Posts Tagged ‘Driver Interview’

Our friend Stephan Verdier keeps impressing us with his driving skills, being the only Privateer to compete in the main event at Global Rally Cross in Irwindale, CA this past weekend. We had a chance to talk with Stephan as we always do after his performances and get more info on his win!

Q: Fresh off his 3rd place podium at the Global Rally Cross main event, we have Stephan Verdier! Thanks for joining us again at So please tell us when you started converting your drifting / rally cross Subaru STi into a full dedicated Rally Cross vehicle and how that process went:

A: Always nice to talk to you Yukio. At the end of FD season I knew that needed a new car to be competitve in that sport, unfortunatly during the winter I wasn’t able to findd any money to build a new car and do the season of FD (at the same time). In the other hand my Subie was a great car to run in Rally Cross. Beginning of February I decided to strip the entire car and do some major modification to lose about 200 lbs. All the work was done at GTI in San Clemente. Crawford Performance supplied the engine, transmission and Motec ECU, Tein suspension, Cooper tires / the rallycross tires, Exedy clutch, Garrett Turbo, Ignite fuel with the E85 and Enkei Wheels. Converting the car back to awd was pretty simple, the car was pretty much stock in FD so I just needed to put the center diff and front diff in the gear box and voila!

Q: How did the build into a full Rally Cross Vehicle differ from the Drift Car Build this time around?

A: The build wasn’t that much different. We cut right in front of the shock tower and built a full tubular frame front end that can be change or remove really easily in case of damage. We took some weight off the A, B, and C pillar,  and I had GP Motorsport build me a full custom wiring harness but otherwise it’s the same car as last year.

Q: A couple of weeks leading up to the Global Rally Cross at Irwindale, how did you prepare yourself and your vehicle to compete? Did you have time to practice?

A: Because I don’t have much of a budget, all the work has to be done for free from my sponsors. They dedicated as much time as they could but they have to take care of there customers too. I had to work a lot during the last month so I couldn’t spend a lot of time on the car. We were way behind on the prepartion and we worked like mad men within the last 10days. We finished the car on Thursday at 2:00 am. I went into the first event with no practice and bunch of untested parts. We put a steering quickner but the pump is too slow. It was like driving without power steering. It was hard for me to get any feed back from the car with such a hard steering. We also added a pedal box but I we put the wrong size master in it,  so I had to push so hard on the brake pedal (to stop)! My right foot is still sore from it (pedals). We didn’t have time to set up the antilag and launch control and the center differential was stuck in open mode. We are fixing all this problems for the next race. It’s nobody’s fault, we just ran out of time to test the car. No big deal.

Q: Tell me how different Global Rally Cross from the Formula Drift events that you competed in for several years.

A: The main difference, there is no judge. You can’t argue with the clock. It makes easier to see how to improve, if your too slow you need to go faster, pretty simple. In drifting you have to adapt to a person (judge’s) view of what is perfect, and you have 3 people to please with different view of what is perfect, it’s kind of tricky!

Q: Let me set the record straight, do you like Rally Cross / Rally or Drifting more as a driver and competitor?

A: Rallycross/ Rally has always been my favorite. I love drifting too, it gave me so many new skills and made me a better driver.

Q: So day 1 of Global Rally Cross, you and the other competitors didn’t get much practice on the actual course so, how did you adjust to be competitive in a completely new course?

A: You’re right we didn’t get much practice but it was the same for everybody. The bank was the hardest to set up your car for and the most important part of the track. We were behind since I had to learn the car before I could make any changes. I wasn’t concern about the race on Friday, I took Friday event as a test day in preparation to Saturday.

Q: How did you feel about your first day of competition?

A: It was prettty good. The car was reliable and fast, but needed a lot of work on handeling. The big part was me too, I only had an average of 4hours sleep/day for the past week. We made a lot of changes to the set up and it worked, the car was 3 seconds faster on Sat.

Q: Day two must have been exciting for you. We saw you get very aggressive and we even saw a few competitors get very close to your doors / bumpers. Tell me how the first few rounds went for you.

A: First I came in with a good night sleep. We got a lot more practice on the track and found some good speed in the set up. The competion was really exicting. Racing next to Marcus (Gronholm), Rhys (Millen) and Tanner (Foust) was a lot of fun. During the regular heat I wanted to be agressive to show the other drivers that I’m not going to be push around but I didn’t want to hurt the car either. In the Main (event) I didn’t care.

