Opinions of experts

Opinions of experts

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Lukoil Racing Team: «Do not mix!»

The Lukoil Racing Team is, perhaps, the most famous and titled racing team in our country, successfully participating not only in Russian championships, but also in international races. We decided to talk about motor racing, and some myths associated with it, to the team’s pilot, eight-time champion of Russia in circuit and track racing and winner of Star Racing of the «Za Rulem» (Driving) magazine, Aleksei Dudukalo, and chief engineer of the racing team, Igor Arakelyan.

— Alex, what advice would you give to those who want to succeed in racing?

—  The most important thing in motor racing is to be able to think and constantly analyze the results of your performance, both successful and unsuccessful. It is important to learn to understand the real reasons you went fast or, on the contrary, slow. And do not blame everything on your car or something else. You can always find excuses, but they are not worth a twopence.

— It is considered that motor racing is a sport for the brave and courageous. Is that so?

— I would say that racing is first of all a kind of sport for the smart and prudent. And sometimes it's scary, but if everything goes according to plan and you control the situation and know what to do, you do not need to worry. And the notion of the brave and courageous is tenacious. Once on the Vorobyovy Hills, where I won the Honda Civic Cup race, a fellow street-racer came up to me. He congratulated me on my victory and said that I had done well, of course ... But another driver drove much cooler than me: his tires squealed on turns, and he hit a bump stop a couple of times – what a brave guy, racing at the limit! And the fact that everybody had the same cars, and that I drove much faster than the daredevil, did not impress my acquaintance. For him, the main thing was courage and visual effect, albeit without any result. In general, there are different points of view on car racing.

— They say that many racers allow themselves some alcohol in the evening before the start, and not just a hundred grams for relaxation?

— If you want to achieve some result, alcohol will not help. Extinguishing fear with vodka is pointless — you just need to learn to drive a car well and control the situation. Yes, this is a great task – both mental and physical, and requires time, effort and money. A glass cannot take its place. If, however, you are so scared before a race that you cannot do without half a liter, perhaps, it is better to look for the cause of this fear. Possibly a person is just not ready to participate in races, he does not have enough skill, and has to work harder instead of being «doped up». Or better to search for another occupation. At the beginning of my career, when I participated in cross-country racing, once we tried to compare the results, that is, before and after beer. Once at the start of a race, my car had a breakdown. The breakage was quickly removed, but «the ship had sailed» and I was left with a car in good order, but without any result. A beer company sponsored one of my fellow racers, and, consequently, he had plenty of beer. So, we decided after the race, when the track was free, each of us would drink a bottle and see whether it would be possible to show the best time of a circuit with such a doping. It did not help! Even after a bottle of beer you race very fast, but the time gets worse. There is no sense of this «courage»; you merely have a distorted perception of reality – you start to brake later and as a result miss the ideal trajectory, thus losing time. You see that there is no result and try by all means to drive faster.  Because of this you make more mistakes, the time is even worse, but the risk grows and a spiral effect ensues. It is good that we had the sense to realize how everything could have ended with at least a wrecked car so we stopped the experiment. This is the type of circus we created after just half a liter of beer.

— And do you celebrate after a race, especially in the case of a victory?

— If a race is in Moscow, then we simply go home. Frankly speaking, after the competition you feel so tired that you do not want anything. Still, it is hard work, requiring all of your strength. I do not need to distress since there is no stress left, and after the finish I am probably the most peaceful and relaxed person in the world. I drive as slow as a pensioner and have only one thought: to get home. If the race is in another city we can meet in a restaurant in the evening, because we stay in the same hotel anyway. But, without much fanaticism, just to spend our time, it is better than sitting in our rooms in front of the TV.

— Igor, how would you react if your car were driven by a drunk driver?

— No way, because this is simply impossible, and «would» does not apply! We are a professional team – this is how we earn our living and our salaries depend on our results. Who on earth drinks at work? We have a completely different task. Here's an example: when we participated in the Renault 2.0 Formula, we went to Dijon, France for tests. At dinner, the day before the tests, one of our pilots ordered a glass of wine. The manager of the Arden team, Alexander Trebitch, with whom we worked, sincerely wondered: having a glass of wine when tomorrow is the test? This is the attitude. It is not intolerance, but just that the utmost concentration is needed to show the maximum result, and nothing should interfere. It is a question not of tenths but of hundredths of seconds in terms of proportions, and they are incredibly hard to achieve.

— Does this mean that everybody on the racing tracks is a teetotaler?

— No, of course not. In Dijon I also watched the scene: there was an old «Ford Mustang» in the pit-lane. It was fashionable, with chrome carburetors, and a beauty, in general. An old man in an old racing helmet and flying glasses was sitting at the wheel, and while mechanics were serving the car, he was smoking a cigar with pleasure. And he was enjoying himself greatly! I would not be surprised if he secretly sipped cognac from a similar vintage flask. But he had paid money and came to have fun, and to imagine himself a racer of forty years ago. He did not care about the time of his circuit – he did not compete with anyone, but just decided to have a day full of life. In principle, there are a lot of people like this at races, but it’s what matters for each person. For some, the motorsport is just a way of leisure: “hanging out” in the evening, the next day racing, and then «hanging out» again. Sometimes good results are even achieved, but winning regularly with these principles, from race to race and year after year, is unlikely. In general, if you want to achieve serious results, it is worth recalling the Russian proverb: «Business before pleasure». And they do not mix!

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