The developments in the ongoing CART-OWRS merger/buyout were watched with interest by single-seater fans around the world, before the news this week that CART had agreed to sell its assets to the OWRS consortium headed by team owners Paul Gentilozzi, Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe, before filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

What follows is the transcript of the press conference called to announce and explain the proceedings.

Q:
I wonder if you guys could talk a little bit about the branding and the title. Will the CART name continue or has that gone away? Will the Champ Car name continue, will the Champ Car World Series name continue?

PG:
There are three of us to vote on that and, in all honesty, in all the business that we've done so far, we've had small discussions about the brand. It was talked about in philosophy about what we want to call it. I think that it's a safe assumption that our plan at this point is to call it the Champ Car World Series.

I for one, just as an individual, having been around the series for so long, I understand the acronym CART, but I'm not sure that the general public really understands. When I get that occasional afternoon once a year, when I get to go to the country club and I'm standing on the tee, my friends say 'aren't you into cars, what do you race?'. If you aren't clear in your definition, there isn't a great understanding so we're setting the brand issue. We want to pick something that has history and, certainly, Champ Car has great history. That's what open-wheel racing was for decades in this country, so we want to understand what the fans will accept and appreciate and what helps us communicate what we do. But, at this point, I believe that we are going to go with the Champ Car World Series.

KK:
I concur with Paul on that. We recognise the legacy of Champ Car. I think the CART name is probably inappropriate right now.

Q:
Will Bridgestone and Ford continue on next year in the same role that they had this year?

PG:
Yes.

Q:
On the schedule, is there any chance of putting anything else up front, or is it pretty much set that you are going to open the year at Long Beach?

PG:
I think that it's a safe assumption that we are going to open the year at Long Beach. We've looked at other races that could be available to us the first of April, but Long Beach is a premiere event. It's really the Kentucky Derby of grand prix racing anywhere in the US and we're honoured to be able to do that.

We want to spool up or make more important, the notoriety of the series. We'll have a couple of great test session where we'll do a little television coverage in an effort to get the general public interested. We want to show the people side, we think that it will be a year of great conflict with great competition on the race track. Paul Tracy, our 2003 champion, has a great spirit and personality and there's a few guys in the series that want to diminish his notoriety. We're going to try and make the public aware of that and we're going to start the season in Long Beach, that's our plan.

Q:
Are either of you gentlemen going to be attending the court proceedings here in Indianapolis, or is that part of it pretty much in the hands of the attorneys now?

KK:
That's pretty much in the hands of the interim CEO Dick Eidswick. Our job at this moment is planning the 2004 series and we're looking forward to getting all the details wrapped up.

PG:
I think it's safe to say that courthouses are like dentist offices. You have to go once in a while, but you really don't like it.

Q:
Why is Gerald Forsythe not involved today in this teleconference?

KK:
First of all, let me just assure you that Gerry has been a very active participant in the whole process and has been firmly committed. He's the guy that has probably committed more money to the series than any other single human being. He is absolutely been part of everything that we've done. It just so happens that he was doing something else today and we decided that we had to try and communicate to you guys as quickly as possible and he was gracious enough to consent to allow us to get on with it.

Q:
When this is done, will there be anything for the stockholders? Also, what can you tell us about your interim CEO?

KK:
The answer is, we believe so, but this is really a question that you'd have to ask the board of Champ Car. Remember, the public company is Champ Car, which is the Delaware Corporation, and we're working with the assets of CART, which is a Michigan Corporation. Our interim CEO is an interim CEO of CART, not of Champ Car, so Dick Eidswick was brought on because we decided we needed someone with significant experience in running public companies and also someone with a financial
background. He was chairman of the Michigan Venture Capital Association, has been CFO of a public corporation and CEO of two public corporations. We were very grateful to get Dick enrolled in this and he is the interim CEO, we will see what happens afterwards.

Q:
I'm sure it must be exciting to be in a position where you can actually answer questions. Can you try and talk about the package that you expect to present in 2004 and going forward. There are a lot of elements with it in addition to the Champ Cars. Obviously there's the tie-in with the Trans-Am Series and there was also talk about negotiations with Formula BMW. I assume Toyota Atlantic continues to be part of it and, lest we forget, MotoRock. How do all of those fit into the programme?

