DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – For many drivers, racing may be the most exciting part of their lifestyle.
For Joel Janco, driving an Élan DP02 2.0L Mazda machine is just one of his many unique recreational activities. When Janco isn’t competing in the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda Series, he is either taking part in a unique equestrian sport called “team penning,” herding cattle or sailing.
He has visited 55 countries, hiked over the Himalayas and lived in Indonesian villages.
“Some people give up on life or get tired at my age,” Janco explained. “If I’m going down, I’m not going down without a fight.”
The 64-year-old just completed his first year in the IMSA Development Series with Eurosport Racing. Janco returned to the sport after spending five years on a boat with his wife, Kathy. He made the switch from sea to land in 2010, and in 2014 will make the switch from Eurosport Racing to Performance Tech Motorsports.
The Performance Tech shop is located just 90 minutes from Janco’s Key Largo, Fla.-residence. Now, Janco has just a 30-minute drive to the nearest track to go testing instead of a four-hour flight.
“Rich Dahl and Eurosport Racing worked their hearts out for me,” Janco explained. “I have a lot to thank that team for and had some great times with them.”
In addition to being convenient geographically, Performance Tech Motorsports is also conveniently the reigning Prototype Lites champions. Performance Tech clinched the 2013 Lites 1 team title in the season finale race at Road Atlanta.
“They won a championship so I am pretty fortunate they took me as a driver,” Janco said. “I’ve told (team owner) Brent (O’Neill) I’ll go anywhere, anytime.”
It seems the “go anywhere, anytime” has been Janco’s life motto. The former adventure traveler is willing to pack his bags at the drop of the hat. And in addition to packing his helmet and fire suit, he’ll be bringing riding boots, as he and his wife also ride horses on race weekends.
“We ride horses almost everywhere we race,” Janco said. “We have a particular breed of horses we like and that has translated into another obsession, which is cattle herding and team penning.”
The latter sport focuses on speed and precision, two things Janco is more than familiar with.
A fast-paced sport, team penning involves just what it says – teamwork. A group of three riders have only 60 to 90 seconds to separate three specifically marked cattle from a herd of 30, and work quickly and efficiently to “pen them” into a small pen on the opposite side of the arena with only a 10-foot opening.
As different as the activity seems from Janco’s forays on track, the similarities are striking. But life is a balancing act for Janco, who is completely at home with either form of “horsepower.” Behind the wheel one minute, or switching to a saddle the next, he is always enjoying the ride. Watch out for Janco’s entry on track next year and if you have a chance to chat with Janco you can bet you will hear an entertaining story or two.