Interview: Adrian Fernandez
Adrian Fernandez has been racing for 31 years, yet finishing third in GT at Le Mans ranks right up there with his other racing achievements.
Le Mans is special, no doubt about that. Adrian Fernandez knows that too. Driving the Aston Martin #007, Mexico’s ‘James Bond’ loved the sensation of the Le Mans podium for their third in GT class finish.
“What a special thing was to finish the race, last lap with all marshals, flagmen etc,” he says. “Waving on track was spectacular and memorable. We fought from start to finish our third place. I have to say from my 31-year experience that my teammates DarrenTurner and Stefan Mücke are exceptional drivers – fast and consistent.
“Le Mans has the best podium in the world.” So excited was Adrian, he took his own photos on his phone from the podium to absorb the moment.
So who is Adrian Fernandez? Let’s find out.
Have you ever searched yourself on “YouTube” and if so what is the best clip?
Yes, I have searched myself on “YouTube” and the best clip, aw… I can’t say, but I… they have a lot of good races in Indycar. Fontana when I won. I had a crash in the pit and I had a hole on the nose – and I still managed to finish in the top three. It was so hot that day, that it was so nice to have that hole on the nose because it actually making it cooler into the car!
I think some Le Mans clips will take over though!
What was your most satisfying race, whether you won it or not? (besides Le Mans!)
I will say my most satisfying race will be in 1998 when I won in Japan. I was coming from a very difficult year in 1997 with a bad chassis. I joined Patrick Racing, had a great teammate, Scott Pruett and managed to win the race so that was a good one.
What was the first race car you bought with your own money?
With my own money? Well, I would say… Let me think because the first two were bought by my father and then I will say…Formula K from Mexico. Yep, Formula K with my own sponsorship. I wouldn’t say my own money because I didn’t have any! It was the sponsor’s money.
Who was your fiercest driver and why?
Fiercest… Well I have had a few in different eras. In Formula Ford 1600 it was Dave Coyne . He was probably everybody’s! He was crazy. He was absolutely crazy. He had no fear…
In Indycar, there were many rivals. I mean a lot of…fierce drivers let’s say. I would say because you may have very good competitors that are strong, good one but they are not crazy. But I would say Coyne and Paul Tracy that are the top drivers that are a little crazy. You know that you better watch out because you know they were a little out of control sometimes.
Dave Coyne – Fernandez’ Fierces Formula Ford Rival
Which car that you have driven is your favorite?
The car that is my favorite was my first car that I ever had – it was 1972 Volkswagen Beetle. Honestly I have had Ferraris, Austin Martins – I mean you name it all types of car. But the first one was… you know, the most precious one.
I was 16 years old and I remember when my father gave it to me. It was an old little car. I was so happy and I was crying. It was my independence, and I had it for seven years… and it was the car I really enjoyed the most.
Would you buy it back?
I don’t know where it is now, but I would, definitely.
The same theme, but what is the greatest racing car ever built?
I will say was the Reynard 1998. It was a fantastic car. In those days we had 1000bhp, sticky tyres for qualifying. It was a fantastic car to drive. Very physical though.
Was racing better then or now?
The 90s by far. The 90s were the best. They were the golden years of racing and for my career. It was so big. Sponsors. The cars were so fantastic, beautiful . I don’t know what is going on now. I mean the cars are horrible now. Formula 1 are horrible, and Indycars are horrible. They were so beautiful in those days. They don’t build them anymore like that. So, then to me and the competition was just the best.
Who is the greatest racer of all time?
That’s an impossible question to answer. I always say ‘Who are the best drivers of each era?’ Because you cannot compare… Fangio was the best in his era, Jim Clark, Mario Andretti… what his achievements he has done. The Intimidator, Dale Earnhardt Senior. There are so many in each era. I wouldn’t say one is the best of all of them.
It’s the same for rally, I have a lot of respect for rally drivers. I mean, those guys are the best on their day… what they do….You have to give credit to each of the greatest in each era.
Andretti – Among the best of an era
What was your closest shave or your “Holy Shit” moment?
