You last served as president of the company that produces RACER in 2005. How do you think the sport has changed since then?
Well, 2005 was a particularly challenging time because we were still in the depths of the civil war in IndyCar racing, which was demoralizing and debilitating, and it broke my heart. My last act, the last week I worked in this company, was to mischievously change the seating order at the Race of Champions in Paris so that Kevin Kalkhoven and Tony George sat together and started talking. I spent the night talking with one of them and a friend who helped me talked with the other, and we begged them to talk and get this over with and stop it. Thankfully, they eventually did. For me, that re-opened all the possibilities I saw when we launched the magazine.
No one foresaw the economic downturn of 2008, but I see the green shoots of potential and promise shooting up everywhere again and I see racing evolving back to what it was – a manifestation of human progress.
I think it's an exciting time. This year you'll have not only the Formula 1 race in Austin, but we'll have FIA World Touring Car and Australian V8 Supercar races, the prospect of DTM coming with NASCAR in the next year. It's an amazing time – a perfect time for RACER.
Do you see the recent trend toward environmental efficiency in automotive engineering helping that process, or running on a sort of parallel track?
Well, if racing embraces the future and progress, it's great for it, and I think RACER is going to take a position that advocates us being a part of the solution rather than the problem. I think racing can accelerate the progress toward sustainable and environmentally friendly mobility. I think car manufacturers are embracing that – you look at Nissan taking the brave decision to align with the DeltaWing project, you look at what Audi is doing, what Toyota is doing…. I think it's inevitable, but racing gets you there faster. If racing leads the way and makes this sexy and desirable and accepted, perhaps it will have done the greatest thing it can for humanity. And we're on the side of that.
You mentioned in the video announcement of your return that you and Jeff Zwart first came up with the idea for RACER in 1977. If you could go back in time to when you were first launching the magazine, what would you like to tell yourself?
Well first of all I'd tell myself that we did it. It's an amazing feeling to have this magazine be 20 years old. I look back to that moment when Jeff and I were talking – we were driving up for a SportsCar magazine shoot; I was the art director and managing editor, and it was very exciting: We were going to rig a Schkee Can-Am car with cameras, and they were also experimenting with the first onboard TV cameras.
I didn't realize we were on the edge of the future in so many ways. Jeff went on to become one of the top commercial film directors in the world, and is quite famous for it, and we had this discussion about how America needed this magazine. I'd already been involved in the launch of a magazine, called Formula, but it was not something that had the potential and the scale and the scope of RACER. We talked about design, about meaning and storytelling, all these things we were going to do in our magazine some day.
So, I'd congratulate that young guy for not giving up and being determined – and for choosing good friends who did the same.
Any other thoughts you'd like to add?
I think the thing that's most important is, I'm home. This is me. I'm with the people I want to be with, and doing what I want to do, when I'm here. Nothing makes me happier than sitting here, looking at everyone working on the 20th anniversary issue of RACER. It's a dream come true. There were many times, especially in the last couple of years, when that seemed impossible, and I'm very grateful to Haymarket for preserving this magazine through what had to have been the worst decade in media and automotive and motorsport business. Their commitment to this company, to keeping it alive, is something I will be grateful for forever, especially to Lee Maniscalco, the CEO of Haymarket Media in New York, for making that call to me and offering me this opportunity to take RACER forward with this team. We're a hybrid now of what was Haymarket and what was RACER, and we're better for it.
Life works out: You have to keep evolving and you have to keep learning, but you've always got to look at what you're going to do next. And the reason I'm really here, is what we're going to do next.
• The next generation of RACER begins with May's 20th Anniversary issue. CLICK HERE to subscribe today at a 30% discount rate!