Reporter: Good morning everybody and welcome to Budapest ahead of this weekend’s V-Prix which will be round eleven of the 2017 season. Today we’re joined for the second time by Harry Westwood of Westwood Racing, Jamie Franklin of Franklin FV Team and Dylan Lopez of Lopez FV Team. Also here for the first time since the reintroduction of the Thursday press conferences, Kaz Armos from Meteor International FV Team and Will Ingram of Ingram Grand Prix! A warm welcome to you all!
We’ll start today off with the reflection on Monza, more specifically, the incident on lap forty six which started with Ruiz and Wagner. In the end, the accident ended the race of both Lopez cars, Stuart Harrison, Hugh Dwyer, and most notably Finn Schnyder. So Jamie, Dylan and Harry, a couple of weeks ago now, the stewards made their decision that no further action would be taken. Do you agree with the outcome? Starting with Jamie.
Jamie Franklin: I absolutely agree with the outcome. I made my view on the incident quite clear after the race, and I stick by it now. It’s a shame that what transpired post-incident had such an impact on the outcome of the race, but that was never the intention. It was just two drivers fighting for position in the end.
Dylan Lopez: We’ve accepted the decision from the stewards. It was a little bit of a long shot trying to lodge a successful appeal with only one camera angle available to us in hindsight, but since the stewards receive more camera angles we trust their judgement. We’ve always trusted their ability to make the right decision, so we accept whatever they decide and move on.
Reporter: And Harry?
Harry Westwood: I do disagree with the outcome, but since I’ve only really seen the one angle of the footage there could be something I’m rather missing. Either that or big Mr Franklin over here making his view ‘quite clear’ has done the job! Which you have to give him credit for I suppose. At the end of the day, what’s done is done. And while it was a huge shame for Finn to be denied his first real opportunity for a win, it’s just made him hungrier than ever to produce strong results. The main thing is the drivers all escaped unharmed.
Reporter: Thanks guys. Harry, if it wouldn’t have been for that incident, we might’ve actually seen a green and white car win instead of that damn orange car! Only joking Bradley! But seriously, it was great to see your guys putting them under pressure, wasn’t it? Can you keep it up?
HW: Ha! It was utterly fantastic to be making the boys at Downton a tad nervous. I think it was much better for the fans who saw a fantastic tense fight for the lead until that horrific incident. But the team aren’t getting ahead of themselves and nor am I. The car was well balanced but the circuit played to our car’s strengths and we know that. Budapest will be a struggle, but after that and Turkey, we have a couple more power tracks so stay tuned!
Reporter: Good stuff! Dylan, it’s now Lopez’s fourth year in Formula Virtual. You’ve come on leaps and bounds since the 2014 and 2015 seasons! I’m sure there are plenty of virtual racing teams out there who would love the opportunity to be competing with everyone here, so tell me, what advice would you give to a new entrant in the hypothetical scenario of one entering in the next few years?
DL: My number one tip is to embrace everything. It’s more than just a privilege to be competing in the sport. Although it was saddening to see Molto Veloce fold after their first season we couldn’t have been more grateful to Nic for letting us in. After the first season, which was virtually a shake down, you begin to build your identity and all of a sudden you have a great influx of sponsors, better facilities, and, most importantly, fans. Just look at the American contingent supporting FIRST following their successful first half of the campaign. These are the prospective realities new teams can look forward to here in Formula Virtual when they are given the opportunity to go hammer and tong at it.
Reporter: Moving over to Kaz and Will now, Meteor were consistently challenging for podiums throughout the year and Ingram were always scoring good points finishes. However, this season both teams have had completely different seasons to last year. How do you both feel about the difference in performance? Kaz?
Kaz Armos: The fact that we were immediately so far off the pace was a shock, we put far more research funds into developing this car relative to last season’s. The fact we have stayed off the pace continually is, however, unsurprising. As a team we still lack funding, and as a consequence we are struggling to develop a new car too.
Will Ingram: Yes, this season has obviously been disappointing, we’ve been consistent point scorers since season two so to be this far back is disheartening. We thought the European season would herald a jump in performance but it was only minor. Most of the midfield have been developing since then so the gap gets even wider.
Reporter: Are you confident that you can get back up to those heights again in the not too distant future? Kaz?
KA: Naturally yes, but who knows when it will be. The coming season will be our biggest challenge yet.
WI: We're somewhat confident, should hopefully get some points next season but there will be plenty of teams who are concentrating on next season as well. The midfield will be very tight next year and will depend on luck and how talented the drivers are. We aim to be at the front of the grid in 2019.
Reporter: Kaz, it was announced earlier in the season that both Johan and Stuart will be leaving your team at the end of the year, which I think shocked a few people! Do you think it’s necessary to have such a big change in the team and maybe a fresh start going forward?
KA: I can’t afford to keep either driver. As I said, we lack the funds to develop a new car so securing fresh affordable talent is what has to happen. I hope this will open up our budget as it did when I signed Johan and Stuart to develop a competitive car for the following season.
