Grand Am Road Racing Media Conference
Topics: Grand Am Road Racing
May 20, 2009
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this week's NASCAR Grand-Am teleconference. Joining us today are the winning drivers from Sunday's Verizon Festival of Speed at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Sylvain Tremblay and Nick Ham. They co-drove the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 for their first victory of the season. It was their seventh Rolex Series victory with a resume including three victories at Daytona, the 2008 Rolex 24, and the past two runnings of the Brumos Porsche 250. Sylvain, a native of Montréal, owns and operates SpeedSource based in South Florida. He's the 2004 KONI Challenge champion and the winningest driver in the history of that series.
Nick hails from Yorkshire, England, but now resides in Evergreen, Colorado. Prior to joining SpeedSource in 2006, his accomplishments, include the 1992 Firestone Firehawk Championship, and is class (indiscernible) for the 1998 Rolex 24.
To start off, Sylvain, the season got off to a rough start with both of your cars in the garage for lengthy repairs only 40 minutes into the Rolex 24. How important was Sunday's victory for turning around your season?
SYLVAIN TREMBLAY: Usually important. Just wanted to say thank you for having us on today. But definitely important. You know, this business is about momentum. And if that was our low point, to have both of our cars that were capable of taking the win at the Rolex this year in the garage, then we definitely have built from there.
The guys never really gave up. We fixed the cars, went on to battle other gremlins to take the checkered really for the crew. They're the one that put in the hours, trying to do that.
Our partners, Castrol and Mazda, understand that racing is racing. But, you know, this is a performance business. So it was important to take the win at Mazda Raceway.
THE MODERATOR: Nick, you became the first two-time pole winner of the season this past weekend at Mazda Raceway with Sylvain winning the pole for the Rolex 24. How important of a role does qualifying play in the team's resume, as the team's weekend strategy?
NICK HAM: It's not tremendously important. But I think it's important for the morale of the team. I remember David Donohue saying this. The nice thing for the team is we qualify on pole, then we get to enjoy that for a whole day before we go racing. So that makes it kind of fun.
Plus at Mazda Raceway, that was really important for us to get pole there because that's a home track. And the other nice thing for me, as starting driver, is I get to dictate when I hit that gas at the start. So it makes it a little easier.
Plus we're running a new nose this weekend. We wanted to make sure that the cooling was going to be good on it, so being able to be out front helped get clean air through there.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks a lot, Nick.
We'll now go to media questions for Sylvain Tremblay and Nick Ham.
Q. Nick, while you mentioned there's a new nose on the Mazda, can you explain a little bit more about that.
NICK HAM: Well, what we've done now is brought the racecar up to the current specifications for the street car that's available in the dealerships. It's the 2009 nose cone. It looks really good on the car.
Plus, you know, we don't see a tremendous benefit in performance, but it looks nice, and also we realized during the race it worked just as good as the other one as far as the cooling goes.
Q. In the Grand-Am Series, what do you think fans miss most by not being in the stands? What can't fans possibly know about being behind the wheel of a sports car in a Grand-Am race?
SYLVAIN TREMBLAY: For me, it has to be the sound of a high-revving rotary engine, the shrieking sound, as close to a Formula One engine as you can get to. That's one of the big comments I get, is how our car actually sounds. It shoots flames, snarls, makes all kinds of noises that you can't really see from the television. That's also interesting to do.
The biggest thing for me driving this car is just how smooth the power delivery is. That's what makes it interesting. It's a high-momentum car, all the benefits that the rotary engine has.
The wonderful thing that Mazda does with it, with not that much momentum, you have to carry through the corners. That's what's neat, how it sounds.
NICK HAM: From the fans' aspect, I've noticed an increase in fans in all the races. I was really impressed with the New Jersey race, when it was pouring rain, the stands were almost full of people.
I think if people give this racing a try, if they watch one of these races, with the combination of the Prototypes and the GTs, they'll realize how exciting and close the racing is. It makes for great viewing.
Q. Because you share a sponsorship, Castrol, with a guy named John Force over there in NHRA drag racing, you love power and everything else, do you ever see yourself being behind the wheel to try out a Funny Car?
SYLVAIN TREMBLAY: In a heartbeat. I'd probably be scared to death, but I'd love to do it. Being with the same sponsorship with Mr. Force, the legend he is in motorsports, we've had a couple of opportunities. Haven't capitalized on them to be at the same functions with the sponsor Castrol, so hopefully this season our schedule will both allow us to meet.
I'd love to meet him. He seems like he's a super guy who loves what he does. Definitely he's a legend in racing, not just drag racing. So we have a lot to live up to when we're associated with Castrol, and the name John Force is mentioned in the same sentence as SpeedSource.
NICK HAM: I'd love to meet John Force. He's been a great ambassador to Castrol over the years. He's a neat guy. Enjoy watching him on TV.
