Indy Racing League weekly teleconference Mark Taylor Nov. 4, 2003 Ken Johnson: At this time, we'd like to bring in the driver who has been announced for the No. 2 Menard/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. This past season, we ...
Indy Racing League
Nov. 4, 2003
Ken Johnson: At this time, we'd like to bring in the driver who has been announced for the No. 2 Menard/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. This past season, we referred to him as an Infiniti Pro Series driver, but now we can we refer to him as an IndyCar Series driver, and that's Mark Taylor. Good morning.
Mark Taylor: Good morning.
K. Johnson: Take us back over the past couple of weeks. You test down in Texas, in October, and then it's a matter of waiting and hoping a ride comes along. And, now, you've found one and it's with the team that you drove with the past year in the Infiniti Pro Series. Tell us about how the ride came about and your feelings now as you look towards your first IndyCar Series season.
Mark Taylor: I've been happy to run with them all year in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series. It was obvious what a great team Panther Racing is and how well they prepare their cars. I knew that, if I could, to be able to move up to them it the IndyCar series, it would be the best option for me to be able to learn and progress in the IndyCar Series. It was always the seat that I wanted to get. It was just the way that it's come about. It's been a dream come true. To be able to have the two longest running and the two best teams in the IRL to be able to merge together to form a car for me was great news. And, for John Menard to bring in the money from the No. 2, as well, and just to be able to run those colors, it's going to be a great year for me next year.
K. Johnson: Earlier in the call, John Barnes was talking about how so many of the crew members that you worked this past season are going to be your crew members on the No. 2 car. I guess the one person you're not going to have with you is your spotter, Pancho Carter. Talk about the importance or the familiarity of having crew members around you as you make this step, crew members you are familiar with.
Mark Taylor: It is vital. It's one of the main reasons why teams are able to be so successful. It's an integral part of any team. For the driver to be able to work with the engineer and work with the mechanics, and be able to get on and have a good rapport with each other is vitally important to be able to understand each other on an end of the track. To be able to have the same engineer, Brent Harvey, to be able to have the same mechanics on the team working on the car, I'm able to fully trust them and know what they say to me is in my best interests. I'm looking forward to it in the testing and the races in the future. It's going to be a great start for me in my new car series career, as it were.
Q: I know you kind of shook a car down at Texas. They called it a test, but when are you scheduled to make your first official full-blown test in the No. 2 car?
Mark Taylor: I think it's going to be at the beginning of December. I think we are hoping to go down to Phoenix. I'm not 100 percent certain on what the dates are going to be, but I think we are going to try to get in a bit of testing before Christmas and the New Year comes around.
Q: You made this year look easy, you had it pretty well cinched up this year. Can you do that next year?
Mark Taylor: It's a different series. It's going to be a lot more challenging, I think. The Indy cars, they are very similar feeling cars from what I felt in the Texas test. Hopefully, it will be a smooth transition, but it's going to be -- it's going to be a different ballgame, as it were. You have the pit stops and I haven't run a race with a pit stop, yet, and that's going to be a big learning curve for me. There are going to be a lot of changes that, hopefully, I'll get a lot of experience at before we go into the first race, and it will give me an advantage to run as fast as possible right from the beginning of the year.
Q: What do you think -- you made some comments about pits stops. Other than your pit stops, that seems to probably come to you, but what do you think your other biggest challenge will be?
Mark Taylor: Oh, I'm not sure at the moment. But, before I get in the car, it's difficult to say. Of course, the extra speed is going to be a factor to be able to set the car up well and make sure that the car is at its best when I want it to be in a race situation and in qualifying situation. It's all a learning experience. With having Tomas as a teammate, he has experience in the car and he will be able to help me learn as I go along. To be able to have the experience that some of these engineers at Panther Racing have will be a great help, as well.
Q: John Barnes just said a few minutes ago the Kansas race where you came from the back to win was a key factor when they were looking back and looking at drivers, that you became a driver in that race. How do you feel and can you describe what you did in that race to get to the front?
