Champ Car Media Conference
December 18, 2006
ERIC MAUK: Welcome everyone to a very special Champ Car media teleconference. We are joined today by Champ Car president Steve Johnson, and the new ownership team of what will now be known as Minardi Team USA as many of you saw on the press release that was put out this morning. We are joined by Paul Stoddart and Keith Wiggins, who will be the principles of Minardi Team USA. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us today.
As you saw in the pre release or those of you that did not get it, Mr. Stoddart and Mr. Wiggins will be taking over what had been known as CTE Racing - HVM, one of the long-time teams in Champ Car and a team that had a great season last year, finishing fourth in the standings with Nelson Philippe. I'd like to turn things over to Steve Johnson, president of Champ Car for today's opening statement.
STEVE JOHNSON: Thank you and good morning to everybody. This is another big day for the Champ Car World Series as we welcome a man that is respected around the world for his accomplishments in business as well as in motorsports. Paul Stoddart will bring a new perspective to the Champ Car World Series having guided the fortunes of the Minardi F1 team for five seasons, and we look forward to many years of racing with him here at Champ Car.
Today's announcement also speaks volumes for what the new Minardi Team USA was able to accomplish as CTE Racing - HVM in 2006. Rebounding after a trying season in 2005, the team grew into a consistent threat in 2006 winning with Nelson Philippe in Australia, taking the Rookie of the Year fight to the last race of the season with Dan Clarke, and setting a new team standard by finishing fourth in the final standings with Nelson.
This will be a great partnership for Champ Car, for the fans and for the team and I'm very pleased to welcome Paul Stoddart to our Champ Car family.
PAUL STODDART: Thank you, Steve and good morning and good evening to everybody. First of all, may I say the very professional way that Champ Car goes about running this series, we looked long and hard before making this series. That's one of the key reasons for us joining Champ Car ranks.
We look forward to an exciting time and some really close racing, particularly with the new Panoz DP01 car. And I think it's already been said by Steve that a fantastic job was done by Keith and his really quality team of engineers and mechanics and to finish fourth in the championship, particularly given their budget was a really, really serious effort.
Minardi Team USA, we are looking to actually extend and build on the good work that Keith and his people have done, and we'll bring a few interesting aspects to the team and I'm looking forward to a really, really solid 2007.
ERIC MAUK: Keith Wiggins, calling from the team's headquarters over in Indianapolis, tell us about what today's announcement does for the team, how it's been received by the team and kind of how it validates the great season you had in 2006.
KEITH WIGGINS: Well, I think, you know, the team's history, and since the beginning we've been through a few changes that for me, the beginning point of 2001, I think the team has had some very resourceful -- with all credit to Enrique and when we started the team as a program, and a few hiccups happens along the way as always happens with motor racing, and you continue to strive and build on that. That's always the challenge of motor racing.
Last year we had a year where we were able to go out and fight, as we said, somewhat restricted. But, you know, it's all about building good people. We had a good team spirit, and you always work toward, you know, the next stage coming along and I think the team has been well informed. The guys know what was going on, but they knew that this was something that we were working on and it's no secret that every team needs stability, the ability to challenge strongly. You need to know a bit more than year-to-year where your future lies.
I think Paul brings a very exciting mix, because, you know, I think we've hit it off in the beginning, which is very important. But secondly, you know, he brings a great deal of resources and talents. He's been in the business. A lot of people come into a company and there's an education process. I mean, obviously you hit the ground running in this relationship. And Paul has got a lot of good resources and a lot of exciting things to bring, and I think for the team, everybody is obviously very energized. It's confirmation of what they believed was going to happen, and it just let's us think now on it another level of rather than, okay, how do we get through to next year.
Now it's a question of, okay, this is how we're going to attack next year, and we even mention, you know, how we're attacking the year after, which is a bit of a refreshing thing to have a discussion after a couple of years.
So it just brings stability, excitement, good, strong resources and talents that adds to what we have and gives us the ability to now with the new car say, you know, how can we really get up to the next level.
ERIC MAUK: Thank you very much, very exciting announcement.
Q. First of all I wanted to ask, in the press release it says that you'll be running a multi-car team. How exact can you be, are we talking three cars, four cars? What's the situation?
