CHAMPIONSHIP AUTO RACING TEAMS, INC.
AN INTERVIEW WITH MORRIS NUNN
MIKE ZIZZO: Our special guest is Morris Nunn, the former chief technical manager for Target Chip/Ganassi racing and reigning champion, Juan Montoya. Morris has announced that he will campaign a one-car team under the Morris Nunn banner in the FedEx2000 Championship Series season. He will utilize Reynard chassis and Mercedes Benz engines. Joining him in his partnership will be Bruce McCaw president of the PacWest Racing Group, as well as Rod Campbell, a well-respected, Detroit-based marketing executive. Morris, thank you very much for joining us today. MORRIS NUNN: Thank you. MIKE ZIZZO: Before I open the floor to media questions can you just give us a brief overview of how this all came together and how you joined up with your partners? MORRIS NUNN: Well, it all started seriously about a month ago and kind of at the Fontana time. And I was seriously considering retiring, which I've been trying to do for the last three years, and the chairperson managed to talk me out of it each time and do a reverse psychology job on me, you know, the big guilt trip. But I've been with Chip eight years, and that's been a long time. You know, he hasn't kept his wives that long. But anyway, I've been approached by various teams to join them, and I didn't really want to leave Chip and join another team. Chip kind of gave me everything I needed to help him with the team, to win, and we've been very successful, and it came about that -- through talking with Paul Morgan, that there was a suggestion that maybe something could be done where we could start my own team. So with that, I became interested, and then I was introduced to Bruce McCaw and Rod Campbell, who was with me in Formula 1 way back in the 70s. So I've known Rod for 25 years. He's an ace marketing guy, and I thought that would be a big asset. We've been friends ever since. We kind of all got together and went from there. MIKE ZIZZO: You do realize now that you've become an owner, it's going to cut into your golfing time? MORRIS NUNN: I gave that very serious consideration, but I haven't got down under scratch by the time this deal was done, so I decided I'd put the golf back a little bit.
Q. When you made this decision to become an owner, what was the driving factor? Was it the extra challenge? Was it just to find a way to stay in the sport? MORRIS NUNN: Well, certainly not a way to stay in the sport. It was the challenge of -- when I had my own team in Formula 1, it never really got to the top. So I've won all these races in the last few years for someone else. So my wife was keen on the idea, and she said, "Well, why don't we do this for ourselves rather than for someone else?" So the challenge was there. Now let's see if I can do it with my own team.
Q. Now, what kind of relationship -- it was mentioned that Bruce McCaw is part of the -- is a partnership. What kind of relationship will that be? MORRIS NUNN: Bruce is he very successful businessman in the United States. He is now -- one of now three Mercedes teams, and we're going to -- by letting him become a partner in our team, we're going to kind of help each other to get the Mercedes engine up to the front of the grid.
Q. And my final question has to be with all the rumors floating around both on this side of the Pond and that side of the Pond regarding your friend, Alex Zanardi, is he one of the candidates for the driver's set? MORRIS NUNN: Alex is a friend, and his wife, and we stay in touch. And we've spoken to each other once a month through the year. And I heard of all his troubles, and, you know, his performances. And really, as far as I know at this moment, his contract has not been settled. So I kind of joked about it with Alex. But as of this moment, I believe he's still with Williams.
Q. And should that release come, how far up the list will he move for you? MORRIS NUNN: Well, we'd love to have Alex, but I'm not sure that he would come back to the States. I mean, I haven't really spoke to him in any detail about that, but when he left, I know he missed Europe, and maybe he has enough money now to retire, I don't know.
Q. There's been rumors about drivers that you maybe have been looking at for next year. Can you tell us a short list of drivers that you are considering? MORRIS NUNN: On the short list, we have a gentleman in Europe named David Seres (ph), who was one manager, and he tests drives frequently in Formula 3000 over there. And we have kind of been in contact over there to see if there were any -- what can I say, young guns coming out of the woodwork in Europe. The consensus of opinion right now is that nobody following Juan or anybody close to him came here because he had done thousands of miles of testing in a Formula 1 car. So Bryan Herta is on our short list, and most of the other drivers here are under contracts, so you know, there aren't that many available.
Q. Given that you're getting started a little bit late in the ballgame, when do you expect to get your new cars and when do you expect to start testing? MORRIS NUNN: We will be testing in earnest at spring training in February.
