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Helio Castroneves already has three versions of his likeness on the famed Borg-Warner Trophy, but the process to get his face on the iconic trophy for a fourth time after winning the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge is an entirely new experience.
This past week, Castroneves visited acclaimed sculptor Will Behrends at his studio in Tryon, North Carolina, where Behrends observed the four-time Indy 500 winner in person to put the finishing touches on a clay mold of Castroneves’ face.
That clay mold is what Behrends will use to create the egg-sized, sterling silver face affixed to the trophy, and Castroneves got a sneak peek of how he will be immortalized for his history-making win last May.
“What an incredible day,” Castroneves said. “He made me really look good. It was cool to see that. I’m sure there are a little more wrinkles compared to the first one, but you know what? It’s cool to see that, because it shows the detail, it shows experience, it shows all these scenarios that you can share with people, that kind of history. We’re talking about 20 years. Some people didn’t even see my first win. It definitely kept the old experiences together, for sure.”
While Behrends has sculpted Castroneves’ face three previous times for his wins in 2001, ’02 and ’09, this was the first time Castroneves visited Behrends’ studio. Until 2015, Behrends created the faces on the Borg-Warner Trophy simply from 360-degree, black and white photos taken the morning after the race. After Juan Pablo Montoya won the Indianapolis 500 in 2015, he visited Behrends’ studio, and it’s been a new tradition ever since.
Castroneves said as a driver, seeing Behrends’ creation in person put into perspective the work that goes into creating one’s likeness for the Borg-Warner Trophy and made him appreciate the work Behrends has done every year since 1990.
“To see that level of detail was awesome,” Castroneves said. “It was cool to understand the process. When it was just pictures, look you can do a good sculpture by pictures, but in person you get details. At every level of professionalism, you achieve better results when you look for those details: in racing, business and an artist is the same way. So, for me, understanding that was really cool.”
Getting the details correct is exactly why Behrends thrives on having the drivers join him in person. He said when Castroneves sat down in his studio, he immediately noticed characteristics about his face that he didn’t re-create well enough the three previous times.
Most notably, Behrends said he sculpted Castroneves’ forehead and the bridge of his nose wrong, including on the clay model he built from photos taken this year. So, while the duo sat in his studio for two hours, Behrends adjusted those details and gained a better understanding of who Castroneves is.
“You can’t describe exactly how it happens, but being able to talk with the person and get to know them really informs and enriches the work,” Behrends said. “It’s not only a likeness, but also a character study. Being able to sit down and get to know the person adds so much to it.”
Behrends said sculpting someone older versus younger has unique challenges. But with every repeat winner, he never references a previous likeness when making a new one. Regardless of the maturity and wrinkles Castroneves accumulated over the last 20 years, he has a certain sense of pride that radiates about him, and it’s a feature Behrends enjoys working with.
“He’s got a great face for what I do,” Behrends said. “He’s got a great structure, a great smile. He’s got a lot of expression in his face, and that’s what I’m trying to do: create something that someone 10 feet away from the Borg-Warner Trophy can see, that beam that he has in his face. He’s got the perfect face for it.”
As their visit ended, Behrends showed Castroneves his three previous likenesses and how the fourth one shows a more mature NTT INDYCAR SERIES veteran. It was one of the most memorable moments for Castroneves, whose tour as reigning Indianapolis 500 winner has started. He unveiled the ticket for the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge last week.
The next five months will feature many announcements and honor Castroneves in myriad ways as the newest member of the four-time Indy 500 winners club alongside A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears – tickets, posters, stories, artwork and more. But Behrends had a powerful reminder that the Borg-Warner Trophy, which will be unveiled in the coming months, will live beyond 2022.
“This is something that will end up in sterling silver the size of an egg, but this is forever,” Behrends said. “This is his fourth win. I mean forever. I’ve got to make this good and as close to as he looked on May 30, 2021 as I possibly can.”