CHAMPCAR/CART: MG Rover press conference

An interview with: Christopher R. Pook Brian Griffin John Judd John Lopes CART and MG Rover Part 1 of 2 -- MG Rover, Judd to supply engines in 2003 Adam Saal: Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for your patience as we get a little bit of a late...

An interview with: Christopher R. Pook Brian Griffin John Judd John Lopes

CART and MG Rover
Part 1 of 2 -- MG Rover, Judd to supply engines in 2003

Adam Saal: Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for your patience as we get a little bit of a late start here. It will be a very exciting announcement.

Joining me for this announcement here on the podium today to my immediate left is John Lopes, the vice president of racing operations for CART; Chris Pook, the president and CEO of CART, no stranger to Long Beach; Mr. Brian Griffin, manager of motorsports for MG Rover; and John Judd, the managing director of Engine Developments, Ltd.

We're happy to announce today, and of course all four of our guests will be available for questions, that officials from MG Rover and Championship Auto Racing Teams have announced a new engine supplier relationship for the CART FedEx Championship Series for 2003 and beyond.

This will bring the MG brand and its winning motor racing heritage to American open-wheel Champ Car racing for the first time in the mark's rich history. It's an outstanding announcement. This is the first of several manufacturer announcements that we will announce over the course of the next couple of months.

But to start with a brand rich in heritage such as MG is outstanding. To make some opening comments and talk about the details of the relationship, how we'll interface with CART as well as how we'll interface with Judd, I'd like to ask Mr. Brian Griffin to speak.

Welcome, and give us your thoughts on what is a very exciting day for us here at CART and hopefully for MG.

Brian Griffin: Yes. This is the first time I've been involved in racing in North America, but we as a company have an enormous heritage over here, going back some years. We're delighted to become associated with CART. We see CART as a global sport, and it helps us to enhance our brand image worldwide.

Adam Saal: Brian hasn't done a lot of press conferences in his day. He's usually the man behind the scenes. Give us a bit of a glimpse of what it will be behind the scenes in your partnership.

Brian Griffin: Our relationship with John Judd is going to be primarily on a technical basis, but we are very, very obviously keen to see the relationship develop and hopefully succeed 2003 onwards.

Adam Saal: Having said that, we are going to move to Chris Pook. Brian hasn't done a lot of press conferences, neither has Chris, yet today. Chris, it has to be a great source of pride, great sense of accomplishment that still fairly early in your tenure as CART president, CEO, we've been able to establish a relationship with not one but two great manufacturers. Talk a little bit about how you feel today.

Chris Pook: This is obviously a huge announcement for the company, for both companies, and indeed for me personally. I come from England, so I know about MG and the heritage of MG. So there's a lot of emotion in this announcement to bring MG to this series.

I think the real issue here is that MG Rover are rapidly growing as a global marketing company. The fact that we have been able to find an alignment together in the global markets, I think, speaks to the strategy of CART in the sense that we have been talking for the last four months about our critical markets, Pacific Rim markets, European Economic Community and the North American Free Trade Association markets. The fact that we also have a global television distribution system to help support what we do in motor car racing I think fits well in with what MG Rover is seeking to do.

But I think it has to be said that also MG has a huge heritage in this country, tremendous heritage. This particular race here in Long Beach is heavily supported by the MG Car Club of this region, which is one of the largest MG car clubs in the United States. Their membership have been involved in this race since we started in 1975.

So this kind of ties a total ribbon around the whole package as far as I'm concerned and as far as the company's concerned. We're delighted.

I think the fact that with John Judd and his company, John already this year, his engines have won the 24 Hours at Daytona, I think you're going to see a very interesting, very interesting combination here with the technical research that MG Rover can provide to John and John's experience already.

I think a message is being sent here.

Adam Saal: Chris, our friends in the media have tried to track all of your trips around the world as you visited with John Lopes, all the various manufacturers and so forth. Talk about how the MG relationship came through on a fairly fast track, essentially how the partnership we've been talking with John Judd, John Lopes can talk more about that, but MG was definitely a pleasant development rather late.

