CHAMPCAR/CART: Lopes, Dykstra press conference, part II

An interview with John Lopes and Lee Dykstra September 24, 2002 Part 2 of 2 Q: I know that Cosworth, one of their goals is to have additional life out of their engines and they have got some pretty optimistic targets of 800 or 1,200 miles...

An interview with John Lopes and Lee Dykstra
September 24, 2002

Part 2 of 2

Q: I know that Cosworth, one of their goals is to have additional life out of their engines and they have got some pretty optimistic targets of 800 or 1,200 miles between rebuilds. Is there going to be any type of a one-engine rule implemented like they have in NASCAR and what they are going to move to in Formula 1?

Lee Dykstra: We don't have to have it essentially because our typical mileage for weekend is about 500 miles. So essentially we have a two and a half race weekend life out of the engine. So at one point in time we had this, you know, you had to run the engine essentially a race weekend and we have essentially rescinded that because of the 800 to 1,200 miles on the Cosworth now.

Q: Could you possibly address this? I have read reports that you are hoping to use some of the CART Toyota Atlantic drivers to do the durability testing. Is that still true and when would you hope to begin that program?

Lee Dykstra: That program should begin sometime after the last race. We're looking to run 1,200 miles in each chassis, a Reynard, and/or a Lola, and run 400 miles on an oval, 400 miles on a road course, and 400 miles on a street course in each chassis.

Because we don't want to give a team an advantage, certainly we would run this as a tire test and certainly it would be a good place to run an Atlantic driver to get him some miles in a Champ Car.

Q: Question for John, this season we have seen it, I think at least two races, I think certainly the Mexico race where in the closing laps of the race there was a caution flag came out and a lapped car definitely figured in the final results of the race. I am wondering if next year any consideration to, let's say, with less than 10 laps to go that lap cars are forced to go back into their position so that they don't end up getting in the middle of a race or a finish?

John Lopes: Absolutely. We have talked about implementing - and I think you will see this where the Chief Steward has the ability to move a car over for a restart.

I don't think it's a great secret that what you have seen happen in a couple of the races this year is manufacturer cars getting in the way of another manufacturer's position toward the end of a race. We all know that happens. I think we basically have to take - of course, next year we won't have a problem with that situation. But this year some of the teams are under a tremendous amount of pressure to follow the orders of their manufacturer. And long-term, CART has to have or should have the ability, and the steward currently doesn't, to just move cars over into a separate line - somewhat in the way that NASCAR does or at least have the discretion to do it if it is safe to do.

So it's something we're looking at, yes.

Q: Another question, is there any thought at all to once again trying to come up with the minimum weight including the driver for next season? I know you were planning to do that this year. It didn't happen. Is this something that's still on the agenda?

Lee Dykstra: That will be implemented next year, yes, at the start of season. What we'll do sometime during this is weigh all the drivers, get an average driver weight, then adjust the minimum weight of the cars relative to the variance from that average.

Q: I needed clarification, I had static in the beginning when Lee was talking about what will be the alternative to drivers, was that five engine maps that would be available?

Lee Dykstra: Five engine torque maps so we have that on a switch.

Q: Have you guys given any further thought to standing starts or is that a dead issue at this time?

John Lopes: There is a significant discussion right now going on for the potential of standing starts being reintroduced on a limited basis in the Atlantic Series. That's not to say it's going to happen, but we are looking at it both from the entertainment standpoint of its value, and from the safety standpoint.

One thing we're concerned is, you know, we're doing some extensive R&D going into next year from the safety standpoint. In fact we had a meeting yesterday with Lee Dykstra, and [CART Chief Orthopedic Consultant] Dr. Terry Trammell and myself about launching, cars actually getting airborne. We've learned some new things about launching over time. Lee, I don't know if you want to discuss that right now, but we're currently conducting a study and it's something, particularly with standing starts, that poses a problem. So we're weighing the safety issues against the entertainment value, and it is something that I think it's safe to say that there's a lot of support on the Atlantic side. On the Champ Car side, I would not look for standing starts in 2003.

Q: Do you know if Cosworth - whether or not they are going to lower rpm, higher boosts next year or are they going to keep the same boost levels that they have today?

Lee Dykstra: The boost levels will be about 41 and a half inches for the road course and 39 for the oval.

Q: Any indication of horsepower range?

Lee Dykstra: We're looking at 750 for the road course and 700 for an oval.

Q: This year for Fontana, are you still looking at 18 cars or might we see more than 18 cars at Fontana given it is a 500 miler with high attrition historically?

