Q & A with IMS president Joie Chitwood
|Tuesday, July 17th 2007, 08:55 GMT|
Q & A with IMS President, Joie Chitwood
Q: Joie, can you talk about the length of the contract. Then if Gill can talk after you do about how long this thing can be here, because obviously that's a key to helping this thing grow.
Joie Chitwood: The initial term of the contract is a three-year contract. We feel pretty good about that. One of the things that we had dialogue about was Gill (Campbell, Laguna Seca CEO) and the event out there on the West Coast. I've been out there and visited, and really the energy and the passion for the sport out there really got me thinking about what could happen here.
And I think in terms of what they do on the West Coast, what a great thing for us to focus on the East Coast. You look at how many folks own motorcycles in America. To think that there's only two MotoGP events, when I think there probably could be many more than, it's pretty amazing.
So for us we hope to see it grow. We'll be talking about the future, for sure. It's going to be interesting to see that event next year, 100 years after the first one.
For a Monday afternoon at 3 o'clock, I sensed an energy that I'm not sure I was ready for. I'd like to see the race maybe this September. I think it's going to be a long time to wait. But I'm really excited by the reception so far.
Q: Mr. Chitwood, could you please discuss the construction that's going to take place in getting the track ready and the changes that are going to have to happen and maybe a timetable?
JC: As soon as possible. The minute our NASCAR event is done, we're going to start. And probably our biggest challenge is inside of Turn 1. For those of you who don't know, we do have a creek down there that we have to deal with and we have to get the appropriate permitting and all of those things to make the necessary changes. That will be the biggest addition that we have to make. Obviously, we already have some of the turns behind the Museum; we just have to, I guess, align them a little bit differently.
The challenge for us is then accommodating our other events as we roll into next year; weather this winter, and then in the spring how much we can get done prior to getting set for the Indy 500. We feel pretty good that we have an appropriate length of time to do it, although there are some other factors we'll worry about, weather and some of other things. But we've been under the gun before in some of our construction projects. We have a great staff here. We have a gentleman named Kevin Forbes, who is our director of engineering. I'm not sure many racetracks have their own engineer on staff. Whether it's our historian or engineer, we typically have all the right resources. But I can tell you the Monday after the Brickyard we'll be working pretty hard on getting it turned around.
Q: Do you have plans to have a test?
JC: Well, at this point that's going to be based on the construction schedule. Obviously, we'll be working with our partners at MotoGP to determine what's the next step and when the course is ready. I'm sure from the tire manufacturing component they'll want to get some testing in. But obviously we'll be working with MotoGP on the time needed for them to get out there and get prepared.
Q: Joie, would you comment, put a dollar figure on the construction for this new course. Then would you continue that into the economics of hosting a MotoGP event compared with a Formula One event.
JC: Well, obviously, the investment we're talking about is significant. We're talking millions of dollars to make the improvements to get the track ready for MotoGP. Really it doesn't make sense for me to compare the two. For us, it's about adding world-class events to our schedule, and we're excited that MotoGP is going to be on there. If it didn't make sense for us, then I'm not sure we'd entertain the conversations. We feel very comfortable that it's going to be good for MotoGP, good for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway financially as well as good for the City of Indianapolis. We think there's a whole other clientele on the east side of the United States that will come to Indianapolis to be exposed to motorcycle racing, the highest form of motorcycle racing.
So whether you're a fan of motorcycles or a fan of the Speedway, I think we'll have that unique content that makes us special. But at the end of the day it has to work financially not only for our partners with MotoGP but for ourselves, as well.
Q: Joie, why did you choose to or why did you need to revamp the infield course?
JC: Well, obviously not that I'm the safety expert. We have our friends with FIM here. But motorcycles have different needs than four wheels. And probably the biggest thing is the runoff area. Obviously, concrete walls are not a good thing for gentlemen on motorcycles. So the ability to switch the road course, run it the other way, creating an opportunity of better runoff and safety areas. Some of the things that we're putting in, when you looked at that diagram, you can see what we're doing in Turn 1 to make sure that they have the appropriate runoff.
One of the things we don't do here, we do not compromise safety. That is very important to us. We have a world-class racing property. We would never do anything that wasn't to the highest standard. Whether it was the first rear-view mirror ever used on an automobile was here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1911. To the use of helmets, to the creation of the SAFER Barrier, we want to make sure that the competitors enjoy their experience here and feel very comfortable racing to their fullest potential.
Q: Do you think this could possibly blossom into an Indianapolis bike week leading up to this?
JC: Well, one of the things I think that we're proud of is that usually the events of the Speedway transcend and bring more people to the community, and it's about what happens downtown and the other places around it. I'm sure that there's going to be other opportunities as it relates to motorcycles. Who knows what might happen at the Fairgrounds and other things around the event. So yeah, I think this is going to be more than just what happens at the Speedway.
Q: Joie, if F1 were to return at some point, is the existing course still going to be there, or will it run on the new course or a combination of the two?
JC: One of the things that we did moving forward is we -- I'm not sure if it might be the only time, but we had a joint FIM/FIA inspection. So any changes that are being made to the road course should Formula One ever return, we still could use those changes for Formula One.
Q: Joie, there appeared to be some sort of discussion over the exact date of this event. Would you talk about the choice of September 14th.
JC: Well, for us we have a fairly busy summer. And as we started discussing the opportunities with MotoGP, obviously we still had Formula One on our schedule. But also taking into account their schedule in terms of where they'd be around the world. We started looking at late August and September as opportunities. I think one of the things in September, while working with MotoGP, is a little bit on the earlier side. We've hosted events here in late September, and once in a while the weather doesn't cooperate. So all in all, I think that we've seen some very nice weather early September, and I think it will be a great opportunity for a number of folks to ride on down to Indianapolis and check it out.
Q: Joie, how big a crowd do you expect? Have you done any studies and projections or anything like that?
JC: I'm going to take a page out of the book of these two riders here, and I'm just going to tell you big!