American Champ Car rookie Alex Figge and his
rookie Champ Car team Pacific Coast Motorsports (PCM) have found the
going tough in America's premier open wheel series.
The reality of the situation is that both
rookie drivers (Figge and teammate Ryan Dalziel) and their
rookie engineers don't have any Champ Car experience to draw
upon, so when things are not going right, they sometimes
lose their way.
Despite the spec chassis and engines,
running competitively in Champ Car is no easy matter, but
the enormity of the situation isn't lost on the pragmatic
We caught up to the young California on
Sunday morning in San Jose.
Q. Why don't you tell our readers how
you got started in racing. When did you first decide that
you wanted to be a race car driver?
ALEX FIGGE: My family has always been interested in it. Then
I went to a racing school when I was like 16, something like
that. And then started racing Formula Mazda and sort of went
from there. But really I have not been racing very
Q. Has it been harder than you expected moving up to
ALEX FIGGE: Yeah. I would say it has, just from the
standpoint that, you know, two new drivers and a new team
has been pretty difficult. Last time I was here was in '04
with Atlantic and it seemed like we always had a top 5 car
right out of the truck.
I was telling my engineer, the
same one I had in Atlantic, how devastated we were back then to qualify like 4th or something.
So it's a bit of a change [running at the back of the field]. Obviously there's still a little
bit of something missing between my engineer and I right
now. We're both trying our best and it hasn't quite come
together yet unfortunately.
Q. I guess you're both rookies, right, for Champ Car?
ALEX FIGGE: Yep, both rookies. And Ryan's engineer
is a rookie, too, as are other guys on our team. So we're just
trying to pick it up as fast as we can.
Q. In hindsight if you had to do it over again, would
you have picked up more veterans on the team?
ALEX FIGGE: I think that it would help
obviously to have somebody with a vast knowledge
base to draw upon. I think everybody on the team is
skilled enough, but when we lose our way we struggle to get
back on track sometimes.
Putting it all together in this environment has been
difficult, especially since a lot of Lola information
transfers over. So without even that it's definitely been
Q. Did racing in Grand-Am last year help you
and your team at all in Champ Car this year?
ALEX FIGGE: Actually, it does help with the racing
and making pitstops. I think I made some
mistakes in the races this year but I don't think I cost
anybody anything. Hopefully that's just a product of being
through a couple different series and being a little more
Obviously we're not at the front end of the field
right now, but I certainly don't want to be screwing up
anybody else's race either. So I think it's a difficult
situation to be in, but some of those experiences have
helped a lot as far as being comfortable.
Q. Okay. Let's talk about your teammate Ryan Dalziel
- I understand you guys are buddies, good friends.
Alex Figge Bob Heathcote
ALEX FIGGE: Yeah. We're best friends.
Q. That's great. How is it working out as far as two
ALEX FIGGE: The whole combination of an
entire rookie team is pretty difficult. But Ryan and I are
close and I don't have any ego hang-ups with Ryan and I
don't think he has any with me either.
I think that definitely promotes a single goal of just
trying to move up the grid and trying to get more
Q. Are you able to share race setups? Do you guys like the
same car setup?
ALEX FIGGE: Not usually, but the last couple races Ryan and
Tim [Ryan's Engineer] seemed to have found a little something. So on Saturday
they've ended up making some really good decisions and
making some progress. We have definitely been
able to share some information and get some gains that way.
Q. Speaking of progress, you qualified 13th in Edmonton and
Cleveland, which showed a little promise there.
ALEX FIGGE: Yeah. I think Cleveland was a good weekend. We
missed one of the practice sessions due to some car
problems, and I think without that we would have had a shot
at a decent qualifying result.
Q. How is your back by the way? You had hurt it
in Long Beach.
ALEX FIGGE: It's been slightly sore all season. I'm
back to 90%, something like that. I can only feel it after the race it hurts a bit, stuff like that. But
really no big deal. Nothing that keeps me out of car or
anything like that.
Q. How hard was it stepping out of your car in Houston
and letting someone else drive it?
ALEX FIGGE: It was pretty difficult. In one respect, you got
to give people a fair shake, and I don't think I would have
been able to do a very good job. My guys work pretty damn
hard to get the car running and, you know, just to make
everything work. To not be able to give them 100 percent is
not fair either.
In that respect it was the right thing to do, but it's
certainly an embarrassing thing to have to do, you know.
Q. But drivers do get hurt.
ALEX FIGGE: That's true, yes.
Q. I look at where you're at today. I think everybody
expects you guys to struggle the first year. Like you said,
you're all rookies. Have you set any kind of goals at all
for the end of the year? One-year, two-year, three-year
ALEX FIGGE: Obviously I'd like to qualify in the top
10 a few times here. We had some promising results but not
quite top-10. Long Beach
we were strong and then Cleveland and Edmonton seemed like
we were picking it up a little bit.
I'd love to have some Top
10s. I think that would make me feel good. To be honest with
you, right now it seems like it's been a long time since we
sort of pulled ourselves up a little bit.
So I'm trying this morning to remotivate for the race
and be able to run a good race and have a good result. I
think this place has some potential for people to make
Q. The field is so tight here.
ALEX FIGGE: I know.
Q. If you're off by two tenths you're out of the
ALEX FIGGE: Absolutely.
Q. Do you see yourself being a driver
long-term, or do you have aspirations of someday being a
ALEX FIGGE: I certainly have aspirations of being a team
owner. But I don't feel like I've reached my goals as a
driver yet, and I do feel like I do belong here and I can
succeed here given the right situation.
It has definitely been a struggle this year. Right now I'm just
trying to stay positive and have good finishes and learn as
much as I can.
Q. Some say this is the toughest series to be in. It's
ALEX FIGGE: There are some great teams here, too.
Q. Great teams, and the talent level in Champ Car is really,
ALEX FIGGE: Yeah.
Q. The series doesn't get as much attention in the media as it should
for other reasons, but the quality of the driving, is second
ALEX FIGGE: Yeah. I mean, no question.
Q. What has been the biggest issue in qualifying?
ALEX FIGGE: Sometimes we won't play the traffic right or play
the strategy right. That's not anybody's fault; we just
don't know. Seems like we're trying something different
every weekend, and sometimes we hit it better than other
Q. I see your parents are at most of the races. Are they at
all the races?
ALEX FIGGE: Yep.
Q. That must feel so good to have their support.
ALEX FIGGE: It's always nice to have their support. My
grandma is here this weekend. She lives in Palm Springs, so
that's fun. I try to have my friends come out whenever they
can get off work. It's
always nice to have a support system. Ryan and I being best
friends helps a lot, too.
Q. I notice the camaraderie there.
ALEX FIGGE: Yeah, absolutely.
Q. I have to give you credit. To come in here and do what
you're doing, you know, it's all rookies.
ALEX FIGGE: It's tough. It's tough.
Q. I saw Ryan, was it last race that he qualified up there
pretty high? So there's some potential there.
ALEX FIGGE: Absolutely.
Q. When you guys hit the setup you're going to be okay.
ALEX FIGGE: Absolutely. We're moving in the right direction,
and when we make the right decisions I think we're right
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