The popular formula in setting up a new race team is to put together the best people and talent within the allotted budget and choose the car and series that offers the most realistic chance of podiums and sponsor visibility. Some take a different route. Imagine your first season using a car that had little or no success, then switching to a proven winner and then going right back to develop the original car.
Think Volvo to Porsche back to Volvo. That script belongs to Jim Haughey of K-Pax Racing. After a couple of drivers championships and a manufacturers title in the SCCA World Challenge with a Porsche, Haughey returned to Volvo and put all of his efforts into a brand that does not immediately come to mind when one thinks of performance, and even fewer still would consider the subtle Swedemobiles as a suitable platform for competition. That script is in rewrite.
european car: How about starting with the history of K-Pax and then your association with Volvo?
Jim Haughey: The history of K-Pax came about because of my experience with Volvo. I opened up Scandia Auto Service and ran it for 22 years now and it led me into the racing. And I’ve always been an outside observer of racing. I’ve never done racing that much. I’ve done track days and some Skip Barber stuff.
ec: When you say racing, which particular class or type?
JH: I used to go to Laguna Seca and watch drag racing at Fremont. I started getting serious about life and working all the time instead of going to Laguna Seca and drinking a six-pack on the weekend. I’ve never been a hard-core fan but when I saw someone trying to run Volvos in the World Challenge that had a deal with Volvo Cars North America, that got my attention.
ec: I remember the program vaguely, mostly due to the notoriety of Derek Bell as a driver. Having a multiple Le Mans winner will always get you ink, but not necessarily some wins.
JH: Volvo Cars North America didn’t renew their contract with that team so consequently, like many outfits do when they lose their major supporter, they downsize quickly and things go up for sale. I contacted them and we negotiated back and forth. I didn’t want to run or start a racing company per se, like hire the engineers and buy all the equipment because I was working here full time and running this place full time so we negotiated a deal where they contributed the cars and I contributed the working capital. It was probably a very fortunate thing that I did it that way.
ec: A quick learning curve?
JH: It was a terrible experience and a great experience. Between the time I went there and looked at the cars, interviewed the crew, and looked at their facilities and the time we got to the first race, you know, there was only two guys left from the original crew so it was almost like we were starting over.
ec: The expenses really mount up in a hurry.
JH: Yes. When you are on the road the hotels and meals and fuel and all that stuff is very expensive but it was a very good learning experience for me. We didn’t do very well, I let them do what they were doing for a while and after a while I just got sick of it and said this is nonsense. Near the end of the season we brought in Michael Galati for Mid-Ohio.
ec: This was in the Volvo S60, which had previously been a grid filler?
JH: Correct. He was having all sorts of problems with the front bearings on the car. He pitted, took it apart, fixed it, helped put it back together and went out and came in Third Place. So I became a Michael Galati fan after that. He drove the rest of the season and eventually he won a race in the rain. The first race the Volvo ever won in the rain and he lapped everybody in the field except for one. Then we brought in Randy Pobst for the final race of the season. Randy drove at Road Atlanta, we had a little bit of a problem then we went to Laguna Seca and he won. However, the Volvo was clearly not ready for the track and I learned so many things that year about crew, about preparation, the wind at the track, you know, I could summarize it probably real fast with three things: you need a good car, a good driver and a good crew. If you don’t have those things you are wasting your money and wasting your time so it was a very disappointing season for me overall.