January 15, 2003 An interview with Chris Pook Craig Pollock Kevin Kalkhoven Adam Saal: We've been hard at it building the roster, building the entry list for the 2003 Champ Car season and today we have two new owners that we welcome to the ...
January 15, 2003
An interview with
Adam Saal: We've been hard at it building the roster, building the entry list for the 2003 Champ Car season and today we have two new owners that we welcome to the ownership cockpit of the Champ Car racing team.
Please welcome to the stage the principles of Pollock Kalkhoven Racing, Craig Pollock and Kevin Kalkhoven. Welcome, gentlemen.
Craig Pollock: Well, what can I say? I can't be any prouder than I am today. Obviously this announcement was made by CART, we are in the series, we have applied and we have been accepted and are proud to be here. It's going to be extremely hard for us because there are fantastic team owners and they have got more experience than we have in Champ Car, and we know it's going to be a very hard year. The decision was taken six weeks ago by Kevin. He came to Switzerland and said, "wouldn't it be a good idea to get involved in a Champ Car team?" At first, I looked him in the face and said the first race is the 23rd of February. First, how are we going to do that? We now have the facilities and we are here and ready to go. Cars are there, engines are in the facility, the parts are there, the guys are working extremely hard. We are going to be at Spring Training for the first time.
My new partner Kevin Kalkhoven is also the partner I was working with when looking at the Arrows Formula 1 team. I think we made the right decision by coming here to a professional CART team to have some fun. Formula 1 is a little bit more difficult and a little less fun at times. I will pass over the microphone to Kevin.
Kevin Kalkhoven: Thanks, Craig. As Craig mentioned we literally started this at the end of November. I think it's a great credit to Chris and the whole Champ Car team to stabilize the rules for the next two years- it enabled us to do this. Without the decisions that they made last year, it would have literally been impossible for a new team to have come on board as we have done. We started to get the facilities second of January. We will be in St. Petersburg on the 23rd. We are looking forward to competing with those folks. We will be in the less competitive ranks to start with. We will walk before we will run, but look forward to being as successful as these guys [team owners] are.
Saal: I think the off-track underselling is already going on a little bit. These guys, they won't be way down on the grid -you can count on it. I'd like to ask Chris to come back up and speak to this development today.
Chris Pook: Craig, Kevin, welcome to Champ Car. We are delighted to have you and I know your fellow owners are equally delighted that you are here. It's about competition, it's about quality, it's about experience and it's about executing on a game plan. I would suggest to you that these two gentlemen who are joining us, they know about executing, they know about setting their sights on the goal posts and they know about bringing it to closure. It doesn't really surprise me that it only took six weeks because they have surrounded themselves with good people, they understand it and they know where they are going. I can just tell you that we are delighted to welcome them to the ranks of Champ Car owners, and I expect the bar is going to get raised with these gentlemen.
It's a good day for Champ Car racing today. Thank you.
Q: Kevin or Craig, could you just address how you guys got associated and how it went? How did the whole story start?
Pollock: Well, it actually happened through my lawyer. We had been dealing with Kevin on something else and it put the two of us together. Immediately, I would say that we both got on, which is extremely unusual in motorsports at times. And Kevin and I were looking into actually buying a Formula 1 team. It's quite simple. Kevin has the expertise behind him and the do diligence and I knew what I was in for in a Formula 1 team. From there, obviously that didn't work out, and we kept in touch. Kevin thought it might be a good idea to start up a CART team.
Q: Would you just talk about if you might be running Reynards, and the driver lineup?
Pollock: We will be running Lolas this year. We are definitely going to be starting as a one-car team because starting as a two-car team would be impossible in just six weeks. On the driver front, we hope to be able to announce a driver within the next ten days, the driver and senior engineer within the next ten days. They are very much linked together and I will not, at this time, disclose who we are talking to driver-wise.
Q: With last year being a challenging year for CART, what gave you the confidence for a new team?
