Conor Daly is here in Austin, Texas for the Tudor Lone Star LeMans, and I had the chance to talk to him briefly about his racing career and his thoughts on the recent debate on closed cockpits. This season, Conor has raced in the Prototype Challenge class, piloting a 450 horse power Oreca FLM09, powered by a Chevrolet LS3. That and his duties picking up several Indycar races for the injured James Hinchcliffe, including a personal best finish of 6th at the Detroit race.
He explained to me the differences in driving both cars, saying that driving the new IndyCar’s with their high power numbers and greater downforce that they are a pleasure to drive, and that lapping Indy at 230 was just amazing, even if he didn’t get to race thanks to an engine failure on one of the warmup laps. He has had much better luck in his run in the Tudor series so far this year. He says that the PC car he pilots has a nice balance of horsepower and downforce for a spec class. Plenty for either the gentlemen driver, or a hot shoe like Conor.
And if you think the name Conor Daly is familiar, then you probably knew him as one of the American F1 hopefuls, going through the ranks of the lower Formula’s such as GP3 where he finished 3rd, and performed well in several races in GP2. He told me that as a Force India Junior, they funded his career for several years, and he did several aero tests for the team. As this was news to me, I asked him why it was never more highly publicized. He said he had no idea why the team wasn’t more upfront about supporting a young american. He also said that after he didn’t win the GP3 title that the funding was gone, leaving him to try to fund his racing out of pocket. After a partial GP2 season last year, he said he started to focus on his career here in the US.
He feels that there are so many more avenues here in the US, and that it’s a really great country to race in. Currently, he is chasing a full time Indy Car ride next year, and has the last few races in the Tudor series to keep him busy. And busy he has been, racing almost every type of car there is in racing, so naturally I had to ask him what he felt was the best race car he has ever driven. Conor said that the 2013 Force India he drove was one of the best, and that he also really enjoys the current IndyCar.
And, of course, in talking about IndyCar this year, I had to ask him where he came down on the open cockpit debate after the untimely death of his fellow Indy driver Justin Wilson. Conor told me that he is against the idea of closing the cockpits, as the negatives outweigh the positives of any potential changes to the way the cockpit is altered. I asked him if the danger has ever bothered him too much, or if recent events have made him think twice about racing. His reply was a simple no, that the danger is part of why he loves racing, and that if he was too worried about it, he would have quit by now.
Conor Daly is currently racing the number 38 prototype challenge car in the Tudor United Sports car sereis, and he was kind enough to answer my questions before his first practice session of the weekend. You can find Conor @ConorDaly22 on twitter, and you could’ve see him race in the Lone Star LeMans last weekend.