Notes & Quotes: Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio
Roberto Garcia joined AJ Foyt Racing in 2022 as a performance engineer and became the Race Engineer on the No. 55 Sexton Properties Chevrolet driven by rookie Benjamin Pedersen in 2023. Garcia has worked well with Pedersen who posted his best qualifying result (10th) at Road America. Possessing a great sense of humor, Garcia has an extensive career in international motorsports; this stint is his second one in the NTT INDYCAR Series. We asked hm a few questions...
When and where were you born?
RG: "On a lovely 21st February of 1977, I was born in Orihuela, Alicante, Spain. Orihuela is a nice place by the Mediterranean Sea where you can spend some time at the beach or in the mountains."
Where do you live now?
RG: "I live in the 'Racing Capital of the World', so… Speedway, Indiana."
RG: "My wife is Leonor, we married in 2014. We met in Italy in 2008 and she is a very lovely
companion. Our daughter Belen (age 3) is the best thing ever! Mom: She is in heaven. She was great. While we were winning in 2014 Toronto IndyCar race I got the sad news that Mom got cancer. Within a year she was gone. You can fix understeer or oversteer, we can’t fix humans. Dad: He taught me all I know about cars. Great man. Happy to see him at the 107th Indy 500 Race. Sisters: Have two sisters, Helena and Josefina. They teach at school. Great sisters. They only care if I win races!"
RG: "Right now, a midnight street cat, meow! In the past, some cats and dogs. My childhood pet was 'Johnny,' a wolf dog named after Johnny Cash by my father."
Where did you go to university and what is your specific engineering degree?
RG: "Cartagena Polytechnic University and Porto Engineering University, in Mechanical Engineering."
How did you become interested in motorsports?
RG: "I blame my father. My parents, Francisco and Josefina, decided to locate their house above a car workshop. So, I spent my childhood between nuts, bolts, and cars. As a child, it was more interesting to work at the garage with my father than at school, so every day after school I dropped my books and headed to the shop. My father was an airplane mechanic that didn’t want to fly, so he decided to switch to being a car mechanic. On top of that he had a go kart which he raced up until I was 4 years old. So yes… maybe my father’s fault."
What was the first race you attended?
RG: "The first race I remember was a karting race in 1980. Still remember my father being upset that he finished second most of the time. The family car was a Renault 6 (French Car). Mom and Dad would be in the front seat, and they would fold the back seat and put the kart inside the car. That is how my father went racing, very simple. The first race for professional motorsports was the 1997 Jerez F1 European Grand Prix. The top three qualifying drivers did the same lap time and there was the Schumacher-Villeneuve clash."
Have you ever raced cars yourself?
RG: "Yes, I did some karting and Formula Ford. It all started when I was 12 years old and committed to carry on at my father’s garage. Then on one day in summer he told me – 'If you perform at high school and finish your studies, I will get you a go-kart and we’ll go racing,' so the bet was on and I went all the way to become an engineer. We didn’t have a great budget but I enjoyed it and learned a lot doing 2-Stroke air-cooled karting from 1989 to 1995. Then in 1996, my father brought a Van Diemen Formula Ford to the shop. We did a couple of tests… but Mom said, “stop now” and that’s when I went to University. In 2018, I restored my old kart and I go have some fun whenever I can. Now I look forward to restoring my Formula Ford Merlyn MK17 and wheeling it around."
When did you start your career as an engineer in racing?
RG: "In 2003, I moved from Spain to Switzerland for my first job. The job interview was fun: 'Do you know how to put together the suspension of this Formula Renault?' I guess I did it right! They gave me the job. I decided to start as a mechanic; I think that to be a decent engineer, you should know your car first. I spent three years as a mechanic; then I was a data guy before I got the chance to engineer the car in 2006."
Garcia's first job interview was to put together a suspension on a race car--he was hired!
Please list the series in which you worked.
RG: "World Series Renault – FR 2.0 + 3.5 V6 – Jenzer Motorosport – Mechanic – Data – Race Engineer.
World Series Renault – FR 3.5 V6 – GD Racing / RC Motorsport – Race Engineer
Le Mans Series – LMP2 Oreca Judd – Race Performance – Race Engineer
IndyCar – Dallara DW12 – Lotus – Chevy – Dragon Racing – Performance Engineer
IndyCar – Dallara DW12 – Lotus – Chevy – KV Racing – Performance Engineer
Formula 1 – Manor Ferrari – Mercedes – Manor Racing – Performance Engineer
FIA WEC – LMP2 Oreca Gibson – Manor Racing – Race Engineer
FIA WEC – LMP2 Oreca Gibson – Intereuropol – Race Engineer
FIA WEC - IMSA – LMP2 Oreca Gibson – High Class Racing – Race Engineer
What are your most significant memories to date?
