Chatting With Yoong
Alex Yoong has had a varied career, starting with Proton and moving his way up the open-wheeler ranks through to Formula 3000. From there, he moved to Formula 1 with Minardi where he tested and then raced alongside Mark Webber in 2001. He has now joined the growing ranks of international drivers in V8 Supercars, and is the first to tackle the Konica Minolta series with Shane Beikoff Racing.
Michael Shaw caught up with Alex at his first V8 Supercar race meeting.
Michael Shaw: Let's start off with some history of what you've done.
Alex Yoong: I've raced in Europe and did the usual things everyone else does, Formula 3 and all that stuff and got my break in Formula 1. Limited success, always struggling with budget - usual story.
MS: When you were at the Grand Prix, racing for Minardi, did you watch the V8s?
AY: Yeah, I did. To be honest, it looked extremely boring. Because there was no overtaking and there was none of the argy-bargy stuff from when I watched Australian Touring Cars years ago. But then I found out later that Melbourne is a non-championship round so everyone is being very easy but obviously I do think it's a good championship and a championship I want to be a part of.
MS: How relevant is your previous experience in F1, CART and the rest for racing in the V8s?
AY: It's all relevant. Racing experience is invaluable. Experience in any formula can be invaluable. Obviously if you work with the top teams like I did and the top championships with cars that are quick, there's a lot of stuff that translates to here. These are racing cars. They feel like taxis sometimes but they're still racing cars and the fundamental basics are the same.
MS: Last year you had a limited run at the Bathurst 24hr in the SAE BMW. What do you think of the track?
AY: I think it's great. Definitely one of the best tracks in the world for a driver. I'm looking forward to going back this year.
MS: What did you think of the race itself?
AY: It was interesting. It was crap for us; I didn't enjoy it. We had a misfire and didn't really do much; but in general I think it's a great event. I think it compliments the Australian racing very well.
MS: Moving onto your current run with Beikoff Racing, how was your test at QR?
AY: Not very good. We only did ten laps. We had problems with the engine, so we had to stop. I'm getting much more comfortable with the car today, every lap.
MS: Does it help that you tested here last year with Lansvale Racing?
AY: It helps because I know my way around the track but not really. We only did around 15 laps at that test and it wasn't a real serious go, it was kind of a let's go and see. It wasn't a very serious test.
MS: How has it been going today?
AY: Good. First practice was really tough. The car was very far from where it needed to be. The team did a good job and did some changes and the balance was a lot better in the second practice. There's still a lot more from the car and still a lot more from me. I'm quietly optimistic that we can get closer to the front by the end of the weekend.
MS: What other plans do you have for the rest of the season and for the enduros?
AY: We want to do 2 or 3 races in the Konica series getting as much practice time for the enduros. Because coming down here wasn't about finding results but getting me comfortable in the car. It's an under-tyred car, so it is very finicky to drive so trying to get the most out of it is important. I'm really trying to set myself up for the enduros.
MS: Do you know which team you're going to be running with in the enduros?
AY: Yes I do.
MS: Are you allowed to tell?
AY: No. It's not confirmed. We're still chatting. And hopefully when we know, you guys will know.
MS: Are you going to run the Konica race at Bathurst?
AY: I don't think so. If I'm doing Bathurst, I want to concentrate purely on doing that. If I feel that I'm not comfortable in the cars I might do it, but really I want to be in a position where I'm comfortable in the car and I don't need to do any more laps.
MS: Is this planning to move into a full-time drive for next season?
AY: I hope so. Like I said, it's a good championship and I want to be a part of it. And I enjoy Australia, my step-dad's Australian so I feel quite happy here.
MS: What are you looking at further on? Staying in the V8 series or moving back overseas?
AY: I don't know. At this point, the last 8 years of my racing career has been moving from series to series, doing a couple of races here, a couple of races there when I find the money and I never have the chance to settle into a series. So, I really want to get in a good championship, like V8 Supercars, and spend at least 4 or 5 years here and really get into a championship and see what sort of results I can get. And obviously, I'm hoping for race wins and a championship one day.
Unfortunately for Alex, his debut round ended after only two of the three races. He qualified in the middle of the field and moved forward in the first race. Running in the top ten until being spun early in the second race, Alex sustained enough damage to end his meeting.
With his eye firmly looking to the future, Alex Yoong is aiming to move up and conquer. From an inauspicious start in V8 Supercars, he has a long way to travel.
Conrod would like to thank Alex Yoong for his participation in the interview and his manager, Ross Cadell, for organising the opportunity. And we wish him much luck and success in his future endeavours.