An interview with Craig Pollock and Patrick Lemarie. Part 1 of 2. Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen before passing on the telephone, to Craig Pollock, our guests will be saying a few words. Craig first will be going through the announcement he...
An interview with Craig Pollock and Patrick Lemarie. Part 1 of 2.
Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen before passing on the telephone, to Craig Pollock, our guests will be saying a few words. Craig first will be going through the announcement he wants to make today and he will be followed by the new driver who will make a few remarks of his own, and after that, we will open the floor to questions. Co-owner of Pollock Kalkhoven Racing, Craig, it's all yours.
Craig Pollock: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, for being with us here today. I have to say that I'm very proud to be able to announce this driver to the world. This is the second time that I've started off a racing company and the first time I know exactly how hard it was and what is necessary. The second time around, I've just wanted to make absolutely sure that the driver that we put in the seat, like the first time, was a very experienced driver. Somebody that we had worked with a lot in the past and somebody that we can absolutely trust to do what we need for a brand new, set-up team.
The driver is Patrick Lemarie. Patrick has worked with us in British American Racing for four solid seasons and is also the driver who has done most of the setup work for Jacques (Villeneuve) when Jacques has not been in the car. I have to say that Jacques has also been very, very strong and trusts Patrick doing all of the setup work. Starting up a brand new team is very important at the start of the season that we can finish the races and that the performance is strong enough to be able to get points, because these points in the end will define the championship at the end of the season.
So I would just like to say that we are all very proud at Pollock Kalkhoven Racing to have Patrick with us. It's a fantastic we feel for Patrick. He has given up a big part of his career to make sure that Jacques Villeneuve had good setups for his races, and it's very good for Patrick to be sitting here and a big thank you on part of myself to Patrick.
Patrick Lemarie: Well, hello everybody. Of course. I'm very happy, it's a big day for me. I have worked very hard for four years, and of course, racing, I miss racing a lot, but when you start something, you have to do it right. I proved for four years that I was a solid driver with experience. I was doing my job properly, and it's so great here to race again. I'm just so happy. I want to thank Craig and Kevin so much for giving me my chance, and I'm very proud to be on the team right now.
Q: Craig, could you just comment first of all on Patrick and why you think he is the guy you want to put in this chair for your first season with Champ Car?
Craig Pollock: Well, Patrick has always impressed me tremendously, mostly with his set-up work at British American Racing. It's a question of dedication. His skills were never questioned, being a part of British American Racing, we could see exactly what the driver was getting, new tires, heavy fuel loads, light fuel loads and how he compared against other drivers. It became very clear to me Patrick was very solid. He never went off the track and never demolished any cars. A lot of kids when they sit in a Formula 1 car and they are test drivers, their only job is to impress, and Patrick was told to do just solid set up for four years and he hung in there.
The other reason is, I have seen Patrick racing against Jacques Villeneuve in the past, back to Atlantics days, where Jacques and Patrick were actually fighting very, very hard and finishing first and second in races. I just think that he is the right person to have in this car on this team at this particular time.
Q: Patrick, I wonder if you had any consultation with Jacques and with some other folks that may have had some experience in Champ Cars and whether or not you have any kind of an inkling on what it's going to be like to jump in one of these, as compared to the Formula 1 machinery that you may be used to at this point.
Patrick Lemarie: Well, for sure, I have a lot of things to learn and I have to learn them quickly. But, you know, when you work for four years with Formula 1 team and you are working with so much pressure, you cannot do any mistakes. I learned two years ago I could do it and I proved again, I was still a racer, and now I have the experience and the maturity to do the job, and I think that's why I'm here.
Q: Craig, in a start-up team with only one car, other people might have gone for a driver with experience, particularly experience in Champ Car racing, and I just wondered if you could talk about maybe the decision process and the balance, really, that was struck . There were some experienced drivers out there looking for work, but in your case, you had experience with Patrick and know what he can do; and obviously, his testing experience, as you said, played mightily in the decision.
Craig Pollock: You're one hundred percent right. You just about answered the question by yourself. There are a few drivers out there that were quite interesting that were already in Champ Car in the past. These guys, they are great drivers. There's two or three ways of getting into the series: One is by buying a seat, and I don't particularly like that. I want to be able to choose a driver for his own ability. And the reality is that Patrick has done so many years and so many miles on Formula 1 cars, that when you see how he can do in a Formula 1 car, you're pretty sure that this guy is going to do very, very well in a champ car.
The normal progression is, okay, you go from champ car into Formula 1, same way as Juan Pablo (Montoya) has done, same way (Alex) Zanardi did it and Jacques did it, and you do very well if you're a good driver. What we are doing is we are taking somebody with Formula 1 experience and putting him into Champ Car. And don't forget there's quite a lot of the circuit that he knows because he raced on it in Atlantic; so it's not a question of getting to know the circuit. The other thing is, I've worked with him in the past. The engineers know him. I think that's extremely important. I think he's just going to blend into the team very well.
