USF2000/2015: Exclusive Nikita Lastochkin Q&A

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Our twitter followers are well aware of iberianmph.com’s fast pair of hands (although we can tweet with just one hand!) and how often these mischievous hands tweet about Mazda Road to Indy stars and cars.

So today we decided to catch up with Team Pelfrey’s Russian driver Nikita Lastochkin, currently the only Russian driver on the MRTI circuit, for an exclusive interview which you can read below.

Photo courtesy of Nikita’s Instagram. Make sure you check out his official website and follow him on social media – it’s a lot of fun!

Q: Tell us a little bit about your racing heroes or maybe a driver that inspires you, who would you call your role model in the racing world? In case you got no heroes (since all racing drivers are driven by desire to be the best), how would you describe your own style and what’s unique about it?

Nikita Lastochkin: I can’t say that I have any sort of a hero or a role model in the racing world. There are a lot of great drivers out there, many with their own traits and attributes that make them stand out, but at the end of the day it is hard work and talent what got them there. If anything that is how I like to go about my racing career – focussing on getting the most out of myself both in and out of the car.

Q: You’re obviously moving into the USF2000 series in 2015, what are your first impressions of the MRTI world? Any important lessons learned from the 2015 Winterfest?

NL: It’s hard to say what the paddock is going to be like when we will be sharing it with IndyCar, since they obviously weren’t there this time. Overall, all steps of the ladder should represent the most competitive junior open-wheel series in America and there is definitely great number of very talented drivers. Especially with new Lights car (IndyLights Dallara IL-15) it brought a lot of attention from overseas. Carlin decided to come over and brought Ed Jones and Max Chilton with them, which is definitely a big conversation topic around the paddock right now. Winterfest for me was a big learning experience overall, especially coming into my first downforce car with just a few test days prior to the races. Right now most of the second year drivers have a substantial advantage on all the rookies, but it will be interesting to see how soon that gap will close. As the conditions were quite freezing, especially at the second event, the obvious was their ability to get the tires up to temp quicker and more confident in the early stages of the races.

Q: With USF2000 being a one-make formula, how can a combination of a driver/team make a difference? They say the team should really listen to the driver to have any chance of success? How true is that in your opinion?

NL: Well, in my case it is a rookie team with a set of 4 rookie drivers, so it is going to be crucial for everyone to communicate well in order to succeed. Overall, the car is a Van Diemen chassis that has been around for well over a decade, but still there is a decent amount of changes that could be done to get the most out of the package. Some teams in the series has been quite successful over that past few years, and this year with experienced drivers they could have an upper hand at least at the start of the season. However, Team Pelfrey have been very successful in both F1600 and Pro Mazda championships. They are a great group of people that I have full confidence in.

Q: Every driver’s helmet is his/her identity card in a way, tell us about your helmet design: the colours, etc., what was the idea behind your helmet design?

NL: The inspiration for my helmet design came from my last name, which in Russian stands for martlet/swallow kind of bird. I quite like the way it came out and would like to keep the birds as a sort of a trademark for any future helmets.

Q: What are your favourite tracks on the calendar? They all sound like a lot of fun but are you really looking forward to the challenge of racing at any particular circuit?

NL: The calendar is actually quite nice, with very good racetracks around the country. My personal favorite has to be Laguna Seca, at least from all the tracks I have been to so far. Not only it features some absolutely incredible elevation changes that I love in a racetrack, but it is also a place where my racing career started after attending Skip Barber school event there. Street races in St. Petersburg and Toronto is something I definitely look forward to, having heard so much about how tricky that could be with no run-off areas. There is also an oval race on the calendar, which is definitely going to be something interesting, at least for the drivers.

Q: USA is more of a NASCAR territory these days, have you felt tempted to switch to that path instead of single seater racing? Southern accent and stock cars – does that attract you?

NL: Yes, it is definitely a very popular kind of racing here in the States. Even though I would love to drive a stock car one day, preferably on a road course as a test day where they would let me do burnouts and power slides for fun, NASCAR does not appeal to me that much. Who knows, maybe after my first oval race in USF2000 I will decide to never turn right again. If anything rally would be something that I can see myself doing if I had a chance. I went to a rally school/camp in New Hampshire and it was quite an unforgettable experience.

Q: Motor racing is all about people and their stories, challenges, etc., do you have any funny or interesting stories from life on the road to share with us?

NL: Motorsport is definitely full of characters, stories and people who are united by their passion and that what makes being a part of this sport so great, no matter if you are behind the wheel or not. Maybe not the most fun story, but one that I will remember for sure happend on the east coast. Sometime in the break between events last year I went to the beach with a few of my driver buddies. We all almost drowned in this extremely strong rip current that caught us by surprise, with some of my friends had to be carried to shore by lifeguards. I had never been in a rip current before, but now I know those warning signs on the beach mean business!

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