Interview: Verdier Hoping to Re-Establish Global Rallycross Presence at X Games
If the essence of racing is bringing your own equipment to the track and competing strictly for the love of the sport, Stephan Verdier may have some serious positive karma coming his way on Sunday.
The veteran of 14 Global Rallycross starts makes his return to the series at X Games Los Angeles, bringing his own Subaru WRX STI to the grid without sponsorship, a professional crew, or many of the other aides he had when he finished sixth in last year’s championship with Rhys Millen Racing. Luckily for Verdier, he’ll be racing a car that he took to three podium finishes and fifth place in the 2011 season, also on his own—meaning that he has no shortage of experience in the privateer game.
In the second part of our interview, Verdier talks about the differences between this year and last year, what he expects to do at Irwindale Speedway, and looking for future opportunities:
Now that you’re running your own car once again, what’s going to be the biggest difference from last year’s racing? Why don’t you think there have been any other privateers this season?
Especially coming from last year, where I had a professional team, the big difference is now I’ve got to wrench my own car! There were no privateers this year, I think, because the schedule is so close, and with the races outside the United States, it’s really hard to find the money. A professional budget to race rallycross is bigger because the cars are getting bigger and faster, and the schedule, with traveling and everything, is going up. So it’s hard for the privateers coming in, but I’m surprised that we haven’t seen any privateers in the US races.
For me, it’s not going to be a huge difference, because I’ve done this before. It should be the same thing. I’m asking all of my friends to help me out, and I’m going to be next to Rhys, so if anything goes really bad, I’m sure I can borrow some stuff!
You mentioned Rhys Millen, who you drove for last season, and is also returning to X Games with two cars. Even though you’re not with that team in LA, is that an organization you would consider returning to?
Certainly! The cars have always been available to me from the start of the season, but I haven’t been able to find the budget to run it. Rhys has the lead car, and the car that I was running last year—I don’t think’s 100% done but it’s almost done. But the car is sitting in the garage. Last year, we progressed with the car a lot.
Fortunately, and unfortunately, I tested one of the Fords and saw what a Supercar should be like, because I saw how much better the Fords are than the Hyundai, which is unfortunate. But fortunately, now we know what we need to do to set up the car. I’m sure the cars will be much faster at X Games this year than they were last year because we learned what do to the car to make it go faster.
What are you hoping to have in store for the field for this race? Are you looking at it as a way to secure opportunities down the road—whether this season or next?
Winning a gold medal at X Games would obviously be something that would help for the rest of the season and 2014. With that car the way it is, I’d be really, really happy to make the finals—just making it would be a good result. That’s not my goal,—obviously the best case scenario would be to win!—but that would be great.
For the rest of the season, I’m still looking for sponsors. I’ve had offers to drive cars with some different manufacturers, but I need to bring some money. I had an offer to drive one of the Chevys for X Games, but I didn’t have the budget for that. I have a chance to drive in Vegas if I can find the budget for that. And the Hyundais are available to me if I find the budget too. If I get a decent finish at X Games I’m sure it’s going to help for the rest of the season, but I can’t really ride too much on that with the car I’m bringing.
I’m also working for next season, for 2014. I’m talking to a couple of manufacturers about running a team with a two-car deal, and being a full team driver. So I’ve been talking. I don’t want to be at home and being miserable, because I love racing! It’s good that I’m talking to people, and they’re talking to me.
The thing about X Games is, with it being the last one in Los Angeles—if it wasn’t in Los Angeles, I wouldn’t be able to do it, because it’s too far to go, and too much trouble and money to do it. So being at the last LA X Games is good. It’s actually the first time I’m going to a race without having to answer to any sponsors, not really caring about the result. I’m just going there to enjoy myself, because it might be my last X Games. So I’m just going to enjoy the event, racing with the other guys, and I just hope that my car can keep it together for the full event. I’m just going to have fun. I think it’ll be a fun race.
Photo credits: Import Tuner; Rhys Millen Racing; Stephan Verdier