2 day Vehicle Specific Training
As a reminder to all, our 2 day vehicle specific course is up and running year round now. It is designed to give anyone better car control and confidence. This course began based on customer feedback during our premium rally schools. (see 2-5 day rally programs). This course will have you driving a specific type of vehicle for the duration of training. When you sign up you will be asked which vehicle type you want to learn in… Front, All, or Rear wheel drive. You will receive intense car control instructions for 2 days in that specific vehicle type.
The skills you will learn during your intense 2 days of training will include our race proven Left Foot Braking (LFB) techniques and how to apply them to that type of vehicle. You will learn vehicle dynamics, lines & apexes, 5 types of skids, advanced braking techniques, and accident avoidance.
Call to book your class at 603-444-4488 or Email us for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org
Half-Day Rally Experience
In today’s fast-paced world we realize that your time and money are at a premium, so Team O’Neil is here to help. We will now be offering a Half-Day Rally Experience so you can experience the thrill of rallying in half the time.
Our Half-Day program will give you insight into the basic fundamentals of rally driving. You will be introduced to vehicle dynamics, lines & apexes, 5 types of skids, braking techniques, and accident avoidance.
Call to book your class at 603-444-4488 or Email us for more information at email@example.com
Be sure to check back with us after Memorial Day for a class that is currently in development… Adventure Training! Get set for a 3 day adventure at our Dalton facility located in the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire. Your adventure will include…
- Learning rally techniques
- Basic firearms training
- Technical off-road driving and recovery skills
Call or email us for more information…
Team O’Neil Rally School Founder Races Against Students at 100 Acre Wood
Team O’Neil brought seven Ford Fiesta’s to the second round of the Rally America National Championship at Rally in the 100 Acre Wood in Salem, MO. One of the Ford Fiesta’s was driven by five time U.S. and North American production rally champion Tim O’Neil with co-driver Terry Hanson.
This was only the second race O’Neil had ever competed in a Ford Fiesta R2. His last race was the 2012 Lake Superior Performance Rally where he won the Group 2 Class and went on to finish fourth overall; however this was his first ever national competition in an R2, and nevertheless in an R2 that wrecked at last years Rally of the Tall Pines in Bancroft, ON. There were zero test miles on the car before it got loaded up and shipped to Missouri for the rally. The first time O’Neil had ever driven his R2 was during shakedown for 100 Acre Wood.
O’Neil started the rally with no real expectation on how the outcome would be. After the first stage he ended up fifth in class, and realized that he could still push with the top guys in the class. On Stage 2, O’Neil clawed back a little time by setting the fourth fastest stage time in 2WD. By the end of day one O’Neil finished the day in fifth in 2WD… Not bad for the 53 year-old.
On day two things started out the same as the first day. O’Neil was still battling in fifth place, although things started to change on stage 11 with Dillon Van Way’s off. O’Neil was now sitting fourth in class and pushing harder than ever. On stage 12 O’Neil posted the fastest stage time in 2WD to pass Chris Greenhouse to take third in the overall standings. On stage 13 O’Neil continued to set fast times with the second fastest 2WD time only behind Andrew Comrie-Picard (ACP), and the same went for stage 14 as well.
On the final leg of the rally, O’Neil started to fall off the pace. The ice on the final stages was unexpected and the gravel tires were not as effective as the ice tires he was using earlier in the day. Luckily O’Neil had nearly a minute lead on Greenhouse going into the final leg. That didn’t stop Greenhouse from battling back though. Greenhouse continued to take time out of O’Neil, but it wasn’t quite enough and O’Neil went on to hold off Greenhouse for third place by 39 seconds.
Happily all the other Team O’Neil national drivers were able to complete the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood.
