Champ Car Media Conference
Topics: Champ Car
ERIC MAUK: Thank you very much for joining us on today's Champ Car media teleconference. We have a full roster of people for you to talk to and get a chance to meet today. These people are definitely people you have met before along the way. We wanted to get a chance for you to talk to them before we head into the inaugural Taylor Woodrow Grand Prix of San Jose, our second inaugural event here this year in the Champ Car World Series as we have reached the halfway point for both the Toyota Atlantic Championship and the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. We are joined today by the general manager of the Taylor Woodrow Grand Prix of San Jose, Mr. Bob Singleton, the man that most of you know from his many years in creating very successful Champ Car events in Canada. Mr. Singleton, thank you for joining us today.
BOB SINGLETON: Thank you for having me, Eric.
ERIC MAUK: We are joined by two-time Toyota Atlantic race winner here in 2005, driver for the Polestar Racing Group, Katherine Legge. Katherine, thank you for joining us.
KATHERINE LEGGE: Thank you
ERIC MAUK: We are also joined by the winningest active driver in all of American open-wheel racing, the 2003 Champ Car world Series champion, driver of the #3 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone for Forsythe Championship Racing, Paul Tracy. Paul, thank you for joining us. We'll start with Katherine. Katherine is taking some time off from a very busy day of testing out at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma to join us today. Coming off a big win in Edmonton, a win that you've been chasing very hard ever since getting that season-opening win in Long Beach. A tough race. You put on one of the great passes that we've seen in recent Toyota Atlantic competition in order to take the win away from Charles Zwolsman. Now that you've had a couple days to think about it, look back at that race, tell us how you feel about it.
KATHERINE LEGGE: Yeah, I really haven't had too much time to think about it because I'm actually here in Infineon. I'm doing some work for Yokohama. I wish I was testing, but I'm actually working, earning some money so I can continue to live over here. Basically it was a fantastic weekend. You know, we had a really good car from the start, so it was just a matter of tweaking little bits here and there. You know, I really like the track. It's been a change of attitude for me, for sure, because after Long Beach and especially after Monterrey, Mexico, I kind of just got a bit down and a bit frustrated and didn't realize, you know, why I wasn't at the top of every time sheet. I know that sounds arrogant or it might sound arrogant, but it's really not. It's just my lack of experience. I just didn't know what I was doing wrong. And it really is just all in my head. I know I have the talent. It's just trying to find strategies, you know, to get everything going in the right direction again. And it really started in Toronto. We were doing really well in Toronto until I got black-flagged for blocking. So hopefully, fingers crossed, I'm touching wood here as I speak, we've got it sorted and we should have a good finish to the season.
ERIC MAUK: After eight rounds, Katherine is fifth in the Atlantic Series title chase with 176 points, 40 behind series leader Charles Zwolsman, who she beat last weekend in Edmonton. Tell us a little bit about how you approach the final four races of the season.
KATHERINE LEGGE: I mean really, I'm not looking at the championship any more because we've had a couple of DNFs, unfortunately. Really it's been kind an up-and-down season for me. I'm just trying to gain experience. All I'm trying to do is take each race as it comes, learn the circuits because I'm going to be racing on them next year, and just really try and focus on consistency rather than outright wins or anything like that. I mean, obviously that's the goal. But really I just have to become more consistent. You know, work on the setup of the car, work on gaining the experience that I need to become a better driver, because at the moment it's just really up and down.
ERIC MAUK: I'm sure success will continue to come your way as we round out the 2005 season and beyond. Thank you for joining us today.
KATHERINE LEGGE: Thank you.
ERIC MAUK: Paul Tracy, you finished on the podium in each race that you finished this year. Unfortunately, a couple of DNFs have you second place in the points, but just 21 points back. We still have seven races to go. Tell us a little about how you feel about how your season's gone and about the second half of the season.
PAUL TRACY: Well, I'm looking forward to the second half of the season. Obviously, you know, we get back to some traditional street tracks. Montreal is another track that is a permanent facility that isn't used. So it's more like a road course. You know, the season's gone well. My qualifying average I think is the best in my career. I've only started one race in fifth, and the rest have been in the top three. So that's been exciting. And the team is doing a good job. We just had a couple of bad luck breaks come our way, and that's really hurt us in the points. We're sitting second now, I think 20 or 21 out. We've just got to continue to keep trying to finish on the podium.
ERIC MAUK: Just 21 points out. Like you said, you're qualifying average 2.57, far and away leads the Champ Car World Series and is actually better than Sebastien Bourdais who led the series last year in qualifying average with the mark that was over 3. Qualifying has definitely helped your fortunes this year. Coming off an incredibly successful event in Edmonton, you talked about it while we were up there, 200,000 people, people kept coming out no matter what was happening. We're heading to another event in San Jose which we expect to have an equally big strong event. Tell us a little bit about just what you see in the momentum and what Champ Car has been able to do here in the 2005 season.