PAUL STODDART: It's two cars, two cars confirmed, and we have not discounted a third car. We are obviously talking to people at the moment that would make that happen or not as the case may be.
Q. Is there a chance Katherine Legge could be part of your lineup?
PAUL STODDART: There is a chance that Katherine, together with several other drivers, could be a part of our lineup.
I think the only hint I've given on that so far is to say that there's somebody who has driven a Minardi likely in the lineup at some point next year.
KEITH WIGGINS: And I think our lineup, we're discussing with a number of drivers as Paul said, so that will come out later on.
PAUL STODDART: It will be in the new year I suspect.
Q. I understand that there will be some Dutch investments because Dutch millionaire and entrepreneur Harry Muermans is probably involved and the second question is, there are talks that Jos Verstappen might join Champ Car, and why should he be driving for the Team USA since he has also driven in F1?
PAUL STODDART: First of all, to your first question, Harry Muermans is not only a business associate but he's also a good friend, as well and yes, you are correct that there will be some involvement from Harry Muermans. The exact nature of that involvement is not yet finalized. I was with Harry yesterday in Rotterdam, and again, that will be an announcement made in the new year, but yes, there will be some involvement.
As for Jos Verstappen, Jos and I go back a long ways. He drove for me in 2003, but I go back as far as '97 with Jos and we have a good working relationship. I think he would be an asset to the series. I think he would be an asset to Team Minardi USA and yes, there is negotiations going on, but again, there will be no announcements this side of the new year.
Q. And your thoughts on another Dutchman, Robert Doornbos?
PAUL STODDART: Robert, another ex-Minardi driver, a driver I've worked with and a driver I thought did incredibly well in the second half of '05, and obviously had another chance to do the last three races of the Formula 1 2006 season. Again Robert is someone we are talking to.
I think as you guys, particularly the Holland media know, I myself personally and indeed through Minardi have had a tremendous relationship with Holland over the years and long may it continue. So expect some exciting announcements in the new year.
Q. When you talked to us in Australia, we asked if you were just bored, what really drove you, did you want to get back to Formula 1. In the final analysis, what was the one thing that made you want to come to Champ Car; the fact that you didn't have to race $300 million, or the fact that you just missed racing or can you be more specific?
PAUL STODDART: First of all, I think it was the fact that I found a team that I could identify with. Keith touched on it very briefly in the opening address when he said that him and I gelled and got on really from the first minute we met, and that is true. You do have a warm feeling when you meet people, whether they are people you can work with and think like-mindedly to yourself and you think you can go forward with them.
With Keith and his team, I found a team of real professionals that made it probably a little bit more funding, a little bit more encouragement to actually got the job done. My first visit with HVM made me more than curious and that was just after I'd seen you in Australia.
And, of course, further negotiations led to today's announcement. And I feel very confident that our investment is -- it is as it was in the Minardi. Our investment is in the people and I think we have a good team of people and I'm looking forward to good results. So that's the main motivation. And just to correct you on one other thing, I never did raise $300 million.
Q. I remember you telling me once when you left Grand Prix your budget was like 58 million and you were only 250 behind McClarren or somebody.
KEITH WIGGINS: It was 45 more than I ever managed in 45.
Q. The only thing we keep hearing is that you're helping with the second European race; that they are trying to get you involved with your contacts over in Europe as far as trying to help be the promoter over there; any truth to that?
PAUL STODDART: Not in the '07 season. I have already stated that in future years, I would be more than happy to assist with colleagues and contacts, but no, I can confirm not for the '07 season.
Q. Paul can you talk about your thoughts in pretty much introducing the Minardi brand in the American market?
PAUL STODDART: I think Minardi has been traditionally known over the years as a team that tries to punch above its weight. As was joking said in the last question, was the fact that we had struggled year after year to attain budgets that weren't good enough to fight in F1 and the figure of 50 million was mentioned, and that's a pretty accurate figure.
As you know budgets far less than that can do a lot more in Champ Car, and that's one of the attractions of coming to this series. It's very affordable racing in a professional and well-organized way that gives everyone a reasonable chance without going into the stratosphere to find budget. Certainly bringing our ability to find a necessary level of money, which in Champ Car could give us a little bit more than what perhaps it did in F1.
