Champ Car Atlantic Series Media Conference
Topics: Champ Car Atlantic Series
MERRILL CAIN: Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you very much for joining us today for a very special announcement for the Atlantic Championship. I'm Merrill Cain, communications manager for the Atlantic Series. We want to focus on the Atlantic Championship. I'd like to recognize some of the current members of the 2005 Atlantic Series who have joined us here. They're right over in front here. I'd like to recognize a few of those and just have you stand up and wave for a second, including some of our top competitors. Series points leader Charles Zwolsman is joining us. Second in the championship, Tonis Kasemets is in the back. Currently third in the Atlantic Championship, Antoine Bessette, our top Canadian driver. One of our top Mexican drivers, David Martinez, who led the morning practice session. Series standout, right on top, Katherine Legge. And we're also joined by Al Unser III, one of our top young drivers, as well. These are the current stars of the Atlantic Series, but we want to take a few minutes to look towards the future of the Atlantic Championship. We're very happy to make a series of special announcement this weekend. I'd like to introduce all of our speakers on the podium. I'd like to introduce Dick Eidswick, president of Champ Car down at the end. Vicki O'Connor, who is managing director of the Atlantic Series for 20 years now. Kevin Kalkhoven, Champ Car World Series co-owner and co-owner of PKV Racing. We're joined by Alex Cross, vice president of Swift Engineering. Tim Routsis joins us from Cosworth, the managing director of Cosworth. Derrick Walker, Team Australia, owner of Team Australia joins us. Richard Raeder with Sierra Sierra Enterprises joins us as a team manager for the team. John Brooks, who is the owner of Brooks Associates Racing, currently competing in the Atlantic Series. And Steve Sewell, who is the Champ Car manager of technology. Steve, thank you for joining us today. Now that all your hands are sore from clapping, let's get to some announcements here. I'd like to turn it over to Mr. Dick Eidswick, Champ Car president, who will tell us what the next generation of the Atlantic Series will look like.
DICK EIDSWICK: Thank you all for coming. This is an exciting day for Atlantics. We're announcing the first new engine-chassis combination since 1989, so this is a big day for Atlantics. We're announcing a car for the new generation. We have three-year agreements with Swift and Cosworth for this car. We're going to be using a brand-new Swift chassis. The design will be numbered Swift 016.a. The series will see a return of Cosworth as the engine provider. Cosworth provided engines from 1974 through 1989. The new engine will be a four-cylinder, 2.3 liter engine, capable of generating 300 horsepower and producing speeds up to 175 miles an hour. We think this is an exciting car for the future, and we think that you'll all enjoy watching them compete next season.
MERRILL CAIN: If we could have the faces of Champ Car ladies unveil the designs for the new car and new engine. (Applause). We will have pass-outs that will lay out the sketchings, what you see up here. They'll be available at the back of the room. We wanted to continue with our announcements. Vicki O'Connor. Vicki has been the managing director of the series for the last 20 seasons. One of the most attractive aspects of this car, not only the way it looks, but the way we hope it will run on the racetrack, is the cost that it's going to take to compete in the Atlantic Championship next year is going to be very affordable. Can you talk about that?
VICKI O'CONNOR: Yes, I will. Thank you all for attending. This is indeed a banner day for the Atlantic Championship. We've worked very hard to put together a package that will be cost-effective for our teams. Costs were getting out of control. We're aware of it. We think we've hit the nail on the head. It's up to all of you to let us know if we did. I'm extremely happy for the future of the series. We will be able to recruit, educate and graduate drivers. We have done more of that in our 20 years of my management than any other series in perhaps the world. I'm honored to be a part of it. I thank my partners at Champ Car and my partners at Swift and Cosworth for being part of it.
MERRILL CAIN: Thank you, Vicki. Because we'll be detailed in the press release that we'll pass out to you. Basically we're tagging the costs for competing in the championship next season between $500,000 and $600,000 for a full-season entrant. Certainly very affordable by today's standards in auto racing. In terms of what it's going to look like competing on the track next season, we are joined by Steve Sewell, manager of technology for Champ Car. Steve, I know you were very key in determining what the new package is going to be like. What are these cars going to look like on the racetrack as we see them in 2006?
STEVE SEWELL: As Vicki indicated, what the Atlantic Series is about is educating drivers and preparing them for the next step. One of the things that we were very keen on was taking that even a step further and preparing the next generation of Champ Car drivers. A lot of the philosophies that we see in our Champ Cars we tried to carry on into the Atlantic Series as well. We're very proud of our graduates moving into Champ Car, and we want to ensure that they have the proper platform to make that transition a positive one and bring the drivers from all of the other support categories and bring them here to a top-notch support-level series. In that vein, we're going to continue with ground effects because that's what Champ Car is based on. We're going to model the grip levels, the aerodynamics, again, similar characteristics to the Champ Car, but scaled down so that we can really bring these drivers along in that fashion. Data collection technology, same thing. Pi Research has worked very hard in bringing in a system that will be familiar to current competitors that, as well, really dovetail into what the Champ Cars currently use as well. Each step along the way, we're working with all of the partners and certainly going to be working very closely with Swift to put a car on the track that really prepares these drivers for their future and yet is still a technologically driver for the teams as well.
