CHAMPCAR/CART: CART/Cosworth Racing press conference, part I

CART/Cosworth Press Conference June 16, 2002 An Interview With: Chris Pook Ian Bisco Jimmy Vasser Keith Wiggins Emerson Fittipaldi Part 1 of 2: Engine, support announcements Adam Saal: Thank you very much for joining us, everybody. We...

CART/Cosworth Press Conference
June 16, 2002

An Interview With:
Chris Pook
Ian Bisco
Jimmy Vasser
Keith Wiggins
Emerson Fittipaldi

Part 1 of 2: Engine, support announcements

Adam Saal: Thank you very much for joining us, everybody. We want to apologize, we had to be a little bit not vague but uncertain as to exactly when we were going to do this announcement, but we had to get the necessary arrangements together to do so. We were hoping Gerry Forsythe could join us, and he still might. Our owners are represented by another one of our fine owners in the FedEx Championship Series. We're delighted to have Keith Wiggins with us.

To start the full introductions, we have Team Rahal Shell driver and a Ford-Cosworth driver, Jimmy Vasser. Keith Wiggins, who is an owner and manager of Herdez Motorsports. Ian Bisco from Cosworth Racing. Chris Pook, CART president. And then no stranger to of any of us, a world champion, a CART champion, and a two-time Indy 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi. I think it would be appropriate for Chris and Ian to actually make today's announcement. We'll start with Chris, and Ian can back it up. Then we can go to Jimmy because he's kind enough to join us.

Chris, please tell everybody why we got together today.

Chris Pook: Well, good morning. Thanks for coming this morning. As you know, there's been a lot of speculation about where we're going with our engine program. I will get into it in a little more depth as we move forward in this discussion with you this morning. But we are today going to balance the company out, stabilize the company, and going back to join one of CART's old, old friends in the supply business, and that's Cosworth. And we will stay with the turbo-charged engine for the next two years on an exclusive basis with Cosworth, and lower the costs of racing in this series, and remove any barriers to entry into this series by using that engine for all of our competitors.

Ian?

Ian Bisco: Obviously, we're very pleased about this. This is obviously great news for Cosworth. I personally have been involved with Cosworth since 1980, in the days when we had the DFX engine, and it was pretty much the exclusive engine for somewhere around about 10 years. I think a lot of our current teams today grew with that engine. The CART series grew with that engine. We're probably one of the only manufacturers, engine suppliers out there that actually has supplied engines to CART every year since the beginning.

So I think it's really positive that we can put this together and look forward to the two-year agreement that we have in supplying a version of the engine that we're currently running to all of the existing competitors. Hopefully we think we will bring in new competitors now, as well.

I think the price has been made really attractive so that we look forward to going in the series. We look forward to providing our competitors with equal performance power plants, reliable power plants. We think that we can provide a product that basically will give CART the ability not to worry about the engine program and the engines, and concentrate on all the other aspects of the series. So I think this is a win-win situation for everybody.

Adam Saal: In addition to today's engine announcement and CART's partnership with Cosworth, we are also launching an equally important component, what we are calling ESP, the Entrant Support Program. We'll get into detail on that. I'll ask Chris to speak to that immediately. But essentially it offers the equivalent of $1.5 million worth of value for participating teams that commit to run in the series.

It's an assistance program that we believe again will get CART on the right path. There's a press release being passed out about that.

Chris, some of the thoughts about a program like this, why we thought it was necessary.

Chris Pook: Well, what's happened here in this series over the last three to five years is that there's been a lot of money put into the series, and the price of the cost of racing has escalated to a level that is really very high. And we need to bring back under control the cost of automobile racing in this series, but we need to maintain the level of competition and sophistication that the series has enjoyed.

So by entering into this engine relationship and supplying a support package for entrants, we can achieve both goals, and we can create stability for our series.

Adam Saal: Again, like I mentioned, Jimmy is going to do his day job later on. He's in his first year of racing with Cosworth in recent years, although he's driven Cosworth-powered cars before and came really close to winning this race in a Cosworth-powered car in 1995. We're not going to talk about that too much.

Jimmy, obviously anything that's good for the sport is good for drivers. Talk a little bit about how this injection of health, if you will, just makes for a better atmosphere.

Jimmy Vasser: Well, with a program like this, teams can prepare for next season, new teams are going to enter into the series and we're reducing the costs, creating a platform where you don't have to jockey for positioning with the engines. It's going to make it a lot more clear picture for the future.

I know there's some friends of mine, some drivers, that are out wearing out their tennis shoes this weekend looking for opportunities. I think under the current situation, opportunities have been going away. So this is a very refreshing new approach and outlook. And I think that the car count is going to rise next year tremendously. This is the kind of stability that CART needs to go through this rocky time and to grow for the future.

Adam Saal: Jimmy, your Team Rahal Shell Ford-Cosworth Lola will basically be the package, with minor tweaking, that drivers will use next year. Talk about that race car in particular. Do you feel a car like that can certainly serve as the backbone of this series adequately for the next two seasons?

Jimmy Vasser: Absolutely. I feel a car like that should win the championship this year, so (laughter). That's my goal. It's a fantastic package, and I think Cosworth has shown to have top power in the series over the last four, five years for sure.

I think with the one-make supplier, with Cosworth doing all the engines, it will be a lot easier for CART to control potential speed problems at certain tracks and make it the same for everybody. And the politics of juggling the interests of all the engine makers, at least for the time being, will be one less headache for the administrators in CART. Although I think over time, with the series stabilizing again, that manufacturers are certainly going to want to come back in.

