CHAMPCAR/CART: An interview with Bobby Rahal

T.E. McHALE: Welcome to the CART Media Teleconference, and thanks to all of you for joining us this afternoon. Our guest today is interim CART president and chief executive officer, Bobby Rahal, who announced this afternoon he would ...

T.E. McHALE: Welcome to the CART Media Teleconference, and thanks to all of you for joining us this afternoon. Our guest today is interim CART president and chief executive officer, Bobby Rahal, who announced this afternoon he would conclude his tenure in November to become chief executive officer of the Jaguar Formula 1 Racing Team. Good afternoon, Bob. Congratulations and thanks for join us today. BOBBY RAHAL: Thanks, T.E. I'm happy to be with you. T.E. McHALE: A couple of quick background notes on Bobby before we begin taking questions. He was named CART's interim president and CEO last June 16 following the resignation of Andrew Craig. He is well known as one of only two drivers to win the FedEx Championship Series championship three times: In 1986, '87 and '92. A two-time winner of the driver of the year award, 24 career race victories ranking fourth on the CART career list while his 18 career pole positions rank him fifth. He made 264 starts during his 17-year career, second on the CART career list to Al Unser Jr.'s 273 and recorded 177 Top-10 finishes and 119 Top-5s in that span. Bob has been a team owner in the FedEx Championship Series since 1992 and currently serves along with entertainer David Letterman as owner of Team Rahal which claims Max Papis and Rookie of the Year Candidate Kenny Brack in the FedEx Championship Series. He will continue in his role as a CART team owner during his tenure with Jaguar. And with that we will open it up to questions for Bob. Q. How did this come about, what was the appeal, and what do you think is the impact on CART? BOBBY RAHAL: How it came about was -- I think there was a race in May, a Grand Prix and Derek Bell on the broadcast says that I'm going to be the next CEO of Jaguar, which is news to me because nobody had said boo to me. And all of these people came up, and I said, "I don't even know what you're talking about," because nobody has contacted me whatsoever. And I think I kind of half-jokingly said to Gordon Kirby: "Oh, yeah, I'd love to," just tongue in cheek. Sometime in early June, one of the Cosworth people said, "I think you ought to -- you should really consider that." I said, "Well, you know, that's a lot to consider." But in late June early July -- Neil Ressler called me up in late June and in early July, I decided -- well, we had talked, and my wife and I had talked about it, and well, it sounds great at first. But then you start thinking about everything that comes with the package, and you think, my goodness, this is a huge move if we did something like this. So I went over and visited with Neil, saw the facility. We traveled around. Debby had lived in England; I had lived there, and the concept of actually moving was not so much of a big hurdle, I don't think. But really the big thing was, you know, could we do it, because to me Team Rahal was the most important thing and I didn't want to do anything that could impact negatively on that. And, of course in the intervening time, Scott Roembke and the whole group at Team Rahal had proved conclusively that not only could they, you know, operate extremely well by themselves, but, I mean, I had had no contact with the team per se for several months, and, you know, they were -- that really wasn't affecting it. So I was confident that they could -- if I did something like that, I was confident that Team Rahal was going to -- on a day-to-day basis going to be in good hands. Now, I'm still going to have obligations. I'm still going to do things for the team. I'm going to come to some races. I don't think there's any doubt of that. But I think the big thing, was, you know, as I was before, I'd be looking at Team Rahal from 25,000, 30,000 feet. So really nothing has changed in that regard. So the impact on Team Rahal, certainly, I think frankly it's a positive because it just strengthens our relationship with Ford Motor Company. We're a works team for Ford as it is and I think this is going to do nothing but tighten that relationship, strengthen that relationship even more, which short-term, long-term I think will be all the better for Team Rahal. As far as the impact on CART, I think it's a win/win, I really do. I've had Roger Penske, Robin Miller come up and say, "Great." But there's a few people out there to tell you -- the doom-and-gloomers. But the reality is, I don't think for a moment I ever conveyed to anybody that my position at CART now was anything other than interim, and I viewed my job there as to strictly prepare the table for the next permanent CEO to come in; so I would not have to deal with all the problem areas. We could take care of that and he could take the company, and, you know, focus on growing the company and not on figuring out what to do with it. And the fact that^ normally one has seen fit to some someone from CART, a driver, to go there and manage a team, I think speaks volumes about the efficacy and the legitimacy of CART. So I see it as a huge positive. Team Rahal is not going away. We just signed extensions with all of our sponsors. We are going to build a new race shop. These are not the signs of someone who is abandoning -- I think I heard somebody quote, abandoning the series. This is somebody looking at strengthening the relationship that Team Rahal has in