John Lopes: We're reasonably confident that just, for example, the way Dale Coyne was car #19 in Rockingham. We're reasonably confident that you will see some additional cars at the end of the season. How many, there's no way I can really predict. Just today I've received phone calls from perspective entrants for both Fontana and Mexico.

Q: I guess you won't be announcing the teams for next year. Are teams going to announce it next year or is CART going to come out with a list of approved teams for next year at some point?

John Lopes: There's really no such thing as "approved teams" other than those teams which will participate in the ESP program. At some point we will announce the ESP participants in whole; which we're not going to do at this time because the picture is not complete.

As many of you know, historically, car count is something that's not completely determined until typically January when everyone's deals are put together. There's an awful lot of activity going on right now. There will be a minimum of 18 cars on the grid next year. But in terms of announcements, I think you will just see a combination of teams making their own announcements when their sponsor and driver deals are put together and CART making an overall announcement as to who is participating in the ESP program when that's appropriate.

Q: On the five engine maps, are they going to be a standard map for road courses and ovals or will those maps vary week-to-week depending on the course?

Lee Dykstra: I think that they will be fixed essentially to - so once we hard code these things into the ECU essentially they will stay. Cosworth will be doing transient dyno work; plus some of this as far as the 1,200 mile test to determine exactly the composition of the map and such. But once it's in, it's fixed.

Q: If I understand correctly, the driver will have a switch where he can change the map during the course of the race?

John Lopes: Yes.

Lee Dykstra: Yes.

Q: The intention, I gather is with the elimination of the fuel control switch to give the same type of performance enhancement for short periods of time or without disturbing the fuel mileage; is that the idea?

Lee Dykstra: It's a relative aggressiveness of the engine. So essentially you have something very aggressive that conceivably on a low speed turn that you might have wheel spin out of the turn in position 5, but might not have it in position 1.

Q: Allow this to be switched from the steering wheel?

Lee Dykstra: Yes.

Q: I sense you will have a gear shift in one hand and a mapping switch in the other?

Lee Dykstra: Essentially they've had this all along. All the manufacturers have like a torque control in. The thing is what we're doing by hard-coding this thing is we're eliminating the ability of a Cosworth engineer to make this work specifically for a driver in a turn - in other words, a form of traction control in a certain gear.

Merrill Cain: John, I'd just like to ask you a final question. Cost containment's obviously been a big issue in CART. You touched on the ESP program a little bit. Can you talk about some of the measures that CART has done to ensure that cost containment is there for the series next year and the relationship with Cosworth, the ability to provide on-site service for the engine support and ESP program and talk about how the teams have responded to that.

John Lopes: I think to give you a broad brush of some of the things we have done, of course, grandfathering the chassis was significant so that they don't have to buy new cars. The aero-freeze which has been discussed at some length is basically restricted development. We've also limited testing for next year which I think is going to cut an awful lot of the team's budgets in the final analysis. Also packaging of the engine program is something that's going to drive their engine costs down from what they were previously anticipating.

Another thing we're doing is we're basically taking a day off the road for all of them with the implementation of the new buckeye system in [CART Senior Manager of Technology] Steve Dixon's program, we will now begin teching the cars at approximately 1 p.m. in the afternoon on Thursdays which basically takes an entire day off the road. They [team members] can actually come in Thursday morning, get off the plane, get to the track, unload their cars, and get through tech. So we basically take away a Wednesday night travel date. So if you just take a look at that, if there's 20 races, 20 Wednesday nights, and you look at 20 room nights times how many crew members times 25, it starts to add up in terms of the money the teams can save.

In aggregate we have driven the costs down to a significant degree for our existing teams. But also for new teams, we have removed the barriers to entry. And we're working very hard at bringing new teams in, but we're also working very hard at ensuring that our current teams are running multiple cars next year to create, in essence, an economy of scale where they can take their savings, apply it to a second car, take two payments from the ESP program, apply it to a second car, add on some sponsorship and sometimes there's drivers with cash looking for rides, so that's part of the business no matter what level of racing you are in. So when you add it altogether we're trying to create a situation where these savings will add up to additional cars on track.

We think ultimately it's going to pay-off; at least the type of activity that's going on right now, we think it will help us to get to that 18 car count plus number.

Merrill Cain: If there are no further questions we'd like to thank both John Lopes and Lee Dykstra.

Just a reminder, CART's next event will be held in the streets of Miami with Round 16 of the CART FedEx Championship Series, the Grand Prix Americas held the weekend of October 4th through the 6th.

Thanks to all who participated in today's phone call. Have a very pleasant afternoon.


Lopes, Dykstra press conference, part I

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Dale Coyne