Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference April 1, 2003 Roger Yasukawa and Tom Anderson Part 1 of 2 K. Johnson: We certainly welcome everyone to the Indy Racing teleconference for this week, Tuesday, April 1. Today, we will take a look at...
Indy Racing League
April 1, 2003
Roger Yasukawa and Tom Anderson
Part 1 of 2
K. Johnson: We certainly welcome everyone to the Indy Racing teleconference for this week, Tuesday, April 1. Today, we will take a look at the upcoming Indy Japan 300 IndyCar Series event. Joining us today we will be two members of the Super Aguri Fernandez Racing Team, they being IndyCar Series driver Roger Yasukawa and managing director Tom Anderson.
A little background, Super Aguri Fernandez Racing is a new entry in the Indy Racing League this season, formed in December of 2002 by Fernandez Racing ex-Formula One driver Aguri Suzuki and the Super Aguri Company.
Their driver, Roger Yasukawa, is in his rookie season in the IndyCar Series. He drives the No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone and is currently the IndyCar Series' Bombardier Rookie of the Year points leader. Born in Los Angeles, Yasukawa grew up around the world of racing. His father, Minoru, works in the industry, initially for the Leyton House Formula One team and is currently employed by the West McLaren Mercedes F1 Team.
Tom Anderson's career in motorsports spans more than 30 years and includes three Indianapolis 500 victories. He began his career as a mechanic with McLaren Cars and his first exposure to Indy-style racing came in 1980 as a member of Pennzoil/Chaparral Racing Team that won both the CART title as well as the Indianapolis 500 with driver Johnny Rutherford. Anderson then teamed with driver Adrian Fernandez to form Fernandez Racing in 2000 and recently, in December of 2002, Fernandez Racing teamed up with ex-Formula One driver Aguri Suzuki and the Super Aguri Company to form Super Aguri Fernandez Racing. Roger, Tom, welcome and thanks for joining us today.
T. Anderson: Thank you very much, Kent.
K. Johnson: I want to point out to our listeners online that Roger is in Japan where he has been since this past weekend and he has rearranged his schedule, literally, to be with us. It is just a little after 2 a.m. overseas right now, so treat him with kid gloves as we go. Roger, let's open with a comment from you. In the preseason testing, you proved to be very fast, and in our most recent event, the Purex Dial Indy 200 at Phoenix, you led five laps. Looking at your season through two races how would you assess how it has gone thus far?
R. Yasukawa: I certainly think that the season is going pretty good for me. I have come into the big series now, the IndyCar Series, and it is definitely a very tough series with great drivers out there and the team is doing a fantastic job to help me, and I think the program has gone well. We have proved to be quick, and I think now that we need to prove that we can finish upfront and hopefully we could do that at the next race in Motegi.
K. Johnson: As a follow-up, you worked your way to the IndyCar Series by competing in the Formula Dodge, Barber Dodge and then the Toyota Atlantic series. How has that background helped prepare you for the oval track racing that you are experiencing now?
R. Yasukawa: It certainly has prepared me well, I think, coming into the series this season. Having said that, I think the car is different, and the team is different, and there is a lot more people involved. But I think the basic still remains the same, especially the driving aspect of it. So when I got to this series, I still had a lot to learn, and I think I still do. But I think I have got the basics well enough that it did not make it that tough for me to learn things. And again, the team is doing a lot to help me out. So once everything goes together I think things are going as what we expected.
K. Johnson: And a follow-up question, Roger, part of team owner Aguri Suzuki's relationship with the team is through the Autobacs Racing Team Aguri Project, otherwise known as ARTA. What can you tell us about your involvement in this project?
R. Yasukawa: Actually, this is my second year with the Autobacs Racing Team Aguri Project. The project basically is sort of like a scholarship program, and Aguri has the-- he has tons of drivers actually in Japan, also in Europe, and basically he makes efforts for a lot of drivers in different kind of series and it is certainly the biggest racing team project in Japan. And I think Mr. Aguri Suzuki is contributing a lot to the Japanese motorsport. And I think for me to be part of it, especially the IndyCar Series, I hope that it will give a lot more attention to the people in Japan to look to the IndyCar Series and American motorsports in general.
K. Johnson: Tom, let's get a comment from you right now. From your position as managing director, how have you seen this team, which is new to the IndyCar Series, progress thus far this season?
T. Anderson: Well, I am very pleased with our progress. Basically the bulk of this team was a carryover from the CART team that ran Shinji Nakano starting in the year 2000 or sorry, 2001-2002. And basically we moved over with Honda to the IRL series. And, I think probably the biggest credibility I could give to somebody on the team right now is that this year we acquired the services of John Dick, our race engineer, and of course he was with Blair Racing last year in the Indy Racing League, and they finished, I think it was, fifth in the series with Alex Barron. And so to capitalize on John's experience, he has been a tremendous asset to our team.
