Enge will join Tomas Scheckter at Panther Racing for the 17-race IndyCar
Series season. Enge, who competed in the final two 2004 events with
Patrick Racing, will make his debut in the No. 2 Panther Racing
Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone on Jan. 19 on the 2.21-mile Homestead-Miami
Speedway road course during an Open Test. The opening race of the IndyCar
Series' 10th anniversary season is March 6 at the facility's 1.5-mile
"Panther Racing is one of the best in the business and I relish the chance
to drive for them," said Enge, who will be eligible for the Bombardier
Rookie of the Year award. "This is a great opportunity to show what I am
Enge will team with
Scheckter for the second time in his career. The two were teammates in
2000 with the McLaren Junior Team while competing in the Formula 3000
International Championship. In a race at Hockenheim, Germany, Enge shot
past Scheckter - who was in his first race with the team - on the
circuit's final straightaway to claim the victory.
Enge, 28, of the Czech Republic, impressed the Panther Racing ownership
group during a test a California Speedway in 2003 - his first time driving
an IndyCar Series car. He finished 16th at California Speedway and 13th in
the finale at Texas Motor Speedway in the No. 20 Patrick Racing entry
after taking over for Jaques Lazier.
"Tomas has proven himself a winner in every form of racing he has
attempted," co-owner Doug Boles said. "His vast amount of open-wheel
experience makes him a natural for IndyCar Series racing. With the
addition of road courses to our schedule, Tomas' background and training
in that discipline of the sport will provide Panther Racing with an
outstanding opportunity to be competitive in all 17 events on the 2005
Enge's race engineer will be Andy Borme, who was an engineer with Team
Penske during Helio Castroneves' Indianapolis 500 victories in 2001 and
'02, and Steve Namisnak will be the chief mechanic. David Cripps returns
as race engineer for Scheckter's No. 4 Pennzoil Panther
"Obviously, Tomas (Scheckter) has much more experience in the IRL, so he
will be my benchmark," Enge said. "I think that in the IRL it is very
important how the teammates work together. We are the only Chevrolet team,
so our cooperation will be even more important. It is very good when you
have an opportunity to compare data and information with someone who is
THE MODERATOR: Good
afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today's Indy Racing League teleconference.
Our guests today are from Panther Racing and include co-owner John Barnes,
driver Tomas Scheckter, and we're also joined today by driver Tomas Enge,
who today was announced as the driver of the No. 2 car for the 2005
The three of them join us today from Homestead, Fla., where they're
preparing for the first three days of testing for the 2005 season.
Gentlemen, thank you for joining us today.
John, let's start with a couple questions for you about the team. First of
all, just tell us a little bit about the off-season search for a second
driver and how you came to choose Tomas Enge.
JOHN BARNES: Well, I have a very good friend by the name of Derek Mower,
who owned an F3000 team (Nordic) who won quite a few races in Europe. He
called me about three years ago and told me about Tomas, and we tested him
I think in 2003 at Fontana. Just the stars and moons didn't align quite
properly until now. We're very excited about having him on board.
Q. Panther this year is going to be the only team in the IRL that's going
to run with the Chevy engine. Did the fact that Tomas drove for two races
last year for Patrick Racing with the Chevy power play a role in your
decision at all?
JOHN BARNES: Yeah, sure it did. As you know, in 2000 when we made a change
in driver at Panther from Scott Goodyear to Sam Hornish, one of the things
that allowed us to make the proper decision on hiring Sam was being able
to watch him in an IRL environment.
Thanks to Patrick Racing for letting us watch Tomas and get an idea what
he's capable of in action, and it made the decision quite easy for us.
Q. One question about the team. Obviously last year had to be a bit
frustrating for you guys. You have a strong history with championships in
2001 and 2002, and three race wins in 2003. How do you put last year
behind you and rebound to the top?
JOHN BARNES: Well, I think you have to take your problems and turn them
into opportunities. And we at Panther believe that last year was just a
little bit of a humility break for us to get us back where we need to be.
We're very focused now in 2005 on the future. We think Chevrolet is, as
Last year was tough. But all our guys stuck with it, and Tomas Scheckter
showed great maturity and drive through the year and stuck with us also.
We just feel like we're coming out of the thing a lot stronger.
Q. I'll ask a couple questions of you, Tomas Enge. First of all, welcome
back to the IRL. You got a brief introduction to the series last year.
Tell us your thoughts on coming back to the IRL and then your thoughts on
joining Panther Racing.
TOMAS ENGE: Well, thank you very much for the introduction.
I was thinking that you might like call me Tomas (Toe-mosh), because my
right name in Czech language is Tomas, so you can have the differences
between Tomas Scheckter and Tomas Enge, if people want to. It's up to you.
