From the ice hockey rinks of Canada to the racetracks of Australia, Cody Leibel has added his fair share of colour to the Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship paddock in 2005. Aussief3.comís Mitchell Adam caught up with Leibel recently in the lead up to round two of the 2005 Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship for the CAMS Gold Star at Mallala on April 16-17.
Mitchell Adam: You have a couple of weekends of Australian Formula 3 under your belt now, what are your impressions?
Cody Leibel: Its been a learning experience for sure, a little difficult in the first week having all the cars on the track but Iím coming along, I finally got my first top 10 in Melbourne and I'm just progressing every week. The testing is helping, my team has been sensational, Iíve got a phenomenal team-mate in Michael Caruso who has helped me a lot in every session, so Iím getting quicker every time out.
MA: You have done some Formula Palmer Audi, how does Formula 3 compare to that?
CL: My first time in a race car ever was in a Formula Palmer Audi last year, in October, I went over there for the Autumn Trophy. The cars wereÖ they just didnít corner like these cars. These cars are a lot quicker in the corners, the horsepower might have been a little more in the Palmer Audi, but itís probably about 5 or 6 seconds faster in Formula 3 per lap, and itís a really quick car. Itís tough to get used to, but Iím getting the hang of it.
MA: Moving from professional Ice Hockey to motorsport, how did the motorsport bug bite you?
CL: Itís always bought me, its been something Iíve always wanted to try, but never had the time with hockey, all year round. Itís similar in a way, that mentally you have to be so focused and so dedicated with every lap, every turn, and hockey you have to be focused every shift. So Iím bringing the same elements that I used in hockey to racing and hopefully Iíll improve, keep on improving and hopefully get up near the top.
MA: As you said before, you have done Formula Palmer Audi, and with all the race seriesí in North America and Europe, why Australian Formula 3?
CL: Australian Formula 3 was a good fit for me. I thought Formula 3 anywhere is the best motor racing in the world, before F1. I think that itís the starting ground for all F1 drivers and for me Australia was a good fit because of the team. Rudolf Masi, I contacted him and he was really nice, we went over different things and the best idea was to come to Australia for me. Especially in Europe, it is a little more fast paced and the budget is probably double or triple, so for me this year and probably next year Iíll be in Australian Formula 3.
MA: Prior to starting Australian Formula 3, had you ever been to Australia?
CL: I came here once; a friend of mine was shooting a movie, I was on the Gold Coast, which was where they were shooting the movie. The people here are friendly, itís such a nice atmosphere and no rain, well usually no rain, so thatís a big positive.
MA: There has been a bit made of the Paris Hilton sponsorship, how did that come about?
CL: Well Paris Hilton is a really close friend of mine from LA, and she has offered her support with anything I do, so it was easy move, very easy for her to lend her name to me, because we are close that way and it helps me and her in getting recognition, especially with the fact that she is going to try to make it to a race or two with her movie, she actually shot the movie here in Australia, The House of Wax, so sheíll be in and out of Australia promoting the movie, hopefully grab a few races and it works out well for both of us.
Testing at Eastern Creek (Mitchell Adam Photo)
The first weekend, you raced down at Wakefield Park, how did you find it?CL:
That circuit is a really tough circuit. You are constantly doing something, whether itís braking, shifting, if you do twenty laps of Wakefield hard, you are really going to feel it when you come in. I havenít really driven on a lot of tracks, but if I compare that to Melbourne, with a lot of different straights, you get to think about the next turn, but Wakefield you have to be right on it every second, every tenth is big. Iím getting used to it, the most testing I have done has been there and Iím finally into the 56ís there now so thatís nice.MA:
You mention Melbourne; a lot of people in the Formula 3 community were looking forward to getting down there, how was it as a weekend?CL:
The weekend was priceless. Itís a weekend Iíll never forget, thatís for sure, just being around the Formula 1 atmosphere is incredible, the people in the stands, the track is amazing Ė itís a four mile track, the grandstands, its just a little insight into what the big time is all about. In hockey, when you are in the minor leagues, you get a little taste of it with the crowds and then you see how it is with the guys in the NHL. In Formula 3, we were a big support race and we had good crowds on the first few days and it was great being out there. Great track, great people and I had a great time.MA:
In what was to be the third race, it was pretty crazy with the weather coming down, how was that from a drivers point of view?CL:
That was a disaster (chuckles). It was fun for about thirty seconds, then it got bad, unfortunately Chris got hurt and all the best to him, but it was just dangerous. You couldnít see three feet infront of you, but thatís racing. Guys in Europe do that, so there is no reason we canít do that here. But in saying that, they had to red flag the race with the crash, half the guys on slicks, half the guys on wets. It was an experience, thatís for sure, but it was fun.MA:
What sort of goals have you set yourself for the rest of the 2005 racing season?CL:
I'm very competitive in nature, I got a couple of points in my first race at Wakefield and just looking to get points every race. Top 10ís definitely, you never know, maybe top 6ís, top 5ís, would be a big, big positive. Just getting out there on the track, getting used to it and doing consistent times is big for me. At Wakefield, I was doing minute, fifty-nine second laps, whereas yesterday, I did 50 laps in a row at fifty-seven flat. So Iíve just got to get out there, get consistent, get comfortable in the car, go through all the data with Joe Sasso, my data guy and look where we can improve every lap and look for consistency.MA:
Commuting out here from the States for each race meeting, as you say, you were down at Wakefield yesterday and here (Eastern Creek) today, is the plan to group each race meeting with some tests?CL:
Yeah, Iím flying back and forth for each meeting from LA. Itís a long flight, but itís not too bad - itís about a 14 hour flight. Itís easy for me when I am so hungry to do the racing. Iím excited as soon as I get off the plane and go to the track. Iíll be back, Iím going back to LA on Monday and will come back the week before Mallala, do that race, go back. Just come back and forth throughout the year, do some testing and try to get better each day.MA:
Is there any particular track you are looking forward to getting to during the year?CL:
Iíve heard Phillip Island is the
track down here. With good weather, itís the fast track around here so Iím definitely excited to try that. Hopefully we are going to test at that track in the next month or so before the race there. The Gold Coast Indy if we do that one will be fun too, but Iím really looking forward to Phillip Island for sure.MA:
And you even get to go there twiceÖCL:
Yeah, we get to go there on