Race Weekend Central

Beyond the Cockpit: Eric Foss on Developing With Mazda & Why Murillo Racing Is the Place for Him

IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge has a substantial mix of young, up and coming drivers, gentleman drivers, and veteran racers. Eric Foss falls into the third category. He has been driving in the series for over a decade and is in his ninth season driving for Murillo Racing.

For almost the entire time, Foss has been teamed with Jeff Mosing, a gentleman racer who also owns Mosing Motorcars, a dealership that specializes in collector cars. They started together in a BMW 328i in the now-defunct Street Tuner class after Jesse Combs chose to step away from racing. Later, they switched to a Porsche Cayman before moving up to Grand Sport and their current stead, the Mercedes-AMG GT4.

Foss recently sat down with Frontstretch‘s own Phil Allaway to describe the atmosphere at Murillo Racing, working with the Mosings (Jeff and his brother Brent), Jeff Mosing’s substitutes this year this year and more.

Phil Allaway, Frontstretch: It’s been a very good season for you. Even with the unplanned foot injury at VIR, you’re currently second in points in [Grand Sport] with two victories at Mid-Ohio and CTMP. Looking pretty good despite a topsy-turvy season.

Normally, you’re teamed with Jeff Mosing, who you have driven with for the past nine years, a very long partnership by sports car racing standards. He is out right now due to a rib injury. First off, how is Jeff doing?

Eric Foss, No. 56 Murillo Racing Mercedes AMG-GT4: Jeff is doing great. He had a rib injury from an incident with his boat, then when we were testing at WeatherTech Raceway [Laguna Seca], he was testing his Porsche Carrera Cup car. One time through the Corkscrew, he had something go wrong and he went over the curb at the bottom. [When he went through] the bump, it dislodged the rib.

Luckily, there was no serious injury, but it really could have [been bad]. At that point, he had to step out of both cars. He’s been on the road to recovery with all that. He’s in super-high spirits. I’m with him every few days and he’s super excited about what the team’s been doing. He’s also hoping that he can get back in the car as soon as possible.

Allaway: Mosing has been with [Murillo Racing] longer than you have. I believe that he’s been here since at least 2011.

Foss: I think that it’s as early as 2010. I met Jeff in 2008 and I was coaching him in [Mazda] MX-5 Cup. I had seasons where if I was a little slower with my racing, then I was would come over here and coach him.

I coached [Jeff] through 2013, off and on through 2012. I was supposed to coach him all through 2011, but after the first race, Mazda had a seat open up in a car. That’s when I went to Freedom Autosport and raced for them, so I had to stop coaching him for the year.

Jeff and I have had a really long-standing relationship and a great friendship, one of the longest that people see in motorsports.

Allaway: What does Mosing mean to Murillo Racing in general since he’s been here this long?

Foss: I think one of the biggest keys is that his brother Brent is also racing in the No. 65. Jeff and Brent being able to both enjoy something that they’re truly passionate about together and spend their weekends together, I think is really critical to them. There’s just a great bond within the team, sort of like brotherly love. Seriously, we all get along super great. We have Tim [Probert] driving with Brent, who is one of the easiest guys to get along with, but a fierce competitor on the track.

Now this year with the [No. 72], we have a new car joining us with [Christian] Szymczak and [Kenny] Murillo in the car. That’s just brought two more strong drivers to the team, which has been really helpful with our dynamic.

Allaway: This has been a consolidation season for Murillo Racing since Szymczak and Murillo were racing in Pirelli GT4 America SprintX in the Silver class. They pretty much dominated it. Bringing them here means that [Murillo Racing] is now a three-car team in Pilot Challenge. [Szymczak and Murillo] are currently fourth in points. What do they bring to the team on the track?

Foss: Any time that you have multiple drivers in the team that have quick pace, there’s a lot to learn there. Adding that third car adds a dimension of being able to split the setups on the cars. Before, we had two cars, so that we could try some things from time to time, but having three cars just makes things that much easier.

We all look at each other’s data, video, etc. We chat a lot about what we’re feeling, what we’re trying on the cars. That just shows that with the results we’ve had this year, it’s really stepped up the program.

