Roberto Moreno Q&A

Roberto Moreno has been racing at Brands Hatch longer than most people have been racing altogether. The Brazilian Champ Car veteran returns this year for the London Trophy on the Indy Circuit. Roberto looks forward to the spectacular weekend ahead, gives fans an idea on what to expect and thinks back to those early years when he was his own mechanic, team owner and time keeper. Moreno was talking to Simon Strang on the eve of the Champ Car London Trophy

Roberto Moreno Q&A

Yes, I think it will be challenging. I don't think it will be crazy, I think it will be challenging. Racing at Brands Hatch, through Paddock Bend, through Clearways, and the hairpin, is very challenging and I think Champ Cars, without traction control, with the very narrow boost band that we have, it's a lot up to the driver so... A Champ Car is pretty much a driver's car and I think it will be good fun around here.

Yes I think so. The fastest car I've driven here through Paddock was the Formula 2 Ralt, with ground effect, in 1984. And then it rained for the race but in qualifying it was quite amazing. I think it will be more or less the same. These cars are a little bit heavier than they were but I think it will be just as enjoyable.

I think depending how the weather goes. If the people that have never raced here don't get a chance to drive in the dry in practice and the race is dry then maybe the experience will count. But the drivers here are very capable and if they get a few hours practice they will get used to it. The cars are very good to drive. I think it will count in the race and will count as far as getting the set-up job done at an earlier stage. But if there is enough practice time it counts less and less.

We need to use the same rear wing basically. You can change the front wing and you can change a few other things. I think even the suspension parts you can change. So it won't be a full change from a proper circuit to an oval but there will be a few changes. One of the things that will stay with us is the rear wing, which will create more downforce than we ever need for the oval. So it will be a very important race for slip-streaminng and fuel strategy.

At Brands Hatch we will only be forced to do two green flag pit stops. But because you are not allowed to change your tyres under yellows, you still do the pit stops on the green and fuel the car. You have to try to avoid the yellow pit stops, which is something that is not very familiar to people over here. The strategy in Champ Cars can make you win or lose a race. So the fuel becomes important, you try to maximise your laps to only do two pit stops under green.

I think you will be surprised how quick the rookies are. They are quite up to the job. The teams have a lot of knowledge about these cars and they give to the young drivers very quick cars, which makes their task easier. So I think you will see the rookies really up there. Especially people like Mario Haberfeld, who raced here not long ago. I last raced here on the Indy Circuit in 1982!

In 1979 I had my own team, I was the time-keeper, mechanic and the driver. I was a towing my car around behind an old K70 L which was the last VW before it became Audi. I bought it for £300 in an auction. It was a good car but because it was offline it was very cheap and I pulled my race car in the trailer. The reason I earned the works drive with Van Diemen the following year was because in those days you had six FFord championships and only two times a year did everybody raced together. One time was at the Silverstone Grand Prix support race on the club circuit and the other was at Brands Hatch and of course there was the Festival.

Now the Silverstone club circuit had just three corners and three straights. I went to a scrap yard and I found four wheels from an old Ford Cortina that were narrower than normal FF1600 wheels by an inch and a half on each side! I picked four that were not bent or damaged, and I bought them for £20. I still remember that!

I put them on the car and it was so quick on the straight! I would tip-toe on the corners. I sat on pole in front of all the works drivers. And the boss of Van Diemen, Ralph Firman, was so impressed with it that he protested my engine. It was the best thing that ever happened to me, because when they found my engine was legal, he realised I had to have done something right. So he hired me the following year and I won 15 out of 30 races.

Brands is one of my favourite circuits. Throughout 1980, Ralph Firman always said to me I had a slower engine. He would say: 'Roberto you are much quicker than that, you're engine is not as quick as you are.' I used to say 'Oh, don't give me that Ralph.'

For the Festival, Minister Engines built me an engine that was called Patch. It had three horsepower more than my old engine. It had the same bits from my old engine but with this block that was very well lined up. When I put that engine in my car I was fastest of everybody. I broke the lap record in every heat that I did up to the final.

The other thing I remember is driving through Druids, it was always so sideways it was better to drive with just one hand on the steering wheel because the other hand would get in the way. I don't think I will be doing that this weekend!

Moreno: don't underestimate the rookies

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