Monday, January 24, 2011

Six Quick Questions With Niall Quinn

Niall Quinn was able to race twice in Indy Lights last year, at Barber and at Long Beach. A native of Ireland, Niall came to Lights after spending 2009 in the now-defunct A1 Grand Prix series, where he drove for Team Ireland. As part of our Six Quick Questions series, he gives us an amazing look into what it's like for a driver trying to find a way to make it in racing.

Thanks for agreeing to the Q&A, Niall.  How did you arrive in the Firestone Indy Lights Series?
Quinn preparing to compete at Barber in '10.

NQ: After the collapse of A1GP at the end of 2009 I was doing a lot of looking around, and the US racing scene was something that I had wanted to explore for a while. Team PBIR were running their “Rookie Challenge” event, and I thought it would be a good way to go about getting a lights drive. The event was canceled, but I did test the teams Formula BMW at Putnam Park in March, after which they asked me to stay on, and we worked to get me in the Lights car. It was a tough few months, I didn’t have any cash so I lived in the workshop for those three months, which was an experience!

You ran two races for Team PBIR last year. How was the experience, and what sort of lessons did you take away from the partial season?

NQ: I am grateful to Team PBIR for giving me the opportunity to drive the car, but it wasn’t an ideal situation. The money wasn’t there to do it right, but as a driver you just want to get out there. Barber was looking to be a promising weekend. I arrived there having never driven the car or the circuit, and left Friday evening having paced the field by over 7 tenths in practice two. The race didn’t go quite as well! I was still in the hunt in the lead pack in 7th after about 30mins and a braking problem developed in the car. The race was a disappointment, but I had shown I could run at the front of the Lights field.

Long Beach was a disaster, start to finish. No budget meant just one set of tyres for the weekend, so I had no idea where we were going with setup as the tyres on the car on Friday were ancient! The braking problem stayed with us until Friday night when the guys found a seized caliper too, which left me with next to no track running. The race was damage limitation for me, and I progressed from 17th to 9th and took the Firestone Hard Charger award.

You're a native of Ireland, and have spent almost your entire career in UK or European leagues. How does the racing scene across the pond compare to the one here? What are some of the differences in attitudes?

NQ: The racing scene is very different in the US. The driving in the US is much less aggressive than in Europe. The “no defending” rule leaves you with very few tools to fight your corner, which in my opinion isn’t good for racing. Obviously it is needed on the ovals, but it is very hard to get your head around not being allowed to defend your position on a road course coming from Europe, where it is a skill you learn just like overtaking. I also found that the US scene is much more open for guys like me to come into and work to find sponsors. The series on the F1 ladder are spoiled with large chequebooks at the moment, and the teams wont help an underfunded driver.

What's the offseason been like for you? Working to return to Lights in 2011?

NQ: I have been back in Ireland for the off season. I’ve been working hard on my fitness to ensure I am ready for the season ahead. We have been working hard also on securing partners for the upcoming season. Yes Lights is in my sights for 2011. I feel in the right car I can fight for the championship, but the biggest issue is finding the funding at the moment. I am also working on other programs with a view to securing something that will be good for my career in the long term.

Do you have any buddies or friends you hang out with among the IndyCar and Lights drivers? What do you do for fun?

NQ:Yes there are a few of us Lights drivers who hang out together when we are all in town, which is nice when you’re so far away from home. Indy is a great city and I always have fun when I am there. Most of my free time at the moment is spent driving rFactor or iRacing. Its fun, great for keeping your mind in racing mode, and basically anything competitive counts as fun for me.

Realistically speaking, a year from now, where would you like to see yourself in terms of racing progression and development?

NQ: I would like to see myself back in a full time competitive race seat, and it is my aim to make that happen in the US.

For more info, check out at Niall online:

(Photo provided courtesy of IMS Media)

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