Continued from part 1 Q: You come out of the gate much like NASCAR with your Super Bowl, and what is the key to you to maintaining your level of interest and competition beyond that? You have all of the attention for the Rolex 24 At Daytona,...
Continued from part 1
Q: You come out of the gate much like NASCAR with your Super Bowl, and what is the key to you to maintaining your level of interest and competition beyond that? You have all of the attention for the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the NEXTEL Cup guys, the open wheel guys, they go to their respective series and you have to keep going, so what's the key to keeping that consistency?
ROGER EDMONDSON: I think if we can have a repeat of last year's race where we have all of those famous name brand drivers from other series that get their butts handed to them by one of our road racing teams, that's a good start. And for that, I thank Max Angelelli and Wayne Taylor and congratulate them on a job well done.
I think it's critical that we establish interest in what we're doing beyond the Rolex 24. The Rolex 24 At Daytona has been the opening day, just as much as baseball has had Opening Day for many years, and it's not unusual. The biggest race in the NASCAR series is the Daytona 500, which opens the season, and in the motorcycle world, the Daytona 200. So there's an established history. I want to make it quite clear that we want to make everything else equally important.
We've got some very interesting new venues and new markets coming up this year that I think will help us with that, one of them is the addition of our program to the prestigious Long Beach Grand Prix. That event will take place in April. Our second event this year is Mexico City, which was a great event for us at the end of last year. And going to a brand new racetrack in Salt Lake City, which is going to be four-and-a-half miles long, the longest road course in North America, is going to be a state-of-the-art facility for the best road racing series, and we're looking forward to being there.
Q: Roger, I think it was already asked, but 2005 in my measurement was a huge success. How do you top that in 2006? And then the follow up would be, at the end of 2006 when you look back, what will be your key indicators of a successful season?
ROGER EDMONDSON: Well, first thank you for joining us and I'm honored by all of these questions. But I've always said I didn't want the officials to be the story and I can't believe that all of these champions are sitting here listening to me talk. 2005 was a great year for Grand American, and to me that means it was a great year for road racing in North America, period.
We see a continued growth in all of the areas that we talked about. We're looking for more cars, higher quality teams and regular teams who can attend every race because they are properly funded and properly set up. As I look through this entry list today, and some of you may not have looked at it yet on our web site or through your e mail, but as I look at the Daytona Prototype field for example, I see maybe two or three teams that I would characterize as long shots. I think one of the secrets to the success in Grand American is even the long shots have a chance. If they do everything right and God smiles on them that day, they all have a chance to win. That's one of the things that is making this program work.
I think we will see some new winners in 2006, and by new winners I'm talking about teams that have yet to be on the top step of the podium. We saw some of that in 2005. I expect that to continue. And I think that is one of the things that gives us a way to top the 2005 season, and that is the competition. It's going to be fierce from the opening bell to the last lap of the competition at the end of the season.
So that's what we're looking for is continued competition, continued excitement, something to keep the customers coming back, and I think they will find it right here.
Q: Is there any plan that you would schedule another race in Mexico outside of Mexico City or in Monterrey or in Guadalajara? There are a good deal of fans in those two areas, and I'm wondering because of the success of Luis and the other guys on the Mexican circuit or in your series, would that be something that you're looking forward to doing in the future?
ADAM SAAL: Max, I believe you raced on the track in Monterrey in Champ Car competition, why don't you talk about that?
MAX PAPIS: The event we had in Mexico City last year was definitely awesome. Everyone was pleased about it. I'm not so sure about the plan of going to Monterrey or not, but it's a good facility, as well. I felt that the Mexican people were really enthusiastic about the race we had last year, so I'm not really sure what is going to be the plan. It was clear in the beginning for some people that they were not used to traveling around, but we got a great welcome so I'm looking forward to being back.
ROGER EDMONDSON: Let me add to that, and thank you, Max, I agree, I thought the race in Mexico City was not only a great sporting event, but it was a great cultural experience for all of our teams and also I believe for the Mexican spectators and sponsors. We're looking forward to being there this year with NASCAR and it should be a great weekend.
But as far as the future goes, let me say this. In 2004, 2005, 2006, our schedule is 14 races. For the first time we have more people asking about promoting a Grand American race than we have weekends to give. In fact, I must admit that part of me is giving some consideration to whether or not we should cut the schedule back a race or two in 2007.
