Fast Five with Petri Suvanto

Here is another installment of the Fast Five segment on my blog, and in this installment, I am honored to interview 2011 USF2000 champion and current Star Mazda racer Petri Suvanto! The Finnish born driver is making his way through the Mazda Road to Indy, and the future looks is very bright for him. It also doesn't hurt to be a nice guy to talk and also and enjoyable guy to be around. Here is the interview, enjoy!

1) You are a Finnish driver (born in Seinäjoki, Finland) and you raced in Formula BMW Europe in 2010, but then last year, you decided to cometo America and join the Mazda Road to Indy (where in your first year, you dominated the USF2000 series). What made you want to come to America to race? (I'm glad you did!)

PS: To explain the background behing my move to American racing we have to go back to the season in Formula BMW Europe in 2010, which was my first season in formula cars. It was a learning season for me, racing against a very competitive field filled with experience. In Europe, you have to show results instantly or otherwise you might lose your chance and this is what happened to me. I lost all my backing after the 2010 season and there was a time when I wasn't even sure if I could continue racing due to lack of funds.

I must admit, racing in United States was never part of my Plan A, I barely knew anything about IndyCar. I started looking for options for 2011 with a long term vision in my mind and during this process I learned about Mazda Road to Indy - I was very impressed! Before I made my decision to race in USF2000 I still had some other options in my mind but none of those offered the continuity that Mazda Road to Indy did. Other factor that helped my decision was the fact that USF2000 was simply much more affordable to begin with than pretty much any other series in Europe. I contacted various teams and decided to do a test with Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor racing. After the test I made a decision together with my family that this is what we are going to do. I came in to my first racing season in America with an open mind and it didn't take long for me to fall in love with the racing in America.

2) So you are at the next step towards Indycar, which is Star Mazda. Currently P5 in the championship, how are things going for you and Team Pelfrey?

PS: My first season in Star Mazda has been a tough one so far. We've had the speed to fight for win in most of the races but things just haven't fallen in place yet and due to this we aren't where we want to be in the point standings. We have seen how quickly the standings can change and things can change a lot in just one weekend. Most important thing is that I've been improving all the time and I'm getting more comfortable with everything that's new this year. Next race at Edmonton is a perfect chance for me and my team to finally bring home results that our efforts deserve!

3) Is racing in Indycar your ultimate goal for the distant future?

PS: Yes. At the moment, my long term goals are to become IndyCar champion and to win Indy 500. Racing changes a lot though, so it's better to go one year at a time. What the racing world is like in 2020 is not in my hands, but how good of a driver I am in 2020 is! So, my main focus is always in my own performance, continuous improvement and the current season.

4) How has life been like for you as far as adjusting to American culture? Anything you miss back home in Finland?

PS: Adjusting to American culture hasn't been too difficult. Since the age of 12 I've raced outside Finland and worked with foreign teams, so I've had to adjust into different cultures over the years and I've gotten pretty good at it. Obviously, every single culture comes with it's own challenges and for sure there have been times when I've felt out of place but it's part of it and makes things interesting. There have been far more positives than negatives though and the two years I've spent racing here in America have been extremely fun!

What I miss most about Finland is my family and friends, and also, Finnish sincerity. When Finnish people speak, they always say what they really think. There are no hidden motives and if someone is nice to you, the reason simply is that they like you as a person. I've been involved in many funny situations here in U.S. due to the cultural differences. Well, at least my American friends have a lot of material to make fun of me! I was also about to mention that I miss going to sauna (big part of Finnish culture), until I realized that I live in one - the weather down here in St. Petersburg, Fl is pretty close to a sauna.

5) The staple question in the Fast Five series is have you ever sneezed, sighed, or anything else that would be considered obscure whilst driving a race car?

PS: When I was a young kid doing karting I used to hum while practising, that's all that comes to my mind. Unfortunately I don't have much to share on this subject from recent years. I had a team mate few years ago who used to vomit into his helmet during warm up lap for races - that's pretty obscure!

Really appreciate the opportunity to interview Mr. Suvanto, thanks again Petri!

-Matthew Hickey