An Interview with Terry Borcheller
“I had a guy walk up to me at Le Mans this year; he walks up to me and hands me a picture of the very first car that I ever drove in my very first pro race in 1991. (for an autograph)”
Terry Borcheller is a great driver and man. He is married and a father of four. He lives his life in a very Christian way. God found him in 1987 and has worked with him ever sense. I still find it baffling how a busy family man is able to juggle being a great husband, father, and still travel the world racing. When we talked he had just gotten back from a meeting in Daytona and was tired. You could hear some of the exhaustion in his voice, but no worries to him, as he seems very used to it. He was very great to talk to and is obviously very comfortable with where he is in his life.
Terry, like many professional racing drivers, has had a long career leading up to where he is now. His father was a budding racer in the 50’s and wanted to race sports cars, up until he had started a family and had to give it up to open up his own business to support his family. It is very apparent that the racer/hard working man gene was transferred to Terry. He started racing motorcycles when he was five, but was forced to give it up by his mother who wasn’t very keen with the idea of him racing bikes. His father agreed and at age 12 bought him his first go-kart.
He started racing in karts in 1979 in the junior division and from there progressed up. It was expensive at $10,000-$12,000 a year. This back in the late 70’s was a lot of money, so he and his dad used to work together in their shed at home to fix the go-kart back up, “Instead of rebuilding our engine after every race, we would go through and do our own rings and bearings to try and save money. We drove the rig ourselves.” This all paid off in 1983 when Terry won the National Karting Championship. 1983 was his first season in the senior division. He was doing something right.
Following a three and a half month Christian Mission to Ecuador, helping to build churches and minister to the local people, Terry Borcheller came back to America with no money. He had left racing by this time, around 1989-1990, and was sure that God was calling him to a life in the ministry service “When I got back I legitimately figured I was going to go into ministry full time. I was gonna start doing something regarding ministry work.” Talking to his college and career pastor and confidant, he came to the realization that there were no doors being opened for him in the ministry field, but it was bizarre that there was one opportunity that was being dangled right in front of him, an instructor spot with the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving.
Terry, a few years earlier, went to the school to receive some extra driving instructions. This was the only formal training that Mr. Borcheller ever had, and he had a great time. He worked up a great relationship with his instructor Chris Cook. At the time that Terry was looking for a job, Chris had become the chief instructor for Bondurant. Terry recalls the phone call “Chris said, man your timing is pretty good, because we’re moving from northern California to Phoenix, and half the guys don’t want to go. I remember your talent, and I’ll put you through every course that we offer, that’s how we train our guys, and let you see the system inside and out and then let you start to instruct.” “I was like, you gotta be kidding me? I packed up everything that I owned, at the time in my diesel Rabbit, and drove to Phoenix from Florida.” He started instructing in early 1990. That is where it started all over again for him.
While instructing, Terry was listening to some of the great drivers that were also instructing alongside him talk about their trials and tribulations over finding a ride. He was listening to them and taking notes on what to do and what not to do. He believed in his heart that God was going to help him no matter what. The other guys just laughed it off, since he was talking like every other racer out there, except he was depending on God to open doors.
Terry believes that with the help of God and through his own personal motivation he was able to obtain a good level of success racing in Skip Barber Fords in 1990-91. He was the championship runner-up. He was progressing well and was having a great time teaching. He has helped coach the likes of Mario and Michael Andretti, Tim Allen, Donnie Osmond, Tony Stewart, Bill Elliott and Danica Patrick, just to name a few. He helped to train Danica Patrick for a possible seat in sports car racing. Terry says that she was so talented and was incredibly humble. “She took to it quick”, he said.
Terry Borcheller’s big break finally came in 1997, and in 1998 in the IMSA Speedvision Cup with the GS Class, he won his first championship with a BMW M3. He also won that same year in the SCCA SPEED World challenge in the T-1 class with a Saleen Mustang. It didn’t stop either. Terry has six total professional championships in, 2000 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series with a Saleen Mustang in the GTO class, 2001 ALMS GTS class with the Saleen S7R, 2002 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car with a Lola B2K-Nissan in the SRP II class and in 2003 in the Daytona Prototype class of Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car series with a Chevrolet-Doran. He was also runner up in 2003 in the GS class of the championship with another BMW M3 and in 2004 in the GS class, again, with a Cadillac CTS-V/Porsche 997. That is a pretty remarkable record.
Terry is only the 26th racing driver, ever, to win two championships in the same year, and in 1998 had 11 different race wins in 4 different racing series’. He has also won two races on the same weekend 8 times! He is a specialist in endurance racing, having two wins at the Rolex 24 hours at Daytona, a class win at the 12 hours of Sebring, a podium finish in 2001 at Le Mans, his first LMS race, and a 6th overall, 3rd in GT1 finish at Petit Le Mans, beating the factory Aston Martin’s and Corvette’s.
