Friday
May282010

SCI Interview: Guy Cosmo 

Guy Cosmo is one of the most talented American drivers in pro sportscar racing in the U.S. today. Cosmo has driven just about everything in his career, starting with karts and working his way up through formula cars and eventually into sportscars. He’s keeping busy this year driving a Ferrari F430 GT in the American Le Mans Series for Extreme Speed Motorsports, as well as a Porsche 911 for BGB Motorsports in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. When he’s not racing, Cosmo runs his own Cosmo-Sport track-day and driver training organization and likes music and boating. We caught up with Guy at the VIR round of the Continental Challenge to see how things are going so far this season.

Haueter: You’re pretty busy these days, racing in two different series and coaching. How do you manage it all?
Cosmo: Very carefully! If I’m not staring at my calendar or my computer, I have no idea where I’m supposed to be next. It’s great to be busy though. These are tough times for a lot of people, but fortunately there are still teams that can still go racing and I’m lucky to be as busy as I am. From two weeks from now until the end of September, I have something going on every single weekend.

How are things going with the Ferrari program in ALMS, with two races in the books?
We’re doing great. Scott Sharp is a great guy and has done a tremendous job in hiring some really talented people. You always wonder how well people are going to gel in a new program where everyone doesn’t really know each other at the start, but it has gone really well so far. Everybody on the team is happy to be associated with it and everybody wants to do their job as best as they can. In a very short period of time, we’ve proven to be very close to fighting for podiums.

Are you happy with the F430 GT and the way development is progressing?
It’s a wonderful car to drive. It showed up pretty good as it came from Michelotto and Ferrari. It’s a car that has been developed very well over the years and Michelotto is very tuned in as a race car manufacturer with Ferrari. Some of what is needed is just time and experience with the car. We’re still learning what the car likes and doesn’t like and a lot of it is just a matter of fine-tuning. Most of what we’re working on now is shock development. We’ve been through a bunch of different makes and versions so far, just trying to find what works best with the car.

How much support do you get from Michelotto?
There are a number of representatives from Michelotto that are at every ALMS race weekend. We’ve got at least one or two technicians with us all the time.

Do the technicians work with both Ferrari teams, with you guys and Risi?
The technicians are usually assigned to one team or the other, but we’re all working for the common good, which is for Ferrari to be strong in the field and win. There’s the other side of it where Risi has spent a lot of money on their program over the last several years, so they’re understandably not going to hand over everything they know about the car.

Did you expect the Corvette’s to be more of a factor at Long Beach?

I was expecting them to be a lot faster at Long Beach, but I’d like to think that the rules for the series are put together well enough that one team has to work as hard as everyone else to get the performance out of their car. Looking at teams like Flying Lizard, BMW Rahal Letterman, Risi and our team, there is some serious brain power, talent and money being put into these programs. If one team had that much of an advantage, there would be problem with the rules package.

Were you surprised that Jaime Melo was over a half-second faster than anyone else in GT qualifying at Long Beach?

No, I wasn’t surprised. I had a little scuffle with Olivier Beretta on my flying lap in qualifying. You know when you have a new set of tires in qualifying that there’s one lap that’s going to be the magic lap and that’s generally the third lap. The tires are absolutely at their prime, the pressures are up and you’ve burned off just enough fuel that you know this is going to be the lap. Anyway, whatever his intentions were, Beretta was going pretty slow. I assume he was trying to get a gap in front of him, but I caught him really fast. He sped up as soon as I caught up with him and held me up through nine, ten and the hairpin and then lit out. It demolished my qualifying lap. When looking at the data, I would have been on the outside pole if I hadn’t been held up and had been able to complete that lap. That still would have left Melo faster than me, but I had a good lap going.


Any worries that IMSA will add weight to the Ferrari’s after a qualifying performance like Melo’s? After all, the BMW M3 fast lap at Sebring was only around a half-second above the others, and they had weight added before Long Beach. 
Yes, it worries me a little, but in that scenario, the cars at Sebring are on track for five days. If someone has a clear advantage after five days of running, then maybe you would make a performance adjustment. But at an event like Long Beach there’s limited track time, so if a driver and team really has their stuff together it’s not that odd to see someone excel in that scenario, because of track and setup knowledge.

Are you looking forward to getting back on a natural road course at Laguna Seca after the street race at Long Beach?
I love all the circuits! It was really fun to go to Long Beach and for me to be on a street circuit again. I haven’t been to Long Beach in nine years. It was also great to be able to show up and turn the quickest lap time during the race of any of the three Ferrari’s.