MERRILL CAIN: Very much looking forward to seeing it compete on track next season. Alex Cross from Swift Engineering. Alex, the most successful chassis designer in the history of the Atlantic Championship is Swift Engineering with 170 victories to its credit entering this weekend. What can you tell us about the new car design. Talk to us about the new Swift 016.
ALEX CROSS: The first thing about the new car design is we're very proud to continue our association with the top open-wheel development series certainly in the United States and potentially the world. This car is going to be a continuation of the same customer service and quality that you've seen in the past, but it will be more challenging to drive. It will be faster, it will have more horsepower, more torque, and it will be we think a very proper steppingstone to the next generation of Champ Car drivers. That is the goal for this car.
MERRILL CAIN: Thank you, Alex. Tim Routsis joins us from Cosworth. Cosworth served as the first engine for the Atlantic Series back in 1974, raced through 1989, producing over 190 victories in Champ Car. As we look ahead to the future now, Tim, if you would talk about the new Cosworth power we're going to see in Atlantics next year.
TIM ROUTSIS: Thank you. We're extremely proud to be bringing the Cosworth name back into Atlantics. The challenge for us, for the series going forward, as has been mentioned already, this is intended to be a series which prepares drivers to move up to Champ Car. Now, as such, that gives us a challenge to make sure that every engine we deliver is exactly the same. We don't want to have engines as a variable in the series. We have to produce performance which prepares people in as much as it gives them a really good car, but we have to make sure that they're utterly reliable, they're affordable and they're all the same. It's very easy to design an engine which is very perky but doesn't last very long. I think Cosworth is going to be drawing on its experiences with Champ Car as to how we go about making very consistent powerful engines, and that's exactly the technology we're going to be bringing into the Atlantic Series. We're really enthusiastic about this sort of repeat visitation to Atlantics.
MERRILL CAIN: We're happy for the homecoming. Thank you very much. When we announced our new package, when word of this spread, a lot of teams that were very interested in signing up right off the bat. We're privilege d to have a couple of announcements that we're excited to make this weekend. First off we'll start with Derrick Walker from Team Australia. Also want to recognize the co-owner of Team Australia who has joined us, Craig Gore is down here in front with us. Derrick, if you would, just talk about what your plans are for next season. We know you're looking forward making an announcement entering the Atlantic Series next year.
DERRICK WALKER: Sure. First of all, if I may take the liberty to thank and acknowledge Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe for their continuing efforts to revive Champ Car and the Atlantic Series. I think this is a significant commitment and a dedication to the sport of open-wheel racing. I'd like to compliment Kevin and Gerry. As far as Team Australia is concerned, our plans very early on was to enter into Champ Car and be a winning team as soon as possible. We're well down that road. But one of the things that Craig and I realized almost at the same time is that we needed to have a continuous source of talent, both in the cockpit and out. So we're working on a program which we'll be announcing soon that will itemize and give in great detail how we're going to do that. But for today I'd like to take the liberty to announce our commitment to the Atlantic Series. It's our intention to be racing next year with a two-car Team Australia effort. We have drivers who are signed. We're not going to release those names today. We've got a lot more work to do, so we'll pick another time and day to do that because today is all about the announcement of Atlantic. We're proud to be part of it for next year, look forward to competing in the series. So congratulations again, Kevin and Gerry. Thank you.
MERRILL CAIN: Thank you very much, Derrick. Looking forward to having you in the Atlantic Championship next year. Richard Raeder is the team manager for Sierra Sierra Enterprises. The Sierra Sierra team competed the last couple of seasons in the Atlantic Championships with Ryan Dalziel. Richard you're here to tell us today you're going to be returning to the series next year.
RICHARD RAEDER: That's correct. Firstly, I'd like to thank Dennis and Diane and the (indiscernible) family for allowing me to make this announcement. As we made this announcement decision 12 hours ago, we are coming back with two cars and the orders will be placed today.
MERRILL CAIN: Excellent. We hear you have a check in your pocket, is that true?
RICHARD RAEDER: I do.
MERRILL CAIN: Thank you, Richard. Happy to have you guys back next year. John Brooks has been a loyal supporter of Atlantics both as a racer and team owner over the years, competing with two-car effort this season. Done a very good job with his drivers this year. John, we assume we're going to be back next year, but I think you want to make a bit of an announcement as well.
