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Q&A: Will Power - EXCLUSIVE

30 May 2007


After claiming rookie of the year honours in 2006, Australia's Will Power made a storming start to the 2007 Champ Car World Series campaign by winning on the streets of Las Vegas to sound a warning to the established frontrunners.

He told Crash.net Radio how it felt to break his duck so early in the season, as well as discussing the new Panoz and bringing Team Australia to the fore.

Q:
Will, it's been a strong start to the season for you?

Will Power:
Yeah, but it's not been unexpected though. We've been really quick in pre-season testing and, at the end of last year, the team was really strong. Over the last four races, they were right on the pace and, especially the last two you know, with pole in Australia and a podium in Mexico. Although Derrick Walker has been around for 16 years, Team Australia has only been here for three years, but it's just got stronger every year. We thought that this year was a good year to really attack it because everyone is starting with the same car - and that's what we're doing.

Q:
The new Panoz has levelled the playing field, but how much easier has it made it for a team like Team Australia to get on a par with the likes of Newman/Haas?

WP:
We had the Lola pretty sorted out at the end of last year, but we still had to work hard to get the new car running well, to be ahead of everyone else. As you can see, Newman/Haas is still really strong, mainly because they've got such good resources, so we're up against a similar thing this year. Those guys, by the third race, were once again becoming dominant. But we're working hard still. We're doing a lot of development in this break and a couple of test days, so I think we'll be strong all year.

Q:
Is it a question of finance when it comes to competing with the likes of Newman/Haas?

WP:
It is a question of finance, but it's also the amount of data collected over the years, and the continuity of people on their team. They've had the same guys for years and years and I think that's a big deal in racing. If you're working with the same engineer for, say, four or five years - as Sebastien [Bourdais] has - and have the same guys working on your car, I think everyone bonds a lot better and you just can't beat that experience.

Q:
So to come into the new season and take your first win in Champ Car, how did that feel?

WP:
That was good, a real strong start - but I didn't really celebrate or anything as it's such a long season and you've got to keep your head and be performing like that in every race. You don't want to win the first race and then slacken off. So, it's great to get it out of the way, and great to get the points, but, as soon as I was finished with that race, I was looking to Long Beach and the next race, to do the same thing. But I must say it was good for Team Australia to have won a race at the start of the season, especially for the sponsors and everything.

Q:
And presumably it raises morale all round?

WP:
Yes it does. Everyone's on it. People on the team just love working with someone who's going to win races, or has the potential to do so, and this year we have a really strong team. I have a really strong team-mate, Simon Pagenaud, and it's a really good combination.

Q:
How surprised have you been at Simon's performance, given that he's come up as Atlantic champion? He's been pretty much on the pace from the start of testing...

WP:
He's been really quick and strong, but I expected that, having raced against him in World Series by Renault in 2005. He was really quick then, and he won the Atlantic title last year. And he's run on all the tracks we run on, so it was sort of expected of him to be pretty quick. Of course, starting with a new car helps, and being in a team with a really good car helps too, in as far as being able to get in and learn what you have to learn. Last year, when I was a rookie, we were having to sort the Lola out in the early part of the season. That was pretty tough, not really knowing the car or knowing what it needed to go quick.

Q:
How much extra pressure did starting the season with three races in three weeks put on Team Australia?

WP:
It was tough because you had a brand new car, which no-one has really done a full race distance on before, and they had the refuelling rig problem, although that was pretty much fixed for Long Beach. My biggest worry was reliability, but our guys did a really good job of going through absolutely every aspect of the car before the races, working out what was going to break and getting on top of it before it did. That was the biggest concern of everyone, and also that you only had a week between races so, if you had a major problem, you couldn't really do much about it. For us, the reliability was really good - we finished all three races with no problem.

Q:
You're going from three street courses to the first of the road courses, in Portland, for the next race, but where does your preference lie? Are you slowly becoming converted to the street courses that Champ Car runs?

WP:
I'm enjoying it all, I must say. I'm really taking a liking to street courses now that I've learned how to be quick around them. But having raced in England, in British F3, and then in the World Series by Renault in Europe, I think I'm really strong on road circuits, and the next few circuits we're doing are very much more like European circuits which suit me and my driving style - and should suit the car as well. This new car is really good on smooth, fast circuits.

Q:
The first three rounds have been pretty much about you and Sebastien Bourdais. How much to do you read into this rivalry that is being made out between the two of you, and do you see yourself as Paul Tracy's successor as Sebastien's nemesis?

WP:
It's going to be interesting! We haven't had a fair fight yet - not even at Surfers' last year, where we made it to the first pit-stop and I came out in the lead only for him to knock me off before we could have any real battle. Then, at Long Beach, I got stuck behind Alex Tagliani when it was another race where we could have had a pretty good fight. In Houston, I just had a bad race, so I'm looking forward to a race where it's just him and I, where we both have good cars and can go for it. I think it'll be a good race, but we haven't had that yet.

Q:
Champ Car has been established in Australia for quite some time, but do you think your performance - particularly if you have a good season this year - will encourage more Australians to look towards Champ Car as an alternative?

WP:
To be honest, in Australia, I think it is tough to crack into any open-wheel racing because of V8 Supercars. Just about every young guy in Formula Ford, or the other junior categories, is looking towards V8s. You've probably only got one good young guy going overseas this year - John Martin, who's doing British F3 - so there's not many of them looking at open-wheelers. I think the success that we've had early this year and late last year has sparked a lot interest in Australia as far as the fans and the media go, and that has really helped the race that we have on the Gold Coast.


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