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NEWS

Thursday January 15, 2004

Fretter Joins PhoenixF1

As reveled earlier this week by SimRacing, Adam Fretter has been officially announced as the new PhoenixF1 driver for 2004, partnering Colombian Antonio Irisarri. The Scotsman gained the lucrative seat after weeks of rumour and und uncertainty. As it out, the seat was highly coveted (see Rumours page) but the dependable Fretter ended up getting the nod. The former SFO driver notched one win and numerous podiums for the Arela team, helping to carry them to the Constructors Championship. Fretter will make his F1VWC debut at the Australian Grand Prix, and is expected on track testing before long.

Fretter nearly joined the VWC last fall when Stealth Grand Prix was looking for substitute drivers but he chose to concentrate on the SFO, a wise move which garnered him the long sought after win, at the US Grand Prix. He will join a team extremely well complemented by Irisarri, Daniel Wilkinson, Jan Kelder, Mark Nieuwlaar and steadfast Team Boss Andy Graydon.

SimRacing News Service.

Oliver Woods Joins SimRacing Staff

SimRacing Magazine is pleased to announce that Oliver Woods has joined the staff as the new reporter. He will write summaries of the weekly test sessions over the next 7 weeks, including quotes, interviews and stats. Look for the reports on the Reports page above, with the first one to be released after this weekend.

SimRacing News Service.

Monday January 12, 2004

Cragg Comments on Toyota

The F1VWC held its engine-signing derby this past week, completing the technical packages for the 11 teams. The majority of the deals went according to expectations, but much to the surprise of the paddock the greatest shock was that of Toyota joining up with Woods Racing. Despite being a newcomer to the league and fielding relatively inexperienced drivers, Woods beat Stealth Grand Prix to the Toyota honours. Out of all the engines, only two were bid for by more than one team, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz. The Mercedes outcome was a bit of a surprise since they were paired with Simsoa at the end of last season but opted for MMRT instead. Nothing quite compared to the Toyota move, which triggered raised eyebrows and comments.

Stealth’s Ted Cragg has kept his silence however, and has only now released his first public comments, to SimRacing Magazine. In a statement to SimRacing, Cragg said “I congratulate Woods on his deal and I wish the team the best this season. Toyota’s made a very interesting choice for 2004.”

Stealth has since signed a very lucrative deal with Volkswagen, stretching over three years. The team stated that a formal announcement on Volkswagen as well as its 2004 drivers will be coming soon. SimRacing is also looking for press releases from all the teams concerning their new engine deals.

SimRacing News Service.

Kieran Ryan Pulls a Prost

Kieran Ryan has announced an Allain Prost-esque sabbatical in 2004, voluntarily taking time out to concentrate on studies and other activities. Although potential openings for a 2004 race seat remain, Ryan was determined to only give the utmost effort. In a press release, the Irishman said “I'll be back for sure looking and scouting for a good fast drive after the Canadian grand prix, were I can finally put behind these tests and look forward to ending the year on a good note and hopefully finally getting a full year again in 2005 challenging for the title.” SimRacing will be conducting an interview with Kieran Ryan this week, look for it in the Features section.

SimRacing News Service.

Fretter Linked to PhoenixF1

SimRacing has linked Scotsman Adam Fretter to the vacant seat at PhoenixF1. Earlier this week Fretter was expected to join Stealth Grand Prix but has apparently declined in favour of a race seat. With PhoenixF1’s Andy Graydon confirming a driver announcement within the next day or so, it is quite possible that the former SFO driver will get the nod at PhoenixF1.

SimRacing News Service.

Thursday January 8, 2004

Ryan Announcement Expected on Friday

Kieran Ryan will reportedly make an announcement on his 2004 F1VWC plans by Friday, according to reports. The Irishman remains the most significant driver available on the market, but faces just three openings: SCUM, PhoenixF1 and Stealth. Although he is expected to sign with PhoenixF1, all three teams may have drivers lined up already. The VWC community has been anxiously awaiting Ryan’s decision, of which SimRacing will carry full coverage.

SimRacing News Service.

