CHAMPCAR/CART: Rocketsports Racing Champ Car press conference, part I

Champ Car Teleconference January 17, 2003 An Interview with: Paul Gentilozzi Alex Tagliani Part 1 of 3 Eric Mauk: Welcome to the Champ Car World Series teleconference presented by WorldCom. We have a very special announcement today, a ...

Champ Car Teleconference
January 17, 2003

An Interview with:
Paul Gentilozzi
Alex Tagliani

Part 1 of 3

Eric Mauk: Welcome to the Champ Car World Series teleconference presented by WorldCom. We have a very special announcement today, a new driver announcement for the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season. Right now we would like to welcome to the call the owner of Rocketsports racing, Mr. Paul Gentilozzi. Paul, thank you for joining us today.

Paul Gentilozzi: Thank you. This is the first time in my life I have had the opportunity to announce a driver for Rocketsports, other than someone I was related to. And this is the toughest decision in all of my motorsports career because I am choosing someone that will represent us and compete in the same style and spirit that we are used to competing with, and there are a lot of great drivers out there that we have had a chance to work with and talk to, and our selection of Alex Tagliani to drive for Rocketsports and Johnson Controls is something we are very, very proud of.

Mauk: Absolutely. We know that was a hard choice and something you agonized over for quite some time and congratulations, we would like to welcome to the call Mr. Alex Tagliani.

Alex Tagliani: Thank you.

Mauk: Alex will be entering his fourth season of Champ Car competition, last year coming off his best season of his previous three years, finished eighth in the championship and established his personal best with 111 points scored, finished in 15 of the 19 events last year, the second highest total in the series, and scored a pair of runner-up finishes and led a career of 115 laps.

Again, Alex, congratulations. Would you start off and tell us your thoughts on announcing this ride today.

Tagliani: I am very excited, first of all, because there is a little story that I have that I am saying every time I talk to people about Paul. I met him in Las Vegas, we had our first meeting there, and it was the first time I had the chance to talk with the team owner about shocks, about springs, ride-heights, and I was very impressed and it was a very special feeling to be able to talk about cars with the team owner that you know was going to be the one to make the call for you to get into the car. I was in the shop yesterday to mold the seat, and I saw him coming into the shop once a day, and everybody is really happy to see him every time he comes in, and he is really close to the guys so that's something really important to me. The atmosphere of the team is going to be a lot better in that perspective, and I think Paul is coming into the series not just for having a Champ Car team, having a very strong team, very strong package, very good drive, and it's going to take a little bit of time for sure to get everybody rolling and try to get a good relationship as soon as possible. But all the tools are there, and we have for sure the potential to be very strong this season, and I am very excited to be able to race for Rocketsports and for Mr. Gentilozzi.

Mauk: Paul Gentilozzi is one of the legendary drivers and owners of the Trans-Am series, having won three series championships and setting series career records for starts, podiums and top-five finishes, among a host of others. He is familiar with change and starting new ventures, having won each of his three championships in three differently marks, winning in a Corvette, a Ford Mustang Cobra, and Jaguar XKR. Paul, talk a little bit about what you wanted in starting this team. Obviously, it was key to have a little experience, but what led you to choose Alex?

Gentilozzi: I have actually been watching Alex race for a long time, not only in Champ Car, but also in Toyota Atlantics, and he probably doesn't remember, but I can remember standing at the wall when he was driving in the Player's [Forsythe Racing] car in Atlantic, and they had had a bad race. Alex was not in the lead, and I think was certainly the fastest guy on the racetrack that day, but as I watched him come back through the field, I admired very much the fact that he knew he couldn't win the race that day. But it was important to be the fastest car on the racetrack, and it's that kind of spirit that shows the driver who wants to win, and I firmly believe with everything that he is a winner and he is going to win in Champ Car and he's going to win with Rocketsports.

Mauk:  Again, congratulations to both of you.  We have a very large
media contingent today with us.  Let's open it up for questions.

Q: Question for Mr. Gentilozzi. It's not easy to build a team so I want to know, how is your organization so far? Did you recruit all the people you need to start the season right now.

Gentilozzi: Yes, that has been the biggest obstacle. Buying cars and equipment and computers and engines, all of those things, of course, take time and planning, but the critical ingredient is people.

