USGP Jackie Stewart Indy Press Conferenence

TRANSCRIPT OF JACKIE STEWART PRESS CONFERENCE AT INDY INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 17, 1999 -- Three-time Formula One World Champion and 1966 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Jackie Stewart visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) on Feb. 16. Stewart, who...

TRANSCRIPT OF JACKIE STEWART PRESS CONFERENCE AT INDY

INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 17, 1999 -- Three-time Formula One World Champion and 1966 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Jackie Stewart visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) on Feb. 16. Stewart, who raced in the Indianapolis 500 twice and spent 15 years calling the "500" for ABC-TV, will return to the Speedway in 2000 for the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis as director of the Stewart-Ford Grand Prix team.

IMS President Tony George and Kevin Forbes, IMS director of engineering and construction, gave Stewart and Dan Davis, director of Ford Racing Technology and head of Ford's worldwide racing programs, a tour of the new Formula One road course under construction.

Stewart and George later met with members of the media. Excerpts from the press conference:

Jackie Stewart: "The fact that there's going to be a United States Grand Prix in the year 2000 is a very big step forward for Formula One Grand Prix racing. I've felt that there's been an immense void in our part of motor sport in that there has not been for several years a Grand Prix in the United States. It's particularly important now as a F1 constructor and team owner to recognize that the United States of America is still the capital of the business world. There is not, I don't think, a single team that has financial support through sponsors or partners that are not in some way fully aware that the USA is still the most commercially centered country in the world. Most of the multinational corporations that we have in F1 are either headquartered here or have this as their largest market. So we really have to have a Grand Prix in the USA.

"Bringing it to Indianapolis gives us in F1 an easier entry to American awareness because Indy stands for motorsports in this country. Of course there's Daytona, which is a giant in it's own right. But there's not much bigger in the world (of motorsports) than Indianapolis, (especially when you) combine this tremendous facility and a city that understands sport so well. A city that can host sports so well with your hotels and restaurants and everything that is absolutely essential for the infrastructure of a major global event.

"No matter how big the Indy 500 is, there is going to be more people watching television of the F1 race at Indianapolis than there will be for the 500. Grand Prix racing is now the largest television sport in the world on an annual basis. It goes to more than 130 countries live (and has) billions as an audience.

"We have just had a tour of the track and the proposed area of the track with (Speedway director of engineering and construction) Kevin (Forbes). The likelihood that (the F1 race) will start on the strip (of bricks at the start/finish line) that still exists from the original Brickyard is one of the important things in the heritage of this great place and for that matter in the heritage of motorsports. There is a great heritage and history to F1 because it's been going on for so long. To combine that with the tradition you have here at Indianapolis, by having the frontstretch there with the bricks, would make the ideal starting point as far as I'm concerned on the basis of nostalgia.

"I've got one of the old bricks in my office. I gave away most of my trophies when I retired. I didn't like to have trophies around. I have in my office the (1966) Rookie of the Year trophy from Indianapolis, and I have one of the bricks from the Brickyard sitting behind it. I've also got a nightstick from a policeman from when we, too many years ago, went after a car thief when I was being taken off to do a speaking engagement by this policeman wearing his Yogi Bear hat. I was made an honorary sheriff and given the nightstick that we assaulted the young man with!

"It will be nice for the Stewart-Ford team to come back to Indy. The Ford Motor Company, a tremendously integral part of our team, is immensely pleased to have a U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis. It is a big priority with them because Ford is just down the road in Detroit. They have been lobbying for a U.S. Grand Prix for quite a long time. And, justly, it is coming to this country and to what is the home of motor sports in America."

Question: You were always a staunch supporter of safety through the years. What do you think of the safety aspects of Indy's F1 road course?

JS: "From what I've briefly seen this morning, you could end up having about the safest racetrack in the world. For example, the debris fencing you have in this country is so much more sophisticated (than other tracks), and Indianapolis has the most robust and best of its kind anywhere. The deformable barriers that you have introduced here are a whole new generation that could turn out to be the par to beat for every other racetrack in the world. Because you are going to be the newest Grand Prix track, it will be the most up-to-date, highest technology race track in the business.

"I know that Tony (George) and Kevin (Forbes) are coming down to Australia for the Grand Prix. They will see what is going on there. There will be other races that they will visit during the season and pick up more possibilities on what will be assets to have.

"My interest in safety hasn't in any way dwindled. Safety is a constantly moving goal post, and unless you keep moving those goal posts you become obsolete and the wrong accident occurs. Being proactive, as you are doing here, is very worthy."

