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Latest Champ Car News and Commentary

Press Conference Transcript with Mi-Jack Conquest Racing’s Eric Bachelart and Andrew Ranger


 March 21, 2005


Andrew Ranger
Champ Car

ERIC MAUK: Good afternoon. Welcome to another exciting Champ Car media teleconference where we have another driver announcement as we continue to firm up the driver lineup for the 2005 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, which kicks off the season April 8 through the 10th at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Today we are joined by Eric Bachelart, one of the co-owners of Mi-Jack Conquest racing, and his newest driver. It is my pleasure to announce that today Andrew Ranger has joined the Champ Car ranks as a driver. He will be piloting the #27 Mi-Jack Conquest Ford/Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone. He will also have backing from Procter & Gamble, which will feature their Tide brand on the car in the three Canadian races, and he also brings sponsorship from Kodak.

Andrew Ranger and Nelson Philippe will be the two drivers for the Mi-Jack Conquest team in 2005, marking the first time ever that a team has had two drivers under the age of 20 on their Champ Car team.

First of all, Eric Bachelart, congratulations. This is a very exciting day for you. You have yourself a very talented driver there.

ERIC BACHELART: Yes, thank you very much, Eric. Hello, everybody. We're very pleased to announce the collaboration with Andrew for the 2005 season. We've been talking for quite a while together. Finally we ended up doing a test in Fontana about two weeks ago. The test proved to be very successful. We've been very impressed with Andrew's approach and maturity and speed. We feel he's very talented. We feel that he's going to be a very good addition to our team. He's young, but again, he has a very natural talent. We are really looking forward to working together for this season. So, as you said, Eric, he will join Nelson Philippe, and it's going to be a very young driver's lineup. Again, I'm very much looking forward to working with these two young drivers. They have one thing in common: they are both talented. This is quite exciting. The way we look at it, it will hopefully be the future stars of Champ Car. We're going to try everything we can to make that happen. We'll support them 110% and be very committed to achieve very good results.

ERIC MAUK: Eric, you're no stranger to working with young drivers. You worked with Mario Haberfeld back in 2003. Last year you worked with Justin Wilson, and worked with Nelson at the end of the year, but the whole year with Justin Wilson in his first year in the series. What is it about working with younger drivers that you like?

ERIC BACHELART: Well, when you work with young drivers, you can fight with the most established drivers and the day you can beat them, it's a very big satisfaction. Working with Andrew and Nelson, I can interact with them quite a bit. When we were at the test at Fontana the other day, I was talking with Andrew. He listens. He puts into application what we ask him to do. This is quite enjoyable. I really like that part of the business.

Again, that's what we've been doing so far, you know, working most of the time with young drivers, as you said. Again, I feel quite good. And also what I feel as a team, we've been working really hard over the winter and developed our structure, having more engineers on board, having Bruce Ashmore joining us as a technical director. We've also hired a new engineer that's going to work with Andrew, his name is Dave Faustino. Dave Faustino worked with Andrew last year in Formula Atlantic. It's going to help us communicate in an efficient way with Andrew right away.

Again, we're trying to do everything we can to be as efficient as possible. You know, we have a test coming up in Sebring. We're going to have two days of hard work in order to get ready for Long Beach and then we'll build the season from there. Another thing that is quite exciting, of course, is the new collaboration that we have with Procter & Gamble and Tide and Kodak. This is two great companies to be partner with. These two companies will join Mi-Jack. We've been working together for 13 years now. This is a long, good relationship.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. We're very excited not only with Andrew coming on board, but also like you mentioned, Kodak and Procter & Gamble with their Tide brand coming on board, as well.

Andrew, you come to Champ Cars after you tested a couple times. We were very impressed when we saw you at Fontana a couple weeks ago. You are moved up to Champ Car only one year ago after winning the Toyota Atlantic Rookie-of-the-Year in 2004. Tell us how you're feeling.

ANDREW RANGER: Pretty good. I'm pretty excited for this year. I think it's going to be a good year. I signed with Mi-Jack Conquest Tide. I think it is going to be very fun. I worked with Dave Faustino who was my engineer last year. I think it's going to be a very, very interesting season.

ERIC MAUK: You have a little bit of knowledge of the Long Beach circuit. You finished second there in your very first Atlantic start a year ago. Tell us a little bit about what you expect from the Long Beach course this year.