Mark Taylor: I think I did it through the whole season. It wasn't one particular race. I think Kansas was probably my favorite race of the year, but any race which is competitive like that, and you're fighting your way through the field or fighting with people at the front is fun. I thoroughly enjoyed Chicago and I thought that was a great race, and also, the Texas race was a great race, too, even though it didn't finish the way that I wanted to. It was still a very tough race and a very enjoyable race. I think there are a number of times -- to pinpoint one specific time in a year, it was difficult to say that proves me as a driver, but I definitely learned a lot in the Kansas race. It was the first race where I didn't start near the front and it was where Pancho really helped me hugely. He explained to me the differences, what you're looking for when you're starting at the back of a race and what you need to be able to move up and make sure that the car is good and that you're feeling comfortable with the car before you make any rash decisions, and make sure you get it to the end. The result was exactly what we wanted. We had an interesting weekend up to that point and it just put the icing on cake that weekend for me. It was great. It was a great race to be involved in with that finish.
Q: At Indy last year at the first Freedom 100, you got an opportunity to drive on the Speedway and finish third, I think it was. And coming next year to Indianapolis, what are your thoughts, and do you feel that maybe you have a little edge now, that maybe you won't be a raw rookie there?
Mark Taylor: Indianapolis is always a very special race. Having only been there for it this year, it was my first experience of a live 500, and I think that will help me in a way. But, I'm not sure how much the Freedom 100 will help me for the Indy 500. They are two different cars, completely different length of race. And, I think, the fact that you bring in to the 500 is the length of the race and the mental capacity that you need to be able to succeed at it. So, it's going to be a very tough and very enjoyable week, month. The whole of May is full up with testing and with other dates. So, it takes a lot of your time, but it's also a key point in the year.
Q: You carried car No. 4 last year. Do you have any idea what number will be on your car this year?
Mark Taylor: Yeah, it will be the No. 2. It's the Menard number, so they keep the No. 2.
Q: I was told you were supposed to be down at Homestead to be on the test with Scheckter. Have you been able to watch it, have you been able to learn anything down there if you are down there?
Mark Taylor: Well, I'm just here to look over the team, to chat to the engineers and get to know everybody better. As far as the on-track stuff is concerned, I haven't really got to know much about it, but it just -- being able to get to know the people as we are away from home, away from the shop, you get to learn a lot when you're in a test situation. So, it's always good fun to be able to have the time to do it.
Q: You look at a couple other drivers that came up through the Pro Series to the IndyCar Series, A.J. (Foyt IV) won the championship, and then pretty much struggled this year. But, then Carpenter, when he came in the last three races had some success. Can you take anything from that, looking at a couple other guys who were taking a route now that you are taking?
Mark Taylor: Well, I know that Ed did extremely well in the last few races. It's always difficult to compare drivers and to see the reasons why one person hasn't succeeded as another one might. I'm just confident that once I get in the car that I'll be able to -- I'll be able to learn a lot and do a good job. I know that I'm with the right team with Panther Racing to be able to do that. They'll give me a lot of experience and a lot of opportunity to be able to run up the front and near the front and to win races. So, it's a huge opportunity and one that I intend to take full advantage of.
Q: Is the change of going from the Infiniti cars to the IndyCar Series, will that require or will you be changing your personal training schedule or what you're doing to stay in training?
Mark Taylor: Well, I work with Tim Drudge at St. Vincent's Sports Medicine at the moment and they do a great job. They help Dan Wheldon, as well, so they do have experience in training with the Panther team, the pit crew, at the moment. They do have a lot of experience when it comes to an IndyCar driver and what I need to be able to be focused through the whole of the race and to be fit enough to be able to run the car. So, I've been able to step up my training from almost the beginning of the year to make sure that I was ready for the opportunity when it came around. I was hoping to actually get in the IndyCar earlier in the year but it wasn't going to happen. I had to be ready at any point to be able to jump in that car and do the best that I could.
Q: What are some of the changes that it entails?
Mark Taylor: It's just making sure that you're as fit as you can be, and strengthening your arms is probably a major factor. It's making sure that you're fit enough so that your brain can work even though your body is going through the extreme temperatures, and through the extreme work that it will do. As your driving the car, you have to be able to be very calm and be concentrating and thinking about what you're doing on the track.
Q: You came a long way and took on a lot of new challenges, a long way from home and in a new type of racing. What did you find out about yourself and the way you handled these challenges this year?
Mark Taylor: I was surprised how comfortable I felt in Indianapolis and moving into the Panther team. They made it very enjoyable for me. I've thoroughly enjoyed coming over to America to race. It's a completely different feeling to racing in Europe and it was a huge challenge for me, one that many people thought that I shouldn't have made. But, I hope now that I've proven them wrong. As far as myself is concerned, I feel that I've grown up quite a lot in the year. It's taught me a lot about media exposure, being able to communicate with a team, being able to set a car up on ovals, running a car on the ovals. There's been so much that I've had to learn through the year and it's difficult to explain it all in just one conversation. But, it has been a hugely growing experience for me, and one that I'm still continuing to do, and one that will only grow as the years grow.