Q. Most teams have started 15 months out, a year out. You've seen all sides of teams. What's your first priority, and, you know, you're going to be playing a big game of catch-up, and how do you plan to get around that? MORRIS NUNN: I obviously don't see it as playing catch-up. We've put a good group of people together, and I don't see that. I think we'll be competitive right off the bat.
Q. I wonder, Morris, if you could maybe talk in just sort of practical terms about how the relationship with PacWest will develop, let's say on a typical race weekend. Do you actually see there being an exchange of technical information during the course of the weekend, or will it be more -- will the relationship be sort of more theoretical or more, you know, less immediate than that, shall we say? MORRIS NUNN: No. If we can help them in any way, whatever it is, that's what we plan to do, to get the Mercedes car up in the front and winning races. And whatever we can do for PacWest we can do, and likewise from them. We'll share -- we'll share technology. You know, they have -- they have a lot of programs that will help us, and we'll help them any way we can. Whatever that is, we will help them.
Q. I'm not aware that any sponsorship packages have been announced yet, and I wonder if you, Morris, or perhaps Rod could address that situation as of now? ROD CAMPBELL: There aren't any sponsorships that can be announced at this point. We expect that there will be sponsors on the team. But there's nobody that we can talk about at this point. There are a number of people being talked to, and amazingly, there is a lot of interest, just because it's Morris Nunn's team, the success, particularly with Chip/Ganassi over the last three years is Getting a lot of people interested IN what he's doing and believing that he will be competitive. And, of course, we want to be a competitive racing team. We will be happy to let you know as soon as we know. They always -- sponsors are always interested in good publicity.
Q. I wonder if you could discuss or explain Mercedes' involvement in this team. Does Mercedes have an investment in the team or do you consider yourselves a factory team in some way? What's the status of that, the level of that? MORRIS NUNN: As I said before, we're one of three Mercedes teams, and I think all of those teams are going to get equal support from Mercedes. And we're not a factory Mercedes team. We're just one of three teams that run Mercedes engines.
Q. Talking about the Mercedes a bit more, can you allude to any changes that are happening for the year 2000 Mercedes engine? MORRIS NUNN: They have a new engine, which I believe they are testing with PacWest right now in Sebring. I personally have worked with Mario Illian (ph) and Paul Morgan, who, you know, are in England as the designers, and I've worked with them in the past. In fact, the last time I was with them was in '89 when we won the championship in Emerson and won the Indy 500. We had a good working relationship. And I have every confidence that they can build a winning engine in the CART series. I think it's very important to them to be up front with all their marketing in the U.S., and I have every confidence in Mario. If they can build a Formula 1 engine that can win the world championship, I'm sure they can do the same job here.
Q. I've heard comments that every manufacturer has a down year, and this was one of Mercedes; down years, but they will be back on top. Do you agree with that? MORRIS NUNN: That's what I feel.
Q. Indianapolis, are you planning to go there? MORRIS NUNN: No, we have no plans to go to Indianapolis in the year 2000.
Q. I just received the changes to testing, the latest from CART, also limiting the tires. How does that affect you as an overall team, and how will that affect the series, from your standpoint? MORRIS NUNN: That's fine. I don't see a problem with that. I mean, we're going to be able to do all the testing before the season starts. With the amount of days they give us, and once the season starts, then I don't see that as a problem.
Q. Did Chip's decision to switch to Toyota drive the decision this in any way? MORRIS NUNN: I told Chip as far back as Mid-Ohio that I was retiring at the end of the year. It's not a question of Chip changing to a Toyota engine.
Q. The process of trying to put together a team and get it up and going, in a fairly short amount of time, is it much helped by the fact that it's a CART team, where you have a customer car available like a Reynard, as opposed to where you have to do the whole thing yourself from scratch? MORRIS NUNN: The last time we -- when I was in England and build a Formula 1 engine, I had a new design team, and from the first stroke of a pen, we were actually on the track in 17 days with a brand new car. So, yes, it is easier, because everybody in those days didn't get much sleep when we did that. But it's a lot of hard work, but it is easier buying a spec car.
Q. On the driver, do you have a deadline set when you're going to have a driver, or is that open up until almost spring training time? MORRIS NUNN: I would say we would choose a driver within the next month, next four weeks.
