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Dario Franchitti

Early Days
My interest in racing came from my Dad, I got my love of cars from him and I would go to Ingliston with him to watch him race. Funnily enough I was only chatting with him the other day about a car he used to own back in 1976 and his main memory of it was how lucky it was that when he had an accident in it, it was misfiring as usual, otherwise it would have been a much bigger accident!

My earliest memories of going with him were sitting in this great scaffolding grandstand
. I can still picture exactly where I would sit, there are still certain sounds or smells that as soon as I’m exposed to them, they take me right back there in an instant. I’d have a hot dog and sit there for hours watching. The crazy saloons were my favourite, like Doug Nevin’s Beetle that had a formula 5000 engine & Walter Robertson’s VW with a 3litre Cosworth Ford DFV engine in the back. You could sit and watch year old Formula 1 cars racing round Ingliston. I remember one of the guys put one over the barriers and when it was recovered and arrived on the back of a truck, it was the first time I’d seen a car in kit form!


That is where my love of racing came from, the passion I have, the passion my wee brother Marino and my nephew have,
it all comes from my Grandfather and my Dad.


First time on a full circuit

I started out competing in Karting. The first time I drove on a full race circuit though was at
Knockhill. It was towards the end of the year and was pretty cold and very wet! I’d been driving on the roads since June that year.David Leslie Snr was there and I think David Jnr may have been there too. I drove his Formula Ford and as it was someone else’s car, I was determined not to make any mistakes. What stands out from that experience was the feeling of the cold air coming up the main straight, but the sensation of speed was totally different. Racing karts on those short circuits, their level of grip and performance is something else. You probably don’t ever get close to the feeling of speed again till you reach Formula 1 or Indycars and the Formula Ford kind of felt slow, though I have to say, the first time I ran in my Formula Vauxhall Junior at Thurxton and hit 145mph it felt properly quick!!


First race win

It was at
Thruxton I won my first race on a full circuit. It was 1991. I’d led my first race in Formula Vauxhall Junior at Silverstone but the car developed an electrical fault and broke down. I still remember that feeling of disappointment. It was a twelve race series and at the start of the second half of the season I clinched my first race victory. I made a big move to get into the lead of that race and winning it really started the ball rolling. I went on to win the championship and that caught the attention of Paul Stewart Racing, who went on to take me to the next level.


Indy Career Highlights


There are so many memories and feelings that are still so fresh. My first victory in America was special. That feeling of pulling away from the rest of the field, knowing the end of the race was coming, approaching the final corner and heading up the steep hill towards the line, the feeling was really special. Over the previous six months we’d pretty much found every possible way to lose a race but now we’d finally won one!

Again it was the catalyst to getting momentum and starting the ball rolling on my career over there. I won the following race too.


The feelings of winning the Indy500 are so strong. Each of the three races I won were all very different. In 2007 the rain came and I thought the race was over, but then the race restarted hours later. Whilst leading, the rain came back
, I was behind the safety car and my car was aquaplaning, but I realised if I could just get the car over the finish line, I would win the Indy 500. That was an incredible day, the highs and lows of sport were all experienced. When the race was first stopped I thought it was all over. When it re-started I had a flat tyre and was at the back of the field and had to drive all the way through to the front of the field then the lottery of when the rain was going to come started.


2009 was disappointing when we messed up the final pit stop but then 2010
I had an unbelievably fast car that day. I could just pull away from the field. I bumped the wall at one point during the race, I maybe got a wee bit carried away. Towards the end I had to save fuel, which brings with it feelings of utter helplessness. I could have driven away from the field so easily as the car was that fast, but I had to make a certain fuel number to make it to the end of the race. I was having to complete laps at 20mph or even more, slower than the car was capable of. With two and a half laps to complete, the fuel light came on, which meant I had fuel for one and a half. You just hope you make it, it is an awful feeling. We did, and cruised into pit lane with absolutely no fuel left and a split oil cooler that had covered the back of the car in oil!


It was A.J.
Foyt who told me that you sometimes lose races you should have easily won but then you also win races you never should have and they equal themselves out eventually.


2012 I found myself on lap 20 sitting facing backwards in pit lane having been spun round and thinking to myself the race was over, but my team did a great job. stayed calm and changed the front wing. My strategist on the radio, Barry, said
it’s early in the race, only 30 laps in, you can still win this! The feeling then was ‘okay, I’ll just go as hard as I can and see what happens, if I win it I win it and if not, well let’s just give it a go. Thirty laps later I was back in the lead and I thought okay I’ve got a chance now!


That race was so dramatic,
Takumo Sato made a move down the inside on the last lap, our cars touched and I was sideways at one point and lost momentum. My spotter Scott was in my ear saying "keep going, keep going"! I was busy downshifting, trying to get the car back into the RPM range, Scott Dixon was bearing down on me and after I crossed the line to take my third Indy 500 win, my legs were still shaking ten minutes after I got out of the car from all the adrenalin

Whilst there is a big release of tension and emotion on crossing the line, the victories don’t always fully sink in there and then. Each time I won, it would be heading along the back straight after crossing the line I’d have a wee moment to myself. But sometimes it wouldn’t be until months later that it really hit home I’d won.


One time several months after the Indy 500 I was riding a motorbike across the outback in Australia. I’d just come off the Flinders Range when it hit me and I just burst out laughing on my own, it’s quite bizarre and very funny how it can just suddenly hit home what you’ve achieved!


Dario
Franchitti

Follow on Twitter @DarioFranchitti

Dario is supporting Sporting Memories Network. Find out more here



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Dario Franchitti is supporting Sporting Memories Network Dario Franchitti is supporting Sporting Memories Network