Scott Maxwell – Mini Grid & Maxi Grid
dailysportscar.comRacing is definitely in the blood of Scott Maxwell. He grew up a fan of the sport, thanks in part to the many activities of his father George. I knew George from many years ago, when too much of my income went to their business, Mini Grid, a model and racing shop in Toronto, Canada. Besides his many varied racing activities, George was very instrumental in the promotion of 1/43rd scale model racecars to the North American continent. I remember him speaking many times with great pride about the racing activities of his son Scott.

Now, Scott has become one of sportscar racing’s best-kept secrets. Larry Holt, once said to me that “if you want a car to go fast, put Jan Magnussen into it, but if you want to make a fast car, let Scott develop it.” This is not to say that Scott is a slow driver. No way. He just has a talent at developing a car. It is just unfortunate that, for whatever reason, strong consistent rides have not come his way.
Gary Horrocks

Another year without a full time ride. It is obvious that you have the talent and the experience to deserve better. Is that frustrating and why haven’t you been able to get more steady rides?

There are a couple of ways to look at it. I’m a race driver and I’d like to be driving every weekend, and when I’m not racing I’d like to be testing something. But the reality is that there are a limited number of opportunities available and a lot of talented drivers scrambling to get full time, paid rides.

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It would have been nice to do the entire season in ALMS with Panoz, but it started as a three-race deal (the long races), and then they asked me to help out in three sprint races as well, so I was happy with that. It was more frustrating to watch from a distance as the Grand-Am Daytona Prototypes evolved. We (Multimatic) got the pole and won the first race at Daytona, but that was it. I really wanted to get back out there and develop the car and prove it was the best chassis / engine package, but that didn’t happen for a variety of reasons.

As far as prototypes go, you must have some of the greatest experience of anyone in a variety of different cars. You have been in the Multimatic Lola (both B-98 and B2K-40), the Barbour Reynard, both Panoz LMP 900 cars and also the Ascari. Were there major differences between the cars and which was really the most rewarding to drive?

dailysportscar.comI would probably surprise you with this answer, but we had the Lola B98 with the Lozano Ford engine really dialed in. We only raced it a couple of times in that configuration, but I think that chassis was underrated, and we quicker than the DAMS Lola with the Judd. But we just didn’t have a budget to run, and then we went to the twin-turbo Nicholson and that was a disaster…

The little Lola was a blast to drive: it’s too bad that class didn’t take off, the racing would have been great. And the Panoz last year was fun, good power and all the bells and whistles to play with.

They all had their differences, but I enjoyed all of them.

As far as results for you personally, would the class win at the 2000 Le Mans in the B2K-40 be the most important so far in your career?

It’s hard to top winning Le Mans. It was a huge moment not just for me but our entire team. It wasn’t as satisfying from a driving point of view because it was driving to survive and finish, a monkey could have done what I did. But that’s part of the deal sometimes; you have to do whatever it takes to get the result.

dailysportscar.comWinning Daytona this year with the Multimatic Daytona Prototype and getting pole was probably more satisfying. The two Daves (Brabham / Empringham) and I just drove flat out from the moment the throttle cable broke in the second hour of the race. It was like a sprint trying to catch The Racer’s Group Porsche, and then we finally got the 10 laps or whatever it was back and the cable broke again! All three of us were knackered, but we still won the class first time out.

Also getting pole for the 2001 Daytona 24 Hours was very satisfying in the Porsche GT1 because we stole it from the favoured Corvettes with Ron and Dale Earnhardt. That’s a race we might have won but a gearbox broke: they never break! And winning Petit Le Mans in 2001 for Dick Barbour was great, I really liked Dick and he gave me an opportunity, so winning was a good thank-you.

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In 2002, you were one of the lead drivers in the MBD Panoz effort. It appeared that there were many issues with this car, but it did appear to be getting better before the effort disappeared. How much promise did the car really have and where was most of the development coming from?

Yes, the car was progressing. It wasn’t until I drove the factory Panoz this year that I understood we were a lot closer than we realized. The MBD cars didn’t have paddle shift, or Michelin tires, or all that Elan power, so you build in these factors and we wouldn’t be far off. On average Didier de Radigues or myself would be about two seconds off the factory cars with David and Jan, so I think the above issues would find a lot of that. I believe the LMP07 chassis was more responsive than the LMP01 car, but you couldn’t get a big enough engine in the damn thing.

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Nothing much has really been heard of the Mugen motor since then. Did that motor have what it took to get the job done?

It needed a lot of development, and that takes a lot of money. Neither seemed to be available then.

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How about your drive at Daytona this year in the Multimatic Ford Focus Daytona Prototype? It appeared to be a combination of racing and development, all at the same time. Is that true?

Definitely. We only shook it down for a few laps at Road Atlanta, and then went to the Daytona test in January, then the race! Which makes the pole and finishing the race even more incredible.

