Championship Auto Racing Teams
Inc. released the schedule for the 2003 CART FedEx
Championship Series Sunday at the CART Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio.
What follows is the transcript of the press conference with
CART CEO and President Chris Pook concerning the new schedule.
MODERATOR: Please talk in general about the schedule and how
you feel about 2003.
CHRIS POOK: The objective here is to try and break the
schedule up and avoid some of these three races in a row and
four races in a row which are so expensive and tough on our
teams. That's what we have been able to do. We have also, you
noticed, moved spring training to the east coast of the United
States. That's designed to start the Monday after the 24 hours
of Daytona to take place on the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,
and Thursday, let the media go back to work at Daytona for the
Daytona Speed Weeks and then we move into our opening race at
We would like to, going forward in future years, clearly put
one more or maybe two more races at a later date and that's
moving the schedule around, I should add. In the springtime,
we have a bit of a gap between St. Petersburg and Monterey and
then a gap between Long Beach. So look for us in 2004 to be
making modifications there. At the back end of the schedule
you can see that we've got Miami currently at the end of
September. Then Mexico City and, of course, we finish up with
Australia and Fontana. Australia is a date that's somewhat
difficult to deal with in 2003 because we have to work around
the rugby World Championships which take place down there and
television commitments. I know some of you are going to ask me
why have you not changed the Australia to Fontana situation
and put a gap in with the team. That's the reason why we can't
do it there. We're driven in that area.
So emphasis on making it more compatible for the teams; making
it more sensible for us from a television point of view -
which you will hear about in a couple of weeks - and just a
more balanced schedule. We told you that we'd have had this
schedule out here for you at Mid-Ohio and here it is. These
schedules are difficult to put together because there's a lot
of intricacies with dates, in the sense of traditional dates,
and venues and also we need to balance television as well.
And, of course, the demands of our teams, so we can make it
sensible for them when they travel. I would like to thank both
Rena Shanaman and Tim Mayer for their work in this schedule.
It's not been easy to put together. They have done a sterling
job. We challenged them and they've put together a tremendous
MODERATOR: We'll just go ahead and open it up for questions.
Q. I am curious to know about those two sensitive dates. I
mean, what do you have in mind and also the Chicago situation?
CHRIS POOK: Well, I can tell you that on the 27th of April we
will not be in Northern Europe. And you should be able to
gather what we're talking about from there. The Chicago date,
as you know, the Chicago facility has been shut down as a
horse racing facility and has been a report that the facility
will be sold. We got this report pretty late in the game. So
what -- rather than tell you it's definite that we're going to
be there, we want to go back to the landlords in Chicago and
discuss that with them in more detail to make sure that is a
We're anxious to run in the month of May, as you probably
gathered from the schedule. We're not going to have that gap
that we had this year. So that date becomes very important to
us. The other point that's really important to point out to
you is Chicago is the nation's No. 3 market. And we want to be
in Chicago. We've made that very, very clear since this
administration came into CART and we'll continue to put great
emphasis on that market.
Q. Chris, was there any consideration given to the rain in
England in early May and late April? And as far as Chicago
goes, I know that there's some rumors of the ALMS running at
Meigs Field. In the past you've expressed the opinion that it
wasn't a large enough facility for CART. Is that still the
case or could you fit in there for one year?
CHRIS POOK: I will let Tim deal with the rain issue because he
did all the research on that in England, and explain to you
the difference between Bank Holiday Monday weekend and where
we're running in England in that time. Not that we have much
experience from the temporary circuit business. We looked at
Meigs Field very carefully and we're not comfortable at all
with running these racing cars or, for that matter, any one of
our three classes of racing cars in that series on that
circuit. We were also not very comfortable with the ingress
and egress because CART has gotten some distinct experience
with going to a venue that requires a narrow entrance and
crossing a bridge, for example, that occurred in Detroit. I
think that that speaks for itself. So we would not risk it for
one year there. It's a nice thought, we would have liked to
have done, and we'd like to build our relationship with the
American Lemans series as we're doing in Miami. There are
certain rules and regulations that we do need to abide by. We
can't compromise ourselves in those areas.
TIM MAYER: With respect to the rain, in May the amount of
rainfall is virtually identical to that of September. It's
sort of a peak or a trough, rather, that goes throughout the
summer. There's about a millimeter of rain difference over the
course of the month. It's fairly evenly spread out as anybody
who's been in England for any period of time knows. The
temperature difference is about 5 degrees Fahrenheit
difference, daytime average temperatures. But one of the most
significant aspects is that the number of hours of sunshine in
the month of May is about 50 hours more on average than it is
in September. This is partly because of the time of year and
so on. But there are some significant advantages to May and
May is a traditional Bank Holiday in England so that May
weekend is a very big holiday and in conjunction with the
promoters we thought it was a very advantageous move.
MODERATOR: Tim is from the United States, but has lived a
great part of his life in England. Chris is from England and
has lived a great part of his life in the United States and
Rena is from Detroit.
CHRIS POOK: She also has lived a great part of her life in
Q. Chris, I guess the big switch, if you will, with moving the
European races from the fall to the spring and obviously at a
time that comes right before the Indianapolis -- right before
the whole month of May and everything, I wondered if you could
talk about not so much about the rain and that sort of stuff
but just the thought process that went into moving those races
from the fall to the spring?
