CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES TELECONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT WITH PAUL STODDART, KEITH WIGGINS AND STEVE JOHNSON
ERIC MAUK: Welcome everyone to a very special Champ Car media teleconference. We are joined today by Champ Car president Steve Johnson, and the new ownership team of what will now be known as Minardi Team USA as many of you saw on the press release that was put out this morning. We are joined by Paul Stoddart and Keith Wiggins, who will be the principles of Minardi Team USA. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us today.
As you saw in the pre release or those of you that did not get it, Mr.Stoddart and Mr.Wiggins will be taking over what had been known as CTE Racing - HVM, one of the long-time teams in Champ Car and a team that had a great season last year, finishing fourth in the standings with Nelson Philippe. I'd like to turn things over to Steve Johnson, president of Champ Car for today's opening statement.
STEVE JOHNSON: Thank you and good morning to everybody. This is another big day for the Champ Car World Series as we welcome a man that is respected around the world for his accomplishments in business as well as in motorsports. Paul Stoddart will bring a new perspective to the Champ Car World Series having guided the fortunes of the Minardi F1 team for five seasons, and we look forward to many years of racing with him here at Champ Car.
Today's announcement also speaks volumes for what the new Minardi Team USA was able to accomplish as CTE Racing - HVM in 2006. Rebounding after a trying season in 2005, the team grew into a consistent threat in 2006 winning with Nelson Philippe in Australia, taking the Rookie of the Year fight to the last race of the season with Dan Clarke, and setting a new team standard by finishing fourth in the final standings with Nelson. This will be a great partnership for Champ Car, for the fans and for the team and I'm very pleased to welcome Paul Stoddart to our Champ Car family.
PAUL STODDART: Thank you, Steve and good morning and good evening to everybody. First of all, may I say the very professional way that Champ Car goes about running this series, we looked long and hard before making this series. That's one of the key reasons for us joining Champ Car ranks.
We look forward to an exciting time and some really close racing, particularly with the new Panoz DP01 car. And I think it's already been said by Steve that a fantastic job was done by Keith and his really quality team of engineers and mechanics and to finish fourth in the championship, particularly given their budget was a really, really serious effort.
Minardi Team USA, we are looking to actually extend and build on the good work that Keith and his people have done, and we'll bring a few interesting aspects to the team and I'm looking forward to a really, really solid 2007.
ERIC MAUK: Keith Wiggins, calling from the team's headquarters over in Indianapolis, tell us about what today's announcement does for the team, how it's been received by the team and kind of how it validates the great season you had in 2006.
KEITH WIGGINS: Well, I think, you know, the team's history, and since the beginning we've been through a few changes that for me, the beginning point of 2001, I think the team has had some very resourceful - with all credit to Enrique (Pons-Torres) and when we started the team as a program, and a few hiccups happens along the way as always happens with motor racing, and you continue to strive and build on that. That's always the challenge of motor racing.
Last year we had a year where we were able to go out and fight, as we said, somewhat restricted. But, you know, it's all about building good people. We had a good team spirit, and you always work toward, you know, the next stage coming along and I think the team has been well informed. The guys know what was going on, but they knew that this was something that we were working on and it's no secret that every team needs stability, the ability to challenge strongly. You need to know a bit more than year-to-year where your future lies.
I think Paul brings a very exciting mix, because, you know, I think we've hit it off in the beginning, which is very important. But secondly, you know, he brings a great deal of resources and talents. He's been in the business. A lot of people come into a company and there's an education process. I mean, obviously you hit the ground running in this relationship. And Paul has got a lot of good resources and a lot of exciting things to bring, and I think for the team, everybody is obviously very energized. It's confirmation of what they believed was going to happen, and it just let's us think now on it another level of rather than, okay, how do we get through to next year.
Now it's a question of, okay, this is how we're going to attack next year, and we even mention, you know, how we're attacking the year after, which is a bit of a refreshing thing to have a discussion after a couple of years. So it just brings stability, excitement, good, strong resources and talents that adds to what we have and gives us the ability to now with the new car say, you know, how can we really get up to the next level.
Q: First of all I wanted to ask, in the press release it says that you'll be running a multi-car team. How exact can you be, are we talking three cars, four cars? What's the situation?
PAUL STODDART: It's two cars, two cars confirmed, and we have not discounted a third car. We are obviously talking to people at the moment that would make that happen or not as the case may be.
Q: Is there a chance Katherine Legge could be part of your lineup?
PAUL STODDART: There is a chance that Katherine, together with several other drivers, could be a part of our lineup. I think the only hint I've given on that so far is to say that there's somebody who has driven a Minardi likely in the lineup at some point next year.
