May 8th 2000 Question and Answer with Russ Wicks
Q. Congratulations on your new endeavor. Since some of us do not know you, please tell us a little about yourself.
Wicks: I grew up outside of Seattle. I am single, enjoy traveling and listening to loud music. Maybe that's why I am single still? Currently I am living in the Bay Area and involved in the Dot Com world doing sales and business development.
Q. Looking at your bio, you have a unique background in racing, can you give us an overview of your experience?
Wicks: At age 10, I started racing motocross and continued for 10 years. I managed to be fully sponsored by the time I was 15 and competed in 125cc outdoor motorcross and 250cc indoor supercross. I have attended numerous auto racing schools including, Winfield, Jim Russell, Bob Bondurant, and Skip Barber, as well as raced Formula Mazda, Formula 2000, and Formula Super Vee. Also I have tested Indy Cars 6 times, including running at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Q. Tell us about your Indy car experience?
Wicks: In 1996 I tested for Antonio Ferrari's team and was entered in the Indy 500, unfortunately there was a lack of sponsorship so we didn't run in the event. Just prior to the 1997 Indy 500 I went through the USAC Rookie Orientation Program driving PDM's Indy Car. In fact, Tony George re-opened the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after it was closed for the month so I could test.
Q. Are you still pursuing opportunities in auto racing?
Wicks: Yes, ultimately I would like to drive for Dick Simon's team in the Indy Racing League and compete in the Indianapolis 500.
Q. What was you favorite Unlimited Hydroplane growing up in Seattle?
Wicks: The 1973 National Champion, the U-25 Miss Pay-n-Pak. This was the first Unlimited to use a horizontal stabilizer wing instead of the traditional tail fin.
Q. What is your first memory of hydroplane racing?
Wicks: Watching Bill Muncey dominate the 1972 Championship in the Atlas Van Lines.
Q. How did you become interested in driving Unlimited Hydroplanes?
Wicks: For many years I have wanted to package my other racing experiences with unlimited hydroplane racing. As a youth, the two things that fascinated me the most were the Indy 500 and the Seafair unlimited hydroplane race. I have always looked at myself as a "racer", someone who really wants to compete and win, as well as wanting to experience various types of racing. The racing greats that influenced me the most were successful in different formats of motorsports. For example, Jimmy Clark was a hero in Formula 1 and the Indy 500, and A.J. Foyt was top level in everything he raced.
Q. How did you first get interested in breaking the Mile World Record for Propeller driven boats?
Wicks: Several years ago I was introduced to Owen Blauman who felt one of the best ways to obtain a sponsorship with hydroplanes was to create a new spectacle around the sport. The Speed Record event is something that will attract attention and draw new dimension to the sport.
Q. How did you end up driving in Ken Muscatel's U-25?
Wicks: During the summer of 1998 I started doing a lot of due-diligence, including meeting with nearly every team, quite a few crew members, most of the current drivers as well as some hydroplane legends. Most of the teams either had a driver, wanted to sell me a boat, or just didn't want to tackle the speed record. Dr. Muscatel on the other hand saw the potential. He has been around this sport for many years. Both as a driver, owner and as director off the Hydroplane Raceboat Museum. He sees the value of what the speed record attempt can bring to the sport.
Q. How did Freei come aboard as a sponsor?
Wicks: After putting together some marketing materials the search began for a corporate marketing partner. I was very close to obtaining a primary sponsor on a couple occasions although nothing materialized. I have been known to be extremely tenacious and can take rejections pretty well. When one door closed I made sure it was locked and then I went and did my research and found another opening down the road. Free Internet has the same marketing goals and needs that I presented to them so the door stayed open. They feel this is an innovative way to gain exposure, go into the record books and have a blast doing it too!
Q. When will you be able to test in the boat?
Wicks: Right now the team is preparing the boat and we would like to test before the first race at Lake Havasu City. I am scheduled to get some seat time at Lake Havasu.
Q. How do you feel about getting behind the wheel of an Unlimited Hydroplane for the first time?
Wicks: I am totally excited and feel quite confident that I will be very comfortable in the boat. I like the challenge of an advanced learning curve and have always excelled in everything I have competed in. I have spent a great deal of time around off-shore boats, in fact my friend Dick Simon is the Southern California distributor for Cigarette, Formula and Fountain boats. Also, I have discussed the driving aspect with numerous Unlimited drivers.
Q. Are you concerned about the risks involved in attempting the mile speed record?
Wicks: The greatest risk is not taking one!
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