Q: During the last main event we saw you follow Tanner Foust and Marcus Gronholm for the first few laps and then you did your joker lap over the jump. Was that your strategy to keep close to those guys or did you see an opportunity that most of the viewers didn’t get to see then took the opportunity? And that is why you jumped when you did?

A: The strategy is always take the joker last if you’re not held up by the car on front of you or if you’re in the lead. Something bad can happen really fast on the big jump, so you want to keep it for last. Marcus (Gronholm) and Tanner (Foust0 were not slowing me down at all, so I choose to stay behind and hoping they would make a mistake.

Q: How did you feel when you realized that you were locked in as a 3rd place winner in the main event when you went around the last dirt turn?

A: It was aweome, coming out of the jump I saw Tanner and knew I could give him a run for his money in the last corner, but I over cooked the braking  and went wide. I was pretty mad about that but then as soon as I crossed the line I realize that I got 3rd and it was fantastic.

Q: Finally, how can our readers find more information about you and would you like to thank anyone that has helped you?

A: There is a couple place they can find info, Facebook, I want to thanks all my sponosrs and firends, Crawford Performance, GTI, Cooper tires, Ignite Fuel, TEIN, RMR, Sparco, Exedy, Enkei, Block DCB, GP motorsport.

Thank you Stephan for taking time to talk to us at! Good luck on the rest of the season and we hope to see you at more events!


Q: We have Stephan Verdier again, 3rd place podium winner from Gymkhana Grid from this past weekend! Stephan, congratulations on the win. First off, let me ask you what your first impression was when you heard of Gymkhana Grid event and why you decided to do it.

A: It was a great event and thanks to Ken Block for making it happen. I heard of it at the X-games and wanted to do it right away. I never did a Gymkhana in a awd car plus my car was sitting in my driveway doing nothing. I had to do it.
Q: You did the 2010 Formula Drift season and this is the first Gymkhana Grid event you have done. What are the major differences between the two events? What were your feelings about Gymkhana Grid?
A: Well the 2 big difference for me is that I drive my car in RWD for FD and AWD for Gym. There really 2 different style of racing. FD is as much angle and smoke as you can and also a judge event when Gym is the least angle but still drifting and as fast as possible since you race the clock. They both take a lot of skill to master. I really like Gym format, the clock is the only judge and it’s clear cut. Gym Grid could be a really cool sport even at the grassroots level, anybody with a RWD or AWD car can do it without risking the crash the car in a wall, and it brings both world of drifting and road-racing/rally together.
Q: Your Subaru was rear wheel drive, then back to all wheel drive for dirt, then back to rear wheel drive, and now back to all wheel drive for Gymkhana. How much work is there in getting that set up?
A:It’s actually pretty easy. I use the stock gear box in RWD and same in AWD, so the only thing needed is put the front diff and axle in and change the welded center diff to a stock one. It’s around a day of work by myself.
Q: How comfortable were you in the All Wheel Drive Tarmac set up at Gymkhana Grid?
A: I felt pretty good on Friday, but during qualifying my clutch and center diff start giving up. My clutch has been in the car since X-games and I did 3 FD (Formula Drift) events, a day at the track road racing, and  a day of Gym testing. I’m amazed it lasted that long. The center diff came from a used gear box that had 40000 miles. I think the problem with the center diff is more electronic than anything else, it would engage and realase on it’s on event in lock mode. It was really hard to be close to the barrel in the 720, the center diff will engage and realase during the donuts.
Q: When you first came up to the Gymkhana track / course, what was your first impression?
A: The only thing that got me worry was the box, it seems really small, but after doing it a few time it was no problem. The track was really challenging witch made it really fun. Both side were really close in time, maybe 1 sec apart.
Q: During your elimination rounds were you aware of your opponent’s position or how well they were doing or were you just focused on your own run?
A:That the only issue with the mirror track, you can’t see the other driver, in a way it’s good because you have to go 100% the all time or if you have radio a spotter can tell what’s going on. The only time you could see where you were was coming into the last barrel for the 720. I think they should look at making both track next to each other like Race of the Champion so the driver can see each other and easier for the fan to see who’s head.
Q: When you final round was done and you found out that you were 3rd place, what were your feelings and thoughts?
A: It was awesome, first time in a Gymkhana and I got 3rd. I know I could be much faster if I work on the car and get the right differentials, gear box,  more power and a lighter car. The car was making around 470 whp weight 2870pds and I use a stock H pattern box. The Ford (Fiestas) are 650 whp, 2400 pds and have full sequential. I had to do 11 gear changes in 1 lap, just with a sequential I can be at least 1 second faster. It’s really encouraging if they do a Gymkhana series, I know I can beat the Ford. 🙂

