IN HIS OWN WORDS: CLINT FIELD
Braselton, Ga. - At last, Clint Field has his championship. After winning six times in 2004, the 22-year-old won five times in the American Le Mans Series' LMP2 class in '05 and became the youngest Series champion in its seven-year history, along with leading Intersport Racing to its first team championship in the Series.
Now things are beginning to crank up once again as the American Le Mans Series Winter Test and the 54th annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring are quickly approaching. With an eye toward a new season, we picked Clint's brain for his thoughts on 2005 and Intersport's prospects for 2006:
Question: How long did it take to soak up all that you and the team accomplished this year?
Answer: We have kept pretty quiet. We're just taking it easy. Competing at the highest level is stressful. We're getting ready for Sebring where we hope to pick up where we left off.
Q: If you had to pick one crowning moment of 2005, what would it be?
A: Laguna defined our year. We had great points where we started at the back and came through the field, then had some bad luck and troubles. But it all turned out good in the end.
Q: You gave a special thanks to your dad (Jon) during your speech at the season-ending banquet. How has he helped in your development as a driver?
A: He's been in the game for so long and knows what he's doing. We're a good pairing because we both want the same thing. We push each other so well and we feed off each other, which is a really good feeling. Those races were some good races, and racing with Liz (Halliday) was good, too. Throughout my career, I've gone from race-to-race and never felt like I had one person as a constant teammate. You never know what you're going to get with someone at each race. You have to adapt yourself to the car and another person's driving style.
Q: Intersport isn't the largest team out there, so this must be especially rewarding for all of the people involved.
A: Yeah, we were definitely the smallest team in the Series. There are only really three or four people who help us throughout the year, including Brian (Alder), myself and my dad. It's on a small scale, but we do it well. We've proved it in the past, this year and hopefully in the years to come. We've got a great combination.
Q: How much development work did the team do with the Lola over the course of the season?
A: Not much. That's something we didn't do a lot of. With Penske and Porsche coming in, that's something we want to do more of. I don't think the car showed what it can be. We want to focus more on optimum performance. Last year, we were focused on competing just in LMP2 and winning that championship. With Penske and Porsche coming in, we have to be on top of our performance.
Q: What sort of things are you and the team doing during the offseason? Will you stick with the Lola-AER combination?
A: We're definitely going to bring the same exact car back. Liz had a great season, and we're bringing her back. We wanted to finalize that before working on our performance testing. We'll be at the Winter Test in January at Sebring.
Q: What's in store for Intersport in 2006? Rumors have the team moving back to P1 and running P2, as well.
A: As for right now, there's nothing. We're working hard on trying to bring in a second car. We're working hard on our contracts and sponsors and get drivers in here. It may not be Sebring or Houston. We're just trying to get everything all in a row.
Q: Testing at Sebring next month will help, won't it?
A: It's going to be a bonus to go there with Penske and see how we stack up and just brush off the rust a little bit. It will be good to get back in the car. Then after that point, we'll do some more tests, perhaps after Sebring and work on some performance issues. Mainly, the Sebring test will be to get everyone who will be driving some seat time and see where we are.
Q: We would be remiss to ask how Intersport is preparing to face Penske and Porsche next season. How do you size up that challenge?
A: I wasn't surprised (at the Laguna performance). We tested with them at Atlanta and we knew we would be right on top of them. I think we were a little off (in Monterey), and we knew they would have a little edge on us. It'll be good to see how we stack up with them at Sebring. It's going to be extremely hard-fought all season, difficult for all the drivers and the crew.
The American Le Mans Series Winter Tests are scheduled for Jan. 23-25 at Sebring International Raceway, site of the 54th annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. The American Le Mans Series season-opener is scheduled for March 18, with the green flag dropping at 10:30 a.m. EST.