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Exclusive interview with Ashley Force
When John Force came to London to receive the John Bolster Award for achievement at the 2005 Autosport Awards, he brought his family along with him. In between interviewing John and organising a photo-shoot in Park Lane, Eurodragster.com and Roger Gorringe managed to grab a quick word with John's daughter Ashley, who drives the Darien and Meadows A/Fuel Dragster. We asked Ashley about being a Force, about her 2005 season, about her plans for 2006, and about her plans to turn Pro with a Fuel Funny Car.
Roger Gorringe: Are you enjoying your trip here?
Ashley Force: I am!
Roger Gorringe: First one?
Ashley Force: Yes. Well, my first trip to England. It's a lot of fun, it's really a nice town, it's very clean. I get a little nervous because I don't ever travel outside the US that often, and when we went to Europe before I'd get nervous, you know, being in places where I don't speak the same language, but here I feel very safe, in this town. It's a nice area.
Eurodragster.com: You probably get sick of being asked, but obviously people over here don't get to talk to talk to you a lot. Being the daughter of John Force has got to be a great thing but it's got to impose certain pressures on you as well?
Ashley Force: He's...quite a personality! Racing-wise it's only been positive, how it's been to grow up with him as my dad because I've gotten to know a lot of people through racing because of him. And everyone that I meet loves him. But as far as just being the daughter of a racer – it's got its ups and downs, being younger and him being on the road so much, not seeing him...Cheerleading competitions he got to miss because he's at a race. Those are struggles but we learned just to accept it. He always talks about how guilty he feels about it, but we never held it against him. Every time he could take us to a race he took us. And he always let us be as involved as we could, his team became like a family to us. His crew guys are like uncles to us and we became very much part of the team. So we never felt like we didn't belong at the race or anything. And now to be racing with him, it's been the best situation.
Eurodragster.com: Did you wake up one morning and say "Dad, I want to drive a race car"? How did that all come about?
Ashley Force: No, it didn't happen like that for me. When I was younger I loved to go to the races, I knew I wanted to be involved somehow. When I got to be a teenager I wanted to work on the cars. I took Auto Shop and welding and I would go to the races and follow the crew guys with my note pad, drawing out what they do. But I never really thought about driving, I think because I couldn't drive a normal car, I wasn't sixteen yet. But once I turned sixteen for my birthday I got a chance to go to Frank Hawley's Racing School. And that was the first time I'd ever raced anything. And then from there it was like "Oh, this is something that I could do" and it was so much fun and it went from there.
Roger Gorringe: You've had no National event wins this year...
Ashley Force: No!
Roger Gorringe: ...and one Divisional...
Ashley Force: Yes!
Roger Gorringe: ...have you suffered any problems that you can nail it down to?
Ashley Force: This season we had a rule change in our category, and that's pretty much when, we've struggled with it ever since. Last year we raced on one hundred per cent nitro, and this year they moved us to ninety eight per cent. Everyone struggled in the beginning but they kind of found their place and we just struggled the whole way through. It was tough to go from last year, we won the last race of the year in Pomona, we won Indy, we were placed fourth and we won our Division in 04. So to struggle this year...we were bummed, but as far as my standpoint, I learned more this year in the struggling part as far as driving. I mean when you go A to B every run with no problems you really don't get the experience and I didn't know that until this year I think. Now I've had all that, I've had tyre shake and I've been sideways and I've done a lot more and I think I'm a better driver because of it. My team's bugged about it but I'm like "Guys, it's OK!". You can't, you know, win all the time and I think that we became a better team because of it.
Roger Gorringe: Do you want to drive the Funny Car?
Ashley Force: Yea! I've gotten into it about six or seven times this past year to try it out, see what it's like, and it's been a lot of fun so far. It's very different from my car but in a way I've been trained where I could handle it. I could sure not be one of those people that could just jump into one of these cars. Eric and Robert, they did and they did fine, but for me it was better to move up slowly through that ranks and go a little faster every year and be more prepared like that. I'm always happier with that too.
Eurodragster.com: Is it a bit unreal now? You get out of the car back in the pits and the fans are surging forward to talk to you, is that unreal?
Ashley Force: It's strange. My first year was probably the most...I had to adjust the most. I'd seen it all those years with my dad but to be on the end of it, I would stand in the pit and kids would be waiting and I'd think they were talking to someone else. But now that I did that category a year I'm a little more used to it, it's not so strange!
Eurodragster.com: So it's business as usual for 2006 and then Pro 2007?
Ashley Force: That's the plan. We'll know a little better by summer time, if I've gotten licenced by then, but yea that's the goal that we're going with.
Eurodragster.com: It seems to be you're taking it very gently, very sensibly...
Ashley Force: Yea. You know, they've been letting me get in my dad's car when there's a been chance after a few of the races but he's been in the points chase so we didn't want to risk their good car to get me some laps and have me sideways in it. But now it's the beginning of the year, they have their new cars ready for the season they can let me get into it a little more. And now I've had some experience I don't think they're as nervous about me getting in.
Roger Gorringe: Is it much harder than your normal dragster?
Ashley Force: It's just different. How I drive it is different, visually what I can see. There's a few other differences like my fuel shut-offs are opposite, but we're actually building a new dragster for me this season that's gonna be the same as my dad's, so it'll be a little easier to jump back and forth between the two.
If you would like to know what it is like to work on Ashley's team and to be employed by John Force Racing, then check out her clutch technician Andy Bissett's Top Twenty questions about John Force Racing, which you can view by clicking here.
Interview ©Eurodragster.com and Roger Gorringe
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