LAT for Champ Car
On Saturday morning in Toronto, Canada I caught
up with RuSPORT Champ Car driver Justin Wilson to get to know
this tall British ex-F1 driver. I was most curious to
learn how he came to race in North America and whether he was
happy with his decision to move his career over to this side of
Q. Do they still call you Justin "Too Tall"
Wilson, is that a nickname you once had? - Referring to
the difficulty he has fitting comfortably in some race cars due
to his height.
JUSTIN WILSON: No, a couple people did call me that, but I've
been called many things over the years.
Q. You are one of the taller race drivers out there today.
Do you fit well in these Champ Cars?
JUSTIN WILSON: In the Champ Car it's okay. It's the same as any
car I've driven. It's tight. There's not much room left.
Fortunately I'm right on the limit just underneath it. Each race
weekend, I do something else, we have to put a little more
padding in place or take a bit of padding out; so depending on
the circuit layout to how comfortable I am. But it's still
possible to drive the car.
Q. Has Champ Car given you any assurances that the new car
will be as big or bigger than the current one as far as room for
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, they sent, actually RuSPORT did a model of
me in the same design package that they had and sent that across
to them, and I believe that's all good. So I should get to see
the new car in the near future and make sure I do actually fit
in the real thing.
Q. Do you live in the States full time now or do you
still commute back and forth across the pond (Atlantic)?
JUSTIN WILSON: I still spend a bit of time in the U.K., also
time in Colorado where the team is based. So I split my time
between the two.
Q. How is it living in America compared to back home?
JUSTIN WILSON: I like it. I think it's good fun. It's relaxed
and I'm just able to concentrate on the racing when I'm over
here. When I go back to the U.K., there's other things that
come up. So I like being in the States and just focused solely
on the racing.
Q. Does part of you still miss Formula 1, or have you decided
that this is your future?
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, this is where I want to be. I went to the
British Grand Prix on a Friday and visited the paddock there and
saw some people, but that's not what I'm looking to do. That was
more of a social visit than anything else. I don't really look
to go back. I experienced that and I really enjoy racing over
Q. When did you get started in racing as a young kid in
JUSTIN WILSON: I started racing cars at eight years old and
started as a hobby. And after the first weekend, it became
pretty serious and grew from there. I moved into open wheel cars
at 16. I just progressed through the different ranks.
Q. Is there the racing in your family, did your father do it
or your uncle?
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, my father used to race Formula Fords back
in the 60s and early 70s. He stopped when he had a big accident.
That put an end to his career.
You know, like I said, when I was eight years old, he was
looking for a hobby, and I was just looking to drive something.
I had always been interested and when I got the opportunity to
get behind a vehicle and I jumped at the chance.
Q. Champ Car is a very diverse range of tracks going from a
speed circuit like in Long Beach to a semi speed circuit here to
a natural terrain road course in Portland to an airport in
Cleveland and to an oval in Milwaukee. Does that make it
difficult to adapt to this as a driver?
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, but that's part of the challenge that we
like. You know, you have to master all these different
techniques, like you say, you're driving on ovals, you're
driving on street circuits and airports, and it's not a normal
road course like what we're used to back in Europe. You have to
understand each one and get the most out of it. When you do get
the most out of it, it's very rewarding. It's the ultimate
Q. Being inside the cockpit of a Champ Car versus an F 1 car,
which you've done, which one is more violent, so to speak, and
is one smooth and kind of calm and the other one much more rough
JUSTIN WILSON: They are both the same. I would say Formula 1 car
is a little bit more harsher at higher speeds because, you know,
when all the downforce is on all the car it is compressed and it
has no suspension. 150 miles an hour, there's zero suspension.
So it's a pretty harsh ride. It doesn't do your spine a lot of
But the Champ Car is a little bit more physical as far as you
have to manhandle these cars and stay on top of them. You can't
just sit back and let the car do the work.
