Champ Car World Series Press Conference Transcript with Mi-Jack Conquest Racing's Eric Bachelart and Andrew Ranger ERIC MAUK: Good afternoon. Welcome to another exciting Champ Car media teleconference where we have another driver announcement...
Champ Car World Series Press Conference Transcript with Mi-Jack Conquest Racing's Eric Bachelart and Andrew Ranger
ERIC MAUK: Good afternoon. Welcome to another exciting Champ Car media teleconference where we have another driver announcement as we continue to firm up the driver lineup for the 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, which kicks off the season April 8 through the 10th at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Today we are joined by Eric Bachelart, one of the co-owners of Mi-Jack Conquest racing, and his newest driver. It is my pleasure to announce that today Andrew Ranger has joined the Champ Car ranks as a driver. He will be piloting the #27 Mi-Jack Conquest Ford/Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone. He will also have backing from Procter & Gamble, which will feature their Tide brand on the car in the three Canadian races, and he also brings sponsorship from Kodak.
Andrew Ranger and Nelson Philippe will be the two drivers for the Mi-Jack Conquest team in 2005, marking the first time ever that a team has had two drivers under the age of 20 on their Champ Car team.
First of all, Eric Bachelart, congratulations. This is a very exciting day for you. You have yourself a very talented driver there.
ERIC BACHELART: Yes, thank you very much, Eric. Hello, everybody. We're very pleased to announce the collaboration with Andrew for the 2005 season. We've been talking for quite a while together. Finally we ended up doing a test in Fontana about two weeks ago. The test proved to be very successful. We've been very impressed with Andrew's approach and maturity and speed. We feel he's very talented. We feel that he's going to be a very good addition to our team. He's young, but again, he has a very natural talent. We are really looking forward to working together for this season. So, as you said, Eric, he will join Nelson Philippe, and it's going to be a very young driver's lineup. Again, I'm very much looking forward to working with these two young drivers. They have one thing in common: they are both talented. This is quite exciting. The way we look at it, it will hopefully be the future stars of Champ Car. We're going to try everything we can to make that happen. We'll support them 110% and be very committed to achieve very good results.
ERIC MAUK: Eric, you're no stranger to working with young drivers. You worked with Mario Haberfeld back in 2003. Last year you worked with Justin Wilson, and worked with Nelson at the end of the year, but the whole year with Justin Wilson in his first year in the series. What is it about working with younger drivers that you like?
ERIC BACHELART: Well, when you work with young drivers, you can fight with the most established drivers and the day you can beat them, it's a very big satisfaction. Working with Andrew and Nelson, I can interact with them quite a bit. When we were at the test at Fontana the other day, I was talking with Andrew. He listens. He puts into application what we ask him to do. This is quite enjoyable. I really like that part of the business.
Again, that's what we've been doing so far, you know, working most of the time with young drivers, as you said. Again, I feel quite good. And also what I feel as a team, we've been working really hard over the winter and developed our structure, having more engineers on board, having Bruce Ashmore joining us as a technical director. We've also hired a new engineer that's going to work with Andrew, his name is Dave Faustino. Dave Faustino worked with Andrew last year in Formula Atlantic. It's going to help us communicate in an efficient way with Andrew right away.
Again, we're trying to do everything we can to be as efficient as possible. You know, we have a test coming up in Sebring. We're going to have two days of hard work in order to get ready for Long Beach and then we'll build the season from there. Another thing that is quite exciting, of course, is the new collaboration that we have with Procter & Gamble and Tide and Kodak. This is two great companies to be partner with. These two companies will join Mi-Jack. We've been working together for 13 years now. This is a long, good relationship.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. We're very excited not only with Andrew coming on board, but also like you mentioned, Kodak and Procter & Gamble with their Tide brand coming on board, as well.
Andrew, you come to Champ Cars after you tested a couple times. We were very impressed when we saw you at Fontana a couple weeks ago. You are moved up to Champ Car only one year ago after winning the Toyota Atlantic Rookie-of-the-Year in 2004. Tell us how you're feeling.
ANDREW RANGER: Pretty good. I'm pretty excited for this year. I think it's going to be a good year. I signed with Mi-Jack Conquest Tide. I think it is going to be very fun. I worked with Dave Faustino who was my engineer last year. I think it's going to be a very, very interesting season.
ERIC MAUK: You have a little bit of knowledge of the Long Beach circuit. You finished second there in your very first Atlantic start a year ago. Tell us a little bit about what you expect from the Long Beach course this year.
ANDREW RANGER: For sure, at Long Beach last year I was pretty comfortable with that track. I like that track. Last year I needed to learn the track because it was a new to me. But now to start with the track I know, I think it's going to be pretty good because I like that track. It's a good ambience there. It's pretty fun to race there. I finished second there last year. I want to do the same thing this year.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Best of luck this year. We're very excited to have you on board and looking forward to some big things from you this year.
ANDREW RANGER: Thank you.
ERIC MAUK: We'll turn it over to the media for questions at this point.
Q</I>: Andrew, obviously you've come up very quickly. You're still a young teenager. There's a lot of questions about can you handle the pressure, that aspect of things. How do you look at things as a young man moving in as a rookie? What is the great challenge for you this year? How do you look at the pressure, having to perform as such a young man?
