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Tightening of belts in racing continues

Roger Diez
Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist

In response to the worldwide economic recession, the World Motor Sport Council met yesterday in Monaco and approved measures that will slash costs for the most stratospherically expensive race series in the known universe, Formula One.

The measures are expected to slash F1 team budgets by thirty percent or more. Here are the highlights of the 2009 changes:

-All in-season testing (except for race weekends) is banned.

-Engine development (except for certain approved changes for Renault) is frozen

-Engines must be used for three consecutive weekends, and each driver is limited to eight engines per season.

-Rev limits are reduced from 19,000 rpm to 18,000.

-Wind tunnel testing and the number of team personnel at the track are limited.

For 2010, tire warmers and refueling will be banned. Engine costs to independent teams will be capped at five million Euros, either from an independent supplier (read Cosworth) or manufacturer teams. Race distances may be shortened, pending a study currently underway. Additional changes are under study. One of the most interesting proposals comes from F1 Grand Poobah Bernie Ecclestone, who wants to scrap the current points system for the drivers’ championship and replace it with an Olympic-style medal system. The driver with the most gold medals at the end of the season becomes the champion. Stay tuned for more news.

In NASCAR-land, the bleak outlook continues. Petty Enterprises, after almost 60 years, 268 Cup race wins, and 10 Cup championships, is on the ropes. Petty is in negotiations with Gillett-Evernham Motorsports to run the No. 43 car in 2009, without driver Bobby Labonte, who has been released. Kyle Petty is also no longer with Petty Enterprises, nor are some 70 other employees who have been laid off. If the GEM deal doesn’t happen, Petty plans to run the 43 as a single-car team next year, but so far no sponsorship deals have materialized.

In local racing news, I spoke with Jeremy Cable of Reno-Fernley Raceway this past week about their situation and plans for 2009. The track has also done some belt-tightening, and some of the planned improvements are on hold. However, they have a request for proposal out to operate the oval track, and Jeremy tells me that they expect more than one response. The road course program is still strong, with the track solidly booked from mid-April through mid-October. The fifth annual Reno Historic Races are scheduled for the first weekend in May, and the Sports Car Club of America has booked three race weekends at the track, including a double National.

Also, if you’ve ever wanted to be a race driver but were stymied by the high cost of racing, here’s your chance. Reno-Fernley Raceway is hosting the 24 Hours of LeMons on May 23-24. You may have read about this spectacle in Car & Driver magazine. Each car entered in the race must be purchased, fixed up, and track prepped for a total of $500 or less. If you want to participate in this fun, the entry deadline is March 14. Go to http://www.reno-fernleyraceway.com for more information.

Area kart racers were at it again at Red Bluff last weekend. In the 250cc division, Tanner Thorson was the only local driver to make the A main, and finished second after qualifying seventh and running second in his heat race. Mason Millard qualified fifth and ran third in the trophy dash, fifth in his heat, and eighth in the B main.

Zachary Heinz was 14th-fastest qualifier, sixth in his heat, and seventh in the B main. In the open division, Cameron Millard scored a 13th place finish in the A main after qualifying eighth and running second in his heat. Daniel Thorson qualified 21st, ran fourth in his heat, and raced his way into the A main with a third in the B feature. Chris Rytting finished seventh in his heat after qualifying 29th, and ran 10th in the D main.

Mackena Bell skipped the race to hold her inaugural Coat and Toy drive with sister Kellcy. They collected more than 800 coats for the Carson City School District to distribute to needy students and their families, as well as many contributions for the Toys for Tots campaign.