Champ Car Media Conference
Topics: Champ Car
October 3, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, and welcome everybody to today's exciting announcement that went out a couple of minutes ago announcing Nelson Philippe as the new driver of the No. 4 Conquest Racing car, and also the new sponsor of Uniform Property Center, Surfer's Paradise Australian Company.
We'll go ahead and get started with Nelson here. It's got to be pretty exciting to be back at conquest racing
NELSON PHILIPPE: Yeah, it's nice to be back in Champ Car, and obviously Conquest is a team I know very well. I've raced with them before, so definitely feels like home. I know all the mechanics. Eric is a good friend of mine. I'm looking forward to being back, and couldn't be happier to be back at Australia. It's my home race. I've been there for two months now with my beautiful girlfriend, so I pretty much know the track like the back of my hand. I go running on it every day. It's not like racing, but close enough, I guess
THE MODERATOR: You've been outside of racing here for probably the last eight months or so, but it's got to be tough to get back. What are you doing to stay in shape?
NELSON PHILIPPE: Obviously I've been doing a driver's job, which is doing a lot of exercise and staying in shape. I've been doing quite well on that front. I did a huge V8 Supercar test, which was interesting to say the least. It was different and unusual. But, no, just kept busy. Definitely it was tough to be away, but now I'm back and that's the main thing.
Just looking forward to being back, and it's definitely going to be a challenge to be at the front, but I feel very confident. I mean, it's like riding a bike. I guess you never forget it. I'm sure my neck muscles have forgotten a lot about the G force, but that will come back very quick. I know how to drive these race cars now.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. A couple things. One, I can't remember because I'm old, if you've ever run the new Panos car at Sebring at all this year? And if not, is there any kind of a plan to maybe get you a test day somewhere before Australia?
NELSON PHILIPPE: Well, actually, first of all, nice to see you, nice to hear from you, and always happy to talk to you. Actually I did a test with Minardi at the beginning of the year at Sebring, and then I did Houston MSR test with Conquest. Tomorrow I'm testing at Panos, so it's just going to get back with the engineers this morning, just setting up everything that we're going to do tomorrow, just do a few test starts, see how that's going to go.
The good thing is I'm not going to be heading to Surfer's with no seat time, which is going to be nice. Tomorrow is just going to be reinitiation day
Q. As a follow-up, what about these last few races this year for the team, what about next year? Do you already have a plan in place? There's some talk that maybe you've got a couple big sponsors on your coat tails and maybe they're going to keep you in Champ Car next year. Could you talk about that.
NELSON PHILIPPE: Well, I've got some great sponsors behind me, and they definitely have the potential to sponsor for next year. But at the moment everything is up in the air. We'll see what happens. We'll see what happens over the wintertime. We'll see what we do.
There's obviously lots of good things in Champ Car, so we'll see what makes sense for myself, for the sponsor, and for everything.
Q. All these guys like Franchitti and Villeneuve and all these guys that are headed for NASCAR, do you still want to be an open wheel guy in Champ Car?
NELSON PHILIPPE: I want to be an open wheel guy. I've always been an open wheel guy. I'm just 21, which is great, because I can legally drink now. So nobody can give me shit for drinking the champagne in the winner's circle because it's legal now.
Obviously I am European and open wheel is everything that I want to do. I actually went and saw a few NASCAR races at the beginning of the year and had some good contacts, went to Kevin Harvick Motorsports, had a great contact with some good NASCAR teams, which I can't mention. But it's not for me right now.
Possibly in the future, yes, but at the moment I just want to be in open wheels. I'm young and fit enough to drive them. Probably when I'm 35 or however old these guys are that are moving to NASCAR now maybe I'll do NASCAR, but I'm happy where I am.
Q. Welcome home. At the start of the season when you didn't have a drive, you sounded through with Champ Car. You seemed to be looking anyplace other than Champ Car. What is it that persuaded you that you wanted to come back and do these two races?
NELSON PHILIPPE: Well, the good thing is that I haven't been hanging around the racetrack like a lot of other drivers, and definitely I felt like I got a raw deal at the beginning of the year, but that's how racing goes.
But, you know, Champ Car welcomed me back with open arms. Conquest contacted me. It wasn't me that went and asked for the ride, so it was nice that it all came about that way. So obviously just happy to be racing again, which is the main thing, and racing open wheel cars, I can't complain.
Q. Welcome back to the series. Good to have you back on the phone here. Consultation on the Panos briefly. Have you had a chance to maybe talk with anybody in the series about the differences between the new Panos DP01 and the old Lola?
NELSON PHILIPPE: Well, definitely I have lots of friends in Champ Car, so I've talked about it with them. Bruno Junqueira is my neighbor. He literally lives two doors away from my apartment, so I talked to him. I've got a lot of information already. But I think the best information I'm going to get is when I drive the car firsthand tomorrow and get some more seat time than talking to others who have driven the car before.
I have already noticed a big difference between the Lola and the Panos, but just looking forward to seeing how it goes now that the other teams have almost a full year of racing with their car under their belt. And it's just going to be nice. I feel the car is real nice to drive.
I hear it's been more physically demanding for the upper body, but that's okay, I've been training hard, so looking forward to the challenge
Q. How much experience have you had with standing starts all told in your career? I'm not sure exactly how much experience you've had in that.
NELSON PHILIPPE: I think everybody on the line pretty much knows that I have a career that pretty much consists of Champ Car, and I've done a lot of rolling starts. The last time I did a standing start was in the World Championship of 125 shifter cars. I started on the pole when I did that. I've never done one in an open wheel car, but that's going to be our main focus tomorrow at the test is to do as much as possible so I can get used to it again
Q. You also have to be kind of pleased with what the indication seems to be, although not officially, but Champ Car is probably looking at a more European stance for the future in their schedule in markets that Formula 1 no longer operates in, which is I think a pretty neat experiment to try. You've got to be pretty pleased to see that.
