RED BULL INDIANAPOLIS GP PRESS CONFERENCE
Gill Campbell, Joie Chitwood, Carmelo Ezpeleta, Kenny Roberts Jr., Kevin Schwantz Monday, July 16, 2007, Indianapolis Motor Speedway
RALPH SHEHEEN: I think you folks know all of our players up here, Kevin Schwantz, Joie Chitwood, Gill Campbell and, of course, Ken Roberts Jr. We'll open this up for some questions. I'll come around the room with a microphone so you guys can hear maybe best. We'll, start right here, Robin.
Q: Joie, can you talk about the length of the contract. Then if Gill can talk after you do about how long this thing can be here, because obviously that's a key to helping this thing grow.
JOIE CHITWOOD: The initial term of the contract is a three-year contract. We feel pretty good about that. One of the things that we had dialogue about was Gill and the event out there on the West Coast. I've been out there and visited, and really the energy and the passion for the sport out there really got me thinking about what could happen here. And I think in terms of what they do on the West Coast, what a great thing for us to focus on the East Coast. You look at how many folks own motorcycles in America. To think that there's only two MotoGP events, when I think there probably could be many more than, it's pretty amazing.
So for us we hope to see it grow. We'll be talking about the future, for sure. It's going to be interesting to see that event next year, 100 years after the first one.
For a Monday afternoon at 3 o'clock, I sensed an energy that I'm not sure I was ready for. I'd like to see the race maybe this September. I think it's going to be a long time to wait. But I'm really excited by the reception so far.
Q: Question for both Kevin and --
CHITWOOD: Hold on, Gill was going to comment.
Q: How long is your contract good for?
GILL CAMPBELL: Our contract at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca goes through 2010, so we're planning on being around for a long time. Yeah, it was a load of energy, wasn't it?
Q: When I talked to you on the phone a few weeks ago you said the best thing that could happen (inaudible) --
CAMPBELL: Absolutely. This is one of those things, double your pleasure, double your fun. And having two MotoGPs in the United States, this announcement today, what a great day for America. We're blessed to have two MotoGP events. As Joie says, we could have 17, and I think the fans would keep coming. It's the best energy that you'll see amongst race fans, I'll tell you.
Q: Just as a quick call -- you were talking about the old days of CART and (inaudible) -- over 50,000 people?
CAMPBELL: We have about 50,000 people per day for the event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and that is by far our largest event, and we squeeze the last two or three people in here. We're not blessed with all these grandstands, we have beautiful hills.
Q: I have a question for Kevin and for Kenny. I know you haven't seen the exact layout, but what you've seen of this racetrack, compare the difficulty of this racetrack against the other racetracks that you race on or have raced on.
Want me to go? Just driving around it in the bus, like I got to a little bit earlier, and imagining kind of the layout of the track because there are walls up already. It looks to be great. It's got some fairly fast corners, yet it has some fairly slow combinations of corners that are going to tie themselves together really closely, which is going to make things more difficult. Technically, you're going to have to be more correct. It's not a simple straight down, simple left turn, straight down, another corner. Everything kind of links itself together once you get off the front straightaway. Those four corners, the next chute, the next little combination of corners, kind of a drag race in between the section of corners. I think it will be a tough race for the guys to get set up for and physically quite challenging.
Q: How different is it from the other racetracks that you have dealt with?
SCHWANTZ: I don't --
Q: On a scale of 1 to 10 I guess.
SCHWANTZ: On a 1 to 10 difficulty? Or 1 to 10 -- it's just like all the rest. It's paved, it comes back around, it joins back together at the same place. One lap makes it complete. And you strive to do all of them before everybody else does.(Laughter)
But they're all a challenge in themselves; getting all those shift points right, getting all the turn-in points right, braking, making all that happen for an entire event, whether it's 30 laps or 35 laps, is difficult. The asphalt is different. The atmosphere, everything about it, all the people that are here, the excitement that is going to be involved with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is what's going to make this such a great event.