But, anyway, last year was my first introduction into the series, into the
oval racing, which is a really different kind of racing what I used to
drive before. It was an easy start, obviously. I was really happy that I
could feel what is it like and have time to think over the winter before
next season, you know, what I have to do better, what I really would like
to change on my style and so on.
Obviously, when the opportunity came with Panther Racing, that was
something you would never say no to. So I'm really happy for that. And,
obviously, with Tomas (Scheckter) on board like a teammate, but a fast
teammate, I hope we are going to succeed even better than everybody
Q. You're from the Czech Republic. When you came over to the IRL last
year, it seemed like there was quite a bit of excitement over there. What
is the atmosphere like there back home for you, and can we expect a lot of
interest from the fans and media in the Czech Republic this year?
TOMAS ENGE: I hope so. I mean, one thing is that we are a very small
country, and I was the first one driving in Formula 1. So, as you can
imagine, everybody or most of the people knows me back in Czech.
But, obviously, this is a different kind of racing. It's more
American-style racing than European. But I think there will be big support
back at home and also for me from spectators, as well. I'm really looking
forward to bring this kind of racing to Europe and especially to the Czech
Q. Do the people there follow the Indianapolis 500 and are they aware of
the magnitude of that event? Is that something that's special to you,
competing in that event?
TOMAS ENGE: The first thing is we have to have broadcasting from all the
races, that people will start to understand what is it all about to drive
on an oval. And the other thing is that, obviously, most of the people
know the Indy 500 race is something like, you know, for European people
Formula 1 championships. So me personally, I'm really looking forward to
this race. It's something I couldn't imagine that I'm going to participate
Q. Tomas (Scheckter), have you gotten a chance here since the team formed
this partnership with Tomas to get to know him very well yet? Are you
looking forward to working with him as a teammate?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: You know, funny enough, I've worked with Tomas before. I
made sure I got his name right, otherwise I'll be in trouble. I had a
chance to work with him in Formula 3000. I drove for McLaren junior team
in 2000. He was the current driver. You know, we got to work a little bit
then. You know, since then obviously this opportunity's come up.
We both tend to spend some time at the workshop. You know, I think in the
beginning it's just communicating and trying to help each other. It's
great that we're doing road courses again. Tomas has a lot of experience
and is very quick on road courses. I haven't been on them for like three
I think the combination that this team has got now should be very good and
I'm looking forward to the start.
Q. Let's take a look at your own upcoming season. Last year was your third
different team in three seasons, so it's got to be really nice coming back
to the same team for 2005.
TOMAS SCHECKTER: Sure. I tell you one thing, it's given me a massive
amount of confidence going into this test, going into the first race. I
don't have to prove anything. Always when you start off with a new team,
there's a lot of unknown area, what they expect out of you and what you
want to show them. I think that time's really over with Panther. Now we've
sort of settled in, and we're just concentrating on performing and doing a
I can tell you as soon as the green flag drops in that first race, I'm
going to be 150 percent, and, you know, making sure that Panther's old
ways of winning many races, that we bring that back to them.
Q. Last year it started off with a lot of promise for you with a
fifth-place finish in Homestead. Then it seemed like an unending string of
bad luck kept knocking you out of races. You seemed to keep a positive
attitude throughout the season. Have you been able to get past that in the
off-season and keep a positive approach looking ahead to the 2005 season?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: I think, yeah, you know, for sure. Like John always tells
us, there's a 48-hour rule. Whether it's good or bad, we forget about it
and we move on. I think everybody on the team has adapted that line of
thought. That's what you have to do.
If you want to be successful, you can't carry on lingering on what
happened, you know, what should have happened or what could have happened.
We make sure that we rectify mistakes, and we try to go to each race
learning something new and performing better.
Q. My question is for everybody. I want to know as the sole carriers of
the Chevrolet banner, knowing that Chevy is going to pull out at the end
of the season probably, how do you guys feel your engine is going to match
up against the Honda- and Toyota-powered teams? Are you confident you're
going to be able to run up front?
JOHN BARNES: You know, we feel it's an opportunity for us. GM has done a
tremendous amount of work in the last really seven months on this program,
getting us to where we're at. We'll all have a better idea come Saturday
when we run on the oval.
But so far we've done two tests down here at Homestead. One was a
Firestone test. We were very quick there, and everything looked very good.
And then we ran a couple driver tests after that. I mean, we're looking
forward to it.
I think GM has done just a tremendous job, and continue to. They're
working around the clock. The power train skunk works division is really
thrashing this thing. They've come up with tremendous improvements since
Indianapolis last year.
TOMAS SCHECKTER: I think we're looking forward to that. I think also one
thing that we're proud of, we're racing in an American series and we've
got a great company like Chevrolet behind us. I think it will mean more
success we can get when we're fighting other engine companies. You know,
hopefully the hard work they've put in in the off-season can pay off, and
we can give them what they want.