NELSON PHILIPPE: Yeah, it's nice to do that. Obviously I would have loved to be racing in Belgium and in Holland. But I live in the States, I've lived in the States for seven years now, almost eight, and all my friends are here, so I'm happy with racing in the States. But obviously success on the marketing side and in the business side for Champ Car, then all the better.
Q. Welcome back, good to see you or good to hear you anyway.
NELSON PHILIPPE: Thank you.
Q. I'm sorry, I was a moment or two late on the call, so if this has been addressed before, tell me and I'll conjure up another question. But obviously you're sort of reuniting with Conquest and Eric and there was a pretty good -- a pretty good relationship that you had with Eric in particular but with the team before, and again, could you kind of talk about that and just how this will -- how it will in a sense make it a little bit easier as opposed to starting with a team that you have no past experience with?
NELSON PHILIPPE: Well, it's definitely going to be very helpful. It's also a really good feeling to be back with a bunch of drivers that I know very well. I can call every single one of them my friends. I know all their names, and I didn't forget the names, so they were surprised about that yesterday when I got to the shop.
It's good to be back home. I definitely feel like I'm at home. Eric is a friend of mine, and to be honest with you, not a lot of people know this, but I got some other offers to drive Champ Cars, and they just never really materialized. None of them really attracted me as much as Eric's offer. This only came about two weeks ago, so to be able to do this is definitely awesome.
As I said earlier, I don't think you were on the line before, but it's great to be coming back for Surfer's. I've been spending two months there at the moment. The apartment where I live is on the track. I see the track every single day, so I'm going to have good motivation. So Conquest, Surfer's Paradise, Champ Car, fast cars, I cannot complain
Q. And obviously as the defending champion, that's a nice way to make you return to the series at a place where you won last year.
NELSON PHILIPPE: No, definitely, and it's going to be good. I've also got a great, great sponsor in Juniper. They're a property development group based on the Gold Coast, and they have a $9 million building going up, which is quite impressive in Surfer's Paradise. It's nice to be with them and obviously we're going to give it our best to try and be the big winner.
In Champ Car anything can happen. Even if I've been out of racing the whole year, I'm sure with a lot of time in testing tomorrow anything can happen, so we'll push hard and we'll see what happens.
Q. As we're all well aware, no one has ever won that race twice, so you'd be -- I'm sure you'd be delighted to be the first one to do that.
NELSON PHILIPPE: Exactly, exactly. I think there's going to be a special Australian guy who's going to be pretty keen on winning that race. Hopefully he doesn't crash again. I heard he had a car crash yesterday on the road, so hopefully he doesn't crash. No, it's going to be nice. Australia is awesome, and the guys over there have been doing a great job getting ready to race. They've been doing a great, great job. No, I mean, it's going to be awesome. There's the beach, there's fast cars. Again, I can't complain.
Q. And beer that you can drink legally, too.
NELSON PHILIPPE: Beer that I can drink, yes. Obviously Australian beer kind of tastes like piss.
Q. Well, I'll leave it at that, and again, congratulations.
NELSON PHILIPPE: Thank you very much.
Q. I also came on a couple minutes late here and I missed the opening statements.
NELSON PHILIPPE: Well, you did. You're late.
Q. Was a sponsor announced, a primary sponsor announced, for this deal?
NELSON PHILIPPE: Yes, it's Juniper Development Group. They're based on the Gold Coast. They've got lots of property projects in Queensland, Australia, and they're going to be the main sponsor, especially a great sponsor. The owner of the company is a racer. He's going to be racing at the race in Australian Carrera Cup. He's got a suite, he's got hospitality, so we're going to do it big and we're going to do it good.
Q. This is going to be a two-car team now for Conquest, because James Wittenberg, a British driver, they talked about him driving for Conquest, as well.
NELSON PHILIPPE: I have no idea. I think you should ask the team owner.
Q. I'll have to do that, because there's been some things in the media about him coming in, too, and I was wondering if Eric had found a second car.
NELSON PHILIPPE: I have no idea. To be honest with you, I've been out of Champ Car since I was first out at the beginning of the year, and I came back nearly two weeks ago. I only saw Panos up close since February, just yesterday. So I don't even know what's going on. I don't know who's racing on other teams. So we'll see. I guess it'll be a surprise when we get to Surfer's.
Q. Is this only for Australia or is it for Australia and Mexico?
NELSON PHILIPPE: Australia and Mexico. It was announced in the press release.
Q. Great to see you back in the series. Good to have a good racer and a good guy back.
NELSON PHILIPPE: Thank you.
Q. I've got a question first about the sponsorship. New livery to your car?
NELSON PHILIPPE: Yes, it's a new livery. It's going to be beautiful. It's going to be blue, white and gray, the colors of Juniper, so it's going to look very, very nice. No, everything is good.
Q. You had two tests early in the year in Sebring and Houston. Other drivers have a lot of seat time. Have you had a chance to be -- do you think you've got a fair chance?
NELSON PHILIPPE: Well, it's going to be very difficult. It's going to be definitely very, very challenging, but there is nothing that's impossible in life, especially not in Champ Car. That's the good thing about racing in that series. Like you said, a lot of other drivers have a lot more seat time and they're getting to the end of their season and they've been racing in the car the whole year.
So it's going to be a challenge. I'm aware of that, which is the main thing, so I'm not going in there saying that it's going to be easy to win again or anything like that. But the team is coming off a strong finish in Assen, where they did very well. I've got a good connection with my engineer. I worked with him in 2005 so I know him. We worked together, too, at the beginning of the year. To my thinking that will get us through to the end.
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