KENNY ROBERTS JR.: I think that for the sport itself, a minimum of two Grand Prixs should be in America for the size of the U.S. I've grown up in California, and people that plan a vacation that go out there as going to some of the most beautiful areas, like Monterey and Carmel. And the type of physical effort and the demand that -- especially last year, 158-degree ground temperature was the hardest, hottest race of my career. You can make up for a lot of machine shortcomings at Laguna Seca. You got the people on the hills, and you don't have the grandstands so you feel more like you're kind of at a -- you feel, I guess it's just a different atmosphere than anywhere else you go. They've done a lot of improvements for the safety, which allowed us to get there. It's going to be a good race this year, the 800s are going to make it a little bit easier physically.
When you come to a place like Indy, this is my first time here, so you're basically on the other half of the U.S. to where we can get people that can't make it out to California, come to a place like this, which seems like for me you're coming to the mecca of motorsports anywhere in the U.S., from the side of Formula One to the NASCAR and Indy.
It's going to be a completely different challenge because now you're moving into a technical racetrack, which means you're going to have to have the horsepower required. You can't physically make the bike go faster down the straightaway. And you don't have that problem at Laguna Seca.
So you're going to need the quickest or second-quickest motorcycle, and you're going to have to be precise. If the tire rules stay the same, you're going to have to get lucky on your tire choice. And the safety aspect of it is going to be, from what I've seen today in talking with some of the staff here, is going to be at the level we need it to be. So it's going to be two completely diverse racetracks with two different riding styles. Machine is going to be more important here. Of course, the atmosphere here is going to be, you know, you're racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, so it's kind of intimidating in that sense.
Q: Mr. Chitwood, could you please discuss the construction that's going to take place in getting the track ready and the changes that are going to have to happen and maybe a timetable?
CHITWOOD: As soon as possible. The minute our NASCAR event is done, we're going to start. And probably our biggest challenge is inside of Turn 1. For those of you who don't know, we do have a creek down there that we have to deal with and we have to get the appropriate permitting and all of those things to make the necessary changes. That will be the biggest addition that we have to make. Obviously, we already have some of the turns behind the Museum; we just have to, I guess, align them a little bit differently.
The challenge for us is then accommodating our other events as we roll into next year; weather this winter, and then in the spring how much we can get done prior to getting set for the Indy 500. We feel pretty good that we have an appropriate length of time to do it, although there are some other factors we'll worry about, weather and some of other things. But we've been under the gun before in some of our construction projects. We have a great staff here. We have a gentleman named Kevin Forbes, who is our director of engineering. I'm not sure many racetracks have their own engineer on staff. Whether it's our historian or engineer, we typically have all the right resources. But I can tell you the Monday after the Brickyard we'll be working pretty hard on getting it turned around.
Q: Do you have plans to have a test?
CHITWOOD: Well, at this point that's going to be based on the construction schedule. Obviously, we'll be working with our partners at MotoGP to determine what's the next step and when the course is ready. I'm sure from the tire manufacturing component they'll want to get some testing in. But obviously we'll be working with MotoGP on the time needed for them to get out there and get prepared.
Q: Joie, would you comment, put a dollar figure on the construction for this new course. Then would you continue that into the economics of hosting a MotoGP event compared with a Formula One event.
CHITWOOD: Well, obviously, the investment we're talking about is significant. We're talking millions of dollars to make the improvements to get the track ready for MotoGP. Really it doesn't make sense for me to compare the two. For us, it's about adding world-class events to our schedule, and we're excited that MotoGP is going to be on there. If it didn't make sense for us, then I'm not sure we'd entertain the conversations. We feel very comfortable that it's going to be good for MotoGP, good for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway financially as well as good for the City of Indianapolis. We think there's a whole other clientele on the east side of the United States that will come to Indianapolis to be exposed to motorcycle racing, the highest form of motorcycle racing.
So whether you're a fan of motorcycles or a fan of the Speedway, I think we'll have that unique content that makes us special. But at the end of the day it has to work financially not only for our partners with MotoGP but for ourselves, as well.
Continued in part 2