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GRC Personalities // Steve Arpin: Starting the Year Off Right!

May 31, 2014
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It was definitely a whirlwind leading up to the first race of the Red Bull Global Rallycross season. Last year I didn’t really know what I was getting into, so I didn’t really know how to prepare for it! But this year, having a year under my belt and knowing a lot more about the series and what I need to do to perform to my fullest, it just opened up a bunch of new doors for new types of preparation. So it definitely was a bunch more work leading up to Barbados, but it was fun work!

Having Royal Purple back for a second year has been exciting, and we’re really trying to grow this program and get more involved, both on and off the track with them. They’ve been more involved on and off the racetrack—all of the Ford cars are now running Royal Purple lubricants. The engine builder went through a lot of extensive testing over the winter, and found that the quality of Royal Purple products are an advantage to our program. It’s about longevity and protection, the ability to push things to their limits and know that you’re protected.

Getting to Barbados, who ever thought, who ever knew—and I know I’ve said this, over and over—that I would go from racing go-karts at Riverside Speedway in Ontario to racing rallycross at the Top Gear Festival? It’s just mind-blowing to me. Getting there, it was so cool how nice everyone was on the island. I’d go back there for vacation anytime, just to go back and be with that kind of people. They’re so nice, so friendly, and they love motorsports. Talk about racing enthusiasts—I bet some of the biggest racing fans on earth are on that island. Then showing up at the facility, seeing everything that was going on, seeing some of the cars that they had there, was phenomenal. It was such an experience and such an honor to be a part of something that big. And I got to see Lewis Hamilton’s F1 car! What more could you ask for? It was still hot from getting off the racetrack!

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We had some mechanical issues in practice and lost a bunch of practice time, but I think one of the biggest things right now, first and foremost, is that I’m not a road racer at all. And that first track in Barbados was typically a road course with a little bit of dirt and a jump in there. So it was a big learning curve for me! Road racing in general is new for me, and this radial tire is different than anything we had last year. I said at Media Day that I thought this new tire was going to favor Scott Speed, and I think that was pretty self-explanatory. I felt like Deegan and I were racing for our own win, and Scott was in his own zip code, because I couldn’t even see him!

But it was fun! I had the wildest ride I think I’ve ever had in a racecar, going over that jump and landing completely sideways. Unfortunately, I think we got a flat tire, but that ride was still so much fun, going over the jump like that. It wasn’t intentional, but it was wild! Every time we went on the racetrack, I tried to make sure that we learned something‚ where my biggest mistakes were in the last run, and we got better and better each and every time we were out there. Scott and I walked the racetrack, and he showed me a bunch of key points that you really need to focus on, places where maybe it’s important to carry a lot of speed, but at the same time it’s easy to lose speed there. That helped me a bunch.

When we got to the main, it was a wild start, and we made it all the way to the last corner before we had a big pile-up, which was a huge success compared to some of what we encountered last year with the first-corner pile-ups. But I had a front row seat for Ken Block’s incident, and that was wild. I kind of breathed a sigh of relief when I saw him walk away, because he took a hard hit. When we got back racing, it was kind of like flipping a coin—you’re starting in the back row, you can barrel off hard in the first corner, take a chance and maybe get wrecked, or you can lay off, let everything sort out, and try picking everyone off one by one. The majority of the guys took the joker right off the bat, but we decided not to, to save it for later and try to make up as much ground as we could. We decided to wait for the joker, be strategic about it, and wait for when we could make the biggest impact with it.

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My spotter was great—Brad Manka from OMSE was my spotter, and he called it perfectly. We got caught back up to Deegan and Sverre and Nelson, and thank god Sverre was up there, because he was holding up the whole pack with his wild driving tactics! It allowed us to catch back up to them, use the joker, and we got all of them in one shot, from fifth into second.

When we decided not to take the joker at the start, it put us in a bit of a hole where we had to drive really hard to catch up to them. That put a lot of heat in my tires, and I started to feel the grip go. So after we got the joker lap and got into second, we had a fairly comfortable lead, and so we decided to back down and play with the tires, backing down to see if we would just be nice to the tires for a few laps, if the grip would come back. We backed off for a couple of laps and Deegan was kind of able to catch back up to us, but with the tires cooled down, we were able to go again and kind of pull back away. It was definitely a learning experience for what the tires will take, and what you need to give back to them to be able to run at the end of the race. I think that’ll really help later on in the year on the other courses, just knowing what the tires have, what they’ll give, and what you have to give back to get more out of them.

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Our Royal Purple Ford just drove good. We definitely have some work to do, I don’t think we were a second place car, but we used everything as it came to our advantage and tried to capitalize on every opportunity. Sometimes racing smart pays off and you get a good finish for it, and that was definitely the case for us in Barbados.