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CART FedEx Championship Series: Molson Indy Vancouver

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Molson Indy Vancouver

CART FedEx Championship Series: Molson Indy Vancouver

Stuart Ballantyne
Chris Pook
Bob Singleton
July 27, 2002


VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA

ADAM SAAL: We're getting a slightly late start, but important news that we want to share with you on this weekend. We're joined by Stuart Ballantyne, Bob Singleton, and then CART President and CEO, Chris Pook. We'd like to start with Bob to kick off today's announcements about the coming years for Molson Indy races, in general.

BOB SINGLETON: Thank you very much, Adam. I'd like to start off, I think we did this a little bit in Toronto, the rumors keep floating back and forth and all around. I'd like to say that Molsons is committed to CART as a partner as CART is committed to Molsons as a partner. I heard rumors that Toronto wasn't going to run next year because so on and so forth. I'm here to say we're real happy we're going to run because we're going back to our old date in Toronto, which is July 11, 12 and 13. That will make our race fans happy. We were up against the US long weekend this year. Going back to the middle of July is where we want to be and we're actually appreciative that CART has allowed us to go back to this weekend. That's my announcement for Toronto. I'll throw it over to Stuart because it's not fair, Stuart is general manager in Vancouver, and he should make the Vancouver announcement, thank you.

STUART BALLANTYNE: As you can see, we're having not only good weather, but a good weekend going. We had the second best attendance Friday. Very happy about that. Also we're happy to announce we're going to be keeping our weekend, and our new dates for 2003 will be the 25th, 26th and 27th of July. We're excited about being the mid summer, hopefully someday the mid summer classic.

ADAM SAAL: To expound on not only the two Molson Indys in Vancouver and Toronto, but of course our debut race in Montreal, which will be a fixture in our schedule for many years going forward, talk about how important these races are to what we're all about at CART and the FedEx Championship Series.

CHRIS POOK: Thank you, Adam. Thanks, Bob. Obviously this business that we do in these three cities, or two to date, the third coming in Montreal, is very important to our overall marketing plan. We've talked about the importance of the North American Free Trade Association relentlessly to the media. Some of you understand it, some of you don't. Be that as it may, hopefully if I keep talking about it, you'll get it one of these days. The two races in Mexico are very, very important to us. The three races in Canada are equally as important to us, as also are the races in the lower 48. Our relationship with Molsons is terrific. As Bob said, you know, we arrived in Toronto, word was in the media this will be the last race. We just looked at each other, pretty astounded, particularly with the numbers that attended over the three days. Got here Thursday night, 11:30 at night, and the first thing I was asked, "I guess this is th last race in Vancouver." I was, "Okay, very nice. Maybe it's your last rise race, but it's not mine." We're coming back here. I mean, yesterday's crowd was awesome. This is just typical of when CART goes into urban atmospheres with a good promoter, you get large quantities of people. The demand for the product is there, and the product is extremely good. There is not a better product. The guys out there are fighting very hard not for 10ths of a second but for hundredths of a second. The standard of this racing is just superb. The standard of our promoters in Canada, the Molson companies, and Molstar themselves, are just terrific. They do an outstanding job. Last night's function was terrific. I wasn't able to attend the function the evening before, but I'm told it was just a superb evening. It's the standard and quality of the promotion that comes from Molsons, and Bob Singleton and his entire team across the country. We will go to Montreal and we'll see the same standard and quality in Montreal. We are absolutely delighted to be here. This is my first time to Vancouver for the race. I've been to the city many times before, but first time to the race. I love it. I think it's a great location. It's a great atmosphere. It's a different atmosphere to Toronto. This is clearly a Vancouver-type British Columbian type atmosphere this race has, type of feeling to it. Toronto has its own character and feeling. I'm sure when we get to Montreal, they'll have their own character and feeling to that race. That's what makes these urban races work and that's why we're so pleased to be here. I thank Bob and his entire staff, and Stu, his staff as well, for a job extremely well done.

ADAM SAAL: Chris, you're not one to duck an issue; you never are. We've kind of been open and honest as we head into what we've called the New CART. Chris Pook took over as president September 18th. Yet we did an interview where the same questions, "Will CART be here next year," that were asked the former president were asked of Chris again. Talk a little bit about how we face those challenges at CART and the progress we've made and some of the challenges we have going forward.

