CHAMPCAR/CART: Pook, Panoz press conference, part III

An interview with Christopher R. Pook and Don Panoz Part 3 of 4 Q: If I may get out of these subjects a little bit, I wanted to ask Don, I didn't see him in Three Rivers where he brought the Le Mans Series, just wanted to know what is the ...

An interview with Christopher R. Pook and Don Panoz

Part 3 of 4

Q: If I may get out of these subjects a little bit, I wanted to ask Don, I didn't see him in Three Rivers where he brought the Le Mans Series, just wanted to know what is the impact of that and do you foresee anything special for next year or the coming years? With Chris, we're still interested in knowing where we stand right now in the series in the CART for next year. Has anything new showed up? Any new teams? Can you give me a resume on that?

Don Panoz: First I thought Three Rivers was a great experience. I was really surprised. I don't know whether you said you didn't see me but I can assure you I was there, and fabulous restaurants, great fans, a real entertainment type atmosphere. Our race teams all commented that it was - even the surrounding environment and the entertainment and the restaurants and stuff, it was just like being back at Le Mans and in fact, in some of the cases even better, particularly about being able to get around and being able to enjoy the atmosphere of the city.

So we're planning on coming back there. That's no secret, and I will look forward to it. I thought Three Rivers, it is a city track and it is a city circuit and by the way the space under those bridges is narrower than the narrowest spot than we have in Miami. So we seemed to cope with that all right. So I think that, you know, it bodes well for us. It was just a great show. I really enjoyed it.

Chris Pook: I would just comment that I assume you are referring to CART's efforts in Canada in your question.

Q: Not in Canada, Chris, if you can't, generally speaking, I have just been missing a few races. I won't be in Miami, but [Patrick] Carpentier is about to sign today or he's already signed from what I am being told. I just wanted to see what you are relying on for next year? Have you got any new teams that come in or old teams that have left?

Chris Pook: I am not going make announcements on behalf of my teams as to who their drivers are and what they are doing. But I can just tell you that we're on target again for 18, possibly 21 cars. We have two new teams coming here to Miami to discuss with us joining our series. We have a team in the past that missed this year that will be coming back next year with two cars with us. And we have three one-car teams, the three that are in the series this year who I can tell you will be returning in - at least two of the three will be returning with two-car teams as against one-car teams. So things are moving pretty rapidly. The last 24 hours has been a lot more movement and progress, and we got an interesting array of drivers who want to be in our series.

I think what is really important to us now is that there is a recognition taking place that the CART Series can produce drivers for Formula 1, and the reminder of the [Juan Pablo] Montoya and [Jacques] Villeneuve experiences, the products that have come out of our series is resonating at home; obviously underlined by [Cristiano] da Matta and the high level of interest in him in Formula 1 as we speak, that's ringing the bells throughout the Formula 3000 series, the Formula 3 series and various Formula 3 series in Europe and there's a fairly interesting array of drivers and managers and backers who are appearing here this weekend.

Q: You spoke earlier of certain opposition from other sources in Miami and we know who they are. That group is opposing CART in particular and in some sense ALMS. Do you two have to unite in order to fight off that opposition?

Chris Pook: Well, I mean, I don't think we have to unite but we seem to have a common foe here, but with regular occurrence seems to be beating on us, and it's a little disappointing. I am simply disappointed down here in Miami because, you know, the city of Miami wouldn't be doing this race if they didn't feel there was a need to use automobile racing to create some economic impact for their downtown area. I think what is very disappointing to me is that in the past when we started Long Beach there was opposition from Riverside and a little bit of opposition from Ontario and we reached out to both of them, and we established a working relationship, albeit, the first year tenuous, but whereby we worked together and we promoted their races and they promoted our races. Suddenly they found that both of them had a whole new load of fans that were going to their racetracks because the Long Beach folks, 80% of them, had never been to a motor car race before. And it turned into a successful relationship. And I picked up the phone here about three months ago to Jim France and said to Jim, Jim, let's work together as a team here, let's not fight. You know, let us promote Homestead here and work together, you know, because the two of us working together, the two venues working together can help. Certainly we can help Homestead and I think that Homestead can help here a little bit. But that offer was rejected and it's unfortunate, but the opposition continues and it is disappointing because this is a free and open marketplace. At least I believe America was a free and open marketplace where one had the right to compete where one wanted to. And I am not sure that an exclusive franchise for motor racing has been granted to Homestead. And if it has been granted, by whom was it granted?

