Rolex Series Teleconference Transcript
December 8, 2004
NATE SIEBENS: Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you for joining us for today's Rolex Sports Car Series media teleconference. We have an exciting announcement today as Forest Barber, who is the car owner and driver of the No. 54 Kodak EasyShare Pontiac Doran--which is fielded by Bell Motorsports--has joined us, as has his latest driver for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, who is no stranger to most of you, Paul Tracy, the 2003 Champ Car World Series champion.
At this time I would like to turn it over to Forest for his comments on today's exciting news.
Forest, congratulations. Take us through how this came together for you.
FOREST BARBER: Well, thanks, Nate.
We are really, really excited to have Paul joining us in our Daytona 24 effort. It's just a rare chance to meet someone of Paul's character and caliber in the cockpit. A thrill to race with him.
This association came out through a mutual friendship that Paul and I have with a good friend of ours down in Miami named John Tomlinson. Paul and I share an excitement and enthusiasm for power boats. Johnny has raced with me and has been working with Paul and his boats. Johnny acted as the matchmaker in this. We got to talking and Paul came to the test in Homestead, had a good time. We talked a little more, and here we are today.
NATE SIEBENS: Thanks, very much, Forest.
It should be noted that Forest's team, again the No. 54 Kodak EasyShare/Bell Motorsports team, were the 2004 overall winners of the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Forest co-drove alongside Terry Borcheller, Christian Fittipaldi and Andy Pilgrim. The team also won the 2003 Daytona Prototype team championship.
Now let's move to Paul Tracy, winningest active Champ Car driver with 28 career victories. Paul finished fourth in this year's Champ Car World Series driver standings, and this will be his first ever Rolex 24 at Daytona appearance, and in fact his first ever race from the sounds of it with a roof over his head.
Paul, good afternoon and congratulations. Could you just talk us through how this whole deal came about from your perspective and what's attractive about the Rolex 24 at Daytona and sports car racing in general to you.
PAUL TRACY: Well, really it came about as me really just kicking around some ideas and kind of thinking out loud with a couple of friends of mine. You know, my first test in the Champ Car isn't scheduled until after the new year, about mid January. So really I was just thinking out loud with a friend of mine, saying, "You know, I'd like to do the 24 hour."
I knew a friend of mine Johnny with Forest had a team, and they won the race last year. He said, "Let's call Forest and see who he's got for drivers." We really kind of kicked around a couple of ideas.
The first step was for me to come and try the car, to see if I was interested. I was able to do that in Miami last week and enjoyed myself, had a good time, decided to move forward. The team made a commitment to me to team up with Christian and Terry and Forest and try to defend the championship from last year.
NATE SIEBENS: Thanks, Paul.
Let's now open for questions from our friends in the media.
Q: This is a rather exciting deal you got cooking here. Is this going to extend beyond the 24 by any chance under any other circumstances that we know?
FOREST BARBER: Well, I think that's to be determined. I guess every opportunity we have to race with Paul would be wonderful, but right now we're just looking at the 24.
Q: Forest, Mr. Tracy has capably demonstrated his skills in driving a car, the number of championships he's got notwithstanding whatsoever in my eyes. What is it that he brings to the table to you?
FOREST BARBER: Well, you know, he brings his championship experience, his pure quickness. And in observing him in our test, he brings a lot of enthusiasm. He's very talented. The second lap that he was in our car at Homestead, he was already running competitive times. I'm not sure he's ever been on that road course, but I was quite amazed.
He's low maintenance, I must say. He ran with our team. He was uniformly easy to work with. He orked well with (Bell Motorsports owner) Jim (Bell). Everybody was impressed. He didn't lay a wheel wrong all day. You couldn't ask for a better first impression. I'm sure that Paul is going to bring a highly competitive edge to the race. Hopefully he'll bring us to the winner's circle.
Q: What is it that interested you about running in the Rolex Series that would get you out of an open cockpit car and into a car that has a roof on it that you've never been in before? What interested you about doing this?
PAUL TRACY: Well it's something that I've never really thought about before. The end of this season, 2004, the championship didn't really end the way I would have liked it to have ended. I kind of left this season with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth with how the championship went.
I'm hungry to drive. I started thinking to myself, "I'm not going to test for a while. I want to drive. I'm still as hungry as ever to drive. Other guys are doing other things."
