So I'm not here to argue the financial situation because the overall figure is a big nut to swallow, but when you put it in perspective, it's not big a deal. There are other reasons – they want to delay the aero kits. And depending on who you talk to, a lot of those reasons are different. So rather than listen to these opposing opinions, over and over, we need to just move on our way. Let's be honest, any time we make significant changes such as developing new engines, new chassis and aero kits all at the same time is a boatload of work.
R: If the IZOD IndyCar Series does stick to the plan of introducing them at Indy in 2012, do you think all the current team owners will turn up, or will there be casualties?
TC: Oh, I don't think it's the difference between them showing up or not. Whether they buy a manufacturer's aero kit or not is their own decision. Nobody has to build them, nobody has to buy them. It's optional: no one's forcing anything down the team owners' throats. If you're happy to run with the Dallara because you think Dallara has done a good job and can't be bettered, then perfect. Stick to it. I think the whole thing has been blown up more than it needs to be and at the end of the day, it comes down to IndyCar making a decision and moving on – and allowing us all to move on.
R: If the kits do get delayed until 2013, then there could be arguments either that a) Dallara has an advantage because they've had a year (2012) of running their kit in competition and can work the bugs out for 2013, or b) if their design is frozen, then Dallara is at a disadvantage in 2013 because Chevy, Honda or whoever else has developed behind closed doors for a year while simultaneously seeing and hearing about the strengths and weaknesses of the Dallara kit and then improving on them. How do you achieve a situation where there's parity of opportunity? Or will you allow Dallara to tweak their design before they come up against the opposition?
TC: I think it's essential that Dallara get that chance. Look, it's in the teams' interests that the Dallara kit is good, for the reason I've said before – so if one of the new manufacturers makes a mistake, the teams have a good kit to fall back on. The issue is, will anyone make a mistake? They're going to get all the basic vehicle information, they'll get the CAD interfaces so the points at which you attach your bodywork, there'll be certain components like the underwing and the front and rear main planes that don't change, so you go and build your aero kit around that. You can have a Dallara kit and one other and you can run all you want right up to qualifying at Indianapolis, and once you've qualified, that's what you race. You can go back and forth up until then. That's fun, exciting, it gets your rivals nervous, it provides intrigue and it gets the fans talking.
R: That's interesting. I thought the original plan was that you're committed to a certain manufacturer before the start of the season.
TC: Well, now that kits aren't being introduced until the Indy 500, we needed to soften the rules about switching between them. To be perfectly fair, I haven't released anything about those regulations because this thing's been in limbo for two months now. I didn't want to get out and publicly say something and then change the rules. But we felt that if it gets introduced at Indy, you can have the option of either a new aero kit, or stick with Dallara. And like I said, at the end of the year, Dallara will be given the opportunity to upgrade their kit. If we've got so many aero kits out there that the Dallara doesn't get used again, that's fine, no problem at all. But I think you've got to be realistic: I think the Dallara kit is going to be good and will play an integral role, at least at the beginning.
R: So can people stick with Dallara for Indy, maybe because they figure that Dallara is the kit company with the most recent aero experience at the Speedway, but then say, “I've got faith in Chevy coming up with the best road course kit,” and switch over in time for the summer swing at say the Canadian races, Mid-Ohio, or wherever the series is going next year?
TC: What we can't protect against is people building a special kit for Indy. I don't care which manufacturer you are, all your focus is Indy – you build around that, and then you compromise for the other tracks. The idea is that you've got the choice of two kits from Indianapolis onward – Dallara and one other. You show up at the race weekend, you declare which kit you're going to run, you go through tech and you run it.
The question that's been raised is, “Well, do we start allowing mixing and mingling of kits?” Before we go down that road, we need to have a serious think about it because it gets pretty complicated, particularly from the Tech Inspection side. But, the rules as they stand don't prevent you from switching back and forth between your two kits from weekend to weekend if you wish. But you can't, for example, spend all Friday in your Dallara kit, and then roll out for Saturday morning practice to do a back-to-back comparison with your Honda kit. That will only be allowed at Indy, and only up until qualifying.
R: OK, to get back to the subject of Indy, is the plan still to show a road course Dallara and a superspeedway Dallara at Indy this year?
TC: Yes, that's right. But remember, the idea behind these is to show two totally different-looking vehicles that underneath are the same chassis. What we're showing are two examples of what you can do with body kits that would be legal within the parameters of the rules. Will these be exactly what Dallara's kits are going to look like on road courses and ovals next year? No. We built these show cars way before we finished deciding on designs and shapes of some of the surfaces of the 2012 cars. We're not going to finalize the 2012 car until we've done our testing, where we will be trying quite a wide variety of things. So what you'll see at Indy are two cars that show potential designers, “If you want to build aero kits, these two cars will both be legal: dream as you wish, design as you wish, produce as you wish. These are two cars that don't even look like the same car but are the same underneath their body kits.”
R: Do you like the look of them?
TC: There are things I like and things I don't like, same as any car. But the appearance is not the major concern. The idea is to provide a platform that allows aero kit manufacturers the chance to dream what they want. And there are other people who work alongside me who more than like it. So if aero kits go away for a year, we need to back up and change some things. We need to find a happy medium: it needs to be something different, it needs to be a good product, it needs to be reliable, it needs to be safe, it needs to be fast. What I don't want to see is just another spec car and have them all looking the same. The initial goal, spread out nine months ago, was not just to have three engine manufacturers. It was to have multiple engine manufacturers and multiple body kits.
R: Just to confirm, the damper package, and the wheels, are all being retained from the current car, right? That's not another thing that's changed over the past couple months has it?
TC: The damper program is one area that will remain open to development, and the wheels are staying the same through to the end of 2013.
R: And then what?
TC: Well, we'll evaluate it. Personally, I'd like to see a free market for wheels – within reason – and multiple tire manufacturers. Whenever you have open competition, be it tires or chassis or engines, the political machine fires up and politics get right in the middle of racing. That's what's happening now. There are a lot of entities making decisions based on political maneuvering, and we expect that – that's the nature of competition. But at the same time we've got to realize, if we're going to have competition, we've got to get past this belief that everyone should have the same thing; and from what I've seen, that's the most difficult thing for team owners to get over. “What happens if I make the wrong decision? What happens if I screw something up?” is the way a lot of them have been scared into thinking over the past few years of spec racing in this series.
Everyone makes a lot of noise about opening rules up, how good it is to have multiple manufacturers involved and so on, but in fact, a lot of them are scared of the outcome. As for the others, well….put it this way, I know who's posturing for what and why, and at the end of the day, it's all down to their own gain. A “what's best for me?” attitude. They'll change their minds to suit their aims. This whole affair is not about aero kits – it's about posturing and maneuvering, and it's about self.
So we need to learn from the past, and IndyCar needs to do what it thinks is right to maintain manufacturer involvement for years and years to come. Longevity is the key, because having manufacturers involved is a good thing for the IZOD IndyCar Series.
R: Do you think the current dispute will put off additional manufacturers?
TC: To be honest I don't think the current dispute needs to be played out in public – it's just the wrong time for this to happen. There are so many good things going on with the IZOD IndyCar Series, we're heading in a positive direction and some great sponsors have come on board. Don't get me wrong, the team owners have made some very valid points and so have the manufacturers. In the whole scheme of things this is a small dispute that will die down, but it will die down once IndyCar says, "We've made our decision, we're not going to talk about it anymore except how we're going to achieve it. Now let's move on."