Interview with Neil
Micklewright and Mario Dominguez
MAUK: Welcome to today's Champ Car media teleconference where we
have another exciting announcement leading into the Bridgestone
Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season. As
the driver lineup continues to take shape, today it's my
pleasure to announce that veteran Mario Dominguez will be back
in the series this year, and again taking on the role of driver
for Forsythe Championship Racing. Mario will drive the #7 Indeck
Ford Cosworth/Lola Bridgestone as he prepares to get underway
with his fifth Champ Car season after a number of years in the
Dayton Indy Lights series, part of the driver development system
back in the CART era. Mario, welcome to the call today.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Well, thank you very much, and happy to be
ERIC MAUK: Mario, obviously a little better situation this year
than last year. Last year you jumped into the #7 car, pretty
much at the very last minute, one week before we got underway
with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach; didn't really slow you
down, you finished fifth despite not having been in the car at
all. You have a little bit more lead time this year. You guys
are going to be out testing Thursday, I believe. Tell us a
little bit how the extra time helps you.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: It's a huge help. Forsythe is a great team. I
think it's the best team out there, so it's obviously a benefit
for any driver to be their driver because they can always be
fast. But I'm going to have a little bit of time of testing
before the season; and now that, you know, we all know each
other, the team knows what I like, I know what they like, and we
really have a very good chemistry going. We have a very good
chemistry the whole year, so I think this year of continuity is
going to be great. And being with Paul (Tracy) again is going to
be fantastic. We both share a lot of information and it's been
great to be with Forsythe. I think definitely this year we're
going to be a very strong team, and I expect nothing less than
Paul and I fighting for the championship.
ERIC MAUK: Mario finished ninth in the points standings last
year, but was battling for a top 5, had a couple of incidents
the last two races of the year last year, neither one of them of
your own making, Mario, that kind of knocked you back in the
points a little bit, but you finished in the top 10 each of the
three Champ Car seasons. Tell us a little bit, you alluded to
getting into the car late but still putting together a good
year, but tell us a little bit about what it takes from a driver
standpoint to build team chemistry and how tough it is to get
acclimated to a new team.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Well, I don't know, it depends, you know, the
way that the people on the team are, and everybody at Forsythe
was very welcoming, and I mean everybody, you know, from Neil
Micklewright to Mr. Forsythe to the truck drivers to the guys
that are in the shop fabricating that never come to the races.
Everybody was great, so I enjoyed it.
Also, I probably like to spend a little bit more time with the
teams than other drivers, but I like that to build some
camaraderie around there. I don't know, for me it was very easy,
they were very good and very welcoming. So like I said, it's a
very professional team, they are very hard working, very, very
strict but at the same time they are all a great group of
ERIC MAUK: Tell us a little bit about what you've been doing in
the off season.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Well, in Mexico, I've been working out every
day. I've been doing a lot of go karting, about three times a
week. So I should be in pretty good shape, just trying to get as
ready as I can before the season because, you know, the test
days are very limited. The more training I do, the better, so
it's going to help me perform better. Especially go karting is a
big help. It helps me a lot, too, to get into shape that way.
It's been a very good off season, but I've had enough. It's been
too long, the holidays have been great, but that's it. I want to
start to get racing again and start to get to work.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations on today's announcement, and we look
forward to seeing you back in the car soon.
We are also joined by Mr. Neil Micklewright and Neil has
definitely had his hands full this off season, a four car Champ
Car Atlantic Championship effort being put together, and now
getting back on track with a two car Champ Car effort. Tell us a
little bit about just how preparations are going, Neil.
NEIL MICKLEWRIGHT: Well, first of all, thanks for the welcome,
and hello to everybody listening. Yeah, we've been pretty busy.
There's no two ways about that. But all in all, I think the
preparations have been coming together wonderfully. Obviously
I'm delighted that Mario is back with us again this year, and to
have that knowledge well in advance of the testing and the race
season itself is a great benefit to everybody.
ERIC MAUK: Tell us a little bit about what you saw in Mario that
made you want to bring him back this year. As we talked about
last year he jumped in the car with no testing in Long Beach and
put in the second row and finished in the top five and had a
real strong season for you guys. Tell us about your thoughts and
your evaluation of Mario.
NEIL MICKLEWRIGHT: Well, I think certainly as you mentioned, his
performance under less than ideal circumstances right at the
beginning of last year was something of an eye opener. He's
obviously a very gifted driver, and I'm a firm believer that it
takes time to create the relationships and the give and take in
any team dynamic. You know, during the course of 2005, we were
able to forge much stronger bonds with Mario and recognize even
more of his abilities than we thought were there in the first
instance. You know, for me it's a bit of a no brainer. I think
as Mario had stated, we've created a relationship; the
continuity there is a major plus. We all know him and he knows
us, and it's just a natural to go forward with this.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations to you, as well, and we look forward
to seeing you guys on track again real soon.
Q. I guess for Neil, the last couple of years Newman/Haas has
pretty much had things largely their way. On any given weekend
obviously they can and have been beaten, but what do you think
it's going to take to really mount an effort that's going to
take it all the way through the end of the season and the
championship and be able to win on a weekly basis?
