CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP MEDIA TELECONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT WITH ROBERT WICKENS, JOHN EDWARDS, JOHN BRUNNER AND PETER DAVIES OF FORSYTHE RACING MERRILL CAIN: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us on today's Champ Car Atlantic...
CHAMP CAR ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP MEDIA TELECONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT WITH ROBERT WICKENS, JOHN EDWARDS, JOHN BRUNNER AND PETER DAVIES OF FORSYTHE RACING
MERRILL CAIN: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us on today's Champ Car Atlantic Championship media teleconference. I am Merrill Cain with the Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda. I'm pleased to welcome to the call today the two new drivers for the Forsythe Championship Racing Atlantic team who will be going after the Atlantic title in 2007, 17-year-old Robert Wickens of Toronto, Canada, and 15-year-old John Edwards of Little Rock, Arkansas. Robert and John, thanks for joining us on the teleconference today.
We're also joined today by John Brunner, team manager for the Forsythe Atlantic team. He's here to talk about the team's outlook for 2007.
We'd also like to welcome Peter Davies, senior vice president of business development for Forsythe Racing, who can talk about how the relationship with the Red Bull program came together to work with Robert and John for the upcoming season.
MERRILL CAIN: We'll start off first by just getting some quick comments from each of our guests, then we'll open it up for questions from the media.
We'll start out first with Peter Davies. Everybody in the Champ Car family is certainly happy to welcome aboard Red Bull for next season. You worked closely with them to pull this deal together. We'd like for you to give us an overview of how the relationship developed and how Robert and John came to join Atlantics and the Forsythe team.
PETER DAVIES: First of all, on behalf of Forsythe Racing, we'll very proud to partner with Red Bull. They are an extraordinary company. They've become deeply entrenched in some of the world's most exciting sports. We're very excited that they've chosen the Champ Car World Series and the Atlantic program in which to become involved in the premiere form of open-wheel racing.
That was a relationship which really came out of their involvement in Formula One and their relationship formally with Cosworth, which of course Mr. Forsythe and Mr. Kalkhoven have an interest in. They've met the principals. They were able to share their vision of the Champ Car and the Atlantic programs with them. Happily, Red Bull thought this was a very good place to bring themselves as a brand, as far as regards to Atlantic goes, to bring Robert and John to Forsythe.
MERRILL CAIN: How did they happen to target these two drivers as the drivers they were going to bring over and join Atlantics? I know these guys have been on the fast track here. Can you speak a little bit about that, how they targeted these two and settled on Forsythe as the team to run with?
PETER DAVIES: As far as the drivers go, that would be an interesting question to ask Robert and John as to why they felt they'd been picked. But certainly their results speak for themselves. All of the teams that are in Atlantic and Champ Car are interested in the young drivers, the talents coming up through the various championships. These two young men have proved themselves at the stages they've been in.
Clearly an organization with the resources and the vision that Red Bull has to secure for themselves both personalities and talents has identified them both and taken them through the Formula BMW USA and the European programs. They felt the next logical step for them was to come to the Atlantic Series, deep fields of talented individuals. Having developed the relationship with Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe, we at Forsythe had a recently re-established Atlantic program, and this would be a good place for them not only in terms of I hope our reputation for good equipment, John can talk to that, but also providing a mentoring environment for these younger drivers to mature and develop as they hone their skills on the track.
MERRILL CAIN: Thank you, Peter. Good overview of the relationship with Red Bull.
Next up we'll turn to John Brunner. John, you've had a chance to work with Robert and John in testing over the off-season. Can you tell us what you've seen from both of these guys on the racetrack. Both very talented young drivers. What do you expect from Forsythe Racing in the 2007 Atlantic season?
JOHN BRUNNER: The drivers, both Robert and John, have done an excellent job so far. They've completed four of their six off-season test days. All four have gone very well for both of them. We're quite impressed with their maturity in the car. They are young. That doesn't show through in their abilities inside of the car at all. We've been really impressed with the work they've done so far.
They've given outstanding feedback. They're very accomplished in the car. It's amazing for their age. Quite unbelievable.
MERRILL CAIN: John, when you look ahead to 2007, obviously the team was a four-car program last year. Will you be a four-car program again? Are you going to focus on two cars for the upcoming season? I'm sure a lot of people are interested in what the plans are moving forward.
JOHN BRUNNER: We were a four-car program last year. With us returning to the series, all the new excitement surrounding the series last year, when we decided to put a program in place to join with the new car, the Mazda motor, the $2 million prize, all of it really came into play. When we decided to jump back in, we wanted to go all in basically. We did come out as a four-car team.
