CHAMPCAR/CART: 2007 Chassis teleconference transcript, part 1

CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES TELECONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT WITH STEVE JOHNSON, SCOT ELKINS, SCOTT ATHERTON AND DAVID BOWES ERIC MAUK: Welcome, everyone, to a very special Champ Car teleconference where we will be announcing information regarding the...

CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES TELECONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT WITH STEVE JOHNSON, SCOT ELKINS, SCOTT ATHERTON AND DAVID BOWES

ERIC MAUK: Welcome, everyone, to a very special Champ Car teleconference where we will be announcing information regarding the 2007 version of the Champ Car that will attack the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford circuit. Right now we are joined by Steve Johnson, the president of Champ Car; Scot Elkins, the director of technology for the Champ Car World Series; Scott Atherton, the president and CEO of Panoz Motorsports Groups; David Bowes, the CEO of Elan Motorsports Technologies; and Dick Eidswick, the chairman of Champ Car.

I'd like to turn things over to Steve Johnson, president of Champ Car World Series.

STEVE JOHNSON: Thank you, Eric. Good afternoon and welcome to what is truly a historic and monumental day in the history of the Champ Car World Series. Today's announcement is a bold step forward for Champ Car and supports our mission of providing great, entertaining racing for our fans and a challenge for our teams and drivers.

In 2007, the Champ Car World Series will be partnering with Elan Motorsports Technologies for our new American-made Panoz DPO1 chassis. The new Panoz DPO1 will provide the teams and drivers a solid platform to demonstrate their skills. The Panoz DPO1 chassis will provide closer racing and more passing opportunities on our street tracks and the next generation Ford-Cosworth engine will give our Champ Car drivers the power they need to make the pass.

In addition to the obvious enhancements to the on-track action provided by this package, we believe the significant savings will not only help our current teams but will serve to attract many new entrants, as well. Champ Car has listened to our fans, to our owners, teams and drivers, and developed, with Elan Motorsports Technologies, the ultimate chassis that will take Champ Car to the next level. Together with Elan, we have positioned the Champ Car World Series as the ultimate motorsports entertainment package of the future and provide for the long-term health, success and stability of the Champ Car World Series.

ERIC MAUK: Thank you, Steve. Very exciting announcement, indeed. We'll hear from the manufacturing side, Elan motorsports technologies, Mr. David Bowes.

DAVID BOWES: Thank you and welcome to everyone. It's a privilege and a pleasure to be part of this announcement. We're delighted to be part of the Champ Car team. We've been working together at a detail level to make sure we understand the design features that are required to enhance and maximize the Champ Car chassis going forward. The new car will be smaller, lighter, safer, more nimble and is targeted to set quicker lap times than the current chassis.

Of course, we're looking forward to turning all our resources and our technology and to maximizing the impact, performance and reliability of this chassis. It will be an entirely new platform using all of the technology that's available from Elan Motorsports Technologies, or EMT, which is the world's largest chassis constructor. Finally, this is an all-American venture: the cars and parts will be designed, built and shipped from Georgia.

ERIC MAUK: We'll begin with questions from the media.

Q: I'd like to ask the obvious question of the Panoz folks of what this means with your future with the Indy Racing League.

DAVID BOWES: We have a number of different contracts existing in a number of different series. We'll be honoring all of those contracts. Today is Champ Car's day and we're delighted to be part of this deal.

Q: The question I've been asked a lot today is in terms of these two series, does this announcement mean that perhaps this opens the door to bringing the two series closer together or does it mean they're farther apart or does it mean things are just about the same as they have been?

STEVE JOHNSON: I would say things are the same as they have been. The Champ Car World Series is focused on our business model and Champ Car. We're continuing to move forward with that. Again, we're not focused on anybody else out there, other than what we're doing. We're going to provide the best entertainment value in motorsports.

Q: I would pose this maybe to Steve and Scott. In light of the doubleheader at Houston, also in light of the fact that the ALMS competition, the Grand-Am, is on the calendar at Long Beach, could you maybe talk about the state of the relationship between Champ Car and ALMS. This brings the two closer together, at least on the chassis part.

STEVE JOHNSON: That's a good question. The relationship we have with ALMS is very solid, and it goes back a long ways in a personal relationship that Scott and I have for many years back.

We're looking for ways to partner together. Obviously, this is the best step to partner together Elan coming in as our chassis supplier. I think you'll see a lot of good things in the future between ALMS and Champ Car.

Q: Scott, if you might sort of add a few comments.

