Am – Barber Motorsports Park
Interview With JC France
is the first part of multiple interviews with the many drivers at Barber
Park this week. My plan is to allow the fans of the Rolex series, to
get to know the drivers a little more than what is displayed on television
or the media guides.
After a long day of sharing driving duties with Hurley Haywood and the
team, and setting a fast lap of 1.26.536, I caught up with JC France
in the Brumos paddock area late in the afternoon. Jackie Johnson,
Public Relations, had arranged some time to be set aside for me
to meet JC before he had to take off and visit children in a local
hospital. I proceeded to sit down in a golf cart next to JC……….
JC, I appreciate you taking some time out of your hectic preparation
for the Barber 250 at The Park. Looks like you were having a
lot of fun out there……How would you describe the
JC: Love it! The track is very smooth
and just a lot of fun to drive. There are some very
technical parts to it and we will have to work hard.
Let’s talk first about what you would be doing today if
you were not racing, what is a typical non race day like?
JC: I love to ride my bikes…I
have several Harleys, but if not on one of them,
most likely on either my 29’ or 45’ boat.
April (wife) and I love to go sailing and fishing.
Well, considering this is race week though, during a race day,
how does that day unfold?
JC: Normally I get up very early,
unless it is a night race. I try to sleep in a little
longer if it is a night race, like our race last
week in Phoenix, but normally, get in fairly early.
Typically, there is an early morning drivers meeting,
then there is time meeting with our sponsors and
GARRA. There is also an autograph session usually
planned and a few interviews….pretty hectic.
What was the decision process to go racing in the Daytona Prototype
JC: The formula is exciting. Rules
are designed to create close racing and that no one
car has a distinct advantage over the others.
Ya, but if you win this week, that is three in a row….distinct
JC (Laughing): We will have to see…seriously,
the concept is right. No one (driver) wants to go
to the track and feel as if they have no chance in
winning. If I felt that way, I would not want to
race. This series, the rules, will ensure that on
any given day, any team has the chance of winning.
Although you did not win at Daytona this year, it was a very
good showing..What did the team learn from that week of racing?
JC: A LOT! Especially speaking for
myself….my learning is on-going. Also, Scott
Goodyear was a tremendous asset to our team. The
success we have had since Daytona has a lot to do
with how we all work well together to improve.
Having Hurley Haywood as a team mate….that has to be a
huge advantage for this team.
JC: Most definitely. Hurley is an
invaluable asset to this team, his knowledge of the
car and set up, as well as his driving ability is
awesome. He knows this car and can explain what is
going well and not so well.
What improvements have been made to the car since Daytona?
JC: Getting fresher air to the driver.
Did you notice the slits in the roof? (JC Pointing
to the car) We measured the inside car temperature
at around 160 degrees!
Has this been the biggest hurdle to overcome?
JC. Yes, the temperature in the
cockpit is extreme. It was very, very bad at Homestead.
Although I didn’t get to see the race (live or on tape)
I did see the picture of you and Hurley celebrating right after
taking the checker….man, yours and Hurley’s faces
were beat red!
JC: Ya, that was really, really
bad. In fact, when I got out of the car my eyesight
was blurring and I was in pretty bad shape. The race
could not have ended soon enough for me…the
heat inside the car was brutal..
I asked this same question to Barry McSherry from Multimatic…if
you could have GARRA look at one current regulation for possible
change in 2004, what would that be?
JC: Nothing really – need
to keep the rules consistent. I cannot really think
Come on, how about some more speed?
JC (Laughing): Well………….
Are you aware of the on-going “feud” between the
two camps of sportscar racing in North America?
JC (Smiling): Ya, I hear and read
some of the stuff……..
(interrupting) Read? Do you read some of the forums on the web?
JC: (Laughing loudly): Sure do,
and so does Hurley…he will call or ask me if
I have read some of the stuff….we just laugh
and can’t believe some of things we see…….
Kinda of silly huh? Is it just the fans being “fanatics”,
or does this passion carry over to drivers, teams, and owners?
JC: Really just the fans….each
series has their own direction and they are different.
OK, fair enough, but if it was possible, would you like to be
able to race DPs on other circuits outside of the US? Le Mans?
JC: Sure, that would be great.
Good to hear JC, but for now, all attention is on Barber Park….
JC: You bet…it is going to
be a wild race!
Because of the Cup Cars?
JC: Not just them, but they do make
the race interesting….
Because of the closing speeds?
JC: While yes, the closing speeds
are greater, not really a major issue, as long as
everyone is paying attention.
Do the Cup Cars play nicely with the ‘Big ‘Boys’ and
move over when approached?
JC: Ya, for the most part…maybe
one or two that have caused some problems.
(JC mentions one car in particular)
Ok, back to the track….what is the most difficult corner
for you to work?
JC: That’s easy…the “kink”…you
can lose a lot of time there if you are not on the
right line and if there is any traffic, you can lose
even more time!
(I note to JC that of the 4 drivers I had interviewed today, all mentioned
the kink being the most difficult corner)
How about the car set-up? I am sure you are using a different
set-up from Phoenix….
JC (Laughing): Hell, we are using
a different set-up between sessions .. We are adjusting
it now, (JC points over to the car) …trying
to make the set up stiffer.
time, cracks of thunder can be heard and it starts to rain…..As
Jackie walks over to see if we can wrap it up, I have just
one more question for JC:
What one ‘annoying’ question do you hear, from either
fans, reporters, or fans acting like reporters (JC laughs at
this one) most often?
JC: Easy, “Why don’t
I race NASCAR?” The question is usually followed
with some comment about my last name….( I note
no smile on JC’s face as he is very serious)
Well? The answer is?
JC: Because I love sportscar racing!
The technical aspects, the road courses, just everything
Oops, sorry JC, I lied, one more question then….Would you
like to drive for a NASCAR team on their road courses?
JC: Sure, like Boris? You bet…would
I shake JC’s hand one last time and watch as he is whisked
away for another obligation….to visit children in a local
this was the first time I have ever spoken to JC at this length
(spoke to him briefly after his stints ), I walked away with
the feeling he talked to me as if he knew me for some time…..then
wondered, damn, has he read some of my posts?