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Q&A with HVM Racing and Simona de Silvestro

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Simona De Silvestro
MODERATOR:  Welcome everybody to today's IZOD IndyCar Series conference call. Earlier today, HVM Racing and Team Stargate Worlds announced they have partnered to field an IZOD IndyCar Series car for Swiss driver Simona De Silvestro in 2010. We are joined today by Simona De Silvestro, HVM Racing owner Keith Wiggins and Team Stargate Worlds principal Imran Safiulla. Welcome to today's call.

Q. Simona, congratulations on your announcement today. How excited are you to get behind the wheel of the No. 78 Team Stargate Worlds/HVM Racing car?

SIMONA De SILVESTRO:  It's a great honor to be in a big series now with the IZOD IndyCar Series. I'm really looking forward to it. I think everybody worked really hard to put this deal together, and I did too. I'm really looking forward to it and can't wait to go to the first race.

Q.  I know you've tested in IZOD IndyCar Series car a couple of times and maybe a Firestone Indy Lights car on an oval. How prepared are you to race in a big series like the IZOD IndyCar Series, especially since you start next week in Brazil?

SIMONA De SILVESTRO:  Yeah, we did four days in the cars. I wish I had a little bit more of testing. But at the end, it's an open wheel car, and I think I know what I have to do to be fast. But for sure there is a lot to learn. But you know I'm sure Michael Cannon and Keith (Wiggins) and Imran (Safiulla) are going to give me a great car, and I think we're going to have a pretty good result.

Q.  Imran, welcome to the IZOD IndyCar Series. Can you talk about how the partnership with Keith Wiggins and HVM Racing came together for Team Stargate Worlds?

IMRAN SAFIULLA:  Keith and I have known each other for many years and with Simona's evolution through the system, this was sort of the next logical step for us to get into the IZOD IndyCar Series. And Keith was probably the top of the step with the spectrum of creating an environment which Simona could be successful in and be able to sort of continue to mature our commercial program that we've worked very hard in trying to put together.

So it was just sort of an obvious fit. And we started talking about it a few months ago, and there's been a lot of stuff behind the scenes. But until we got out on track in December, I don't think most people didn't know what we were up to, and we still have our challenges ahead. But here we are, and hopefully it's going to bring successful times ahead.

MODERATOR:  Keith, HVM Racing has been in the IZOD IndyCar Series for the last couple of seasons. And you have a history of giving young drivers from Junior Formula their start in top‑level racing. How excited are you to give your driver with the credentials like Simona her start in the IZOD IndyCar Series?

KEITH WIGGINS:  She's looking at me so what can I say (laughing). No, I've always been much in favor in Europe for picking young drivers who have excitement, talent, and drive to do it. Bringing on new talent is always exciting. Of course you want some continuity, and the longer you can do a program with consistency with the drivers you inevitably can build a strong program.

But we've had an opportunity here. And as Imran said, we've known each other for a while and we've watched (Simona) progress. And they've done a great job together both in developing what she's done and also the program they've put together.

Having said all of that, of course, we always want to be as competitive as we can. So I think the key for me was when we tested and the first day we tested. The first 10 minutes we tested it was clear that I could see she instantly had the confidence and the speed.

So, like as she said, she's new to it. We came in with a new driver a couple of years ago and we've had our challenges, so we're all going to do better. Of course there is a climb to do together. But I think the thing is we're excited. She has the right attitude, and we're looking forward to the challenge.

Q. Obviously the comparatives will be made to Danica (Patrick). But looking at where you are in the development level and the field being put together so late, what are your realistic goals the first couple of races where should we be comparing you to?

KEITH WIGGINS:  Are you asking Simona that question?

Q. Both of you if you can, please.

KEITH WIGGINS:  Well, I'll answer that question in terms of first we've come in as you said in the past, different series with different drivers. And I think everybody goes in with the goal to be successful, and everybody always has the goal to win races.

But I think like everybody you set realistic goals. And I think our goal certainly in the beginning with Simona would be, you know, bear in mind that the first race she's going to get thrown into will be in Brazil in 100‑degree temperatures. I think we're clearly setting goals to finish the race and be consistent, and I have no doubt we'll be in the middle of the pack. And then we want to develop from there.

Yes, it is tough. But we have some background. I think she's got that speed, so we've just got to harness it all. First of all, we've got to finish and be in the middle of the pack and work from there.

SIMONA De SILVESTRO:  For me, you know, everything is new. The races are much longer. I think the goal for me for this season is to learn as much as I can and try to help the team. I think my speed is getting there, but I am really working towards having good results at the end.

Q. Questions from the Swiss readers. I think the last Swiss driver in Indy car racing was Joel Camathias, and he had been racing over here for two years and living over here. Do you see any more interest over there?  What do you hear from back home about your career?

SIMONA De SILVESTRO:  I actually came here to the U.S. in 2006 to race in Formula BMW. I think a lot of people are watching now because I'm kind of the second driver who is in a big series right now next to Sebastien Buemi who is in Formula 1. So I think it's turning some attention. And I'm sure if we have good results it's going to get even bigger.

Q. And am I correct, did Michael Cannon work with Greg Moore, do you know?

KEITH WIGGINS:  He worked on that team. I have to be honest, I don't know if he actually did or not. Hold on one second. Yes, he did. Oh, see, we're one big happy family here. We're well connected. It's a very small building.

