Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
TOM SAVAGE: Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining us on today's Indy Racing League teleconference. Earlier today the Chip Ganassi Racing racing team based in Indianapolis made an announcement to add a third car for the 2005 IndyCar Series campaign. Joining us on the call is team owner Chip Ganassi and Ryan Briscoe, a 23-year-old Australian who will drive the third Ganassi car this season, which actually begins at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 6. Teams including the No. 33 Toyota-powered Panos G Force powered piloted by Briscoe will be in action this week at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the first open test of the season. Briscoe is a product of the Toyota Driver Academy and won the 2001 Italian Formula Renault championship with five victories and six poles in 10 races. In 2002, in addition as a test driver for the Toyota Formula 1 team, Briscoe competed in a German F-3 championship and the F-3000 championship. In 2003 the young Australian dominated the Formula 3 Euro series with eight victories. His entire 2004 season was spent devoted to the Formula 1 test role for Toyota. Briscoe becomes the third Australian to compete in the Indy Racing League. If he qualifies for the Indianapolis 500 in May, he'll become the fifth from his native country to do so. The most recent was Brad Murphy in 1996. Chip, let's go ahead and start with you. You had the knack really over the past several years to identify and groom some young talent from around the globe, Montoya, Dixon, Junqueira to name a few, really made a mark in motorsports with you team. Not to put any added pressure on Ryan, but tell us about your decision to bring this young Australian to the IndyCar Series.
CHIP GANASSI: Thanks. Look, we're looking at the competition out there and what they're doing. You know, our team obviously had to rise to the occasion. You know, whether it's the number of cars out there or the quality of the talent behind the wheel, I mean, we had to step up and get the job done if we're going to be competitive. When someone comes along, I think I met Ryan along four or five years ago over at the race in Australia there, and we knew he was a talent coming along. When we began our driver search for this third car, his name was right at the top of the list. We weren't sure if we could get him or not. You know, the guy obviously has a lot of testing experience, a lot of racing experience, and most importantly what we think is experience with, you know, big horsepower open-wheel cars. That's what we're always looking for. He fits the bill. Not to mention the fact he's a nice guy and a student of the sport, if you will. Seems to me he has a real interest in the cars and how they work. I think that's a nice thing in today's world of motor racing. It's not just somebody that wants to get in and push the pedals.
TOM SAVAGE: Chip, obviously the benefits of a multi-car team showed last year with AGR being so dominant. Was it something at the end of last year you thought, "We need to add another car to the stall to help be competitive"?
CHIP GANASSI: You know, with the way the rules are now, with the decrease in testing, you're effectively -- you know, they can effectively test more when they just have more cars out there trying things, if you will. It has kind of I guess a whip-saw effect, a testing rule like that. So hopefully that will add some benefit in that area, as well.
TOM SAVAGE: Ryan, let's get a couple comments for you first. Welcome to the IndyCar Series. Give us your thoughts heading into testing this week down in Miami.
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, thank you very much. No, it's all very exciting. You know, it's a new direction in my career coming sort of from Europe, you know, road racing, now coming out here in America oval racing. You know, I'm really excited. I've had already a couple of tests with the team. We went to Phoenix in November. I tested on the oval. That was really exciting. You know, I felt like I was adapting quite well to the different car and the oval and the high speeds. It's a fantastic team to work with, all the guys there. They're great guys and very professional. I feel like I'm already fitting in very well. This week we're going down to Homestead. I will have two days on the road course and the final day on the oval. Really looking forward to that. I've already got a pretty complex plan together. Really I just want to get a lot more experience happening on the ovals.
TOM SAVAGE: Talk about the ovals a little bit. You touched on it a little bit in the press release this morning, a little bit here this morning talking with us. Is there some anticipation, maybe concerns, excitement about getting on a high-speed oval?
RYAN BRISCOE: I just want to get out there and see how it all works. I've been watching a lot of videos and races. You know, there's a lot of strategy to oval racing. I think once I feel confident with the car and everything, then it will just be a matter of trying to run at the front and learn from the good guys. You know, I'm sure this year we'll have the equipment to be in contention of winning races. I just want to get out there, get some miles under my belt. I'm sure it won't be a problem.
