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Interview: Verdier Returns To Global Rallycross in Los Angeles as Privateer

July 30, 2013
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Stephan Verdier’s path to a ride in the 2013 Global Rallycross season may have taken longer than he had hoped, but he’ll get to compete at X Games Los Angeles in a way most racers only dream of—on his own terms.

Verdier will bring the same #12 Subaru WRX STI he used in the 2011 season, a car that took him to three podium finishes and fifth place in the championship. In 14 career GRC starts over the past two years, he’s taken four podiums and two top-six finishes in the standings.

But for Verdier, Sunday’s event will be for the fun of it as he looks to get back into the series full-time with a competitive ride. In advance of his season debut, he talked about jumping into a familiar car, who he’s been watching this season, and his thoughts on returning to Irwindale Speedway, where he took a podium in 2011:

Welcome back! You’ve been trying to land a ride for much of the season, but you decided to bring your own car to Irwindale. What inspired you to head in as a privateer?

I made the decision when I couldn’t find a ride for X Games, and my car was sitting in my driveway looking at me! I thought it would be easy to take my car. I started it up, and it worked, so I said “okay, let’s do it!” The car hasn’t been raced (in GRC) since 2011, but I did a local race a few months back, an SCCA rallycross, and the car was fine. I’m getting the livery put on now, and it’ll be ready for X Games.

As you said, the car you’ll be driving hasn’t seen any GRC action since 2011, but it’s a car that you’ve raced extensively in your career. Do you have an advantage because you’re bringing a car that you’re so familiar with? 

Absolutely. The good thing about the car is, I don’t even need to practice it. I know exactly what the car is going to do. There are some people who might be jumping a car at X Games that have never driven it, so it’s a big advantage. But like I said, the disadvantage is that I haven’t raced the car since 2011, when everybody else did. I’m still waiting on a sequential gearbox from Europe, but it’s sitting in customs right now. If I get it before X Games, I’ll be able to put it in, but if I don’t, I’ll be stuck with my OEM H-pattern gearbox, which would be interesting!

It was competitive in 2011—I was able to get a lot of good results. I’m not expecting a lot (out of the car) at X Games. But it is rallycross—anything could happen. Where you show up on the starting line and after turn one could be a completely different story. We proved last year that even with a non-100%, fully competitive car we were able to get a podium. So if the strategy works out, even if the car is not the fastest, we might be able to get a good result out of it.

Have you been watching the competition this season? Which teams have stood out to you?

I’ve been following the races, and actually went to Bristol (as Harry Cheung’s spotter in GRC Lites). The names have changed at the top, but it’s still the same team. OMSE are still the fastest guys. They have two new guys in Speed and Arpin that are good drivers, but the top names are always the same. Heikkinen, Tanner, Liam, they’re always the same guys, and those guys will always be fast. Deegan, too.

The thing is, the Ford guys have such a good car that nobody is able to come close to them. Liam had success in Germany with the Mini because it was raining, and that was better because the Mini is so light. I think because the X Games course is at Irwindale, and we did the first GRC race there, I don’t think it can go much different than it was. But I think it’s going to be a bit of a horsepower track still. I think the Fords are still going to be really good. The Mini should be good in qualifying, but when it comes to the heat, I think because of the long straight, it might get caught back during the heat.

I think it will be the same guys at the top at X Games. There’s always the Ford and the Mini, and Subaru and Dodge fighting for the rest of it. It’s going to be a strong field. Volkswagen is coming in too, with two great drivers, and Rhys also is coming back, so there’s going to be a lot of competition, that’s for sure.

GRC raced at Irwindale in 2011, and you took a podium in one of the two races there. Now that we’re heading back there, what are your thoughts on the return?

I think it’s the best decision that we could have ever made. Obviously Los Angeles was a good venue to have the race because it was on the city streets, but if you looked at it the track was small. It was hard to pass and you couldn’t spectate. It was cool to have it there, but I think it’s really a good thing for the racing to have it in a venue that’s made for cars to race. There will be plenty of space for teams to bring all their stuff. The track is going to be much bigger and better—it’ll be wider and there will be more racing side by side. It’ll be a good place to go.

Check back tomorrow for part two of our exclusive interview with Stephan Verdier.

Photo credits: Stephan Verdier; WhatMonstersDo.com; QBA/QNIGAN.com

Categories: Interviews