An interview with Chris Pook, Derrick Walker and Roberto Gonzalez. part 1 of 2. Adam Saal: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for what seems to be our hourly press conference. We've had a very good weekend as far as news for...
An interview with Chris Pook, Derrick Walker and Roberto Gonzalez.
part 1 of 2.
Adam Saal: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for what seems to be our hourly press conference. We've had a very good weekend as far as news for the 2003 Champ Car Series presented by Bridgestone, yet another one today. This one came together I think over the course of the last couple of weeks. One good dinner last night may have pushed it over the top. You even saw this young man drive one of Derrick Walker's race cars this afternoon.
At this point I'll turn it over to Derrick Walker, one of our most valued team members in Championship Auto Racing Teams. Also joining us is Chris Pook, CART President and CEO, as well as Roberto Gonzalez, from Monterrey, Mexico.
Derrick, was that a glimpse of things to come earlier with Roberto?
Derrick Walker: First of all, let me thank everybody for coming here today. We're here to announce part of our program for 2003. We're going to be running with Roberto Gonzalez a full season in CART. We're very pleased to obviously announce this here in Mexico because of the importance to this region and the significance of having Roberto in the series.
I'm sure we'll have lots of questions. I'll answer with as much time as we've got. We're very pleased to be here and announce it here in Mexico, and also to put another commitment to dispel the rumors that CART is going out of business. Here is another team committed here this weekend. We're very pleased to announce it here.
Adam Saal: Derrick, thank you. Certainly no finer team to join us than Walker Racing to continue on as a race winner and championship runner-up in the past. We're delighted to have you continue. It will be a great season in 2003.
At this point we'll turn it over to Roberto.
Roberto, a big day for you. You drive a Champ Car here in your home country, you follow that a couple hours later that you'll be in the full campaign in 2003. How do you feel right now? Share with us your emotions, both in English and Spanish, if you would.
Roberto Gonzalez: It's been a great day for me. It's been a dream come true. We've worked so hard for this moment. It's been going great since we first met with Walker, Mr. Walker has been really good to talk with. I really felt comfortable with Walker. I'm very happy being with Mr. Walker. He has done a great job during the last years - you all know that. I feel great to be part of CART.
Adam Saal: Thank you, Roberto. Great to have you here.
Chris, again we needed to end this series on a high note. Not quite over for us. We have a banquet Friday and meetings on Thursday in Miami. As far as the off-track announcements go, how do you feel about this one as well as what we've been able to accomplish this weekend?
Chris Pook: Obviously, I'm absolutely delighted about this. Derrick is a very, very good friend, a good supporter. To be able to see him get a young driver of the talent that he has here is excellent.
This is probably what you saw today, ladies and gentlemen, the fastest rookie test that CART has ever conducted. He got the car off the line very well. He put his laps in. He was welcomed by the crowd.
Again, it just goes to reinforce where we're going with our NAFTA marketing initiative. Another young, talented, articulate driver coming to our series that will push the button very hard. He's going to be part of one of our most excellent teams. We're delighted and we congratulate Derrick on this move. We know that this young man, who has been racing in Europe, is very talented, is going to do extremely well. You're going to be very pleasantly surprised by the ability of this young driver.
Congratulations to both of you. Thank you very much.
Adam Saal: Question for Derrick before we open it up. Derrick, we're all about repositioning, maybe even some rebranding at Championship Auto Racing Teams. Without spilling the beans, tell us about the hat that your new driver is wearing there.
Derrick Walker: First of all, it's in the contract, he has to wear it night and day (laughter). We got off to the right start. He's wearing it here today.
No, it's a logo change for us. It's one thing we've been playing around with, trying to turn over a new page in our history. As you can see, today's announcement heads down that way. Roberto, as instructed, is wearing the hat.
Adam Saal: It's looks very nice from here. We'll have a special prize for the first media member who can connive one out of Derrick.
We'll open it up for questions, please.
Q: Derrick, is there a sponsorship announcement that will come along with this announcement today at some point?
Derrick Walker: There will be. Probably there's a lot of work to be done to actually sort through the interest that has come about because of this agreement that we've done. There are a lot of new companies out there that have been talking and looking at CART. We're not in a position to actually announce it today, but I can say that you'll be pleasantly surprised and pleased when you see some of the names that will come along and be supporting Roberto in his racing career.
Q: Mr. Pook, how long do we have to wait to have more than 20 drivers in CART?
Chris Pook: Well, as you know, we're on the record as saying we want a maximum of 22, a minimum of 18. So I suspect that by the time we get to spring training, we're going to be right at the 20 mark, and maybe one more.
But it's all coming together. When we made the announcement in Denver that we would definitely have 18 cars, we knew where we were going, we knew the talent pool that was out there for us.
I think one of the important things here is you do see a changing of the guard. You saw it earlier with Michel [Jourdain] staying in the series, being a young driver. You see Roberto is a young driver. You're going to see I think quite a few more youngsters who are really aggressively pushing the button. This is not unusual. If you look at NASCAR right now, Winston Cup, they have a young load of drivers that have suddenly emerged this year. It's a young person's world. The athletes are getting younger and younger by the day. That's what you're seeing in this series.
Once again, you're going to see an incredibly competitive series again next year.
Q: Derrick, is there more than one of those (Walker Racing) hats in existence right now, knowing your reputation for running things on a tight budget?
Derrick Walker: Good question. One of the things that we certainly have suffered in the current program is being a one-car team. We've had a great relationship with Patrick Racing where we've shared everything we can without actually being a one-car team.
It's not enough. You do need to have two drivers. That's what the series needs. It needs to have strong teams with strong lineups.
We're working very hard on our second program, we're certainly trying to close it as quick as we can so we can get Chris off the hook with the 18- to 20-car count that everybody keeps asking him about. We're going to be a two-car program next year. I think that will work better for Roberto and us as a team.
Q: Presumably you will be running Reynard chassis, whatever the name of them will be in the future. Can you talk about when testing will begin for your program?
Derrick Walker: Testing will start as soon as we possibly can. Obviously with some equipment change with the engine, there is a supply issue, availability of the engines. But we've got some ideas. We were talking about it just trying to coming into this press conference.
We're going to be out there as soon as we can because there's a lot to do. As soon as the equipment hopefully comes out, we'll get out, try to run some laps and get started on next year early.
Q: Roberto, could you talk about the season that you just had in Europe, the Formula 3 season, some of the difficulties, maybe the season before that, as well?
Roberto Gonzalez: I've been running the past two seasons in Europe. This year I've been running the Telefonica World Series, which is Formula 3000. It's been very competitive. We've been 20 cars on the grid all the time. It's been like 16 cars within one second. I've been fighting a lot. I've been learning a lot, not only as a driver in the car, but out of the car also. It's been helping me a lot for my next step, which is CART.
The previous year I was running the Formula Chrysler in Europe, which is also a Formula 3000 chassis, but with a little less power, like 350 horsepower. It's been big cars. Before that I did three years of Indy Light Pan American here in Mexico. I ran the Formula 3 and ran the Formula 2. My earlier years I went through all the classes in karting.
Adam Saal: Oriol Servia, who is from Catalonia, has attended a couple of races over there. He said it's one of the most competitive - I'm talking about the Telefonica series - training ground championships that he's seen in recent history. Breeds some good talent out of there. Should serve you well in the future.
Walker Racing press conference, part II