Champ Car Media Conference
Topics: Champ Car
ERIC MAUK: Welcome, everyone, to a very special Champ Car teleconference where we will be announcing some information regarding the 2007 version of the Champ Car that will attack the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford circuit. Right now we are joined by Steve Johnson, the president of Champ Car; Scott Elkins, the director of technology for the Champ Car World Series; Scott Atherton, the president and CEO of Panoz Motorsports Groups; David Bowes, the CEO of Elan Motorsports Technologies; and Dick Eidswick, the chairman of Champ Car. I'd like to turn things over to Steve Johnson, president of Champ Car World Series.
STEVE JOHNSON: Thank you, Eric. Good afternoon and welcome to what is truly a historic and monumental day in the history of the Champ Car World Series. Today's announcement is a bold step forward for Champ Car and supports our mission of providing great entertaining racing for our fans and a challenge for our teams and drivers. In 2007, the Champ Car World Series will be partnering with Elan Motorsports Technologies for our new American-made Panoz DPO1 chassis. The new Panoz DPO1 will provide the teams and drivers a solid platform to demonstrate their skills. The Panoz DPO1 chassis will provide closer racing and more passing opportunities on our street tracks and the next generation Ford-Cosworth engine will give our Champ Car drivers the power they need to make the pass. In addition to the obvious enhancements to the on-track action provided by this package, we believe the significant savings will not only help our current teams but will serve to attract many new entrants, as well. Champ Car has listened to our fans, to our owners, teams and drivers, and developed, with Elan Motorsports Technologies, the ultimate chassis that will take Champ Car to the next level. Together Elan, we have positioned the Champ Car World Series as the ultimate motorsports entertainment package of the future and provide for the long-term health, success and stability of the Champ Car World Series.
ERIC MAUK: Thank you, Steve. Very exciting announcement, indeed. We'll hear from the manufacturing side, elan motorsports technologies, Mr. David Bowes.
DAVID BOWES: Thank you and welcome to everyone. It's a privilege and a pleasure to be part of this announcement. We're delighted to be part of the Champ Car team. We've been working together at a detail level to make sure we understand the design features that are required to enhance and maximize the Champ Car chassis going forward. The new car will be smaller, lighter, safer, more nimble and is targeted to set quicker lap times than the current chassis. Of course, we're looking forward to turning all our resources and our technology and to maximizing the impact, performance and reliability of this chassis. It will be an entirely new platform using all of the technology that's available from Elan Motorsports Technologies, or EMT, which is the world's largest chassis constructor. Finally, this is an all-American venture: the cars and parts will be designed, built and shipped from Georgia.
ERIC MAUK: We'll begin with questions from the media.
Q. I'd like to ask the obvious question of the Panoz folks of what this means with your future with the Indy Racing League.
DAVID BOWES: We have a number of different contracts existing in a number of different series. We'll be honoring all of those contracts. Today is the Champ Car day and we're delighted to be part of this deal.
Q. The question I've been asked a lot today is in terms of these two series, does this announcement mean that perhaps this opens the door to bringing the two series closer together or does it mean they're farther apart or does it mean things are just about the same as they have been?
STEVE JOHNSON: I would say things are the same as they have been. The Champ Car World Series is focused on our business model and Champ Car. We're continuing to move forward with that. Again, we're not focused on anybody else out there, other than what we're doing. We're going to provide the best entertainment value in motorsports.
Q. I would pose this maybe to Steve and Scott. In light of the doubleheader at Houston, also in light of the fact that the ALMS competition, the Grand-Am, is on the calendar at Long Beach, could you maybe talk about the state of the relationship between Champ Car and ALMS. This brings the two closer together, at least on the chassis part.
STEVE JOHNSON: That's a good question. The relationship we have with ALMS is very solid, and it goes back a long ways in a personal relationship that Scott and I have for many years back. We're looking for ways to partner together. Obviously, this is the best step to partner together Elan coming in as our chassis supplier. I think you'll see a lot of good things in the future between ALMS and Champ Car.
