With the IndyCar Classic taking place at Circuit of the Americas this weekend, the only driver with lots of previous racing experience at the COTA is ready to get the show on the road.
By Chantal Rice, Photos courtesy of IndyCar
As the NTT IndyCar Series revs up to take on its inaugural race at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas track this weekend, ushering in a new era of motorsports merriment for race-loving Central Texans, IndyCar drivers, now one race into the season, are primed to put the pedal to the metal and deliver a legendary competition.
And one particular driver, Marcus Ericsson of Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, who has scads of racing experience—which began at his local go-kart track in Sweden when he was just 9 years old—may have an edge at the COTA, despite this season being his first as an IndyCar driver and finishing 20th in the first race in St. Petersburg, Fla., thanks to his No. 7 car’s mechanical failure. That’s because Ericsson’s natural racing prowess and impressive work ethic earned him a driving position in Formula 1, the world’s most elite racing series, for five seasons. As such, this down-to-earth yet incredibly focused Swede is the only IndyCar driver to have actually raced the COTA track extensively, which could equate to a favorable outcome for him.
Here, Ericsson—who professes a love for all things hockey, acknowledges Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” is always on his playlist and says his all-time favorite movie is Rocky—discusses how he’s acclimating to IndyCar, what he’s most looking forward to this race season and his favorite spots in Austin.
ATX Man: As a driver in IndyCar’s first race at the COTA, you’ve got more racing time here than any other IndyCar driver because of your experience with F1. Are you feeling good about this race because of that? It looks like some other drivers struggled to find their line around the COTA in spring training?
Marcus Ericsson: Yeah, it’s definitely an advantage for me. I’ve been [to the COTA] with F1 four times before, so I have a good knowledge of the track. I plan on taking advantage of that in the race. It’s great IndyCar is going to the COTA. It’s going to be an amazing race.
AM: IndyCar is definitely a different monster than F1. How have you been adjusting to the downforce and other differences with the car?
ME: It’s definitely a different type of car to drive. There’s less downforce than F1, so there’s more moving around and I’m fighting the car more. And there’s no power steering in IndyCar. It’s a different way you feel the car when driving. It’s been a process. I’m taking it step by step. With spring training at the COTA, I felt like I was taking steps there and really getting there.
AM: What do you do to get your body physically ready for this racetrack in IndyCar?
ME: You need to have good cardio because it’s a two-hour race. I have to stay fully focused. My heart rate is running really high. The biggest difference is F1, with higher corner speeds, means a lot more strength in the neck and shoulder area. But IndyCar requires more strength in the actual arms, more effort from the arms. Both are very difficult to drive. So, I work out every day. I have my own trainer who does training programs with me. I try to not build up too much bulky muscle and do more circuit training and incorporate my body weight and keep my heart rate up.
AM: How are things going with your new teammate, James Hinchcliffe? Is your new team helping you settle in well to IndyCar?
ME: It’s been great so far. It’s a great team I’m driving for. Hinchcliffe is the perfect teammate for me. He’s a very open and friendly guy. Plus, he’s a really good driver. I’ve already learned a lot from him. He’s helping me get up to speed and I’m having a lot of fun.
AM: What are you most looking forward to at the IndyCar Classic at the COTA?
ME: I hope, with my experience, I will have a bit of an edge on the others and do well. I look forward to coming back to Austin. Racing there is always a great atmosphere in front of fans. I really believe IndyCar is going to put on a great show, probably better than F1 because the cars are a bit slower and run closer together. It will be very exciting!
AM: What are you most looking forward to this IndyCar race season?
ME: It’s a dream to win the Indy 500. But I have huge respect for the other drivers. Some guys have been driving in this series for 20 years. I expect to be tough and right up there fighting. With my experience and skills, I should be able to compete in the very top. The goal is to win at least one race and finish high at the top as much as possible. I’m super excited!
AM: Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World. When preparing for race day, do you listen to any particular music as you’re gearing up?
ME: When I’m getting ready, I like to listen to harder tunes. I’ve got System of a Down on my playlist, and Millencolin, a Swedish band. I like to go out to different bars in Austin and listen to live music. There are so many great spots.
AM: You’ve been coming to Austin for a few years now for racing. Do you have any favorite local spots?
ME: I love Austin. It’s one of my favorite places in the world. There are lots of different restaurants I try to explore. Rainey Street is great. I like Swift’s Attic on Congress. That’s a really good one. The last time I was there, I found Sway, which I love. Uchi is amazing. It’s very authentic Japanese. Oh, and Terry Black’s is maybe my favorite food. Texas barbecue is something I have to have when I’m in Austin!
Check back for more IndyCar coverage and driver Q&As leading up to and following the IndyCar Classic at the Circuit of the Americas March 22 through 24.