Chris Pook: I mean, John, all credit to him, and his team, and MG Rover's public relations team for coming together. I mean, John and I were in Europe, John Lopes and I were in Europe, seems like an eternity ago, but it was three weeks ago or something. We were on a small sight-seeing tour. We thought we were going to have a quiet Thursday morning. Then we had a breakfast meeting. Next thing we were from Houston station to Rugby, at Rugby our very overpaid chauffeur, Mr. Judd, picked us up at the airport (laughter), and we went straight into MG Rover.

We had a very productive meeting. We were told we had one hour for our productive meeting. After that meeting, there was a lot of work behind the scenes between MG Rover's public relations agency, who probably should be introduced actually for the work they've done.

Adam Saal: Brian, if you could take us through the introductions of MG representatives on your team.

Brian Griffin: Over there is Elena and Allison. They've been working for us for 18 months, helping us. Although it's a very small company in Brighton, they're almost global for the amount of traveling they do.

Adam Saal: I'll be happy to introduce any of the members of the media to Allison or Elena later on talking about how we can service your needs going further as we get the new relationship going.

John Judd, you've been successful this year. Max Papis, one of our regulars, was one of the drivers on your winning entry. It was a Dallara powered by a Judd V-10 that won the 24 Hours at Daytona.

Great way to start the season. You're no stranger to open-wheel competition by any means with your power plants, have even won races in the CART Championship Series with Judd power. Talk about your enthusiasm heading into what's going to be another chapter in an already established career for Judd.

John Judd: We do look forward to this with great anticipation. We think it won't be easy. It's very competitive. Personally I'm quite excited to get back into a competitive and tentatively challenging engine environment. I just want to build engines and go racing. For us it's a great opportunity.

I'm pretty excited about the MG relationship. I think anybody in my position would be very happy and proud to be associated with MG. It is a technical partnership and a sporting one, both of those things. I think there's potentially great benefits for both parties.

Adam Saal: What is the next step? What has already taken place? It's going to be a co-engineering relationship as you build the next generation. How entirely new will this engine be that's designated for Champ car competition?

John Judd:  It's probably got one percent carryover from something we
have already.  It's a new engine.  That's basically it.  We use the bore
centers from an existing V8.  That's it.  We can use some of the common
fixed rings.  New heads, manifolds, block casting, pumps, internal
parts.  It's all new.

That wasn't necessarily the intention in the first place. That's how it's turned out (laughter).

Adam Saal: It will be a new motor for what our new regulations for the FedEx Championship Series series next year. We are going to a 3.5 liter formula, non-turbo charged engines. John Lopes was at the very beginning of those discussions with several of our owners on a committee to establish these rules. John, here we have the first official announcement of a manufacturer, two outstanding manufacturers, supporting these rules. Talk a little bit about the Judd MG relationship in particular and how you feel the overall new regulations are being embraced by the automotive industry.

John Lopes: At first, when we made the rather sudden decision to switch to the 3.5 liter formula back in the Houston franchise owners meeting, at the time we were walking into unchartered waters with respect to manufacturer participation.

John Judd was one of the first individuals to pick up the phone and say, "I see this as an opportunity. I want to participate with the CART FedEx Championship Series series." At that time we immediately began seeking out partners for John.

This is just the first example of what I believe is going to bear fruit in the future. I think it's important to point out that (CART Vice President of Marketing) Steve Fusek and his marketing group have been hard at work speaking to manufacturers around the world. We believe this is the first marriage that you're seeing between a constructor such as John Judd and a blue chip manufacturer such as MG, with CART, and also embracing our global reach.

We're excited. But it is certainly the fruit of an awful lot of negotiation and traveling. And I want to publicly thank John for his commitment to the series and his diligent efforts in bringing MG to the table.


Interview Part II

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Max Papis , Chris Pook