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Race Of Champions Round Up: Germany & Albuquerque Win, Kovalainen Drama

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”

 

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Lotus Plans to Increase IndyCar Involvement

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 Driver Zanardi Going For Paralympic Medal

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.


Montagny Moves To Superleague

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 To Stay In DTM

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’s New Prize – F1 Test And €1million

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 Teams With Renault’s New Owners To Buy Saab

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.


Raikkonen On The Verge Of Signing World Rally Deal

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 F1 Driver Larini Announces Touring Car Retirement

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.

Nicola Larini with Ferrari


Germany Win Race of Champions With Schumacher and Vettel

Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel have won Germany their third straight Race Of Champions Nations Cup victory this afternoon.

The annual race-off between the best drivers of nations of the world was held in the Beijing Bird’s Nest stadium, which hosted the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.

Germany raced against Great Britain in the final, with Schumacher beating Jenson Button in round 1, before Andy Priaulx beat Vettel in round 2.  The final race off between Schumacher and Priaulx led to Michael, the most successful F1 driver of all time, winning by over one second.

It means Germany are now the most successful country ever in the Race of Champions.

The home crowd had a good cheer for Ho-Pin Tung when he delivered a remarkable win over Mikko Hirvonen in the buggies.