All of this success and Terry has not once paid for a ride in a race car. If you don’t believe me just ask him yourself. “I never paid for one ride!” Me- “Never paid for one ride?” “Not one ride.” That is something that not many, if any, professional race car drivers can say. The only thing he ever paid for was when his parents paid for his Karting as a kid.
Terry has been racing in ALMS with the 008 Aston Martin DBR9 for Bell Motorsports in GT1. He races against the factory Aston’s and the factory Corvette’s. He says that he loves the racing and that the car is great! He said that it’s hard to compete with the Corvette’s years of factory funding and development, but the DBR9 is still able to compete well and win races. He feels confident that the effort that Prodrive has been making with the factory DBR9 will allow his car to be a success as well.
As an enthusiast I had to ask what his favorite race car and street car he’s ever driven. He replied, easily, with the Lola Prototype SR2 as his favorite track car and the Ferrari Enzo and Enzo FXX as his favorite street car/track car. He drove the Enzo in New Mexico and drove the Enzo FXX at Infineon. He was giving instruction to the FXX owner. He said that the technology and ability of the Enzo is just so amazing. His favorite race car driver just happens to be my favorite as well, “I’ve been asked that question a lot, and it seems that my answer always comes back to Mario Andretti. Mainly because he seemed to be able to drive anything fast, it didn’t matter if it was Indy cars, Stock cars, Sports cars, he’s won in everything. And also he was one of the guys that went through that era when a lot of guys were getting killed and he managed to stay in one piece… And win races. He went through that era and into the current one and won races too.” Terry had the great pleasure of sitting next to Mario signing autographs to fans with him. What that was like, I only wish I could know that feeling.
Terry Borcheller has raced with so many great racing drivers as teammates. To list them all here would be too difficult “I’ve had a lot of good ones, you know what I mean?” He has drawn so many things from every person he has raced with and against. He lists every driver that he has raced with and against as an influence. He also says that the guys he worked with at Bondurant were some great guys to watch and learn from.
I asked Terry whether he liked racing in America or Europe better, “Racing in the states, in my mind, when you look at it compared to Europe, okay, Don’t get me wrong, I think sports car racing in the United States is fantastic. I love where we’re going based on where we’ve been. Every year it’s getting better and better… as far as Europe goes, racing over there is like NASCAR here. There was almost 300,000 people at Le Mans this year, again.” He continued by telling me a highlight of his life, “I had a guy walk up to me at Le Mans this year, I haven’t been to Le Mans since 06, he walks up to me and hands me a picture of the very first car that I ever drove in my very first pro race in 1991. I’ve never even seen a picture of that car in my life. It’s amazing. You can’t move ten feet without people stopping you for an autograph. In the states I rarely get asked for my autograph, unless it’s during the autograph session.” The picture that he was handed was of his car in the Skip Barber Saab Pro Series. Amazing! When asked whether he likes ALMS or Grand-Am better he says that there is nothing like the racing in Grand-Am nor the show that ALMS puts on, “They just have tremendous cars!”
Terry’s favorite track is Le Mans, a track that he has been to five times. He loves the people that are in attendance, the racing and the overall air of the race. He lists some great North American tracks as tied for second; Laguna Seca, Sebring, Road Atlanta, Mosport and VIR, “There is a long list of tracks for second” he says. His all time greatest memory is at Road Atlanta “In 1983 I raced endurance karts out there, and I had to basically win the race and the guy leading the points had to DNF. About half way through the race I saw him on the side of the track on the back straight and I was battling with four other karts and ended up winning the championship.” Wait, it gets better, “And then in 2001 in the American Le Mans Series, I believe I was 3rd in the championship, and Ron Fellows basically had the championship locked up, and on the pace lap their car broke down, and something happened that they got disqualified. We went on to finish 3rd and won the championship ahead of the factory.” Those are two great stories at the same track.
I talked to Terry a little more about his teaching of young kids who are battling drug and alcohol addictions, regular teenagers and people trying to get into racing. He loves it a lot. You can hear in his voice that everything he does with young people brings him joy. He believes in helping them through his faith and faith ministry. He is still pondering writing a book about his teachings and racing as well. His quote on racing is, “I compare racing to life, or a chess game; it has its ups and downs, unexpected challenges, strategic moves, and moments of excitement and disappointment.” His message speaks true.
There is no doubt that Terry Borcheller is one of the finest and most faith filled men I’ve ever talked to. His message is one of hard work and true accomplishment. God has truly been there to help him along and has been there in every car that he has ever driven. How else would he have gotten this far without having to pay for one ride in a car? I say you chalk it up to a God given talent and a little help from the big man upstairs.
Along with teaching and coaching for the past 18 years, Terry is currently racing in the Grand-Am Rolex series in a Pontiac G6 GXP.R. He hopes to be in another Daytona Prototype for next season. He drives a silver E36 M3 Sedan on the regular roads. A BMW man, you gotta love that.
Thanks to Terry Borcheller for taking the time out to speak with me. You can follow Terry’s seasons and news by checking out TerryBorcheller.com.