CHAMPCAR/CART: PKV Racing teleconference transcript, part 1

Champ Car World Series Press Conference Transcript with PKV Racing Co-owner Dan Pettit, team manager Jim McGee, oo-owner/driver Jimmy Vasser, and driver Cristiano da Matta TOM McGOVERN: This is Tom McGovern over at the Champ Car World ...

Champ Car World Series Press Conference Transcript with PKV Racing

Co-owner Dan Pettit, team manager Jim McGee, oo-owner/driver Jimmy Vasser, and driver Cristiano da Matta

TOM McGOVERN: This is Tom McGovern over at the Champ Car World Series, and I'd like to welcome you to the first Bridgestone Presents Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford teleconference for 2005. We have some pretty exciting news that was announced a little earlier today with the addition of 2002 champion Cristiano da Matta back in the series, and on today's call we have PKV Racing owner Dan Pettit, along with owner/driver Jimmy Vasser, PKV Racing general manager Jim McGee, and the newest member of the team, Cristiano da Matta. Why don't you start and welcome Cristiano to the team.

DAN PETTIT: Cristiano, this is Dan, and welcome on board. We are very excited to have you. Unfortunately we haven't met yet in person, but we've talked on the phone a couple of times. I have to say we are all excited on behalf of myself and Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser. We are so excited to have you, and your presence here means a lot to us. We have been working very, very hard in putting together a team that can be a serious contender, and I think with your presence here, not only at PKV Racing, but also Champ Car, I think it gives the image that we have finally decided to be very strong and it also says that Champ Car is real. So thank you very much for joining our team and having the confidence in us.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: I appreciate it, Dan. I'm very excited about joining the team, very happy about what I've seen here after only spending a day and a half here now at the shop and seeing that a lot of work has been done over the winter. The guys were not just sitting here looking at the cars; a lot of work has been done. Everybody is real excited. Everybody is working real hard. I think if we continue with the same mentality, we should be collecting the fruits maybe earlier than we expected. So I'm very, very, very excited about that.

DAN PETTIT: Good, good. Thank you. I think we've put a lot of effort into our off-season to obviously get the elements put together. We've got Jim McGee on board, who I'm very proud to say has joined us, and we're currently working hard to get our car into a very championship position in terms of its elements that actually go on the car. And with the drivers now and the team that we have in place, I think that we're going to be pretty -- pretty good this year.

Maybe a few words from Jim. Maybe you could talk about what you're doing with the car and how the team is performing?

JIM McGEE: Thank you, Dan. No, we've got a lot of excitement that's been generated, not only by Cristiano coming aboard, but, you know, the news from Champ Car about the TV package and the scheduling; and the future really looks bright.

It's been very fortunate for me to be able to come in here; and Russ Cameron, who has been here for the last couple of years. Russ did a great job in organizing this over the last couple of years. And I've been able to come in here and pick up from where he left off and do some of the things that probably he wasn't able to do.

And the addition to Cristiano to the team really kind of cements the package that we were looking for. We've got a great group of people, most of them I've worked with in the past and myself personally, I think that Kevin Kalkhoven and Dan Pettit and Jimmy Vasser really have given us all of the ingredients that it's going to take to perform in a championship way, and it's now up to us to mix the ingredients and come up with a car that's going to be competitive all year and put us back on the podium.

But I'm certainly pleased with the way everything's gone and hopefully we can show some good results quicker than a lot of people expect.

JIMMY VASSER: I'd like to reiterate what Dan and Cristiano and Jim have said.

We very excited to have Cristiano in the team. I can tell you from experience that the most important thing in the success of a Champ Car team is chemistry and teamwork, and Cristiano has shown in the past that he is certainly capable of being a good teammate and a champion. And this really rounds us out now, PKV Racing, just under only one year old, a team of champions. The face of our team has completely changed and we are very excited to tackle the championship. I think that we're well-positioned to surprise a lot of people out there. I hear a lot of talk about upcoming team like RuSPORT and obviously the reigning champions in Newman/Haas, with the Forsythe team, I think now that PKV is definitely going to be one of the teams in the forefront of this upcoming season.

Cristiano, I know it's been a little bit of hard work over the last month, but really, really excited about working with you.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: I appreciate it, Jimmy. As I said to them, it's my pleasure to be here. It's the place I wanted to be is racing Champ Cars. So I think it's a great opportunity for me to be associated with you guys, and from what I've seen so far, as I said before, I think we -- I'm sure we'll get there, but I think we'll get there earlier than we expected.

JIMMY VASSER: Good, we've got to put some trophies on the wall there in the lobby.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: Yeah, that's what missing here.

JIMMY VASSER: There's only a couple. We're going to build a new shelf.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: Yeah, we are working on it, right.

TOM McGOVERN: Well, thank you guys very much, and now why don't we open up the call to questions from the media.

Q: Questions for three of the guys there. First of all, Cristiano, we just talked to you last week about your Rolex 24 stuff and you were saying you were very close in coming back on to the grid with Champ Car. To come back to a series that was so good to you and you won some championships there, compared to the F-1 pressure cooker that you came from, this has got to be like a dream come true I guess to get back. I know you probably already thought you could, but to land with a team like this has got to be a dream come true for you?

