An Interview with Al Unser Jr., Burt Frisselle and Brian Frisselle MODERATOR: Good morning, everybody. Thanks for joining us on our Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series Presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve media teleconference. We have an...
An Interview with Al Unser Jr., Burt Frisselle and Brian Frisselle
MODERATOR: Good morning, everybody. Thanks for joining us on our Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series Presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve media teleconference. We have an exciting announcement today as Al Unser Jr. the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, two-time IndyCar champion, and two-time overall winner of the Rolex 24 At Daytona is joining Burt and Brian Frisselle to co-drive the No.x GlycoMax Porsche Doran for Synergy Racing, and Al is also bringing with him some sponsorship from A1 Team USA, so that's great news.
They will drive together at the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen next week at the historic road course in upstate New York.
Let's get some comments from our guests. We have Al Unser Jr. and Burt and Brian Frisselle here on the call. Let's start with Al. You're no stranger to sports car racing but it's been a while since you've done it. Take us through the decision process and becoming a part of this deal and maybe a little bit about what you remember from your past sports car experiences.
AL UNSER JR.: Thank you. First off I want to thank everybody for joining us today. I'm very excited about the opportunity to run in the Grand American series. I really feel and also have heard that, you know, it's the No.q road race in the series today, it's the fastest growing, and we definitely want to be part of it.
I'm very fortunate and lucky that Brad Frisselle gave me a call and asked me if I would be interested in driving with his two boys at The Glen in the Six Hour event and I said, 'Yeah, that would be great, I'd love to do it.' That was pretty much it.
Our past with Brad Frisselle is a very successful one. Brad and my dad are very good friends and my dad actually drove with Brad back in 1980, the Frisbee car at Laguna Seca, and won the race. Later on, Rick Galles purchased the Frisbee car from Brad, and I went on to win the Can-Am championship in that car. So we have a very successful past and quite honestly, I want to keep it going.
Having the opportunity to drive with Burt and Brian is very good, and we were able to do it. We were able to continue our sponsorship with the A1 Team USA car and Rick Weidinger has joined us, and so everything's going great and we look forward to hopefully helping with the effort up at the Glen.
MODERATOR: Again, Al, that's great news and congratulations. Before we go on to get the comments from Burt and Brian, one more question for Al. I don't know if you had much or any of an opportunity yet to check the car out or test it, but, you raced Porsche prototype cars here at Daytona, talk a little about maybe how much this car reminds you of those days.
AL UNSER JR.: Well, actually I'm going to get to drive the car when practice starts up at The Glen, so I really can't say anything more than that, other than there is no substitute for Porsche power. I learned that when I drove for Al Holbert and in the Lowenbrau car when we won those two in the mid 80s, and also Gary Grossenbacher who is the engineer on this team, was an engineer on Al Holbert's team. He and I are no strangers to each other, but again it's been a long time sense I've worked with Gary. But you know, he's a great engineer and I've really looked forward to this whole thing. I think it's fantastic.
MODERATOR: And again, just another note for our friends on the call here. Al is one of the last drivers to have won back-to-back Rolex 24s At Daytona which is quite an achievement. Let's move on now to Burt Frisselle. Burt, this is your third full season in Rolex Series Daytona Prototype competition. Talk a little about how it feels to have Al on the team and what you think he'll bring to the equation here.
BURT FRISSELLE: Like you said, it's my third year and I've just seen the series grow so much in that time frame. When I came in 2004, it was just starting to really catch on and it was growing and it hasn't stopped since.
To have Al come in and join us is just phenomenal. I mean, he's a guy that both Brian and I watched a lot on television as little kids and cheered him on in his Indy 500 wins, and now we get to join up with him and utilize a lot of his expertise in areas where Brian and I might not have quite as much experience.
I can't wait to get out there. I think that our package has always done well at Watkins Glen with the Doran chassis, and now going there with the Porsche power and three really good drivers, I think we're going to be able to put a strong effort forward.
MODERATOR: I guess another question would be do you foresee this developing into something beyond just this event at Watkins Glen?