Q: Your 2011 season is still up in the air for drifting and you are leaning towards more towards Rally Cross. Is Gymkhana Grid is something you see doing instead of drifting?
A:I would love to stay in drifting but I need a real RWD car to be competitive, so that mean building a new car, that’s at least $80k. I don’t have that kind of money. I’m trying to found a team to drive for but so far no luck. The positive thing is that I can use my car with some upgrade in Rallycross and Gymkhana and be competitive, so yes I’m leaning towards Rallycross and Gymkhana more.
Q: Stephan, thank you for your time and we hope to see you more in 2011! Happy Holidays.

A:Thanks for following me, it;s always a pleasure to talk to you. I want to thanks all my sponors to able me to race at the GymGrid: Crawford Performance, Falken tires, Subaru, GTI, RMR, Garrett Turbo, Ignite Fuel, Sparco, APR, Seibon, Stance, Clutch Masters and K&N.
I recently received a call from Stephan Verdier, a professional Rally Driver, Professional Race Car driver, and Pro-Level Drifter telling me that if I wanted to talk to him about his XGames entry, Drifting Career, and his overall professional Driving experience. It’s interesting on what I received from him and this should really add one more driver on the list to root for at XGames 16 in Los Angeles, CA.

Q. Stephan, you’ve been around racing for quite some time and people may have heard your name from multiple backgrounds. Please tell me about your history in racing and around cars in general.

I started in Open Wheel (racing) by winning a US driver search for Bridgestone. I did a full season of F200 in Canada. Next I moved to Rally, started with Mazda 323 GTX then I built my first 2002 WRX. I won  a few championship and races in the US Rally chamionship. I won the Pikes Peak hillclimb in 2 different class driving a Subaru and now I competing in the Formula Drift championship with a 2006 STI.

Q. Wow, that sounds like a great way to get into racing! So, what is your history with Subaru and why have you picked the Impreza as your motorsports platform?

I always loved Subaru. Since i build my first one, they are easy to work on and really strong. I choose the STI for drifting to be different, also my original plan was to use the car for drifting and rally. Team Orange was running a Subaru and was doing really good so I knew the platform was good.

Q. How did you make your transition into Professional Drifting and how have you been doing so far in the season?

Two of my friends from rally, Rhys Millen and Tanner Foust, introduced me to drifting. It’s a completely different style of driving that demand a all new bag of skills to be good at it. It was a new challenge for me. So far this season, I’ve been in the top 16 drivers in the US for the past 3 years. This season is not too bad, I had a few set back with mechanical failure but otherwise it pretty good.

Q. Being one of two Subarus in Drifting, how have the Subaru fans been treating you since the Subaru community is so tightly knit at each event?

The Subaru fans at the drift event love the cars. There are more and more Subaru fans coming to the events. I wish we had more Subies competing.

Q. What have been some interesting stories from your racing history?

When you are a privateer every weekend, is filled with good stories, from borrowing suspension from a Fan’s STI at a rally event to able me to finish and win the event, to changing an axle in less than 5 minute by myself at a drift event during competition with my helmet on.

Q. Wow, you so work on your car your self too! Recently, I saw a images and video from New Jersey when the wheel / knuckle coming off of your car, that was insane! What happened?

I broke and axle outer shaft during the run witch let the whell bearing loose, nothing was holding the wheel in place anymore and it left the car.

Q. What has been your most memorable moment in racing with your Subaru(s)?

Winning Pikes Peak and my first drifting event in Sonoma.

