Continued from part 1 Q: Sylvain, two weeks ago Conor Daly won the Star Mazda title. One of the prizes is a GT ride in a Mazda car. Is it safe to assume he's probably going to be in a SpeedSource product? What is your experience this year ...
Continued from part 1
Q: Sylvain, two weeks ago Conor Daly won the Star Mazda title. One of the prizes is a GT ride in a Mazda car. Is it safe to assume he's probably going to be in a SpeedSource product? What is your experience this year concerning open-wheel guys?
SYLVAIN TREMBLAY: It's been interesting. Mazda does a great job supporting the ladder, which is their system, where somebody can go from karting into Skip Barber, out of Skip Barber into Star Mazda, out of Star Mazda into the Rolex Series.
It's to give drivers with more talent than budget some forward momentum. If you win a championship, you get a leg up to move to the next thing. We were very fortunate this year through a set of circumstances that the Star Mazda champion, which was Adam Christodoulou, from last year, then the Atlantic Championship, which is John Edwards, had really nowhere to go. Mazda came up with the idea of basically putting up a second factory car for them and have them run under our wing.
Those guys, extremely talented, didn't understand or know everything about endurance racing. That's where we came in. We have good people, good group. Even the 69 team was involved in helping those guys come along, Jeff in his experience, and Emil, really teach them how to do Rolex racing.
Those guys have excelled. Extremely talented. Won Lime Rock, on podium a couple times. Now they're really a threat and have furthered their career because of the exposure they had with Mazda in the Rolex Series.
The same thing is available to Conor for winning the championship, whether or not what his codriver is and exact package is yet to be determined. Mazda commits to providing a place for the champion from the Star Mazda series in the factory car for next year.
Those guys are extremely quick, hugely talented. We have to hone and teach them how to do endurance racing. Both of the current champions have easily shown they can do it and we're proud to be part of the process and be supportive of the ladder and all the investment that Mazda has made in these young drivers' careers. Fantastic for road racing. One of the few companies that puts their money where their mouth is with supporting drivers with hard cash and real prizes.
J.J. O'MALLEY: I have a follow-up for Sylvain. You talk about the young drivers coming in. Your crew chief, Marcus Shen, is a young guy. Seems to be doing quite a job as crew chief. Is he part of the development program?
SYLVAIN TREMBLAY: In a way you could say he is. Talent is hard to come by. I always say the most qualified person for any job is the one with the biggest desire. That's how it works in motorsports. You can have a pretty big resume and not have the drive or desire.
This business is about passion, emotion, about desire. Marcus has shown that. We had an opportunity to have him basically step off the box from 70 under David and run his own car. He really took to that challenge and has shown to the entire pit lane he is as good as any of them. We're lucky to have that type of talent here.
It's been fun watching him blossom, per se. I feel like a proud papa sometimes when these guys do well. It is neat to see young crew members and drivers come up through the program and find success.
Q: I'm somewhat reluctant to ask this of Sylvain but I have to because the people that listen to MRN radio, we like to preview. Can you give us kind of a statement about 2011, starting off with Rolex tests at Daytona on the new pavement, where you are now for 2011. During our broadcasts, we definitely want to talk a little bit about next year for you guys to get people excited about that.
SYLVAIN TREMBLAY: Obviously '11 is around the corner. I tell all the guys after the Rolex, we have a Monday meeting after the 24, how are we going to win this race again. We had that meeting the day after we won it this year. Always been on our radar, what we're focused on.
We've been involved with Continental, our new tire partner, with testing. We have another test coming up at VIR. We plan on hitting the new pavement at Daytona in January running hard with at least two cars, maybe more. That is the plan. We'll be back as far as colors and sponsors and the rest of that stuff, yet to be determined. There will be a pretty significant SpeedSource presence in the 2011 Rolex championship in GT.
Q: Sylvain, you've been involved in the series for a while. We've seen a lot of well-known manufacturers come into GT with a one- or two-car factory effort, spend a lot of money, win championships. There seems to be a bit of a raider mentality. Basically a small effort, not too many cars, go after the title then leave after winning a couple of them. Mazda is going about things a little bit differently as a factory presence, a lot of support for customer teams, has built a huge base. Are you seeing the way they're going about their participation in the series over so many years a bit of a unique thing through your eyes and perspective?
SYLVAIN TREMBLAY: Oh, definitely unique. If you look at Mazda, Mazda supports grass-roots motorsports. The way to do it is not to give a large amount of money to a single or two-car team and lock out. They really want to be an alternative to German car in the series. They've proven they are.
