Continued from part 1
Q: Justin, we talked a little before the race in Mexico City, but when you (inaudible) test driver, all the uncertainty in the Formula 1 and politics. You kind of indicated maybe someday down the line if you won a championship, you would be willing to go back there. Just seems like you've decided, "I'm going to make my lot over here."
JUSTIN WILSON: I can't say anything is definite because I can't predict the future. But at the minute I'm very happy over here. I think I've got myself into a good situation.
I'm looking forward to being part of RuSPORT for a while. I can't say how long, but my job is to go out there and do the best job I can on track. I'm looking forward to doing that.
Q: For both drivers, you two guys' reaction after the first couple practice sessions in Milwaukee would have been worth a thousand pictures, but you ended up maintaining your composure and doing a good job in the races. Was oval track racing the toughest thing to come to grips with for you guys?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: For me, I don't think I've actually come to grips with it. Let's be honest now. I'm not saying I'm going to go back to Milwaukee next year and just, you know, go easy flat out or whatever. I'm going to be scared as hell next year there, too.
But, you know, I would say it's the toughest thing to come to grips with. But those two races, especially Milwaukee, because anybody's that's driven Milwaukee in a Champ Car knows that, compared to somewhere like Vegas where you're easy flat out, it's a lot more scary and it's a lot more commitment that you have to do.
You know, it's one of the many things in Champ Car that I've had to come to grips with. You know, I've always made the statement, and I will always make the statement, oval racing is not my favorite thing in the world, but it's part of Champ Car, add that's what makes Champ Car exciting, is the diversity you have to be as a driver.
I look forward to those challenges.
JUSTIN WILSON: I think AJ said it all. You know, the first time you go around Milwaukee, it's pretty exciting. Especially I did an oval test once. That was my full extent of experience on an oval track. It's so different, you might as well be racing bikes really. It's a big challenge at first, but once you get used to it, you start to feel comfortable.
You know, if the car's good, you have a good night. If it's bad, it's a very long night.
Q: Carl, could you maybe identify a couple things you thought your team did well and maybe what you're targeting for improvement?
CARL RUSSO: Well, I think one of the things the team did well was keep me off the timing stand. That was the first piece.
AJ ALLMENDINGER: That was keep you out of the car, Carl (laughter).
CARL RUSSO: Thank you (laughter).
What it does well is not any given thing. I think what the team has proven since its inception two years ago is that this is a group of people that function in their roles and learns week in and week out. And as long as we can keep improving week in and week out, we're going to get to the front.
You could go pick things that we've learned, but fundamentally it's a set of folks that just simply work together extremely well and know that wherever we are, as long as we keep moving forward, we're going to get to where we want to go. So that is the one thing I would tell you is by far the most exciting about this group of folks.
Q: I know there were a couple other teams interested in Justin. Can you maybe talk about how long the deal is for and what attracted you to sign him?
CARL RUSSO: Well, there's a couple things. First of all, I wouldn't talk about how long the deal is for. But I would echo Justin's sentiments on we are looking forward to this being a long-term relationship, for sure.
As far as a couple things that attracted us to him, I could say that we wanted the first letter in the alphabet and the last letter in the alphabet for drivers, that we wanted the tallest and the shortest.
But I'll tell you exactly what attracted us to him more than anything else. Both of these gentlemen know how to get in the car and go. They have good reads on the car, they have very good feedback. At the end of the day, they fit our mentality, which is they are racers and they want to get to the front. So it's a combination of all of those factors that at the end of the day I think helped us make the day.
Last but not least, and probably the most important thing, is we do believe they will, in fact, raise each other's game because they're both very secure in who they are and they're both formidable competitors, and I think they're perfectly willing to share everything in the hopes that they can learn things themselves.
Q: Carl, will both of these drivers be equal number one's? Would you be making any swapping of the crews for next year? Are you going to keep things as they were this year?
CARL RUSSO: Our approach, as I mentioned early on, is we've always tried to pursue a symmetrical two-car team. So we don't believe in a 1 or a 2. We believe in a 1 and a 1. That's exactly how we will approach it. That's a good question.