And the other thing I think we probably bring is the Minardi never-say-die attitude; that when you need to achieve is not necessarily, you know, miracles we used to joke and say miracles, they take a little bit longer but the impossible we did straightaway.
Q. Enjoyed knowing Cindric the entertainer, will he have any continued involvement with the team?
PAUL STODDART: Certainly hope so. We've kept the door open for Cindric and we think there's a lot of work and effort into that relationship. Keith is probably a little better qualified to answer that than I am at the moment. But I certainly from a personal point of view think he's had a lot to add and it will dovetail nicely into another program we have heading into Champ Car for '07 and beyond.
So, yeah, I hope he stays involved.
KEITH WIGGINS: Cindric's name will still be there. We still have the marketing relationship and we'll be with him tomorrow. Again, it just brings all of these elements together to make it just a stronger unit.
Q. Paul, welcome to the series. Look forward very much to working with you, you're renowned for a man who is somewhat of an, in quotation marks, a character, someone who has never afraid to speak his mind and say exactly what he thinks. I would imagine that legacy would continue with Champ Car; would I be accurate?
PAUL STODDART: I'm hoping that it won't have to in the way that it did in Formula 1. I hope that I won't need to ever get as political and as boisterous as I needed to do there.
No, I have a great relationship with Kevin Kalkhoven as well, and that dates back a few years now. So I really do think that working with all of the guys is going to be a refreshing period as against some of the stress that was there in Formula 1, particularly the last few years, and sure as hell continued without me.
Q. Can you give us a time line on when you take delivery of the new Panoz DP01 and when you will start testing with it and when you hope to have it wound up and ready for 2007?
KEITH WIGGINS: We'll try to keep it on the ground rather than it fly, but you never know. We receive the cars the same as everybody else, which is basically in about a day's time, Wednesday, I believe it is. They are all dressed up with bows for us.
And we have a plan which, again, is exactly the same plan we've always had. Nothing has changed. We just obviously can breathe a sigh of relief that we can achieve all of those goals, which is the cars will come here and they will be prepared. Obviously we need to get to know them. There are certain tests and various things we want to do with the cars, and then they will be prepared and put in the liveries and we will go with everybody else in Champ Car with the new regulations.
Tests starts on January 15 for three days, and that's the organized -- the only times that you can test after those three, which is January, February and March. So we will go through those tests and various other forms of testing and be ready with everybody else.
ERIC MAUK: Quick follow-up on what Keith said. All ten teams will be taking delivery of their first Panoz at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning from the Indianapolis headquarters, and as he alluded to, the first Champ Car open test will take place at Sebring International Raceway January 23 through 25.
Q. Do you feel like with a brand new car that you guys are on more of an equal footing with the other teams, especially when you're talking about the first race in Las Vegas?
PAUL STODDART: Yes, I mean, that obviously is one of the attractions that got me involved. It was a good time to come in with the new car, and it was a leveling of the playing field but also I equally do not underestimate the talent and ability that's already out there. So, you know, we are going to go in with high expectations, but with a dash of reality thrown in.
KEITH WIGGINS: And I think that the good teams will always come to the top. And you know, I don't think the orders will change so much, obviously it's more relying on engineering and the drivers with a lot more restrictions, but a lot of teams have time to develop, you know, to catch up with the other car, so I think it's a question of who comes out of the box.
Of course, it's much more achievable with the restrictions on what you can do to the cars. But as Paul said, we're realistic but I'm also pretty optimistic that we had a lot of people and we had some of the best cars out there over the years which I think was proven over periods of people who watched the detail, and I'm very motivated that our guys will come out with as good of cars as anybody out there.
Q. Paul, obviously you talked about getting the money sponsorship on the Formula 1 front, the difficulties there, what do you think the key selling points are for Champ Car?
PAUL STODDART: I think first of all, the budget that you're looking to attain is a sensible budget. And I wouldn't say it's very achievable; if it was easy everybody would do it. But it is achievable, because you're getting more bang for your buck. That's the only easy way to put it. Champ Car represents a tremendous investment.
And from a sponsor-payback point of view, I think we've got a few ideas that perhaps are a little bit different to those that have been tried in the past. And I'm very, very confident that we will attain the budget that we set for this year and as Keith alluded to, budgets we're already looking to for years 2008, 2009 and beyond. I think we will make it.
