Champ Car Media Conference
October 10, 2006
ERIC MAUK: Welcome, everyone, to today's Champ Car media teleconference where we are pleased to be joined by the president of RuSPORT, Jeremy Dale, and the new driver of the #10 RuSPORT Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, Ryan Briscoe. Ryan will be joining the team, driving the 10 car for the final two races of the year, the Lexmark Indy 300 on the streets of Surfers Paradise October 22nd and also for the Grand Prix of Mexico City, which takes place November 12th.
Guys, congratulations. Thank you for joining us today.
Jeremy, let's start with you. You guys had a long process and kind of a tough deal obviously with the injury to Cristiano da Matta, who had been driving the No. 10 car. Tell us a little bit about the process you guys went through in getting to this point today.
JEREMY DALE: Well, it did take us a little while, and that's really mostly centered around our desire to not just fill a gap and not just throw someone in the car but put someone in the car that we felt was going to make a real contribution to our team and in addition be a great teammate for Justin Wilson, driver of our #9 CDW car.
I must say, first and foremost, Cristiano had done a tremendous job in that regard. I think obvious to everyone out of respect for him we didn't jump in at Denver. Really it took us a few extra weeks just to keep it all moving forward and do what we thought was right for the team.
We recognized that the best way to do that was to go out and do some testing, and that's what we did. We put Ryan on our list, along with a couple of other guys, and he came down to Sebring. He only had one day in the car, but he did a very solid job. We decided pretty quickly at the end of the test that he was the right guy for us.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. It's obviously a big move for you and a big move for Champ Car. We're very excited to see you guys hit the track down in Surfers.
Ryan Briscoe, as many of you know, has driven a number of different race cars here in the last couple years. He was the test driver for Toyota's Formula One program actually back in the time that Cristiano da Matta served with that team. He ran in the Indy Racing League. He's competed in the Grand American Road Racing Series. Most recently he's driven a V8 Supercar Sandown and again at Bathurst.
Ryan, big announcement for you, big step. Tell us a little bit about your thoughts on that.
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, I mean, it's massively exciting for me. You know, I've had a thing for the Champ Car since the beginning of this season. Unfortunately, in the beginning of the year things didn't work out the way I was sort of planning to. But at this point, you know, to be able to debut at Surfers Paradise with RuSPORT, it's really fantastic for me. I'm excited about going into Champ Car now. Not only that, to be with a top team, it's going to be great.
Very excited and looking forward to it.
ERIC MAUK: As you and Jeremy both alluded to, you tested the RuSPORT car at Sebring. You tested in the pre-season with PKV Racing. Tell us your thoughts about the Champ Car as a racing machine.
RYAN BRISCOE: The car to drive is absolutely fantastic. I think it suits my driving style. It's the kind of car you can really push hard around a track. Very responsive to setup changes and so on. I don't know, something about it, I just have a great time driving them fast.
You know, it's definitely going to be a challenge going into Surfers Paradise, sort of coming in at the tail end of the championship. But with the support of RuSPORT and everyone getting behind me, I've got a good feeling about it. So hopefully we'll be good right out of the box.
ERIC MAUK: Have you been to the Surfers Paradise Champ Car event before?
RYAN BRISCOE: I went there back in '97. I was just a little go-kart racer. I went there to meet Alex Zanardi, my mechanic in go-karts knew him well. Apart from that, no, I haven't been since then.
ERIC MAUK: This will be 10 years after the fact. A different experience for you. Congratulations. We're looking forward to seeing you at the track down there.
RYAN BRISCOE: Thank you.
ERIC MAUK: We'll open it up for questions from the media.
Q. Ryan, how do you go about preparing for the race at Surfers, a track that you're not familiar with but yet one that the team knows? There are video games out there. Is that part of the preparation?
RYAN BRISCOE: Well, I mean, it's the usual kind of deal with a new circuit. I'm heading up there quite early in the week. I'll be able to have a real good look around the track, you know, walk around the track, just look at all the bumps and stuff around there.
Also having Justin as a teammate, you know, he's a top guy. I don't think you could ask for a better teammate really. At least from the test at Sebring, that's the impression I got. At Sebring, he was really helpful, explaining his thoughts at least on driver style, what's best to bring on board to make driving these cars better. So I'm sure he'll be a big help at Surfers Paradise, along with working with the engineering staff, using the data as well as possible. Really just being focused.
I'm going to be fit for the race and, yeah, just be focused and concentrating. Hopefully doing my best will be enough.
Q. Obviously you would like to win this race and Mexico City. Realistically, what are your objectives?
RYAN BRISCOE: Well, I mean, as I said before, it's definitely going to be a challenge. I would like -- a goal of mine is to out of the box show some serious competitiveness. I mean, whether in the end that brings home a win or a podium or I'm not sure what, you know, we'll have to wait and see. But if I can try to get the most out of the car that I'll have and race at the pointy end of the field, that will be fantastic. Then once you're in the race, there are different circumstances, as always, pit stops and everything. Hopefully I'll be able to do a good, solid job and bring the car home at the front of the field.
Q. Ryan, what are your impressions of the team so far?
RYAN BRISCOE: The team is immensely professional, very, very organized, just cover all bases really. I mean, I've been super impressed, especially over the last couple days, in preparation since we've made the announcement. Just everything from top to bottom. That's from like logistics to at the track, you know. The plan that was set out at Sebring when I tested from the engineers and the way we followed through with the plan throughout the day, very precise. Just seems like a highly professional team. It's definitely a good thing and a good feeling for a driver going into that.
Q. Jeremy, the team, the kind of things you went through, if you could explain the process of you had two teams, then one team. The people who were on the team, how did they shift the responsibilities? And the sponsor's role in all of this. We know in motorsports, sponsors play a big part in everything that goes on. Did you have the cooperation of all your sponsors through all this trouble that you went through?
JEREMY DALE: Well, let me first start by saying that not running the #10 car for three races was very difficult on everyone at RuSPORT. We're all very competitive. We're all very driven. We want to race. Our desire is to win. Our desire is to be the best we can be. And to not run that car was very painful and very difficult for everyone at RuSPORT.
I think that what's also clear is that it started to -- it has started to have, though it may be a small impact on the competitiveness of the 9 car, keep in mind that Justin was out there carrying the load on his shoulders 100%, which means you don't have a teammate to bounce ideas off and look at data and do all those things that good teammates do so well. Justin was really missing that, as well.
Even for the #9 guys, it was a big struggle not to run that #10 car. The sense of relief for all of us when we saw that car on the Wednesday morning, Ryan did the first day down at Sebring, that certain sense of relief as it rolled out of the pit lane, we saw it running again, was very real. It's going to be even better when we get to Australia.
On the second question, I mean, we have great partners. They have been very supportive. Key to that is keeping them well-informed to the extent we can having them help share in our decision making. But at the end of the day, we have great relationships with all of our partners. They support everything we've done throughout. We're very lucky to have that kind of support and very thankful for it.
Q. Ryan, obviously we know you've built a tremendous resume of experience in recent years in particular. We know how valuable a broad range of experience is. Can you tell us from working with the Formula One test team to long-distance experience what kind of things you've learned, what that helps you bring to the table?
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, no, definitely especially this year I'm certainly -- one thing I can say is I'm getting used to jumping from different race machine to different race machine, which hopefully will help going to Surfers Paradise because I'll have to try and pick up on what it takes to be fast there pretty quickly. So hopefully that will have helped in that regard.
I mean, from what I've taken from my experience in Formula One, definitely I'd say the biggest area was the engineering side, working -- also just working with so many engineers and spending so much time debriefing and briefing, looking over so many different aspects of a race car which could, you know, prevent small problems in a race. So you're just doing huge checklists all the time after practice and that sort of stuff.
Then just, you know, in Formula One you're always doing so many miles and testing so many small things, it all just sort of -- I don't know how to say it. It's definitely helped over the years on a technical base with anything I've raced, just being very thorough I guess with feeling so many different components which could make a difference.
But since then, having done endurance races, you know, racing in the IRL, it's all added together helped me as a driver as a whole to become I guess smarter in the race, not rushing into it, but work with the strategy a bit more, not win the race in the first corner kind of deal.