Q: Turn 13 of Indy's F1 road course is actually the first turn of the Speedway taken in reverse. It will be a high-speed turn with the wall on the outside. What will the F1 drivers think about that?

JS: "Because they are still accelerating through it, these cars have so much grip, you will never think about losing adhesion. We don't have race tracks as wide this."

Q: The F1 cars will be traveling at about 200 mph down the straight and then have to brake hard for the 90 mph Turn 1 on the road course. Turn 4 of the Speedway serves as the runoff area at the end of the straight for the

F1 cars. Is there enough runoff area there?

Jackie Stewart: "Yes. From that point of view it's a great asset to have that amount of asphalt. The layout has been done very well."

Question: How much will you be able to dial in your cars for the road course before you even get here?

JS: "I'm going to take this track map home, and in a few hours we will have the lap times and the corner speeds figured out. We will know down to the fine art what the lap speeds are going to be."

Q: Is it a horsepower track? JS: "There will be a lot of horsepower going through the final turns of the road course and down the straight. Our Ford engine ... can rev at 17,500 rpm. But there are other areas which, for example, will be a first-gear corner at 55 mph, so you have to have a car that does everything. It's a very versatile track."

Q: Some people would have preferred the United States Grand Prix to be on a natural road course ... like it used to be at Watkins Glen in the 1960s and 1970s. What are your feelings on the IMS F1 track?

JS: "This is going to be a purpose-made racetrack. F1 today, with very few exceptions, follows that route. It is the route for the future. We all like the idea of going to Monaco -- the yachts and the pretty girls and the wonderful restaurants and the glamorous hotels -- all at the same time of the year as the Cannes Film Festival. All of those things are lovely. "But if Tony George came along and said 'By the way, I'm going to put on a U.S. Grand Prix, and this is what we want to do' and it were the Monaco Grand Prix racetrack, he wouldn't stand a hope of getting that Grand Prix. In today's world, the Monaco Grand Prix would never be allowed to introduce as a new Grand Prix. It just would not happen. So that is just part of the legacy of the past that is still living with us -- and its prestige and presence is such that it's a great showroom for F1. It is still a wonderful race, but it is a total exception which can never be replaced.

"If we were to go back to a Long Beach, Arizona, a car park in Las Vegas, even Detroit, the compromises are so many that, frankly, you wouldn't have a modern Grand Prix facility. What is going to be done here will be a modern Grand Prix facility which has a very good chance of turning out a real base for a long-term relationship (with F1).

"The way that safety and spectator areas are being designed with the potential of 200,000 people seated (for the F1 race)--this (can only happen) at Indianapolis. They are not reality in any other facility in the world. You know how to deal with the media. You can pick up things from these other racetracks to make it even better, because they are well established and they work. The logic of having it here is very correct."

Q: What is it like to return to Indianapolis as a team owner versus coming to Indy as a racing driver in the early 1960s?

JS: "When I came here I thoroughly enjoyed it. I stayed at the Speedway Motel most years. It was like home away from home. I was just looking at the rooms as we passed by, and I remember well where I used to always live when I came here.

"For we (Europeans) ... in the 1960s we were in awe of coming to the Brickyard. We never had anything this big in Europe. For us it was an immense challenge. For Jim Clark, Graham Hill and myself, and Denny Hulme, Chris Amon and Jochen Rindt and drivers of that caliber, coming to the Indy 500 was a big month of May for us. There was some little race in Europe that interrupted it. We had to go back to somewhere called Monaco, I think. That was a bit of a culture shock, going from the Hotel de Paris to the Speedway Motel! But the television over here was a lot better.

"As a constructor and team owner, this will be a very important race for us and our sponsors because the Ford Motor Company are our major partner. HSBC, which is the Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation, is expanding in America. They are the largest financial institution in the world now. People like Hewlett Packard, whom we are with, will see the importance of a U.S. Grand Prix, as will MCI WorldCom, and Lear Corporation, who are with us from Detroit and make seats for Ford and a whole lot of other car makers in the world. All of those people will see the importance of being in the USA.

"But so also will McLaren because Mercedes-Benz's second largest market in the world is the USA. Next year BMW are involved (in F1). Ford Motor Company knows how big America is as a marketplace but so do BMW. Honda will be here next year as well. The big thing about Formula One Grand Prix racing is that you have all of those major carmakers involved. Ferrari is not a major carmaker in the way of volume, but the U.S. market is their largest market in the world. So for Ferrari to come to America is a very big deal. Whether its Bridgestone/Firestone, Ford, the Mobil Corporation, Texaco, Shell or all of these big multinationals, the USA is giantly important.

