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F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone has dismissed the sport's new V6 turbo era as "completely unnecessary nonsense" after Renault engine woes sidelined champions Red Bull in preseason testing, according to Alan Baldwin of REUTERS. Quadruple champion Sebastian Vettel's team completed just 14 laps in the first three days in Jerez "after recurring problems." Other Renault-powered teams "have also struggled to do much mileage." Ecclestone: "I am disappointed. I hate saying 'I told you so', but I'm disappointed because I did say I told you so and this is what's happened." Ecclestone "has long been an opponent" of the new and highly complex 1.6 liter power units, with energy recovery systems, which have replaced the old V8s. Red Bull Principal Christian Horner said before the start of testing that the new power units "could be so unreliable that half the field may fail to finish in the Australian season-opener in March" (REUTERS, 1/31). Ecclestone: "They talk about saving fuel. They don’t need these new engines to achieve that. They should get smaller motorhomes. Then they wouldn’t need so many trucks going all round Europe. Mercedes are taking 23 trucks with them everywhere. If they really wanted to save fuel they should stop that." He added, "The good thing is that the season could be extremely interesting... really unpredictable, and that is the exciting thing" (PIT PASS, 1/31).
OFF THE PACE: In London, Jonathan McEvoy reported Ecclestone was "responding to the evidence of this week’s first pre-season test in Jerez, where several teams have struggled with the unfamiliar fuel-efficient engines -- which, even when they have run, have proved only a fraction as loud as the old V8s with their banshee scream." As Ecclestone spoke, Red Bull’s top execs were "skulking away in mid-afternoon, unable to do any more testing after they grappled to fit their Renault-supplied power unit into the chassis." Overheating "was the result." F1 "feeds off the image of speed and glamour." The loudest and fastest cars in the world "are part of the allure." But in Jerez, some of the cars "were 11 seconds off the lap record" (DAILY MAIL, 1/30).
BUDGET CAP: AUTOSPORT's Kuntschik & Beer reported Red Bull Owner Dietrich Mateschitz "has expressed concern" over the implications of F1's planned budget cap. The revived cost cap plan "was announced as part of a package of imminent changes at the end of 2013, with the intention being to introduce it next season." Discussions about the exact format of the budget restrictions "are still taking place, but Mateschitz has misgivings about the potential format and how it would be enforced" (AUTOSPORT, 2/2).
AUSTRALIAN GP: KORA reported the current contract for Melbourne to host the Australian Grand Prix "will run out after the 2015 season," but Australian Grand Prix Corp. Chair Ron Walker believes that "it is only a matter of time before a new deal is signed." Walker: "I'm as confident as I can be" (KORA, 2/1).
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell disclosed that London "was 'further down the road' to securing the first gridiron franchise" outside the U.S. after all three regular-season games at Wembley scheduled for this fall "were confirmed as sell-outs," according to Oliver Brown of the London TELEGRAPH. In his annual state-of-the-league address at the Lincoln Centre in Manhattan, Goodell "gave his strongest suggestion yet" that a sequence of 11 straight sold-out London games since '07 "could persuade the NFL to base a team permanently in the capital." Goodell: “I believe that the response to the third game in the U.K., and the way that the fans have embraced that and sold it out in such a short period of time, is just another sign that the more we give the fans there, the more they want. That’s a great tribute to their passion.” In "an intriguing twist," EPL Arsenal majority shareholder and NFL St. Louis Rams Owner Stan Kroenke "is being linked to a potential Los Angeles project" after it emerged this week that he had bought a 60-acre development plot in the city’s Inglewood suburb (TELEGRAPH, 1/31).
LOOKING AHEAD: In London, Paolo Bandini reported the NFL has been hosting games annually in London as part of its Int'l Series since '07. Asked by a journalist from Atlanta what the Falcons could expect to gain from their experience in London, Goodell "was effusive about the support for the game that he had seen in London." Goodell: "I think you’re going to be amazed at the passion for football over there" (GUARDIAN, 1/31). The AFP reported Goodell admitted that the quick sellout hat trick "had caught the NFL's attention." Goodell: "What our next step is I don't know. That is something we're going to have to evaluate" (AFP, 1/31).
MATTER OF TIME: In London, Joe Mewis wrote how willing will the NFL be "to take the next step and award London it’s very own full-time franchise?" Darren Fletcher, who will cover the Super Bowl for Absolute Radio, said it is a matter of "when," not "if." Fletcher: "There’s a real desire at the head offices of the NFL in New York to continue to grow the game globally, and they've decided that London is the best market for that" (DAILY MIRROR, 2/1).
SOUTH OF THE BORDER: Goodell said of having games in Mexico, "One of our fastest-growing audience segments are Hispanic fans." He added, "We're proud of that. That's intentional. We're working harder to reach those fans, introduce them to the game or if they are already great fans we want to give them more of the game and you're seeing that through all of our media offerings." Goodell said "we have great coverage" in Mexico and "what we're trying to do is figure out new ways of engaging those fans" (NFL Network, 1/31).
Racing Victoria bosses "have countered claims that they have been to slow to unravel the multi million dollar mess left by the collapse of the BC3 Thoroughbreds set up," and the organization says "it has accumulated more than one million pieces of information to help them unravel the complicated fall out of the punting and investment scandal," according to Michael Lynch of THE AGE. RV Exec GM Integrity Services Dayle Brown said that the probe "is by far the biggest investigation ever taken by the sport's governing body." Brown: "The analysis of this data has taken considerable time, but we are nearing completion of this phase of the investigation and are building an intimate picture of BC3 Thoroughbreds and its racehorse ownership business" (THE AGE, 2/2). In Sydney, Patrick Bartley reported Racing authorities fear that a dangerous new drug that "is being used by trainers in Australia and they admit they do not have the means to test for it, or the jurisdiction to punish offenders if a positive test is found." Victorian racing investigators "now use human laboratories or overseas testing facilities in a bid to apprehend horse trainers who are using the drug cobalt chloride." And stewards "are unable to charge trainers with the use of the substance because the appropriate threshold levels are still to be determined" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 2/3).
With just one seat to be officially confirmed, the V8 Supercars field "will be the smallest yet as even the top teams face a financial squeeze," according to Mark Fogarty of the BRISBANE TIMES. Two entries "have dropped out and another is doubtful, reducing the car count to 25." This V8 season, which starts with the March 1-2 Adelaide 500, "will be the first in recent years in which there hasn't been a full field of 28." A Racing Entitlement Contract "is required for each car entered by an owner and REC holders are entitled to a share of V8 racing's end-of-year profits." But because of the V8s' "poor two-year interim TV rights deal, there was no payout last year and this year is also likely to see the teams get little or nothing" (BRISBANE TIMES, 2/2).