After the live study was complete, Castroneves told Behrends, “I hope next year, I’m able to come back here for a fifth face on the Borg-Warner Trophy.
“You and I have some history together on the Borg-Warner Trophy. Thank you for this masterpiece.”
As Behrends spent more time working on the clay image, Castroneves talked about the unique experience of doing a live study with the sculptor for the first time in his career.
“This is a special experience,” Castroneves said. “I didn’t come over here for the first three, but it’s really nice to be here. Your face is going to be here forever. It’s nice to see the creator of that art and make it better. Over the years, there is experience showing in the face and it’s great to see that Will is able to capture that and put it on the trophy. It’s an honor to be here getting the final touches and see how the results will come out.
“Having companies like BorgWarner be part of the history and tradition of this place, that is what makes Indianapolis special. You don’t have companies like BorgWarner that spends so much time and cherishes these details that people that don’t realize.
“It’s about being part of something nobody can be part of, an amazing and incredible event like the Indianapolis 500.”
Castroneves also gave his thoughts on when he saw his clay likeness for the first time and how much it looks different from his first face on the trophy in 2001.
“Not only did he do an amazing job, I thought it was my twin,” Castroneves said. “It was weird at first, but it was amazing. The hair is still there. There are a few wrinkles, but that’s fine because we won the race because of experience. It was weird being face-to-face with myself.
“I said it looked like Tom Cruise, but I don’t know if Tom will agree with that.
“The hairline is a bit different with some wrinkles and experience that you have over the years, but it’s hard to capture all of that but Will is doing an amazing job on the final details. Even the nose has changed a little bit over the years.
“It was impressive.”
Later, Behrends explained the importance of having the winner sit in his studio for a live study.
“It began in 2015 with Juan Pablo Montoya,” Behrends said. “We have done it every year since then. This will be the seventh of those.
“I had never spent more than 10 minutes with Helio because back in 2001, 2002 and 2009, as I did back then, met with him for a few minutes on Monday after the race to supervise the taking of photographs and chat with him. In those three meetings, we probably spent 30 minutes together.
“Today, we sat down for a couple hours, and he did a sitting for a sculpture. We got to talk to and know each other a little bit and that helped me immeasurably in my work to get to know the other person a little bit.
“The clay head is a study. I take the photographs and observe them the day after the race. That’s the first time I do the image in clay. It’s a study where I look at the proportions of the face and all the things, I look at to do a portrait. It’s a first run for the later one. It’s curious because this type of process is what I do in my larger sculptures, but it’s in reverse. The study is the larger one and I use that as the taking off point to go to the smaller one. On the big sculptures I do, it’s the opposite. I start with a small one and go up to the bigger ones.”
The end result will be the egg-sized casting, but before that happens, there remain four key steps in the process.
“There is the clay in the actual size, then it goes into a lost-wax casting, same as I do in bronze,” Behrends said. “In the 32 years I’ve done this, I’ve added an interim step. It’s basically the clay, I make a mold of that. The interim step I have developed is a duplicate of the clay in a very hard, dense material that dentists use to make models of your teeth. We cast it in that, and it allows me to model and carve and sharpen detail.
“It gives me cleaner surfaces and sharper detail. Then, after I’ve finished that step, I make another mold and a wax is done with that and a lost-wax casting in silver is done. It’s a number of steps.
“I do the waxes in that second mold, and I prepare the waxes and send them off to my friend who has been doing the sterling casting for me for 31 years, since 1991. He casts them in Silver. He melts out the wax and pours it in silver. He sends me back the raw silver casting and I do the finishing.”
Although the winners are quite familiar with Behrends’ work, and the fans see his art on the Borg-Warner Trophy, chances are they don’t know the man behind the faces and the important role he plays in the history of the Indianapolis 500.
“It’s incredibly important,” Behrends said. “I’ve been a race fan for most of my life and a fan of the Indy 500, watched the race and seen the trophy all these years. I think the Borg-Warner Trophy is the best trophy in all of sports. There is no match for it. It’s an iconic piece of work.
“For me as a creator to create something that is a permanent part of that is really special. I can’t express how important that is to me and how honored I am to have done that.”
The day concluded with Castroneves’ name in lights on the Tryon Theater marquee, congratulating him on is fourth Indianapolis 500 victory. It’s the second year in a row that BorgWarner has added that touch to the Indianapolis 500 winner’s trip to Tryon, N.C., and could be the start of a new Indianapolis 500 tradition.