From guitars to race cars Mikhail Aleshin enjoys the power chords you feel in the square of your chest.
Mecca of Speed: Welcome back to Road America, you had a few traveling challenges coming back from France, was it a matter of missing details on your visa?
Mikhail Aleshin: I needed to do one more visa to get back in and it just took more time that we expected.
Mecca of Speed: How did your first session in the car feel today, particular with the windy conditions?
Mikhail Aleshin: You can feel the wind a bit, but it’s the same for everyone. It definitely makes our job a little more difficult. This morning we had some technical issues that we are trying to solve but the team is doing a very good job. They always solve our problems, it’s a technical sport and sometimes it takes a little extra work to sort things out.
Mecca of Speed: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is a two-car team so there is twice the data, do you and James Hinchcliffe have a similar driving style so the combined data speeds the set-up of the car?
Mikhail Aleshin: I would say that my driving style is a little more aggressive, but overall similar.
Mecca of Speed: When setting up your car for Road America and the long straights do you like the car a little looser with a bit of over steer to capitalize on the speed, or a touch of under steer to have the car respond to where you point it?
Mikhail Aleshin: The balance will depend on the conditions, but I prefer a little over steer to make the car as quickly as possible to carry the speed on the straights.
Mecca of Speed: You started your career in Russia, how would you describe the racing and culture?
Mikhail Aleshin: When I started racing the culture was very poor, financially. Obviously we had our championships in the USSR in open wheel, GTs and go karts. When I was nine I started racing in go karts and the financial situation in the country was not the best. It was difficult, but then I moved to Europe to compete in some go kart championships. That is how I got my start.
Mecca of Speed: So it was in Europe where you starting climbing through the feeder series.
Mikhail Aleshin: I did every open wheel series I could in Europe all the way up to Formula One testing. Then I decided I needed to try something else and SMP Racing is the Russian company that supports Russian drivers. Together with them we decided to try Indycar.
We met Sam (Schmidt) and tested at Sebring. The test went well and Sam offered us a contract. That is how I got started in Indycar.
Mecca of Speed: Returning from racing at Le Mans can you describe what the traffic was like being in a P2 car and the challenge of going deeper into the corners compared to the P1 cars which were backing over before the corner to recharge the hybrid systems?
Mikhail Aleshin: It’s two different way to approach racing, hybrid and non-hybrid systems.
Everyone seems to like the fancy and glamorous technology and electric cars. I personally think all that type of technology doesn’t have to be involved in racing. Personally I’m a fan of a V-12 engine without any hybrids, just a pure V-12. It has proper torque and a good sound.
That is part of why spectators liked to come to races, especially F1. Look at what they did to that series. I think it disgusting and should not be in racing. It’s a different way to approach racing.
I think the fans in general are thinking the same way.
Mecca of Speed: I would agree that the technology is getting a bit out of hand when it takes almost two hours to warm up a P1 car before it even rolls out of the garage.
Mikhail Aleshin: A P1 car is a very, very difficult car. I love that the Indycar competition is much closer and I’m able to run with the cars up front. Indycars look more like Formula One, maybe a Formula One car if the series was simpler. The Formula One car is really crazy and high tech. The technology is great, but the fans can’t see it, they can’t see the maximum speeds or feel the sound pound against them as a car passes by on track. They are probably not happy about it.
In a race no one cares if the P2 car lap time is faster than a P1. When fans are at a race they care about what they can see and hear, what they feel during a race.
They need to come back on technology just a little bit, then they will then have a better show.
Mecca of Speed: The remainder of the season is an even mix of road courses, ovals and one street course. Are there any tracks coming up that you see as real opportunity’s to perform well?
Mikhail Aleshin: In Indycar, every track has opportunities to do well. Here, being at the right time in the right place, you do your job the best you can and hope for the best. I’m very lucky to be a part of this team because this is a team that you can always contend for a win with. For me to have this chance, I’m a very lucky guy.
Mecca of Speed: Is their any story behind your helmet livery that the average fan may not realize?
Mikhail Aleshin: Not really, there is a big star on the top that represents the start on top of the kremlin. It’s a sign of Moscow and my home.
Mecca of Speed: You are a guitarist, are you playing with any bands currently?
Mikhail Aleshin: Not during the season, but when I come back home in the off-season we will play. We use to play more in bars and clubs, all for fun.
Mecca of Speed: What do you like to play?
Mikhail Aleshin: We played a lot of covers, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Jimmy Hendrix, James Brown, all types of classic rock.
Mecca of Speed: Thank you for your time.
Mikhail Aleshin: Thank you so much.
Content credit Mikhail Aleshin and John Vatne. Photo credit John Vatne.