Max Papis has raced everywhere.
The Italian driver is one of the few who has had the privilege to race in NASCAR’s many levels, IndyCar, CART, the American Le Mans Series, Formula One and the Rolex Grand-Am Sports Car Series.
As a result, though he’s not the most successful driver, he has an immense library of knowledge to share with the curious. That’s what he did with a Q&A for SafeisFast.com, a website powered by Honda.
Here are three of the best insights Papis had to share with fans.
Q: Of the major series that you have driven, how would you compare them with one another? How would you rank them (NASCAR, F1, Sports Car…) concerning difficulty in learning to drive, or the talent of your competitors?
Papis: The thing I can tell you is that for sure the most demanding cars that I have driven were the Champ Cars. The Miller Lite car that I drove for many years was definitely the series that I got the most satisfaction from because to be champion you had to be a complete driver. You went from driving on a short track at Nazareth one weekend to driving Long Beach, then Michigan, then Toronto and then Laguna Seca …. NASCAR to me is nowadays the most competitive series that I have been in. Those drivers that are involved are not just great oval drivers but they are great drivers overall and they are definitely the best American racers.
Q: When you were first starting out as a professional racing driver who were your first sponsors and how did you get them?
Papis: I was paid to race karts when I was 16 or 17, but then I wasn’t paid to race again until I was 24 or 25. I found all my own sponsors, I picked up the Yellow Pages and I called every single company that could have some thing to do with the sport of racing in a 500 mile radius. I went to visit all of them one by one to try to create interest and maybe out of 1,000 companies I was able to find two who believed in me as a person and who would support me … In my young career I definitely drove more miles on the road trying to pursue sponsors and talk to companies than what I did driving my race car.
Q: I recently did a hot lap as a passenger in a GT car with a pro driver. He was very fast. I noticed his hands made many quick corrections – they never stopped moving. Is this a particular style of driving or just what is needed when driving at the very limit?
Papis: There is no such thing as a ‘correct’ driving style. Driving is like walking – everyone does it in a different way. There are drivers who are extremely fast and on the limit but look super smooth and there are other drivers that are fast and on the limit that are very reactive. In racing you can achieve your goals driving the car in very different ways. Obviously having fast hands always helps because it is a great way to recover out of tough situations. That has been one of my characteristics since the beginning of my career, but there are guys who look like they are going to the grocery store and instead they are running super fast laps.