Martin Plowman? Not to many people heard of him until he made is debut in the Indy Lights in 2009 with Panther Racing. So once again I have pulled that rabbit out of my hat again. I interviewed him over the weekend thanks to Nicole Pollard who got me setup to interview him. Some things we are going to discuss are, his racing journey, what it was like coming to America and the 2012 issues in IndyCar.
Q: What is your favorite road course to race at? Your favorite street course, and favorite oval and why (for all 3)?
MP: My favorite road course has to be Mid-Ohio. It’s a tricky place to pass, but it has a very nice flow to it.
My favorite street track would have to be…all of them. Each street course has a lot of character. I love picking up all of the details on track walks. They are all about who can adapt to the conditions the fastest and who dares to push the hardest, because you know full well that a tiny mistake will put you into the wall.
My favorite oval? Indianapolis, of course
Q: Who was your favorite driver as a kid watching racing? What was your favorite series to watch and why?
MP: Growing up, my racing idol was Ayrton Senna. He was simply a genius and wore his emotions on his sleeve. Watching an on-board lap with him is spell binding.
Q: What is your favorite racing simulator game?
MP: iRacing. Without a doubt! It is easily the closest thing out there to reality. Since real track time is almost non-existant, you have the make the most our of every resource you have, whether that be iRacing, go-karting or whatever keeps you sharp.
Q: What was making your racing debut in the Formula 3 Euro Series? What was your favorite moment in that series?
MP: At the time, the Formula 3 Euroseries was an extremely competitive series. We signed a deal with the Factory Volkwagen team very late in the off-season with an under-funded team who was making a comeback. Needless to say my team-mates and I endured a rough season, in a series where you could develop the cars more than an IndyCar. We quickly fell behind the well-funded teams with aerodynamic development. There were a couple of flashes, where I tried to make something happen with what I had. For instance, on the Streets of Pau, I managed to fight my way from 19th to 7th in wet conditions, before I was taken out with two laps to go. That was a bittersweet day!
Clearly that year was one I wish I could forget, but at the same time, looking back it made me a much stronger driver technically, as I was never “given” a fast car. The engineers and I pretty much had to roll our sleeves up every weekend and work hard.
Q: Speaking of debuts, what was it like when you first came to America to race Indy Lights with Panther Racing? Was it hard for you to come to a different country?
MP: Moving to America was more than just a career shift; it was a complete lifestyle shift. I always knew that I wanted to race in America since I was in karts. Alex Zanardi, who was a mentor to me in karts, had a lot of success over here, and of course, Dan Wheldon was a great influence in my decision to come here.
Q: Are you a fan of Randy Bernard’s Road to Indy program?
MP: I think the INDYCAR Road to Indy program is great. In fact, I’m a little bit jealous, as it would have made my early career much easier to know what to do. In Europe, there are so many different classes to choose from. One year, one parallel series will be stronger than the other and vice versa the following year. Over here there is a clear-cut formula of how to get from karts to IndyCar.
Q: What was your best moment in the three races you raced in this year with AFS Racing/Sam Schmidt Motorsports?
MP: One of the best moments, has to be sitting in the car ready to take the command for the first time at Mid-Ohio. It felt surreal as that moment was 15 years in the making and was what I have always strived for. I just thanked God for the opportunity.
I think my whole race at Sonoma was a good memory. We were pretty strong all weekend. Even though it was only my second race, I was really upset that I missed out on advancing to group 2 in qualifying, as I missed the cut-off by 0.03.
In the race, I was happy at how I was able to pass people and hold my own. I spent the whole race fighting with Hunter-Reay and Servia and only lost out to them in the pitstops. I could take heart from that as they are two of the best road-racers out there.
Q: How did you get involved with Snowball Express? And what have you learned with being a part of it?
MP: A good friend of mine, Joe Petersen, is friends with several of the board members for Snowball Express. They approached me and Team Plowey about partnering together to help them raise awareness about SBE and to host select families at the race events. I fell in love with the program and what it stood for. It really was a no-brainer. Spending just 15 minutes with anyone of the Snowball families, you will be inspired at their strength and willpower to overcome the unthinkable.
Q: What do you think of IndyCar’s new races in China, Detroit, and Fontana?
MP: I’m all for expansion. It’s what sponsors want, and I like traveling to new places. I’ve never been to China, but I would like to check it out. I wish we could do a race in Europe again, but I doubt that will happen in the foreseeable future. In the mean time, I would love to see a return to some of the great tracks like Road America and Laguna Seca.
Q: What do you think of IndyCar’s oval dilemma? In your mind what ovals should be dropped/added?
MP: The oval situation is a tricky one. Some of the best races have come on ovals. I like them, but I believe that they have become easier for less skilled drivers to excel on because they rely more on having in a good car than being a good driver. Now it’s true that a good oval driver can help engineer a fast car, but I believe more should be done to put the outcome of the race in the driver’s hands.
Q: What rules/safety changes do you think need to be made for the bigger oval racing to continue?
MP: I can’t speak on what changes should be made. But I trust that INDYCAR has the knowledge and resources to make whatever changes they see fit.
Q: Do we see you back in 2012 in an IndyCar? Is the second Sam Schmidt car an option?
MP: In a perfect world I would love to be in a full-time ride. Right now I have no idea what the outcome will be. We are working hard on a lot of different angles for a deal. It’s all in God’s hands for now.
Q: What do you think of the DW12 chassis?
MP: Change is good. Some people love the new design, some people hate it. I think as soon as we get to the first race, everyone will have gotten used to it. Besides, once aero-kits become open in 2013 we will see a lot of variation on the current spec body-work.
Q: Speaking of the DW12 chassis, what was your reaction to the Dan Wheldon Crash Investigation Results and his death in general?
MP: I felt that the crash investigation was handled very well. I know that we will all learn from the crash, but motorsport is and always will be dangerous. It’s a simple fact that every driver accepts he or she may be killed once we get strapped into our cars. We just bury those thoughts at the back of our minds. My opinion is this: You can die crossing the street or spend an entire lifetime being careful and regretting years worth of ‘what-ifs’.
I personally lost a friend and someone who I looked up to. He was more like a big-brother who took me under his wing when I first moved over to America. I’m glad that I got to know him and spend time with him. I promise that I will be keeping an eye out for Sebastian and Oliver, I owe him that.