In what is becoming an annual summer tradition, American Champ Car driver Memo Gidley made a decidedly low-speed, low-tech run last week, driving his 1990 Toyota Pickup and a 40-year old box-trailer from California to Indianapolis. Gidley...
In what is becoming an annual summer tradition, American Champ Car driver Memo Gidley made a decidedly low-speed, low-tech run last week, driving his 1990 Toyota Pickup and a 40-year old box-trailer from California to Indianapolis. Gidley made a brief stop in Cleveland last Sunday, where he was a guest in the CART Radio Network broadcast booth providing color commentary during the first third of the Marconi Grand Prix. Last year when Gidley relocated to Indianapolis for the summer, the young driver had just secured his first opportunity to race in Champ Cars, substituting for Naoki Hattori at Walker Racing. One year later, Gidley has 13 Champ Car races under his belt with three teams, has qualified and finished in the top ten, and has inherited the "Supersub" title from last season's ringer and this season's points leader, Roberto Moreno. Reached by cell phone traveling somewhere near Lake Tahoe, Gidley discussed his summer plans and his search for a full-time ride in the Fedex Championship Series. What's your living situation in Northern California, and where will you be staying in Indianapolis?
I rent a room in a friend's house in Novato. It's easy to leave and come back, since my buddy has an extra room and is happy to have me pay rent when I'm actually living there. There's not much I'm leaving behind except a bed and a couple of boxes. In Indianapolis I will once again be staying with my friend Jeff Kitchen who works at Pi Research. This year I decided to take along my old trailer. My Dad used to sell crabs all over Northern California from this four-by-eight trailer forty years ago, and when I raced motocross, I used to haul my dirtbikes around in it. Right now the trailer's filled with my go kart, toolbox, mountain bike and unicycle. Does the trailer still smell like fish?
Yeah, there's like a flock of seagulls following me from San Francisco! [laughs] What has changed in your life since you made the same move to Indianapolis last summer?
A lot has changed since then. I'm driving the same pickup truck but it's got a new deluxe paint job from Maaco. Last year I was just getting my first big break in Champ Cars from Derek Walker. I was just somebody from Atlantics who had won some races, and nobody really knew who I was. Now I'm going back to Indianapolis with a lot of experience, thirteen Champ Car races to be exact, and a lot of teams are interested in what I am doing. I've been approached by a few top-running teams and people are really noticing me based on my activities of the last twelve months. How's your driving compared to last year?
In the Champ Car, or the 1990 Toyota pickup? Both!
The Toyota's good because the other new addition I have is a radar detector, so I haven't got any speeding tickets yet, knock wood. Are you a fast driver on public roads?
I don't go too fast. I'm just efficient. [laughs] What in the world does that mean-you somehow get from Point A to Point B in a short amount of time?
Exactly. I don't break the speed limit by too much, it's just that I don't slow down a whole lot. I've had a few speeding tickets, but if my truck had cruise control I don't think that would happen.
As far as my Champ Car driving skills, so much has changed. I learned a tremendous amount in my ten races last year with Walker and Coyne and three this year with Players. Even though I still only have a fraction of the testing time that a full-time driver enjoys, I feel really comfortable driving the Champ Cars on any circuit. Now its just a matter of getting with a full-time program with a regular testing schedule to really show people what I can do. Its kind of strange how my confidence and mindset has changed. Last year I was just happy to get the experience of driving. It was good to not have the pressure of being expected to run at the front. One year later, I am now ready to run with a team that consistently wins races and expects their driver to win. I look forward to being in that position and living up to those high expectations.
You've driven almost all of the Champ Car engines this year, haven't you?
The only one I still need to try is the Mercedes. The Honda, Toyota, and Ford engines are pretty similar as far as peak horsepower, and yet the powerbands are all quite different. The Honda's real driveable, and has a lot of midrange-type pull. The Ford is quite driveable, pulls pretty good off the turn but has a lot of top end, and the Toyota seems like it has a lot of top end and screams pretty high. They are all a little bit different and yet quite competitive: all three have won races this year. Getting to drive different equipment is really helpful for my learning curve right now. Not only in the motor department but also chassis and tires. I've driven and raced both the Lola and Reynard along matched with Goodyear and Firestone tires. Everybody has a different way of going about things, and so I have had the advantage of learning from many different engineers and manufactures. Were you broke last year when you made this move, and have you made a bit of money from your driving in Champ Cars since then?
Yeah, I was completely broke actually. The reason that I purchased this ten-year old truck a year ago was that I was so far down to the bottom of the barrel that I had to sell the newer, nicer pickup I had. I was down to the very end. This year I'm definitely a little bit further ahead, but I'm also spending it a lot quicker too, by going to the races, having custom seats made, just stuff like that. Racing gets more expensive as you get more involved in it. If you are successful in landing a full-time drive for next year, what would be your goals for the first season?
My goal would be to be in the position to win races. I know this is easier said than done. But I also know myself better than anybody, and I know I will put the work in to make this happen. Winning races, winning the championship, these thing are going to happen, I'm just not sure when. If you were born in Mario Andretti's era, would you be one of those drivers who raced all different kind of cars?
Oh yeah, even now, you look at all the different vehicles I've raced or driven: from motorcycles, to go karts to midgets to stock cars to sports cars to Toyota Atlantics to Champ Cars. I have learned from ever type of machine I've raced. I'd love to race every weekend if it was possible, or even seven days a week! I really think it's cool that some of the stock car guys race at their local dirt track or race midgets on off-weekends. I enjoy competing, and wherever there's a lot of competition, I like being a part of it. The more I can race the happier I am.