Champ Car Media Conference
Topics: Champ Car
ERIC MAUK: Welcome everyone to today's Champ Car media teleconference where we have three of the next generation of Champ Car stars joining us today. We're joined from Germany by the driver of the #8 DHL Global Mail Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Rocketsports Racing, the 2005 Roshfrans Rookie-of-the-Year Timo Glock. Thank you for joining us today.
TIMO GLOCK: (Inaudible) Nice to be on.
ERIC MAUK: We are also joined by his new teammate, the driver of the #31 Rocketsports Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, the 20 year old from Phoenix who made his debut last weekend at Surfers Paradise. Michael, thank you for joining us.
MICHAEL McDOWELL: No problem, thanks for having us on.
ERIC MAUK: We are also joined by a man who will make his Champ Car debut in Mexico City, the 2005 Toyota Atlantic Championship title winner. He will be the driving the #25 Aussie Vineyards Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Team Australia down in Mexico City, Charles Zwolsman.
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: Thank you.
ERIC MAUK: I understand you are at a large football match in your home of Germany, but you've clinched the Rookie-of-the-Year title. Tell us a little bit about how it feels reaching one of your pre-season goals in taking that rookie title.
TIMO GLOCK: Yeah, it was pretty important for me to get the Rookie Championship (inaudible) because it was the goal from the beginning on and I think that was really important for me to be Rookie-of-the-Year and it was pretty competitive because these cars are pretty strong all over the year and everybody had the experience on the racetrack. (Inaudible) from the beginning on which was pretty difficult, but the team did a good job and we got the right results, especially in Montreal and we had a couple of bad weekends in the middle of the season with a couple of results, (inaudible) where he had the chance of finishing Top-5 and (inaudible). We had a couple of good results definitely but the (Inaudible) we're happy that we got everything wide and -- in Australia and got the Rookie Championship.
ERIC MAUK: Timo is 9th in the Series points standings but is only 18 points out of fifth with the one race to go. Timo, tell us about -- you come from Formula 1, you ran some races with Jordan last year in the Formula I World Championship. You made the transition to Champ Car. I know you have been asked this 100 times and I am not asking you to compare the two cars, but has a season in Champ Car kind of met up with what you expected when you came here?
TIMO GLOCK: I mean, I did the first time (inaudible) end of 2003 with Walker so I had a couple of impressions about Champ Car. (Inaudible) and then I won last year and it is a little bit difficult to compare because the two cars are completely different, different style of racing. It starts with the tires, (Inaudible) compares to the completely different setting. The whole electronic stuff, structured control and all that stuff. Aerodynamics, pretty aggressive in Formula I which is a huge difference to Champ Car. Champ Car it's more about the driver, more about how you set up the cars, (inaudible) simulation test going on. When you have a good weekend and one of the (inaudible) they never changed the setup all weekend but I had one of -- they change maybe the front ring and that's it. (Inaudible) and in Champ Car (Inaudible) you have to work with the engineer close together to get the car right. The race tracks are completely different to Formula 1. Pretty bumpy, huge (inaudible) Formula 1 is definitely quicker. I had the best (inaudible) Montreal, (inaudible) five, six seconds quicker than a Formula 1 car. It's a different style of racing so it is difficult to compare.
ERIC MAUK: Michael McDowell, you are going to be a very busy young man in Mexico City. You are making your second career Champ Car start, but you are also going to run the Grand American Rolex Series race there as well. Tell us about how that all came about and how you are going to handle this weekend.
MICHAEL McDOWELL: Well, I am in the Championship in the Rolex Series driving the #19 Finley Motorsports Air Force Reserve car. My commitment is to the GrandAm team and to finish out the season and do a good job and we have had some really good results where we finished in the Top-5 five or six times, and finished second once, so I think we have the package to do really well in Mexico City and try to get our first win for the team. (Inaudible) you have two drivers in the World Series, (inaudible) definitely pick up a little bit of slack in the Rolex car and focus on the Champ Car and try to get a good result.
