Mark Taylor Q&A

British single-seater ace Mark Taylor has been blitzing the field in the Infiniti Pro Series in America this year as he serves his apprenticeship in oval racing with the Panther Racing team. The 25-year-old was a race winner in British Formula 3, but decided that a future in America was a more lucrative proposition than attempting to progress in Europe. He has won five races from seven starts and holds a dominant 113-point lead over Brazilian rival Thiago Medeiros. Charles Bradley spoke to him

Mark Taylor Q&A



"It has all gone to plan so far. All of the guys at Panther have worked really hard and there's been no problems with the car at all. They've helped to find some great set-ups, which helps me to learn the tracks very quickly. That allows me to use all the time available to produce the quickest car possible."



"It's the main reason that I came over to America at the end of last year. They know exactly how to make a car work well on an oval. It also helps me for next year, to get the links to be able to move up into the IRL. The only reason I'm doing the Infiniti Pro Series is to get into IndyCars. If I could do that with Panther, it would be great."



"I had a tough year in 2002, things didn't go quite to plan. I felt like I needed a change and America looked like a great way to go. You can see from people like Robbie Kerr, who won the [British F3] championship last year, it's difficult to find a drive for the following year. I think I would have been in the same boat if I'd tried to move up to F3000. Coming to the US was a move that we felt would be better for my career. It's worked out well so far."



"It's been coming for two or three years, I think. You win the series and where do you go? The F1 teams are working too hard on their cars to notice what's going on in the races. Even being champion doesn't earn you a chance in Formula 1. Sure, [Nick] Heidfeld won it and moved up, but he's struggled in F1 anyway. It's hardly a good advert as a learning series for F1. The teams have been looking towards CART more than anywhere to find new drivers."



"The car feels very different on the banking, and you have to realise the vital part of a race weekend is setting up the car. If you have a car that will last for a long stint, and will take you all the way to the next pitstop, then you're going to be successful. The only way to go quickly around an oval is to feel comfortable with it. It's not like you can drive around a problem with the car, which I would have done racing in England. Because you can overtake very easily on an oval, qualifying isn't so important as finding the race set-up. But a good driver with a good team will do just as well on an oval as they would on a road course.



"Yes, I've hit it a couple of times. It's a reminder not to hit it again! You can hurt yourself, and any small mistake on an oval has a tendency to turn into a big mistake. When you're racing, you almost forget that it's there. It's just the edge of the track, like some grass on a road course that you can't use. I've raced on street courses at Macau and Korea, and that's the closest you can get to what it's like on an oval. The limit is there to be worked up to, but you can't go over it. You learn from your mistakes, but that's not easy in oval racing."



"I miss the challenge of being able to master a track - the thought of finding that elusive tenth or two in a corner on a track that maybe has a dozen or so turns. All the way through my career I've always loved overtaking more than anything, rather than testing or qualifying. I'm enjoying this a lot more out here, plus there's the great weather and the Indy Racing League is a great environment."



"I have my own separate team, but it works out of the same shop. I get to mingle with them and find out what's going on, and what the differences are between my car and the IRL car. This year is a huge learning curve for me, so any information I can get via the IRL team is a huge benefit to me. I get to use the same spotter as Sam [Hornish] in Pancho Carter. That's been a great help for me, and it's one of the main reasons that I was able to win my first two races over here. He has got so much experience, and calms me down if things are going wrong."



"Yes, he's usually around. It's been a busy year for him, and he's focusing on what he's doing, but I've found that I can always speak to him if I need to. There are so many people within Panther who have got knowledge about the sport, I get to feed off the whole outfit."



"Very good. We spoke to John Barnes [Panther co-owner] at the start of the year about testing, and after what we've achieved this year I think he's even more keen to see me in an IRL car. Hopefully it will happen within the next month, maybe longer, but it will be nice to get a few days in the car before I work out what I can do for next year."



"Definitely moving up to the IRL with Panther, hopefully in a second car alongside Sam. I would be able to learn a lot more like that, knowing the people in the environment around me. That would be great, and something I hope to do."



"Absolutely. There are a lot of team managers besides John Barnes who are willing to give young drivers a shot. It is easier to move up over here, but it's a big step when you're actually in for a season in the IndyCar Series. It's one thing to get a test, and it's another to get a contract in your back pocket."



"The championship is secondary to me, getting into the IRL is what counts. I'll be trying to impress as many people as I can, and the best way to do that is win races every weekend. I wouldn't want to win the championship finishing fourth and fifth anyway. I feel so confident with the car every weekend, I think I can win all the remaining races in the championship. That's the aim."

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