Let me say something that is not so obvious here. Every time we add an event to the calendar, we add an expense to our paddock population of somewhere around $350,000 to $400,000 that they have to generate to pay all of their travel expenses, to pay for all of the tires, wear and tear on the cars and all of the associated things that go with running the race team.
So until our sponsorship packages and our sponsorship support catches up, we're not likely to go beyond the number of races we have. We may, in fact, cut back a race or two.
As far as if there are going to be additional races in Mexico City, or in Mexico period, they are going to have to come at the expense of a race somewhere else. So we are certainly open to proposals by interested parties and I'm sure there are other quality locations in the country, but at the moment, I have no plans to expand beyond where we are.
Q: Last year at the start of the Rolex, one of the unknowns was the Hoosier tires. After a year of having raced with the Hoosier, I just want to hear any comments about the tire development over the year and any concerns or any questions you might have about the Hoosier tire going into 2006.
TERRY BORCHELLER: I can answer that question because I was in the series since there was a spec tire. The one thing I've enjoyed about having Hoosier as the spec tire with the series is the fact that everybody is on the same tire, and if the tire is good, everybody benefits. If the tire has a problem, everybody has the same problem. So with some of the development that has been done, it would be nice to see the development done across the board with all of the different chassis. I think that would be the only concern that I have. But I really like the spec tire. I think it's a great it's a great equalizer for the most part and it really helps with the competition.
Q: Wayne, I believe I caught what you said, there's a 75 pound weight difference this year, have you tested with the Hoosier tire with the new weight and any issues that have developed?
WAYNE TAYLOR: I believe we did that down in Homestead, as well as yesterday on the new car. I have not noticed any change in the tire wear or anything in the tire at all. I think the weight, let's say the interest I have in it is to see how all of the other teams adapt to this weight because it's not 75 pounds across the board. It's depending on your own configuration, and I think that's more the question going into the season this year. But to answer your question, we don't foresee any problems with the Hoosier tire.
MAX ANGELELLI: Through my last years of racing, I can say that the places where I had the most fun and the places where I had the greatest enjoyment is all of those Grand American races that went down to the wire and the last 10 laps. The reason why you're going to see a lot of drivers interested in doing the Rolex 24 At Daytona is because with the Grand American cars that we have on the track, everyone, more or less, has a chance to be a winner, and everyone within the team has a chance to be a champion.
So that's why I think it's attracted so many different people, so many different champions because you know that with a good package, you can be a champion, you can be the winner of the Rolex 24, and I think that whenever there is an opportunity, a lot of guys that are not regular sports car drivers, they are back in the cars or back in the series whenever they can. I'm sure that somebody like Tony Stewart, he doesn't need the paycheck that he's going to get out of the Rolex 24, or any other races that he's done in the past. I think that speaks a ton about what we are doing over here.
ADAM SAAL: Let me quickly run through the highlights of the list that we are distributing right now. In addition to Luis Diaz, Scott Pruett, Emmanuel Collard and our four star drivers with us today, drivers that will be participating at the Daytona Test Days and also very likely the Rolex 24 At Daytona at the end of the month: Christian Fittipaldi, Patrick Carpentier, Tony Stewart, Andy Wallace, Butch Leitzinger, Rusty Wallace, Randy LaJoie, Casey Mears, Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon, Paul Tracy, Kenny Wilden, Mike Borkowski, Dario Franchitti, Adrian Fernandez, Mario Haberfeld, Jimmy Vasser, Justin Wilson, A.J. Allmendinger, Alex Gurney, Hurley Haywood, Ted Christopher, David Donohue, Darren Law, Sascha Maassen, Jorg Bergmeister, Michael McDowell and Memo Gidley. And I know I've left some champions and winners off that list. That's an idea of the star talent who is going to be in the Rolex 24 At Daytona right here in Daytona at the end of the month.
Q: Wayne, I have a question for you, you're a veteran driver, and it seems like the cache of being in the race, and bringing in drivers brings in more drivers and it's a place that you have to be to test yourself against the best; is that what's happening now with the Rolex 24 At Daytona?
WAYNE TAYLOR: Yeah, I think that sums it up. But you've got to take racing drivers and look at what they are trying to achieve. The Rolex 24 is an event that is known throughout the world. So the world looks at this event, and drivers from every walk of motorsports want to be here because you never know where the next successful season is going to be or which series is going to be there. Because of the fact that this program has picked up so much over the last two or three years, I think everybody that's outside of our area is looking to this to see, maybe this is the place, maybe they are going to have to go in the future because the costs are going up to compete.
