THE MODERATOR: Thank you all for joining us here for the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona. We are honored to have this group of team owners participating in the relaunch of the IMSA GTP category here today.
Without further ado, we'll go ahead and introduce everybody, go one by one by car number starting with Chip Ganassi, owner of Chip Ganassi Racing, which is fielding the No. 01 Cadillac Racing VLMDH for Sebastien Bourdais, Renger van der Zande and Scott Dixon, as well as the No. 02 Cadillac Racing VLMDH for Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn and Richard Westbrook.
Chip's team has eight Rolex 24 at Daytona victories, 63 IMSA race victories, five Indy 500 wins, one Daytona 500 victory, 21 championships across motorsports.
Chip, you've been a fairly regular participant here in the Rolex 24 really going back to 2004, most years if not all years since 2004 you've been here. Can you just talk about the progress you've seen in the sport from that first Rolex almost 20 years ago to what you're seeing here today?
CHIP GANASSI: Thank you. I thought it was interesting last weekend at the Roar, I think there were more people at the Roar than at the last bunch of Rolexes we've been to, so hats off to whoever is in charge of that. Hats off to the track people, I guess. It's changed in a big way.
I remember the days when there were no -- an energy drink was a cup of coffee in a styrofoam cup. We had three or four mechanics and we didn't know what the word "engineer" was. It's changed quite a bit over the time.
THE MODERATOR: Let's move over to Roger Penske, owner of Porsche Penske Motorsport, fielding the No. 6 Porsche 963 for Mathieu Jaminet, Nick Tandy and Dane Cameron, the No. 7 Porsche 963 for Matt Campbell, Felipe Nasr and Michael Christiansen.
Two Rolex 24 at Daytona class victories, 32 IMSA race victories, three NASCAR Cup Series championships, nine total NASCAR national series titles, three Daytona 500 victories, 18 Indy 500 wins, over 600 race wins all told, 670 pole positions, 43 championships.
Roger, as I mentioned, those are pretty impressive stats, but a couple that are missing are overall wins here at the Rolex 24 and the 24 hours at Le Mans. What would it mean to your legacy to get those wins on the list here?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think that one of the things we looked at was the success of the series as it was growing here over the last couple years, and having the opportunity to run with Acura for a couple years and then seeing the growth, and with the additional teams coming in, our ability to partner with Porsche gave us an opportunity to platform for us to try to win one of the races that we haven't overall, and that would obviously be Le Mans.
I just take my hat off looking at the people here on the dais with us here this morning, the wins that they've had here at the race, certainly Chip and Wayne and Cadillac have done a terrific job, and I think that with Michael Andretti coming and Bobby, we all see this seems to be a real platform for us to take sports car racing to the next level here in the United States, and then to be able to compete on an international platform at Le Mans for our teams and our brands will be special.
But for us, it's always a goal, and I look at competing with these folks, it's going to be terrific. I take my hat off to them. We're way behind from the standpoint of experience here, but on the other hand, I think we all come here with new rules. This high-voltage hybrid has been a challenge for us from the standpoint to understand it. I said to someone the other day, I think we have more engineers looking at computers than we do people working on the car right now. It may not be true with these other people but it certainly looks like it in our pit.
It's exciting, and we cherish the thought that we have a chance to race here and then go on to the rest of the series.
We appreciate the fans and obviously the interest that the media is having with this. I think this is really a send-off to a really exciting time in motor racing and certainly in sports cars.
THE MODERATOR: Let's slide over to your left to Wayne Taylor and Michael Andretti, co-owners of Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport. They are fielding the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX06 for Ricky Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque, Louis Deletraz and Brandon Hartley. Their partnership was announced in late December for Wayne Taylor Racing.
They've had five Rolex 24 at Daytona victories, 49 IMSA race victories, four IMSA championships, Andretti Autosport four IMSA wins, five Indy 500 wins, six championships.
Wayne, you and your team have had a knack for success here at Daytona with four wins in the last six years. Can you put your finger on why you've had that kind of success and maybe what it's going to take to do that?
WAYNE TAYLOR: I think it's just passion and dedication and the guys -- this is the biggest race of the year. It's the first race of the year, maximum amount of effort.
We have great partners from HPD and our sponsors from Konica Minolta and Mike Mathé, and this year it's even more special teaming up with Michael Andretti because clearly when I came to the very first test with the new cars, which are great, I counted 91 people working on my car. I walked around and I said, there's something wrong here, guys. The car would do a lap and come in and people would plug in and wouldn't run for three hours.
I thought, I need some real support here, and Michael running Formula E and stuff like that and with the facilities they have and with the people they have, it was time to go to the next level.