- Ed McNelly and Ole Holter finished second for their second consecutive 2WD national podium
- Bill Lauze and Maggie Stiefvater finished fifth
- Verena Mei and Leanne Junnila finished sixth
- Brent Hercelinsky and Alex Orozco finished ninth
When O’Neil was asked about his performance he responded, “I’m very excited to be out here competing again, especially against my former students, although I can’t believe how driving a desk for so many years has made me so slow. In the past I have never gone that fast. It’s interesting to see how far cars have come since I first started rallying, and I’m looking forward to see how much faster I can go as the season continues. I would also like to thank my wife and kids for all the love and support they give me so I can go out and play around doing what I love to do.”
O’Neil is now looking forward to the Oregon Trail Rally and the rest of the 2013 Rally America season.
PHOTOS: Scott Rains
Team O’Neil Motorsports
2013 Sno*Drift National Rally Recap
Team O’Neil Motorsports went to this years Sno*Drift National Rally with five Ford Fiesta’s. Four of our Team O’Neil Motorsport Fiesta’s finished the rally with two of them taking a top five finish in 2wd.
Ed “Fast Eddie” McNelly took the teams highest honor, with a well respected third place finish to kick off the 2013 season, and Verena Mei rounded out the top five with a fifth place finish
Team O’Neil’s only DNF came on stage 10 when Edward Stiefvater went off the road and damaged the left front wheel of his Ford Fiesta. Team O’Neil’s other two drivers, Bill Lauze and Brent Hercelinsky went on to complete their first ever Rally America national event with a respected seventh and eighth place finish.
Do you live in the “Snow Belt,” that part of the U.S. where a few inches of overnight white stuff is considered a light snowfall? Then it’s time to buy your snow tires. What’s that? You don’t use snow tires? Then let’s bone up on why these specialized tires should find a place on the wheels of your vehicle.
Who Needs Snow Tires? You
Perhaps you drive a vehicle that has all-wheel-drive and consequently you assume that you don’t need snow tires? Or maybe the all-season tires that came on your front-wheel-drive sedan have always served you well? Think that the stability control of your rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan will keep you out of trouble? You might want to rethink your position after hearing my argument for snow tires.
The bottom line is that anyone who routinely drives in snowy, icy winter weather can benefit from snow tires. Modern winter tires are totally different animals from the summer tires or all-season tires fitted to most cars when they come from the factory. Simply put, they are designed for winter conditions, without all the compromises that get made in designing an all-season tire. But what does this mean?
Special Rubber And A Different Design
Typically, winter tires are made of a rubber compound that does not lose its flexibility below 32 degrees. This is important because the rubber compound in a winter tire must be able to move and flex in order for the special tread design to effectively clear the road surface of snow, ice, water, and slush, as well as bite through that muck to gain traction.
This sort of rubber compound is only found in winter and all season tires. It is not found in summer tires, which is why they’re not for use in temperatures under about 40 degrees.
The tread design of snow tires is also different. This makes them much more desirable because they can self clean, channeling water out from under the tire’s footprint, while also biting into ice for better traction. This is accomplished by designing the tread pattern to move as the tire rolls down the roadway. The special rubber compound allows for this flexing, while an ingenious design element called “siping” is utilized on snow treads.
Siping is a semi-segmenting of each tread lug to make it flexible and movable while the tire rolls down the road. It looks like little slits have been carved into the tread blocks. This allows for the tread lug to open and close, causing a pumping and squeegee action, moving water away from the tire’s surface while the tread lug squeegees the road surface.
Some snow tires even have ice cleats built into their tread lugs. These cleats, or “studs,” are sharp metal edges that bite downward into the icy road surface giving you maximum traction on ice covered roadways. They’re not legal everywhere, however, as they contribute tearing up road surfaces much more than normal tires.
Buying The Right Tires
Now as much as this article is written to convince you that winter tires are a good thing, depending on where you live, all season tires might be fine for you. If winter is just a few light dustings of snow in your neck of the woods, then I would say that all season tires would probably work, especially if you have an all-wheel-drive vehicle.