"We know as constructors, that we have got to service those people. They have to see the value coming out of F1. Outside of corporate identity, they want to make it good for their corporate hospitality and even for their employee base. I can just see Ford Motor Company treating that in a very important way because it would be its home race. Because of Ford's involvement with our team it would be kind of our home race in a way, too."

Q: You talked about the value a U.S. Grand Prix has for the major corporations and car manufacturers involved. In this country F1 has a lot more competition for the entertainment dollar than in Europe and elsewhere. What is that that the companies have to do, and how does that measure with what the Speedway has to do to generate interest?

JS: "Corporate hospitality has a lot to do with it, and joint promotions and joint advertising benefits. I can see the companies that are based here and are in the consumer product areas taking full use of this event in a capital way. Corporate hospitality with hotel rooms and restaurants and catering and all the things that go with it are very big business.

"It's not as if there is any magic wand going to be waved and F1 is going to the biggest thing in the USA. Your domestic sports in the USA are so big, whether it be football, baseball, basketball or hockey, we can't challenge that. In Europe the F1 Grand Prix that takes place in every single country is the biggest event in that country in the year. In this respect we know we are coming to a country where you have more established sports that will never be unseated.

"What F1 will provide -- I use the metaphor -- it's the Rolex in sports. It's a rare value. I've always said that F1 is the greatest example of social acceptance that I can think of it. Almost everybody drives a vehicle of some kind or another these days. But there are people who still own really special vehicles and they are very rich people in some cases. They are just as much the hardcore enthusiast as the person who would have an inexpensive car or the college student who hasn't yet started making any money but he's so passionate about F1. F1 does that. You will see a different group of people coming to this event than maybe any other motor sport event in the USA. They will come from every corner."

Question: When the United States Grand Prix was held at the Watkins Glen in the 1960s and 1970s the fans had access to the drivers. Will that be the same when F1 comes to Indy?

JS: "No, I'm afraid that that day is long gone in F1, which is a regret in many respects. However, the business has become such a giant. We -- Stewart-Ford -- are still a small team, and without engine costs we spend $50 million per year to race. When you put an engine price on top of that, you are going into very big bucks.

"F1 also has become an immense media event with a bigger media corps than perhaps any other sport in the world ... bigger than tennis, golf, horse racing and soccer, and soccer is pretty big in certain countries. But there just isn't enough space for everybody. I'm afraid that there isn't the access that we had in the past.

"Michael Schumacher today, as the leading driver in the world, couldn't walk anywhere without a dozen security people around him just to take back the crowd. It is that hyper. That might not be true in the USA, but it's certainly true in every other country that we go to from South America to Japan to Europe. The end is that these guys are trapped in relatively restricted areas. The media do get to them but the general public don't.

"There are (sometimes) autograph areas that they can go to, but it is a hard job to deal with the flood of autographs that you are talking about. Tiger Woods has a problem in that respect, but the golf crowd are not like a motor racing crowd. The frenzy associated with F1 in these other countries is enormous. That's good, but it's bad because it means that you can't walk about and talk. Race weekends are a nightmare."

Q: Jeff Gordon just won the Daytona 500 again and has become the racing idol in America. Would you like to see him in F1?

JS: "I'd love to because he's clearly an enormously talented driver. I noticed that he became ESPN's Driver of the Year last night. He's an attractive young man. He behaves very well. He presents himself and the sport well. More than anything else, he's a hell of a driver.

"As we've seen before, when somebody is a good driver it doesn't have to be in a niche market. A.J. Foyt came over and won the Le Mans 24 Hour race. Dan Gurney did F1 highly successfully as well as sports cars and Indy cars. When Jim Clark came over he did pretty well around these ovals as did Graham Hill ... and I managed reasonably well. The really good drivers have been able to integrate into whatever challenges are there.

"Jeff Gordon is making so much money now in his own area that it would be difficult for him to see the logic of leaving that guaranteed marketplace and going into the rat race of F1 Grand Prix racing.

"I tried to get Jeff Gordon to drive one of our team cars in Paul Stewart Racing ... another team (which races in the lower echelon series in Europe) that we have. I spoke to him when he was living here. I phoned him up and asked if he would come over. We were struggling to get an American sponsor to sign this talented driver. I must have been the first of the international bunch to see the potential of him. It was going to take $100,000 to get him to come over. We couldn't get the money out of America because in those days the formative classes of the motor sport didn't get any media coverage. It didn't matter what your name was.

"I guess one day I'd like to see him sitting in a F1 car and maybe give him a test and let him have a drive around. In fact, I spoke to him several months ago and offered him that possibility."