JOHN BROOKS: Most certainly we'll be back next year. One of the first things I want to do, though, is thank Toyota for all their support throughout the years. If it wasn't for Toyota, this series wouldn't be as established as it is right now. But the thought of moving forward, improving the equipment and everything, I think all the team owners are very excited about the future. We will continue to support the championship. We will be back next year with two cars at least, and my deposit is going in before Richard's.
MERRILL CAIN: It will be a race to get to Vicki at the end of the press conference here. Thank you very much. Looking forward to having you back next year. There is another significant announcement that's going along with what we're doing here this weekend. We'd like to turn it over to Kevin Kalkhoven to make that announcement. Kevin, first off, again, a great day for Atlantics, but in addition to setting the future design for the new formula in the Atlantic package, Champ Car is instituting a very impressive incentive for next season's Atlantic competitors. Can you tell us 2006 Atlantic Championship?
KEVIN KALKHOVEN: Thank you very much for being here. By the way, thanks, guys, that's six cars, that's great. Swift, take the orders quickly (laughter). One of the things that is very important to both Gerry, Paul and myself as we go forward in the development of Champ Car is to ensure that there is a steady and solid progression of new young drivers, both US and international, to come into Champ Car. We looked very carefully at how we were going to do this because as Champ Car builds, we wanted the support series to build. So what I'd like to announce today is our commitment to the development of the Atlantic drivers, some of whom you'll see here, some of whom will be new to the series next year, as a solid progression through to Champ Car. Not only on top of the prize money, which is very significant for the series, but we're also going to announce a $2 million check that the winner of the 2006 championship can take forward and present to selected Champ Car teams, which will take them a long way towards having a solid season in Champ Car. We believe this level of commitment to Atlantics is also a measure of our commitment to Champ Car as we go forward. So, guys, hang around, you could be Champ Car drivers real quick.
MERRILL CAIN: Thank you, Kevin. Awesome news. Certainly a great prize for the champion next season in Atlantics. Back to Derrick Walker and for Kevin for a second. If you put your Champ Car team hats on, how important will this be to have a very talented driver entering the series in 2007 with this type of funding secured?
DERRICK WALKER: Well, it's essential for the survival of Champ Car, let's face it. It's all too difficult to get into racing in the first place. As many of you know, once you start getting further up the ladder, it gets harder and harder. I think this contribution, this prize that allows the winner of the championship to go to a team with this kind of support, that's a huge step forward, as many of you are sure are well aware of. It's a great day. I think it's really going to turn the series around and get it moving in the right direction.
MERRILL CAIN: Kevin, you have been very supportive of the drivers, a couple of the drivers with the PKV moniker that they're carrying on their cars this season with Katherine Legge and Al Unser III. How important will it be for your team to try to get these drivers into Champ Car with the funding Champ Car is providing?
KEVIN KALKHOVEN: I can think of no easier way of putting it than we're putting our money where our mouth is. This is incredibly important. I don't know which one it's going to be, but one of your guys will be in our team sooner or later. Keep going.
MERRILL CAIN: I'd like to open it up for a few questions from the audience.
Q. Is the series name going to remain the same, obviously without the "Toyota"? Kevin or Dick, you said "selected teams." Is there going to be a specific number of teams that could possibly take this $2 million along with the driver?
KEVIN KALKHOVEN: Well, as we don't know who the teams and how many will be in '07, we're just saying "selected" at this minute. But I think there will be team owners very enthusiastic to be able to get hold of a championship winner with a $2 million check in his pocket or her pocket. That's a clue, Katherine. Get your butt going.
Q. Vicki, will you guys try and have more doubleheaders? I heard more people talk this year, that's what they've been screaming about for years, Atlantic drivers need more time on the track. Can you talk about next year for maybe more doubleheaders?
VICKI O'CONNOR: The preliminary schedule called for a minimum of one doubleheader. We are looking at possibly two. It was very popular. We enjoy doing them.
Q. Steve, a lot of people said through the years "more power, less tire." Have you talked to the Yokohama people yet?
STEVE SEWELL: Certainly thanks to Cosworth we've more than covered the power side of it, going from 225 to 300 horsepower. We've had some preliminary conversations with Yokohama, as well as looked at some of the aero numbers with Swift. Again, it's all subject to review. We've kind of been creeping up on it quite honestly over the last two years. We've made some changes. Well, we'd like to think the racing has been much better as a result. We feel we're on to a pretty magic formula year. We just want to continue that process I guess would be the correct way to answer that.
Q. Kevin, long time ago Indy Lights, Pat Patrick says if you win the Indy Lights championship, we'll give you a ride in CART. That didn't happen. Then it was a Lola. That's how Bryan Herta got started. IRL said the same thing. Where will the money come from, the $2 million?