So this is all very disappointing because at end of the day if we in motor sports all work together as a team, we're going to be much more efficient and much more effective. But it is what it is. We have got our business to run at Championship Auto Racing Teams. Mr. Panoz has got his teams to run at American Le Mans Series. While I don't want to speak for him, I suspect that his philosophy is the same as ours, we're going to get on and run our business and run it the way we want to run it and by "we" that's to say "we" CART, and "we" ALMS and when we work together as we are this weekend, we arrive at the same mutual policy together of how we've got to operate this event. So the "we" becomes the two of us. And we're not going to allow other folks to dictate to us as to how we run our lives.

Don Panoz: I just ditto everything that Chris said. I'd like to add that it's amazing to me that the guise of objections from that camp a lot of it was on the basis that it was doing a great harm to Homestead and people in racing. And I am sure you guys in the media know that the people and the demographics that go to these two venues are quite different. Point number one.

Point number two is that a lot of the people who will be coming to this race in Miami are not the ones who go down to Homestead. The real victim in this is - and the delays of this and part of the injury will be the city of Miami, which was a great supporter of Homestead. I just feel it's completely unjust and I think that those people who keep pursuing this line of attack and although I must say, I am pleasantly surprised that from the figures that we see and stuff, the fans are ignoring that and are coming to the race. But the fact is that I think Miami is an unwilling victim in this and I think that the people are being very short-sighted.

Q: What kind of crowds are you projecting for this weekend?

Don Panoz: Chris is the keeper of the tickets.

Chris Pook: I think that if we can put in - on race day here 35 to 40,000 folks here next Sunday and we move them in efficiently and give them a good show and, as I say, Saturday, we do a similar number, move them in efficiently, ALMS gives them a good show, we get them home efficiently and effectively and do the same on Sunday, and we work through all the operational challenges that a first year event has, that's the objective, I think we both will be very, very happy. The important thing is that as I said before, we deliver a quality product - deliver a quality product to city of Miami and we need to go out and deliver a quality product to our fans. That includes getting in and out, having fun, good food, good entertainment, good camaraderie and good racing.

Q: I guess most of the questions on my mind have been pretty well traveled there. But you speak of the yield that the event will provide, particularly to the city of Miami and I wondered if the two of you could maybe comment on the fact that at least to the 99% of the American racing fans who don't live in South Florida and who are in the rest of the country watching television they will have a pretty well wall to wall opportunity to see, you know, ALMS and CART cars on television over the weekend. And what you think that - what that does beyond just the media market of Miami?

Don Panoz: Well, from my point of view, I mean, the first, outside of Adelaide, Australia, first city race, a downtown race we had in the American Le Mans Series was Washington D.C. and certainly it turned out to be a really good show and had a great television presence and it helped our series tremendously. I would hope that the same will result from the Miami race.

Chris Pook: That's the same answer I would give, I think, to this situation. You are right there for wall to wall racing in Miami Saturday and Sunday which is very, very positive. But I think just, you know, what we're both trying to do is to build television ratings and if we can show the rest of the country that we have on Saturday 35 to 40,000 folks and Sunday 35 to 40,000 folks that are sitting here in the sunshine of Southern Florida watching a street event, having a great time, I think that bodes well for other venues. It bodes well for the folks up in the mid-Atlantic region that will be going out to Washington D.C. again to see Don's cars race there, next year. It will bode well for our fans who are sitting up in Tampa, St. Pete some of whom will be here taking a look, but some will be watching on television, and they will be able to see what they can expect next February in that market area.

So the game plan here is to build attendance at the city events and then eventually the television ratings will come along. It's a game plan that quite candidly the NFL adopted 30 something years ago and it has worked out very well. I suspect that both ALMS and ourselves are conducting a little plagiarism in following that same game plan.r-cart-

Panoz, Pook press conference, part IV

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Series ALMS , IndyCar
Drivers Chris Pook , Don Panoz