PAUL TRACY: Well, obviously the series is building momentum. They've taken on new venues. With the Edmonton course, I mean, it took the guy a couple years to convince Champ Car to give him a shot. I mean, obviously they've done a great job there, a perfect job. It was just an incredible event for me because the amount of fan support that I had and the crowds around my truck and my pit, you know, looking through the grandstand, you could see there was a sea of blue shirts, Indeck, Forsythe shirts and hats. That was pretty cool. I'm excited about San Jose. Obviously I've worked very closely with Bob over the years in Toronto. He's made that a marquee event in Toronto. I have some friends who live in the Bay Area, and they said the promotion is all over the place, they're hearing it on the news, hearing about it on the radio. Looks like it's going to be a big success for San Jose.
ERIC MAUK: Edmonton was one of those rare places that almost sounded like a NASCAR crowd when you made the pass of AJ on lap 19 and the crowd lit up when you took the lead. It's one of those things we don't get to hear often, but they definitely gave it up for you when you took the lead and followed you in pretty much everything you did that day. Best of luck. We will see you in San Jose. I'd like to talk to Mr. Singleton. Bob, as we said before, you put together a number of great events in the past. Now you're taking on a new challenge starting from scratch there in San Jose. This race didn't even become official until January. Take us through a little bit of how you build an event to get to this point.
BOB SINGLETON: Well, you know, Eric, you'd always like to have 12 months to build a race, and we've had nine here, which is fine. I mean, you make that happen. We've had fun doing it. We're coming down the homestretch. Quite frankly, the staff's been great. We're excited. The city's been great. We're looking forward to welcoming you guys to this city.
ERIC MAUK: You guys have really stepped up the construction process here in a couple weeks. Tell us about progress on the track.
BOB SINGLETON: Sure. I mean, it's going along swimmingly now. Our grandstands are over 50% up. The guys are working ready. The suites are going up. We have about 50% to 60% of the track block down, the fence coming in behind it tomorrow. So everything is on track to be finished middle of next week so we can dot the I's and cross the T's and go racing.
ERIC MAUK: I want to tap into your previous life for a little expertise here. We were talking about the Edmonton event. You obviously know what it means to put on successful events in Canada. Looking at the Edmonton event, were you surprised how well that went?
BOB SINGLETON: No, I'm not surprised. I mean, Canada certainly gets and likes Champ Car, has been exposed to Champ Car for 20 years with Toronto. Edmonton is a debt-free province so obviously there are a lot of people out there that follow their events. Look at the Calgary Stampede. They support it. So I wasn't surprised at all. You bring Champ Car to town, and the Edmonton people support it. I think it's fantastic. It's good for Champ Car. Congratulations to the guys in Edmonton.
ERIC MAUK: We're looking forward to another successful event in San Jose. We'll be out in San Jose July 29th through the 31st with race day on Sunday. We'll go ahead and take questions from the media now.
Q. Paul, with seven races left, is second place a good spot to be in?
PAUL TRACY: Well, obviously first would be better. You know, we've just got to work towards that and have some good luck. But, I mean, you know, we're at the halfway point. So much has happened in the first half that it should be an exciting second half.
Q. Going into San Jose, an inaugural event, what sort of challenges does that present a driver, not knowing what you're in for?
PAUL TRACY: I guess really the same kind of challenges leading into Edmonton. Obviously, you have a new venue that nobody's seen. You don't know what the surface is. You don't know what the texture of the surface is. You look at it on a map and it's really hard to get a read of what it actually is. I think a lot of people came to Edmonton and were a little bit caught off guard. We expected the track to be fast and challenging, but it was ultrafast and challenging. Just got to expect -- you know, you never know what to expect. With the limited practice time that we have, hopefully we make the right decisions on setup and come off the truck with a good car.
Q. Paul, Eric mentioned there was a NASCAR-like crowd in Edmonton. What do you think it's going to take to take that crowd, which was huge, and turn them, the United States and Canada, into Champ Car fans where they tune in week in and week out to watch your races?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I mean, I don't really know what -- how you mean it was a NASCAR crowd. I mean, looking at the crowd, it was definitely a blue-collar crowd. I mean, the guys were rugged guys, oil-field guys, you know, hard-working people. You could see that in the people there. Obviously, the weather is terrible there during the winter. So it's a little bit of a rough life there compared to living in the south, in the States, where you have nice weather. When they have the opportunity to come out to see a Champ Car event, I mean, they're going to fully support it because there's just really not that much there to do. They don't have a lot of sports there. They have the hockey, with the Oilers, and the CFL team with the Eskimos. Really hockey hasn't been playing. We had tremendous fan support, which was great.
