December 15, 1995 A SYNOPSIS OF THE NORTH AMERICAN TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP PRESS CONFERENCE HELD DECEMBER 14, 1995 FOR GENERAL RELEASE Detroit - Over eighty attendees crowded the Superior Room of the River Place Hotel for a series...
December 15, 1995
A SYNOPSIS OF THE NORTH AMERICAN TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP PRESS CONFERENCE HELD DECEMBER 14, 1995 FOR GENERAL RELEASE
Detroit - Over eighty attendees crowded the Superior Room of the River Place Hotel for a series important announcements by the NATCC. What follows is a summary of facts and comments made by a number of speakers addressing the media.
* Roger Elliot welcomed all of the attendees and said, "It's absolutely appropriate to have this press conference in Detroit, the automotive heartland of North America."
* Paul Page was introduced as "The Voice of North American Super Touring." Paul is delighted to take the lead role in NATCC broadcasting and also looks forward to expanding that to print and personal appearances on behalf of the Championship.
* It was reconfirmed ABC Wide World of Sports will broadcast races from Toronto and Mid Ohio live in a unique hour and one half format. Lydia Stephans, VP Programming ABC - "We have always made a concerted effort to find the most exciting events for ABC's Wide World... We believe the NATCC will provide our audience with an opportunity to watch live motor racing in a unique format."
* ESPN2 was announced as the broadcaster of all NATCC races. These will be shown on weekends at prime time on a one week tape delay basis. "We are pleased to help the NATCC take the green flag in it's first season. We look forward to making the Championship a featured element in our racing coverage. The NATCC will help further ESPN and ESPN2's position as the premier source for motorsports." - John Wildach, Senior VP Programming, ESPN
* ESPN International's VP Program Acquisitions, Minard Hamilton - "ESPN International is delighted to be a part of the launch of the 1996 NATCC. As a part of this arrangement (we) plan to distribute the series to close to 100 countries around the world. NATCC and ESPN have agreed to work cooperatively to identify and develop overseas driving talent with a mind to increasing the impact of the international distribution."
* On Track Magazine, represented by Editor, Jim Duff and the NATCC announced that they will work together to publish at least three editorial and advertising special sections next year that will be inserted in On Track. The first "Guide to Super Touring Racing" will be published about a month before the first race. Whitney Shaw, Publisher, On Track - "We hope that these initial efforts will grow into something larger in the future. As the season progresses, we'll be working with NATCC on that score."
* Gerald Forsythe, Chairman, CEO, NATCC - "We fully expect this prize fund to grow as we add contingency sponsorship packages, manufacturer incentives, pole awards and so on, but to start things off, we have established a base line of $620,000." Each race, of which there are two per weekend, will pay $20,000 to the first ten finishers in the Championship and $6,000. to the first five in the Independent's Challenge for a total of $52,000 per weekend. Year end payouts will total $100,000.
May 25-27 Lime Rock Jun 7-9 Detroit Jul 12-14 Toronto Aug 2-4 Trois Rivieres* Aug 9-11 Mid Ohio Aug 30-Sep 1 Vancouver Sep 6-8 Laguna Seca
*Final Confirmation Pending.
NATCC is working at adding more dates which will total no more than ten. Charlotte has been postponed until 1997 primarily due to concerns over safety issues. In a joint release announcing this decision, CMS and the NATCC stated that they have agreed to continue dialogue in the hope of setting a date in 1997.
* President NATCC, Roger Elliot - "I want to state clearly, with respect to our sanctioning agreement with the SCCA and our association with IndyCar, that we have a rock solid foundation upon which to build this Championship. With SCCA's expertise in running race events combined with IndyCar's outstanding racing business acumen, we feel we could not be in better hands."
* IndyCar President and CEO, Andrew Craig - "We've worked with the NATCC to incorporate Super Touring Racing with some of our premier road racing and street racing events. A number of IndyCar promoters are very interested in the concept. It provides a different show on race weekends and provides drivers who have stepped out of Indy cars a chance to continue to race in front of familiar fans. Additionally, a number of IndyCar teams have expressed interest in running cars." Mr. Craig spoke at length to the attendees.
