An interview with Alex Tagliani and Eric Bachelart
Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have several guests joining us this afternoon as we prepare to open the 2009 season this weekend in St. Petersburg. Joining us in a few minutes will be Ryan Hunter-Reay, Eric Bachelart and Alex Tagliani and also Darren Manning. Ryan signed with Vision Racing to drive the No. 21 car this season while Alex was announced earlier today as the driver of the No. 34 Conquest Racing car for the event in St. Petersburg, and Darren will be driving the No. 23 Dreyer & Reinbold car for the race at St. Petersburg.
We're joined now by Eric Bachelart and Alex Tagliani from Conquest Racing. Good afternoon, gentlemen. Thanks for taking the time to join us. Earlier today, obviously, you guys announced that Alex would be driving the No. 34 car at St. Petersburg with sponsorship from Northlands in Edmonton. Eric, tell us a little bit about the deal.
ERIC BACHELART: Well, we just announced it a couple of hours ago that, as you said, we signed a sponsorship deal with Northlands. Northlands is the organization that presents the Edmonton IndyCar (Series) race. So we'll promote the race this weekend with the Rexall Edmonton Indy becoming a primary sponsorship for the first race of the season.
Obviously, we're very happy and very pleased with the sponsorship. They've done a very good event in Edmonton for all these past few years, so it will be great to promote them this weekend with another great event in St. Pete.
Of course we're very, very happy to have Alex with us again, and we know him well, and Alex has done a really good job with us at the end of the season last year with a best finish of fourth in Australia, so we're going to try to keep in that path.
Obviously, there's not that much chance to test together to do a good preparation for St. Pete, but I'll tell you, when we put Alex in the car in Detroit last year, we were very impressed with the way that he adapted to the car, and I know he's extremely motivated, and I feel confident that we'll do well this weekend.
MODERATOR: Alex, as Eric mentioned there, you joined the team last year for the final three IndyCar Series events and had a fourth-place finish in the race at Surfers Paradise. Give us your perspective on this opportunity to start the season with Conquest.
ALEX TAGLIANI: First of all, I just want to say hi to Eric. It's been a long time since we've seen each other.
It was definitely a fantastic opportunity for me last year to join the IndyCar Series for the first time and having the opportunity to do it with Conquest. Obviously, the first scenario was not the best. I jumped mid-weekend on Saturday morning. You're not racing a little go-kart at the local race, you're racing with the best in the world. So it was a little bit difficult, but I was surprised that I adapted quite well to the cars. The Conquest team has a very good group of people, and they're capable of giving me a fantastic car.
We gel well. We went to Australia, and we had a great weekend, very competitive. So we're motivated. This event unfortunately happens really late, but we're working on something for the rest of the year, and it's really important that we join the IndyCar Series in St. Pete, and we feel that with everybody on board and with the group of people that Conquest has, we could have a good car and definitely do a good showing in St. Pete, even if it's difficult conditions.
MODERATOR: Obviously you had the same experience last year coming into the team at Detroit with just a few hours' notice even maybe or a day or two notice. What are, I guess, some of the biggest challenges and what are things that maybe people would think would be challenges about that situation but maybe aren't as challenging about a situation like that?
ALEX TAGLIANI: Well, it's been since '03 that I drove on the St. Pete race track. That's a small challenge. The biggest challenge really is just to get back in the groove after a couple of months in the winter of not driving. It's always fun the first test of the winter. You know, you get back in the groove, and then you push harder and you develop certain things on the car that after some time of thinking and communicating with the engineer you can apply for the next test and for the next race, and it's a buildup, right? So we're going to have to build up in three days with jumping in the car cold.
So that's basically the biggest challenge. But in regards to how we could put together a good car and a competitive car over the next three days, over the weekend, I think we have the capabilities to do it because we showed it in Australia. I think it's just a lack of preparation and doing it last minute that drains a lot of energy and maybe lack of sleep. I guess that's the biggest challenge.
Q: Eric, in the IndyCar Series there tends to be a lot more international flavor to that type of racing. You know, it's produced in the United States a lot, but it attracts a lot of international fans. Do you think that international flavor gives a boost to the IndyCar racing series?