Q. I'm not calling them a NASCAR crowd disparagingly. I'm just saying the fan reaction is what Eric was referring to. Do you have any ideas on how Champ Car could convert some of these fans who are there to watch a great race into sticking around?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I think they are going to stick around. Obviously, the people in that area have never been exposed to Champ Cars. I would probably say a large majority of the people, it was their first event. I think once you've come and seen one of our events, it was a great race, no doubt about it. It was a great race, a fast track, you could see the whole track. Once you've been once, you're a fan. I don't think anybody left there saying, "I'll never come back again."
Q. Katherine, could you talk about what your short-term goals look like in the second half of the season, you've won a couple races, then talk about what you think the future looks like.
KATHERINE LEGGE: Well, I mean, my short-term goals for the rest of the season are, like I said before, just to be consistent and to get a few more wins and just to learn as much as I can. Everybody seems to be under the impression that I'm going to Champ Car next year, and it's really not the case. I'm not going to get there just because I'm a girl. I have to get there because I'm a really good driver. At the moment, I don't have the experience and the talent to get me there. When I get there, I don't want to be driving around at the back learning for another year. I'd rather do another year in Atlantics, really win a championship before going into that, if I do, indeed, get the opportunity. It's not written down that I definitely will. I mean, hopefully I will because I honestly believe that it's the best form of open-wheel racing in the United States for sure, and one of the best in the world. But I really feel like I'm learning a lot right now in Atlantics. I don't want to run before I can walk.
Q. Paul, would you weigh in on that, whether you think the Atlantics, a second season in Atlantics -- I'm not asking you to map out her career, but a second season versus a new season in Champ Car?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I mean, it really comes down to how her team feels. Obviously, Katherine's doing a good job this year. She won her first race. I watched the race that she had on Sunday. It was a very exciting race. She was trying and trying, being very aggressive. But it's really the team's decision, whether they feel she's ready. Obviously, she's saying she doesn't feel she's ready yet, so I guess to stay another year and learn all the tracks really well and understand the system and be winning consistently week in, week out, that will probably help.
Q. Katherine, I just basically wanted to follow up on what was just said. Do you have actually a definite arrangement for next year in place to return to Atlantics or is everything still a bit up in the air?
KATHERINE LEGGE: No, absolutely not. I mean, everything's still really up in the air. If I won every race from now till the end of the year, who knows what would happen. I really can't say right now. I need to find some sponsors, which I'm not having much luck at at the moment. I really don't know. I really can't answer what I'm going to be doing yet because at the moment we're so focused on getting this year out of the way, that until we get to Montreal at the end of the year and we think about what we're going to do next year. I mean, I'm hoping if I do Atlantics again next year, I can do a lot of pre-season testing because we're not sure what's happening with the cars and different engines and things. We're not sure whether they're going to bring it in with the Champ Car changes, which are due in 2007. It seems to be an awkward time to be moving around right now.
Q. Is all of the publicity being given to another woman driver in the States right now helping or hindering you?
KATHERINE LEGGE: It's really not affecting me at all, you know, apart from the press trying to make it into something that it's really not, it's having no effect. You know, Danica is just going down a completely different route to the route I'm going down. I think she's a really good driver and I really genuinely wish her well. If we were in the same series, I could understand the deal that's being made out of it, but we're really not. I think the most important thing is we want to be seen as drivers. We're not terribly keen on being seen as female drivers. Obviously, we wouldn't change the fact that we're female, but I think the most important thing to us is that we're seen as competitive.
Q. Paul, being that you are 21 points behind the French champion, how do you see you can catch up and win in the next few races?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I think it really just comes down to just beating him. I mean, you know, in just about every race this year we've been ahead of him at some point of the race. With two races that we didn't finish in Mexico and Toronto, I mean, in both instances when we had our problems, we were leading the race. If we had capitalized on that day, whether it would be in Toronto or Mexico, you're looking at 50 to 60 points right there that we lost, compared to he's finished every race in the top five, and I finished every race on the podium but two. We've been in a winning situation at every race, so I guess we've just got to have some good luck and continue to run ahead of him and not have any problems.
Q. Katherine, now that you talk about racing and wins, you are 2-0 with Danica. But let's forget about that. We would like to know your impressions of your life. You're settled in another country.
