Terry Borcheller – A Sebring Homecoming

dailysportscar.comIn a sense, Terry Borcheller will be having a homecoming, of sorts, at Sebring. Terry, who has been synonymous with the racing program of the Saleen S7-R, returns to the cockpit of the GTS machine at Sebring, for ACEMCO Motorsports.

After sharing the first S7-R on its debut, with Tommy Kendall and Ron Johnson at Laguna Seca, Terry went on to have a dream season in 2001, winning class at Sebring with Franz Konrad and Oliver Gavin and eventually taking the season drivers championship in unexpected fashion at Petit Le Mans.

“I’ve been with the S7 since the very beginning. In fact I was the first American to drive the race car. Tommy and I were in Wales for a two-three day test, I think at Pembrey. RML, who built the car, had a test driver, who took some initial shakedown laps with the car in the wet, but once we got the car, it was our turn to play.

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dailysportscar.com"2001 was quite a year. We won Sebring and we had the car to win at Le Mans that year, but the motor let us down. Even though I was thrilled to be at Le Mans for the first time, I was really disappointed inside that we didn’t get that win.”

The two Le Mans images here (#66) are of the 2002 effort, with Franz Konrad and Toni Seiler.

The program with ACEMCO was announced last year at Laguna Seca, but obviously the seed had been planted much earlier. In fact Terry was seen giving his boss a few laps around Sears Point earlier in the season in the street version of the S7.

“We were running the Ferrari 360, but I knew that Jeff Giangrande wanted to do something bigger and better; to be in a higher profile class.

"For a privateer, the Saleen makes sense. It probably offers the biggest available bang for the buck, and is economical to run to a competitive level. It is just unfortunate that there has never been a team that was able to run it at the level that it should be run. Saleen sees ACEMCO as that team; the team that can run the car to its potential. Jeff wants to win, but he also realizes what it takes to do that. He has a great business mind and is really in tune to what is going on. He hasn’t come right out and said it, but the impression that I have is that we will be around more than just one year.

dailysportscar.com“So far, testing has been OK. We had a good first test, but we are running behind. It is nobody’s fault at all. It’s just where we are. Trying to catch up with the Corvette is an awesome endeavor, but it is going fine. The car is lighter and more reliable and has gone through a lot of evolution, but we really aren’t that much faster, yet. For a race, Sebring is just too early for us. Once the season kicks off, we have an intensive test program lined up. Jeff has no intention of slowing down, and with us not doing Le Mans this season, we will have quite a bit of time to do our homework. Our next race won’t be till late June, so that gives a good amount of time to get to where we think we should be. Pirelli is really focusing on this program. They want us to succeed. The tires are working well, but we just haven’t had enough time and proper weather to see where we are at.”

dailysportscar.comWhat everyone wants to know is if the Saleen can beat the Corvette this year, at Sebring? “I don’t know. It will be difficult. We are making progress, and we are headed in that direction, but it is awfully tough to get off the trailer and be as fast as the ‘Vettes. We’ll be testing the weekend before Sebring, with Friday being a day for me to work on the race set-up. On Saturday, David Brabham and Johnny Mowlem will get the seat time that they need to get more familiar with the car. Then we have all week to get ready for the race.” But has the window of opportunity passed by a car that is almost four years old? “With all of the reported new cars coming in from Lamborghini, Aston Martin and Maserati, who knows? I don’t think so, but who knows. I think there is plenty of potential left in this car.

dailysportscar.com“Franz Konrad is someone that I have a lot of respect for. He developed the car to the best of his ability with the financing that he had. You don’t run Le Mans something like 27 times as a privateer without being crafty and resourceful. When I was with him, his biggest problem was sponsor money, as he had a lower budget than what was really needed. I’ll say this; he spent his money in the right places, where it is important. In 2001, I think we were working out of a fifth wheel trailer at Sebring. He stepped up and really helped me out in 2002, when the Panoz ride went away just before Sebring. He opened up a spot in the car for me for the season, even though he really had other options. Instead of being left high and dry, Franz came through and got me in the Saleen again.

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“The entire Panoz situation was not an easy time. I was testing during the off-season for them, and was rewarded with a full ride for the 2002 season. Now remember, I’m rather tall, and have a 35” inseam, but the Panoz is physically short. I didn’t really fit well at all in the Panoz and I found the driving position to be really bad for me. There was one time that I was at speed in a corner, and in trying to make a correction, I had to go from lock to lock, but the wheel hung up on my leg. That was not a good moment at all. We kept trying to get more room in the car, but nothing worked. I felt rather fortunate to get close to the times of David and Jan Magnussen, and on par with Bryan Herta, despite having to sit on the bare tub to drive. We were making good systematic progress, but then Chris Gorne left the team, leaving me with an engineer that was really out of his league.

