CART Media Conference
ERIC MAUK: Welcome, everyone. Thank you for taking time this afternoon to join us on the CART weekly teleconference. Following the tide of what was a very successful event in Mexico City, it saw CART break three of its attendance records for a single attendance day and total season attendance, and also saw the announcement of three teams for next year. We are lucky to be able to keep that tide of good news coming. To help us do that today, one of the most veteran of team owners in the CART series, somebody that you all know very well, Mr. Dale Coyne. Good afternoon, Dale. Thanks for joining us.
DALE COYNE: Good to be here.
ERIC MAUK: We'll let you tell all these fine gentlemen what we're here to talk about today.
DALE COYNE: We've been in CART for a long time. We've been trying to get back in with a full-time program. We're happy today to announce we'll be back next year with a young, talented Swiss driver, Joel Camathias. We recently tested at Sebring where he performed very, very well. We're in the process of preparing some cars to go do some more testing and be ready for a full assault for next year for Rookie-of-the-Year honors.
ERIC MAUK: Joel is 21 years old, from Lugano, Switzerland. He has raced in the FAI F-3000 series, which has spawned many of the drivers in the CART series. He has a career best finish of fifth coming on the tricky Interlago Circuit in Brazil. He raced in the Euro 2000 series last season and has competed in the Italian F-3 and Nissan Telefonica Championship. As most of the drivers you know from the Champ Car Series, he grew up racing go-karts. Joel, welcome to the CART teleconference. Congratulations.
JOEL CAMATHIAS: Thank you very much. I'm happy to be with you. I'm happy that we can do this for the next two years because the program for the moment is two years to learn and grow up with the team. I'm young, I have some experience, but I want to improve that.
ERIC MAUK: We'll go right to the questions, find out what this is all about.
Q. Can you tell us about your sponsorship program, Joel, what you feel you're going to have to do to prepare yourself for this move into CART.
JOEL CAMATHIAS: One thing, my job is to drive the car. I think the sponsorship now is (inaudible). For the moment, I think about the car and not about the sponsor. Dale and my manager think about that. I'm happy, I repeat. I want to concentrate myself on improving my driving experience and that.
DALE COYNE: I think we've never had a full-time driver from Switzerland. There's a lot of great companies that are based in Switzerland. We're very optimistic about the future. This is the beginning of a two-year program. As you know how Switzerland works, there's a lot of great companies and great people there. We're going to have good support for him.
Q. Most of the young European drivers come through the usual track of Formula 3, Formula 3000. Can you talk about why you're making a move into CART at this point in your career?
JOEL CAMATHIAS: This is a big step between this year and next year. I know that American races are different because they race a street circuit, permanent circuit and oval. For a young driver like me, it's wonderful because you can race on one oval, the week after on a street circuit. It's great for a driver.
Q. Dale, you've been through this before with sometimes people coming along, promising this and that. I take it you already have some nice Swiss sponsors that you'll announce at a later date. Is that what you're saying?
DALE COYNE: We do. We have a conglomerate of people actually. That will probably be announced first part of January. We'll announce how the car will appear and look. He's had support from several companies there in Switzerland before. That's going to continue now, and even more so because this is such a higher level than anything that he's been in before. I think we're going to have some excellent support from Switzerland.
Q. Andre Lotterer did a good job Sunday. You said you were hopeful you were going to have two cars. Does he figure into your future?
DALE COYNE: He does. We tested both Joel and Andre at Sebring. We're very pleased with the way both of them performed. We're very happy with what Andre did this weekend. I think it shows that we can be a very competitive team. He did a great job as a rookie, learned a lot. You can fix mistakes, but you can't fix talent. I think he is a star as well as Joel. We're happy to have this one done and working very hard on getting a second one done because we definitely plan on running two cars next year.
Q. Have you ever raced against Melo, the winner of this year Formula 3000 Europe?
JOEL CAMATHIAS: For sure. I raced only five races this year in 3000. He was a good guy, fast - not at the beginning, but after the half championship.
