Continued from part 1 Q: John, obviously you've been racing in Europe for a couple of years. Robert, you've had experience at least in the Formula BMW World Run-Offs. It's long been observed that there's different standards of racing in Europe...
Continued from part 1
Q: John, obviously you've been racing in Europe for a couple of years. Robert, you've had experience at least in the Formula BMW World Run-Offs. It's long been observed that there's different standards of racing in Europe versus North America. Traditionally people see the European style of racing much more aggressive than what happens in North America. At the same time last year Atlantics saw quite a few sort of international drivers in the series from beyond North America. How do you think your experience in Europe is going to help you racing in 2007 in Atlantics?
JOHN EDWARDS: Obviously you're right. Europe is perceived as being a lot more aggressive. I think it is. I think they sort of allow more aggressive blocking rules, et cetera. That doesn't in any way take away from the competition.
Obviously the Atlantic Series has incredible competition. It's a great car, a great series. The series organizers are just doing their job, trying to make sure it's as safe and fair as possible. That's really the only difference, is that they probably have more strict rules about things such as blocking or aggressive styles.
ROBERT WICKENS: For me, because I've been racing in North America all my life, I really have limited European driving experience, to say the least. But from what I've gathered from the European driving, it's pretty much what John said. When it comes to overtaking, everyone does it exactly the same. In the end, the goal is just to get by the guy. In European driving, they seem to make it a lot harder to get by them because with the blocking rules they have in Europe, seems like they don't even have a rule of no blocking in Europe (laughter).
Coming from the BMW Championship, the blocking rules are sort of similar to the Atlantic: you're not allowed to. The only difference is in BMW, with the USA Championship, you're allowed to change your line down the straightaway where with the Atlantics, I'm pretty sure you're not allowed to.
It's going to be a little bit of an adjustment. I think like any driver, it's very easy to adapt to anything.
Q: Peter, Red Bull made such an impact in Europe. Now all of a sudden it's starting to make an impact in the U.S. They're in NASCAR, now they're very strong in Champ Car. Can you tell me what you think their strategy is here in the U.S. that we're going to see more and more drivers both in open-wheel racing carrying the Red Bull banner?
PETER DAVIES: Well, they're certainly one of the most dynamic marketing and branding companies that are involved in sports, across a range of sports. As you say, I believe they hold in the order of 80% market share for the energy drink products in North America. They are taking an approach which is to ensure that their product is in top of mind. They're very aggressive in their marketing, in getting their product into the right places. NASCAR clearly has eyeballs from the television package. Champ Car delivers the fastest, the most exciting, the most competitive open-wheel racing in North America through its festivals of speed, through all the activities that happen around the races.
Combined with their interest in develop driver talent, to give young drivers the opportunity through the Red Bull Junior Team program in various series, you know, it's really the kind of implementation and activation that we all love to see sponsors applying in sports.
We're very excited within the Champ Car community, both in Champ Car and in Atlantics, to see Red Bull getting involved. They spend a lot of money and have a lot of bright minds and employ a lot of resources to maximize their investment. I think that working together, both Forsythe and Atlantic, the program that's going to be operating with another team in the Champ Car World Series, I think we're going to see a great marriage. I think we're going to see Champ Car get a lot of benefit from that. The fans get a lot of benefit. The television package, which we've seen for Champ Car and Atlantic, being enhanced and improved this year, partners like Red Bull are going to be a huge asset for the series.
Q: John, you hail from Little Rock, Arkansas. It's a dirt track state, sprint car state. You're probably one of the first to drive an open-wheel car outside the United States and probably the first from Arkansas to drive in Champ Car. How did you come from dirt to find the open-wheel and road course racing?
JOHN EDWARDS: Yeah, actually when I tell people I'm a race car driver, they always ask me if I'm ever driving out at I-40 Speedway. That's not the case. I was actually born in Louisville, Kentucky. I've only lived in Little Rock for a couple of years.
I got into racing because my dad was racing the Skip Barber Masters Series. He was just doing that for fun. I loved going to the races. I kept asking him if I could get started. Eventually he got me a go-kart.
I started out in karts, just like most Champ Car or Formula One drivers, just driving for fun. I started moving up to cars. Actually when I was 12, I got my license with Skip Barber. Then the following year I won the shootout with Red Bull.
It was really unexpected and really soon. I had always kind of thought I would go to Europe eventually, but I never expected to move over there when I was 13. Red Bull helped me with that. I actually never started or have never been to a dirt track race. I always have been driving on road courses, on pavement.
Q: When you said you're not from Arkansas originally, but from Kentucky, tongue-in-cheek. That's a big road racing state as well.
JOHN EDWARDS: Well, I actually started karting, I would drive -- my dad and I would drive from Louisville up to Indianapolis, which was just about an hour away. They have a couple go-kart tracks up there I would race at.
Q: John Brunner, obviously one of the big things about the kids is their talent level. Are there some maybe intangibles that you and Red Bull have noticed about these two young men that added to their attraction, enhanced their opportunity to drive for you?
JOHN BRUNNER: I obviously can't speak for Red Bull. These kids have been in their program for a few years now. For us, when I found out who I was getting in the cars, you immediately start doing as much research on the drivers as you can to find out what you've got coming. When they're this young, there's not a whole lot of history there. You get a little bit. It's like, Okay, yeah, they've obviously done well where they have been. I had seen Robert at a couple races before. He's a close friend of James Hinchcliffe - who drove for us last year. Robert had been around our team a little bit before. They've done a few races with us, with the Champ Car Atlantic Series. I was able to watch a couple races there at the end. With John, I had not been able to see him, had never met him before. It was just get the information you could.
We went and did the first test with the two of them. It's amazing. I mean, that's the thing, age really doesn't come into this, doesn't play a big factor at all. The experience that they have doesn't go along with the age level at all. These kids are experienced race car drivers. We've got two young professional drivers. We haven't seen anything at all out of either one of them to believe anything other than that. They've both been doing a wonderful job with the team.
Q: Robert, both of you on this call have exhibited a maturity that a lot of youngsters, like you are, don't. You're handling yourselves well on the calls. Have you taken some media training? Is this an influence from Red Bull that helps prepare you to meet and talk to the media? What kind of preparations have you gone through?
ROBERT WICKENS: For me, I haven't really done that much media training. I know the only real media training I've actually done is in the form of BMW Championships, they have this program that's called the Education and Coaching Program. It's for a scholarship driver like I was, both years at BMW, it's free. For anyone else, I think it's like $3,000.
Anyway, what it does, it gives you a training program, gives you how to find sponsorship, teaches you a little bit of media, like the baseline stuff. Then also just driver coaches throughout the whole weekend, everything that you need to be a better driver.
You learn the most from just experience. It's always getting in front of press people and just talking. Eventually you have to get it right (laughter).
Really when I got into BMW, I didn't learn any more than I already knew, like when I started with the media stuff. I mean, I guess, yes, I have had a little bit of media training, but it's just really experience that makes us as well-spoken as we are.
JOHN EDWARDS: I agree. I haven't had any formal training with media or anything like that. But I agree with Robert, it's just an experience thing. You go through interviews. Being a young driver, going to a race weekend with people who are mostly older, you kind of have to adapt maturity, you know, kind of figure out how to get by in that situation. That goes right along with keeping maturity in front of the media.
Yeah, I agree with Robert, it's mostly just a thing that involves experience.
Continued in part 3