“Before I got with Panoz, Johnny O’Connell had warned me to be careful and to watch myself, as he had just left the team. His problem there was something that really puzzled me, as here you had a fast and charismatic driver, who was also an American, and things didn’t line up. Well, I just figured it was one of those things and that I could make it all work out. I told management that I needed more room in the car, as either my head was within an inch of the top of the roll over hoop, or my knees were up against the dash. From the beginning, the plan was to build a new tub, which was to be an inch longer, giving me more room, but when it was done, the tub was actually one inch shorter that the previous one. I just didn’t fit well enough to do more than a stint at a time.

“I suggested to the team that we run three drivers at Sebring, and suggested that we add Bill Auberlen. The team said that they never run three drivers at Sebring. Then, just before the race, I was told I was out. That really left a bad taste in my mouth. I knew I did a good job in the car, despite what some of the press stated, but I ended up being the scapegoat. At that time, there were many personnel changes and shuffling going on in the Panoz race team, with many things falling through the cracks. Many people were watching out for nobody but themselves. The good of the team was secondary to personal job security. I was an easy out. Then they did end up running three drivers at Sebring.

dailysportscar.com“It was tough at the time for me, with all of the assumptions and speculation, especially among the Europeans, but everything eventually worked out for me personally. Don Panoz was never an issue for me, as he was really out of the loop due to all of his other interests. I like Don and I have full respect for what he has accomplished. I learned a lot and really enjoyed the time, but it wasn’t to be. Eventually I was able go back and deal with the situation, getting some greatly needed closure. Life is too short to leave situations un-settled.”

Obviously, being the reigning Daytona Prototype Champion, Terry drives in both of the competing sportscar series here in the States, the Grand Am and the ALMS. “I don’t think that they should be viewed as the same thing. Yes, they are both billed as “sportscar racing”, but from their foundations, they both are different. I love the cars and the technology of the ALMS, but we would show up last season with the Ferrari, knowing that it would be impossible to win. In the Grand Am it is different. When they announced the rules, I bet three quarters of the racing community thought they were out of their minds, but in reality, it is a similar situation to what we saw in the IRL. Now the car counts are strong. To me as a driver, maybe the DPs are not the most technically advanced, or the most attractive cars out there, but they have decent power, some down force and are actually decent to drive. What they are looking at is the competition, wanting to keep it close. What the Grand Am is about is great, close racing with unexpected results.

“I think they (the Grand Am) have accomplished what they set out to do, but as the series grows, I think things may change. Right now, I think about 10 cars come into the race with a chance to win, but as we go on and if things stay the same, I think that number will decrease. We will see the better-funded teams rise to the top and the gap between the teams will increase. I truly hope both series stay and make it. There is room for both and I believe they are different enough that they both can make it.

dailysportscar.com“The win at Daytona this year has to be the biggest single win of my career. It is huge for the team and for me as a driver. It is huge for the sponsors also. Kodak, Pontiac, K&N Filters, Bondurant, Alpinestars, Infinity2 Nutrition and Bell Helmets were and are all greatly excited by the result. Early, things looked good for us, but the overheating caused us some concerns. Late in the race, we knew we had to keep the pace up, first to just keep some pressure on the Crawford and secondly to keep the charging Taylor and Doran cars behind us. To win we had pretty much figured that the Crawford needed to have a problem, even though we were only a lap down. Just to be there at the end is the key. If you are not there, you can’t win. As far as the red, well let’s just say that I was glad to see it, but then again many others were glad too.”

Besides the racing, Terry is extremely busy trying to get settled into a new house. “We are about a month away from moving in. It’s been a good experience for the family, but the weather this year has been different for us, coming from Phoenix and into the snow of Georgia! The kids bundled up, but really enjoyed playing in it. I’m hoping to get into the house soon, before the season really heats up. That would be nice. I’m also hoping to get to see the movie “The Passion of the Christ”, soon, before Sebring if at all possible. I have heard so much positive about it. My wife saw it and just couldn’t say enough about it. I admire Mel Gibson for standing up and doing this, despite all of the controversy surrounding him and it. He took a stand, and I’m glad he did. This movie is really reaching out to people. I know people get tired of hearing me say it, but if it wasn’t for Christ and his sacrifice, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I owe it all to him.”
Gary Horrocks

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