FRANCHITTI TALKS CARS WITH MOTOR TREND
Celebrity Driver: Dario Franchitti, Four-Time IndyCar Champion
Older Sports Cars Get Franchitti Fired Up - Especially his Ferrari F40
By K.S. Wang
May 18, 2012
Quick Stats: Dario Franchitti, IndyCar racer
Daily Driver: 2010 Acura TL (Dario's rating: 8 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Favorite road trip: Scotland, Monaco and Alps
Car he learned to drive in: driving school car
First car bought: 1987 Fiat Uno
Target Chip Ganassi racer Dario Franchitti gets to drive cars with state of the art technology at more than 200 mph for a living, a job auto enthusiasts everywhere can only dream about and one he's quite good at. A four-time IndyCar champion, Franchitti is hoping for another win on May 27at the 2012 Indy 500.
When he's not on a track, Franchitti enjoys a nice drive or road trip in the U.S. or Scotland in one of his many cars. For example, last year he shipped his 1995 Porsche 964 Speedster from his Tennessee home to California to drive the Pacific Coast Highway..
"I wanted to take that car and just the fact that it was a convertible was good in California. I did about 2,000 (miles) in a couple of weeks, so that was quite good fun," Franchitti says. "I drove it down to L.A. and up to San Francisco a couple of times. I was based at the Monterey Historics."
The road trip included Interstate 5 and Route 46, where James Dean died in his Porsche 550 Spyder driving from Los Angeles to a car race in Salinas. "I drove up the 5 and I just was driving along and realized that was the road that he had his accident on," Franchitti says.
Franchitti's wife, actress Ashley Judd, often accompanies him on road trips. "She loves going on road trips with me," he says. "She's game for going in which ever one of the cars. These cars are not limousines by any means. They're cars that are just fun to drive."
Franchitti gives his 1995 Porsche 964 Speedster a 7 rating. "It's an older car now, but it's a fun car. Each car that I own does something different for me, whether it's out right performance, the way it looks, or even driving at 30 miles an hour. All these cars give you a good feeling about driving them, as far as the feedback they give you."
After taking a second to think about his car collection, Franchitti says "Some of them are very raw. I have an old '73 911 and everything is taken out of it to be as light as possible. That's a fun old car. Some of them I don't even drive. Each time when you win Indianapolis and win the 500, they give you a pace car and I don't really drive those on the road."
There is one pace car Franchitti owns that he bought himself -- a 1965 Plymouth Sport Fury. "It was one of the pace cars of the Indianapolis 500 in 1965," Franchitti says. "I've never driven it, but I have that at home. My hero is Jimmy Clark and Jimmy won the 500 in 1965."
Franchitti has an interesting take on the all the latest and fastest models available out now as it compares to the aging roads and clogged traffic jams. "I think there are some terrific new cars out there," he says, "but for me, the older stuff is more interesting. Especially on the roads now, the new performance cars are just so fast, they've almost outgrown the roads."
2010 Acura TL
Since Honda is one of the three manufacturers that supply engines for IndyCar teams, they gave Franchitti his Acura TL. "I love it. It's got that clever 4-wheel drive system that really helps it handle and get through corners very well," he says. "It's well built, fuel-efficient, good sound system inside."
"It also has a great navigation system," he says. "It even has weather radar. If I was going to change one thing about it, I'd give it a little bit more power, but that's just me being greedy I think."
He wouldn't give any car a perfect 10 rating. "I have yet to drive the perfect car," he laughs. "For it to be the perfect car, a little more power would be nice, but it's pretty close for a daily driver. I've got a few cars that I tend not to drive everyday. My weakness is cars."
Franchitti won't say exactly how many cars he has in his collection, except that it's "somewhere north of 10. I know the exact number. I'm not going to quote it, but it's more than 10," he laughs.
Some highlights in his garage include a Ferrari F40. "The F40 is a car that I dreamed about growing up," he says. "I've owned it a long time and for me, it's a brilliant car. It's fairly raw and fairly explosive to drive. I love it. The F40 is pretty close to perfection in my book. The F40 is in Scotland, we've got some very nice driving roads over there."