Question: Be it Jeff Gordon or any other established driver, in your opinion, how important is it for an American driver to emerge as a member of a F1 team?

Jackie Stewart: "In my opinion, very important. I would love an American driver. I was impressed that in IRL you have Tony Stewart who has done very well, and then goes to NASCAR and qualifies second for the Daytona 500. He's obviously a very good and versatile driver if he can go to that size and weight of vehicle and still drive a single-seater.

"An American driver would be just as important as having a very, very, very good woman driver. I'd love to see that coming along. When I was working with ABC on "Wide World of Sports," when Mario Andretti was involved in F1, ABC really covered a lot of (F1) motor races because the American people really wanted to see the fortunes of your domestic American driver. He was born in Italy, but he's really an American with a great American following.

"You guys never bothered about bicycle racing until an American (Greg Lemond) won the Tour de France. There has got to be a reason for America to really grasp F1 Grand Prix racing or any international sport ... by having a participant at the top end of it. It's no good being at the bottom end of it. There have been good American drivers. When Dan Gurney was racing, the world of television hadn't really taken hold, and the media was different.

Q: Other than Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, is there another American driver right now that you would consider talking to now?

JS: "I don't think that they are jumping out of the apple cart. The difficulty is that in F1 the whole world feeds F1. From Latin America there's an immense blast of drivers from Brazil, some from Argentina, some from Chile, some from Colombia. Then you've got Asians coming and participating, you've got South Africans and Australians, Malaysians. You've got them coming from everywhere into single-seater racing and going through the school of racing in Europe, which is more profound and prolific than you have in the USA. So therefore you are likely to get more and more of those international people getting to the very top.

"There are only 22 seats on the F1 grid, so there is a lot of competition looking for one of those seats. Some of them are being bought. There are two or three guys who buy their rides and put money into the team. That has been going on forever. But not too many Americans would be willing to do that.

"(Canadian) Jacques Villeneuve got into F1 because of his victory here at Indianapolis and being the national champion. He was a conversion which demonstrates that it can happen. Alex Zanardi is coming back (to F1), and we hope that he will do quite well ... not too well of course because he's with the wrong team! But it would be nice if he did well, and it would show that the guys can come over."

Question: In 1966 the Indy 500 grid was international and had drivers from many different series -- drivers like NASCAR's Cale Yarborough, Graham Hill, Jim Clark and you, along with the traditional USAC guys. Is the business today such that it is impossible for drivers to compete in two major series the same time?

Jackie Stewart: "It's very tough nowadays. With the amount of testing we do in F1 and the commitments the drivers have, it's very difficult for them to cross over from across the world. We only came over for Indy generally; Jimmy (Clark) did Milwaukee once and maybe another couple of races over the years. I remember Bobby Unser came over and drove F1. Mario (Andretti) commuted backward and forwards. His son (Michael) came over and tried to commute backward and forwards; it doesn't work--it was easier when Mario did it.

"When I did the Can-Am series in 1971, I got mononucleosis that year from just doing Can-Am racing with testing and doing the breakfasts and lunches and dinners and the promotional stuff, and then going back and doing the same sort of thing in Europe. The next year I got a ulcer that hemorrhaged just because the pressure and lifestyle was blowing me out the ground. I was doing 450,000 miles a year by air. You just can't do it and be at the top. I won the World Championship in one of those years. I finished second in the other.

"You just can't do it. The modern driver won't do it. With the amount of money that Michael Schumacher makes today -- probably in the region of $40 million a year - he isn't going to be bothered doing that. F1 is too competitive and the teams too well structured to take somebody in as a visiting driver. In the old days we'd occasionally plop in a third car into a race. Now days it's not allowed."

Q: Where is this taking the sport? To a highly concentrated, focused activity with more and more restrictive rules?

JS: "That is true of every sport. In golf you now have to have a seniors tour as well as the pro tour. Sport is now a major industry of the world. Commercially, politically, socially, sport is about the biggest thing in existence. You can think IBM and Microsoft are big, but in comparison to sport they probably are not that big because sport today, commercially and professionally, is more focused than it's ever been.

"This man's (Tony George) grandfather said 'We only need one race a year,' and it worked real good. He (Tony George) introduced the Brickyard 400, and it became a giant success. Part of it is that any banker would say to have this amount of real estate, this amount of investment, these facilities, and only use them once or twice a year, just isn't feasible.

"You put a road course in, and I guarantee you that these guys at Ford Motor Company will come down and use your track as a facility. I go around the world driving and testing cars. My job with Ford still to this day is a consultant on engineering for research and development on future products. I go down to Road Atlanta. Tonight I'm going Naples, Florida, to do some testing. I will surely come to this place if it is available.