ANDREW RANGER: For sure, at Long Beach last year I was pretty comfortable with that track. I like that track. Last year I needed to learn the track because it was a new to me. But now to start with the track I know, I think it's going to be pretty good because I like that track. It's a good ambience there. It's pretty fun to race there. I finished second there last year. I want to do the same thing this year.

ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. Best of luck this year. We're very excited to have you on board and looking forward to some big things from you this year.

ANDREW RANGER: Thank you.

ERIC MAUK: We'll turn it over to the media for questions at this point.

Q. Andrew, obviously you've come up very quickly. You're still a young teenager. There's a lot of questions about can you handle the pressure, that aspect of things. How do you look at things as a young man moving in as a rookie? What is the great challenge for you this year? How do you look at the pressure, having to perform as such a young man?

ANDREW RANGER: Sure, I have a lot of pressure. You know, it's pretty good. I like that pressure because last year was my first season in Atlantic. Now it's going to be my first season in Champ Car. I like that pressure.
I need to push a lot. I need to work hard with the team because it's going to be the new team for me. I have the same engineer. I have Bruce Ashmore, too, a very good engineer. I think is going to be a good year.

Q. Andrew Ranger, this is phenomenal. We interviewed you back when you had a very short stint in dirt modifieds, then you got up into Toyota Atlantics. The very first time we interviewed you on the show; this is what you wanted to do, get a full-time ride in Champ Car. You have to be so excited about it.

ANDREW RANGER: I raced in dirt modified, was pretty fun, in Syracuse. I race last year in Toyota Atlantics, this year in Champ Car. It's a good dream. It's pretty fun to sign with Mi-Jack Conquest. I think it's going to be a very good year. I know it's going to be tough. I'm young. My teammate is young, too. It's going to be hard to be on the podium. But I think it's going to be a very good season because I like to work hard in the car. I have a very good engineer.

Q. The other bonus, too, is we're back up to three Canadian drivers. With the three races in Canada, you've especially got to be looking forward to going into Montreal, because like any other sport, that's home turf for you, the three Canadian races. Again, it's all come together for you, hasn't it?

ANDREW RANGER: It's fun to race in the Canadian races. You know, Montreal is my hometown. Toronto, it's like my hometown because it's so fun to be there. My family comes see me and my friends. The fans are great, too. It's pretty fun to race in the Canadian races. You have pressure on you as a driving because it's your hometown, but I like to race in Montreal and Toronto.

ERIC MAUK: A little more background on Andrew. His first year in the Toyota Atlantic Championship was last year. He earned six podium finishes in the year's 12 stars, earned the series Rookie-of-the-Year award. Started on the front row in Portland and in Cleveland, and finished second in Long Beach, as we said before, and also at the Molson Indy Toronto.

Q. Andrew, this will be the third year in a row I think that a Toyota Atlantic driver moves up under fairly high-profile circumstances into Champ Car. Two years ago it was Ryan Hunter-Reay. He, of course, won a race at Surfers Paradise his first season. Last year, AJ Allmendinger didn't win a race, but he certainly was very competitive and was Rookie-of-the-Year. I guess on the one hand sort of big shoes to fill, impressive records to follow, but at the same time it shows that guys can make that jump after only one year in Atlantic. Just wondered how you look at that.

ANDREW RANGER: The difference between the Champ Car and Toyota Atlantic car is the engine. There is more horsepower in the Champ Car. Both cars are pretty similar in terms of driving and braking. It's for that reason which makes the jump in Champ Car more easily for us coming up through the Toyota Atlantic Series because it's basically the same driving experience. I think for this year, I have a good pressure, a lot of pressure. But I want to go to Long Beach and see how things go. I think it's going to be a good year.

Q. Eric, maybe looking at this from a slightly different angle, now that Nelson Philippe is the aging veteran on the team, having a full season of Champ Car under his belt, how do you see that as influencing Nelson, sort of helping him in some ways kind of mature as the veteran on the team this year?

ERIC BACHELART: Well, I think these two guys are both talented. They know each other from the early days in go-karting. As far as I know, this is for both their third season in open-wheel racing. For Nelson, second year in Champ Cars; the first one for Andrew.