I looked at what other guys are doing. Sebastien Bourdais, guys like (Jimmy) Vasser, Michel Jourdain went down and did the Baja 1000. Even though it's a different form of racing, you're still in the driver's seat, you're still driving, you still have to concentrate. Guys have been doing go-kart events, guys have been doing these Race of Champions rally events. It's all driving. I started thinking to myself, "I don't want to be sitting idle for two to three months waiting for the first test."
It's an opportunity. I got to drive the car, Forest's car, for two days at Homestead. We'll do another two or three days of testing at Daytona. When the race comes, I mean, the amount of mileage you get in the 24 Hours of Daytona is probably equivalent to doing about five or six Champ Car races. It's invaluable.
Q: Because you will be spending as much as perhaps three hours in a car, two hours is generally what a driver will run at the least, in doing that, what difference do you perceive yourself as having to face as compared to the concentration that you use or the length of time in which you use that concentration in a Champ Car race?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I think the difference is going to be, obviously in a Champ Car race you basically go as hard as you can go the whole race. This is an endurance race, although you still want to run the pace that it's going to take to win the race.
Basically I would imagine each driver is going to do four to five stints in the car at two to three hours apiece. In that time frame, that's a lot of driving. The differences between the car I think is -- in terms of driving really there wasn't a lot of difference between the two cars, between a Champ Car and the Rolex car.
I was actually pleasantly surprised at the handling characteristics, the general mannerisms of the Rolex car. It was a real nice car to drive. I did have a roof over my head, which I wasn't used to, window pillars and things like that, and it was very hot inside compared to what I'm used to. Those are the things that I'm going have to get used to.
Q: Is the prospect of your facing a couple or three IRL guys who may run in the Rolex, I don't think anything officially has been announced on that yet, does that pique your interest? Are you interested in going toe to toe with these guys?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I think it's not really the -- I think the race attracts a lot of different guys because of the 24 Hour is such an historic race. To win that race, it's a huge feather in your cap. I think that's why it attracts -- it's attracted me, it's attracted guys from the IRL to want to do it. It's attracted guys like Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., to do it.
From what I understand, there's potentially going to be two NASCAR squads, probably an IRL squad of guys. For right now, I'm the only guy from Champ Car that is potentially doing it, that's currently driving in Champ Car. I've talked to some other drivers, and they're interested in doing it if they could put something together.
Q: You have a reputation in Champ Car, your whole career, of not being afraid to use the chrome horn, of being aggressive in this type of car. That can play into your strengths. Have you thought about the close-quarter racing you're going to be able to do in this car?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I think that's one of the things that really attracts me to the race, is that you're always -- talking with Terry and talking with Forest, you're always busy all the time. There's always cars running at various speeds.
A lot of times in a Champ Car race, in a two-hour race, you can end up somewhere on the track by yourself out of sequence from everybody and run alone for a long period of time, really not have to race anybody or think about anybody. In the 24 Hour, it's very common with the Prototypes, you could be passing two or three cars a lap. All these kind of things, you've got to be on your toes all the time.
Like some of the other drivers have said, it's a good tune-up before the start of the season to get ready to go racing. That's really the main reason why I'm doing it.
Q: Does it give you a chance to measure yourself against guys like Stewart, Earnhardt, Jr.? As soon as you get your helmet on, you get down to serious business. There's no fun laps when Paul Tracy is on the track. Do you see this as a chance to measure yourself against other kind of drivers?
PAUL TRACY: I really look at it as an opportunity for me to broaden my racing base. I've been an open-wheel guy my whole career. I've never really gone away from anything but that. So it's an opportunity to broaden my view of things and maybe learn something, work with some different people, work with the Jim Bell crew and learn some things from them.
Driving with Terry, he's a guy who has a lot of experience in sedan cars and has raced all over the world, brings a lot to the table. Our goal as a team I guess is really to come back to Daytona and try to win again. Forest is trying to put all the right people in the car to try and do that. So I'm glad to just be a part of that.
NATE SIEBENS: Can you update us on where you stand with regard to other drivers for the Rolex 24?
FOREST BARBER: Presently it looks like Terry Borcheller will be with us, Christian Fittipaldi, Paul, of course, a fourth experienced pro driver who we will have in the car, we don't quite have things settled on that, and myself as the fifth if the race circumstances permit and the pace dictates.
NATE SIEBENS: For the media's reference on the call, Terry Borcheller was the inaugural Daytona Prototype champion in 2003, driving most of the season alongside Forest.
Continued in part 2