He is the son of an all-time hero in the United States of America, Arie Luyenduk. But, Arie Luyendyk Junior is keen to get an Indy 500 victory too. In the United States of America, Arie Luyendyk Junior already won the award of most popular driver for three times. Now he is searching for some big victories on the track. RacingInside.com spoke to Arie Luyendyk Junior in an exclusive interview.
Hello Arie Jr., a lot of our visitors will know who you are. But could you give a short introduction about yourself anyway?
Hi, I am Arie Luyendyk Junior, son of two times Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk Senior. I am born in ‘s Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, on the eighteenth of September 1981. I moved to the USA with my parents when I was three years old. I live in Scottsdale, Arizona. The first time in a race car was at the age of fourteen, due to my granddad. But I started with go-karting some years before the first experience with a race car.
You are born in the Netherlands, ‘s Hertogenbosch to be specific, but you moved to America on an early age. Although, you raced in Europe for a couple of years. Could you tell about the differences of racing in Europe and America?
The main difference between racing in Europe and America is the competition. In Europe there is a lot of competition in the lower classes, so you will learn the driving a lot better in Europe. In the USA the competition between the drivers is less, so it is harder to get good results in Europe than in the USA. Racing in Europe was a good base of my career.
Your father, Arie Luyendyk Sr., is a really successful race driver. Did you start racing due to your father? Does your father influence your career in racing and is it a positive or negative influence of your career that he is such a good race driver?
I think my granddad has a bigger influence on my career. He put me in a race car and was happy to see his grandchild racing. I always wanted to be a race driver and the fact that my granddad and also my father supported me means a lot to me. I enjoy racing and my father is not pushing me at all. He is like a good friend and he still enjoys the sport, so it can not be better. So I think my granddad and father have a positive influence on my career.
Like the most race drivers you started your career with go-karting. Do you think that go-karting is an important thing to start your racing career with?
I really think that go-karting is one of the most important things in your racing career. When you drive a go-kart you learn all the aspects of racing and the close competition is a good step to your further career. I still drive a lot with the go-kart, because it will help you to stay fit and you keep the right feeling of racing.
During your career you won several championships and races and competed in the prestigious Indy 500 in 2006. You are also chosen as most popular driver of the IRL in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006. What is the best race/moment in your career? What is the worst race/moment in your career?
Well, there are some good moments and some bad moments in my career. I think one of the good moments in my career was getting a podium place during the Marlboro Masters of 2001. I was driving the Formula Ford with the team of Gert Valkenburg, Geva Racing, and scored a third place. I came back to the Netherlands just for that race and the fact that I scored such a good position meant a lot to me. The other most wonderful moment in my career is the warming up lap during the Indy 500 of 2006. The whole crowd, over 300.000 people, was waving and yelling and that really gives me the creeps.
Unfortunately, there are also some bad/disappointing moments in my career. The result during the Indy 500 was not what I expected, so that was disappointing to me. It was also very hard to look at the Indy 500 in 2007. I really wanted to race during that event, because it is the most wonderful race in the world. So it is hard to look at the race, while you are realising that you were one of them a year earlier.
If you could change one thing in your career, what would it be then?
Maybe I would have focussed more on the go-karting during the start of my career. I only raced the go-karts in the area of Arizona and it could have been a good decision to drive some national series. Another thing that I maybe would have changed is racing more races in Europe. Like I said, the competition in Europe is very tough and that could have been an important thing to me.
Unfortunately you have raced just a few races this season. In which races will you be competing the rest of 2007? Are you going to compete in the Indy Pro Series during some races? What are the other plans to race in 2007?
In 2007 I will race some races in the Indy Pro Series. I will race at Watkins Glen and maybe at Mid-Ohio. An other thing is racing the ‘Petit Le Mans’ with the team of Robertson. They are negotiating about the car at the moment, so it could be the current Panoz but there is also a possibility that it is with a car of an other manufacturer. At the moment we are also very busy to get a seat in the Champcar World Series to race the events at Zolder, Belgium, and Assen, the Netherlands.
Racing on ovals is, like all other kinds of racing, dangerous. Do you think about the hazards when you are going to race or do you think it is just a part of the job?
Well, like all other kinds of racing there is some danger. But during the last years the safety of the drivers is improved, so it is not that dangerous as the time that my father raced the Indycars. The danger gives me a real rush of adrenaline and I really enjoy the ovals and high speed tracks.
Winning the Indy 500 must be one of the most wonderful things in the life of a racing driver. Your father won this race two times and of course it would be great if you could win this race also. Are there, besides winning the Indy 500, other things in your career that have to be achieved?
Winning the Indy 500 is one of my objectives. It would be amazing to win that race and I am really motivated to do it. But I would also love to win an endurance race like the 12 hours of Sebring of 24 hours of Le Mans. Driving Le Mans would be great to do, because it is just an amazing event together with the Indy 500. I am still Dutch so racing during a big event on the circuit of Zandvoort would be great too. After my active career as a race driver I would like to manage my own team, but it will last some years before I quit racing myself.
During the ‘Vudel Vol Gas’ event you are giving a demonstration with the A1GP car of Team the Netherlands. You are born in the Netherlands, but are living in America for a long time now. Are you still a Dutch guy or do you think you are more an American?
I am definitely Dutch. My parents raised me at the Dutch way and although I am living in America for the biggest part of my life I am still Dutch. I only have the Dutch passport, so that confirms that I am Dutch. So if I ever get the chance to drive the A1GP during a race it will be in the car of Team the Netherlands. Maybe it would be a great thing to race the Dutch A1GP car if there is a race in America.
You are still young, so you will stay racing for some years. When are you satisfied about your career?
At the moment I am reasonably satisfied about my career. Of course it would be nice to win the races I mentioned before, Indy 500 – 24 hours of Le Mans – 12 hours of Sebring, but I enjoy racing every day so all the days I can keep racing are good to me. If I do not enjoy the racing anymore I will quit, but I expect that I will keep racing for some years.
Are there things that can be expected in a short period of time? For example: Racing during the Champcar World Series in Zolder, Belgium, and Assen, the Netherlands?
Well, we are working very hard to get a seat at the Champcar World Series during the races in Zolder, Belgium, and Assen, the Netherlands. I hope I can do some tests before I will drive those races. At the moment it is all looking good, but I still have not found a main sponsor. So we will keep fighting to get the sponsorship that is needed. Hopefully some of the sponsors in America will help me and of course it would be a great chance for some Dutch companies to close a deal.
Frits van Eerd, one of the people behind the ‘Vudel Vol Gas’ event, means a lot to me. Frits is supporting me very much during my Indy 500 in 2006 and also my further career. I would like to thank Frits for the chances he gave me and I really loved racing the A1GP car at the ‘Vudel Vol Gas’ event.