I'm really excited about this, and also I'm humbled by sitting next to Roger, Michael, Chip. Just everybody here is just great. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Wayne. Over to Michael, you've previously been in the ownership ranks here in IMSA, now back here with Wayne. What kind of reaction have you seen in the garage area to being back here?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It's been fantastic for sure. We're so excited to be here. For us, we've never actually done a 24-hour race, so we're excited to be here for the first time competing.
Over the years I've been watching these guys over here having fun, starting race season early in January, so it's great to be a part of it now. We've been looking at sports cars for quite some time, and was just looking for the right opportunity, and I think patience paid off. I don't think we can be in a better situation to team up with Wayne and his great team that he has here.
We're really excited about the future of what we're going to do with this sport. There's a lot of cool plans for the future. I think IMSA has done a great job with the rules. It's exciting to see all the manufacturers' excitement of being involved, and I think there's going to be even more in the future.
I think the future is really bright for sports car racing, and I think our timing is perfect to be involved.
THE MODERATOR: We'll slide down to the front row to the front left, Bobby Rahal, BMW M Team, RLL co-owner, fielding the No. 24 BMW M hybrid V-8 for Philipp Eng, Augusto Farfus, Marco Wittmann, Colton Herta, and the No. 25 BMW M hybrid V-8 for Connor de Phillippe, Nick Yelloly, Sheldon van der Linde and Colton Herta again.
Two Rolex 24 at Daytona wins, both of them in the GTLM class. Looking for the first overall Rolex 24 win here. 21 IMSA race victories, two Indy 500 wins as a team, three motorsports championships.
Bobby, I mentioned back-to-back Rolex 24 wins in GTLM, and you also know what it's like to win here as an owner, having done that in a previous GTP generation. What would it mean to win this one as a team owner the first year in GTP for you?
BOBBY RAHAL: Well, I think obviously we're thrilled to be here competing against these guys who I see just about every weekend it seems. It's exciting times for sure. I think history is being written starting today, and it's exciting to be a part of that.
Certainly for us, the chance to win this race overall, as you mentioned, did it as a driver, it's a very tough race to win, and for us as a team to be here with a chance at an overall victory is something that we've really hoped for for many years.
We've had 14 years, 15 years with BMW, couldn't ask for a better partner, and just excited about what the future is for this category, and hopefully the chance for us, like Roger or others, to go to Le Mans with a car that has the opportunity to win that race in an overall sense.
We're just thrilled to be here, excited. Can't wait for the green flag to drop, frankly, and it's going to be I'm sure a struggle. I think everybody is going to -- it'll be tough, but we are looking forward to the next 36 hours.
THE MODERATOR: Let's slide to the middle, Bob Johnson, owner of Action Express Racing, which is fielding the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac V LMDH for Pipo Derani, Alexander Sims, Jack Aitken. Three Rolex 24 at Daytona wins, 28 IMSA race victories, five WeatherTech Championship titles, six IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup titles.
Bob, in terms of championships, as I mentioned, there's no team that's had as much here in the WeatherTech Championship as yours, but you've obviously got some pretty stiff competition sitting around you here today. How will Action Express and the No. 31 team rise to the challenge here this weekend?
BOB JOHNSON: Well, we've just done everything we think we needed to do to get ready for today, but it's obviously going to be difficult with this group and all the new manufacturers that are competing now. It's really a whole new environment.
We've got some very difficult competition, and we know that. But we're up for it. Our guys are ready, and we can't wait.
THE MODERATOR: Finally, last but certainly not least, Mike Shank, co-owner of Meyer Shank Racing, fielding the No. 60 Acura ARX 06 for Tom Blomqvist, Colin Braun, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud. Two Rolex 24 at Daytona victories, including last year here. 15 IMSA race wins, three IMSA championships, all those coming in the last four years, including last year's DPi championship, 2021 Indianapolis 500 winner. The No. 60 car starts on the pole position for today's race.
Mike, you've earned your spot on this stage here today, and obviously again sitting amongst some pretty impressive company. I know you're mostly interested in looking forward, but what does it mean to you to be a part of this group?
MICHAEL SHANK: First of all, me sitting on this stage is out of world, out of body. This is the folks that I grew up watching and idolizing and run the team very much how they run their teams. Me, Jim Meyer, who's a giant part of my life and a great friend, we're kind of out of place here I feel. We're still earning our respect. We're still working to be better every day.
This car has been soul sucking. It's been a lot of work for all the guys that work super hard, Acura, HPD and Honda now, I'm on my ninth season with them overall, and just feel lucky and fortunate, and I'm willing to work my ass off to make sure it works for everybody.
Q. Most of you guys up there do have a hand in INDYCAR, as well. How has working on the new GTP IMSA car helped develop your INDYCAR, and how has working on the INDYCAR helped develop the GTP car?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I mean, I'll answer it because we're in a lot of different things. We feel like a lot of people think when you get in all these different series that you're diluting yourself, and I disagree. I think we're making ourselves stronger because there's always something to learn from one series to another. We always try to apply that.
