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Q&A: Paul Stoddart - EXCLUSIVE.

Paul Stoddart's arrival in the Champ Car World Series attracted much hype following his years in Formula One, but the out-spoken Aussie has quietly got on with building a front-running team to carry the famous Minardi moniker.

Crash.net caught up with 'Stoddy' during the recent European Tour to promote Champ Car's events in Holland and Belgium, and he spoke candidly about both the return to motorsport's 'home' continent and the progress Minardi Team USA has made in its first season.

Q:
The first question has to be 'why Champ Car'? You were in Formula One, you got out of Formula One - couldn't you just have put your feet up and retired?

Paul Stoddart:
I don't think I was ready for retirement quite yet! I think I got out of formula one at the right time. I'd gone up against [FIA president Max] Mosley and failed, and the right thing to do was leave. I think I left holding my head high, but I wasn't finished with racing, and obviously we had kept the F1 two-seaters, which are now very much a part of the Champ Car weekend, so it was unfinished business. I had meetings last year with Kevin Kalkhoven and he convinced me to come and have a look at a few races. He did say that it was all the things I wanted in Formula One, in terms of having an event that is fan-friendly, and it really is. Certainly, there is no doubt that we pull in crowds who are enthusiastic about their racing, and that we thoroughly, thoroughly entertain them over a three-day festival of speed. And to top all of that off, what a fantastic feeling to have a Minardi on the podium in two of the first three races.

Q:
What differences have you found running a team in Champ Car to your days in F1?

PS:
Firstly, the money. I can run a two-car team that is successful and capable of winning races for $10million - and that would not have gone very far in F1 terms, although we probably managed to get the best value for dollars spent. It's just that, in Champ Car, we can do it much better. that's obviously the biggest thing. The second thing is that there is a 'can do' attitude where, if you come across a problem, we can find a way through it. [Champ Car] isn't rife with all the politics that sometimes stifled good decisions in F1.

Q:
What was the decision to come in with an existing team like HVM instead of bringing Minardi in as its own entity?

PS:
Mainly because of the geographical location. Obviously, the team is based in Indianapolis, where most of the teams are based. Why HVM? Well, Keith Wiggins - another F1 'refugee' for want of a better word - is a guy I get on with fantastically well. We just hit it off straight away. And, of the races I went to, HVM was a winner in one of them, in my home country of Australia as it happened. That took my attention. I wanted a race-winning team, a team that was capable. Minardi is not there to make up the numbers, we want to actually do something - as you have seen from the first three races. So I wanted a team that would go forward, and I wanted a team where it was feasible that I could integrate my F1 guys with their Champ Car guys, and that has really thoroughly worked. We all work out of the same factory on Gasoline Avenue [sic], the factory lent itself to us coming in as there was a big vacant area that we could move into and customise for the F1 build shop, so it has just really worked. It'd be a very good marriage.

Q:
You were linked to a number of drivers once you were announced as coming in to Champ Car, so how did you eventually decide on Dan Clarke and Robert Doornbos?

PS:
I think I'd decided, it's just you guys didn't know to be honest! Robert was always there, it was just some contractual things with Red Bull to negotiate, but I probably knew about Robert before I even bought the team, if I'm really honest. As far as Dan is concerned, I wanted to bring forward somebody [with experience] - I didn't want to go in with two rookies. Obviously, Robert has shown what a rookie can do, but I wanted to be serious about the racing and make sure that we had a good mix of drivers, and the ideal world for me was to either have Dan or at least another guy [with experience]. Dan was obviously coming off his rookie year, but I wanted someone coming forward with a good background who would share that information with Robert to make the team stronger. It was pretty close but, in the end, Dan got it.

Q:
At the same time, there was talk of a third car - what happened to that?

PS:
There was no funding, to be honest. Two cars was enough, we had a fully-funded budget for the year to do two cars properly rather than struggle to do three. Had there been another driver with a budget come along... there's no doubt that we were talking to Nelson Philippe - he was one of our preferred drivers as well, having driven for the team last year and having a race victory under his belt - and, if he had come with a full budget, possibly we would have run with a third car. If we had had any quality driver come to us with a full budget, we would have run a third car - and still will.

Q:
Three races into the season and two podiums for Minardi, but does it surprise you that it was Robert and not Dan up there?

PS:


Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Paul Stoddart (AUS) Australian Formula One Grand Prix, 01-02/04/06, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia
08.09.2006 Monza, Italy, Paul Stoddart (AUS) Ex Minardi team owner- Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 15, Italian Grand Prix, Friday
Robert Doornbos - Minardi Team USA Panoz-Cosworth DP01   [pic courtesy Champ Car World Series]
Ernesto Viso - Minardi Team USA
Ernesto Viso and Minardi engineer
Ernesto Viso - Minardi Team USA
Ernesto Viso - Minardi Team USA
Ernesto Viso - Minardi Team USA
Ernesto Viso - Minardi Team USA
Ernesto Viso (Minardi Team USA) followed by Bruno Junqueira (Dale Coyne Racing)
Ernesto Viso - Minardi Team USA
Ernesto Viso - Minardi Team USA
Ernesto Viso with team boss Keith Wiggins during testing with Minardi Team USA
Ernesto Viso during testing with Minardi Team USA
Ernesto Viso during testing with Minardi Team USA
Ernesto Viso during testing with Minardi Team USA
Ernesto Viso during testing with Minardi Team USA
Ernesto Viso during testing with Minardi Team USA

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