Vtior Meira talks IndyCar and about his new challenge, the IronMan 70.3 World Championship
Vitor Meira burst onto the IZOD IndyCar Series scene in 2002 with Team Menard Racing, quickly showing his speed with a pole position and podium appearance in just his fourth race. Since then, Meira has been a staple of the series and a fan favorite.
The Brazilian native finished runner-up in the 2005 and 2008 Indianapolis 500, and has garnered sixteen total podiums in his career.
Meira joined AJ Foyt Racing in 2009, but a horrific crash in turn one late in the 2009 Indianapolis 500 resulted in a broken back and cost Meira the rest of the 2009 season.
Meira began training to return with a strict regime of running, swimming, and biking. That hard work paid off when Vitor fought hard to a third place finish in the inaugural Sao Paulo Indy 300 in his home country.
He will now use all his skills to compete in the 2010 Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater, FL on November 13th.
We caught up with Vitor recently to discuss the 2010 season, the Ironman Championships, and his thoughts for the future.
“Last year was a lot of ups and downs. We started with an up and finished with an up, but we had a big down in the middle. I think our strength was in the 1.5 mile short ovals, and our weakness was with the road courses. We were okay with the street courses, we always had a top ten car, but we need to improve on the road courses," Meira noted.
“I believe Foyt racing improved a lot. We had the team’s best season in seven seasons, since 2002 with Airton Dare. Consistency is the main goal we would like to accomplish next year."
Meira celebrates with Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Meira suffered a season ending injury at the 2009 Indianapolis 500. After a difficult recovery, Meira returned to his home country of Brazil and captured a third place podium finish at the inaugural Sao Paulo 300.
“[Brazil] was awesome. Not only because I was hurt, but I had a lot of questions for myself. Can I still do the things I was doing? Is the accident going to be in the back of my mind every time? As soon as I got back in the car, I knew I would not have a problem. The answer for everyone else came at home, where my family was, where I grew up. It was a big event in Brazil. It was an awesome weekend and awesome start of the season."
AJ Foyt and Vitor Meira often took alternative strategies to attempt to move to the front.
Miera and team Foyt often found themselves with a good car in 2010, but had difficulty moving to the front because of tough passing conditions. The team often took strategy and fuel gambles to move from the top ten into the top three. The only problem for team Foyt was the gambles were often spoiled both by untimely cautions and long green flag runs that canceled fuel strategy moves.
“We always wonder if our gambles were worth it. But that is the way AJ always raced, and I agree with it. I’ve always been in favor of being aggressive on the start and on strategy. In the end if you get ninth or tenth, it is going to be forgotten. A win would not be. If that is the only way you can win, then I am all for it, and that is why we all agreed to risk a little more.”
Meira used the 2009 crash setback to his advantage, honing his physique through rigorous training for triathlons.
“I had done triathlons before I got hurt, but I had a lot of time after the crash. I recovered quickly, but my bones weren't ready for another crash yet. I started training harder and harder and now we are headed to the Foster Grant Ironman World Championships 70.3”
“My body held up well in 2010. Because of the crash, I started intensifying my training for the triathlon. I had a lot of time for it, and it paid off.
Iron Man 70.3 competitors emerge from the water
Meira will compete in this weekend's Foster Grant Ironman 70.3 World Championships. The half Ironman features a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride, and a 13.1 mile run at the end. Meira has previously ran the famous 13.1 half marathon known as the Mini Marathon during the Month of May in Indianapolis.
Vitor discussed his training regimen, “Since the half Ironman started, I have been tapering a bit. I try to put forty hours a week. I would like to put in more, but I can’t recover that fast yet. I ride or run in the morning and swim in the afternoon. Monday is my only day off.”
“I’ve worked with Ironman for a long time. The opportunity arose to run the race, and I took it. In this event, I’ll be just like the people that come to our races and get to hang with the crews and drivers. I’m going to be star struck. All the world champions will be there, and I am going to be really excited.”
Meira is focused on the Iron Man
The Brazilian driver talks about his goals and strengths for the 2010 Ironman.
“My strongest is the bike. It was the running, but I hurt my Achilles. Swimming and running are basically the same, but the bike is my strong suit right now. Anything with tires and aerodynamics are my strong suit.”
“I will be very happy with anything between four and a half hours to 4:45. That is my goal.”
Meira talked about other racers and how they encourage each other. “As we speak, Tony Kanaan is texting me to go ride in Miami. We ride together all the time. I also ride with Jensen Button (F1). There is a lot of drivers that like it, because it is part of our training.”
Vitor discusses what boss AJ Foyt thinks of his other racing side, “He likes me doing it, because it keeps me in shape, but you know AJ, good ol Texan. When he sees us in the outfit, he just makes fun of me. He would not do it in a million years… and I’m being polite here, because the truth is much harsher.”
“Training has helped me to learn about my body. Racing is more instinctive and you don’t notice how much you are sweating and how it affects your body. Triathalons have taught me how to relax and keep my heart rate down. Now, I take gels at the race under yellows. I keep my energy up.”
“I am looking forward to continuing work with AJ Foyt. We had virtually our first year together and there are a lot of things we can work on. I want to work out the bugs. We improved a lot on the ovals, and want to continue the work we are doing.”
On possible expansion for the team, “We would like to expand and be a multi car team, but I don’t know how that is going. Nothing is done yet. It would be great to have two cars, but it needs to be properly done. It can’t be one and a half cars.”
Vitor talks about his preference for ovals at this point in his career, “Normally I prefer the track the car is good at, and we have been good on the ovals. Even though my background is road racing, lately I have done very fine at the ovals. But if the car is good at some place, you love the place.”
And talks about how he would like to see the schedule shape out in the future. “Because of my years in IndyCar, I really believe and hope that IndyCar should be at least 50% of the races on ovals. That’s what it was built on, and I think it needs to stay that way.”
Meira talks about his goals for the 2011 IndyCar season. He noted that he currently has an agreement to return to Foyt, but that nothing has been formalized and signed yet. He hoped these would get done soon and that a sponsor could be announced.
“My main goal for next year is consistency. You can’t have a good season if you are not consistent. We have to maintain and improve on last year. We did ok on the street course, so we have to improve a little bit, but we have to get our road course program right. That is where we lacked and didn’t make a lot of points at all. Improving the road courses to the level of our ovals is the main goal.”
Meira talked about the one change that he would make to the IZOD IndyCar Series if he were CEO for a day...
“I’m a driver, so from a driver’s perspective, I would come back at least half way on the prize money. We ended prize money and did the TEAM incentive program in 2008. I would go back at least 50% on the prize money because it is a great incentive for the drivers. Very few people race for the money only, but it makes the whole thing more professional.”
The league has yet to announce what the TEAM structure will be for the 2011 season and beyond, so Meira may get his wish in the near future.
Meira said that after nearly ten years in the league, he felt like fans knew him well, but that he wanted to let them know, “You are welcome to come and talk to me at the track. I am just like everyone else. I am just like the fans that are watching the race, I just have a very cool job.”
I asked Vitor about his best AJ Foyt story, knowing he had to be full of great ones. Meira proved that he is not only fast on the track, versatile in his training, but also a pretty smart guy, “There are so many great AJ stories, but I better not say any. Anything I say here, I will probably be in trouble, so I better not say anything.”
Meira will be competing in the Ironman Championship this Saturday, November 13th from Clearwater, FL. You can follow his journey and all the Ironman action by logging into www.ironman.com.
Meira will begin his quest to win in the IndyCar series near where he will finish his IronMan race. The season kicks off on March 27th with the Grand Prix of St Petersburg.