"I'll guarantee you that before you are finished, you ain't going to have a day open ... when the track won't be used. Other (car manufacturers) will want to use it, too. When you make the inroads and the feeder roads, don't do them table smooth, give them rough roads because that is what the car maker wants. He's got to test his cars. So design your facility as a test track as well as a racetrack; I don't mean the race surface, I mean the other areas. A car park can be a VDA -- a Vehicle Dynamic Area -- because we can't get one right now. Only Ford have got a really good one, and it can be wet down and used for good progressive motor industry activities that make safer cars for everybody.

"That's why the industry is changing, that's why the business is changing, and that's why it's more narrow in certain areas. But while it's narrow in certain areas, it's broadening the peripheral opportunities for a Tony George and an IMS to have a better utilization of a facility that would commercially be more interesting and a service to the automotive industry as a whole.

Question: This is your third season in F1. You have a new driver, Johnny Herbert, and technical director, Gary Anderson. How tough is it going to be get to the top five in the Constructors Championship?

JS: "In our first year we finished ninth in the World Championship. In the second year we finished eighth. Our goal for this year is to finish in the top six. The top six for me could mean sixth or fourth. To go and ask for third would be asking a little too much. We did a five-year plan in order to come into F1. It is no-holds barred. I don't want to suggest that any other formula of racing is not competitive -- the NASCAR program is really competitive and so are others -- but F1, with its technology and its costs, must be the most difficult one of all to enter. We gave ourselves five years to achieve that. We don't think that we should be presumptuous enough to think that we can do miracles between now and that fifth year.

"But having said that, our car is testing extremely well this year. We have a brand-new Ford engine that is lighter, smaller, has a lower center of gravity (compared to last year's engine). It's producing very good power, and we hope we are going to get the reliability that we all desire. We've restructured our company since the end of last season. We have a new managing director, a new deputy chairman, a new technical director, a new aerodynamicist and director of racing. We have 220 people working in our company now. We are in a new 85,000 square-foot facility. We have got more technology than we had last year. We are just better prepared.

"We have a motto at the present that says: 'Ready to go.' I've never been better prepared, as a racing driver or an entrant, than we are this year. We have every possibility this year of definitely being in the top six."

Q: Can a new technical director make a big difference to the team immediately?

JS: "Yes. What has happened already in the team is that the spirit and the enthusiasm and the communication in the team is so much better. Delegation has happened so much better from the technical liaison side.

"We are really in an position for the first time that I can honestly say to be competitive. You CANNOT go into F1 and be competitive in years one and two just like that, unless it (involves) immense amounts of money. The tobacco industry have more to spend than anybody else. British American Tobacco have 350 million pounds -- over half a billion dollars -- invested over five years. Now they may do it. But just as likely they may not. They will do it a little easier than we did because we did not buy an existing team.

"We started as a green field operation because I wanted the integrity of the company to be ours; not to be carrying anybody else's baggage. But under those circumstances we knew it was going to be painful. We knew it was going to take time, but this year we are testing well. Johnny Herbert was second fastest the other day in Barcelona. (Mika) Hakkinen was fastest in last year's McLaren, Johnny was second, and (David) Coulthard was third in this year's McLaren. So we are pretty happy with the way things are shaping up."

Question: What sort of money did you earn as a driver?

JS: "I made in 1971, I'll tell you exactly what I made, a good Scotsman knows how much he made! I made about $1.8 million dollars, but you'd multiply that today by 15 on buying power. So in those days I was making an awful lot of money. I was making a lot more money than anybody else. In 1966 my earnings from finishing sixth in the (Indy) 500 was $25,000. I retired with eight laps to go ... the engine failed ... I can't remember the name of the engine, but it began with F and had four letters ... but I didn't call it that! I remember that year Graham Hill won the race, and he bought a Piper Aztec with his earnings.

Q: How discouraged were you that you lost the 1966 Indy 500?

JS: "A racing driver always thinks that there is going to be a problem mechanically at some time or another, and you just have to take it. From my point of view I thought I'd driven a good race, and I walked back happily. It was only the next morning that I woke up and really realized what I'd lost financially. The Scottish economy has never really recovered from that!"

Source: IRL/IMS

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Johnny Herbert , Michael Schumacher , Jacques Villeneuve , Alex Zanardi , Jackie Stewart , Dan Gurney , Mario Andretti , Jim Clark , Denny Hulme , Chris Amon , Bobby Unser , Tony George , Paul Stewart , Graham Hill , Gary Anderson , A.J. Foyt , Cale Yarborough , Jochen Rindt
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren