CART FedEx Championship Series: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
Topics: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
ADAM SAAL: Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for your patience as we get a little bit of a late start here. It will be a very exciting announcement. Joining me for this announcement here on the podium today to my immediate left is John Lopes, the vice president of racing operations for CART. Chris Pook, the president and CEO of CART, no stranger to Long Beach. Mr. Brian Griffin, manager of motorsports for MG Rover. And John Judd, the managing director of Engine Developments, Ltd. We're happy to announce today, and of course all four of our guests will be available for questions, that officials from MG Rover and Championship Auto Racing Teams have announced a new engine supplier relationship for the CART FedEx Championship Series for 2003 and beyond. This will bring the MG brand and its winning motor racing heritage to American open-wheel Champ car racing for the first time in the mark's rich history. It's an outstanding announcement. This is thew first of several manufacturer involvement that we will announce over the course of the next couple of months. But to start with a brand rich in heritage such as MG is outstanding. To make some opening comments and talk about the details of the relationship, how we'll interface with CART as well as how we'll interface with Judd, I'd like to ask Mr. Brian Griffin to speak. Welcome, and give us your thoughts on what is a very exciting day for us here at CART and hopefully for MG.
BRIAN GRIFFIN: Yes. This is the first time I've been involved in racing in North America, but we as a company have an enormous heritage over here, going back some years. We're delighted to become associated with CART. We see CART as a global sport, and it helps us to enhance our brand image worldwide.
ADAM SAAL: Brian hasn't done a lot of press conferences in his day. Usually the man behind the scenes. Give us a bit of a glimpse of what it will be behind the scenes in your partnership.
BRIAN GRIFFIN: Our relationship with John Judd is going to be primarily on a technical basis, but we are very, very obviously keen to see the relationship develop and hopefully succeed 2003 onwards.
ADAM SAAL: Having said that, we are going to move to Chris Pook. Brian hasn't done a lot of press conferences, neither has Chris, yet today. Chris, it has to be a great source of pride, great sense of accomplishment that still fairly early in your tenure as CART president, CEO, we've been able to establish a relationship with not one but two great manufacturers. Talk a little bit about how you feel today.
CHRIS POOK: This is obviously a huge announcement for the company, for both companies, and indeed for me personally. I come from England, so I know about MG and the heritage of MG. So there's a lot of emotion in this announcement to bring MG to this series. I think the real issue here is that MG Rover are rapidly growing as a global marketing company. The fact that we have been able to find an alignment together in the global markets I think speaks to the strategy of CART in the sense that we have been talking for the last four months about our critical markets, Pacific Rim markets, European Economic Community and the North American Free Trade Association markets. The fact that we also have a global television distribution system to help support what we do in motor car racing I think fits well in with what MG Rover is seeking to do. But I think it has to be said that also MG has a huge heritage in this country, tremendous heritage. This particular race here in Long Beach is heavily supported by the MG Car Club of this region, which is one of the largest MG car clubs in the United States. Their membership have been involved in this race since we started in 1975. So this kind of ties a total ribbon around the whole package as far as I'm concerned and as far as the company's concerned. We're delighted. I think the fact that with John Judd and his company, John already this year, his engines have won the 24 Hours at Daytona, I think you're going to see a very interesting, very interesting combination here with the technical research that MG Rover can provide to John and John's experience already. I think a message is being sent here.
ADAM SAAL: Chris, our friends in the media have tried to track all of your trips around the world as you visited with John Lopes, all the various manufacturers and so forth. Talk about how the MG relationship came through on a fairly quick fast track, essentially how the partnership we've been talking with John Judd, John Lopes can talk more about that, but the MG was definitely a pleasant development rather late.
CHRIS POOK: I mean, John, all credit to him, and his team, and MG Rover's public relations team for coming together. I mean, John and I were in Europe, John Lopes and I were in Europe, seems like an eternity ago, but it was three weeks ago or something. We were on a small sight-seeing tour. We thought we were going to have a quiet Thursday morning. Then we had a breakfast meeting. Next thing we were from ^ Houston station to rugby, at rugby our very overpaid chauffeur, Mr. Judd, picked us up at the airport (laughter), and we went straight into MG Rover. We had a very productive meeting. We were told we had one hour for our productive meeting. After that meeting, there was a lot of work behind the scenes between MG Rover's public relations agency, who probably should be introduced actually for the work they've done.
ADAM SAAL: Brian, if you could take us through the introductions of MG representatives on your team.
BRIAN GRIFFIN: Over there is Elena and Allison. They've been working for us for 18 months, helping us. Although it's a very small company in Brighton, they're almost global for the amount of traveling they do.
ADAM SAAL: I'll be happy to introduce any of the members of the media to Allison or Elena later on talking about how we can service your needs going further as we get the new relationship going. John Judd, you've been successful this year. Max Papis, one of our regulars, was one of the drivers on your winning entry. It was a Delara powered Judd V-10 that won the 24 Hours at Daytona. Great way to start the season. You're no stranger to open-wheel competition by any means with your power plants, have even won races in the CART Championship Series with Judd power. Talk about your enthusiasm heading into what's going to be another chapter in an already established career for Judd.
JOHN JUDD: We do look forward to this with great anticipation. We think it won't be easy. It's very competitive. Personally I'm quite excited to get back into a competitive and tentatively challenging engine environment. I just want to build engines and go racing. For us it's a great opportunity. I'm pretty excited about the MG relationship. I think anybody in my position would be very happy and proud to be associated with MG. It is a technical partnership and a sporting one, both of those things. I think there's potentially great benefits for both parties.
ADAM SAAL: What is the next step? What has already taken place? It's going to be a co-engineering relationship as you build the next generation. How entirely new will this engine be that's designated for Champ car competition?
JOHN JUDD: It's probably got one percent carryover from something we have already. It's a new engine. That's basically it. We use the bore centers from an existing V8. That's it. We can use some of the common fixed rings. New heads, manifolds, block casting, pumps, internal parts. It's all new. That wasn't necessarily the intention in the first place. That's how it's turned out (laughter).
ADAM SAAL: It will be a new motor for what our new regulations for the FedEx Championship Series series next year. We are going to a 3.5 liter formula, non-turbo charged engines. John Lopes was at the very beginning of those discussions with several of our owners on a committee to establish these rules. John, here we have the first official announcement of a manufacturer, two outstanding manufacturers, supporting these rules. Talk a little bit about the Judd MG relationship in particular and how you feel the overall new regulations are being embraced by the automotive industry.
JOHN LOPES: At first, when we made the rather sudden decision to switch to the 3.5 liter formula back in the Houston franchise owners meeting, at the time we were walking into unchartered waters with respect to manufacturer participation. John Judd was one of the first individuals to pick up the phone and say, "I see this as an opportunity. I want to participate with the CART FedEx Championship Series series." At that time we immediately began seeking out partners for John. This is just the first example of what I believe is going to bear fruit in the future. I think it's important to point out that Steve Fusick and his marketing group have been hard at work speaking to manufacturers around the world. We believe this is the first marriage that you're seeing between a constructor such as John Judd and a blue chip manufacturer such as MG, with CART, and also embracing our global reach. We're excited. But it is certainly the fruit of an awful lot of negotiation and traveling. And I want to publicly thank John for his commitment to the series and his diligent efforts in bringing MG to the table.
ADAM SAAL: We'll open it up for questions at this point.
Q. Can you tell me about how many cars you think you will be able to supply?
JOHN JUDD: I say we need about four to make it viable, and probably eight would be really good. Down a stretch, we could do 10.
Q. John, could you give us a timetable on testing, when you expect the engines?
JOHN JUDD: First test, mid June, that's on schedule. I'd say engine delivery to the teams, that really needs to be October, November, to coincide with the new cars.
CHRIS POOK: I know you were going to pin me down on that one. I suspect you'll see something merge here probably mid June, maybe a little earlier. Right now our focus today and for the next few weeks is to make sure we understand how we can make our MG Rover relationship work for them in the various markets. They need to have it work also through our television packaging, and of course bring them into our pace car program. So while they don't sell cars in this country at the moment, we want to be sure that the MG product is out there in front of the North American eyes, as well as the North American television cameras.
BRIAN GRIFFIN: Well, I'm only associated with MG motorsports. I can't really speak on behalf of the company as a whole. We were here for 31 years I think previously, so we have a long association. I think you'll just have to wait and see what our board decides to do later this year.
Q. Is this marriage between Judd and MG (inaudible)?
BRIAN GRIFFIN: It is to start with, yes, that's correct.
