I could go on for two pages about Elliott Forbes-Robinson’s career as a professional racer; 3 time Daytona Champion, Trans Am Champion, Baja 1000 Champion, Pikes Peak Hill Climb Champion, ALMS Champion. Enough already! Google him and you’ll find a treasure trove of fun stuff. But what I haven’t said yet is, he is a really, really good guy.
Being a part of the Prototype Development Race team (www.pdg4.com ), I’ve had a number of adventures, highs and lows over the last 4 years as we’ve taken on the longest endurance race in the world, the NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill. Richard and Yvonne Migliori, Team owners, have doubled down this year with a complete rebuild of the warrior GTM #4, and are really giving a significant effort to performing well in the 2012 race. Enter Elliott. Through a friend of a friend in the networking of drivers, Elliott was discovered as “always up for a challenge” and agreed to come out and test the GTM and get to know the team. This took place at our HOD event this past Saturday, and everyone got along great. Elliott enjoyed the home-engineered GTM, and at the end of the day, committed to join the team for this year’s race. To say the least, the team is VERY excited by having a Motorsports Hall of Fame member driving with them. And as a bonus, EFR turns out to be a true gentleman, humble with his polished inputs on the car, and very happy being “one of the guys.” While there is a lot of work to be done, we can’t wait for the race! Note: For those lucky enough to be attending SEMA in Las Vegas, the GTM will be polished up and on display in the Baja Designs show booth this year.
We snagged Elliott after our day’s end BBQ and asked him to share some stories and ask some questions. The group that stayed was captivated by this legend of motorsports….here is some of the fun stuff I recall:
• On his amazing career and how he marketed himself: He really didn’t. Simply put, folks would ask him if he wanted to drive this car or that, and almost all the time he said “Yes!” (Editorial comment – it helped that he won races from the very beginning!)
• Favorite car: Nissan GTP ZX Turbo – Run in qualifying trim at 1200 horsepower. 220mph on the main straight at Riverside, won three championships. He added a story about the tires on this car – Bridgestones. There was one issue with the car – it was too fast and created too much downforce for the tire technology of the day. Occasionally, a tire would literally explode under load. This was always followed by a nasty crash. The Bridgestone engineers had not been prepared for a car that could do 220mph in a heartbeat, AND carried 4500lbs of downforce at speed. Yikes. Apparently EFR is a TRUE speed freak, and luckily survived a brutal crash at Riverside when said tire disintegrated.
• Least favorite race car: Pantera GTS
• Favorite race: While he admitted to many favorites, we made him pick one. The Baja 1000. He was chatting with his wife, who is a very informed supporter, and she admitted that “the Baja sounds like fun!” He took her up on the indicated interest, asked her to be navigator, and they teamed up for a class win.
• NASCAR? Has become almost like Pro Wrestling
• The power of persistence – EFR finished 5th 6 times at the Daytona 24 Hour race before he won it three times.
• EFR admitted that there are probably more low points than high points in any racing career. But the reason he kept going is that one high point can carry him a long way.
• Our favorite EFR quote: “Being fast should be easy. If you’re working, thrashing, tossing, clenching and sweating, you’re not going as fast as you can.” Yes, he made it sound easy, but HOD tries to pass on this simple but very hard to live by point – relax, get in a rhythm, don’t push the car, and the car will respond in a relaxed way to your relaxed input and the result will be speed (paraphrasing).
• He also commented on why he is technically so fast: “Many teams that I have driven for have drivers who brake later, and even carry a higher average speed at apex. But somehow, I’m about 1.5 seconds faster. My secret is getting to the throttle early and often.”
• Pikes Peak Hill Climb: Good news – no guard rails – Bad news – no guard rails!
• Lately, when he talks about his racing career to younger people, he’s been a bit taken back when he says that he raced for Paul Newman’s team, and they ask “Who’s that?” !
Lastly, I’ll make an observation from having met EFR, and reading the very well-done Car & Driver profile of him from a couple of years ago. He lives on a beautiful lake in North Carolina. And while he is still up for a fight on the race track, his home reflects a different man. The writer who visited his home noticed that he hardly had any race pictures or trophies out on display in this home. When asked why, Elliott simply replied, “I put the important stuff up – grandkids, kids and family…” Nuff said about our new, very special friend Elliott Forbes Robinson.
David Ray, www.hookedondriving.com