It’s always a treat to talk to seasoned racers during the off-season when their heads are less in the here-and-now and they’re more forthcoming on a broad range of topics. Dario Franchitti was no exception during his fan forum at the Canadian Motorsports Expo this past weekend. Although the weather was less than ideal and the session wasn’t filled to capacity, the fans who did attend were knowledgeable and enthusiastic.
Dario was asked questions that touched on the past, present, and future. A selection of key quotes from the forum follows.
On last week’s test at Sebring. “My test was supposed to be the first day and Scott Dixon was going to be the second, but my test ended after 15 laps. We’ve been doing some development work on carbon brakes for the IndyCar Series for next year’s car. And as normally happens with these things, I was at the fastest part of the track, sixth gear, about 165 MPH, and I hit the brakes and the right front brake disk, we had a flash fire from the right front wheel. What had happened was the disk and the hat that holds the disk onto the hub had somehow come detached. The bolts that they’d used, the specification we were given wasn’t right and the thing disintegrated.”
On watching James Hinchcliffe as he tested with Newman/Haas. “James looked very comfortable. He was fast. But also, he was in control of what was going on. He wasn’t all arms and elbows and trying to rip a lap time out of the thing. He was consistently quick, looked to be in control, and looked very smooth. I was very, very impressed with him.”
On racing in the Rolex 24 this coming weekend. “GRAND-AM keep trying to take speed away from our car. … I think they want the lawyers in the field to be the same pace as the guys who are doing it every week. It’s a little bit annoying, but that’s the way GRAND-AM do things.”
“None of us in the team get paid to do it. Chip [Ganassi] just says, ‘Hey, you wanna do Rolex again?’ And you don’t want to upset the boss, so you go down there and have some fun.”
On his memories of Greg Moore. “The guy, especially on ovals, was unbelievable. He could drive the car so sideways and just had such a gift for what he was doing there, such a flair. He was the best oval driver I’ve ever driven against, and he wasn’t too shabby on the road courses, either. Unfortunately, he had the Mercedes engine, which was a bit of a handicap on the road courses in later years. But it would have been amazing to see what he would have done in that Penske, the Reynard with the Honda and the Firestones. I think we’d all look like second-class drivers compared to what he was going to achieve.”
On wearing the champion’s number 1 on his car in 2011. “No, I’m not going to take number 1. I think the reason for that is all the merchandising is done so far in advance that all the die-casts are done with number 10 on them, all the hats, all this stuff. So, it’s just not practical to do that. It’s kind of a shame. … It’s just that things have become so much in that direction now. It would be nice sometimes to have that number one on the car.”
On double-wide restarts. “I’m not sure that the centennial of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and at the 500 that year is the place to be doing double-wide restarts for the first time. I think it has to happen — the fans want it, we’ve got to make it work — but it’s going to be a challenge at that race, especially as the race goes on and the groove narrows down.”
“I would have liked for the drivers to be consulted more about it, the ins and outs of it. I suppose the point that comes out is the fans wanted it, and that wasn’t explained to us. It was explained to us that the team owners wanted it. But when it was explained that the fans wanted it, it was like, okay. You guys are the customers, and we try and improve the show. So, when it was explained that way, it was ‘right, let’s make it work.’ It’s going to be very tough. I think the latest rule is the lapped cars are going to go to the back is how I understand it. In some ways, if you’ve worked hard — say at Indianapolis you’ve busted your butt to put five lapped cars between you and the car in second place, and the next thing you come up to a restart with five laps to go and where are the lapped cars now? You’ve got such-and-such sitting next to you. All that advantage you’ve worked so hard for and taken risks has disappeared. So, there’s pluses and minuses, but ultimately it will improve the show.”
On the privilege of driving an IndyCar. “I think I love driving the car and I love getting to be an IndyCar driver more than I ever have, and luckily for me with the championships and the 500 wins. I’m not doing it to prove anything. I’m just doing it for the enjoyment of it. And luckily, the results are still coming, so long may that continue. But I realize what I get to do and how lucky I am, and I appreciate it. Maybe 10 years ago I didn’t appreciate it as much as I do now.”
Dario also discussed the experience of driving Jim Clark’s Lotus at Indianapolis this past fall (both the emotional and the technical aspects of it), his thoughts on the Indy Lights series, working with PitFit and the importance of a fitness regime, and his speculation on the impact of the 2012 car.
To listen to the audio from the session in its entirety (apologies for the less-than-stellar quality), click on the player below or search for More Front Wing on iTunes. Many thanks to the organizers of the Canadian Motorsports Expo for giving us permission to post this audio file.