Sterling, Virginia (August 5, 2008) -- Liam Kenney graced the VW Jetta TDI Cup podium for the first time this season in Round 3 of the inaugural eight-race series at Portland International Raceway last month. Having steered the ...
Sterling, Virginia (August 5, 2008) -- Liam Kenney graced the VW Jetta TDI Cup podium for the first time this season in Round 3 of the inaugural eight-race series at Portland International Raceway last month. Having steered the #35 ViON/Trax International entry to a second place finish, the 16-year-old now sits third overall in the Driver Point Standings from a field of 30 up-and-coming racers, aged 16 to 26, chosen to compete this season by Volkswagen.
Liam, a multiple winner in open-wheel racing, took some time out to reflect on his impressive rookie closed-top season following his Portland podium on Sunday 27th July.
Q: How satisfying was it to score your first podium finish in the VW Jetta TDI Cup Series?
Liam Kenney (LK): "It was awesome. I was excited heading into the event anyway as Portland's one of my favorite circuits but I was really proud at the end of the day to reach the podium. I think I reached the point where I knew what had to be done to be quick straight out of the box and obviously I was applying what I'd learned from the previous two rounds. I was pretty happy with the result and it's key that we build on the momentum generated at Portland and keep moving forward."
Q: You traded the lead a couple of times in Portland. Was it frustrating not to take the win and how would you rate your performance that weekend?
LK: "Well obviously I wanted to win but if you can't do that then a podium result is still a good thing to come away with. I really wasn't too frustrated, I performed well and don't feel I can complain about a top-three finish. As I stated earlier, the main thing for me now is to build on the result, not least as we're getting our teeth into the championship after a slow start."
Q: At 16 you're competing against drivers in the series who are as much as 10 years older than you with far more track time under their belts. Do you consider your age when you're out on-track racing wheel-to-wheel with your older rivals?
LK: "I've always been the youngest driver in the series I've raced in. It's just something that's been part of my career to-date so I don't really think about it too much to be honest. Age isn't an excuse for anything and I have to do exactly the same job as everyone else I'm competing against. Regardless of my age I want to give it my all as a race car driver."
Q: As a young driver, what are the benefits of racing in a series backed by such a major manufacturer at this stage in your career?
LK: "It's a huge step for me. To be involved in a series supported by a manufacturer like Volkswagen is a pretty bid deal as it gives the championship a great deal of credibility and subsequently exposure to the wider market. In turn, racing, and doing well, in this environment can only be a good thing as I look to progress my career further."
Q: Portland was the only track on this year's schedule that you've raced at before. With a relatively small amount of track time available at each round before qualifying and racing, what's the key to being quick straight out of the box?
LK: "I don't think there's any one thing to be honest you just have to get straight on it as soon as you hit the track. That's what I focus on with my coaches from Speed Secrets, if you get up to speed from the start it can certainly make life a lot easier. I know the Jetta TDI now and I trust my car; the only thing that changes is the track! There's no need to make things a bigger challenge than they are. I have a fairly direct mentality when I get to the track and so far it appears to be working well."
Q: You led laps in the opening round at Virginia International Raceway and again last time out in Portland. Do you predict a win before the season's out and of all the circuits to come, which do you think will suit your driving style the most?
LK: "I have to believe a win is on the cards soon, I wouldn't be racing otherwise! The track I'm probably looking forward to visiting the most is definitely Road Atlanta. There's a bit of family history associated at that circuit and it'll just be an exciting place to compete at. I'm hoping for a return to the podium before then, as Road Atlanta's the season finale, but it's certainly a track I want to do well at."
Q: Is the racing in the VW Jetta TDI Cup Series more intense than your experiences in two seasons of open-wheel racing competing successfully in the Formula TR Pro Series?
LK: "In some ways it is and in other ways it isn't. Obviously one of the things that makes competing in the VW Jetta TDI Cup so intense is just the sheer number of cars racing, there's thirty of us out on track at each event. Everyone's talented and all the cars are identical so the one thing you can count on is good, close racing. The car isn't as fast as the open-wheel race cars I ran in Formula TR but you can't even compare them as they're very different animals. The challenge in the Jetta TDI series is predominantly the number of cars battling for the lead, as we saw in Portland!"
Q: What's been the biggest adjustment you've had to make switching from open-wheel to closed-top racing?
LK: "I guess it's probably the fact that instead of sitting slap-bang in the centre of the race car I'm now off to one side which at first felt a bit strange, not least when taking the racing line into a turn. At the end of the day though, a race car's a race car and you still have to work through the same issues and work with what you've got. There was a bit of a transition period but after the first race I was pretty comfortable racing the Jetta."
Q: Having experienced both forms of racing now, do you think you'll focus your career down a certain path or are you keen to keep your options open?
LK: "I'm just going to keep my options open for now. I certainly don't want to close any doors at this stage in my career and I'll take the opportunities to race as and when they come. I love racing and I'm very happy doing what I do."
Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Connecticut hosts Round 4 of the 2008 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup Series, the halfway stage of the season, Friday 15th -- Saturday 16th August 2008 -- www.limerock.com