Interview with Ray Kopp, Sporting Director, Wisko Race Engineering
Let’s talk first about last season. For a brand new team you guys did pretty well finishing fourth in the SCCA Pro F2000 Championship. Is that what you expected?
To tell you the truth, no. This time last year the team consisted of owner, Peter Strasser, Danyel Torres, my son Kevin and myself. The team had no shop space, no haulers, and no race cars. What we did have was enthusiasm, and the support and commitment of Peter. We bought a used Van Diemen from Tim Minor, prepared the car at the Kopp Motorsports shop and I hauled it to the first race at VIR in the trailer we used for Spec Miatas. We looked like what we were – club racers, not pro racers. We qualified terribly at VIR, but Kevin managed to finish both races in 4th place. That weekend was only the second time Kevin had ever driven an open wheel car and we felt pretty good about the results, but qualifying remained a problem all season and we all too often had to fight our way to front from mid-pack. Our qualifying needs to be much better this coming season.
What was the greatest challenge the team had to overcome last season?
We faced a lot of challenges, but the biggest one had to be building a team at the same time you are racing that team – like building an airplane and flying it at the same time. We had to outfit a shop, acquire haulers, tools, equipment and race cars; and most important, begin to assemble the team members. All this fell to team principal Danyel; Torres who has done an amazing job. The team now has fabulous space and all the necessary gear to win. John Wise from the Gainsco Daytona Prototype team recently joined Kevin Gentile to form the race mechanic backbone of the team. We also added Zac Coker to head up our fabrication activities and back-up John and Kevin on the cars. However, we’re not done building out the team. We are currently undergoing a growth spurt in terms of the breadth of our racing engagements and we are actively searching for additional mechanics and race engineers.
Can you talk a little about the long term goals for the team?
Sure. Peter’s vision for the team is pretty straightforward. He wants it to be the premiere professional open-wheel team in the mid-Atlantic and to serve as the vehicle by which the best young racers can move from karts up the open wheel ladder. In addition, Wisko supports an SCCA sports racer program with a fleet of customer and team owned Radical race cars. We plan to expand this effort in 2013. Currently, we are focused on open wheel and sports racers and have assembled the team necessary to support that type of racing, but Peter is a visionary and it would not surprise me at all to see the team try its hand at endurance racing at some point in the future.
Let’s talk about this coming season. What are the team’s plans?
Let me concentrate on the pro side of the house. We are preparing six cars for this coming season; three Van Diemens to compete in F2000, two Mygales for the F1600 series, and a Star Mazda for the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. Kevin Kopp will pilot the #66 Van Diemen again this year and will provide race engineering support to the team. We are very pleased to have signed two young divers to complete the Team’s three car F2000 effort in 2013. Twenty two year old Shane Morris and seventeen year old Federico Mosconihave joined the team for 2013. To provide a step between karts and the winged F2000 cars we have added an F1600 component to the team and have signed 18 year old Paul Alspach to pilot one of the team’s new F1600 Mygales. The sixth car being prepped in the shop is the Pro Mazda. After a successful test of the car last month in South Carolina we are now updating it to 2013 specifications with the intention of competing in a handful of Pro Mazda Championship events in 2013 and perhaps the full season in 2014. Kevin Kopp will handle the Pro Mazda Championship driving duties this season.
Going from one car to six in a year seems like a pretty big jump. What sort of expectations do you have for the team in 2013?
Quite simply, we have high expectations. Peter is an extremely successful business man and fierce competitor. He properly expects his team to perform. We have been provided with everything necessary to win and that’s what we must do. We had our end-of-season winter break (sadly, it only lasted a week), now the shop is in full race mode, runs 7 days a week and we are preparing for an intensive testing period before the first F2000/F1600 race at VIR in April. The team has its goal - win the F2000 Championship.