An interview with Christopher R. Pook and Don Panoz Part 1 of 4 INDIANAPOLIS (October 1, 2002) - What follows is the CART weekly teleconference presented by WorldCom featuring CART President and CEO Christopher R. Pook and American Le Mans ...
An interview with Christopher R. Pook and Don Panoz
Part 1 of 4
INDIANAPOLIS (October 1, 2002) - What follows is the CART weekly teleconference presented by WorldCom featuring CART President and CEO Christopher R. Pook and American Le Mans Series founder Don Panoz.
Merrill Cain: Good afternoon everyone and thanks for joining us today on this week's CART Media teleconference. I am Merrill Cain with CART Public Relations. We're very excited today to welcome to the call the two gentlemen who are the guiding hands behind the respective racing series that will make history this weekend as the CART FedEx Championship Series and the American Le Mans Series will race together for the first time ever on the streets of Miami this weekend in the inaugural Grand Prix Americas.
We're joined by both Don Panoz the founder of the American Le Mans Series and CART President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Pook today.
Gentlemen, thank you very much for joining thus afternoon.
We'd like to take advantage of your time and just get right to some questions.
We will start out with Mr. Panoz. With his addition to his lead role with ALMS he is also owner of the Panoz Motor Sports Group as well as a number of other business entities including several race tracks and real estate venues. Mr. Panoz, could you talk about the concept of the Grand Prix Americas bringing world-class road racing back to the streets of Miami, where it was so successful not only for Champ Cars, but sports cars as well in the 1980s and '90s. If you would maybe give us a little sneak peek of what we might expect to see this weekend.
Don Panoz: Thank you, Merrill.
First of all, I think the concept of the Grand Prix of the Americas coming back to race on the streets of Miami is just reliving history again and a history I think that was built over the years as one of the most exciting races in the United States.
I think that this ability to come back to Miami and you know, resurrect the great street races in Miami is a fabulous opportunity. Of course, as far as our cars go, I think the fans are going to be very well served by our format of Le Mans Racing, four different classes of cars, racing on almost 1.6 miles of circuit there in Miami. The top class [LMP900] being about 60 miles an hour faster than the GT class. And I think that with the drivers and the show that we will put on, I think the fans will really be excited and I think they will see a great race.
Merrill Cain: I am sure no one can dispute that.
CART President and CEO, Chris Pook joins us from Miami today. Chris, several of the forms of motor racing do stage events in and around the city of Miami, but this weekend will truly be a unique experience for the fans. As we pointed out before, a historical experience as well with CART and ALMS racing together at the same venue on the same weekend for the first time. In addition to that, what is going to make this weekend so special for the fans.
Chris Pook: First of all, I think it is important to reiterate what Don said that, the city, downtown here has a great history. It started here when [racing entrepreneur] Ralph Sanchez put on the old - what was IMSA and it was the same type of - virtually the same type of racing cars that Don's series operates today. And that was incredibly successful over the years and then the Indy Cars came in and then they moved back to the streets here in Miami. The combination of the two series I think reach out to the fans of the state of Florida and even further north.
I think the fact that the two of us are cooperating this weekend and racing together, clearly shows a very high level of cooperation between two major sanctioning bodies. I think it also demonstrates that we can reach out to a set of demographics that's truly unique in motor racing. The demographics of the CART FedEx Series and the demographics of the American Le Mans Series. And while there might be a little bit of crossover in certain areas, I think you look at those demographics and it is a very, very wide set of demographics that we're reaching. And what better place to do it in Miami while being an incredibly important city in the United States in the sense of the size and capacity of its market and market reach. Also we must remember it is the cultural and corporate gateway to Latin America, Central America and the Caribbean.
So if you look at the two products that are on track - well the three products, excuse me, because I have overlooked the Trans-Am [Series For the BFGoodrich Tires Cup] which is a very, very important part of our weekend as well, look at the three products that are on track, look at the market reach of Miami, and then you look at the heritage of what is here in downtown Miami, I think that you do, as you said, have a very unique combination and a combination of huge value today and of incredible marketing ability in the future.
Merrill Cain: Thank you, Chris, as we mentioned, we did have a full slate of media on the call today so let us get to questions.
Q: Would you classify this weekend's marriage as exploratory and if each of you can sort of maybe itemize the advantages to doing this and maybe some of the disadvantages of bringing two major series to one venue at the same time?
