Champ Car World Series Press Conference Transcript with Mi-Jack Conquest Racing co-owner Eric Bachelart and driver Nelson Philippe ERIC MAUK: Thank you, everyone for joining us today on a very special Champ Car media teleconference where we...
Champ Car World Series Press Conference Transcript with Mi-Jack Conquest Racing co-owner Eric Bachelart and driver Nelson Philippe
ERIC MAUK: Thank you, everyone for joining us today on a very special Champ Car media teleconference where we are coming at you live from Sebring, Florida, cloudy, overcast, cold Sebring Florida, which is a sentence you get to say very often. We are here for another exciting driver announcement as we continue to work toward firming up our driver and team lineup for the 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.
We are joined today by the co-owner of Mi-Jack Conquest Racing Mr. Eric Bachelart, and his new driver and I am very pleased to announce that the driver who last year set the Champ Car record for becoming the youngest driver ever to start a Champ Car race when he started at Long Beach at the age of 17; Nelson Philippe is today being announced as one of the drivers for the Mi-Jack Conquest Racing team for 2005.
Nelson and Eric, congratulations, a very big announcement for you today
If I could, Eric, let me ask you, you got to work with Nelson at the end of last year and he put up some of his best results of the year after he came over to Mi-Jack. Tell us a little bit about what you see in Nelson Philippe and how this came about for this year.
ERIC BACHELART: Well, you know thank you very much for and thank you very much for having this conference call.
We basically did the first setting with Nelson, that was more than a year ago, if I remember properly, that was around August or September 2003, and we were -- right away, you know, Nelson showed a very good potential for Champ Car. We did some more testing over the winter between 2003 and 2004, and I believe that Nelson is a very good talent. Obviously, he's still very young, as you just said, Eric, but, you know, I think last year has been a very good learning year and Nelson has been learning very quickly.
And, you know, I think that this year, you know, the team has learned more about the Lola. Nelson learned more about Champ Cars. You know, I'm very pleased that we can keep on working together because we have a very good continuity where we know each other well and I think we've developed some good competency with Nelson and the team, and I think, you know, on top of that, we are still very early in the season, and we're going to start testing tomorrow and build a very strong preparation for the first race in Long Beach.
So we are ambitious and we believe that Nelson will do a good job and, you know, that we can be a very strong contender for the season.
ERIC MAUK: This will be your third year in Champ Car World Series competition, and last year obviously a very strong year for you. You had Justin Wilson in the seat and you got him in the front row in Cleveland, your first front row start in Champ Car, and you also ran a second car for most of the year, as we mentioned, Nelson ran that the tail end of the year, but you guys were right there knocking on the door. You were a podium threat at a number of places last year, and you haven't -- it doesn't look like you sat back and rested on those laurels. You came out this year and added new guys to the team.
Tell us a little bit how preparations are going from a team standpoint.
ERIC BACHELART: Well, basically this year is the first year that we have been able to improve the team over the winter, and so we've been working quite hard on that. As you said, we've hired some new people. We've kept all of the people we had last year, but we've hired Bruce Ashmore as our technical director; that's something that we didn't have last year. And so we have, you know, also looking at some new development parts for the car. Again, we are fairly ambitious, so we are definitely going to bring the bar a bit higher as far as the winter development, aerodynamic, new shock absorber development. So, all of that has been put in place, and so we're in the process of now working through this development.
And, you know, this race is very competitive, there are some very strong teams over there, some very strong drivers. I think this is the beauty of the series is that it's very open and I think that, you know, we have a very good chance to do well and do the same results that we did with Justin last year, so we are looking to do that with Nelson this year.
So Nelson is the first driver we signed, and we are going to put him as a leader this year with our team. We have some pretty high expectations.
ERIC MAUK: We are looking forward to seeing you guys back on the track. Best of luck this year, Mr. Bachelart.
Nelson, 11 starts last year. You come home with four Top-10 finishes, and you took a season-high of ninth in Las Vegas after joining the Mi-Jack Conquest Racing team. Coming back for a sophomore season, tell us a little bit about how you feel getting ready for 2005.
