Vincenzo Sospiri

RJ: Now, you are, and you have been for quite some while, been involved in team management. Was that something that ever appealed to you when you were driving or was it more down to circumstance?

VS: No, not really. What happened was a friend of mine told me “Hey, why not start a team”, for a joke! I said, “No, I don’t want to do it”. That was back in 2000, and after 2001, I changed my mind! We started a team, we were in F3000, and we used the old ‘99 cars, which were from, I think it was called European Ford series, and it was still a little like a joke, to be fair. Then from there, it progressed. We started a Formula Renault team a year later, and that was a good team and then into the Italian F3000 championship, and we’re still there now, and we’re also a partner with a team in the Renault Megane series.

RJ: Why have your teams been so successful at each level? What’s the secret, if there is any?

VS: Well, there’s no secret really. When you see the kids from karting, the first formula after that, should be Formula Renault, Formula BMW.. whatever. They should be more formulae then say, just Formula Ford, as has sometimes been the case, and to have a proper idea of what the kid is capable of, how he can drive, to see if he knows what he is doing, whether he knows how to drive properly, put him in a Formula Renault car after karting. Because we started as a small team in Formula Renault, we could look at all that, and when we progressed to F3000, we felt that we had the best guys for this level as they had learnt a lot with us already and then hopefully to keep progressing to go onto Formula 1.

RJ: What do you look for, when you see the young guys karting?

VS: The most critical thing for me is if they’ve got the speed. If they’ve got it, they’ve got it. You can’t lose that and push it out of them! If they’ve got that, we can work together, give them a good car, work around them, what is missing and what needs improvement, and from then on, give the benefits of my, and others experience and build them up.

RJ: Going back to your racing career, just after Lola – I’m not going to go into the Lola business right now!- and going into management, you had a spell driving in America. Obviously you had to retire through injury, did that stop you doing – I mean.. are you interested in doing things like the GPM for example?

VS: Yes, it was unfortunate. Sadly, what happened, after my operation, after my shoulder problem, it was difficult for me to be up to speed like I used to be, and difficult to hold the steering wheel for a long time, so I can probably do about 3 or 4, maybe 5 laps but the G-forces are too much for me, so no, there was no point, it was better to retire, there was not enough power, as it were, you know what I mean, to continue?

RJ: Does the injury stop you doing any kind of racing – sportscars etc.?

VS: Sportscars, to be fair, I never really tried. Well, I did try but it was only, it felt almost like… testing. For me, when you have a chance to race in Formula 1 or near to Formula 1, anything after that, is not as exciting as being in Formula 1. For me, I am.. I don’t.. I mean I did 2 years of sportscars, it’s not near Formula 1, but it’s a nice car to drive.. anything other than that, I don’t really like to drive, and when I don’t like to do something, I will not do it 100% and that’s not fair to people, and I don’t like to do that.

RJ: Going back to Euronova, what is it you most enjoy about team management?

VS: Well, in a way.. my dad owns the team, I suppose, to be fair, my dad is the team manager, and I’m just helping him about choosing the drivers, giving him advice, that’s the kind of thing I do, most of my job is to do with the drivers. What I enjoy.. well, if everything goes well (chuckles), and the driver does well, I feel as if I’m in the car with him. Before the start, I walk around and I get the same kind of feeling as if I was driving the car, as if I’m in the car with my driver, so my hairs on my neck stand up, and I get the same pleasure out of winning and doing well as my drivers. When I’m on the radio to them, my passion comes through, as we share the same blood, the same racing blood.

RJ: How do you rate the season for Euronova so far? Are you quite happy?

VS: Well, yes. I mean you’ve got to consider that we have three young guys racing for us this year that have not been in Formula 3000 before. We started with three drivers and then during the season we brought in D’Ambrosio (Jerome D’Ambrosio, from Formula Renault 2000). So we were excited, three young, very good drivers, but so far, we’ve won two races, should have won another one, we lost another two races that we could’ve won, but it’s been a great experience, a good learning experience for the drivers, so, so far, it’s been very good, to be fair, for what we started with and our hopes at the start of the season.

Note: Things would get even better the following day as Euronova drivers Petrov and D’Ambrosio came home 1st & 2nd in the first race!

RJ: What’s the future plans for the team? Staying in this category or GP2 or…?

VS: No, we want to really go forward with the team. After F3000, the next step is naturally GP2. At the moment, we tried to get to GP2, but we didn’t have any luck this year, but we’ll still try to get in and buy our entry in, because it will be good for the team, and for the drivers to go up to that level, so we’ll see. If not, we’ll stay in this category and help the drivers find good drives if they don’t stay with us.

RJ: Going back to racing in America. You raced in America, you raced in Europe for a long time, what did you find, in your view, were the major differences between driving in those series, and in those circuits over there?

VS: Better there, the circuits. They’re more like proper circuits over there, not like go-kart tracks, because they are not so fussed about silly little chicanes and other things and all the other rubbish you know? Proper circuits over there, for sure. There’s no danger over here. The driver needs a little danger and the driver needs to feel involved, really needs to drive, you know? Driving over there was definitely more difficult, especially as the drivers over there were of a high standard. For me, I liked it. I mean, I like Europe, but the US was a lot more different for me, it was very different on the supporters, the supporters and the whole approach of the weekend. In America, they’re a lot more friendly with the drivers, and with the people that come and help out, and the crowd and you are almost like one.. I think it’s better that way than here. Here, they try and push everyone out. For me, if you want people to spend money on the sport, and hang around, you know, and to enjoy it as much as possible, you need to look at America, and what they’re doing there.

Interview conducted by Richard Jenkins on the 12th August 2006 at the GPM event at Silverstone. Thanks to the Euronova team and Vincenzo especially for taking a considerable amount of time, speaking in excellent English and also for an excellent interview location. Thanks also to David Holland for his help with this interview.