CHAMPCAR/CART: Stoddart, Wiggins telconference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Paul, welcome to the series. Look forward very much to working with you, you're renowned for a man who is somewhat of an, in quotation marks, a character, someone who has never afraid to speak his mind and say exactly...

Continued from part 1

Q: Paul, welcome to the series. Look forward very much to working with you, you're renowned for a man who is somewhat of an, in quotation marks, a character, someone who has never afraid to speak his mind and say exactly what he thinks. I would imagine that legacy would continue with Champ Car; would I be accurate?

PAUL STODDART: I'm hoping that it won't have to in the way that it did in Formulaq. I hope that I won't need to ever get as political and as boisterous as I needed to do there. No, I have a great relationship with Kevin Kalkhoven as well, and that dates back a few years now. So I really do think that working with all of the guys is going to be a refreshing period as against some of the stress that was there in Formulaq, particularly the last few years, and sure as hell continued without me.

Q: Can you give us a time line on when you take delivery of the new Panoz DP01 and when you will start testing with it and when you hope to have it wound up and ready for 2007?

KEITH WIGGINS: We'll try to keep it on the ground rather than it fly, but you never know. We receive the cars the same as everybody else, which is basically in about a day's time, Wednesday, I believe it is. They are all dressed up with bows for us.

And we have a plan which, again, is exactly the same plan we've always had. Nothing has changed. We just obviously can breathe a sigh of relief that we can achieve all of those goals, which is the cars will come here and they will be prepared. Obviously we need to get to know them. There are certain tests and various things we want to do with the cars, and then they will be prepared and put in the liveries and we will go with everybody else in Champ Car with the new regulations. Tests starts on January 15 for three days, and that's the organized - the only times that you can test after those three, which is January, February and March. So we will go through those tests and various other forms of testing and be ready with everybody else.

ERIC MAUK: Quick follow-up on what Keith said. All ten teams will be taking delivery of their first Panoz at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning from the Indianapolis headquarters, and as he alluded to, the first Champ Car open test will take place at Sebring International Raceway January 23 through 25.

Q: Do you feel like with a brand new car that you guys are on more of an equal footing with the other teams, especially when you're talking about the first race in Las Vegas?

PAUL STODDART: Yes, I mean, that obviously is one of the attractions that got me involved. It was a good time to come in with the new car, and it was a leveling of the playing field but also I equally do not underestimate the talent and ability that's already out there. So, you know, we are going to go in with high expectations, but with a dash of reality thrown in.

KEITH WIGGINS: And I think that the good teams will always come to the top. And you know, I don't think the orders will change so much, obviously it's more relying on engineering and the drivers with a lot more restrictions, but a lot of teams have time to develop, you know, to catch up with the other car, so I think it's a question of who comes out of the box.

Of course, it's much more achievable with the restrictions on what you can do to the cars. But as Paul said, we're realistic but I'm also pretty optimistic that we had a lot of peopleand we had some of the best cars out there over the years which I think was proven over periods of people who watched the detail, and I'm very motivated that our guys will come out with as good of cars as anybody out there.

Q: Paul, obviously you talked about getting the money sponsorship on the Formulaq front, the difficulties there, what do you think the key selling points are for Champ Car?

PAUL STODDART: I think first of all, the budget that you're looking to attain is a sensible budget. And I wouldn't say it's very achievable; if it was easy everybody would do it. But it is achievable, because you're getting more bang for your buck. That's the only easy way to put it. Champ Car represents a tremendous investment.

And from a sponsor-payback point of view, I think we've got a few ideas that perhaps are a little bit different to those that have been tried in the past. And I'm very, very confident that we will attain the budget that we set for this year and as Keith alluded to, budgets we're already looking to for years 2008, 2009 and beyond. I think we will make it.

I don't underestimate the fact that people will say, you can't attain Formulaq-type budgets in any other form of sport or in any other form of motorsport. But I think there's a good, a good level playing field that will allow teams to go out there and market successfully and get the type of sponsors into the series and into the teams that will allow us to fund, fully fund, our year-in, year-out programs, so I feel quite confident.

Q: Not so much selling points, but what do you think the key strengths are of Champ Car?

PAUL STODDART: First that, it's a well-organized, well-run, well-disciplined series with participants that when the lights- they race from lights to flag, but it doesn't strike me as it's got anywhere near the politics that you do get in some other forms of motorsport.

And secondly, I do feel that racing on street circuits and on oval circuits give us a bit of an edge as well. I think it makes a tremendous spectator sport from the aspect of, you know, whether it be corporate hospitality or whether it be entertaining, sponsors, or just the general public at large. I think Champ Car has proven, particularly with these three-day festivals, it is actually a fan-friendly series, and I think that's incredibly important. Because the day you forget the fans is the day you start to degrade your own business.