One of the other big questions drivers have is whether they need snow tires for all four tires? The answer is yes. Ideally, you should put four snow tires on the vehicle because the axle set that has the regular tires on it will not be able to maintain the same level of traction and consequently those wheels will slip and slide.
If the snow tires are on the front, the rear of the vehicle will tend to spin out, which is the worst case possible. If the snows are on the rear, the front will tend to push or slide, instead of turning. So four snow tires are best.
Once you have your snow tires, you’ll have to remember to take them off in the spring. Since snow tires are made of a softer rubber compound with a softer, more flexible tread design, driving them on warm, dry roadways will wear them out prematurely. The siping or semi-segmenting of each tread lug is usually at about a 50 percent depth (sometimes slightly more) of each tread lug. Driving them constantly on dry roads would wear out the tread lugs in a short time.
A Word Of Caution
Lately, there has been concern that some tire dealers are selling tires that have been in stock a long time and the rubber has dried out, making them unsafe. For peace of mind, ask your sales person to show you the date code on the tires. It is usually found on the sidewall close to the rim bead area.
When tires sit for a long time in a dry, warm environment the oils in the rubber dry up. This causes a condition called “dry rot,” causing the rubber to crack, usually close to the rim bead area or in the sidewalls where there is more flexing. This condition compromises the structural integrity of the tire’s sidewall and makes it vulnerable to blowout.
Tires are one of the most important safety features on your vehicle. It is vital that you choose the best tires for the roads and climate conditions where you drive.
After several years of strictly taking care of business running the Team O’Neil Rally School, Team O’Neil Motorsports, completing a government funded life-saving S.A.V.E. driving simulator program, and finishing a book on rally driving techniques. 53 year old business owner Tim O’Neil is stepping back into the driver’s seat at this year’s Lake Superior Performance Rally. LSPR is known to be one of the oldest, toughest, and meanest rallies in the Rally America calendar. It will be held in Houghton, Michiganon October 26-27, 2012.
O’Neil, who is a Whitefield, New Hampshire resident and business owner, is well-known for his driving career, including five time winner of the U.S.and North America production rally championships. “I have been in training over the past year to get myself ready as best I can” said O’Neil. “I am looking forward to John Dillon being on-board with me, and I’m stoked to be returning to LSPR due to my history there and knowledge of the roads. My goal for this event is to go fast and have fun”
O’Neil has been heavily involved with preparing for and attending rally events all across North America with his own grassroots team, where he enjoys turning our team of employees into champions with drivers like Chris Duplessis, Wyatt Knox, and now Ed “Fast Eddie” McNelly. O’Neil has not driven in a national/international rally since LSPR back in 2006 where he finished second to Ken Block by 24.7 seconds.
Partnered with Ford Racing and M-Sport in 2010, O’Neil will be competing with a Team O’Neil Motorsports prepared 2011 Ford Fiesta R2 along with veteran co-driver John Dillon. When asked about his return to racing after 6 years, O’Neil commented “It’s time to take a break from driving a desk for so many years, and I’m just as jacked up as ever to get behind the wheel again. LSPR is one of my favorite events in the Rally America calendar.”
56 year old co-driver John Dillon has been co-driving since 1995 and has done over 100 events this century. He earned the 2004 SCCA Open Class national championship and the 2008 USRC Open 4WD national championship. Dillon was also one of the inaugural recipients of the Carl Merrill Sportsmanship Award. Dillon commented “I’m looking forward to co-driving for Tim since he’s got a lot of experience behind the wheel and I’m always looking forward to new ways to teach.”
The Ford Fiesta R2 has proven itself during the 2012 Rally America series with Ed “Fast Eddie” McNelly behind the wheel winning the Rookie of the Year title. “No aspect of the Fiesta R2 was overlooked. The engine, transmission, suspension, brakes, it’s all there, and there is no weak link. The R2 is capable of so much, we will be taking it to its limit” says O’Neil.