Q. Have you ever driven in the American racetracks? Sebring or where?
JOEL CAMATHIAS: No, never. I try in mid October in Sebring. That was the first time in America. I raced in Charlotte in the karting circuit '97 when I raced go-karts.
Q. You were in Indianapolis?
JOEL CAMATHIAS: Just to see the museum.
Q. Joel, could you share your thoughts about what the Champ Car was like running at Sebring for the first time?
JOEL CAMATHIAS: Really, really good. A lot of downforce. It was not so good for me because I like a slippery car. But I improve run by run. At the end I'm very, very happy because also the car is okay for me. I'm tall. I'm more or less 76 inches. I'm tall. But it was okay. The tires are fantastic. There's a lot of difference between new and old tires. Formula 3000, a difference of one second between new and old set. I'm happy. It's a really good car.
Q. Dale, after having two fairly successful one-off appearances this year, how much catching up do you feel your organization will need to do in order to ramp back up to a full-time operation? Will you be keeping the #19?
DALE COYNE: Yes, we definitely plan on keeping on #19. Haven't landed on the second number yet. We'll see what the availabilities are going to be. I think the fact we came with one-offs, were able to run as competitively as we did, anyone looking at one of those single races, nobody would know that was the first race or second race of the year. We've run Lolas for a long time. We were familiar with them back in '97 when they had a pretty rough year. We were the first team to test Lolas when they came back into the fold for '98. I think we understand the Lola philosophy and how to make the car work. That has stayed with us, which I think was evident by the ability we were able to perform both at Rockingham and Mexico.
Q. Dale, I know you had some short experience with Joel through testing at Sebring. What do you think he needs to work on to prepare for next season?
DALE COYNE: I think the relief of knowing the deal is done is a big thing because there's been a lot of work that's happened in the last two months to get this done. I was over in Switzerland just before Mexico, flew over there for two days, then back. I know we've all been working hard to make this program come to fruition. So now I think he's happy. He said this morning when we talked that now when he goes jogging and training, he can just focus on that rather than worry whether he's doing that for nothing. He was in good shape when he tested in Sebring. Sebring is a pretty hot place in the summertime to test. He was in good physical shape for that. I think he'll continue to work on his training and be ready for next year. I think at his age of 21, with the experience he has, I don't think we're coming in here with any rose-colored glasses. I think the first year is just to be consistent and get some top-10 finishes, then the second year go for some podium finishes. I think we're going to take it a step at a time. We want to get out on an oval and test pretty quickly because he's never experienced that. With all the road racing that he's done, the way he showed at Sebring, I'm very confident we will be able to run in the top 10 next year.
Q. Dale, you've been working on a deal for the past couple years, getting back into the CART series. How did your paths meet?
DALE COYNE: Joel came with his manager and his father to the Rockingham race. I think globally what's happened in CART is that it's become something that's attainable to do. I think engine manufacturers being here was a great thing for us. For the customer teams, it drove the cost of racing too high to survive. I think that's certainly what happened to us in the past two years. I think the move that CART has done to lower the cost and to have the new program with the engine support program, financial support program, makes the part that the team has to fund a much more realistic number. Together with some sponsors that we have, together with some sponsors that have supported Joel through the years, we're able to hit the goal and be able to run a car. All these new rules that CART has done has been very good. It's a bit of correction factor, but it needed to happen. You're seeing it in CART. You're about to see it in Formula 1. The price gets so high, it becomes very hard to compete. I think this is a new direction. I think this is a new beginning for CART. It's going to be good for the series and all of those teams and drivers which participate.
ERIC MAUK: Joel, Dale said you came to Rockingham to see the event, feel your way around. What were your first impressions when you saw the Champ Cars on the ovals at Rockingham?
JOEL CAMATHIAS: To be honest, very, very good. Very fantastic race weekend because I see on the 3000 International Championship, was crazy, at the same level Formula 1 and CART. In CART, you can see two or three inch, touch the car. In Formula 1, that's impossible. Mr. Chris Pook, John Lopes, are really good people. Also I hoped I could work with this organization next year. Is much, much better. The cars are fantastic. The driver, I see sign the autographs every hour. I haven't seen this in Formula 1. This is a big difference.