We may be doing something -- sports cars might be doing something different that might work in INDYCAR and vice versa. Yeah, we're constantly trying to make ourselves better and learn from each different series that we're involved in.
BOBBY RAHAL: I think Michael said it all. There's no question that one benefits the other and vice versa, so yeah, we think it makes you stronger, as Michael said, so we're glad to be here.
Q. You all have a considerable investment in sports car racing; when you see the largest crowd in Rolex 24 history and the buzz around GTP and everything, are you starting to see the payoff for everything you've put in?
ROGER PENSKE: I think it's important for the manufacturers that are supporting us to see the interest. I think when you see the quality of the drivers, not only domestically but internationally, it makes a big difference. So we're going to reach a bigger population from the standpoint of sports car racing, and I think that's important.
I know from a Porsche perspective, the commitment to the dealer body and things like that, I know the same with the other manufacturers here, makes a big difference. That last question that was asked, I would say, it's not what we're learning, I think having our drivers, INDYCAR drivers have a chance to run in a 24-hour race just gets them better.
MICHAEL SHANK: I think it's a credit to, I see Ed Bennett over here and Jim France and their vision and Scott Atherton. I think a couple years ago, Ed putting this global package together also I think has made it extremely attractive to our partners.
I've been around since the GRAND-AM days, and the growth of it and the ability for folks like us to come in and compete at a high level, I owe it all to them.
Q. Roger, the electrification components and hybrid components that are in these cars, how much is it going to translate over to the Next Gen as NASCAR looks towards that in the future?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think that right now, this is an evolutionary process as we look at electrification coming throughout the auto industry. Obviously having a hybrid type vehicle in racing is very important to us for sustainability and also the environment.
Q. There's a sense of history around what's about to happen today. Do you feel that, and how significant do you see this change into this new GTP era?
CHIP GANASSI: I think it's obvious. Everybody, when the people in the United States and the people in France were able to get together on rules to a common standard, I guess, all of us in the industry thought, wow, this is going to be great. So it's something we've known for a couple years was coming.
Now for it to be on the doorstep of the first race of this formula, I think we're all -- the excitement is obvious, with the manufacturers here, with the fans here. I heard this morning that Le Mans is sold out of tickets, and I've never heard that before.
I think everybody on both sides of the Atlantic are very, very -- obviously very, very excited about this formula, about what's about to happen. So I think we're on the precipice of a new renaissance here, thanks to the people in charge.
Q. Roger, you had some amazing success with Porsche 15 years ago with the RS Spyder. Would you be able to explain the importance of that project, of you guys coming together again, and what any transferables are between that program 15 years ago and today?
ROGER PENSKE: I think you really have to go back to the '70s in the 917/10 and the 917/30 and then on to the Spyder in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Look, this is a history book that we put together as two brands.
On the other hand, I think the performance that we were able to provide Porsche during that time gave us at least a chance at the table to put together Porsche Penske Motorsports. To me it's a fantastic opportunity, and the commitment that all these brands are making, at the senior level I might say, these are the senior executives, see this as a way to help them build their brands worldwide.
For us, it's certainly special, and I think the fact that we had a history and had success helped us get to where we are today.
Q. Do you think the level of manufacturer interest that we've seen in GTP and also in Hypercar would be possible if the cars weren't hybrids? He know it's complicated and adding a lot of headaches for all of you, but do you think that's the key to why we've seen such investment here?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I'd say yes, definitely, for sure, because racing has always been used as a test bed for manufacturers, and it's a new technology out there, so that's why there's all this interest from all the manufacturers to get involved. There's no question about it that it's the rules package that really attracted all the manufacturers.
ROGER PENSKE: I also think that when you looked at IMSA and you looked at Le Mans, let's just step back, and you look at the number of cars that were competing at the highest level, it was very few. You talk five, six, seven cars.
Now as we go forward over the next 12 to 24 months, we could have 15 or 20 people competing at the highest level, and I think that was the vision that Jim France had along with Pierre Fillon and the people at the World Endurance Championship. I think that's really another key factor.
Q. Roger, once we go to the other classics like Sebring, Le Mans, you're going to be renewing a rivalry with Porsche and Ferrari, obviously immortalized in film by Steve McQueen back in the day. What's your anticipation level about going there and going for the outright win against the mighty Ferrari?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think the Ferrari brand, as we all know in motor racing and certainly people who buy those cars worldwide, it's amazing. I think their committing to this after so many years is going to make it amazing.
Q. With an endurance race like this, wanted to find out, and this is for any one of you that's up there, which do you feel is the greater challenge in terms of the endurance, the drivers or the cars themselves?
MICHAEL SHANK: It was drivers last year, it's the car this year. But they're great. This car is such a cool car. When you see us leave out of the box on all electric, that's an evolution that I never thought I'd be a part of. It's a natural progression. It has to happen for the OEMs to stay engaged, and we have to get on with our life now.