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: Yeah, it's definitely a very good feeling to be able to return, as I said, to a series that always treated me so well. It's almost like a feeling of coming back home. And with PKV with Jim McGee on the team, having Jimmy as a teammate, and we spent this whole month like talking about it and they are explaining all of the projects, all of the development programs that we have inside here. I really believe we're going to be racing our game, comparing to what the team has done last season, I think we will be much better shape.

So, I'm very, very happy about everything, about the opportunity, about being here, about what I've seen here on the team so far, and with the people I'm associated with right now, I think it's overall, it's just a great opportunity for me and I'm sure we're going to be able to translate the whole thing into good results in the races.

Q: Jimmy, if I can ask you a question, too. When you put the team together along with Kevin and Mr.. Pettit, you know, budget is one thing and to have a big bank account is one thing, but to have the personnel to be able to use those resources to success the addition of Jim McGee and Cristiano da Matta, that's two huge big pieces of the puzzle to get to the top of where you need to go.

JIMMY VASSER: Absolutely. You look at the list of accomplishments that those two guys have and what they bring to the team; you just can't replace that. Kevin Kalkhoven and Dan Pettit brought me into the ownership realm for a reason, to help build the team to a front runner. And it took some time for us I think last season to realize where the deficiencies were and really, Dan Pettit and myself have been put in charge to work on the race team side, as Kevin obviously is very busy in many other aspects of the sport.

You know, sometimes it takes a little bit longer to do than you want to. You want instant gratification, but I think that the moves that we've made certainly have caught the eyes and the attention of our competitors. You know, these are the decisions we strongly feel are the right ones for our team, and we're just really excited to get the PKV Racing cars on the track this weekend at Sebring for our first test sessions.

Q: Jim, we just talked to you a couple of days ago. Having teammates that genuinely get along I think is very important over the history with Vasser, back in the old days with Zanardi, those guys got along so very, very well, and Cristiano was always a good team guy and an easygoing guy to get along with. It's been described that there's speed in that when the two guys genuinely get along off the racetrack, as well as on the racetrack, and I think you'll probably agree with that over your history in the business?

JIM McGEE: Yes, it is, and it's the concept of what's best for the business, what's best for the team. You know, these two guys, they are going to do what's best for the team because they know their success is going to be the success that we have on the team, not the individual's success that each guy would have.

You know, I've been involved on both sides of the fence with different drivers, and, you know, Jimmy certainly has been a great teammate. As you can look back with people like Zanardi and Montoya, and you know he's proven that his whole involvement in the team is for the better of the team, and Cristiano is the same way.

For me to have these two types of individuals driving for us, that's a huge benefit because it really brings the team concept together and it filters down through the engineering through the mechanics, through the truck drivers, everybody is working for the betterment of the team not any individual betterment, and so it really is; it's just what you want in an organization.

Q: Gentlemen, I'd just like to know since we realize that Jimmy is driving the #12 Gulfstream/Lola, do you have commercial partners lined up for the #21?

DAN PETTIT: Let me talk, this is Dan Pettit. Kevin and I are working very hard -- actually, all of us are, in trying to get the right sponsorship. We have a number of them that we're talking to. They haven't landed yet, but we have an awfully active list of candidates and so we hope before race season that we will have the right announcement.

Q: And Cristiano, I know that you have some obligations this weekend; will you be doing anything at Sebring before you go to the Rolex 24?

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: Well, the plan we have right now is kind of crazy, but I think it's going to work. I'm going to be going to Daytona tonight. I'm going to be making a seat because I still haven't tested the car Ford (ph) that I'm going to be driving this weekend. Then I'm going to drive on Thursday. I'm going to do both sessions. As soon as the second session is over, I'm going to jump in the car, the road car, drive to Sebring, I'm going to get there on Thursday, I don't know, five, six o'clock in the afternoon, just check the pedals, check the seat because everything is new, and then drive Friday the whole day. So I'm going to be missing the two 45-minute sessions on the Friday at Daytona.

Q: You've got a lot on your plate, boy.

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: Yeah, but I think it's going to work. It's been so long I haven't been driving the race car I want to get this first day behind me as quick as I can and get these rust out of my arms as quick as I can, too, so I can be back up to speed soon.

Q: Cristiano, there was a lot of talk about you going to Newman/Haas, can you tell us what happened there and how you ended up with PKV?

CRISTIANO DA MATTA: Well, the whole time I have been talking to PKV and Newman/Haas. They are the two teams I've been talking to basically this off-season. The Newman/Haas thing, it would depend on a couple of different things, and it was starting to get late and closer to the start of the test season. I started to feel like what we have with PKV now was something more concrete. The Newman/Haas, they would have to turn the two-car organization into a three-car organization and we had to go after a sponsorship to try to fund eventually the third car that I was supposedly to drive if I would have signed there.

And PKV, they had everything in hand. Like the two cars were here, the team was here, the deal was all ready to go. They needed the second driver to be teammates with Jimmy. So, with the addition of Jim McGee on the team and all of the talk that we had during January, basically, it made me, convinced me that it was a pretty good deal and it's a team that maybe you're not going to start as competitive as Newman/Haas; because they are the champions, we are not going to start like they are going to start the season. But I think they have a lot of potential to grow up as a team and with everyone we have involved on the team right now, I think we have everything we need here at the shop. We just have to find the right combination setups and we just need -- really, we need to do hard work on the racetrack.

Continued in part 2

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Kevin Kalkhoven , Cristiano da Matta