GRC Personalities // Stephan Verdier: My Crazy Weekend at Charlotte
I was fortunate to be offered to run the RMR Hyundai Veloster for the GRC Charlottte round with Rdio and Hyundai as sponsors. I was all excited to be back in that car. I had a good run with it last year but still had some unfinished business.
Rhys told me, “You can run the car but I need you to drive the truck with Bam Bam (one of the team truck drivers) to Charlotte.” I said, “Yeah no problem I can do it, it’ll fun a long road trip.”
So Bam Bam and I left on Monday morning from Huntington Beach planning to be in Charlotte but Wednesday noon, no big deal. That’s what I thought. About 400 miles in our trip in the middle of Arizona on Hwy 40, we blow up the turbo on the truck. We were on the side of the road with almost no cell service unless we stayed by the right front side of the truck and get 1 bar for some reason. I’m just freaking out. How are we gonna get that truck fixed on time? Long, really long, story short, after spending 24 hours on the side of the road waiting for a mechanic to bring us a brand new turbo from Vegas, we got it fix and on our way to Charlotte. Pedal to the metal, which in that truck means 65 mph at best, we get to the track on Thusrday around noon. We meet with the rest of the team, JR and Gav, and start getting the car ready for the afternoon practice.
First look at the track was pretty cool. No way I could see a dirt oval in there. And great dirt too. I took the car out for the first time since SEMA last year. It took me a few laps to get back into it and after that it was a blast. I love that car. We did a few sessions without any problem and worked on a set up.
Friday was off, witch was perfect to give us time to regroup from the crazy travel and Thursday practice. After cleaning the motorhome, just imagine 2 guy stuck in that thing for 48 hours, not pretty. I even had time to play with my new toy, the Quad-copter and took some cool pics of the track.
Saturday was planned as a practice day but unfortunately the rain decided otherwise and we had to cut the practice short. I still was able to go out for a few laps.
Sunday was the big day. But again Mother Nature decided during the night to give us a record downfall and pretty much sunk half of the track. We had a nice lake to go fish, which put the event a few hours behind to drain all that water out.
I drew 15 for the qualifying group. I was pretty happy according to the way the track kept getting faster as more car ran on it during the previous practice.
So when it came to my practice run I felt confident it would be a good one. Well the track actually got worse and really rutted. On top of that I didn’t drive very well and got my butt kicked, and I broke the gearbox. I qualified 12th. I wasn’t happy. So we had 15 min to change the box and my guys JR, Gav and Bam Bam did it. Unbelievable.
First heat, seeding heat, I was with Tanner Foust, Brian Deegan, Sverre Isachsen and Pat Moro. From the second row I got a perfect start and was able to pass Deegan in front of me for 2nd place into the first corner but he decided to t-bone me out of the way and took the spot back. I passed him back in the joker but he T-boned me a second time out of the way half a lap later. I finish 3rd, witch moved me 1 spot head. The left side of my car was destroyed. I know somebody (Rhys) is not gonna be happy.
In heat 2, I was on the 3rd spot of the front row with the same guys. I got a slow start and a lot of wheel spin and was 4th at the first corner, which gave me a front row seat of Tanner going over the K-rail and doing a half flip. I gave him an 8.5 for that trick.
Red flag. Start again. I got a better start but could only manage 3rd In the position. Top 2 advance to the final. That meant LCQ.
In the LCQ, I was in the second row behind Dave Mirra. I got a fantastic start and passed him on the inside, and was first entering turn 1, but he touched my rear left corner putting me side way facing the wrong way for the corner. I had to break and make a sharp turn back to the right witch gave Mirra the chance to try to pass me on the outside. We both entered the big bank next to each other and pushing on each other, that was fun. Because I was on the inside I was able to pass him.
Coming to that infamous right hairpin all hell broke loose. I knew Mirra was gonna try to pass me in the braking on the inside, so I took a defensive line, but got hit by Tanner which pushed me way outside the exit of the corner. I had to cut back to the right to get line up for the next corner and didn’t think Mirra would be there, and I made contact with him. I was fortunate and survived the contact but unfortunately Mirra didn’t. I guess a few corners later 3 cars crashed into each other and they called the LCQ. I was second and advanced to the Final.
When I drove back to the pit I noticed a bang coming from the car. My front left shock blew up. Now the guys had 5 minutes to get the car fixed and ready for the final. And they did it, put on a new coilover, fueled the car and cleaned my windshield.
In Final 1 I was lined up on the last row. I got a good start and went for the outside line in the bank behind Bucky Lasek, but he was shooting buckets of mud at me. I couldn’t see anything but had to stay flat out. Coming into the hairpin, there was a big cloud of dust, I got on the brake as hard as I could, and everybody crashed in front of me. I stalled the car but was able to jump started back without loosing any time and go out of that corner in 4th. The next lap they called red flag because of Travis Pastrana and Sverre being stuck in the middle of the track.
In final 2 I had the same starting position and made the same move on the outside on the bank. I came into the hairpin, passed a few cars under braking, but somebody was park in the middle of the turn and I had to stop mine to avoid a crash and stalled the car again. Because I left foot brake if the car comes to a complete stop I can’t take my foot of the brake to push the clutch and stall. This time I wasn’t able to jump start it back. I was parked, Steve Arpin had to push me out the way. It took me maybe 10 sec to restart the car.
I was dead last. I told myself “Don’t give up, make good laps, and maybe people will break.” I was right.
One by one they keep getting punctures or mechanical problems, I passed Steve first, he had a right front flat, then Bucky with a broken steering rack and finally came onto Ken Block who had a right front flat. I was right in his bumper going into the bank and was expecting him to keep the inside. Since his right front was flat I knew his wheel will dug in the dirt and be pretty efficient.
I placed myself to pass him on the outside but he started to go wide, so I went on the inside and start passing him when he lost control of his car and spun right in front of me. I tried to avoid him but made contact with my front right. I thought my day was over and was expecting to see one of my wheels fly by. But no, that Veloster is a strong car. I was able to finish the race and got 4th. I’ll take it.
The poor car is beat up, and I don’t want to be by Rhys when he sees it. Hopefully I can get to the car and start fixing it before he gets back.
I want to thank everybody at GRC for putting on a great event, RMR for letting me drive the car, Rdio, Hyundai, and my boys Bam Bam, Gav and JR.
Rhys and I will be back with the Velosters at SEMA. Be ready for some good action!!!
Photo credit: Matthew Kalish