The cars are tricky here, but we'll get that figured out in the next few months, and we'll be back to sprint racing at the 24.
BOB JOHNSON: I totally agree because the car is new, and we're all learning a lot every day. We did a lot of testing, all we could, but there's still a lot of things we're not totally aware of. We're going to have to see how it goes. That's the challenge.
Q. Some of you are taking the fight to Toyota and Ferrari at WEC and at Le Mans. How important is the whole success of the formula is it going to be for Toyota, Ferrari, Peugeot to be here?
ROGER PENSKE: I think with the race at Sebring, to see all those brands on the same day or days will be amazing, and hopefully we can see that continue even being able to compete at IMSA because right now it's really the two series, and we only come together here in the U.S. with Ferrari and those groups right now at Sebring.
I think the vision that WEC has and also Jim and the team have from the standpoint of IMSA, I think there's an opportunity longer term to really meld this thing into one big series where everybody is competing at the same time, which will only -- it's a step. I think we've made the first step, and now we'll go to the next step when we see how competitive this is, and certainly with the interest that they talked about earlier here at Le Mans with the tickets selling out in two days is amazing.
Q. All of you are representing factories which have invested heavily in this new GTP formula. Love to hear about the corporate side; some of you carry significant sponsorship from corporate America or international companies. Would love to hear a little bit from one or more of you about the buy-in and interest you're seeing from those outside of your manufacturers to get involved in GTP.
WAYNE TAYLOR: I would just like to say something about a question that was asked a little while ago about is it going to be the drivers or the cars that are going to win this race. My view is that it goes hand in hand. If you have drivers that are going to be running over curbs and doing stupid things to be fast, they're going to cause the cars to break, and I believe that these cars, you can only prepare as much as you know what you're going to do, and there are things that are going to be out of the hands of our teams that we have no control over. So I think it's a combination of both.
With regard to corporate America or whatever being involved in the sport, for me personally, I have to say a huge thanks to Mike Mathé and Konica Minolta who have been with me since 2014. We are obviously supported highly by HPD and Andretti Autosport, but without companies like Konica Minolta and people like that, we don't go racing.
I think if you look back at the past of sports car racing, we went from in 2001, 2002 and 2003 running very expensive cars at Le Mans and trying to race them in the U.S., and there was a big turnaround, and we came up with GRAND-AM and became a successful formula, and now we've gone back and now we've got the support of manufacturers.
Hopefully it's going to be -- the costs are going to come down dramatically, but at the end of the day, we're going to still compete, and the more practice and the more testing and stuff that goes on, things are going to go up, and I think at the end of the day, the manufacturers also have to convince the board that they've got to spend this money.
So it's important to bring other parts of corporate America.
CHIP GANASSI: I'm just happy to have Cadillac on my car. I don't have any -- I can't answer that question. I'm sorry.
ROGER PENSKE: I think this platform gives us an opportunity to reach out to other manufacturers and people who want to sponsor. We can see that in the Porsche program, people that are involved at the dealership level and even the suppliers are stepping up where we didn't see them before, might not see them in other forms of racing.
I think it opens it up, and we'll have more customer cars I'm sure running as we go forward here over the next several months, you're going to see more sponsors that maybe we don't see here today.
Q. A huge field here this year, 61 cars. Bobby, Mike, you've been on both sides of prototypes and GTs. What are you telling your guys to prevent carnage here in the first few hours?
BOBBY RAHAL: Use your head. Yeah, for us, that's probably the biggest challenge. I've seen it every year, people get impatient, make moves three hours into the race that really are moves for the last lap of the race. It's just all about being smart.
You lose a little time, you lose a little time. You'll get it back. It's 24 hours long, so anything can happen. The whole idea is just not make mistakes, whether they're mistakes in judgment or driving errors or whatever the case may be.
Of course that's easy to say. Sometimes tough to do in the heat of the battle. But that's why you have the guys driving the cars that you do. Our guys in particular, probably every entry here has guys that are super experienced in endurance racing. They get it. They know. It's just a matter of really disciplining yourself to the kind of driving, intelligence driving that you have to have in order to be there at the end.
Our view has always been get through the night and then we go racing tomorrow in the daylight, and I don't think that's going to change for us this year or any year in the future. It's all about -- this is an endurance race, not a sprint race, and it's called an endurance race for a reason.
MICHAEL SHANK: It goes a lot with what Wayne said and Bobby said it all. Everything bad happens out at the Bus Stop, usually decisions, bad decisions on both parts, and communication, clear communication from the spotters who they're approaching and how that's going to go, and build a book on the people around them. Wayne probably knows more than everybody here, but it's a tricky thing.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Mike, and thank you all for joining us. We're really honored to have you here and really appreciate it. Best of luck in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona.