An Interview With: Andy Lally
J.J. O'MALLEY: Thank you, everyone, for joining us today. Today we have the pleasure of being joined by a driver set for double duty in 2013. Andy Lally will be racing in Saturday's debut of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series at the magnificent Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, co-driving the No. 44 Magnus Racing Porsche with John Potter. They won the GT class last July in GRAND-AM's first race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and are looking to win at another brand new venue.
Then on Saturday, March 16th, Andy will make his debut with a new team, Dempsey Del Piero Racing, joining racer/actor Patrick Dempsey and Joe Foster in the No. 27 Porsche in the Mobil One 12 Hours at Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida.
Andy, it looks like you're keeping busy and that's the way you like it. What are your thoughts racing at the new Circuit of the Americas and then joining Patrick Dempsey for a full season in the ALMS?
ANDY LALLY: Well, I can't wait to get to Texas. Flying in there tomorrow, and this race this weekend, our debut, our first race at the Circuit of The Americas should be pretty wild. I think Magnus Racing is ready. They've been pretty amped up and looking to avenge, leading 23 hours at Daytona but not coming home for the win. So we're pretty amped up to get the season rolling and see if we can pull in the championship here.
And as far as the joining Dempsey-Del Piero this year, it's a cool opportunity. It's a very neat deal. When the opportunity came up, I jumped on this right away. I've been friends with Joe Foster for many, many years and have known Patrick for six or seven years now, and it's -- we have a good relationship friend-wise. We've had good hard races against each other, but to team up with each other for the first time and debut at Sebring of all places with the new team, new team name, the first time that they're working with a Porsche and a handful of -- a whole lot of new stuff from new crew members to new drivers, across the board, we've got a lot to learn, and that GTC class is going to be very competitive. So it'll be a challenge, and we're looking forward to it.
Q. Are you all set up to move forward with 2014? Is the team going to be the same type of setup, and did they bring you in because you're a Porsche specialist and it's a new vehicle for them?
ANDY LALLY: As far as why they brought me in, I've been talking to them on and off for a couple of years. I almost did a deal with Joe last year to race Continental with them, and we've had a good relationship over the years. When they chose to go with a Porsche this year, that was one of the reasons certainly, just because I've got over a decade of racing Porsches in this and have worked with a lot of guys when it's their first time in a Porsche and kind of how to get up to speed and whatnot.
And it's been very good with Patrick. He's jumped in and been aggressive right off the bat, and that's a trait that I really like to have in a teammate. As a guy is learning a new style car, the team owner might not like it as much because sometimes you're going to get a little bit more of a crash damage bill, but for me I'd much rather have an aggressive guy that I have to reel in a little bit than a tentative guy that I have to kind of really amp up and yell in his ear. It's been good like that.
As far as 2014, both my Magnus contract and my Dempsey-Del Piero contract is only one year, so everything is up in the air for me come the end of this season and we'll see how it goes. I'm really not sure which direction it'll go. I've told -- in fact, actually the way this even came up, I was talking with John Potter about a multiyear deal and then we only just went with a one-year thing, so I really don't know. We'll see.
Q. Have you been to Austin before? I guess you came for testing. Did you get to go outside of Circuit of The Americas and experience the local flair and flavor at all?
ANDY LALLY: You know, we did come down there and test about two months ago, and I very much enjoyed it, actually. The track -- I loved half the track and hated the other half of the track. It's got a pretty cool rhythm section interrupted by four different corners on the track that have hairpins that are a bit too tight. One is understandable; the other three don't need to be there that tight. But the rest of the course is esthetically beautiful. The garages are laid out very nicely. It's a pretty fun circuit.
I think it'll be pretty demanding on the Porsche, and we're going to have a little bit of a tough time there. But that'll -- we'll see how that goes.
Outside of Austin, I had a blast. I didn't go out until the very last night, and we found a really cool little restaurant down in Austin, and one of my crew members, Tucker Martin, used to live in Austin. So we just kind of did drive by. We drove by all of his hot spots and all the cool stuff going on, but we were all beat from a couple days of testing and getting up at 5:00 in the morning to go home, so I didn't get to experience too much of it but got to see it, and it's a pretty nice little city.
Q. You came up through the open wheel ranks, the more enclosed bodies, NASCAR and now GRAND-AM. Do you ever see yourself taking a shot at the Indy 500?
ANDY LALLY: I don't. I'll keep this simple. As I've gotten older and wiser, I really don't intend on driving or racing anything open cockpit anymore. I don't see the need for it. I think we could put canopies or cockpits over everything, and I don't need to take the additional -- I do enough crazy things in my life, but I try to be as safe as I do while I'm doing those things, and a roof over my head while I'm racing cars is certainly one of those things, and I'm going to try and keep it like that.
