DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 19, 2003) -- Red Bull driver Mike Borkowski and co-driver David Donohue captured their first Daytona Prototype victory of the season at the Rolex Series Grand American 400 two weeks ago at the California Speedway. After...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 19, 2003) -- Red Bull driver Mike Borkowski and co-driver David Donohue captured their first Daytona Prototype victory of the season at the Rolex Series Grand American 400 two weeks ago at the California Speedway. After accepting questions from fans last week, Borkowski now responds to inquiries about the future of Grand American, the hardest part of the Grand American 400, how it felt to get the monkey off his back and many other items.
Q: What kinds of things do you think Grand American series should be doing to turn the Daytona Prototypes into the premier U.S.-based sports car road racing series?
MB: I think Grand American is doing several things that can work towards solidifying its position as the premier U.S.-based sports car series. Grand American is making an effort to 'NASCARize' sports car and prototype racing. Nowhere in the world is there a racing series with closer competition, more sponsors, more teams, more jobs for professional drivers and more last lap wheel-to-wheel racing than NASCAR. If they can accomplish a fraction of what they have with NASCAR, it would be a tremendous success.
Grand American has created a tight rules package, which will keep the competition closer and the racing more exciting. Grand American also has limited some technology, which will obviously keep the cost more in control and will ultimately result in more teams coming to the series because they will actually have a real chance of being competitive. This will ultimately increase the car count. Grand American also plans to keep the rules stable for quite a while so that cars do not become outdated and obsolete immediately. Again, this will keep the car counts and consequently the competition at a higher level. All of this means more entertainment, which means more fans, which means better attendance and TV ratings, which means more sponsors, which means more teams, which means more top drivers, which means more competition, which means . . . you get the picture. Racing always seems to have this "snowball effect," sometimes it is positive and sometimes it is negative. In this case, I think it will be positive, but it just cannot happen overnight.
The biggest criticism I have heard anyone say about Grand American vs. ALMS is that the cars are not as high-tech and as a result it is "less professional" or "not as high of a level." I ask those people, is NASCAR less professional? Those are some of the lowest tech racing cars on the planet and they have the best racing, awesome attendance with 100,000 to 200,000 people at their races, the highest TV ratings, more sponsors, and more teams and drivers making solid livings. In the end, fans have to ask themselves do they want to see a race or an exhibition. I also love the Bentley's, Audis, and GTP cars, but more than anything I love great close racing. My favorite personal career moments are when I had a dogfight of a race with another top driver. Even the fans that say the cars are more important than the racing talk much more about a great race. You cannot deny that the best racing moments are when there is a great race . . . when Jeff Gordon & Jeff Burton beat and banged with one lap to go for the million dollar prize a year or so ago, when Kurt Busch and Ricky Craven were side-by-side bumping and banging for the last three laps at Darlington, or when Alex Zanardi passed Brian Herta through the dirt at the Laguna corkscrew with five turns to go. Great races, great finishes. Compare that excitement to watching Audi spend 15 times the budget and lap the field five times or more, or watching the Bentley "win" Le Mans and Sebring, when in actuality it was the only car in its class. If I show up to a Grand-Am Cup race with an Indy car and the series lets me run it, did I really win? I don't think so. If there was a series with 20-30 Bentley's or Audis, that could be awesome too, but in the real world, it will never happen. It is too cost prohibitive.
I would love to see some more power in the top Daytona Prototype class. More marketing and promotion of the Grand American's series and its mission will always help the series grow its fan base, competitor count, and sponsor interest.
Q: What was the hardest part of the race for you?
MB: There was not really one part of the race that was the hardest part, but if I had to pick one it would have to be the last 70 percent or so of my first stint. The reason is because we had developed a bit of a tire problem. David made reference during the broadcast of his thoughts that we were a bit too aggressive with our set-up. I agree with him. The entire weekend, we never did any extended runs on a set of tires, so we were not sure what would happen. Anyway, we were hurting our outside tires, especially the right front, which was making the car progressively get more and more ill handling. This was most prominent in turns 1-2 on the Fontana oval. We were overheating which can cause blistering, serious lack of grip, and possibly even a blow out. As a result, I had to tip toe a bit more through the banking to protect the tire and make it last longer. By tiptoe, I mean I had to carry a bit less speed in the middle of the corner where the car was working most. I also altered my line taking a higher line at entry which would allow me to angle the car down in better and hold my maximum G's in the middle of the corner for a shorter period of time because the car would be pointed better. If I stayed down low, the tire would be working harder through the entire corner, it may not have lasted as long which would have meant another pit stop and/or a blow out which could have caused a wreck.