Be sure to stop by and meet with Tim and John during the LSPR Parc Expose on Friday, October 26th from 1:00pm-2:15pm or Saturday, October 27th from 9:30am-10:30am. They will be more then happy to talk with you and share their stories from the golden days of rally racing.
Team O’Neil Rally School & Car Control Center offers special courses throughout the year, and one that was introduced earlier in 2012 is a 2-day vehicle specific rally course. The course is designed to provide instruction for drivers who participate in SCCA-style sanctioned Autocross and Rallycross types of events, but it also will help any driver learn better car control. Unlike our regular 2-day courses, this one will allow students to choose the type of vehicle in which they want to train – Rear, Front or All Wheel Drive – and use that type of vehicle during their training. Additionally, students can bring their own autocross or rallycross car to use on Day 2 after using TON vehicles on Day 1.
Students will learn TON’s proven LFB (left-foot braking) techniques and how to apply them to that vehicle, as well as vehicle dynamics, five types of skids, lines and apexes, five types of braking, and more. As with our popular rally schools, we will maintain a 2:1 student instructor ratio.
Depending upon the time of year that the course is held, conditions may be dry or wet gravel, or if the class is held during the winter months the road conditions at our 600-acre facility in Dalton, NH may include packed snow and ice, potentially with some gravel showing through, depending on weather conditions. Please note that if you plan to use your own vehicle it will need to be prepared for such conditions. It is also important to note that TON will not take any responsibility for mechanical problems or damage to your vehicle.
The cost for the two-day course is $1,897; if you use your vehicle on Day 2, the cost includes a $300 discount ($1,597).
To sign up, call us at 603.444.4488. If you have questions about the class, please ask for Chuck.
Part 4: In the last segment of Chuck Long’s interview of instructor Chris Duplessis, the boys chat about Chris’ future rally plans and what he thinks he’ll be driving down the road (no pun intended…).
TON – Now the 2WD, you’ve been dealing with that since you built your own GTi back almost 10 years ago now and started with that. What are your expectations here in the future? Are we going to see Chris Duplessis in the future challenging Antoine [L’Estage] and [Dave] Higgins in an all-wheel drive, or is it still going to be 2WD?
CD – I think the classes here with Rally America are kind of tough. I definitely want to keep doing more international stuff, and really the only class that is kind of close to it is 2WD. If you get in a car like Antoine’s or the Subaru and it’s an Open class car, which is only here in the States, and you get used to driving that car and then you try to go drive something else like a production World Rally car, it’s more like a Group N car. So there’s nothing that really translates as far as my experience to get better other than a Fiesta or an R2. So I’ll probably stay in a Fiesta just because there’s no need to move up to a car that’s kind of obsolete for any other part of the world. But, if Subaru called me up some day and said, “Drive a car” then that might change, but right now I’m having fun in the Fiesta and I’ve got another year in my contract so we’ll see after that.
TON – Yeah, in Rally America the Fiestas came in and Ford stepped up and it’s become really competitive. There’s more and more of them, and even some of the all-wheel drive specialists are realizing, “He’s top five in the States running that R2, what’s the deal?” It is a good, tough car. Do you think it’ll grow in another year?
CD – I think in Pennsylvania we had six Fiestas, which was awesome. I was talking to Will Orders and he showed some interest in going into a Fiesta, which would be awesome – having more competition, faster guys. You know, you’ve got Dave and Antoine at the top, and it would be really cool to have a bunch of Fiestas chasing them down. I think Ford’s definitely behind it; I think it would be cool if more manufacturers got in. Even Fiat in this country now, they actually build an R2 car – it’s a Punto, kind of looks like a Fiesta. But it would be cool if a few more manufacturers got in and built a car or brought some cars over, because that would just make the sport better. And maybe eventually Rally America would see the value in 2WD, like the British Rally Championship now is a 2WD championship – the top overall championship goes to 2WD now. Maybe at some point we’ll see that here.