RG: "I’ve just been a happy boy that has achieved his dreams. More specifically, working the 24h Le Mans, Indy 500, F1 Monaco and Macau. Also...
2006 Formula Renault with Dani Clos. Won 13 straight races and championship.
2010 24h Le Mans on a Radical SR9 B. 324 Laps. We were two people at the shop - finished P7.
2012 – Visit Ayrton Senna grave at Morumby.
2013 – 2014 IndyCar Sebastien Bourdais won pole at Toronto and Mid-Ohio. Won at Toronto.
2014 Got Married!
2016 Scored 1 point in Formula 1. Yes, 1 point! Finished P10 in Austria.
2018 Asian Le Mans Series Champion. Cheapest ever 24h entry; with 1 hour to go we fixed a broken bumper with six wood screws and a roll of tape.
2020 My daughter Belen!
2021 24h Daytona.
2023 Indy 500 Rookie and fastest lap ever done by a Rookie, well done Benjamin and AJ Foyt Racing!"
Garcia (second from left) poses with his team after Benjamin Pedersen qualified for the Indy 500. Pedersen's four-lap average of 232.739mph earned him the Fastest Rookie award. Pedersen also set the fastest single lap record (233.297mph) for a rookie.
How did you come to work for AJ Foyt Racing?
RG: "In the Fall of 2021 Warren Wilson asked if I wanted to take a new challenge and come to AJ Foyt Racing. I took the challenge and here I am. I am very happy to work for AJ Foyt Racing - we are a small group of people who never stop pushing forward. Every day you learn something new, every day there is a new challenge on the table. And AJ Foyt is a legend. True champions are different. Now, we have a big push forward with Mike Cannon as technical director."
Is this your first time working in America?
RG: "I worked for Dragon Racing and KV Racing from 2012 to 2015. Always with Seb Bourdais, it was fun."
Garcia (without a hat) poses with his team after Sebastien Bourdais won the pole. They'd go on to win the race too. (Motorsport.com Photo)
What do you enjoy most about working and living in America?
RG: "What I like the most about working in the USA is the fact that if you deliver at work, then you have a place in the industry. About living, I think the U.S. is a great country. Much bigger than Spain with a huge variety of food, landscapes, and weather changes."
What are the biggest challenges of working in the INDYCAR Series?
RG: "The same challenges as in other top series, Formula 1 or the 24h Le Mans. Every race weekend
there is a qualifying and race classification which tells you where you stand as a team and how you are making steps forward. On the personal side, family takes a big punch as we spend so much time traveling and working." (Pictured are Roberto, Leonor and their daughter Belen).
What do you enjoy most about working in the INDYCAR Series?
RG: "There are four types of tracks: Speedways, Short Ovals, Road Courses and Street Courses, what a mix! It is fun but at the same time you need to work in four different directions. Then you have the drivers. IndyCar has very experienced drivers together with rookies, another mix! This year we have Benjamin Pedersen in car No. 55, we face and share the defeats and progress together. We go step by step, and we take on the challenge. Then you have the teams. IndyCar holds a great variety of teams budget-wise. We all know budget means people and resources. We don’t fear other teams and deliver on track in the most professional way we can."
What interests do you have outside of racing?
RG: "My down-time pleasures are karting, traveling, cooking and cinema. I want to go to Antarctica…wait that was when I was single. But these days I love to travel with Leonor and Belen to see how nice the world is. I do teach at ISEP Motorsport Academy (Portugal) and Universita di Pavia (Italy). It is a boost to help young students to understand motorsport before they hit the pit lane. Fun time at my father shop restoring his/my cars. There are 72 cars, all unfinished! Help Karting Ceuti (Spain) with data checks and driving coach to their karting drivers."
SANTINO FERRUCCI spent his weekend off by treating his fiancée Renay Moore to a "spa weekend" in Boca Raton, Fla. to celebrate her birthday. Betrothed last year, the couple are planning to wed in January.
What do you like about Mid-Ohio?
SF: "I have raced at Mid-Ohio a lot growing up in FF2000 and have done well here in the past--even in IndyCar with my best start being P2. It's a really well-flowing track and even more fun in the rain."
M-O is considered a technical course—what makes it so challenging?
SF: "I think all of the tracks are considered technical today. Mid-Ohio is just hard because there isn’t any room for error. There is no run off similar to Road America and it's still a fast track." In 2021, you came from 22nd to finish ninth. What is the key to getting around that course?
SF: "I think we just had a stellar fuel strategy as you can run the race in different ways--whichever suits the driver and car combo best. I think if we have a good car, we should be competitive." We are at the halfway point of the season, if you were doing a mid-season report, what grade would you give yourself and why?
