Q&A: Michael Andretti of Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross
Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross is arguably the most successful rallycross team in America, with drivers Scott Speed and Tanner Foust racing a pair of Volkswagen Beetle Supercars.
Andretti Autosport competes in IndyCar, Indy Lights, Formula E and Australian Supercars together with its Americas Rallycross (ARX) program and has many successes to its name, including five Indianapolis 500 victories.
ARX caught up with Team Principal Michael Andretti, one of America’s most successful open-wheel racers, to get his thoughts on the new ARX series.
Andretti Autosport has such a diverse portfolio, where does ARX fit into that?
Michael Andretti: “It’s a big deal for us, having a relationship with the Volkswagen brand is fantastic, we love rallycross racing, it’s one of the most fun types of racing anywhere in the world and we’re so happy to be involved with it. I’m really looking forward to the future with the ARX series. The promoters have done a tremendous job with rallycross over in Europe and with World RX (FIA World Rallycross Championship) to make it grow and I think the things they want to do make a lot of sense so hopefully make it grow over here in the US. It’s great to be there at the beginning so hopefully we can help make it grow to where it is in Europe too.”
What makes Andretti so invested and interested in rallycross?
Michael Andretti: “Number one is that it’s a market that everybody’s after with the millennials. The format and everything is perfect for them; it’s short, fun races – more the X Games type thing. To be involved with that type of audience is great for our brand.”
Where do you want to see the sport grow in the next few years?
Michael Andretti: “I think you’re kidding yourself if you think it’s going to happen in one year, it’s going to take a few years to get there but I think IMG has laid out a good plan. Hopefully they can do the same thing here and it can be just as popular as in Europe and in World RX, it’s really big time racing over there, so I think that’s the goal.”
What is your opinion on the first step for rallycross with a permanent facility in the US being at COTA?
Michael Andretti: “For sure it’s the place to do it. They have history of having X Games there, the World Rallycross is going to go there, so yeah, I think it’s great. They’ve got a good fan base down in Texas so I think it’s a good place for us to open up in the States.”
What does it mean to have a guy with so much experience from the IndyCar side like TZ (John Tzouanakis, Team Manager) cross over into rallycross and to have been so successful?
Michael Andretti: “It’s great to have TZ part of this because you don’t even have to look over his shoulder or anything, he’s been around this for so long. I’ve known TZ since ’82, I think, since he was on my dad’s car at Newman-Haas, so we’ve been together a long, long time. The guy’s got a tremendous amount of experience, he’s won many races and he’s a big reason why we’ve done so well with Volkswagen in rallycross.”
Has it ever crossed your mind to have a drive of the VARX Beetle Supercars, even in testing?
Michael Andretti: “I thought about it a little bit, but not really. I haven’t driven anything in a long time so I probably wouldn’t have fun because I’d feel like I’d be behind the car not on top of it. It probably wouldn’t be fun because I know I wouldn’t be at that level and I’m used to being at a certain level.”
Your two drivers in Scott Speed and Tanner Foust are on the highest level in rallycross, how is it working with them?
Michael Andretti: “I think that’s our secret weapon, to be honest with you. Our drivers are in my opinion the best in the series and they show that each and every weekend they go out there. They push each other very hard but I think they have both become better drivers because of it and I think they both enjoy doing it together, they work together very well. We’re very lucky to have that combination for sure, that’s a big reason for our success.”