Thursday, February 4, 2010

Q&A With Roger Yasukawa

16th And Georgetown: Among drivers your tied for 6th with an active streak of most consecutive seasons with a start dating back to 2003. So, what's the outlook for 2010, do you see the streak continuing?

Roger Yasukawa: Well, I'd love to have something to report at this point. Unfortunately, I don't have anything lined up as we speak, but I'm actively trying to pursue something for the 500 and the Indy Japan race. It's getting tougher every year, I still haven't given up by all means. I think trying to do the full season is pretty unrealistic at this stage, so I'm just trying to get something together in a competitive car for the month of May. Obviously reducing the schedule to a two week deal will reduce some cost, so hopefully I'll have something lined up withing a month or two.

16th And Georgetown: With the Month of May schedule change, a lot of teams in previous years would qualify their driver or drivers on the first weekend, then put together a late 2nd week program for a driver walking the garages. Now that it's down to just 1 weekend of qualifying, drivers and teams will have to have their plans finalized earlier, what kind of affect do you see the schedule change having on the ability for a driver to find a ride?

Roger Yasukawa: Right, to be honest for somebody like me it doesn't really help because most of the teams want to start in the first week and get all of their cars qualified and that'll give them the ability to run another car in the second week, then you could strike a deal. Now with it being just a two week deal, you literally almost have to do the whole thing. I think there's still a different engine package, so you could do it for a little bit less than last year from a second week prospective. But all in all, like you said it's not going to be easy for somebody like me to just try and do a one off because most of the teams are going to be tied up getting their full season car on the grid. You just don't have that extra week to think about running a second car, it's pretty much whether you come in with a full boat to run the whole thing or not. From that prospective I think it'll certainly be more challenging to find something.

16th And Georgetown: In February of 2008 which is nearly 2 years ago now, Champ Car and IndyCar finally merged. Obviously the economic downturn was just shortly there after, but have you noticed any changes in the search for sponsorship since the merger? Has it opened any more doors?

Roger Yasukawa: Well, I think more than anything the economy is certainly not helping the situation and that goes for everybody, not only in the racing world. Everybody is in the same boat in regards to that, and regards to the merger in talking with peoples it's certainly easier to explain to people about the open-wheel status now. I live on the west coast in L.A. and people know about the "500" but they relate more towards the Long Beach Grand Prix. When I go out and talk with prospective sponsors on the west coast they think it's the Long Beach race and I had to go through the whole long explanation between Champ Car and the IRL. Now it's all unified, so if I'm going to pursue a sponsor here locally I have another race that I could offer other than the "500". In regards to that perspective I certainly think it's great for the series, and it's gotten more competitive because all of the teams and drivers are merged together. So, all in all I think it's great and I'm just hoping the economy will pick up sooner or later.

16th And Georgetown: A few weeks ago you were on set with Danica to shoot an episode of CSI: New York, can you tell us a little bit about how that went?

Roger Yasukawa: Yea, I just got a last minute call to work with one of the teams that I help out in the Ferrari Challenge Series who actually put together the cars that were used in the shoot for CSI. Because they were filming just down the street from my house the team called me up and asked if I could help set up the car and everything else. So, I didn't even know it was a CSI shoot and I was pretty surprised. It was good to be here and to be apart of the whole Hollywood set was very amazing and it was a great experience to be apart of it.

16th And Georgetown: The next generation IndyCar has been a topic of much discussion over the last several months, what do you want to see in the 2012 car?

Roger Yasukawa: Well, I think that's something hard. It's definitely bound for a new car, since we've been using the same car since 2003 so sooner or later were going to have to change the car. When the car was originally designed we only had oval racing so it wasn't really suitable for road courses. Although the series definitely made it work on road courses as well. I think all in all they need to look at the bigger picture and your going to have to have a car that is more modern and something that fits ovals and road courses. I haven't done enough road coarse racing with these cars, so I can't speak on that. I kind of enjoyed more in 2003 when we had a bigger fuel cell. At that time it was about 35 gallons and now it's down to 22 gallons which it is about 30% less fuel capacity. I thought a bigger fuel capacity was more challenging to the drivers because the first couple laps the car would bottom out quite a bit more. Now with 22 gallons, it still does bottom out, but it's nothing compared to trying to handle the car during the first couple of laps. On top of that, you could play around with the fuel game ect. To be honest, the fundamental design of the car is something they'd have to look at. I'm not an engineer so I can't speak on that, but I enjoyed having to race with a bigger fuel capacity because there are more elements to the actual racing rather than trying to make up .2 seconds in the pit stop. But, I think a bigger fuel cell would allow different strategies throughout the race. That's something that I've always had in mind.

16th And Georgetown: You were slated to run the 24 Hours of Daytona this past weekend, but technical difficulties and were unfortunately unable to start race. Can you tell us a little bit about what happened?

Roger Yasukawa: We basically had a car that we put together for the Grand Am rules and unfortunately there are a couple thing that you have to change on the car. Like the Ferrari 430 Challenge car comes with a single lug nut wheel stud and the Grand Am rules in the GT class you have to run a 5 stud, like a Nascar style wheel hub as well as the wheel. On top of that we needed to downgrade the break callipers from the 6 piston to the 4 piston version. So, getting all of those changes done gave a lot of complications to the team where they had to fabricate their own parts. Basically the fundamental design of the wheel hub was not working well with the car and we had a pretty big vibration through the banking so the team opted to withdrawal from the race from a safety standpoint. We had a lot of mechanics from Indianapolis, from HVM in the past was an engineer on the car. Then a lot of guys that I've actually worked with at Team Rahal and other teams were involved in this whole thing so we had great guys, just not enough time to prepare the car right. We got the car on track, just didn't have enough time to get alternative parts to fix the problems. I think it was best for everybody, I mean 24 hours is a long race and if we don't have our stuff together right from the get to it's not even worth racing. Since we couldn't do the race we are seeing if we can do an alternative race down the line sometime this year, but that's still in discussion.

16th And Georgetown: There is a video on YouTube from possibly 2007 where your at a radio station and your changing a grown mans diaper? That had to of been one of the craziest things you've ever had to do in an interview, no?

Roger Yasukawa: Yea, absolutely. I think there is one or two other things you could look up on YouTube that has me in it and unfortunately I could go visit a sponsor and they could google me or look me up on YouTube and that's what they'd find. So maybe I should go talk to Pampers about getting me a sponsorship deal.

16th And Georgetown: Last November on your Facebook page you posted a photo of a F1 diecast that was destroyed by your son and you mentioned that he liked Lewis but not Heiki and a fan of Hideki but not Kouske. Obviously he's still young, but how big of a racing fan is he and would you like to see him maybe follow in your footsteps and become a racecar driver?

Roger Yasukawa: Yea, I think that's something he could end up choosing. I think all kids look up to their parents, and it's quite interesting that one of my sons good friends father is a karate instructor and he's more into Power Rangers and all that stuff. While my sons more into racing cars, trains in general so I think depending on what your father does gives them a different vision of what they like and what they want to do. If he wants to race I'll certainly deal with that and help him out as much as I can, but it's going to be his decision. It was the same way with me, my dads always been involved in racing, not as a driver but he was always involved with a Formula 1 team so I was always in that environment. He told me that if I wanted to do that he would support me, but it was all my decision. Again, if he has the will and passion to do it then great, but I'm not going to force him to do it.

I've gotta give a huge thanks to Roger for taking the time out of his busy day to do the interview. Be sure to check him out on the web, follow him on twitter, and become a fan of his facebook page.

All photos courtesy of of Indycar.com and Roger Yasukawa


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