ANDREW RANGER: Sure, I have a lot of pressure. You know, it's pretty good. I like that pressure because last year was my first season in Atlantic. Now it's going to be my first season in Champ Car. I like that pressure.
I need to push a lot. I need to work hard with the team because it's going to be the new team for me. I have the same engineer. I have Bruce Ashmore, too, a very good engineer. I think is going to be a good year.
Q</I>: Andrew Ranger, this is phenomenal. We interviewed you back when you had a very short stint in dirt modifieds, then you got up into Toyota Atlantics. The very first time we interviewed you on the show; this is what you wanted to do, get a full-time ride in Champ Car. You have to be so excited about it.
ANDREW RANGER: I raced in dirt modified, was pretty fun, in Syracuse. I race last year in Toyota Atlantics, this year in Champ Car. It's a good dream. It's pretty fun to sign with Mi-Jack Conquest. I think it's going to be a very good year. I know it's going to be tough. I'm young. My teammate is young, too. It's going to be hard to be on the podium. But I think it's going to be a very good season because I like to work hard in the car. I have a very good engineer.
Q</I>: The other bonus, too, is we're back up to three Canadian drivers. With the three races in Canada, you've especially got to be looking forward to going into Montreal, because like any other sport, that's home turf for you, the three Canadian races. Again, it's all come together for you, hasn't it?
ANDREW RANGER: It's fun to race in the Canadian races. You know, Montreal is my hometown. Toronto, it's like my hometown because it's so fun to be there. My family comes see me and my friends. The fans are great, too. It's pretty fun to race in the Canadian races. You have pressure on you as a driving because it's your hometown, but I like to race in Montreal and Toronto.
ERIC MAUK: A little more background on Andrew. His first year in the Toyota Atlantic Championship was last year. He earned six podium finishes in the year's 12 stars, earned the series Rookie-of-the-Year award. Started on the front row in Portland and in Cleveland, and finished second in Long Beach, as we said before, and also at the Molson Indy Toronto.
Q</I>: Andrew, this will be the third year in a row I think that a Toyota Atlantic driver moves up under fairly high-profile circumstances into Champ Car. Two years ago it was Ryan Hunter-Reay. He, of course, won a race at Surfers Paradise his first season. Last year, AJ Allmendinger didn't win a race, but he certainly was very competitive and was Rookie-of-the-Year. I guess on the one hand sort of big shoes to fill, impressive records to follow, but at the same time it shows that guys can make that jump after only one year in Atlantic. Just wondered how you look at that.
ANDREW RANGER: The difference between the Champ Car and Toyota Atlantic car is the engine. There is more horsepower in the Champ Car. Both cars are pretty similar in terms of driving and braking. It's for that reason which makes the jump in Champ Car more easily for us coming up through the Toyota Atlantic Series because it's basically the same driving experience. I think for this year, I have a good pressure, a lot of pressure. But I want to go to Long Beach and see how things go. I think it's going to be a good year.
Q</I>: Eric, maybe looking at this from a slightly different angle, now that Nelson Philippe is the aging veteran on the team, having a full season of Champ Car under his belt, how do you see that as influencing Nelson, sort of helping him in some ways kind of mature as the veteran on the team this year?
ERIC BACHELART: Well, I think these two guys are both talented. They know each other from the early days in go-karting. As far as I know, this is for both their third season in open-wheel racing. For Nelson, second year in Champ Cars; the first one for Andrew.
We're going to work together. Two teams under the same roof. We're doing our briefing and debriefing all together. I think we will work well as a team. Themselves, I expect them to work very well together, to develop the car, to try all the new development parts that we're going to do. I think as a team, we have done quite a lot of progress over the winter.
When they come on the track, I mean, they're going to have to challenge each other and fight with everybody else on the racetrack. I'm really looking forward to work with them. I think they are both two young men with good talents, and we all speak French, so what else can we ask for?
Seriously, I think it's good. Again, I want to look at them as the future of Champ Car, and I feel very strongly they have the talent to do that. This is our third year in Champ Cars, and we definitely have more data now. All teams are starting to get pretty experienced in Champ Cars. That's going to help, as well. It's less critical to have young drivers now than it was two years ago. I feel good. The most important thing is the talent and we have that.
Q</I>: Andrew, I look forward to seeing you in a Champ Car. Can you talk about how your test has gone and how comfortable you are at this point, how much time you've had in the car so far?
ANDREW RANGER: I have not done a lot of testing. I tested with Mi-Jack in California. My first day was pretty good. I was a little bit nervous. But I wanted to show Eric what I can do. I worked hard the first day, the second day, too. I ran a pretty good time. I was pretty close with Cristiano da Matta, Tracy, and everybody there. I think for the season, it's going to be very good with Nelson Philippe. It's a pretty fun guy. He works hard with the car, too.
Q</I>: Eric, the most important question, now that you have two French drivers, will we have French food in the hospitality area of your team this year?
ERIC BACHELART: Yes, I think that's an excellent suggestion. The only thing I'm going to have to deal with my partner, he's not very keen on the French food. But maybe we get hamburgers on Friday. I don't know, what do you like? Give me suggestions, and we'll make it up (laughter).
Continued in part 2