This month's questions are answered by FAZZT Race Team's Chief Operating Officer, Rob Edwards, team owner Andre Azzi, chief race engineer Allen McDonald and driver Alex Tagliani.
How much do you feel that not testing at Mid-Ohio and Sonoma hurt you this year? To me, it seems like you have the pace on the ovals already and that getting a good road course setup would be priority. It leaves a lot for you to accomplish in the practice sessions, even though Alex has a simulator.
Ian, testing is always advantageous especially, as you say, given the limited time available in practice. As a team, we also believe in doing our homework and being prepared when we turn up at a race event. Sometimes that means that time at the shop is as valuable as time testing at the track. Since Alex had raced at Mid-Ohio many times before, I don't think not testing hurt us there. Sonoma was a different scenario since it was a new track for Alex. But we got our answer. It was a case of us doing our homework well and Alex driving superbly. Unfortunately, the race went wrong for us but we now have a lot of data to go on for next year. Rob Edwards
This may or may not be the place to do it, but can you confirm that FAZZT is continuing into 2011? After your performances this year, I hope you will find it easier to find a good principal sponsor. You deserve it.
Christina, I am happy to answer this question. Absolutely, FAZZT will be around in 2011 and beyond. We are trying very hard to add a second car for next season and we are continuing to grow both the race operations and commercial areas of the team. We have had a great partner this year in Bowers & Wilkins and look forward to growing this relationship and adding many others. Andre Azzi
What do you think of the 2012 IndyCar plans?
I think Randy Bernard and the ICONIC committee have done a great job and come up with an exciting blueprint for the future. As a new team, it is hard to compete against the established teams that have been using, essentially, the same car since 2003. At least in the first year, the new car should offer a level playing field for all of the teams. Rob Edwards
When you're racing at circuits that your driver hasn't been to before like Sonoma, does that increase your input into the setup of a car because of your previous IndyCar experience at Sonoma with Andretti Green? Come to think of it, remembering how Dario went there in 2007 in those lovely Canadian Club colors when you were his engineer, I think Alex would be happy to listen!
Yes, certainly at tracks that I know, that experience helps both Alex and me, because we have an idea of what has worked before (and what hasn't, more importantly!). Also we have an idea of the key track metrics (how bumpy the track is, what its relative grip is, the likely downforce sensitivity, etc). The problem is that things never remain the same – which is also half the fun of it! For this year at Sonoma, for example, the prime tire was quite different (it was softer), so there were new challenges and new problems to try and solve. Sonoma is especially challenging because the track grip and balance changes significantly over the weekend, with ambient conditions and as the different cars run and leave their rubber on the track. With the limited running we got this year, I was able to help guide our chassis adjustments to anticipate the likely shifts in grip and balance.
And yes, the Canadian Club car was a pretty car, wasn't it? But not as good looking as the Bowers and Wilkins car especially with the metallic bronze! Allen McDonald
Do you have hopes of running a permanent second car in 2012? For Bruno, or maybe a young Canadian?
A very topical question, Kelly! We are committed to running a second full-time entry in 2011. Chris Bowers, our commercial director, and myself are spending all of our energy making sure that we put together the most competitive two-car program that we can. We believe this will help Alex's program and give the FAZZT Race Team more opportunities to develop the technical and marketing tools that we need to build a successful long-term franchise. We have a short list of drivers we are interested in and, I'm excited to say, new possibilities come along every week at the moment. Rob Edwards
What are your realistic targets for the remaining ovals? You seem to be one of the most consistent at threatening the Penskes and Ganassis. So could you perhaps get the team's first oval top-five finish?
I think we can finish in the top five, we have a good car on the ovals, and we just need to execute everything perfectly in a weekend. We qualified fifth in Kansas, fifth at Indy, sixth in Iowa and we led 34 laps in Texas. I think if we put it all together we could be a big factor during the last three races. Alex Tagliani
Congratulations on Mid-Ohio result. I was there, and I was cheering for FAZZT. I just wondered why no one else running near the back had the same idea of pitting early and hoping for a yellow to get themselves up front. Have you tried the same tactic before? What process did you go through to decide on that strategy?
Clive Masters (a UK fan)
Our strategy is always a team effort, but in the case of Mid-Ohio, full credit to Allen McDonald for putting that one on the table (even though he is a Tottenham Hotspur soccer fan!). We spend the night before the race looking at options and at Mid-Ohio the discussion on the timing stand was about which lap we were going to “roll the dice” on, 21, 22 or 23. I'm pleased we didn't wait another lap! I expect you would be surprised how calm the timing stand is during the race but it's all about chemistry. Allen has great experience and Robert Gue, our fuel strategist, and I have worked together for five seasons (although I am not the reason for his lack of hair!). Why didn't anyone else try it? You would have to ask them. Rob Edwards
How different to drive is the Indy car compared to the Champ Car, and do you expect that the 2012 Indy car will be just as different again? Or will the turbo power make it more similar to the Champ Cars?Mark Mills
It is very different: the Indy car has a lot less downforce, it's a little heavier, and the engine doesn't have as much power as the Champ Car engine did, but the reliability of the Honda is amazing.
I think the 2012 car is going to be built by one of the most successful companies in racing. Dallara is for sure keeping in mind a way to improve passing on the tracks that we race on, and the best compromise between oval and road courses. The new car will be the future of IndyCar and I think the engine will be a lot of fun. Alex Tagliani
Which racing circuits that are NOT on the 2010 schedule would you like to see return over the next couple years? Also, would you support a possible return of Vancouver now that the Winter Olympics are done?
Yes, I would support it for sure. I would also like to go back to Quebec, now that I am full time in the IZOD IndyCar Series. I would also like to see Road America, Surfers Paradise and maybe Laguna Seca back on the schedule. Alex Tagliani