Q: What key elements of the car were fixed to allow it to finish?
MB: There was not any "key element" that was fixed to allow us to finish. We have not had anything broken. We have really just had a string of bad luck at the most inopportune times. Racing cars have problems and sometimes things break. Other teams have had problems during Friday or Saturday practice. This year, David and I would have a flawless weekend and then have one problem that would happen in the race. Then we would have a three-day test and again have a flawless run. We did a 34-hour practice race in preparation for the Daytona 24 without a single problem. Then we came back with a more conservative engine and had a problem while leading. Just plain old bad luck. The Brumos Team has been doing an excellent job giving us a car that can win every week. The tide has turned, and we are ready to win some more races.
Q: Now that you finally have the monkey off your back so to speak by finally getting your first win, do you think you two can keep it together for the rest of the year and challenge Hurley Haywood and JC France for the championship? You guys are always faster but seem to get the rotten luck.
MB: Absolutely! It sure would be more comfortable to have four or five wins and a comfortable points lead, but that's not the way things worked out. Now we have to put our heads down, do exactly what we've been doing and win some races. David and I have usually been the quickest car, so I am confident. However, the competition is doing a great job and some of them are catching up as they learn more about their cars. Hurley and JC have both done a solid job and have been consistent. It will be tough to catch them now that they have a decent lead, but it is definitely possible. I have every intention of winning the championship. I am quite sure David plans on winning it as well. June will be a very important and pivotal month for the Red Bull car. We need to win and end this month close to Hurley and JC. No matter what happens, I believe this championship will come down to the last race or so.
Q: Did the champagne taste good after your victory?
MB: Champagne always tastes good after a victory. Somehow winning has a way of making everything taste better, feel better and just generally seem happier. That only lasts for a short while though, and then you are immediately thinking about the next race.
Q: Mike, I have seen you race with my dad years ago in Trans-Am. In fact, I should add that you were the only person to defeat Tommy Kendall that year! How does that win compare to getting your first Rolex Daytona Prototype win?
MB: They both felt great for different reasons. The Daytona Prototype victory was a relief to get the monkey off of our back and finally win one for Red Bull and Brumos. It was also a breath of fresh air because it had been a while since I had a team who gave me equipment capable of winning races. The Trans-Am victory at Pikes Peak was a special one though, and probably more storybook. I was the young rookie. Tommy Kendall was the three-time champion in the middle of his record-setting winning streak. The last 35 laps of the race we were nose-to-tail. We beat, banged and hit one another probably 30 or so times (I was on the receiving end of most of those hits). We both drove our hearts out, slid the cars around and just got everything out of them. The tires were killed because we were running so hard . . . three of my four tires had cords showing after the race. It came down to the last few corners. The fact that TK had the in-car, roof and bumper cameras made for great TV as well. That was five-years-ago, and I still have 15-20 people a weekend bring that race up or ask me about it. But, it is always great to win races when your competitors are great drivers with lots of wins and history.
Q: Compare the cockpit area between the Daytona Prototype and the open cockpit and/or Trans-Am cars. How comfortable are you in the car as far as hot and humid conditions?
MB: The cockpit of the prototype is tighter, but it is not uncomfortable at all. The Trans-Am car, NASCAR stock cars and the Daytona Prototype are the three hottest cars I have raced. The Daytona Prototype can be tougher because it is not as easy to get airflow in and through the car, and we have found it tough to exhaust the hot air inside the cockpit. The Daytona Prototype was 135-140 degrees inside at some events this year. Now imagine that cockpit temperature combined with our fireproof suit, helmet and doing enough work to have a heart rate up in the 160-175 range. That is like jumping rope in a sauna wearing ski clothes for two hours. We have managed to improve on this and get the cockpit temperatures to drop about 15 degrees. It is still hot and is obviously tougher on a hot humid day. The team will keep working on cooling the car, and David and I will keep working on our cardio training.
Thanks for the questions, and thanks for supporting Grand American. Keep watching and look for the Brumos Red Bull car to return to victory lane.
All the best,