This Week in Ford Racing
December 8, 2009
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, made his off-road racing debut last weekend in the Henderson Fabtech Desert Classic, which was sanctioned by the Best in the Desert Racing Association. Biffle, along with teammates Rob MacCachren and Steve Olliges, finished second in class behind the wheel of the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor R.
HOW DID THINGS GO? "It went really well. I was nervous about my first time in there. The optimum situation would have been for me to ride with Rob for a lap since Rob is such a seasoned professional at that type of racing, and then have me drive the second lap. It didn't work out that way because we had a contest winner and some other things going on, so I ended up driving the first lap. I thought I did pretty well. I didn't get off the course and we made pretty good time. I jumped out and Rob ran the second and third laps, but he got a flat after hitting a rock and punctured a tire on lap two. Steve got in for the final lap and we ended up second, which I thought was great. It was so much fun. I had such a great time. One thing that's hard for me, and I probably would never get used to it, was running in the dust. We literally had zero visibility two or three times for a couple minutes or more. It wasn't just a few seconds, it was a couple of minutes, so that was really tough. Other than that, it was really fun. I probably went too slow the first quarter of the lap just because I was trying to find that line. The Raptor's capability is so much and I probably underestimated that a little bit during the first part of the lap, but then I started to push the envelope and did pretty well."
HOW DID YOU DO AS FAR AS TIME ON YOUR LAP COMPARED TO YOUR TEAMMATES? "I ran a lap time of around about one hour and 17 minutes, and then Rob's was one hour and 18 minutes because he had to stop and change that tire, which took about three or four minutes, so to be within three or four minutes on my very first lap in that kind of environment, I was pretty happy. If we didn't have those visibility issues, I felt like we could have picked up a couple of minutes easily."
WERE THERE ANY SIMILARITIES TO WHAT YOU DO ON A WEEKLY BASIS IN NASCAR? "Yes and no. One is that it reminds me of road racing a lot, where it's all about efficiency because every second counts. What it really reminds me of is a fuel mileage road race because you're not running as hard as you can possibly run because the truck won't finish four laps running wide open. At any point you could literally run it harder than the terrain and just break something, so you're going as fast as you feel you can go efficiently, meaning not hitting the terrain too hard and beating the thing to death. That's kind of like fuel mileage. You're going as fast as possible in those flat areas, but then in those areas where it's real rough you've got to go as fast as you can but not break it, so it reminded me a lot of that. It's a timed race, so we want to go as fast as we can, but there are limits and the limit is to not break your equipment."
YOU DON'T PLAN ON BUYING ONE OF THESE THINGS AND DOING IT FULL-TIME NOW DO YOU? "I don't think so because I don't know if I could ever get over driving with limited visibility. I guess that might eventually come, but to drive without being able to see - and you're always gonna be in that situation when you're catching another guy to pass him, it's gonna be super- dusty - is pretty tough. You've got to be experienced. You've got to feel the ruts in the road. The guys were talking about where they can feel that they're down in the trough of the ruts and they can't see anything, but they've got the gas down."
HOW DID YOU MANEUVER AROUND THE COURSE IF VISIBILITY WAS A PROBLEM? "Rob is more experienced with that and knew where to look, so he was a big help. There were some tumbleweeds or bushes along the edge of the road on both sides and I couldn't see them until they got right in my peripheral vision. When I was looking out the front window, I couldn't see anything. I couldn't even see the corner of the hood, but Rob could see better, plus he had the GPS right in front of him."
WE HEAR YOU GUYS TALK ABOUT 'HITTING YOUR MARKS' ON ROAD COURSES -- OR OVALS, FOR THAT MATTER. IS IT HARDER TO DO THAT IN THE WIDE-OPEN DESERT? "There isn't anything that you can rely on other than they had the course put into the GPS. I never rode in the passenger seat, so I didn't see the GPS in front of me, so Rob knew when it would go straight or when there was a turn. The problem was I didn't know what straight was. You can hold the wheel straight, but that doesn't mean you're going perfectly straight. Like when you're going down the freeway and I say, 'Go straight,' and you just hold the wheel in one spot, then you can switch and go over two or three lanes eventually. But when he says, 'Go straight,' in the desert, it's roughly straight."
SO YOU WEREN'T DISAPPOINTED IN THE EXPERIENCE? "Oh, no. I'll do it again someday. Sometime or another when the schedules match up or there is another opportunity, I'm gonna do it again. That was a lot of fun."
-credit: ford racing