Quotes of the Week UPDATE
The late BILL FRANCE JR.
Ten years ago, during an Autosport Awards dinner in London, I (Gordon Kirby) discussed the CART/IRL split, among many other things, with Bill France Jr. France asked me to keep the specifics of our CART/IRL conversation off the record and I honored that agreement during his lifetime. "You're really worried about Tony pulling the trigger on his new formula, aren't you?" France asked rhetorically. "You think it's going to end up destroying Indy car racing, don't you?" He paused for a second, glanced down, then looked me straight in the eye. "Well, I agree with you," France declared. "I think it will. You know my father and I always believed there's got to be one man in control and you can't have any competitors. You've got to have one series with a solid name and brand. Those guys are putting themselves in danger of losing all that." (Gordon Kirby in his latest column describing how Tony George's creation of the IRL would destroy open wheel racing....and it pretty much has.)
FERNANDO ALONSO, Reigning 2-times F1 World Drivers' Champion, McLaren Mercedes
"To win at Monza for the first time is very special. Sometimes everything goes in the right direction; this weekend was one of those times and we were able to keep up the momentum. My start wasn't perfect, and I had to defend my lead coming in to the first corner. In the second corner I was a bit worried as I thought Lewis and I would touch but fortunately this did not happen. The safety car could have caused us a few problems as it was important for our strategy to open up a gap as soon as possible. However it was a perfect afternoon today with the car and the team working really well, and to win in front of the enthusiastic Italian Formula 1 fans is very emotional."
RON DENNIS, Team Principal, McLaren Mercedes Formula One team
"If it happens, it happens, but nothing's happened yet. My job isn't as I would like it to be at the moment," he acknowledged, "and there are a few people around who would like me to (retire). If it's something I thought would further the company and was the right thing to do, then I wouldn't hesitate to do it. But I don't think it's the right thing to do." Dennis has described 2007 as "the most extreme" challenge he has ever faced in motor sport. (Shortly before qualifying at the Italian Grand Prix, police served Ron Dennis and some of his deputies with avviso di garanzias - or formal notices of pending prosecutions - for alleged crimes including sporting fraud, espionage and embezzlement.)
LEWIS HAMILTON, Formula One driver, McLaren Mercedes
"When you really think about that, you think 'wow, I could be out of a job next weekend and then what happens?' " he said in an interview prior to the Italian Grand Prix. Hamilton enjoyed a dream start to his formula one career this year, but said recent off-track developments have been like a "big knife" to him and his team, including his childhood mentor Ron Dennis. "I never actually thought I'd be sitting here saying I hate something about Formula One, but the politics and people wanting to be bigger than others is just incredible," he continued. "F1 would not be the same without McLaren, so let's just keep our fingers crossed that nothing else is going to happen." (With McLaren Mercedes now heading to the World Motor Sport Council ahead of next weekend's Belgian Grand Prix, Hamilton expressed concern at the possible sanctions that could result. While most in the paddock agree that McLaren will minimally be docked of championship points for its involving in the espionage scandal, Hamilton also acknowledged the FIA's ultimate power.)
BERNIE ECCLESTONE, President and CEO of Formula One Management and Formula One Association
"If you let someone get away with that, what's next? Then after that you let them get away because you've let that get away, what comes after that? Then there are no rules and regulations," said Bernie Ecclestone. (Ecclestone insists that if McLaren is found guilty of espionage, the team must be punished -- irrespective of the possible ramifications for the title battle and also things like disaffected sponsors.)
MARTIN BRUNDLE, ITV F1 Commentator, former Formula One driver
"Inside the paddock we can't fathom how, previously, two Toyota F1 employees can be handed prison sentences for industrial espionage using Ferrari software, yet the FIA was not interested in getting involved, and how Colin Kolles from Spyker could walk down the pit lane with a drawing from rival Toro Rosso presented as evidence of cloned cars, yet the FIA took no action," Brundle said. "Is the FIA looking for McLaren heads to roll?" he wondered. (Martin Brundle wrote in his column for The Times that the saga seems to have turned into a "witch-hunt", and pointed a critical finger at F1's governing body. He said his sense is of a wider struggle, possibly relating back to Dennis' stance against the FIA in past years, including the touted 'breakaway' world championship.)
SIR FRANK WILLIAMS, Team Principal, Williams Formula One team
"If Nico [Rosberg] sat in Hamilton's McLaren instead of in my car, it would be he who is fighting for the championship title. The two of them are absolutely on the same level, and in the future will surely deliver some legendary duels."