We're going to work together. Two teams under the same roof. We're doing our briefing and debriefing all together. I think we will work well as a team. Themselves, I expect them to work very well together, to develop the car, to try all the new development parts that we're going to do. I think as a team, we have done quite a lot of progress over the winter.

When they come on the track, I mean, they're going to have to challenge each other and fight with everybody else on the racetrack. I'm really looking forward to work with them. I think they are both two young men with good talents, and we all speak French, so what else can we ask for?

Seriously, I think it's good. Again, I want to look at them as the future of Champ Car, and I feel very strongly they have the talent to do that. This is our third year in Champ Cars, and we definitely have more data now. All teams are starting to get pretty experienced in Champ Cars. That's going to help, as well. It's less critical to have young drivers now than it was two years ago. I feel good. The most important thing is the talent and we have that.

Q. Andrew, I look forward to seeing you in a Champ Car. Can you talk about how your test has gone and how comfortable you are at this point, how much time you've had in the car so far?

ANDREW RANGER: I have not done a lot of testing. I tested with Mi-Jack in California. My first day was pretty good. I was a little bit nervous. But I wanted to show Eric what I can do. I worked hard the first day, the second day, too. I ran a pretty good time. I was pretty close with Cristiano da Matta, Tracy, and everybody there. I think for the season, it's going to be very good with Nelson Philippe. It's a pretty fun guy. He works hard with the car, too.

Q. Eric, the most important question, now that you have two French drivers, will we have French food in the hospitality area of your team this year?

ERIC BACHELART: Yes, I think that's an excellent suggestion. The only thing I'm going to have to deal with my partner, he's not very keen on the French food. But maybe we get hamburgers on Friday. I don't know, what do you like? Give me suggestions, and we'll make it up (laughter).

Q. The real question would be what are your goals for this year as a team owner? What can you achieve in terms of finishes, podiums or wins?

ERIC BACHELART: Obviously we feel strong as a team, we've improved our game. Today it's a bit difficult to answer that precisely because we have got a lot of announcements lately with Champ Car. I'm still not sure about all the drivers in this year’s lineup with the different teams.

It seems to me that the series is going to be extremely competitive. I only hear about very good drivers. Again, when I see all the entries, I can tell you more about what we're competing against.

As a team, again, we've got more experience with the addition of Ashmore with us. We've been working hard all winter long. We're definitely doing more development. We have an aero program, we have a new shock program, quite a lot of things. I feel good that we will develop the cars quite a bit.

Now we're going to have to take the best information out of Nelson and Andrew. I guess Nelson in the first part will help us trying the new things. And Andrew will do that as well. I mean, he's learning very quickly. Over the two days testing in Fontana, it was amazing all the information that we got from him. His answers were good. They were accurate. We tried a bunch of different things with him.

As far as the goal, I want to go to test in Sebring and see where we stand. We're going to have a lot of cars on the track during those two days. Then we will go to Long Beach. We'll build from there. I want to work with some pressure, but positive pressure that has everybody going in the right direction. If we work well, I think the results will be there. I have no doubt about it.

Q. Andrew, you have a teammate, Nelson Philippe. What is your relationship with him? Do you think because you both speak French that you'll be able to communicate better and share ideas because it's your native language or do you feel you know English well enough that it's not an issue?

ANDREW RANGER: I know Nelson. I raced with him in go-kart in Europe. He speaks French, I speak French. You speak a little with your teammate, but it's more with the engineer. The engineer speaks in English. I think it's just going to be in English.

Q. Your engineer and you are both rookies in the series. You came from Toyota Atlantic. Do you feel it's going to be a challenge, learning the Champ Car together, both being rookies and not having experience with the Champ Car?

ANDREW RANGER: Yeah, but we have Bruce Ashmore working with us. He’s a very good guy. He worked very hard with Patrick Carpentier, a couple years ago, and last year with AJ Allmendinger. Now he's with Mi-Jack. So he knows the car. Dave Faustino worked hard to learn more about the car. Together I think it's going to be good.
Q. Andrew, we already talked to Eric about his goals. Do you have any specific goals in mind for yourself this year?

ANDREW RANGER: For me I think it's going to be the Rookie-of-the-Year, this is for sure, because I did it last year in Toyota Atlantics. But I don't want to put too much pressure on myself because I want to wait and see what's going to happen in Long Beach. I want to do the race and then after I will be happy to talk about what’s going to happen for this year.

