Face to Face…..Andrew Cotton and Roger Edmondson
AC: We sat here two years ago and we talked about this. You were going to ignore
the critics and stick with what you thought would work. You came in for a lot of
criticism, but you seem to have come through that?
RE: We have. I have been saying this every since I came into motor sport, that
everyone wants improvement but nobody wants change. Obviously if what you are
doing isn't working you have to do something new. We had the funding, the race
track connections, and could make the schedule. Today I was given the
opportunity to say "I told you so" but I don't want to do that. We have access to
information daily that the critics don't have. They are fans, they have a passion but
they are not professionals, and they don't deal with this day in and day out.
AC: What exactly is Grand-Am trying to achieve? You have announced some
fantastic deals here with Sonoco, Sun Trust and so on, but we are not sure
whether you are going for a professional championship with amateur drivers, are
you going for spectators, for television, or whether this is just Bill France creating
a championship for his son to race in?
RE: First off, the simple answer is all of them. We have no preconceived ideas of
who should be welcome. As for the notion of amateur drivers, that can only come
from somebody who is not looking at our entry list.
AC: Two years ago, you said that the prototypes were too fast for the gentleman
driver so you re-designed them.
RE: In that context that is correct. What we felt was that the gentleman driver was
the fundamental basis for the sport and that they were always going to be there. It
has got to be affordable, do-able and enjoyable, and this car is all three.
AC: Will there be a closer link with NASCAR?
RE: We work with NASCAR closely because most of our stockholders are also
employees of NASCAR. One is Jim France, who is one of the co-owners of
NASCAR. They are building a dyno facility in Charlotte that we will be able to use
to monitor our engines. We are starting to install crash data recorders in our cars.
There is only one other venue that NASCAR goes to that may be suitable for us,
and that is Sears Point. NASCAR doesn't call that shot and nor do we, that is
down to the promoters and they are happy with the mix that they already have.
AC: Was Grand-Am looking to purchase the rights to CART?
RE: We had no interest in buying the rights to CART. What we perceived was that
this was an auction of assets in the federal bankruptcy system. There are many
items that CART uses that we use, and with our growing business, there are
things that we are going to have to purchase to stay ahead of the curve. As we get
bigger, we need more of this and more of that. We signed an agreement that
allowed us to go and look at what was available and what we should bid on. To
give you an example I would rather buy computers or whatever at auction than at
the retail market place. It turned out that there was not enough for us to make a
bid, so we didn't make a bid.
AC: Where do you expect the championship to go?
RE: There are more prototypes coming. I predicted that we would finish last year
with ten, and we did that. I hoped that we would have 15 here and we are a little
over that. I would like to have 20 cars competing regularly in the series this year,
and perhaps 24 or 25 at next year's 24 hours.
AC: How dependent are you on Bill France's money?
RE: Not at all. It is a total misconception. This company was founded by 25
investors, 23 now, who put up the capital to start the company and we have not
been back to them since for more money. In fact, in the first three years, Grand-Am
made money but last year we had a downturn in fortune. None of us have had to
put any more money in. The business stands on its own two feet, it generates its
own income and pays its own bills.
We have done that from day one, it is part of the business plan. When I stepped
forward, I told people that this was going to be a business, that we were going to
pay our own way, and that is what happened. We have been able to do that. We
have not over promised, you have never seen us cancel a race. We made a
schedule with tracks who were happy to have us, we don't buy our tv and we
struck a deal with the television companies to produce the programmes.
This will live on long after I am gone. I have known the Frances for more than 20
years, they are gentlemen, they are business professionals, and the most
successful people in motor sport. I know when I took this job that I would have
their full backing, not based on what is happening tomorrow or the next day, but
into the future. When Jim called me to ask if I would look at running this thing, if I
had any doubt, I would have thrown up my hands and walked away. I had just sold
my motor cycle dealership, I had money in the bank, I was 57 years old, and ready
to kick back and enjoy what time God gave me, but then I decided to do this
AC: Finally, an important question: Are you going to do anything about the look of
RE: When I was in the hi-fi business years ago, the first of the big screen tvs
came out, a lady came in and asked why does it look like that? The inventor was
right there and he asked "have you ever seen one of these before?" She said
"No." He said "Well, this is what they look like." And that is what they are. This is
what the Daytona Prototypes look like. They have to look like this if you want to get
a tall driver out of the car even if he is unconscious, to get his helmet off, you have
to have that much space above him. This is what a car looks like when you have
standard high points of the car so that the cars make a similar size hole in the air
and minimise the need for wind-tunnel work. This is what they look like. If we
made a commitment to run these cars and then we chance them because
someone was used to the other look, of the Audi and Bentley and so on, then we
would be breaking faith with those who stepped forward to make these cars.