Nelson Philippe CTE-Racing
ERIC MAUK: Welcome, everyone, to another exciting Champ
Car media teleconference where I have the honor of announcing another
one of the drivers that will make up the field for the 2006 Bridgestone
Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. I am joined today
by the co-owner of HVM-CTE Racing Mr. Keith Wiggins. We are very pleased
to announce that HVM-CTE Racing will be campaigning Nelson Philippe in
the #4 car this year during the 2006 season. Nelson will be returning
for his third year in Champ Car.
While he may be perhaps more well-known for being the youngest driver
ever in Champ Car racing, he was last year named the winner of the Bosch
Most Improved Driver Award, an award voted on by the drivers in the
series. Really showed what Nelson had been able to accomplish in his
second year. Nelson, congratulations to you. I'd like to throw things
over to Mr. Wiggins for some opening remarks.
KEITH WIGGINS: Good morning, everybody, or good afternoon to some. We're
very pleased to do the announcement. Everybody's juggling keeping
surprises as long as possible.
I think for ourselves and for Nelson, we've been talking really for
quite some time - in fact, since the end of last year. As we know our
team went through an interesting transition last year. "Transition" is
one description. I'm sure we haven't finished that transition yet. You
know, we were very focused on getting back on our feet in a sensible
program looking at the talent. As we all know, the key is with good
engineering and good drivers that makes the biggest difference.
We felt very strongly, liked very much what we saw Nelson do over the
last couple of years. He may or may not agree, but I thought at the
beginning he jumped in the deep end two and a half, three years ago, but
he did a very good swim. We're very excited because I think he's at
another level. We've had drivers here which you expect results from, and
sometimes for various reasons you don't always get.
We're quite excited at this time to take someone who is still climbing
the ladder and is hungry to do a good job. I think together we'll want
to prove what we can do. I think he's come of age and I'm hoping we'll
give him what he needs to prove that we can do a good job.
ERIC MAUK: We talked in December after the end of the season was still
fresh. As you alluded to kind of a tough year at times for HVM-CTE. At
that time back in December, you thought you had the morale back up and
the guys were hungry to get back out on the racetrack. Now with the
signing of Nelson, like you said the clock ticking toward the Grand Prix
of Long Beach, you still think the morale is good and you guys are
pointed in the right direction?
KEITH WIGGINS: I think so. For the guys, I mean, to stick through last
year almost completely intact is a credit to the team. It wasn't much
fun. We didn't really know where we were going. Even the first race at
Long Beach was a bit I won't say something because we're on air, but you
know what I mean (laughter). We kept it together. We have a good crew.
The quality is still there. We still know how to make race cars go
pretty quick, I think.
They've all been following when we're doing, and like everybody else,
wanted to know how we put things together. You have to tame the
enthusiasm with trying to make it all work. The biggest thing that we
didn't have last year was really any stability. We had stability as a
team, but financially and driver-wise. Once you get into that spiral of
relying on it from race to race, I've been through that experience, it's
hard to pull yourself out of the dive, so to speak.
I think the biggest goal here is that we've got a more calmer system. We
know exactly with Cedric things were done much later than we wanted to,
but we have a strong focus on where we need to achieve. We want to put
the drivers into place. We've done that now. We're working on the second
We've all got a challenge, now everybody is excited to go testing.
Nelson has been here all last week. Everybody is very excited and
motivated to get back and go racing again. That's sort of why we do the
business. We're all pretty happy, real excited.
ERIC MAUK: Excellent. Congratulations on today's announcement. Nelson,
coming back for your third season in the Champ Car, moving over to
HVM-CTE Racing, tell us about your thoughts today.
NELSON PHILIPPE: Hello everybody. Thank you for being here.
I'm definitely very, very pumped and very excited about this new season.
