CHAMP CAR MEDIA TELECONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT WITH NEIL MICKLEWRIGHT AND MARIO DOMINGUEZ ERIC MAUK: Welcome, everyone, to today's Champ Car media teleconference as we continue to move forward towards the 2007 Champ Car World Series season opener...
CHAMP CAR MEDIA TELECONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT WITH NEIL MICKLEWRIGHT AND MARIO DOMINGUEZ
ERIC MAUK: Welcome, everyone, to today's Champ Car media teleconference as we continue to move forward towards the 2007 Champ Car World Series season opener which will take place August 6 through 8 on the streets of Las Vegas, the season opening Vegas Grand Prix.
Today I'm joined by the general manager of Forsythe Championship Racing, Mr. Neil Micklewright, as Forsythe Championship Racing announces its second car and second driver for the 2007 season. I am very pleased and honored to announce that six-year Champ Car veteran Mario Dominguez will be in the seat of the No. 7 Forsythe Championship Racing machine, a deal that is set for the first three races, and the team hopes will continue for the remainder of the campaign. Neil, thanks for joining us today. Big announcement. Tell us a little bit about how this came about.
NEIL MICKLEWRIGHT: Good morning, everybody. Obviously we're very pleased to be able to announce this. As we've been going through the pre-season testing, getting ready for the Las Vegas Grand Prix, obviously we were looking around to see who might potentially be the second driver.
Putting all of our ducks in a row, ultimately the decision came down to run Mario. We're delighted to be able to get back into a relationship with Mario. He's done well for us in the past. Right now we're just excited about the prospect of it. Hopefully we'll be able to continue that relationship beyond the first three races.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Mario Dominguez, a five-year veteran of the Champ Car battlefields has 78 starts, all of them in consecutive fashion. Mario actually has the longest current streak of consecutive starts in Champ Car with those 78 starts. He has two victories to his credit. He earned his first Champ Car pole a year ago when he led qualifying in Houston, where he went onto lead a career-best 63 laps in that race before finishing third. 11 podiums, two of those coming a year ago. He finished ninth in the final standings. Mario, congratulations on everything. Tell us about your thoughts on rejoining Forsythe Championship Racing.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Well, thank you very much. Good morning to everybody that's listening. What can I tell you? I'm very excited. I'm really happy. I couldn't believe it when I got a call from Neil Micklewright. It's a wonderful opportunity given to me again by Gerry Forsythe and Forsythe Championship Racing.
It's been a tough off-season. I've been working really, really hard every single day to try to get sponsors, to try to get what's needed in order for me to race in Champ Car. But the fact that I'm going to be able to start the season with Forsythe, with a team that would be like coming back home, it's just the best news possible I could have ever gotten.
I think it's going to be great. It's going to help all the companies that I've been dealing with here in Mexico, try to get them to come in for the rest of the season. It's going to help Champ Car in Mexico and Champ Car in the United States/Hispanic market and, of course, me.
I'm very excited. Right now there's no words to describe how happy I am. I'm just going to go out there and give it my best so I can give Mr. Forsythe and all of Mexico the results they deserve. Last year there was a lot of unfinished business at Forsythe. I believe this is the year to make it up to them and win races, go out there and win. That's how we're going to be able to put a successful program for the rest of the year.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. We're very happy for you here at the Champ Car World Series. This is a situation that Mario is not unfamiliar with. Jumped into a Forsythe car a couple weeks before the season started back in 2005, took it to a top five finish in the season opener in Long Beach. Mario, you've had a chance to do a little bit of testing in the DP01. You ran the open test in Sebring back in January. Tell us your thoughts.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: I had a chance to drive the new Panoz in Sebring. I think it's fantastic. Panoz did a great job with the car. I think it's got a lot of downforce. Technologically speaking it's a lot more advanced. This car is going to make for better racing, improve the show for the fans, and certainly improve the driving excitement for the drivers. It already proved to be really fast when it broke the Formula One track record in Laguna Seca. The car was already going faster than the regular Lola in Sebring right on the first set.
It's a car that really suits my driving style. You can really push hard and be aggressive. The car will take it. It's a very enjoyable car to drive as far as from a driver standpoint. It's very demanding, as well. It's not easy, but at the same time you can enjoy it a lot. The new paddle shifting is good, makes it a lot easier than before. I think it's a great thing for Champ Car and for also the drivers, of course, because we always like to drive cars that are faster, to have a new car. For the fans, it's going to improve the show.
