His name sounds like a Dutch name and he says he is considering himself as a Dutchmen. But, he is born and living in the United States of America. He is called Tom Wieringa and he has an amazing record, the oldest person ever to obtain an Indycar license. RacingInside.com spoke to Tom Wieringa in an exclusive interview.
Hello Tom, you are involved in racing for a lot of years now. Unfortunately, a lot of our visitors will not know who Tom Wieringa is. Could you please give a short introduction about yourself?
I am Tom Wieringa, 55 years old, and I am living in Oak Brook, Illinois. I have studied business economics and I have my own transportation company. During the last ten years I am involved in racing too. I am also helping children and supporting the Racing for Kids charity, also because I have three children myself.
Your name sounds Dutch, but you are born and grown up in the USA. Do you have a Dutch background or is it just fortuitous?
I am 100% Dutch. I grew up in an all-Dutch community on the west side of Chicago, Illinois. My grandfather, Ben, came over from Bedum, Groningen in 1903 with his brother Nick and started a horse and wagon business in Chicago hauling freight. I am the third generation in the transportation business as well as an Indy driver.
You are not the type of racer that started his career on an early age. How did you start your career in racing anyway? Have you always been interested in racing?
I started when I was 46 years! I went to a high performance driving school, then to a racing school and I move up the ladder from then on.
During the beginning of your career you have driven the go-karts. Do you think that driving a go-kart is an essential step in the career of a race driver? Would you recommend all the ‘young guns’ to start in the go-karts?
I actually did not drive go-karts that much at all early on. I have a 125CC TAG go-kart now that I race occasionally. It is a real workout! I do not think it is essential, but it helps a lot to start right there. After all, it is cheaper than driving the cars too!
You have raced in several ‘open wheelers’ during the past years. What car did you enjoyed the most? What is your best race ever and what is your worst race ever?
The car I like the most is the big Indy car, out of the Indy Racing League. It actually seems easier to drive at 220MPH than an Indy Pro Series car at 190MPH.
My best race was in the Pro Mazda at Pueblo, last year. I almost won it, the difference between my second place and the victory was only one car length. My worst race was in the Indy Pro Series last year at Chicagoland. Another driver hit me off the track at 180MPH. I broke my foot, tail bone and back. Ouch!
A very impressive fact is that you are the oldest driver that passed his rookie test in the Indy Racing League. What does it feels like to keep this ‘record’? Are you focussing on a seat in the Indy Racing League during the 2008 season?
It is fantastic to keep that ‘record’. I will take anything I can get, to drive in 2008!
During 2001 and 2002 you have been the owner of Sigma Autosport. The Spaniard Oriol Servia, which had success in Champcar during the past years, has been one of your drivers. Is there a huge difference between owning a team and racing yourself?
It is a lot easier to work in the racing business from inside the cockpit instead of outside the cockpit.
Besides the fact that you are a racing driver, you are also a business man. Can you combine both of these activities? Do you have a special training programme to stay fit?
So far, so good. Usually, the races happen during the weekends so it does not interrupt work that much. I do workouts on my own 2-3 times per week plus working with a personal trainer a few sessions per week. I also bicycle, Ski/Ski race and snowboard often.
If you take a look at your future, what do you think that the future will bring to you? Do you stay focussed on the ‘open wheelers’ or will you be focussing on endurance-races during the next years?
Whatever happens, happens. It depends on sponsorship. The top levels of open wheel cars are very expensive. If sponsors are lacking, we will still go racing in Pro Mazda and go-karts. We are working on some endurance races now and also the Baja 1000 in Mexico next year. I did Le Dakar with a bunch of my wooden shoe buddies last year.
If you could make one advice to all the people that love to be involved in racing, what will it be then?
Bring your wallet with you and keep your eyes open at the track. I met the girl of my dreams on the track!