CHAMPCAR/CART: Toronto: Pook, Singleton press conference, part I

An interview with Chris Pook and Bob Singleton Part 1 of 2 Adam Saal: We don't have any plan or scheduled announcements. We just thought it would be good to have some media availability with both Bob Singleton and Chris Pook, the various chiefs...

An interview with Chris Pook and Bob Singleton
Part 1 of 2

Adam Saal: We don't have any plan or scheduled announcements. We just thought it would be good to have some media availability with both Bob Singleton and Chris Pook, the various chiefs of the Molson Indy as well as CART. And I want to do it this weekend because it's halfway through this year and we just want to open with Chris commenting on where he feels we're at right now. Chris.

Chris Pook: Well, the first thing I want to do is I want to thank Bob Singleton and Molson's Toronto Indy for another superb presentation. The attention to detail around here is just terrific and the way the event is promoted and conducted is outstanding; the reach across the community is truly remarkable. Unfortunately I was not here Thursday night for the black-tie function but I heard nothing but raves about it. I was here Friday evening for the driver party at Wayne Gretzky's establishment and it was extremely impressive. You and your team, Bob, congratulations, because that's what urban racing is all about. This is a very good example of it in this city.

You have asked me to comment briefly on the six months. I could probably sum it up in one word and that would be "Educational." I probably learned more about the sanctioning body in the six-months timeframe than I wanted to learn - be that as it may, I think we have made some big strides. We have talked about the management changes we made at the beginning of the year. We talked about our approach towards marketing. We're starting to see the fruits of that labor now. You've constantly questioned us about teams leaving and things like that, I feel very confident now if you walk through this paddock and you ask all these teams that were supposedly leaving, whether they are leaving, I think you'll find a completely different story than the perception that was out there.

Obviously Honda and Toyota have departed, and that's fine. They will go to a series which is comprised of all oval races. As you know I am on record with you as saying that I am not convinced at all that oval open-wheel racing can compete with stock cars on ovals.

We worked our backsides off last weekend in Chicago -- let me correct myself. The team worked their backside off last week in Chicago and we put in a genuine 25,000 folks on race day. That's pulling 25,000 folks out of a market that's, I don't know, 10, 12 million people. So I continue to question myself very, very severely on this issue of open-wheel cars on ovals.

Now, whether or not, for this series, doing one or two ovals in the year with our urban races and our regular road course races, whether that balance makes sense, I believe it does, but I think that we do need to visit it one more time and we will. That's not to say I am recommending we take Milwaukee off the schedule or I am recommending that we take Fontana off the schedule, or Chicago off the schedule. That's not what I am saying to you. What I am saying to you is that we have got to find a methodology here to make this attendance at oval races work. Particularly oval races that are in key urban markets such as Milwaukee and Chicago. I think that the next ten days you are going to see a schedule for 2003. We will meet with our teams next week in Cleveland. We will share with them not only our thought process for the schedule for 2003, but we'll also talk to them about the long time process of 2004 and 2005. I am sure you are all going to ask about this date in Toronto and I will ask Bob to answer that question bearing in mind I suggested to him that it not a good question to answer. (Laughter).

Bob Singleton: I think that's an oxymoron.

Chris Pook: But, let me just assure you that we will absolutely be back in Toronto. No question in our mind and I don't believe there's any question in Molson's mind it's a great relationship. Our Montreal event is going to be huge. It will be another Toronto and our Vancouver event continues to be an outstanding event. So the Canadian events make up a very important part of our whole marketing strategy. It's the top end of the NAFTA package with the United States in the middle and Mexico on the bottom of it. That's just how the sandwich is built. That doesn't mean it's the order of preference at all. It is just what we offer.

Lausitzring will take place. VP of promoter relations Tim Mayer was in Lausitz this week, and we have met with the bankruptcy referee, they are in Chapter 11 - we have met with him and we have arrived at a good solid working relationship to get that event underway. We feel confident about it. We're committed to the European races.

We'll do some testing very shortly with both a Lola chassis and a Reynard chassis with the new engine configuration for next year. We are hoping to get that underway in about 30 days, so that we can have a very clear jump on next year's season and we're not out there shooting from the hip and experimenting on the racetrack. That will be with the horsepower configurations down to the 700, 750 horsepower range. We're planning very strongly on making sure that our engine chassis packages for the next two years will be competitive in the form of what the audience needs to see.

