World of Wheels

World of Wheels

By Phil Pash

Where There’s Smoke: The flap over tobacco advertising at Formula One races in Europe has reached the point where Europe might lose races in 2005 if the ban goes into effect before the end of the 2006 season.

Meeting in Monte Carlo, the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council unanimously authorized President Max Mosley to send a letter outlining the FIA’s “grave concern and dismay” over the ban to the European Union commissioner for health and consumer protection, David Byrne. The EU has voted to introduce an EU-wide ban on tobacco advertising in mid-2005.

According to Reuters, the FIA had been campaigning to implement a worldwide ban on tobacco sponsorship for the end of 2006 and believes those plans have been hit by the EU decision to move up the deadline. The Belgian Grand Prix in 2003 and 2004 already is off the calendar because Belgian moved up its tobacco advertising ban to mid-2003.

“By choosing a date earlier than the world date, the EU will now force teams to seek events outside the EU during part of 2005 and all of 2006 in order to observe contracts which do not expire until the end of 2006,” Mosley said in his letter. “Such events will inevitably themselves seek long-term contracts and, of course, allow tobacco sponsorship. Quite obviously the probable consequence is that the tobacco contracts, which currently expire in 2006, will soon be extended beyond that date.”

Only five teams — Ferrari, McLaren, British American Racing, Jordan and Renault — raced with tobacco sponsorship in 2002, but all the teams support the FIA position. Eight of the 16 races on next year’s calendar will be held in Europe.

One European event is expected to be dropped when China and Bahrain host grands prix in what will be a 17-race calendar in 2004. Turkey and Russia are planning to build circuits for future events, and China, in the middle of an auto boom, already is looking at a second track.

Mexico may want to get back in now that it has a greatly improved track near Mexico City.

In other F1 news, Friday testing will be allowed for two hours at races for teams that agreed to forego testing elsewhere; Minardi signed 6-foot-3 Englishman Justin Wilson, who will be the tallest driver in F1; Japan’s Takuma Sato was signed as BAR’s test driver for 2003 with a chance to move up in 2004 and 2005, maybe as a replacement for Jacques Villeneuve, who said in Canada that if he does not have a competitive car by the end of 2003, he will walk away.

Or maybe to Williams or Ferrari, if they had a spot for him.

Retired two-time F1 champ Mika Hakkinen said he will drive a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution WRC2 in the Jan. 24-25 Arctic Lapland Rally in his native Finland. It will be the opening round of the 2003 FIA European Rally Championship, and it will be Hakkinen’s first-ever rally — and it’s a dandy: 15 special stages in deep snow, little daylight and subzero temperatures.

Quick Pit Stops:

l David Gough of Machesney Park plans to compete in the indoor midget races Dec. 27-28 at Ft. Wayne (Ind.) Coliseum and Expo Center. He will drive the same car in which he won five features this summer. Gough was leading the 75-lap Saturday night feature last year when Tony Stewart spun him out. Gough has been one of the fastest indoor drivers for the last two years.

l Sterling Marlin is scheduled to be at the Carquest World of Wheels Show Jan. 10-12 at Wisconsin State Fair Park Exposition Center, West Allis. Marlin will be there from 1 to 3 p.m. Jan. 11. Call (414) 422-9505 for more information.

l Robert Yates has shaken up his NASCAR Winston Cup operation: His son, Doug, now is general manager of the two cars and Yates Racing Engines; Todd Parrott is director of competition; Brad Parrott, Todd’s younger brother, is the new crew chief on Dale Jarrett’s car; and Raymond Fox III will be crew chief for newcomer Elliott Sadler.

l Winston Cup champ Tony Stewart also was a car owner during 2002 — of the World of Outlaws sprint car driven by Danny “The Dude” Lasoski. Stewart is forming a second team for 2003, for the USAC sprint car series with two-time champ J.J. Yeley doing the driving. Yeley will use Mopar engines, a Twister chassis on dirt and a Beast chassis on pavement.

l On the subject of the World of Outlaws, its 25th anniversary season in 2003 will be at 46 racing facilities in 26 states, running 68 events over 96 dates. The season opens Feb. 21 on the West Coast and will include three visits to Illinois — May 8 at Farmer City, May 10 at Granite City and July 11 at Joliet. Two Wisconsin dates also are on the schedule, July 7 at Somerset and July 10 at Beaver Dam.