Q. What are your thoughts coming up to a new track?
ANDY LALLY: It's always a huge challenge and exciting to try and be the first winner at a new track. I've been fortunate to do this in the past with New Jersey Motorsports Park, Indy last year, and when we go to a new venue and it's the first time, it's cool to try and get up to speed faster than everybody and do this. So Texas will definitely be -- as popular as this track is already and will be in the future, it'll be definitely a feather in your cap to the driver that can say he won the first-ever sports car race there. So I'm looking forward to the challenge and can't wait to see if we can make it happen.
Q. As you're racing this weekend in the GRAND-AM of The Americas, is that going to give you anything you're going to be able to take when you come back to Austin in September for the race with the American LeMans Series on September 21st?
ANDY LALLY: Absolutely. Being that the two cars that I'm racing in the different series are actually very similar, there will be a lot to take into consideration, what we learn here and what I can apply to the September race in the ALMS.
It's the same exact chassis. We're going to have a different tire, but it'll be the same weight, might even be similar temperatures. We'll see. I think it'll be a little warmer when we get back here in September. But we've got a relatively cool weekend planned ahead of us.
But the way that the car takes to the track and some of the setup changes that we do will certainly be things that I'll be able to learn from, and a couple of the tracks that we have that double duty on this weekend, this year will be beneficial to the second time that we go there. Laguna Seca is one of them, and Lime Rock -- or are we skipping that? I can't remember. But it'll be a help.
Q. Lime Rock will be the GRAND-AM finale and American Le Mans will be racing there in July.
ANDY LALLY: So it'll be vice versa. I'll get my ALMS experience first, get to take some notes and head back there for the finale.
Lime Rock, this is the 20th year that I will be racing at Lime Rock. I did my Skip Barber school in 1993 there, and this is my 20th year racing cars, and Lime Rock is one of the only races left on the schedule that I actually did in my first year, and it'll be pretty neat to go back there 20 years later, sort of reminisce a little bit and just think about all the changes and all the stuff that I've been through, so it'll be pretty neat.
Q. You've alluded to some of the "crazy things" that you have done in your life earlier. How many championships are you pursuing this year in total, and what are they in?
ANDY LALLY: Well, the only two that I think I'm going to have a chance at right now are the ALMS GTC championship and the GRAND-AM Rolex GT championship. I will dabble in some street luge races if I can. I don't know if my schedule conflicts with the world championships yet this year because they haven't released those dates yet. And then on the jiu-jitsu, on the Brazilian submission grappling tournaments that I do, I just did one two weeks ago. I had a great event. It was the first time that I won all my matches in the day, won both of my classes and submitted every person that I went up against, so that was a pretty neat deal. There was some progress there.
Q. In what classes did you compete in the jiu-jitsu?
ANDY LALLY: Blue belt welterweight I guess technically is the class.
Q. And street luge?
ANDY LALLY: The street luge stuff I'm not sure yet. The schedule always comes out late because that season doesn't start until May and then it ends in December. So it's got a little bit of a skewed schedule compared to the auto racing side, so I'll kind of have to play that one by ear. With doing both ALMS and Rolex and maybe some Continental Challenge stuff, it's going to be a packed year for me, so the chances that there will be an open weekend for me are semi-slim right now, so we'll see if that happens. But there will be some jiu-jitsu tournaments planned and maybe some street luge racing planned.
Q. Who are you racing with in Continental?
ANDY LALLY: I don't know yet. I'm still working on two or three deals that'll be kind of part-time stuff. There's one pretty serious guy talking to me about GS and then a couple guys talking to me about some ST races, so we'll see.
Q. I was wondering what you had learned at the Rolex 24 that you can apply to the rest of the GRAND-AM season and the pursuit of a championship for Magnus Racing.
ANDY LALLY: Biggest thing I learned is that we need to work on GRAND-AM to allow us to adapt the Porsche splitter for racing in the States here. We have too many humongous curves and bumps and bumpy tracks with character on them here to keep these footers on them and race the way that the Prep 2 cars are going to race here. At Texas I can guarantee you're going to see a handful of Porsches ripping their front splitters off while the Ferraris, the BMWs and the Camaros can go four wheels over the curb and not sweat it at all.
To be completely honest, that's probably the biggest thing is when we lose that front splitter, it throws the aero out the window, and we lose so much front grip. I know the second that the thing comes off. So we'll see.
Other than that, Magnus has been a very well-oiled machine. The guys are so professional and we have some of the best mechanics in the paddock hands down, and Potter has done a very good job of assembling these guys, and with Lars's lead here, these guys have been great.