ERIC MAUK: You had your Champ Car debut at Surfers Paradise as we mentioned before, qualified 16th, finished a very strong 12th; was running at the finish, finished just one lap down in your debut. Tell us about how you felt about your maiden voyage there.
MICHAEL McDOWELL: I definitely had higher expectations than we showed. The car was great. Rocketsports did a really good job. Unfortunately, the first day, it rained the whole day so I didn't get much track time in the dry. (Inaudible) kind of limiting kind of what I can do in the race. In the race we lost the front (inaudible) I was running behind Brimmer (phonetic) and he popped up the tires and lost the wing and that's what cost us. We Definitely had more speed than the 12th place car and I think in Mexico City we can be in the Top-5.
ERIC MAUK: Charles Zwolsman, our 2005 Toyota Atlantic Champion, gets to make his Champ Car debut and actually getting set to set foot in the Champ Cars for the first time. You will have a test session on Thursday. You're down in Mexico City now. Tell us about what you are feeling as you head into your Champ Car debut weekend.
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: Yeah, it's pretty exciting. Right now I am in Mexico to get used to the thin air around here and Thursday is going to be my first time in a car with so much horsepower so I am pretty excited. Really don't know what to expect.
ERIC MAUK: Tell us about your Atlantic season, three wins, five poles, eight podiums, but to be perfectly honest, you came here in the season opener at Long Beach and not really sure how long you were going to be around.
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: Actually the first -- it was just for the first race we agreed and I just came over one and a half weeks before the race to make a seat to do one test there just to see how the car was running and the team hadn't run for two years with the car so there were all sorts of problems on the car. And after Long Beach we just got things rolling and every race we got the money in time just to do a next race and here I am the Champion, so, you know -- (LAUGHTER)
. ERIC MAUK: Congratulations to all three of you guys. We look forward to a great weekend coming up in Mexico City. We'll turn the call over to the media now.
Q. Long distance question to Timo there. I guess a couple of questions about your season. You started off with running very impressively 6th at Long Beach and then the next few races, you know, not quite as not quite as strong and then from the middle of the season on though you have been qualified in the Top-10 virtually every race weekend. Have been hunting around there. Can you talk about maybe a little bit what happened there early in the season and then what was the difference that's kind of helped you get a lot stronger as the season has gone on?
TIMO GLOCK: First of all, it's all about experience in Champ Car and (inaudible) you need a lot of experience to be consistently in the Top-5 or 10. Definitely, the question there after Long Beach when we had the (inaudible) crashed pretty heavily and broke my collar bone and had problems with my lower back. (Inaudible) crashed in the pitstop and in the race, so a little bit out of (inaudible). That was a pretty difficult situation, (inaudible) couldn't shake it, but any other team took the chance after the -- after Long Beach, and everybody -- not everybody, but a couple of guys went testing and went to the (Inaudible) and got a little bit of advantage and for sure, after the first race, we had a couple of problems with the car. We had the chance to win the race in Monterey; nobody knows it, but we had the chance. We ended up one less behind (inaudible) and find our way back in the Top-5. (Inaudible) had the chance to win the race because (inaudible) in Montreal. (Inaudible) couldn't find the pace and couldn't find the right setup, and I mean, that's all about experience. (Inaudible) found our way back in the (inaudible) pretty quickly, but still had the problem to find the pace in one qualifying and that's a big problem. Our car (inaudible) quick in the race and problem (Inaudible) what you have tried and I think Michael saw the same in the first race and his car was pretty strong in the race, but not quick enough for (inaudible) so we have to find a way to get our finish line. (Inaudible).
Q. What would you say was -- in terms of the race crash, shall we say, was the biggest adjustment for you? Was it in sort of just learning the tactics during the races of the pit stops and occasionally going out of sequence, and all that stuff, or what would you say was the biggest adjustment race-wise?