Franchitti says that if you're going to see him in an older model car, chances are it's going to be a Porsches or Ferrari. "Those are really the cars that have fascinated me my whole life."
2005 Porsche Carrera GT
"I love that car," Franchitti says. "I've got a real weakness for Porsches of all different ages and models. That's just a wonderful car, the engine is a big part of it, the V10 motor that's in it, the carbon fiber chassis. It's a real fun car. And very much like the F40, you have to really treat it with respect."
Back home in Nashville, Franchitti recently drove a friend's new Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0. "The performance was race car levels," he says. "Unbelievable, what they did with that car. Phenomenal car."
He admits he's lucky because he gets offered test rides in many cars. "That's a fun part of my job, to get to do that kind of stuff," he says. "It's fun to drive other people's cars, but there's nothing like driving your own and owning your own car and caring for it and researching it and all that fun stuff."
Car he learned to drive in
Born and raised in Scotland, Franchitti grew up racing go-karts and when it came time to get his license, he just went to a driving school, which was where he learned to drive in a regular car.
"I'd been driving cars on private roads and racing go-karts at the World Championship level for 100 hundred years," he says, with a laugh, "so I just needed to go get my license."
First car bought
With money from odd jobs worked between racing and some help from his parents, Franchitti bought a used 1987 Fiat Uno. "It had a little 1.3 turbocharged motor," he says.
"It was a great little car. I remember I bought the car and I had to eventually sell it because I couldn't afford to pay the loan on it anymore. I actually tried to find the car recently and buy it, but unfortunately it rusted into oblivion. I used some of my contacts back in Scotland and they said, 'Unfortunately it's no longer with us,'" he laughs.
He only had the Fiat for about eight months. "Then I started winning some prize money and working at racing schools," he says. "I used to deliver cars for one of my sponsors and that's how I got my next car, a 1988 Golf GTI. It was a great car, I loved that car."
Favorite road trip
A favorite road trip was one Franchitti took about eight years ago with his brother. "My brother and I jumped in one of the Ferraris that I own back in Scotland and we headed off to Monaco, which was a couple thousand miles away," he says. "That was about five years ago in a 355 Spider."
When Franchitti is back in Scotland, he always tries to go on road trips. "Ashley and I, when we're back in Scotland, we'll jump in the car and just head off for a couple days around some of the roads in Scotland," he says. "Ashley and I have done a lot of fun road trips around Scotland and difference places."
While he's found some great driving roads, Franchitti is mum on where they are. "I want keep all the roads I know to myself. I don't want it to get crowded," he says with a laugh. "It's getting more crowded. When you find that piece of tarmac that you love, it's good to hang on to it."
Though he loves driving around Scotland, he also likes California's Pacific Coast Highway and says that there are great roads in Tennessee as well. He also knows about some roads that feed into PCH that he won't share either.
"Some of my friends who write about cars for different magazines pointed me in the direction of several roads around that area, really great driving roads. I took those to PCH and cruised on PCH. They'd kill me if I told you," he laughs. "But the good part of that was it was the day after the Monterey Historics, so I remember one point in particular, sharing the road with a 300SL Gullwing in front of me and a 300SL Roadster behind me and it was great."
Target Chip Ganassi Racing
"We're at the Indianapolis 500 the 27th of May, so look out for us there. We're just trying to win another Indy 500 and championship," he says.
Even though he's a four-time IndyCar champion and a two-time Indy 500 winner, winning never gets old for Franchitti. "Never. Never," he says. "Trust me, a lot of hard work goes into that and we would like to do a lot more of it. They're all sweet and we love doing it and winning is why we do it, so we push very hard."
The IndyCar series has had some tough times in the past and Franchitti feels it's in a good place now and he's happy to be part of it.
"They're on the right track and there's a lot of good news," he says. "For the first time in many years, we've got engine manufacture competition again now. We've got Chevrolet, Honda, Lotus, and a very tough field of drivers. I'm excited to be part of the series and I think with Team Target, I'm on the best team, so it's pretty good."
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