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Former Indy 500 Champ Gil De Ferran Is Considering an Expansion to IndyCars

    Gil de Ferran is looking into possible expanding his team into Indy Cars. De Ferran Motorsports currently runs an Acura LMP-1 class Acura in the American LeMans Series has stated that he is investigating a possible expansion of his organization into other series in the future.
    "We are investigating growing into IndyCars," said the former Indianapolis 500 winner and 2 time Champ Car title holder. "It would make sense, because having two programs would bring economies of scale. It would also help us grow as a team in every respect.  We are having a serious look at it, but we would only do it if it makes sense for us and we could put a strong team together."
    No timescale has been set but word is that there is series work being done to possible have a car entered into this year’s Indy.
    De Ferran currently is one of the drivers of his LMP-1 but has stated he will not drive for any potential team. "I am not looking to drive an Indycar again," he said.

Indy Cars Set to Roar Into St. Pete

Miami, Fl (March 20, 2009)
     For the first time in the history of the Indy Car Series the season will kick off not on a traditional oval but on the challenging streets of St. Petersburg. For years the IRL’s Indy Car Series has started their season on the high-banked oval of the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
     This year, the Homestead race will now end the season, and the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg street course will host the debut of the 2009 season. This will also mark the debut of VERSUS Television Network’s coverage of the Indy Car Series.
     The St. Pete street is an excellent choice to start the season as the course combines high speed sections with tight and twisty sections that challenges the drivers like few other tracks could.
     Actually calling St. Pete a street course is a misnomer.  The 1.8-mile, 14-turn track is actually a combination Street and Airport track.  When the drivers are taking the green flag at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg they are roaring down the wide open runway of the Albert Whitted Airport. It is this runway that makes up the main straightaway where the Indy Cars will reach speeds close to 180 mph. Often racing two, three and even four wide down the straight, the Honda powered Indy Cars jostle for position as they funnel into the tight turns one and two. This is where the track transitions to a traditional street course with concrete barriers, leaving no room for error.
    Exciting turn two the drivers enter another high speed stretch through turn three which is more a high speed bend where they never let up on the accelerator before getting hard on the brakes for a series of tight right and left hand bends from turns four to nine.
    For the fans this is the best opportunity to watch the Indy Car drivers battle with their steering wheels, wrestling their cars right and left. The cars then leave the slowest part of the track and then enter one of the fastest.  With the beautiful backdrop of Yachts floating on Tampa Bay, the Indy Cars race along the waterfront from turn nine, through a slight left hand kink, hitting speeds approaching 160 mph before standing hard on the brakes for turn 10.
    A quick right and left greets the drivers as they set up their cars for the most important corners, turns 13 and 14 which makes up the hairpin before the main straightaway.
    As it is on any road course, the corner leading onto the fastest straight is the most important as it is were the most time can be gained or lost. What makes St. Pete’s so important is that it also one of the best place to make a pass. The drivers must not also concentrate on making the perfect line through the hairpin but also do it with one eye on their mirrors.
    That is one lap of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.  Seems easy?  I forgot to mention that they are doing it cocooned in a cramped cockpit wearing a heavy driving suit in the hot Florida sun. Each lap also consists of dozens of gearshifts, heavy braking and cornering forces reaching 3 to 4 G’s per lap.  Also, the St. Pete race is 100 laps long.
    VERSUS has selected a race that has the perfect combination of speed and a test of driver skill to launch their Indy Car Series coverage.You can watch the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, live on April 5 at 2 p.m. on VERSUS.

A New World Rally Championship

     Starting with the 2011 season and continuing with the 2012 Championships, World Rally Car will be based on Super 2000 rules with the addition of a special kit restricted to removable aerodynamic devices.
     The car will also be subject to regulations to control costs. These include limits on the changing of engines, transmissions, and similar components. A limit of a maximum 8,500 rpm for the engine will be maintained for all WRC and S2000 cars.
     The current WRC cars will not be eligible for the Championship from 2011.
     For the upcoming 2010, World Rally Cars, and Super 2000 cars will both be eligible to score points in the Manufacturers’ Championship.
     It is proposed that from 2013, the World Rally Car will continue to be Super 2000-based but with a cost-effective 1.6 liter turbo engine.
    This rule has not been decided on as yet. They will base this decision on the specification of the car produced by manufacturers for the mass market at that time.

IRL Gives More Track Time for Those Who Need It, And Those That Don't

MIAMI, FLA (March 11, 2009)
    The IRL’s Indy Car Series has announced that starting with April 17 Toyota grand Prix of Long beach, rookies and drivers outside the top 10 in points will have an extra practice session before all cars take to the racetrack on the first day of an event weekend.
    “We’re trying things that help encourage new drivers in the series, in particular drivers advancing from Firestone Indy Lights,” said Brian Barnhart, president of competition and operations for the Indy Racing League. "With the economy the way it is and limited testing, one of the byproducts is that teams can’t afford to—or through rules—can’t test very often, which makes an owner less inclined to take a chance on an unproven driver or rookie.”
    The extra track time consists of a 30 or 45 minute session at the start o the race weekend.
    “So you respond with extra track time that doesn’t cost anything; it’s at a race event weekend.” said Barnhart. “Instead of going testing, we’re trying to give an opportunity to close the gap on the top 10 in points by giving extra track time.”
    The extra practice session will be used in all race weekends except the Indy 500. This is logical as the drivers get literally hours of practice time at the Brickyard in the weeks leading up to the 500.
    This announcement raises an interesting question. What if somebody who is a perennial front runner doesn’t finish the first race at St. Pete in the top 10 because of a mechanical issue or accident?
    Would, let's say, a Scott Dixon be allowed the extra session if after leading the entire race loses an engine on the last lap in St. Pete?

