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Q&A: Paul Stoddart - EXCLUSIVE

23 May 2007

by Russell Atkins

After getting his fingers burned in the furnace that is Formula 1, Minardi owner Paul Stoddart has taken his squad over to the Champ Car World Series in a tie-up with the former CTE-HVM outfit in 2007 – with a considerable degree of success.

Having registered two rostrum finishes from the opening three meetings, Minardi Team USA ace and series rookie Robert Doornbos currently sits an impressive third in the overall drivers' standings, to the evident delight of his team boss. Here straight-talking Aussie Stoddart took some time out of his appearance at the inaugural GPlive nostalgic celebration at Donington Park last weekend to talk us through his season so far, and why he believes the best is yet to come…

Q:
Paul, first of all how did you enjoy GPlive?

Paul Stoddart:
The rain held off, which was the main thing. It was certainly a bit windy but not wet. It was good fun.

Q:
The event reunited some old drivers with their former cars. What was the atmosphere like?

PS:
It was pretty good. There were people like Mario Andretti and Stirling Moss wandering around, and there were some pretty interesting cars out on the track. It was great to give people the chance to come along and have a look.

Q:
Being called GPlive, the main focus was obviously on Formula 1, but you're more interested and involved in Champ Cars these days. How are things going for you so far in 2007?

PS:
Pretty good; it's the first time we've seen a Minardi on the podium in two out of three races. You couldn't ask for a better start, and of course even more dear to my own heart is the fact we have the Formula 1 two-seater running at the US events, which the American crowds have been really pleased by. It's a win-win situation.

Q:
How much of a draw is it do you think, having the two-seater there?

PS:
When we start those engines up and they hear the Formula 1 noise it certainly gets people's attention. The crowds seem to love it, and the feedback we've had has been fantastic. Obviously for the passengers who get to ride around the streets of Vegas or Long Beach or wherever, it doesn't get much better than that. It's really working and I'm very happy with it at the moment.

Q:
Those tracks you mention are both American circuits, but you have also just been on a European tour to promote the forthcoming European events. How did that go?

PS:
It was absolutely standing room only in Holland! I think we are going to have two really good events. With the way it is at the moment, people who want to buy tickets had better buy them soon, because the Dutch do love their motor racing and having two races in Europe one week after the other means we are going to see some pretty serious crowds. Obviously from my own personal point-of-view we've had a third and a second now, so the next thing we are aiming for is a win, and wouldn't it be great if Robert Doornbos could win in Holland?

Q:
How much more popular do you think Robert has made Champ Car racing in Holland now?

PS:
The Dutch obviously love their motorsport, but you have to go back to 1994 and Jos Verstappen in the Benetton to find a Dutch driver at world championship level actually getting podiums. I think looking at the crowd cheering Robert on and the people coming onto the website, Robert's success has raised the profile quite a bit. The Dutch love a hero – especially a Dutch hero – and now they have one in Robert, who is actually a contender for race wins.

Q:
The official title of the championship is the Champ Car World Series, but until now it has been predominantly North American-based. How important is it to spread the series across Europe?

PS:
It's very important, and not only in Europe. To be called a world series, you have to be competing in all the major markets in the world. Champ Cars race in China, they have very well-supported events in Australia and Mexico, there are a lot of Canadian rounds coming up too and now two in Europe. Hopefully we will have three or four in Europe in the next couple of years; certainly we are looking at running a third one next year. We have a lot of European drivers taking part too. I think we are going to see the Champ Car World Series as exactly what it says – a worldwide, global series that's gaining in popularity.

Q:
So it's onwards and upwards from here?

PS:
I think so. There's always room for improvement and the management know that, but they are serious about looking at things they can improve. I think we will see year-on-year growth, which is all we can expect.


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