Continued from part 1 Q: First of all for, Eric, the addition of Bruce Ashmore to me is a significant add to this team when you figure that he used to be part of the technical brain behind, first, Reynard and then Lola, to have him with the ...
Continued from part 1
Q: First of all for, Eric, the addition of Bruce Ashmore to me is a significant add to this team when you figure that he used to be part of the technical brain behind, first, Reynard and then Lola, to have him with the Mi-Jack team is a tremendous plus as far as I can see it, and obviously you would agree?
ERIC BACHELART: Yes, absolutely. I know Bruce for quite a few years. I tell you, our team, we started from a small Indy Lights team with just one car back in 1997. You know, we have been growing every year. I tell you, just till a few years ago, having the possibility of meeting Bruce and picking his brain on a few things was always enjoyable. I've known him for quite a few years now and I'm really glad that he's on board. I think that he's very knowledgeable and especially with this position of chief engineer or technical director. I mean, he's good at managing people and he's a very positive and enthusiastic person. Also, he knows a lot of people outside the team, and I think he can bring us to the next level and help us with growing and becoming a top team.
So, you know, last year, we had some very good engineers, but we are all busy and a bit shorthanded together, and I felt that, you know, I needed to work with somebody over there that would manage the engineers and get the most out of everybody, and also, you know, just put some lines and some directions about what to do, where to go.
Bruce has been on board for not that long, an estimate I would say probably a good two weeks now, but we have already, you know, made some very good progress and put in the directions, you know, looking at the wind tunnel and what we are going to do and stuff like this. I feel very good and will be that we're able to do that.
Q: Last year it was sort of a pivotal year for the Champ Car World Series with all of the court fight and everything else and they wanted to get that season 2004 under their belt and start pointing towards a more positive direction, which I really think it has. You've got to be able to detect that the end of last year, everybody said, okay, I think we're going to be all right; would you have detected that sort of air of optimism around this series now?
NELSON PHILIPPE: I don't understand your question exactly. Could you explain it in a little bit more simple way?
Q: Sure. Last year was kind of a pivotal year for the series in terms of whether it was going to last and stick around. Now that you've got one full season done and completed. 2005 has got to be an optimistic feeling up and down the pits, and I think you'd probably agree with that, too.
NELSON PHILIPPE: Yes, I'd completely agree. The series really picked it up. You know, it's going to be a great year. We've got some great racetracks, great people, great drivers, great teams. It's going to be a very good show. And like you say, everybody in the pit lane is very optimistic and you can see everybody is smiling.
Q: Starting with Nelson, last year you were 17 years old and you came from Barber Dodge, what was it like to drive a Champ Car, making that step at such a young age; was it a bit overwhelming?
NELSON PHILIPPE: I don't know if it was overwhelming. It was a lot, yes. You know, it's something that I went into and I knew it would be hard, and it was especially hard with everything that happened during the year.
But I'm very glad that I was able to race last year, and because this year I feel much stronger, and like I said this before, I prefer to learn with the big dogs than to learn in something else and I had the opportunity to make the jump. So, you know, I did it.
And this year, I feel much more confident and I know that, once again, I said this before, but I know I can improve in many, many aspects of my driving.
Q: Eric, question for you. This is the first of two drivers. What's your plans for announcing a second driver? Are you going to be testing a number of drivers, and if so, could you tell us who you're going to be testing?
ERIC BACHELART: Well, you know, we're taking advantage of this test here with Nelson to test a few other drivers. We're quite busy. You know, today, we're testing a French driver called Bruce Johanni and Matthew Haliday from New Zealand. We worked with him a few years ago in Indy Lights. And tomorrow and Sunday we're testing Alex Figge, as well, that was in Formula Atlantic last year. We're going to keep on doing some testing, probably we're going to do something again mid-February or third week of February around Homestead.
Yeah, I mean, you know, we have got a lot of interest from many drivers, and so I feel pretty good that we'll do an announcement with our second driver fairly shortly, I would say, you know, probably three weeks or something like this.
We spoke about where Champ Car stands today, and I tell you that interest has picked up tremendously. I don't know how many drivers have been contacting us, but really a lot. So that tells you that a lot of people didn't believe that Champ Car would survive, in '04, and it did and it survived and got stronger, as well. Of course, we know about the TV announcement in Europe and also in the U.S., which is a much stronger package. So, you know think we're going to be fine. I think we're going to have a very good year in '05, as a team and as a series.
Again, I'm very keen with the effort of the three series owners, what they have put together and their continued support.
Q: Obviously you have not announced any sponsors today, is it safe to assume that Mi-Jack will be on board?