TOMAS ENGE: If you want some quotes from me, I would be very short. I
think for me, representing an American brand and an American company
against these Japanese engine companies is a big honor. I will do
everything for representing them as best as possible.
Q. Tomas Scheckter, when you look back at last year, in some respects was
that a maturing season for you?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: Yeah, for sure. I think I mature after every race and I
learn stuff. You know, yes, I have to admit a lot of it was frustrating.
I think in the beginning we showed some promise. In the beginning to the
middle, I struggled just to find my place and to find something where I
could settle. And I think from there on where we started to run up front
consistently, always in the top three, that's when I felt very, very
comfortable, but then just struggled.
For sure, I think I've matured a lot. More also understanding oval racing
I think will help me this season as well.
Q. Did that 48-hour rule of John Barnes, was that little motto there
something that helped you take that extra step?
TOMAS SCHECKTER: For sure. I mean, I've also learned in Europe and some of
the stuff that John tells me my dad used to repeat to me. My dad was even
more, "You win, you win. You should work the same way and forget about it
as quickly as when you do bad." It's a really good rule. It's great that
John has got this knowledge. It helps me and it keeps reminding me on
where to focus on to make sure I get the best performance out of myself.
Q. John, kind of picking up on the other question regarding being the sole
Chevy out there. How do you work that to your advantage and keep it from
being a disadvantage?
JOHN BARNES: How you work it to your advantage, you don't have to wait for
them to build additional parts for the other teams. When they get a new
camshaft or new piston or new intake system or whatever, it immediately
goes on our cars so we don't have to allocate it to five or six other
cars. So it's a tremendous advantage. It gives them the ability to react
very quickly to new parts and pieces.
Q. To the other Tomas, when you look back at the races that you raced last
year and you worked during the off-season, what do you think are the one
or two things that you have to work on this season, especially on the
TOMAS ENGE: Well, it's everything. It's firstly concentration during the
whole race, which is very important. Secondly, tactics. Then you have
obviously the thing to drive behind other cars in the draft or saving the
fuel, saving the tires and so on and so on. So there is a lot of things
which are really different compared to driving on a road-course track when
you usually only go flat out from the beginning of the race. Normally
that's what happens.
You have to drive more with the head than with probably the skills. But we
have to see how it goes on. I'm really looking forward especially to a
road-course track, as you can imagine.
Q. I was wondering why you chose to come to the United States to race
instead of remaining in Europe, because you were doing pretty well.
TOMAS ENGE: Well, I think the main reason is obviously that I was in
Formula 3000 more than four years. Formula 3000, it's not on the calendar
any more. There's a new series, GP2, which is mainly for younger drivers.
I don't think I have to prove my speed. I chose this series because I got
a great offer from John Barnes from Panther Racing, from Chevy, and I
would like to succeed in a different type of racing in a new series where
I have actually really never been.
Q. Tomas, who will be your primary sponsor? What will your car number be?
Will you be a sister car as in color and similar numbers?
TOMAS ENGE: Right. The main -- the sponsorship, the sponsors will be
announced in three weeks. I will have on my car No. 2. I don't have the
other answer at this moment, sorry.
Q. Is there any indication on your part that the Chevy engine might be
better suited, might be more competitive on the road course than on the
ovals? Any clue at all?
JOHN BARNES: In our tests we did down here on the road course, the motor
performed very, very well. And on the oval, when we tested here with
Firestone, it was exceptionally good. So we plan on just winning them all.
TOMAS SCHECKTER: Well, obviously I'd like to agree with John, and I think
that's the attitude with everybody on the team.
Again, we're doing the series. Road courses are important. But, again, as
John reminds me, there's one race, and that's the 500. As long as we have
a good engine for that race, we have an opportunity to win that, I think
everybody at Chevrolet will be happy.
Q. Has GM, Chevrolet, indicated how long they're going to keep developing
the engine? Is there a cutoff point halfway through the season where all
JOHN BARNES: I'll tell you, we had an interesting meeting. We were having
a meeting with another engine supplier for 2006. They asked us what we
thought, the same question basically you asked me here. All I told them
was that GM this year has two cars. Both of them are at Panther. And their
budget for 2005 is exactly what they had in '04. They did not cut
anything. They did not look to cut anything. All they want to do is go to
win every race in the series.
Q. In other words, they're still going to be bringing the same support
personnel, the trailer and everything?
JOHN BARNES: Everything. Every bell and whistle they've got there is going
to be there.
Q. Who are you talking to for next year, John?
JOHN BARNES: You'll read that in the press later.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us today. We appreciate you taking
the time out, and good luck down there in Homestead, good luck throughout
JOHN BARNES: Thank you.
TOMAS SCHECKTER: Thank you.
TOMAS ENGE: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us on the IRL teleconference.
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