SF: "Other than Indy, we have probably had some of the worst luck I’ve ever seen. I think we are starting to look strong finally on the road courses, so it's difficult to rate or grade where we are at the moment." Ferrucci Fast Facts: Age 25...Born in Woodbury, CT...Lives in Dallas, Texas...Began racing karts at age 5, moved to cars in 2013...Competed in Formula 2000, British Formula 3, GP3 finishing third at Spa Francorchamps as a rookie, was development driver for Haas F1 team for three years (2016-2018), moved to Formula 2 in 2018...made his INDYCAR debut in Detroit in 2018...moved to NTT INDYCAR Series fulltime in 2019 finishing 13th in standings for Dale Coyne and won Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year after finishing seventh...13th in standings again with fourth place finish in the 500...drove part-time in 2021-22 but maintained top-10 streak in Indy 500 with finishes of sixth (RLL Racing) and 10th (Dreyer Reinbold Racing)...Scored best finish to date this year with his 3rd place finish in the Indianapolis 500...Competed part-time in NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2021-22.
BENJAMIN PEDERSEN spent his weekend off playing golf and surfing. Surfing in Indiana? He explained, "Behind a surf boat in the Geist Reservoir." Pedersen will be making his ninth start in the NTT INDYCAR Series.
What do you like about Mid-Ohio?
BP: "I love how Mid-Ohio is such a technical track and how much the track changes throughout the race weekend, even from the morning to the afternoon. Mid-Ohio is overall one of the most enjoyable tracks to drive, and you can make a big difference as a driver through your performance. This track is also very familiar to many of us, as we have been racing here for years through the various ladder systems that compete at Mid-Ohio. So, it's nice to have had so much experience here throughout my career."
Pedersen (car 24) in action at Mid-Ohio last year.
Mid-Ohio is considered a technical course—what makes it so challenging?
BP: "The reason it's considered a technical track is that there are so many little details throughout the track; for example, the slightest difference -- like a foot in your driving line -- can make a big difference in your lap. Another aspect is being able to adapt to the changing grip level each time out, because that will make a big difference."
What do you think is the key to getting around that course?
BP: "The key to getting around Mid-Ohio is where you set yourself up during qualifying. It's hard to pass there, so setting a solid qualifying run and ensuring yourself a starting position close to the front is very important. From there, all you can do is maintain your position and gain as many spots as possible during the race."
We are at the halfway point of the season. If you were doing a mid-season report, what grade would you give yourself and why?
BP: "I would give myself an A. The entire team has been pushing and has been flat out since the season began. From where we started with the car to where we are now shows how much effort we are all putting into this together. We just had our best qualifying run at Road America, qualifying 10th, but also we were able to put both cars in the Top-12 during qualifying which hasn't happened in many years. So that was a great boost and what we needed for our momentum to continue our growth. We had an incredible month of May, setting the fastest qualifying lap for a rookie and winning Rookie of the Year in the Indianapolis 500. So overall, I am very happy with my performance and growth and the progress we have made as a team."
Pedersen Fast Facts: Age 24...Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, moved to Seattle at age 4 and is now living in Indianapolis...Began racing karts at a young age and has competed and won races in the INDY NXT by Firestone Series, British Formula 3, FR Americas Championship, F4 US Championship...Earned Rookie of the Year award in the Indianapolis 500 after setting a record for the fastest qualifying lap by a rookie (233.297mph). Enjoys golf, pickleball, skiing, soccer, snowmobiling, mountain biking, dirt biking.
Past Performance at Mid-Ohio: Santino Ferrucci's best finish at Mid-Ohio is ninth (2021 for RLL Racing) and his best start is second (2020 for Dale Coyne with Vasser-Sullivan Racing). In the INDY NXT by Firestone Series, Benjamin Pedersen's best start is third (Race 4 in 2021 and sole start in 2022) and his best finish is sixth in 2022. The Foyt team’s best start is 7th and best finish is 4th -- both with Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2009. In the CART Series (1987-1995), the team’s best start was 12th (1988-A.J. Foyt, age 53) and best finish was 2nd (1993-Robby Gordon, age 24).
Last Race: At Road America, both drivers advanced out of the first round of qualifying for the first time this year. Ferrucci started 11th and finished 16th. Pedersen started 10th and finished 21st.
The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio will be broadcast on Sunday on the USA Network starting at 1:30 pm ET. The race will be streamed live on Peacock and Indycarlive.com and broadcast on Sirius-XM as well as the INDYCAR Radio Network. The Friday and Saturday practice sessions plus qualifying will be streamed live on Peacock and indycarlive.com and broadcast on Sirius-XM and the INDYCAR Radio Network.