TIMO GLOCK: I mean, definitely what we saw in Mexico, everything (inaudible) behind everybody (inaudible) to stay in the race because first of all, broken collar bone and we have the running around and no chance to end up in the (Inaudible) at the end they said no, no, we stay out. (Inaudible) One race where I learned a lot about (inaudible) in Champ Car, nothing is finished until the second lap is done, (inaudible) that's pretty important. Was pretty important for me and that's definitely a completely different style to Formula 1. In Formula 1 everything is pretty straight and you know exactly what to fit there and you have (inaudible) In Champ Car you can change the strategy like we did it in Montreal and go out of sequence and like Cristiano da Matta in Portland, he went out of sequence and he won the race. We did the same in Montreal. That's the key for the success there. Every time everything is possible, that's what we have to learn and what we have to think about in the race.
Q. I want to ask Timo, in retrospect are you happy with your decision to come race in America in 2005 and do you think your future is in America?
TIMO GLOCK: Definitely that's the way it was at the end of 2003 was my decision to go to Champ Car. First step with Walker and I was pretty interested on racing on the Championship in the U.S.. Then a couple of things changed and we had the possibility to (inaudible) and after the first year in Formula 1 we changed (inaudible) went back to Champ Car and I think Champ Car is on the right way for the future; especially in 2007 when the new car comes up, I think Champ Car will be strong and will be again -- in where they started or where they had the best Championship around, the '90s, and I think that's the right way and that's the way to do it. I can see my future in Champ Car and in the U.S., but what I said from the beginning, when I get the opportunity with one of the top teams in Formula 1, then I will take the chance in Formula 1. But at the moment, I am pretty happy and looking forward to be in Champ Car a second year or third year.
Q. I'd like to ask you, Michael, I wasn't down in Surfers, but from what I can see on television you did a pretty solid job down there. Had to have been a tough place to make your Champ Car debut and I am wondering if you are looking forward to Mexico City just because there are some corners with some run-off area?
MICHAEL McDOWELL: Yeah, definitely. Looking forward to Mexico. For sure, just because I got the first race out of the way, you understand how the weekend works and what kind of pressure you are under, qualifying and the whole process. And Mexico is more of a typical road course and I haven't been on a street course before in any series, so there's definitely a new transition for me. And I think Mexico is going to suit my style a lot better.
Q. Michael and Charles, tell me about your transition to Champ Car, difference in the car, and how -- what you think you have learned from the lower series that has helped you so far?
MICHAEL McDOWELL: I think it is an underrated platform that's just gives the opportunity to drivers like myself the -- really gaining experience and to learn how to put the car on the edge and go fast and the Mazda Series is super strong the last two years; new car is great. The technology is there. The racetrack is there and there's 35-plus cars in every race now (Inaudible) I think the Mazda Series does a really good job of preparing you for the next step. Right now I'd say that's the place to be if you want to try to get into Champ Car.
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: I have heard that from the people going up from Atlantic to Champ Car that basically the cornering speeds are pretty much the same so that will be useful also. Also I've learned this year the tracks which I hope to race on next year in Champ Car so that's also useful.
Q. Charles, you obviously haven't sat in the car yet. Have you talked to any engineers yet about what to expect or some keys you have to focus on?
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: We definitely have talked about a lot of things, but basically, until you get into the car, basically it's all talk. You just have to get a feel for it and then you really know what is going on. At the moment, it's all a bit empty in my head as far as that goes.
Q. Michael, last time I saw you at the GrandAm race in Phoenix in September it seemed like half the paddock wanted a piece of you. Can you summarize what happened there; the ramifications from that and did that make Paul think twice at all about putting you in the car when you hadn't done the Champ Car race before?
