TV Times, by Lou ModestinoOn Sunday the talking heads in the Fox anchor booth raved that this year’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Rolex 24 had the biggest crowd in a long time. No doubt sports car fans turned out because this race was the first time the now defunct Grand Am and American Petit LeMans Series’ was combined.

As the cameras panned the track, we could see many campers in the infield. The front stretch grandstands didn’t hold many of them until the last hour of the twice-around-the-clock race.

About three hours into the race, Memo Gidley and Matteo Malucelli were involved in a wreck that sent both to the hospital. When the race came to a merciful end, Portugal’s Joao Barbosa brought his Chevy powered Prototype over the finish line after holding off a desperate challenge by Max Angelli. According to the winning Chevy Prototype co-driver Brazilian Christian Fittipaldi, Angelli is always a threat. Frenchman Sabastian Bourdais was also a co-driver of the winning machine. Patrick Petit with co-drivers Richard Lietz and Nick Tardy won the GT class, while James Gue took the Prototype Challenge series with his co-drivers for the also rans.

There were a few NASCAR drivers among the big entry list but they were unable to do anything significant.

Watching the earlier Daytona practice Pre-Season Thunder on Fox Sports 1, we got the impression that there’s a major effort by that cable channel to help Daytona International Speedway to sell tickets. The background subjects that the announcers talked were filled with puffs and hype to get more fans to buy tickets and/or to tune into the opening round of NASCAR during SpeedWeeks. Expect even more hype and puffs to pick up even more momentum when the NFL Super Bowl is concluded.

We can remember when the Daytona practice laps for the Cups and Nationwides were done in prime paint. Those were the days when Daytona and NASCAR didn’t have any trouble selling tickets. We tried to get an eyeball of the missing grandstand seats that are supposed to make those sellouts happen again. It was to no avail because the TV cameras didn’t pan the area of the removed grandstands.

When things were really flying high for NASCAR, Daytona International gouged 85 bucks from each fan just to get into the infield. Haven’t times changed? They had no shame then. Since the fall of ticket sales, it’s been a buyer’s market.

We haven’t heard too much about eliminating seats from Speedway Motorsports Inc. about mimicking the ISC tracks reduction in seating to engineer a sellout to make things look better. Also tricks can be used by giveaways and deals on group sales. Expect to see a lot more of that this coming season.

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has expressed his doubts that a cost cap will be the correct method to address escalating spending in the Formula One motor racing series.

F1 is seeking to introduce a budget cap from the start of 2015, with a meeting of the F1 Strategy Group and the Formula One Commission in Paris last month revealing that the “principle” of a global cost cap had been adopted. The limit will be applied from January 2015 and a working group is set to be established comprising the FIA – motor sport’s global governing body – representatives of the commercial rights-holder and team representatives.

The objective of the working group will be to have regulations approved by the end of June. However, it is not the first time that the sport has attempted to control its costs. Most recently, former FIA president Max Mosley tried to introduce a budget cap of £30m (€35.4m/$48m) for the 2010 season, but the proposal ultimately floundered amid opposition from teams. We’ve heard over the years that Ferrari can veto any changes in F1 if it’s not to that companies liking. Expect them to do so based on what di Montezemolo said about the budget cap.

The Munich state court confirmed that Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone will face charges over payments to a German banker when the motor-racing series was sold to private equity group CVC Capital Partners in 2005.

The 83-year-old faces charges of bribery and incitement to breach of trust connected with a $44m (€32m) payment to Gerhard Gribkowsky, a banker who was involved in organising the sale of the championship. A provisional April 23 date has been set for Ecclestone’s trial, according to UK pay-television channel Sky News.

Ecclestone’s legal representatives in Germany, Sven Thomas and Norbert Scharf, said that “the alleged bribery did not happen” and added: “The accusations in the indictment based on Gribkowsky’s statement are unfounded and do not … add up to a coherent picture.” Ecclestone has already been accused by a German media group Constantin Medien of conspiring to undervalue the series when it was sold to CVC Capital Partners as part of an ongoing High Court case in London.

Sky News reported that Ecclestone would step down from the board of Formula One’s controlling company pending the outcome of the trial. However, he will retain day-to-day responsibility for running the series. Red Bull Racing F1 team principal Christian Horner told the Associated Press news agency on Wednesday that Ecclestone is “absolutely the best and only guy to do what he does, to take Formula One to the global reach that the sport has achieved.”

Earlier it emerged that Ecclestone had tabled a bid to purchase the financially-troubled Nuerburgring circuit in Germany. The race track, which last hosted a Formula One grand prix in 1976, has gone into administration. (end)

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