ERIC BACHELART: Well, personally myself, yeah, I like it. I think that it would be -- I'd like to see the series a bit more global. That's everybody's advice and opinion on it. But this is a bit what we did with Champ Car before, and I think we're getting there with IndyCar, and having these two races in Canada, I think it's great. There is a lot of fans in Canada, and I know that Alex is very popular over there. I mean, we're going to have two fantastic events over there with Edmonton and Toronto. They're very well-promoted, and it is very popular. So definitely I think it's a plus for the series.
I mean, we're going to Japan, as well, and I feel it's a bit of a shame that we're not going to Australia anymore, but I understand the reasons, and hopefully we might have a race in Europe in the future.
And then, I mean, same thing with drivers. That's the good thing about it. There is a very good last round of drivers from all over the world, and at the same time it's good to see that Ryan (Hunter-Reay) is back in a seat this year.
I think we'll have good competition. It was a long winter, but it's exciting to be in St. Pete now and have a good amount of cars on the grid.
Q: You mentioned that it was a long winter and of course the long off-season. I asked before about having cobwebs. Do you think that to knock that rust off, do you still have butterflies when you go into that first race of the year? Do you think every driver does?
ERIC BACHELART: Yeah, of course. I'll tell you, when you see what you have to do to be there, and now going to St. Pete and be there, that's really the reward, and that's why we've been working for months, to be there, and especially when you can go over there with the driver that you really wanted to work with.
And here working with Alex, it's really good. He's extremely committed, and we're just kind of a good group all together. You would see when I told the guys two days ago that we finalized with Alex, everyone was extremely happy. At the end of the day we're racers. We want to race and do well, and I believe that with Alex there's a very good chance to do that.
We're not a big team, but I think that we have obviously a good spirit and a lot of competitors in the group, and Alex has been a very good team player. It really unfolds, the spirit that I'm trying to keep in the team and that we keep.
Q: Eric, I heard Alex say that they're still looking for sponsorship for later in the year, so does this mean that this deal is just a one-race deal for right now? And if that's the case, what are the possibilities that the No. 34 becomes, I guess, a shared ride between a couple of drivers, like say Alex or Jaime Camara or any other driver?
ERIC BACHELART: Well, here, obviously yes. This deal is just for the first race in St. Pete. But the plan is to keep Alex in the car and not share this car with somebody else. I mean, we still have some work to do and some ways to go, so we're working on Long Beach, and then, I mean, keep going from there.
We believe that we have some good leads that could help us for the rest of the season that came up a few weeks ago, and in the meantime it's just to find some ways to keep going.
You know, if we keep in mind that we had two cars last year, so we have the possibility for a second car, as well, if another driver is interested to do something with us, and we had some discussion in that regard. You know, again, we have cars in the shop. We have all the equipment and everything just to run two cars if it's needed. So that's also a possibility.
I mean, you know, one thing at a time, as Alex said in French in the previous question. We have to work much harder now just to find some deals. It's definitely harder but possible.
And I think that once we create some good momentum with St. Pete we can work on that and develop and create a burst in Canada, as well. Alex is the only Canadian driver, and we have two big Canadian events, so we need Alex in the series. And I believe that there are a lot of Canadian companies that are looking to support us, and we're talking with a bunch of these companies.
Again, we're building, and hopefully after St. Pete things will get better and we'll be in Long Beach together.
Q: Just to follow up, from an owner's standpoint, how has it been just trying to hunt down those sponsors, trying to find receptive businesses during this current economic recession? How has that been for you?
ERIC BACHELART: Well, no doubt about it, it's been tough. Look, we're funded to do the first race now, so we're not set for the whole season yet. It's not easy, but as I said, I think it's feasible and definitely we want to look at it in a positive way. For the whole winter we never doubted that we'd be there, and the good thing is we've managed to keep all the people together, and we're going to St. Pete with everything we need.
Of course we'll have a bit short preparation, especially with testing with Alex, and that's a shame, but I think we'll overcome that and just keep going, keep working at it and keep a positive attitude.
The good thing is to see, if I'm not mistaken, that we have 22 cars on the grid this weekend. So that's pretty good. All considered, it's very good. So it's very encouraging to see this.
MODERATOR: Eric and Alex, thanks for joining us, and congratulations on getting the deal done for St. Petersburg. We wish you luck there and for the rest of 2009.