Two Cars, Two Series – And Thinking Outside The Box
Wittenberg caught up with Cort Wagner prior to the Grand Prix Americas
ALMS race, to find out how the former Porsche World Cup winner has
been getting on in the two different aspects to his 2003 season.
DSC: You have an interesting
situation this year. Two different series with two different cars.
CW: Yeah, I am really
enjoying it. I have the best of both worlds. For Grand Am I am driving
the 360 for Ferrari of Washington again. I was co-champion last
year in the GT class with Bill Auberlen. This year my co-driver
is Brent Martini, who is doing a really nice job. I am currently
leading the series again in points, so that is going great. The
360 is a great car for the Grand Am series and my team just does
a fantastic job preparing the car. In the ALMS of course, I am driving
with Kevin Buckler in the Racer’s Group Porsche. I didn’t
get to race in that series last year so it is great to be back.
It was a last minute deal to get into Kevin’s car.
DSC: No reflection on
either team of course, but tell us which car is more fun to drive?
CW: The 360 is definitely
more fun. The Porsche is incredibly physical to drive. It’s
faster and has more power, but needs to be driven hard, whereas
the Ferrari has better handling, smoother and better brakes. But
both are great cars.
DSC: The Racer’s
Group really came of age last season and established themselves
as one of the top GT teams. Then they started off this year by winning
overall at the Rolex 24 (photo - below). But you haven’t been
as competitive as many expected you to be this season (in the ALMS).
Why is that?
CW: We are not
as quick as we would like to have been or expected to be. We have
had some good runs but it’s just not working out for us.
We were running second at Trios Rivieres when Kevin touched the
and third overall when I went off at Mosport. We
did manage a third at Road Atlanta, which was the first race for
me in the #66 car, and second place at Road America. The Alex Job
Team has a definitive advantage this year. I think they did a better
job in the off-season and it shows.
DSC: Besides the Job
team, the rest of the competition in the GT class has also improved.
CW: The competition
has really stepped up in the GT class. The driving talent is unbelievable.
Guys like Liddell, Lieb, Baron, Lally; we are all within a second
of each other. So you can’t miss it, or be off just by a little,
or you will drop like a rock. Everybody is better this year.
DSC: You have
been very successful in the GT class over a considerable period
of time, but do you feel like that success actually keeps you from
getting a shot at an LMP or GTS ride? (Cort's record as a sportscar
and GT driver since 1995 is listed here)
CW: Yes, absolutely.
You get labeled as a GT driver and everyone thinks that’s
where you should stay. There is also more opportunity in the GT
& GTS classes right now. Seems to be the way it’s going
at the moment. Look at Brabs and Magnussen, nobody was faster than
them in a prototype. Now they are in GTS. But I would love to get
a chance at an LMP ride or a factory GTS team.
DSC: If you could race
any car what would it be?
CW: Any car? It would
have to say a modern Formula one, like the Williams BMW. I would
really like a chance to get some time in one of those car and see
what I could do compared to those guys.
DSC: What has been your
best moment in racing so far?
CW: That is tough. Grabbing
the class pole at Le Mans in 2001 with the Callaway was great. We
really felt like we had a shot at winning the race with that car.
Also winning the class at the Rolex 24 in ’99. That was special
because that was a great team. My co-drivers, Kelly Collins, Anthony
Lazzaro and Darryl Havens are guys I really enjoyed racing with.
DSC: And your worst moment?
CW: That would have to
be at Mosport in ’99. That was a violent crash, the car flipped
end over end three times. I was going hard through corners 5a &
b, when Max Angelelli tried to pass me on the inside of 5b. You
just can’t pass there. He was half on the dirt when he left
front contacted my right rear and sent me out of control. It was
during a practice session, so it was really senseless.
DSC: You hear so much
talk about how the tighter economy is affecting racing, but you
managed to secure a new sponsor for this year.
CW: Yes, New
Century Mortgage has been fantastic. Pat Flannagan came to me with
a proposal for the year and we felt like The Racers Group was the
best deal for both of us.
DSC: What would you tell
a potential sponsor about the benefits of investing in sportscar
CW: You need to be creative
and think outside of the box. There are lots of opportunities out
there. Lots of people love Motorsports. It’s a great opportunity
to bring clients or employees to the race events. The association
of having your company’s name on a racecar is great for corporate
recognition. You can use it to secure business: For example, a title
company could say to someone like New Century Mortgage, we will
put your name on a racecar for a year if you give us all your closing
business. People just need to be creative.
Cort will doubtless be creative in his own way at Miami this weekend,
partnering Kevin Buckler in the Racer’s Group Porsche. A podium
on the cards for #66?