Indy Racing League Weekly Press Conference March 4, 2003 Mark Taylor K. Johnson: We welcome everyone to the Indy Racing teleconference for this week Tuesday March 4th. Today we will take a look back at Mark Taylor's victory in the ...
Indy Racing League
Weekly Press Conference
March 4, 2003
K. Johnson: We welcome everyone to the Indy Racing teleconference for this week Tuesday March 4th. Today we will take a look back at Mark Taylor's victory in the season-opening Western Union 100 Infiniti Pro Series event in the race that took place this past Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. We will also take a look forward to the next event weekend on the Indy Racing calendar, that being the Phoenix 100 on March 22nd and the Purex Dial Indy 200 on March 23rd and Phoenix International Raceway. Our first guest today is the winner of the Western Union 100 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, that being Mark Taylor. First, a little background on Mark. He is a 25-year-old native of London, England, and currently splits time living in Tonbridge, England, and Indianapolis. His background is primarily in European road racing, most recently in the British Formula 3 series, and this season he is driving the No. 4 Fulmar Panther Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone for Panther Racing. This past weekend in his first Infiniti Pro Series event, Mark started on the outside of the front row and led 56 of the 67-lap event en route to his first career victory. Mark, welcome and thanks for joining us today.
Mark Taylor: Hi. It is nice to be here.
Johnson: Mark, for starters, the Infiniti Pro Series has everyone running the same chassis, engine and tires, yet you come out of the box in your first race and basically show everybody how it is done. How do you explain your quick start?
Taylor: Well, I have to say the team worked very hard at it. We went into testing before Christmas with the old engine, and we were able to get some early testing done this year, as well at Phoenix and Fontana, and it helped a great deal with me being new to oval racing and needing the experience, so every day at the track means that I have an advantage in going into the first race. Brett was very good with the car. He made sure that I did not push myself to early and just got comfortable with it. That was the main thing going into the weekend, just stay confident with the car, make sure that we have a good quick car for the race, and it came through for us. The guys did a great job making sure we had no problems, no tire problems, no engine problems, no car problems. As far as all that was concerned, it was a great, great weekend. And all the way through going into qualifying, I was very confident with the car, very comfortable. Even when the wind changed and the track temperature went up, we seemed to have a very good car at any time of the day. And that means that you have a very good race car, as well, all the way through the 67 laps I thought I could push harder if I needed to. I felt that once I went into the lead, I was able to back off, as well.
Johnson: Mark, in recent years the Panther Racing team has achieved considerable success at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Up to this season it was strictly in the IndyCar Series, but now they have made their mark in the Infiniti Pro Series, as well. What can you tell us about the carryover in information between the IndyCar Series and the Infiniti Pro Series amongst Panther Racing?
Taylor: Well, the IndyCar Series team are a great bunch of guys. They have a lot of experience. They give us help with the setup data and anything they can to just talking to me with Pancho (Carter) with the spotting. He gets to see what the car does around a circuit as well as anybody. He can help me with the driving style, how to get around Miami in the best possible way. It is a two-way street. As much as possible we are just taking as much experience as we can. Obviously, they have a great few years of going around Miami, and we knew that before going in, and we were just glad to keep it going.
Johnson: Now does Pancho Carter serve as your spotter, as well?
Taylor: Yes, that is right. His experience with doing the IndyCar Series races helps a great deal going into the Infiniti races.
Q: I wanted to ask you today, you grew up and spent most of your time, life in England. How have you adapted to America and what you found out about this country in the short time you have been here?
Taylor: Well, I have to say Indy is very similar to home, very friendly people, including the team; everyone is very happy to see me. When I was here on my own, now my girlfriend is here, so it is a bit more company, but when you are alone in a foreign country, it is very difficult. It is easy to get yourself down but just being able to spend days with the team making sure that I feel comfortable, that was a great deal of help. It is very similar. At the moment, the temperature is a bit colder than I am used to. Going around America to Miami and Phoenix where the temperature is warmer at this time of year was really nice, as well. You get to see a lot of different styles of America. It is so much bigger than I am used to and to fly for four hours and still be in the same country is a whole new experience to me. As well, I am looking forward to all year.
Q: You mentioned Phoenix, you go there next, it is 1 mile with a tough first turn. What was your experience, learning experience there in testing?
Taylor: I felt that we had a very good car. As soon as it came out of the box it was handling very well. The temperatures stay fairly constant there. I have to say that Miami was a tougher track for me. With the amount of experience on the ovals I have, I found that a lot of banking was, the grip level was less and it was more of a struggle with the wind. At Phoenix, although it is a very tough track, it is a very enjoyable track, and it just gives you the confidence going through the corners to drive the car more, and it just felt a bit easier to me.
Q: And what is that first win done for you confidence-wise, seeing as how you had not driven on ovals except in this little testing you have had?
Taylor: That is right. Confidence is the core of a racing driver. A driver who has a load of confidence and he is able to go out there and show his confidence will normally be at the front of the pack. If you lose your confidence, it is very easy to slip backward, and I have to say again it is the team that has given me the confidence before going into the weekend, and that is the reason why I was able to win the first race. There were no sorts of 'We will take the points or the car's not feeling very good today so we are struggling a bit,' and just all the way through the weekend we felt like we were on top of the game and were very confident of going into the race and having a good car.
Q: If someone had told you prior to the race that you would qualify for the front row, lead 56 laps, dominate the race and win the race in your first oval race, what would you have said?
Taylor: Thank you. This year's championship is extremely tough. At no point before the race were we quickest in any of the sessions, and it just showed to prove all the new talent coming in and the old talent from last year is very good, and you have to work all the way through the weekend to make sure that your car is good so you do have a chance of winning. I am sure going into Phoenix it will be exactly the same. There will probably be other drivers in the lead and pushing me and pushing, well, hopefully pushing me. Every track we go to, I expect different drivers to excel, and it will be someone's day at some point, hopefully not too soon, though.