Q. The obvious question to me is you don't have experience on ovals. How are you going to approach that?

SIMONA De SILVESTRO:  HVM wanted to give me the opportunity to do my first laps in an Indy Lights car three weeks ago. It was a good experience. I don't have any real goals for it for me. I think it's going to be finish the races and to learn as much as I can. I'm actually really looking forward to it because I had a lot of fun in the Indy Lights car, so I can't wait to get out with the big car.

Q. Earlier it was mentioned that HVM Racing was selected in part because you create an environment for new rookie drivers to succeed. Can you talk about how you that or what that is?

KEITH WIGGINS:  Well, I guess like any atmosphere it's all about personalities, really, and what you create. I can't say that I do it knowingly. Obviously in the early days in Europe, most of the new drivers that came through the series only stayed one year and moved on. So through Philip Morris or whatever we were continuously developing young talents to go onto Formula 1.

So I guess it's more recent years where you've had, without saying detrimental, but all the drivers that have sort of moved around and spent a longer time in the series. So I would say the experience, you know, in our situation because you're bringing drivers on because they're coming into the series and you're building on that.

I think it's just a question of being yourself and having sensible people around and trying to do a good job and not having too much arrogance. I don't know how you would describe it, but just managing. You have to whether you manage expectations or manage some of the pitfalls and are just willing to help them work through the newness of it all.

As I said, I don't think it's set out as a plan other than we just are open minded and create hopefully a good environment where people feel like they want to do their best job.

Q. You talked about your oval test. What do you see is going to be the biggest challenge for you in terms of developing oval skills?  Or what do you think will be the hardest or the most challenging for you to master in that area?

SIMONA De SILVESTRO:  I'm sure it's going to be totally new to be in traffic on an oval, and setting up the car too. I don't really know what the car needs to be fast, because I have no experience in it. But I'm sure I will find out what I need.

Q. With your four wins in Atlantic, you're coming in from that series as one of the most successful drivers that's come over. Does that put more pressure on you either from yourself or from expectations to do well in IndyCar?

SIMONA De SILVESTRO:  Not really. Of course it's a little weird when you come from one series and you're winning, and then you kind have to re-learn everything. It's a bigger car, longer races and all of that. But I don't feel any pressure from that because it actually gives me confidence because I've been winning there. I think if I do my job right I think we can be really successful here too.

Q. Can you ask Michael Cannon when you're moving a rookie up, what do you look for or what are you aiming to teach Simona?

KEITH WIGGINS:  Hold on one second. This is a special treat. Never been done on a teleconference before. You have to repeat the question.

Q. Hi, Michael, you worked with Greg, moved him up. What do you look for in a rookie and what are you aiming to teach Simona?

MICHAEL CANNON:  Well, I should clarify, I worked with Greg peripherally because I was with Patrick Carpentier back in those days. But I had the pleasure of running Patrick Carpentier, Mario Dominguez, A.J. Allmendinger, Robert Doornbos. We've had some fairly quick newcomers to the team.

My advice to Simona is just continue to do the things that made her successful in the lower formula. Don't lose sight of the fact that the game is effectively the same. You still want to go out there and give it all you can and compete at the highest possible level. So it's exactly what she's used to doing. It's what she's good at really.

Q. How much time have you actually tested an IZOD IndyCar?

SIMONA De SILVESTRO:  I did four days. I did two days in Sebring and two days at Barber.

Q. What did you think of it?

SIMONA De SILVESTRO:  It's a lot of fun. You know, the first few laps when I went on the throttle it pretty much impressed me because it was so fast. But the car is a lot of fun to drive. And everything is bigger. You can do way more changes on it. So it's a pretty big learning curve I have to go through. But I've been spending a lot of time here (at the workshop) to understand the car. I really enjoy the car. It's a blast.

Q. Not to change the subject. But you felt the new car, it's bigger, it's fast, it's got a lot more adjustments to be made on it. Have you even had a chance to look at the DeltaWing car?

SIMONA De SILVESTRO:  Yeah, it was kind of the topic out there. So I took a look at it. I don't know. I don't really have an opinion on it. We will see what happens.

Q. Keith, how about you?

KEITH WIGGINS:  Well, my views have obviously been made quite public in the past. I think I've said more recently I'm a huge supporter of Ben (Bowlby's). I have no doubt that the car will do everything that is specified and what he predicts it will do.

I'm a fan of the change we need. And I think I said once before it comes down to the fans and how it's perceived because racing is entertainment, and it has to be liked as well. It has to be sexy, and there has to be something that people want to go and watch. And I think that is a very important key element of how we move forward as a series.

So I think we have to gauge it. And as you know we've been very active on our Web site with our forum, gauging the fans' response. And when a decision is made, all of those elements have to be put into it. It's a beautiful engineering piece.

Q. Imran, can you talk about Stargate Worlds?  Where it's going with this? Will we see Simona on billboards in New York and Hollywood and things like that?

IMRAN SAFIULLA:  That was the plan. But like many good plans, there is a certain amount of challenges that the studio has themselves. The product itself and the asset is a good ‑‑ the whole thing is a good program because as you are well aware, the gaming industries is growing leaps and bounds. So there are some, you know, there are a lot of things on the map with respect to activation plans that we did have.

But there are some short‑term challenges that have to be overcome as a start‑up company and things like that. So hopefully in the near future, yeah, you'll see some things. But for now we're going to tread one step at a time.

Q. Simona, will you be doing any gaming to catch a little more seat time?

SIMONA De SILVESTRO:  I actually started playing on iRacing and all that. So I'm really hooked on that game. I really enjoy it. And it helps me a little bit especially for the oval thing to run around people. So it is kind of a working tool.

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