What follows is the final of four interviews we did during the Generac 500 at Road America. Throughout the four interviews you will find some common and some unique questions allowing you to compare and contrast the drivers in the ALMS LMP1 and LMP2 classes.
Mecca of Speed: Racing in LMP1 you are in a continual uphill battle against the Audi. Where do you look for opportunities to close the gap between your team and the Audi team?
Michael Lewis: From an outright speed standpoint let’s face it; there are not many people in the world who have the ability to close the gap. Obviously Audi is a tremendous force here so we have to be dependable and reliable. We put together a very reliable car and are usually running around at the end.
If we run a clean race, have solid pit stops, play the mileage game, and a couple of guys have problems, we capitalize.
As far as outright competition I would like to say that we can compete, but it’s just not possible. We try and do all the little things and hope that things fall into place at the end of the race.
Mecca of Speed: Do you find your car works better on longer circuits, shorter circuits or do the setup adjustments allow it to run well regardless of the track layout?
Michael Lewis: It’s a European car and therefore it’s designed for European circuits which are much more sweeping and open with higher speed, making the flow very smooth. The types of tracks the car is very acclimated to are few and far in-between. Luckily, Road America is one of them along with Mosport and Road Atlanta.
Some of the tight twisty street circuits we really struggle. A place like Road America is where it’s really fun to drive this car as you can really stretch its legs and have a good time.
Mecca of Speed: Do you have plans to return to Le Mans in 2009 or will you be staying focused on the ALMS?
Michael Lewis: We took the time out this year to do the 24 hours at Le Mans, we had a good time and would like to do it again. We are always focused on going faster here as it helps us go faster over there.
To race at Le Mans is a magical experience and we would love to do it again. It’s a great racetrack with a rich history and the atmosphere is electric.
Mecca of Speed: Le Mans is one of the last true street courses with the trees running up almost to the edge of the track. What is it like running through the night?
Michael Lewis: I got to run it at night, in the rain. Running at 200 mph down Mulsanne makes you wonder if you have made the right decisions in life to put yourself in that position.
At the end of the day it’s all great. I could do without the rain, but driving at night was great. During the day you experience what a long course it is and this history in the names of all the corners, it was all positive.
Mecca of Speed: What are the long-term plans for this team? Is it strictly with the ALMS or do you have any desire to expand into other series such as IndyCar or NASCAR?
Michael Lewis: I don’t have any real NASCAR aspirations. It’s a great series but it’s so hard for a part-time guy to break in, even a guy like Boris Said who has been working at it really hard to make it in the series. You see him sitting down even after all the time and money to get out to the track; he doesn’t even get a shot to get in the race.
As far as the ALMS, we are very happy here. We think it’s the finest road racing in the world when you look at the purity of the cars and teams involved in the series. We like it here and will continue to try and build the team.
Mecca of Speed: The ALMS is a very fan friendly series. For any fans new to the ALMS when would you recommend the best times would be to approach a driver for an autograph or a few words?
Michael Lewis: Most drives in this series are very approachable. As you said, the ALMS is a very fan friendly series. We are out among the fans. People are allowed back with us. Right before we get into the car we generally need to be by ourselves.
Other then that I think most of the guys out here are fine taking care of the fans wherever and whenever.
Mecca of Speed: What streetcar do you have a desire to own, new or old?
Michael Lewis: I’m not much of an old car guy. I have a lot of respect for the history but I’m not really nostalgic. I’m always looking to the next racecar, the faster one.
If I could have a streetcar, maybe something in the Ferrari line. Maybe a Dino or a Daytona. Something in that line from back in the day, or. Back then there was a hint of danger as well as being a tremendous machine. If you made a mistake with one of those cars you had consequences back in the 60s and 70s.
Mecca of Speed: From a racers perspective, what can a street driver work on to become better behind the wheel?
Michael Lewis: I think discipline. For example, lane discipline on the freeway when passing. They are so much better on this over in Europe as they have more people to get down fewer roads. Be conscious of the passing lanes and being where you should in respect to the traffic around you.
Mecca of Speed: Outside of racing, what do you like to do to unwind?
Michael Lewis: This is where I unwind. I have a company I run during the week. I love to travel, which you do with racing. I’ve been to every place now the series goes which is nice.
I’m a bit of a military historian/history buff so when we were over for Le Mans I went down to the Normandy beach.
Other then that I’m just like everyone else, movies and books.
Mecca of Speed: Thank you for the insight today.
Michael Lewis: No problem, nice to meet you.
Content credit Michael Lewis and John Vatne. Photo credit Scott Rohloff and John Vatne.