I feel, you know, like I'm a new me and I am improved. I really want to
win this year. "Win" in terms of accomplishing the goals that we set
early for the team. You know, I'm very much looking forward to testing
this week in Sebring, just getting back out there. It's been a while
since I've been in the car. I'm very much looking forward to that.
I mean, like Keith said, I was there last week for a whole week. I mean,
the team dynamic over there is just great, and everybody gets along very
good. You know, I've been working with my engineer Will Phillips. The
relationship is already there. I just met these guys, but I feel very
much at home. Everybody is fresh. Another time, like Keith said,
everybody wants to win and everybody, including myself, wants to prove
some people wrong. I think we're in a good position to do that this
ERIC MAUK: Last year, as we alluded to, you were named the winner of the
most improved driver award, set career highs for qualifying and race
results, qualified sixth at a very tricky track in San Jose, finished
seventh in Mexico City. That finish there helped France clinch its first
Nations Cup, and later that night named by your peers as the Most
Improved Driver of the Year. Tell us about how you felt things went last
year, what the most important thing that you learned from last season.
NELSON PHILIPPE: Well, definitely receiving that award was very nice
because it's voted by the drivers. It's definitely something I
appreciated a lot. I mean, the number one thing I should say I learned
last year, I really learned to mind my own business, take care of my own
thing, talk with my engineer, and just focus on my driving. I think it
definitely paid off a lot. I mean, I'm just very excited. There's a lot
of emotion today because I was waiting for a long time to announce this.
Finally it's here, so I'm happy.
ERIC MAUK: Congratulations. We look forward to seeing you the end of
this week in Sebring. We'll go ahead and take questions from the media.
Q. Nelson, the first question would be, obviously by my count this is
your third team in three years. What is it about the CTE-HVM that really
attracted you to join this team?
NELSON PHILIPPE: You're right, this is my third team in three years. You
all know what happened with the first team I was with. That's one of the
reasons, otherwise there would have been only two teams, I guess. You
know what, I'm a very young driver. In the young driver's career, I
think you have to experience a lot of things. I really wanted to be with
different teams and learn a lot. To be honest with you, this year
there's no other team that I'd rather be with than CTE-HVM. They're
really a team that want to win.
They struggled last year. There's no doubt about it. We can see it in
the results. But just talking to Keith, talking to everybody at the
team, they just want to prove everybody wrong. I think it's the right
attitude. We're going in with a lot of - I can't find the word - but
we're very hungry for race wins and podiums and a bit of everything. We
just want to be up there.
Q. Keith, where does the second car stand? You have a contract with
Ronnie Bremer. Is that the most likely direction you'll go with the
second car? How would you describe the status of the second car at this
KEITH WIGGINS: Open (laughter). Of course, we have an option, a
contract, with Ronnie. We've always made it clear what our goal was. I'm
sure it doesn't elude anybody's attention or common sense to work out
that that has to be backed up by money. We all know nothing's easy in
the current situation.
We're still talking with Ronnie. We still have a lot of good things that
the team is really starting to get some good momentum in terms of
relationships. But nothing's done until it's done. Yes, we're talking to
other drivers because everybody has to keep their options at this stage.
In summary, we've got a couple weeks to go. It's closer than everybody
would choose, but it's not probably unusual recently. We're going to
work on it in the next one to two weeks. We should be able to tell you
where we're going with the second car.
Q. Keith, many schools of thought as you’re a car and team owner,
whether or not you go with a young driver who has some experience or you
seek out that seasoned veteran driver. As a car and team owner, which do
you prefer to work with?
KEITH WIGGINS: I would always prefer to work with young hungry drivers.
In the past success -- in a previous life maybe, longer ago than I care
to remember. The ultimate answer to that question, and again it
shouldn't, but sometimes it stems around your financial circumstances.
If you're well-sorted, you have the backing, then you look for whoever's
the champion in one of the other series, a young guy, you take him
testing, you develop him.
