Bud Moeller is a gentleman racer. Bud Moeller is a gentleman.
In fact, there is no other word than gentleman to describe the American Corse Clienti pilot Robert Moeller. Apart from being a class act, he is also lightning quick behind the wheel of an F1 car. We caught up with Bud to discuss his passion for racing, his love for the prancing horse- and his rivalry with Marc Gene.
JF: My first question is, when did your passion for Ferrari start?
BM: Well, when I was a teenager, I watched Formula One racing in England- and it was back in the era of Jackie Stewart. He was sort of the hero of the day, but the Ferraris were always fantastic looking cars, so I developed my passion as a teenager. Then as an adult, I bought my first Ferrari when I was 26… and have been a Ferrari fan ever since.
JF: Which Ferrari was that?
BM: My first one was a 308 GTS 1979 carbureted car, which is probably best known as the car which was on the Magnum PI television show. Same color- red with tan interior. It was a fantastic car back in the day.
JF: Did you have any idols growing up, F1 drivers?
BM: I idolized Senna, I think he is still one of the most amazing drivers of all time. Lauda is admired not only for his speed but his bravery for coming back as well. Senna, Lauda, and of course Schumacher in the modern era- those are all really fantastic guys.
JF: There’s a story you posted on Facebook involving Schumacher and a golf cart. Can you tell us about that!
BM: We were at the Canadian Grand Prix. We were going to be racing on that weekend, and on Thursday they give the opportunity for the drivers to walk around the track, or ride around the track on a golf cart. We were on a golf cart circulating around the track, and I came up on another golf cart with two guys in it and a cameraman standing up in the back… and I thought that’s a little bit strange… and as I got closer I saw that it was Michael Schumacher driving and David Coulthard was next to him. They were filming a segment on the BBC, and as I got closer I said, I yelled, I can’t believe I’m going to pass Michael Schumacher. I was coming up on the golf cart and he looked over his shoulder at me and he said oh no you wont, and he turned his golf cart into me and crashed.
So we stopped and talked for a few minutes. I told him I had his 1997 car. He was a very pleasant guy to talk to, we had a very good conversation.
JF: Did he give you some pointers on the car?
BM: I wish he could have given me some pointers on the car, he just could make any car he drove dense. Sort of like Alonso… you put Alonso in any car, doesn’t matter how terrible, and he can fight that car somewhere in the top ten.
JF: Tell us a little bit about the Corse Clienti program, how it’s structured, and how you participate in this program?
BM: Corse Clienti is a program that Ferrari has Created in order to do several things. One, it helps to promote the brand by bringing the Ferrari show to different countries. Second, it gives us all an opportunity to buy and drive these fantastic Ferrari Formula One machines. And third, and very importantly for Ferrari; it’s a training ground for their mechanics. The guys that are training to move up to the Formula One team basically practice on our cars- and the best of them get to move up. the guys that get burned out from all the travelling come down and are the ones that are the masters, the crew chiefs, over the younger guys.
So Ferrari has basically a built in apprentice program, and we are the beneficiaries as well as them being the beneficiaries.
JF: Talk to us a little bit about this circuit here [Mont Tremblant].
BM: Mont Tremblant is probably one of the best circuits in North America. It has been around for fifty years. It’s quite long- I believe it’s four kilometers in length. It has a little bit of elevation change. It’s got some high speeds, some slow speed- so a lot of variety for the drivers, which makes it very exciting to drive.
I’ve probably driven here about a dozen different events, and every time I drive I’m still feeling like I’m learning what the limits of the track are. there are certainly some challenges to it. there’s a nice little hill at turn two that is blind at full throttle and you can’t see where you’re going- so that’s pretty exciting. And yet, even going trough some of the slower stuff, just getting trough it to get to the faster part of the track, is a challenge. I’m always experimenting with how much curb to use, where the braking points are. Sometimes you get to go pretty fast, and sometimes we struggle.
JF: Can you compare it to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal?
BM: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is basically a park during the year, which gets converted to be a racetrack for that one weekend a year. because of the layout of the park, it doesn’t have the opportunity of many great corners, so it’s really a series of straights connected by chicanes- so you’re either full throttle down the straight, or you’re hard on the brakes to relatively slow speeds to get trough the chicanes. So, it’s not much of a circuit compared to the pulpous built road circuits, but as a street circuit- it’s not bad.
