SBRS: Round 5 , Detroit, Sepp Koster Interview

(LAKEVILLE, Conn.) June 8, 2000 -After 27 Barber Dodge Pro Series starts, Dutchman Sepp Koster garnered his first Pro Series victory with a dominant performance at Nazareth Speedway. Winning however is not new to Koster who holds a Dutch and ...

(LAKEVILLE, Conn.) June 8, 2000 -After 27 Barber Dodge Pro Series starts, Dutchman Sepp Koster garnered his first Pro Series victory with a dominant performance at Nazareth Speedway. Winning however is not new to Koster who holds a Dutch and Benelux Formula Ford title to his credit. After racing in the European Formula Opel Championship where he placed third and selected Formula 3 races, Koster decided to try his hand at racing in the United States.

1. Now that you've had some time to reflect on it, how has your win affected your outlook?

Obviously, it was a great feeling to finally win my first race in the Pro Series. I had more time to enjoy my win, but I am also more eager than ever to get in the car and try to win some more. It gave me some time though to think about the rest of the season, and evaluate was going wrong and right before Nazareth. Definitely my cooperation with Todd Snyder (1998-99 Barber Dodge Pro Series runner-up and current CART Dayton Indy Lights driver) is a good one, it was his opinion that there was something wrong with my old car and he pushed really hard for a different one. Now that I know I have a car capable of winning, I feel much more relaxed, which will help me to keep more focussed and concentrated during the remainder of the season. As far as my ambitions are concerned nothing has changed, I still want to win the Series and I sincerely think that I have a good shot, now even more than before.

2. Do you feel more or less pressure for the rest of the season?

I definitely feel less pressure. Pressure to me comes from your own expectations, and if things are not going according to expectations it is a lot more disrupting than the feeling that you are sure you can go to a race with the chance of winning it

3. Describe what you were thinking and feeling when you came off the last turn and saw the checkered flag waiting for you?

I felt the greatest feeling of relief to be honest, it was so much more a "load off my shoulders" than an outright celebration. I just started shouting and yelling into the radio, I think Todd had to take off his headset to avoid damaging his ears. The happy feeling only sunk in after I got out of the car and saw all the guys in victory lane. It had been a while since I won my last race but I felt right at home again there on the podium.

4. You have a friendship with two-time Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk. What did he have to say after your Nazareth win?

He was really, really happy for me and said I thoroughly deserved it after all the bad luck I had in the past. He also felt it was a great thing that it happened on an oval because I am more experienced on road courses. It will make me a stronger "package" for USA racing because in every series, ovals play a big part.

5. Why have you chosen to race in America in the Barber Dodge Pro Series rather than in your native Europe?

At some point I wanted to go race F3 in Europe but I could not get the right budget to do it. Offers were very good, but there was no money. Now I knew Rick Ratacjzak (Barber Dodge Series Director and Peter Argetsinger Barber Dodge Driver Coach) for some years already and when they showed me the new car they were going to run I got interested. After a second year in Formula Opel and very good results I thought F3 would be no problem. It did not turn out that way and I decided to take a chance and check out the Pro Series. I liked what I saw, found some sponsorship and registered for the 1998 season.

6. You have a pretty easy-going personality, which might be contrary to the popular belief that you have to have a killer instinct mentality to be a successful racecar driver. Do you see your own personality as a factor in your career?

To me it was very clear that to get anywhere, you have to play by the rules. This means that you will not get the best out of everybody by shouting and screaming. Also travelling on your own can be very boring, so having a good relationship with other drivers so you can have fun with them off the track is definitely better. The easy-going mentality is definitely one I developed driving in the Pro Series. When you are running with your own team you can be more aggressive, because you are only dealing with a small group of people, this is not the case in Barber Dodge. I think in my case that I adapt to whatever attitude will work for me. As far as being easy going, this does certainly not mean that you have to be like that in the car. I think I am a good example, because as you said I am quite easy going off the track but last year, there have definitely been cases where I was too aggressive on the track, too fired up. I think you have to have a good balance in the car between killer instinct and knowing when to take it easy..

7. Sepp Koster is a pretty cool name for a racecar driver. Is there a story behind why your parents named you that?

It might sound very cool, but the reality is that my parents didn't have a name for me when I was born. That same period there was a Soccer world championship and Germany won it. Their goalkeeper's name was Sepp Maier, my father liked it so that's how I got it. It is not a common name, and more a soccer name than a racing name as you now know. But I think soccer is boring.

8. How difficult is it for you to travel between Europe and America for 12 rounds of the Pro Series, plus testing?

I think it is very tough, and it takes a lot of energy out of me. The fact is that I want to race so badly that I cope with it without complaining. For the moment I have no choice, because I have too many things to do in Europe and no money to live on my own in the USA. I am still studying mechanical engineering at the University of Eindhoven and I work for a Formula Ford team in the Netherlands. Above that I work in my mother's company, selling women's clothing and doing some administrative and commercial stuff.

9. As a European racing in America, what do you think about all the commentary that there aren't enough Americans racing in CART?

To be honest I think it is just a commercial problem. Because of the single-seater split (IRL/CART), interest in the USA is going down and big sponsors are looking elsewhere. The money goes to other programs and even drivers choose to go to other series. This tendency is most felt by American drivers who look for American sponsors. Given a choice between a non-American driver with money and an American driver with less, team owners will choose the one with the money. I think once single-seater racing regains its popularity, there will be more American drivers again.. Also a couple very "hyped" American drivers have not performed as expected, and some new foreigners have, so now a lot of owners are looking more in the direction of a new Zanardi or Montoya instead of well preparing their own countrymen. Certainly more Americans are needed because CART still leans mostly on the home market, but those drivers also have to get results. But it is not as bad as it looks, because I think there is a good group of Americans in Lights at the moment and they are getting ready for Champ Cars in the very near future. In the long run programs like the Barber Dodge Pro Series will bring more and even better drivers up to that level.

10. What's the biggest pleasure for you away from a racetrack?

I love to do other sports especially all sorts of ball games.(squash, tennis, basketball etc.). I used to play first division ice hockey so this is still one of my favorite games. I am also crazy about music, this means listening to all kinds, and playing the drums. This instrument really helps me to blow off some steam when I need to!

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About this article
Series Other open wheel
Drivers Arie Luyendyk , Sepp Koster , Todd Snyder , Peter Argetsinger