GRAND-AM Series: Two Titles in Four Years for Rojas

By Auto News Log • September 24th, 2010

This story is the second in a two-part series honoring the 2010 Rolex Series Daytona Prototype driver champions. The first part, featuring Scott Pruett, appeared on GRAND-AM.com on Wednesday.

Memo Rojas had a lot to live up to when he partnered with Scott Pruett to co-drive the No. 01 TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing Daytona Prototype in 2007.

His Mexican countryman, Luis Diaz, totaled eight victories in the No. 01 machine alongside Pruett in 2005 and 2006 and scored the ’06 Daytona Prototype team championship for Ganassi. Max Papis and Pruett combined to win the DP drivers’ title in 2004.
This was, without question, one of the top rides anywhere in motorsports. And here was Rojas, a rookie, who was chosen to join Pruett in hopes of continuing a winning legacy.

“It was a new challenge for me for many reasons,” Rojas says. “One, it was my first year in a closed-cockpit car and a prototype car, which is very different to an open-wheel car. Second, joining a team like Ganassi, with all the pressure that involves that with the quality of drivers they’ve had in the past, obviously the expectation levels are pretty high. When you get to drive for a team like Ganassi, you’re expected to perform right away.”

Four seasons and two championships later, it’s safe to say that Rojas has performed just fine. From 52 career Rolex Series starts, Rojas owns 18 victories. That’s a .346 batting average for those scoring at home. More impressively, he’s batting .500 in the championship department. Hall of Fame numbers for just a 29-year-old racer.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” says Rojas. “It’s only my fourth year in the series and I’ve got two championships. It’s pretty amazing as a driver to come in with a good team and have these amazing results. It’s just overwhelming to myself and to everybody behind me.”

While Rojas may have been overwhelmed following the season, he and Pruett managed to overwhelm their competition in the 2010 Rolex Series when they co-drove the No. 01 Dinan BMW/Riley to a single-season record nine victories. They clinched the title for the team following their eighth victory of the season at Round 11 in Montreal and simply needed to drive the required 30 minutes each in the season finale to share the drivers’ championship.

But while it may have looked easy from the outside, Rojas says it was anything but inside the cockpit.

“We didn’t win this championship as easy at is looked,” he explains. “We had to battle every single race on the edge with these guys, banging wheels, driving on the limit. It wasn’t easy. It may have looked like that when you win nine races, but a lot of variables went our way to have such a successful year.”

One of those key variables is having a solid working relationship between the two co-drivers. Pruett and Rojas obviously work well together as their on-track performance and the fact that they’ve now been together for four years would indicate. Rojas credits his teammate with helping him develop into a championship-level sports car racer.

“What you learn from somebody like Scott is how he approaches situations,” says Rojas. “How he deals with pressure, how he manages a championship, how to know when to be conservative, how to know when to be aggressive and deal with intense situations. A lot of people can drive a racecar fast, but few people can actually bring it home to the finish line and win races and win championships. That’s the tough part.”

Rojas also uses Pruett’s success as motivation for his own performance. He’s obviously done more than his fair share to hold up his end of the bargain.

“You know you’re driving with the best and when you perform at the same level, that tells you something, right?” he says. “It tells you that whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it right, because you’re still there and you’re still winning and things are working well. That means a lot to me as a driver.”

His two Rolexes for winning the 2008 and 2010 DP championships also tell you something. But Rojas is hungry for more.

“I don’t think a year like this happens very often,” he says. “I didn’t expect to have a year like this. I don’t expect that because the competition is so tough. A lot of things need to happen in one year to have a successful year like this.

“We know the competition is going to come back stronger. I don’t think they’re going to settle and cross their arms. They’re going to probably do a lot of work in the winter, so we expect a really tough 2011 championship. But whatever we’ve got to do, well, I’d say let’s do it again.”

Source: GRAND-AM Road Racing

 

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