Press Conference Transcript of Meeting with CART Ceo and President Chris Pook. Part 1 of 2 Adam Saal: Chris did arrive here yesterday, he missed the opening day here in Monterrey, but he'll more than make up for it throughout the weekend. ...
Press Conference Transcript of Meeting with CART Ceo and President Chris Pook.
Part 1 of 2
Adam Saal: Chris did arrive here yesterday, he missed the opening day here in Monterrey, but he'll more than make up for it throughout the weekend. We want Chris in, what's become a tradition in this race, two years in a row, to spend some time with the media, our friends from the United States, as well as our friends here in Mexico, in whatever language you want to. Chris, an opening comment in Spanish and English, what your initial impressions are to your second visit here to the Tecate/Telmex Monterrey Grand Prix of Mexico.
Chris Pook: Obviously, the circuit now is proving out the point that it takes three years to build a facility up, get to it maturity. I think now this year, this circuit has really reached maturity. The work that's been done here is excellent. This whole building, this press complex that we have, the whole look and feel of this facility is tremendous. I said last year when I was here that this place had huge potential. I think we're starting to realize that huge potential right now.
The work that's been done on the racetrack is excellent. They've made a lot of small but very important changes. Yes, it was a little slippery yesterday, but that often happens with a temporary circuit. Today it's coming in much better. Tomorrow it will be even better. I think it's excellent. It meets our NAFTA business model. The two races in Mexico are very, very important to us, Monterrey and Mexico City, three races in Canada, Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto, and our 10 races in the United States. This is all working from our perspective as part of our business model.
The other thing I do think we need to congratulation the organizers here, the leadership of Arturo Mendez for the work that's been done. I think the presentation and everything is excellent. It's the standards to which we seek everywhere we go. They're clearly raising the bar here, as they raised the bar in Mexico City last fall. I think all these things are very, very positive. Finally, the fact that we have four Mexican drivers with us is very good. I commented last night at the dinner function that was hosted by Gigante that there is somewhat of a transition taking place. Adrian is obviously a very experienced pilot himself, but Michel Jourdain, Jr. is coming into his element, maturing, looking very good, indeed. He's going to win a race for sure before this season is out.
Of course, you have young Mario Dominguez now in his second season. He's maturing, coming on. He made a silly little mistake in St. Petersburg, but by and large he had an excellent, excellent weekend there. He's going to emerge into a fine driver. And, of course, Rodolfo Lavin is in his first year as a rookie, a big step for him. He's having some challenges, but by and large he's very respectable. That's all we ask from a rookie coming into our series.
Saal: I think at this point we'll just open it up for questions for Chris, either English or Spanish.
Q: Talking about your urban model, of course last week Road America went away, now talk is that Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca are next because they don't fit CART's future plans. How do they fit and what are their future?
Pook: Well, I don't want to get into too much detail on Road America because it's very difficult. We were very, very disappointed that Road America had to go away. It was very disappointing for us, extremely disappointing. But we really were left with no alternative. We were put in a very difficult position. I have to do what's correct for this company and for its shareholders, for our teams. Unfortunately, I had to make that decision. It was a decision that I hated to make, did not want to make, but was forced to make it. We continue to embrace road courses. Laguna Seca, we have just finished a negotiation with them which I think you'll see announced very shortly. That will probably answer your question in that area. Mid-Ohio, this is the last year of our relationship with Mid-Ohio in the sense of the current contract. While we have not made any decisions, nor have they, I think we want to get through this year and then we'll decide what's going to happen in Mid-Ohio.
With all due respect to your question, if you're inferring that it's the policy of this administration to do away with road courses, the answer is no.
Q: What negotiations are there to have races in Monterrey until 2008?
Pook: Currently we're contracted in Monterrey through 2005. We would obviously be very interested in going through 2008. I mean, it's a very interesting racetrack. It meets our business model. It's a racetrack that's a road course within a city. It has all the right elements to it. We clearly would be interested in sitting down and chatting. But, again, we will only be able to run two races in Mexico. There's competition for four races now, to have races in other venues in Mexico, which I'm not going to tell you any more than that. We have to make a decision. It wouldn't be very bright on our part if we left this facility.
Q: Gerry Forsythe has been quoted as saying you had some meetings with Bernie Ecclestone. Could you share anything with us?
Pook: I think I can share with you that Gerry Forsythe has said I've been meeting with Mr. Ecclestone.
Q: So he was wrong?
Pook: Whenever I go to Europe, I have a meeting with Mr. Ecclestone. It would be rude to go there and not have a meeting with someone you've known for 30 years.
Q: Does the impending war pose any problem for this year's schedule?
Pook: We will go to Europe and have our two races there. We're perfectly comfortable with the situation. I've just come back from Europe, and I don't see a problem for us there with those two races.
Q: Getting back to Mr. Forsythe and Mr. Eccelstone, what does Bernie Eccelstone bring to a potential alignment or relationship with CART, and what does CART do for him?
Pook: Well, first of all, you cannot discount in any way the experience and the knowledge and the depth that Mr. Ecclestone has in the sport of motor racing, and in particular the sport of open-wheel motor racing. It would be like having a board member with that qualification to have Mr. Eccelstone involved. I mean, the resource is huge. So it's very positive. What can we do to assist Mr. Ecclestone in this hypothetical case that you're citing here? I think that we have an interesting open-wheel series, and he has an interesting open-wheel series, and I think it behooves both of us to work together. We are predominantly in North America. He comes to North America twice a year. If we can help him build his North American business, not that he needs any help in Canada, but if we can help him build that business, then we would very much like to do it because that's in our interest as well. The more we can build open-wheel racing, the better it is for us.
Q: Does the potential economic problem that the war could create, would that interfere with the possibility of our renewing our relationship with the Monterrey Grand Prix
Pook: Well, I guess it's kind of like, "Is the glass half full or is the glass half empty?" We'll have to wait and see what happens here, how it plays itself out in the future with the economy and things like that. Obviously, we all hope that this thing will come to a conclusion very rapidly. In the meantime, it is what it is. We have to go about our business and do what's good and correct for our business, and everybody else will do what's good and correct for their business. We've got plenty of time to discuss that.
Q: What do you think the race schedule will look like in the upcoming seasons?
Pook: We are on record as saying that we will have up to 20 races. That's where we'd like to be. But there's no reason why we can't have 18 races or 16 races. But our goal is to have 20 races that fit within our business model that we have articulated, and that is really basically two races in Mexico, three races in Canada, 10 races in the United States, three races in Europe and two races in the Pacific Basin. That's really what our business model is.
Q: Other than driver changes, is the field pretty much static now for the rest of the year or do you expect there might be another team or two coming along during the course of the year?
Pook: I think you're going to see maybe one more team come along during the year. There's a lot of activity going on behind the scenes with teams. There are several that are preparing for 2004, that will be new to the series. I think they are trying to see if they can get some races in during 2003 in preparation for the 2004 series.
Saal: Alex Yoong is speaking with Dale Coyne about additional races during the season.
Pook: There will always be driver changes, as you understand. That's the nature of the beast. You're looking for team owners.