Good morning FV fans and welcome to Indianapolis, USA ahead of this weekend’s United States V-Prix, round twelve of the 2018 Formula Virtual season. Joining us in today’s Thursday press conference; on the back row we have Arthur Lapierre of DS Automobiles Team Mathershaw and Dylan Lopez of Lopez FV Team. On the front row are Kaz Armos from Meteor International FV Team, Adam Blocker from FIRST Motorsport, and Adrian Arnello of Arnello Ronson & Milner Autosport. Welcome everyone.
Reporter: So, coming to the previous race winners first; Arthur. First of all, congratulations on your fifth consecutive win as a team, which has only been bettered twice; by Franklin in 2015 and Downton last season. But, as you clearly were frustrated about in the paddock post-race last weekend, how much are these retirements hurting you? And given the reliability issues, are DS Automobiles open to supplying a third team for next season?
Arthur Lapierre: Thank you very much – we’re always pleased when the hard work results in a result we feel we deserve. We’re working hard to resolve any reliability issues, and for 2019 we are hopeful that the DS engines will solve the majority of these issues. As for supplying more teams, I feel it would need to be a particularly good deal for us to do so – the new-for-2019 partnership with Phoenix is something we are sure that will be highly beneficial for both of us, and a further deal would also need to be of benefit.
Reporter: That makes absolute sense! Next question is to Adam and Kaz; Indianapolis is the home race of both FIRST and Meteor, with both teams based in the USA. How has the reception from the American fans been in the build up to this weekend so far for you both? And would you both like to see more races in North America in the future? Adam?
Adam Blocker: The reception has been great as usual in Indianapolis. Indianapolis is the motorsport mecca of the United States in many ways, so there is always a lot of interest here in racing regardless of the series. The fans are knowledgeable and passionate.
We already have three North American races, but as I’ve said before the US specifically has so many great circuits that could be utilized: Watkins Glen, Road America, Road Atlanta, Sebring, Laguna Seca, Long Beach, Mid Ohio, VIR, etc. and because of that I think a second US race would be welcomed. Also, because we are such a big country a second race would not take anything away from the Indianapolis race.
Kaz Armos: We do seem popular, that said losing Harrison for this year does make us slightly less “in” with the fans. More races in America would be good, as Adam listed, there are so many tracks to explore.
Reporter: Okay sticking with you two, but also to Adrian too; heading into the final three months of the season, how do you foresee the battle for tenth panning out?
KA: The battle isn’t too much of a concern for us. This season is one to forget for us and nothing will change that. We have now signed an agreement with a new engine supplier to be announced soon. Myself, the team, and drivers are more focused on future seasons.
AB: Right now we are in a battle for ninth. If North Star manage a point for the rest of the season, they will probably get it. Otherwise we will almost surely get tenth because we have seven points compared to AMR and Meteor who haven’t scored and haven’t looked like scoring.
Adrian Arnello: Unless we get something unreal like Malaysia was I don’t think we’re gonna improve where we are. At this moment we’re full steam ahead for 2019 and beyond, but we’ll still put up a fight if there’s a scrap to be had!
Reporter: Good stuff! We’ll stick with you actually Adrian. Felix Beyer, who had been with AMR since your first ever race, has left the team. Does this pave the way for Dmytro Kovalenko to retain his seat for next year, if he can prove himself to you in the remaining races?
AA: It’s a bittersweet thing, you know. Felix has been there since day one and is still a huge part of the team as far as we’re concerned. At the same time, he needs a decent car, and we can’t afford to pay him the salary he deserves, so it’s come to this. If we can be in a position to have him back, we will leap onto it, but that’s not right now nor the next year. Bit more happening behind the curtain yet before we drop new names.
Reporter: Right, we’ll move onto the fan questions now I think! First one here is for you Dylan; “There’ve been rumours making the rounds that Lopez managed to sign Karl Beckenbauer after Westwood’s sudden withdrawal earlier in the season. Is there any truth to this, and given we’ve seen Finn Schnyder back on the grid with AMR, might we see Karl back in a race seat this season too?”
Dylan Lopez: I can confirm we do have a deal with Beckenbauer, but I cannot elaborate on it until a later time. I’ll let you guys begin predicting what will happen I suppose. What I will say is he won’t be in a Westwood.
Reporter: Can’t argue with that I suppose! Alright, Adam; “Perez has now had five retirements this season to Zozulya’s none. Is it purely bad luck or does Felix put too much strain on his car at times?”
AB: Most of it has been bad fortune, with the exception of his crash in France.
Reporter: Next one here for Kaz. “Have your drivers done enough to convince you they deserve to be retained in 2019 and beyond?”
KA: Both our drivers have contracts for next year. A formal statement will come soon.
Reporter: Okay, Arthur; “Since the disastrous French V-Prix, your team has won five races in a row. You also lead the Constructors’ despite having more than double the DNFs compared to Downton. Are you the team to beat coming into the final third of the season?
AL: I think that on balance we have had rather bad luck out of the top teams. Hopefully that luck balances out over the course of the season, though we will never wish bad luck upon our competitors. With the numbers of races to go in the season, it is still anyone’s game, and hopefully we can take our advantage through to the final round and win the titles we feel we deserve.
Reporter: It’s sure to be a great run in! Interesting one for you here Adrian, “How many Formula Virtual winners can you name in thirty seconds?”
AA: A few? Sh*t.. umm. Diego Campos obviously. Umm, Powers, Simon, Beckenbauer, Giodano, Marcus Thunder? Has Kangur won yet? Think that was forty seconds!
