Charles Zwolsman Mi-Jack
ERIC MAUK: Welcome, everyone, to today's Champ Car media
teleconference. This one promises to be one of the most interesting
we've ever done as we do not only not have a team owner today, we also
are missing the driver we are near to announce. Unfortunately, the
overnight snows in Indianapolis have caused a lot of travel problems for
those going west. Eric Bachelart of Mi-Jack Conquest Racing who was here
to announce his driver today got caught up in one of those airport
delays. He's on his way out to Los Angeles right now as his new Champ
Car Atlantic team is testing at Fontana. Unfortunately, the delay put
him in the air. We are not able to speak with him. His driver is in a
similar situation. We are unable to find him at the moment.
We do have very competent and qualified stand-ins as we take the time
today to make the announcement that Mi-Jack Conquest Racing will be
fielding a car in the 2006 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World
Series Powered by Ford, for 2005 Champ Car Atlantic champion Charles
Zwolsman. This will be Charles' debut season in the Champ Car World
Series. As many of you may remember, he ran in the season finale last
year at Mexico City, finishing 13th.
I'll turn things over to Mike Lanigan, one of the other co-owners of the
Mi-Jack Conquest Racing, as well as a man bringing us a brand new Champ
Car event in Houston, as well as taking over the event in Cleveland.
First of all, Mike, a good positive move for your team. Let's talk about
what interests you about Charles Zwolsman.
MIKE LANIGAN: We are very excited about having Charles on board. Being
the Atlantic champion, of course, there's a lot of great champions that
came from that series, Bobby Rahal, Jimmy Vasser. We're real excited
about having this car with Charles. Of course, he did a great job in
Europe at some of the other formula races. We're looking forward to
having a great year.
ERIC MAUK: Charles will be the first Champ Car Atlantic champion to move
directly into Champ Cars since AJ Allmendinger did it two years ago. We
are also talking with Chris Mower, the team manager of Mi-Jack Conquest
Racing. Chris, tell us about what went into the choice of Charles
Zwolsman to drive one of your Champ Cars next year.
CHRIS MOWER: Thank you very much, Eric. To start off with, I think most
people would agree that last year Charles wasn't one of the favorites to
come through and win the championship in the Atlantic Series. I think
that just shows what he accomplished and what he was up against. A lot
of the teams and a lot of drivers he was competing against were
extremely experienced and he came through on top.
I think the biggest surprise and the biggest eye opener was the very
first race in Long Beach where he had to start at the back, and he drove
all the way through and finished third. That to me shows someone -- the
reason why he was starting at the back was there was a technical
infringement. Even though the odds were stacked against him, he didn't
give up. He drove his heart out and ended up finishing on the podium.
That for us is extremely important, having someone with that much
Also we have tested him a couple of days over the off-season. We were
very impressed with his feedback. We're very impressed with his speed. I
think he will be a very good fit to the team. We do tend to run rookies
quite a lot. I think that is because we are well geared up for that. We
have a lot of our engineers, a lot of our crew, they do get a lot of
enjoyment out of bringing those drivers along, which the drivers that
are rookies to the series. I think it will be a good fit.
ERIC MAUK: Mi-Jack Conquest Racing is a team, as Chris said, that has
done well with the rookies. They fielded Justin Wilson two years ago in
their debut season in the Champ Cars. He finished second in the
Rookie-of-the-Year standings. Last year Andrew Ranger was your rookie,
finishing second at Monterrey in his second Champ Car race, making him
the youngest driver to stand on the Champ Car podium.
The other thing about Charles, those of you not familiar with the story,
he showed up at Long Beach last year not knowing if he even had a car
for the next round of the series. They kind of showed up thinking it
might be a one-off. He gets a technical violation, as Chris alluded to,
starts in the rear, then comes through the field on a very tight Long
Beach street track and finishes third. Very impressive. Paved the way
for the championship, paid the way for his ascendance to the Champ Car
I'd like to throw some things open to the media now. We are speaking
with Mike Lanigan, one of the co-owners of Mi-Jack Conquest Racing, and
Chris Mower, team manager.