BURT FRISSELLE: Well, yeah, obviously we've got a nine-hour race coming up in Utah at the end of the year, and hopefully that's a relationship that we can cultivate for the future and really get something out of it. Our team is one of the smaller teams in Grand Am, even though they have been there since the inception of the Daytona Prototype, there's a lot of bigger teams, and it's always nice to put effort that you compete with some of the bigger teams; and I think that with adding Al, that really gives us an opportunity to do that.
MODERATOR: Again, congratulations. Let's get some comments from Brian. I understand that one of your earlier memories of Al was going to see the 1988 Long Beach Grand Prix, which Al won, and obviously he has quite a record there at Long Beach. Talk a little about maybe your recollections from that day and how it feels now to be sharing a car with him.
BRIAN FRISSELLE: Yeah, it's really very surreal and unbelievable. I remember my first racing memories were all of him in the IndyCar days, racing Danny Sullivan and Mario Andretti and Michael (Andretti). I remember standing outside his motor home at Laguna Seca waiting for an autograph, which he did give us. Now we're teammates with him and he's one of best drivers to ever walk this earth, so it's a very exciting thing.
Q</I>: Al, what are your thoughts on returning to Watkins Glen having won four of your six races there?
AL UNSER JR.: I'm very excited about going there. You know, last time we were up there, we won our IROC championships up there, both of them, and so we've had great success up there. I have driven the Al Holbert car up there in a three-hour event, and I drove the whole three hours and almost won the race. We ended up finishing second to Al Holbert's main car.
I'm excited about it. We know our way around the Glen, and it's a beautiful facility and you know we'll be sharing it with the IRL cars, so my dad will actually be there. It's going to be a great time.
Q</I>: I know Adrian Fernandez and Eddie Cheever have bought Grand-Am cars, any chance to see you more involved in the Daytona Prototypes?
AL UNSER JR.: I hope so. It's definitely like I said earlier, it's a series that - and Burt talked about it - that has not topped out, and it's gotten more and more and more popular. I'm excited and very proud to be part of it.
Q</I>: Why is it that you're choosing to race a sports car?
AL UNSER JR.: Basically it's a brand new series for me. They are cars that I haven't driven, and you know, I've always, always felt that the more cars and different cars that I can drive, the better race car driver I can become.
To get in this Prototype series with Grand American is something that I haven't had the opportunity to do before. The world is our oyster and I want to drive as many different race cars as I can. So I was very fortunate that this opportunity came up.
MODERATOR: This seems to be a place where we've had a fair amount of drivers who have kind of come here to prolong their careers so to speak. Is the series attractive to you from that standpoint?
AL UNSER JR.: I'm not in any way trying to prolong my career. You know, I felt when Burt and Brian were talking; I seemed to get older as they talked. (Laughing).
The main reason is because I truly believe that the more race cars I drive, the different ones, the better driver I'll become and so that's why I'm doing it. I've never driven these cars. With Eddie Cheever and Fernandez and these guys racing in it, I think all that says is that it's fast-growing, popular and they want to be a part of it. I feel the same way.
MODERATOR: When was the last time you raced at Watkins Glen?
AL UNSER JR.: I think it's '88 to be honest. I think it was the IROC championships that we won up there. I believe that was when it was.
Q</I>: I can remember when you won the Rolex 24 At Daytona. In fact, I can remember both, because I watched both of them. Are you looking forward to teaming up with Burt and Brian, and is there anything that they expected to learn from you, as much as maybe perhaps you learn from them?
AL UNSER JR.: I think it's going to be all equal to be honest. They have been in these cars for a couple years and I'm going to be soaking up information from them on what works and what doesn't work. I'll be asking a lot of questions of them and we'll go out and do the best job we can.
Hopefully, we'll be able to add to the team that we can be involved with them in the future. I've seen them, I've seen them race and I've been impressed with both Burt and Brian's talent and how quick they are and so on. It's just an opportunity that I couldn't pass up.