As far as mix and match on the crews, that's up to David Brown, who heads up the technical staff, and to Steve Wulff, who heads up operations, and Jeremy Dale, who heads up the team, obviously how they will go about things. But there's certainly nothing of any major deliberation here. We're going to do the best we can to put the best two cars on the racetrack we can.
Q: When do you anticipate getting these drivers out together for testing?
CARL RUSSO: Well, I think they were playing video games today. So I think that was one form of testing.
I don't know when our first test is scheduled because I think there's some downtime here. It won't be in the next few weeks. I think it's after the start of the year.
Q: Here in Mexico Mr. Russo said he wanted a long relationship with Michel, maybe a six-year relationship with him. What happened that all of a sudden it all ended?
CARL RUSSO: We always look to have long relationships. It's the right question.
As I mentioned early on, one of the challenges that we had in late March and early April when we put the team together is trying to get the right people together and the right chemistry. And, unfortunately, when you do something that late in the year, getting the engineer that you would like or other things is very, very difficult because they're contracted. So we did not do the best job that we could have because we were so crunched for time to get to the right chemistry, and I don't think that we ever got it right.
I'm not about to tell you it was way off. But little things in this business make a big difference. And so we felt for the good of Michel and the good of the team that both parties would be better if we headed down this path, and that's what we're doing.
Q: Maybe it was also that Michel didn't have any sponsor because of the exit of Gigante?
CARL RUSSO: No. As a matter of fact, in the case of RuSPORT, nothing could be further from the truth. Gigante, I mean, we have active conversations with them. But we would never make a driver decision based upon sponsorship. We made the decision with Michel.
Michel is a proven race winner. He was a veteran. We thought he could bring a great deal to the team, and he did. It was irrespective of Gigante. Gigante chose to join us after Michel joined us. It just would not make any difference.
Q: Mr. Russo, you said it's not a decision with a sponsor. Why leave Michel out? You don't like his driving or what happened?
CARL RUSSO: No, again, the best word I can use is the chemistry and making sure -- listen, different drivers need different things. Again, because of the late start that we had, we never got Michel, in my opinion, what we needed to get Michel for him to perform at the level he's capable of.
At this point, in looking at our options, and one of those options was to run three cars, we decided that our best opportunity to get to the front was to run a two-car team with AJ and Justin and move forward.
It's most definitely not a statement of Michel's abilities. We believe that Michel is going to go win races again in Champ Car. But there are some times where the chemistry just isn't quite right and you make a different decision.
Q: AJ, are you going to miss Michel?
AJ ALLMENDINGER: Oh, yeah, of course. I mean, Michel was a big help in my year, all year. And I stated that in every interview that I did about Michel. He's a great driver on the racetrack, and he's probably even better of a guy off the racetrack in the fact of a friend, a teammate. And, you know, I hope to see Michel next year. And hopefully, if everything works out, Michel is one of the guys we have to beat for the championship. If he's in the series, I would expect that.
I'm going to completely miss Michel. You know, I wish him and his wife, Nora, all the best wishes. We'll see him at the racetrack. It's going to be a fun year next year.
Q: Justin, I know that AJ moved from California to Colorado. Are you going to do the same thing?
JUSTIN WILSON: That's something I'm looking at, yeah. I have to take things one step at a time. But I would like to be close to the team.
Q: Carl, last year you had some partnerships with Western Union and BG Products and with Red Bull. Do you have any commercial partnerships lined up at this time?
CARL RUSSO: All sorts of discussions are going on. I guess the best way for me to answer that is when there's news, as we've proven today, we'll go ahead and announce it.
Q: Can you share with us about sponsors for the future? We know you have Western Union, but would that be the sponsor or you have some other companies lined up?
CARL RUSSO: Yeah, I apologize. As soon as we have news where we can announce things, we'll get everybody together and we'll announce them. But right now I would tell you that we would have no comment on your question, unfortunately.
Continued in part 3