* SCCA President, Nick Craw - "We believe the NATCC brings a significant new dimension to North American motorsports and will help raise the profile and exposure of road racing to the benefit of everyone involved in it." Mr. Craw made this statement in a release prior to the event.
* Chrysler Corporation announced it has chosen PacWest Racing as its partner for the 1996 NATCC. Lou Patane, Executive Director - Brand Marketing, Chrysler -"The PacWest Touring Car Group's IndyCar experience is a fine compliment to the production car engineering expertise we are putting into the Stratus Super Touring Car. The international character of this series positions Stratus here and abroad as a dynamic and technologically refined vehicle." Dominic Dobson has been named as the lead driver for the two car team. Dobson has 7 Indy 500 starts and 60 IndyCar starts. He has raced SCCA Pro and IMSA GTP. Car numbers are 6 and 7.
* Danny Sullivan announced his plans to be a part of an entry, with an as yet undisclosed partner, of two Ford Contours, cars number 4 and 5. "I've raced all over the world - been involved with many manufacturers and racing efforts, but I've never seen a racing formula that makes more sense than Super Touring. This is a formula which has sky rocketed to the front of the automotive scene all over the world... It's just a super product. The drivers will be accessible to the fans. The cars are recognizable...And the racing - well it's as competitive as anything you'll see anywhere... I can think of a couple of guys I'd like to see in the car. We currently have some interesting on going discussions with one driver. All around the world, Touring Car Racing is attracting drivers of the highest caliber. Look at the number of top notch drivers with Formula One experience currently racing Touring Cars. This form of racing has provided an outstanding opportunity for talented drivers in a viable, high profile environment. And who knows? If it feels right, I may just climb into number 5 myself from time to time." (Danny drove #5 in the Spin and Win Indianapolis 500 in 1985)
* Sigma Motorsports, managed by Wayne Reinke, announced the entry of car number 86, a Ford Contour with a Ford Zetec engine. Chris Reinke, a mechanical engineer is set to set up the chassis and drive the car.
* GPS Racing Team from Monticello New York have entered car number 65,r. a Ford Contou Team leader Gary Sommers will drive the ca r.
* BTCC Privateer's championship winning team in 1993 and 1995 have entered a Ford to carry car number 77. Team Dynamics manager, Roy Baker - " we feel this is a major decision for the team in its progress towards gaining recognition.. (We are) a team that has already proven success in the BTCC,..(which is currently) the most competitive Championship for Touring Cars in the world."
* Rod Millen Motorsport have entered cars number 2 and 3, a pair of Toyota Camrys. Millen's new car - still with its Toyota Carina bodywork - arrived from England just in time to make a star appearance at the press conference. "We've been following Touring Car racing from Europe for two years and we knew it was only a matter of time before there would be a North American opportunity. We wanted to be in on the ground floor with Toyota. So here we are with cars two and three. I'm told I can't have number one until 1997" quipped Rod Millen. "Our Super Touring project is simply our latest in a long line of challenges. I'll let you know how we did from the winner's circle in May."
* Jim Kirby, of L.A. Prep in Signal Hill California, has entered two Honda Accords, numbers 8 and 88. "Anyone who has seen Super Touring competition would agree that this format makes for some of the most exciting racing in the world," said Kirby. "I think that when the North American public is exposed to this format of very competitive NASCAR style racing on road courses and street circuits they will embrace it with great enthusiasm. With our Honda Accords, we think we'll have a competitive package and an opportunity to run at the front. That's sure been the case with the Hondas in the BTCC. Over here we're all starting on the same foot, more or less, so we're optimistic."