MMRT Moves Up Big Time in Sponsorship Funding

The final sponsorship tally amongst the 11 F1VWC teams was released today, following final additions to MMRT and Woods. Mantra Motorsport had just two sponsors going into the final round of bidding, but increased that to the full amount of five and significantly improved their budget. In fact, Mantra joined SCUM and PhoenixF1 as the only teams to pass the 30m barrier, and Mantra is the only team to do so when starting from scratch (the other two had existing contracts in place). Mantra added Microsoft and British Aerospace to their minor sponsors, and Total as their fuel supplier, resulting in an extra 9m in potential sponsorship. This also vaults them to 2nd in total possible minor sponsorship funding, just 115k behind SCUM, and also 2nd in total up front funding, 155k behind Stealth. Woods meanwhile moved from last on the total list up to 6th by signing Yahoo, who bring an additional 3m in total possible funding. Woods also passes the 25m mark, leaving just Stealth, JTM and EIRE with less than 25m in total possible funding.

The addition of all these sponsors changes the averages significantly. Average total possible income is now up to 26,874,000 from 25,787,000. Only four teams have more than the average: SCUM, PhoenixF1, MMRT and Mapes-VO. Stealth remain first in total up front funding, but are massively behind in per car funding, trailing next-to-last MMC by 1.7m alone. SCUM continues to lead all major categories though, including most per car funding (19.04m), most fuel sponsor funding (3.08m-tied with EIRE), most minor sponsor funding (9.25m), and most major sponsor funding (20.14m). SCUM thus remains the league’s most profitable team, at 32,470,000 in total possible sponsorship income.

EIRE, JTM and FinOz will stay with only four out of five sponsors until the summer, when 2nd Round bidding will begin. EIRE was of course penalized earlier this week for over-bidding, but the other two teams did not disclose their reasons. Nevertheless they remain quite competitive financially, as do all the teams.

Although teams expected SCUM and PhoenixF1 to have high budgets, there was general surprise around the paddock when it came to MMRT. They beat even Mapes-VO, winners of three
championships in two years. Matt Maple commented “I think they obviously made smart choices in negotiations, but I’d rather have more money.” Said Andy Graydon of PhoenixF1, “Good luck to them, they've clearly chosen well. Especially in the current climate where money is scarce due to the poor state of the Worlds economies.  Those with existing deals from ‘03 look like they have gained, but who knows what will happen in ‘05?” Oliver woods pointed out “To be honest I’m surprised - shows that Woods haven’t done very well at all. Lucky sods!” Apparently Miguel Oliveira himself said he expected a high tally, although possibly not into the 30m range. The MMRT boss was unavailable for comment but will undoubtedly be looked up to now by the paddock members.

SimRacing News Service.

Wednesday January 7, 2004

Still No Word on SCUM Driver


Despite increasing chatter over the rumour mill of late, and the fact that the other three teams with driver vacancies have been openly talking or signing drivers in the past few days, SCUM remains silent on who will take their vacant seat. The defending champions boast very steady management, a well-developed engine, 2003 Champion Shiro Ryong still on board as a test driver, and the greatest funding of all 11 teams. The seat is no doubt lucrative, but besides the ubiquitous Kieran Ryan no other names have been linked to the opening. SCUM bosses Dan Regan and Peter Harding have not dropped any hints as of yet, but surely will make an announcement soon as testing is slated to begin very shortly.

 

SimRacing News Service.

 

Ross Loram to Partner Whiteman, Options for Wagner Being Explored

 

EIRE has confirmed British driver Ross Loram as the new teammate to Scott Whiteman, driving the #6 car. The team also announced the signing of ‘3rd Driver’ Andreas Wagner, the league’s first Swiss driver. Despite the fact that both race seats are now filled, as well as two of three test seats, team boss Willy Ponissi was eager to put pen to paper. Commenting on Loram, Ponissi said "He's fast, skillful and really committed, and he has been suggested by Scott himself. The two have raced in the past so they're already an experienced pairing, and I think they'll be really successful this season. I would like to wish Ross the best for 2004." SimRacing will endeavour to find out more about the league’s newest race driver over the coming days. Meanwhile Wagner will likely not last long wearing EIRE overalls, as in a press release the team stated that Ponissi “wants Wagner to gain some racing experience to enhance his skill, and the Swiss is believed to already have an agreement to drive with an established F1VWC team.” Only SCUM, PhoenixF1 and Stealth remain with race seat vacancies.