I don't underestimate the fact that people will say, you can't attain Formula 1-type budgets in any other form of sport or in any other form of motorsport. But I think there's a good, a good level playing field that will allow teams to go out there and market successfully and get the type of sponsors into the series and into the teams that will allow us to fund, fully fund, our year-in, year-out programs, so I feel quite confident.
Q. Not so much selling points, but what do you think the key strengths are of Champ Car?
PAUL STODDART: First that, it's a well-organized, well-run, well-disciplined series with participants that when the lights -- they race from lights to flag, but it doesn't strike me as it's got anywhere near the politics that you do get in some other forms of motorsport.
And secondly, I do feel that racing on street circuits and on oval circuits give us a bit of an edge as well. I think it makes a tremendous spectator sport from the aspect of, you know, whether it be corporate hospitality or whether it be entertaining, sponsors, or just the general public at large. I think Champ Car has proven, particularly with these three-day festivals, it is actually a fan-friendly series, and I think that's incredibly important. Because the day you forget the fans is the day you start to degrade your own business.
Q. No comparison to Formula 1?
PAUL STODDART: No comparison, and that's something Minardi tried to strive, and which is bringing it back to the people. And I think Champ Car has certainly already achieved that and that's certainly one of the things that attracted me to Champ Car.
Q. The two of you sort of alluded to this in your previous comments, but as two guys who kind of share a similar background in having been sort of the leading lights, the leading forces in a couple of Formula 1 teams, to steal a line from Paul, punched above their weight, I wonder if that is -- soft of makeup in both of your characters is something that kind of helped this relationship gel quickly, and if you could maybe both of you sort of comment on that.
PAUL STODDART: I knew I was going to get that one first. No, look there is certainly some certain synergies there. Keith, we actually joked about this because Keith left Formula 1 the year I came into it. And I think, you know, Formula 1, they call is the Piranna Club; certainly it doesn't take prisoners; comparisons like it's a baptism of fire etc. They have all been used over the years. But it is a tough, no-holds-barred business, and it is business, unfortunately.
Unfortunately the sport side really is somewhat overshadowed by the politics in the business, which is quite sad. But it does actually get one ready for just about anything else, and I think Keith and I have both been through the mill at different times. We know what it's like to have to fight and for what we believe, in and yes, I'm sure that's part of what made us quick straightaway.
But nevertheless, both of us have got our feet on the ground and we know that our challenge is to do a good job in 2007 in Champ Car and beyond. And the Formula 1 background can be interesting, but we forget all of that when the lights go green in Vegas.
KEITH WIGGINS: I think it's been -- I'd like to think it's as basic as wanting to achieve. Clearly, Paul took on that challenge of Formula 1 and survived it a lot longer than I did, proved that he was a fighter.
I'd like to refer that Pacific was the only team in history that have won every championship below Formula 1 which shows my attitude towards competition, which that's my priority before anything else, money, anything else, is winning. And Formula 1 is a desire, I was clearly out of my depth but was something you had to do and a little bit probably more sensible these days; comes with age.
I think it's a fundamental and the reason we gel is, again, having come up from the European ranks, you just try and do everything as professional and as solid as you can without compromise. And I think we probably have in different walks, a similar attitude. I think it's as simple as that. You know someone wants to do the thing right. Sometimes you've got to accept that, you know, there's not always total community in what you want to do, but you're doing it for the right reasons. And with a lot of teams, sometimes there's a bit more bullshit and you have to subserve to things that are a compromise because of the other party bring the funding needs or something like that.
I think with us, okay, how can we make a good team and that's the key is down to either the character or the development.
Q. Certainly you are two characters who have character, put it that way, in my estimation. And I wondered and sort of along the same lines, you have said to me in the past, I believe the quote is, you're someone who doesn't necessarily function at his best if I could -- and I think the quote was, you don't do your best working for others. But obviously to some degree, there's going to be a change in the way the team operates this year because of the new arrangement, and I just wondered if the two of you could sort of, you know, obviously not in specifics, but sort of in broad, general outlines explain what your roles will be in the day-to-day operation of team Minardi USA.
