CHAMPCAR/CART: Walker, Manning, Lavin press conference, part I

An interview with Derrick Walker, Darren Manning and Rodolfo Lavin. Part 1 of 2. Adam Saal: We are delighted to ask Derrick Walker to unveil his team for the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. Derrick...

An interview with Derrick Walker, Darren Manning and Rodolfo Lavin. Part 1 of 2.

Adam Saal: We are delighted to ask Derrick Walker to unveil his team for the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.

Derrick Walker: Good morning, or afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for coming here today. Obviously, for us, it's a special day, a program announcement for 2003. We are getting ready to launch ourselves into the season. So it's time to come out and show you what we've got. We have an exciting lineup this year. A couple of young guys coming to the series, sort of typifies what CART is all about. We are getting some new faces into the series and some new sponsors.

We are pleased to announce we are running a two-car program for this year, which will help us. We have been suffering for many years with a one-car program, and two cars will make us quite strong.

In car number five, we are going to have Rodolfo Levin, who comes from Indy Lights and [CART Toyota] Atlantic [Championship]. Actually a graduate from Skip Barber's school. He has come up the traditional route from American racing to CART cars and he's got a very exciting sponsor in Corona beer. The company is really getting very excited and very much behind our effort here in CART racing. So welcome to Walker Racing and to CART. He is no stranger to CART, but CART's Champ Car racing is a new project.

For our second car, which will go under the number of car fifteen, will be a young Englishman, Darren Manning, for those who have been around the circle will have seen him last year in Rockingham [England] where he finished an incredible 7th in his first time on an oval, and he comes to our program with some support from RAC, the Royal Automobile Club in the U.K.

If the truth was known, Darren's program has still got several new announcements to be made. Darren will be racing a full season with us and we welcome him to our program.

So if I could just show you a little bit of what we are going to look like in Spring Training, and then we'll have some words with these drivers and see what they are all about.

Adam Saal: Derrick will rejoin his junior drivers. Derrick, the team you'll unveil next week in Spring Training, talk about work in the off-season, you actually did have another driver who was linked up with this team and if you could clarify that to see where that took us here today.

Derrick Walker: Yes, Roberto Gonzalez approached us at Mexico at a Mexico event and had some great sponsors. I mean, they are still very interested. I think it was a little premature, and we launched ourselves into that program, and unfortunately, we were a little ahead of the game and Roberto could not make it. Since then, we added these two guys and I could not accommodate him. You will quite likely see Roberto in another team. The whole family was trying real hard to close the deal and get sponsorship, but it just was a little too much in the time for him that we had, so it did not pan out.

Adam Saal: Obviously, we are delighted to have Rodolfo and Darren in the series with us, and we'll keep close tabs on everybody else down in Mexico and every other locale which we look to complete the field. This is our 17th officially announced car for this stage and just one away from our intended goal of 18, and perhaps we will exceed that.

Rodolfo, you are matriculating through the CART ladder series; you have done Atlantics, Indy Lights and now Champ Car. Talk about how you feel knowing that you are going to be a Champ Car driver for the first time.

Rodolfo Lavin: First of all, how are you? I am very excited to be here, very excited to be competing in Champ Car for the whole season. Very excited to be here with Walker Racing. This is a great team, very successful team, and I'm obviously very thankful with my sponsor, Corona. They have been supporting me for over ten years, and thank God I am the maximum category now. Well, we are going to give 100% of effort and dedication to this to give them the best results.

Adam Saal: Darren Manning debuted at Rockingham, even led in that race, and was an incredible driver in his rookie race. Now he's a full-time member with Walker Racing, and you were literally bouncing with excitement when we saw you in the garage not too long ago. How do you feel now that you are going from a one-off to a full season?

Darren Manning: It's absolutely a fantastic opportunity, really. You know, it's a top-level category, like everybody knows, and it's a real big step in my career, even from being a test driver in Formula 1 and competing in Formula 3000 for a couple of years. It's a big step up and a great opportunity to be in the CART series and all of these great circuits. Great to be with Walker Racing. It's a fantastic opportunity and really looking forward to it.

Adam Saal: It will be outstanding. It's great to have a driver of Darren's capabilities, as well as Rodolfo's.

Q:  Derrick, you've got Reynard in your illustration, did you plan to run
Reynards?  Can you give us an update on the status of that program?

Derrick Walker: Absolutely. We are 100% Reynard. One of the problems with the Reynard project is that it took a little while before we could actually count heads, and we are trying all we can to make the car competitive and continue, and having the line up that we have now, what it looks like quite possible to have six drivers driving the Reynard; that really helps us when it comes to developing the program. We have some interesting things that are coming together to increase the competitiveness.

What we are really looking forward with 2004 is CART said they will allow an update kit, and if we can get an update kit in the works, we will get a bigger step, a bigger gain. I think we will be okay this year. Getting teams signed up and putting some money into it, I think is really going to help.

Q: Talk a little bit about how you won the Formula 3 Championship in Japan, is it all about money now, getting in Formula 1?

Darren Manning: That's a big part of it. Obviously, Japan gave me a massive opportunity to race a full season. I think in CART and over in Japan, there are maybe a lot more manufacturers, more opportunities with sponsorship and things than in Formula 1 possibly, and maybe the talent may be more recognized than the size of your checkbook. It does seem that way, especially when my friend Justin Wilson, he won the Formula 3000 championship and he's supposedly Junior Formula 1 and even a year later it took a $1 million purse to get in. For me to be competing in Champ Car, you see Cristiano [da Matta] moving over to Formula 1, hopefully winning some races for Derrick and myself, you never know, in a couple of years time, I might be in Formula 1 as well, but not to sign a big check.

Q: Doing so well for your first oval on a pretty daunting speed race, talk about that.

Darren Manning: It was easy, no problem. (Laughing). I mean, to say, as well, the amount of preparation that I had, that was probably the biggest thing for me. I mean, the car was really good and gave me a lot of confidence, really. I think my experience and with the speed that Formula 1 cars, the amount of miles in a Formula 1 car, Grand Prix distances, that helped me a lot with the speed of 220 miles an hour up against a brick wall. And hopefully, that shows how quickly I can learn. It was pretty daunting when I got out there for the first time. I had done a rookie test of 100 or so laps, so it took a while to get up to passing.

Q: Will you have any involvement in the IRL?

Derrick Walker: Do you think I'm going to have any time with these two guys? I'm going to keep them busy, don't you worry. I think what you're looking at, we are going to have our hands full here and be happy for it. So I'm 100% focused on the CART series here and that's going to take all of that, I'm sure.

Adam Saal: Question for all three of you. Our open test at [Mazda Raceway] Laguna Seca, they said the cars looked more drivable without the traction control. Also, having never driven a Champ Car, do you think that will actually, help you knowing that you didn't have traction control last year and some of the other elements that the drivers had?

Rodolfo Lavin: Well, I think all the cars that I have been driving, they never had that traction control and I really don't know what driving is with that, so that's going to be new for me. Probably it's going to be more difficult for the guys who have raced with traction control than for me. I will have to be successful at that and try to learn as fast as I can.

-cart-

Walker press conference, part II

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Darren Manning , Rodolfo Lavin , Skip Barber , Roberto Gonzalez