Q. Mike, Eric mentioned our boy, Mr. Ranger. Could you tell me, are you
in talks with him right now and his agent about the second ride at
MIKE LANIGAN: Yes, we are talking to him. He's one of a couple drivers
we're talking to. We're pretty optimistic that we will definitely have a
second car at Long Beach, but we haven't finalized the negotiations yet.
We would certainly love to have the opportunity to have Andrew back.
Q. Could you tell me whether the talks are close or a week away, two
MIKE LANIGAN: I would suspect we'll have an announcement within the next
Q. Regarding Andrew Ranger, I think, Chris, you alluded to the fact that
your team has worked with rookies. At the same time I guess there's some
importance in having the continuity from one season to the next with a
driver so that he'll be able to provide Charles with the data from last
year. Therefore, having already lost Nelson, would it be important you
do sign Andrew Ranger so that he can give some data information to
CHRIS MOWER: Well, like Mike says, we would very much like to run Andrew
again. It would be a good fit. Obviously, Andrew has come from the same
background as Charles. He would know what Charles would find the most
difficult in his transition to Champ Car. I'm sure he would help him
Like you said, we do have data from the tracks that we raced at last
year with Andrew. We've also spent a lot of development time over the
winter improving the car. We think we've made good strides there. I
would very much like to have Andrew in the car when we have our test in
Fontana here in a week and a half or so. But, like Mike says, we have to
wait. We're talking to a couple of drivers. We have to wait and see
exactly who it is that is going to come out on top for that. In answer
to your question, it would be a good fit.
Q. The situation with Andrew, is it a case of him coming up with the
necessary sponsorship funds?
CHRIS MOWER: I honestly can't say. I don't know. I leave that to Mike
and Eric to discuss. I'm more worried about the performance and the crew
and that type of thing. I know that we're ready. It's just a case of
whoever it's going to be putting them in the car and let them go.
Q. Mike, is it money we're talking about that's preventing you from
MIKE LANIGAN: It's not just money, but obviously the economics is one of
the priorities at the top. Andrew last year did bring Tide to the table
and we appreciate that. It is a combination of negotiating with the
agent that Andrew has and also the commitment from the various two or
three drivers who we think will be the best fit for us in '06 with
Charles. Like Chris had mentioned, I love this kid. This kid has got a
lot of talent. Andrew has a lot of talent. He's shown that he can go
fast. Hopefully we can work something out with Andrew.
Q. I'm wondering if this team is pretty much intact in terms of crew.
Chris, what have you found over the winter?
CHRIS MOWER: Technically you mean?
MIKE LANIGAN: Speed, speed (laughter).
CHRIS MOWER: For obvious reasons, I can't say exactly. There was an area
of development that we were concentrating on, an area that we felt we
may have been lacking in a bit last year. Through the work of our
engineers and the testing we did over the winter, like I said, we made
good strides on it.
The feedback that we had from all the drivers we tested it with was
positive. Obviously, when we do this, we don't just put it on and go by
what the math and the spreadsheets are telling us, we also go very much
by the driver feedback. Each one we tried it on said it was a
significant improvement, and that backed up the results we were getting
elsewhere. Like I say, we're optimistic for what we've done over the
MIKE LANIGAN: To add what Chris had said, we do have the team intact.
Our two team engineers are still with us. We have spent a lot of time
and energy in developing these cars to be more competitive this year and
to give our drivers the best car possible. Not to speak for Chris, but I
believe we have pretty much the whole team, both teams, that we worked
over the winter pretty much probably 90 or 95% intact.
Q. That continuity really helps.
MIKE LANIGAN: It does.
CHRIS MOWER: It helps not only with the crew, it helps with the drivers,
it helps with everything. That's one thing that luckily both Eric and
Mike believe in, which makes my job a lot easier. You don't have to
retrain people each year to try to do things your way. If you can keep
the whole team together, it just runs a lot smoother.
Q. Which is why it might be nice to have continuity with the Canadian
driver that all the Canadian journalists are bugging you about.
MIKE LANIGAN: We love the Canadians (laughter).
Q. Chris, we spoke yesterday to Mr. Wiggins. His preference was to work
with young drivers as opposed to going after the old veteran. Why do you
prefer to work with young drivers?