Larry Holt of Multimatic has commented to me many times that as far as development drivers go, he considers you the best. Why is that? What makes a good development driver?

I’m not sure. You’d probably have to talk to the different engineers that I’ve worked with. I’m not a technical person by any stretch, but I do feel a lot of things in the car I guess: I try and slow everything down and take in all the information the car is giving me, through the steering wheel, the tires, the chassis, brakes, everything. I don’t worry about speed; lap time doesn’t really matter in testing and development. You have to go fast enough to get a true feel for what the car is doing, but not thrash around out of control trying to find a half second and not pay attention to how the car is reacting to your input. I have developed a good communication with the engineers and mechanics; you have to give accurate feedback, and they take it from there.

How exactly did your relationship with Larry and Multimatic come about?

My formula car career had reached a crossroads, I should have been getting into Formula Atlantic or Indy Lights but I had no money. All my contemporaries had moved on (Paul Tracy, Jimmy Vasser, Dave Empringham, Patrick Carpentier) and I was stuck. Larry wanted to start a racing team for his engineers and designers within his company (Multimatic) and needed someone not only to drive but also help develop it. It was a pretty big backwards step, I was thinking Indycars and he was talking Firehawk Showroom Stock Endurance racing! But I could see the long term potential, Larry explained the plan, and the resources were all there. And I didn’t have any other solid options at that point, so I said yes.

Would it be safe to say that most of your driving has taken place away from the public eye? I mean, winning the class at Le Mans, Petit Le Mans and Daytona is pretty impressive stuff…

I don’t think so. I’m just not the most outspoken, public person. I’m very serious at a race track and I’m not into all the ‘events’ and fun stuff. My enjoyment is driving and working with the team, and this is how I make my living. So my name doesn’t pop up in peoples’ minds, especially the general racing public. I don’t seek attention! That’s probably a personal criticism because it probably has cost me some notoriety and maybe some opportunities, but I have no money or big sponsor to bring to a program so I have to make my team happy first. I leave the public stuff to my pals like Gunnar Jeannette and Mad Max Papis!

It is obvious that you do not seek the limelight at all, and as such, not many people realize how much time you spend testing and developing. Just how much time or miles do you think you have chalked up testing versus racing, and how do you keep yourself motivated to do so?

In terms of testing versus racing it varies year to year, but on average I would say for every lap of racing I get to do I'm probably doing four or five times as much testing, development, shakedown, durability or display driving. Motivation isn't really a problem with testing. When it's done right, that is with an organized plan to follow, a well prepared car, a good engineer / designer and a couple of good mechanics, the progress you can make in a day if left alone is incredible and very rewarding. To take a car and make constant changes to it and see lap times tumble without driving any harder is very satisfying and challenging. Don't get me wrong, that doesn't happen every test, sometimes you go out of the pits and five minutes later you're done for the day: some problems can be terminal or at least can't be solved until some more work or redesign back at the shop, but overall I enjoy it immensely.

How many miles have you done at Mosport?

Thousands! - but not in the last three or four years: this year’s ALMS race was only my second race there since 1999. I literally grew up at Mosport, my dad was a marshal, competitor and official for nearly twenty years, so I spent a lot of my youth wandering around the property! I still think it’s the best track in North America, for sure the most challenging.

Mosport is your home track and you have seen it go through a lot of changes. How bad did the facilities actually get and what have the improvements been since Don Panoz bought the track?

Harvey Hudes owned Mosport for years and when Harvey passed away in the early ‘90s there was great concern that Mosport would disappear. Fortunately Don Panoz came along and obviously saw an opportunity here, and I think Don does appreciate the history of such a venue as well. Mosport held some huge races here for a long time, and has always been considered one of the greatest circuits in the world. If you don’t believe me you’d have to argue with guys like Dan Gurney, Jimmy Clark, Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill. I mean they all raced here and loved it. But it did need a lot of work, both from a safety point of view and spectator facilities.

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The smartest thing Don did was to keep Myles Brandt as track manager, who like me, grew up around Mosport. Myles has been there forever, and keeping that consistency and knowledge, rather than bringing in new people, was, I think, the proper thing to do. Mosport will never be Formula One material again, you’d have to destroy the circuit to make it to the F1 standard, but who wants another boring F1 circuit, they’re all the same? That’s what is so great about places like Mosport, Watkins Glen, Road America and Laguna Seca, they have character, and they are unique. But they are fantastic venues for sportscars.

Now more than ever, sportscar racing appears to be in the midst of changes. It looks like the car counts in the prototype classes in ALMS might be a little lower and the Grand Am is going their own way with the Daytona Prototype class. What are your feelings or what is your view on the state of health of sportscar racing in general?

That’s a sensitive subject with me. I’ll try not to go on a rant.