TON – It’s peaks and valleys here in the States, and it seems like with Ford’s interest in what you’ve been doing, it’s still nothing like top flight European, but we’re getting more and more entrants at each event, National and Regionals, than we’ve seen in a while. I can’t recall the exact years but I remember when John Buffum was running the Maine rally with SCCA and it was standby to get in on it. Hopefully that scenario starts coming back, and I think you’re part of that too with the 2WD, that would be nice to see.
So you’re taking off this weekend – good luck, best of luck with it, and hopefully things run well. We’ll see you back at some point soon.
CD – Thank you!
Part 3: Director of Operations Chuck Long and Team O’Neil instructor Chris Duplessis continue their conversation, talking about camaraderie amongst competitors within the WRC Academy and Chris’ biggest challenges and struggles in being a part of the WRC Academy. Click on these links to check out Part 1 of this interview and Part 2.
TON – Are ralliers the same throughout the world, be it drivers, co-drivers, mechanics? You see the folks here and it’s really kind of grassroots. You hear stories about one guy handing a transmission to his closest competitor just so he can run and that type of thing in the States. Is it the same kind of thing over there, but it’s more competitive?
CD – The FIA rules are a lot more strict, so you actually can’t help out as far as parts, and you can’t tow a car more than, like, out of a hole, so it’s a little tougher as far as what you can do and as far as rules go. But at the Academy everyone’s been super-helpful. There’s this kid Pontus Tidemand, the Swedish champion, he actually came and did some Global RallyCross and he’s very good. He’s probably one of the quicker ones once he gets his feet wet, because I don’t think he’s ever done Fiesta stuff, it’s always been all-wheel drive. He’s actually been a huge help. You know, I’ve been struggling with the notes, that’s probably my biggest downfall because we don’t do pace notes here – writing your own. So he said anything I need help with, and he’s actually shown me a few hints, like putting tape on your steering wheel so you know the degree of the corner without having to actually see it, or it’s just a little “guess and check” type thing, so he’s been a huge help with that. There’s a kid from Australia, same thing. He and his sister are super-nice. But really, everybody’s been super-awesome.
TON – So it’s good camaraderie, there’s no in-fighting or anything like that.
CD – No (laughs), but the Swedes do think their country is the best, and I keep telling them it’s different, so we always joke around with that – why their country’s better and why America’s better. It’s fun.
TON – You mentioned the notes. What would you say has been the biggest struggle with the WRC? Of course the funding we can say right off the bat…
CD – Yeah, the funding and then probably the lack of having people who can come over and support, like having lunch ready and have our schedule [figured out]. It’s just been me and my wife Sarah and then my co-driver, where some of the guys that have the budgets will bring guys over just for recce support. Some [competitors] will have like ten guys helping them out as far as what their schedule is, etc., and while they’re going to bed I’m staying up trying to do Facebook updates, so that’s been tough. And as far as in car and on the stages, it’s just my notes. I’ve been practicing quite a bit here, and actually Alex (Kihurani) is going to be in the car in Finland, and he’s very knowledgeable with notes. He rode with me in Pennsylvania and Maine, and already, it’s like little tricks, just how he says things, so I think it will actually be very, very good .
TON – I remember after Portugal you were reviewing and doing after action type stuff, and you were saying you needed to get used to the set-up of the car, and the notes, and then Greece got better [for you]… What are your expectations for Finland? I know that at least from the States, Finland is the rally to go to, to be a part of…
CD – I think we’ve already kind of achieved our goal just getting there. We definitely ran out of money, plus the exchange rate and the damage in Portugal… everything’s just been so expensive. I think doing our fundraising online and asking our fans and supporters to step it up, I think that’s just a huge accomplishment. It’s Alex’s first WRC event and he’s been dreaming about doing one forever, and definitely Finland, so that alone will be awesome just to get in the car for the first stage. The three rallies so far have been very technical and I guess kind of slow, whereas every rally here in the States you’re in 5th gear a lot more. I think I hit 5th gear once in Greece, the roads are just so much slower. I think it caters to me more with the flat-out stuff, and hopefully some of the other guys just haven’t got that experience. We did a top three stage time in Greece and it didn’t feel any different, it just worked really well, so it’s attainable. I think I can definitely put those times down, I just need to be able to do it consistently and not have any issues.
