Following is the transcript of an interview with 23-year-old Australian international open-wheeler racing driver Ryan Briscoe from a telephone hook- up between Briscoe and Australian media on Tuesday, January 18, organized by the Australian Grand...
Following is the transcript of an interview with 23-year-old Australian international open-wheeler racing driver Ryan Briscoe from a telephone hook- up between Briscoe and Australian media on Tuesday, January 18, organized by the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, for whom Briscoe is an ambassador.
HOST: Happy New Year firstly to everyone, and especially to Ryan Briscoe who is in Miami today. In fact, it's late at night there and Ryan has only arrived in Miami an hour or so ago. So thanks for taking our call, Ryan, and thanks for staying up late.
BRISCOE: Good to be here.
HOST: There has been an important announcement in Ryan's career made in the United States in the last few hours and, as an international ambassador for the Australian Grand Prix, we wanted to take the opportunity afforded to us to have this telephone conference, as we've done in the past with Ryan several times and as we do with other drivers and MotoGP riders. I will be brief in my introductory remarks, but I expect that most of you on-line will be aware by now that Ryan's career is going to see him in the US for the next couple of years. On behalf of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation I just wanted to say that Ryan has kept us appraised of developments and that he continues to have our support, and I should say that really is moral support rather than financial support, but we wish him well for his venture into America, even though we very much would have liked to have had him on the grid here at Albert Park in a few weeks. We will continue to stay in touch with Ryan as we know, in regards to what he is doing there in America, is part of his plan to eventually get to race in Formula One - and to have a long and fulfilling career in Formula One. Ryan's move also keeps him very much in the Toyota "family". As usual, I will invite everyone on-line in turn to ask questions of Ryan. I will just ask him, for starters, if he would just appraise us of what has been announced in America today and what it means for him and his career?
BRISCOE: Thanks, Geoff. Today we had the announcement that I will be the third driver for the Chip Ganassi Racing Team (in the Indy Racing League, a series primarily on oval tracks). It's really exciting for me. It's definitely a new direction in my career for the moment, but definitely a step forward. And it's going to be a bit different doing a lot of ovals, living in America, lots of new things to pick up, but I'm really excited and can't wait to get started.
Q: Ryan, sorry to start on a negative but there are plenty of examples of good American drivers, or good drivers out of the American series, not really hitting it when they got the opportunity to show their stuff in Formula One. Are you concerned that for the next two years you might be just heading into a backwater, or are you confident that you can actually produce the goods in America and allow your career to evolve and keep your Formula One aspirations open?
BRISCOE: Definitely. My long-term ambition is to race in Formula One, being contracted to Toyota on a long-term. My ultimate ambition is to race for Toyota in Formula One some time in the future. I think up until now I've definitely proved that I've got the pace to be up front, to be competitive in Formula One. I was always at the pointy end in the Friday sessions I did this last year (as Toyota's third driver at the last six rounds of the F1 world championship) and, just because opportunities weren't ideal for me to step up into Formula One this year, I had a better offer with Ganassi and that's the reason I came here. I just think this is a fantastic opportunity and I only think I'm going to get benefits out of my driving by coming here. It's a new experience, I will be picking up new skills and just becoming more complete, I hope.
Q: Congratulations on the new deal. You must be pretty happy with it.
BRISCOE: Yes, very happy, thanks.
Q: What is going to happen throughout this year? How are you going to try to keep your name in amongst the F1 circles now that you're racing IndyCars?
BRISCOE: At the moment I'm over here for the next year or two. I'm just going to concentrate 100 per cent on doing well in the IRL, in the IndyCar series. Certainly I've still got very good contact with Toyota the Formula One team, and a lot of people overseas in Europe. Ganassi also has very good contact with some Formula One contacts, and I think in the end the best thing I can do is just get good results over here and then we will see what happens in the future.
Q: Congratulations, Ryan, that's fantastic news. Given that Chip Ganassi is a good judge of young talent, how much pressure is there on you to perform well this year, given that you're in an environment where oval racing is pretty technical and pretty hard to get your head around first- up?