MICHAEL McDOWELL: I was worried about that, for sure, in GrandAm I was on probation, I got a one-race suspension for aggressive driving - if you want to call it that. I was worried about what that was going to do as far as my career and how people looked at it. When I talked to Paul and other people in the industry, the way they see it is a young guy going for it and he's in a series that's still with mostly experienced drivers that from an experience side have more leverage with the series and so you know, for me, I don't think it hurt anything. It's going for race wins any time I had any issue and that's just kind of my style. I was there to win races, that's what they pay me to do. That's what I try to do. If that means taking some chances every now and then, then that's what I have to do. I think that all and all everything has gone over very smoothly.
Q. Any particular advice about jumping into a Champ Car on relatively short notice with not that much testing on an unfamiliar track?
MICHAEL McDOWELL: Definitely, Nimo (inaudible) he has obviously been in that situation more than once where he's (inaudible) so he has an indication of what it takes to do it. The biggest thing for me was kind of preparing physically because the cars are so demanding and definitely using a member of your team helps a lot. But as far as mentally preparing for a race like, somebody can only tell you so much, like Charles said, when you get in it, it's a whole different scene. It's definitely great having a veteran driver around like that and it definitely helps.
Q. Charles, I'd like to know what your goals are for this weekend?
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: It's a very tough question because if I would have had a test before the race I would have known what to answer on that. But now that I didn't drive the car yet I don't know how much time it will take me to adjust to the car. So it's pretty much impossible for me to answer that question. So basically what I am going to do is make the best out of the time that's given to me, so -- and obviously I want to finish really strong there and -- but I don't know yet what is possible. We'll see, Thursday afternoon I will know more.
Q. Is this a realistic prospect for next year, the third Team Australia car or you are tackling this as a oneoff only?
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: Well, you never know, I am really grateful to Team Australia and the Champ Car organization for giving me this opportunity and if I do well or, you know, you never know what is going to happen. I look in all directions and certainly also to Team Australia.
Q. I guess for all three, have you guys practiced using simulators or do you use video games to help you get ready for both the track and for the increased power you are going to find in a Champ Car, Charles?
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: I have used a video game, yes, mostly to learn the track because video games are getting better but they are still not really as realistic as the real thing. So it's mostly for learning the track, but it is a real good tool. Definitely saves you a few laps on the track itself. So it will save sometime.
MICHAEL McDOWELL: For me, I am a huge supporter and big fan of simulators. I actually utilize (inaudible) it's very close and very realistic to the real thing. As far as how it prepares you, it's unbelievable, you know, a perfect example was Surfers, when I first walked around there I knew every corner, knew every curve, every wall, every color on the wall, I knew every single aspect of the track, other than the actual seat-of-the-pants doing it. I think the simulator is great for that. I think that it's a huge tool that a lot of people don't utilize that definitely helps.
TIMO GLOCK: I used it last year in Formula 1 especially helped me out a couple of times. This year it was difficult to find a realistic game so I don't (inaudible) Difficult to make it pretty real on the street tracks, but definitely a help what comes up now left-hand or right-hand, how quick is it, is it second, third fourth gear, that's pretty close to the realistic (inaudible) -- it definitely helps, definitely an advantage when (inaudible).
Q. Timo, I guess one question would be obviously you look at Montreal where you came close to the win; ended up second. Beyond Montreal, what would you sort of pick as the race that sort of was your highlight race of the season or the best weekend of the season for you?
TIMO GLOCK: Definitely Montreal was definitely the best race of the season, I think. A couple of other races like Monterey at the beginning of the year was pretty good because we had a really quick car and Denver was pretty good. I started (inaudible) made our way back to the Top-3. Mario and he was pretty strong, I think he was one of the strongest in the whole race. It was, I think, Denver, Monterey and Montreal were the best weekends, best races that we had this year.
