Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference April 1, 2003 Roger Yasukawa and Tom Anderson Part 2 of 2 Q: Tom, with your experience at Motegi, does that give you a little bit of an advantage? T. Anderson: I do not really think so because we...
Indy Racing League
April 1, 2003
Roger Yasukawa and Tom Anderson
Part 2 of 2
Q: Tom, with your experience at Motegi, does that give you a little bit of an advantage?
T. Anderson: I do not really think so because we are going there obviously with a new car, which is quite a bit different than the CART cars that I have been there with before. We all know that Panther Racing ran a test over there last year with last year's car, and I do not even really think that gives them much of an advantage going back in. I think coming in with the new cars and new equipment, I think everybody is going to be basing it basically on their simulation programs and the information that they have been able to get from the Motegi racetrack and from Firestone.
Q: A question of Roger. You have talked about your family's heritage, also you have that Honda power plant in your car. Does the upcoming Indy Japan 300 hold special relevance to you? And also, you have been in the country now for going on a week. What kind of promotional schedule have you had to juggle around since you have been over there?
R. Yasukawa: Well, first of all, the race in Japan will be one of the biggest, I guess, together with the Indy 500. It will be one of the important races for us because, obviously my parents being Japanese and I think the whole team with Mr. Aguri Suzuki being involved, I think will be very important for us. And we certainly have a lot of people coming to it, so we have always been looking forward to this race, and hopefully we can finish up front of the crowds here and together with that we are starting to do a lot of promotional work for most of the sponsors. And just recently I was at the headquarters of Honda Motor Company doing a talk show and autograph session. This weekend we will start Indy Week at Motegi, and that will consist with a lot of talk shows, autograph session and time trials, and I am sure there is going to be a lot of people coming to that event and keeping me busy.
Q: I have the first one for Roger and then for Tom. Roger, as you look at the season so far and what you have been able to do with the car, I know you probably laid out some learning curve objectives. Where are you with, if you did lay those out, where are you on your learning curve objectives say between the scale of 1 and 10?
R. Yasukawa: Good question. I think there is still a lot to learn from my perspective. But I think we are six or seven already. There is so much to reach the pinpoint, but we have just with given the amount of time, I think we have gone to somewhere that we are already competitive. The rest of let's say three or four is pretty much just experience for me to be able to run up front and finish up front for the long races.
Q: Are you surprised that you are competitive already?
R. Yasukawa: Not really. I think coming into it a driver always has to expect that you are going to do well. It is just a matter of preparing yourself and making sure everything gets by. And I think, again, the team has helped me a lot in that perspective with Tommy's experience and John Dick's experience. I think that made my learning curve go much quicker. And I think, obviously, the team is young, as well. But there are a lot of people, there are a lot of experienced people within the team that has been helping me out so much that I think. Hopefully it is not going to be too long to reach the winner's circle.
Q: And Tom, what has surprised you about Roger?
T. Anderson: I think that he has a tremendous amount of three things which I consider to be important for race car drivers. I mean, obviously he has the natural talent. There are a lot of things that he can do, like just go out and go consistent. I mean, whatever speed you tell him to do, just go out and hold that speed, he can do it. That is a natural feeling, and he has that. The other thing is that he has a mechanical understanding of the car. How the sway bars work, what the weight jacker does. And he is able to use in the third trait, which is the extra or what I call extra mental capacity. He is not using all of his mental capacity just to go fast. He is going fast, and then he is thinking about the mechanical part of the car. So he is able to help himself, as well. And anytime that I have found a driver that has all three of those traits it is not too long before they are in the winner's circle.
Q: In some respects, brainpower-wise, he still has some throttle left, huh?
T. Anderson: I think so. I mean he is able to handle a car that is fairly neutral, come in, discuss it quite calmly with John and decide on a situation on how they want to attempt to fix the problem and go forward. I am really amazed. I really am. The kid has a lot of talent.
Q: Roger, when you were growing up and driving in karts and so forth in America and over in Italy, did you have any idols and who were the young guys you competed with then that are up in the big time now?
