Global Rallycross Season Review: Stephan Verdier
When Rhys Millen Racing lost its factory support and sponsorship at the end of the 2012 season, both Millen and Stephan Verdier found themselves out of full-time competition for 2013. The break was especially tough for Verdier, who finished sixth in 2012 points despite running half of the season with an engine down on horsepower from the rest of the series.
But the desire to compete led Verdier back to the track in limited schedules, with his season perhaps the most unique of anybody in the sport. He managed to appear in three events, proving that time off couldn’t erode the skills that have earned him 161 career GRC points—good for sixth all-time.
In 2011, Verdier had brought a 2006 Subaru WRX STI to three podiums and a fifth place finish in points. In a move reminiscent of Ricky Bobby’s “Me”-sponsored car in the movie “Talladega Nights,” Verdier brought the old car out of retirement at X Games Los Angeles with a self-sponsored livery.
Though the older-model car, which hadn’t seen GRC competition in over two years, wasn’t up to par with many of the newer entries, the older-model Subaru and the grassroots feel of Verdier’s privateer operation proved incredibly popular with the local fans. By persisting through a handful of accidents that affected the field, he even earned a 12th place finish in the 18-car field.
That attention eventually led Verdier back to Millen’s operation, where he would start the final two races of the season in the same Hyundai Veloster he had driven in 2012. At Charlotte, the reunion led to a stellar fourth-place finish after advancing through the last chance qualifier; at Las Vegas, an intercooler hose broke right after Verdier took the lead in the LCQ, leading to a 12th place run.
For now Verdier is searching for sponsorship to return to the series full-time in 2014. If he makes it to the grid, he should be as competitive as ever, meaning a top-10 points position should be almost guaranteed and a top-five result won’t be out of the realm of possibility.
Photo credit: Matthew Kalish