The four owners of the Champ Car World
Series - Kevin Kalkhoven, Gerald Forsythe, Paul Gentilozzi
and Dan Pettit met with a select few members of the media
Sunday morning in Houston with the sole intent of
summarizing where the series is and to dispel false rumors
that have circulated about the series.
One question that was asked dealt with who
is running the series on a day-to-day basis and whether the
rumors of dissention in the ranks was true.
Kevin Kalkhoven started by answering, "We
all spend many hours of every day discussing issues related
to Champ Car. I think it is safe to say that we are in
agreement 98% of the time. In every business there are
always going to be discussions and not everyone always
agrees. However, we are very much cooperating with one
Gerald Forsythe jumped in and added, "About
two or three weeks before the season started we got some bad
news that teams and drivers we thought were coming into the
series were not going to make it. We worked through
that and at the end of every discussion we ever have it's
always about what is best for the series. If we don't
all agree [on something] we don't do it."
A question was asked regarding the 7 week
gap in the schedule after Houston in which the series
essentially goes into hibernation and how was the series
going to fill that media void.
"We have a lot planned," said
Gentilozzi. "We have a big open test at Portland in
early May and we are going to send some folks to Europe to
do some running and PR. Some teams are going to Road
America to test, others to Sebring. The teams can test
400 to 600 miles in-season.
"There is a lot of work to do on small
technical issues. With the new car the 7 week break is
actually good for the series so we can address any issues
uncovered from the first three races."
Gentilozzi fielded a question about TV and
the lack of promotion from ABC and ESPN.
"You have to remember that by contract the
first two races were on NBC. We could not get out of
that. Because they were NBC races ABC and ESPN could
not promote them. Now that we are on ABC/ESPN the rest
of the year you will see that change."
One of the invited Mexican journalists asked
about another race in Mexico and other Mexican drivers.
The owners said they need Mexican companies to support
racing. If they support a race or drivers then it will
A question was asked about the talk of the
new car not being reliable. "Bulls&%#," said
Kalkhoven. "We have had very few mechanical issues in
Paul Gentilozzi added, "Each failure has
been different (i.e. not any systemic problems). Scot
Elkins has done a good job of keeping everyone in the same
box - i.e. all on a level playing field. That is what
we promised everyone and everyone is working together to
solve the issues.
"Yes we had some fuel venting issues in the
first couple of races. Did you ever hear of Dan Jones?
He did all the fueling pieces for Champ Car teams for years.
He's the best in the business. Dan is making some new
pieces for the Panoz and all the teams will get them during
the 7 week break and the refueling issues will be completely
Gerald Forsythe also feels that the Panoz
has been a very good car. "We have had less problems
with this car than we used to have with the new Lolas."
Former Champ Car driver Steve Chassey was in
the audience and he chimed in that he was the USA import rep
for Lola back in 1997 when the Lola was horrible. That
was the year all the big guys switched to Reynard.
"I had to negotiate with this guy (pointing
to Gerald Forsythe) to buy back all the Lolas that year
because they were so bad. What a nightmare that was."
So essentially he said how soon people forget how bad other
new cars have been over the years.
Of course the question came up about driver
turnover and how do you build a fan base if that keeps
happening. Paul Gentilozzi fielded that question.
"There are a lot of drivers who want to come
to Champ Car to race. Results here are not determined
by a computer, but by driver and team ability. We give
everyone a level playing field.
"You are never going to stop some drivers
from wanting to go to Formula One. Do we want to lose
Sebastien Bourdais to F1 next year? Of course not, but
you know what? If he goes to F1 and does well that is
good for Champ Car."
With regard to the lack of American drivers
Kevin Kalkhoven responded, "We have invested so much
in our Atlantics program to cultivate young Americans like
Graham Rahal and Jonathan Bomarito. You do it from the
grassroots up. That way it will work long-term. I
am very proud of what we are doing in this regard."
Paul Gentilozzi added, "Sure it would be
good to have the two biggest American names, Andretti and
Rahal, doing battle here. If not for the politics
(between the IRL and Champ Car), and I don't want to speak
for Michael Andretti, but I bet Marco would want to be here
honing his road racing skills in case he wanted to follow
the Andretti tradition and go to F1 some day.
"Was losing AJ Allmendinger bad for Champ
Car? Sure we would have liked to keep him but athletes
change teams in every sport. How was it any worse that
Kimi Raikkonen leaving McLaren and going to Ferrari. I
didn't hear anyone say that would be the end of McLaren."
The final question was how much longer were
the current owners willing to support Champ Car, especially
since they are businessmen who are used to making profits on
"How long is my life?" said Kalkhoven. "If
you can answer that, you have my answer." And what if the
business model doesn't make financial sense?" My job is to
make it make sense," Kalkhoven said.
To which the others nodded in agreement, basically saying
that they are in it for however long it takes to make Champ
Car a profitable and prosperous series. They are there
because they love the sport, like any of you would love a
hobby that you have.
And in that regard it gives many comfort to
know that they are not going to withdraw their support just
because it is taking a bit longer than some would have
thought to make the series self-sustaining.
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