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Q&A: Steve Johnson (CCWS CEO) - EXCLUSIVE.

We're always open, but we didn't have a promoter step up this year. It's open for future expansion, for sure, and, if the right promoter steps forward with the right partners, sponsorship, that sort of thing, we'd love to come back. It would make perfect sense for the series.

Q:
What can the European fans expect from the Champ Car World Series when it comes over to Holland and Belgium this summer?

SJ:
I think they can expect great side-by-side racing and a lot of overtaking. We're a drivers' series and it's about the drivers, not the technology or who spends the most wins. So you're going to see a lot of overtaking, a lot of close racing, a lot of excitement - things that have already been proven in the first three races this year.

Q:
Can we expect the whole festival atmosphere that you promote in the US?

SJ:
You can, but maybe not to the extent that we get in the US because a lot of what we do is take the event to the downtown area. In Las Vegas, Long Beach, Houston, we put these festivals on with the promoters and, really, that is more of a North American model. But the promoters over here have been to those first three races and have seen it, and understand it, so I think you'll see different pieces of that filtering in to our European races. It's no longer about coming here, putting a race on and going home. We've got to connect to all the fans - we've got to connect to the avid race fan by providing great racing, and we've got to connect to those kids who might not understand what is going on on the track, but see BMX bikes on display, go-karts on display, a concert going on, interactive things that they can do... We need to connect with everybody when we come here.


You pride yourself on Champ Car being a drivers' series rather than a technology series, but what impact has the new Panoz chassis had on Champ Car?

SJ:
I think we're only now being able to see the impact. It's a very cost-controlled model that we've put together. [The car] is built to our spec, we didn't just buy a chassis that was delivered to us. We designed the specs for the chassis; we own Cosworth, we own PI Research, so we control the electronics and the engine as well, and we can have a controlled model out there. Nobody gets 'better' engines, it's controlled, we're in charge of that, so we can guarantee a really competitive series.

Q:
There were some teething troubles in pre-season testing and, to some extent, in the first three races - can we expect to see those eradicated in Portland?

SJ:
Yes. I don't like having a gap in my schedule [like the six weeks between Houston and Portland] but, in this case, it may have been a blessing for us. They've identified all the niggling issues with the car, and they've got fixes that will be done by Portland, so I don't see any problems. We've had very few problems - and none that have kept the cars from racing - but we've had some annoying things that have gone on. But that's to be expected with a new car.

Q:
You talk about going to Europe and China as part of making Champ Car more international, but are you disappointed that there are not more American drivers in the series?

SJ:
You know what, I'm not disappointed. There's obviously room for growth in that area, but it's the nature of how it is. A lot of American guys want to go race ovals and stock cars now. If you look at our Atlantic series, however, there are a lot of Americans in that, we've got 30 cars on the grid, and, if you look at karting in the US, it's probably at an all-time high right now, so I think the pieces are in place to get those great American drivers coming up again. But I don't buy [the belief] that you can't take a European driver and make him a hero in the US. I know a lot of Americans where, no matter what you do, you can't make them a hero - they have about as much personality as a piece of cardboard - but, if you can take a guy whose got personality, charisma, is a little bit controversial, you can make a hero out of anybody. The goal was to build our stars into heroes.

Q:
What has been the impact of having someone like Katherine Legge in the series, bringing a little diversity?

SJ:
It's been good having Katherine. We need more Katherines, there's no doubt. I think Katherine has opened people's eyes. It's a lot harder to come out here and race one of these cars that it is to go flat-out around an oval - anybody can do that, but our car takes great physical strain to move around. These guys can lose anything from 8-15 pounds every race, they're pretty much worn out by the end, so they've got to be in top shape, and Katherine has shown that a woman can compete in Champ Car.

Q:


Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
ChampCar World Series. 20-22 April 2007. Grand Prix of Houston. Reliant Park. Houston, Texas. Start of Houton Grand Prix.
Champ Car  19-21 May 2003. Tecate Grand Prix of Monterrey. Monterrey, Mexico. Steve Johnson and Kevin Kalkhoven.
Roberto Moreno puts the new Panoz DP01 Champ Car through its paces at Sebring
Buddy Lazier - Hemelgarn Johnson   [pic credit: IRL/Payne]
Buddy Lazier - Hemelgarn Johnson   [pic credit: IRL/Garrett]
24-26 August 2007, Heusden-Zolder, Belgium
Robert Doornbos.
24-26 August 2007, Heusden-Zolder, Belgium
Bruno Junqueira.
24-26 August 2007, Heusden-Zolder, BelgiumSebastien Bourdais with Mike Lannigan, Bruno Junqueira and Graham Rahal.
24-26 August 2007, Heusden-Zolder, Belgium
Race podium (L-R): Bruno Junqueira (2nd), Sebastien Bourdais (Winner) and Graham Rahal (3rd).
24-26 August 2007, Heusden-Zolder, Belgium
Race podium (L-R): Bruno Junqueira (2nd), Sebastien Bourdais (Winner) and Graham Rahal (3rd).
24-26 August 2007, Heusden-Zolder, Belgium
Sebastien Bourdais leads.
24-26 August 2007, Heusden-Zolder, BelgiumBourdais leads from Doornbos and Power.
24-26 August 2007, Heusden-Zolder, BelgiumSebastien Bourdais.
24-26 August 2007, Heusden-Zolder, Belgium
Sebastien Bourdais.
24-26 August 2007, Heusden-Zolder, BelgiumRace action.
24-26 August 2007, Heusden-Zolder, BelgiumKatherine Legge.
24-26 August 2007, Heusden-Zolder, BelgiumSebastien Bourdais and Graham Rahal.
24-26 August 2007, Heusden-Zolder, Belgium
Jan Heylen.

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