CHRIS POOK: Well, I mean, what we're fighting is a certain amount of perception here. But we are definitely a company in a turnaround mode. What you have to do with a company in turnaround mode is stabilize it. All the things we've done this year is to stabilize the company. We made a decision not to go forward with a new engine package back in June. It seems like ages ago, but I guess it was just last month. And we are now going to go with the Cosworth turbocharged engine for the next two years. We brought the economics of that down for our teams. We're going to keep the same chassis that they've had, they've got in their books already, and that will keep costs down. We met this morning with representatives of the teams to see what other measures we can do to be more efficient in our economy. We're just building solid platform. We're doing it one step at a time. We're not trying to do a bunch of variables. We just take on one thing, get it executed, go to the next, get it executed. When you start a company, that's how you have to start and build a company. If you're stabilizing and turning a company around, that's what you've got to do. Some things people like; some things people don't like. But we're on a mission here. We're going to get it done. You know, if somebody gets in the way of what we're trying to do, we'll go either around, under, over, and if necessary over the top. But we're going to get this company turned around. The quality's here. That's what we intend to do. The answer to the question, "Will we be back in Vancouver?" You're damn right we're going to be back in Vancouver next year.

ADAM SAAL: Questions for Bob, Stu or Chris?

Q. Bob or Stu, there's some talk that Paul Tracy and Patrick Carpentier are possibly looking at a future in another series? Is that a concern for you in the future.

BOB SINGLETON: Three Canadian drivers in the series right now. Adam's point, to shoot straight at you, of course, it would be a concern. I mean, to lose two of the Canadian drivers, if you're a Canadian promoter, is a concern. So we sit back. That doesn't change our commitment, I mean, but, yeah, it's a concern. And hopefully that won't happen. I think Paul has been very clear on where he would prefer to drive. And I'm sure Patrick is clear where he wants to drive. So hopefully we just hope that both get rides for next year in CART. Looks like Alex is pretty secure. To me, we're in good shape there.

Q. Chris, how has the role of the Molson Indy here in Vancouver changed with the struggles that the CART series has had? It seems like for a couple years the Indy in Vancouver seem -- the CART series didn't really need it. Has it changed the role because of the turmoil the last couple years?

CHRIS POOK: I don't know that it's changed the role. I never really understood what the problem was with the race in the eyes of my predecessors. Of course, there's a lot of things I don't understand that were in the eyes of my predecessors, as well. It shouldn't come as a surprise to me that they took that position. I don't think so. I mean, as far as I'm concerned, you know, you've got to understand, I'm an urban guy. I come from the street-racing background. I love these things. When they work well like this one does and Toronto does and Montreal does, Cleveland does, and I even consider Milwaukee an urban event, too, just so you know. When they work well, you know, it boggles the mind that people would say, "Oh, we don't like it here," for whatever reason. I mean, what more could you ask for? You know, we could be sitting in a cramped wooden hut on a bench holding this press conference someplace in the Midwest, you know. You're sitting in an air-conditioned building, in comfortable seats. Ladies, you've got real bathrooms to use here. You don't have outhouses. I mean, why would someone say they don't want to come here? Fairly more, the exchange rate is right for us and the food's good.

BOB SINGLETON: Just to elaborate, I think I was around then when the predecessors Chris was talking about. It was more an issue of three races in Canada with one wanting to be in Montreal, Toronto at that time being more successful than Vancouver was. Hopefully this year that's going to level out. It was more an attitude of three races in Canada. Nothing to do with Vancouver.

CHRIS POOK: And that just tells you how short-sighted the thinking was because, you know, for seven years Canada, Mexico and the United States talked about the North American Free Trade Association. And it was instituted I believe three years ago or four years ago. I think it was probably one of Al Gore's inventions, along with the Internet. But it was put in place, and it makes all the sense in the world. If we're a dominant North American series, and we're dealing in a corporate world, we need to understand that big business and big politics has made a decision that the trade barriers between Mexico, Canada and the United States have come down. This is another example of a North American European Economic Community. That's working over there, except the Brits are a little slow to get on board, but they're pretty slow at getting on board a lot of things. It's working there, it's going to work here. We've got to be part of it. If we're going to be asleep at the switch, wake up six or seven years later, "We should have been there." "We gave up a race in Canada seven years ago because we thought it was one too many": that's flawed thinking. That's flawed thinking. That's not correct. We need to understand, as a sanctioning body, what corporate North America wants and what political North America wants. They've spoken loud and clear, and they've said the North American Free Trade Association. That's Mexico, Canada, the United States. And we're going to be part of it.