KEITH WIGGINS: Paul, you go ahead.
PAUL STODDART: I think, look, there's no question, and we said in the press statement that, Keith will be remaining in charge of the day-to-day aspect and management of the team.
Certainly what I'll bring to it will be resource, and also probably a little bit of street wisdom that I've acquired over the years.
I think there is no issue with us about the way the team is going forward. I've already met all of the guys. I was lucky enough to be at the Christmas party with them on Friday evening, and that was a good chance to get around and meet everyone. They are a good, motivated bunch of guys and we are obviously going to bring a new form and strengthen that team, and it is just that; it's strengthening the team.
So as Keith already mentioned before, we both have the same goal, which is to get up there and to win races. And if we can't win them, to get damn close in trying to win them. I don't actually see too many conflicts, and if I did think that, then the chances are that we would not have got into this deal in the first place.
And I don't see as Keith working for me; I see it as us working together and there's a monumental difference there.
KEITH WIGGINS: Obviously Paul has other things he's working on as well. We all know that other people have tried it. But you know, you can't live in a different country and you need someone.
So I think our goals, the day-to-day will continue and I will continue to do all of the same things that I've done and still continue to work with Cindric on the other programs and with the drivers we've got. There's no real overlap. I mean, it's really filling a void that we needed which was, you know, as Paul said, to develop the business and the resource side.
Q. Paul, when you were in Formula 1, it was sort of part of necessity, but you had quite a history of bringing drivers into the series. There is a series called the Atlantic series, is there any sort of possibility you might end up with Minardi there as well?
PAUL STODDART: At the moment, the answer is no, only because we need to -- there is not a lot of time as has been previously mentioned. We take delivery of the new car on Wednesday and the first tests are in January.
So there's not enough time now to think seriously about Atlantics but it does seem to be a tremendous formula. It certainly produces awfully good people and I do think it's something we could be looking at seriously in the future but not for '07.
Q. I guess you saw the Atlantic this year and the new car and the new format and everything else and the new cars coming in next year, can you talk a little bit about how you feel things are going to work out next year with Champ Car with the new car, the new rules and all of the like?
PAUL STODDART: Well, I think we've got some exciting new races as well. I think that race in Vegas is going to be memorable to say the least. I was privileged enough to go around the circuit on Tuesday last, and I think it's going to be absolutely fantastic.
The new car is a level of the playing field, as Keith mentioned. The top teams will always get back up there. But it gives a chance for a team like us that's coming in with a few new ideas and perhaps a bit more funding just to use our engineering experience to get an early advantage and perhaps do something a bit special. And I think also with Champ Car you've got the ability that you can bring drivers on if the drivers are good, engineers' championship, and I think we can have some exciting times ahead.
I really do think that it's the right series for us. It's something that as I said before, it brings the whole sport to the people to the fans, that's important for me, some great racing, a new car. It's certainly the right time for us.
Q. Paul, curious even though if you live afar, will you personally plan on being at all of the races next year?
PAUL STODDART: If I'm not at all, it will be near, when people say to me where I live these days I say 37,000 feet because that's what it feels like, I really do mean that. I do a lot of traveling. I think having an airline does help a little bit, but certainly it's my aim to be at not just races, but at tests, as well.
Q. Obviously Champ Car has had some great news the last couple of weeks, great rebound from past couple tumultuous years, how do you feel with this announcement and all of the announcements coming up before the holiday break?
STEVE JOHNSON: You feel good. You're never quite as far along as you want, and we've got several other things that we just want to try to get finalized before the holidays, don't know if it's a reality or not, but we're working on a lot of good things.
You know, those things are not happening by accident and it's a business plan that we're following. You know, it seems that the good news comes in batches. So I would just say, stay tuned. We have a couple others that we're going to be announcing soon as well.
Q. Paul, obviously you like the series, that's why you're joining, but how do you feel about the good news coming OUT recently?
PAUL STODDART: It's fantastic and it's the decision that now is the right time to do it. Champ Car has a tremendously exciting future.
And as I said right at the start, what brought me into it is it's well-organized and it's fan-friendly. If you add that to the fact that we have a new car and a leveling of the playing field, I think it is something that is right for us to do.