Allaway: With Kenny, he strikes me as a very low-key type of person. Tends to undersell himself publicly. Does he like to sneak up on people and surprise them?

Foss: Kenny Murillo is one of the hardest working people that I know. When you’re a young guy getting into this sport, you kind of have to be that way.

A lot of people may think, “Wow, he’s really picked up his pace in a short period of time.” The reality is that he’s constantly working at it. He’s been doing a lot of driver coaching, which I’ve learned over the years is a way to help improve yourself even though you’re teaching someone else. You’re always learning things, based on what [the student] sees, or you try something based on what the student does, or because their car might be a little different.

[Murillo’s] really getting to fill in his whole driver profile. What I mean by that is that he’s driving a lot of different types of cars now. He’s getting experience in downforce cars, lower horsepower cars, higher horsepower cars. He’s blending that all together. Right now, what we’re seeing is a combination of [that education], plus him being teamed up with some good teammates, it helps accelerate [his development]. When he sees what the experienced guys can do in the race car, it gives him the confidence to be able to go out there and do anything. He’s been executing really well at that.

Allaway: [Murillo] is also an engineer by trade, so he’s obviously looking at all the data and translating what he sees with what he feels on the track as well. It’s like constantly going to school.

Foss: Right. Our team is very data driven. That’s been my business. I’ve been a driver coach and racer solely for the last 12 years. It’s my only source of income.

When I made that transition, it became very apparent to me. I got fairly [well-versed] in data acquisition and realized that there was an opportunity to bring drivers up using the data and coaching them off of that. When you have a team where all the guys are really into the data and really learn how to use it properly, I think that just really accelerates the program.

Allaway: With Jeff [Mosing] out, you’ve primarily had Kenton Koch as your teammate. He’s primarily been racing in Pirelli GT4 America SprintX this year in an Aston Martin. What does he bring to the program?

Foss: A couple of key things. When Jeff [Mosing] realized that he couldn’t drive, he asked me to think of who I would like to have with me in the program. I was also aware of people who had been with the program before. When I brought that list together, it was only a couple of people.

Kenton Koch was at the top of the list due to his prior experience with Murillo Racing. Marc Miller was also on that list due to the fact that he and I have had a great rapport and he and Jeff have a great rapport.

I had co-driven with Miller before as well. While he hadn’t previously driven for Murillo Racing, he’s a super easy going guy and I knew that he would bring a lot of positivity to the team. Unfortunately, Marc couldn’t commit to all of the races and neither could Kenton, but Kenton was available for the first race [at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca], which is what got him the nod.

I’ve watched Kenton come up [through the ranks]. I was one of the judges at the Mazda Shootout back in 2012 or so when he came through it. He was a real standout when he came through that program. Getting to co-drive with him has truly been a pleasure. I’ve been watching him race for so long and acknowledge that he is one of the best GT drivers in the country, for sure. I just feel really privileged for Jeff [Mosing] to bring him over to drive with me.

Allaway: You mentioned that you first saw Kenton at a Mazda Shootout. This is a competition between up-and-coming racers?

Foss: In the late 2000s, Mazda had the ladder system. It’s how I re-invigorated my driving career.

In 2008, I won both the Spec Miata and the Mazda MX-5 Cup championships. At that point, Mazda gave me a prize for my racing for the next three or four years. Kenton was able to work his way through that system as well.

Ironically, a lot of the top drivers in [IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge] have either won in one of those series, or been very competitive in the Mazda MX-5 Cup. Tim Probert has raced the series when I was there. Note: Probert actually was in the room watching this interview be conducted. Brent Mosing has raced it, Jeff Mosing has ran it, Kenny ran it. Christian Szymczak won the championship there, so did Kenton and Stevan McAleer.

When you really look at it, a lot of drivers that have been successful at this next level have come through that system. It was a great opportunity for a lot of drivers and it created a lot of positives.

Allaway: This is the same MX-5 Cup championship that IMSA currently sanctions?

Foss: Correct. When I ran it, it was the Playboy MX-5 Cup with NC Miata chassis. Kenton, Christian, Stevan and I all won the championship when it was the NC chassis. Kenny, Tim and Brent ran the ND chassis.