There’s some great viewing that people have with the different grandstands that have been set up. The only problem is we paddock all the way down to the Casino hairpin, and the suites are all the way on the opposite end of the track- and it could take a half an hour to get to the suites to have lunch and a half an hour to get back, so it almost feels like you’ve wasted half of the day just to go and eat.
JF: Tell us a little about the city, being in Montreal, and the people you meet.
BM: Montreal to me feels like a little slice of Europe. It’s got fantastic restaurants, it’s got old and new mixed architecture. The people have all of the friendliness towards their cousins a little bit to the south, I’m from the US. The food is phenomenal, and when the F1 weekend comes to Montreal, It’s a fantastic party. I love the way they close down the streets, and have displays. It’s one of the best stops on the circuit for us.
JF: You race all over North America, do you feel a special connection when you’re in Montreal because you own a Gilles Villeneuve car, and because of the vehicle’s history?
BM: Whenever we come here, the car is probably the most famous car in the paddock, and sureley the most popular . there are cars that have very memorable driver’s names on them like Jackie Stewart, or Jody Scheckter who won the championship, but everybody tends to crowd around the Gilles Villeneuve Ferrari- and I understand that I mean he’s from the province of Quebec, there’s so much great history here with Gilles. But there’s something about Ferrari itself and Gilles . You put those two together and it’s the most fantastic thing for people to see.
We’ve literally had people come by, see the car, kneel down next to it and cry. They shed a tear for Gilles and the great memories they had.
So it always is wonderful for us to come to Canada. We get excited just like everybody else.
JF: Do you push the car as hard when you’re driving the Gilles Villeneuve or do you tend to pull it back given the historical importance of the car?
BM: Everybody wonders how hard we’re pushing these cars, and certainly there is a span of capability among the drivers. Some drivers don’t have as much F1 experience as others. Some don’t have as much professional racing experience as others.
I’ve been driving F1 cars for 20 years, so I’m pretty comfortable in the cockpit. if you take a race car driver who’s been out there professionally, or semi-professionally and you put them behind the wheel and there’s a car in front of them- you know they’re going to push to try and pass that car. I feel I’m always driving over nine tenths. Certainly we don’t want to crash the car, but on the other hand you always want to perform well for the crowd and get as good a finish as possible. So, we’re pushing very, very hard in those cars.
JF: Marc Gene is the coach for Corse Clienti, and there’s been a sort of rivalry that’s involved between you and him in the past few months. tell us a little about Marc, the way he guides the pilots, your relationship with him, and of course the rivalry.
BM: Marc Gene is a fantastic former Formula One driver. he is a lightning fast driver. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago at LeMans he was in the Audi that finished second over all- so you know that he has got incredible speed. He is also the Formula One test driver for Ferrari, so his miles in Formula One are thousands and thousands and thousands of kilometers. As a result, he is a very quick driver, but he is also a fantastic driver coach. We are very blessed to have him every weekend that we race with Corse Clienti and to have Marc as our driver coach because he has the ability to translate the feel of the car and teh telemetry into words and actions that we drivers can take.
Yesterday in my opening session, my fastest lap was 1:19.7, or 1:19.8 and I thought that if I can get to 1:18, I’d feel really, really good. So I spent about half an hour with Marc, we went trough all the telemetry- he talked about my line, he talked about my braking pressure, he talked about my throttle application, he talked about my steering angle, he talked about weight transfer and all of these very technical things of the car. then we made changes. We lowered the nose a little bit, we changed the traction control by two clicks. We loosened up the differentials for the exit of the corners by two clicks. We changed the differential entering the corner by one click. All these are adjustments on the steering wheel that you can do. As a result I went more that two seconds faster, actually more that three seconds faster today. So, that kind of change in performance for somebody like myself with this much experience at the track can only come trough fantastic coaching.
Is there a little bit of a rivalry? well… every driver is trying to beat another driver. marc just broke the track record here so he is the guy to beat. I’m within two tenths of a second from the old track record until Marc beat it, so if he hadn’t been here I’d feel like I had a fantastic weekend. Now I’ve got to push even harder to see how I can close the gap.