Catching up with Bertrand Baguette
First-year IZOD IndyCar Series driver Bertrand Baguette recorded his first top-10 finish of the season Sept. 4 in the Kentucky Indy 300, which followed his previous best of 12th a week earlier at Chicagoland Speedway.
Baguette, 24, of Belgium, gained one position in the standings and is third in the Rookie of the Year race.
"I think it was a good race for us, starting P6 and running third for a while," said Baguette, driver of the No. 34 RACB Conquest Racing car. "It felt good for the team and for me to be in that position. We've been continuously improving, which is good, and hopefully we can do even better at the next one."
That's Sept. 19 at Twin Ring Motegi. Below, we catch up with the driver who is a houseguest of Conquest Racing owner Eric Bachelart - also from Belgium.
Q. What have been the biggest surprises on the track and off?
A. The biggest surprise for me on track are the ovals. I honestly thought it would be easier than it is. It's really difficult. You have a very big sensation of speed. And the speeds can be very crazy, especially at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where a lap can average 225 mph. It's something unbelievable. I never thought I would do a lap averaging a speed like that. It's completely crazy. Then, when you get to race time, it's so much different than when you drive alone on the track. You have to be able to fight with other guys at that speed and you have to be focused all the time because a little mistake can mean disaster for you and everyone around you.
My biggest surprise off track is the fans. The American fans are different than the European ones. They are much closer to the drivers and are for the drivers. When a driver has a bad day or something, they encourage him. In Europe, they would be there criticizing him instead. Here in America, they are behind you and pushing you to be stronger. It's a different mentality and I like that a lot.
Q. What is a typical Tuesday for you after a race and before another that weekend?
A. What I usually do is train in the morning and the afternoon. In the morning I go to Pit Fit with Jim Leo and usually the Tuesday morning we run. Then midday, I go to the shop for a post-race weekend debrief and then in the afternoon I normally go with Will Power and Dan Clarke for a two- or three-hour bike ride. In the evening, I usually hang out with (Firestone Indy Lights point leader) J.K. Vernay. We are very good friends. We either play video games or go eat together.
Q. What are some of the things you've tried for the first time living in North America?
A. One sport that I tried for the first time is baseball. It's a very common sport here in America, but not so much in Europe. I played with some friends and it was really fun and I was actually not too bad at it. It was surprised to discover that I was not bad at that sport for having never played it before.
Also, I went for a boat ride on the lake and none of us had a license to drive the boat. In Europe, you need one to navigate a boat. It was quite funny because the guy just lent us the boat and didn't tell us anything, so we had to figure it out for ourselves. It was the first time for everybody and with a lot of boats on the lake it was a little scary at the beginning. But we figured it out by the end of the day.
As for food, I'm just surprised how much fast food there is here compared to Europe.
Q. What do you miss most from life in Belgium?
A. What I miss most are my friends. When I am in Belgium, I am a lot with my friends and I like to be with them, so the fact that I am here far from them, is quite difficult.
Q. Talk a bit about your association with the RACB.
A. The RACB, the Royal Automobile Club of Belgium, put in place a Belgium National motorsports team and I was the first driver on that team. The RACB helps all the members of the team to further their career. I think we are six drivers right now. They are there to help us find sponsorship money, they help with communications and make sure our relationship with our respective team is good. They look after all the aspects of my career and make sure that everything is going in the right direction. I have to thank them for where I am today.