After spending a year away from Road to Indy competition, Santiago Urrutia will return to Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires competition in 2020 with HMD Motorsports.
The past Indy Pro 2000 presented by Cooper Tires Champion took the time to offer his thoughts entering the year to POPULAR OPEN WHEEL.
POPULAR OPEN WHEEL: What does it mean for you to return to the Road to Indy?
SANTIAGO URRUTIA: I am pretty happy. This is what I always wanted to do, to get to IndyCar, so I know to get to IndyCar, I need to win the championship to get the scholarship to help me get the ride in IndyCar. I missed it a lot being off for one year, but it means a lot to be back racing in America. Right now, I’m honestly really happy to be back and we’ve been testing and let’s see how the season goes. But right now, super happy and excited.
POW: What are your goals and expectations for this season, outside of the obvious goal for the championship?
SANTIAGO: I just want to enjoy the year, have fun, and of course win the championship. You know, it’s just great to have one more chance to be back in an Indy Lights car as it’s not easy for me being from a small country in South America as you have to put so much effort in with sponsors and stuff. So I’m going to enjoy it. I have a good team as HMD (Motorsports) has good people working together with a lot of experience and everything, so I just want to have fun and win races and the championship.
I’m not 100% focused on that – obviously that’s the main goal, but I just want to enjoy it and have fun. That’s what I am doing right now. It changed a little bit on my mind. I don’t have pressure as people know who I am, so the only thing I want to do is just enjoy the year.
POW: What track are you most excited to get to?
SANTIAGO: There is of course the month of May and the Freedom 100 – I think that’s the one that everyone wants to win. But my favourite track, there’s two on the schedule – Toronto and Mid-Ohio. Those are my favourite tracks, so I’m super excited to go back to those tracks. Obviously, Indy with the month of May and the Indy 500 and everything, it makes it special, but those other two races – Toronto and Mid-Ohio, I’ve won at both those places. It’ll be great to go back and race there again, and meet the fans.
POW: Based on your previous Road to Indy experience, what do you feel that you need to do to be even stronger this season then compared to year’s past?
SANTIAGO: I don’t know. I’m just going to give my 100%. It could be enough, or it may not be enough. As I said, I’m focused on enjoying it and if you do that, hopefully you’ll go faster. If you’re not enjoying it, why are you doing it? I don’t think I have to change a lot, honestly. I think everything will come better with HMD. I have a really great team. I have a really good relationship with Henry, the owner of the team; that’s why I am able to have this ride as he put in a lot of effort to work with my sponsors from Uruguay. I have been working with him – it’s my fourth year working with him, so I know him very well.
I don’t have to do something super different to be stronger to win the championship. It’s just something that we have to, as a team, put in all the little things together, and I think we’re going to be fine. Obviously, we have to fight with the other teams – especially Andretti (Autosport) that has the strongest team. They’ve been winning the last few years. So if we can compete with them, it’ll be good.
The team is pretty much brand new. I know they were in the series last year, but all the people that are on the team are new. I think it will be a good success for the team. So I don’t think I need to do a lot of different things to be stronger, just do the little things stronger and put everything in with HMD and that’ll make us stronger.
POW: How did you get started in racing?
SANTIAGO: I got started in Uruguay. I got started racing motorcross when I was three years old, and then my mom said it was too dangerous, so I had to switch to go-karts when I was five. Then I just raced through South America for many years in go-karts in Argentina and Uraguay, and then I moved to Europe when I was 14. I did a few races in go-karts, and then I started in Formulas when I was 15. I raced four years in Europe, and then came to America. Now I’m here for Indy Lights.
But I started in Uruguay. My family has a farm so my granddad gave me a motorcycle and I started riding it around the farm. Then one day, my friend said, ‘Do you want to race?,’ and I said, ‘Why not?,’ and I started racing when I was three. I was really young, but I really had a passion from my family. it’s something that comes from my family. I get the passion from my dad so yeah, I started really young I’d say.
POW: What has been the most memorable moment of your career?
SANTIAGO: There’s one big moment, when I won the Indy Pro Mazda Championship, and then one when I lost the Indy Lights Championship in my first year, when it went away on the last lap. It is but what it is, but it’s great to be back to fight again for that championship that I lost, and the championship will finish once again at the track that I lost the championship and I’ll race the 55 again so it’s a great opportunity. But yeah, I would say one of the biggest moments was winning the Pro Mazda Championship. I had lots of fun that year and I love the crew that I was with on the team – the engineers and everything.
There were a few good moments from go-karting in Argentina when I won a few championships, but I would say the Pro Mazda Championship really changed my career especially here in America so I’d say that’s one of the biggest memories that I have.
POW: Based on your experience, what would be your advice to someone getting started?
SANTIAGO: That it is not easy, especially for me coming from far away. It’s not easy as you have to fight with sponsors, and fight everyday with a smile on your face, whether testing or if it’s a bad day, or whatever it is. You have to be nice with the fans, and it’s not easy. Some people think that it’s easy to get to the maximum level, but it’s not easy. You have to be saving everything, be prepared. So for someone getting started, I’d say enjoy it and do it for fun, and then when you get starting professional, it’s not easy.
You’re going to have bad moments, and good moments. You have to be super strong in the bad moments, and I always say in motorsports that you’ll have more bad moments than good moments. So the key is to be strong during those bad moments, and the good moments will come. I had a bad moment in my career, but I never gave up and kept dreaming of getting to IndyCar. I’m just 23, but I’ve been fighting five years to get there because I’ve never given up. So I would say the first advice is to never give up, and it is a tough, tough sport.
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