Asia: Qi-Meritus.Mahara interview with Hiroki Yoshimoto

A few weeks ahead of the start of the new GP2 sia series season, a Alengthy conversation with driver Hiroki Yoshimoto Q: When was last time that you drove a racing car? HY: My last race was in November 2007, but I never stop racing. Since 2006...

A few weeks ahead of the start of the new GP2 sia series season, a Alengthy conversation with driver Hiroki Yoshimoto

Q: When was last time that you drove a racing car?

HY: My last race was in November 2007, but I never stop racing. Since 2006 I've done the GP2 Series with BCN competition, Formula Nippon in 2007 and GT 300 in the summer at Suzuka, and we won that race.

Q: Have you seen the GP2 Asia car yet?

HY: Yes and no. I have not yet seen the final livery of my car with my new team. But as it is a previous GP2 car, I know what to expect. The 2008 car used for the GP2 Asia series will be similar to the car I was using in 2005 and 2006. So I know what to expect and the asset is that I won't need too much time to adapt. I have a lot of experience in the series having driven there in 2005 and 2006. We got on the podium in France and San Marino. I had a lot of good races with the team, even if we lost some races because of mechanical problems or strategy problems.

Q: Will you be ready for the start of the GP2 Asia season?

HY: I feel ready. We were late getting the package together, but I know the car. I am very comfortable with the team. I know Peter Thompson since last November when he called me to give me the offer to race in Zhuhai for his Asian Formula Renault V6. It was a very constructive and useful experience and we got to know each other better. The reputation of his team is solid throughout Asia. So since November we kept a strong contact.

Q: What do you think about the technical regulations the racing rules of the new GP2 Asia series?

HY: Overall it is very good. I don't have the list of the final current regulation details in place. But overall the regulations are very good. Two races in one weekend, and they should both be very competitive. There's no power steering, no traction control and the cars have more torque than F1 which will place a greater emphasis on the individual driver's skill. The drivers and the team strategy and the set-up of the car is the key and will make the difference. So it is an excellent team-work exercise to race in the new GP2 Asia series. The flip side is that it is Meritus' first year in GP2. They have a lot of experience in other races and Championships and with other cars, while all the other teams have an advantage of three years of experience in GP2 and some have competed in A1 with some of the tracks. So it is not going to be easy at first. But with the help of Gianfranco Bielli running the team and my experienced team mate and my self we should be able to try our best to reach the high level from the start of the season. Many drivers know the tracks in Bahrain. I have the experience there also with GP2 and also in Malaysia from the GT race. Dubai remains a question mark to most of the competitors and Indonesia will be a challenge except for drivers or teams who have data over the track by competing in A1.

Q: What do you think of the GP2 Asia series concept?

HY: It is going to be interesting. It will also keep me sharp and fit for the next season's main series. It is important to continue racing all year round.

Q: What attracted you to GP2 Asia series?

HY: I know the main series, I respect the Meritus Team. I think it will be high level competition. It is important and everyone that our level allows us to go to GP2 pure racing and pure racing between drivers and teams. I like the concept.

Q: How do you spend the off-season?

HY: I have not had any holidays. But I never really relax so I just trained a lot on a regular basis because we need to be truly trained athletes in this sport. I have been working a lot on my future season from my Osaka office.

Q: How do you prepare for each race, mentally and physically?

HY: Physically I train and GP2 is not as hard as Formula Nippon car where you have three times heavier steering. I do the normal program training heavyweight training amongst others. I have a special diet to follow and it's mainly a question of discipline. Mentally I focus to achieve good results every single race. We want to be fighting for the championship.

Q: Do you have any superstitions before a race?

HY: I get in to the car from the left side, but I do not believe that I should have bad luck from not doing it.

Q: When and where did you really start your career?

HY: In 1999 as I was 18 and had lived in Australia on the Gold Coast since I was a teen. I trained driving on the mountain roads. I was more of a rally experienced driver around Mount Panorama amongst other places! So I have not built up as a karting talent like other drivers and jumped straight into the single seaters. I went through all the levels of the Formula Toyota. I did not have a lot of money. I went to a Korean team and there was the start of my racing career.

Q: What is your best racing memory?

HY: Outside of GP2 my first win in F3 in Japan in Okayama. There I won the race from pole. The only win for the season for a private team. It was a great achievement.

Q: What is your worst racing memory?

HY: In GP2 Turkey when I was leading the race on the wet and the track started to get dry. On the last lap we lost ten positions because of the team strategy.

Q: When looking at the calendar, what GP2 Asia circuits will you enjoy racing at the most?

HY: All of them.

Q: What circuit will you find the most demanding?

HY: I do not know yet. I'll have to have a careful look with my engineers.

Q: What kind of impact do you think that GP2 Asia series will make on motorsport fans around the world?

HY: It's always hard work and takes time to launch and market a new series. But GP2 Asia is an aggressive series with a strong image. The fans will like the high level of competition because they now expect the GP2 series drivers to naturally go to F1. So the fans will like it, no doubt. When I am doing my commentary as a Fuji TV guest reporter, I realize that spectators want to bet on who is going to graduate to F1 and they automatically are curious and want to know more about the series. So it is a series that starts on a strong foundation.

Q: From your past driving experience, how will the thrill of GP2 Asia compare to the motorsport experiences that you have had so far?

HY: The GP2 Asia car is the closest car to F1, but it is bigger and heavier with lower technical additions. It is a car good to learn in. The GP2 series car is hard to drive. Even if when I compare the driving style, the Formula Nippon is also hard to drive. To sum-up driving GP2 cars you learn everything you need but wont learn something you don't need to know!

Q: Your best human quality?

HY: I am honest and straight-talking.

Q: Your best racing quality?

HY: I have the ability to analyse the situation quickly and recognize the qualities of the car and get the best out of a car immediately. I can be at the limit immediately and can be fast on a track that I don't know because I recognize the limits of the racing car very quickly.

Q: Do you have other experience in racing?

HY: I have another very special experience: I am a guest reporter on Fuji TV commentating on F1. Sometimes it is hard on me because I would like to be driving there and it is hard work to guess what is going to next happen on the track. A commentator needs to be very accurate and precise. I like the demanding side of the job. I hope that through my commentary experience, I can bring the professionalism from F1 back to GP2 Asia series and my team.

Q: What you hate most?

HY: People who lie and damage other people's plans.

-credit: qi-meritus.mahara

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Series FIA F2
Drivers Hiroki Yoshimoto