A New Challenge: Q&A with Tanner Foust
(April 22, 2019) – Andretti Rallycross announced last week that multiple rallycross champion Tanner Foust will return to Americas Rallycross (ARX) this season in the Championship-winning Volkswagen Beetle Supercar with Andretti Rallycross.
Foust won two rounds of ARX in the first ever season for the series last year, and finished runner up to team mate Scott Speed in the Championship. With Speed switching to Subaru Motorsports for 2019, Foust will be joined in the Andretti team by ARX2 graduate, Cabot Bigham.
We caught up with Tanner at the Andretti Autosport shop in Indianapolis to get his thoughts on the announcement.
How is it being back in ARX for 2019 with the same team and same car?
TF: “From the outside, this will look like a very similar program, minus the driver change. But behind the scenes, this winter was spent working really hard to keep the program going. This is the last year of the beetle, so we have got the support of a new sponsor which is the R group from Germany that helped keep the program alive, but it’s much less of a factory supported effort than it was last year.”
So with that big change, how important is it that you try and carry the torch for the team in ARX this year?
TF: “Well Scott [Speed] was a great teammate and ally when it came to testing and setting the car up. Our different perspectives that we talked about for the last four or five years really did benefit us both overall in the different ways we approached the setup of the car, but I think Cabot will bring a lot of that same benefit being from road race stuff. Also we don’t have a new car this year; it’s the same car we’ve run for the last two years. While the championships we’ve done in the last several years were close, Scott did eek out ahead on those, so of course there’s the desire – just like in any year – to finish on top. But the other programs with other manufacturers in ARX, a lot of them will have new cars, completely newly developments and so the competition will be tougher than ever!”
Subaru has developed a new car, especially also using Scott’s knowledge, and Steve Arpin is going to a Ford Fiesta he has confidence in. Does that change the way you guys prepare?
TF: “I think in racing when you stay the same, it gives everyone else a chance to pass you, so we really – because of our limited factory support – have not developed any further than we had last year, so with other teams making changes it will of course allow them to be quicker. The Fiesta is a very fast car; I’ve raced them and raced against them for many years. Arpin has got his legs underneath his team and I think it’s a well-oiled machine, he’s got a lot of really good people there that will make that program strong. Subaru is also certainly attacking rallycross with vigor, which is great that they’re supporting it. They’ve had to work very hard to wait for the rules to work for their car and I think they’ve successfully adapted their car to a road package that really will, for the first time, favor the Subaru. Having Scott on the team, that’s great for them. He’s a great driver and he’ll for sure help them set their car up more for the tarmac, where the Subaru’s always strongest on the dirt, so that will be tough competition as well.
Plus there’s a lot of things that we’ve developed as a team here with ways that we’d like the car to work on the US tracks, between Scott, myself and Andretti – those sorts of things are now no longer our advantage and are handed to Subaru – that’s just the nature of the industry. I still think the Beetle is an incredibly strong car; I think when it was initially engineered several years ago it was quick and I still think it will be a difficult car to beat.”
Do you have any expectations for your new teammate in his first ARX Supercar season?
TF: “I have huge expectations for Cabot. He is a talented racer who has proven himself in a variety of disciplines, which is what rallycross needs – somebody with that variety of disciplines in their tool bag. I think the Beetle is an easy car to drive, which is its greatest asset. It’s not always the fastest; we’ve been out-qualified for a lot of last season by other brands, but by being what I think is the best engineered car, from the drivers’ seat it makes it the easiest to drive. I think he’ll get up to speed very, very fast in the car and while we don’t have all of the benefits of long tests and things like you would if we were a full factory supported effort, I don’t think it’s going to take much for him to get on the pace.”
What are your personal goals for 2019?
TF: “To take the ARX championship. To build ARX, to establish a foundation for rallycross in the US once again and make the most out of the media package that we possibly can, so that in 2020 when the Beetle is gone, we can come with a new car.”