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Exclusive interview with Andy Carter
In the week leading up to the 2005 Easter Thunderball, 2004 FIA European Top Fuel Dragster Champion Andy Carter announced a major sponsorship deal with UK home improvement retailer B & Q. The deal, initially for two years, was the result of a year and a half's hard work, and as well as on-track activities involves promotional visits to retail store branches as well as other promotional work.
The announcement of the deal was well-timed as Andy was about to contest the 2005 Pro Fuel Shootout at the Easter Thunderball, and he was planning to be the first racer to win the Shootout three times.
Eurodragster.com spoke to Andy Carter on the eve of the announcement about his off-season activities, his plans to win the Pro Fuel Shootout, and the deal with B & Q.
Eurodragster.com: Give us an overview of what an FIA European Champion does over the off-season?
Andy Carter: There really isn't much of an off-season any more. Our season didn't end until after the Flame and Thunder in November and then started again in January with the Autosport Show at the NEC. Since Autosport we have appeared at the Xtreme Wheels Show and opened a store in Scotland for Goodyear. We have painted and vinylled two Top Fuel Dragsters, painted and vinylled two complete artics (I had to get one done for B & Q), completely rebuilt the race car which included doing the SFI upgrades, had all the new clothing, start line shirts made, refurbished the inside of my trailer, as well as the hundreds of other jobs - booking flights, hotels, sponsorship work, web site, E-Mails etc - which you need to keep on top of when running a Top Fuel operation.
Eurodragster.com: Have Rune or yourself made any major changes for this year?
Andy Carter: Car-wise no, no major changes. But there have been lots of small changes in several different areas, which is almost as bad. The car has been back to a bare chassis, because of this and the many small changes, we are starting the Pro Fuel Shootout with a Top Fuel Dragster which is basically undeveloped. Crew-wise, there have been some changes. Rune is tuning and I have a new Crew Chief, Ben Allum, we also have two new crew in Jim Tucker and Simon Williams, Dan Welberry also came back on the marketing side in the off-season.
Eurodragster.com: There must be a temptation to treat the Pro Fuel Shootout as an early test for the FIA Main Event, but I get the idea that you view it as you do any other race - something which must be won?
Andy Carter: This is most definitely not a test for us. It's a race and we must go out and win it. I owe to my sponsors, team and spectators to go out and perform, and to me "perform" means winning. I don't care if it's pretty or ugly but we go to win; there is nothing else! I see the Pro Fuel Shootout as a prestigious and important race and having won it twice I want three!
Eurodragster.com: Do you have an issue with the Funny Car getting a 0.35 head start in the Pro Fuel Shootout? Should it be more, or less?
Andy Carter: The way they can run sometimes we could give them four seconds' head start! But I would love to see a heads-up start, seeing two Fuel cars leave together is just awesome! I have said in the past that the weather and teams with new combinations can be a great leveller at this event. I would like to see a Pro Fuel Shootout with eight cars: Top Fuel, Fuel Funnies, Fuel Altereds - a heads-up, anything-running-Fuel Shootout!
Eurodragster.com: You have raced in the Pro Fuel Shootout a number of times. Could you describe for us what it is like being on both fuel pumps and in stage, then the other side of the Tree runs? How do you not react?
Andy Carter: The answer is experience and concentration. When I'm strapped into that car, there could be a million people staring in and I wouldn't see 999,999 of them, the concentration level is that high. I get asked all the time what's it like to run a four at three hundred and this question is along those lines. The answer is the same, I can't describe it. I'm sorry, I wish I could, maybe I'm not good at describing stuff, maybe it's a thing that is so hard to describe that you have to do it to get the answer. I've never heard a Top Fuel driver (American or European) give a good description of the feeling when you're on a run or leaving the start line, although I would describe the launch as quite violent when you get to sixty feet in 0.8 seconds.
Eurodragster.com: After the Easter Thunderball you will be turning to your FIA European Championship defence. Are you planning to test or will you go straight to the FIA Main Event?
Andy Carter: I can't answer that until nearer the time.
Eurodragster.com: Are there one or two particular teams you view as a major threat to your title defence, or do you consider everyone a threat?
Andy Carter: Everyone is very good at this, the top level. But what the other teams know is that Andy Carter's the best. To make it even more of a nightmare for them I've got the best sponsors, best car, best tuner, best Crew Chief and best crew as well. If the other Top Fuel racers are reading this: I'm the European ET and speed record holder, twice FIA European Champion, twice Pro Fuel Shootout Champion, best pedaller in the business, and usually beat you on the light eight times out of ten, remember all that when you're against me this year. After saying all that, I won't underestimate anyone!
Eurodragster.com: Congratulations on your new major sponsorship with B & Q. How did that come about?
Andy Carter: I could go into getting up at five in the morning and working on sponsorship and team paperwork for three hours, before my normal day starts, but I won't bore you with all that. The short answer is nine meetings, eighteen months of hard work and perseverance! Of course it's a great help to have good people like John Andrews and Dan Welberry backing you up.
Eurodragster.com: Will you be making appearances with the car at branches of B & Q?
Andy Carter: Yes, part of the marketing agreement is that we need to be outside fifteen B & Q stores during 2005 with the truck, trailer and race car to help promote B & Q power tools and supporting brands. It's going to be a very busy year!
Eurodragster.com: When we interview you before next year's Pro Fuel Shootout, what would you like to read as the first question?
Andy Carter: "Congratulations Andy, last year you won the Pro Fuel Shootout for a third time, you also retained the FIA European Top Fuel Championship for a third time and during the season won ten million on the National Lottery. So what are your plans for your two brand new trucks and trailers and the two brand new Top Fuel Dragsters, Lord Carter?"
Eurodragster.com: I'll be sure to put that in my diary! Thanks for your time, Andy, and we'll see you at Santa Pod at the weekend.
Visit Andy Carter's web site
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