First of all, I’m not biased towards either series, but I wish there was only one. Sportscar racing is not strong enough for two series - look what has happened to CART vs. IRL. Everybody loses, but especially the fans. And try to get a potential new person interested in our sport, how the hell do you explain all the classes and series? Even my friends who have a casual interest can’t figure out which series is what. So growth outside of your core, dedicated sportscar enthusiast (a relatively small group as well) is difficult, if not impossible. So if that market isn’t growing we won’t attract new sponsors, or teams, or manufacturers. And we wonder why NASCAR is so successful? Consistency, simplicity, focus. That allows them to market their product, to build an image, attract and grow an audience over the long term. They don’t re-invent the product every three years.

Your question mentions sportscars is in the midst of changes…that’s exactly the problem. When are we not in the midst of changes? There is no consistency, nothing that the teams, tracks, promoters, and especially fans can build on. Too many classes, too many rule changes year to year, and no solid foundation to create and encourage growth with. I could go on, but as a life long motorsport enthusiast and participant, I get very frustrated watching the same cycle repeat itself every few years and intelligent people scratching their heads trying to figure it all out!

I think I’ve said enough, probably too much, but it comes from the heart because I love the sport and hate to see it struggle. When I retire I would love to expand on this when it won’t further damage my career!

The first time I met you was at Laguna Seca in 1998 I believe, when you were driving with actor / heart-throb Jason Preistley in the Multimatic Mustang. I could hardly get in to talk with you due to the crush of young girls around at the time. Was it always that way being around Jason at the time?

I thought those girls were there to see me! Let’s just say it was always interesting having Jason as my driving partner for those three years, we had a lot of fun and won quite a few races for Ford in their showroom stock program.

Jason had quite a wreck in an IRL car a while ago. How is he doing now and has that pretty much scared you away from that form of racing?

Jason’s recovered incredibly well from that crash, which was pretty horrific. I visited him in Indianapolis and it was pretty scary, but he’s a fighter and he’s a tough Canadian, that’s why he’s still with us today. It didn’t scare me off oval racing because I really never considered it after I left the formula car arena. My time or window of opportunity passed for this type of racing long ago.

Besides racing, you are also running the family business, Mini Grid, a long time model and racing enthusiasts shop. How tough is it to juggle your time between the two shops and the racing?

A lot tougher than I thought, especially if I’m traveling a lot to races. Racing is how I make my living, but when I quit, Mini Grid will be my way of earning a living. I have some good people, so when I go away to races the stores are in good hands. The business has made me appreciate the racing, how lucky I am to do what I want and get paid to do it. Even though I take the racing totally seriously, some will tell you intensely, I am very relaxed at a racing event, I can even fall asleep in the car on the grid. But running my business is full of stress and uncertainty and way more work! So any race driver that complains (especially F1 drivers) should take a hard look at reality!

dailysportscar.com(For whatever reason, Scott was too shy to take this opportunity to push his shops, so I’ll do it for him. They are a racing fan’s ultimate destination. Models, books, art. You name it, they have it. For more information, go to www.minigrid.com)

Mini Grid, in conjunction with Insidetrack Magazine (www.insidetracknews.com) have been hosting meetings with personalities involved in racing for the public. How did those come about and how have they been going?

It’s gone extremely well, they have been very well received and the stories that have come out have been fantastic, definitely not for publication! I’ve had this idea for a while but finally had the forum to get it off the ground. What we do is invite someone from the motorsport world, not necessarily a driver, to come and share some of his experiences, his stories with us and to answer questions from our very informed and passionate audience. This year we held four events, with guests including Ron Fellows, Olivier Beretta, Tony Dowe and the Multimatic Daytona Prototype design team. It’s amazing, we open the floor to questions from the attendees and every night we’ve had to cut it off or it would of gone on for hours. But people get a different perspective, not a PR quote, but the real story, and they love it.
Next year we will be having six or seven, even Don Panoz has offered to come to one! It’s really gathering momentum.

Is there anything that you still want to accomplish in your racing career?

Sure, I still want to win more races and get more poles. That’s what it’s all about. I’d like to win Le Mans again, and I’d really like to win one more significant championship before I quit. But I just don’t know if I’ll get the opportunity. Regardless, if it ended tomorrow I’ve had a lot of fun, and have no regrets other than never getting a chance to drive an Indycar or whatever. But I’m not ready to quit yet.

So, what’s next for you?

I’ve got two or three irons in the fire in both the ALMS and Grand-Am. I was close to a full deal for the Daytona Prototypes but I was a bit skeptical of the team: I wanted a couple of things that they felt weren’t necessary and I think this probably cost me the ride. As I said before I’m a lousy ass kisser, but I don’t think I will regret it when the season gets going because this team will struggle.

There’s a couple of things that probably will happen but I can’t really talk about it, but both are new programs and involve a lot of development and testing, so they excite me and the people involved are all top notch.

 

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