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Interview with the Champions
With four races to go, season 2009 is far from over, but that hasn't stopped Twister-Racing from fulfilling their goal of becoming the constructors' world champions. After a double podium finish at Valencia the team secured its second WCC title
With four races to go, season 2009 is far
"Twister-Racing" from over, but that hasn't stopped Twister-Racing from fulfilling their goal of becoming the constructors' world champions. After a double podium finish at Valencia the team secured its second WCC title in a record-breaking fashion, as never before had the title been secured at such an early stage. In today's interview we feature one important man behind the success, team owner Phil Estrada.
Hello and welcome, how are you?
(Phil) I’m doing well, how are you?
Fine indeed. Before going over to the recent success, let's look a bit further back in history. Tell us a bit about how you became involved with Twister-Racing and what brought you into your current position in the team.
(Phil) I met Dominik Binz late in 2006 who was racing in FSR for Kiwi Virtual. He brought me in as a test driver and I met Roy Kolbe who was also in Kiwi Virtual. In the winter of 2006 I begged and pleaded with Roy to help me learn sim-racing. I think Roy felt sorry for me so he ended up helping me. He then brought me over to Twister-Racing in 2007.
At the end of 2008, the previous owners of Twister-Racing wanted to sell their portions of the team because they weren’t involved in sim-racing anymore. I didn’t want the team to fall apart, I had some ideas of how to run the team, I thought I could bring some stability and structure in to the team, but I mainly I wanted to keep driving with Roy and all of the other guys on the team.
Coming into 2009, what were your goals and visions for the season and how did they compare with what you now have achieved?
(Phil) Before the season started we had a team meeting and set three goals.
1) Help Roy Kolbe become World Champion
2) Win the WC Constructor’s championship
3) Win the WS Ace Constructor’s championship.
So far we’ve met one goal and we’re on track to reach the other two.
Twister-Racing decided to start the season with a somewhat smaller line-up compared to other big teams. Was this a conscious decision and perhaps one reason for the successful team atmosphere?
Twister-Racing 2009 Twister-Racing 2009 (Phil) Yeah, there was a conscious effort to keep the team small this year. It was also easier for me to manage a small team. Stefan Kanitz really helped me out a lot in the beginning of the season managing the team. I still consider myself a driver more than a manager/owner though. I wish I could get faster. I’m trying.
Another reason we stayed small was that we wanted all testing done with full race distances so that’s why we didn’t have an Amateur team or expand our Advanced team. It’s not that we didn’t want new drivers on the team this year it was really that we had to have an open seat and that they had to help with the team goals in every aspect of being a hard working sim-racer. We were and always have been looking for new drivers so the team didn’t necessarily have to stay small this year.
For someone new to come in to the team we have a process where everyone has to vote for bringing in the new driver. We pretty much vote on everything. If there’s an open seat and the case is presented to the team that the new driver could help us meet the team goals then they’d probably get in. At this time we’re able to look at the current field of drivers, ask around about their work ethic and see their speed. If we bring in a new driver now it’s because we haven’t seen them on an F1 track and it would be for potential open seats next year.
Regarding the successful team atmosphere, I think a lot of trust had been built in 2008 with the current line-up. With Dennis Hirrle and current team members recommending drivers to come in we were all able to see how we worked with each other in 2008. This helped us because we all knew what to expect from each other. Less drama and everyone somewhat pulling their own weight. Dennis Hirrle, the previous owners, and the team should get a lot of credit for building it in 2008.
One thing that has struck me is the loyalty of your drivers. Obviously you have managed to get together half a dozen
"Shanghai Hirrle finish" of potential WC drivers, so I assume they must have turned down many contract offers from other teams?
(Phil) Yeah, they did turn down other offers. I can’t speak for them though. You’d have to ask them individually about their loyalty, why they turned down offers, and why they stayed with the team.
Everyone is different, we tried getting some drivers before the season started but they wouldn’t join either, and one driver left our team for another. Money, nor the team couldn’t get them to come over or stay. They were on or going to a team with close friends, or money didn’t matter to them. I think they all have their own personal reasons.
I can’t take credit for getting the drivers together, they were mostly all on the team last year. I like to think I helped keep them on the team though. You could say Dennis Hirrle and the other drivers on the team built the team last year.
Looking overall at Twister-Racing's FSR records, this year the team seems to have found the last bit of brilliance, as you are now leading both the WC and Ace championships where you finished runner-ups last year. What do you think has made the key difference for this year?
(Phil) Well, some reasons are, a lot of luck, all the drivers on the team being able to commit quite a bit of time to a full season of testing and practicing, having Joakim Bengtsson as a chief test engineer, and having Roy Kolbe and Dennis Hirrle on your WC team for a full season. I could list a lot more reasons but I think I’m running this interview too long already.