Don Panoz: Well, I think it's not just exploratory, it is an opportunity for us to show our wares as Chris very ably said, we both cover with very little crossover a unique demographic. That's point number one. And will certainly be able to show our respective supporters each other's show.
I think that with us getting together in Miami and anybody that hasn't been reading the newspapers for the last eight months, would know that us joining together was a response that was necessary because of a lot of the opposition that was presented against us. And I think it is a good opportunity for us to turn that challenge into a real opportunity to put on a great show.
Chris Pook: I echo what Don says, I would term this certainly more than exploratory. This is an effort that we have put on together to see what the challenges are of operating two major series on the same weekend at the same venue. And what are the yields that both series can get from the combined opportunity in the marketplace.
Now, as far as the challenges are concerned, absolutely there are challenges. We have two different types of race cars, two different sets of disciplines in the pits. We have a whole - both of us have a whole bunch of support equipment and the various things that make up, if you will, the circus, and the logistics of putting all this together are a test of both our staffs. The key I think for Don and I though is to show the leadership that we want to work together and that the staffs must work together if we're going to succeed. And I think that once we do, as we go through this process, and it is going on already because both staffs have been down here, both management teams have been down here all week and we're working through the issues together one by one. It is a lot like a marriage, where if you want to have a successful marriage both parties have got to give 60%. And we're working in that vein here, and at the end of the day, what our responsibility is, both of our mutual responsibilities is one to the other to make sure that the other one has all the breathing room in the world to demonstrate the quality of their product, of each one's products. My responsibility to Don is to make sure that his management team has all the room and space to demonstrate the quality of their product and his management team to us vice versa.
The real delivery vehicle, who both our mutual responsibilities really lie with, though, is with the city of Miami because the city of Miami is the de facto, our partner. We're using their streets, their city, and it is our mutual responsibility to deliver not only the economic impact to the city of Miami that our two mutual series can bring to this city. But it's also our responsibility to deliver all the marketing opportunities that the city of Miami is seeking both from its port, from its airport, from its hotels, its restaurants, its redevelopment agencies, its community development agencies, its government relations agencies, this is what we have to do. We have to deliver and make sure that the city of Miami gets the value out of the investment that they have made in their time and effort in allowing us to use their city as our venue.
Q: I wonder if both of you can talk sort of in the bigger picture as to how they see the future of this partnership developing and could we see races at places like Washington D.C., Road Atlanta, Sebring even, for example?
Don Panoz: Well, I think that certainly what we'll see this weekend and we already know Chris has shared with me that hospitality and everything else is really sold out and that we expect a very good crowd and a very good support group of fans that have come in and not only are just buying tickets but they are buying all the other things that are important for a race.
Chris said it so well a while ago, he said that this isn't exploratory. This is an opportunity for evaluation. And I think that it is like anything else in business, if this kind of model shows a good result, both of us will be looking at how we could explore that and what other venues it could make sense that we could do a show like this.
It could be that maybe the event would be limited when we evaluate them and maybe only be a couple of street circuits or it could be that it could be something bigger. But I think both of us will be having and our staffs will have our eyes open to look at all of the events that are going on there this weekend. How they play out; how they are accepted by the fans and the media, and to look at what we can turn that into for the future.
I think we'll be going into this with eyes wide open and we'll be there to judge it based on the facts. And that's the way - I think that's the way we'll be responding and Chris can speak for himself.
Chris Pook: I agree with Don there. I agree absolutely with what Don said. I think that we have to evaluate which venues make sense for both of us. We can't overflood the market, if you will. There are certain markets and venues where the American Le Mans Series will stand alone and has a very good track record and will work it. Likewise, for CART, but then there are other markets and this is a very good example here because let's face it, this market has seen both of our types of racing before, and has been very responsive to both our types of racing, and had very successful events, so this is a good one as a starting platform. But I think there are indeed other markets. But I think that that's for Don's management team and my management team to evaluate together and to come back to the both of us to say, look, it makes sense here; it doesn't makes sense there.
We have to thread very constructively together down the road and we have to look at the impacts of what these sharing of markets or joining together in a market means to our respective sponsors and are we able to deliver increased value to those sponsors by combining together in a single marketplace. I think that's the real key.
Don Panoz: If I might, I think that not only that, but I think that we could be looking at a possibility of a formation of what is really a super race weekend and where it's not just a Sunday afternoon main show with support racing, but just really a whole super weekend which includes Saturday and Sunday and value and entertainment; the fans can really get their money's worth and can enjoy it. And also, a great shingle for the sponsors.
Panoz, Pook press conference, part II