Paul Stoddart confirms keen interest in Champ Car
by Mark Cipolloni

 October 21, 2006

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Paul Stoddart and Kevin Kalkhoven share a laugh in Surfers Saturday
Mark Cipolloni/AutoRacing1.com

Over the past several months there have been a series of rumors and statements that former F1 Minardi team boss Paul Stoddart might start a Champ Car team.  Those discussions are ongoing and Paul Stoddart is here in Surfers Paradise to not only take in all the happenings, but to also continue negotiations with Kevin Kalkhoven.

On Saturday AutoRacing1.com caught up with Paul Stoddart and Kevin Kalkhoven to find out just how serious Stoddart is about coming into Champ Car.  From the sounds of it he is very serious and it appears that discussions are at an advanced stage.

It's fair to say I’m looking at the possibility,” Stoddart said. “At the moment, I’d put the chances of fielding a Champ Car team next year at 50/50. I’m certainly interested, and it’s certainly a series and a sport I’d be happy to be associated with, but the devils is in the details. Certainly with the introduction of the new car next year it will be a level playing field for everyone, so it would be the right time.

Paul Stoddart watching practice Saturday
Mark Cipolloni/AutoRacing1.com

“It’s a sensibly budgeted series. They’ve done a fantastic job with the new Panoz, developing the product and offering it at a sensible price. I think it’ll generate a lot of interest and new teams. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few more familiar names in the series next year.”

"Everyone I talk to, everyone I run into has been very nice and have made me feel like I would be welcomed here.

"The racing is very fan friendly and quite unlike F1 where the days of the independents are over.  There is a big difference in budgets between F1 and Champ Car and although I don't want to say anything bad about F1, yes there is a difference in budgets, here a mid-budget team has a real chance to win races."

Does the international aspect of Champ Car interest him?

"It always does.  For someone who spends his time at 37,000 feet (in one of his airplanes) international racing has always interested me."

Paul Stoddart watching practice Saturday
Mark Cipolloni/AutoRacing1.com

There has been a question as to whether Stoddart would start a new team or buy into an existing team.

"It's too early to say whether I would start a new team or buy into an existing team.  We will be looking at that over the coming months."

Does Paul Stoddart still own the Minardi name?

"Yes, I do still own the Minardi and name yes, I can use it here if I choose.  As far as bringing the Minardi two-seater program from F1, it is something that would interest me and we are looking at possibly doing that."

Muermans would be involved

Paul Stoddart and Kevin Kalkhoven
Mark Cipolloni/AutoRacing1.com

Stoddart confirmed that businessman and Robert Doornbos supporter Harry Muermans would be part of his Champ Car deal.

"Not only is he a sponsor, he is a friend and for sure he will be part of whatever I do.  We have had some pretty fantastic times together."

When asked if that meant Robert Doornbos would be one of his drivers, Stoddart said, "If you asked Robert that question he would probably say he still wanted to be an F1 driver, but it's early days and that could change.  I have no doubt he would do a fantastic job here."

Kevin Kalkhoven had very complimentary things to say about Stoddart, and also let on that he's quite a good dancer from what he saw at last night's gala ball.

So although Stoddart would not go on record as saying he was definitely coming into Champ Car, one gets the distinct impression that there is a very good chance he will, and rest assured that from his F1 background, he will assemble a formidable team.

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

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