It is obviously a very competitive series. I think you learn so much race craft there and it helps when you get into bigger and faster race cars.

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Allaway: At the time you ran MX-5 Cup, they were still racing MX-5s in what was then the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge in the Street Tuner class. It was a more steady climb upwards.

Foss: My route was ultimately MX-5 Cup to a Mazda6 touring car in World Challenge. When that program finished, they had just brought out the Mazdaspeed3 for ST. Since I had some front-wheel drive experience with the touring cars, [Mazda] thought it best that I come in and join the program to help develop that car.

I drove with Randy Pobst for a couple of races in 2010, then I drove with Brad Rampelberg, another MX-5 Cup championship winner in 2011. We were teammates [at Freedom Autosport].

Unfortunately, Mazda really pulled back in motorsports after 2017. The entry-level pro stuff really went away in terms of any sort of funding or help from Mazda. It kind of killed all the ST cars.

Allaway: In the case of Miller, I believe the two of you raced together previously in the SRT Viper GT3-R?

Foss: Yes. We actually met back in 2007 with the team we were running with in MX-5 Cup. We were both driver coaches there. I ran the 2008 season, while Marc ran the 2009 season. Unfortunately, he finished second that year, but won a bunch of races and was very competitive.

We did some endurance club races together because of that team. In 2016, we were together at [Riley] Motorsport in the Vipers at Daytona.

Allaway: Your one race with Miller this season, CTMP, ended up being one of the best races ever for Murillo Racing in Michelin Pilot Challenge. Basically, it was a duel between your car and the No. 72 for the entire race. Tim Probert qualified fifth overall and ran really well early before a technical problem knocked them out.

Ultimately, it ended up being a one-two finish with you and Marc winning. Things can’t get much better than that.

Foss: The only thing that could have been better would be if we had gotten a 1-2-3. That’s what we’re always thriving for.

I say that and chuckle because this series is so competitive and you have to execute so well to get a decent result here. To get a one-two, we were super-excited with it.

[CTMP] was an occasion where the starting drivers did a perfect job of executing and managing everything that they had to manage to give the finishing drivers a good car. I just got a little bit lucky to get by Christian [Szymczak] since he’s so tough to overtake. That was all it took in the end. We were able to manage to hold on for the one-two [finish].

Allaway: At this point of your career, do you have any desire to get back into the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for say, an endurance one-off or two?

Foss: Honestly, years ago, I had an offer to do the Rolex [24 at Daytona] and I was really excited to do it. I had a bit of fun, but the team wasn’t always fun and I felt like a lot of team members had a lot of different objectives going on.

The one thing about being here at Murillo Racing is that we always try to have fun. That comes from Jeff and Brent [Mosing]. They like to have a good time, and that’s really contagious.

So, I prefer being in this scenario where I know that everyone wants me to be there and is going to have a good time, no matter what. Whereas, shopping for rides, I’m not a big fan of that, so I don’t ever really like doing WeatherTech stuff.  But, I will say that Petit Le Mans is definitely a bucket-list item. [Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta] is my home track. I’d love to do it at some point.

I’m 48, and I’ll be 49 in December. So, I’ll probably end up a Bronze in another year-and-a-half. Maybe at that point, some team will probably find some use for me, so that would be the only thing that I’m striving for.

I don’t really have any desire to try to do the whole championship in WeatherTech. I enjoy it when I do get the opportunity to drive in it, but ultimately to me … the racing in [Grand Sport] is just as competitive as in WeatherTech. The only difference is that the cars are a little slower.

Since this interview was conducted, things have been a little tough for Foss and Murillo Racing. Lime Rock ended early after Foss had contact with Matt Plumb on the downhill. The crash put Plumb out of the race. A lap later, Foss was forced to retire as well, as he explained to Frontstretch here:

VIR saw Jeff Mosing return to the car. While it was great to see Jeff back out there, it wasn’t the best weekend as contact hampered their run to a 12th-place finish in class (19th overall).

Entering Friday’s IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season finale, Foss is second in Grand Sport points, 160 behind point leaders Alan Brynjolfsson and Trent Hindman. The VOLT Racing teams will win the championship regardless of how Foss does if they finish ninth or better.

About the author

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

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