R. Yasukawa: I would say my idol was and probably still is Michael Andretti. I think it is an honor for me to be able to race with him now, and hopefully I could be running up front more often and be able to battle with Michael before his retirement comes after the Indy 500. In terms of competing against other drivers in karting, I raced against Buddy Rice in go-karts. We were where we had the same engine builder, which was George Mack's father, who was building engines for us. So I knew him from a while ago. I also was in the same team with Alex Barron, who was spotting for me for the first two rounds, and we spend a lot of time together. So I know him quite well, as well.
Q: You obviously have a strong Japanese heritage and with Tora and Shiggy and Shinji (Nakano) all being Japanese citizens, going into this event, is there more pressure on you and the other three Japanese drivers knowing that obviously the bulk of the crowd that will be there are going to be focusing, I would assume most of what they are there for, on watching you guys succeed? Does it place more pressure on you, for example, as opposed to going into a place like Phoenix?
R. Yasukawa: Yes, certainly. I do not look at it as pressure so much. I mean, yes, it certainly is a pressure when you have a lot of people cheering for you. But more so I am looking at it as an advantage because I have a lot of people cheering for me, and there will certainly be a lot of people cheering for our team and especially, hopefully, for me being the Honda driver there. But I am looking forward to it. I think it is only times that we only come to Japan once, and it is the first time that the IndyCar Series is going to come to Japan. So I am actually anxious to see how much crowd we are going to have there, and hopefully it will be a good weekend for us.
Q: Give us an idea, if you could, having spent the amount of time that you did with your dad while you were growing up in Japan while he was working with Formula One, how are or are Japanese fans different from American fans in the way they do or attend motorsports events?
R. Yasukawa: That is a good question. I do not think there is a big difference from the fans in the U.S.A. and fans in Japan, except they only get to see the race occasionally. Well, especially like the Formula One series and the IndyCar Series, they only go to Japan once. So they are certainly excited for it, excited to see the race and the teams and the drivers. I do not think there is a big difference, but I think the enthusiasm here in Japan is quite big for the IndyCar Series. So I am sure a lot of people are excited to see the whole race.
Q: Roger, this question is for you. How would you describe your style of driving or your style of racing? How does it appear to you?
R. Yasukawa: Right. Well, I think I have always said, let's see, strong and smooth, I guess. I think I am always a "thinking" type of person. And I think my driving style in general always has been smooth. Not too aggressive but aggressive when I need to.
Q: Tom, a follow-up with a question for you here. We have talked a lot about this being Honda's turf, and you obviously have a Japanese-American driver. Are there any added pressures to perform well at this one particular race?
T. Anderson: Well, there is quite a bit from Honda because Honda has not won at their home track yet. There is always big pressure at Motegi when you are powered by Honda. There is also additional pressure. Panasonic, our major sponsor, has quite a big presence there, as well. And of course, everyone knows that Bridgestone, who is in conjunction, or the father of Firestone now, is just down the road, as well. So there is quite a big influence there for us. It will be a good tune-up for operating under pressure before we get to the Indy 500 over here, as we all know creates pressure within itself.
Q: And looking closer at your team, you actually have a crewmember, Steve Ragan, who began his motorsports career in Japan and speaks fluent Japanese. Has his background been a benefit to you and the team as you prepare for this race?
T. Anderson: It makes going to Japan obviously easier when you have people that speak the foreign language to us where you go. It makes things quite easy. We also have another mechanic on the team, Tomihiro Takase, who did quite a bit of his early career in Japan with Aguri Suzuki, with Roger, Madoka Yamaguchi, who is our PR person, with Steve and with Tommy, there are five fluent Japanese-speaking personnel on the team.
Q: For either one of you, now that Alex Barron has a real job coming up next weekend, who is going to be spotting for Roger?
T. Anderson: It is me.
Q: You are?
T. Anderson: I am.
Q: Oh, so you are going to have to be up top there?
T. Anderson: Yes, but I am one-for-one up there. I have only spotted one time before, but it was for Jimmy Vasser in 1996 at Homestead, and we won.
Q: Oh, well that is a good luck charm, huh?
T. Anderson: We will take it.
Q: I hope so. Good luck on that. Thank you.
T. Anderson: Thank you.
K. Johnson: Well gentlemen, we certainly appreciate the both of you joining us today, and we wish you each the best of luck on April 13th at Motegi.
T. Anderson: Thank you very much. Appreciate it, Kent.
K. Johnson: Thanks, Tom. Good luck, Roger.
R. Yasukawa: Thanks.