Q: I'm sure you saw the response or heard about the response in New Zealand when Scott (Dixon) won, they were going bananas, they were so proud of their native son. Have you let yourself dream about what it might be like to come home and get the bottle of milk and checkered flag and what they would do in the United Kingdom if one of the native sons won the Indianapolis 500?
Mark Taylor: I don't know. The Indianapolis 500, the trick is to pretend it's another race and it's probably one of the hardest things to do. I haven't had the exposure back home, so far. It's difficult to think about what it would be like. The best thing is to try and ignore it as much as possible and focus on actually doing it. The person who will be most proud of me being able to win the '500' would be myself. So, as far as everyone else is concerned, if it did happen, they would be able to bask in my glory, as it were, but it would still be one of the things that is most important in my life to be able to do.
Q: We talk about Brands Hatch and Silverstone, some of those magical names back in Great Britain, and I get a sense that you already understand what it means to be in the Brickyard, and, of course, next year you get to drive at The Milwaukee Mile, which has a huge history. You seem to have picked up very quickly on some of the traditions and hallowed grounds of racing here in the United States.
Mark Taylor: To be able to stand in the Indianapolis pits, looking up and down the pit straight, it comes to you straight away. You understand what everyone means. Without coming over here and seeing it for yourself, it's very hard to understand. But, I'll be the first to admit that when I came over here I didn't really understand what the Indianapolis 500 meant. But, as soon as you first see it from the air as you're flying into Indianapolis, and when you get to stand in the grounds in the month of May, you do truly understand. It's as if Indianapolis comes alive in that month of the year. And, it was a great pleasure this year, and it's going to be an even greater pleasure next year to be able to run in it.
Q: Did you follow Nigel Mansell much, and his United States effort after winning the World Championship?
Mark Taylor: Yes, I did. I mean, he was known for his Formula 1 exploits, and it was very big news when he came over to do the '500', everyone was very excited. Of course, everyone thought he was going to be able to come over here and dominate it. I think it's always a surprised. I mean, Johnny Herbert came over to America to, in his words, he was going to come over and show the Americans how to drive around Indianapolis. He got a big shock when he did it and it's just one of those things that until you come over here, it's just like another ballgame, a different feeling, and it's one that's very difficult to overcome to be able to win the '500'.
Q: Rookie of the Year at the '500' is also always a big honor, along with winning the race. You and, probably, Ed Carpenter will be among two of the top rookies next year. Is there a competition between you and him in your mind?
Mark Taylor: I thoroughly enjoy racing with Ed this year. He's a great driver and hopefully he'll be able to move up into the IndyCar Series, as well, next year, and be able to show the standard of driving. To say there's a rivalry, I think there's a rivalry with every single driver out there to be able to compete and be there. Of course, I know Ed a little bit better now, but I don't think there is any particular rivalry. We get on very well off-track and we race well together on-track. So, I don't know.
Q: Do you know Darren Manning very well?
Mark Taylor: Not very well. Of course, he's come over here and he's done well in CART, but I don't know him personally, no.
Q: There's stories flying around he might be coming over to the IRL next year. It might make for a kind of a British support group there?
Mark Taylor: Well, I don't know how true those rumors are. As you, I just heard the rumors. It would be great to have more drivers over and I'm sure he would enjoy the IRL as much as I have this year. It's a great championship to be in. As you can probably see, it's one that more Englishmen are hoping to get into in the future.
Q: The success you've had, the success he's had, both of you struck a chord. You said you were welcomed and immediately connected with people when you got here, and I know Darren is the same type person. Maybe you're going to start a bit of a trend here where we'll have more of your countrymen coming this way?
Mark Taylor: Well, it's a strange thing to be able to come to a country and feel welcomed like you do in America and Indianapolis. I mean, the success that Dan Wheldon has had over here, it's fueled me to come over here, and it sure is nice to be able to race on the tracks that we race at in the series. It's just been a complete joy to run this year and I'm really looking forward to next year. Coming over here was the best decision I've made, so far, in my racing career and one that I hope to continue.
K. Johnson: Again, we appreciate you taking the time to join us this afternoon and we wish you the best of luck next year as the driver of the No. 2 car for Panther Racing.