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Franchitti looking ahead to 2012

29 December 2011

"Do I want to win another championship? Absolutely," Dario Franchitti told reporters at a media event just before Christmas, confirming that he was "looking forward to giving maximum effort to try to be successful again next year ... to get the best out of every week."

Coming off a third consecutive championship-winning year, Dario could be forgiven for thinking he had now 'got the hang of it' and knew just what it took to win the title, but instead he pointed out that it just became harder and harder to stay on top: "There's the fragile thing between getting it right and getting it wrong," he said.

"There are a lot of very good teams and drivers that are a little bit upset, shall we say, that we've been hogging the championship trophies, and they're going to come back stronger and harder next year. We're going to have to fight harder than ever to compete against," he continued. "The only thing I can look forward to is giving maximum effort to try to be successful again next year, to, again as we said earlier, get the best out of every week."

He insisted that every season was a rollercoaster ride, no matter how many previous titles one had in the bag. "Each one is a little bit different," he said. "The ups and downs ... the way the season ebbs and flows, I think one thing I've learned is to keep a very open mind.

"There's not been a point in any of these championships where I thought, 'Yeah, we've got this,' or on the other side where, 'We're out of this thing,'" he continued. "I've just kept an open mind and tried to each week, each moment in the car, just get the most you can, make that next pass, make that next move. That's kind of the way I've dealt with things, trying to keep it balanced, not to get too crazy excited when we had a big points lead or get too desperate and upset when that lead eroded or we were behind.

"That seems to have worked very well,' added the master of understatement. As well as his three back-to-back titles, Franchitti also won the championship in 2007: only a brief dalliance with NASCAR in 2008 prevented him from making a defence of his title in that year as well. Instead, it was his team mate Scott Dixon who triumphed that season.

For his team boss Chip Ganassi, it's the driver who plays a crucial role in the team's overall success.

"Dario said, 'Get the most you can' - I think the best thing about having Dario as the driver is that 'get the most you can' doesn't mean on the first lap or at half the distance," he said. "That's the thing about a championship driver: He understands when to get the most you can. Getting the most you can in the first 10 laps doesn't mean much toward the championship. That's what some of these young drivers have to learn. Last time I checked, they give away all the points at the end.

"That's what I like about having a veteran driver that has a nose for the finish, knows every day you're not going to have a perfect car," continued Ganassi. "We've had times we haven't had a winning car but we got the most out of it, though. That's what it takes. It's getting the most out of your car on days when it's maybe not the best car out there ... Getting the most out of it when you don't have the best car, not be scraping it off the fence, is the true mark of a champion in my eyes.

Ganassi suggested a comparison with another great open wheel racer, Alex Zanardi: "He had this great ability to transform himself Friday night and Saturday to an all-out racer on Sunday. I would say Dario does the same thing. He's not the mad scientist. He's very anal or cerebral about it on Friday and Saturday, and Sunday he turns into this racing guy. In that way he would be similar to Zanardi.

"[Dario] has the ability to understand the whole picture, understand where he is in the whole picture, where he needs to be,| continued Ganassi. "Without much fanfare, he figures out how to get the job done. I would say that's a lot like [his current team mate, Scott] Dixon."

Ganassi was also quick to credit his entire team operation in the achievements of dominating the last half decade of open wheel racing in the US since the reunification of the sport under the IndyCar banner.

"You have so many people that work so, so hard putting this thing together," he said. "That's what's great about having a great team of people, whether it's having a great driver, having a great team manager, having a great engineer, having a great crew chief. It takes a whole team these days to win these things. I couldn't be more proud of our people."

And Franchitti was in full agreement that a lot of his ability to go out on the race track and get the job done was having confidence that he had the very best equipment under him.

"I have so much faith in every single person that works for Team Target. They do their job; I don't have to worry about it," he said. "They're the best in the business. They give me such confidence, whether it's Barry and Chip and Chris calling the strategy, Chris with the engineer and the boys on the car, Kevin O'Donnell, all the guys. I don't worry about it."

As for his future, Franchitti denied that he had any plans to quit any time soon.

"I haven't really thought about [life after driving] so much," he insisted. "I would say the last really four or five years, I haven't looked that far ahead. I've just kept my focus really quite close and am enjoying what I'm doing, stay focused on that, being successful. I think that has worked.

"In some ways being part of the Target team with Chip as well has kind of taught me that, how those guys go racing," he added. "That's been kind of a lesson I've learned: keep the focus on the here and now and try to do your maximum."


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