 

SimRacing News Service.

 

Simsoa First to Announce Car Launch Date

 

Simsoa Racing have announced that the Simsoa SA-03V will be unveiled on Sunday the 15th of February. The show will take place at the Suzuka racetrack in Japan. Preparations are beginning from this very moment for the unveiling with the stage being constructed. Lawrence Simpson was caught in Guildford doing his January-sale shopping. As usual, he was keen to tell the masses about the new car.

"The car is now going along great, now that all the deals are finalised we can now look at the final designs and livery design."

 

Lawrence will be attending the show (of course!) as well as the Drivers and Test Drivers. He added a verbal invitation to all the F1VWC Staff and Managers: "You're all welcome to come down and have a look at the car and discuss the car with me. However, no cameras! We'll leave THAT to the press.”


Simsoa have made one of the strongest impressions of all 11 teams this off-season, even though no one has hit the track yet. They have demonstrated excellent commitment though through their early confirmation of four drivers, Martijn Vosselman and David Brown as race drivers and Javier Aparicio and Jirka Kocman as testers.


SimRacing News Service and Simsoa Press.

 

Fretter Set to Join Stealth

Scotsman Adam Fretter has been pegged to join Stealth Grand Prix, most likely as a Test Driver but with race seats still available, the ultimate destination is uncertain. Fretter has however been in talks with the Canadian team and is known to be anxious to not only get into the paddock but also on the track. Fretter’s ICARRA Team Racing is first in line on the VWC Waiting List, but with little movement expected from any of the current 11 teams, he could be waiting for a while. Stealth is expected to make a formal announcement within a couple days, and may also be holding out to make further driver announcements as well.

SimRacing News Service.

Monday January 5, 2004

Ryan to PhoenixF1?

Paddock rumours have linked Irishman Kieran Ryan, by far the most sought-after of all available drivers, to the vacant seat at PhoenixF1. As teams start turning towards testing, four outfits remain with race seat vacancies. Ryan had long been linked to either EIRE or Stealth, but EIRE is apparently completely full on drivers and, despite no official confirmation yet, have indeed found a teammate for Scott Whiteman. Stealth and Ryan meanwhile have apparently turned to other directions, for reasons undisclosed. This is despite the strongest rumours of the past month, which put Ryan as the #1 driver at Stealth Grand Prix. It may not be too late for such a deal, but with PhoenixF1 looking particularly strong this year and an extremely solid driver lineup already – budding superstar Antonio Irisarri, steady performer Jan Kelder, former VWC driver Mark Nieuwlaar, and of course 2003 championship runner-up Daniel Wilkinson all on the books – the British team would certainly be a good fit for a driver of Ryan’s skills. Ryan finished as championship runner-up in 2002, and this past season took EIRE’s first ever pole position despite limited appearances throughout the season.

SimRacing News Service.

Teams Waiting to Hear From Mihailovic

F1VWC teams, most of whom still have vacancies in either the race or test driver positions, are anxiously awaiting word from Miodrag “Miki” Mihailovic, one of the standouts of the SFO in 2003 and a well sought-after driver for 2004. The Serbian has however been out of view for over two months now, with little league members having contact with him. That hasn’t stopped some teams from still pursuing him though, especially after 4 wins for Stella Stealth-Renault in the SFO and coming from a late start to finish 2nd overall with 80 points. Mihailovic was expected to sign with Mantra Motorsport this off-season, driving for his old Stealth teammate Miguel Oliveira. But ultimately it was SFO champion and rival Paul Fawcett who signed with MMRT, as teammate to newcomer Standa Bares. Oliveira last heard from Miki in December, but despite having moved ahead with his own plans would still like to see his old rival join the burgeoning VWC competition in 2004.

SimRacing News Service.

