CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP PRESS CONFERENCE What follows is a transcript of Saturday's Press Conference in San Jose, California at the Taylor Woodrow Grand Prix of San Jose announcing the future direction of the Atlantic Championship...
CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP PRESS CONFERENCE
What follows is a transcript of Saturday's Press Conference in San Jose, California at the Taylor Woodrow Grand Prix of San Jose announcing the future direction of the Atlantic Championship Series, Champ Car's top level of driver development
MERRILL CAIN: Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you very much for joining us today for a very special announcement for the Atlantic Championship. I'm Merrill Cain, communications manager for the Atlantic Series. We want to focus on the Atlantic Championship. I'd like to recognize some of the current members of the 2005 Atlantic Series who have joined us here. Let's just have you stand up and wave for a second, including some of our top competitors. Series points leader Charles Zwolsman is joining us. Second in the championship, Tonis Kasemets is in the back. Currently third in the Atlantic Championship, Antoine Bessette, our top Canadian driver. One of our top Mexican drivers, David Martinez, who led the morning practice session. Series standout, right on time, Katherine Legge. And we're also joined by Al Unser III, one of our top young drivers, as well. These are the current stars of the Atlantic Series, but we want to take a few minutes to look towards the future of the Atlantic Championship.
We're very happy to make a series of special announcements this weekend. I'd like to introduce all of our speakers on the podium. First off let's introduce Dick Eidswick, president of Champ Car down at the end. Vicki O'Connor, who is managing director of the Atlantic Series for 20 years now. Kevin Kalkhoven, Champ Car World Series co-owner and co-owner of PKV Racing. We're joined by Alex Cross, vice president of Swift Engineering. Tim Routsis joins us from Cosworth, the managing director of Cosworth. Derrick Walker, the owner of Team Australia joins us. Richard Raeder with Sierra Sierra Enterprises joins us as the team manager for the team. John Brooks, who is the owner of Brooks Associates Racing, currently competing in the Atlantic Series. And Steve Sewell, who is the Champ Car manager of technology. Steve, thank you for joining us today. Now that all your hands are sore from clapping, let's get to some announcements here. I'd like to turn it over to Mr. Dick Eidswick, Champ Car president, who will tell us what the next generation of the Atlantic Championship cars will look like.
DICK EIDSWICK: Thank you all for coming. This is an exciting day for Atlantics. We're announcing the first new engine-chassis combination since 1989, so this is a big day for Atlantics. We're announcing a car for the new generation. We have three-year agreements with Swift and Cosworth for this car. We're going to be using a brand-new Swift chassis. The design will be numbered Swift 016.a. The series will see a return of Cosworth as the engine provider. Cosworth provided engines from 1974 through 1989. The new engine will be a four-cylinder, 2.3 liter engine, capable of generating 300 horsepower and producing speeds up to 175 miles an hour. We think this is an exciting car for the future, and we think that you'll all enjoy watching them compete next season.
MERRILL CAIN: If we could have the faces of Champ Car ladies unveil the designs for the new car and new engine.
MERRILL CAIN: We wanted to continue with our announcements. Vicki O'Connor has been the managing director of the series for the last 20 seasons. One of the most attractive aspects of this car, not only the way it looks and the way we hope it will run on the racetrack, but the cost that it's going to take to compete in the Atlantic Championship next year is going to be very affordable. Can you talk about that?
VICKI O'CONNOR: Yes, I will. Thank you all for attending. This is indeed a banner day for the Atlantic Championship. We've worked very hard to put together a package that will be cost-effective for our teams. Costs were getting out of control. We're aware of it. We think we've hit the nail on the head. It's up to all of you to let us know if we did. I'm extremely happy for the future of the series. We will be able to recruit, educate and graduate drivers. We have done more of that in our 20 years of my management than any other series in perhaps the world. I'm honored to be a part of it. I thank my partners at Champ Car and my partners at Swift and Cosworth for being part of it.
MERRILL CAIN: Thank you, Vicki.
Basically the costs for competing in the championship next season will be between $500,000 and $600,000 for a full-season entrant. Certainly very affordable by today's standards in auto racing. In terms of what it's going to look like competing on the track next season, we are joined by Steve Sewell, manager of technology for Champ Car. Steve, I know you were very key in determining what the new package is going to be like. What are these cars going to look like on the racetrack as we see them in 2006?
STEVE SEWELL: As Vicki indicated, what the Atlantic Series is about is educating drivers and preparing them for the next step. One of the things that we were very keen on was taking that even a step further and preparing the next generation of Champ Car drivers. A lot of the philosophies that we see in our Champ Cars we tried to carry on into the Atlantic Series as well. We're very proud of our graduates moving into Champ Car, and we want to ensure that they have the proper platform to make that transition a positive one and bring the drivers from all of the other support categories to a top-notch support-level series. To that end, we're going to continue with ground effects because that's what Champ Car is based on. We're going to model the grip levels, the aerodynamics, again, similar characteristics to the Champ Car, but scaled down so that we can really bring these drivers along in that fashion. Data collection technology, same thing. Pi Research has worked very hard in bringing in a system that will be familiar to current competitors that, as well, really dovetail into what the Champ Cars currently use as well. Each step along the way, we're working with all of the partners and certainly going to be working very closely with Swift to put a car on the track that really prepares these drivers for their future and yet is still technologically a challenge for the teams as well.
MERRILL CAIN: We very much looking forward to seeing it compete on track next season. Alex Cross from Swift Engineering. Alex, the most successful chassis designer in the history of the Atlantic Championship is Swift Engineering with 170 victories to its credit entering this weekend. What can you tell us about the new car design. Talk to us about the new Swift 016.