The product is reliable. It has one of the lowest cost per lap in GT. Very reliable, easy to set up. It's a very user-friendly car. The fact that the base RX-8 has all of the similar qualities, well-balanced, lightweight, nimble, all of those things translate to the GT car. I think that's why customers have responded to it. That's why it's the dominant currently car in the Rolex Series because it makes the most sense financially, it's a fast car, it's a championship-winning car, a manufacturer that wins championships. They support it with great contingency. All the Mazda teams share information.
It is a total package for somebody coming into GT or somebody that is in GT. That's why some teams have converted from other brands to this particular brand. That's why Mazda is going to stick around. For the same reason you can go to a club race and see a 1979 RX-7 still running around or even some RX-2's and RX-3's. Not that you'll see these cars on track 30 years from now, but as long as customers want to race them, Mazda will support them. They support them with parts programs.
Also it makes sense. For the same reason that some of the higher, more expensive cars are harder to maintain or there's overlap after one season, throw that car away, get a new car. These cars were designed to be robust from the beginning where customers could maintain them and you don't need to start with a clean sheet of paper.
The cars we built in 2006 are running in 2010 and are competitive for next year in 2011 with some minor updates. That was the philosophy of the program. I think Mazda has done a good job of supporting the program and the customer team that makes it a good alternative to other brands to run competitive in Rolex GT.
Q: Jeff and Emil, looking in the GT competition this year, it's been a bit of a runaway train. Anything but that in GT where I guess we've been able to crown champions early in Daytona Prototype. They've walked to that title by comparison. Have you enjoyed the fact this year has been anything but easy and has been a week-in, week-out fight? Would you rather things be easy and walk home with titles well before the season is done?
EMIL ASSENTATO: It's a difficult question. I would have liked to have won the championship at Daytona actually (laughter).
Well, you know, it's more exciting this way. For a fan base, I think it's much better for them to see everybody competing. A lot of the competition is Mazda. So it's really good for Mazda. From that perspective, this is a good season.
Hopefully we can bring it home this coming weekend. But one way or the other, Mazda wins, the fans win, and that's what we need to happen. We're pretty happy with how things are going.
Sure, we'd love to finish it early and not have to worry about one more race and stuff. Racing is racing and this is going to be fun.
Q: Sylvain, recently we've heard a lot about Grand-Am going to GT-3 spec for the GT class. How will that help or hurt not only Mazda but your team in general if we to go to that spec for the GT-3 class?
SYLVAIN TREMBLAY: I've had numerous discussions with Grand-Am and their vision. One of the things we rest assured on, they understand where their customers are. We'd love to get other brands involved from a Mazda perspective. They don't want to diminish the investment made by the current cars. So if Grand-Am spec cars would come, they would have to run at our specifications, so it would not be a direct transfer from one to the other.
There's been talk of compromises. I have a lot of faith in Grand-Am to equal the cars, that it would benefit the series and not hurt the current cars. When you have a strong customer base, 15, 16 cars, you don't want to obsolete those cars overnight by allowing the newest whizz bang thing from across the lake. They want to allow those cars to come over and be competitive with what we're doing but not really obsolete all the current equipment.
With everything that I've seen, everything I've heard, I have a lot of faith what they're doing in Daytona Beach on allowing that particular process. I'm excited having some new brands, some new teams, maybe more exposure to the series. As far as am I worried it's going to obsolete our current cars, I am not.
Q: Emil and Jeff, I heard from Sylvain about previewing the race at Utah on the new course. What do you think about running the shorter course?
JEFF SEGAL: I think that course is going to be a lot of fun. The track at Miller is something special. The first time we came here, a little overwhelming, a lot of corners, not a lot of reference points because of its location. You don't have a lot of trees or visual cues. This track has less corners. A little bit simpler in that regard. Really it retains all of the really fast, really tough corners on the track. So it's going to be higher speed. I think consequences of making a mistake are a little bit higher.
But I think generally when we have tracks like that, the races tend to be pretty exciting. You look at the Watkins Glen short course, it's a track with a lot of high-speed corners, a lot of momentum. You look at Lime Rock, same thing, great race. Changes they made to the track, I'm not sure if it's going to help or hurt the car, but I think it's going to make the race better.
J.J. O'MALLEY: Thank you, Sylvain, Emil and Jeff for joining us today in sharing this exciting news. Best of luck in your battle for the GT championship in Saturday's Rolex Series finale at Salt Lake City.