RICHARD ANTINUCCI AND SAM SCHMIDT MOTORSPORTS IN FULL SWING FOR INDY PRO SERIES OPENER After positive winter testing, the Italian-American driver is confident and aiming for strong start at Homestead-Miami On any given morning Richard...
RICHARD ANTINUCCI AND SAM SCHMIDT MOTORSPORTS IN FULL SWING FOR INDY PRO SERIES OPENER
After positive winter testing, the Italian-American driver is confident and aiming for strong start at Homestead-Miami
On any given morning Richard Antinucci gets up around 7am in his San Diego home to start his daily fitness regimen early. Most days his routine is opened by running or cycling, unless a chance to pick up his surfboard arises. It has become something of a daily habit to check what the Ocean has in store, as surfing is big in California. Lately, before he leaves the house, Richard always glances at a calendar on the wall, a glossy vintage sportscar calendar which this month displays a dazzling powder-blue 917, the 1970 Porsche made famous by the likes of Pedro Rodriguez, Vic Elford --and Steve McQueen's Le Mans movie, and he grins. Well, he does not actually flash a grin, but deep down he can't help to grin because, you know, the waiting is winding down, the clock is ticking and March 29 is just around the corner. He's been anticipating his Indy Pro Series debut with his new team for quite a while now.
Antinucci and Sam Schmidt's outfit did not take long to start gelling, and the driver is eager to explain why : "I stepped into a Sam Schmidt Motorsport's car before I signed a deal with them, therefore I had time to familiarize myself with the team at length. I spent a few days at the shop over the winter and stacked up miles both at road courses and ovals. Although at the latter mostly in clean air. It'll be key to get to grips as quickly as I can with drafting for the oval racing. I have a good time with the guys and am quite happy with the work that has been carried out thus far. I'm lucky enough to have an asset in my race engineer, Tim Neff, who's previously guided Jay Howard and Alex Lloyd to the 2006 and 2007 championships. I am putting in a good deal of effort to make sure that I learn as quickly as possible, given the fact that I'm a rookie to oval racing. Working together, we're trying to make sure our efforts translate into results on the track. As far as I have seen there's no golden key to success. There are lessons that help in any sport : you work hard and pay plenty of attention to detail, you do the best job you can and eventually good things happen. My deal with SSM is a unique opportunity for me. I am keen to make the most of it and have fun in the process."
It was not a long time ago that all those involved in open-wheel had several good reasons to mull, year in and year out. But now the outlook is not grim anymore, and even more so for drivers and teams who are on the rise : "Well, these days the country may well be in a downturn, nevertheless in our sport the recent unification has spiked fan interest and quite likely it will boost open-wheel racing in the US. Likewise, Indy Pro Series should be able to ride this wave and to be honest I feel like someone who's placed a bet on the winner, having picked it over other career opportunities. Needless to say, the open-wheel renaissance means that there is no better time for a driver to stand out! This is another reason why I'm pretty sure that this year our Series will be as compelling as it's ever been. The Indy Pro Series gives a chance to shine for drivers with an oval CV and guys who've been spending the bulk of their career's on roadcourses, just like me. To end up on top of the points at the end of the season requires an outstanding amount of skill in adaptation. Furthermore in the near future IndyCar's schedule will be more tilted toward roadcourses, not unlike our own, making IPS even more helpful as a training ground. Since passing may prove a tricky affair on road courses more than on ovals, the most exciting moments in our sport may well unfold on the 2nd race of each road course event. Given that there are high chances of grid reversals for the top 8. We'll probably see some good battles..."
This year the 27-year old may definitely have the championship on his mind, but he's quick to underscore that he expects the 2008 IPS to be a long and winding road for all the title-hunters : "When I signed with SSM I was pretty well aware that I'd be in a position to be a front runner for the title chase, and I relish this chance. Obviously the best time set at Homestead-Miami has brought a lot of attention to the (Raphael) Matos-Andretti Green package, but to be honest even before the Open Test they were my pick as a force to be reckoned with this year. The team is awesome and the driver has an impressive CV. Moreover Matos has shown how quickly he can adapt to anything thrown at him: he's taken up sportscars at the Rolex 24 and won the class in a Mazda (by the way that is something that I would like to do myself, sooner or later, perhaps in a Daytona Prototype car). But for sure there is no lack of guys who may be considered in contention for glory : in Florida Bobby Wilson and the Guthrie Racing guys opened quite a few eyes, the Rahal-Andersen outfit look strong, moreover on street and road courses the rankings may change altogether. SSM look pretty healthy : my team mates James Davidson, Ana Beatrice and --on ovals-- Jon Brownson might well be my fiercest rivals at some venues. We have equal equipment. In the past SSM wasn't afraid to finish 1-2, and I guess Sam would enjoy even more a few 1-2-3's, therefore I have to make sure that when such a day comes my name winds up at the right end of the standings! Finally, I would like to utterly tap into my Italian heritage and say that it's not out of gallantry that I think that Ana Beatriz will surprise quite a few boys this season: she's unbelievably dedicated and furthermore consistent."