l Stewart and USAC midget champ Dave Darland are among the drivers slated for the Ford Focus Midget Race of Champions Jan. 11 at the Chili Bowl Nationals in the Tulsa (Okla.) Expo Center. Others in the exhibition race will be Yeley, Lasoski, Gary Scelzi, Ron Capps, Brett Hearn and Scott Bloomquist. The Chili Bowl Nationals are expected to draw about 180 drivers from around the country. Call (918) 838-3777.

l NASCAR testing at Daytona will be Jan. 7-9 and 14-16 for Winston Cup, Jan. 20-21 and 23-24 for Busch Series teams, Jan. 11-13 for Craftsman truck and Jan. 18-19 for Dash Series teams.

l Shawna Robinson says she is looking for a Busch program for 2003 while hoping to find funding to return to Winston Cup at some time in the future. She qualified for seven Cup races in 2002, finished only four and was knocked out of the other three due to accidents or mechanical problems while with a new operation, BAM Racing.

l Another open-wheel standout, Kasey Kahne, has been hired for the full Busch season in the No. 38 Great Clips Ford for Akins Motorsports. Kahne, 22, started 20 Busch races in 2002 in the No. 98 Robert Yates Racing Ford. His best finish was 10th at Michigan.

l Thirteen of ARCA’s 22 races will be on the Speed Channel next season while another four will be on The Outdoor Channel, including the event from DuQuoin State Fairgrounds in Illinois. In addition, ARCA Racing This Week, a weekly news magazine show, will be on The Outdoor Channel for 26 weeks for the fourth straight year.

l Andy Hillenburg, 1995 ARCA champ, plans to return to the series full time in 2003, as does three-time champ Tim Steele, and Ken Schrader is planning on three races, including DuQuoin. Rock legend Alice Cooper will be a sponsor of Montgomery Motorsports in 2003.

l ARCA was to test at Daytona last weekend, with former CART star Christian Fittipaldi participating. Plans are for him to run the ARCA race at Daytona in February and other events in advance of full-time Winston Cup in 2004.

l Billy Moyer was named driver of the year by the National Dirt Late Model Drivers Poll, with Scott Bloomquist second and Rick Eckert third.

l The International Race of Champions dates are set — Feb. 14 at Daytona, April 5 at Talladega, July 12 at Chicagoland and Aug. 2 at Indy.

l Cracker Barrel Old Country Store’s claims against NASCAR, FOX, Atlanta Motor Speedway and its parent company, Speedway Motorsports Inc., have been dismissed because they lacked merit, said Federal Court Judge Todd J. Campbell. The restaurant chain filed a federal lawsuit stating that the sanctioning body, broadcast company and track didn’t uphold their end of a race sponsorship agreement concerning the number of mentions of the chain during the telecast from Atlanta.

l David Clare, 47, has joined CART in the newly created position of chief operating officer. He will oversee the promoter relations, marketing/sales, racing operations and communication departments and will report to president/CEO Chris Pook, who will concentrate on the areas of finance/administration, joint venture operations and legal affairs.

l Chris Economaki said in a recent National Speed Sport News Editor’s Notebook column that Ray and Mike Irwin, co-owners of Blackhawk Farms Raceway near Rockton, had extended to him an invitation to visit the track. Would love to see Mr. E take them up on their offer.

l The dean of American motor sports writers gave me and The Rock River Times a mention in a couple of Editor’s Notebooks before he revealed his Blackhawk invitation. When I first started writing about motor sports in 1970 at now-defunct Chicago Today, Chris was among the first to point me in the right direction. But you know, I’m not certain about that dean title. Shav Glick of the Los Angeles Times, another early adviser, also has been around a long time and still was going strong the last I heard.

l Writing in Speedway Scene newspaper, Al Thomy says Jimmy Carter was the first president who was friendly to auto racing. Not correct. Richard Nixon held the first White House reception honoring the sport of auto racing. I got invited, and I still have the telegram around some place. My employer at the time, Chicago Today, owned by the Tribune Co., said you can have the time to go, but no money. If one of the big shots had been invited, it would have been time, money and probably a private jet. I didn’t go.

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