the CART series. Q. Well, we heard the rumors months ago and then Robin broke the story and now they are announcing it. So congratulations. It's a great move. What about the whole Jaguar thing? Obviously it is a challenge to get a team like that going. If you could just talk about how you look at that and how you plan to tackle that, Bobby? BOBBY RAHAL: Well, I think first off, I would not have accepted this position had I not been fully confident that Jaguar cars, Ford Motor Company, Neil Ressler were not 100% committed this enterprise. The prestige and image of Jaguar and Ford, by extension, is on the line in many respects. I think I understood full well just what the stakes were or how high the stakes were in this. And for a company like Ford or Jaguar, you don't get involved in something like this unless you intend to win, because you cannot afford to not win. You have to do what it takes to win. You know, when I went to the facility, you know, it's crowded, but it's fully capable of doing what needs to be done. It just seems like there's a disconnect somewhere in the organization that's preventing all of the capabilities of coming together and producing what's needed. I think the first thing is to ask a lot of questions, to observe, to -- you know, I'm going to be coming to the next several Grand Prixs, to sort of observe, to meet with people. I just don't feel like you just walk in and start clearing the decks. I think there's a lot very capable people there, and far more good than bad, and so we just have to make sure that whatever changes we make, you know, are the right ones. I mean, I have to understand the processes and I'm not sure they are right, frankly; and I wonder where the discipline is in the organization, and perhaps there is discipline, perhaps there isn't. But until you can make all of these observations, it will be tough to tell. But there's no question it's a huge task. You rely on some of the good people you have and you do everything that you can to replace the bad ones with good ones and create the sense of team. So, you know, that's probably going to be the first, you know, several months, certainly just to get a sense of just what is going on. I don't think we have the luxury of time in a lot of respects. At the same token, Neil is already making a lot of changes. A lot more will be announced in the future. So a lot of the work is already being done for me, and it is just a matter of me sort of, as I say, being the glue to hold this whole thing together. But there's no question it's going to be a huge task. Q. And from the CART point of view, the search for the CEO, for the replacement, the guy who is going to step into your shoes and carry on, what can you tell us about how that is going on and what kind of candidates you see? BOBBY RAHAL: I think it is going very well. To be honest, I remember the last time when we chose Andrew, we didn't have a whole lot of interest until the outside world, and that's anything but the case today. Even while we have some people who have been intimately involved in motor sports, we have some people who have been involved maybe, as you say, amateur drivers or just follow the sport tremendously or closely, but are strong business people in their own right. I think, frankly, there's a lot to choose from, and I don't believe we've necessarily whittled it down to a select group yet. But we're still getting resumes and we're still getting a lot of interest. But I think the field we will have to choose from will be by far the biggest ever. Q. Have you talked to both your drivers about this, and I'm sure you have, and what is their reaction to the fact that you're not going to be around? I guess they have gotten used to that some this year, but how did both your drivers react? BOBBY RAHAL: First off, the misconceptions out there, I am going to be around. I am coming to races. I want to make that clear. I think somehow there's this feeling out there that I'm just waving good-bye never to be seen again. I'm still going to be coming to events and doing some things to Team Rahal. I have obligations to Shell and to Miller and things like that. So those have to be organized well, but we'll still be coming over here. Long ago, a month or so ago, I spoke with the staff of Team Rahal. I spoke with Kenny. I spoke with Max. I think both Kenny and Max -- I think everybody is a little surprised this is being offered, but they all expressed support. I think Max said, "You know, how can you say no." And I think, frankly, I think they are confident in the stewardship of the team under Scott Roembke, as well, and also understanding that I will be attending races and that I will be doing things for them. I think there is a comfort level there, as there is with all of our sponsors, that this is being viewed as a strength for Team Rahal and not creating any problems. I look for some technology sharing, for example, between the Formula 1 program and Team Rahal. I think as I said earlier, I think it really tightens the relationship between Team Rahal and Ford Motor Company. Q. Do you have any structural or organizational changes at Team Rahal because of this? Will you bring in anyone else or are you comfortable the way it is? BOBBY RAHAL: I think I will still be -- when it comes to those big picture decisions, I'll still be very much involved as I have been. As I say, Scott, he's my general manager. I'm not sure that title frankly speaks correctly to what he does; so there may be some title changes. Last year, as you remember, Tim Cindric