IRL teleconference - Bernard, Barnhart, de Ferran, Purnell, part 1

Indy Racing League Teleconference July 14, 2010 An Interview With: RANDY BERNARD BRIAN BARNHART GIL DE FERRAN TONY PURNELL MODERATOR: We appreciate your patience. It's been a very busy day today for the four gentlemen who are our guests...

Indy Racing League Teleconference
July 14, 2010

An Interview With:
RANDY BERNARD
BRIAN BARNHART
GIL DE FERRAN
TONY PURNELL

MODERATOR: We appreciate your patience. It's been a very busy day today for the four gentlemen who are our guests today on the teleconference, but we welcome you and our guests to this IZOD IndyCar Series teleconference in which we will talk about a very, very big day for the series.

First, to introduce our guests: Randy Bernard, the chief executive officer of the IZOD IndyCar Series; Brian Barnhart, the president of competition and racing operations for the IZOD IndyCar Series; Gil de Ferran, an ICONIC Committee member, co-owner of the De Ferran Dragon Racing in the IZOD IndyCar Series and the 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner; and Tony Purnell, also an ICONIC Committee member, founder of Pi Research, former technical representative to the FIA and the former head of Ford's premiere performance division.

Before we open it up to questions, a brief review of the momentous news today from Indianapolis and that is that the IZOD IndyCar Series unveiled its new car strategy are to the 2012 season and beyond, featuring a rolling chassis with an enhanced Safety Cell produced by long-time series partner Dallara that will be covered in changeable body work created by various manufacturers.

Known as the IndyCar Safety Cell, it will be manufactured as a new facility in Speedway, Indiana, and it will serve as the base of the new car. Various manufacturers can produce an aero kit to produce the car with different body work including front and rear wings and engine covers and more.

Randy, this is such a significant announcement for the IZOD IndyCar Series. Talk about what this means for the series moving forward and also about the tireless work of the ICONIC Committee to reach the recommendation, not only for the chassis, but it really was a comprehensive effort.

RANDY BERNARD: If you would have asked me 80 days ago how this process would have gone, I wouldn't have dreamed it would have gone as well as it did.

When we selected the ICONIC Committee members, first and foremost, we wanted true experts that were very well respected within the industry. And we had about 110 names on our list that we looked at, and you know, I think we did a great job of narrowing it down to those seven people.

We had key objectives in what we were trying to do, and I think that - - we talked to a lot of people, we talked to fans, drivers, team owners and auto manufacturers and fans wanted to see more than one race car out on that racetrack. And team owners wanted to see cost efficiency. And, you know, auto manufacturers wanted to be able to see brand identity, if they came on.

So we hoped that we have been able to address all of our major concerns, and I have so much positive compliments to the ICONIC Advisory Committee for really putting their heart and soul and passion into this for the past 75 days.

MODERATOR: Brian, while the different visual looks provided by the new aero kits are very, very exciting, cost containment, safety and quality racing are also paramount features in this new pack age. Discuss how this new car strategy achieves all three of those goals so well.

BRIAN BARNHART: Well, that's the beauty of it, Paul. It's something that I think the entire committee is proud of; the solution that we have arrived at that addresses all of these challenges. Because safety is always paramount and priority No. 1, that's where we felt it was absolutely best that we keep the Safety Cell the same and consistent across the board or everyone, and Dallara has an impeccable safety record, top quality construction and they have been a long-time partner of the series. They were very responsive to our RFP and addressed every issue including moving the facility to Speedway, Indiana to build the cars. It was a logical progression for us, so safety is taken care of.

Yet on the other hand it also allows us because they are the only ones building the Safety Cell, it enables us to reduce the cost of participation which is what the owners test found necessary to have good value of participation in the series and now the ability for anyone to create the aero kit addresses the fans aspect, creates the competitive environment, allows for different looks out on the racetrack so we really have the best of all worlds combined into one.

As I said it's something that I think the committee is very proud of, the solution we have offered up.

MODERATOR: Tony, you mentioned in the ceremony today in Indianapolis that you think this combination of the IndyCar Safety Cell by Dallara and the aero kit produced by various manufacturers can revolutionize the sport. Can you please expand on that, if you would?

TONY PURNELL: It's clear that we have dramatically lowered the barrier to entry for a manufacturer or a technical company who would like to get involved in this series who would like to enter their own car to do just that.

Instead of giving them the headache of checking the whole car, a technical project needing expertise, we have given them a route to concentrating on the main performance differentiator, which is the aerodynamics body work.

So we are hoping that that will bring a lot of new things, along with their marketing, to improve the buzz and excitement around IndyCar Racing.

But there's possibly a more subtle aspect to it, and that's that for some technical concerns who might go this route, say, a Ford Motor Company, the advertising space on the car is of interest to them. They want the name of the car. So are team not only giving a route to attract all manner of manufacturers and automotive companies into the series, but where there's no clash, we are also giving them a route for additional sponsorship.

So a Ford entry could be sponsored by Target and that the car will be very much -- really opened up the commercial side. I think it's very much what this series needs, because the more interest we can generate, the more people get involved, the more excitement we deliver to the fans.