I have absolutely no desire to drive his car. That would scare me to death. Plus I know my wife wouldn't let me anyway (laughter).
Q. Sylvain, the next race for the Grand-Am Rolex Series is going to be at Watkins Glen International, June 6th. Last year, SpeedSource took home the victory, even though it wasn't the 70 car. It was the No. 69 car. You've also done well in the endurance race at the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Do you feel comfortable going back to Watkins Glen for the 6 hours, which is the second longest race in the Rolex Series schedule?
SYLVAIN TREMBLAY: Definitely it's one of our favorite circuits. We've always had great history there at Watkins Glen. Tends to suit the strengths of our Mazdas. Last year we were poised to have a great finish. Unfortunately, we had a crash in the warmup that put us behind. We were able to start the race, but collateral damage from that crash snuck up on us and bit us throughout the race.
Endurance races are about preparation. So it's really an opportunity for the crew guys to shine, all the hours that are put into the racecars before we show up.
For us, we relish the challenge of the longer races. It's what built the history of Mazda. That's why the rotary is the powerplant that it is in endurance racing. So we look forward to going there.
I love driving the track. It's a fun track. It's a great area. A lot of great history has been made there.
Q. Have you gotten any feedback from Mazda for winning at your home track?
SYLVAIN TREMBLAY: Huge feedback. Got congratulatory emails all the way from Japan, from the engineering squad, even the head designer of the 2009 RX-8 that actually worked quite a bit with us to see what would make a better racecar, which is a neat thing about Mazda.
When they went back and were doing design on this particular car, they asked us what would make a better racecar. They incorporated that design into the street cars.
We feel fortunate to be with a valued partner that not only looks at us as a marketing tool, but a performance tool. The fact that the street car performs better on the street is because what we need for the racecar.
It's a beneficial relationship for both parties. You know, the U.S. side of it was extremely ecstatic. A lot of detectives were there in the streets of Mazda Raceway. Home win on home soil with the RX-8 was fantastic for us, a good start now for the Chase for the championship. We can start from here and go forward.
NICK HAM: You wouldn't know this, Sylvain, because you were in the car. At the end of the race, everybody was there in the pit box. It was very, very exciting. You drove such a strong stint at the end.
There was a lot of genuine excitement from all the people at Mazda about this win, especially on their home track, but also the way we did it. We just really dominated this weekend.
SYLVAIN TREMBLAY: I like my seat just fine. I don't mind sitting in the racecar at the end of the races at all.
NICK HAM: Good (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: This weekend the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series goes to Lime Rock Park for their traditional Memorial Day weekend, with the Street Tuner race on Saturday and the Grand Sport Race on Monday. Sylvain, as we mentioned, is the winningest driver in the history of that series. Were you disappointed that the GT cars aren't going back to Lime Rock this year?
SYLVAIN TREMBLAY: If you would have asked me before the race last year, I would have said no. But, you know, Lime Rock has been very tricky to us. Last year we had a great result with the second place, which is better than I thought we could have done there. That's a special place.
Lime Rock has a lot of history. Doesn't particularly suit our car. Somehow we've adjusted to get better there. I would love to race at Lime Rock this year with the Mazda, but just didn't work out.
NICK HAM: Personally I like the track a lot. I think it's a really exciting, exhilarating track. The other thing I liked about it was our own race. We were the main race there, just GT only. We got to be the big stars there. Kind of disappointed about that. It's a pretty part of country to visit, too. But it was a long weekend. With the way their rules are for the Memorial Day, we didn't do anything on Sunday. So it made for a long trip, expensive for the teams.
Q. You're going to be returning to Daytona July 4th under a brand-new format. You won the last two runnings of the Brumos Porsche 250. But that was at night. Now this year it will be on Saturday afternoon, followed by the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at 8. How does that affect your preparation for the event and the thoughts of the crowd for the NASCAR race that evening?
SYLVAIN TREMBLAY: Personally, I'm looking forward to it. We really enjoy Daytona. Our car is well-suited for Daytona. Our driving style is well-suited for Daytona. We're looking forward to having lots of people in the stands to see what this Mazda is all about.
I think it will be great for us. We're excited that we're a part of the big show with NASCAR. You know, really give a taste of what we do to a broader slice of people. So we're looking forward to it.
For us, you know, being very dominant at Daytona, we're expecting the same results that we've had over the past two years there.
NICK HAM: I like the one-day format actually. I think it puts pressure on the teams. You can't make any mistakes. You've got to perform right away, right out of the box. You end up doing the race the same day. I kind of like that pressure and that format. I think it suited us the last two years.
Again, hopefully it will introduce our series to a lot of the NASCAR fans.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Nick and Sylvain, for joining us. I would like to thank the members of the media for taking the time to join us. We appreciate your coverage.
NICK HAM: You're welcome. Thanks.
SYLVAIN TREMBLAY: Thanks for having us on.
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