K. Johnson: A follow-up for you, Tom. You have an extensive background in international racing and obviously with the Fernandez Racing team's background in CART, international events are nothing new for the team. What can you tell us about some of the challenges which the team has to tackle in preparation for an international event?
T. Anderson: Well, I mean, basically you are right, Kent. I mean, from the CART standpoint we have been doing this for over 10 years, and we have been to Motegi, I think this will be our sixth trip to Motegi. It depends a little bit on which country you are going to. Going to Japan for us is a treat because it is Honda's home turf. The development of Honda engines down in Tochigi, Japan, is just not too far down the road from Motegi. So we are entertained and taken care of quite well there. From the team standpoint, basically since the transporters do not go, you unload and put into pack horses or whatever type of carriers that you have, you put about 8,000 pounds worth of equipment, your two chassis and get them covered up and basically you need a box truck to get the boxes from your facility to the airport. I believe we are loading at Evergreen Aviation here in Indianapolis today. So manifest, regular international manifest that anybody that has shipped equipment abroad understands, brokerage services and most of that is handled by the Indy Racing League, so it is pretty easy on that standpoint for us. It is just a matter of making sure that your manifest list matches what is inside your cargo containers.
K. Johnson: But a very involved process nonetheless. At this time I would like to go ahead and open the forum to the media who have questions. Also, since we have two guests with us today, please indicate which person your question is for. We do a complete transcript of the call. It will be sent to you tomorrow to your email or fax machines. Now let's open the forum for questions.
Q: Roger, two questions for you. One, how are you feeling after your hard hit at PIR? And two, is there any significance to the No. 55 on your car?
R. Yasukawa: The answer to the first question, I am feeling perfectly fine right now. After that hit I was released from the hospital, and I came back to Japan a day after that, and I am back to my regular training regimen, so I should be perfectly fine for Motegi. Second answer about the No. 55, I think one of the main reasons we have No. 55 is because that is the number Mr. Aguri Suzuki ran in Formula 3000 championship when he won it. I think that was more than 10 years ago in Japan. But it turned out to be a bit of coincidence in that the major league baseball player, Matsui, who went to New York Yankees this season, and he also has the No. 55. So I do not know if that was one of the reasons, but I understand that No. 55 came from Aguri Suzuki.
Q: Have you been cleared to drive?
R. Yasukawa: No, I have not. I should be cleared before Motegi when I see Dr. Bock when he gets to Japan.
Q: Thank you.
R. Yasukawa: Thank you.
Q: This is for Mr. Anderson. How did your group happen to come to the IRL? Was there a reason or was it more Honda or could you elaborate on that?
T. Anderson: Definitely, Honda and economics of the times. I think that in the current environment in motor racing today that once you have developed a long, good working history with an engine manufacturer you want to try to maintain that relationship. And that was basically the thoughts that Adrian and I had myself. With a previous employer I have been with Honda since 1996, and Adrian has been with a former team with Honda before, and we have quite a good relationship there, and it was something that we wanted to continue and to build on.
Q: How do you see your chances in the IRL this year?
T. Anderson: I am very much more optimistic than I was when I started the season because John Dick and Roger have put a lot together here in a very short time. And quite frankly, Roger has a little more talent than I thought he had, so he is doing an exceptionally good job. And I tell you what, I think we are going to surprise some people this year.
Q: Hi, Roger. Have you been to Japan many times or how often have you visited Japan?
R. Yasukawa: I have actually -- well, I do come to Japan a lot because my parents, or actually my whole family, is based in Japan, and most of my sponsors are from Japan, as well. Therefore, I do come here every year and maybe work into the season or before start of the season. So I think nothing new to me actually. I also live in Japan. I also lived in Japan when I went to elementary school between the age of 6 and 12.
Q: And I know you grew up around Formula One with your father. Why are you in an American series?
R. Yasukawa: That is mostly because I was born in the U.S.A. and I spent pretty much most of my life there. And I have been watching the American series more than European series, in general. And I think this way of lifestyle and racing style in the Americas is better than in Europe. And I think that was probably the biggest reason that I decided to be in the IndyCar Series rather than anything in Europe.
Q: One other question. Have you followed some of the Japanese drivers like Hiro (Matsushita) and so forth that participated in Indy-style racing when you were younger?
R. Yasukawa: Absolutely. Obviously, at the time I was still young so I was watching TV. But I do know Mr. and Mrs. Matsushita personally, and at the same time I am a good friend with Tora (Takagi) and Shigeaki (Hattori), who are actually racing in our series.