left my team. He was my team manager; he left and went to Penske. And in the meantime, we elevated a number of people within the company to different positions, and with each passing day they become more and more capable. And so I don't really see us adding managerial positions. Certainly, we're going to go out and try to enhance even further our engineering capability, but I don't see our managerial side changing too much. Q. If you could take a moment and look back over the approximately three months or so that you've been the interim president and CEO in CART and sort of talk about what -- give yourself a report card on your accomplishments and in doing what you set out to do? BOBBY RAHAL: Well, you know, I think -- I don't know if I'm really the one who should -- any time I've had a test in school that I was able to gave myself, I always gave myself a better grade than maybe I deserved. I think that school is still out on that, frankly. I think we have more things coming, more things to do. But certainly getting the races ratified to go to Europe. Certainly Dallas, bringing in the Dallas event. Certainly the engine reduction. Certainly the schedule and testing reduction. Certainly the schedule reorganization. We have reorganized the marketing aspects of CART. There's more changes coming, to be sure, but I think we've raised the morale of the company. I think we have communicated with a lot of our constituents so they understand full well what CART is and where it's going. Certainly, working with Mike Trager (phonetic) regarding the television situation. I think there's been a lot of things that are going on. I would like to think that from the comments -- if I'm going to give myself a grade, I would give myself a B or an A for bringing the troops together and getting everybody to go in one direction and sort of, you know, dealing with our customers, our sponsors and our fans, getting charge to change its attitude and the way it went about all that. But as I say, I think there is still a lot coming, and so I'd hate to give myself a grade before we have actually completed all the projects, and that's really up for you to do. Q. Well, if we grade on the curve, you're in good shape, I think. You've talked a couple times about tightening the relationship between Team Rahal and Ford, and I wonder if maybe we could take a bigger picture look at this. Obviously your association with Jaguar, Jerry Forsythe has an involvement with BAT. There's certainly a lot of talk about Barry Green having perhaps some role there. Chip Ganassi does not have any sort of formal ties, but there appears to be a very good working relationship between him and Frank Williams. And I wonder if maybe you could take a look and perhaps -- I realize this may be much on sort of a speculative point, but talk -- maybe if you could consider what it means overall in perhaps there being a more, you know, a better working relationship between CART and Formula 1 down the road? BOBBY RAHAL: Well, Roger Penske owns part of the Ilmor (phonetic) and builds part of the Mercedes in general for McLaren (phonetic). People say, well, this is a bad day for CART. Not a lot. There's been a few people. But nevertheless, I look at it as strengthening CART. And why shouldn't the world, automobile racing, why should it be different than any other business out there? Every other business in the world is out there creating alignments, relationships, partnerships, whatever you want to call it. Look what's happening in the telecommunications business; everybody owns a piece of everybody almost. The world is just getting to be a smaller and smaller place, and I really think this brings -- the creation of these relationships, there's rumors about Barry. I think all that does is just create greater possibilities for the partners involved. I think maybe some of -- maybe some of the short-sighted people think it is a negative, but I think in the long term, it is nothing but a positive. Q. Two questions. First one is if you can expand as to what happened in the time line, what happened after July, how things progressed through; and second, what words of wisdom do you have for your successor? BOBBY RAHAL: As far as the time line, I think I went over there -- I think it was some time in July. To be honest with you, I've been going for so fast for so long, I lose track of time. I think it was probably mid-July I went over to see Neil and visited the factory, and, of course, there was more conversations after that. It was really after that tour that in late July that I thought, you know, while I had -- while we had spoken in June, it was strictly very social and, you know, that's when the first -- when I think about this, it seemed so farfetched at the time, I really wasn't thinking about it too seriously. But after the trip and some rumination in early July, late June, I thought, well, maybe we ought to think about this. And I spoke about it with my wife and my family, my kids, my parents, because it is a big move, and I spoke with Scott Roembke, and I wanted to be open with people that it was going to affect and everybody was very supportive. Probably by -- I think we went back in early August, I believe, it was, to start looking around, well, where would you live. And we went to look at the schooling situation and various other things. The discussions kind of went on and on. And then the thing was basically culminated, maybe officially culminated a week or so ago, two weeks ago, I guess. But it really picked up speed from say mid-July to say