Carl Skerlong Champ Car Q&A
Mukilteo, Washington – Seattle’s Carl Skerlong tested one of Pacific Coast Motorsports 750bhp Champ Car World Series entries two weeks ago at California’s Buttonwillow Raceway and the 19-year-old acquitted himself well, seizing the opportunity to showcase his talents after finishing 10th overall in his rookie season in the Champ Car Atlantic Championship.
Carl took time out from studying for his term finals to reflect on his maiden Champ Car run:
Q: What had you done to prepare for driving a 750bhp Champ Car and what advice did Pacific Coast Motorsports give you before heading out on track?
Carl Skerlong (CS): “I’d heard from several people that it was obviously a very physical car to drive. With that in mind I spent as much time as I could in the gym. I was focusing on keeping my diet and work-out schedule pretty strict in advance of the opportunity. It was tough as I’m at school at the moment and I’ve been doing some driver coaching and traveling so it was challenging to prepare but it all worked out well. I wasn’t fatigued mentally or physically during the test which was good. The team told me what to expect, they covered everything from hitting the pit box to feeling what it’s like going at 180mph! It’s obviously a different beast from the Atlantic car I’m used to!”
Q: Did you expect the opportunity to test a car as powerful as the Champ Car after just three, albeit very accomplished, seasons of racing in open-wheel?
CS: “We actually talked about this at the test! Three years ago my first ever racing car test was at Buttonwillow in a Formula Renault 1600. It’s funny to think that I’d be back testing a Champ Car there three seasons later. It’s always been a goal of mine to test a Champ Car but I didn’t think it would happen as quickly as it did.”
Q: What was your immediate impression of the DP-01 as you lapped Buttonwillow Raceway for the first time in it?
CS: “My first thought was that it’s a real race car! In someway it’s similar to an Atlantic car, handling-wise it felt quite similar but the bottom line is that everything’s exaggerated on a Champ Car, the power, the braking, the overall grip and so on. It was above and beyond anything else I’ve ever driven. Everything ran flawlessly on the day, we had no issues whatsoever with the car which was great.”
Q: What was the single biggest difference between the Champ Car and any other car you’ve tested or raced to-date?
CS: “It’s definitely the biggest car I’ve ever driven. Probably the biggest difference was getting used to the level of downforce. With the Atlantic car there was a big jump but it was multiplied even further stepping up into the Champ Car. It makes you work that much harder for that extra tenth on a lap time.”
Q: What was your test program for the day? Was it to set a lap time or simply to build speed and acquaint yourself with your new surroundings?
CS: “Really the test for me was about going in there and getting my feet wet and seeing how it went. I got up to speed fairly quickly and we were able to start making some adjustments with the set-up of the car and see how they effected things on-track.”
Q: From a technical standpoint, is the level of feedback you have to report back to engineers vastly different from Atlantics to Champ Car?
CS: “No not really. During the off-season I’ve been looking back on last year’s data and figuring out what I’m able to do to make next season that much more productive. I tested the Atlantic car at Buttonwillow a few weeks ago then was back running the Champ Car last week. Really at this point in my career I have to maximize every opportunity I’m in a race car and get the most out of it. The Champ Car test was certainly a learning experience and I’m always working on feedback and my understanding of the car.”
Q: You mentioned after the test that you have a ‘new found appreciation of Champ Car drivers and the levels they need to compete at’, can you elaborate on this?
CS: “I wasn’t tired after the test, physically or mentally, having driven 150 miles over the course of a day. Going out and running the car straight for close to two hours in race conditions, you definitely need to be at the top of your game physically. People say it’s a demanding car to drive and I can say you definitely have a new respect for it having actually driven it yourself. If I hadn’t worked out as hard as I did beforehand it would have made for a long day!”
Q: It’s been well documented that you want to graduate to Champ Car in 2009, are we likely to see you test a Champ Car again in 2008?
CS: “We’re working towards getting a budget to allow me to run a few more days in the car next season. PCM gave me an amazing opportunity with this test and hopefully I’ll be able to impress them enough again in Atlantics to allow me some more running time in the Champ Car.”
Q: Having sampled, and clearly enjoyed your time in the Champ Car, how will you re-adjust to driving your more familiar #28 King Taco/US RaceTronics Swift-Mazda Cosworth in the Champ Car Atlantic Championship?
CS: “Like I said, driving-wise they’re relatively similar. I think if anything having tested the Champ Car will simply serve to motivate me even more. I had such a good time testing with the team it makes me want to work even harder in the 2008 season to reach Champ Car the following year.”
Q: As a home-grown favorite heading into the 2008 Champ Car Atlantic Championship, do you feel any added pressure to win the title in your sophomore season?
CS: “Not at all! I’m still fairly new to motorsport and we knew last year we had decent speed, I made a few rookie mistakes but I’ve learned from them and hopefully we can capitalize on that and challenge consistently at the front. I don’t think there’s any pressure on me and with it being such a competitive series, you never know what could happen from one week to the next, not least with close to 30 cars lining up on the grid. Some things are simply out of your control! Like I said though, I’m really motivated right now and can’t wait for the season to start.”