CHRIS POOK: Lovely in England in the spring, David. It's the
sensible thing for us to do. If you will recall Japan was in
that slot before we traveled to Japan and that slot is now
open. So it makes sense for us to move there. The other thing
I think you've got to look at is that in the spring the
weather is improving in the sense as you're moving towards
summer so temperatures are rising, days are getting longer as
Tim pointed out. In the fall, or in the early autumn, if you
will, the weather is not improving. It's heading towards
winter and the days are getting shorter and the temperatures
are dropping. So your chances of better weather in the
springtime frame are infinitely better than the fall. We tried
to put some logic to it, David.
Q. First of all, the presence of Rockingham on the schedule
for next year would lead us to believe and can you confirm the
happy rumor that Rockingham will not take place this year? So
that's the question. No. 2, I have been told that Cleveland
might be a night race; anything you can tell us about that?
CHRIS POOK: Word travels fast around this joint, doesn't it?
The answer to the first question is yes, we are -- Rockingham
is on the schedule. We have a sanction agreement, and they are
actively selling tickets. Corporate sales are excellent. And
they are in full preparation for the event and we'll be in the
travel mode during the week of that race. The second part of
your question was regarding Cleveland. Yes, we would have a
very high interest in running at Cleveland under the lights on
the night of the 4th of July weekend, tying in a full concert,
music and fireworks, and ice scream and apple pie and all
those things that take place over that period of time.
And we think that Cleveland is an excellent market. We think
the venue is an excellent venue. And we have had some very,
very enthusiastic meetings with the mayor and her key members
of her staff and with the key members of the business
community. That's where we're headed there. It's not a done
situation, but we think that these racing cars would be quite
remarkable under that scenario at night. If you remember we
did a test run at Gateway a few years ago and they were truly
spectacular. And we think that that's a good venue to start
off the first of what might well be some more night races,
depending on, obviously, the ability to get facilities lit.
Q. Two years ago (FIA President) Max Mosley said the
prohibition of running on a road or street course is no longer
in place. So are you exploring the idea of running on a road
or street course? I do not know of any more ovals in Europe.
CHRIS POOK: Very observant of you, Lewis. You are very
observant. (Laughs) Nice try. I doubt if we're going to build
an oval in between now and April 27th. (Laughs). It is a
lovely circuit the South of France. Forgive me, but it's a
nice try, guys, but we're not going there.
Q. This schedule is going to make it difficult for your teams
that want to run in the Indy 500 next year. What is CART's
official position on its teams competing in the Indianapolis?
CHRIS POOK: We're delighted for them to compete in the
Indianapolis 500 if they are acceptable to the Indy 500. We
have great respect for the Indianapolis 500 and for the city
Q. If my math is correct here, you are down to three ovals
maximum next season. Is this the lowest ever for a CART
CHRIS POOK: Yes, I think your math is remarkably correct, yes.
Q. Are we going to see ovals go away completely in the next
CHRIS POOK: I don't think that's the case. I think that you
need to refer yourselves back to some of my conversations
about urban races in previous discussions we've had together.
I think we've got to be very sensible how we rebuild this
series, and I think we've got to be sure we go to venues that
fit the style of the motor cars and the drivers that we have,
and the audiences.
Q. Chris, will you have a race in Chicago one way or the
other, street race or on the oval, what is sort of your
CHRIS POOK: I think I explained to you the importance of the
market so I can't sit here and say today, oh, gosh, we're
going to have a street race there next year because it's not
very logical, but I can say to you that and I will repeat to
you and emphasize to you that we consider the Chicago market
to be extremely important to us. It's extremely important in
every sense of the way; not only for our English speaking and
U.S. initiatives, but also for our Hispanic initiatives
because Chicago is a very major Hispanic market also, a long
with Los Angeles and Dallas and other venues around this
country. And we're very sensitive to that. We have got three
drivers from Mexico in our series whom we have a high level of
respect for, and we're sensitive to these issues. And we have
a huge relationship in Mexico with Monterrey and Mexico City.
So these are things that play into our thinking. And you've
heard me talk about NAFTA many times over. I mean, this is a
very, very important part of our whole motor racing planning -
Canada, United States and Mexico - very, very important part,
the cornerstone of what this series is all about.
Q. Chris, Montreal could have been also on August 24th. Is
this because you didn't want to ask for -
CHRIS POOK: It's very tough on these teams, you know, and
there's some big long hauls. Going Denver to Montreal is a
tough haul in itself but then you make that haul as part of a
four-race series, it pushes our teams. If you think, you know,
we're kind of in the central part right now and then -- what
we're doing this year is we're going to the central part of
the North American continent; then we're going to the
northeastern part of Montreal in one direction; then we're
reversing direction all the way back across the country to
Denver again and then the guys come home to Indianapolis so
it's pretty taxing on just the human resources themselves let
alone the economic resources of the teams.
Q. What can you tell us today about the number of teams that
could confirm their return to the series next year? Is it too
early for you to talk about?
CHRIS POOK: It's a little early for us to talk about it. But
we continue to be pretty exited about what we've got next
year. We're still very enthused. The target is a minute of 18
and a maximum of 22. We continue to pursue that with existing
teams than with new teams. I think you are going to see here
very shortly our television schedule and then you will hear
about some of the packages we're putting together for the
teams and some other sponsorship announcements that have a
huge effect on this whole program. So it's premature for me to
talk about it and I would respectfully suggest it's premature
for you to ask about it, with all due respect.
Q. What is the status of Houston in 2004 and years after?
CHRIS POOK: We will be in Texas in 2004, period.
Q. Not quite on the schedule, but another question about all
the very many issues, the engine badging issue, Chris,
obviously we know the Cosworth program is well in place; and
there's been a pitch to Ford to get involved in this. Any
comments you could make about the status of that at this stage
of the game?
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