SCOTT ATHERTON: I don't want to detract from the significance of this announcement today, which is specific to a new chassis for Champ Car. I would echo Steve's comments. We have always had a very solid relationship with Champ Car. We've raced with them in the past. We are planning, as you know from our schedule and theirs, we'll be together in Houston. As I have said before, I don't want anyone to read more into that than what is really there. The fact is we were contacted by the event organizer in Houston, could not be happier about the fact we will be racing with Champ Car there. Does it mean there will be more in the future? You know, time will tell.

The biggest benefit I see that we have as an overall organization with myself being responsible for all of the Panoz companies, is the fact that there's a pre-existing relationship between myself and Steve that does go back a long time. In an industry that is filled with a lot of distrust, I think the two of us have a very unique and meaningful relationship. That can only be good for all involved.

Q: How does this car compare with the one that Panoz is now making for IRL, the new car?

DAVID BOWES: The answer is there's no comparison. They're two entirely different cars. Our current IRL car was designed and built several years ago to a different level of requirements with a different level of technology available. This car has five years of technology now we can add into it. We have a different look and feel to Champ Car racing and a different set of requirements from them to build this car to. To be honest, the only way we can achieve what we've been asked to achieve is to literally start with a clean sheet of paper.

Q: I wanted to find out whether this chassis might make it easier for some Champ Car teams to compete in the Indy 500, even though they're not similar chassis, but does it kind of bring it a little bit closer and make that transition easier?

STEVE JOHNSON: That's a totally different car that would be running in the Indy 500. Unless the rules would change for the Indy 500, this is not the chassis for the Indy 500.

Q: David, if you could first of all tell us who your key design staff on this project will be, overall designer, aerodynamics, et cetera. Also, have you had to take on and expand more people for this project? Lola, having worked there, you know they have a great reputation. They delivered a very sound product for many years. Some people in the industry are asking, Will Panoz be able to do as good a job as Lola? If you could answer those series of questions, if you would.

DAVID BOWES: Well, we have a quiet and unsung group of designers who have done nothing more than win the Indy 500 '03 and '04, and won the IRL championship in '03. The strength of EMT is not in having big egos or large names. The strength in EMT is that we run all the way up and down the organization as a team.

The team of people are headed by Simon Marshall, who is our chief designer, and Nick Alcock, our chief aerodynamicist. Along the way they've designed such cars as the Star Mazda which was launched as a new series some time ago. These guys have worked with us now for three years and have had a huge number of achievements. They're looking forward to being part of this project, obviously. This project will require us to recruit a few more good people. I believe that the significance of this deal and the publicity of this deal will allow us to attract good people from our industry. We will be looking for more people, yes.

As regards can we do as good a job as anybody else? I can tell that you Scot Elkins, Tony Cotman and the Champ Car team have done a very thorough due diligence job in selecting the current supplier, i.e., EMT. We have been whittled down from, I think, seven to start with through four, through two, then the final few weeks has been a very intense competition to get us into this position now.

There has been and are a number of factors that I think they would say they've used as their criteria. It's up to them to say why they chose us, I guess. But clearly I'm confident that the amount of rigor and thoroughness that's gone into this process has convinced them at least that we can do a better job than anybody else out there.

Q: Could Scot speak to that issue a little bit, as David suggested.

SCOT ELKINS: The criteria that we had was multifaceted. I mean, obviously the main purpose of this project was to reduce the operating costs of racing for our teams, this economic environment has required that.

Something else we looked at was obviously we looked at things like location, we looked at technical capabilities of the team itself, we looked at past history of the manufacturer. We looked at each facility. We made visits to every facility and did very detailed studies of what was good and bad. We looked and noticed that the Elan guys are ISO 9000. They have a huge quality reputation. A lot of those things fit into this decision.

Q: This selection process sounds very intriguing. Could Dick and Steve kind of go in-depth in that a little further as to exactly what you were looking for, how that process played out as you winnowed it down from seven to two.

STEVE JOHNSON: I'm not going to get into all the details in the RFP. But an RFP was developed and sent out to seven world class manufacturers. They came back in-house. In our due diligence team took over at that point. As David had mentioned, whittled it down to four, then had it down to the two finalists. In a purely objective process, Elan was the clear manufacturer of choice as we moved forward.

There were a number of folks involved in it. As Scott mentioned, I think they did a fantastic job in doing their due diligence and selecting the right partner for Champ Car.

Continued in part 2

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Steve Johnson