ERIC MAUK: We talked earlier about in the European series sometimes some of these feeder series, while they're well run, it's tough to get the miles you need to build your skills, especially for someone like yourself. Was that part of the allure, the idea of being able to get more miles?
JOEL CAMATHIAS: Yes, for sure, because there is three days, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Normally in Euro 3000, there is only Saturday and Sunday, or in 3000 there is two sessions. The race is not a lot for the driver. I can run next year 19 races, a lot of tests. My choice is for that also.
ERIC MAUK: Dale, you're no stranger to fielding cars for rookies, guys that are making their first runs, limited Champ Car experience. Obviously you have a lot of Champ Car experience yourself. What do you do, what do you pass along to these drivers their first time out that gets them comfortable?
DALE COYNE: I think the biggest thing is not to try too hard. People get in these cars, you go out, you try too hard, you try to make something happen. They're all talented drivers. You usually know, especially in a test environment, it's calm, there's no pressure, and you usually know right away what you have. You know how good the guy is on car control and feel. The biggest thing on a race weekend is to stay focused on that, not get caught up in the pressure, thinking, "I have to go half a second faster." If you try to go half a second faster, you usually don't. If you smooth out, do what you do naturally, the half a second comes automatically. I think that's the biggest thing, just keeping them calm, keeping what their natural talents allow them to do.
ERIC MAUK: Certainly seems to have paid off this year with Andre and Darren.
Q. I was wondering more about your testing program between now and spring training. Do you have anything planned?
DALE COYNE: Yes. We'd like to get out. The first test we did was an evaluation. Now while there's some testing rules and limitations on how many days we can run, we want to go out and get the rookie test part of it done. We haven't had observation from CART yet. The goal right now is to go out in December and do an oval day and a road course day to get the rookie part done, and then when testing opens up in January, to try to get out to tracks like Laguna Seca and Fontana, some warm weather tracks, continue to do more testing. We want to get as many days in as we can before the first race in.
Q. John Lopes has said the rookies will be allowed more days this season.
DALE COYNE: They were this year. You could run I believe it was five days this year and three of those days you could take in season. I think next year we're looking at some kind of formula, by tire distribution or something. There traditionally has been more days for rookies. We absolutely plan on running the maximum allowable days for testing.
ERIC MAUK: Joel, obviously you've done a ton the road course time, but I don't image you've had much time on an oval track. What are your thoughts on running the oval tracks?
JOEL CAMATHIAS: Yeah, I'm very curious because I never drove on oval. I think because I like normally fast circuits, fast corners, I think an oval is a fast track. I'll look to Dale because he was a driver to explain.
Q. Dale, could you make a quick comment on your team's role in the Cosworth durability testing coming up I believe starting this weekend.
DALE COYNE: I'm actually in Phoenix today in the hotel room making this call because we start running tomorrow morning with Roberto Moreno to do some mapping for the engine. We plan to be here for a series of dates, not certain how many yet. They want to run 1200 miles on this first engine and have it looked at before everyone gets their engines distributed to them in the middle of December. We're out here now. We've sent one truck up from Mexico, a number of the other teams come down from Chicago. We have both of our trucks here, are ready to start running tomorrow morning with it.
ERIC MAUK: A little background on the Cosworth engine testing. They're going to run 400 miles at Sebring, starting out with Roberto Moreno getting it set up where it needs to be, then Toyota Atlantic Series driver John Fogarty from Dorricott Racing, and Barber Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger will be driving the car the next couple days. What they will do is take that engine out of the car, or take the car and engine, and run it at an oval track for another 400 miles, then back to another road course for another 400, simulating the 1200 miles we're trying to get out of these new engines without rebuilds. Mr. Dale Coyne and Joel, thank you very much. We hope to hear a lot from you in the near future.
DALE COYNE: Good to be back.
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