Q: No comparison to Formula 1?

PAUL STODDART: No comparison, and that's something Minardi tried to strive, and which is bringing it back to the people. And I think Champ Car has certainly already achieved that and that's certainly one of the things that attracted me to Champ Car.

Q: The two of you sort of alluded to this in your previous comments, but as two guys who kind of share a similar background in having been sort of the leading lights, the leading forces in a couple of Formulaq teams, to steal a line from Paul, punched above their weight, I wonder if that is - sort of makeup in both of your characters is something that kind of helped this relationship gel quickly, and if you could maybe both of you sort of comment on that.

PAUL STODDART: I knew I was going to get that one first. No, look there is certainly some certain synergies there. Keith, we actually joked about this because Keith left Formula 1 the year I came into it. And I think, you know, Formulaq, they call is the Piranha Club; certainly it doesn't take prisoners; comparisons like it's a baptism of fire etc. They have all been used over the years. But it is a tough, no-holds-barred business, and it is business, unfortunately.

Unfortunately the sport side really is somewhat overshadowed by the politics in the business, which is quite sad. But it does actually get one ready for just about anything else, and I think Keith and I have both been through the mill at different times. We know what it's like to have to fight and for what we believe, in and yes, I'm sure that's part of what made us quick straightaway.

But nevertheless, both of us have got our feet on the ground and we know that our challenge is to do a good job in 2007 in Champ Car and beyond. And the Formulaq background can be interesting, but we forget all of that when the lights go green in Vegas.

KEITH WIGGINS: I think it's been - I'd like to think it's as basic as wanting to achieve. Clearly, Paul took on that challenge of Formulaq and survived it a lot longer than I did, proved that he was a fighter.

I'd like to refer that Pacific was the only team in history that have won every championship below Formulaq which shows my attitude towards competition, which that's my priority before anything else, money, anything else, is winning. And Formulaq is a desire, I was clearly out of my depth but was something you had to do and a little bit probably more sensible these days; comes with age.

I think it's a fundamental and the reason we jell is, again, having come up from the European ranks, you just try and do everything as professional and as solid as you can without compromise. And I think we probably have in different walks, a similar attitude. I think it's as simple as that. You know someone wants to do the thing right. Sometimes you've got to accept that, you know, there's not always total community in what you want to do, but you're doing it for the right reasons. And with a lot of teams, sometimes there's a bit more bullshit and you have to subserve to things that are a compromise because of the other party bring the funding needs or something like that. I think with us, okay, how can we make a good team and that's the key is down to either the character or the development.

Q: Certainly you are two characters who have character, put it that way, in my estimation. And I wondered and sort of along the same lines, you have said to me in the past, I believe the quote is, you're someone who doesn't necessarily function at his best if I could - and I think the quote was, you don't do your best working for others. But obviously to some degree, there's going to be a change in the way the team operates this year because of the new arrangement, and I just wondered if the two of you could sort of, you know, obviously not in specifics, but sort of in broad, general outlines explain what your roles will be in the day-to-day operation of team Minardi USA.

KEITH WIGGINS: Paul, you go ahead.

PAUL STODDART: I think, look, there's no question, and we said in the press statement that, Keith will be remaining in charge of the day-to-day aspect and management of the team. Certainly what I'll bring to it will be resource, and also probably a little bit of street wisdom that I've acquired over the years.

I think there is no issue with us about the way the team is going forward. I've already met all of the guys. I was lucky enough to be at the Christmas party with them on Friday evening, and that was a good chance to get around and meet everyone. They are a good, motivated bunch of guys and we are obviously going to bring a new form and strengthen that team, and it is just that; it's strengthening the team.

So as Keith already mentioned before, we both have the same goal, which is to get up there and to win races. And if we can't win them, to get damn close in trying to win them. I don't actually see too many conflicts, and if I did think that, then the chances are that we would not have got into this deal in the first place. And I don't see as Keith working for me; I see it as us working together and there's a monumental difference there.

KEITH WIGGINS: Obviously Paul has other things he's working on as well. We all know that other people have tried it. But you know, you can't live in a different country and you need someone. So I think our goals, the day-to-day will continue and I will continue to do all of the same things that I've done and still continue to work with Cedric on the other programs and with the drivers we've got. There's no real overlap. I mean, it's really filling a void that we needed which was, you know, as Paul said, to develop the business and the resource side.

Continued in part 3

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Kevin Kalkhoven