For young race drivers committed to lifting themselves up to the top of the professional motorsports pyramid, the path can be hard and strewn with potholes. For the sons of famous motorsports fathers, the growth process gains additional intensity, since carrying the burden of an important family name like Andretti, Mears or Unser can create unappreciated attention when trying to work through the myriad complexities of a early-stage racing career. However, in the case of Conor Daly, son of Derek Daly, there are no issues in the offing, since the Noblesville Indiana youngster already knows who he is, why he races, and what his ultimate goal is, which simply put, is to become the next American to win the FIA’s Formula One’s World Championship.
The Adrenalist caught up with Conor, after he returned to the US while completing his first, successful season as a part of the FIA GP3 Series, the initial developmental step toward his ultimate goal of becoming a professional driver at the top tier of all motorsports.
“Racing is by far the most intense adrenaline filled sport out there…,” Daly says. “There is really nothing like the feeling of 3+G’s on the body at well over 100 mph. If you ask people about the feeling of driving fast, I expect that most will agree that the experience is entirely unique, and the fact that I get to be part of the circus as a professional is a simply incredible opportunity. European open-wheel series’ are situated at the highest levels in motorsports, and are a lot more difficult than people think, whether the processes relate to physical, emotional or intellectual fitness.”
“When you’re on the limit in the racecar, and driving as hard as possible, you don’t think about anything else. I know a lot of guys who don’t blink when they’re on a qualifying lap. You have to be inch perfect when you’re pushing the car to its limits, because if you make a small mistake it could be a big disaster. There is no way people can understand the amount of effort it takes to keep the car on the limit, while getting the most out of the it without falling off the road. I, alongside other drivers, wish that there was some way to truly understand what we go through, but unfortunately its not possible.”
“In terms of performance strengths, I believe that my skills are driven by good racecraft, a sound technical ability and an ability to overtake. When I say racecraft, I mean the ability to make the right decisions and make up a lot of positions through strategic moves on track. I think very clearly during races, and it helps me make the right decisions to not take myself out of a race, or make the wrong move to take someone else out of the race. Technical ability is the ability to understand the car on every level. In this case, I need to be able to tell my engineers exactly what the car is doing every lap, so we can work at improving the car every time it’s in the pits.”
“During the season, I was referred to as the ‘best overtaker in GP3′ this year, after passing over 60+ cars in just 4 or 5 weekends. But on the other hand, I also tended to overdrive the car in qualifying, which caused me to start in the back sometimes. I also tended to push the car past its limits and lose time as well, which can be a big problem in Europe, because when you start 29th, its hard to win since the GP3 program is designed as a sprint format offering only a limited number of racing laps. During the season, whenever I started at the back, I could only gain positions up to P8 by the end of those weekends. But, on the other hand…” he said with a grin, “…I really enjoyed the races where I had to pass a load of cars.”
“As for why I race, I think that the experience of winning is one of the biggest reasons I do what I do. The amount of hard work and hours spent working on the cars, and the effort put in by all of the team members is staggering, and to be able to reward the team with a win is so incredibly satisfying. The fact that there are so many other drivers competing for the same prize, and its so competitive over there, that it just makes the potential of a win feel fantastic. On the other end of the spectrum, however, not winning a race this year was definitely disappointing. But, the year’s experience will certainly drive me to work harder next season. ”
It seems that Daly has his focus, commitment, and love of the sport in-hand and is clearly ready for the next racing challenge. So, when next year’s GP3 season rolls off in the Spring, look for name Conor Daly at the top of the standings, because it likely that his name will be worth remembering for a long time to come.
Conor Daly GP3 Season Highlights V6 from MotorVation on Vimeo.
Conor Daly wins Long Beach 2011 from MotorVation on Vimeo.