Adam Saal: Do I have any questions for Jimmy? We want to thank him for joining us.

Q Does it matter to the drivers whether you have turbo power or normally aspirated?

Jimmy Vasser: I love the turbo engines. I think they've been one of the cornerstones of CART since its inception. It's the sound, it's the power application, it's a great part of our formula. I'm personally pleased to see it stay and I think the drivers will echo that sentiment.

Again, I think the main reason for CART and Chris to make this decision is for stability, not so much for the love of the turbo.

Adam Saal: Jimmy, thank you very much. We want to see you back in this room in about four hours from now for a post-race interview.

Jimmy Vasser: Thank you.

Adam Saal: Thank you.

Another driver with us today, he's not here to announce that he is going to participate as a team owner in CART, although we've certainly made it more attractive to him if he chooses to do that, although Emerson Fittipaldi can definitely speak to a solid foundation that the Cosworth power plant can bring. He probably raced the majority of races in his career with Cosworth power, not to mention winning several world championships.

Emerson, thank you for joining us. You traveled across country to be here. We do very much appreciate it. Please, share with us your thoughts on where you see the benefits of this new program.

Emerson Fittipaldi: Well, first, I would like to say good morning to everybody. I'm going to announce my comeback to driving with the new Cosworth (laughter).

Anyway, many people might not know the reason why I am here, but when I came to CART in '95, Chris Pook was doing all my management and establishing my contacts. He was my business manager in America. I had fantastic relationship for seven, eight years with Chris. And I'm one hundred percent behind Chris. He's the man to do the job.

CART needs someone strong like Chris Pook to carry on. It's a tough time worldwide, not just for CART. I was in Monaco a few weeks ago for the Monaco Grand Prix. As you know, they have a budget problem in Formula 1. After talking to the midsized teams and to the smaller teams, I found that they are really struggling.

As you know, the world has changed after September 11th, and we are facing a lot of difficulties in TV rights in sports worldwide. World Cup soccer in Brazil has been very difficult to sell on TV because of lack of sponsorship.

And I think the new package, the new way that CART is going to go now, back to the Cosworth engine is very positive. My experience with Cosworth, going back to the Formula 1, and then on the '80s as a driver, was the most balanced racing that I ever experience. And that's going to happen the next two years here.

We are going to have the best quality of racing. The racing fans are going to enjoy CART more because the cars will be more even. The drivers' talent is going to make the whole difference. I think it will be a great show.

We have the fastest car in the world. We have the best category. I'm here to support Chris and to support CART. And let me welcome Cosworth again to continue to support motor racing and give us opportunity to be the most competitive formula in the world. Thank you very much.

Adam Saal: Thank you very much, Emerson. To represent us on the owner's side, again we have Keith Wiggins with us who runs the Herdez operation. Who currently run Ford-Cosworth power. I believe this is going to be a benefit for the team, not only the ESP program, but also the fact that we're bringing in affordable yet high tech engine.

Keith, talk a little bit about how welcome this news has been for you and your operation.

Keith Wiggins: Well, first of all, from a completely selfish point of view, obviously, having the Cosworth and the Lola, which most people are running, seems great to us because we want to expand to a two-car team. We all know that budgets are difficult to achieve. From a selfish standpoint, it's very good because we can just expand. We already have what we need to run.

But I think more importantly, the longer term is what's right for CART. Because what's right for CART will help us develop, as well. And I think we have an ability now for various reasons to have our own identity and follow our own direction. I want to repeat what Emerson just said, that Chris is the right guy to do the job. We made a decision where CART is the best series. We do have the best venues and the best racing. And to maybe go down a path of trying to go to be calling with other people is a mistake. Now we're going to go in our own direction and develop.

We could have easily gotten into a situation I think where we would have ended up with something not right for where we are in terms of technology. Now we've got the right time to plan. We've got two years to decide what are the right cars and the right engines to attract the right manufacturers for where we should be in the market, which is high tech.

It's a more sexy car. I think this will give us time to plan. And Chris has had the guts to say, "Let's get this sorted out. This is where we want to go." So I think it's great for the series. I think it's great what we're going to have.

Selfishly, the incentives they're giving the teams, whether it be a small or a big team, for us obviously it's a great relief not to have to pay a large amount of money for engines. Some teams are going to have to pay money where they've had free engines in the past. But now they've made it such a platform that for the big teams, the money isn't going to be a huge expense. For us, it will save us significant. It's no secret, but it's going to save us in order of $3 million. So we're already well towards our second car.

If we have the cars in the series, it becomes a healthy series. In Formula 3000 in Europe, virtually everybody runs the same cars, but the good guys still are at the front and there's still two seconds between the front and the back. And I don't think most people would notice if we all have the same engine or not. So I think the fans will have what they want. We'll still have good quality technical equipment, but we all go racing. Once the grid is healthy and we have 18 to 20 good drivers, then we can move forward in the right direction.

In turn, that will obviously make our sponsors happy and bring more money into the sport.

Adam Saal: Thank you very much, Keith.

As I mentioned, Gerry Forsythe wanted to join us this morning. He is traveling here. He will be in attendance today. We'll make sure we get a quote speaking to this. He did arrive on time. No doubt Gerry has been a proponent of this program on the record for quite some time. I'm sure he will be pleased with this development.

We are on a tight time schedule. We'll open it up for questions right now.

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CART/Cosworth press conferencePart II

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Emerson Fittipaldi , Chris Pook