Mark Blundell on Champ car race in England Q: What does being able to race in your home country mean to you? A: "It will just be fantastic to be in front of a home crowd again. It was one of the things I really used to look forward to when I...
Mark Blundell on Champ car race in England
Q: What does being able to race in your home country mean to you?
A: "It will just be fantastic to be in front of a home crowd again. It was one of the things I really used to look forward to when I was in Formula One and now I can experience that feeling again. Obviously running in your home country creates extra pressure with all the attention from family, friends, media and sponsors, but it's all worth it."
Q: When was the last time you raced in the UK?
A: "I raced in the Formula One grand prix at Silverstone in 1995 with McLaren. I actually crossed the line in fifth place, but with just three wheels. I got hit by Rubens Barichello on the last lap and it damaged the right rear wheel."
Q: What will be the most exciting thing about racing in the UK next year?
A: "I think the atmosphere will be something that has not been experienced in the UK for a long, long time. This formula is so exciting and I think English races fans are in for a real treat."
Q: You have had a look at the Rockingham venue, what do you think?
A: The track has an interesting design and will be fast. It is D-shaped, but I don't think you will have to downshift at any point. With a quick estimation I think the average lap speed will be something like 212-215mph. The facility itself is well under construction and I think it is going to be a first-class venue. The garage and paddock areas have all the latest and greatest gear and I think there will be plenty of room for everyone. There is a lot of enthusiasm for the project and I think that will be evident when we race at the venue next year.
Q: What can English fans expect to see at Rockingham next year?
A: I think the fans can expect to see what is seen at virtually all CART races -- wheel-to-wheel racing in the world's fastest race cars. I think they can also expect to get closer to the drivers and the action than they ever have before."
Q: Do you think the "Bookies" (Bookmakers) will be getting in on the action?
A: You can bet on two flies climbing up a wall in England, so I guess the bookies will be out in force. I think there would also be some reasonable odds floating about because this sport is so incredibly competitive. I mean, this season we have had eight different winners from just nine events. There are probably another six or seven drivers who could be considered a serious threat in any of the remaining races. There is every chance we could end up with 14 different winners in the 20-race series. Not many other formulas of racing can boast that -- not even at karting or club level.
Q: Do you think the European fans will enjoy the oval racing experience?
A: I think it will be a whole new outlet for single-seater fans and race fans in general. There is no doubt that having a race in England will do enormous things for the profile of Champ Car racing and all the drivers and sponsors involved with it. Having myself and Dario Franchitti in the series for a few years has certainly created interest for race fans, but I think the Rockingham race will help develop a whole new breed of fans -- some of whom may not have even been to a motorsport event before.
Q: The announcement of the Rockingham and German races really add to the international flavor of Champ Car racing, don't they?
A: I think the international flavor of CART is one of its greatest assets, but it has not been promoted enough. This season alone we have drivers from something like 11 different countries out there racing and they all bring something different to the sport. Next season we will go from racing in five different countries to eight. This is now truly a world championship and demands the respect of one.
Q: What would it mean to you to win next year's Rockingham race?
A: It would be a dream come true. I have not won a race since the final round of the 1997 season at Fontana. Ironically, that was also on a brand new oval. It would be great to jump out of my car and see all the Union Jacks and Motorola flags flying. It was amazing to see the Union Jacks and the painted faces when Nigel (Mansell) won his first ever race in 1993 and that was in Australia. I am sure it would be more than colorful if I managed to win at Rockingham.
Q: Champ Car racing has come in for a little criticism from some folks in F1 of late, what are your thoughts on that?
A: Those comments you are referring to related to a comparison of technology and sophistication between Champ Car and F1. Champ Car racing is not as technically advanced as F1 and that has been done so a competitive team can run on a budget of $US25 million and not $US200 million. At the same time the Champ Car rules have created the most competitive and spectacular formula of racing in the world. You only have to look at the fact that there have been eight different winners from just nine races so far this season. You don't have to eat in a five-star restaurant to have a great meal. In fact I am looking forward to a good feed of fish and chips when we come back to England next year.
Q: We know you are now based in Phoenix, Arizona, how much contact do you still have with the UK?
A: I have quite a lot actually. I still have a house in England and myself and the family try to get home at least a couple of times a year. I enjoy living and racing in the US, but at the end of the day I am English and I guess that's why the announcement of this race means so much to me."