CHAMPCAR/CART: Return to Europe press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Tony, can you do a little clarification in terms of the standing starts rule? We have had a number of fans along our network ask what the criteria is to determine what tracks will be conducive safety-wise to standing ...

Continued from part 1

Q: Tony, can you do a little clarification in terms of the standing starts rule? We have had a number of fans along our network ask what the criteria is to determine what tracks will be conducive safety-wise to standing starts and if there's going to be any special kind of clutch equipment or anything to accommodate the standing starts; can you address those?

TONY COTMAN: First of all, we've obviously written them into the rule back based on preseason testing and depending on how it goes in testing. That will then determine when and where we're going to do it. It's down to a couple of basic criteria really. The straightaway that we are going to do the starts on, the length of the straightaway, and we'll go from there, but it's pretty simple.

There will be a small amount of launch control, if you want to call it that, off the line, not traction control but a small amount of launch.

Q: The attraction is the cars are similar to Formulaq, do you see that there could be some backlash on that, that they may perceive that negatively?

BART RIETBERGEN: I don't think that at all. In fact, the last Formulaq race we had in Holland was some 30 years ago so it's quite a big attraction for people to see the similar cars on their home ground.

Q: I talked to Jimmy Vasser yesterday and his pipes burst; has he called you guys yet?

STEVE JOHNSON: Yeah, we are taking a fund out for Jimmy to help him.

Q: Steve, does this mean in your mind and in Champ Car's mind that with this addition that the series has either started to turn the corner, or at least can see the corner that you need to turn to get close to the days of old?

STEVE JOHNSON: I would have to say we've turned the corner. If you take a look, and you've been to a lot of our events, our attendance was up in many of our events. One of the key things we did for 2007 was really focused on television and with the announcement of going to ESPN and ABC for multiple years, I think that is a major step that needed to happen for the series.

If you take a look at the events we added, we are introducing six new venues this year. We are going to Vegas and we are going to Phoenix and China and Belgium and Holland and all world-class type facilities, and we got some sponsor announcements coming. The teams are sorting it out themselves right now.

I would say we have definitely turned the corner. I still think we are a couple of years away from where we want to be but we are making very good progress and we are focused on our business model and we are not losing our focus. I feel very good about where we are right now?

Q: Of all the additions that have been made during the off-season, the Vegas race, the European races, could you pick out one that says, this was the best thing that we've done so far?

STEVE JOHNSON: Yeah, I could - (Laughter). Let me do this one politically correct. They are all unique. Going to China is a major undertaking for a North American series to break into that market into the billions of people there. Going back to Europe, very important for our overall strategy of being a global series.

But I would say what hits home the most really is two things. The addition of Las Vegas, racing through the streets of downtown Vegas to kick off our season. If you asked Formulaq if they would like to be here, the answer would be yes. If you asked any series if they would like to run through the streets of Vegas, the answer would be yes. And you know what; Champ Car was the one that was able to pull it off. Between that and the television, those are two major, major announcements, and what a way to kick off our season.

Q: Do these races have a name, i.e., will they have a sponsor or is that a future announcement?

BART RIETBERGEN: Yes, this will be a future announcement and we expect to that mid-February where the main sponsor of the two events will be announced. And the same sponsor I can tell you, you will probably also see a car in the same course.@#Q: For the full year or just for the full year?

BART RIETBERGEN: No, for the full year.

Q: There have been some rumors in the Dutch media that Jos Verstappen may drive in Champ Car. Can you comment on that and if he does, what would that do for your races?

BART RIETBERGEN: I had read the same comments that you have seen. So that's all I know about it. I do know that there are a few Dutch drivers, top drivers that are all talking to various teams. For us, it doesn't matter who it is as long as there is one Dutch top driver; that will help tremendously.

Q: There's been some media reports of a possible race in Athens, Greece. Is this the end of Champ Car's expansion into Europe or is it possible you will add another race?

STEVE JOHNSON: I would say it definitely would not happen in 2007. But we never say never, so we'll look at any opportunities that come along. If it makes good business sense and supports the direction that we're going, we would definitely be there.

So I don't think anything other - there are no other venues right now that we're saying, no, we're not going to in Europe. We would look at expanding if it makes good sense for us.

Q: The support series that will be in this event, can you talk about those, if any; and also, what's the duration of these events? Is it a single-year or multi-year?

BART RIETBERGEN: First of all, it's a multi-year deal. And the support races I can tell you one of them will be Formula 3, the European Championship. Another one will be because we think this is an American series, so we have to give it an American flavor, will be All-American GTs, which is Mustangs and Galaxies and we'll have a field of 45 of those. Another series will be classic Formulaq, classic being just until 2001, and we'll have fields of about 20 cars there with six Ferrari.

So all we need to do now is get one of those famous Ferrari drivers to join us. We have VRL racing which is very much the same as NASCAR-type cars, all Ford engines, same power. That's what we have lined up so far. And we have about 20 race series that want to participate in the event, so we are going to be very selective on the last two.

Q: Did Champ Car come first and everything else follow or was Champ Car added to an existing event?

BART RIETBERGEN: No, no. Champ Car came first and everyone said, hey, we want to join in and be part of the party.

STEVE JOHNSON: And it is multiple years.

Q: Can you tell how many?

STEVE JOHNSON: Multiple.

Q: Tony, obviously Assen is as a motorcycle racing track and I wondered if - and I know there's been some significant upgrades there anyway, but I just wondered if you could maybe talk about Assen and Zolder, how suitable they are for Champ Car and what sort of modifications might be on the table before the races start.

TONY COTMAN: No problem. Start with Assen, you're right, it is primarily been used has a motorcycle track. Although, many events in Europe are used for open-wheel, GTs, and motorcycles. Therefore, the biggest thing we really have to contend with is the curves. The curves - motorcycles like very low, flat curves. We don't because you know what our guys do, they go right over them. We are going to deal with the curves in Assen and replace them with a few tight areas and we are good to go there.

Zolder, on the other hand, has some significant upgrades/improvements that they are going to do before we get there. And like I said before, the facility will be in great shape by the time the Champ Car teams get there and it will be very challenging and looking forward to it. Basically, the same issues, we have to deal with curves.

It's very difficult in Europe to deal with motorcycles and crossing over to single-seaters.

Q: And the pit lanes and everything, no particular issues there in terms of fuel stop and all that sort of stuff?

TONY COTMAN: No, picture it as Montreal. It's pretty much typical of that. Anywhere we go outside the U.S., especially Europe, has been designed around F1 use of garage and things like that. We operate slightly differently and will probably have to change the way we operate slightly, but at the end of the day, it's not going to affect anything we do or the outcome to the race.

Q: At Zolder I saw there's a main grandstand, but around the rest of the track, I don't see many grandstands.

BART RIETBERGEN: Oh, yeah, there will be built grandstands temporarily.

Q: And I heard it mentioned before about the TV contract that Bart, you'll have the TV deal. Is that just for those two countries or is that for all of Europe?

BART RIETBERGEN: For the time being it is just for those two countries.

Q: And maybe back to Steve Johnson, will Euro Sport still be broadcasting Champ Car racing in 2007?

STEVE JOHNSON: Right now we are still negotiating final contracts for our international distribution so it's a little early for me to call on that. We are going to have we feel very good distribution in Europe and probably even increased distribution with the commitment being made by Bart and his crew.

ERIC MAUK: That will bring to a close today's Champ Car media teleconference.

-credit: ccws v

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jos Verstappen , Jimmy Vasser , Steve Johnson