DM: What would you say you've learned from this season? Presumably, “Don't announce a race in China before a mayoral election” and, “Don't rely on Lotus.”
RB: In the case of the Chinese race, we'd been working on it for three and a half years, and couldn't have foreseen a new mayor coming in and flatly saying “no” to the race.
As for Lotus, the timing of them being taken over was massively unfortunate because it froze their assets at a time when Judd needed to invest and make the most of it. When the engine turned out to be behind the eight-ball, they released three of the teams from their contract and I sympathized with those teams because they had commitments to sponsors and didn't want to be stuck at the back all season.
DM: Was it important that you had three manufacturers in there? Were you pleased that HVM Racing continued with the Lotus unit?
RB: I think that HVM, Entergy and Simona [de Silvestro] showed remarkable loyalty in the face of adversity. I feel very sorry for them; they deserved better.
DM: The schedule for 2013: have you decided on double-headers, etc.
RB: My goal is to have 19 races. It's imperative that we build the exposure and the brand of our series and get more eyeballs on it. I would like to see us try a few double-headers. We've talked to drivers, team owners, sponsors, OEMs, promoters about this and invited them all to try and poke holes in the idea or offer us constructive criticism on how to better it, and we've taken their advice on board.
Right now, we have a pretty stout plan to try a couple of double-headers, and there are promoters out there who like the idea and who think it would really bring value to their race weekends. And it works for fans, too, in terms of value for money per distance traveled. If I'm a fan in Indiana who gets to see one other event other than the 500, I'm going to choose the one where I get to see two races. It won't be the same price as a ticket for just one race, but there will be a special deal for those who want to see both.
DM: And what will the ratio be for ovals to road/street courses next year? As long as the power/downforce levels are like Texas again, presumably a lot more ovals are available to you now, because you know it won't turn into a stupid pack race where the best engineers win rather than the best drivers.
RB: Well you're right to highlight Texas because there was so much division about whether we should race there because of the potential for pack racing. And Will Phillips and his team did a remarkable job of working on the aero package to make sure it was a car that needed to be properly driven and we had ourselves a fast but not unnecessarily dangerous race. We saw how the good drivers liked it, how the fans liked it, and I hope to see that the tech team does a similar job on the Fontana package.
In answer to your question, you will see another oval on the schedule next year.
RB: Maybe! It's not a done deal, but we're really shooting for that. I'm really trying to ensure that tradition plays a big part in the IZOD IndyCar Series. We saw great attendance or attendance improvement at all of our races this year. Fontana is our biggest concern, but we knew that going in, so we've been realistic and actually, you'll see a decent crowd there; we're exactly where we targeted it to in our first year back and the team out there has worked really hard. We need to build a fan base there and give it a chance to improve over three years.
You see, as soon as you start building tradition, you establish it as a go-to event. That's how Long Beach worked, and I believe that's how Baltimore and Sao Paulo could work too. I remember my first two years at PBR [Professional Bull Riders], there were events where you could shoot a cannon into the stands and not hit a fan…even with flying debris! And our guys would say, “Why are we going to these big, empty venues?” but what we were building was equity, tradition, and it turned around and became a success.
Milwaukee this year saw crowd numbers go up compared with last year, and they will go up again next year.
DM: With the sports car merger in 2014, do you foresee more or fewer double-headers with….Grand-ALMS or whatever the merged series is going to be called?
RB: Good question. I don't know enough about it to know all the dynamics involved, but I think it should be a positive. We've worked well with sports car bodies because we each bring different types of fans and different demographics to an event and they've been successful weekends. So I hope we'll continue to work together with the merged series.
DM: What's the situation with you, the team owners and the IMS board? Do you feel your future is secure heading into the off season?
RB: I have a contract, and I believe I have the backing of the board. I am working on a new business plan which I am very excited about for the future. If you look back at everything that's been done over the past couple years, it was to try and halt problems and reverse trends, stop the issues that were hurting IndyCar, say, four years ago. Now we have to take it to the next step.
It's really important that we focus on selling ourselves as the fastest and most versatile series in the world that offers the most exciting racing in North America. We must maximize what we have in North America and Brazil and not worry about international races. Our Brazil partners and our Canadian partners are fantastic, but going looking for European countries who may or may not want us? That should not be on our agenda.
But I suppose if a promoter approached us with a $20m offer to race on the other side of the world, I'd be proud to make a liar of myself!