Q. John, Mr. Judd says he can do possibly up to 10 cars if he had to. Eight would be a good number. If we wind up with a field of 20 to 24, how many engine manufacturers are you going to have here in order to be truly a competitive series?
JOHN LOPES: I think with respect to the direction CART is going as a global marketing company, reaching out, being a manufacturer-driven series, delivering value to the manufacturers, the answer is really unlimited. Our intent is to have as much manufacturer involvement in our sport and to deliver as much value as we possibly can. So we are not going to close the door to anyone who wants to participate and use cars as a marketing platform worldwide. There is really no set minimum. Our intent is to bring as many players to the table. Each one of them has unique marketing and branding issues on their own, as does MG. Our intent is to create a mechanism to deliver each of them a certain amount of value. To go back to your original question on supply, the supply rules, each constructor is required to be able to support half the field. In 2003, we had to set a number to give the constructors something to plan upon. So that number, the field, the minimum field number next year would be 20. John had to commit with us with a supply agreement they would be able to support a minimum of 10 cars, with no set maximum, that's up to his business to do. Of course, as certain competitive situations play out on the track, certain manufacturers will garner a greater percentage of the field. At this point I think it's safe to say that our intent is not to restrict participation to any company.
CHRIS POOK: We're not going to restrict participation to any company. But the first thing to do here is get our arms around the Judd MG Rover relationship, make sure that's solidly entrenched with the right teams that they want to go with. We'll open those doors, we'll help drive that. Steve and his group will be hard at work making that work. I think you know about our philosophy of approach towards these relationships. We are going to build this relationship and build it solid, make sure that MG Rover are getting value out of their relationship with this series.
BRIAN GRIFFIN: Yes is the answer to the question. LeMans was a spectacular success for us, even though we only lasted about 12 hours. The cars performed extremely well. They were competitive. They weren't durable because they were so new. We've also last year, the end of last year, embarked on the British Touring Car Championship. We're increasing that this year to four cars instead of two cars. We also have embarked on the Junior World Rally Championship. We are in true MG tradition competing in lots of different levels. Our association with CART is even more global than what we've achieved so far.
JOHN LOPES: Yes. We are working -- specifically our marketing group is working with Cosworth to find them a partner, the same way John made a commitment. We work closely with John in developing the MG relationship, our Cosworth has made a commitment to CART as well. We are working diligently with CART to help to badge that engine.
Q. (Inaudible) Toyota?
JOHN LOPES: Three for sure, and hopefully more. Toyota has indicated that their benchmark for next year is they would like to construct for 10 teams. Whether it plays out that way or not, the market will dictate what happens. But certainly, a little insight for you, we had a briefing of the engine manufacturers recently this weekend to go over the preliminary final rules and supply rules just so they all understood and they were all on the same page. We discussed issues such as what the rev limit will be set at, making sure they understood that the cost cap was a hard cap, not a soft cap, and they played within those rules. It was a great dialogue. Of the committed constructors who were in the room, there were five.
Q. John, now that you have fairly committed manufacturers for engine supply, what kind of commitment have you gotten (inaudible)?
JOHN LOPES: It would be disingenuous to avoid the issue that the chassis manufacturer situation is a bit in flux right now. Certainly with Reynard's recent challenges, it's created a bit of uncertainty with respect to Reynard moving forward, although we have been working very closely with them. It's been something that we have focused on with the receiver in the UK to help Reynard continue. It appears right now that our teams are taken care of for the team being with respect to all the bids they need to go. Lola of course is committed. We have also received strong indications of a desire to construct in our series from the other well-known manufacturers in open-wheel racing. How that will play out still remains to be seen. It's really on the front burner right now for us. So I would say as we move forward in the next three to four weeks, the chassis manufacturer situation will take shape. I think it's also safe to say that we are not interested at this time in being a single-supplier series. Our intent that is we want as much participation again as possible while still creating a viable business model for the chassis manufacturers so they can make money in the series.
JOHN JUDD: I don't understand the question.
JOHN JUDD: Good names, not the favorite. I would like to be the favorite, but I think maybe not.
CHRIS POOK: What's going to happen, the significance here, this is the first European manufacturer since Mercedes to come into this series. John has committed to MG Rover. That's his partner. The other major manufacturers will have to make a decision what they're going to do. Some might decide to build their own engines, some might decide to partner up. He is committed to MG Rover. They're first out of the blocks and they're running. The others need to make a decision what they're going to do.
