CHAMPCAR/CART: Minardi Team USA driver lineup transcript, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: For Keith and for Paul, you've got two quick young drivers here, Dan showed he can run up front, Robert has got a lot of testing experience, I'm sure he will be quick. Theoretically we have a slightly level playing...

Continued from part 1

Q: For Keith and for Paul, you've got two quick young drivers here, Dan showed he can run up front, Robert has got a lot of testing experience, I'm sure he will be quick. Theoretically we have a slightly level playing field with the new car this year. Can you talk a little about that aspect, the level playing field and tell us what are your goals for this year; can you win races?

PAUL STODDART: At the end of the day, I think there's no doubt that there's a leveling of the playing field this year. The limited testing basically means that no one thus far has even completed a race distance. No one is arriving in any better position than anyone else into Vegas, and I think it's going to be a year where driver's talent and the race engineers are going to actually shine, as well as the strategy.

I think if you've got a team that has proven that they can win races, which this team has, and you've got good pit strategy, which I have no doubt at all we have one of the best pit strategists in the pit lane; we have a good engineering team and we have two young and really hungry drivers, then yes, I think we can win races.

KEITH WIGGINS: That's the whole reason you set out on the project is to win races. If you didn't go into it believing it -- of course everybody believes it. You have to try and make sure you do a better job, and you can't win them all. And we know we have some good competition with Newman/Haas, but you know, there's always a goal to go for and that's why we're excited with what we've got as a package.

Q: And Paul, can you tell us anything about your two-seater program?

PAUL STODDART: The fans will see it, feel it, touch it so to speak in Vegas, and I think it's going to be something that will be an absolute winner from a promotions point of view. And obviously I couldn't think of anywhere better than the streets of Vegas to actually give someone single-seater experience and to be tearing down the circuit at the kind of speeds we'll be getting up to; for the lucky people that are in those rides, I think it will be a life-changing experience.

Q: How many cars will actually be running Paul?

PAUL STODDART: There will be four cars. We're bringing five there, four to run and one as a spare. We'll probably put them out in twos. That usually works quite well. It's quite good for the passengers having another car on the track at the same time. And also, you've got to remember that we've got to entertain the crowd as well. I think they will be pretty impressed when they see them.

Q: Will they be at all the races?

PAUL STODDART: Ten of the North American races. So yeah, most of the States-side and Canada races.

Q: Dan, question for you, you've had a season under your belt now, Robert comes in looking for gaining that experience, if you had one word of advice for him that you may tell him that he may not be used to or may have to learn, what would that be going into his first year?

DAN CLARKE: Well, I don't think you can think of just one thing. There's probably hundreds of things. So when we get together in the trucks behind closed doors, we can share each other's knowledge and build together as a strong team.

Q: Paul or Keith, if you want to tackle this, some of us were looking forward to the standing start possibility and that has been postponed until at least Portland. Nobody was really that comfortable with it. Was there a reason for that or just a question of getting acclimatized to this new mechanism?

PAUL STODDART: I think to be honest, there are quite a number of reasons. Yes, it's getting acclimatized to it. There are also issues that have to be sorted out from a technical point of view. I think many people would be very happy to see standing starts but it's also probably wise for the first three races to keep status quo as a rolling start and get a few of the bugs ironed out perhaps in testing while we have that long break.

Q: Keith, are you relatively -- who is to say whether you are totally comfortable with something, but it's a tall order to come into a new season with a brand new car, are you relatively comfortable in your mind coming into the season with the new pieces, new drivers, whatever you -- do you know what I'm getting at here?

KEITH WIGGINS: Yeah, we've done that many years. I think it's an advantage to go back with a bit of continuity. So that's not really a consideration. The new cars, of course it's something new and reliability is going to be a question mark and I think that is something that everybody has got a bit complacent with the Lola because it became a bit bulletproof. You have to go back to days of, it's not that many years back when Champ Car unlike other series, had brand new chassis whether it was a Lola or Reynard, you were getting your cars bran new. And there was a lot of people spending a lot of money developing there's development every week, a lot of long hours and that was the normal, we just got used to the fact that a Lola gets wheeled out each year.

Of course each year it becomes just a little more reliable to the point where any team can finish the races. So I think it's just -- in a way it's more exciting. It's more refreshing to have the new challenge. I also think no one could be overconfident. No, I'm sure there's going to be some issues. You know, that's part of racing; if we get some issues right and others don't, all the better for us. If we don't and someone else does, all the shame on us. It's just a question of that's what we've got to do.

There's a few teething problems as there always is with a new car but basically, you know, it's based on pretty known technology. So I don't think we're going to have too many problems.

Q: I think you beat around the bush about possible sponsorship for the team, are these cars sponsored and will you be making an announcement in that regard before Vegas or will it be at the Vegas event?

PAUL STODDART: It will be at the Vegas event and you'll see quite a bit of sponsorship, some relating to the drivers obviously and some relating to the team.

But there's always room for more, so to take the previous caller who suggested Red Bull. We're happy to talk to them and indeed to anyone else because there's always room for more.

DAN CLARKE: I can add to that actually, I have some new sponsors. I have a continued relationship with Ticketmaster and the Australian Pink Floyd Show that I had on the car last year and also continue to work with the Imagine Charity based in Liverpool, and also we have a Mirage Casino on board for the first race in Vegas.

So it's nice that we are building some relationships with the Speedy Dan branding and hope to continue some of those for many years.