Costly Mistake for EIRE, Big Boost for FinOz

EIRE boss Willy Ponissi made a slight oversight when calculating his sponsor bids. Bids cannot total more than 1m in hospitality funds but the team went over by 50k. As a result, their final sponsor bid, for Playlife, was cancelled and given to FinOz instead, who made the next highest bid. This meant 3 million now goes to FinOz instead of EIRE. The Irish teams slips from 4th to 9th in the overall Total Possible Income list, while FinOz moves from 9th to 4th and may still acquire one more sponsor. EIRE will need to wait until the mid-season sponsorship process before they can add to their four sponsors.

Ponissi could not be reached for comment right away, but will perhaps have some words for the press upon disclosure of these numbers. Meanwhile, Kari Koski of FinOz will no doubt be pleased, as he now has one of just five teams to crack the 25m mark of Total Potential Income.

SimRacing News Service.

Stealth Say They’re Closing in on Drivers

In recent weeks there has been a glaring gap on the “Current Teams” list of the F1VWC. That gap belongs to Stealth Grand Prix, the only team to have two race seats remaining. Although there has been very little public discussion about the situation, there are undoubtedly rumours and innuendo going on behind the scenes as people start to wonder what’s going on. Sponsor signing is complete, engines will be likewise soon, and within a couple weeks there should be the first tests of 2004. The stalwart Chris Galloway has been the only driver on the Stealth books since October.

Team Owner & CEO Ted Cragg refused to make public comment today when asked about his driver situation. The team’s press officer confirmed that an intensive driver search continues and should be wrapped up soon. In the meantime, Kieran Ryan remains unsigned, as do numerous drivers on the test & race list. Stealth has been linked in particular with Marek Liolias and Giannis Pantas. The team has declined to set a deadline for its drivers though, which will continue to leave speculation rampant.

SimRacing News Service.

MMC’s New Driver: Joseph Kilchrist

MMC Racing announced today the signing of a second test driver, to partner Paul Heyhoe. Joseph Kilchrist becomes the second American in the league after team owner Ryan McConkey. Not by coincidence, they are good friends in real life. “Joseph has 3 days experience,” joked Ryan. “He wanted to improve his driving and help me out, and his goals are to improve his driving” he repeated. Joseph is 18 and lives in Louisiana, USA. The team has not identified whether either test driver will shoulder more work than the other, but it will be very interesting to see yet another new face on the track before long.

SimRacing News Service.

Saturday January 3, 2004

Stealth Grand Prix Sever Ties With BMW

Stealth Grand Prix made the shock announcement today that they would not be in the running for BMW engines for 2004, the bidding process for which is expected to take place next week. Despite being the team of choice for BMW in 2003, the two sides did not come close to achieving the objectives they sought at the beginning of the year and this no doubt put a quick strain on their relationship.

Stealth Owner & CEO Ted Cragg confirmed that the three year contract intended for 2003, 2004 and an option for 2005 has ended, retroactive to November 1st. "Our two sides have formally agreed to break the contract, and Stealth feels that it is in our best interest to move on and forge a relationship with another manufacturer" said Cragg. The Canadian would not drop hints as to who he would prefer to sign, but rumours have linked the team with Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and 'possibly' Jaguar.

Stealth and BMW entered what appeared to be a very prosperous relationship with great potential in the fall of 2002. The team then signed Vodafone, who contributed the most funding of any sponsor in the league, and confirmed a stellar lineup of Joe Consiglio, Eric Sosa, Martin Mirakhour and Miguel Oliveira. Despite early promise, including pole from Consiglio at the opening race, the league and the team soon hit massive difficulties which resulted in the exit of all but Sosa. Stealth withdrew briefly from the VWC for three months, but returned in June 2003 with Sosa and Chris Galloway at the helm. Drivers would continue to rotate at the end of the season but Consiglio did return in September to give Stealth by far their greatest highlight of the year and their entire VWC career, a dominant win at Monza. Nevertheless, the strain on the relationship with BMW and the failed promise of 2003 appears to have put a permanent end to their partnership.

 

SimRacing News Service.

SCUM Big Winner in Sponsorship Derby

SimRacing Magazine has compiled a list of sponsorship earnings for each team, and SCUM has emerged as the big, big winner. The defending champions have staked a claim to 32,470,000 in possible funding, over 2.5m more than their closest rival and a massive 6.6m more than the 25,787,000 average amongst all 11 teams. The total possible funds are based on each team fielding two cars at 17 races throughout the season, and so the numbers will certainly go down as the season progresses. But, all things being equal, SCUM has earned the most money.

