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GRC Personalities // Steve Arpin: My Season So Far

August 29, 2013
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Looking back at this season, it’s been full of highs and lows for us. It’s definitely been a learning season—each and every time I’ve been on the race track, I’ve learned something new, which was essentially my goal for this season. This is an entirely new discipline of racing for me, with a new type of car, new type of racing surface, new type of track. I’ve never jumped a car, never had a car airborne before… or at least never intentionally had a car airborne before!

If I had to grade myself, I would probably go with a B+. There have definitely been some mistakes I’ve made as a driver that I’ve learned from and won’t happen again. But at the same time, we’ve done a lot of things right, and just been in the wrong spot at the wrong time, whether it be a wet race track or small mechanical problems.

In Brazil, we started real strong with the fourth place finish. I joke all the time that I would’ve gotten a podium, but I had a really quick flight after the race and I didn’t have time to do the podium ceremony! But I didn’t really back that up at any of the other X Games, so I kind of have to go away from that story.

From that point on, we kind of had a slump through the next couple of races. We did a lot of talking, a lot of research with the engineers and team guys, and really found out what we had to do to get things turned around. These last couple of races, it’s been really good. At Bristol, we were running second in the main and cut a right rear tire down—that was a bad luck deal. At Atlanta, we were really good. We had a strong two heat races, and we just unfortunately got put into the wall in the first corner of the main. It’s one of those deals, it’s just the way it goes.

The most important lesson I’ve learned this year has been learning how to feel the racecar. So many people have been so great with offering advice, help, and opinions, and don’t get me wrong, those opinions are valuable. But before you’re able to use any ounce of information that any of these other experienced drivers are telling you, you have to learn how to feel this type of car. When I quit trying to what everybody else was saying to do, and let everything start to come naturally to me and feel everything out, just trying to react to what the seat of my pants feels, it’s when stuff really started to turn around. I was able to start giving the proper feedback. Some of the stuff I was saying at the start of the year, I thought was proper, but as I get more comfortable with the car and figure out where I need it to be, we’ve figured out that we need to go in a different direction.

I’ve been learning a lot about the cars as well. I even helped rebuild Patrik Sandell’s engine in Atlanta. He’s a teammate, man! You gotta help him get out there!

I grew up building my own racecars. I grew up involved every step of the way, from when the car was a bunch of 20 foot lengths of pipe on the wall to when it was rolling down on the race track to take the green flag. So every time I have a chance to get my hands on a wrench or get my hands a little bit greasy, then definitely I’m going to jump on it.

When you get to the NASCAR world, and a driver grabs a wrench, everybody looks at you and they are scared sh*tless. They’re like, “what is a driver doing with a wrench?” I know how to use a tool! It’s alright! Now that I’m getting back into this, these guys are actually letting me work on the car. It’s fun, and I enjoy it!

It also helps you with the racing aspect. The more you understand what’s underneath you—like I said earlier, this is a whole new type of car to me. I’ve never driven an all-wheel drive car, and I’ve never driven a rally car. For me to be the best I can possibly be, I have to know exactly what’s underneath me and understand what’s going on with every component on the car. So every time I have the opportunity to work on it with the guys, it’s something that teaches me more and more about what’s going on as I go around the racetrack.

The biggest thing I need to work on is how to carry the amount of speed through a high speed corner. I watch Topi and look at the split times, and I go out there and think I’m doing it alright. My times are good everywhere except for this one little type of section at every racetrack. Obviously that’s going to be my main goal moving forward there, to try and conquer that.

But overall, if I had to say my first and foremost concern going through these last two races, it’s consistency. Once consistency comes, a lot fewer mistakes, doing more things right—like I said, we learned a lot of things every week all year, and now it’s just the time that we have to take all those things from the first seven races and combine all the things that we learned right. We learned a lot of things wrong, too, so we’ve got to throw those things out! But everything we learned right, we have to combine all that and put it together for these last two races.

We’ve got two races to really show what we’re capable of. We’ve learned a lot of things at each and every race throughout the season, and if we take all of those things and are able to put them together in one race, we’ll have a good, solid showing. That’s my goal to finish off the season—just trying to put everything together. We really need to perform to what we’re capable of these next two races.

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish (1, 4); QBA/QNIGAN.com (2); Alison Padron (3)

Categories: GRC Personalities