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Grand Am Road Racing Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Sports/Touring Car Racing Topics:  Grand Am Road Racing

Grand Am Road Racing Media Conference

Memo Rojas
March 2, 2011


J.J. O'MALLEY: Good morning, everyone. Thanks for joining us. Welcome to this special edition Grand-Am teleconference with a preview of Saturday's Grand Prix of Miami at Miami Homestead Speedway.
We are pleased to be joined by defending and two-time Daytona Prototype champion Memo Rojas, who opened the 2011 season by winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Memo, thanks for taking the time from your busy schedule to join us. You've won the Grand Prix of Miami twice driving with Scott Pruett in the 01 Telmex BMW/Riley. Both times you've gone on to win the Daytona Prototype championship. Is the Homestead race a good indicator for the title?
MEMO ROJAS: Hello, everyone.
To answer your question, I wouldn't say so. I would isolate that. I would say it's just a coincidence. I don't believe in that kind of statistics. You just try to do the best you can. It's just been coincidence that we've won that race the same year that we won the championship.
Grand-Am is a very tough environment. The competition is so high, it would be too early to tell who is going to win the championship by winning one race so early on.
J.J. O'MALLEY: Thank you. We'll open it up for questions from the media.

Q. I was curious about the caution and wave-by procedure. We had that at Daytona for the first time. How do you think it will impact this weekend's race?
MEMO ROJAS: I think Grand-Am did it to speed things up. I think it was a good call because in the end what's happening is that our (indiscernible) periods are going to be short and fans on track will be able to enjoy more time watching cars racing. With GT cars and Prototype cars together, we usually have a few (indiscernible) in our races.
It just speeds things up and puts on a better show.

Q. Grand-Am drivers have exciting jobs like a lot of us wish we would have. For you guys, what is adventurous for you, what is fun for you off the track?
MEMO ROJAS: Well, I think that's a great question. Just like you mentioned, I think we're fortunate to be able to have jobs which we dreamed of when we were kids. I always tell my friends that you are a kid, you play with little cars. Now I'm a 29-year-old kid that just plays with cars. I get to do that for a living, so I feel very fortunate for that.
For me, obviously the driving, it's fun. It's part of why we do this. But to me the biggest challenge and what gives me the most excitement is the actual competition. Competition comes racing wheel-to-wheel against other cars or to put the quickest lap in qualifying or practice, trying to find the limit with your car, with your team, with your engineers.
That competition, that competitive atmosphere is what thrills me, trying to be the best you can. It's what pushes me to be better and to be more motivated.

Q. In addition, do you think fans really understand the excitement that you have while you're racing?
MEMO ROJAS: Well, I mean, it's funny because some days when you're watching cars on TV, it may look easier than it really is. You see cars really well planted into the ground, and you see cars at high speeds that look under control most of the time. But what they don't really see is underneath that roof, we're really working to the limit. We're on the edge to where you're missing your references, missing your braking. In a split of a second, you could lose control of the car.
I think one of the things that fans get to experience when they see onboard video, they really get to see how much we're actually working the car inside the cockpit.

Q. Considering the new Continental tire, you didn't test at Homestead, some teams did, do you think it might be a little disadvantage come practice, take a little more time to get up to speed this weekend?
MEMO ROJAS: Well, we thought about that. One of the reasons we are not very concerned about it because I believe the tire tested at Homestead didn't end up being the tire we're actually going to run. They've been trying different compounds, constructions. The final tire they came up with wasn't tested until Daytona, until the race.
I think Continental did a good job because the tire was flawless during the 24-Hour race. We actually adapted pretty well to it. We didn't have to change our setups at all to match the tire.
I don't expect that to be a disadvantage. Obviously teams that actually did the test, you know, it never hurts. But we'll do our best. Hopefully it won't be a disadvantage.

Q. Memo, a lot of teams say Homestead is the toughest race on the schedule. In your mind, what is the most challenging aspect of a weekend at Homestead?
MEMO ROJAS: Well, I think the biggest challenge is tire management. The previous question that I wasn't able to answer because the phone broke had to do with that.
The reason why I think we've been successful at Homestead has to do with the fact that we've been able to have good tire management throughout the weekend. The reason I say that is for some reason Homestead surface, it's very, very abrasive and it really wears the tires out. We see the biggest tire degradation at Homestead that we ever see at any track. So you need to have a setup that doesn't necessarily reflect your ultimate fit, but it provides for the best tire life.
I think the teams that are able to conserve the tire the most will have a better time in the end and will be able to fight for the win.

