eFormulaCarNews.com Champion Interview with Petri Suvanto
 January 24, 2012| 
  • Series News
USF2000-news

Courtesy eFormulaCarNews.com


Petri Survanto's first foray into junior formula car action in North American proved to be a championship-winning affair, as the talented young racer captured the Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship powered by Mazda title in fine fashion. The Finnish native recently talked with eFormulaCarNews.com about his title-winning season and what the future holds.


EFORMULACARNEWS.COM:

Let’s start things off by looking back at the year you had. Being as you entered the season as both a Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship powered by Mazda rookie and a newcomer to North American formula car competition, what were your goals before the first green flag waved? Did you feel any pressure to win the series title, given you were partnering with Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, a team that has won multiple pro F2000 championships?


PETRI SUVANTO:

After taking a closer look at the entry list, I knew that it was going to be tough season. My family made big sacrifices in order to give me this chance, and we knew that this would be turning point of my career. I would have to perform or that might be it. Having said that, it's not hard to guess that my goal was to win the championship.


When it comes to the team, I admit, their success in the past did create some extra pressure, but to tell the truth, I’ve never made a big deal of expectations from outside, because they don’t really make a difference. What really matters is what I expect of myself.


EFCN:

Not only did you win the series title, but you captured the Rookie of the Year award with five victories, 11 podium finishes, and two pole positions. What do you think was the key to this success?


SUVANTO:

I like to believe it was the will to win. Every single person in the team wanted to do things better than everybody else and expected nothing less than first position in every session. This resulted in consistency, which is the key with this kind of points system. Through the year we had no technical problems nor crashes. I'd like to thank Dominic and Nicholas Cape, my mechanic William, and the rest of the crew for flawless work, but also for being there for me all year long. We truly were a big family.


EFCN:

As we all know, winning a title takes a lot of hard work. Does one race or battle standout in your mind? Who was you biggest adversary, and what track challenged you the most?


SUVANTO:

One battle does come to my mind; it was in race two of the St. Petersburg Grand Prix. After a safety car period, there was a restart and I got a bad run going into the first corner and it forced me to defend my line, having Spencer (Pigot) right on my gearbox. I ended up wide in the exit and Spencer was able to get a better exit, and now we were going into the second corner side by side. I knew that it is impossible for two cars to go through the corner without a crash, but I decided to keep my foot down and it worked out. It might not seem significant, but when I look back into the season, this single moment stands out for various reasons. Keeping the lead there was the key for the race win, which gave me the championship lead going into the long break. 


It's hard to pick the most challenging track, but it's easy to pick the most challenging race weekend...Baltimore! The last race weekend of the whole year that would decide the outcome of the year, and we only were able to do few laps of practice before going straight into the first race on a track that nobody had seen. It's interesting to enter a race barely knowing where the turns are. 


EFCN:

Being as the Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship powered by Mazda is a development/feeder type championship, what do you think you learned this season that will make you a better driver and will help you prepare for your next racing challenge?


SUVANTO:

I grew up a lot, not just as a driver, but also as a person over the season.


EFCN:

For drivers looking at racing in the USF2000 series next year, what would you say are the benefits of the series, and how would you recommend they prepare for the upcoming season, so they can make the most of the opportunity?


SUVANTO:

The series is a perfect training ground for all young drivers like me to learn the secrets of road course, street course and oval racing. At the same time, it gives you a taste of what is required from a professional race car driver when you take your helmet off. When you have this, and you add the fact that you get to showcase your talent in front of the most important people in the sport – there is not much more you can ask from a development series. The fact is that the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system is still evolving and I am very excited to see where USF2000, Star Mazda and Indy Lights are going in future.


My tip is to remember to have fun. Ask any older driver and they’ll tell you that the years in junior categories like USF2000 were some of the best in their lives. It is very easy to forget that we don’t do this just to win, but also to have fun. 


EFCN:

Before we look at the future, tell us what it means to you to win the 2011 USF2000 National Championship title?


SUVANTO:

It means a lot to me! Looking at the list of the champions in the past makes me very proud. It was an honor to be part of such a great year of racing. Most importantly, it’s taking me one step closer to my dream of becoming IndyCar champion one day.


EFCN:

Thanks to the Mazda Road to Indy program, you will be competing in the 2012 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear. You've signed with the reigning Team champion Team Pelfrey. How did things come together?


SUVANTO:

Team Pelfrey showed interest in me after the first few weekends of this season. We were in talks throughout the season, and I felt we shared a similar mindset and goals. When I agreed to race with them none of the other teams had even contacted me. It’s a very rare opportunity for a race car driver to enter the off-season knowing exactly what your plans are for the next season, and I’m very happy everything came together so smoothly. I’m extremely thankful to Dale Pelfrey and the rest of Team Pelfrey for giving me the opportunity to be part of a team so professional and motivated. I have a feeling we are going to have a fun season together!


EFCN:

You had the chance to test a Star Mazda car via the Mazda Road to Indy Chris Griffis Memorial Test and some private testing. How has the transition to the Star Mazda car been?


SUVANTO:

The transition has been a fun challenge. I wasn’t expecting to be up to speed right away, and this is exactly why I'm so glad everything came together fast and I have all winter to learn. The only thing that causes small problems is that I’m currently doing my six month army service in Finland. I might not get as much testing as it would be possible, but this is something I have to live with. It’s mandatory for all Finnish men, so it is better to get it done now.


EFCN:

Being as you will be racing for a multiple Star Mazda Championship race winner, what are your goals as a Mazda Road to Indy scholarship driver in 2012?


SUVANTO:

2012 is all about learning, learning and learning. Star Mazda has so many new elements to learn and I know it’s a big challenge, but what is life without challenges anyway?. As I said earlier, I have extremely high expectations of myself and I’m pretty sure that when it’s time of the first race weekend of 2012 I want nothing less than a win. One thing is for sure, I’m with a team that can deliver me the package to win. I'm very excited to enter this new chapter of my life!


FAST FACTS

When did you start racing? I starting racing karts when I four
How would you describe your driving style? Calm and versatile
Favorite track? Silverstone Circuit and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
Favorite driver? Mika Häkkinen and Ayrton Senna
Favorite non-racing website? NHL.com
Favorite movie? The Godfather trilogy or Apocalypse Now
Favorite music group? The Beatles, Dire Straits or Mos Def
Favorite food? Italian
If you weren’t racing cars what would you be doing? I'm a very competitive person by nature, so I'd probably be pursuing another dream.
Current road car? VW GTI
Dream road car? A Mazda, of course. Well, I wouldn’t mind having a Lamborghini Miura, (the first ever supercar) to drive during the weekends.
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