Back to WC and the constructors' championship. It has been quite a fairytale story, 9 wins out of 13 races and double lead in the world championship. Not much more a team boss could ask from his drivers is there?
(Phil) Well, I do ask a lot from them, they are asked to work hard and communicate a lot with each other for a full season but I can’t take any credit for what they’ve accomplished. Those guys are the ones driving and getting podiums.
Winning the constructors championship already at this point, I must ask whether you expected a bit more challenge from your main opponents this year?
(Phil) I’d never say or think we don’t expect or feel we aren’t challenged from our opponents. I think quite a few of our competitors put in a lot of time and worked really hard this year. It wouldn’t be fair to say we didn’t have any challenging opponents this year. It would be putting down our competitors and somewhat diminish all the hard work and time our drivers put in this year. The drivers on the team sometimes maybe make it look easy but they’ve put in a tremendous amount of time and effort to get where they are.
I bet there are many team managers/owners looking somewhat jealous at your success. Are there any tips or secret ingredients for success that you wish to share with your colleagues?
(Phil) Well, I don’t think they’re jealous and not to disregard all the other individual contributions made to the team, but, I think if you can get everyone to commit to a full season, get a guy like Joakim Bengtsson to be an Ace driver and great test engineer, create a core group of guys that trust each other, and have a Roy Kolbe and Dennis Hirrle on your WC team, I think your team would be successful.
I’ve seen it two ways. There’s teams where you have all your friends on the team and you have a lot of fun but it ends up being that only one or two guys actually works and the rest of the guys just take setups or don’t practice much, OR you have a team where everyone pulls their own weight practicing and testing quite a bit, always talking on the forum, and always trying to improve. Twister-Racing has been accused of being too serious and being a team that doesn’t have much fun together.
I think you have to decide what kind of team you want, if you want a team that is more on the serious side, I’d say to set only a few clear goals, give clear expectations to your drivers of what you expect from them and then if they don’t meet your expectations, kick them out of the team. You don’t have to expect a driver
"Kolbe at Hungaroring" to always be fast or get podiums but you should always expect them to help the team by, working hard, always asking questions, and learning. If they’re always trying then the team will benefit from some of their hard work eventually.
It creates too much animosity with the other drivers if you’re the only one working hard and the other drivers don’t practice much or just take setups. You’ll eventually gain respect from the other drivers on the team if you commit to a full season, keep working hard, and try to learn all the time. It’s not easy, that FSR season is really long. As a manager/owner, you always have to be there for your drivers, you always have to try and help them, ask them what they need, help provide them some type of infrastructure, practice server, forum, practice schedule. You have to clearly tell them what’s expected from them, give them motivation, listen to them, and make sure that they know you’ll always back them up for anything.
You have to try and help them with PC or hardware problems, always check in with them at least every few days to say hello, take interest in every race they do, take care of all their issues really, really shield them from any drama they might have so they can JUST concentrate on driving. It also helps the team and the league when your drivers are able to vent their frustrations freely on your private forum and that they don’t say anything bad about the league or other drivers on a public forum. That’s really hard to do but to be professional and maintain a professional image you really have to do that. I think we did an ok job with that this year which is why we got some nice comments from other drivers after Roy Kolbe and Dennis Hirrle won the WC constructor’s championship.
Do you think the success will open new doors regarding sponsors, is the team looking into expanding that area in the future?
(Phil) We’re always looking for sponsors but unfortunately it’s kind of tough to get sponsors. It’s been a challenge to show a sponsor how much money they’ll make if they sponsor us. We’ve been trying to get FSR to help us with this.
Finally, how much daily work does it take to manage a team like Twister successfully? Has there been any difficulties (e.g. communicating with the German-speaking majority...)?
(Phil) It’s not a problem if they only speak very little English and it’s not too much work. All the guys are professional, work hard, are die-hard sim racers, and nice guys. They’re able to practice and make setups on their own. I just try to do all those things I said before of what I think a manager/owner should do for a team.
Lastly your goals as a team for the remaining races of the season?
(Phil) We’re trying to reach the other two goals we set in the beginning of the season, help Roy Kolbe win the driver’s championship and win the WS Ace constructor’s championship. Mikko Puumalainen is currently leading in the WS Ace driver’s standings so it would be great if we can help him win the WS Ace driver’s championship too.
Any thoughts yet about the team's future in 2010, will FSR remain your main focus?
(Phil) It’s a big “IF”, if we’ll return next year, we could look at some other leagues to see if we can win in those leagues as well. It depends on what FSR can do next year regarding improvements to this year. Plus, usually so many things happen in the off-season that it’s hard to say what could happen next year. It’s a long off-season and it’ll be a long 2010 season.
Congratulations and good luck in the coming challenges.
(Phil) Thanks, the team would also like to thank all the other drivers, race directors, and broadcasting crews in FSR for all the great competition. Thank you.
Article by: FSR Press, 2009-09-29 07:16:27