CARLOS GHOSN, Renault CEO and President
"Success in Formula One is always the work of a team. You need a perfect package; chassis, engine, tires, team, and obviously the driver as well. But even the best driver cannot be successful without a perfect team, and vice versa," Ghosn said. "But it does not depend on a single person," he continued. "My only demand is that we can compete at the highest level." (Renault F1 team Managing Director, Flavio Briatore, admitted last week that, after achieving back to back titles together in 2005 and 2006, Renault would "love" to have Fernando Alonso back in 2008 following a single season with arch rivals McLaren.)
DARIO FRANCHITTI, IRL driver, Andretti Green Racing, 2007 IndyCar Series Champion
"Most of the race I couldn't do anything. I couldn't pass the guys in front because they were running side by side. There were times the car wasn't handling so well, and then in that last bit it was handling well, but I couldn't do anything. And then people started pitting, Dan (Wheldon) ran out of fuel and it was just Scott (Dixon) and I. We came down that backstretch and I was drafting him trying to get a slingshot. Just as I pulled out I saw him slow down and I almost hit the back of him as I was just going out. It was some good fuel saving and some great strategy from my boys on the Canadian Club Team and the whole Andretti Green Team. They are the best team in the world." After being presented with the 2007 IndyCar Series Championship trophy Dario said, "It's been a great season. I would like to say I've enjoyed every minute of it, but there were a couple of moments when I was upside down that it wasn't so good fun. I've had so much fun working with these guys, all my teammates. I've really enjoyed hanging out with the fans. It's been a blast. So again, thank you to everybody. This means a lot. Thanks to Canadian Club and all our sponsors."
ASHLEY JUDD, actress and wife of Dario Franchitti, IRL driver, Andretti Green Racing, 2007 IndyCar Series Champion
"Oh my goodness. I'm extremely proud. And it's a really tough break for the Target guys and the 9 car [Scott Dixon]. They were so strong today. Scott was very quick and they liked it up front without a lot of traffic and all that clean air. We just did not have a great car today. I don't know if the track changed from yesterday when Dario had that nice pole time. And plus, it was our worst nightmare -- Tony's out. And we had no help at all. You saw the Penskes work so well, and the Target guys work so well. My sweet little husband was just out there with the bloody SHARKS! I mean they just sharked him all day and he never gave up hope. He just hung in there and stayed really tough and obviously was in a great position." Ashley added, "I know that this is not very sportsmanlike, but they've got to get the 23 car [Milka Duno] off the track. It's very dangerous and I'm so tired of holding my tongue. When a car is ten miles off the pace, it's not appropriate for it to be racing. People's lives are at stake. I'll come off my pulpit or soapbox or whatever." Ashley concluded, "I'm very, very, very proud of Dario. He did a great job! And now I think he'll tell you how much he wanted it." (Comments made after Dario Franchitti won the PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300 presented by Mr. Clean at Chicagoland Speedway and the 2007 IndyCar Series Championship)
SCOTT DIXON, IRL driver, Target Chip Ganassi Racing
"Yeah, I think to start with, actually, the whole day was going pretty well. Our car was good. We were good in traffic. We were working with the Penske guys really well. We were definitely, I think for the championship, the guys to beat. For me, I think it's extremely frustrating for it to come down to a fuel race. I can honestly take a beating gracefully if you get beaten on even terms. But well, I guess we did, we had the same amount of fuel but we didn't use it wisely. Tough day. Going into the restart, I knew it was going to be very close. I think we were at 21 or over 21 gallons on the meter. And I knew it was going to take a little bit more than that to do two laps. And that's what happened. We didn't really have it. So going into 3, it seemed to cut out of fuel and that was it."