ALEX CROSS: The first thing about the new car design is we're very proud to continue our association with the top open-wheel development series certainly in the United States and potentially the world. This car is going to be a continuation of the same customer service and quality that you've seen in the past, but it will be more challenging to drive. It will be faster, it will have more horsepower, more torque, and it will be, we think, a very proper steppingstone to the next generation of Champ Car drivers. That is the goal for this car.
MERRILL CAIN: Thank you, Alex. Tim Routsis joins us from Cosworth. Cosworth served as the first engine for the Atlantic Series back in 1974, raced through 1989, producing over 190 victories in Atlantics. As we look ahead to the future now, Tim, if you would talk about the new Cosworth power we're going to see in Atlantics next year.
TIM ROUTSIS: Thank you. We're extremely proud to be bringing the Cosworth name back into Atlantics. The challenge for us, for the series going forward, as has been mentioned already, is this is intended to be a series which prepares drivers to move up to Champ Car. Now, as such, that gives us a challenge to make sure that every engine we deliver is exactly the same. We don't want to have engines as a variable in the series. We have to produce performance which prepares people in as much as it gives them a really good car, but we have to make sure that they're utterly reliable, they're affordable and they're all the same. It's very easy to design an engine which is very perky but doesn't last very long. I think Cosworth is going to be drawing on its experiences with Champ Car as to how we go about making very consistent powerful engines, and that's exactly the technology we're going to be bringing into the Atlantic Series. We're really enthusiastic about this sort of repeat visitation to Atlantics.
MERRILL CAIN: We're happy for the homecoming. Thank you very much. When we announced our new package, when word of this spread, a lot of teams that were very interested in signing up right off the bat. We're privileged to have a couple of announcements that we're excited to make this weekend. First off we'll start with Derrick Walker from Team Australia. Also want to recognize the co-owner of Team Australia who has joined us, Craig Gore is down here in front with us. Derrick, if you would, just talk about what your plans are for next season.
DERRICK WALKER: Sure. First of all, if I may take the liberty to thank and acknowledge Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe for their continuing efforts to revive Champ Car and the Atlantic Series. I think this is a significant commitment and a dedication to the sport of open-wheel racing. I'd like to compliment Kevin and Gerry.
As far as Team Australia is concerned, our plan very early on was to enter into Champ Car and be a winning team as soon as possible. We're well down that road. But one of the things that Craig and I realized almost at the same time is that we needed to have a continuous source of talent, both in the cockpit and out. So we're working on a program which we'll be announcing soon that will itemize and give in great detail how we're going to do that. But for today I'd like to take the liberty to announce our commitment to the Atlantic Series. It's our intention to be racing next year with a two-car Team Australia effort. We have drivers who are signed. We're not going to release those names today. We've got a lot more work to do, so we'll pick another time and day to do that because today is all about the announcement of Atlantic. We're proud to be part of it for next year, look forward to competing in the series. So congratulations again, Kevin and Gerry. Thank you.
MERRILL CAIN: Thank you very much, Derrick. Looking forward to having you in the Atlantic Championship next year. Richard Raeder is the team manager for Sierra Sierra Enterprises. The Sierra Sierra team competed the last couple of seasons in the Atlantic Championships with Ryan Dalziel. Richard you're here to tell us today you're going to be returning to the series next year.
RICHARD RAEDER: That's correct. Firstly, I'd like to thank (team owners) Dennis and Diane and the Kotke family for allowing me to make this announcement. As we made this decision 12 hours ago, we are coming back with two cars and the orders will be placed today.
MERRILL CAIN: Excellent. We hear you have a check in your pocket, is that true?
RICHARD RAEDER: I do.
MERRILL CAIN: Thank you, Richard. Happy to have you guys back next year. John Brooks has been a loyal supporter of Atlantics both as a racer and team owner over the years, competing with a two-car effort this season. He's done a very good job with his drivers this year. John, we assume your team is going to be back next year, but I think you want to make a bit of an announcement as well.
JOHN BROOKS: Most certainly we'll be back next year. One of the first things I want to do, though, is thank Toyota for all their support throughout the years. If it wasn't for Toyota, this series wouldn't be as established as it is right now. But the thought of moving forward, improving the equipment and everything, I think all the team owners are very excited about the future. We will continue to support the championship. We will be back next year with two cars at least, and my deposit is going in before Richard's.
MERRILL CAIN: It will be a race to get to Vicki at the end of the press conference here. Thank you very much. Looking forward to having you back next year. There is another significant announcement that's going along with what we're doing here this weekend. We'd like to turn it over to Kevin Kalkhoven to make that announcement. Kevin, first off, again, a great day for Atlantics, but in addition to setting the future design for the new formula in the Atlantic package, Champ Car is instituting a very impressive incentive for next season's Atlantic competitors. Can you tell us what awaits the 2006 Atlantic Champion?
KEVIN KALKHOVEN: Thank you very much for being here. By the way, thanks, guys, that's six cars, that's great. Swift, take the orders quickly (laughter). One of the things that is very important to both Gerry, Paul and myself as we go forward in the development of Champ Car is to ensure that there is a steady and solid progression of new young drivers, both US and international, to come into Champ Car. We looked very carefully at how we were going to do this because as Champ Car builds, we wanted the support series to build. So what I'd like to announce today is our commitment to the development of the Atlantic drivers, some of whom you'll see here, some of whom will be new to the series next year, as a solid progression through to Champ Car. Not only on top of the prize money, which is very significant for the series, but we're also going to announce a $2 million check that the winner of the 2006 championship can take forward and present to selected Champ Car teams, which will take them a long way towards having a solid season in Champ Car. We believe this level of commitment to Atlantics is also a measure of our commitment to Champ Car as we go forward.
Continued in part 2