CHAMPCAR/CART: MG Rover press conference, part II

CART and MG Rover Part 2 0f 2 -- Questions posed to the participants Adam Saal: We'll open it up for questions at this point. Q: Can you tell me about how many cars you think you will be able to supply? John Judd: I say we need about...

CART and MG Rover
Part 2 0f 2 -- Questions posed to the participants

Adam Saal: We'll open it up for questions at this point.

Q: Can you tell me about how many cars you think you will be able to supply?

John Judd:  I say we need about four to make it viable, and probably
eight would be really good.  Down a stretch, we could do 10.

Q: John, could you give us a timetable on testing, when you expect the engines?

John Judd: First test, mid June, that's on schedule. I'd say engine delivery to the teams, that really needs to be October, November, to coincide with the new cars.

Q: (Inaudible)?

Chris Pook: I know you were going to pin me down on that one. I suspect you'll see something merge here probably mid June, maybe a little earlier. Right now our focus today and for the next few weeks is to make sure we understand how we can make our MG Rover relationship work for them in the various markets. They need to have it work also through our television packaging, and of course bring them into our pace car program.

So while they don't sell cars in this country at the moment, we want to be sure that the MG product is out there in front of the North American eyes, as well as the North American television cameras.

Q: (Inaudible)?

Brian Griffin: Well, I'm only associated with MG Motorsports. I can't really speak on behalf of the company as a whole. We were here for 31 years I think previously, so we have a long association. I think you'll just have to wait and see what our board decides to do later this year.

Q: Is this marriage between Judd and MG only for CART?

Brian Griffin: It is to start with, yes, that's correct.

Q: John, Mr. Judd says he can do possibly up to 10 cars if he had to. Eight would be a good number. If we wind up with a field of 20 to 24, how many engine manufacturers are you going to have here in order to be truly a competitive series?

John Lopes: I think with respect to the direction CART is going as a global marketing company, reaching out, being a manufacturer-driven series, delivering value to the manufacturers, the answer is really unlimited.

Our intent is to have as much manufacturer involvement in our sport and to deliver as much value as we possibly can. So we are not going to close the door to anyone who wants to participate and use cars as a marketing platform worldwide.

There is really no set minimum. Our intent is to bring as many players to the table. Each one of them has unique marketing and branding issues on their own, as does MG. Our intent is to create a mechanism to deliver each of them a certain amount of value.

To go back to your original question on supply, the supply rules, each constructor is required to be able to support half the field. In 2003, we had to set a number to give the constructors something to plan upon. So that number, the field, the minimum field number next year would be 20. John had to commit with us with a supply agreement they would be able to support a minimum of 10 cars, with no set maximum, that's up to his business to do.

Of course, as certain competitive situations play out on the track, certain manufacturers will garner a greater percentage of the field.

At this point I think it's safe to say that our intent is not to restrict participation to any company.

Chris Pook: We're not going to restrict participation to any company. But the first thing to do here is get our arms around the Judd MG Rover relationship, make sure that's solidly entrenched with the right teams that they want to go with.

We'll open those doors, we'll help drive that. Steve and his group will be hard at work making that work. I think you know about our philosophy of approach towards these relationships. We are going to build this relationship and build it solid, make sure that MG Rover are getting value out of their relationship with this series.

Q: (Inaudible)?

Brian Griffin: Yes is the answer to the question. LeMans was a spectacular success for us, even though we only lasted about 12 hours. The cars performed extremely well. They were competitive. They weren't durable because they were so new.

We've also last year, the end of last year, embarked on the British Touring Car Championship. We're increasing that this year to four cars instead of two cars. We also have embarked on the Junior World Rally Championship. We are in true MG tradition competing in lots of different levels. Our association with CART is even more global than what we've achieved so far.

Q: (Inaudible)?

John Lopes: Yes. We are working -- specifically our marketing group is working with Cosworth to find them a partner, the same way John made a commitment. We work closely with John in developing the MG relationship, our Cosworth has made a commitment to CART as well. We are working diligently with CART to help to badge that engine.

Q: (Inaudible) Toyota?

John Lopes: Three for sure, and hopefully more. Toyota has indicated that their benchmark for next year is they would like to construct for 10 teams. Whether it plays out that way or not, the market will dictate what happens.

But certainly, a little insight for you, we had a briefing of the engine manufacturers recently this weekend to go over the preliminary final rules and supply rules just so they all understood and they were all on the same page.

We discussed issues such as what the rev limit will be set at, making sure they understood that the cost cap was a hard cap, not a soft cap, and they played within those rules. It was a great dialogue.

Of the committed constructors who were in the room, there were five.

Q: John, now that you have fairly committed manufacturers for engine supply, what kind of commitment have you gotten (inaudible)?

John Lopes: It would be disingenuous to avoid the issue that the chassis manufacturer situation is a bit in flux right now. Certainly with Reynard's recent challenges, it's created a bit of uncertainty with respect to Reynard moving forward, although we have been working very closely with them.

It's been something that we have focused on with the receiver in the UK to help Reynard continue. It appears right now that our teams are taken care of for the team being with respect to all the bids they need to go.

Lola of course is committed. We have also received strong indications of a desire to construct in our series from the other well-known manufacturers in open-wheel racing. How that will play out still remains to be seen. It's really on the front burner right now for us.