Q. Eric, at the California Speedway test, I saw Bruce Ashmore there. Is he going to be part of your team this year?

ERIC BACHELART: Yes, he's our new technical director. This is the first time we have the position. We didn't have that last year. We have quite an ambitious development program this year. So I think it's good to have Bruce on board. I have known Bruce for many years. I'm very pleased that he's joining us. Very pleased with Dave Faustino, as well. When Andrew and Dave showed up in Fontana, it was the second day of Andrew in a Champ Car and the first day for Dave. At the end of the day, the first day, they did quite well together.

You know, keep in mind that we have two teams under one roof. Our other track engineer, Don Bricker, is here. Everybody is working in the same direction. It is really important. I put a lot of energy myself to make sure that these guys are working together and there is a very good team spirit between the two specific teams, the car 34 and the car 27.

Dave Faustino is not by himself. You know, we are sharing everything. It's no problem. I think Faustino is a very good guy. I've been very impressed with him, especially with the first test we've done together.

Q. Andrew, I notice you're staying with the 27 on your car. Most might think it pays tribute to another Canadian legend, Gil Villeneuve. As you told me in Long Beach, it pays tribute to another person.

ANDREW RANGER: My #27, it's pretty fun because I have the same number. My father raced in stock car, and he had the 27 car. Last year I raced with that number too. But it's fun to have the 27 because Jacques Villeneuve had the 27 in Indianapolis and he won. Gil Villeneuve, too. I think I have the 27 because my father had it, but it's pretty fun that Villeneuve had the number 27 as well.

Q. Eric, you've added a number of new staff, technical people to your team, as you just mentioned. Do you think it's going to be enough or do you have also the additional resources to bring your team up to compete against the Forsythes and perhaps the Newman/Haas's or the RuSPORTs as a new team, but they have considerable resources at their disposal?

ERIC BACHELART: Yes, for sure we're trying the best we can. There's a lot of motivation on our side. We probably don't have as much resources as they do, but we have a fighting spirit, and it's very much on us. Again, we'll do wind tunnel development and we'll do development of these new shocks.

There’s going to be tough competition. But, for sure, we are starting the season with a big fighting spirit, and we are not thinking we're going to be weak. We have a very good team of people behind us, and I think that can make a big difference, too.

The spirit and the atmosphere that is in the team right now is incredible. The guys are working so hard. I mean, it's very nice. I enjoy it a lot. And I tell you, when you go throughout the winter having all these question marks, you don’t know how you're going to do it. Finally everything's coming together, as you can see. I mean, this past week at the shop, everybody has such a smile on their face. They are going to the fitness center three times a week. They are doing pit stop practices twice a day. I mean, it's good. It's as good as it can be. And I'm really pumped up.

Q. Eric, how many more additional staff will we see by the time you take the grid at Long Beach in a couple of weeks? Are you still looking for more personnel, more people to add to your team overall?

ERIC BACHELART: Well, I think we're missing still one guy for our truck driver department, that's about it. The team is completed and all together we have a bit more people on board than we did last year, you know. The main thing is on the engineering side, we have developed the engineering quite a bit, so I think we have two more people on the engineering side.

ERIC MAUK: This is talking about a team here, Eric, that is not coming from not having been competitive to trying to run up front this year. Your very first start in Champ Car you finished fourth at St. Petersburg with Mario Haberfeld. You had three top six's in the first four races last year with Justin Wilson, then ended the year finishing fourth down in Mexico City.

Even the testing so far this year, while you guys haven't been on top of the charts, you have been close, within a second of the fastest guys pretty much everywhere we've gone. This isn't like you're building a team from scratch it doesn't seem like.

ERIC BACHELART: No, I think you're right. I mean, you know, every year we're trying to make it better. It takes a bit of time because we have to build it by ourselves. But, I mean, today I feel quite good about what we have. I don't want to do any auto-satisfaction or whatever, but I think the team is getting pretty mature.

One of the keys is that we have been working with some people for quite a few years now, I mean, most of the team, so there's very little turnover. You know, it's still a small team, and I like it this way. I mean, I want a small team, but a strong one. I think that is what we have.

I don't care about being a big team. I like the small team spirit, I really do. So, Eric, it's a pretty exciting moment right now. The first race coming in a few weeks, and testing in Sebring. The sharing of two young drivers, and there is not really any ego there, it's just simple, natural, everyone working the same direction.