Q: And I want to go back to our last conversation. It was after the Phoenix test, and if I remember correctly you mentioned the fact that you had a little bit of a bump on the wall, and that in a sense helped you because you knew what it was like to hit the wall. Does that make you a better racer now that you know going into the race where the limits are and what will happen if you go over the limit?
Taylor: Yes. I mean, it helped me going into qualifying. I was staged fairly late in the queue, and I saw people make mistakes in qualifying, and I tried to make very sure that I did not do the same thing, made sure that the tires came up to temperature, and it helps in the race, as well. Every lap you do on an oval, the feeling of the car, you can feel it a lot better, and you can react to it a lot easier. The Phoenix incident was purely lack of experience. We were just trying a different change, and the car got loose from me. So instead of coming to the pit, I put it into the wall, and it is something that hopefully will not happen again. When you are in a race situation, you have to drive through the problems that you have, and luckily I was able to do that. But luckily I did not have any problems. So it is a definite experience problem that I have, and I still have it even though I have done a race and I have won a race. It is something that you learn all the way through the year.
Q: You came over, as they say, across the pond. What drew you to the United States and racing and not being the one in Europe?
Taylor: Well, I raced in England for six or seven years now in cars. And I never got attracted to the European side of it although I did a lot of European races and I even won a championship in Europe. I felt that there was not the same amount of-- there was not a chance to do well. Over here, they give you a big chance. If you are a good driver you get a good chance to get into a good series, of which the IRL is with the IndyCar Series and the Infiniti Pro Series. They are both very good series, and if you can get into them and do well, then you can only move forward in your career, and that is what I was looking for. Something to step up in my career. And I felt that this was the right way to go.
Q: How long do you expect to be in the Infiniti Pro Series before you move up to the IRL IndyCar Series and Indianapolis?
Taylor: It is not my decision. All I will do is every time I get a chance to go out in a car, I will go as quickly as I can and do as well as I can, and that is my main focus race to race. If I get a chance to jump into an IndyCar Series car, I will grab it with both hands, and hopefully I will do very well at it. I am feeling very confident at the moment, of course, but without even stepping into an IndyCar Series car I cannot say how soon that will be. I think I better wait for my first testing in IndyCar Series car before I can comment on that.
Q: Mark, looking back on this week's event, your first Infiniti Pro Series event, obviously you have tested heading in. But one of the things that you keep hearing people talk about that makes a race different from testing or practice is running in traffic and turbulence and that kind of stuff. Were you able to stay out in front most of the way or did you ever encounter any of that as you made your laps around the racecourse?
Taylor: I was very lucky. I got out front early and apart from the little mistake halfway through the race. I stayed out front for a lot of the laps. It was only overtaking slower cars that I had a little bit of understeer, but you know in testing and the practice before the race is how the car feels. That is what I was working on. I was expecting to be in second for at least the beginning of the race. So I was able to sit behind Medeiros and be able to get the feeling of the car behind him and just see where I was able to maybe overtake or just push him a little bit harder, see where his errors were. The whole weekend you get a chance. In the race, it was fairly easy. I have to say once you get out into the lead you can control the race.
Q: Now you mentioned getting out in the lead controlling the race. Some of our listeners on the conference today may not be aware that midway through the event you kind of had an in-car glitch. Tell us about that.
Taylor: Yes, you could call it an in-car glitch. I was just adjusting the car. I have the weight-jacker there to be able to, if I just have a little problem with the car. And while I was going down the straight I just flicked off the engine and the PI System, which just cut the engine and meant that I had to drop back into second. Luckily, with Pancho in there, he was calming down and just made sure that I was able to get the car started up again and concentrate on my line and all the normal things that you do and just concentrate on the lap times. And it was a case of just trying to push hard, make sure that I was a comfortable second, see if there were any opportunities to get into the lead at that point. Unfortunately for experience, I was not able to make a move. But it was only nine or 10 laps. I was hoping to pressure him (Jeff Simmons) into a mistake and take the lead again.
Q: Mark, you have a race under your belt now, a victory, as well. You have tested out at PIR. What are your thoughts as you head out to the Phoenix 100 coming up on March 22nd?
Taylor: Obviously, I am very confident. The team made a great car for Phoenix, as well. As we have been testing out there, we have been able to do two or three days testing there. I think it will be a little bit warmer than when we were there the last time. I am sure that there will be a number of drivers who will be able to set quick times around there, and that is the important thing. It will be the same as Miami. Once somebody gets into the lead, it will be very difficult to overtake them, because it is very short 1-mile oval, and you have to really time your passing moves. Like I said after the qualifying, it's whoever does not make the mistake who has a chance to win, and I feel it will be the same again there.
Q: Mark, when you realized that you had had the in-car glitch and the engine was dead, what went through your mind?
Taylor: Nothing that I can repeat. I have actually done it before in previous racing, so I never thought I would do it again. But you know the feeling, and you can see that everything shuts down, and it is one of the first things that you look at, make sure the switches are on, just make sure that you keep your eyes up as well because you are going at a fair rate. The speeds are quite high so you know that there is going to be drivers driving past you trying to keep the car straight as possible. It is very difficult, and you suddenly go into a panic, but luckily it was only a couple of seconds before I was able to get the engine running and get going again.
Johnson: Mark, that appears to be all the questions for you. Again, thanks for joining us today. Congratulations on a great start to the 2003 season and best of luck March 22nd out in Phoenix.
Taylor: Thank you.