Q. Scott, if you might sort of add a few comments.
SCOTT ELKINS: I don't want to detract from the significance of this announcement today, which is specific to a new chassis for Champ Car. I would echo Steve's comments. We have always had a very solid relationship with Champ Car. We've raced with them in the past. We are planning, as you know from our schedule and theirs, we'll be together in Houston. As I have said before, I don't want anyone to read more into that than what is really there. The fact is we were contacted by the event organizer in Houston, could not be happier about the fact we will be racing with Champ Car there. Does it mean there will be more in the future? You know, time will tell. The biggest benefit I see that we have as an overall organization with myself being responsible for all of the Panoz companies, is the fact that there's a pre-existing relationship between myself and Steve that does go back a long time. In an industry that is filled with a lot of distrust, I think the two of us have a very unique and meaningful relationship. That can only be good for all involved.
Q. How does this car compare with the one that Panoz is now making for IRL, the new car?
DAVID BOWES: The answer is there's no comparison. They're two entirely different cars. Our current IRL car was designed and built several years ago to a different level of requirements with a different level of technology available. This car has five years of technology now we can add into it. We have a different look and feel to Champ Car racing and a different set of requirements from them to build this car to. To be honest, the only way we can achieve what we've been asked to achieve is to literally start with a clean sheet of paper.
Q. I wanted to find out whether this chassis might make it easier for some Champ Car teams to compete in the Indy 500, even though they're not similar chassis, but does it kind of bring it a little bit closer and make that transition easier?
STEVE JOHNSON: That's a totally different car that would be running in the Indy 500. Unless the rules would change for the Indy 500, this is not the chassis for the Indy 500.
Q. David, if you could first of all tell us who your key design staff on this project will be, overall designer, aerodynamics, et cetera. Also, have you had to take on and expand more people for this project? Lola, having worked there, you know they have a great reputation. They delivered a very sound product for many years. Some people in the industry are asking, Will Panoz be able to do as good a job as Lola? If you could answer those series of questions, if you would.
DAVID BOWES: Well, we have a quiet and unsung group of designers who have done nothing more than win the Indy 500 '03 and '04, and won the IRL championship in '03. The strength of EMT is not in having big egos or large names. The strength in EMT is that we run all the way up and down the organization as a team. The team of people are headed by Simon Marshall, who is our chief designer, and Nick Alcock, our chief aerodynamicist. Along the way they've designed such cars as the Star Master which was launched at a new series some time ago. These guys have worked with us now for three years and have had a huge number of achievements. They're looking forward to being part of this project, obviously. This project will require us to recruit a few more good people. I believe that the significance of this deal and the publicity of this deal will allow us to attract good people from our industry. We will be looking for more people, yes. As regards can we do as good a job as anybody else? I can tell that you Scott Elkins, Tony Cotman and the Champ Car team have done a very thorough due diligence job in selecting the current supplier, i.e., EMT. We have been whittled down from, I think, seven to start with through four, through two, then the final few weeks has been a very intense competition to get us into this position now. There has been and are a number of factors that I think they would say they've used as their criteria. It's up to them to say why they chose us, I guess. But clearly I'm confident that the amount of rigor and thoroughness that's gone into this process has convinced them at least that we can do a better job than anybody else out there.
Q. Could Scott speak to that issue a little bit, as David suggested.
SCOTT ELKINS: The criteria that we had was multifaceted. I mean, obviously the main purpose of this project was to reduce the operating costs of racing for our teams, this economic environment has required that. Something else we looked at was obviously we looked at things like location, we looked at technical capabilities of the team itself, we looked at past history of the manufacturer. We looked at each facility. We made visits to every facility and did very detailed studies of what was good and bad. We looked and noticed that the elan guys are ISO 9000. They have a huge quality reputation. A lot of those things fit into this decision.
Q. This selection process sounds very intriguing. Could Dick and Steve kind of go in-depth in that a little further as to exactly what you were looking for, how that process played out as you winnowed it down from seven to two.
STEVE JOHNSON: I'm not going to get into all the details in the RFP. But an RFP was developed and sent out to seven world class manufacturers. They came back in-house. In our due diligence team took over at that point. As David had mentioned, whittled it down to four, then had it down to the two finalists. In a purely objective process, elan was the clear manufacturer of choice as we moved forward. There were a number of folks involved in it. As Scott mentioned, I think they did a fantastic job in doing their due diligence and selecting the right partner for Champ Car.
Q. The new car being 165 pounds lighter, where does that savings come from?
DAVID BOWES: The current car is around 127 or 128 inches long in the wheel base. This new car will be some four or five inches shorter than that. Target around 123 inches wheel base. It will have a narrower track. We are thinking of reducing the track by three inches each side, but keep the side parts about the same width, because that will help to avoid some of the wheel interlocking issues that might occur at the moment. So really the car is smaller deliberately because, as we said at the beginning, it's a nimble car. The intention is to retain its abilities and its performance and improve them on the street circuits. Having said that, we have the chance, because this is a one-make chassis series, we have the chance now to deliver, against the criteria, in a way that's aerodynamically good for racing. So what we intend to do is as follows: We'll use the underbody in its very fullest sense to deliver the downforce requirements that have been set, more aggressive tunnels, vortex generators, rear diffusers, these can be used to deliver a lot more downforce than is currently allowed within the current regulations. That in turn allows to us reduce the size of the front and rear wing loadings. The net effect of that is to actually deliver the same or more downforce but with much more turbulent wake. What that really means is that these guys can go quicker and they can drive closer together without having dirty air, and therefore they will be having the confidence to push that car. Therefore, this will be a driver's series.
Q. I'm thinking the end result hopefully for the series would be to increase the car counts. This is going to be a cheaper package. Do you think that will bring that result?
STEVE JOHNSON: Yeah, that's a great question. Obviously one of our goals and objectives. The answer is yes, it will increase the car counts. This package is going to be very attractive for drivers worldwide. Don't know how many, but we do know that it will increase the car counts.
Q. Was there any thought with this, with the design of this package, to tie it in with what will be the new Atlantic Series cars?
SCOTT ELKINS: We basically used the same criteria in this process and as we're going through the design process for this car as the Atlantic car. The process that our technical department's going through on the Atlantic car actually is a forerunner for what we're doing with the Champ Car.
STEVE JOHNSON: I think the enthusiasm and excitement that came about after we announced the Atlantics, I think they're up to now 40 chassis sold and still growing, you know, we anticipate that type of a reaction to this new Panoz DPO1, as well.
Q. Have you had a chance to build a full-size prototype of this thing or are you still working with a quarter scale for the wind tunnel? Have any of the current drivers, teams, tech guys had a chance to look at this thing? What kind of reaction are you getting from them in terms of how well they think this thing is going to perform on the streets, roads, ovals, too?
DAVID BOWES: The first stage is a concept stage where we pull in all the technology that we avail ourselves of, which we know of. We pull in all our learning to apply to a concept that takes us forward. That's really where we're at right now, the concept stage. What does this car look like, weight, size, performance, aero, downforce, drag, et cetera. The next stage is to take it into a tunnel. We'll be using a 50% wind tunnel model. We'll be pushing through a program of aerodynamic development. We'll also be using our CFD techniques, computational fluid dynamics, which will go alongside of the tunnel program. The first end result of all of that is that we intend to built a prototype chassis, which we intend to get running on the track around July of next year. One of the benefits of going this early is that we can prove out the chassis in a prototype stage before we go into full production. The plan is that we would put a thousand kilometers of testing on the chassis in July and August of next year. In conjunction with the engine supplier and the gearbox supplier, we'd work together to prove that the systems each work and together they all work. That is a very thorough and a very robust development process. Following sign-off at the prototype stage, we then get into production proper.
Q. Has there been any reaction at all from anyone who has seen the drawings that say that it's going to work well from a driver standpoint?
SCOTT ELKINS: Actually, our drivers were involved in the input on the design of this new car. We spoke to drivers. We spoke to team owners. We spoke to team managers. We got a number of different ideas, and they've all been incorporated into the design you guys are seeing today.
STEVE JOHNSON: We've also listened to the fans. When you look, it still has the Champ Car look. What you'll see, it will have the Champ Car sound, as well. We're not changing that.
Q. Steve, how many years is this deal for Elan? Carl Haas was the distributor for the Lola cars for many years in Champ Car. Will elan do the distribution directly or will there be a middleman?
STEVE JOHNSON: The initial term of this is three years. I'll let David comment. I have not had the discussions with Carl. I think they're in negotiations as they're going forward.
DAVID BOWES: Well, I think one of the benefits of going this early with the chassis, as I said just now, is that we can get into a prototype stage in the middle of next year. However, announcing it this early means there are obviously a few things which have now got to follow on from here and haven't yet been negotiated to any conclusion. Now, first of all, when I was at Lola, I worked very happily with Carl Haas, I negotiated the deal with Carl. I absolutely respect what he does. But this is a different deal, different margins, different pricing structure, and therefore if we're going to work with Carl, it's a whole different debate. That hasn't even started in detail yet. We'll just have to wait and see where this goes.
Q. There's been no mention about the engine. Is it going to be the same exact engine or is there going to be a bump-up in horsepower, twin turbos?
SCOTT ELKINS: Right now we're still in the development process of working with the Cosworth guys to see exactly what we can get out of this thing without hampering the reliability and engine life that we currently have now. Ideally we'd like to get more power. Ideally we'd like to tweak the power to pass to where we maybe bump that up a little bit. We're not sure. We're still developing that. The other issue is we'd like to update some of the engine electronics, take advantage of some of the technology available in the current marketplace. We'll know more about that later.
Q. Is there a cost savings factor involved in this? How will there be a cost savings?
SCOTT ELKINS: The fact of the matter is, this new car is about 35% less expensive than what our current car is right now. By enabling some new technologies and also by stating at the simple beginning of the process that it is a single-make series, we're able to manufacture cost savings into it. In addition to that, we're also building in about a 50% reduction in the cost of the parts of the cars, the parts that everyone goes through every weekend, the wishbones, the uprights, the very much consumable parts. We've reduced the cost of all of those. The fact of the matter is we're using an American manufacturer helps that a lot also.
Q. You've stated you went to the Champ Car teams and the drivers to get their input, show them the car, what they thought of it. Have you guys showed it to anybody else outside the series to possibly use as a lure to get them to come over to Champ Car?
SCOTT ELKINS: We just released it to the public today. But I guarantee, that will be a large part of our marketing package to anyone that's interested in running in our series.
Q. You said track is going to be narrowed by about three inches, but side pods are pretty much going to stay the same width. Is that to keep from having the accidents from wheel to wheel getting contact?
DAVID BOWES: Yes, it's exactly that.
Q. This idea of cost savings, particularly if you intend to explore what are recognized to be fairly expensive technologies such as carbon fiber brakes, how is that plan going forward?
SCOTT ELKINS: The idea behind -- let me start by saying that's a technology that we are exploring. We haven't made any decision on that as of yet. The fact of the matter is, with the intense braking and G loads that these cars create during a race weekend, we are using up metallic brakes, pads and rotors. The idea is with the way carbon technology has progressed, it's very well possible, and it's being done in other series, including the ALMS, where teams are getting anywhere between three and four races on a set of pads and rotors. By doing that, that will initiate a massive cost savings to our teams in the fact that they're not constantly replacing parts of the brake package.
Q. You mentioned a gearbox supplier. Can you identify that company?
SCOTT ELKINS: Not at this time. Our primary focus has been to get the chassis sorted. Now that we've got that sorted and announced, our focus is going to go directly on preparing and coming up with someone that's going to supply our gearbox.
Q. Do you have a specific type of gearbox in mind in terms of the qualities that the box will present?
SCOTT ELKINS: It's going to be very similar to the current gearbox. It will be a six-speed sequential. It will be mounted in the same location that it is now, the same direction that it is now. The only requirement we have is that it does have a minimum weight requirement.
Q. The car as presented in the illustrations bears a fairly strong resemblance to a lot of Formula One technology. Is, in fact, that sort of technology incorporated into this new project?
SCOTT ELKINS: Some of the visual aspects may be similar. Our nose is very much raised in the air now. That's twofold. We've done that because we've increased the safety requirements for this car. It has a two-stage nose crush as opposed to the single stage it used to have. It has to be designed differently there. You probably noticed some of the radiator exits. Those are just visual cues. The biggest things going forward is that this car, and I hope you've noticed it in the renderings, is that it still looks like a Champ Car. It still has a very low engine cover. It still has the exposed roll hoop that's in a fairly vertical state. The side pods are very low and very wide. We tried to basically just make a modern version of a Champ Car. Yes, it's going to have some F1 cues to it.
ERIC MAUK: That will bring an end to our teleconference today. We'd like to thank all the media for attending our call and for your interest in the Champ Car World Series.
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