tag Heuer award for statistically the greatest racing driver in the world for the 2008 season.
Edwards was judged by a panel of 8 people who looked and analysed every statistic possible in working out their result for this award, handed out for the first time at the press conference before Race of Champions.
The drivers 9 victories took him to the victory, ahead of WRC’s Sebastian Loeb who secured his fifth world championship title and ahead of F1 championship rivals Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton.
Edwards was presented the award, and a Tag Heuer Grand Carrera Chronograph watch by the UK managing director of the watch company.
“It’s a real honour to receive this award,” Edwards told the press conference.
“It’s a really nice award, and a beautiful watch. Thank you very much.”
Honda Racing Europe have been quick to come out and claim that Honda will not be quitting MotoGP as part of the overall scaling back operation by the Japanese manufacturer.
The scaling back of operations has led to the Formula One team being shut down, but Honda will continue to fund their MotoGP team in the wake of today’s shock revelations.
The Repsol Honda team admit that they, along with the other MotoGP teams need to bring costs under control in the sport to keep it running successfully.
“The decision to pull out of F1 does not affect the other forms of motorsport Honda are involved in,” Paul Ormond, Honda Racing Europe’s spokeman told Autosport.
“We will be looking at reducing our costs, as we’re sure other teams will be doing too, in MotoGP and other motorcycle activities.”
Rubens Barrichello has secured overall victory in the international champions kart challenge 2008.
The event, popular for many years is organised by Felipe Massa, and has high profile entrants such as Michael Schumacher (2007 Champion) and Jeff Gordon. Also attending were many former F1 drivers, including Vitantonio Liuzzi, Tarso Marques and Luciano Burti.
Barrichello won the first race, just ahead of Lucas di Grassi after Michael Schumacher crashed trying to overtake the Brazilian.
Massa won the second race, but fifth place for Barrichello meant he took the overall victory. Schumacher had to settle for fourth place overall.
Michael Schumacher, the most successful F1 driver of all time, has been offered a ride with Honda in the World Superbike Championship for next season.
The Japanese based team want Schumacher after he has turned to bikes and impressed in minor races he has competed in.
Schumacher has also tested a Ducati MotoGP bike.
“Michael is convinced that the German championship is right for him at the moment,” Honda Racing’s Carlo Fiorani was quoted as saying by Gazzetta dello Sport.
“For the moment he has not asked us to race in the 2009 world championship.
“But if he wants to, there is a way for him (to do it). All he has to do is ask us.”
Vijay Mallya, the Indian billionaire who owns the Kingfisher brand and Force India F1 team is said tro be about to announce a huge investment into the Queen’s Park Rangers Soccer team.
Mallya would join Bernie Ecclestone, Flavio Briatore and Indian metals billionaire Lakshmi Mittal in being part of the club, which looks to be turning into F1 United.
Mallya’s part in the team would appear to be a $35million, 5 year deal to sponsor the team’s shirts and also possibly a renaming of the stadium, currently called Loftus Road. Will ie be the Kingfisher Arena perhaps?!
An announcement is coming next week, according to British newspaper The Daily Mail who broke the story in their sports pages.