On top of their #1 total, SCUM also saved on the bidding process due to the fact most of their deals were already signed. Therefore, while other teams spent up to and including 1m on sponsorship bids, SCUM needed only 250,000. The next closest in that category is MMRT at 750,000, but they are still missing three sponsors. PhoenixF1 proved that incumbent deals are indeed the most lucrative, since they were the only team besides SCUM to already have sponsorship deals in place. This leaves PhoenixF1 with 30,785,000, the only other team to crack the 30m barrier. Mapes-VO, winner of 3 championships in the last two years, are third with 27,732,000, including nabbing one of the two 15m major sponsors. FinOz (25,320,000) and MMC and Simsoa (25,160,000) were the only other teams to crack the 25m barrier, although all three still have less than the 11-team average. This shows the massive gap between the top three funded teams and the rest.

Stealth Grand Prix won arguably the second-most important category: the most Up Front funding. Although the average amount in Up Front funding for minor sponsors is 261,000, the Canadian team scored a massive 2,650,000 in Up Front minor sponsorship, leading to a total of 15,740,000. Although they rank 7th overall in funding, Stealth gets the most money right away and the most guaranteed money and thus are in good shape for the start of the season. Close behind were Mapes-VO and MMRT (15,390,000 and 15,300,000 respectively), with Mantra still needing to sign three sponsors. It is possible they could overtake Stealth’s total after the 3rd round of bidding if they play their cards right. 12,326,000 was the average in Up Front funds amongst the 11 teams.

Although they are highly dependent on commitment and participation, the teams that concentrated on Per Car funding instead if Up Front funds stand to come out much stronger in the end. PhoenixF1is the big winner in this area, standing to accumulate just under 7m more in Per Car funds than Up Front funds if they appear with two cars at each race. PhoenixF1 and SCUM both shone in this category. SCUM can accumulate a massive 19,040,000 in Per Car fees if they appear fully at each event, far more than even the highest Up Front major sponsor fee. PhoenixF1 isn’t far behind, with 18,870,000 on the table. After that it drops down to JTM at 14,960,000 and EIRE with 14,790,000. The average amount in Up Front fees amongst the 11 teams is 13,074,000.

Where there are winners, there are inevitably losers, although in this case teams try to balance that as much as possible. As well, there remain a few sponsorship openings available although these won’t all necessarily be filled after the 3rd round of bidding. Nevertheless, Mantra Motorsport comes out at the bottom of the Total Funding list with 21,590,000 to add to their coffers, although they are still looking for 3 sponsors and will undoubtedly add to that total. Woods has 22,295,000 with one opening remaining, and EIRE is at 22,640,000 and 4 sponsors, but cannot add to this until mid-season. Amongst teams with 5 complete sponsors then, Stealth is at the bottom with 24,920,000 in possible funds, but this ranking won’t be finalized until the 3rd round is complete.

Amongst individual sponsors, Repsol pays out the most amongst fuel at 3,080,000, although this is scarcely more than most of the other fuel suppliers. Repsol have signed with SCUM and EIRE. Benson & Hedges is the greatest minor sponsor, with a total of 3,490,000. Again, many other sponsors are not far behind. But these are all the sponsors with 90-120k in Per Car funding, as opposed to the half-million-pound-or-more Up Front sponsors. B&H will be continuing for the third consecutive year with Mapes-VO. Finally, 15,000,000 is of course the greatest Up Front total amongst major sponsors but SCUM’s sponsor, Qantas, leads the way here in Total Funding, offering 20,140,00 in Up Front funds and Per Car funds.

SCUM has thus achieved the Total Possible Income from all three categories. A remarkable feat, considering the tough competition involved. One could point to this being a result of having already signed their sponsors in 2003, but the team was obviously wise and foresighted enough to be prepared for 2004, and extremely well prepared at that.

SimRacing news service.

 

SimRacing Magazine: August News Archive

SimRacing Magazine: September News Archive

SimRacing Magazine: October News Archive