Hélio Castroneves Talks Racing, Watches, And His New Super Car Club
The three-time Indy 500 winner sits down with Watchonista to discuss his on-track activity and what’s next for his career.
On the occasion of the Miami Concours, we sat down with the legendary Brazilian racing driver Hélio Castroneves. Growing up in Indiana Castroneves was a household name, and rightly so! Having won at Indy three times and placing second three times, he is a master of the track, but also a wizard behind the wheel of pretty much anything he drives.
Castroneves is currently competing full-time in the IMSA WeatherTech series for Team Penske, his racing home since 2001. We last saw him on track at Daytona for the Rolex 24 where he placed third overall in the DPi class. In addition to endurance racing, he still races a partial season in IndyCar, the series which he’s found the most success.
The Concours Club
The worlds of racing and watchmaking have always been tangentially related. Going back to first recorded competition in 1867 to today's thunderous races – timekeeping has always been involved in the act of racing. Another important distinction is the ever merging worlds of luxury since most watchmakers of today are daily players in the luxury world. It's these fundamental elements – racing, timekeeping, and luxury, which bring us to The Concours Club.
The brainchild of Neil Gehani and Jay Pollak, The Concours Club is a $220 million private racetrack coming soon to Miami. The Concours Club promises to be an exclusive invite-only country club of sorts for car and racing enthusiasts. The club is currently under construction, but once opened it will offer an experience unlike anything on the market. The two-mile-long track will feature 17 turns, elevation changes, and three massive hairpin turns. The perfect environment to get your adrenaline pumping. The Concours Club also promises to be a destination to unwind, with a spa, restaurant, and bar concept all in the works.
Hélio Castroneves is a one of forty Founding Members of the club and an ambassador of sorts. Founding membership is available for $350,000 with no annual dues. After founding memberships are sold, legacy memberships will be offered by invite only for $125,000 plus dues. Only 150 legacy memberships will be sold. If you’re experiencing sticker shock at the cost of membership, fear not, The Concours Club will be hosting private events, track days, and even corporate retreats, so chances are, you'll undoubtedly have an opportunity for some track time.
Interview with Hélio Castroneves
To learn more about The Concours Club, we had the chance to interview Hélio Castroneves during Watches & Wonders. What followed was a lengthy discussion about his participation in The Concours Club and his career on the track.
Josh Shanks: Hélio! A pleasure to meet you! We're here today at the Miami Concours, surrounded by beautiful cars, it's the perfect moment to talk about what you're doing with The Concours Club.
Hélio Castroneves: Hey! First of all, The Concours Club is an excellent group of people. I'm very happy and honored to join Neil, Melissa, and the entire team. People sometimes have different visions for a Concours club. But here's we've decided to upscale the concept into something luxurious. If you love cars as I do, this is going to be the places for you.
JS: I grew up in Indiana, so I'm a car racing nut!
HC: Well Josh, not many people have the same passion we do. So, it’s nice to have something different for those people that might not be as amused by cars all the time. The Concours Club is a place to relax, a place to eat, go to the spa, the pool, and more. I feel that it's perfect, especially with the weather that we have here (in Miami) it’s not like Indiana [Laughs]. And I think that this concept, it's just perfect. Plus, Miami definitely translates to exotic cars, incredible fashion, and it's a sexy town. And race cars are sexy toys, so this concept can connect all of them together.
JS: Can you tell us a little bit about the track itself?
HC: Yes. We just finished building it actually! Alan [Wilson] is one of the guys that designed the track, and he's a very well-known person for designing race tracks. He saw the space, and it's not like a Spa or Silverstone, it's very limited because we're talking about expensive real estate in the area. However, it's just right beside the airport, so they were able to be very creative with the track. It's enough to get up to 140MPH which I think is pretty good, but there are a lot of twisty corners, which I like, especially for some of those who don’t have experience.
JS: The club isn’t just about racing though, there’s a fun element.
HC: Yes! You don’t want to have just a club. This should be about having fun, as I see it because I love race cars. But, at the same time, I compete for a living. I don't want to go to a place and feel kind of terrible, like "Why am I doing this?" So, I want everybody to have fun and enjoy. It's not about going head-to-head or win or setting the best lap. At the same time, it’s still a very well done track, and we're talking about a 40 feet wide FIA concept (similar to F1 tracks). We go to places that are like street courses with the size of their tracks. So, I like The Concours Club because of the space and safety.
JS: Is this a concept you see evolving? Certainly starting in Miami, but expanding to other markets?
HC: Potentially! I believe in the first concept, in Miami. But yes, The Concours Club could be in other places. Not just here in America, but it can be all over the world. But you’ve got to find the right recipe, because, remember when you talk about clubs, country clubs, a lot of people don't believe it's going to happen. This one is here already, it’s soon open, and it’s pretty cool!
JS: So, let's talk racing. I was just in Daytona for the Rolex 24. I saw you there actually. But now 100 days away from the Indy 500, for your career, what are you looking forward to this year?
HC: I just finished a test at Circuit of the Americas in Austin (COTA). It's a fantastic track. I’d never been there.
JS: It’ll be good to see IndyCars in that track.
HC: It'll be very tricky, challenging. But I love it. You can take me out of a full-time IndyCar season, but you can never take the IndyCar from me. It was cool to go back and see everyone. I'm excited to go back. This is preparation for Indy of course. I want to run (in IndyCar) as much as I can, so when I get to COTA, even though it’s a road course, nothing to do with Indy, but you have the rhythm, you know the buttons, you know the communications. It helps to know what things to do with the car so that I can translate to the engineers. So, this is very thorough preparation, so that when I get there (to Indy), it's not like I'm just jumping into the first race. I want to be prepared, knowing everything I’ve got to do. And the good news is, with this year’s schedule, there isn’t another oval before Indy.
JS: There isn’t? Only road courses before the Indy 500?
HC: Only road courses! There used to be Phoenix, but now there’s none.
JS: So, you’ve got Indy coming up on your schedule, that’s good, but as you’re not doing a full season in Indy. Are you going to at least do COTA?
HC: It all depends, COTA is the second race, so I always tell Roger (Penske), I say, “Roger, can we do another race?” He’s like, “Win Indy!” [Laughs] Then we talk about it, and I'm like "Good, good, at least we have a chance!" [Laughs].
JS: But at least it’s something you’ve done before. [Castroneves is a three-time Indy 500 winner]
HC: Yes, that’s something. It’s something.
JS: So, do you have any favorite cars here at the Miami Concours?
HC: I just glanced, I saw the Ferrari F40, which is an F50 actually, which is amazing. I have to say it's one of my favorites because I remember seeing the F50, Roger used to have one, and it's something that I love. I saw a La Ferrari as well. I just went and came back, but I definitely want to check it out. I have my nephews here, so I want to take them around.
JS: When you got your first big race winnings, what did you buy? A watch right?
HC: I bought a watch! It was a Bulgari.
JS: What's your go-to watch?
HC: My go to watch? I have several. The Rolex is a big one, not only because my boss used to be sponsored by them and I always used to see his gold Rolex which was awesome, but also because of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. So, hopefully, next year I'll get that watch. I was so close.
JS: Everyone says it’s just about the watch.
HC: It is! Well, it’s the prestige of the race, obviously. 24 Hours is, I’ll tell you, this was my fourth time, it’s brutal. For 2019, I think I was more prepared than ever. I wish [noise of frustration]. But anyway, that would be my option, for sure.