If you look at the potential teams that are going to be in IRL or Champ Car and if you look at what the budgets take to be over there, clearly people have got to be looking at other areas. Because the one thing that Grand American offers is that you can effectively put a program together by bringing in a corporate partner rather than having to have a major manufacturer funded program.
So I think most of those people that are coming here first want to compete against, let's say, all of the best drivers in the world, but second, I think they are coming here to have a look and to see where the future is.
Q: As an owner and a driver, you probably enjoy the chance at the beginning the year and maybe would like to see a little more of this grow throughout the year so that you can say that the entire series, and not just one race, is a centerpiece for all sports car drivers everywhere?
WAYNE TAYLOR: Yes, I do. I think it's always going to be the big event, simply because it kicks off the new season.
I think that the series in 2005 grew so much that people are starting to see it as certainly the place to be in sports car racing. I think the corporate partners that are coming on board, I think commercially people are starting to understand the value. I think it's still probably one of the best kept secrets in terms of what people know about Grand American.
But I can tell you just through SunTrust Banks, with 1,200 banks around the country, these people that work in this bank understand when we go racing. And that for me is something that's made a huge stride forward being in the position that I've been in the last seven or eight years, being either driving and putting the programs together.
So I think that with some more TV coverage, I think it's only a matter of time before the series is recognized as being the only real road racing series in North America.
Q: Are you finding it easier this off season to approach some potential corporate sponsors to bring them on board because they knew a little more about the brand this year than they did last year?
WAYNE TAYLOR: Well, let's put it this way. It's never easy. Even when you're winning, a lot of people believe that your promotional partners, if you win on the track are automatically going to re-sign and come on the next year. The reality is that corporate America is looking at all of the numbers for everything they are doing, they are cutting staff, they are cutting all of these kind of things. So you have to produce a return on investment if you want to be in any of these series.
My quick blunt answer to you from the end of the season to now, I've probably worked harder in this off season than I ever have. So I'm still battling to continue to try and enlarge our commercial side. Luckily, I have a good partner in SunTrust Bank that's at least allowed me to focus on the next two or three years now.
ADAM SAAL: I'd like to hand it over to Roger who wants to make a point about a potentially record setting GT deal.
ROGER EDMONDSON: Thank you, Adam. I'm not sure if the count of 42 is a record, although it might very well be because it's certainly substantial. I can remember about two years ago our total field for the Rolex 24 was 45 cars. It's so easy for us to focus on the Daytona Prototypes that it sometimes I think we overlook what's going on in GT. A couple of years ago, we took a look at the GT world and decided that as exciting as it was, races of Porsches, an occasional BMW, an occasional Ferrari were not enough, so we came up with some new rules.
I'm proud to say that under the radar, while we're not looking at it closely, GT is starting to show the same kind of growth that we saw in Daytona Prototypes. This year's entry list is evidence of that where we have seven different brands recognized in our GT field. There's not only Porsche and BMW, but there's also Corvette, there's a Mazda, there are Pontiacs, there's a Nissan 350Z and a Ferrari. Seven different manufacturers represented in GT.
One other area that I'm pretty proud of is our schedule. We looked at the schedule, 14 races, 10 of those races are natural road courses; that's more than anybody else has on their schedule. And of the four races that are not on natural road courses, two of them are Daytona and one of them is the Long Beach Grand Prix. We were criticized pretty severely in our first few years for racing at the stadium built courses. And this year, other than Daytona are Phoenix and Homestead.
So we've got a very balanced schedule that creates a great challenge to our drivers and teams and gives them an opportunity to take this sport to markets that are not only where the spectators are, but also where the sponsors want to be.
Q: Wayne mentioned about the exposure of the TV coverage, and this year we're going to have 10 plus hours of television coverage on SPEED. Has there ever been any discussion for those fans of the series that can't make it to Daytona to have more TV coverage in, if fact, all 24 hours?
ROGER EDMONDSON: Yes, obviously there have been discussions because we were fully telecast a few years ago early in the history of Grand American. I think we have to recognize the commercial realities of the cost of producing and broadcasting a race of that type, and at this point in our maturity in our development, there simply is not sufficient demand to justify any hours in excess of what SPEED is currently giving us.
We're quite pleased with the schedule we have, we think that the meat of the race is there live and certainly they do an excellent job of staying involved enough to be able to provide people with a quality update when they come back on the air in the morning. So I think we've got a real good TV package this year with SPEED and I think the Rolex 24 At Daytona race will be very well-covered.
ADAM SAAL: Thank you, everybody, and take care.