mid-August. As far as advice to my replacement, I think he has a very strong board. Guys like Bert Roberts and Fred Tucker and Jim Hardymon, and now Jim Henderson (phonetic), these guys are some of the most well-respected businessmen in the world, forget just the United States. And my advice to him is to rely on them, to use them; and they are happy to contribute. Use them for their judgment and their perspective and their wisdom. You know, he is going to have to be patient because sometimes dealing with the owners can be a very frustrating experience. But if he's concise and if he has a vision, and if he can sell that vision, the board generally will support you whatever you want to do. And so, the whole idea is to be very organized, very disciplined and very clear in what you want to achieve. Q. Will you be continuing on the board? BOBBY RAHAL: I will not be continuing on the public board. I will be on the franchise board. That's once I basically step down, you know, I think that I could not -- you know, you can't -- you've got to make board meetings, you know, and you've got to be there. You just can't phone in. So knowing I would not be able to do it on as regular basis that they hold meetings, I had to be responsible and let somebody else take my place. Q. There had been rumors of reports that you wanted to put out your 2002 schedule before the end of this year. Is that still on track or will you turn that over to your successor? BOBBY RAHAL: I think we can get, being hopefully we can get a lot of it done. I'm not sure if I can get everything done, because frankly some of it is dependent on TV. Some of it is dependent on getting some of these extensions of our current agreements, and obviously there's a new track, like Las Vegas for our team to have events. So as I expressed to our promoters just yesterday, we have a board meeting coming up in the next several weeks and we are going to try to address those extensions, renewals, the new tracks we are going to go to. We are going to try to address that at that time. There are some other issues that have taken some precedence of late, but you have to get everybody on tap with that. I'm hopeful that we can get it out. If we can't get the whole thing out, we can certainly identify where, you know, key -- where our obligations are already set. We can pretty much identify where we're going to be. For example, I'm a big believer in date equity; that you go to the same tracks at the same times. That means Portland in late June; Milwaukee is the first weekend after Indianapolis; Elkhart, Mid-Ohio in August. I think we can fill it out. Whether we can get the whole thing done or not, I'm not sure. Q. You talked earlier about some of the issues you've faced in your short tenure. Can you identify a couple of the remaining big issues that CART needs to take on in the next year or whatever? BOBBY RAHAL: Well, we've got our TV situation. That we'll know by late December, early January, I think what direction we are headed there. We have, obviously, new circuit additions. That should be known hopefully before then for 2002. We have some decisions to make about sporting issues, like what's the engine specification going to be for 2003, things like that. So there's still some relatively big decisions to make. But much of the due diligence has gone on and is continuing to go on now. There's still some big things out there, but as I said I'm trying to get as much of that done as possible so that the guy coming in after me doesn't have to deal with all of it. Q. Do you have any recommendations for your predecessor that you'd like to share; and secondly, is the Jaguar lineup already set for 2001? BOBBY RAHAL: To answer your second question, yes, it is. Eddie Irvine is the lead driver and Luciano Burti (phonetic) he was the Formula 1 test driver this year; he is going to be the second driver. When you say do I have any recommendations, I'm not sure what you mean precisely. Q. To replace you? BOBBY RAHAL: Oh, you mean people? Q. Yeah. BOBBY RAHAL: I don't have any specifically. I think as I said earlier, there's quite a few -- I mean, there's some awfully strong resumes out there. It could be difficult to make a choice. But I don't have anybody specific as yet, but certainly there's a number -- I want to say four or five people that look extremely strong in my mind. Q. What do you think still needs to be done that you haven't done (inaudible) -- is there anything that you think, gosh, I wish I had time before I go? BOBBY RAHAL: I think there's still time. I think our budgets for next year will be set by then. As I said, I'm hoping to get our circuit extensions and maybe some new circuit relationships done by then. The 2002 schedule is certainly something I'd like to try to achieve. Getting a consensus from the engine manufacturers as to where we're going to go in 2003 is something I'd like to get fundamentally agreed to. I'm not sure about the specific stuff, but the general we can get done. Whether we can get it done to announce it, I don't know, because it may be in fairly simple form at that point, but I think we can get some degree of consensus there. Organizationally inside of CART, I think some changes have to be made. I've just made one, for example which I've asked Rena Shanaman to solely be concerned with promoter issues, to work directly with the promoters. They are important. They are our partners. Sometimes the relationship with CART and our promoters is very contentious, and it's just ridiculous that it is that way. So I have asked