Indy 500 Winner Alexander Rossi Reveals the Biggest Mistake Novice Drivers Make at the Track

R&T Staff
Photo credit: DW Burnett / PUPPYKNUCKLES

From Road & Track

Alexander Rossi knows how to drive fast. Not only did he stun the racing world by winning the Indy 500 as a rookie in 2016, but in his short career, the 27 year old has competed in disparate racing series ranging from Formula One to the Baja 1000. This IndyCar season, behind the wheel of the No. 27 Honda for Andretti Autosport, hes amassed an impressive number of first- and second-place victories.

While no one expects you to drive as well as Rossi, that doesnt mean you cant learn something from him. In anticipation of the Hudson Quattrocento Rally on Oct. 17-20where you can meet Rossi in person at Lime Rock Park racetrackwe asked about his personal car collection, how he gets out of tickets, and what he considers the biggest rookie mistake inexperienced drivers make on the track.

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Road & Track: If you could pick a car from any era to drive in a road rally, what would it be?

Alexander Rossi: I wanted to choose a convertible of sorts, but Im going to have to land on a 71 Lamborghini Muira as I think it is probably the most beautiful car ever made. Also, The Italian Job is one of my favorite movies.

R&T: When did you first discover your passion for cars?

AR: My dad took me to Laguna Seca when I was three years old, and that was my introduction to motorsports. He took me for seven consecutive years after that, and it became our father-son tripit was only a three-and-a-half hour drive from where I grew up. I also had my real first race experience in a racecar there, with Skip Barber.

R&T: Were you initially more interested in racing or street driving?

AR: Racing, as you can tell. I enjoy driving nice cars, but racing is where my head is at most of the time.

R&T: Tell us about your personal car collection. When youre not racing, what do you like to drive?

AR: Ive had a Honda Pilot that Ive really enjoyed, but I might be switching to the Honda Passport because I like the available trims. Ive also had a couple of vehicles purchased from Graham Rahal Performance. He does a great job outfitting and adding power to some pretty great cars. I currently have a Ford Raptor thats been heavily modified, and I just recently sold an 800-horsepower Audi S8. Im in the market for a Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door, because well, you know.

R&T: Whats your top piece of driving advice for relative novices doing hot laps at Lime Rock Park?

AR: To not overdrive on the corners. Everyone thinks that a fast lap time is all about being full throttle and firing as much speed into the corner and dealing with the consequences (slide on the exit). If it looks like youre going fast, then you probably arent. Finding a way to maximize your acceleration out of the corner while not braking early is the art of racing.

R&T: Everyone participating in the Hudson Quattrocento will follow the rules of the road, of course, but any advice for what to do if you get pulled over? Does your occupation get you out of tickets?

AR: It has before, yes, but mostly in Indianapolis during the month of May. But my last name is not Andretti, so Ive definitely had my share of tickets. If you get pulled over, best thing to do is just admit fault and stay quiet.

R&T: The roads of the Hudson Valley are great fun, but whats your absolute favorite driving road in the U.S.?

AR: Mulholland Highway in California.

R&T: Do you embrace the idea of autonomous vehicles, or are you someone who will always want full control of their car?

AR: No. I am a purist and dont really love the idea of fully electric vehicles either. Im a big fan of advanced hybrid technology, however, as I believe it merges performance and economy very nicely.

R&T: Youve raced in both F1 and IndyCar. From a drivers perspective, what are the biggest differences between the two?

AR: The only comparison is that both involve racing cars with four wheels. Formula One is much more of a business than a sport due to the size and budgets of the manufacturers. The technology and performance in the cars is astonishing, but IndyCar is a much more enjoyable environment and way of racing.

R&T: IndyCar is one of the most competitive series in the world, but you've run away with a few races this year. How did you and your team make that happen?

AR: Wed love to know so that we could do it more often! I think the team excels in certain conditions/tracks, and we just need to make our capability broader in some areas so that we can make it happen all the time.

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