TON – I was looking online at the lead-up to the event, and I was reading about one of the guys who is ready, his pace is good in the R2 in practice. You’re running the events here in the R2, but you’re not able to get in and test your own car on a weekly basis. Is that a disadvantage?
CD – Yeah, I definitely think some of these kids have done all of these rallies quite a few times. They didn’t do Greece last year in the Academy so it was new to I think everyone, no one had been there. But then there’s Elfyn Evans – he’s very very quick, I think he’s second in the championship or maybe leading it – but I saw that he just did a rally in Finland, a regional rally, so it’s like, just the experience of them being able to get over there. So that’s a big disadvantage [for me].
TON – Because experience counts, like, tenfold…
CD – Yep
TON – You can relate it to Maine, the Concord Pond stage. Did you set the record this year?
CD – Yeah, we beat our own record and I think we’re actually on Ken Block’s old record in our little front wheel drive. So when he set the record in a Subaru, that’s the time we’re getting. Our pace is very, very good as far as stages that I know, and a stage like that where there’s big crests and blind crests, you can’t really go against that experience and knowing the stage. But, with good notes hopefully we can put it down.
TON – In a nutshell, what would you say has been your best experience and what’s your worst experience about this whole thing. Because this year’s been crazy for you, between trying to weigh work, and getting the prep done and getting money and sponsorship.
CD –I think the hardest thing has just been my schedule. We’re only seven months into the year, and I’ve done four American rallies, almost three WRC events, I’ve been here and there working, it’s been crazy the amount of stuff that’s been going on. So trying to keep my head in it as far as being able to work, and being able to find money, and then when I end up getting to a race, being able to focus and do what I need to do has been insane. We built a car for the American rallies here, so with all that and still trying to make it work, and be able to survive and live, has been insane. But I guess that’s what you gotta do, you gotta put the time in and work hard and hopefully it will pay off at some point.
TON – Exactly – it’s been good to see the dream come true, because now you’re on the world stage, and I remember when you were here at 12 years old that was your dream. Now is it like, “Yeah, it’s working out, but boy, this is a handful!”
CD – Yeah it’s funny, people think that because I have sponsorship now, and Ford Racing is helping me out, that it’s way easier. It’s actually way harder. You’ve got people to live up to their expectations, you’ve got contracts to fulfill, and it ends up that there’s more pressure put on that you have to, you have to make it there and those kinds of things. So yeah, it’s definitely way harder, but I wouldn’t change it for a thing. It’s what I want to be doing, and hopefully it pays off, but if not we definitely had fun doing it!
This is Part 2 of TON’s Director of Operations Chuck Long interviewing Chris Duplessis before Chris left for Neste Oil Rally Finland. Here they talk about the differences between car preparation and rules in the WRC Academy and for Rally America events, and more. Catch Part 1 at this link.
TON – What’s the difference between the WRC-prepped car and yours that you’re running here in the Rally America series?
CD – Probably the biggest thing is how they prep it and how it’s been built, just the fit and finish. They’ve built probably 200 of them so everything’s exactly perfect – where the wiring’s run, where the hoses are all laid. Whereas I’ve built two, so it’s like, “Oh, it would have been better to put the hoses here,” and change stuff up a bit. And then just the set-up. They know the set-up for Finland or the set-up for Greece, so as far as ride height and camber angles and toe angles and you know, clicks on the suspension, they really have that dialed in so that’s a big difference. We actually ran the set-up we’re gonna have on our car in Finland at Maine [New England Forest Rally]. They sent me the sheet ahead of time so I tried that just to get used to it and it actually worked very well and it was quite a bit different from what I had set my car for. So I thought, “this is pretty good” and then it was all different and it was actually way better, so just that alone is a huge step for me to start knowing how to set up stuff.