Rena to focus on that full-time, among other things. So that is sort of a new -- again some of these are things you don't really see, but do have an effect on what happens down the line. There's still some things to happen, and if we achieve -- achieve those, then I will have felt that the time was well spent. Q. You were asked earlier about what you feel you've accomplished, and you have since been asked what you feel like you're leaving on the table for your success for. You kicked off the engine turbo booster schedule -- the reorganization of the staff, marketing, you mentioned television, you also mentioned television is something that's probably going to be left on the table. I'm curious, what I don't hear in this is the declining attendance and the abysmal performance on television, the ratings in households this year. Are they not major issues being left on the table, and how have they been addressed by you during your tenure? BOBBY RAHAL: First of all, on our road courses, our attendance is up. Secondly -- well, in our street/course road course combination. Certainly the ovals are problematic. On our ratings, three of our early-season ABC races were rainouts, which does nothing but bad things for ratings. I think we were flat up until a race or two ago. I'm not sure what the latest is. But are they good? No. Are we performing reasonably well in some markets? Yes. Are we performing the way we want to perform? No. Is that dependent as much on us as it is on others. TV ratings are driven by a host of different -- I guess are reflections of a host of different constituents: One is the sport, one is the network, one is the weather, one is all kind of things. Certainly, from a ratings standpoint, we're doing -- you know, I think we've made some impact on how the races are being covered in terms of the drama. You know, I don't know if you saw the shots from Laguna Seca where it was coming in -- almost Formula 1 style shots, which I conveyed to them that I wanted them to show the drama of these cars, what's going on with them earlier in the year. And Sean and his staff I think are starting to make some really good progress there. I've had a number of people say that the production of the last several races was better than what's been done in the past. Is it where we want it? No. Do we have a lot of control or power as to how ESPN or ABC treat us? No, not in a lot of respects. Is that satisfactory? No. But in the meantime, we have the -- we're doing what we can to positively impact those things, and some of it is achievable; some of it isn't. Certainly, the direction we go in our TV for the future is certainly going to reflect whatever frustrations we may feel, or whatever senses we have of what could be done better. And that doesn't mean it has to go away from ESPN. It just means that, as I said to many people, we want a network who cares about our sport, who is ready to invest in it. It's not enough in my mind, and I made this clear to Trager (phonetic) and to the TV people, it's not enough just to say we're on TV. That doesn't cut it. And, you know, so we'll see what the overall upshot of that is in the future. As far as our participation and our spectator attendance, it is a little baffling on the ovals, but somehow, as I said to somebody, I think it was Jeff Vettraino (phonetic) at Toronto, that you had gone down to that race and never been to a race before, you would have said that's the most successful series in the world. We have problems with places and we don't have problems with places, and naturally, we're going to do everything to solve where we do have problems. And am I going to get that done in my tenure? Are there some things that I can do to impact that that in the future? Can I do that? Yes, I can. And as I say, those are some of the things that you don't see and you may not see the results of those until next spring or next summer or whatever. Q. I've asked a lot of people about the television issue. I have to thank you. I think that's the most forward and most comprehensive answer I've ever gotten and I appreciate it. I know you've been in negotiations with ABC. How receptive are they for lack of a better term, lack of quality in the production? BOBBY RAHAL: I think that they certainly -- as I said to them, I said, "if you guys are not getting all of these e-mails from our fans complaining about the coverage, I'll be happy to copy you." And they said, "No, no, we get them." And I said, "Well, then what we need to do is we've got to do something to satisfy these people because I can't defend it." And they understand that. They have added more cameras here as of late. They are doing more things to try to enhance the production. There is -- there does seem at times to be a disconnect between production and programming. ^ case in point when in a delayed telecast, the Portland race, the guy puts on a ticker below one third of the way through the race who wins the Portland someone. I mean, how do I defend that to one of my fans who writes in, "Jesus Christ, here I am watching the race, wondering who is winning, and they tell me a third of the way through." And of course well, their defense is some guy pulled some switch -- well, lack of communication or whatever. There is reaction to it for us. If I were to tell you that I have 100% confidence that that reaction was genuine, I don't know. I can't tell you. I can tell you that I think they have stepped up a bit on the production side, and that is in response to our entreaties. But there is still no question