Q. When you made the announcement in Portland about the engines and the 20 plus two for next year, how has the interest from outside teams sources been for getting into the series for next year?

CHRIS POOK: We have 25 letters of intent for next year. That does not include one CART team in this current program that has not sent a letter of intent at this time. So we feel pretty good. We know we've got three more, I believe it is, coming. We'll sort through it. As I said in Toronto, the new teams, we want to understand that they're funded, either somebody has talented hands, can write big checks that owns the teams, or they've got a good sponsorship relationship. We feel very good about it. There's going to be some attrition in that number - there always is. Enthusiasm in June and July to go racing is always high. Reality sets in in September and October. So we feel good about getting to our 18- to 20-car number for next year without a problem - with some new teams, by the way.

Q. Chris, do you see the prospect of other engine suppliers in future years? For Bob, I'm wondering what the impact of the departure of Player's at the end of 2003 will be on the promotion of Canadian drivers in the future?

BOB SINGLETON: First of all, it's a lack of legislation if it does go. I'm sure they are going to fight it. I'm sure Player's is going to fight it. Probably a more direct question for Player's. If identification is anything, where it's white and blue, has the swoosh, ask Nike if that works. That might work for Player's, I don't know. Would it hurt us in Toronto and Vancouver from a sponsorship point of view? Player's is one very important sponsor of our races, but they're one of 30 in each city. Will we replace it with one sponsor? No. Will we replace with it two or three? Probably. From an event side, I think we'll be fine. From the CART driver side and from the Canadian driver side, if you're a talented drier and you're Canadian, I'm sure someone's going to give you a seat to drive a car.

CHRIS POOK: We have considerable interest from other manufacturers: European, two Asian. They look at the series, they look at our market delivery system. We can deliver the NAFTA group of countries in one fell swoop. We can get to Europe and we can get to the Orient. So there is interest, major interest. What we are doing now, and I believe I said this in Toronto, is our engineering folks are working through the process of what the new engine will look like, what it will be. It will definitely be gasoline powered, that's for sure. How many cylinders it has, I personally am leaning towards ten cylinders. We will enter into some pretty severe talks here in September with the European manufacturers and the Asian manufacturers as to what their feeling is. And we will be in a position by the end of the year to say what our 2005 engine regulations are, as also we'll be in a position to talk about the chassis and what they will be like, because we can't have a conversation about engines in a vacuum or you can't have a conversation about chassis in a vacuum, you've got to talk about them both together as one integral part, as they are today of the modern racing car. Those regulations will be out at the end of this year, beginning of next year. And the target will be 2005. Four manufacturers in the series by invitation.

Q. Chris, you mentioned the steps being taken are in an effort to stabilize the company. Do you feel like that's starting to happen? If not, how long until you start to see the effects of the decisions being made? How long do you think it will be until you guys are where you want to be? What's the game plan at this point?

CHRIS POOK: Well, I think we're probably 60, 70% of the way there on stabilization, maybe 75% of the way there on stabilization. When you've got a company that was in this much turmoil as it was, it doesn't get stabilized in a couple of weeks. It takes a good six, eight months, nine months to get it fully stabilized, which is our target. As far as turning it around and getting it to where we want it to be, I suggest to you it's probably going to be three years before we get it back up to where it was before it started to get the hiccups, then it will grow from there. So the answer to your question is probably the end of the 2005 season.

Q. Chris, I didn't hear this earlier, I don't think anybody asked it. You had said earlier, late last month, the schedule, total schedule, will be put out shortly after Cleveland. What's the holdup?

CHRIS POOK: Well, candidly we didn't anticipate getting upside down with (inaudible) ring that happened. What we're trying to do right now is to plan for 2003 in Europe to find a companion for Rockingham. That's in the closing stages. We're very close to getting that done. We should be able, I would think, to talk about our schedule in more definitive form, apart from the two Canadian races that we just announced. I would say to you Mid-Ohio weekend would be the target now.

ADAM SAAL: I think that will do it. Gentlemen, thank you very much. We'll see you back shortly for post qualifying. Thank you.



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