Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Six Quick Questions With Connor De Phillippi

Connor De Phillippi is one of the brightest young stars of the Star Mazda Championship. He's already won this season (at St. Pete), and adds that to a list of impressive accomplishments that include another win and 3 podiums in his rookie Star Mazda campaign in 2010. Going back further, this young American prospect won 21 karting titles by the age of 14, and later absolutely demolished the competition in the Skip Barber National Series, winning 7 of 14 races in 2009!

Today, Connor joins us for Six Quick Questions, where we discuss his current season, his friendship and rivalry with Conor Daly, and much more! I think you're going to really enjoy this one!

Thanks for joining us, Connor! Reflecting on your season so far, how would you grade it, and why?

CDP: Thank you for having me! This season has been relatively good so far. We are a new team, but going into this season we all had the same expectations. And those expectations were to win. As a team we've worked extremely hard in the pre-season and are continuing to do so through out this season. At the opening round in St. Pete my teammate and I came up a bit short in qualifying landing us in the p.2 and p.3 positions, but when it came to race time we performed well and pulled off the win. It was absolutely a picture perfect way to start the season. For the second race weekend at Barber Motorsports Park, we had been behind in our development of the car for that track so we struggled in pure speed, but when it came to the race we had a second place car. Unfortunately as I was coming through the field to pass for fourth, there was contact that required a pit stop and we ended up finishing in 10th position. So overall I'd rate our season thus far between a B and B+. We have performed but we need to continue to hone in on being focused and approach this championship race by race.

Image Courtesy Star Mazda
This is your second year in Star Mazda. Looking back to a year ago, do you see any areas where you've especially improved as a driver?

CDP: Truly I've developed so much over the past year. Going from a Skip Barber car to a Star Mazda car was a massive jump for me and there was a lot to be learned. From 2010 to 2011, I have definitely improved in two main areas. The first area that I've most improved in would be my understanding of the race car, and becoming really good at letting my engineer know what I feel the car needs. In 2010, I could communicate where the car may be understeering and going loose, but I could not distinguish whether it was an aerodynamic or mechanical understeer. Now for this 2011 season, I've become very knowledgeable with my understanding of each change on the car which has allowed me to develop the race car much better. The other area I feel I've become much better in would be the skill of managing a race. All the car racing I had done prior, it was pretty much drive at 100% for 30 minutes and try to win. When I moved up to Star Mazda, tire management was a very important skill I had to become superior at if I wanted to win races. So far in 2011, tire management has been one skill that has been a major improvement over the course of one season, and has also been a large contributor to our success so far this season.

The Star Mazda Championship seems very tightly contested this year, with a lot of quality prospects (with you definitely in the mix!). Do you think the reward of an Indy Lights scholarship to the Star Mazda Championship is stoking the fires of competition?

CDP: The Indy Lights scholarship has absolutely fueled the fire for competition! For any driver pursuing a career towards Indy Car, Star Mazda is one of the most competitive open wheel series' in North American. Yes, you can say the series has been very competitive for quite a while now, but now with the great amounts of foreign drivers coming here for that free Indy Lights ride, it has become even more intense. Although.... just because there are more foreign drivers does not mean us American drivers have no chance. They aren't superheros by any means ;)

Who are your favorite active drivers in INDYCAR overall, and why?

CDP: My favorite full time driver would have to be Will Power. He comes into each weekend and gets the job done. No excuses, no mistakes and doesn't complain. Exactly my kind of driver. I feel we relate in how race weekends are approached from the driving side and he is definitely a driver I look up to. He is also a driver I hope to get the chance to race against! Or shall I say get the chance to put him in my mirrors?

In an interview with us, Star Mazda Champ and Indy Lights driver Conor Daly said the battling you on the track is always "epic". Are you guys friends off the track, and to try yo get you in trouble here, which one of you is the better driver?

CDP: Well epic is one way to put it!--Haha. Conor and myself are very good friends and fierce competitors on the track. Last year he kicked me around quite a bit with his experience, but when I figured out the car towards the end of the season we were back to our old ways. Picking each other apart by tenths of a second!! It would of been a much more difficult season for him last year if I had the full year of experience like I do this year, but then again any driver can make up excuses all day. How about an Indy Car team owner puts us in two of there cars for a season and we can find out who is better?!

Where would you like to see yourself in terms of racing in the next 2-3 years

CDP: In 2-3 years a lot can happen, but my long term plans as of now would put me in IndyCar 3 years from now. Anything can happen, but ideally I'd like to be in Indy Lights for 2 years and then make a more experienced transfer to the IZOD IndyCar series. These next 2 years are very important to the driver development side of my career and will have a big effect on my future. First I have to get the job done in Star Mazda this season and then hopefully I'll have some exciting plans I can unveil later this year. Sounds like we will just have to do another interview later in the season to let you know more of the details!

Follow Connor De Phillippi this season and beyond via his website and on Twitter

1 comment:

  1. Great article! I've been following Connor for some time now and I'm eager to see his progression over the next 2-3 years! Given his past success at every top level of racing he had participated in, in 3 years time, if he is not running in the IZOD IndyCar Series, I will be shocked! But I am sure his results will speak for them self.

    You can also follow his Facebook Fan Page at: http://www.facebook.com/ConnorDePhillippiFanPage

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