TON – and that kind of goes to, “what are you taking away from this?” That has to be huge, let alone all the experience with that, to be able to get the set-up and the car prep from the folks who have been doing it for years and years.
CD – Yeah, it’s the guys who’ve engineered the R2, and they’ve worked on other projects like the Focus. It’s all the M-Sport guys – they bring all their best engineers so I’ve got a chance to talk to them about some things. We actually had a bush mechanics class which was really neat, and there was actually some stuff that I hadn’t thought of or known that they showed us, which was pretty good. And every round we get a class, so they teach us bush mechanics or marketing or I think this time we’ve got one with Pirelli, so we’re going to learn about tires and how to choose compound. We even got a chance to listen to the M-Sport and Ford guys’ meteorologist. They’ve got a meteorologist with the team that can read the weather and decide what tires they need, and when it’s going to rain and what part of the country it’s raining in.
TON – When you say “bush mechanics” does that mean like field expedient repairs out on the stage?
CD – Yeah, they called it “bush mechanics”. They showed us, just like we kind of show here at Team O’Neil during our courses, with the radiator and using a wrench to make a bracket and pinching off a brake line. This is actually a pretty good story – last year in the Academy they talked about Craig Breen, the kid who won the academy championship. In their bush mechanics class they had before one of the rounds, they showed how you have to have 4 tires on the car, but if you lash [a damaged tire] on like this, that counts, and so he ended up ripping a wheel off and he did exactly what they said and got it on there, and dragged it back to service. They ended up disqualifying him because they said that wasn’t road legal, it wasn’t safe, so they ended up changing a WRC rule to say, “all four tires have to be rolling”.
TON – Now that leads to the Rally America car, with the rules as far as builds and so forth. Can you take away any of that information you’ve gleaned on how to set up, to add to the cars here?
CD – Yeah, the Rally America rules are a lot more open. Basically, [in the WRC Academy] the R2 is homologated, so you really can’t change a thing. There’s even an issue where the tires rub on the inner fender and they actually cut the sidewall, and they’ll bend the fender and with the WRC Academy cars, every car comes in with a fender bent because they can’t actually cut out the bracket that’s in the way, where here you can just cut that out. And there you have to leave the service park with the car how it showed up, whereas here you could drag it back on three wheels. So yeah, the rules are definitely a little looser here which is actually a little bit easier, keeps it a little bit cheaper, but it’s also cool to see how a sanctioning body as big as the FIA keeps everything right on track.
TON – And all those cars are equally prepped, or as much as possible. Are you going to be running the same car that you had in Greece and Portugal, so it’s kind of your car for the events?
CD – Yep, my car is actually the car that won the championship last year – it’s the one that Craig Breen won the championship in so it’s definitely a fast car, it’s been proven. But yeah, it’s been the same all the way through, and I don’t think it would change unless I balled it all up.
TON – And they’re good crews over there? I think most of the guys are Polish?
CD – Yeah, the cars are serviced and taken care of in Poland, so most of the guys are Polish. They’re awesome guys. It’s funny, you know I show up and talk to them, and ask them if I can help out. I think if you’re nice to the mechanics they take a little extra time on your car.
TON – Well, you know that from being a mechanic all your life too, that you need to give them a lot of credit.
CD – We actually ended up bringing two of the mechanics out with us in Portugal after the rally and they loved it, and so in Greece everyone was like, “Where are we going? What are we doing?” So, it’s been good fun.
Team O’Neil’s Director of Operations, Chuck Long, took some time to chat with instructor and WRC Academy competitor Chris Duplessis before Chris left for Finland last weekend. Here they discuss Chris receiving the Spirit Award in Greece, the differences between competing in the States and oversees, and how the Ford Fiesta R2s hold up on tough stages. Below is Part 1 of the interview – we’ll release the remaining 3 parts over the next couple of days.
