Scott Maxwell – Mini Grid & Maxi Grid
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
smartest thing Don did was to keep Myles Brandt as track manager,
who like me, grew up around Mosport. Myles has been there
and keeping that consistency and knowledge, rather than bringing
in new people, was, I think, the proper thing to do. Mosport
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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)
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
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.
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.
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.