Terry Borcheller, Forest Barber and Christian Fittipaldi ADAM SAAL: We'd like to welcome everybody for participating in our Rolex Sports Car Series media teleconference. As we go forward, we're going to be conducting these on a fairly regular...
Forest Barber and
ADAM SAAL: We'd like to welcome everybody for participating in our Rolex Sports Car Series media teleconference. As we go forward, we're going to be conducting these on a fairly regular basis. We appreciate everybody taking the time to join us for an update on our defending championship team in the Rolex Sports Car Series, which just made an announcement last week that Christian Fittipaldi would be returning to the team.
He was part of the winning Rolex 24 At Daytona lineup earlier this year with team principal Forest Barber, Terry Borcheller, Andy Pilgrim. Also joining us today is Forest Barber as well as Terry Borcheller. They will be driving at the upcoming Miami 250 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on September 12th, the No. 54 Bell Motorsports Kodak EasyShare Pontiac Doran, and nothing short of a victory is what they're going to be looking for. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us today. We appreciate it.
Forest, we'd like to get started with you. You're the owner/driver. Bell Motorsports is the team that runs your operation based right there in southern Florida. You won the championship last year. Terry took the driving title. You took several checkered flags and victories yourself. Talk a little bit about the series this year, compare it to last year. Is there any comparison as Daytona prototype continues to grow?
FOREST BARBER: It continues to be quite challenging. It was quite challenging last year. We had a difficult early season that kind of gelled in the latter half. But there were far fewer cars racing in the series at that time. I think we had as many as six at the most. This year we started out with I believe 19 at the (Rolex) 24 (At Daytona). The sheer number of cars has changed dramatically.
And we've had the addition of some very well-funded and very professional teams, besides ourselves. The Ganassi Racing organization and the SunTrust Pontiac team. Some of the teams are using all professional drivers such as Scott Pruett and Max Papis. The SunTrust team is very good, as well. It has changed dramatically since last year. It's very challenging.
ADAM SAAL: Forest, you have one of the top professionals on your team as well with Terry Borcheller. Terry we're going to move to you next.
Again, you carry the title of champion in this series. It's been a tough crown to defend this year. Talk about from your perspective, what have you seen as the growth this year and what can we expect in the final four races in the No. 54 Kodak EasyShare car?
TERRY BORCHELLER: I think the growth has been great for everybody, for the teams, the series included. We kind of knew the competition was going to be this way end of last year. We tried to prepare for it as best as possible.
But I'm excited about the addition of Christian. You know, he's not new to our team, but he's new to be running with me in the short races. I think it's going to make it exciting hopefully for Forest and for the Bell Motorsports team, for the series towards the end of the year.
ADAM SAAL: Terry, one more question for you before we get to Christian, then our friends in the media. Talk a little bit about how hard it has been for you guys to duplicate some of the success you had last year. Now, of course it's just a comparison with more cars and so forth. I mean, how many guys out there do you consider as contenders for the win on any given race?
TERRY BORCHELLER: You've got probably 10 cars that are capable of winning, you know, just depending on how the race unfolds towards the end, but we were prepared for the competition. I mean, we knew, as champions last year, I was asked a lot what I thought about the competition and who was coming this year, and I knew it was going to be a struggle. I knew it was going to be very, very difficult to duplicate the championship. I knew a race win was going to be very, very difficult. I felt that we were really fortunate to get the 24 Hour. That's probably the biggest race of the year for the series and one of the hardest ones to get. I'd never won it overall, so I was pretty excited that we could, you know, as a team, Forest, myself, Christian and Andy, to get that race.
It's been a dry spell. I don't like not winning this much. We need to be on the top of the podium again.
ADAM SAAL: Well, having Christian back co-driving with you for the final four races will certainly help. The team has shown no hesitation to put in some hot shoes in this car this year. Oliver Gavin was brought in as a factory GM driver to help out at Watkins Glen two weeks ago and certainly had a lot of competitive nature to the event. Of course, Andy drove with you to a podium finish at Mont Tremblant earlier this year.
Christian, let's move to you now. You're back in action. Just being able to go back racing again with a team that you won with already once this year, I mean, no doubt this has been the highlight of your season to date, maybe a highlight of the career running the Rolex 24 with Terry. Talk about how excited you are. You've got to be jumping out of your skin to go racing again.
