Questions & Answers
This is your second time entering the Indianapolis 500. What makes the 500 such a special race?
There are definitely two parts to this. The Indy 500 is special because of what the race represents to the motorsport world – the history of the race, the prestige of winning. People talk about the Triple Crown and this is one of the parts of that. Winning the 500 is one of the three biggest things you can achieve from a motorsport stance and it’s something that has been important to me since I started racing.
What I wasn’t aware of until I raced in the 500 was how the State of Indiana embraces the entire month of May - it’s not just a single race or a single day event! This means there is almost a whole month of events and excitement and it makes the race very special indeed.
What are the biggest challenges of the race?
The weather here can change quite drastically, which can affect the car substantially. You can be in a situation where you have been testing the car all week, and then come to race day and it’s suddenly 10 degrees hotter which completely changes everything. It’s vital that a driver feels comfortable with how the car is set up on an oval, more so than street circuits. So because of variables like the weather, a driver’s confidence at an oval really does swing like a pendulum!
Another challenge is the level of concentration needed for the 500 – it’s a mentally draining race. You are focusing on moving forwards whilst hitting speeds of 220/230mph. Dirty air never feels good either!
Describe the feelings of competing in the 500. What range of emotions do you feel when racing?
Last year was a big one for me taking part in the Indianapolis 500 for the first time. It was quite emotional as it felt like it was the result of 15 years of racing, hard work and sacrifices, and I had made it to the 500 – to the pinnacle of motorsport. The evening before the race I was sat and had one of those moments when it dawned on me that I was competing in the 500 tomorrow! This year I think will be different as I now know what to expect, but I am still expecting it to be full of different emotions as it’s such an iconic race. Personally, I don’t think there is anything you can do in the motorsport world that can top competing in the 500, and my aim is to keep competing here for many years to come.
Last year, you were sadly forced to retire early after making contact with debris from another cars’ accident. What are your aims for this year’s race?
First and foremost we want to see the checkered flag this year! This race is special to me, not only because of the reasons I’ve already mentioned, but because this is where I first met Michael Shank and this is where our adventure together started. It was disappointing not to be able to finish the race last year due to reasons outside of our control.
It’s virtually impossible to predict who is going to finish where in the 500. Until you get to race day, you don’t know if the conditions you have been testing the car are the same or completely different, so you can have a scenario where testing doesn’t go to plan but then you have a good race, and vice versa! So we won’t have an idea of what we will be aiming for until we get to race day itself.
Who is your most inspirational previous 500 winner and why?
I look back at some of the greats that have won the 500 like Graham Hill and Jim Clark. They were legends that I followed when I was racing in Europe, and then I came over to the States to race, and they also won out here and it makes you sit back and think they pretty much conquered the world of motorsport! So for them to come from Britain to compete in the States at a time where you had to be seriously brave to be quick, it makes be very proud to be British. And then you see it recently with what Dario Franchitti and Dan Wheldon achieved while racing in the States. There’s not just one single person that I am inspired by, but it does make me proud to be British when you look back and see what they achieved, and hopefully I can join that list.
You’ve now been living, and racing in the States for four years. Apart from your family, what do you miss the most about the UK?
Proper bacon! Chocolate digestives! Sometimes I miss the British sense of humour. The American sense of humour is different to ours! It’s not bad, just different, and I sometimes miss being able to banter with Brits. I also miss just being able to go to the pub! You don’t have pubs in America, you have bars, but it’s not the same as popping to my local pub!
As a Brit, you are a big tea drinker! Does American milk mess with the taste of your tea at all?!
Yes! It’s so weird, especially the strange powdered milk which I just can’t drink! Who makes milk out of powder?! No one in the world makes a cup of tea like my Grandad Jack, and I can’t make a cup of tea over here that’s anything like what he makes! Milk is funny over here! If I win the 500 I’m going to have to take the smallest sip possible and then just drench myself with the rest of it!
You’ve just completed two days of pre-season testing at Sebring for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season. This was your first time in the new 2018 aero kit, what were your impressions?
We had a really strong two days of testing. The car ran well, we had good pace straight out of the box and we made gains from day to day. Considering these were our first two days of testing for the season, we couldn’t have asked for a better start.
It was also awesome to see the whole team working so well together. We are a brand new team, but there’s been immediate chemistry between everyone which is so important. We now just can’t wait to get started in St. Pete!
What do you make of the new aero kit?
The new car looks fantastic. Clearly we’ve lost a lot of carbon from last year which means a reduction in downforce. This is the biggest change you can feel as a driver – you still have the speed and the car is still performing at one of the highest levels in racing, but now the car feels lighter and you are moving around more. Less downforce also means that the cars are exposed more mechanically, so everyone will be working hard on this.
Do you think the new aero kit will improve racing?
At this stage it’s hard to tell as we’ve only been in testing conditions where you naturally back off when you get close to another car, so we haven’t had an experience yet of running the cars in racing conditions. In theory, less downforce should mean that the cars can get closer, which would be great for drivers and fans alike, but until we get to St. Pete, it’s hard to tell.
What will you be up to ahead of St. Pete?
It’s a pretty quick turn-around so there’s not much time really! I flew back to Indy yesterday and then Monday I fly to Sebring for another day of testing and then it’s straight on to St. Pete. It’s basically just enough time for me to do my washing and get some training in!
What’s the aim for your first race at St. Pete?
Our goal for all the races this season is to qualify in the top 15 and race through to the top ten. We have only done two days of testing so far so it’s impossible to know where we are compared to other teams as we haven’t seen everyone’s true pace, but if we can achieve top 15 to top 10 in St Pete, we will be happy.