JIM AUST, President and CEO of Toyota Racing Development
“Oh, yes, yes. This is like winning the lottery - but at the moment you still only have the winning ticket. And you don’t realize just what you have until you get the money. You have to pinch yourself and say, ‘Wow! This is really happening.’ It’s been in the making, but until you get the call.... And that only came recently. This is a fabulous opportunity, and there isn’t any manufacturer that wouldn’t trade places with Toyota right now. I was just listening to Brent Dewar, and they were hopeful the decision would come their way. It didn’t. But they’ve been very gracious about what’s happened. GM has handled this with class, in accepting the decision. They’ve still got some great teams to run with next year, but there has to be some disappointment to lose an organization like Gibbs’. I think it really came down to what J.D. [Gibbs, the team’s manager and boss’ son] said: That he and his organization had a vision and it’s the same vision Toyota has. That was what probably really turned it all in our favor, that we are an engineering organization, and Gibbs has a strong engineering operation too, and together we can only both get stronger. NASCAR gave Toyota an opportunity to have a big involvement in this sport. But getting a team like Gibbs will really help unite all aspects of our business, from sales to manufacturing to our dealer group and to our customers. You talk about something that will raise the morale and expectations, this has got to be one of the greatest things we’ve had happen to Toyota since 2000. It has so much of an impact on your overall effort, it just ignites everyone." (Toyota’s blockbuster move - signing Joe Gibbs, with Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, three of the top drivers in NASCAR - is one of the biggest coups in auto racing in quite some time.)
BRENT DEWAR, General Motors North America Vice President of Vehicle Sales, Service and Parts
"General Motors has been associated with Joe Gibbs Racing for 16 years working together winning races and championships. While we understand the business nature of racing, we are disappointed in J.D.'s decision and announcement today. With our long-standing relationship and record of winning with them, we hoped they would remain with Chevrolet. We will continue to support our JGR drivers in this year's Chase for the Championship. We wish JGR well as they go forward, and Chevrolet will compete against them on the track next year to defend its title as the winningest name in racing."
“I’m not so much mad, I think disappointed was the word,” Dewar said. “We’ve been with them 16 years. I talked with Joe as late as Saturday, and they still had not decided, despite all the talk. We knew they were struggling with the decision. The way NASCAR is going they had some concerns. We continued to tell them we wanted them to stay. We love those drivers. They’re a big part of Team Chevrolet. But we also understand racing is a business. And I think they made a business decision. I think it was a tough decision for them to make, honestly.”
“Yeah, that whole spin about technology … they’re novices in racing, as a manufacturer, in any of the series they’re in," Dewar said. “So I think it (the move to Toyota) is more just of an assurance.... You see a lot of consolidation in the sport, a lot of new money coming in the sport, different influences. I think it was that more than anything - them trying to figure out how they might line up. And there had been some concern expressed about whether one (GM) team gets treated differently (than the rest). But we approach it differently: We work as a team on the common efforts, but we also want them to race: Kevin Harvick vs. Dale Jr. vs. Jeff Gordon. We think that spirit helps us. I think our formula has been pretty successful.”
GEOFF SMITH, President, Roush Fenway Racing NASCAR team
"When you shrink an organization like NASCAR is doing to us, you end up not being able to promote people because they don't have places to go, so they end up leaving us for somebody else. This gives us a chance to really keep all that training money within our Ford Motor company camp. We are not even close to any of the prohibitions that NASCAR got," Smith said. "We're in another universe. This is a real, careful, safe deal. We're not close to getting near their concerns. Here's the rules. You can't own it, you can't profit share, you can't take prize money and you can't underwrite their loss to shore them up. Those are the core rules. Then they told us about ancillary rules. You can't lease them cars. You've got to sell them cars. All those rules, we're good with that. They have a fleet of detectives that follow these transactions around the garage," he said of NASCAR. "We've been through that process. We've been examined. I've had my NASCAR Sigmoidoscopy. No team can afford to have their manufacturer withdraw," Smith said. "It's too critical of a piece all the way around. It's in our long-term best interest to really help develop a competitor to compete against us." (Roush Fenway Racing officials have been looking for a way around NASCAR's four-car cap rule ever since it was introduced at the end of the 2005 season. Their alliance with Robert Yates Racing appears to be the answer.)
JACQUES VILLENEUVE, NASCAR driver, former F1 and CART Champion
“When I was racing in the states, CART at the time, it was fun racing on the ovals and I was missing that a bit in Europe,” Villeneuve said. “I did what I had to do in F1 and I was ready to move onto something else and there is only one other series in the world that is big as F1 and it's NASCAR."
ANDY PETREE, ESPN Analyst and two-time NASCAR Champion Crew Chief
“Somebody asked Ken Schrader after a bad wreck at Daytona if he was scared to get back in the car. 'Does it really scare you to go back and race again?' He said 'No, what’s really scary is to think you have to go back and go to work on Monday morning and have to get a real job. He’d rather get back in the race car.' ”