Justin Wilson in his CDW sponsored car
LAT for Champ Car
Q. When you say "manhandle," you mean throw
the car a little bit, or does getting it sideways kill all the
JUSTIN WILSON: No, because on a slick tire, you have to push it
just over the edge of the grip, you have to be right on that
limit and just, you know, you're rocking forwards and backwards
on that limit. Whereas in the Formula 1 car, you have the groove
tires, so the car slides a little bit easier on the tires. On
the high speed corners, it's pretty hard to get close to the
limit because there's so much downforce. It's just a different
You know, in the Champ Car, in some corners, you can slide the
car. You get it into a four wheel drift, you can't see it from
outside the car, but inside the car, you know the whole thing is
sliding, and that's the quickest way through the corner. You set
yourself up as you enter the corner and you drift through the
corner and it's the quickest way. You know, it's corner to
corner, but that kind of comes down to technique and
Q. You have a new teammate now, Cristiano da Matta. How is
that working out?
JUSTIN WILSON: Pretty good. I think we're learning some things.
It's basically a third voice with myself and A.J. comments on
how the car feels and having Cristiano coming in. It gives us
another data point and more experience.
Q. Do you enjoy the same type of setup or are your setups
very different from each other?
JUSTIN WILSON: Pretty similar. He's still learning the exact
differences between our driving styles and therefore the
difference in the setup. We start this weekend very similar,
still pretty similar style. You know, I think if I find
something that's going to help him and he finds something that's
going to help me, ultimately that's good for the team.
Q. Are you as close (on setups) with Cristiano versus A.J. or
were all about the same?
JUSTIN WILSON: They are all about the same. There was times last
year where, you know, I found a setup on Friday and A.J. would
use that on Saturday. And I would use his setup on Sunday, so we
kind of evolved and vice versa.
In Mexico City, Friday, A.J. was on pole and I was fourth and
not really happy. So Friday night, I put his setup on, went out
and got pole on Saturday. So we did the same thing. Sometimes
we're very different, sometimes we're the same setup.
Q. Last year you won a couple races, you won Mexico City and
you also won Toronto. This year you've been knocking
on the door but you haven't quite got that win yet, has it been
a little frustrating?
JUSTIN WILSON: A little bit. We've been so close. Long Beach we
were second, but not really challenging. And Houston was a
struggle. Went to Monterrey and were right there. Milwaukee,
we're right there. Portland, we're right there. Cleveland we're
almost there. We felt we had the mileage to make that one happen
(a win). It's just missing that final little bit. Some weekends,
it's luck and some weekends, it's more mechanical. So hopefully
we can do that soon.
Q. You won here last year, so obviously you have a good setup
from last year. So far this weekend, I guess you qualified 2nd
for provisional pole, so looks like you're feeling pretty good,
do you think you can put it on pole today? [Later he did just
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, we're feeling pretty good. Yesterday we
were the quickest on the black tires, the standard tires. But it
didn't quite feel enough with the option. So we've still got a
little bit of work to do. We've been working on that overnight,
trying to understand our problems and we feel if we can find the
right answer for that, we're going to be setting the pace. So
this morning is going to be interesting.
Q. This morning will you be going out on blacks or reds?
JUSTIN WILSON: All blacks. We only get two option tires, so we
save those for qualifying.
Q. Can you test the reds in practice, so to speak, and then
run them in qualifying too?
JUSTIN WILSON: No.
Q. They lose their edge?
JUSTIN WILSON: Yeah, all the tires are best on that first run.
So, you know, after the first run, you basically knock off a
half second. That's what you have to deal with. You have to work
So we only really use them in qualifying. In Cleveland, I think
we used a set in warm-up, just to understand what was going on,
just to give us an understanding before we went for it. The
thing is, actually qualifying warm-up, we call that the second
qualifying. But most of the time, the set goes through
qualifying, and we opted to use one set yesterday, and that's
good if you get the pole; it's not so good if you miss it. So
it's a gamble we took. Last time we took it, it paid off. This
time it didn't. You know, we just have to work with that. Now we
still feel if we get everything right, we can do it on one set.
Q. In the race, you have to run one set stint on red tires,
JUSTIN WILSON: Yes.
Q. Would they be the ones you used from qualifying or would
they be a brand new set?
JUSTIN WILSON: We'll use the second one in today's qualifying,
so they will both have the same amount of laps on them. There's
no difference. Everyone's in the same boat.
Q. Hope you can repeat last year's performance and best of
JUSTIN WILSON: Thank you.
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