TON – It’s been a real busy year for Team O’Neil instructor Chris Duplessis. Chris, you’ve done 2 WRC events, and done all of Rally America events. Did you capture the Rally America 2WD championship after the last event [New England Forest Rally]?
CD – We need to basically finish in Washington, we have the points where no one can catch us. It’s a quick turn-around – basically two weeks from when we get back from Finland
TON – You’ve done Portugal and Greece, and congratulations on getting the Spirit Award in Greece. What does that award signify?
CD – It actually started from the full top-level WRC drivers – I think Ken Block won it once. It was actually the Abu Dhabi Spirit of the Rally Award and I think it was just to note someone that did something cool. We got it from doing our test in Greece. It was basically a loop and the loop finished and you’d have to drive through town to get back in the service park, and there were two schools there and all these little kids were just pressing against the fence yelling, “Rally! Rally! Rally!” and so one of the times I went by and I gave them all high fives. The next time I went by they had drawings of my car, and the Academy went over and took some pictures, and they decided it was cool that I stopped and acknowledged them and so they decided that that was “good rally spirit”
TON – Is that one of the differences you see between Rally America, or rallying here in the states? The fan base?
CD – Yeah, the fans are insane, and then as far as the other drivers not wanting to stop, I mean it’s big time there, whereas I’m still a young farm kid who goes over and is like, “oh, cool, there are kids at a school!”
TON – So what are some of the biggest differences you see between WRC Academy and rallying here in the states?
CD – Probably the biggest thing is the competition – the drivers are the best in the world. That caught me off guard right away – I thought I was pushing the Fiesta as hard as it would go, and I get over there and they’re taking minutes away from me on 10K stages, which is good at making me push myself. And then there’s just the whole presentation. The WRC is the top level of it. Rallying is still fairly new for us, whereas everywhere else in the world the WRC has been around forever. They definitely have their stuff together and the fans, and just the amount of people that go out and love it…
TON – About the scope and size of the events and the competitors… How are you guys running? Do they run the full fledged WRC cars and then you guys at the back of the pack?
CD – Yeah, they run the full WRC cars and then they run the S2000 cars kind of mixed in with them, and then they’ve got the PWRC cars, and then us. And then at every rally so far, and I think every rally will have this, there’s been a regional or national rally, so Greece had their national rally running along with [the WRC rally]. They usually run with some different roads or the schedule’s a little bit different, but a lot of times we’ll get mixed in with them too. Just the amount of cars that compete too is huge.
TON – How does that affect the R2 – the front wheel drive going on the stages after, how many cars would you say, 80 to 100 cars have already gone through the stage?
CD – Yeah, and you know, the cars that we have here in America are pretty cool rigs, but we’ve got maybe 2 or 3 rigs that are very powerful, very mean cars, where there they’ve got 40 of them, and the roads just get so chewed up, even the hardest pack road has big ruts in it. And yeah, the Academy guys start toward the back so we get a road that’s fairly chewed up.
TON – You get what you get. And Greece is historically known as a really rough event anyway, so then you’re bombing through even rougher stuff.
CD – There were probably 2 or 3 stages that were incredibly rough, and the rest were just rough, and I just couldn’t believe we were actually trying to drive fast over some of this stuff. Just huge, sharp rocks, and I was actually surprised that I didn’t see more cars off, like just stopped with broken bits. I mean, everyone’s just that good that they can drive flat out, even on the worst roads in the world.
TON – And how about the Fiesta, R2 is it holding up? It’s a tough car if it’s doing that kind of stuff.
CD – Yeah, I mean I didn’t have any damage after Greece, and you know they say it’s the toughest rally in the world, and I got my bill back for the damage and there was zero, so it was pretty neat. It would have been cool to get that with a little faster times, because I was definitely driving a little bit smart in some places. But yeah, they’re awesome little cars and definitely hold up to some of the toughest stuff in the world.
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Part 2 coming soon!