Q. You overall impression of racing on the ovals at Milwaukee and Las Vegas?
TIMO GLOCK: That's a completely different style of racing. Milwaukee and the two ovals are completely different. Milwaukee compared to (inaudible) pretty slow, but pretty challenging for the driver and the team. And Vegas was pretty funny, the first (Inaudible) practice that we had went out jumped out of the car (Inaudible) but the race was pretty funny and pretty challenging because every time (inaudible) I was a couple of times pretty close to 10, 15 laps side-by-side, it was pretty cool and pretty fun. The other way, it's pretty dangerous and you can see straight on, I mean, I had my first crash straight on in Milwaukee which was pretty heavy and (inaudible) pretty heavy pain for a couple of weeks in my lower back. That was pretty tough. I mean, that's oval racing and I mean, it's funny to drive and it's a good show for the fans, but I am more a fan of tracks like San Jose or like Denver and Montreal. That's more fun for me. Because it's more about the driver, more challenging for the driver.
Q. Charles, how did this ride materialize, do you have sponsorship behind you or was this a reward for winning the Atlantic Championship and the second part of the question is what are your plans for next year?
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: Yes, it was a reward at the (inaudible) I had the opportunity to do the Mexico race which Champ Car and Toyota Atlantic organized for me and, yeah, the last few weeks, things materialized and so I went to Team Australia to make a seat and now I am here to do the race. And as far as next year is concerned, I would like to do the Champ Car World Series next year; still looking for a seat, so in the winter season I will look what happens and see what we can do.
Q. There's been rumors about you possibly trying out or looking at other teams for next year. Are those rumors at all true and can you tell us anything about what you're looking to do?
TIMO GLOCK: I mean, in that part of the season I think everybody is talking to everybody and everybody is looking for maybe a different opportunity, but at the moment I am still concentrating on my last race in Mexico City and we're still talking to Ford and definitely talking for next year, but I mean, there are a couple of interests from other teams, definitely talking and we'll see what is going on. I said officially to everybody that I want to be in a possibility to win or to be in the Top-3 next year in the Championship or in the Top-5. (Inaudible) The possibility has to be there to be in the Top-5, one of the Top-3 consistently. That's possible. That's possible with any other team. We'll see what is going on with the winter season. But at the moment, you can see that every single Championship there is so many speculations going on. So we will see. I think the decision will be pretty soon, the next three, four weeks what is going on maybe driving a second year at Champ Car, which I would prefer, or we can find a way to go back in Formula 1. That's difficult and there's so many things going on right now so we have to wait a couple of weeks then we'll see what is going on.
Q. Do you anticipate DHL staying with you for next year?
TIMO GLOCK: Yeah, I think so. It looks pretty good. A couple of rumors went around San Jose that everybody said DHL would be out of the team with Timo Glock. Now they make a team with Porsche and everybody said I am going to Penske and drive there; which is not -- definitely not true. DHL will be -- maybe will be a part of the sponsor next year; maybe not. We'll see. The decision will be in the next couple of weeks.
Q. Charles, at what point during the season did you secure enough financial backing where you knew that you could compete for the rest of the year and run for the Championship. What happened in terms of losing your pole at Long Beach, at that stage did you figure the Championship was lost?
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: Well, actually, I think with the backing question, I think during half the season we were quite sure that we would make it to the end of the season but still it was a small struggle every race to still get the money physically at the team, so for that part, but it didn't bother me too much because I was concentrated on the racing. Before coming here I didn't really have the expectations to go for the Championship seeing that I was only coming in one and a half weeks before the race and everybody was doing a full testing season before that. So I didn't really have the expectation to do so well that I did. So basically when I went to the back of the grid, I thought this is not good but I have to make the best it and finished on the podium and things started to roll for me.
Q. If you are not able to secure a Champ Car deal for next year, do you find the changes in the rules package and financial incentives justification enough to come back and defend your Championship?
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: I do really think that the new series is going to be a really, really great series to drive in - $2 million purses is just great, the best I have ever seen in a (inaudible) series. But basically I have become Champion this year, so for me there's really nothing to win there. I would really prefer to go to Champ Car or maybe see something else (inaudible) be very fun over here, we'll see what happens.
ERIC MAUK: That will bring an end to our Champ Car media teleconference today.
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