Newly retired four-time IndyCar Series champion and three-time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti sat down with RACER’s Marshall Pruett for an in-depth look at his career, favorite cars, tracks, memorable teammates, closest friends in the paddock and other topics that emerged during a long stroll down memory lane.Enjoy their multi-part interview over the holidays, continuing with some of Franchitti’s favorite racing cars.
MARSHALL PRUETT: If you were going to start your own museum filled with the favorite cars you’ve driven, what would be included in the collection?
DTM Mercedes (Mercedes-Benz photo)
DARIO FRANCHITTI I have my first proper racing car at home and with the help of some supervising adults, I’m going to restore thatit’s little Formula Vauxhall Junior. That’s sitting at home. The Mercedes DTM car, I’d love to own one of those. Most people hated the ’96 car, I loved it. I got on well with it.
MP: What was it about the car that made sense to you and not the others?
DF I loved the way it felt, I could make it go quick, which I could be in the minority. It was the most complicated car on God’s earth. I loved it. The ’98 or the ’99 (RIGHT) CART cars. Either of those two. I’ve got a ’99 at home but I need to get an engine for it. That would require quite a bit of work to get that running. But that car, either of those were unbelievable. The Honda engines were so powerful but so linear in the delivery as well. And the soft Firestones, God, they were they were fantastic. They’ve got a picture where Montoya would run a corner at Mid-Ohio and the tires were all bent on itself. They were amazing. It never, ever stopped accelerating with those cars. You just didn’t stop.
2002 Lola. Really enjoyed that car. The gearbox was very special. By that time we had started to run the traction control. Unlike certain manufacturers who had it the year before… What else? The fans didn’t give it a particularly easy time, but I quite liked the old Dallara (the IR03).
That car was never meant to race on a road course. I did the first run on a road course with it, took years to develop and it’s quite a decent car. What it lacks, it lacked the ultimate tick of the Champ Car.The people that say those things are easy to drive are sitting in the stands, to be honest. Because it had that lack of power, the corner speeds were that much higher, believe it or not. But on ovals you just ran it looser. You could never run a Champ Car the way we ran the old Dallara or the new car, for that matter. But I liked that car. I won one of the championships in that car. Chip and I were talking about doing a wee deal one of those when I talked about getting a road course kit for it. I got his attention when I said, hey, can I get a road course kit for the Indy winner so I can run it up Knockhill?Franchitti in the Highcroft Acura in 2009. (LAT photo)
MP: You also got to drive a couple of cool sports cars during the finest days of the ALMS. Would you take any of those home?
DF Oh yeah. The first P2 Acura, the one that we won Sebring with (in 2007), I used to say that one, the ARX-01a, that car made you feel like Senna. And the ARX-02 a P1 car (from 2009) with the big tires on the front, made you feel like Milka. Because the P2 car, it was, how brave do you want to be? You could just manhandle that thing.I remember one of my highlights of the ’07 seasonwe won Indy, won the IndyCar championshipwas putting that Acura on pole at Long Beach, beating the Audis, beating Porsches for overall pole position. That was one of the highlights. That thing was mighty.
The P1 car…unfortunately, our budget wasn’t there for Michelin to develop the rear tires. So the tires we ran on the front, most of the time, were just the rear tires, and the weight distribution was all wrong for the tire when you put it on the other end of the car. That was a nightmare of a car.The only person I knew that could half way drive the car was Dixon, and he just drove it sideways. He’s a crazy man.
The first of the P2 Acuras with the full rear wing and all that, that car would be right there in the museum. Bear in mind, that car now is probably the same level power as the P1 car is now. Turn one at Road Atlanta was wide open in that car. As was Sebring Turn 1, which was scary.And I have a real affinity for that P2 car because I remember watching (Dario’s brother) Marino in it and he had never really driven any prototypes, only done a couple of tests. And he got in one at Sebring at a test with Andretti Green and he was told that if he was within a second of Bryan Herta they’d be happy. I think within about five laps he was a little bit quicker than Bryan. He just loved that car. And that was a great sight to see. To see him winning at Petit when he did that crazy move into turn one and he was leading by so many laps. That was pretty cool, so we’d both drive that car if we got ahold of one to keep.
MP: That brings us almost up to date. Your last win came in the Dallara DW12; does that car have a place in the museum based on performance merits alone?
DF No, the victory is the fact that we won Indy in ’12 with it, so because of that, I’d put it in there. Its performance level on the road courses, on the street courses, the pace it runs over a lap is impressive. You think about the lack of horsepower relatively. What is it, 700, 750? At Mid-Ohio with the harder Firestone tire than the soft ones we used to run they were running just as quick as the lap record, which Gil de Ferran and I got the lap record different years. Soft tires for Gil, all that the horsepower. These things were making up the speed in the corners. It’s an absolute, fast car over a lap. It’s funny, I never did care for it on the ovals. I could never get the feeling I wanted.I don’t mind the loose car. I don’t mind when I know where the rear is. I could never find where the rear was. I used to think Indy last year, for instance, I freed up a little bit more and I would just move the weight jack around just a minute bit and I would be 90 of opposite lock. I would never get that bit on the oval. But on road and street courses, I think it’s not a bad little car. It’s not exactly a looker, though, is it