RuSPORT Media Teleconference Transcript
ERIC MAUK: Thank you, everyone, for joining us today in a very exciting teleconference announcement for the Champ Car World Series as today RuSPORT will announce they will be competing in the 2005 Champ Car World Series, a two-car effort, featuring AJ Allmendinger and Justin Wilson.
Allmendinger and Wilson both completed their rookie campaigns in the Champ Car World Series last year. They finished the season 1-2 in the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year standings. We are joined today by the owner of RuSPORT, Carl Russo, as well as both drivers, AJ Allmendinger and Justin Wilson.
Right off the top, Mr. Russo, first of all, congratulations. There has been lots of speculation out there that you have been looking at running even a three-car team possibly with Michel Jourdain who had driven for you last year. If we could address those off the top.
CARL RUSSO: Thanks for the easy question first, Eric.
There had been speculation on us running anywhere from one to three cars. We had eliminated the one-car option pretty early on. Up until very recently we were still evaluating a three-car option. We made the decision to go back and stand by our original founding principles of being a symmetrical two-car team. So we're going to stay with a two-car effort and that's what we're going forward with in 2005.
As for evaluating all of our options, we came to the conclusion that the best chance for us to get to the front was to go ahead and go with AJ in the 10 car, and Justin in the 9 car. Part of that really comes down to a whole set of factors. But if you go back in time, in all of the turmoil that was going on in March and April, as we made the team go from a one-car effort to a two-car effort virtually overnight, it's really hard to get the chemistry right in a thrash, and we just never got it quite right.
As for Michel, Michel is a proven race winner in the series, and he's going to be a race winner in the future. Obviously, he's done a great job for us and we wish him the best going forward.
ERIC MAUK: As you said, first year in Champ Car World Series last year, you came on line real quick with a two-car team, took a little time to get up to speed, but not much. You had a pair of top fives in Milwaukee, which would be the first race of the year. Both drivers ended up on the podium at different times in the year, including both drivers on the same podium at Molson Indy Vancouver. Tell us what you learned from last year.
CARL RUSSO: It's very simple. What we learned last year is that one of our core principles is that it's about people, culture and process. In fact, we reinforce that it's about people, culture and process. So that's the first thing we learned.
The second thing we learned is that this is a tough series. These teams have been doing it for a while. They're very switched on. And the drivers only continue to get better and better. I would say those are the two things that we've learned.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations again. We look forward for more success not only next year but in the many years to come in the Champ Car World Series.
AJ Allmendinger heads into his second year of competition in the Champ Car World Series. Last year driver of the #10 Western Union Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, AJ Allmendinger, the raining Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year winner.
AJ, a big year last year for you. Qualified in the top seven in four of the last five races, really came on strong at the end of the year. Tell us a little bit, now that you've had time to think about it, how you feel about the way things went your first year in Champ Car.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I thought overall, you know, it went fairly well. The team did an absolutely fantastic job, especially the crew themselves because, you know, essentially at the beginning of the season, we're planning on being a one-car team, then we added Michel, and it put a lot of stress on the crew to get a second car ready. We had to add certain people.
And all year, especially on my car, they really made no mistakes, got all the laps possible. You know, to their credit, that's the reason we finished so high in the points because of how well they worked together and what a great job they did.
On my part, I thought there's a lot I could improve. I made a lot of mistakes during the year. There were a couple big mistakes that probably cost us at least top five if not podium finishes. So, you know, I was a little about it disappointed in actually how I drove. Late in the year I got going. But, you know, there's still a couple mistakes there that I made.
So I think heading into next year, we're just going to be a stronger team, and I just got to fix the mistakes that I made. If we're able to do that, I think we have a good chance of contending for a championship.
ERIC MAUK: Tell us a little bit about your thoughts about teaming up with Justin, a guy you obviously raced a number of times, you have a great deal of respect for, you had a series battle over last year.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I just think overall it is going to be a huge benefit and help to the team. You know, as you said, Eric, I gained a lot of respect for Justin throughout the season. I had a lot of respect going into the season, watching him in Formula 1 and stuff like that, and knowing the capabilities that he had and the speed that he had.
But just, you know, each race, we seemed to pretty much find each other on the racetrack and race together. You know, I just gained a lot of respect. The guy's got, you know, so much speed. And I think it's only going to help me push myself to become better.