We know that we're going to be at a little bit of a disadvantage, not trying to politic too much here, but the Ferraris are going to win this one coming to Texas here. We'll see, but we're going to fight like crazy to keep that from happening. But when we get to some of the other tracks, we might have a little bit more of an advantage.
Q. I was wondering first off if you had the privilege to talk with any of the drivers who have already touched the track. I know it would probably only be Indy and F1 drivers.
ANDY LALLY: Actually we got to test there about two months ago. We went down with four or five other teams to check the track out, so I got to play around in the rental car in the morning and then get out there, and Magnus Racing had two cars as we were kind of doing a pre-Daytona shakedown but at the same time kind of getting an eye in and learning a little bit about COTA itself.
Circuit of The Americas is a pretty cool track. We've got from Turn 2 to Turn 9 is actually a very interesting and challenging section of the track that I think will -- you're not going to see a lot of passing through there but you're going to see a lot of the delta on the times there between the different cars, and it'll probably be the most fun by yourself through there.
It gets a little bit jammed up with some -- four different really tight corners on there. Coming on and off the back straightaway there is going to be pretty tight, and I think we're going to see some action with the way Turn 1 is set up. So it'll -- it's going to make for some -- I think we're going to see some desperate moves made because with the sports car stuff, those mid-corner speeds are going to be pretty low in the tight stuff, but then the speed that we're going to carry through the he esses, through Turn 2 and whatnot will be elevated. So I think we're going to see the field spread out, but I think the racing will still be pretty good.
Q. Of all the cars you've had the privilege of racing, which one had the steepest learning curve?
ANDY LALLY: Steepest learning curve? I would say -- I raced a Porsche Spyder, the Porsche prototype, in 2007 and 2008 for Dyson Racing, and that was a very unique car. It seemed like you sat very far forward in that car, very close to the front axle, and the rear axle was pretty far away from you, and it was such a turny vehicle -- twitchy isn't the word because it was very crisp on turn-in, and it would turn in so well that you would think there was no way the rear end could follow it, and it generated so much grip that it was a little bit hard to build up to. That and I would say the stock car stuff because all the stuff that I had done leading up to that on the road courses is a different sort of driving style, it's a different sort of feel, and when you're learning new tracks and a new car, as I was doing just about every single weekend on the Cup side, it was definitely a little bit tricky.
So the Porsche prototype and the Cup car would be the two hardest ones.
Q. You mentioned you're going to be doing some street luge this year, and I wanted to know -- knowing that that is a dangerous sport and kind of a friend sport, do you find that that is something that kind of keeps you on the edge in a way, or does it help you with your motor racing at all, or is it more just something purely for fun to get the adrenaline going, to be competitive? Is there any carryover and does it help you in any way?
ANDY LALLY: The street luge stuff doesn't help me so much. The auto racing helps my street luge because how you set up a luge and how you race a luge and the strategy that you apply to luge is all very similar to what you apply and how you set up a race car and whatnot. I don't usually do street luge more than once or twice a year. It helps me kind of -- the fact that I'm racing nonstop and thinking similar things all the time helps me get back up to speed.
The mountain biking that I do, I do a lot of mountain biking, as well, and that and the jiu-jitsu are both good core strength activities and both really good cardio activities, and both of those sports help me with my fitness level in the race car and to be able to be strong for a long time and be way under my rev limit and be able to focus and concentrate a lot easier.
Q. And then you also mentioned you think the Ferraris are going to be the fastest this coming weekend. Is that just from what you saw at testing, what you've seen in past seasons, or do they have just a little something more up their sleeve this year?
ANDY LALLY: They've just developed the car. It's always been a very good car on road courses, and there's not a lot of rubber down at Circuit of the Americas right now, and the Ferrari hands down -- it's also got a lot of medium speed corners, so the downforce in the car is going to be pretty important. You've got one straightaway there where I used to say the Ferrari would suffer, but the handful of times that I came out with it from Turn 6 and raced it down to the bus stop, and vice versa, from the bus stop down to the start-finish line at Daytona this year, they were really only lacking in the top, top of sixth gear, and when I say sixth gear, what I mean is like over 150 miles an hour, which COTA is really not that fast on the top speed because we come out of the corner so slow.
So there's really not going to be a disadvantage. They'll be strong in braking and really strong in the handling department. So I think they're going to hold on to the tires and they'll be pretty quick.
Q. Were you able to glean any information from when there were Porsches and Ferraris running during the Formula 1 weekend? Is there any parity between the Ferrari Challenge and the GT Cup, or are the rules and the cars just so vastly different?
ANDY LALLY: Yeah, they are vastly different. We learned just about as much from watching F1 as we would Ferrari Challenge, which is nothing from either one of them. We'll learn a little bit where the accidents are going to maybe happen, but other than that, as far as setup for our cars, no, they're just so far apart.