Hunter-Reay anxious to get racing again with new team
by Mark Cipolloni

 March 9, 2005

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Ryan Hunter-Reay

Fresh off his first test with his new team, Rocketsports, we caught up with Ryan Hunter-Reay in California where he was getting ready to return to his home in Boca Raton, Florida.

AutoRacing1: Congratulations on your new team.
Ryan Hunter-Reay: Thanks

AutoRacing1: It came together kind of late. Were you worried it might not happen?
Hunter-Reay: Yes, I was worried as to the specifics -  where I was going to be and everything else. But I had a pretty good idea that I would be in Champ Car again this year and that side of it was okay but once again it was a long off-season and you know Iím kind of getting used to landing my rides last-minute. But itís a big lift off my shoulders to finally have a good home and be with a good racing team. So weíre mobilized and getting to work.

AutoRacing1: Is that exciting going to a new team and with new people? Or would you have preferred to have stayed with the same guys?
Hunter-Reay: Well continuity is a good thing in racing as it is in any team sport. But it wasnít necessarily the best for me in my position to continue, basically it came down to what fits best for the future. And this is what is best for the future for all parties involved. And Iím really looking forward to it. The team has got major potential. We do have a lot of work to do because weíre starting so late and getting everything going. Iím going to work really hard with the team. Iím going back up to Michigan again and Iím going to work really hard to be involved in the program and have my hands in it, like a true veteran would.  Iím looking forward to that and Iím looking forward to the challenge ahead. There are a lot of teams now that have stepped up the program. RuSPORT looks like another Newman/Hass now. And PKV and of course Forsythe and Newman/Hass are already there. They are two powerhouse teams and are already established. Everyone has just got a lot of work to do.

AutoRacing1: How did the tests go this week?
The tests were good in the fact that we got to work together with everybody. Itís a new program in several aspects. But you know some new people are on board and Iím new there and we just needed the time to work together and we needed a lot of time to work certain issues out.  Despite only getting half of the miles that we wanted to get done, weíre glad to get those issues out of the way.  We had some braking issues that we needed to get done and we had some other issues with the car, but once we actually got to our testing program the second half of the second day which was Tuesday, we were fine.  We were somewhat quick and by the end of the day, considering what we were up against on Monday and Tuesday, we had a good time. We were happy with that and we were happy to move forward to Sebring with what weíve learned from Fontana.

AutoRacing1: When is your next test? Sebring you said?
Hunter-Reay: Yes, March 23rd and 24th

AutoRacing1: Is that going to be your last test before Long Beach?
Hunter-Reay: Yes, it will be.

AutoRacing1: What about a sponsor for your car?
Hunter-Reay: I canít speak on the sponsor right now because itís all being worked out within the next couple days. Weíll see what happens. I really canít speak on it. Iíd really love to butÖ

AutoRacing1: Timo Glock tested with you in Fontana. How did you get along with him?
Hunter-Reay: We got along great! And he is a very quick driver, he is very mature for his age, and he has been in F1 and he knows how to deal with the high pressure situation.  He has got a lot of experience in high horsepower cars, and he did just about double the amount of miles that we did. Weíre taking a lot of his information from the Fontana tests. So it was good to have him there and heís great to work with. I hope heís in Champ Car for the season.

AutoRacing1: Do you think he could bring anything to the team if he were to come - info to the team from Formula One?
Hunter-Reay: Yes, absolutely.  Heís got great feedback. And like I said, he has been in Formula One. Heís been in the highest form of racing in the world. So he knows the deal and how to deal with it.

AutoRacing1:  Weíre all still kind of wondering because itís getting close to the first race and there is still a lot of unanswered questions.
Hunter-Reay: Champ Car teams are getting pretty good at dealing with things at the last minute.

AutoRacing1: As far as the Rocketsports team,  the second car struggled the last couple years. Has there been changes over the winter to improve that program?
Hunter-Reay: Oh yeah, sure. You wonít see a struggling Rocketsports car again this year.

