IRL: Ryan Briscoe - Australian GP interview transcript (part 2)

Continued from part 1 Q: Racing on the ovals, I think you said you've done one test now. How have you found that and how daunting is it to be running that way as compared to a road course? BRISCOE: It's definitely different. I ...

Continued from part 1

Q: Racing on the ovals, I think you said you've done one test now. How have you found that and how daunting is it to be running that way as compared to a road course?

BRISCOE: It's definitely different. I mean, it takes a little bit of getting used to. I've still definitely got a lot to learn. Basically, I just want to build up my confidence there. I think that's what a lot of it is about. One thing I really found from the test I had in Phoenix is how much involvement there is on the technical side of oval racing for car set- up. I never would have imagined before actually experiencing it how technically demanding it is for car set-up and so on. On the driving side, it's just be smooth, you've got to learn to run the low lines, the high lines, run close to the walls, very high speeds, and I'm yet to drive close to other cars on an oval, so that's what I will be definitely getting out of the test this week at Homestead. I think there will be more than 20 cars on the track in testing on Saturday, so that will definitely be a great experience for me to learn. It's just all about finding the limits and trying to keep off the walls.

Q: And pitting the car too, because I imagine you haven't done a lot of pitting of that nature?

BRISCOE: Yeah, that's going to be new. Chip Ganassi Racing is certainly one of the best teams at that, and they do a lot of pit-stop practice. And I will be having a lot of preparation before the first race.

HOST: I'm a little out of touch with the American scene in recent years, but could you explain to us the relationship between Chip Ganassi and Toyota - how you observe it there? And is it true that, certainly in Indianapolis, Chip Ganassi Racing is almost the base of Toyota's motor sport activities in America?

BRISCOE: Yes, definitely, you're spot-on there. Chip's relationship with Toyota internationally is very good, he's got excellent relationships with all the top guys in Japan and he's certainly earnt their respect over the last couple of years by his nature of racing and pure determination and will to win. And, certainly by winning the 2003 IRL Championship, Toyota has certainly kept him in its good books and like his way of racing. Very good relationship with Toyota.

HOST: How did this deal come about? Was it a case of you or your management looking around for options other than the Jordan Formula One drive, or did someone come to you, or did Toyota itself suggest that you go to Ganassi or that Ganassi come and approach you? How did it all unfold?

BRISCOE: It didn't come through Toyota itself. It was more, to begin with, just through Chip having the thought of running a third car in 2005. And so, from early on in 2004, he was looking around at different drivers. My manager, Max Angelelli, who races in America actually, is a rival to one of Chip's teams in the GrandAm (series). They had been in contact with each other and talked of me and when Chip, towards the end of 2004, was 100 per cent sure he was going to run a third car he certainly looked into what sort of a driver I was and what he could get from me and brought me over for a test just to see how I'd go in the car, and that all went well. From there, negotiations sort of went over between Chip and Toyota to sort of give me a release from my Formula One contract for a couple of years.

HOST: You mentioned that this is a third car. I gather the other two Ganassi cars in the IRL are driven by Scott Dixon, a New Zealander who won the series a couple of years ago and it might be remembered he tested for Williams (F1 team) last year, and Darren Manning, who is a former test driver for BAR. Have you come across these guys yet and been on the track with them? Have you had much to do with them?

BRISCOE: Yes, we've been together a fair bit. I mean, they both live in Indianapolis as well. Scott's a great guy and good to get along with, so is Darren. We had a test in December at Sebring and we were all there together - and they've been great. And they have certainly welcomed me in and been helping me out with advice and so on, so we've started off well.

Q: There is some suggestion that manufacturers like Toyota and Honda have got a limited future in IRL, given that Chevrolet is pulling out. I'm just sort of keen to hear what you know of Toyota Racing Development's (TRD) involvement in the possibility of them going NASCAR racing and pulling out of open wheelers?

BRISCOE: Really, I've got no idea what their ideas are at the moment for long-term future. What I do know is that for now, for this year, they've got a load of extra people compared to last year coming over and working on the new IndyCar engine. They really want to win it this year. As you know, they didn't have a fantastic year last year, and they've got more support than ever over in the States - working to make this engine the best one out there. It would sort of go against pulling out, but definitely before pulling out they want to win. From a close point view over here, I haven't seen any signs of them pulling back and wanting to pull out.

Q: Can you just confirm how long your long-term contract with Toyota has to run, please?

BRISCOE: Let me think. I've been with Toyota since the beginning of 2001, and it was a 10-year contract.

Q: So another six (years). How long will it take you to get right on the money on the ovals, do you feel?

