Interview: Moro Debuts Brand-New Chevrolet Sonic in Charlotte
For months, it’s been perhaps the worst-kept secret in the Global Rallycross world: Pat Moro, last season’s best privateer driver, would bring Chevrolet into the sport with a brand-new Sonic sometime this season. Rumors spread about the car for months while PMR Motorsports developed the new platform quietly and out of the spotlight.
Finally, at The Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Moro will debut the #59 machine, giving Global Rallycross representation from all three major North American automakers for the very first time. In advance of Sunday’s race, Moro sat down with us to talk about the new car, the development process, and how much of an improvement the Sonic has been over last year’s car:
When and how did the Sonic project start to come together? What influenced your decision to work with Chevrolet?
The idea came together at the end of last season. I’ve been a longtime Chevrolet owner, the truck I drive every day is a Chevrolet pickup, and pretty much all of the equipment that we use on the construction side of things are Chevrolet products. At the end of last year, we were pretty much the top privateer running in Global Rallycross, and we knew that we needed to step up the game a little bit and move to a different platform.
So we decided at the end of last year—we actually knew at the beginning of the year that we were going to build something new, but we didn’t really know what it was. Looking at the cars that were out there, that weren’t currently running in the series, we decided to go with the Chevrolet because of the history that they had with 2-liter motors in drag racing. It made a lot of sense for us to move in that direction. I personally use the brand, I like the brand, and I decided that it was a good direction to go.
Last year you had a privateer Subaru program, as opposed to this year’s Chevy deal. Is Chevrolet a major backer in the program? What are some of the advantages to that, and what are some advantages on this car compared to what you had last year?
This car is drastically different from last year’s car. The advantages include that the center of gravity on this car is much lower; last year’s car had an H-pattern gearbox, while this one is six-speed sequential; the list keeps going on and on.
We’ve actually gone to an inline-4 motor, which is better than the motor we ran last year. Chevrolet is giving us support with the motor program, so they are somewhat of a backer. We still need sponsorship, so we’re somewhat of a privateer with factory support. It’s great to work with Chevrolet, because they’re able to provide engineering and support on the motor that we didn’t have last year, with them taking care of the motor side, and providing technical support at the race. Chevrolet will be at the race and supporting the engine program, so that’s a huge help for us.
The handling of this car is so much better. The length of the car is much shorter, the width is much wider, there are so many things that we can get into that are so much better than the other car. After running the other car, we kind of knew what we were up against. We felt like we needed to level the playing field and start with a blank sheet of paper, and with the Chevrolet Sonic, that’s what we were able to do.
How many cars have you built? Will you just be running the one, or is there a possibility to run a second?
We have built two. We have one car completed—the second car is not yet completed, but it should be completed here shortly, and we’re hoping to have it at Vegas this year. That seems to be the goal right now.
How much testing have you done with the cars so far? Is there anything in particular that you’ve focused on?
Everything is new on this car, so the key things that we were looking for on our side, since we’re (working on) the chassis side of the car, we were looking for any type of failure with driveline parts. Chevrolet has eons of experience with the motor package that they picked, but rallycross is new for Chevrolet, so it’s a learning experience for them. Obviously, a new platform is a huge learning experience for us as well. So on both sides, everybody is looking to make sure that this car is bulletproof. That seems to be going very, very well.
We’ve done a lot of testing with the car. I think we’ve had four tests already, and two more tests before Charlotte. We’ve got a lot of hours logged in the car, and so far, knock on wood, everything has been really good. But like I said, it is a new car until we have it in a race next to the other cars. You just never know. So I’d hate to jump out and say this is going to be the greatest thing ever.
It is a new car, it is a new platform, and it’s a huge task to pull this off. Working with Chevrolet has been great because they took a huge load off of us by taking on the motor program.
Come back tomorrow for the second part of our interview with Pat Moro.
All images via PMR Motorsports