A few minutes with … Borg-Warner Trophy sculptor William Behrends

Published On December 10, 2015 » 1759 Views» By John Schwarb » Blogs, IMS, IMS History, Indy 500

Wednesday night at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, 2015 Indianapolis 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya’s likeness was revealed on the Borg-Warner Trophy. His face was No. 102 on the trophy and the 26th by sculptor William Behrends. The North Carolina resident took a few minutes to discuss the job, working with Juan and who he wishes he could have sculpted for the trophy.

Q: You’ve now done more than one-fourth of the images on the trophy. When you got the gig in 1990, did you picture it as a long-time appointment?

A: Not even a little bit – I thought the one I did would be the only one. For a few years before that, there was one sculptor a year. I thought that one of Arie (Luyendyk) would be the only one. Never thought I’d do them consecutively and get to 26.

Q: When you began did you try to follow the previous versions? Did any make an impression?

A: I looked at them because I appreciate sculpture, but I never really thought about following them. I had my own ideas about doing it. But some of the early ones, in the ’30s, those are pretty striking. It’s a deco-style trophy, very stylish, and what fascinates me is that they were done in that style that sculptors were working in. Some of the best sculptures that have been done in this country were at the end of the 19th century and the first three decades of the 20th.

Q: You’ve had some repeat winners – Luyendyk, Little Al, Helio and others, but none were 15 years apart. Did your first experience with Juan in 2000 carry over at all to this?

A: Not really. Maybe my memory’s getting faulty. Helio, when he won back-to-back (in 2000-01), the one I had done previously was a presence while I did the new one. But this one, I treated it like a brand new image. He’s changed a lot and my technique for portraying these winners has evolved. It’s a new challenge.

William Behrends hosted Juan Pablo Montoya in his North Carolina studio in September.

William Behrends hosted Juan Pablo Montoya in his North Carolina studio in September. (Courtesy BorgWarner, Inc.)

Q: How has it evolved?

A: I’m appreciating it more, striving more to get good likeness and life to it, how it reads and projects in that size. When standing 15 feet away, I want people to say, that’s Juan Pablo Montoya there. You have to pump up the details, the personality.

Q: Juan came to your studio in early September, the first driver to do so. How enjoyable was that and how did it enhance the product?

A: It was a treat for me to spend time in addition to the few minutes at the track. We had two hours to sit and chat. I got a good feeling for him, he was just wonderful. Relaxed, funny. That’s what the images are supposed to project. It is a portrait, but it is a portrait of a person in a certain time. You just won the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, you ought to be happy about that.

Q: Do you have any rooting interests when you watch the race? Anyone you want to do that you haven’t done?

A: I have been to every race since 1989 and really wanted to do Mario Andretti before he retired. In the case of Tony Kanaan, being there and watching every year, he was so competitive so many years. A good driver and very engaging personality, I was rooting a little the year he won. But generally, I don’t have favorites.

Q: So you came to the race before you got this job?

A: In 1989, I had some friends who had an extra ticket. We all rode up in a van, camped out and went to the race. We sat high up in Turn 4, we could see the short chute and most of the front straight. Little did I know I’d be back the next year. Now I have better seats.

Juan, in progress. The finished product is now affixed on the Borg-Warner Trophy.

Juan, in progress. The finished product is now affixed on the Borg-Warner Trophy. (Courtesy BorgWarner, Inc.)

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John Schwarb

I joined the Indianapolis Motor Speedway communications team in July 2014 and love sharing stories from the World Capital of Racing, particularly its rich history. Most of my professional career has been in racing or golf, so if I'm not in the IMS media center, the office at 16th and Georgetown or milling around Gasoline Alley, maybe I'll be standing over a birdie putt at Brickyard Crossing. Follow us at @IMS or drop me a line at @JohnSchwarb and come back to the blog often for more stories.
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