that when arena football is allowed to run into a tape-delayed broadcast, you really wonder what they think. And while maybe this sounds helpless, and maybe it sounds -- not helpless, but maybe it sound -- I mean I guess the best way I can put it is I am as frustrated as anybody else about it and am determined to do something about it as much as I can. And as I said, some of the things you don't see now that we're doing, in some ways are attempts at trying to right some of the wrongs that we see in our television situation. Q. Why did St. Louis get moved from ESPN2 to ESPN2? BOBBY RAHAL: Well, I think in part because, you know, a bad time of the year. ESPN is pretty well committed to football of some sort at that time of the year. Right now, ESPN2 is in damn near the same number of homes as ESPN. And the argument, because I used to make it, is you might as well not be on TV if you're on ESPN2. But the reality is that ESPN is still watched more than ESPN2. But some of it is, again, some of it is scheduling issues, being in the fall, a bad time of the year. Some of it is how important is this product to you, as a network, and when you see some of those things, you really question the value that they place upon us. And that's what, you know, spurs the question that whoever is going to -- spurs the comment that whoever is going to carry it in the future has to be willing to invest in the formula or invest in the show, because just saying we're on TV doesn't do much. Q. I realize for you you've realized a personal dream, and it's great news for Jaguar. I guess I'm one of those nervous nellies that worries about CART down the road. I haven't seen the short list of who is going to replace you, but did you ever consider going on as CEO of CART? BOBBY RAHAL: No, I did not. No, I did not. Team Rahal is, you know, that's been -- that's been the focus. The only reason I volunteered or I stepped into the interim situation is because I needed -- I felt we needed somebody to gather the forces and to, you know, sort of get everybody going in one direction and thinking positively again. I mean, I think that, you know, there are nervous nellies out there, but as I've said to many people, my commitment financially and otherwise next year to the series is probably greater than ever. We could potentially have six more cars than we have today. Right now, I've probably got seven or eight races outside of the ones that are up for renewal anyway, all looking to have a race. Now, this doesn't sound like a formula that's dying. So I think what while there are challenges, there's a lot of strong positives. And I guess that while I never wanted to do this thing as a permanent sense, you know, I do feel that whoever does come in is going to come into a company that has set about trying to solve some of the issues that have really, really kept it from realizing, you know, the future that it can have. We haven't really been much of an organization, and frankly, much of my time has been spent identifying the areas that need to be changed so that we can grow up and be a real company and a real sanctioned organization and not just a club. Q. Speaking of those seven or eight venues, I guess if you're going to have 2002 set up by the end of the year, when do you have to hear from Vancouver with their details? BOBBY RAHAL: Well, Molson is our partner up there, in fact, I saw them yesterday. We are set for 2001. You know, I think there is obviously some discussion, but when you look at the kind of event we had in Vancouver this year from a spectator turnout standpoint, it was quite good. Q. Could you just touch on -- you mentioned earlier, the possible convergence down the road, how do you see that working? BOBBY RAHAL: I don't see a sporting convergence, but I do see a convergence of interests. Somebody spoke earlier about here you have Chip with a relationship of sports, a de facto relationship with Frank Williams; you've got Jerry Forsythe on the board of DAR, you've got Roger Penske on the board, owns part of Ilmor; you've got me with Jaguar. Of course, there's rumors about Barry with BAT. The list goes on and on and on. I don't see any reason why that won't continue to happen, because I think that there's obviously increasingly a sense in Europe by manufacturers and the like that there's talent in CART that is applicable no matter what venue they choose. You know, I have to say that I have one other comment that was made to me earlier today was that really the talent pool in Europe is pretty well tapped out. The good people are all hired and the bad people just kind of go from team to team to team, but the good ones are -- you know, they are there and they are not moving. And so just as CART has looked at Europe and Formula 1 for drivers or mechanics and engineers, I see things coming back and this thing going back and forth in the years to come because there is only X amount of talent out there. Q. Over the last four or five months, you've obviously had to ask an increasingly bigger amount -- well you've put more on the shoulders of Scott. How has he responded over the last four or five months? Did that make your decision with Jaguar easier, and as a part two to that, did you talk about the level of confidence that a move like this says about how you feel about Scott handling your team? BOBBY RAHAL: Well, first off, I think Scott has done a great job. Not just Scott, but I mean there's others that have stepped up to the plate. I would not have entertained this move had I not had confidence that Team Rahal