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI: There's no doubt that I'm very happy. Most of all, I have to say that I've been racing for 22 or 23 years. I have never had a situation in my life where I wasn't racing or I wasn't driving for such a long period.
I started to get a little bit bored staying here at home. So I'm definitely very happy, looking forward for these last four races, and hopefully we can put the 54 car in a very strong position - not only in these four races but also for next year.
ADAM SAAL: Great to have you back, no question about it. You won in Florida, in central Florida at Daytona earlier this year with your colleagues that are on the phone with us today. But your return is going to be actually at your home track, Homestead-Miami Speedway. You are a resident of Miami. Any added pressure there? I know you've been asked that question before. Is it just another race for you or is there something special about being able to stay in Miami for your return?
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI: No, actually I think it's even better because I can come back to my house. I can sleep in my bed, which is always a lot better than sleeping in a bed that you don't sleep in every night. I can take my friends out to eat, good restaurants.
ADAM SAAL: One final question from me before we hand it off to our media friends. Big racing community down there, has been for a long time. In all series, any category, who are all the drivers that live in Miami right now and how often do you see them?
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI: Myself, Max (Papis). Of the guys that race Grand-Am, I don't really know who else lives in Miami. I know that Max lives in Miami because he's going to get married to my cousin. I know he definitely lives in Miami (laughter). Apart from that, I don't know. I'm not so sure about it right now.
Q: Christian, I wanted to ask you, I saw you briefly up at Indy, how did this whole deal come about? Is there any aspirations of going back to NASCAR?
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI: Well, basically this whole deal came about through Forest and I guess (team owner) Jim (Bell). They called me wanting to know if I could do the last four races. Definitely the car is very good. I think that we can put a solid, strong four races together at the end of the year. So I'm definitely very thankful to them.
As far as I'm concerned, that doesn't change anything about my, for example, program in NASCAR. I'm only going to do these last four races, and hopefully I can do these races that I can help the team, and it's going to be good for them. As soon as we finish these last four races, then we'll see what's going to happen as far as my future is concerned, either in NASCAR or in any other form of racing.
But right now that I'm doing these four races, I'm really concentrating on them. As I said before, I think that we can definitely put four strong races together. That would be very, very good for the whole team.
Q: Have you raced the road course there at Homestead?
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI: I haven't raced it, but I've tested on it a lot. I actually tested with the 54 car last year at the end of the year in December. Apart from that, I tested my Champ Car there many times. I would say probably I did about five, six test sessions, each one of them like two or three days. So I have a lot of miles on that track.
Q: I knew you said you tested there a lot with your Champ Cars. With the banking, does that play at all? I got to actually have a ride in one of the Ferraris yesterday. You can feel the banking when you go around the corner.
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI: Yeah, you can definitely feel the banking. Actually you should use the banking to help you and always remember that banking is your friend. Like it gives you extra free grip. That makes you go a lot quicker through there.
I remember when I tested last year, I think I was almost flat through there. I can't remember, maybe Terry was taking it like the whole turn flat, but I was almost flat through there. Obviously, he can help me out. He has more miles with this car on that track, going through the banking.
But I see the banking as a plus. It definitely sets you up for the start/finish straight where all the passing happens. So I think it's going to be a great show.
ADAM SAAL: That is now called the New Homestead-Miami Speedway, when you call the offices there, and I think that's because the banking was changed just prior to the season. Is that correct?
CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI: Yes.
ADAM SAAL: It was made a little bit steeper. Not the first renovation at Homestead-Miami Speedway. I got pretty good reviews from everybody when we were there previously.
Terry, quick question for you. The current configuration now, is it better than it was before at Homestead-Miami?
TERRY BORCHELLER: I don't know if it's better, but it is a little bit easier. You know, to go flat before, you probably only did it on a qualifying run, if you had the car really good. You couldn't do it consistently through a stint - at least we couldn't. Now when you get the car right, you can go flat through there pretty much most of the time. It's definitely easier, and I think in a way it's made the track a little less challenging, but it's made the racing a little closer, depending on how you look at it.
ADAM SAAL: We definitely had a close race last time we were there.
Continued in part 2