Q. Eric, why did you not opt for perhaps one veteran to go with your 18-year-old, whichever one you finally settled on?

ERIC BACHELART: We've been testing quite a few drivers over the winter. Some had more experience than others. But at the end of the day what we were looking for was a driver that had the best talent. You can have veteran drivers that aren't as talented as young drivers.

Obviously, experience can compensate a little bit of that. But at the end we just decide to go this way. Again, we feel very good with Andrew. The whole team was impressed with the test. Again, after the test we had to make some quick decisions. We felt it was our best option. So that's basically what we did.

I mean, I expect it's not going to be easy, no doubt about it. We have two young drivers. You know, nothing is easy. It's a tough competition. But all together I feel we'll do well, I really do.

Q. Andrew, why at the age of just having turned 18 have you been so anxious to get into Champ Car rather than getting a little more experience at the Atlantic level?

ANDREW RANGER: I think it's going to be fun because I don't have a lot of experience in Champ Car. But, you know, I worked hard last year with Dave Faustino. I learned so much and ready to jump to Champ Car because I race last year in Atlantic, and was pretty fun. And now to jump in a Champ Car, it's like the same driving. It's pretty fun because you can brake late and can you put so much speed in the corners, both of those cars are great. I don't have a lot of experience, but I think with Bruce Ashmore, it's going to be pretty fun. He knows the car, he worked with Patrick Carpentier a couple years ago. He know the car. And me, I think I need to learn this year.

Q. You feel you've learned enough at the Atlantic level that you can make a smooth transition to the Champ Cars?

ANDREW RANGER: Yeah, exactly. More easy to race in Toyota Atlantics and then jump into a Champ Car.

Q. Andrew, you're Andre up here in Canada. A lot of us call you Andre. Down there you'll be Andrew Ranger. Which do you prefer?

ANDREW RANGER: I think it's better Andrew Ranger.

Q. Is that how you want to be known?

ANDREW RANGER: I think it's going to be best.

Q. Why?

ANDREW RANGER: Because in the States, if you say Andrew, it's English, and Ranger, it's French. It's too difficult to say Andrew Ranger. I think it's easier to say Andrew Ranger.

Q. I was wondering if you and Alain felt this was a better marketing tactic, as well.

ANDREW RANGER: Yeah, it's pretty good.

Q. Andrew, could you tell me who you're going to be looking most forward to racing against at the Champ Car level?

ANDREW RANGER: I think it's got to be a couple drivers. You have Tracy there, Cristiano da Matta, Junqueira. It's going to be so competitive this year. I think for me it's going to be a lot of pressure because I want to be fast, I want to be in the top 10, this is sure. But I need to work hard, I need to work with the car, I need to work hard with the engineer. It's going to be a tough year, but I'm there.

Q. Despite all the accolades being paid to your teammate, will you be embarrassed not to beat him in every single race?

ANDREW RANGER: No, I know Nelson. He’s a good driver. Look, he has one year of experience. And me, I don't have a year of experience in Champ Car. He already knows a little bit about the car. But for me, I need to learn a little bit more, but I learn fast. I think it's going to be a very, very interesting season.

Q. Andrew, could you clarify, is Tide only going to be on the car in the Canadian races?

ANDREW RANGER: Yeah, the Tide is going to be on the car just for the Canadian races, with the side spot. It's going to be on the in the U.S., as well, just a small one logo though instead of being on the sidepod, I think.

Q. It will be Kodak in the US races?

ANDREW RANGER: Exactly, Kodak, along with Tide will be on the car. However, the primary sponsor on the car will be Mi-Jack.

Q. You worked with David Empringham as a driver coach. Will you be working with him?

ANDREW RANGER: I don't know for this year. But he’s a good guy. Probably I will have him for this year, but I don't know.

ERIC MAUK: We'll bring a close to our Champ Car media teleconference today. Eric Bachelart, Andrew Ranger, congratulations. We look again very much forward to seeing you on the grid at Long Beach. We'll see you all out on the test track at Sebring International Raceway on the short course, starting two days of testing Wednesday and Thursday. Thank you very much for joining us today.

ERIC BACHELART: Thank you.

ANDREW RANGER: Thank you, Eric. 

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