Q. What is the nature of your technical arrangement with John?
BRIAN GRIFFIN: We're based in South Birmingham, John is in ^ rugby down the road, which is not far. Our relationship is going to be a technical one. We haven't as yet tried to specify the boundaries of that. That is a very open question as we sit here. This all happened very quickly. We've had a small number of meetings so far. Next few weeks we'll work out the details.
CHRIS POOK: It's important to point out that MG Rover has a huge tradition of engineering. Those of you who have known the brand in this country for years, maybe some of you are a bit too young, and some are not (laughter), but they have a huge engineering tradition here. Don't take that level of the relationship lightly. They've also made great strides in their competition, as you heard, in the European arena. This is a company that understands where it's going.
JOHN LOPES: However, at this point we're not prepared to announce the return of the MG liquid suspension special.
BRIAN GRIFFIN: No. Am I the only person that remembers the liquid suspension (laughter)?
Q. Last year you had your association with Lola (inaudible)?
BRIAN GRIFFIN: Like any relationship, you have your highs and lows. We currently have a good working relationship with Lola. We're continuing this year with Lola at LeMans. We are not continuing with Lola with the British Touring Car this year. That's all I have to say at the moment. We haven't made any plans for next year yet in terms of either of those relationships. But we do expect to continue in most forms of motorsport. We also have a desire to become more self-contained within our own outfit, not necessarily all our motorsporting association with other companies.
Q. John, you referred earlier to discussions with manufacturers (inaudible)?
JOHN LOPES: I mean, that is something we're working on. We also do not want the motor to stray too far for our teams. We want them to be able to develop the motor, number one, to be able to race it effectively on the road and street circuits, the various venues we race on; but also, number two, we want them to be able to take that motor to our now hometown track in Indy. As a follow up, the difference in rpm with respect to the revs, you will not see us go to 12,000. With 10.3 being run on the oval circuits in the US, I think you will probably see our revs somewhere between the 11,000 and 11.2 range for next year. Chances are it will be around 11.2. There seems to be a building consensus among the manufacturers. We're working with each manufacturer as our partner to help determine that. Lee Dykstra, who heads up our technical staff, has been working with them on that. If I were to predict right now, I'd think you will see us at around 11,2000.
ADAM SAAL: CART headquarters will be relocated to Indianapolis May 17th. We'll be open for business May 20th.
JOHN JUDD: That depends on how many cars we have finally. Up to about three or four cars, we'll do it all in England. We run the sports car business quite well from the UK at the moment. The freight is really quite easy. Not too bad. We can turn that around pretty efficiently. If we get to five or six cars, we'll certainly consider reopening Brian's place in Torrance. It is a pretty ready facility. We could open that quite easily.
JOHN LOPES: I think without getting into too much detail about the current situation with the manufacturers, we have stated that we would like to have a certain amount of commonality obviously with the engines and both with the chassis. We're still exploring to what degree that will or can be. Our technical staff has advocated that we remain to a certain degree true to the Champ car heritage with respect to our aerodynamic packages. We're still weighing the balance. I think that more than anything else will determine what direction we ultimately go upon our final chassis package. We have a lot of purists in the garage who would like us to maintain true to some of our aero packages. We're working through that.
CHRIS POOK: I think we're just going to see what happens, plays out here, in the next couple days. Stand back and see. We're trying to extend some olive branches and reach out. Maybe those branches are going to get cut off.
Q. How does this affect your staffing for your company there?
JOHN JUDD: Well, obviously we will need more staffing. I think it's probably not too hard to do. We're pretty well-structured management-wise. I think we have a reasonably organized place. The sports car business, you know, has most of the right people in the right jobs. Just mainly be a question of taking on engine builders, race engineers. The design department is just doing the new engine right now because the sports car thing is pretty mature. It's been around four years now. We don't need to develop it too much. The development is pretty limited there. We're basically glad to have the extra work.
Q. (Inaudible) still with all the other programs you're doing?
JOHN JUDD: The main other program is the sports car stuff. That will continue. It's not that big a market for us. We have quite a large proportion of the cars in private entrants. There aren't really that many cars.
ADAM SAAL: John, Brian, Chris and John, thank you so much. The press releases have been distributed. If you need any further assistance, both I can help you, Elena or Allison. Thank you MG and Judd to the CART FedEx Championship Series.
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