Q. How did the idea of taking your Formula Drift Drift car and entering it into X Games come about?

I always wanted to drive that car in drifting and rally. When I first built it, I did it as if I was doing a rally car. I have a full WRC rally cage in it, and reinforce shock towers. So going from drifting to x-games seems natural.

Q. Recently you have picked up interesting sponsors for drifting that we haven’t really seen before such as Iron Man 2, how did that happen?

It was done through Royal Purple. Royal Purple was sponsoring the Stark Team in the movie and as part of the promotion for the movie, Royal Purple did the same thing with a few real race team under the Iron Man2 and Royal Purple name. It’s great that new sponsor outside the car industry to be involved. I think for movie studios it’s a really cheap way to get cool exposure. I hope more studios will do the same.

Q. Tell us about your new sponsors for the X Games Rally including Subaru of Ontario and how the new sponsors have helped you prepare for the X Games?

Most of my sponsors for X-games are the same as drifting. Few are not part of it because of budget but fortunately i was able to replace them by new one like Subaru of Ontario. In drifting I can’t use sponsorship from dealer since I’m sponsor by Subaru of America (SOA), but for Xgames SOA has their own team and don’t sponsor me, which make me able to approached dealers. Subaru of Ontario is a new dealership with big plans for motorsports. There are able to do a parts sponsorship for me for the XGames which helps a lot with all the new parts that I need to get. Subaru dealerships have always been good helping me with motorsports.

Q. Have you had a chance to test out the Subaru at all in its rally set up?

We are still working on the car at Costa Gialamas shop GTI. We should be finish with all the fabrication in a day or 2, then the car will go to Crawford Performance for a new engine, sequential transmission, ECU, and differential control. Testing is plan for next week, I can’t wait.

Q. There are major differences from Drift to Rally and vice versa, how have you prepared your Impreza for this and how have you dealt with the regulations and limitations that Rally has compared to drifting?

Subaru drifting is not to hard. All you have to do is make it Rear Wheel Drive and you’re set. I took the front differential out of the gearbox and welded the center diff. I’ve been running the stock gear box and a welded OEM rear diff for 4 years now and we make 580 hp at the wheels. I run Stance suspension, unrestricted Crawford Performance engine and Ignite racing Bio-fuel. We have to use DOT tires, I use Cooper RS3, GT3071 Garrett turbo, RPF1 Enkei wheels. I also modified the front uprights to get more steering angle, i have about 47 degrees of steering angle. One the thing I also did is put the radiator in the trunk, I was getting a lot of heat issue in the stock location. We you drift the car is sideways all the time and there is no air going into the radiator, by putting it in the trunk the air goes trought the rear window straight to the radiator. No more heating problem and the weight distribution is better.

Rally is a bit more complicated, first we need TEIN WRC rally suspension, skid plates for engine and fuel tank, than we have to run a 45mm restrictor. So we needed a special turbo from Garrett. We also have a minimum weight for rally 3000 lbs with driver. The car currently is 2700 lbs. in drift mode since there is no weight limit in drifting, unfortunately. Thanks to Crawford we are able to get the best of the engines with both set of rules. I’ll be running a All Wheel Drfive sequential gear box, anti-lag, launch control and flat shift. Also, I have to run the OEM roof and driver side door. It’s all carbon on my drift car during drifting so that will have be switched up. We will also be using Enkei rally wheels, same clutch from Clutch Master for both series, same fuel, body and yes a different wing since there are rules on how big the wing can be. Different size brake to fit 15 ro 17 inches wheel. We still run Cooper tire but now the rallycross tire.

Q. Any plans with you stepping into the GRB Chassis Impreza or even the new STi sedan as a competition vehicle?

I wanted to do a GRB for this season of drifting but couldn’t get the budget for it. I hope that for next year I can get the budget to do a new STI.

Q .This is your chance to really thank those who have helped you with your racing career and sponsors. Who would you like to thank?

There are so many to thank. Crawford Performance they have been with me from the beggining, Subaru, Cooper tires, GTI, Turbo by Garrett, Royal Purple,Clutch Masters, Tein, Stance, Enkei, Sparco, Rhys Millen, Seibon, APR performance,Ignite Fuel, I-speed, Subaru of Ontario and Timmons Subaru.

Thank you Stephan for talking to and thank you for living the Subie Life! We will be cheering you on at the up coming X Games!