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Pirelli Paddock Pass: Erin Vogel

Flying Lizard driver discusses season, IMS cameo in Blackdog McLaren and more…

Photo: Bob Chapman/Autosport Image

Coming off her first full season of Pirelli GT4 America competition, Erin Vogel has made a lasting impression in the SRO America paddock.

The Flying Lizard Motorsports driver teamed with McLaren Automotive factory pilot Michael Cooper for the GT4 SprintX season in a McLaren 570S GT4, having gained valuable knowledge in the highly competitive series.

Vogel, who is fresh off competing in the Rebelle Rally, the first all-women’s off-road navigation rally raid in the U.S., is the spotlight in this week’s Pirelli Paddock Pass.

How would you rate your first full season of Pirelli GT4 America racing with Flying Lizard Motorsports?

“Overall it was a really positive experience. On the one hand, we were never able to get the results we were hoping for and knew we were capable of as a team, mostly due to some things outside our control – but that’s how racing goes sometimes.

“I’m glad we never gave up the fight because fortitude and perseverance is what will eventually get us those wins. And despite all the setbacks I still feel like there were a lot of productive moments in terms of my development as a driver and racer.”

What were some of the things you learned the most from the season and with your co-driver Michael Cooper?

“Working with Michael was really the best part of the season. He’s such a well-rounded driver and racer and he’s so great at seeing the whole picture, which really helps me to understand what the work is for me as a novice.

“We spend a lot of time going over each session and each race, and he never lets me get away with any of my bad habits – which I really appreciate!

“So it would be difficult to point out the biggest learning moment because it’s really just a constant progression.

“I guess I would say that mostly I’m just learning how to take advantage of all the resources available in order to see my performance honestly from all sides.

“Understanding the work needed to continue improving is the most important piece of the puzzle from a development standpoint, and that’s what we’re constantly working on as teammates.”

You had a last-minute call-up to sub for Tony Gaples in the Blackdog McLaren. How did that go and did running in both Sprint and SprintX help you over the course of the IMS weekend?

“Driving the Blackdog car at IMS was such a cool opportunity, and I’m so grateful that both teams were on board with the idea.

“The additional seat time in such a similarly prepared car was really wonderful in terms of understanding more of the nuances of the track. I had great racing in both Sprint events, and it was really fun to drive some longer stints for the first time in a while.

“Overall it really enhanced my whole experience of IMS, and I would do it again in a heartbeat!”

Was it your first time racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway? If so, did you have any emotions of driving at such a historic track?

“It was my first time racing there, and until I saw it on the schedule for this season it wasn’t something I really thought I’d ever do!

“It’s an incredible facility and a really interesting track.

“It would have been fun to have had the true fan experience, but it was still rather awe-inspiring just to be working from those historic garages and racing in the shadow of those grandstands.”

SRO America has made changes to some of the series’ formats next year. Does GT America interest you or would you like to return to GT4 SprintX next year with the two-driver format?

“I really enjoy the two-driver format, even though it’s a relatively short stint as a driver. For a less experienced driver like myself, there’s so much value in getting to drive with the experienced pros – value beyond just the coaching. Getting to share the track with them gives a sense of where to aim for.

“Plus it just adds so much to the racing in terms of strategy, and that’s really exciting for both drivers and fans.”

How did you get involved with the Rebelle Rally, and what was the most challenging aspect of the event?

“I’m always looking for new challenges, and the Rebelle Rally sounded like a great way to challenge myself as a driver as well as an opportunity to meet some incredible women who are into off-roading.

“Coming from road racing, I would say that the biggest challenge was adapting to sharing the cockpit with a teammate, and slowing down the decision making process to allow that conference time which is so necessary when working together.

“The navigation rally-raid format is one that definitely requires two capable teammates in order to be to be successful, so having great communication is vital.

“I was really glad that I had the experience with Michael in SprintX this season to prepare me for that, since most of my racing prior this season has been in the single-driver Sprint formats.

“Having worked with Michael in that capacity this season really improved my communication skills and my ability to be more open-minded and flexible in that type of high-pressure, competitive-level partnership.”

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