Q and A with PCM Champ Car rookies Pacific Coast Motorsports jumped into the Champ Car arena as a rookie team, with rookie drivers and a brand new car. It’s a tall task and it hasn’t been easy, but the free-spirited California-based team is off to a solid-start with three top-ten finishes and zero mechanical failures. Their stars, rookies Alex Figge and Ryan Dalziel discuss their first impressions as Champ Car drivers.
Q. Three races in to your rookie Champ Car season how do you rate your debut, are you satisfied with your performances so far?
AF: I'm not extremely satisfied with the first three races. I feel like speed wise, Ryan and I are on the same pace, which is good because you can only really measure yourself against your teammate. I've made some really stupid mistakes in the races, which I’ve learned from and I'm looking forward to getting another shot at Portland.
RD: I am really quite happy with how things have gone. To be honest I was aiming for top-tens and I thought I was aiming high but so far that’s where we have run. I am really proud of PCM. I think the team has done a mega job getting where they are in such a short time. I think we will only get stronger as an organization.
Q. As a rookie with a new team, what do you think has been the biggest challenge?
AF: The biggest challenge for us has been coming to grips with the car. The new car doesn't mean that everybody is starting in the same situation. Each weekend we've made gains and testing has made a big difference, so I'll be happy to get back racing.
RD: I think initially we focused on reliability and the day to day running of the team. To be honest performance is something we knew would come to us so it wasn’t something we stressed about going into the first few races. Safety for us was for sure number one, a safe crew, with safe pit stops was a major goal and so far we have done really well.
Q. Has the transition back to open wheel been challenging or do you think your time in sports cars better prepared you for Champ Car?
AF: I think my sports car experience absolutely helped me as a driver, and the races definitely helped me prepare for Champ Car, but that doesn't make it any less challenging.
RD: It hasn’t been too tricky. In fact, if anything going back and driving the Grand Am car has been harder for me. I think the longer races help you with conserving tires and fuel, something you will never really learn in Atlantics. I really enjoyed my time in sports cars but I am thrilled to be back in Champ Car.
Q. What has been the biggest accomplishment for you and/or your team so far?
AF: Obviously a couple of top-tens in the sessions and in the races have been great. We have reasonable expectations and it feels great to have some good showings.
RD: I think two things jump out at me, both from Houston. Friday qualifying we were solidly in the top-ten and then also in the race. The team nailed my stops and we finished a genuine eighth. We deserved it for sure and we held off both RSPORT cars the last 15 laps. That was really a huge confidence boost for me.
Q. How demanding are Champ Car races?
AF: They're extremely demanding. It's very difficult to perform at that level for two hours and not make mistakes. Intense physical training is essential. If I hadn’t focused so much on my physical preparation leading into the season, my back injury at Long Beach could have been worse, so it obviously pays off.
RD: Alex and I trained really hard during the off season with our trainer in Colorado and it has really paid off so far. The races are really tough. A good friend of mine, Dave Empringham once told me “you must always take control of the things you have control over before getting to a race weekend, such as fitness.” I’ve taken that advice, I always stay on top of my fitness and I never go to a track unprepared. If I go to a track and I struggle, I guarantee I won’t struggle the next time there.
Q. What is your favorite feature on the new DP01?
AF: Paddle shifting is just downright cool!
RD: I think the obvious answer is the paddle shifting. It’s crazy that computer games have had it for years and we only now do. I think it’s a cool looking car and the racing has been really good.
Q. You're best friends off the track, what is it like once you take the green flag?
AF: You've gotta go run your race, best friends or not. But it's definitely cool to be out there with your best bro.
RD: I think everyone knows that Alex and I are best buddies. We go together like peanut butter and ladies.
Q. Have the Champ Car fans embraced the PCM rookies?
AF: Absolutely! The fans are awesome. They're by far the most knowledgeable and positive fans around and they know our team likes to have a lot of fun!
RD: Of course! I think PCM on a whole are fan favorites. I think people can relate to the team members and drivers as everyday people. I think they can see us as friends who they could go have a beer with. We are a very approachable team and I think the fans really appreciate that.
Q. What has been your favorite moment as a Champ Car driver?
AF: I had a good qualifying run on Friday at Long Beach and I had a bunch of friends and my sponsor, Imperial Capital Bank there. That was a great feeling.
RD: Going back to Long Beach and having fans tell me how they watched me win there in Atlantics in 2004 and say how happy they were to see me get a ride eventually. That and just being back where I think I belong in the Champ Car family,
Q. What has best prepared you for this endeavor?
RD: I have been racing for 18 years and every single year has had a huge influence in where I am today. Certain challenges I have faced have helped more than others. In 2001 I raced European Formula 3 and had a disaster season and almost quit racing. My sponsors weren’t happy and I wondered why put myself through this at a young age. Then six months later driving a mid-pack Atlantic car at the first round of the 2002 season in Monterrey, Mexico I drove from 12th on the grid to 2nd place. That feeling I will never forget. That’s when I knew I was back. Every year has had ups and down but mostly ups and it has all been worth it. I am a happy chappy just now.