NEIL MICKLEWRIGHT: Well, thanks for the question, that is a good
one. I think it's fairly clear that certainly during 2005, and
to a lesser degree I think in 2004, Newman/Haas, they have a
fabulous team, a fabulous lineup and a great deal of depth in
their engineering capacity and ability.
I think there's a few areas where our team perhaps has not
fallen behind, perhaps has not explored some of the same avenues
to the same extent Newman/Haas has. We're trying very hard to
correct that and see what we can actually bring to the table for
2006. I think we were competitive pretty much every event we
went to last year, and we're always up there with the
possibility of a win. Of course, in this business, you need some
degree of luck, as well. And while we can't necessarily
manufacture the luck, we look to take better some of the
opportunities for potentials that come up and of course not to
shoot ourselves in the foot.
Q. Mario, it's an interesting time at Forsythe Championship
Racing, that of course nobody knows for sure, but Paul is
definitely taking a look at other options with his Busch program
and what have you, and just I wonder if you can maybe talk a
little bit about how you view this year as a way of maybe making
a pretty firm statement about your being involved in the team on
a long term basis.
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: For sure. I think this is the year we have to
perform and we have to make it. I believe I have the team behind
me and I have the right equipment, really Forsythe gives 110% in
everything they do, and it's nice to know that I have a
competitive package. Of course Newman/Haas has been very strong.
It is a well known fact that they have certain mechanical things
in the car that nobody that no other team has the availability
to, but that doesn't mean they have obviously done their
homework right. I think there's going to be a lot of other teams
and drivers just like there was last year who are going to be
competitive like RuSPORT and PKV and all of the other teams and
drivers are also going to be fast.
You know, with Forsythe, I think we can do it. Having Paul as a
teammate is always a big plus, you know, and we worked hard
together, we work well. And I think like I said before, we
should definitely be fighting for the championship and for race
wins all the time. I think that's the most important thing, just
to be competitive in every race, show up there and be in the top
and make a lot of points and try to get those wins.
Q. Do you know if the support staff is going to be the same,
Jason Weatherford and Mike Pawlowski, are they still going to be
involved with the #7?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: From what I know, yes, but I think you'd be
better off asking Neil. From what I know, yeah, it's all going
to be the same. I haven't heard of any major changes so far.
Q. If you learned one big thing off of running with Paul Tracy,
what do you think it is?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: You know what I like about Paul is that
sometimes I know the car is not very good, and you know, the car
can be set up a little bit better to make it go faster, but he
can still make it go fast and not many drivers can do that.
Q. Neil, question for you, you're kind of hoping that maybe
Forsythe Racing this year, the whole thing including, as Eric
mentioned, the four car Atlantic teams includes Canadian teams
Hinchcliffe, that this squad is going to be like a very good
restaurant; the busier you get, the better the restaurant gets.
Are you looking to having the four cars on the Atlantic side and
you have Paul and you've got Mario on the Champ Car side. If you
were not busy before, you're going to be even busier, but I kind
of think you like it that way?
NEIL MICKLEWRIGHT: Absolutely, and clearly we here at Forsythe
Championship Racing are firm believers in the Atlantic Series,
and look forward to it growing. But there are so many perhaps
intangible benefits from running in multiple series at the same
time, particularly with both of these under the Champ Car
banner: It's a breeding ground, not just for drivers but
engineers, mechanics, for interaction between people coming up
and people who are here already, and I think that's only
beneficial and good. Yeah, we enjoy being busy. I think it's a
sign of the growth of Champ Car and its sustained growth and how
things are getting better for the future.
Q With other drivers you may think that if Paul has got his
other foot in the NASCAR/Busch thing, he's going to come into
Champ Car and that other drivers will be distracted; I don't
think you're going to have that problem with PT.
NEIL MICKLEWRIGHT: I don't anticipate it being a problem. You
know, the end of the day, PT is a race car driver and he likes
racing. Certainly a driver of his stature, he's devoted so much
of his time to open wheel racing, and he's looking to try his
hand at a few other areas. I don't view that as being something
that would be a distraction. If anything, it's keeping him in
the seat; he's doing something, rather than sitting and watching
Q. The situation you faced at Long Beach last year when you
stepped into the Forsythe car for the first time for the first
practice session there, would you have to say that was one of
most toughest or most unusual situations of your career?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Yeah, that was unusual, because I did show up
on Thursday and I introduced myself to the team saying, "Hi, I'm
Mario, I'm your new driver," and it was interesting.
But I tell you what, though, just I started with the team and I
felt at home right away. I didn't really have a big problem, and
I guess it showed, you know, that weekend. But, you know, there
were a lot of things that you have to sort out during the year
with certain things with the team that you have to improve that
you like best and that you don't like, things like that. That's
why I think having that year of experience with the team is
going to be a huge help for this 2006, just knowing what we're
going to do makes a huge difference.