Q. How about a sponsor? Will that be in place in plenty of time as well, Rod? ROD CAMPBELL: We will get some sponsorship of the car at the test program. But I want to -- the other point, though, that we're okay from the financial standpoint. We're going to go ahead anyway. It's not dependent on us finding a sponsor. We're going to go ahead with the program, and we're confident sponsors will come along.
Q. Was the only name you mentioned Bryan Herta? MORRIS NUNN: The only name I mentioned -- you know, we were looking at Europe. There was one young driver named John Carrier (ph) and we were looking at Tarso Marques, John Carrier is going to stay in Formula 3000. He feels before he leaves there, he would like to win the championship there. And that's about all we've mentioned.
Q. And one more question, sir. I noticed in the release you said that you think you're going to surprise a lot of people with the competitiveness. Is that because this is a relatively short period of time before you're getting started or is it a given that all new teams are going to struggle? MORRIS NUNN: No, I don't think so. Actually, I would have preferred that not to have been in the press release. It's something I just missed, and because I -- I feel every race we go to, we're going to have a chance to be at the front. And I'm that optimistic.
Q. We live in a capitalistic society and people want to know what things cost. What will it cost for you to do 2000 with an all-new team? MORRIS NUNN: I would say in the region of $10 million.
Q. What about personnel to staff this operation, do you have any group together or are you still looking? MORRIS NUNN: We have at the moment, we have Steve Nuwey is going to be the general manager of the team. He is already here and working. He was with the Patrick team, as you probably know. We have Brad Filbey who is going to be the team manager. He was with Robby Gordon's team. And we have hired David Pappalarros from the KOOL/Green; he is going to be the chief mechanic or crew chief. Those key people are in place and they are working as of today.
Q. What about the climate between you and the people whose people you are taking? You and Chip for example, will it be a cordial relationship down the road, do you think, or is there some animosity there? MORRIS NUNN: We are not poaching -- if that's the word you want to use, poaching, I promised that -- and only if someone comes knocking on the door would we interview them, but we definitely will not poach people from other teams.
Q. What about the possibility besides Bryan Herta, but of an American driving for you? MORRIS NUNN: We do have resumes from Alex Barron, Memo Gidley, but for the new team, Bryan Herta is way ahead of all the other guys, as we see it.
Q. You are now a Florida resident and have a garage at Indianapolis. That's a long commute. Are you going to be an absentee manager? MORRIS NUNN: No. In fact, there's a direct flight from where I am, and it just takes an hour and 20 minutes. It's not a big deal. I will be here as often as I'm needed.
Q. Starting off the first year with a one-car team, do you anticipate going to a two-car team at any time in the future? MORRIS NUNN: We would certainly be looking at that for the year 2001.
Q. Do you feel that you can get the financial backing together to do an effort like that? MORRIS NUNN: We hope so. That's why Rod is part of this team, and, you know that we're definitely, you know, going ahead in that area to promote business and sponsors, something I was never very good at in the past, but that's why Rod is one of the key members in our organization. ROD CAMPBELL: The point is that we will not move to a second car or a two-car team until we have the right finances and sponsorship in place.
Q. Since two-car teams seem to have been more successful than one-car teams, do you think that will put you behind the eight-ball this year? MORRIS NUNN: No, I don't agree with that. No, I don't agree with that assumption.
Q. I just was assuming that there's more sharing of data, setup data and so forth, during the race weekend between, you know, with multiple-car teams. MORRIS NUNN: It would totally depend on who your drivers are. You know, some drivers need help. You could run a one-car team with Zanardi or Montoya, and they wouldn't need a second car. Some drivers need the help, others don't. It totally depends on who your drivers are.
Q. What would you consider a successful first year? What's your goals for the first year and what will make you call that year a success? MORRIS NUNN: Top-5 in the championship, with about three or four wins.
Q. Given Rod's prior -- well, his history with a certain large car company, is there any sort of animosity between the blue oval people and you, and specifically, Rod? ROD CAMPBELL: I hope not. Remember, I sold my company last May to a larger organization called ABI, and I'm very active in the growth of that new company. And the companies that we're involved with are doing business with everybody in the automotive world. Campbell Company, which is the company I founded, has Horne as a client and they are going to continue to do what they need to do for the client. I am over here, more than anything else, because of Morris Nunn. Morris and I were together 20 years ago in Formula 1, and that's a friendship that's lasted a long time, and that when he suggested that I might join with him in this venture, I thought it was kind of interesting to do that. I wasn't going to do that somewhere else. But it was just an opportunity that surfaced, and we hope that isn't a problem.
