Q&A with Marino Franchitti Patr¢n Highcroft Racing's newest signing Marino Franchitti will hit the track at Autosport International in the UK today, doing battle in teammate David Brabham's Celebrity Karting Challenge.
Franchitti will also appear on the Autosport Stage at 10:30am this morning alongside team boss Duncan Dayton. David Brabham will follow on stage at 11:00am.
While they will be rivals in today's event benefiting Malaria No More, Franchitti and Brabham will team up at Sebring, Laguna Seca and Road Atlanta for Patr¢n Highcroft Racing in 2010. The Scottish star looks forward to season ahead in this Q&A.....
Q: How much are you looking forward to joining David Brabham and Simon Pagenaud in the ALMS championship-winning team?
A: "I can't wait to get started. We're all going to meet up at the end of January for a seat fitting and for me, it can't come quick enough.
"It's great to be joining the championship winning team and linking up not only with last year's two fastest drivers in LMP1 in the American Le Mans Series, but also two good friends who will be my teammates. Brabs I've known and admired for years, and Simon became a friend almost from the time he came to the ALMS.
"I think together we should make a really good team. There are a lot of guys at Patron Highcroft who I have worked with before in other programs so it really feels like home for me."
Q: How did the opportunity come about to join Patr¢n Highcroft Racing for 2010?
A: "I've had a great couple of years with Dyson Racing and they had one car confirmed for next year but were still working on the second car. Rob and Chris (Dyson) were very up-front with me and allowed me to go and pursue other opportunities.
"Simon was already locked in as Brabs' season-long teammate, but now Duncan has given me a fantastic chance to not only contest the long-distance races this year, but also play a role with the team going forward into the future.
"It was something I really couldn't turn down. I have to thank Dyson Racing for the opportunities they provided me over the past two years and allowing me to show what I could do. That really opened doors for me."
Q: What will your role be with the team throughout the 2010 season?
A: "I'm very excited about my role with the team because I will not only be doing the long races at Sebring, Laguna Seca and Petit Le Mans, but I will also be attending all the other races.
"My job will be to sit in on all our engineering briefings and hopefully be able to learn and also lean on some of the experience I've gained in recent years in order to have a positive input into the development of the car. There are also a lot of test miles planned in preparation for the championship defense so I know I won't be idle.
"For me, it will also be a great opportunity to learn from Brabs, who has tremendous experience in sportscar racing, and also the outstanding group of guys the team has in every department. I'll be just as busy as any other season, but with slightly less racing miles in 2010."
Q: Have you set your sights on other potential opportunities at Patr¢n Highcroft Racing in the future?
A: "Duncan has made no secret of his desire to contest the 24 Hours of Le Mans and also expand the team into a second car, so obviously there are some great opportunities ahead.
"We've been friends for a long time and you can't help but be impressed by what Duncan and his team have accomplished in recent years.
"I think they have become the envy of the pit lane and it is now fantastic to be a part of that program.
"Duncan and I share a lot of the same passions - both in modern and historic racing - so there is a great opportunity for me to grow and expand with the team going forward."
Q: After several seasons in GT machinery early in your career, does the chance to go on and drive for organizations like Andretti Green Racing, Dyson Racing and now Patr¢n Highcroft Racing seem like a dream?
A: "I've had some great opportunities and been able to make the most of them; drive and determination have been crucial in my career. I always knew I could do the job given the right circumstances and I've been fortunate to have the equipment and the chance to do that.
"A few years ago I had to try and talk people into believing I could do the job, but fortunately the results have come which made it much easier and that is a nice progression to have made.
Brabs and I being where we are now, it's funny looking back to when we were both part of the Panoz GT program, myself in 2005 and Brabs a year later.
"Brabs has shown his determination, skill and complete focus to put him in this position. Simon is the same. After Champ Car went away he has gone on to show he is one of the fastest LMP drivers in the series.
"For me it has been about hunger and striving to achieve my goals. I'm not quite there yet, but moving to Patr¢n Highcroft Racing is a big step in the right direction."
Q: Your brother Dario has obviously had a great career, but do you feel you're starting to make a name for yourself as Marino Franchitti, not just Dario's brother?
A: "I really felt I began to make a name for myself back in 2007 in the AGR car. At the end of the day, I am my own man and I drive a completely different discipline of motorsport to my brother.
"When I moved to Dyson people really started to recognize me as an individual, and my second name really didn't come into it which is really nice."
Q: What have you been able to learn about the team from guys who you have worked with before and your brother?
A: "I got to observe the team in action from close quarters, so even when I was a rival, everyone was very welcoming at all times.
"The team has a very impressive set-up and you only have to look at the job that they did over the three years of the Acura program to be impressed.
"Knowing a few of the guys at Patron Highcroft I know Duncan has given them the resources to get the job done and looking at the effort they put in at Petit Le Mans over the past two years - rebuilding those cars was nothing short of remarkable.
"Dyson Racing has that same kind of spirit so it is really nice to again be racing with a bunch of guys who love the sport as much as I do.
"Duncan's passion knows no bounds and that spreads right throughout the team."
Q: How competitive do you feel the overall prototype class will be next year with LMP1 and LMP2 combined in the American Le Man Series?
A: "There are a few cars out there which are going to be very strong including the Drayson Lola. My old friends at Dyson Racing will also be fast because I know they have been working very hard on new developments.
"It is going to be very interesting to see where everybody is after the rules come out and everybody gets a couple of races under their belt.
"Getting points at every race will be critical and the Patr¢n Highcroft guys showed that last year, but with all the prototypes in together, it won't be a matter of just getting points, you're going to have to be right up the front at every race to be strong in the championship chase."