Reporter: There are actually twenty-one race winners, but all the seven you got were correct! Okay final fan question, this one’s for all of you. “With plenty of rain about this weekend, how do you think the conditions will affect you and the race in general?” Dylan, you’re looking eager to answer?
DL: WELL! Slaps table In the year 2018, the Lord came unto Noah, who was now living in Indianapolis and said, “Once again the series hath been dominated by the same teams, and I wish to see the end of all domination before me this weekend! Build another Ark and save two of every living driver along with a few good humans, thy engineers, they management and thy fans!”
In other words ladies and gentlemen, based on what I’ve seen online, you’ll need to pack some floaties. If Malaysia is anything to go by, we wouldn’t mind the weather going full on Armageddon at some stage of the weekend. Every point we can nick will be so crucial for us because some certain new kids on the block are right on us.
AL: We’ve seen so far in wet conditions this year that we have performed very well, but you can never be sure. Some of the other teams have had very good results in such conditions, and there is every chance of a shock when race day arrives. I won’t go quite as far as paraphrasing the bible, but certainly rain is an opportunity for some teams and a banana skin for others – we just hope our pace can ensure we are immune from potential shocks.
AB: Rain generally makes the racing less predictable so there might be more chances for teams further down the grid to score points.
KA: Who knows. A surprise result is always good for the fans. All we will do is tell the drivers to keep the cars on the track. We lack the raw pace, but any bit of luck will help us.
AA: Whatever happens, I left my bloody jacket at home. That’s pretty much it for this weekend. Pack it up and go home. Nah seriously, if it rains, let it come and come hard. It’s the only way we’re gonna score a f*cking point!
Reporter: Some.. interesting answers there! That’s all our fan questions for today. Being as we have both of you here today, I think I should ask this to both Adam and Adrian. There’s been a rumour circulating in the last week that AMR will look to use Ford engines next season, entering a partnership with FIRST. Is there any truth to these rumours?
AB: You will know whenever FIRST announces our engine plans for 2019.
AA: … Yeah, what he said!
Reporter: Intriguing answer, I very much look forward to seeing if the rumours were true! Okay, Dylan; regarding the restructuring of the DS-Downton partnership, how will this affect Lopez, if at all? Will your ties with the Downton works team become stronger?
DL: It shouldn’t affect us too much. At the end of the day we are still receiving the same engines from the same supplier. The only difference I see is how Downton are supplying one less team from next season, literally. We’ve all still got a strong relationship with the DS crew and we expect that to continue going forward with Phoenix joining the party.. as long as they don’t take our seventh place in the Constructors’!
Reporter: Ha! What about Ostberg? As you mentioned yourself in the commentary box last weekend, he’s had a fairly solid, if unspectacular, rookie season. Can you confirm if he’ll remain at Lopez next year?
DL: Well firstly, I’m glad you said his name right! He keeps pointing out when the commentators mispronounce it during the debrief! We’re happy so far that he’s been able to stand his ground thus far in his rookie season. He has been in Elroy’s shadow to an extent in some races, but he knows he still has heaps to learn. We’ll also have Mario Juan Lopez driving Elroy’s car in practice on Friday. There’s also some quality drivers coming out of contract, as well as some exciting youth talent coming through the ranks. We know exactly what we’re doing though, and you’ll know soon too.
Reporter: Interesting stuff, there are certainly some big names without contracts for 2019, and as you mention some great looking young drivers. One of them, Thierry Xylander, who currently leads the VWRS Championship, is in his final year at tier two level. Arthur, are there any plans for him to make the step-up next season? Possibly to Indy?
AL: Thierry is an incredible talent, and we are very hopeful of a bright future with him firmly involved – we have looked at every possible avenue for his future development – including in the DS Mathershaw line-up – I can confirm that there is a provisional agreement that will mean he is on the Formula Virtual grid in 2019.
Reporter: Oh wow, it’ll be fascinating to see where he lands a drive! Now, with Nathaniel Powers consistently scoring good results to keep himself well in contention for the title, how soon would you consider team orders to aid Adrien in his Championship bid, if at all?
AL: At the moment we would have to rule out team orders purely because we have two drivers firmly in contention for the title. Later on in the season, I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t ask one of our drivers to sacrifice their position to ensure a driver’s Championship for the other, but that will only happen if one driver is out of contention and our position in the Constructors’ Championship is safe.
Reporter: Very honest there Arthur. Okay, final question of the day guys, then you can all get back to preparation for the weekend. As usual, what are your hopes for the weekend, and do you think anyone might get a shock result? Dylan, start us off?
DL: As I touched on before, every point is crucial. With the weather we’re anticipating I’m hopeful we can take advantage of the conditions like Elroy did back in Sepang, and enhancing our chances of consolidating seventh position in the Constructors’.
AB: My hope for the weekend is to at least finish ahead of Meteor and AMR. If there is a chaotic race we need to be there to capitalise and score points like we did in Malaysia.
KA: Finish, both drivers crossing the line is the objective.
AL: Honestly, we hope to continue our winning streak, and with a double podium. The pace is there in the car, and as long as the reliability holds up, I am confident our drivers have what it takes. In terms of a shock, I’d back Phoenix, but is that really a shock at this point given their excellent form in recent races? I can see a team like North Star capitalising on a hectic race to finish with a good result though.
AA: Cheap beer at the media lounge! Umm, points would be pretty sick. Like, good sick not the flu I just got over sick. It’d be cool to see the Yanks do well on home soil!
Reporter: Excellent stuff guys! That brings an end to the press conference today, thank you to you all for attending and I hope everyone at home enjoyed it. Make sure you don’t miss practice tomorrow, we’ll see you there!