Anyone familiar with contemporary motor racing, of nearly any kind, knows the name Boris Said. His shock of curly dark brown hair, signature goatee and his success in so many forms of motorsport have made him a household name in households where racing is spoken.
In his 25-year career as a race car driver, Said has competed in the United States, Europe and Australia in everything from off road races to stock cars, prototypes and sports sedans in sprint and endurance racing. Beginning in 1988 as the Sports Car Club of Americaís Rookie of the Year, Said went on to win Showroom Stock GT at the Runoffs for three consecutive years. Those successes led him from the ranks of amateur to professional racing driver, and to this day, Said is the only American driver to have won the 24 Hours of the Nurburgring.
In addition to his successes in Europe, Said has competed in the SCCA Trans Am series, IMSA in which he won 15 races, including the 1997 and 1998 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and the 1998 12 Hours of Sebring. Said also began racing in the NASCAR series in 1997 with the then-titled Craftsman Truck Series. His experience in sports racing led other NASCAR teams to employ him as a driving coach to other Sprint Cup drivers when the tour visited road courses such as Infineon and Watkins Glen.
In addition to co-owning K1 Speed karting centers and running his BMW dealership in Murrieta, Calif., Said still maintains a racing schedule on three continents. Clearly, he isnít slowing down.
TrackHQ.com caught up with him by phone for the following Q&A interview.
If you prefer to read offline, download the PDF of the transcript:
Weight: 215 lbs.
Occupation: race car driver, co-owner of K1 Speed karting centers and owner of BMW of Murrieta Calif., BMWís first new franchise issued in 12 years.
Years racing: 25
Family status: married with an 8-year-old son
TrackHQ: Tell us a bit about K1 Speed karting centers. How did you come to co-own the chain?
Boris Said: I met David Danglard when they were opening their first one in Carlsbad, and we just kind of became friends. We both like racing and itís my hometown, so I just kind of got involved with him after he opened the first one and now we have 11 of them.
TrackHQ: Whatís your day-to-day involvement with K1?
Boris Said: Not so much day to day, I mean, they handle all that. Iíll go in an do special events and I give them a lot of memorabilia to put in all the stores, cars and driving suits, and things like that. Day to day, Iím hands on in my car dealership and my racing. Thatís what I do 99 percent of the time.
TrackHQ: Do you hold the record at your local K1Speed track?
Boris Said: No, itís probably held by somebody light, somebody very light, usually, but we also change our track layouts a lot in our stores, so itís never really the same record.
TrackHQ: Do you oversee any of the track layouts?
Boris Said: Sometimes, I give a little input on how we can do it. Certain locations we have, theyíre more suitable for changing the layout a lot. So we try to keep it fresh and change it about every four or five months.
TrackHQ: Whatís keeping you busiest these days?
Boris Said: When Iím not away racing, and this year Iíll do about 30 to 35 races, I am 12 hours a day in my dealership. So Iíd say itís a tossup between racing, traveling and my BMW dealership.
TrackHQ: What is your fitness regimen? What do you do to prepare in the days leading up to a race?
Boris Said: I do a lot of cardio. I live on a mountainside and I mountain bike a lot and do a lot of cardiovascular stuff. But Iíve raced so much over the years, I mean racing is still the best way to keep in shape. Itís hard to duplicate the heat and stress in a race car.
In the off-season, Iím really busy doing that, but in the middle of the race season, itís really tough to keep a consistent schedule because youíre traveling so much.
TrackHQ: What series are you racing with?
Boris Said: This year Iíll do five NASCAR races, Iím doing the whole Grand Am Rolex Series in the Whelen Corvette. Iím doing the whole Grand Am Continental Challenge in a Turner BMW. Then Iím going to go to Surferís Paradise and race a V8 Supercar. Then Iíll do a couple DLN at Nurburgring this year. And then probably the Baja 1000 and probably a couple of short-track CORR (Championship Off Road Racing) races.
TrackHQ: You have raced so many different kinds of cars. Do you have a favorite? Why?
Boris Said: I have a couple, I guess. Racing at Daytona on a super speedway in NASCAR is some pretty exciting racing, but probably the 2005 BMW M3 GTR that I won Nurburgring with on the old course, thatís probably my favorite car ever.
