May 2003 Interview From Ultimate Athlete Magazine

The following is from an interview by Michael Afromowitz titled "Fighting at the Speed of Sound".  The interview was part of a cover story from the May 2003 issue of Ultimate Athlete Magazine.

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Q. How did you first aspire to break this world record on water?

Wicks: After successfully breaking the prop-driven World Water Speed Record, going after the outright World Water Speed Record seemed like the next logical step for my career.  The prop-driven record hadn't been broken in 38 years and this record is now 25 years old, and it's time an American broke a major speed record again.

Q. I read that you're not only looking to break this record, but create a record breaking business empire.  What other records do you have your eye on?

Wicks: Since my background is racing on land, it would make sense to go after the World Land Speed Record.  The American Challenge team has had several conversations about the Land Speed Record and it would be natural for our technical team to shift gears and utilize their capabilities to design an 800 mph land speed vehicle.  I've recently met with an NHRA team and we are planning on having me make some 300+ mph runs down the quarter mile.  Imagine the marketing potential if an "All American" guy like myself held both the World Land and Water Speed Records.

Q. Your approach to breaking this record differs completely from that of Ken Warby, who broke the previous record, in that you are going to rely heavily on computer technology.  What makes you confident in this approach?

Wicks: First of all, we have some of the brightest minds in the world designing and building our craft. I'm extremely confident in our technical team and we will break the World Water Speed Record.  Our country put a man on the moon in 1969 and Warby went over 300 mph on water 9 years later. Anyone would have to be na├»ve to think that in the last 25 years technology hasn't progressed enough, to allow us to accomplish 400 mph safely and efficiently.

Q. Can you tell me a little about your model?

Wicks: The conceptual model we have shared with the public was created through a collaborative effort led by Dave Knowlen.  Knowlen, who was recently Director of Technical Affairs at Boeing and currently the Director of Business Affairs, also built the physical model.  The final look of the craft may differ after completing additional computer simulation and wind tunnel testing.

Q. Warby has criticized your model, saying that the computer is not fast enough to deal with a moving surface like water.  What is your response to that?

Wicks: The American Challenge craft is being designed to be inherently stable at speeds above 400 mph without input from an onboard computer.  We are using a computerized augmented control system to ensure the stability at these speeds as an added layer of safety.  Today's computers are really fast, much faster than Warby realizes.

Q. There have been a lot of tragedies associated with people trying to break the record.  How does fear, on your part, play into the whole equation?

Wicks: Most of the tragedies have been a result of really bad designs or the lack of a proper Operational Risk Management Program.  I feel safer in a high performance vehicle, pushing the limits of speed, than I do on public highways.  Fear needs to be put off to the side; when you put a helmet on, all focus needs to be on the goal in front of you.

Q. You recently took on another challenge in Muay Thai kickboxing.  What has the experience been like training at Fairtex Combat Sports Camp?

Wicks: Training at the Fairtex Sport Camp was a fantastic opportunity.  It's always inspiring to spend time with someone like Alex Gong, who is a champion in his field.  Like most of my adventures in life, I was thrown into the deep end.  The Fairtex Team treated me like another competitor and pushed me to the limit.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for their level of commitment towards training and competing.

Q. Is this your first martial arts discipline?

Wicks: Yes.

Q. What are you hoping to gain from your training at Fairtex?

Wicks: There are a number of objectives to my training at Fairtex.  You can always learn something from others who are the world's best at what they do.  Alex is a wonderful instructor and his enthusiasm creates a positive learning environment.  Much like we are building the American Challenge craft to be stable and capable of encountering the unpredictable, I'm also preparing myself for the unknown.  Fairtex offers unique programs to enhance your level of fitness in the areas of balance, stamina, and strength.

Q. How do you feel training in a martial arts discipline like Muay Thai can help you prepare mentally for the challenge that lies ahead of you on the water?

Wicks: My interest in Muay Thai was very much about focus and mental strength.  Muay Thai fighters are well know for their drive and determination, and I hope to apply their discipline towards all my future challenges.  When you are traveling a couple of hundred mph you need to survive off instinct.

Q. You seem to be attracted to intense, challenging sports.  What draws you to these kinds of activities?

Wicks: As a young child I spent a great deal of time at amusement parks, being stimulated by roller coasters and other thrill seeking rides.  By the time I was 10 I had already spent several years with karts and motorcycles, which turned into a career in motorsports.  All the Red Bull I drink probably helps keep me pushing the envelope.