So, yeah, I mean, you know, every category has its own sort of aspects which are more important to itself. But in the end you take it all on board. I guess you're just always learning and trying to put that into use wherever you go.
Q. Ryan, I would think if you're going to finish the schedule with RuSPORT, there's probably going to be some talk somewhere down the line, maybe already has gone on, about you trying to latch on with this team full-time for 2007 or some other team. Am I right?
RYAN BRISCOE: I mean, definitely for my future down the road, you know, it's time to start looking at various options. But for the time being with RuSPORT, we're just going to take it for these two races, Surfers Paradise and Mexico. It's definitely a chance for us to get to know each other. For the time being, we're just focusing a hundred percent on trying to do a good job here. Then for whatever plans down the road, we'll talk about that.
For the time being, you know, it's definitely just we'll do what we can right now and then we'll see.
Q. Jeremy, talk about the synergy between these two guys. Just bringing a driver in for two races to end a season, you have to have good synergy between your existing driver and the guy you're bringing in. Talk about how you saw that part of it working.
JEREMY DALE: First of all, from the very beginning, in making the decision to go down and do a test at Sebring over three days with three drivers, so one day per driver, Justin was always in the plan in terms of his presence at the racetrack. I believe he was very helpful for all of the drivers. We were very clear with Justin, we talked about what we wanted him to do and what we wanted him to try and achieve coming out of the test. That was really simple: Is this guy going to be a good teammate for you? Is this guy going to be someone you think you can work with and who will make a contribution to this team?
That's why we didn't do it without Justin. It's precisely the reason we took him there. We had him involved and engaged and part of the process. I must say, to his credit, he did a tremendous job down there and he was really involved and engaged.
He's invested in the decision, if that makes sense. He's part of the decision. He fully supports bringing Ryan in for these last two races. I know he's not on the call right now obviously, but I'll speak for him because we have talked about it. He's excited to have Ryan as a teammate. He thinks he's going to be a great addition to the team. I'm pleased that he feels that way because he was part of the process.
Q. Ryan, during the test, were you also testing the team to see if this is a team that you wanted to be with?
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, I mean, obviously I was down there getting to know everyone. Obviously I was forming my own ideas of the team, yeah, absolutely. But I've got to say, it's got to be one of the -- I mean, I haven't had a whole lot of experience with them yet, but it's got to be one of the most professional teams I've ever had experience with.
It was definitely all positive from my point of view.
Q. Jeremy, even though you found the driver that you want for the rest of the year, this has to be the good and bad of racing because of the fact that he's having to replace Cristiano in this situation.
JEREMY DALE: Yeah, it's a very good point. You know, every day since August 3rd our hearts have been with Cristiano and his family. I'm just so pleased that he is making the phenomenal recovery he is.
We have been very clear with Ryan, and he understands where we're at. As we look at the remainder of '06, we potentially look into '07, we do that with one eye on Cristiano and his recovery, and one eye on these two races and the potential to take this relationship forward.
As Ryan already said, this is one step at a time. That's the way we laid it out. We said, Listen, let's identify the candidates. Let's go down to Sebring. Let's take the first step. That's a test, okay. Let's identify a driver. Let's go and do the last two races. That's the next step. Along the way we keep an eye on Cristiano, how he's doing.
It is a difficult thing to do, but it's not the first time in this sport, and it won't be the last time in this sport. That may sound a bit harsh. It's not meant to. It's the reality of this business and this sport.
Ryan recognizes that and Cristiano recognizes that. That's just the reality of where we're at.
Q. Jeremy, was there any question about the fact that Ryan was available and not necessarily bringing money with him to get this job?
JEREMY DALE: No. What we were looking to do was identify three drivers that we felt were good guys to test. We did that. You'd like to test more, but there's only so many days on the calendar. So we identified three guys. Off we went.