TOM SAVAGE: Did the fact that the IndyCar Series was going to go road and street car racing in '05 help with your decision about coming to Ganassi?
RYAN BRISCOE: It didn't really affect my decision. I think that having a few road courses this year, that's definitely going to benefit my cause. But, you know, the reason I came is because it's such a great opportunity with such a professional team like Chip Ganassi. You know, it was quite a difficult decision at the time, passing up an option to race with Jordan in Formula 1. But, you know, I saw this as a better option of, you know, making a platform of a better career. Definitely, you know, I'm a hundred percent convinced that this is the right direction. You know, sometime in the future, if the opportunity arises, I would like to race in Formula 1 at the point end of the field. But this is just amazing. To have the opportunity to be coming over here, with Chip Ganassi Racing, doing the Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar Series, I'm very happy. It's a great step forward in my career.
TOM SAVAGE: Let's go ahead and open it up for questions for Chip Ganassi and Ryan Briscoe.
Q. I wanted to confirm if this is a one-year deal? If so, where does Ryan see himself at the end of the year, prospectives for 2006?
CHIP GANASSI: Thanks for the question. We don't really talk about the length of our terms of our contracts. I can tell you this is a multi-year deal, it's not a one-year deal. That's all I want to say in that area.
Q. If you can, talk about the length.
CHIP GANASSI: Like I say, we don't talk about the length of our contracts. As you know, Ryan is a young guy. He's got a great career ahead of him. Wherever that career takes him, I'm sure that our team will be happy to get him to the front in terms of what we're racing. If he wants to go somewhere else and race, we're going to help him get to the front there, as well.
Q. Chip, you've signed an Aussie and a Kiwi for the team. Is there something in the water down there these days?
CHIP GANASSI: I tell you, there must be. As you know, I've never really thought of it that way. But it does end up that there's an Aussie and a Kiwi on the team, and a Brit. You know, it's a small world at the tops of these series. It's a small world in terms of a talent pool. You're basically, you know, worldwide labor market. I never really saw it one way or another. You know, I don't care if the guys are from, you know, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, France, Europe, I don't care if there's from Mars, for that matter. If they can drive a car fast, they're good people, think want to be part of a good team, we want to have them.
Q. When you were looking at Ryan before signing him, could you describe any comparisons that he had maybe with Scott or Dan?
CHIP GANASSI: You know, I would say that probably at this level, all drivers are fast, if you will. We try to dig a little deeper. We work real hard at peeling a little more of the onion back, if you will, trying to get back to, you know, what are these guys made up of besides that they can drive a race car fast? Let me clarify that a little more by saying, yeah, a lot of guys can drive a race car fast, but we're looking for race car drivers, if you know what I mean. There's a huge difference there. Again, we looked at Ryan. We looked at, does the guy like to pass cars? I mean, that's not something that a lot of people remember about these days in racing. It's not just getting in and being able to drive a car fast. A lot of guys can do that. Does the guy have a desire to pass cars? We look at that. We look at, does the driver have a working technical knowledge of these cars today? Does he understand the minute changes of how you can personalize a car? A lot of guys can make a car feel better, but does that necessarily translate into speed on the stopwatch? Sometimes it doesn't. We take in a lot of -- we try and look at a lot of things maybe that aren't the first things that would come to someone's mind when they're interviewing drivers.
Q. Ryan, have you settled in? It must be good to have some other (inaudible) and a POM there?
RYAN BRISCOE: Yes. Since I got here, I've spent a fair bit of time with Darren and Scott. They've been fantastic teammates. They're helping me out a lot, giving me a lot of advice. I think we're going to have a great year together.
Q. Chip, did the fact that this year there's going to be some road races have any bearing on getting Ryan this year?
CHIP GANASSI: Again, everybody always wants to put these guys in a category of road racing. Are these guys a road racer or are they oval racers? You know, when you meet somebody, and you meet as many drivers as we have over time, you end up meeting people that you see are racers, and that's who you like. We try not to put labels on them of they're this or they're that. You know, the minute you start labeling people, I think it sort of narrows their opportunities or their future. And I think to start labeling somebody in their early 20s, you know, it's probably not fair to that person. You know, we look for guys that want to race. They want to race, and they want to do well and be a part of a team that wants to do well. So whether that's on ovals or road courses, you know, or in the parking lot at the mall, we just look for guys that want to race.
