Townsend Bell Q&A

Following a test with Jaguar Racing at Valencia Townsend Bell is working hard at landing an F1 opportunity for next season. With only the Jordan and Minardi race seats to be filled, the American's most obvious opportunity is as third driver at Jaguar. That will give him the chance to run on Friday mornings at races, providing both valuable experience and exposure. Townsend could in turn benefit the team with some obvious commercial benefits, as he would be the first American F1 insider since Michael Andretti's aborted season with McLaren in 1993. Several of Jaguar's major sponsors have American roots, and even in a testing role Bell's presence in the paddock could help to open a few doors and generate interest among fans. In 2003 he showed well in his rookie F3000 season with Arden, regularly qualifying in the top six and making the podium in Hungary, but plans for a second year are on hold while he pursues an F1 chance. Adam Cooper caught up with Townsend.

Townsend Bell Q&A

"It was really fantastic from my standpoint. You work really hard to get those opportunities, and the Jaguar team made a big effort to give me a proper run despite difficult circumstances in the middle of their testing programme for next season. They did a great job to squeeze me in and give me a good number of laps. And I tried to make the most of it. I think it all went very well, and it felt like the team was happy. Hopefully something will come of it."

"The systems and the general feel weren't as foreign to me. Of course it was mainly an aero test, although there was quite a bit of time in the seat, so Jaguar was really the first opportunity to get a proper run on a proper circuit with high downforce and high corner speeds and so on. It was surreal!"

"Obviously it gives the press something to write about if it appears to some kind of a shoot-out, but it was quite clear from the beginning and I was under no illusions that I was testing for the race seat. So that made it a lot easier to keep my head down and not worry so much about whether I got a chance to run on low fuel or soft tyres, and just do a good solid job. It all worked out really well, and I'm hopeful that something might be possible with a testing role with the team."

"We're talking with the team and we're talking with a few other people who are in F1. I'm hopeful that something will get worked out. But this is a tough business to crack, and you have to be realistic at the same time. We just have to wait a little bit longer and see what happens."

"Absolutely. I was pretty happy when the FIA made that rule change and created an opportunity for new drivers to get their feet wet in F1. It's quite exciting to think that there's a chance I'll be running on Fridays next year on all the Grand Prix circuits, and get a year of experience under my belt before maybe looking to do something in 2005. You have so much pressure on you as a rookie in your first season, it's quite a big challenge to come in and show well immediately. You're under the gun from the start, because you haven't demonstrated anything, and everyone is expecting a difficult time. You can put together a long list of drivers that haven't survived that critical first year. I'd certainly prefer to be as prepared as possible, as anybody would, but with the new rules there's a great chance to have a solid year of testing and experience and getting comfortable with the environment."

"It's a start, for sure. If I was a third driver next year, that would be a step. Ultimately for my own selfish reasons and for the sake of the audience in the US I've got to be working towards a position of being competitive and running up front, and ultimately winning races. That takes a little time, so we're trying to take that first step."

"I think everybody is anxious to see if I can create an opportunity for myself in F1. There's no instant solution to creating a big US fan base, several steps are required in the process. Hopefully I can make that first step and move it in the right direction. Going into a holiday season people are optimistic about the economy, which is always good news, and a lot of that dictates the potential for commercial involvement. I'm getting quite good feedback from all the people back at home that commercially things are looking better, and that can only bode better for US companies having a more serious look at F1."

"You always have to cross the bridge between talking about F1 and actually delivering a presentation that's specific to a team and an opportunity. Hopefully I have demonstrated my abilities on the race track and some commercial benefit as well with having an American in F1. I like to thing I'm a fairly good spokesperson for any company. But ultimately I need a team to realise that potential as well."

"For sure. F3000 and working with Arden has been the best possible scenario to get exposure to the F1 community, and that's really why I did it. It's shown that it's really the best series to be in. It's exciting to hear about the plans that that series has for 2005. It sounds like it's only going to get better."

"It's a difficult series to make your mark on in the first year, because especially for me, everything was brand new, whether it be circuits or standing starts. That's a big challenge with only half an hour of practice each weekend. But I like to think that I did a pretty solid job and had some good runs. We started to get even better in the middle part of the season and got better results. You can't really do much if you get hit from behind, those things happen, but when there's only 10 races in the championship and I got hit four times it makes it hard to end up high in the points! But overall I'm pretty satisfied."

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