And we started off, the first person I hired was Phil Howard, who is the team manager, and Phil has really been a leader in helping us attract people. One of the difficulties is our shop is based in Michigan, and most of the teams are based in Indianapolis, so we had to convince the right people to come to work with us and to move their homes to another city, but we have accomplished that and I think we have a wonderful group of people.

Q: Can you tell us about Alex's engineer?

Gentilozzi: Alex's engineer is actually someone who knew him quite well and is very positive about Alex joining us. Andy Borne, who came to us from [Marlboro Team] Penske, knew Alex back from Toyota Atlantics where he was the engineer for Lee Bentham, but he has been the engineer for Helio Castroneves for the last four years.

Q: And what did he tell you about Alex when you told them that you wanted Alex on your team?

Gentilozzi: He told me that he was the guy that would win races in CART. That really was - Andy was - when he was interviewing Andy he said first to me, "Who is your driver?" And I said, "Well, I don't know yet, I have a list of three or four people that I am dealing with," and I gave him the list and he said, "I want this guy." So that made a big part of my decision.

Q:  And I have just one question for Alex, you are getting married
tomorrow.  Are you bit nervous?

Tagliani: No, no, I am not nervous anymore. My nervousness was more to meet the guys on the team. I've known Bronte for a long time now, it's just going to be a commitment for life, so it doesn't make me nervous at all, that's what I want to do, but yesterday I was a little bit more nervous when I met the [team] guys and I was excited when I left.

For me it's going to be a challenge, but I am sure that it felt like home when I was in the shop yesterday and the guys are fantastic, so that was my excitement of the day yesterday.

Q:  Talking about commitment, how long will your relationship be with
Rocketsports?  Your contract will go until which year?

Tagliani: Right now I have one year left on my contract and Paul is going to use that year - I have a one-year option with [Team] Player's, and the reason that we were doing that only on one year is that we don't know each other yet, but it's always good to have an opening if something happens. If everything goes the way it should go, then I would like to stay, and I hope that Paul will keep me on his team.

Q: Congratulations to the pair of you, and a great wedding present for you, Tag. I wonder if both of you could just talk a little bit about the process that went through this and, also, if Player's are involved at all - they were going to be at one point - if you could talk about it, Tag, a little bit. Then Paul could do the same thing in that regard, just the process of the deal coming together with Player's involved and any other sponsorship in that way.

Tagliani: Yes, for sure. I am under contract with Player's and they needed to be involved because they were going to let my contract go to somebody else, so they were involved for that, and for the rest of their involvement for the season with Paul I don't know all the details. I would prefer to leave to Paul answer that.

And I also have a personal sponsor that is going to be on board with us and they are actually meeting Paul today, so for the rest of the details, Paul could probably answer those questions a little bit better than me.

Gentilozzi: There will be an associate relationship with Player's and with Saputo, a Montreal-based company, and they will both be doing press announcements as we go through the day, we are still negotiating the details, but I think they will be certainly an integral part of what we are doing, along with Johnson Controls, our primary sponsor.

Q:  Paul, when will you actually start running?  And will you be at
Laguna?  And, obviously, you will be at Spring Training in Sebring?

Gentilozzi: We will be at Laguna next week.

Q: You will start running there?

Gentilozzi: Yes, if we can get it started, we will have one there.

Q: Paul, you mentioned you made a choice between a couple of drivers. Who were the others?

Gentilozzi: These are old girlfriends, we never talk about old girlfriends. We did talk to several drivers, both drivers with a history in CART and other drivers around the world. What's important here is Alex was the first driver I talked to, and it's very difficult when you have been a driver as long as I had been, to give up that power and authority on the team and to hire someone, so I talked to Alex first, then I talked to several other drivers and came back to Alex because he was really our first choice.

Q: Do you feel at ease with this one-year contract and do you expect to have a second car in sometime?

Gentilozzi: I don't feel I have to have a second car. I am still learning to walk here, and I think it's very important for us to do the best job, and I need to win races and produce. The rest of it will come as it comes. It's no big deal to me.

Part II

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Alex Tagliani , Paul Gentilozzi , Lee Bentham