Terry Borcheller – A Sebring Homecoming
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Le Mans images here (#66) are of the 2002 effort, with Franz Konrad
and Toni Seiler.
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.
running the Ferrari 360, but I knew that Jeff Giangrande wanted
to do something bigger and better; to be in a higher profile class.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.”