Thursday, March 20, 2014

Martin Plowman Interview: Looking Ahead To Indy

Martin Plowman is one of this year's rookie crop of drivers for the Indianapolis 500, and he'll also be "doubling" in May by competing in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. This year's driver of the #41 AJ Foyt Racing car has a pretty varied resume: he's an Indy Lights alum, he raced a few IndyCar weekends in 2011, and has a Le Mans class win under his belt. Now, with an all-new challenge in front of him, the English racer took a few minutes to answer a short Q&A on his Month of May plans and a few other items:

Plowey, thanks so much for taking some time out to do this. First, I guess we have to ask that all-consuming question, how did this deal come together? How long have you been chatting with Foyt?

MP: I first connected with Larry [Foyt] when I was a part of the Indy 500 Centennial tour, visiting military bases across the Middle-East, and I stayed in contact with him and his team ever since. AJ Foyt was one of the teams I interviewed with after moving up from Firestone Indy Lights, but the timing wasn't right as they needed a veteran to lead their one-car team. This off-season, the sportscar scene was looking bleak as it seemed that nearly all of the teams that were interested in hiring me were waiting on funding to come through from sponsors or "gentlemen drivers" so I had simply had to wait and keep phoning and emailing for an opportunity out there.

I had run out of people to email, when my dad asked me, "Have you emailed anyone in IndyCar?". At that point I had lost all hope of IndyCar because I wasn't getting anywhere finding a job in sportscar. My dad insisted I put my name out there one last time, so I reached out to Larry. He called me the next day and told me that he might have something for a second car at Indy. He told me that he had wanted to work with me for sometime, but that he would have to convince his dad to take a chance on an Indy "rookie."

I think winning at Le Mans last year certainly helped sway the decision slightly, as it's something AJ can relate to, plus I have a reputation of being someone who doesn't crash cars. Of course accidents can and will happen, but I'm someone who finds the limit in a smart way.

Have you talked much with AJ Foyt yet? Is it intimidating to think of driving for his team as a 500 rookie?

MP: The first time I got to talk to AJ formally was at Sebring for my first test. He was very easy to get along with. It's a huge honor to race for AJ, especially at Indianapolis as a rookie. He's not just a figure-head for the team; he's still very much involved with everything going on with the car, so his wealth of experience will be a huge help to me. It's not intimidating at all. In fact, I gave him my permission to slap me around if I did something wrong, as I want his help to become the best.

You've been a spotter at Indy before. Do you think that's going to help you at all in terms of preparation?

MP: Being a spotter gave me a different insight into the race, but I'm not sure how much it helped in preparing me for racing in the 500. If anything, I saw just how much of a roller-coaster ride the race is and how you have to stay very patient as the balance of a car shifts during the race.

Let's talk about your teammate for May, Takuma Sato. How would you say your driving styles are similar or different?

MP: Luckily our driving styles seem to be fairly similar after working with him at the test. We both look for the same things in a car and are sensitive to the same balance problems. It's a huge bonus for me, as it means the setup work that Taku is working on this season should transfer over to me. When I first raced in IndyCar, Tagliani, my team-mate at the time, had a very different style to me, so it meant that I had to create my own-setup with my engineer. By the second race, I was on pace with Tags, but we had opposite approaches in setup.

You've won your class at Le Mans and have been around Indy. How do the two most famous races on earth compare to one another in terms of the feeling surrounding them?

MP: They're very similar in the feel around the build-up to the race. Both cities live for their big-race and seem to completely shut-down for the two weeks the race is in town. Just like in Indy, the driver parade in Le Mans is watched by up to 100,000 people. They're both very special races that every driver aspires to win and everyone should attend before they die.
Plowman will be pulling double duty this May.
(Courtesy IndyCar Media. Image by Dana Garrett).

What about your Le Mans teammate, Bertrand Baguette? Did you guys ever have any discussion about him wanting to come back to Indy in a DW12?

MP: No, we never really talked about IndyCar together that much.

You've been involved with some pretty cool charities like Snowball Express. What's going on right now on that front?

MP: I'm still very active with Snowball, using my racing career as a platform to raise awareness for them and try to help them raise the funds needed to continue the good work they do for families of our fallen military. Nicole and I are actually planning a fundraiser in early May to benefit Snowball Express, and we'll announce further details on social media soon.

In your opinion, what has been the most exciting IndyCar or Indy 500 driver announcement this offseason (aside from your own, of course)?

MP: It was cool to see JPM make his return to open-wheel racing. He was an animal in ChampCar and took it to the Formula 1 elite when he raced for Williams, so I always welcome the chance to race against the world's best drivers.

Of course, no one ever knows how many chances they'll get at Indy. If this ended up being your only race at Indy, how would you like to be remembered? What sort of expectations are you bringing in as a rookie?

MP: I'd like to be remembered as a hard-charger who never quits and if it is my only 500....a winner!

How much have you kept up with your fellow Indy Lights classmates? There certainly should be a lot of them out there this year!

MP: We're actually all really good friends for the most part. Charlie, Stef, and Hinch are three of the current guys who I'm still very good friends with. I guess spending a year together as part of the Pace Car Team helped. Three of the quartet got engaged within the space of a month, so Hinch got a lot of harassment about him being the last one to commit. He has a good genuine girl too, so he had better not let her get away.

Everyone knows funding for a driver can be exceedingly hard to come by. What has driven and sustained you when the funding chase seemed dire?

MP: Never, never give up. Don't complain about your situation on social media; it's just wasted time. Work harder than you every have done before, work smarter, surround yourself with the right people, keep yourself prepared for any opportunity that might come your way and your luck will change.

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