It’s a much different dynamic to race on a street course vs. a proper road course, right?

Yes. Once the Long Beach event began, there were cars on the circuit nonstop, so the course rubbered up pretty well after the first day, but you still have to deal with the crowns in the road, concrete patches and manhole covers. There are a lot of things you don’t experience when you go to a nice, smooth track like Laguna Seca and it’s all an added challenge. You have to push yourself as hard as possible but within set limitations and those limitations are very narrow on a street course.

What’s it like racing in Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge compared to ALMS?

It’s a totally different world but one is not necessarily better than the other. Continental Challenge is more homegrown, grassroots style racing that is a lot more accessible. Racing in ALMS, budgets are astronomical, you have the best personnel money can buy and big sponsors and all this stuff going on. In Continental Challenge, you have teams that have moved up from club racing and more drivers that are newbies to pro racing, but you also have very experienced teams and top drivers. That all makes it great and there’s no other series like it that features cars that are very close to what you can buy for the road.

Is it difficult to go from the Ferrari F430 GT car to the Porsche 911 in Continental Challenge, which is much more of a street stock car?

I’m used to it. I remember a day when I thought it would be difficult to do that, but you get around it by driving as many different cars as you can. Eventually, you learn how to quickly adapt to new cars. When I get in the Porsche, it’s just a different part of my brain that I have to turn on. I don’t really deal with the transition to the car at all, because almost everything I do in this car has to be different. It’s almost become easier to do it, because one is nothing like the other. I right-foot brake in the Porsche, I have to use a clutch in the Porsche, it’s a manual transmission, its lower grip and heavier. When I drive the ALMS car or a Daytona Prototype, I’m left-foot braking, I have a sequential gearbox, can do no-lift shifts and it has a lot more aero.

Was it difficult to transition from the rear-engined Porsche to the mid-engined Ferrari, with the way the balance affects the car?
Not at first, but now the more I drive them, the more I start to think the Porsche works as it does because the engine is in the wrong spot. The Ferrari feels better balanced because of where the engine is, but the Porsche also has some advantages. It has a great ability to put power down on corner exit and is really good in the rain. It’s a different car to drive, but there’s a reason its one of the most successful marques in racing history.

Does the Porsche Cayman feel better balanced than the 911, since it’s mid-engined like the Ferrari?
Yes, it does. That’s a car that I drive and feel has a lot of potential, but it depends on if the rules package for the car will allow it to shine.

Is it frustrating to be driving the six-cylinder Porsche in Continental Challenge this season, going against all the V8 Mustangs, Camaro’s and M3’s?

It’s really frustrating. We can’t turn fast laps like the Mustangs and M3’s do in qualifying, but they tend to fall off more as the race goes on. In every race this year, our Porsche has been as quick as the leaders from the midway point of the race on. It’s easier on tires, and just stays more consistent over a race distance.

What’s your favorite part of racing?
I love everything about it! I love taking a car and trying to make it as fast as it can go and all the challenges involved in that, from the understanding of the physics and science to the mental aspect. It’s amazing how so many drivers in so many different cars can go out and turn lap times that are so similar. If you think about it all, it’s pretty incredible. I’m really interested in the human element of racing and the mental preparation. It’s kind of like chess. You take fear and anticipation out of it, which is never always gone, and then you have the physical aspect of traction – that the tires can only manage so much grip at any one point in the race. After that, it’s just strategizing on how to use everything to your best advantage.

Do you feel you’re at the pinnacle of your racing career so far, being in a Ferrari in the ALMS GT class, with the great competition that is in that class?
This is certainly the most high profile program I’ve ever been a part of. Extreme Speed is a real race team, with real sponsorship, real money being spent and great personnel. It’s the best supported effort I’ve ever had behind me. To be involved in a program like that is something I’ve always wanted to be a part of. I don’t need to get in a different class of racing or a different series. I just want to win every year. I want to win more races, collect more championships and I’d like to win Le Mans some day. The objective for me is not to try to get somewhere else necessarily. I just want to keep improving and win races.

Does your family come to the races?
My Dad comes quite a bit. My family has always been really supportive. My Mom watches all the races on TV and my Dad is just nuts about it. He comes to as many races as he can – maybe four or five a year.

Find out more about Guy Cosmo at  www.guycosmo.com


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