Driver Spotlight on Cort Wagner & Bill Auberlen

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 19, 2002) - The new factory-produced Ferrari 360 GT came right off a plane from the Ferrari factory and onto the historic 3.4-mile road course at Watkins Glen International to make its racing debut during the 6 Hours of...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 19, 2002) - The new factory-produced Ferrari 360 GT came right off a plane from the Ferrari factory and onto the historic 3.4-mile road course at Watkins Glen International to make its racing debut during the 6 Hours of The Glen. Scuderia Ferrari of Washington drivers Cort Wagner and Bill Auberlen out-ran the competition with the #33 Ferrari to earn their first win of the season and the first win for the new factory-produced Ferrari 360 GT. If that was not impressive enough, a few weeks later Wagner and Auberlen piloted the Ferrari to a second win in the Jani-King Paul Revere 250 at Daytona International Speedway. With four races remaining in the Rolex Sports Car Series schedule, the pair has nothing but high aspirations for more victories and a shot at the championship.

THE BASICS
Series - Rolex Sports Car Series
Class - Grand Touring (GT)
Team- Scuderia Ferrari of Washington
Car - # 33 Ferrari 360 GT
Date of Birth: Cort - 1/28/65
Bill - 10/12/68
Birthplaces: Cort - Los Angeles, Calif.
Bill - Redondo Beach, Calif.
Marital Status: Cort - Single
Bill - Engaged

RACING HIGHLIGHTS
· Both past Rolex 24 Hour GT winners- Bill: 1997 and 1998; Cort: 1999
· First drivers to win with the new factory-produced Ferrari 360 GT at the 2002 6 Hours of The Glen
· Currently tied for second place in the GT driver standings

IN THEIR WORDS,,,

When did you begin racing?

Bill: I started racing in my dad's footsteps at age five followed by motorcycles until I turned 17. My first race was the Daytona 24 hours when I was 17 years old, and I finished second. I have been racing cars ever since.

Cort: I started racing when I was one year old and did the 24 Hours At Daytona when I was six.

Bill: (laughs)

Cort: Actually, I have been racing go-karts since I was about 13 and got into automobile racing when I was 17. I went to Europe and did the F1 field run-off, and have been racing something ever since.

When did you know that you wanted to pursue racing professionally?

Cort: Probably in 1991 when I was still in Skip Barber events. I knew it was something I wanted to pursue in my life.

Bill: I never ever thought of pursing racing professionally. Never. It was never something in my mind. I ran my own race team when I was 21 or 22 with a couple of my buddies. We ran the GT circuit and went around everywhere and were completely broke - doing that thing with one credit card paying the next. It was the only thing I knew in life that I wanted to do and never actually thought I would do. It never occurred to me that you could make money racing.

How did you meet?

Cort: We have been fierce competitors since about 1995. We've been racing against each other in the GT class for a number of years, ever since Bill owned his own race team and I was racing for Richard Ramist in a Porsche. We raced for the championship in 1999.

How did you become teammates with Ferrari of Washington?

Cort: We both joined the same choir club actually.

Bill: (laughs)

Cort: I have been involved with Ferrari all of last year working with a couple of dealerships and coaching the Ferrari Challenge and working on suspension stuff with the 360 Challenge car. When the opportunity came to put together an effort with Daytona and Ferrari of Washington, I recommend Bill to come with us and drive in the 24 Hour, because I know he does a great job in a car.

What is your favorite racetrack?

Cort: My favorite racetrack I have to tell you, is maybe one of the best - Watkins Glen. It has a little bit of everything, which I really like. On top of winning there I have always loved that track. I think it has got a little bit of speed, a little bit of technical and a little bit of gusto. It challenges your set-up. It's hard on the brakes. It has got everything. I really like that track.

Bill: I always thought Sebring was my favorite, forever, because my dad won there in '85 and I won there in '95, '97, and '98. I have always had really good success there. Then this year when I drove with Cort in Watkins Glen, all of a sudden I got a different feeling. The win there was such a good feeling that it might now have taken the lead over Sebring. The car was like a razor blade there. You could drive it so well, and it was so much fun.

What do you think of the 2002 season so far?

Bill: We started with a brand new car that was not tested in America at all. We did reasonable in Daytona. We had one problem in the middle of the night, but kept tearing on. We fought a few little minor problems, and now, all of a sudden, our stride is coming on. I think the people that are ahead of us in the championship are all looking over their shoulder, looking back, and wondering how strong we are going to be when we finish. We've won two in a row now, and Cort and I both plan to make it three, four, five in a row to try to win this thing. I think we are doing better than anyone of us ever expected.

Cort: I think it is the same thing. Being a brand new car for Ferrari had brought about a big development curve at the beginning of the year. We just received a new car, which is now the factory car. We were the first team ever to win with a factory car for Ferrari in all of Europe and the United States. I have always thought that the potential of the car after Daytona was very good. We had a couple of mechanical issues, which really threw us behind the curb at the 24 hour. Otherwise, I feel very strongly that we would have won that race. The car was new and the team wasn't really up to speed on how to change stuff very quickly, and it was a big learning curve. But I think that the car has got amazing potential. And as Billy said, we are the ones everyone is looking over their shoulders going, 'how are we going to handle these guys.'