That was never in our mind. With this team, it has never been in our mind. It's just not a way -- it's not the way we approach it. We believe that these guys have a job to do, and finding sponsors is not necessarily part of that job. Sometimes certain drivers will attract sponsors, and that's fine. That's icing on the cake, as it were. But Ryan's job is to go to Surfers Paradise and to go to Mexico City and apply himself 100% to getting good race results. There's a lot that goes into that.
I want to take a step back. Gordon's question was an interesting one. Ryan answered it in a modest way. A driver can make a plan for how they approach a corner, make a plan, be methodical about how they approach a lap or a session in a car or a day at the races or a race weekend or an entire championship season. Ryan is more towards the end. I mean, he came there with a very clear idea of how to approach the test. It wasn't lap by lap. It wasn't outing by outing. That's a big part of why we've asked him to join us, because we think he has a very mature, broad-based view. That's what a professional race car driver does. We believe he very much fits that category.
Q. Ryan, being from Australia, will it be difficult for you to parcel out your time because you're going to be learning a new track, dealing with a new team, dealing with the media in Australia who are known to be rabid?
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, it's a good point. I mean, I think Surfers Paradise is one of the biggest events on the calendar, especially being Australia, it's going to get busy up there.
I'm definitely going to keep focused and keep what the priority of this weekend is in mind, and that's about working hard with RuSPORT and applying myself fully to get a good result.
Obviously there will be a lot of people trying to keep me as busy as possible up there promotion-wise, and I'm going to have to obviously give them as much time as I can, but never losing sight of what the goal of this coming weekend is.
I'm just going to try to be smart about it and make sure I'm always well-rested and focused when the time comes to drive the car.
Q. Ryan, what is the difference between driving for Champ Car compared to IRL? How can you compare the two cars?
RYAN BRISCOE: The cars themselves, they're not a whole lot too different to drive. That's again going to play into my favor coming into Champ Car at the end of the season. You know, they're both very exciting cars to drive. Champ Car has a little bit more horsepower, and that's really the main thing that sticks out. A bit more power out of the corners which you need to control a bit more for wheel spin and so on. But essentially, you know, they're very similar race cars. I mean, they weigh about the same. The driving style, from my experience, is very similar.
Not a big difference. I mean, I love -- when it comes to the road courses, they're both fantastic cars to race.
Q. With there being a good historical precedence for different Aussie drivers making their Champ Car debut in Surfers Paradise, what is your thought on joining that particular list? What has been the feedback from your friends and family back home?
RYAN BRISCOE: It's just so exciting. I haven't raced in Australia since I left here at the age of 15 to race go-karts. Just recently with the two endurance touring car races I had this past month and a half, all of a sudden I've been able to have family and friends come to the track. So it's been something new and different for me and very exciting.
So, definitely, to be debuting in Champ Car in my own country, you know, very exciting. I mean, it's great to have so much support from friends here doing so. Everyone that's close to me is very excited for me. It's definitely a good feeling.
Q. Jeremy, how much, if at all, did Ryan's seat time in the pre-season with PKV factor into making this decision?
JEREMY DALE: It didn't. As a matter of fact, it's a funny thing. The three guys we tested, we tested Ronnie Bremer, who has a full season in Champ Car in '05, and Ryan, who I believe had two days in a PKV car at Sebring, is that correct?
RYAN BRISCOE: Yes.
JEREMY DALE: That was the extent of his Champ Car experience. And Adam Carroll, who literally had never seen Sebring and never sat in a Champ Car. Of course, that made it a bit more challenging for us to make a decision because you have those three guys starting from a different baseline.
We were willing to take a look at anyone. It wasn't based on experience either in a Champ Car or at Sebring, per se.
ERIC MAUK: Ryan will be the sixth Australian-born driver to run in the Champ Car event at Surfers Paradise. Five of those drivers, including Ryan, made their Champ Car debut in that race going back to Gary Brabham, also including guys like Jason Bright, David Besnard, and Will Power, who is leading the Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year points this year. He actually made his Champ Car debut as Surfers last year with Team Australia.
We'll go ahead and wrap up our Champ Car teleconference. Again, congratulations to both Ryan Briscoe and Jeremy Dale, everyone with RuSPORT, another big announcement. We look forward to seeing you guys down in Surfers Paradise.
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