Q. So you talk about how you find these people friendly and easy to work with, are you going to find it that way when it's in the heat of competition, as well?
PAUL STODDART: I've had a lot of experience with situations, and I'd like to think, anyway, I mean, time will be a judge of this. But I'd like to think that I'm a reasonably good judge of people, and certainly, you know, there was a real bonus being able to get Friday night, because obviously I met Keith and I had met Kevin and I had met various other people at that level. But I had not had a lot of time to meet and greet the boys, and that was a great opportunity Friday.
I came away at some ungodly hour Saturday morning feeling very, very positive. But the decision was right, the people were right. I made it very clear to them that we are only going to strengthen, we are not looking to do anything else and that we also are fully aware, that we come in with plates on at this stage, and we are going to look listen and learn and strengthening and hope that it's a recipe for success.
Q. I noticed that no one seems to be talking about American drivers. Can you talk about what Americans would need to get to this level so that they would be prepared and ready to compete at this level?
PAUL STODDART: I think you've got American drivers coming on. I actually think that Atlantics and other series will bring on Americans. It's just that at this moment in time, I can see there does seem to be more foreigners out there than there is home-grown talents. But I'm sure that over time that's going to be addressed and some of the American drivers are actually not in America. They are competing elsewhere.
You know, let's give it time. I think everyone is aware of the need to have national heroes.
KEITH WIGGINS: And I think one of the core problems before is that there has not been some really good, identified feeder series. There's been a lot of voids in the latter, and Champ Car has helped address that with especially now the strength of the Atlantic series.
There's one series in Europe GP2, Formula 3, there's a whole run and really that's why some of the Americans have gone over is to find that level of competition early on. You'll find that it can't happen overnight obviously but gradually that void will fill with the talent.
Q. Keith, we were talking the other day, if I can just put in a time frame the last time you went into the holidays and the new year feeling secure about the next season, and be honest about it, go all the way back to Enrique and talk about what it usually is like this time of the year for you.
KEITH WIGGINS: Well, I'm not sure, funny enough you don't come to work on a Monday morning and say, 'okay, I'm secure' because it's just not in your makeup. You're starting to think about what the next problems are.
Obviously our focus is on the drivers and make sure that we have a competitive team, but it's fairly true to say, I mean, I'm not -- maybe I'm not the smartest guy in the world because I've spent a lot of my years even in the earlier days obviously Formula 1 over two Christmases was probably enough to -- I can't remember what my head was doing at that time.
But you know, the only reason I came over in the beginning, you know, I said I wasn't going to be involved in teams after sort of 16 or 18 years. I said the only reason I did the deal was we got together with Enrique. And when I said when you provide a solid platform, I'll put the team together and that seemed to me like a perfect mix. And you know, again, I have a great loyalty and affection for that period of time.
Again, no one planned, but four years with any program is a pretty good run, and then suddenly I ended up sort of my shoulders got a bit wider and there was this situation with a team that you just could not let it die because of what we've built.
And so, yeah, there's a couple of years on, Christmases generally are not a very fun time, I must admit, because you're usually up against it. I mean, how do I get the next year; certainly not the best business you take to the bank, plan for years ahead. Yeah, they are difficult. It's always probably the worst time of the year when you have a team, you're used to doing that and I don't think you should lose sight of that or become complacent.
It is a nice feeling, and I don't think it's really sunk in yet to be honest that we don't have to worry, because we still have to worry. We still have to put the budget together. We still have to get the drivers, and there's less excuses now of course to move up.
But I guess, yeah, now that you've actually mentioned it, there's a little less nail-biting and probably get drunk more this Christmas.
Q. Quick question, Paul, you sort of alluded to maybe doing some things to bring in a few people to sort of strengthen -- to further strengthen what was already a pretty good team last year. This comes at a time when other teams seem to kind of be adding with engineering and other capabilities, and with the new car, at least for 2007, the amount of development work that you're allowed to do on the car is going to be very restrictive. I wondered if perhaps and you Keith can both address kind of how the team is going to prepare and maybe attack the 2007 car differently than it has over the past couple of years with what was effectively the spec Lola, but was -- but which you could, comparatively more free to develop?