BRISCOE: I guess time will tell. I don't know. It's all new to me and I'm just going to go out there and do the best I can, make sure my fitness condition and mental condition, everything is at 100 per cent, and just make the most from any track time I've got - and hopefully it won't take long.

HOST: Ryan, even though you haven't driven the IRL car with other cars around you in the drafting and whatnot that goes on in oval racing, what differences have you noticed between an IRL car and the Formula One Toyota car that you drove in the Friday practice sessions at the last six Grands Prix last year?

BRISCOE: Basically on a road course, which is a pretty fair comparison to the Formula One, it's quite a heavier car. It's surprisingly (good), for a car that's never raced on a road course yet. It was quite good and the set-up was good. We've got a lot of options to work on for getting a good balance out of the car, and the performance of it was quite impressive. It's got a good engine on board, a lot of power, good slick tyres, and lots of different compounds for different circuits, which I will be finding out as time goes on. There is no power steering, so the steering is heavy - it's a lot heavier than Formula One - but there are slightly less Gs in the corner and it's a bit easier on your neck and so on. The car doesn't pull up quite as abruptly in the braking as a Formula One car. It's quite different, but in the end to drive around the track fast, it doesn't really change much, it's just another race car with four wheels and everything sort of happens in a similar way.

HOST: Do you have a very definite feeling about the technology or lack of technology? Just against the background that in Formula One there is this argument going on about whether car companies need to be spending the hundreds of millions of dollars that they are for things that in terms of the quality of the racing and what the spectators see perhaps don't mean too much?

BRISCOE: You definitely see in Formula One the different level of technology that's involved. Formula One really is just amazing: the amount of technology that is involved in the race car, the electronics that assist in the driving to make the car go faster, it really is just amazing how the technology makes the Formula One car go, but adding to that I come to the IRL and the car doesn't have traction control. It's not quite the same. It doesn't have all the electronics up to date as well as the Formula One car but it does work and, in the end though, it doesn't really change a whole lot. I mean, what have you got? In the Formula One the gear paddles on the steering wheel, the gear shifts are a lot quicker in a Formula One car, downshifts, you've got automatic blipping of the engine, which you don't have on the IRL car, so all those little aids definitely, in detail, help the performance of the Formula One car. Just subtle differences like that.

Q: I'm just keen to know your feelings about getting back to racing after you sort of spent last year just testing. What are your thoughts about getting back into real competition?

BRISCOE: I can't wait. I've been missing it. It's going to be a different way of racing, but I've had 12, 14 months away from racing now and I'm very eager to get out there and get racing again, so I really can't wait.

Q: Your first race will be the Daytona 24 hours, a bit different. What are your thoughts on that, having driven the Daytona prototype?

BRISCOE: Again, it's fantastic having this opportunity from Chip to have given me the drive there. I will be driving the O1 car with Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz, a Mexican driver. We had a test there last week at Daytona and we were very quick. I was performing well, it was consistent, and that was a new experience for me, the sports car, but it was good fun to drive and Chip really wants to win that race, and everyone in the team is very pumped up to go out there and run a good race - and hopefully have no dramas with reliability and win the race. That will be good warm-up to the IndyCar season.

HOST: One of the guys that you will be competing against in that race, or perhaps looking out for, will be an 80-year-old movie star, Paul Newman. Have you sighted him yet?

BRISCOE: Yes. He had a bit of a drama at the test, actually. His car caught on fire after some sort of engine problem, I think, but it's one of those races where the car I will be driving, the GrandAm, it's quite a fast sports car, and then you've got on the track a lot of slower Porches and a lot of guys that don't use their mirrors much in the middle of the race track. They're telling me that the 24-hour race is all about just trying to stay out of trouble, having patience and just making sure your passes are 100 per cent safe - so just trying to stay out of trouble, I think.

HOST: Sounds a bit like a longer version of Bathurst.

BRISCOE: Yeah.

HOST: Is there a final question or two somewhere? Are we all done? If we are, Ryan, thanks again for your time. We appreciate it. Congratulations with hooking up with what's obviously a great team there in America and we wish you well for a year or two, however long it is, and however long it takes you to do the business there that you want to achieve. And we wish you well in your continued dream to get to Formula One. We won't see you here (in Melbourne) on the grid this year, (but) we will roll the welcome mat up and keep it handy for a year or two away.

BRISCOE: Thank you very much, Geoff.

HOST: Also if Pat is there, Pat Caporali from the Ganassi team, thanks very much for her assistance in getting this together - and all the assistance that she has given us over the last few days.

PAT: You're more than welcome.

HOST: Thanks very much.

-grandprix.com.au

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Dixon , Luis Diaz , Max Angelelli , Ryan Briscoe , Chip Ganassi
Teams Williams , Chip Ganassi Racing