With the 2006 season over, we had a good season. We ran up front all year, which was our focus. Going into this year, though, we felt that it was important to focus more on the two cars, work with John and Robert. The series is very strong on its own. We weren't just positive at the beginning of last year. When we made our plans, Gerry wanted to be very active in that new program. And obviously the new series is stronger than ever, stronger than it's been in a long, long time. So this year we will focus on our two cars. The series is in fine shape otherwise.
MERRILL CAIN: Looking for good things again from Forsythe in 2007 . Thank you very much, John .
Now let's hear from the drivers. We'll start out with Robert Wickens. He's the 2006 Formula BMW USA champion and one of the rising stars in Canadian open-wheel racing.
Robert, talk about the opportunity you have here in Atlantics with Forsythe and Red Bull, and also touch on following in the footsteps of some of the great Canadian racers who competed for Forsythe in the past, we're talking about drivers like Jacques Villeneuve, Greg Moore, Alex Tagliani and Patrick Carpentier, to name a new.
ROBERT WICKENS: Obviously, being a Canadian, getting the opportunity to be a part of Forsythe, really it's an honor. In Denver when I was fortunate enough to sign the contract with Forsythe and Red Bull, I was speechless just being at the same table with Gerry Forsythe. Everything has just pretty much a dream come true. I find myself pinching myself making sure I'm not sleeping.
Hopefully next year will go pretty well. Obviously every driver hopes to win the championship. I think with the consistent finishes, you can get a decent result.
MERRILL CAIN: Looking for good things from you next season for sure.
John Edwards is a bit of a racing prodigy. After winning the Red Bull driver search, John became the youngest driver ever to earn an FIA license, doing so at age 14. He's been driving in Europe for Red Bull the past two seasons, racing in the competitive Formula Renault Series. He returns to the US this year, competing with Forsythe Racing.
John, if you could talk about your experiences that have gotten you to this point and what you expect from the 2007 season as you get your first taste of Champ Car Atlantic competition.
JOHN EDWARDS: The past couple years have had a lot of unexpected turns. I was supposed to be karting in Europe, and then one driver got released so I moved up to replace him at a very young age. I was the youngest driver in the series by a couple of years. It was a pretty steep learning curve. I started off at the back, worked my way forward. By the end, I won a race in the North European Championship. I was honestly expecting to be in another year of Formula Renault just because of my age, where I had been so far.
I was really ecstatic to hear that I was going to be with Forsythe because obviously driving the same car for two years, you're not going to learn much about the car in the third year. To hop into a car that has so much downforce, with a team that teaches you everything you need to know, it's great because, again, it's another really a steep learning curve. In only four days I've learned really just so much. The Forsythe program has really helped us both.
MERRILL CAIN: John, obviously you're probably used to being the youngest driver in many of the series you've competed in. You'll be the youngest guy, 16 years old when the season starts in 2007 with Forsythe. Any pressure knowing that you're the youngest guy out there going against some veteran guys who have been in Atlantics for a few years?
JOHN EDWARDS: No. I mean, it doesn't really matter if I'm 15 or 18 or something. There are still going to be veteran guys that have had more experience in the car. That's always going to happen no matter how old you are. We're just going to have to work to overcome that.
I think we've got a great package for next year. Obviously the team has a lot of experience. Even already just in the first test, we had the new Cooper tires. They didn't know anything about that. They're systematic about working, figuring out what works on the new tire. I can tell that they know how to evaluate everything. I know they're helping me a lot to make my driving better, as well.
MERRILL CAIN: Very good, John. Looking forward to seeing you on the racetrack in 2007.
We'll open it up for questions from the media.
Q: John Brunner, you sort of touched on it a bit. Obviously these are two very, in the big scheme of things, young guys. Last year you had a very young guy in Richard Philippe on the Atlantic team. Is there anything special about the approach you take with "young drivers" or do you treat them as racing drivers and expect them to behave accordingly?
JOHN BRUNNER: I think with Richard, and with John and Robert, we have the same thing. Yes, they're young, but you approach them the exact same way that you would a veteran in the car. These guys are young in age, like I said, but they're not young in experience in the race car.
On track, it's really no different than dealing with any other driver. Outside of the car, sometimes it can get interesting. But that's what makes it fun. I know what to expect with these two this year from working with Richard last year. We'll see if it's similar, but I expect it to be similar.
There's no issues when it comes to the actual job performance. Your issues turn out to be things like they're not old enough to rent cars, they have trouble checking into hotel rooms and things like that. Those are the issues that are different than having some of the older drivers.
Continued in part 2