MODERATOR: Gil, you have a very unique position on the ICONIC Committee, because you're on the committee, you're also an IZOD IndyCar Series team could he owner and also a former driver who has driven the current formula cars. From a team owner perspective, what is appealing about the package to you, and you have been out of the seat for a while; what excites you most about the car from a driver's perspective?

GIL DE FERRAN: Well, as you correctly say, I looked at the different questions that we faced from I guess different perspectives that my diverse background afforded me.

Certainly, from a team owner perspective, you know, I have two main interests; one, that my costs are under control, but also, that the sport grows and hopefully potentially with it so does my revenue, you know. I think the formula that we came up with to maintain cost in check, will be very effective. In fact, we are projecting a reduction in running costs of approximately 50 percent, which is really quite astounding. Especially if you take into account that these cars will be quicker, will be more sophisticated, and hopefully will also have some competition.

I think on the other hand, you know, I was very much thinking of the fans, you know, because without fans, really, we won't have a professional sport.

For us to -- for me as a team owner to increase our fan base, was a major priority. And everywhere we looked, every one we heard, their main interest was to, you know, continue to make the cars as fast as they are, maintain the brand of IndyCars as the fastest cars in the world, but also bring some competition, please bring some diversity, please bring some innovation into it.

So this was also extremely important. Like I was saying, on the face of it, the requirement to control costs and also the requirement to open the thing up to competition and innovation apparently are conflicting requirements. But hopefully we came up with a solution that addresses both issues.

And I would also have to say that I was wearing the driver hat most of the time when we were talking about the performance requirements of this new IndyCar, you know. To me, it's a relatively simple matter. An IndyCar has always been a bit of a radical beast, it's always been an extremely challenging car to drive. It's been a car that is, you know, frankly, sometimes a bit scary, and not for everyone.

The bottom line is not everyone can drive an IndyCar. It's difficult, it's challenging, it's powerful and to me as a driver, it was very important that the future IndyCar not only retained those values, but improved to go beyond what they are today, and to make sure the people really understand what IndyCars are all about.

MODERATOR: That's great, Gil. I appreciate that.

Q: We have heard so many people saying so much, hopefully Brian would be able to address these two questions. One, I'm still not clear, I thought I heard you say earlier that, yes, it would be possible, for example, for Delta, Lola, Swift, the others who had submitted designs, to take their bodies and put it on this Dallara chassis, and I guess a little more specifically, the designs we have seen from those companies, would they work on a Dallara chassis.

BRIAN BARNHART: Yeah, it won't be those designs put on. There will be some restrictive parameters on it. Obviously with us leaving the under wing on the car, the under wing will somewhat dictate the shape of the side pods. They will have a lot of freedom in the front wings and the rear wings.

The Safety Cell itself, the rear bulkhead will somewhat dictate the initial shape of the engine cover. But the goal obviously from the league standpoint is to leave the parameters and the boxes open as wide as possible to create and allow as much diversity between designs as possible to make them easily recognizable as different for the fans.

But their existing designs that were submitted in their responses to the RFP, that's not what I mean by putting those body works on. It will have to be something that works on the Safety Cell that's built by Dallara.

Q: And this may be something, also, that goes into Randy's area, but I heard earlier the pretty resounding invitation, come on Ford, GM, Ferrari, even Boeing and Lockheed. My question, have you had undercurrent or background conversations with these companies to indicate a willingness to do what all of us and all of our experience, what is one of the most expensive parts of motor racing design, which is aero, to make this commitment and then to come up with something that I understand that they will sell for an $85,000 cap. Have you had background conversations that indicate that will you will get a lot of RSVP from that invitation, or, does this amount to one of the great leaps of faith in motor racing?

BRIAN BARNHART: Well, we have had some initial conversations, as well, and interestingly, I think there's a lot of common ground in the aerospace industry, which is a natural challenge.

When Tony Purnell referenced that in his speaking points, it's kind of a natural to challenge that industry to get involved. With regards to the automotive manufacturers, we have had some preliminary dialogues and it has been exceptionally well received.

It's almost one more asset that had not been available in many years, if ever, in open-wheel racing that is actually encouraging their participation, because now it's not just about an auto manufacturer providing an engine for an IndyCar. They have got the ability to brand the car, and showcase their aerodynamic capabilities, as well.

So the preliminary conversations and indications we have had with the auto manufacturers have been very well received and Randy can probably address that more.

Q: So you are inviting the body and engine then?

BRIAN BARNHART: Absolutely, yes.

RANDY BERNARD: Just to reiterate what Brian said, with the auto manufacturers that we have discussed this with have said that it's very exciting that they can create brand identity with their cars.

But we haven't been able to talk to everyone, because we wanted to keep as much possible -- as much confidential as possible, so we were very selective on our first round and I believe Brian and I and Tony and Gil were all planning on a trip to Europe at the end of August to start talking to some of the engine manufacturers in Europe.

Continued in part 2

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Brian Barnhart
Teams Dragon Racing , HART