You know, the key is hopefully I can give a little bit back to him. Once we start pushing each other throughout the year, we're battling for first and second, and that's really the main goal of RuSPORT and the whole team, for us two drivers to be battling for the win.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations on a great year in 2004, and best of luck in the year to come.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Thank you.
ERIC MAUK: Justin Wilson comes off his rookie year, he ran with Mi-Jack Conquest Racing a year ago, qualified in the front row at Cleveland, had a strong rookie year.
Justin, you spent the whole year with Mi-Jack, you find your way around the circuit, now you're joining the RuSPORT team. Tell us a little bit about how you feel about today's developments.
JUSTIN WILSON: Obviously, I'm very excited. I'm looking forward to starting the new season. I've had a great first year in Champ Car. But, you know, ultimately I want to be in an environment that has the opportunity to win. You know, for me that's what I see in RuSPORT, is it's very professional, very serious. It's a good atmosphere, which is also important to have a good team.
I'm looking forward to the new season, looking forward to working with AJ. I think the respect is mutual. You know, I know he can drive, he can go very quick and we can push each other quite well.
ERIC MAUK: Tell us a little about your impressions of the Champ Car World Series after spending a year here, getting totally immersed in it running a season. Did it meet with your expectations?
JUSTIN WILSON: Oh, yeah, definitely. There was obviously a lot of talk at the start of the year, how the championship is going to work, how the season going to unfold. There was talk of - will it last? Is it more than one race? There's all that kicking off the start of the year.
And I think the new owners have worked on things. They've done things at the right time, in the right order. You know, it's been fantastic. I think Champ Car has a lot to offer to drivers, teams and sponsors. It's all a matter of building on what they've done and keep working away at it. We believe that it's the place to be.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations on this announcement, Justin. Look forward to seeing you on track in just a couple of months.
JUSTIN WILSON: Thank you.
ERIC MAUK: We'll open it up to questions from the media.
Q: Carl, congratulations. That's a nice duo you got there. AJ, first of all, your rookie year, lots to learn, you talked about mistakes. So much water under the bridge. Can you put your finger on maybe the biggest thing that you learned in 2004 as a freshman in the series? You have all kinds of expectations what it's going to be like, you do lots of pre-season testing. When you got immersed in the series, what's the biggest thing you learned in 2004?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: I think overall it's just to pace myself in a two-hour race. Essentially the longest race I ever did in my life was 45 minutes in the Toyota Atlantic Series. But the stuff that I had to learn, especially at the beginning of the year, was that no matter, you know, if your car wasn't exactly right, the race was long. If you weren't in the right spot right away, you didn't have to push to force yourself to get around the guys. But you know a lot of things can happen in the race. Whereas, Atlantics, once the green flag dropped, you were just hammered down, never lifted, because that's what you had, and you weren't going to make a pit stop to fix it. A lot of times, the races weren't long enough for guys to make a lot of mistakes to move up.
The big deal was just pacing myself. There were times I got myself in trouble, like at Toronto where I spun out under yellow, then I forced myself into a mistake trying to get around everybody, when we actually had a pretty good car. The way the race worked out, I probably could have been on the podium. Just certain things like that.
I think Mexico was probably my best race of the year, Mexico City, because, you know, we didn't qualify as well as we thought we should have. We were seventh right away. But I knew I had a race car. I just paced myself, saved fuel. You know, the pit stops worked out to where I came out third. Then we had the speed to go after the Newman/Haas guys.
Just things like that throughout the year was probably the biggest thing that I learned.
Q: Justin, with your Formula 1 experience, you certainly have teammates over there, but in a lot of ways you're very much separate entities as a clear-cut number one and number two driver. While you're called teammates, it can't be what "teammate" means in the Champ Car World Series because there's play between you and AJ Allmendinger, there will be, there's sharing of information, debriefing together. You've got to be looking forward to that. You've got yourself a real teammate now.
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, it's great. This is more like Formula 3000, which is what I did before Formula 1. Everyone was in the same car, the same engine, the same tires. It really makes a difference when you have a good teammate, you can work well with, you push each other along, and the whole team advances.
That's really what we're looking to do, is go out there working with each other. We both want to win, but you've got to work with each other and push each other. Sometimes you think "There's no way I can go quicker through that corner." You come back in, you check, and, "Oh, yes, there is." You go out and try again.
I think that's what's going to be so important. We can get the absolute maximum out of what we have.
Continued in part 2