By Cameron Curwood
Starting a new racing series can be a daunting task for a rookie driver. Telling that driver to go out and beat a powerhouse motorsport racing stable called "Andretti" could be overwhelming. In 2010, however, Russian-Canadian, Mikhail Goikhberg took on that task with passion, the right attitude, and success.
Ask the average person on a North American street, one that knows very little about motorsports, to name someone in racing, and they will probably utter the name "Andretti". The Andretti name indeed carries with it the name of success in racing, spanning three generations, many decades, numerous championships and victories, from the streets of Long Beach, California to Fuji, Japan.
The Andretti name has also had success as a team, with their stable of teams winning championships in a range of series from the IndyCar Series, through to the U.S. F2000 National Series. It is against this powerhouse that Goikhberg competed, and had success against in the US F2000 National Championship, in 2010
Goikhberg finished 3rd in the championship, behind series winner and Andretti driver Saga Karam, and 2nd placed driver Patrick McKenna. Goikhberg, however was unwilling to use his underdog status as an excuse.
"They really haven't skipped a beat this year," said Goikhberg, about Andretti Autosport. "If you are about winning, then you have to beat everybody. I have definitely learned a great deal just by competing against them and sharing the paddock. At the end of it all, there is only one winner and he is the only one who doesn't need to make excuses."
Goikhberg was a winner, at the two events at Laguna Seca on May 23rd -- winning his championship class in race #1, and winning outright in race #2. Unfortunately the event was a non-points race, so while he can mark the victories in his win column, they didn't do anything for his points race in the championship.
"It is frustrating because had St. Petersburg and Laguna Seca been switched I would have been in a better position [in the championship]," he said. But he took satisfaction that the races proved he could win at this level. "I knew from first session that we could win at this level, so it was definitely satisfying to win both races at Laguna Seca."
After a slow start to his championship, finishing 8th and 7th in the first races of the year at the aforementioned St. Petersburg, he then won the Laguna Seca races, and then had a string of podiums, finishing 3rd three times and 2nd once, scoring two fastest race laps amongst those races.
He then hit another trouble spot, finishing 10th and 11th at the Autobahn Country Club, where a slow car made him gamble a little more than he would have liked.
"Autobahn was really frustrating for me," he said. "We couldn't find speed the entire weekend, and it being a low passing course, I let frustration get to me and tried extreme things on both starts, which really killed my title hopes."
However, once the series returned to the fabulous Road America course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, Goikhberg was back on track, finishing 2nd in both races behind series winner Karam.
After a successful year, Goikhberg looks positively to the future
"I am looking at all the options but I definitely want to be in Star Mazda in 2011. My racing goal is to win at the highest level of the US open-wheel scene," which will, of course, mean he'll need to tackle the Andretti name again in the future. Goikhberg is finalizing funding to compete in Star Mazda in 2011.