KEITH WIGGINS: And I think our lineup, we're discussing with a number of drivers as Paul said, so that will come out later on.
PAUL STODDART: It will be in the new year I suspect.
Q: I understand that there will be some Dutch investments because Dutch millionaire and entrepreneur Harry Muermans is probably involved and the second question is, there are talks that Jos Verstappen might join Champ Car, and will be driving for the Team USA since he has also driven in F1?
PAUL STODDART: First of all, to your first question, Harry Muermans is not only a business associate but he's also a good friend, as well and yes, you are correct that there will be some involvement from Harry Muermans. The exact nature of that involvement is not yet finalized. I was with Harry yesterday in Rotterdam, and again, that will be an announcement made in the new year, but yes, there will be some involvement.
As for Jos Verstappen, Jos and I go back a long ways. He drove for me in 2003, but I go back as far as '97 with Jos and we have a good working relationship. I think he would be an asset to the series. I think he would be an asset to Minardi Team USA and yes, there is negotiations going on, but again, there will be no announcements this side of the new year.
Q: And your thoughts on another Dutchman, Robert Doornbos?
PAUL STODDART: Robert, another ex-Minardi driver, a driver I've worked with and a driver I thought did incredibly well in the second half of '05, and obviously had another chance to do the last three races of the Formulaq 2006 season. Again Robert is someone we are talking to. I think as you guys, particularly the Holland media know, I myself personally and indeed through Minardi have had a tremendous relationship with Holland over the years and long may it continue. So expect some exciting announcements in the new year.
Q: When you talked to us in Australia, we asked if you were just bored, what really drove you, did you want to get back to Formulaq. In the final analysis, what was the one thing that made you want to come to Champ Car; the fact that you didn't have to raise $300million, or the fact that you just missed racing or can you be more specific?
PAUL STODDART: First of all, I think it was the fact that I found a team that I could identify with. Keith touched on it very briefly in the opening address when he said that him and I jelled and got on really from the first minute we met, and that is true. You do have a warm feeling when you meet people, whether they are people you can work with and think like-mindedly to yourself and you think you can go forward with them.
With Keith and his team, I found a team of real professionals that made it probably a little bit more funding, a little bit more encouragement to actually got the job done. My first visit with HVM made me more than curious and that was just after I'd seen you in Australia. And, of course, further negotiations led to today's announcement. And I feel very confident that our investment is - it is as it was in the Minardi. Our investment is in the people and I think we have a good team of people and I'm looking forward to good results. So that's the main motivation. And just to correct you on one other thing, I never did raise $300million.
Q: I remember you telling me once at the U.S. Grand Prix your budget was like 58 million and you were only 250 behind McLaren or somebody.
KEITH WIGGINS: It was 45 more than I ever managed in my time. (laughter)
Q: The only thing we keep hearing is that you're helping with the second European race; that they are trying to get you involved with your contacts over in Europe as far as trying to help be the promoter over there; any truth to that?
PAUL STODDART: Not in the '07 season. I have already stated that in future years, I would be more than happy to assist with colleagues and contacts, but no, I can confirm not for the '07 season.@#Q: Paul can you talk about your thoughts in pretty much introducing the Minardi brand in the American market?
PAUL STODDART: I think Minardi has been traditionally known over the years as a team that tries to punch above its weight. As was jokingly said in the last question, was the fact that we had struggled year after year to attain budgets that weren't good enough to fight in F1 and the figure of 50 million was mentioned, and that's a pretty accurate figure.
As you know budgets far less than that can do a lot more in Champ Car, and that's one of the attractions of coming to this series. It's very affordable racing in a professional and well-organized way that gives everyone a reasonable chance without going into the stratosphere to find budget. Certainly bringing our ability to find a necessary level of money, which in Champ Car could give us a little bit more than what perhaps it did in F1.
And the other thing I think we probably bring is the Minardi never-say-die attitude; that when you need to achieve is not necessarily, you know, miracles we used to joke and say miracles, they take a little bit longer but the impossible we did straightaway.
Q: Enjoyed knowing Cedric the Entertainer, will he have any continued involvement with the team?
PAUL STODDART: Certainly hope so. We've kept the door open for Cedric and we think there's a lot of work and effort into that relationship. Keith is probably a little better qualified to answer that than I am at the moment. But I certainly from a personal point of view think he's had a lot to add and it will dovetail nicely into another program we have heading into Champ Car for '07 and beyond. So, yeah, I hope he stays involved.
KEITH WIGGINS: Cedric's name will still be there. We still have the marketing relationship and we'll be with him tomorrow. Again, it just brings all of these elements together to make it just a stronger unit.
Continued in part 2