Friday, January 24, 2014

Ten Questions with Pirelli World Challenge Driver Ernie Francis Jr. Featured

Written by  Series Staff
Ernie Francis Jr. had a phenomenal rookie season in Pirelli World Challenge in 2013. At 15 years of age, he won the first three series races he competed in (winning a total of seven races) and led the TCB Drivers' Championship for most of 2013. Robbie Davis battled Francis Jr. all season long and ultimately claimed the drivers championship on the final race weekend of the season in Houston. Francis Jr. was awarded the 2013 TCB Rookie of the Year award and in 2014, he steps into the No. 98 Chevrolet Camaro in the GTS class. We caught up with him as he prepares for the upcoming season.


Q: You entered professional racing last season in 2013 when you joined the Pirelli World Challenge at the age of 15, and promptly rewrote the series' record books by winning your first three races in TCB. Were you surprised with your immediate success?

Francis Jr.: I was taken back by my immediate success. I expected to be running somewhere near the front, but it didn't cross my mind that I would be in contention for a championship let alone be the one to beat at most the events.

Q: In 2014, you will move into the even more competitive GTS class with veterans like Jack Baldwin. What's your goal for the 2014 season?

Francis Jr.: My goal for the 2014 season is to be fighting for podiums and race wins by the end of the season. The new GTS car is a different animal compared to my 100 hp B-Spec and I expect it will take a few races to be fully competitive for race wins.

Q: You were in karting from four to 13 years of age, then moved to Spec Miata from 13 to 15 years of age and won the 2012 Spec Miata Championship. How did you get into racing?

Francis Jr.: My father is the one to blame for getting me into this expensive hobby. He has been racing SCCA Club since the mid 1980's and I was born around him racing, so naturally it became a passion we shared. Actually my first vehicle was an electric Jeff Gordon Power Wheels NASCAR we painted to replicate my father's SCCA Corvette racecar.

Q: How do you juggle the demands of both school and being a professional race car driver?

Francis Jr.:To handle the demands of professional racing, I have transferred to virtual school. It is the only way I can still get my education, while enjoying my passion.

Q: As you move into the GTS class, what do you think will be the biggest changes and challenges for you in 2014?

Francis Jr.: The biggest challenge for 2014 is going to be getting used to racing a 400 hp heavyweight in tough competition. My whole career racing has been in low hp, low weight cars. So the difference is major.

Q: What is the biggest obstacle you are facing in your quest to succeed in racing?

Francis Jr.: There are two rather large obstacles in my quest to succeed in racing. The first obstacle is finding sponsors. It is nearly impossible to race pro without a sponsor, so it is very critical to find more funding for 2014. The second obstacle is my age. Don't get me wrong, being 15 and racing is very good for publicity, but sometimes can cause other drivers to not trust me on the track.

Q: You are an accomplished martial arts participant holding a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do and Grey Belt in Brazilian Jujitsu.How does your martial arts training help you succeed in racing?

Francis Jr.: Martial arts plays a big part in my racing. It gives me discipline on and off the track as well as good exercise to prepare for tough, grueling races. I feel I would not be where I am in the sport without my martial arts.

Q: You listed on your website that a future goal of yours is to attend college to get a law degree. You come upon a fork in the road and have to choose between becoming a successful attorney or a race car driver. What path would you choose?

Francis Jr.: As of now, I want to pursue my racing career with everything I have, though I still want to have something to fall back on if needed. Being a lawyer isn't a known back-up career, so I am considering other careers in the racing field.

Q: Your favorite track and why?

Francis Jr.: My favorite track is one I've never been to, Autodromo Nazionale Monza. I have fallen in love with the high speeds, scenery, and history of the amazing circuit. It is my dream to race at the circuit in a FIA GT1 car and to walk the historic high speed oval.

Q: In past interviews with drivers in the last month I have askedthem to provide me with a question for another driver. This one comes from Johnny O'Connell. What drivers inspired you to get into racing and why?

Francis Jr.: The only driver I knew when I was 4 years old and getting into racing was my father. I wanted to be just like him in every way, hence my electric Power Wheels Corvette that mimicked his racecar completely. Watching him win countless SCCA club races
inspired me to be as fast as him, though now he wants to be as fast as me. Sorry Dad!

  • -Pirelli -
  • B.R.M Watches (Bernard Richards Manufacture)
  • Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving
  • Cadillac - Official Pace Car and Safety Car, Manufacturer Sponsor
  • Eibach
  • MOMO Automotive Accessories
  • Motul USA
  • OPTIMA Batteries
  • Race Keeper
  • Recaro
  • RePlay XD
  • StopTech
  • VP Racing Fuels