What If? Another American F1 Team?

MIAMI, FLA (Feb. 25, 2009)
What if there is another group working on starting an American F1 team?
What if the team will not be a pure US Formula 1 team but a “NAFTA” team?
What if they realize that any F1 team will have to be based in Europe?
What if they have already decided on a location?
What if some members of the group are comprised of people who are involved in motorsports marketing and sponsorship?
What if they have the full financial backing of an entity that has pockets as deep as the Marianna’s Trench?
What if they had representatives at the IRL Indy Car test in Homestead talking to a few select individual engineers and mechanics about possibly working for them?
What if they already have a designer working on a chassis design?
What if they are already well into negotiations with an engine manufacturer?
What if they have refrained from making any public announcements until they actually have a team to announce?

What if...?
Answer to follow when I can.

Fulford-Miami Speedway

MIAMI, FLA (Oct. 30, 2006)
We watch a Champ Car race these they with more than a bit of awe.  Brutal, yet sleek looking missiles diving into turns at incomprehensible speed then blasting out of the turns of a concrete canyon at speeds that are close to defying physics.  The driver slumped down low with their head exposed of the open cockpit machine, their eyes at the level of the wide rubber that glues them to the smooth asphalt.
    We look at these drivers as modern day gladiators.  Even with the latest in helmet design, crash tested chassis, 6-point harnesses, Flame retardant suits and Hans devices we admire the risks they take.
    It is this belief that makes me wonder if those guys who raced at the Fulford-Miami speedway were brave, practically suicidal or just plan nuts.
   I am sure most of you have never heard of the Fulford-Miami Speedway.  I’ll be honest and admit that this Miami native had never heard of it until just a few years ago.  The fact that most don’t know about it is as almost amazing as the fact that it actually existed.
   I first heard of it while watching the Champ Cars race at the state-of-the art Homestead Miami Speedway.  Little that I know that it would be the last Champ Car race there.  But that is another story.  A dear friend who worked for Ralph Sanchez, whose dream brought us the Homestead-Miami Speedway, must have saw the wonder in my eyes when she told me she had some photos to show me.  I saw a 1920’s era Champ Car on a ridiculous high bank corner.  I must have looked like a kid walking into a candy store for the first time when she told me that it was taken at the Fulford-Miami Speedway.  I had to learn more and I did.
   Transport yourself back to 1925.  Miami is in the height of its Real-Estate boom which caused its population to jump from 30,000 in 1920 to 200,000 in 5 short years.  Leading that Boom was Carl Fisher.  The very same Carl Fisher who had built the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 
    Ever the entrepreneur Carl Fisher decided to make Miami the home of winter auto racing.  But Mr. Fisher didn’t want to build just any track.  He wanted to build the World’s Fastest Track and do it quickly and cheap.  In 1925 there was only one way to build a track quick, cheap and that was fast.  It was to be a board track.
    Board tracks are just that.  Tracks made of wooden boards.  The first board track in the U.S. was constructed in California and used the same technology as was used in France for their Bicycle tracks.  Soon board tracks were popping up all over the U.S. and were used for both auto and motorcycle racing.
    Wood was cheap and plentiful as was labor.  The downside of board tracks was the upkeep.  As one can imagine the track took a beating during a race with the hard rubber tires of the times.  During some Board track races they in fact had workers working under the track during the actual races repairing loose planks after the cars roared overhead.
    Carl Fisher selected a area in Fulford-by-the Sea(Later re-named North Miami Beach) for his location, hired Ray Harroun, The winner of the 1st Indy 500 to design the track and quickly the nails were being pounded into wood.
    To make sure the track was fast they built the 1 and ¼ mile speedway with 50 degree banking in the turns.  For reference sake the highest bank track today is the Talladega Motor speedway with 33 degree banking.  Even the famous “High Banks” of the Daytona Speedway are but a meager 31 degrees.  At 50 degrees a car had to maintain a speed of over 110 mph to keep from sliding off.
   Well the track was built and on February 22nd, 1926 twenty thousand fans, some of whom paid up to $15 for a box seat poured in to watch the Champ Cars roar. 
   Tommy Milton set the fastest time in qualifying with a speed of 142.93 MPH.  This in a car in which the driver sat totally exposed from the waist up and the only safety gear was a pair of aviator goggles.  They had no seatbelts as some actually believed they were safer if they were thrown clear of the car during an accident.  No helmets were used.  Remember this was the time of gentleman sport.  Some of the drivers even competed wearing neckties. The cars they drove were front-engine roadsters with what looked like bicycle tires at the four corners.  Suspension was a back bruising leaf-spring all around.
    Now you are beginning to understand my Suicide or Nuts question.
    Auto racing legend Barney Oldfield was the official starter for the race which was called the Carl G. Fisher Trophy.  Modesty wasn’t Carl’s strong suit I assume.  After 300 miles Peter DePaolo (the 1925 Indy 500 winner) was the victor with Harry Hartz less than a minute behind in 2nd.  19 cars started the race with 6 finishing, the must have been a grueling 240 laps.
    Unfortunately this was to be the only race at the Fulford-Miami Speedway.  On September 17th strong hurricane roared over the Miami area not only causing major damage to the city but totally destroying the Speedway.  This happened when the great Miami Real Estate Boom was starting to go bust so the wood from the speedway thought to be of better use to rebuild damaged buildings on Miami Beach.
    Today’s Champ Cars are marvels of technology and physics and the drivers in the series are arguably the best in the world but never forget those brave men who raced one time, under the bright Florida Sun.  Long before most involved in Champ Car were even born.