The 2007 Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway will bring plenty of excitement for road racing fans. The field will host over one hundred sports cars in both the Grand Sport (GS) and Street Turner (ST) classes. In the ST class, car enthusiasts will enjoy watching many of today's popular makes including Mazda, Honda, Acura, BMW, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Volkswagen, and Dodge. In 2006, Team Cobalt was on their way to winning Chevrolet's first Street Turner class Manufacturer's Championship until they were plagued with bad luck and mechanical gremlins at the end of the season. Driver, Eric Curran, was instrumental in Cobalt's early success by scoring four wins and finishing third in the ST driver's points in his #01 Georgian Bay Motorsports/ClearSCADA Cobalt SS Supercharged. During the off-season, I had the opportunity to learn more about this young, talented driver.
Eric is probably one of the busiest drivers on and off the track. Besides competing full time in both the KONI Challenge (formerly known as Grand-Am Cup) and Speed World Challenge Series, Eric owns and manages Performance Motoring Inc. (www.performancemotoring.com), an independent Volvo dealership in Hadley Massachusetts. "I own and run an independent Volvo dealership with my father," explains Eric. The 11,000 square foot dealership keeps Eric on his toes as he oversees sixteen employees. He has worked at the dealership for over fourteen years and enjoys the work and the people.
Eric's first taste of racing began at the age of eighteen in the SCCA Improved Touring B. "I started racing in 1994 with a 1971 Volvo 142 two door sedan," explains Curran. "I raced that car in the SCCA Regional ITB class from 1994 to 1998. I won twenty races and four different championships in the New England Region." In 1999, he began competing in the SCCA Nationals in the American Sedan class Camaro, winning the 1999 American Sedan National Championship. His father was thrilled with Eric's new passion and is his biggest fan. biggest supporter is his father who also races in the regional SCCA races. "My father has been a big part of how I have gotten this far in racing. He still competes in the regional SCCA," he says.
Eric made his professional racing debut at the 2000 Rolex 24 At Daytona, finishing third in class. He also drove for KAC Technologies Chevrolet Corvette C5 in SCCA World Challenge GT, teaming with John Heinricy. Eric had three top-five finishes and six top-tens, earning the Borla Performance Hard Charger Award three times. That same year, he met and competed against his current Speed World Challenge boss, Peter Cunningham (PD). "I met PD in 2000 when I was driving a Z06 Corvette and PD was in his Acura NSX. PD was the guy to beat, with his talents, his team and that car. He was tough," explains Eric. "I raced as hard as I could against PD in what was not the most competitive car and I earned some points with him. Two years later he offered me a ride in a Nissan Sentry in World Challenge Touring. Since then we have been great friends and teammates."
In 2005, Eric teamed again with Peter Cunningham and Pierre Kleinubing in RealTime Racing's factory Acura RSX effort, finishing in fifth place in driver's points. Curran enjoys the World Challenge platform of standing starts, no pit stops and the great intensity of the 50-minute sprint races. "World Challenge is very competitive with a lot of manufacture involvement and it is all about how hard as you can race." Curran continued to do well the following year in his Acura by taking the pole and win in the season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. He once again finished in the top-five in driver's points in Touring and helped Acura win the 2006 Touring Manufacturer's Title.
Making the transition from amateur to pro was not easy explains Eric, "It is hard finding a home on a great team that has competitive cars, great crew guys and enough funding to do it right. I drove for a lot of teams that didn't have one of the ingredients, and you just go backwards. I don't care how good of a driver you are, if you don't have all three ingredients then you will never show your skills." Eric believes a good way to land a ride is by promoting yourself well. "Introduce yourself to anyone you can in the racing industry, chances are they will help you in your racing future at some point," he advises. "Try to get involved in some testing with a good team, and don't make a mistake. The hardest test for rides are getting an opportunity with a good team and crashing or not showing your speed. It not easy, believe me. Picture yourself going to a track you've never been to, with a team you never driven for, in a car you've never driven, and go fast on lap two. Good luck!"
For the 2007 season, Curran and teammate, Jamie Holtom, return to Georgian Bay Motorsports, with the hopes of clinching the 2007 ST manufacturer's title for Chevrolet. Eric is excited to kick off the season at Daytona and anticipates a tough battle. "Grand Am is really taking off with big entries and with lots of new teams," he says. "The endurance race is with two drivers and lasts from two and half to six hours. It is a lot of fun."
To stay competitive, Eric stays in great shape all year long. "Driving in two series, 24 weekends a year keeps you in pretty good shape anyway," he says, "but I spend every other day at the gym running on the treadmill and using the weight machines." His race schedule will be busier than ever this year as he hopes to also compete in a few Rolex races. As Eric continues to thrive and conquer, expect the determined driver to land on the podium at Daytona and help Chevrolet win the coveted manufacturer's crown.