Reporter: Historically, Ingram have been very consistent with their driver line ups haven’t they Will? From the outside looking in, Ingram seems like a team that enjoys consistency and having a family atmosphere within the team, would you agree?
WI: Consistency is crucial in this sport. Ingram have one of the strongest line ups in the sport and I firmly believe that they both believe in that top tier of drivers in the sport, which makes it an easy decision to keep them on board. But beyond that we do believe that drivers play a key role in ensuring the team runs smoothly. Jean, Nikolai and Diego are all great guys and there is great camaraderie amongst the team.
Saying that, sometimes consistency leads to complacency. That is why our youth driver system is in place. James Vasquez is going to drive for this team next year and it is up to Jean and Nikolai to prove their worth. This has been discussed with the drivers and they both know that they won’t be able to coast into next season. We hope this doesn’t lead to infighting but we all know how racing drivers are with a challenge.
Reporter: Question to Harry and Dylan. Guys, both of your teams have had their ups and downs, but you’ve both managed to progress from that and become even stronger teams I think it’s fair to say. Do you think it’s one of the things that makes this series so great? The fact that no one is safe from having a bad season or two and that on the flip side, anyone could realistically be scoring podiums next season? A good example being Downton of course.
HW: That’s a bit of a mixed bag I suppose, you ask two people about that and you’ll probably get four opinions! It depends on how you view it. For the champions, it means they need to be careful of how much they spend on the year to a – make a profit; and b – not be too disadvantaged at the hard reset on anything you’ve managed in that year. On the same token, like you say, it’s fantastic to see new teams up there, Meteor managing second last year for example was brilliant, and Downton’s dominance this year even better.
DL: For sure we’ve had ups and downs. It only feels like yesterday when Harding put his car on pole at the Shanghai swimming pool. Most of the team would talk about how their Saturday went that weekend for hours because we had a ballistic Saturday night. Those moments are the reason smaller teams like us are here. I’m sure Harry can agree when his team won the last two races of 2015, even all the new teams with their respective podiums, and how all the hard work everybody back at the factory put in had perhaps even exceeded expectations. Even when we’re not getting these results, kinda like right now for us, we’re always working towards our next big moment, which never seems to be far away with all the unpredictability we’ve seen this season.
Reporter: And Jamie, carrying on that subject, do you ever look over your shoulder and fear that Franklin could have a season where you don’t score points or is your focus always on trying to make sure you have a car that can fight for victories?
JF: Simple answer – no. Franklin are a team that has and will always be at the forefront. Last year and this year haven’t been our best seasons by any stretch, and yet we’ve still won races in both years. So, we’ll keep looking forward and make sure we come out on top. Those behind us aren’t relevant to us in the grand scheme of things.
Reporter: Last year in Portugal, where we were possibly heading to before we found out we would be in Hungary, Wagner took his final victory for your team! Would you say he’s been a big miss and what’re the chances of a return in the next few years?
JF: Missing him might be a bit strong. We have a strong line up now and we’ll look to build on that. Would it have been easier to keep Wagner? Sure it would have, but mistakes were made and I feel we’ve dealt with the outcome fairly well.
Reporter: A question to everyone, it was announced by series CEO Nic Morley just last weekend that we’d be coming here to Budapest! Were you all happy to be coming to the track at such short notice or does it throw your preparation out of the window when things like this happen? Jamie?
JF: If everyone had known beforehand without us, then yes it would have thrown our preparation off a little, but everyone is in the same boat and we’re a world class team. I believe we work well under pressure and I don’t believe there’s any team that would be more prepared than us.
HW: The late notice was something I felt slightly aggrieved about – is that the right word? I should bring a thesaurus to the next one of these I get invited to. I’ve spoken to Nic and he is aware of my concerns with the short deadline, but logistically it is more than possible. As Jamie said, we’re all in the same boat. Although I have to disagree that nobody would be better prepared; I’m sure Downton will be one of the best prepared of all of us! Let’s just hope my sunburn doesn’t get any worse eh? (Laughter around the room)
Reporter: Let’s hope so, we were unsure if we had the Westwood team principal or a tomato! Dylan?
DL: I’m all for a move to Hungary, just not at such short notice. On the positive side of things it gives me a reason to kick back in the warm weather on Monday. The people back at the factory on the other hand… they’ve driven all the way here from the Netherlands and Switzerland with practically every single thing we’d planned to take to Zandvoort originally. We’ve planned out a strict schedule that hopefully doesn’t wear them down assuming nothing goes pear-shaped, which is far from ideal given how much these men and women do on a race-by-race basis.
WI: All of the teams are in the same boat so as frustrating as it is we aren’t too worried that we’ll be caught out.
Reporter: And Kaz?
KA: We will cope, but I doubt it will be a spectacular race for us. The engine is good, but the car is technically still weak, I expect it will be a business as usual weekend for Meteor.
Reporter: Okay thanks guys. That’s it for today, as always thank you to the team principles attending today and everyone tuning in for this press conference, enjoy the weekend!
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