Q. Just to follow up, even though did you not win a race last
year as you did the previous two years, did you consider the
2005 season a success, and what will you be working on to
improve this year?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Well, no, I wasn't very pleased honestly to
tell you the truth with how the season went. My biggest problem,
the biggest deal was that I did not finish five races. So that
was terrible, not finishing five races just hurt me a lot in the
points. I believe I had a strong shot at finishing in the top
three in the championship towards the end. The two races I
didn't finish in the end didn't help us. And I think this year,
you know, having left the season without a win, that's always
not that good. So I do expect a lot more. I'm going to work a
lot harder, and I am going to do everything in my power to get
those race wins and to fight for the top spot in the
Q. Neil, there is an article of speculation that in the next
championship testing, Forsythe will bring a couple of two
Mexican young boys, can you give us a little hint? I will
protect you in case
ERIC MAUK: The other 20 guys we're not going to vouch for on the
NEIL MICKLEWRIGHT: Yeah, it's news to me. At this point with
today's announcement, I think that obviously we've confirmed our
driver lineup now for 2006. And running anybody else, whether
they be Mexican or whatever, while I haven't heard anything like
that or been involved in it, obviously that would be perhaps
favors or just testing to see how certain people do, but I don't
anticipate anything of that nature happening prior to this
Q. The testing will be Thursday? When will be the next testing?
NEIL MICKLEWRIGHT: Yeah, this coming Thursday, I believe.
Q. Mario, I want to ask you something, you know, Mexico is very
good, talk about the crisis that there is in Mexico, we don't
see more drivers, good young drivers, we don't see sponsors. We
see that the GP2 ended up in Mexico, what happened with the
sponsor and the rest?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Well, I think the biggest problem for this year
that we faced, and that is a huge problem, is that the soccer
World Cup is going to be happening this year. So that takes a
lot of the attention and a lot of the money from every company
that I know, and they all want to put their money into it.
It's always the same thing every time there's a World Cup year.
So we just have to fight against that and show the sponsors and
show the people that we are probably a better investment
opportunity for the kind of people they are trying to reach. So
that's what we have to keep working on and working hard on it.
Q. Does it make you captain or honorary captain of the team?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Honorary captain of the team? (Laughing). I
don't know, I'm just one of the loyal subjects.
Q. Beginning with Neil, I was wondering from this announcement
means 2006 Forsythe lineup is all set?
NEIL MICKLEWRIGHT: Yeah, I believe it to be. Certainly there's
been no discussion with regards to entering a third car which I
presume is what you're asking. So, yeah, we're set with Paul
Tracy and Mario, and then of course the four drivers in our
Q. I believe you're the only Mexican driver confirmed so far
this year. Do you expect to be the only Mexican in Champ Car
this year, would that be a special burden?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Well, I don't know, I was the only Mexican for
most of last year. So, you know, hopefully we can have some
other Mexicans, that's always good. But most important is that
if I am, you know, racing, I get the results and that's going to
bring a lot more coverage to Champ Car in Mexico and to myself,
and it's just going to make Champ Car bigger. That's the whole
idea that I start getting very, very good results from early on
and make a lot of noise for us over here.
Q. Mario, when you look at what occurred last season, the off
season, beginning with the off season to this year, because of
not having to run around until the last minute of the off season
in 2005, do you feel that your season will be better and
mentally you're better this year?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: I certainly think so. I think I'm better in
every aspect, and like you say, mentally it's a huge help. I
know what I'm getting into. I'm not worried whether I'm going to
have a ride or not. I've just been working hard on my physical
side, and mentally it's just a very big difference that I know
that I'm going to show up on a team that everybody knows each
other, we have a great chemistry and we all want to win races.
It's just believe it or not, it really makes a huge difference.
Q. And my question for Neil, I'm going to go back to the
Newman/Haas thing, I know you spend most of your time preparing
your team, but you've got to be in the last couple of years
looking over your shoulder at Newman/Haas trying to figure out a
way to beat this team. Can this team be beat, or do they have to
NEIL MICKLEWRIGHT: No, I think that any team can be beat. I
think at this point quite honestly, they have been doing a
better job than we have. And it's up to us to raise our game.
Most certainly they or any other team can be beat.
Q. You're going to be having four Atlantic drivers plus Paul,
are you and Paul going to be able to help these Atlantic
drivers, and how much help are you going to give them, given
that at some point they are going to be your competitors?
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: I'm sure, you know, we can definitely be of
help a few times. Although, normally the teams are handled
together but at the same time separate. I'm always willing to
help the younger drivers and they always talk to me and
whatever. I think it will be good to also build a good
relationship with all of them because at the same time we are
all part of the same team, which is Forsythe. Whether they win
or we win, I know Mr. Forsythe is going to be happy, so we can
all contribute to that. It will be good.
Q. Will there be any way for them to provide you any assistance
when you're on the track, given track conditions or something
MARIO DOMINGUEZ: Absolutely. I think that's also very important.
In fact, a lot of times before the qualifying or things like
that at the races, I do go up and ask the Atlantic drivers, hey,
you know, how was the track or how was this and what sort of
conditions did you face. So having four guys there, I think it's
going to be very good for us because we can definitely get a lot
of feedback on that.
ERIC MAUK: Again, congratulations to Mario Dominguez and Neil
Micklewright and the whole Forsythe Championship Racing squad,
and we look forward to a successful 2006.
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