* 23 time IMSA endurance series winner T.C. Kline has entered a two car team in the North American Touring Car Championship. Two Honda Accord sedans numbered 12 and 21 are being prepared in Kline's Columbus, Ohio shop. Kline will feature two time IMSA endurance series winner and 1995 SCCA National Champion Randy Pobst in one car. No driver has been named for the second car at this time. "We took a look at British Touring Car racing last year and thought it looked like a real challenge. When the NATCC announced the advent of a program in North America last August, we started work on a team for the Championship," said Kline. The second seat will go to a funded driver, but must be one who can work with the team. "We know from experience that it often takes a two car effort to win a championship. It takes a full effort from the team and two drivers who can work together," said Kline [Continued in reply]
* Three time SCCA National Champion Jim Dentici announced his formidable King Motorsports team will enter a pair of Honda Accords in the North American Touring Car Championship. Driver selection is not yet finalized. "This will be quite a challenge - no doubt about it," said Dentici, "but challenges are what King Motorsports has been built on. We're looking forward to it." Dentici's association with Honda dates back to the mid sixties as a motorcycle dealer and grew to include Honda automobile and Acura franchises.
* From his office in Morgan Hill California, Albert Mirko announced that he will contest the North American Touring Car Championship as an independent in a Honda Accord. "As a saloon car racer in England since the early seventies, I might say that I am the most experienced Touring Car racer in the Championship so far," joked Mirko. An insurance professional and President of a R&D company involved in the business of designing state of the art trailers and towing assembly devices, Mirko has been racing "more or less" professionally since he contested British Auto Racing Club races since 1976. A veteran of every track in England and several 24 hour races, Mirko moved to the US in 1984 and has raced competitively in SCCA club and pro competition ever since.
* The owner of Mantapart Performance Products and Meehan Development and Engineering, Tim Meehan has twenty five years of small GM sedan racing experience., The firm has entered car numbers 17 and 66, the first Pontiac entries in the North American Touring Car Championship, under the MDE Motorsport banner. Racing with D.A.R.E. livery, (Drug Awareness Resistance Education) the MDE Motorsports Pontiac Sunfire is the latest project from a shop of considerable experience with small GM sedan performance modifications. The car will be the first new Pontiac Sunfire in any form of professional racing in North America. "We've been a supplier to G.M, Motorsports Group and Oldsmobile Motorsport for quite some time now," said Meehan from his shop in rural mid west America. "We've had some success with our IMSA sedan support programs but now we are going to take a full fledged program to the track ourselves and see how we make out."
* Ed Delong, President of Delong Motorsport Ltd. in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, made the following announcement -"Delong Motorsport Ltd. will enter a 3 series BMW car number 10 with driving duties shared by Rolf Von Englebrechten, and Ed Delong. Preparation will be by Mark Jonak, out of the Jonak Motorsports race shop in Rockwood, Ontario. Although Rolf is uncomfortable with the number 10, we think it is pure superstition that he believes odd numbered cars finish first, but he does state emphatically that ‘we are absolutely sure of one thing - this is just too good an opportunity to miss out on.' While Mark Jonak is envious about allowing myself and Von Englebrechten to do the driving he is, at least temporarily, satisfied to play team manager and states, ‘with my experience in car preparation and familiarity with BMWs, I believe I have the experience to put together a real winner. With proper funding, we would like to have two cars entered, and that would allow me the opportunity to do some of the driving.' It is with great anticipation that we look forward to the 1996 racing season, and with our collective expertise and driving experience, we are confident we can represent Canada in the NATCC, as have our countrymen, Ron Fellows, Jacques Villeneuve, Paul Tracy and Greg Moore elsewhere." Driver and Team Notes
* In seven of the last nine years Per-Gunnar (Peggan) Andersson has won either Nordic or Swedish Touring Car Championships. Easily the best known Super Touring Car driver in Scandinavia, Peggan is considered quick, extremely cagey and safe. A driver with a DTM pole and a win to his credit, Peggan has raced in Asia with four straight wins in Thailand, competed in New Zealand and was pipped by a tenth of a second by John Cleland at a BTCC round at Brands Hatch in 1990. "I have turned thirty eight, but I feel I have a lot left to do in Touring Car racing and before I put my helmet in the closet, I really want to give this (NATCC) a try." said Andersson. "There are two reasons for this ," he goes on, " one, with 17 years of experience in Touring Cars, I guess I have some advantage. Two, I have done everything I possibly can do in Touring Car racing at home, now remains to investigate my possibilities in U.S. I have heard that U.S. racing provides a really positive atmosphere compared to Europe." Peggan Andersson flew from Sweden to attend the press conference.