Q. Ryan, have you ever been in an IndyCar to drive it?
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah. I came over in November. We tested at Phoenix, had a couple of days on a road course there and on the oval. I also took part in a Toyota TRD test in Sebring in December, which was a one-day test.
Q. A big difference between it and a Formula 1 car?
RYAN BRISCOE: Oh, there are some differences. But I guess once you get used to the setup and the general feeling, you know, the seating position, all that, it comes down to it being another race car with four wheels. You know, the general way of driving it fast is quite similar. Methods of setup change a bit. The physical demand of driving the car is a bit different. It works different muscles. It's easier in some ways; it's harder in others. But in the end, it's just another race car. It's all not too difficult to adapt to.
Q. Chip, in your history with multi-car teams, and this even gets over to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup side with Jamie, you've always had this talent to be able to find guys that, as you say, can drive race cars fast, but you always seem to have this knack of finding guys who really get along together with each other. That's not really easy to do. Is that something that you look for in your search criteria or is it something that sort of happens by accident?
CHIP GANASSI: Well, I don't know that it happens by accident. Like I said, we have a criteria that we look for in guys. You know, we learned back in 1996, '97, '98, when you have a couple of guys that get along, I think there's some speed in that. That goes back to the Vasser and Arty days. There's speed in that. Rarely does it come down to your two or three cars fighting it out for the lead. That would be great, but it rarely comes down to that. There are so many things that happen during a race. We think working together has some speed in it. I mean, let's face it, you read about some of these other teammates around the world, and you just wonder what they're thinking about. I do myself. It's, "Come on, we're out here, we're racing cars. It's a sport. We're racing cars. We're not curing nation-wide disease, we're not solving Middle East crisises, we're not dealing with tsunamis, we're racing cars." I'm sorry, but at the end of the day, it's what it is, it's racing cars.
Q. Theoretically then, if you had a chance to sign a driver that you knew would probably win you a lot of races, yet probably would go against the grain of the makeup of the team and probably wouldn't get along with his teammate, maybe kind of recalcitrant, wouldn't debrief well, kind of a loner, would you hire that guy?
CHIP GANASSI: Passed on him already. I passed on him already, okay? So, I mean, that's happened more than once. Not interested.
Q. Ryan, you mentioned earlier that you already feel like you fit in. Maybe this ties into what chip has been talking about here the last few minutes. Can you be more specific about how you feel you fit in? Is it technical? Is it from a chemistry standpoint? Is it both? Who is the chemistry with, et cetera?
RYAN BRISCOE: Yeah, I mean, I don't know. It's hard to explain. I guess it's just when you fit into a group of people working, everyone's got the same ambitions, everyone wants to, you know, get the same out of the job and just go out there and go fast and win races and so on. It just feels good to be in this sort of an environment. I've got a great crew working on my car. Everyone's really motivated - so am I. It just feels good. You know, technically I've got a great engineer. I've got a lot to learn here, but as I said, just the first impression, everyone's got the same goals and it really feels good to be here.
Q. Chip, you say you like drivers who want to pass cars. How does the attitude of a driver that wants to pass cars, how does that affect the chemistry of the team, the excitement of the team, the willingness of the team to want to show up on race day and be pumped?
CHIP GANASSI: Yeah, it's that -- I don't know, it's that extra crew member, if you will. That type of attitude, what do they call it, the sixth man or whatever, it's that one intangible. All the teams have all the equipment. They all have all the talented drivers. They all have the good engines. They all have good mechanics and good engineers. They all have past championships, one reason, one kind or another. So really the intangible is the attitude that somebody brings with them. That's the intangible. That's the thing that is the plus or minus. And when you have a guy like Ryan, you know, it energizes the team. That's something you can't buy.
TOM SAVAGE: We appreciate you being on this morning, gentlemen. We'll see you this week down in Homestead.
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