Q</I>: Back in your Can-Am days, you ran a Frisbee, what was it like to hang out with Brad back then?
AL UNSER JR.: Actually we didn't do a lot of hanging out. My dad went up and drove for him at Laguna Seca with just that one race, and Dad, you know, he cleaned their clocks. He won it going away and the Frisbee definitely proved it at that time.
It was 1980 when that race happened and then it was 1982 that Rick Galles purchased the car and the team from Brad. We didn't do a lot of hanging out, but we saw each other at the racetracks and so on. With our kids running through the Skip Barber School, my son, Little Al, was with Burt, Brian and so on and we saw each other during those events and that's about it.
Q</I>: I didn't hear the extent of your involvement with these guys, if it's a one-off deal or a multi-race deal?
AL UNSER JR.: Hopefully it's going to be whenever they need a third driver. It could be the Six Hours at The Glen and then the opportunities are there for the nine-hour event at the end of the season.
Q</I>: With regard to the Rolex 24, because you've won that twice, you're in that with Al Holbert and Derek Bell, is there a desire on your part to perhaps run it with your son and Burt and Brian?
AL UNSER JR.: You betcha, I would love that. The 24 hours at Daytona is a very traditional race. It's got a lot of heritage to it and it's one of the premiere events across America to be involved with. So you betcha, we'd love to get No. 3 with this team.
Q</I>: Burt, what do you feel that you're going to take out of this?
BURT FRISSELLE: Well, I think any time you can work with a driver that's as experienced as Al, it's not so much on driving, but you get to hear him communicating with the engineer and learn terminology. Brian and I are at the point where we can work very well with our engineer but having someone more experienced and having the terminology that they might use, learning the best words with engineers' minds is always useful.
It's been tough for Brian and I to be the youngest Daytona Prototype driver pairing in the series, and I think whenever you bring in a guy with the experience and the knowledge that Al has, it does nothing but feed you as a driver yourself. I can't wait to get the race going. What you were saying about Al (Unser, son of Al Unser Jr.) with the 24, this is a guy that I got to do a lot of my junior series racing with, and it would just be so fun to have the four of us make an effort for the 24 because that's obviously our biggest race of the year.
Q</I>: You've done an awful lot with relatively little, when you compare yourself against Sun Trust or the CompUSA Ganassi team, you guys have really competed heads-up, but had some gremlins and that's what happens with a team like yours. Do you feel like this perhaps will give you a bigger boost?
BURT FRISSELLE: Watkins Glen has always been a track that suited the Doran. I've run there in a Lexus Doran and BMW Doran, and now a Porsche Doran, which I feel will be our best package yet. The track suits the Doran.
I think for our team with bringing in Al and getting some more exposure and having a guy like that to work with Brian and he has already had an opportunity to work with our engineer in the past. It can't do anything but add to the team. It's helped steer us in the right direction. We've had a lot of close finishes. Brian drove the car through the field there last year and if it had not been for a yellow flag catching us out after he passed the pit entrance, we would have had a chance to win that race.
I think that track has always suited our team well, and fits my driving style well. It's probably the best circuit on the entire schedule that we get to go to and I think it bodes well for the best drivers. The cream rises to the top when the conditions are the most challenging, and I think the six-hour race is the perfect scenario for us.
MODERATOR: Burt spoke to it a little bit ago, Brian talk a little bit about maybe how excited you are to be kicking off this deal at Watkins Glen given the good runs you guys have had there already.
BRIAN FRISSELLE: Yeah, I'm very excited. I have a lot of confidence at The Glen. It's one track that I feel I put in the best performance of my career running to the front. I just really enjoy that racetrack. So, I'm excited.
Last year we did it with two drivers and it was pretty tough race to win with two drivers so it's going to be not too tough physically, and also the added bonus of having Al and all his input. I just really agree with Burt that it's not so much driving that's going to help; it's going to help with communication with the engineers and it's just going to help to see kind of how a champion and a guy like himself approaches a race weekends and car setup and everything. Hopefully I'll learn a lot from him.