PAUL STODDART: Obviously the Lola, let's go back five years. There was so much development that spending $20 or $25 million was a possibility to develop the car. I think rules have tightened down on the car and I think because the car stayed somewhat stable, it's allowed a lot of the others teams -- you know, it's no secret, migration, plenty of engineers have disappeared, a lot of hours have been poached over time and information spreads.
So the car does become a bit more spec in the sense that most people know a lot of the development that the other people have done. You know, with USB these days, it's pretty easy for people, information. It's still there and we still manage, I think even last year we showed that we found some more development in the car ourselves.
But I think the new car, we have a plan for the new car and nothing is going to change and it's just a different mentality. And we've done it in other series, if it's a spec, then what are the areas, you've got to find out what the differences are between that car and this car. And if you've got good engineering, good analysis, then the real key is comparison. And then finding out where the weak areas are and finding the little things that you can do rather than the big things, like going back to the Formula Ford days. Devil is in the detail and I think that's where we will go.
Again, this was alluded to the last question, there's been many years when we've sat here and said, oh, this is what I'd like to do, if only we had the budget to do it. And sometimes it can be a bit grating when you have to take -- put some drivers that are not talented into cars which you know are good and try and do development and keep the motivation with engineers to do development. Because, you know, you want the front runners and you want to know that it's put to good use.
Again, one of the good things here is that we've looked at a plan of how to develop a car and looked at that small stuff. This situation now gives us the ability to know that we can carry through all those ideas and know that we've got resources, and you know, a couple of people here and there that we've been talking to, we can go ahead and secure them and carry through, follow through, shall we say.
Q. Paul, in the beginning you alluded to two drivers being confirmed, with a possibility of more. Can you talk about if the drivers from last year, Nelson Philippe and Dan Clarke, are in the mix or not? And the second part of the question is, you mentioned the possibility of a third car, is there any possibility of a fourth car or is three your absolute maximum?
PAUL STODDART: It was actually two cars that were confirmed with a possibility of a third. In terms of drivers, yes, for sure, both Nelson and Dan are still in the picture. And in addition to that there are at least two other drivers that we are talking very seriously to and one or two that we are in earlier stages of negotiations with.
So it would be wrong for us to go into that today other than to say that we are actively talking to four and more. And a fourth car, I think that would be a bit much for next year. I think a third car is what we're aiming for and if we can see that we've got three drivers that will complement each other, complement the information and data feedback to the team, you know, then it's a possibility.
Q. Is your goal to have all two or three drivers before the first test in January?
PAUL STODDART: That's what we're hoping for. We've self imposed a date of January 15 as the day that we would like to know who our two drivers are for sure, and we will probably still be negotiating with the third.
Q. In Australia, we talked about the possibility of the Minardi two-seater cars maybe being used; is that still in the mix for this next year?
PAUL STODDART: Certainly is and I think you know that's something again that will be discussed in more detail in the new year. But yeah, I think it's fair it say that you'll certainly see them at some point.
Q. Paul with your arrival from the Formula 1 community and now with the Champ Car World Series, is it realistic to think -- and maybe it's fantasy on my part, I don't know, that there are others in the F1 community that are like you, going to look at the Champ Car World Series as something that they may also want to do?
PAUL STODDART: I think it's early days to say that. But what I would probably do is just turn that around a little bit and say that Champ Car is viewed as being very credible, very respectable and very well managed, so you could not discount that possibility.
I think I'm the only one that's publically said it but I know privately there's at least one other formula team owner who is quietly thinking at this point in time.
Q. And Steve, quick question for you, is there such an animal as an ideal car count in terms of the total number of cars? You're not going to turn anybody down because you saw, wow that's too many or there's too few; is there such an animal as an ideal number for you do you have a number in mind? Is it 24 cars? How would you describe that?
STEVE JOHNSON: I think 22 to 24 cars would be a healthy grid. I think it would be a lot of excitement but really comes down to quality of drivers as well. What you don't want is 24 or 26 cars when half your lap is under yellow or half your race is under yellow. That's not part of the goal.
So to answer your question, yeah, 22, 24 would be a great number.
ERIC MAUK: That will bring an end to today's Champ Car media teleconference. I'd like to thank Steve Johnson, Paul Stoddart and Keith Wiggins for being on the call today.
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