CHRIS MOWER: Well, like everything, it's got its pros and cons. A
definite pro is that when you do get these drivers, they're like a
sponge. They're willing to absorb anything you can teach them. They
don't have any bad habits as far as maybe ways that they were driving a
Champ Car say five or six or seven years ago when they were quite a lot
different. Just because it worked back then doesn't mean that it will
Because these drivers are coming in with a clean sheet, so to speak, it
does allow you to mould them a bit more into the way you would like them
to be and the way that you would like them to react to certain problems
and so on and so forth.
As long as you can prove to them that what you're telling them to do is
going to make them go quicker, they'll do it. Whereas if you have a
veteran, so to speak, sometimes it's a lot more difficult to make them
believe or even try what you're suggesting to them.
Q. Mike, is it an odd situation and maybe even potentially a distracting
situation putting together a team this year knowing this is the last
year for the current equipment and you're going to a new car and new
engine situation next year? Is that an odd situation for a team co-owner
MIKE LANIGAN: Well, certainly it makes it more challenging, that's for
sure. There's certainly a lot of talk of new drivers and teams coming in
when the new equipment arrives hopefully late this year. The nice thing
about having the "last couple years equipment" is that we understand it
better, we know what it can do, what it can't do, and we can work from
That kind of gives us a little bit of an advantage being a smaller team.
We're not one of the huge budget teams, but we think we get a lot out of
what we can spend here. We're not all that disappointed with it, in all
ERIC MAUK: Charles, are you with us?
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: Sorry for the delay, people. I had a little bit of a
delay over here.
ERIC MAUK: Quite all right. First of all, tell us a little bit about how
you feel today being announced as a driver in the Champ Car World
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: I feel great. I had a good feeling about it all
winter, but it took a little time for it to get into fruition. I'm
really happy to have signed a deal right now.
ERIC MAUK: You ran last year at Mexico City with us after the Atlantic
season was over, got your feet wet, had a decent weekend. Do you feel
better going into this year having that race? Did that help you a good
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: I think definitely knowing about how the weekend
unwraps itself is going to help me in the first few weekends. I know
what is expected of a driver in a Champ Car race weekend. I think that's
Q. Charles, what do you think you can realistically expect this season?
Do you think you're going to be battling for wins, get some miles under
your belt, Rookie-of-the-Year? What are your goals for '06?
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: I think it's pretty difficult to say since I haven't
been in a race car for three months now. I think in the start, it will
be difficult but I'll grow into it. I have a really good feeling about
the team, about our work together. I do feel they have a good technical
I think after a few races we will look forward. Top 10 finishes are
always good, but I hope to sometime in the year make a really good
Q. Do you think your running in the series last year is going to help
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: As I said, it's going to help me in the way that I
know what is done in the weekend, how everything is arranged. As far as
driving the car, I haven't been driving for three months so I have to
just get into the rhythm again. I'll roll into it. The results will be
better after a few races, I think.
Q. Charles, have you been working specifically with Eric to get this
thing put together or had you been working with other teams? Were they
your primary objective?
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: We did have contact with other teams, but from the
beginning when I tested with them, I had a good feeling about it.
Finally, the team was always in the back of my mind as a team I would
like to drive for. In the end, I got to sign with them so I'm very happy
Q. Your first test will be out at California Speedway or are you going
to Sebring this week?
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: We'll be going to Fontana the 29th and the 30th.
Q. You were listed as possibly with Team Australia. Maybe you could
explain what happened there.
CHARLES ZWOLSMAN: Nothing really happened. No, it's just there were a
number of teams which were also interested. Obviously, we also looked
into those options. In the end I felt Mi-Jack had the best package
maybe. We'll see how it unveils in the rest of the season, but I feel
really good about joining the team.
ERIC MAUK: That will bring an end to today's media teleconference.
Congratulations to Mi-Jack Conquest Racing. We look forward to see you
in Fontana next week.
The Champ Car World Series, some of the teams will be testing down here
in Sebring, Florida, this week. We'll get testing reports out to you
both tomorrow and Thursday, as we draw closer to the season-opening
Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach April 7 through 9, the lid-lifter for
the 2006 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford
season. Thank you again for joining us and have a good day.
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