could operate at a high level without my day-to-day presence. Now, I will tell you, it is a long time since I had a day-to-day presence, even prior to this interim role. It has been a long time since I've had a day-to-day presence on the team, because as the president of the company I'm out beating the streets looking for money; I'm out making appearances and speeches and this, that and the other thing. Scott has had a large contribution to the team for many, many years, not just this year, and I think he has responded very well. I think this is an opportunity for him to fully realize his capabilities. I have nothing but the highest confident in his judgment. Additionally, we are looking at strengthening the team in other areas, as well, maybe some assistant management help, and also probably an increase in our engineering depth. But I think for the most part, Scott has earned the right to really get the credit for what is being done. You know, I am still going to be very much involved, but it's going to be at a level that it frankly has been at for the last several years. I'm kind of looking at it from 35,000 feet; Scott is looking at it from 25,000 feet. Larry Ellert, our team manager, is looking at it from 7,500 feet, and the mechanics below that. It is a model that has worked very well, and so I have nothing but confidence that it will continue. Q. I want to go back to years ago with Team Rahal was put together in a conversation that you and I had, and I asked you then, what do you see in, say, ten years or so, where do you think Team Rahal will be. And you kind of laughed and said, gee, see if I'm still around in ten years. I imagine it's almost like a milestone that the team -- you can actually not walk away but go elsewhere while it's still being run. Are you happy with where it is? BOBBY RAHAL: Well, I'd like to see us have more wins, to be sure. We've been close. This year we were in a position to win a number of races. We've won one so far. But we've been in strong position before on multiple -- I think Michigan, I think Rio, I think Chicago, and I think that in Japan we were in a strong position. We've had -- we've had opportunities we haven't cashed in on them. But nevertheless, I'd like to see us realize those opportunities and not just let them go by the wayside. Having said that, I do believe that the team is fully capable of achieving success. I look at this situation as being no different than, you know, somebody -- Roger Penske is in NASCAR and he is also in CART. Chip's in NASCAR now. CART, okay, now they are here, not overseas, but it is still multiple interests. And I just see it as an extension of my interests and I do see this as being a strategic -- strengthening of a strategic relationship with Ford. Q. As someone who has given so much to the CART series in the last ten years, is CART, as you again take this step overseas, where you hoped it would be in ten years if you were to look back? BOBBY RAHAL: Well, ten years ago, I would never have imagined there would be a split, I have to say. I believe that that is somewhat of a negative, although I think if we were smart you don't even talk about it, and extol our own virtues, build our own base and whatever happens, happens.

But I do believe that, yeah, even with that, ten years ago, we never had the -- we didn't have the races like we have now. We didn't have the number of cars in general that we had now. I think certainly the parity, the quality of the racing was nowhere near what it is today. I don't think I could have imagined how good certain aspects of it had become, and I certainly could not have imagined some of the challenges we have, I never would have imagined those taking place. But I do believe that the positives outweigh the negatives. We do have challenges. There's no doubt about it. There are things we've got to fix and fix as fast as we possibly can. But I do think we have some awfully strong positives, one of which may be the most important thing being we have the best racing going. Q. And another question, while you and CART racing, you've been more than a team owner, you've also been involved with the growth and the business end of the entire series, will you give as team manager with Jaguar the same effort there that you gave in CART? BOBBY RAHAL: Well, it's going to be a big job. There's no doubt. Q. I'm talking about Formula 1 series overall. BOBBY RAHAL: No, I don't -- I don't. That's -- that's really Bernie Eccelstone's and Max's production and we are all players in it. I think that when you look at the stakes that I maybe spoke of before, I'm going to have enough on my plate just dealing with Jaguar, and obviously dealing with Team Rahal and to think that it is going to go beyond that would be -- I don't know if it would be ridiculous, but certainly I just don't see that happening at all. Q. And certainly the rumor that Letterman is going to move to Columbus, Ohio and run the whole team --? BOBBY RAHAL: Well, I'd be all for it. T.E. McHALE: Bob, thanks for being with us. Congratulations again on your new position and best of luck in that position and through the rest of the season with us. BOBBY RAHAL: Thank you very much. T.E. McHALE: Thanks to all of you who took the time to be with us today, and good afternoon. We'll talk to you next week.


Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Luciano Burti , Al Unser Jr. , Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Kenny Brack , Derek Bell , Chip Ganassi , Frank Williams , Roger Penske , Robin Miller
Teams Williams