Spotters play key role in races

Spotters play key role in Rolex Sports Car Series Fighter pilots have their wingmen, politicians have their advisors, and in the Rolex Sports Car Series, drivers have their spotters, who communicate with the drivers on the radio to provide ...

Spotters play key role in Rolex Sports Car Series

Fighter pilots have their wingmen, politicians have their advisors, and in the Rolex Sports Car Series, drivers have their spotters, who communicate with the drivers on the radio to provide guidance and an outside view on what's going on around the track.

It's not just NASCAR drivers and teams racing on ovals who make use of spotters to keep their driver focused on his job and aware of what's ahead, but also an increasing number of Rolex Sports Car Series teams are putting the same strategy to work on the wide variety of tracks that the series races on. Michael Shank Racing and Burt and Brian Frisselle have seen first hand the advantages of having an extra set of eyes and ears out on the tracks this season in Rolex competition.

>From trying to make the most of a restart by calling out exactly when the green flag waves to letting the driver know that he's fighting for position to letting them know what the conditions are ahead of them, spotters play a key role in Rolex Sports Car racing.

Burt and Brian Frisselle, drivers of the RX.Com BMW/Doran, often hear the voice of their father Brad on the radio as they drive. Brad, who took wins as a driver in both the 12 Hours of Sebring and Rolex 24 at Daytona, draws on his experience in the cockpit as his sons take to the track in Rolex competition. Racing is a family affair for the Frisselles, and it's not just dad on the radio, as their mom Terry, who has herself been in racing for over twenty-five years, often takes a post on anther section of the track.

"It's really helpful to have an extra set of eyes out there so you know what to expect," said Burt. "Also having familiar voices on the radio with my mom and dad is also really comforting, because they both have so much experience in the sport that they can sometimes predict when things are going to get ugly before they actually do. Dad can also see what the car is doing out on the track and that helps us after the sessions as we work on finding the set-up that we need."

The Frisselles aren't the only team making the most of spotters, as Michael Shank Racing has also benefited this season by having someone watching out on the track and on the radio to the driver and team. Kenny Wilden, who raced with the team in Toyota Atlantic competition, first spotted for the team on their way to the podium earlier this season at California Speedway with Mike Borkowski and Paul Mears.

Wilden uses not only his experience as a racer (he took runner-up in the 1999 Toyota Atlantic Championship with MSR), but also puts his extensive experience working as a driver coach into effect, as he coaches the drivers on keeping focus and getting the most out of the car.

"At the Glen, I was following another DP and I was a lot faster in some spots but I didn't want to make a low-percentage pass, so Kenny was telling me to just keep showing my nose on the front stretch and get the guy thinking," said Mears. "And on the third lap, what do you know but the guy messed up his braking going into one, and I was able to just motor on by. Kenny is also really good at keeping me focused on what's ahead and he works with Dale (Wise-Lead Engineer) to come up with changes we can make to the car while I'm in it, and they are usually really good."

Having a spotter can also be a safety issue, as demonstrated in the recent Watkins Glen event when there was a multi-car accident at the top of the esses and Brian Frisselle was able to avoid the mess thanks in part to his reflexes as well as getting a heads-up from Terry Frisselle, who was spotting from the exit of turn one.

"That was a really close one," smiled Brian. "The visibility isn't that great in these cars going up that hill at the Glen, and fortunately we were just able to get by, because there were some really torn up race cars after that mess."

For team owner Mike Shank, who oversees his team's two-car effort from the pits, having a spotter doesn't just help his drivers, as the added information he gets from Wilden helps his team make better decisions when it comes to pit strategy, tire choice, and on the restarts.

"It's great to have another set of eyes out there on the track because from the pits, you can only see a small window of what's going on," said Shank. "I think having Kenny on the radio and developing a relationship with Mike (Borkowski) helped to make it so seamless when he substituted in the car because they'd already worked together and developed good communication on the radio, so when they were sharing the car, it was like they had already been working together before."

Spotters will be in use for both teams once again as the Rolex Sports Car Series wraps up the 2005 season in Mexico City on November 5th. The race will be shown live on Speed Channel beginning at 4:00 PM ET.


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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Mike Borkowski , Brian Frisselle , Michael Shank
Teams Michael Shank Racing