AutoRacing1:  Now that everybody is in a Lola, does everybody have the same shock program or is everybody allowed to do their own shock program?
No, everybody has got a very different shock program. The only thing with this season is it has to be available to everyone.  Each different shock package cost a different amount of money. So some teams are able to get different packages. But in the past Newman/Haas was able to get a shock package for any amount of money that was not available to anyone for any mount of money. That is now changed. If you do want that program then you can spend the money and you can get it. So it all depends on how much money you have to spend, but it finally has been made a rule that all shocks must be available to anyone who wants to spend the money.

AutoRacing1: Is Rocketsports focused in that area?
Hunter-Reay: Well we have to move down there really soon. I donít really have any real answers to it. I wish I did. We need to have that done pretty soon so. Itís something weíre working on.

AutoRacing1: As far as this coming season goes with Champ Car, there has been some speculation that there might be a race in Argentina.  Kevin Kalkhoven is talking about China and Japan now. How do you feel about those venues?
Hunter-Reay: That would be great.  I would love to go to Argentina. I donít know what the track layout is going to be like, I have no idea. I think new overseas venues are good for Champ Car.

AutoRacing1: Last year you dominated on the Milwaukee Mile which is an oval. Do you prefer oval tracks or do you prefer road courses?
Hunter-Reay: No I prefer road courses. I enjoy the Milwaukee Mile more so than any other oval course because I won there. But Iíve had success there in Atlantics too. You can go to Vegas your first time and, never being on an oval, never seeing it, and you can be quick before lunch. Youíre not going to do that at Milwaukee and that's the difference between a 100% throttle tack and one like Milwaukee. Milwaukee takes much more driver skill.  It takes some time to get used to. It takes some major trust in your car to hang it out at Milwaukee. Itís a very tight oval and you have to use up every inch of the race track. Itís quite a big difference from a lot of the ovals. I forget who it is, but one of the big ones, perhaps Nigel Mansell or somebody said that itís the closest oval to a road course out there. Thatís why I like it. It still is an oval but itís a hard one to master.

AutoRacing1: As far as the sport in general, just a philosophical question I guess, we continue to have the situation of Champ Car being separate from the IRL, no signs at all of any merger. Do you feel the two series can make it on their own?  What do you think is best for the sport? Do you feel that there is no hope for reconciliation and theyíre better off going their own separate ways.  What would you like to see in the future?
Hunter-Reay: Well you never know with these guys anymore. I really donít know. The one thing I do know is that the predominantly oval series needs to be left to NASCAR. Theyíve mastered that. Theyíre good at being in that side of it. They just need to go ahead and have that. I think that open wheel racing needs to leave that alone and work the road courses, street circuits and some oval courses. I think we do need the Indy 500. I think the Indy 500 is something that people who donít even watch racing, they watch it because it is the Indy 500. People who donít watch football watch the Super Bowl. And although we may pull in bigger attendance figures over weekends, we donít have that race that pulls in the big numbers on TV and gets worldwide attention. To make an all-around racing series successful you need that. So, I think that Champ Car is very successful in pulling in the weekend attendance figures at the race track. We have that far more than the IRL does, but we do need a marquee event.

AutoRacing1: As far as you in the future, you have expressed an interest to go into Formula One. Is that still your ultimate goal? How about NASCAR? Is there anything else youíd like to drive besides Champ Car at some point?
Hunter-Reay:   I want to try everything at some point, but you know, right now Iím an open wheel road course racer, and the pinnacle of open wheel road course racing is Formula One. Iím happy with Champ Car right now and I wouldnít jump ship on Champ Car just to drive any F1 car, it would have to be the right deal and if that deal was attractive then yes, I would definitely consider it for obvious reasons. But Iím happy with Champ Car. Itís at the front, itís had the best racing, I think, from a driver's standpoint. But yeah, Iím open to trying things later on if I could.

AutoRacing1: Thank you very much Ryan.
Hunter-Reay: Alright, thank you very much, Mark.

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

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