ERIC BACHELART: Mi-Jack is a partner with the team, as you know, but also, here we have been working on some pretty exciting sponsors for the entry with Nelson. Again, I think that we'll see in a few weeks we're going to make an announcement and we have two very good direction as far as sponsors and it's going to be some new sponsors for the series.
So, I mean, yeah, I feel pretty good about it, I really do. So, yeah, the car will be well-funded with a good sponsor on it. And then for the second car, we're working quite flat-out. We have been improving the team on the technical aspect, but also on the sales and marketing. We have three full-time people working in that department now, and, you know, this is also the way to go to grow the team.
So, I mean, you know, it's still a challenge. I still have to get better, everybody knows that, but I can see that there's a lot of maturation around Champ Cars and interest has picked up with the cooperation towards our series.
Q: Nelson, I wanted to compliment you on your ability to put your driving talents and your business and sales skills together to get yourself back on the Champ Car starting grid?
NELSON PHILIPPE: Yeah, my dad kind of helped me, he's a very good businessman so I kind of took some tips from him. With Eric, we have been working hard and I think we have some very nice sponsorship deals to announce in a few weeks.
Q: So from that European perspective, so obviously you're a European racing in a North American-based series; so does that mean we might see some European companies sponsoring the team?
NELSON PHILIPPE: You might. That's all I'm going to say. No, you will see, it's fairly interesting. They are fairly international companies and because Champ Car is fairly international itself, so I don't think we can go either for only American-based or only European-based. We need to go for something that's pretty well right.
Q: When you find you're talking to sponsors or potential sponsors, what do you find is the biggest obstacle that you run into or that you run up against that they are asking you?
NELSON PHILIPPE: Of course they ask me always my experience, and you know, I always debate the fact that I am young and I still have a lot to prove. And this year is the year to prove to people that -- who Nelson Philippe is.
Q: Mr. Bachelart, make could you comment on the same question, because obviously you're in the same drive to get sponsorship for the team, so what are some of the common questions you're coming up against?
ERIC BACHELART: Every company is specific, but really, Nelson's profile has been helping us quite a bit because, I mean, his unique profile. And basically we have been approaching some companies that can match, you know, Nelson's profile and also that, you know, are attracted with the demographics that Nelson can represent. So, I mean, that's quite interesting, and we have some very good reception, you know, from some companies that attracted, again, with Nelson's image.
So that is one thing, I mean, of course, you know, the good announcement, you know, this winter is the TV package, you know, and the seven races that we have on network, and that's always very appealing for sponsors; the fact that in Europe, you know, the race are broadcast on Eurosport, as well, has been a good thing. Just the TV package has been much stronger and it help us, you know, a lot, selling sponsorship for Champ Cars.
You know, I mean, after that, again, every company is different, you know, and when we knock on the door on some companies, we're just, you know, we're going to sell some B2B, business to business to some. To some we're going to sell Nelson's image. Everything is a bit different, you know, but, yeah, we have a lot of activities, you know, all of these past months. We're getting sponsorship and I think we're starting to get results.
Q: I sense from you that the companies are a lot more receptive and there's more optimism within the companies; in other words, about the direction the series is going and the health of the series, in addition to the driver lineup that are in the series overall, etc.?
ERIC BACHELART: Yeah, I think so. I mean, you know, a year ago, believe me, it was a very difficult mission. It's way different now. Of course, you know, we have to keep on working in the direction of developing the series and developing the awareness of the series and our drivers. You know, there's still a lot of work to be done, obviously. But I think everybody is working in the same direction and I'm optimistic and positive, you know. We know it's difficult, it's a challenge, no doubt about it.
But, you know, when you look at it, I mean, I really believe that between the series owners and the series itself and different teams, if you come in the pit lane you're going to see that everybody is pulling in the same direction and we have of course the support of the drivers. Generally speaking, the drivers has been helping as much as they can with the fans and so, you know, I mean, there was just a pretty good spirit.
ERIC MAUK: As you can all hear in the background, the cars have refired the engines here again at Sebring even though the clouds have not quite gone away yet. We're going to let Eric and Nelson get back to it. Eric, I know you've got a couple, like you mentioned, a couple of young chargers out there in your equipment right now, so we'll let you get back to them.
Gentlemen, again, congratulations from all of us, and thank you for coming on today.
NELSON PHILIPPE: Thank you, and I just want to apologize because I'm a little bit rusty, I haven't talked English to the press in a little while. So sorry if I hesitated a little. (Laughing).
ERIC MAUK: You have plenty of practice as we go along, Nelson.
For all of the media on the call, we will be issuing test reports from Sebring following each day's events.