So I would say as we move forward in the next three to four weeks, the chassis manufacturer situation will take shape. I think it's also safe to say that we are not interested at this time in being a single-supplier series. Our intent that is we want as much participation again as possible while still creating a viable business model for the chassis manufacturers so they can make money in the series.

Q: (Inaudible)?

John Judd: I don't understand the question.

Q: (Inaudible)?

John Judd: Good names, not the favorite. I would like to be the favorite, but I think maybe not.

Chris Pook: What's going to happen, the significance here, this is the first European manufacturer since Mercedes to come into this series. John has committed to MG Rover. That's his partner.

The other major manufacturers will have to make a decision what they're going to do. Some might decide to build their own engines, some might decide to partner up. He is committed to MG Rover. They're first out of the blocks and they're running. The others need to make a decision what they're going to do.

Q: What is the nature of your technical arrangement with John?

Brian Griffin: We're based in South Birmingham, John is in ^ rugby down the road, which is not far.

Our relationship is going to be a technical one. We haven't as yet tried to specify the boundaries of that. That is a very open question as we sit here.

This all happened very quickly.  We've had a small number of meetings so
far.  Next few weeks we'll work out the details.

Chris Pook: It's important to point out that MG Rover has a huge tradition of engineering. Those of you who have known the brand in this country for years, maybe some of you are a bit too young, and some are not (laughter), but they have a huge engineering tradition here. Don't take that level of the relationship lightly.

They've also made great strides in their competition, as you heard, in the European arena. This is a company that understands where it's going.

John Lopes: However, at this point we're not prepared to announce the return of the MG liquid suspension special.

Q: (Inaudible)?

Brian Griffin: No. Am I the only person that remembers the liquid suspension (laughter)?

Q: Last year you had your association with Lola (inaudible)?

Brian Griffin:  Like any relationship, you have your highs and lows.  We
currently have a good working relationship with Lola.  We're continuing
this year with Lola at LeMans.  We are not continuing with Lola with the
British Touring Car this year.  That's all I have to say at the moment.

We haven't made any plans for next year yet in terms of either of those relationships. But we do expect to continue in most forms of motorsport. We also have a desire to become more self-contained within our own outfit, not necessarily all our motorsporting association with other companies.

Q: John, you referred earlier to discussions with manufacturers (inaudible)?

John Lopes: I mean, that is something we're working on. We also do not want the motor to stray too far for our teams. We want them to be able to develop the motor, number one, to be able to race it effectively on the road and street circuits, the various venues we race on; but also, number two, we want them to be able to take that motor to our now hometown track in Indy.

As a follow up, the difference in rpm with respect to the revs, you will not see us go to 12,000. With 10-3 (10,300 rpm) being run on the oval circuits in the US, I think you will probably see our revs somewhere between the 11,000 and 11-2 (11,200) range for next year. Chances are it will be around 11-2. There seems to be a building consensus among the manufacturers.

We're working with each manufacturer as our partner to help determine that. Lee Dykstra, who heads up our technical staff, has been working with them on that.

If I were to predict right now, I'd think you will see us at around 11,200.

Adam Saal:  CART headquarters will be relocated to Indianapolis May
17th.  We'll be open for business May 20th.

Q: (Inaudible)?

John Judd:  That depends on how many cars we have finally.  Up to about
three or four cars, we'll do it all in England.  We run the sports car
business quite well from the UK at the moment.  The freight is really
quite easy.  Not too bad.  We can turn that around pretty efficiently.

If we get to five or six cars, we'll certainly consider reopening Brian's place in Torrance. It is a pretty ready facility. We could open that quite easily.

Q: (Inaudible)?

John Lopes: I think without getting into too much detail about the current situation with the manufacturers, we have stated that we would like to have a certain amount of commonality obviously with the engines and both with the chassis. We're still exploring to what degree that will or can be.

Our technical staff has advocated that we remain to a certain degree true to the Champ car heritage with respect to our aerodynamic packages. We're still weighing the balance. I think that more than anything else will determine what direction we ultimately go upon our final chassis package. We have a lot of purists in the garage who would like us to maintain true to some of our aero packages. We're working through that.

Chris Pook: I think we're just going to see what happens, plays out here, in the next couple days. Stand back and see. We're trying to extend some olive branches and reach out. Maybe those branches are going to get cut off.

Q: How does this affect your staffing for your company there?

John Judd: Well, obviously we will need more staffing. I think it's probably not too hard to do. We're pretty well-structured management-wise. I think we have a reasonably organized place. The sports car business, you know, has most of the right people in the right jobs. Just mainly be a question of taking on engine builders, race engineers.

The design department is just doing the new engine right now because the sports car thing is pretty mature. It's been around four years now. We don't need to develop it too much. The development is pretty limited there. We're basically glad to have the extra work.

Q: (Inaudible) still with all the other programs you're doing?

John Judd: The main other program is the sports car stuff. That will continue. It's not that big a market for us. We have quite a large proportion of the cars in private entrants. There aren't really that many cars.

Adam Saal: John, Brian, Chris and John, thank you so much. The press releases have been distributed. If you need any further assistance, both I can help you, Elena or Allison. Thank you MG and Judd to the CART FedEx Championship Series.

-cart-

Interview Part I

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Chris Pook