* Berle Smith, well known in the Pacific North West is holding testing sessions to select a driver for a Super Touring effort he is mounting. In attendance at the press conference, Smith said he was optimistic about his entry because sponsorship meetings had been going very well.
*John Christie of Vista, California is poised to enter a car from a seventh manufacturer - Mazda. Developed by Team Dynamics in England the car is ready to race in Super Touring. Christie is in discussion with drivers and says, "our current trade sponsors are in full support of this new opportunity." Additional corporate sponsorship is being sought to further fund the team.
* Indy Light pilot Pedro Chavez is anxious to drive a Super Touring Car in North America. Calling in from his home in Portugal, Chavez enthused about his commitment to drive in the NATCC. "I'm looking for sponsors every minute," he said.
* Several teams have opportunities for funded drivers. Interested parties should contact Amos Johnson, Director of Race Operations at the NATCC.
* Amos Johnson spent the entire day on the phone December 15th talking to people who had heard the news from the press conference. "I can't believe that this has hit any media publications yet," said Johnson, "but the response has been incredible! The racing community is a small world, I guess. I think I talked to most of it today."
* Shelby Pro Racer and Skip Barber Instructor, John Lewis from Alabama attended the conference and was seen in earnest conversation with many team owners. Lewis is committed to finding a ride in the NATCC and is looking for funding to take to a team.
* Vice President of Lime Rock Park, Simon Kirkby, addressed the audience on hand to officially welcome the NATCC onto the Memorial Day event schedule. His remarks received a rousing ovation from all on hand.
* Always terrific in front of a crowd, Bud Stanner, the man in charge of the ITT Detroit Grand Prix spoke to the attendees and extended a warm welcome to the NATCC in a poignant commentary.
* Michelle Trueman Gajoch, President of Mid Ohio sports Car Course issued this statement to be read at the press conference. "Mid Ohio Sports Car Course is proud to announce the addition of the North American Touring Car Championship to its 1996 season schedule. This series will compliment the IndyCar weekend by showcasing some fast and highly competitive racing. The popularity of Touring Car sedan racing has grown dramatically worldwide, and Mid Ohio is definitely pleased to be a part of the NATCC's inaugural season and in bringing this sport to the United States."
* Mike Smith, General Manager of the Molson Indy in Toronto sent along these words. "These back to back races with frantic action in the pits in between will make for an exciting and unusual spectacle for the fans at the Molson Indy," said Mike Smith, General Manager of the event. "We're very pleased to welcome the North American Touring Car Championship teams to the Molson Indy. We look forward to a great show on Saturday afternoon."
* Phil Heard, General Manager of the Molson Indy Vancouver - "This is an exciting new form of racing in North America. We're pleased to be able to offer Super Touring Car racing to the Molson Indy Vancouver fans."
* General Manager of Laguna Seca Raceway, Scott Atherton, in a letter to Roger Elliot, wrote "..I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you and your staff for your commitment and tenacity in making this series a reality. On behalf of all of us at Laguna Seca Raceway, we believe in your concept and are proud to be associated with the launch of what we hope will be a very successful new form of road racing in North America."
* The only remaining date on the schedule to be confirmed (due to too many events interested in appearing on the card) is at Trois Rivieres. The recent addition of Indy Lights to the card at the popular Canadian venue may have extended paddock space and track time to the breaking limit. In a letter to NATCC regarding the matter, Leon Methot, Managing Director of the event wrote, "I am confident that a satisfactory solution to this matter will be found to the benefit of all parties." People
* Indy Lights head man Roger Bailey was in attendance to show support to the Championship which he believes will enhance the IndyCar weekend package.
* IndyCar Competition Director Kirk Russell attended and was recognized from the podium to a round of applause.
* Another round of applause was raised for Kevin O'Brien, Vice President of Marketing for SCCA Pro Racing, who attended to represent the NATCC sanctioning body.
* Representatives were on hand from Chrysler, Ford, Honda and Toyota. Several others who had planned on attending could not do so because of difficulties associated with the bad weather.