KEVIN KALKHOVEN: The money is going to come from the continued success of Champ Car. And it will come.
Q. Tim, will Cosworth be supplying and maintaining the engines? Was there a limit on how many engines a team can use during a year? Are you going to try to go for one engine for the whole year?
TIM ROUTSIS: First part of the question, yes, Cosworth will be supplying and maintaining all of the engines. As I say, one of the prerequisites of this arrangement is that the engines are all within a percentage, one and a half percent, of each other. In terms of the durability of the engines, they're going to run 2,000 miles between rebuilds. We have agreed with the series a formula whereby we will be able to make sure that every team has an engine available as they send engines back to us. So we've tried to linearize the whole engine supply arrangements for all teams for the whole duration of the season.
MERRILL CAIN: There are some details in the media packets that have been passed out about the engine and the Swift design as well.
Q. Alex, how far along is the car? Who is going to be shaking it down and when?
ALEX CROSS: The pre-season testing will occur early February. First group of cars will be available early March. The tests will be done under the auspices of Champ Car and Swift. It will be shaken down by a driver not participating in the series.
Q. Alex or Vicki, will the existing 014 chassis be upgradeable to the new spec? Will there be a second class for older cars?
VICKI O'CONNOR: There is a conversion kit available for the current 14, if someone chose to do that.
MERRILL CAIN: Alex, any further comments?
ALEX CROSS: No, we have planned a conversion kit for the 14 if there's sufficient interest. We'd like to find out how many people would actually like to do that before we start selling them. But we are fully committed to the new car and really think that's the way to go, quite frankly. The series needs a new car, needs a modern car, needs the kind of things we described here today in the press conference.
Q. I notice on the handout there's a possibility of standing starts returning to the series. I was wondering what the chances of that actually happening are.
KEVIN KALKHOVEN: I would love to do standing starts, for heaven's sake. I mean, let's get these guys working.
VICKI O'CONNOR: It's on the list.
Q. Will the series remain North American based only or will there be any overseas travel?
VICKI O'CONNOR: At the moment, it's going to remain in North America.
Q. Alex, who's designing the car? Is the design process underway?
ALEX CROSS: The current chief designer at Swift, Chris Norris. He's designing the car.
Q. Now that there's been an announcement of the Atlantic chassis and engine, is there any date, approximately the date for Champ Car chassis?
KEVIN KALKHOVEN: We're talking Atlantic today so I'm not going to answer that question, but there will be a new chassis, so stop it (laughter).
MERRILL CAIN: One of the questions asked, I'm not sure if we got it to, what will the name of the series be. It will be the Champ Car Atlantic Championship.
Q. Alex and Tim, earlier there was mention of an annual budget of $500,000 to $600,000. Could you break that down for us in terms of what a chassis will cost, annual cost for engines?
ALEX CROSS: The chassis will be $79,500.
TIM ROUTSIS: I think what I'd like to do is actually defer the cost issue to Dick Eidswick because we've been talking this morning. Dick.
DICK EIDSWICK: The cost of the new car will be $175,000, which includes the chassis from Swift and engine from Cosworth and electronics from Pi and a few other items. In addition to that, there will be the rebuild cost which would be included in the annual budget of the teams.
Q. Richard, great to hear you are going to be back in the series. Can you talk again about some of the attractiveness of the new series? You pulled out at the end of last year. What is so good about the new series?
RICHARD RAEDER: We feel positive with the decisions made by Champ Car moving forward in ways that we like as a team. The prize is obviously going to be a massive incentive for drivers all over the world. For Sierra Sierra, we have some unfinished business (laughter).
Q. Kevin, following on with what Team Australia will do, has there been any discussions within Champ Car teams whereby they might all ultimately have an Atlantic team? F1 tried to do this several years ago with F-3000. Will there be a benefit to the Champ Car program in general if all of these Champ Car teams had an Atlantic team?
KEVIN KALKHOVEN: I think almost certainly what we're going to see is a combination of two things: development by teams like Australia who have a very, very specific objective about developing a national basis, which is very important to them. I think for some of the existing teams inside the series, I've spoken to the owners, it's far more likely what they're going to do is take their selected drivers and sponsor them through the Atlantic Series in existing teams. So both ways are perfectly reasonable to do. I congratulate Team Australia on the vision they've got for producing national drivers at the highest level, but at the same time I believe that some of our existing teams and people like Carl Russo have already said this, they want to take some of the young talent, they don't want to have to run an Atlantic team, they believe that's best left to the owners of the teams in the Atlantic Series, but they will sponsor the drivers through it and make sure each one of them tries to get their check so that their running costs will be lower next year.
MERRILL CAIN: If there are no more questions from the audience, I'd like to first of all congratulate everyone. I think it's outstanding news for the series as we move forward. Thank you very much for being here today, Ladies and Gentlemen.
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