BRISCOE: Firstly, definitely knowing the way Chip Ganassi is, it's definitely an honour to have been given this possibility and I know I wasn't the only choice he had to take, so it's definitely a good feeling to have been chosen and given this opportunity. From a pressure point of view, motor racing there is pressure anywhere you race. I've had a lot of it in the past, it's not the first time I will be racing for a big organisation and definitely it's going at a big challenge, a new challenge to me, but already I'm feeling very comfortable with the team. It's a great group of guys, a really good crew, and it's just going to be all about learning as much as possible in these next coming up tests I'm having (this week at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida), and basically just trying to learn as much from my teammates, from the other drivers out there, listening to the crew members, to my engineer. I think I should be right. I had a test on the oval (in December). I was feeling quite comfortable at the end of it, and I'm just really looking forward to it.
Q: And the other part to it, Ryan, is how long is the contract with Chip Ganassi, and also have you discussed with Chip that obviously the ultimate goal here is to get back to Formula One?
BRISCOE: I'd prefer not to talk about the length of my contract. It is a minimum of one year and it will probably be more than one year. Chip is definitely behind my ambitions. He understands what I want to do in the future is race in Formula One, and he knows that that is what I want, and he said he is fully behind me and he will help me in any way he can.
Q: You mentioned you've got a couple of tests coming up. My understanding of the IRL testing is that it's a fair bit more restricted than in Formula One. How much opportunity will you have before the first round at Homestead (on the first weekend of March) to get your head around the car and the team and all that sort of thing?
BRISCOE: This week we've got three days testing - two days on the road course at Homestead and then the third day on the oval. We will be having another test at the Phoenix Speedway - two days there. They're the only two official open tests that we're having before the first round, and then not sure on the exact number. The engine manufacturers are allowed a certain number of tests throughout the year. We might be using one of them before the first race.
Q: Ryan, congratulations. I even noticed today a few people are saying you are going into a backwater of America. It must be terrible to race in a backwater series that you can win the Indianapolis 500 in?
BRISCOE: I don't know what you mean by the backwater series. Can you explain that?
Q: I'm just saying that it's terrible when people tell you you're making a move to a series and that series has the biggest race in the world (Indy 500).
BRISCOE: I guess a lot of people around the world have different opinions. I think being over here I'm seeing that the IndyCar series is certainly growing, and it's certainly at one of its strongest points that it's ever been at this year, with probably 22 or 23 drivers and 17 races - plus going on to road courses. I mean, everyone's pretty pumped about the series and it should be pretty good, but especially for the Indy 500, as you were saying, it's probably regarded as the most important motor race in the world to a lot of people. And certainly that's going to be one of the high points of this year.
Q: Are you going to be basing yourself down in Florida or are you going to move into Indianapolis?
BRISCOE: I'm based in Indianapolis now.
Q: Can we go back to the negotiations that you apparently had with Jordan and there was also talk that you might even run with Minardi. Can you confirm that you actually spoke with Minardi about that possibility, and then maybe explore the reasons why the Jordan thing ultimately fell over. There was talk of them asking, and I would certainly believe this, for a whole lot of money. But if you could just explain the process that you walked away from those two opportunities, if the two opportunities existed and went for the Ganassi option?
BRISCOE: Sure. Definitely last year, from halfway through the season, I guess, we were strongly looking at an F1 team, with Jordan or Minardi. We were in talks with both teams. As time progressed we lent more towards Jordan because of the Toyota engine deal, mostly. November we were really getting down to business with it all and getting close, and sort of finalising all the negotiations, and had organised a test with Jordan and everything. That was after Toyota had confirmed the engine deal. We were rounding up money and pretty confident that I was going to have the seat the next year. Definitely, if I had pursued that avenue, I'm almost 100 per cent sure that I would have been on the grid with Jordan this year. The fact is that, from my manager, we got the opportunity from Chip Ganassi to come to America and have a test with his team, and to me with Jordan there were a lot of doubts - it was only one year, didn't really give me a very secure future, and the way Ganassi were really pushing and wanted me to race for them with more than a one-year deal, and the situation that Toyota had with Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher (contracted as race drivers), they wanted them for two years, they're both Grand Prix winners in Formula One, I needed to establish, myself, some sort of stable platform for the next couple of years before I knew I was going to be able to race for Toyota. The way I was seeing the Jordan deal was (that), it could have been great racing in Formula One, but I'm sure at the end of 2005 I would have been in a very similar position trying to round up money to find another F1 seat again with a team that's not running at the pointy end of the field. Certainly to a Ganassi, a front-running team in one of the most important categories in the world, still with very strong Toyota connections, I was going to be able to come over and race competitively, race to win races, and still have a very good connection with Toyota - and basically establish a more secure platform to have a long-term career in Formula One.
Continued in part 2