KATHERINE LEGGE: My life at the moment, I pinch myself every day because I've just been given this fantastic opportunity and it's just really good to be here. Millions of people would kill to be in the position I'm in right now. I am just having fun with it. You know, I think I got a bit serious a while back and was probably too self-critical in a way. I've pulled myself out of that with a lot of help from the people who are surrounding me, who are really fantastic people. I mean, without them, I wouldn't be where I am right now. The team have just been phenomenal, they really have. You know, I'm getting to see America. I've never been to the States before. Coming over here, learning the accent so people actually understand what I'm saying (laughter). I'm just getting to travel around and race a car which is, you know, my ultimate dream and goal. It's just great for me.
Q. You get the Ohio accent?
KATHERINE LEGGE: No. The thing is when you say things in English like "water," they say, "I'm sorry, ma'am, we don't sell that here."
PAUL TRACY: Lino has been in America for 20 years and nobody can understand him (laughter).
Q. Bob, is it true that the poor press in San Jose will have a lot of miles to go to the press room?
BOB SINGLETON: No, the press room is on the inside of the racetrack, right in the convention center, not unlike it was in Vancouver. And quite frankly like it is with Toronto with the automotive building. No, you won't have a long way to go at all.
Q. Another 10 for you.
BOB SINGLETON: I just wanted to make sure you were taken care of, so I moved it closer.
Q. Thank you.
BOB SINGLETON: You're very welcome.
Q. Paul, it seems like you're much calmer this year, but just as aggressive on the track. I don't see that your age at all shows any slowdown in your ability on the racetrack. I just wanted to ask you to speak toward your future, if you'd like to be in Champ Car again next year and beyond. I don't know what your arrangement is with Forsythe Racing. I think you're pretty happy there. Maybe you could talk about that.
PAUL TRACY: Well, I am pretty happy at Forsythe. I haven't made any decisions on what I'm going to be doing in the future. My focus right now is obviously to win the championship. From there I'll just see in the next little while here, Gerry and I will sit down and talk about what our future is together, kind of go from there. I haven't really made any decisions on what I want to do yet.
Q. Would you like to race another season in Champ Car or you're just undecided?
PAUL TRACY: You know, I'm just concentrating right now on this. Obviously, I would like to race another season. I want to race whatever I can. If that's Champ Car, anything else, then that's what I want to do, is continue to keep racing.
Q. Bob, how are the sales going, if you can give us a quick update?
BOB SINGLETON: Our sales are really starting to peak. We've got about five of our silver grandstands, although some are big, some are small, sold out. We still have some silver grandstands, not some gold. It's my guess being around here for 10, 12 years in the business we'll sell out all of the grandstands here in San Jose and have a huge general admission crowd. So we're excited and looking forward to a great weekend.
Q. Katherine, has competition in the United States been different from what you expected, having come from the UK and European types of racing? Is it more or less competitive than you expected it to be?
KATHERINE LEGGE: I think it's probably more competitive than I expected it to be in a way. Even though the strength and depth isn't there, there's probably six or seven really good drivers who would win or be up front in think championship they chose to do. We have Charles Zwolsman, who was on the podium a few times in European F-3. That's probably the strongest series in Europe. I don't think you can say anything about the standard of driving over here is any worse than anywhere else. I mean, I think it's really good. Obviously, we haven't got grids of 25, 30 excellent drivers, but we're working on it, and I really expect there will be. But we have six or seven really, really talented guys out there. It's just as tough to win over here as it is back home.
Q. It's tough to win anywhere, I think.
KATHERINE LEGGE: Yeah, you're right.
Q. You're obviously enjoying this. It's been frustrating for you not doing as well as you expected. How do you personally cope with that?
KATHERINE LEGGE: I mean, to be honest, I wasn't personally coping too well. It was really hard because I never have done a full season in anything before. I'm on about my 23rd car race, I think. I've never had the mentality of doing a season. I've always had one-off races here and there, bits and pieces. To be able to think in the long-term was a real struggle for me. But I think I was thinking about it wrong. Really, if you take care of each race at a time, then the championship takes care of itself. But I wasn't really -- I just didn't know which direction to think in, if you like. It was hard. I got some really good advice. I seem to be back on track. I was driving too consciously, like I was consciously trying to drive as fast as I could and it didn't work for me. You have to chill out, realize you haven't forgotten how to drive. For a minute back there, I was like, "Wow, have I forgotten how to drive? Am I really not very good?" You just have to have self-belief to go, "I'm going to go out there and drive like I've always driven." It kind of works for me that way.
ERIC MAUK: We'll bring our teleconference to an end. Thanks to Bob Singleton, Paul Tracy and Katherine Legge for joining us today. Best of luck to all of you on your endeavors as we head into San Jose.
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