NELSON PHILIPPE: First of all, hello, everybody. I feel very good. It feels kind of weird, I came to the racetrack this morning and I was saying to myself, "I'm an 18-year-old veteran," and it's just kind of weird to say. But I'm really looking for a strong, strong season this year. I know that I can improve in so many -- so many aspects of my driving and the whole preparation. And like Eric said, we've really had some good complexity and we've been working hard together for a long time, and the technical aspect of the team and everything that goes around being successful in Champ Car is really what we're working on right now.
You know, we're looking for a very strong year.
ERIC MAUK: A lot of people might not know this, but you were one of the few drivers we've ever had in my three seasons of Champ Car that in the off-season called Champ Car offices looking for some help for some marketing and sponsorship proposals that you were putting together. You put these together pretty much on your own and just needed a couple of things from us, but it showed in the off-season you were working and beating the bushes and trying to find that sponsorship and a lot of guys -- a lot of guys might take that off-season off and do some training and not really think about it, but you were out there kicking the cage and trying to come up with that sponsorship.
How tough is it at 18 to juggle getting ready to drive a race car, and going out and finding sponsorship to allow you to drive that race car?
NELSON PHILIPPE: Well, actually, you know, it's not tough and being 18 is nothing. It's my job and I love doing it, so every aspect of it, I like to. And like you said, I worked hard with my whole team this off-season to try to get as many sponsors as possible, and I think we've had some very good contacts and we have some very -- I think we'll have some good news announced in a little while.
Referring to the way how I deal with things about racing, just keeping my head up and, you know, not taking too much -- how do you say -- not putting too much pressure on myself, putting just the right amount and just looking forward to kicking some butt.
ERIC MAUK: We'll see you out here in the race car at Sebring here, like Eric said, tomorrow morning you'll be out there.
Tell us a little bit, you made 11 starts last year and you came in basically cold in the Champ Cars, what did you take out of that first year; what's most important thing you learned from that first year last year?
NELSON PHILIPPE: I think that last year was a very tough year. I think I probably had maybe one of the toughest years of all the drivers because I had to switch teams. And jumping into the series with big, big cars, you know, coming where I'm from, it's a big jump, and it's something that I was ready for and I wanted to do.
ERIC MAUK: That's quite all right. That'll happen from time to time. Happens to the best of us. Wait till you get older. Let's kick it over to the media now. (Laughing.)
NELSON PHILIPPE: Don't say until I get older.
Q: Last year, you didn't get to race in Toronto because that's when you had your situation, let's put it that way, with Rocketsports. My first question would be: Can you tell us a year later or half a year later what happened here in Toronto? We never really got an answer because you were gone by the time most of the media got down to your pits and whatnot.
NELSON PHILIPPE: Well, I don't really want to answer any questions from last year. This is 2005 and I'm really looking forward to a great season this year. What happened with Rocketsports happened, and that's it. There's nothing to say there.
Q: Let me ask a follow-up question. Looking at your record from last year, I notice in nine of your 11 starts, you improved over your start position, you finished higher than you started. Is qualifying higher this year one of your goals, and was that a problem you had last year?
NELSON PHILIPPE: I don't think it was a problem. It was just the team and I, we were struggling sometimes to get the most out of the car and I think it's from my inexperience. But this year I raised the bar a lot, and I really aim to qualify much better than I did last year.
Q: What do you have to learn about qualifying, if you could expand on that question?
NELSON PHILIPPE: Well, you know, just the main thing is how to use 100% of the car in a little amount of time.
ERIC BACHELART: One thing, working with Nelson last year, keep in mind, also, that when you are a rookie and Nelson was learning the racetrack, as well, and I can say that sometimes he had a reasonable and careful approach when, you know, he was facing a new track.
The nice thing when you're in the rookie season, you're always a bit of a disadvantage with some veterans that have been there for many years, so you know you have to find out the characteristic of the racetrack and that's been most of the time, you know, from the first time that Nelson was on the track to the last lap of the race, you know, he has been improving quite a bit through the whole weekend.
And I felt that he's been more than once very strong in some race this year. Australia was a very good example and he was really strong, you know, in the race. The first day he had to find out, you know, again, the tricks in the racetrack and make a good improvement the second day, and comes the race, start, you know, quite strong in the race; just in addition to what he said.
Continued in part 2