TrackHQ: What kind of racing do you find more challenging, ovals, super speedways or road courses?
Boris Said: If you ask a NASCAR guy, itís harder for them to road course race because theyíve grown up on ovals. When I started dabbling in NASCAR, it was such a foreign thing to me. It was so different from road racing. That was really hard. Those guys are so good, and just to control one of those heavy cars at 200 mph into a corner, itís not easy. Those guys, I think, are some of the best in the world.
You know, challenging tracks like Nurburgring, tracks like Bathurst, those are very difficult tracks. I donít think you can say one is easier than the other. To be at the top level of anything is hard.
TrackHQ: Are those guys operating on super speedways at 6 degrees of slip angle all the way around that track at 200 mph?
Boris Said: Yes. Itís a very uneasy feeling when youíre used to a sports car thatís stuck the ground with downforce a lot of grip and light weight. You get into one of those things, and youíre turning in at 200 and youíre using the side of the car, the side force to keep from spinning out. So, youíre kind of free in, and it is an uneasy feeling.
TrackHQ: And youíre doing five NASCAR races this year?
Boris Said: Yeah, Iím going do all the road courses, and the Brickyard 400 at Indy.
TrackHQ: Changing gears a little bit, you won the 24 hours of the Nurburgring. How is it even possible to memorize all those turns?
Boris Said: Itís just long. Itís 15.5 miles around with the F1 circuit. Surprisingly enough, it didnít take me that long to memorize the track. Six or seven laps, I had it pretty much memorized, but itís one of those tracks that youíre always learning on. Not only is the track hard, but the weather conditions are unlike any other track in the world. You can have rain or snow or dry track. All around the circuit could be different. And then when you race the 24-hour race there, they start 230 cars, so the traffic and the amount of carsówhen youíre in a fast caró that you pass in a lap, is completely insane. There are so many disciplines that you have to be good at to be fast there, besides the track being hard. Youíve got to deal with the weather, youíve got to deal with the traffic, knowing when to pass, when not to pass. It is probably the biggest challenge Iíve ever had being in a race car.
TrackHQ: Now, of those 230 cars, how many different classes do they have and what are the speed differentials among them?
Boris Said: Well, on a 15.5 mile track, the slow cars, you lap them every three laps, so the speed difference has to be 40 mph down the straightaway. That makes it difficult. There are probably 12 different classes racing, everything from a Mini Cooper to the top class, like a DTM car or a BMW M3 GTR.
TrackHQ: What is it like to be an American racing and winning in Europe? Can you give us a glimpse of what that meant to you?
Boris Said: It was probably one of the most satisfying moments of my career. Youíre proud to be an American, and the Nurburgring is basically in the Ardennes Forest where the Battle of the Bulge was in World War II. Thatís the track that Hitler built in the 1930s to be the biggest, baddest track in the world, which he did. And I guess when I was up there, all I was thinking was, ĎIf Hitler was alive now, looking at a tall lanky American winning on his track, heíd roll over in his grave.í It was a good feeling, patriotic and satisfying, and itís one of the toughest tests in motorsports, so to tick it off the list was really special to me.
TrackHQ: Letís move to a different track. Can you put into words what itís like to race around Spa Francorchamps, with particular emphasis on Eau Rouge?
Boris Said:Itís funny you say that. I won there the first year I was there in a Callaway Corvette, and that was pretty cool. But going through Eau Rouge, in the old days, 10 years ago, it was unbelievably hairy. Every lap your hair would stand up on your arms going down the straightaway toward Eau Rouge.
TV doesnít do it justice as to how steep it is. The run into Eau Rouge, itís a pretty steep downhill and youíre flat out, whatever the car will do, 170, 180 mph. Then you hit bottom and itís straight uphill and itís completely blind. The right-left is blind. I had one of the biggest crashes in my career in testing there, in Eau Rouge. I had a wheel come off, the left rear, as I entered Eau Rouge. It was one of the biggest hits Iíve ever taken where I didnít lose consciousness and stayed awake through the whole wreck. It was a yard sale. I wrote off a $700,000 M3 there, but it is just an awesome track.