You get a slight compromise these days because perhaps with the testing
restrictions, everybody's looking after their budgets, how many test
days they do. Of course, that challenge becomes somewhat steeper. In our
series, unless they've done Atlantics, clearly their track learning
curve is tough with the type of tracks we go to. You have to balance it.
Nelson is a very young driver, but he's got some experience. He's made a
few mistakes, he's bounced off a few walls.
NELSON PHILIPPE: Not that many (laughter).
KEITH WIGGINS: Somehow I'm sure it won't be the last. Ultimately, you
know, as long as you do it trying, that's the main thing. I would always
lean towards the younger guys who are up-and-coming. Talent will always
win over experience. I'm not a big fan of the older boys. Obviously,
there's sometimes marketing opportunities. But the youth is where I see
it, to be honest, on balance. There's always different circumstances.
Q. Nelson, you had an interesting situation last year where you worked
with an absolutely green-as-grass rookie with Andrew Ranger. Talk about
the interplay you had with that Canadian.
NELSON PHILIPPE: Well, at the beginning of the year he was very hyped
up. I agree, he's a very good driver, but I think it all went to his
head very quickly in Toronto. From there, I don't know, he lost it. Once
I got the better hand on him, he started to be a very nice guy. All I
have to say is, you know, I would gladly see him back in Champ Car. He
was a good guy.
Q. A long time out of the car for you, Nelson. Do you feel you're
properly prepared coming into the season? Do you feel behind the eight
ball a little bit?
NELSON PHILIPPE: A little bit. I mean, I'm not the only driver in this
situation. To be honest with you, I've been working out and training
really like a madman. I may be three times as fit as he was last year at
my fittest. I'm ready to go. That's why we're going to be testing for
three days here in Sebring, just so I can get back up to speed.
I mean, some drivers are probably not going to have even one day under
their belt before Long Beach. I think the most important thing is to get
the dynamic within the team to just get the energy flowing right and it
will be okay. I'm definitely not scared. I'm just looking forward to
going. I know it's going to be a good year, so.
Q. Keith, are you going to be running one car in this test this week?
KEITH WIGGINS: That's an interesting question. We have two cars there.
We may well evaluate someone. That's just a decision we have to make.
Like everything in life, timing and planning, the best laid plans... We
chose to do this because we felt three days, the team has progressed, we
have some development that we never did anything last year. We have some
stuff that we want to progress. It's useful. That's the reason we chose
Sebring. We felt it's over four days, so it's two days with a gap, then
another day. We have the two cars down there. It seems a really good
opportunity obviously for another driver to run. Most of the costs are
incurred to do it.
We've been in negotiations. If you can't show your hand, you have to try
and finish negotiations before, not the other way around. If you get it
finished two days afterwards, then it's a shame that you've wasted the
opportunity to give the other driver some time in the car. We're sort of
evaluating that. A long-winded answer to your question is we'll probably
make that decision in the next day or so. There may well be two cars --
there will be two cars. We may run two drivers or we may just run
Q. Nelson, you said earlier "this year is a new me." What did you mean
by that exactly?
NELSON PHILIPPE: What I meant, I'm much more focused, much more ready. I
mean, sorry, but I'm ready to kick some ass. You know, all I have to say
is I made a lot of mistakes in my career. It's not the way a lot of
drivers would choose to have their young career. But, hey, that's the
way mine was.
Like Keith said, I swam and I came out of it. I've been recognized as a
fairly good driver, I guess. I mean, this year I just feel different in
the sense that I'm much more ready. I'm not ready to hang around mid
pack any more; I'm ready to fight for podiums every race.
Q. You also said you needed to prove some things to people. How do you
prove it to them and what do you need to prove?
NELSON PHILIPPE: Results, right? Results are the best thing to prove to
people, right? That's something that you'll see during the year. I don't
want to say anything right now because I don't, so that's it.
Q. You say you've been working out a lot. Have you done any karting or
anything of that type to get ready for the test this weekend or just
regular workout stuff?