PG:
One of the things that we realise internally is that motorsports needs to be an entertainment venue that provides a package of entertainment with continuity. When you have continuity you control the quality of the product and race fans come to the track and pay varying amounts, but it's generally more than the amount of a theatre ticket. They come for the day, they bring their family and they want to be entertained. And they wanted to be entertained by a product that they perceive as being important or valuable.

So, in integrating, we have, of course, the big show with the Champ Car World Series, and then we have two series that have long national and international histories with what are currently called the Trans-Am and Toyota Atlantic Series. They've competed on somewhat of an equal level for notoriety and exposure in recent years.

The Trans-Am Series, of course, is the oldest road racing series to be run on a continuous basis anywhere in the world, and I'm proud to have had an involvement with that but, as we look forward, we knew we needed production-based cars, so that we had a significant amount of brand in there for people to be attracted to. There are days when people want to come and cheer for Mustang, Corvette, Jaguar, BMW or Audi. They're fans of that and we see that in all forms of motorsports. So having products that were without that branding, we thought, was deficient.

The Formula BMW people have been very patient in allowing us to get this deal done. We know that the right place to have this wonderful beginner series, to have it exposed on the North American continent, was with the Champ Car Series. We'll finish those negotiations in the next few days and we hope to include the Formula BMW, which is very successful in England and Asia.

We're trying to find the right other, and I'll use the word 'tin top', support series that can bring another brand with its street cars into the weekend. We've used the analogy of the Toyota Celebrity Race in Long Beach. We have a class of 'World Challenge' kind of cars that has perhaps 14 or 16 drivers that come to compete and then another four to six celebrities that can attract attention to the event. I think, every year, the Celebrity race is exciting and fun and we enjoy the competition between the pros, celebrities who think they're pros and good sportsman drivers from around the country.

So we need a mix, we need a production-based series, we need a beginning open-wheel series, we need Atlantic - which is a great place to be for drivers that want to make a career and for drivers that want to move on. Ryan Hunter-Reay came from Atlantic and won his first race in his rookie year, the youngest American to ever win a Champ Car race. Then we'll move to the Trans-Am Series, which will bring multiple brands and factory hot rods and has been successful everywhere its been and then we'll move to the Champ Car World Series.

Q:
And the MotoRock element of it?

PG:
On MotoRock, we'll be able to do some media clarification here in the next few days. I think we saw proof-of-concept in the Miami event where we had Kid Rock and Elton John. We learned a lot, we were not necessarily clear, because we didn't have a great understanding of that industry, but we knew that there was an idea there that was exciting to fans and to sponsors and we've seen huge excitement there. We've restructured that, we will continue with the MotoRock name in a newly-structured business. We're meeting with a series of potential partners that have great experience in the music business that can bring expertise that we don't have.
MotoRock will continue to play a part and the attention to young people will continue to play a part. I'd be a little malignant here if I didn't talk about the drifting thing. We've had great discussions with two of the drifting series and I think with some certainty, you'll see some drifting at several Champ Car events in 2004.

Q:
Can you give us an update on the status of a race in Las Vegas?

PG:
That was a highly-discussed topic and there was as much misinformation surrounding this topic as anything. We're committed - Kevin and I and Gerry - to racing in Las Vegas. We think that it's a venue that is valuable to us and that can provide huge marketing opportunities as we go forward. So I think with every safe assumption, we can tell you that we are going to be there.

Of course the next question always is 'where are you going to be?' and I can't tell you today. We know we haven't committed yet. In the next two weeks I'll be back in Las Vegas to make some final decisions about where we're going to race and on what kind of track. The open discussion is, quite honestly, whether we go to Las Vegas Motor Speedway which has had some difficulty promoting open-wheel racing? It's a city full of conflicts so if you're not in front of it, sometimes it is difficult to get people to come out to the speedway. We're convinced that with a joint effort there, we can change that. But we are also investigating doing an event in conjunction with a major casino in a facility adjacent to the Strip.

Q:
Is that still possible for '04?

PG:
Yes, what it will require is a change of timing in the proposed event. There is a good possibility that you will see Las Vegas move off of that May date, certainly we have two wonderful opportunities to end our season, one would be Las Vegas, the other would be Mexico City. We've had a lot of discussions about ending our year and completing our championship in one of those two cities.

Q:
Are you planning on keeping headquarters in Indy or could that move to Las Vegas?

PG:
There was discussion about that and, at this point, we have decided for '04 that we are going to stay in Indianapolis. We have a commitment to our potential employees and so, for now, we are there.

 

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