Many! You know, you have more of those than really crashes. And sometimes you get away with them but then when you crash, you say, “Well, it’s about time”. Sometimes you don’t. You get so lucky. One time I was in Michigan and I was behind Alex Zanardi. Alex crashes in turn four and in those days we didn’t have teathers. His front tyre goes into the air. It’s coming into my helmet and just by miracle reaction I turn left and went into the pit lane at 230mph. That was a very, very close call. There is no way I would have survived if it had hit me in the head.
What is your favourite racing livery or logo. Colour scheme?
The one I had in the 90s. Definitely. With the Tecate/Quaker State mix in the Mexican Quarters. That car was the most beautiful. And it is the one that everyone remembers.
You have three drivers that you can invite for dinner dead or alive, who would they be?
Fangio, Senna and Pedro Rodriguez.
Who is the best driver that you raced against that didn’t make it to the big time?
I will say… Jonathan McCall. He was a fantastic driver. He was dedicated. I don’t know what happened to him.
Nico Palhares, not so much – quick but not dedicated. Bernard Dolan…. But there wasn’t as dedicated and as good as Jonathan was , I say he was one of the best . David Coulthard, Gil de Ferran too. It was a great time in Formula Ford in those years.
What was your biggest disappointment in racing?
Not making it to Formula One but at the same time it was… Let’s say realistic. When I started I was young but not as young as the young kids now. And basically I had to struggle to get to the top. I got into Indy Car at 29.I always had a dream of Formula 1. I love Formula 1 but at the end of the day I have had a fantastic career.
So I am now living my dream through Sergio Perez at Sauber-Ferrari and helping and supporting, so that’s the next best thing.
Fernandez may not have made it to Formula One, but is proud to see Sergio Perez living the dream and doing well for Mexico
What was the first race you saw in person and how old were you?
I had to be very little. It was probably my uncle’s race in Mexico. I was probably five years old.
In Mexico my uncles raced cars. So it was them… since I was a little they were racing, so I watched.
And is there anything you would still like to race in?
A special event? Not really. I’ve done everything. I‘ve done them all. Obviously, to win at Le Mans… Yes. I miss Indycars a lot. But you know at the same token I am 49… I have enjoyed a very long longevity of a race career. Thirty-one years racing so I can’t complain much.
What has been the best post-race party?
Oh the Australians! It’s always is a paradise for the drivers. Haha. Surfer’s Paradise!
Would you call yourself a fan of racing history?
Yes definitely. I love it. All that about the Rodriguez brothers and everything. It’s the progression and development of racing has changed so much. I like it. I read a lot and I see a lot of videos. Definitely.
What do you think of the historic racing scene. You know when they bring the old cars out?
They’re crazy. Absolutely crazy, I mean I see like Adrian Newey having this or something like that. I mean the cars are a lot safer today than they were in those days and they race them… So respect – I have a lot of respect for them guys.
Was there ever a race you were in and suddenly thought to yourself, “How did I get here?” and realised you were racing against somebody that was an idol of yours?
Yeah. My first race in Long Beach in 1993. I was in the drivers meeting. It was my first Indycar race . I was teammates with Al Unser Jr. and Danny Sullivan. Obviously when I joined those guys, I was like aw… I couldn’t believe it.
They were great. I remember I sat down in the drivers meeting here with Al… with… and I sat beside Mario Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi and they were so nice to me and I just couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t pay attention to the drivers meeting! I was just looking at them .
And when I was going through the track and they passed me, I was… ‘Hey, that’s Emerson…
Come on, come on through…’ Emerson Fittipaldi, I mean, that’s Mario Andretti and that was unbelievable. I couldn’t believe I was suddenly part of them. I watched them when I was a kid. It was fantastic.
Have you ever complained about anything that has been written about you?
Yes. In the old days in Indycar I saw people say why I was not more aggressive on the starts or restarts or things like that. I remember I used to have these issues with… When people see it from the outside it’s always easier. It’s like, ‘Why did he miss the penalty or this and you know or 300,000 people watching you know or 90,000 people watching in the stadium. There is pressure there. On the outside it’s easy to see, but on the inside it’s another story. But I never really pay too much of attention of it. At the end of the day my results speak for themselves.
And, you know and the time I have been racing, I think that has answered everything.
To follow Adrian Fernandez, go to @AdrianF007 on twitter