KEITH WIGGINS: It's fair to say that you'll see a number of good sponsors coming on, both from the hard work that Paul has done; I think he almost was being too -- very reserved in that, but I think you'll see a number of sponsors which I know they want to announce in Vegas which will be good, solid sponsors on to Robert's car, and you know, Chaz who represents Dan has developed a brand initiative with Dan where you'll see some serious blue Chip companies. Some of them maybe for one race and some longer term, but you'll see some pretty good names to add to his last which they are pretty active in building which he has already mentioned some of those sponsors. But you'll see more come on as well as you will from Paul's side. So it's not going to be a team wandering around with blank sides as you're intimating.

ROBERT DOORNBOS: I'll have to give some extra attention to my sponsors in Vegas then. (Laughter).

Q: There had been talk of maybe trying to run three cars, is that at all a possibility for a partial year, maybe the European races?

PAUL STODDART: It's certainly a possibility later on in the year, but it's not in position in the early stages. You want to get the ones we have reliable. As Keith alluded to, it's a new car, we're still learning the car, as indeed is everyone else. I think we need to get certainly the first half of the season under our belts, and if the right circumstances prevail, who knows, you might see a third car particularly at the European races.

ERIC MAUK: Let's take a second to talk about your reserve, and your test driver is Zsolt Baumgartner. You alluded to a possible third car and the luxury of having a reserve driver with Baumgartner's talent has to be a boon to the team.

KEITH WIGGINS: Absolutely, Zsolt has done so much work for us over the last three and a half years, and certainly he'll be featuring very strongly in driving the two-seater. But of course, as any racing driver will tell you, their heart is in racing, so it's not beyond the bounds of possibility for a third car to come out in the second half of the season if the right circumstances prevail.

Q: In light of today's announcement, it's now pretty much 50/50 between European drivers and drivers from other countries, around the world. Do you think this is a healthy situation? I'd like to ask in particular Paul.

PAUL STODDART: I think David to be honest, you take drivers, I've never -- yes, I leaned a little bit towards Mark Webber because he was an Australian in 2002 but I have all judged drivers on their talent and occasionally -- certainly in the Minardi days they did -- inaudible. But I think the fact that there is as you rightly say, half of the drivers now are European, just tells you that there's a lot of talent around, and that doesn't -- exclude drivers from North America or any other part of the world.

When you find a talented driver, you look for talent first and what part of the world they come from second. I don't think it's going to be in any way damaging to the series. I'm sure there will be some people that will say they would like to see more Americans in there and I think we would all second that. But you've got to take the talent from where it comes from.

Q: So you're happy that -- I mean, you say it was a good thing that we got half European drivers in the year --

PAUL STODDART: It certainly helps. But also Champ Car is becoming rapidly a global series, and there's no doubt in my mind that the European aspect of the drivers can only be a good thing because it is actually going to promote Champ Car in those domestic markets. So I think it's a good thing.

Q: Paul, you have hired a Dutch driver and a British driver for what is arguably an American-based series. Why is it so difficult for teams to find qualified American drivers?

PAUL STODDART: I think it's really luck of the draw, as I just said in that previous question, you don't look at the nationality, you look at the talent. There's to doubt that in the past I've had American drivers. You know, we tested Bryan Herta back in 2003. We've looked at obviously Scott Speed is running now in what was my old team in Minardi. You take the drivers when they come along from wherever they -- nationality really is very much a second position in the global series.

Q: So what can Americans do to make themselves more qualified?

PAUL STODDART: I think they have got to come up through the Junior formula. I mean obviously Atlantics are a tremendous breeding ground and there are some good young kids coming through, so it's just a matter of time before you will see more Americans.

Obviously there is talent around, there's no doubt about that. There's some names that are going to be incredibly exciting in the future and we've got our own one or two. As I say, we certainly would welcome an American driver, but it's just a case of right place, right time.

Q: Robert, if you were to describe your driving style or some fans that have never met you before were asking you about what your style might be like what without them?

ROBERT DOORNBOS: That's a special one. Just have to wait and see, because otherwise I make promises I can't deliver. But with this car for sure it's a different driving style than a Formula 1. In F1 that was very smooth and it was very easy to lose time around the track, and here, you know, I think there's a bit more margin for error because basically with the traction control you have less software in the car, so the driver has to do more work. And, yeah, it will -- it will be exciting.

For me, it's a whole new challenge but it does give me a lot of flashbacks to Formula 3000 which is a carry really enjoyed driving and I was very competitive in and I got my victories and my podium. Hopefully I can do the same in Champ Car.

Q: Another thing you're going to be looking forward to as well is a lot more interplay with the fans than you may have had in former circles, and I think the personality that you have, you've got to be looking forward to that, too.

ROBERT DOORNBOS: Exactly. I think Paul can agree with that as well because when I made my W with his team there were Dutch fans singing in front of his garage and inviting him for par ties and barbecues. I have no problems with the fans and I actually look forward to seeing them at different racetracks.

PAUL STODDART: I have to say I can vouch for that. Robert is very fan friendly. He does put the time in which is something that I think attracted him to Champ Car is that it is very much a fan -- these festivals, this is a fan-friendly series. And also with our own two-seater program, that's what that was based around, bringing open-wheel racing back to the people. I think you'll be impressed with our drivers and indeed our team in terms of its fan friendliness.

ERIC MAUK: That will bring our media teleconference to a close today and congratulations again to everyone concerned with Minardi Team USA. We look forward to seeing you at the Vegas Grand Prix April 6-8.

-credit: ccws

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Mark Webber , Bryan Herta , Zsolt Baumgartner , Scott Speed