What advice would you give a young racer?

Cort: Just to pursue your dreams. Pursue your passions. I would never give up. This is a very tough business and it's very cutthroat. Everybody is looking for everybody else to fail. I would say early on if you do have the talent, try to get a manager or somebody else to represent you. I think that is the difference between a lot of racers who go for a little while and don't make it and the racers that keep going and climbing. It has a lot to do with perception of how people do in the business.

Bill: Cort I think got on part of it. Never, never, never give-up, because if you give-up I will be the guy that will come right on by you, because I will not give up. It is that kind of conviction you must have in order to make it in this business. Being a race car driver is a coveted position in society. People like it. If it were easy to achieve, everybody would be doing it. It is so difficult to get into, but once you are there it is a very worthwhile place to be. Never give up. Find supporters initially. There are supporters that want to help, especially wealthy guys that want to help young kids become something. If they see the passion in your eyes, sometimes they will take you under their wing and help catapulted you forward.

What is your most memorable racing moment?

Cort: A couple stick out. Winning the GT pole at LeMans the year before last was very coveted for me, because it is a hard thing to do. Winning Sebring was incredible memorable. Winning the 24 Hours At Daytona after five years of trying. I had been on the podium almost every year before then, but to actually win it was a really great achievement.

Bill: It is kind of a collage at this point. I guess when I was younger I only had one moment. Now that I am a bit older I look back and think man, 'how great it was to win Daytona two times. How great it was to win Sebring three times.' My dad brought me into this sport, so whenever I can do something that I look back in his eyes and see the respect that he has for me because I am doing something we grew up doing, it is special. Those are the best moments I could have.

What do you find most exciting about racing?

Cort: It is an adrenaline rush. The thing for me about racing that I find so amazingly challenging, difficult and rewarding is the fact that when you are in the car it is 110 percent physical and 150 percent mental. It really just captures your body as hard as possible. You can't ever forget as a race car driver, Billy, myself, anybody, that we are living the dream. The minute you forget that is when you should quit the business.

Bill: For me it's being in a car that is a great on the track and being able to have a great battle with somebody. Going back and forth. And the guy is racing clean and eventually, as Cort said, it is 100 percent physical, but it is also major mental. And eventually you break somebody mentally, and that is kind of fun when you have the ingredients that it took to break somebody down, get by them and hopefully go on to the win.

What goals have you set for yourselves?

Cort: I always had a lot of dreams and aspirations. I guess maybe two years ago I wanted to be in the Championship Auto Racing Series - the Champ cars - but I really love sports car and the sports car arena. I love the road courses we travel on. I think the race courses Grand American and other sports car series go to are better than so many other series. I love the passion behind sports cars. I love the distinct style. I would obviously love to be racing prototypes full-time; that is my aspiration.

Bill: I think my short-term goal is to land in a prototype car at the right moment and win the prototype championship. That would be the next goal to achieve. Cort and I have both won the GT championship, and now it is time to move up and win the top one.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Bill: There is one bit of advice I have always remembered, and I don't why it always stuck with me. I was 18-years old at Laguna Seca and an old-time racer, Dennis Aase who was very famous at the time, always told me, 'every time you pass a car give them a wave, because the next time you come back by they will let you by. If you give them a bad hand gesture they will make it very difficult the next time.' You have to develop a rapport.

Cort: I would say that is certainly a great piece of advice. If I were to pick one piece of advice it would be no matter your failures or success, be humble.

What hobbies do you have outside of racing?

Bill: I am heavily involved in offshore power boating. I developed my own boat, motor package, and electric package in the boat. We got it going probably in the 140 mph plus range. I love snow skiing, water skiing and, I am trying to get into golf. Anything that you can slap a motor onto, my thing is to try to make it faster. That is sort of my passion.

Cort: My hobbies are competitions like 10Ks and running. I really like running and the competitiveness that comes with it. It's a sport that is mental, physical and, it reminds me a lot of racing on a different level. I used to race bicycles, as well. But now it is basically running competitions, cross country, iron-man, and tri-athlete kind of events I participate in.

Is there anything you would like to say to your fans?

Cort: Thank you for always showing your appreciation to sports car racing. It is in a state of flux at the moment, and their support is grateful.

Bill: I always say their (the fans) the reason we're here. Obviously we would not survive without their support. I always have an open invitation to anybody that likes either our car or something about what we do to come on by. I will for sure show them any part of what we do from the inside of the car to the motor to everything from the inside.

Final thoughts..

Cort: I am looking forward to Watkins Glen again. It is a great venue. Grand American has done a great job this year in trying to promote the series as best as possible. I just want to thank the series for putting this together.

The Rolex Series will travel next to Watkins Glen International for the Bully Hill Vineyards 250 part of the NWC Sirius Satellite at The Glen, August 8-11. Tickets are currently on sale for the event at www.theglen.com or by calling 607-535-2481. Additional information about the Rolex Sports Car Series can be found online at www.grandamerican.com.

-grand am-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Bill Auberlen , Skip Barber , Dennis Aase , Paul King , Cort Wagner