Q. Since you're there, Rod, and you're the marketing maven, are you looking, obviously you wouldn't preclude anything but are you looking more in the U.S. or for global sponsorship? ROD CAMPBELL: It's primarily the U.S. market that is the target, but I think all of CART, all of the teams should be looking at presenting themselves as globals, particularly with Brazil and Japan and possibly England and Germany, global sponsorships are possible. But most of the large corporations we're talking to are U.S. companies, and in most cases they are also a global company that can get some benefit out of it, wherever we race.
Q. How do you compete for dollars with the Nascar circuit? Are you selling something that's more focused at a particular group of potential consumers or are you offering more eyeballs per dollar? What's the selling points? ROD CAMPBELL: Well, we don't have the television rating or the people in the seats to the same extent that Nascar does. They are certainly one of the greatest racing operations that exists, in terms of creating -- having an audience. But CART racing is clearly more high-tech. And that is an image that a lot of people companies want to be associated with. And I think if you want to sell Tide and coffee and Valvoline, even, Nascar audiences, it's a very strong sell. In CART, we will be talking to companies that are more focused in a high-tech sense. And we've hope that if we've marketed well, we will be able to deliver to them. I don't want to say things that put Nascar down because that's ridiculous. But there is a different audience. These are different people, and we just have to focus on this audience. This is a fragmented business, and our audience is fragmented and it's focused on the high-tech image, but there are lots of people in that market segment that to buy products and services.
Q. You've mentioned a couple times here about looking in Europe for Formula 3000 drivers. If you considered any Toyota Atlantic or Indy Lights drivers or do you consider that to be a suitable feeder or your CART team or for CART teams in general? MORRIS NUNN: For some time, I believe the cars we have in the United States to show up and coming drivers need to be a different specification. And I haven't -- to be honest with you, I haven't looked at Formula Atlantic or Indy Lights, because you can see Indy Lights this year, that the driver who won the championship, I don't believe won a race. And the more technical the cars are in these other formulas, I don't think that let's the driver shine. In my view, they should be a car with very little aerodynamics and maybe just a front and rear wing that the drivers can adjust and an engine that gives enough horsepower that the rear tires won't handle. So there needs to be more horsepower than the chassis can handle, and then we can see who the good drivers are. I don't think that we can necessarily look at an Indy Lights race and see who is the best driver.
Q. When was the last time you actually talked to Alex Zanardi, and did you talk to him about this venture? MORRIS NUNN: He knows that I'm starting my own team. He thinks I'm mad. But I spoke to him, let me see, it was about ten days ago.
Q. And do you think he -- would you rule him out as a possibility or do you think he's -- I know he's under contract, but would you totally rule him out? MORRIS NUNN: I would never rule anybody out, you know. Strange things happen even with people with contract, certainly people are out of jobs or whatever. It was a surprise that Alex was let go, if he has been finally let go. I haven't heard that he has actually finished with Williams. He hasn't told me that. If he was available, yes, Alex would be probably the top of our list.
Q. Honestly, do you think that the new Toyota engine for the team Ganassi will be a handicap at the beginning especially? MORRIS NUNN: I have no idea. I have no idea. You know, these things can turn around. Knowing Chip as I do, if he fell off the Empire State Building, he'd land on a featherbed. Maybe it will be stronger. I have no idea. We're going to treat Chip as a competitor, and I wish him all the luck in the world. I don't have any idea about Toyota.
Q. Have you spoken with Montoya about your new team? MORRIS NUNN: No, not at all. Juan is contracted to Chip; so no, I haven't spoken to Juan.
Q. How long do you think it will take to develop the new car, the Mercedes and everything? MORRIS NUNN: Oh, about two days.
Q. Two days? MORRIS NUNN: (Laughter.)
Q. You make it better than Honda? MORRIS NUNN: I sincerely hope so.
Q. Seriously, if I talk with Zanardi and he is available for you --? MORRIS NUNN: Have you talked to him?
Q. I will talk tomorrow, and do you think that you will take him if he says yes? MORRIS NUNN: If he says yes? I'm sure. MIKE ZIZZO: Thank you very much for joining us, and we thank all the media for joining us today. And Morris, best of luck this season, we're glad you're staying around and not retiring. MORRIS NUNN: Thank you. I think we need some extra teams out there.