CALLUM ILOTT, NO. 77 JUNCOS-HOLLINGER RACING CHEVROLET:
On the team’s recent rebrand…
“Some big steps up. Hopefully that continues on the performance side as well. It looks really good, really professional so far, and I’m really impressed.”
Getting going in 2023, how do you parlay the success you had last year to get going in the new season?
“That sets a good baseline for us. Obviously, Laguna Seca was fairly impressive for what we could do. I think more of the consistency stuff, which we’re getting to in Portland, the P10, P9, that was more of a solidity for us to work on the performance side. Going into St. Pete, Long Beach, the ovals, for me, that will be really where the performance gain is. To be able to really compare what the performance gain that we had across the season to last year compared to now this year, that will be important to see. St. Pete will be a tough one, but a good one to see where we’re really at.”
Your thoughts on having a teammate this year, and how much of an advantage will that be?
“Let’s see. Augustin is in a very tough position. It’s not being easy being a rookie, and it’s not easy being a rookie without single-seater experience. I’m very interested to see how he gets on and do my best to help him as best as possible, especially over the next few days here. The closer he is to me and the better he does, the better the team does. It’s quite important to get that comparison, and I’m sure he will do a good job.”
With you being a part of a rookie class last year, and four new rookies this year, people all over the globe are now interested in INDYCAR. Are you aware of being a part of this changing face of INDYCAR?
“It’s good. I saw a lot of potential in INDYCAR when I came over. I think there’s some things that it does really well. The racing is incredible. I think there are some things that can be improved, but most people know that and are in tune to it. That’s the part of a driver in anything, you want to improve and want to do better, and the potential it has as a series is really highlighted across the years. What sets it apart from Formula 2 or whatever, you are constantly competing with the best. If you look at the grid this year, it’s incredible. I thought last year was good, and this year is going to be a touch better.”
You finished really well last year with ninth at Portland and qualifying second at Laguna Seca. How is your approaching heading into Year 2 now knowing the tracks, the car, do you feel in a better place?
“My race craft has always been slightly weaker than the qualifying side of things. That scenario for me to work on. I think, like in Laguna Seca, I proved that if we had a car we can be competitive, that’s what we can do with it and on the qualifying side. It’s up to the team to give the car on the weekend. Of course, I work as much as possible for it, but there’s only so much a one-man show can do in a year. I think the ovals are going to be a bit different. Having a teammate to share some feelings on will be helpful. The attitude, I’m just a bit more relaxed. I know my limits, I know what I’m confident in, and I know what should and shouldn’t happen. I think I can tame myself in the ways that I maybe didn’t last year while knowing where I could improve where there is the time.”
Do you feel your improvement from last year be quantified by results this year?
“I’m very quick. If you put me in the quickest car, I don’t think there’s many people quicker than me, honestly. Looking at Laguna Seca, we had a good car, and I was able to put it there. Once it’s there, I can always compete with it. That’s up to [the team] to do it. I rarely make mistakes in qualifying so if it’s slow, it’s partly 5% of the time it could be me. I feel a bit cocky to say it, but I can tell them when I’ve nailed it or when I’ve not. Normally, I’m quite honest if I’ve messed up. With the races and stuff, we’ve had incidents where I’ve made mistakes and made the wrong decisions under pressure. We’ve had incidents, like Iowa, where we had great race pace but we couldn’t keep up in the pit stops and you lose four or five positions every pit stop. It's painful to do, but that’s the way it goes. Quantifying that, I think eliminating the mistakes, being consistent, if I’m doing a more solid, consistent job, we can easily see the strong tracks for us. Where we’re good, where we’re slow, the areas where we can improve. I have a good idea of where we needed to be better, especially the short oval qualifying, for some reason we’re just not quick. But when we get to the races, and the tire saving we have, we can’t extract the peak out of the tires, but we’ve ended up going five or ten laps longer than some other people. Some street circuits we could be better, so that’s why I’m interested in the first couple of races.”
AGUSTIN CANAPINO, NO. 78 JUNCOS-HOLLINGER RACING CHEVROLET:
Ricardo [Juncos] has discussed for a while adding a second entry alongside Callum Ilott and to build the team. When did the prospect start for joining INDYCAR, and when did conversations start for you?
“Everything started in the test, because we did exhibitions in Argentina. We had a lot of people watching the exhibitions and it was a successful event. It all started there in Sebring. After that, in exhibitions. Honestly, I didn’t expect that. I had all of my 2023 plans ready in my series in Argentina. Richardo [Juncos] called me in December. We had a chance to do that, and so I needed to change everything with my team owner in Argentina. I took this opportunity for me because it’s my first opportunity outside of my country and of course I know it would be difficult for me. I haven’t done a full season in a single-seat car, but I am very excited and will do my best.”
What about this INDYCAR opportunity, as someone who has had little time in single-seater open wheel racing and success in stock cars in South America, why was this something you wanted to give a shot to?
“Because it’s INDYCAR. INDYCAR, in my opinion, is the most demanding and competitive category in the world. For me, it’s a big opportunity to try something at an international level. We’re here with [Romain] Grosjean, [Scott] Dixon, Callum [Ilott], some of the best drivers in the world. It’s a big opportunity. I don’t know the cars, the tracks, the ovals, but I love the challenge. I love the situation. I know it will be difficult to me, but I have confidence. I need time. I need to learn day by day, test by test.”
How big was the exhibition in Argentina, and how does that help seal the deal for being an INDYCAR driver?
“We had more than 70,000 people. In our country, the motorsport is very popular. It’s second after soccer. We have a lot of fans, so you can see on social media, the people are very crazy for this opportunity for me.”
Do you think there will be a smooth transition from the touring car to the Indy car?
“It’s very different, especially physical demand. INDYCAR is the most demanding. I did 45 minutes races in my home country, and here it’s hour and half, two hours. And especially the ovals. I think it’s very different, but at the end of the day, it’s racing cars. I think this is the most common thing – racing cars.”
You’ve had a long relationship with Chevrolet. How cool is it to keep continuing that?
“It’s awesome. In my country, Chevy fans are a lot. You can see a lot of people with tattoos of with the Chevy logo, my car, my signature. The Chevy brand in my country is very popular so for me, it’s a good thing.”
What are your goals for this test at Thermal Club, and the start of the season?
“I need to do laps. To complete the races. Improve through the season, and then results after that.”