ERIC MAUK: We'll go ahead and open things up to the media now.
Q: Mario, it's got to be a bit of a relief, but also it's now a great opportunity, but you got to make it happen this time. You have had a bit of an odyssey all through the winter, searching for rides everywhere. Tell us about that. Do you feel a particular pressure to produce?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Well, of course, I believe there is a need and a pressure to get results, not only for the sponsors in Mexico but for Mr. Forsythe and for myself. That will help for me to get a full-time ride for this year. But that's always the case in racing. It's nothing new. We're out there to win. That's what we should be doing.
As far as during the year, I've been working very, very hard every day since the end of the last race to try to get a budget together to be able to race in a competitive Champ Car team. It hasn't been easy, but I believe it's looking good. With Pemex, there was a bit of a problem because there was a change in government. I've gotten stuck a little bit there. A lot of people thought I was going to have Pemex for sure. I believe they're going to come through. I have a couple other people that I'm working also to come in for the rest of the year.
As of right now, I am very, very happy and thankful to Telmex and Mr. Carlos Slim for his support for the first three races. That's very valuable for me, I believe, to have a company like Telmex that is very, very well-recognized with Mexico. It's great for Champ Car and myself and the fans. I hope that I can get results and they're going to be happy and we're going to continue for the rest of the year.
Q: Mario, unfortunately it's only a seat for the first three races. Could you tell me about your seat time in the car thus far? What kind of testing have you had in the DP01?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Well, I tested for three days in Sebring, on the first set with the RuSPORT team. I did a very complete test there where we started from just shaking the car down to long runs to try to get to see if the car was consistent and if it was reliable. It turns out it's a very reliable car right off the bat. The car never had any major failures, nothing really bad go wrong with it. Just a few little glitches here and there that were quickly fixed, and we kept running. I got to know the car pretty good. I will certainly know what to expect for the first race in Las Vegas.
Q: Have you had a chance to talk to P.T. (Paul Tracy) at all about rejoining the team?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: I haven't had a chance to talk to Paul about rejoining, but I'm excited to race with Paul again. He's obviously, I'd like to say, the best driver in Champ Car. To run alongside, it's great. We're good friends. We get along very well. I like him as a person. I know his quality as a driver. I think him and I, we're doing a very good job together as teammates before. So the fact that I'm joining him again is going to be very good for me.
Q: Paul has a reputation for being outspoken obviously. He really speaks his mind. He said a couple rough things. You said you're friendly. Did that affect you at all going in, or have you made some adjustments in your own thought process and smoothed that out with Paul?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: I've never had a problem with Paul either when I was with the team or when I left. To tell you the truth, I don't even remember if he had said anything rough. If he did, you know, it doesn't matter. I never heard it. It's all in the past. I think right now it's the time to look into the future. You know, absolutely I have no grudges with Paul at all. On the other hand, like I said, we're good friends. Every time we see each other at the track, we talk. He's a good person.
Q: Heading into Las Vegas, you've had minimal seat time in the new car, but you have a lot of experience in Champ Car. Do you think that experience is enough to overcome your lack of seat time in this particular car?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: I believe so. I think I got three days that were very valuable. I know what to expect from the car. I know what the car needs, the way it needs to be driven in order to be fast. You know, it's obviously a small disadvantage, but at the same time, like you say, I am an experienced driver. I should be able to overcome that. I don't see that as an obstacle.
Q: How popular has Champ Car become in Mexico? Do you think with you being on Team Forsythe now it will grow even more?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Well, Champ Car is very popular in Mexico. It has been for the past eight years. It's a great success here. People in Mexico love it. They love the show. It has obviously become popular because they've had Mexican drivers that have had success in Champ Car. For example, Adrian Fernandez, Michel Jourdain and myself have all been successful in Champ Car, and I have a strong following because of that.
This year there was the NASCAR Busch race in Mexico. It didn't even draw half the court. Adrian Fernandez and Michel Jourdain were driving here, and they didn't draw a big crowd. The grandstands were fairly empty. Whereas last year, racing here in Mexico City, we got quite a good crowd, like about a hundred thousand people.
People appreciate open-wheel racing and they especially appreciate Champ Car because they always know that the race is going to be exciting and it's going to be fun. Having a Mexican in a good team as Forsythe that has the opportunity to win races and get good results is always exciting for the Mexican fans. This is certainly going to help a lot to increase its popularity and have everybody very happy down here in Mexico.
Continued in part 2