Champ Car World Series: An interview with Keith Wiggins and Roberto Moreno of Herdez Competition Part 1 of 2 Eric Mauk: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us on today's Champ Car weekly teleconference as we continue to preview...
Champ Car World Series: An interview with Keith Wiggins and Roberto Moreno of Herdez Competition
Part 1 of 2
Eric Mauk: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us on today's Champ Car weekly teleconference as we continue to preview the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. Today we're going to talk to two of the main forces behind Herdez Competition and the new two-car team there. We will be speaking with the driver of the #4 Herdez Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, Roberto Moreno. He's doing a promotional appearance for Bridgestone in Florida and will be joining us shortly. For the moment, we'll talk to Keith Wiggins. Keith is the general manager of the squad, one of the men that helped put this thing together. Keith, thank you for joining us today.
Keith Wiggins: Glad to be here. Thank you very much.
Mauk: If you could, as we talked about earlier, it might have been one of the worst kept secrets in motorsports, the fact that you were going to expand to a two-car team, bringing Roberto on. Can you talk us through how you came to this decision, how you got Roberto on board for 2003.
Wiggins: Well, I guess, as a lot of us do that have been around a while, you know Roberto very well from past lives. Clearly at one stage last year, having won CART as a rookie, Roberto was someone good to talk to, to see if we could put something together. As the drivers come up in the frame, Roberto we felt was a good part to add to our package as we wanted to expand into a top team. We basically had discussions like everybody in the winter periods. Probably around November time we pretty well were committed to the program, plans were in place. Herdez is our big partner, as well as owners. We put a program together that allowed us to go forward with the proposed program.
We had a little bit of a hiccup in December, like happens in this business. A couple of sponsors we had, that had been with the program, decided that they wanted to not be with the program for various reasons anymore, financially, the current climate, everything else. The reason we went a bit quiet, I like to err on the side of caution. Obviously, that gave us a little bit of a concern. We were 90 percent there with the program. We decided we just needed to buy a bit of time to be able to fill that gap and continue negotiating with Roberto. Basically that's what we did. We were trying to get all the bits and pieces together. That's why you saw that delay period. Of course, we carried on testing with him because we had every intention of doing it. But until pen is to paper, we thought it not the right thing to do. It was a pretty bad way that it progressed, but for us it didn't really make any difference. Once it was resolved, we made it public, although everybody knew it, so to speak.
Mauk: We are now joined by Roberto Moreno. Roberto, thank you for joining us on the call. Welcome to today's teleconference.
Roberto Moreno: My pleasure to be here.
Wiggins: I think I have to fine you for being late.
Moreno: I was actually doing an appearance (laughter).
Mauk: As we were just talking, it was not the biggest surprise of the year that you were hired. As Keith said, you had been doing some testing. Once you were actually signed during spring training, you probably had more miles under your belt testing this pre-season than a lot of guys do. You're not coming into this thing cold. You had a lot of testing. How are things going so far this pre-season for you?
Moreno: I'm very happy. The miles are something I needed to make up for the time I spent out of the race car for the past year. It's always difficult to get back, it takes a little time. But the Herdez Competition team gave great support behind me, gave me some of the miles I needed. Now I got the rust out of me and I'm ready to compete. It's great to be with the Herdez Competition team because they always believed in me. Keith Wiggins, we go back to my first year when I went to race in England, back in '79. We know each other that long. We respect each other a lot.
Keith has made this program grow. He saw the need to make it a two-car team, to develop the team, and to bring rookies and be able to succeed with them. He's achieved that finally this year. We are ready to compete. I'm very, very excited about being part of the Herdez Competition team.
Mauk: Congratulations. I speak for everyone in the CART community, we all look forward to seeing you back in the car this year. I will turn it over for questions now.
Q: Roberto, I was talking with Mario last week, and he was just thrilled to have you on board, saying he felt there was a lot he could learn from you. Talk about that role as not only driving the car, but in a sense becoming a mentor for a young driver.
Moreno: Well, to be honest with you, it's not being a mentor. It's basically that having a teammate that has seen so many situations in the past always helps because you can always relate to something with that driver. Mario is a very, very talented driver. I think being a rookie on a one-car team has helped him a lot. It gave him the ability to learn all the racetracks. He's ready now to take advantage of that.
Basically I'll give an example. When we go to a racetrack, there's a certain corner that has a particular problem with the car and I might know what could fix that. Mario can take advantage of that where he could probably not know what it would take. That little extra bit that I can add to the situation might make a difference. It happens with all of us. When I started, I had good people to relate to.
Q: Not racing, how did that affect you?
Moreno: That's a good question. It's very, very hard. It has been very frustrating for me to know that I should be out there competing. Having to be at home or at the racetrack chasing a ride for the following year seems to be a pattern in my life, in my career. But I'm far away from giving up. I kept pushing as hard as I could. Through the year, I developed a good relationship with Keith Wiggins and Tom Brown. It finally came together for this year. It's very frustrating to be out of racing, that's all I can tell you. You can do as much go-karting as you want to be sharp with your reflexes, you can exercise a lot, but nothing is as good as driving a racing car, believe me.
Q: Keith, so far in pre-season testing, we've seen a big improvement out of your team in terms of times compared to last year. Is that all because of Roberto or have you made other changes that have really helped a lot?
Wiggins: I think the team's grown a lot. Obviously, I still feel that what we had as a group and as a team was good and came a long way. If you look back to December 2000 when we effectively started the program, I think if you look back at the bits with Michel (Jourdain) when we were testing Laguna the previous years, if you look at some of Mario's, there's been a lot of occasions when we've been quick, but it's been sporadic, it hasn't been consistent. As Roberto has highlighted, that comes from a number of reasons when you've got a team with a rookie and a lot of pressure on him and us trying to develop.
I always believed that we built a very good core team. The thing was to expand it. That comes in several ways. You know, Roberto is key to looking at different avenues, coming in fresh as he explained, the experience. We've all got experience from different walks of the business. But for him to be able to come in and say, "I think you're doing it this way, we should look at doing it another way," being able to do that, because you know you have two cars anyway, so one can go off and experiment.
Roberto has the experience. He has engineering experience. On top of that, having two cars allows you to expand the engineering side because a one-car effort, a two-car effort is less expensive as an accumulation. We've been lucky to bring in some more engineering into the structure. Obviously, Tom is key. Tom and myself just running a team is probably not like some teams, although I'm a great believer that big teams fall over themselves and can be full of some air. Like all racing teams, it's about personalities and chemistry. I think we've got to the stage now where we've brought some good people in. Tom is really able to have a group that works under him now. Roberto into that group is really key because he's his own engineer, as well as experience. It's a package, and the package needs all of those elements.
I don't feel we were as far away as we looked. We were doing everything right, but we needed a few more ingredients to compete continuously and to show our form. We've put more bits in place.
Q: Roberto, what do you think of the track you'll be racing at this weekend? Do you think it's a good street circuit?
Moreno: I was quite impressed when I saw it a couple weeks ago. I think it's going to be a fast street course. There's a good chicane behind the pits which I think is going to be one of the old types of corners that you have to give the most there, some great straights, very wide for passing. I think the city did a good job in resurfacing the racetrack just for us to make sure we're comfortable. If the track has the grip that we're hoping to have, I think it's going to be a good street course. I think all of us are going to like it.