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F1 `news' couched in weasel words

Formula One is on vacation but that doesn't mean the rumour mill is quiet.

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Formula One is on vacation but that doesn’t mean the rumour mill is quiet.

I was reading a well-known racing publication last weekend and here are the exact words of one paragraph in what was billed as an “exclusive” report:

Lewis Hamilton was reportedly in England in recent days but he wasn’t visiting his family. He was seen near a certain F1 factory team’s headquarters in Grove, Oxfordshire, where it’s said he lunched with the team’s principal. Did Ron Dennis know about this?

Now, if you read that paragraph again, the two key words that jump out are “reportedly” and “it’s said.” Reported by whom? Said by whom?

That’s pretty much the way the F1 media industry works. Read the magazines and the websites carefully and you’ll be surprised at the large number of “news” items that are couched that way.

So, if they can do it, so can I. Chew on this.

It’s reported that Kimi Raikkonen is so unhappy at Ferrari – and with F1 in general – that he is planning to announce his retirement following the season-ending race at Brazil in November, if not sooner.

He will be replaced by two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who – it’s rumoured – was recently seen house-hunting near Maranello. It’s possible that Alonso might also have met with Ferrari management when he stopped by the factory for tea.

I just made that up – but I also bet it’s true. What do you think?

IN TROIS-RIVIERES, QUE. last night, three-time Canadian Driving Champion Bill Brack of Toronto was inducted into the Grand Prix of Trois-Rivières Hall of Fame.

The Friday night banquet and celebration traditionally leads into two days of racing through the streets of the Quebec community – an annual event that’s been going (with a few exceptions) since 1967.

Brack, who won his three national championships consecutively (’74, ’75 and ’76), raced Formula Atlantics at Trois-Rivières 11 times, starting in 1968.

He won the Atlantic race twice: the first time he was there and the last. He was always in contention the other years; just not on the top step of the podium.

The organizers have sought to induct him into their hall previously but Brack had bones to pick and so refused. He changed his mind this year. “Water under the bridge,” he said.

The Atlantic race at Trois Rivières, in the glory years of the ’60s and ’70s, always attracted some of the world’s finest drivers.

For instance, Britain’s James Hunt – in 1976, in his world championship year – did a one-off there and returned to Britain absolutely raving about a young Canadian driver named Gilles Villeneuve. The rest, as they say, is history.

“And that’s why it’s nice to be recognized there,” Brack said this week.

“The circuit was an interesting course, a challenging one. And all the best drivers and best cars would be entered in those days and it was great to be out there competing against people who were, in their time, the best.”

RON FELLOWS TOLD ME after he won the NASCAR Nationwide Series race two weeks ago in Montreal (and before he finished 13th in that freight-train of cars that flashed across the line in the Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen last weekend) that the turnout at Le Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve this year was bigger than that of a year ago when more than 70,000 showed up on race day.

“You know, by 10 in the morning, the two big grandstands across from Turn One were full (for the Canadian Tire Series race) and when we were going around in the drivers’ parade, all the general admission areas were packed,” the Mississauga resident said.

“They had a tonne of people there the first year, but I’d say there were more this year.”

Now, as anybody who reads this column regularly knows, I’ve never been crazy about that race. I have always felt insulted by NASCAR’s “back-country” attitude toward Canada.

We are a big-league country and should have a Sprint Cup race, not the minor-league Nationwide series.

Even now, NASCAR says it’s surprised by “the interest” in NASCAR up here. Well, what did they expect? Ice, snow and Inuit?

In any event, there is no doubt that the Montreal race was helped immensely this year by the presence of two Quebec cultural heroes: Jacques Villeneuve and Patrick Carpentier.

And therein lies a lesson for the promoters of next July’s IRL Indy Toronto.

Someway, somehow they have got to find a way to get Paul Tracy into a ride for that race.

Sure, our fingers are all crossed that Tracy gets a full-time IRL drive next year but if he doesn’t, it’s imperative he be on the Toronto grid.

We know Danica Patrick will be coming to town next year but she, by herself, is not going to attract 70,000-plus on race day.

But put Tracy out there (you should have seen the reaction to his presence in Edmonton this year!), and maybe get James Hinchcliffe into Marty Roth’s second car and all of a sudden you’ve got solid Canadian content to sell.

I’m not saying that Quebecers wouldn’t go to see a NASCAR race that didn’t have Villeneuve and Carpentier in it, but you can bet that a whole lot of those people showed up because those two guys were out there.

Toronto without Tracy (and others) could turn out to be a big mistake.

SO, AS I SURFED the Net last week, I came to a sudden stop at www.usacracing.com. There, in the slide show at the top of the midget racing page, I saw a familiar face holding a checkered flag.

I was pleased to then read that Alison MacLeod of Mississauga had become the winningest woman driver in U.S. Auto Club history when she won a recent feature at Anderson Speedway in Anderson, Ind., the sixth of her USAC career.

On top of that, she’s since been named 2008 winner of the prestigious Kara Hendrick Award, which was presented at the Lyn St. James “Women in the Winner’s Circle” gala at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Hendrick, an up-and-coming USAC midget racer who was killed in a race in California in 1991, was also known for her off-track contributions to racing and various charities and the award is given each year to an athlete who best exemplifies her all-round qualities.

MacLeod, a member of the Ford Racing Driver Development Program, currently sits third in the USAC Midwest Regional Midget Standings and drives cars entered by the legendary Bob East.

Norris McDonald wraps up weekend racing every Monday in Wheels. nmcdonald@thestar.ca

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