And finally I would say to you that our conversations continue with many of the world's leading automobile manufacturers on the concept of the engine program for 2005 going forward. We'll probably invite and I would emphasize the word "Invite" four, maybe five at the very most engine manufacturers to be in our series. Four seems to be the sensible number. That planning process is underway as well. I think that probably concludes the overview comments that I need to make. Now I would suggest that perhaps it is appropriate for Mr. Singleton to address you. I just would like to again remind you - not because he's sitting here beside me - but this is one of the outstanding promoters on the CART FedEx Championship.

Bob Singleton: Thanks for those kind words, Chris. We in Toronto and Molson in Toronto have a great team and we work hard at putting on an event. I am going to answer this question before you even ask it. We are committed for three years in Toronto with CART. We're committed for three years in Vancouver with CART. We are committed for five years in Montreal. The answer to this question is If CART's here, we're here. It is a Molson and CART relationship and that's the relationship we like and that's the relationship we're growing upon. And that's what I want to say. The weather outside is great. I want to have a great day today, but our relationship with CART is strong. That's all I have to say.

Q: You said many times part of the appeal of this series or a crucial component of this series is sort of the multi-disciplinary nature of the circuits you run. On the other hand you are saying, I don't know if ovals can work. Is two, three ovals enough for you to advertise and sort of promote that multi-disciplinary component of the series?

Chris Pook: Well, that would -- if we did three ovals or four ovals that would represent 25 percent -- almost 25 percent of our series and with the three disciplines you would probably like to probably see a third of them be ovals. The fact of the matter is that's not going to be. We will end up, I would say, with three ovals in the series; maybe four. The other thing I need to say to you is that it is our intent to have one chassis kit, if you will, aerodynamic kit for the entire series. So the same aerodynamic kit that you use for the street course that you use for the road course will be on the oval cars. And once again, that will eliminate about another 6 or $700,000 out of our teams' budgets.

Q: August is the date when the teams have to file applications for next year to take advantage of your 1.1 million dollar subsidy. Any teams signed up and more importantly what will your key teams, Ganassi and Team KOOL, which represent six of your cares?

Chris Pook: 25 letters of intent have been received. There's another four sitting in the wings that we know of. The series will accommodate a maximum of 22 cars.

Adam Saal: Talk a little bit about why we're not disclosing who these teams are.

Chris Pook: We're not disclosing that quite summarily because the teams are all putting together their internal budgets and their internal relationships and my marketing staff is working with those teams and with those sponsors. And this is a joint effort on the part of CART and the teams together talking to the sponsors because clearly the sponsors have got some questions for us and one by one we're talking to the sponsors and I think without exception we have successfully answered all the questions that have been posed to us so far and the necessary commitments are in the pipeline to those teams with whom we visited in those sponsors.

Q: Are you confident that the teams will back up their letters-of-intent?

Chris Pook: I am extremely confident but you have to understand, Rick, there's certain things that have to take place in the order of process.

The first thing is we need to announce what our schedule is for the year 2003. That will happen after the Cleveland race next weekend. We'll make our presentation of the calendar and our strategic plan forward, the calendar going forward in 2003, '04 and '05 so the teams can understand where we're going and what we're doing. At that particular point they then need to go back to their sponsors and say, okay, here are the markets that are on board in 2003; here are the markets that will be on board in 2004 and here's where they will be in 2005. So a sponsor now can make a valued judgment on the delivery process that CART offers. And as you know, I have emphasized very strongly to you and your colleagues in the media the tremendous strength of the delivery platform that CART offers to corporations who wish to invest in the series be it on the side of race cars or be it as a series sponsor or event sponsor, we need to -- we need to provide all the ammunition to these companies so they can make valued business judgements on this part of their business; in the same manner that they make valued business judgements on the other parts of their business.

Q: Would you consider moving the August date back?

Chris Pook: I would say that we're going to stay with our August 1 date pretty strongly. Now will that be a cutoff in a sense we won't except anybody after August the 1st if that's what you are asking?

No, we will clearly keep the door open until we get the 22 cars. One of the things we're doing is if somebody signs up with us, we want to see a signed sponsor contract. We don't want to know the details of it, we just want to see the company name and the company officer's signatures on the line because we want to be sure that we have got, as I said to you before, at a very minimum 18 solid, solid racing cars and at the maximum 22 solid racing cars. Right now you have 18 solid racing cars in the paddock. As I mentioned to one of your colleagues this morning, from Reuters when -- I have gone through enough of the pain of two shaky racing cars on there because all you guys wanted to talk about were the two shaky teams. You didn't want to talk about the 18 solid teams. So I preferred, with all due respect to your writing capabilities, broadcasting capabilities, I think I'd certainly like to get rid of the two shaky teams and let you guys now focus on the 18 solid teams.


Pook, Singleton press conference part II

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Chris Pook