Q. What do you do to prepare physically and do you use any kind of simulations or anything like that?
MEMO ROJAS: You know, there's a lot of things behind teams that people don't get to see.
As far as fitness training, I work out in Indianapolis with top racecar driver fitness trainer Jim Leo. He work with IndyCar racers like Will Power and Scott Dixon. He works with myself as well. As far as the fitness training for racing, you need a lot of endurance, a good aerobic base. I got a strong heart. They monitor my heart, and we get an average of 170 beats per minute on a race for maybe an hour-and-a-half stint.
So you need to be strong to be able to deal with that heart rate as well as the g-forces which put a lot of tension on the neck, on the arms, and basically all your body. So you need to work out hard for that.
On the other side, I'm not a fan of simulation. For whatever reason, I've never been a video game guy. But I think it's a good resource for people who like it and it works for them. Personally, I'd rather watch videos of past races. Every time I get into a race, I would watch the previous year's race just to see the track, what kind of things happened in that race, just kind of get your mind into what goes on at each track.

Q. A lot of teams, in particular back at the Rolex 24, say preparation is the key to their success. I wonder if there's something you can point at that is part of preparation in the race stops? Is there something that is key to your preparation in that?
MEMO ROJAS: Can you repeat the end of your question?

Q. The elements of your preparation, what do you do in the race stops to get ready?
MEMO ROJAS: You mean during actual race weekend or during the race?

Q. Before the race, before you get to the racetrack.
MEMO ROJAS: Well, I like I said, I mean, there's two types of preparation. One goes at the workshop, which is performed by the team. I always say that races are not won at the race weekend, they're won weeks before. The amount of time and effort that the team puts in the car to build it, to make it the best they can, make it competitive, all the research done by the engineers, that's what makes the difference.
That's why the driver gets all the preparation done, training, weeks before. That makes the difference so when you get to the race you're strong enough and you're ready to have a three-hour stint even, be as fast towards the end of your stint as you were at the beginning. I think that's part of what makes the difference.

Q. According to Grand-Am, they tore down the 01 car completely and couldn't find anything amiss. They were looking for the secret as to why you guys win. Would you please reveal that secret now?
MEMO ROJAS: I think there's no secret. I think I pretty much said what the secret is on the previous question, which is preparation. I mean, I'm actually glad that they tore the car down and they didn't find anything. We're really working hard to make that car fast, like I said, on track and off track. We just had success because we've worked hard.
The secret is work and preparation, that's what it is, so...

Q. A point of clarification. You previously referred to using media and reviewing that media for the race weekend for previous race weekends. Are you talking about in-car camera or television coverage?
MEMO ROJAS: Actually both. We get onboard videos from our team. We got our own cameras. I review qualifying laps so you can reveal what you were doing on a fast lap. Also TV broadcasts, because it gives you a perspective of what happened in the race, cautions. It just puts you in the mindset towards that specific race.

Q. Memo, this video thing fascinates me. Have you ever changed anything from looking at video and decided you'd rather do it another way?
MEMO ROJAS: Yeah, what's good about it is we got video not only from myself but also from my teammates, from Scott Pruett, from Montoya, all the guys that race with us. So, yeah.
There's so many different driving styles, different techniques. Some are faster than the others. It just helps you to take the best from each style. Whoever can do that obviously will be able to put a quick lap together. Somebody will be doing a different line, somebody will be faster doing a different line, so just to try that line and see if it works for you. Sometimes it does.

Q. Anything that happened specifically? You mentioned some drivers that were in the Rolex 24. Any specifics from that that caused you to change something, something new that you learned?
MEMO ROJAS: Really not recently. But, for example, my first year in Grand-Am, I'd be doing really different lines for turn five, trying to do a really late turning, late apex in turn five, whereas a few of my teammates were doing an early turning.
I found out that even though it was a tighter line, there was more grip towards the inside and you could actually go quicker even though it wasn't a textbook line. The way the track was bigger, you have more grip on the inside and you could actually run a faster minimum speed there. That would be just one example.

Q. You were talking about the videos. Have you ever used any of the games that have racetrack layouts to help you learn a racetrack that you go to maybe for the first time?
MEMO ROJAS: I've used them, but I don't rely on them as much. Like I said, I think simulation is a good tool, but it's still far from giving you the real thing, you know.
I try to learn maybe the lines, the layouts. But more times I find it more useful to use the actual TV broadcast because you can see the actual track and you get to see the real cars and you can see what line they're using.
I'm not a fan of video games or simulation, but I know a lot of the drivers use them. It just depends on what you like and what works for you.
J.J. O'MALLEY: Thank you, Memo, for joining us. Best of luck in Saturday's Grand Prix of Miami. I'd like to thank the members of the media for taking time to join us. We appreciate your coverage.



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