Q: Obviously, this year is a rebirth of CART and lots of opportunities for drivers to come here. I just wonder your perspective as far as sort of the rebirth of CART, there's going to be a lot of new faces. You're not going to be the only rookie driver in the series by a long shot.
Patrick Lemarie: For sure. There's some very experienced drivers who are still in the series, so it will be difficult. It will be more difficult to be the top rookie at the end of the year because there are a lot of new faces as you said. For sure, I think it's a perfect year for me to start in CART. The team looks great and I think we will be able to do well soon. I'm very excited.
Q: How excited are you to be in the Champ Car series? Drivers aspire to go to Formula 1; you were there, but not there I guess, how do you feel going to Champ Car?
Patrick Lemarie: I'm very pleased. Since I raced ten years ago, I've said to everybody around me, I really want to go back and race because I think it's the most difficult series in the world because you are racing on ovals, street racing and a normal track. I think it's the most difficult series in the world and I think I will do very well here.
Q: You've alluded to the fact that this is your second time starting a team and you hope to learn something from the experience. What do you think is most immediately applicable to this experience with a Champ Car team?
Craig Pollock: Well, we have made a concerted decision that we are definitely starting off with a one-car team because of the time frame that I was given to set the team up. It's a small team compared to a Formula 1 team, but we have the time to hand-pick everybody from the start.
I think it gets back to the statement I made in the last press conference that we are going to walk before we run. We could probably run a second car immediately, but by running the second car, we are going to dilute the effort on the first car, and I think the effort has to be made on the team-building team as fast as humanly possible. So the smaller the team initially, the easier it is to get that number of people to work together very, very closely and communicate together. I think that in team-building communication is key. So bring in one driver who is going to actually blend well into the team and you have a very, very good part of that team being set up. To me, that is one big piece of experience that I had from the past: Create the heart and build around it and take your time.
Q: Patrick, you are effectively getting back into a racing situation now. What challenge do you see there? You've been doing a lot of testing and it's not quite the same.
Patrick Lemarie: Yeah, but I'm a racer, so when you have this in your blood, it never goes away. I raced two years ago in Audi and I was still very competitive and very quick. My racing skills are all there. They are in me, so it's not -- it won't be a problem. For sure, I have a lot of things to learn about the car and I have to learn them quickly but I don't think my racing skills are a problem at the moment.
Q: Craig, you've been quoted in some European publications that Jacques is now maybe considering returning across the Atlantic sometime in the distant future to take up a CART ride. I was wondering how serious is that, and come the day when you have a two-car team, is it likely that you might offer him a ride?
Craig Pollock: That is one of the quotes that I would really, really love to see where it came from. I actually haven't said -- I said something but not in that way. Jacques is in Formula 1 today and has every intention of staying in Formula 1 for quite a few days to come. What was said was if Jacques ever would consider coming across the water, what he is going to do this time around -- exactly the best team he would go into, and it would not necessarily just be PK Racing because Pollock is here. Probably Newman/Haas is probably going to be the best team to go to; that's probably where he would go.
In the future if the champ car series, CART, goes the way that I feel it is going to go, then he might consider coming over. But we certainly haven't overly discussed it, not at the moment. He believes in the Champ Car series. He's a great, great believer in the series. He actually wants the series to turn around, and I think that's also why he's very happy that I've set this team up across here. I must admit, it would be a dream for me to have Jacques driving in my champ car.
Q: There are rumors that you intended to launch a second car in the near future. Can you give us a little clue of when and who will be the second driver?
Craig Pollock: It's quite simple. The idea of setting up the second car, yes, we do want to have a second car, but we are not going to rush into it. I made it really clear that we are going to walk before we run; that we have to absolutely make sure that the first car and the first part of the team are working well and communicating well together to really have that team spirit working. The second car will happen, first of all, when I am absolutely convinced that the timing is right; that the funding is right, because I don't want to stretch the first car by having a second-car ill-funded, and I don't want to do it purely out of capitalization of the company.
And where the driver is concerned in the second car, I'm talking to five or six drivers a day, minimum. I can't say that there are any bad drivers I'm talking to. So we'll probably do exactly the same thing as we did with the first driver: Keep the name very, very quiet until it gets close to the time that the car is going to be able to run. I would hope it would be not too late in the season if we are going to do it this year. And if we decide to, we might just wait until next year and do it next year.
Q: Do you have any concerns that there's essentially only one week before you go to your first test, as it would be, in a Champ Car, and then after that, you're in a race car on a street race?
Patrick Lemarie: I think it's very short, but I'm used to it. I spent four years and they were calling me the day before saying, "You have to test there." So I'm not afraid about the little amount of time that we have in front of us. We have at least four or five days of testing before the first race, so I think that's better than nothing. You know, it's always -- you have to think about, is it going to be a problem or not. You just have to take what you can and do what you have to do with the limited amount of testing that you have, and I think we will be fine.
Pollock, Lemarie, part II