NELSON PHILIPPE: I've been doing a lot of workout, cardio. The only
thing I drove since Mexico City, I drove a go-kart with my little
brother Richard. We both had the same go-kart last weekend. We went and
ran some laps. It was very interesting, very fun. Just wanted to get my
reflexes back a little bit.
We were close to the lap record at the track we went to. Doesn't seem
like I lost it. Actually, it feels like everything came back even better
than it was last year. I'm just ready. I've been doing a lot of
PlayStation also, Gran Turismo 4 is a great game with a steering wheel.
That's all I've been doing. But a lot of cardio. I really want to be in
tip-top shape for every race this year.
Q. Do you feel you were not in top shape in your first two years of
NELSON PHILIPPE: Not where I wanted to be. Definitely not. That's
something I learned. I definitely wasn't in a good enough shape to get
the results I wanted. This year I made sure that this is not going to
happen again. I mean, I'm ripped, I'm ready to go.
Q. Nelson, will you be bringing over the sponsor you had last year?
KEITH WIGGINS: Do you want me to answer that one? At this stage we're
hoping to -- we're putting together a sponsorship package, an overall
sponsor for CTE-HVM Racing. I think within a short period of time,
you'll see what goes on the cars. It will probably be mainly new stuff.
Q. Same sponsor for both cars, you're saying?
KEITH WIGGINS: Yes. That may vary a little bit between individuals
smaller. But on an overall program, yes, the plan will be that there
will be one main sponsor.
Q. Has there been any other changes to the team in terms of engineers or
any other personnel for this year going forward to improve the team?
KEITH WIGGINS: I don't think -- I may sound arrogant. It was a difficult
time, but I think the team was pretty resourceful and pretty capable.
There have been a couple of subtle personnel. All of the crew, all of
the key people stayed the same. We plan to keep the engineering the
same. Michael Cannon did leave us recently. We've hired another very
capable engineer to replace him. I'm not too worried.
The integrity, the group, the core, like everything, the team has gone
through a few changes. Hopefully no one really notices too much. A group
is bigger than individuals. Other than that, I think I can safely say
apart from maybe a truckie or one mechanic here or there, the whole
group will be back to fight another day.
Q. Nelson, we've made a lot about this swimming metaphor. As you look
back on it, would you do it again or maybe take another year or so of
training before you jumped into the major leagues of Champ Car?
NELSON PHILIPPE: There's many ways to look at that. I'm very proud of
myself in the sense that I had the balls to actually jump in the Champ
Car when I was 17, which took a lot of guts. But at the same time I look
at my brother, and he has the perfect career. I wish I could have that.
You know, I don't regret anything I've done. My brother's learning with
winning and I'm learning with a lot of mistakes I made. I'm very glad of
the route I took. Like I said, it took a lot of courage and a lot of
personality to make such a big jump so young. I know you're tired of the
swimming metaphors, but, listen, I did swim and I'm ready to do some
freestyle this year.
Q. Do you think it would have helped any to have maybe a veteran driver
like Bourdais, Tracy, Vasser?
NELSON PHILIPPE: Vasser, yes. A Tracy or a Bourdais, I don't think they
would help me. But a Vasser, yeah. To be honest with you, the fact that
I had to learn with no veteran driver, especially last year, it proves
that I really improved. I'm very proud of it because I improved by
myself. It's very rewarding.
Q. You must be proud of the fact that your peers voted you most improved
to show they recognized the work you're putting in?
NELSON PHILIPPE: Yes. Like I said, that was definitely a very nice thing
to have. Hopefully this year they think I'm most improved driver again
because I still want to go that much better. Hopefully I'll be most
improved driver again.
ERIC MAUK: That will bring an end to today's Champ Car media
teleconference. Again, congratulations to Keith Wiggins of HVM-CTE
Racing and his newest driver Nelson Philippe. We look forward to seeing
you at Sebring at the end of this week.
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