Kalkhoven: Well, first of all we've seen pretty much what the Formula 1 scene was about. I think when it was clear that wasn't going to happen, I started researching other areas, and obviously a Champ Car team was not the only one that I researched. I think some of the critical decisions that Chris had made last year, particularly in terms of the stabilization of the engine formula and the rules for the next two years, made it clear that it was possible to start a new team. And also, I believe very much in the format Chris is proposing, which is taking racing to the city. I think that's an exciting way of taking racing back to its roots. And I think looking at it on an international basis is also the right thing to do.
So we then started discussing it with Chris and it became clear that this was a key point in the history of the Champ Car series and we very much wanted to be a part of that and see it grow from here.
Saal: This is the 15th formally announced team. However we do have the contracts for the remaining 18 cars and then some as we promised in place. Our friends at Ford-Cosworth have a similar amount of contracts in place for their engine work. And basically the goal we set has been met. You'll see another announcement related to a team on Friday, this one naming a driver to a previously announced team.
Q: How are you going to divide your time on the CART circuit and what's going to happen with your relationship with Jacques Villeneuve in Formula 1?
Pollock: It's going to be quite a difficult year because I have to work out quite a few things. I have promised my partner in crime [Kevin] that I will be putting the majority of my time into the CART series and making sure it is working. It would be impossible for me to do it without [team manager] Russell Cameron. I think Kevin really knows that.
But where Jacques is concerned, Jacques is basically managed from my offices in Switzerland and Monaco and he has enough people looking after his interests all the time. I have gone through the whole scenario with Jacques and he is extremely excited about the fact that Kevin and I are starting this team up. He's been a huge supporter of Champ Car since day one, having been a champion and he knows what it's all about. He thinks this is the form of racing he'd be doing potentially in the future.
Saal: Jacques does indeed remain one of our proponents for Champ Car racing.
Q: When you were in Miami with Jacques and you met with Chris, was that kind of the genesis of this whole thing or were you simply taking a look around? Because you talked with us and people kind of wondered if you were serious or not.
Pollock: I tend very rarely to say that I'm looking at something without really looking at it. For me, if I came over to Miami to look at the race - I actually didn't even stay for the race. I was there on a fact-finding trip and I purposely asked to see Chris Pook and tried to pick his mind to see where he was going with Champ Car in the future. What he was telling me, I liked what I heard. It seems that his vision was the correct vision to lead Champ Car forward. I checked out many things that he said through other sources and it all weighed up. I also imparted what he said to Kevin, I think that also maybe helped Kevin look into the Champ Car series.
Saal: Obviously Craig maintains close ties with the City of Montreal through his relationship to Jacques and other business interests. We will actually go there to reiterate this announcement at the conclusion of today's proceedings. It should be popular in Montreal where we had an unbelievable race last year and look forward to another incredible race this year.
Q: Jacques has always been a big supporter of Champ Car racing. His contract is up at the end of this season in Formula 1. Does your team have aspirations of actually having Jacques Villeneuve back in Champ Car racing in the future?
Pollock: I think a lot of people in Champ Car would have aspirations of having someone like him driving for them. Isn't that right [team owner] Stefan [Johansson]? We've got to be very realistic about it. Jacques is a Formula 1 driver, his contract is up at the end of this year, but he has more championships to go in Formula 1. Definitely, if he can get a very competitive ride driving in Formula 1 then he should remain in Formula 1 at the present time. In the future, if Jacques wants to carry on racing, if he wanted to come over the Atlantic, I would love to have him on my team. But I just had a discussion with Chris Pook, and Jacques, definitely, if he came over here, he wants to win. He'd go to the most competitive team and it wouldn't be because of a buddy. He wants to win in anything he does. So if Stefan or [team owner] Eric [Bachelart] have a more competitive team than we have - he'd go there. And that's a fact in racing.
Q: You mentioned two more new dates in 2004. Will that mean you drop two existing?
Pook: Good question. (Laughter).
Obviously, I'm on record as saying that we are market driven company. And as a market driven company, you listen to all of your corporate partners and we listen to what our teams have to say and where they want to be. We will arrive at a consensus of what is the most efficient place for us to be as we take our series forward.
Saal: We have a great deal of work to do over the coming weeks. We're definitely turning up the flame a notch, but it's all about getting toward St. Petersburg where we will get our season started. Thank you and we appreciate you being here today.