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#NHMSGRC Pre-Race Interview: Stephan Verdier

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

Stephan Verdier qualified fourth for today’s Global Rallycross Championship event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the #12 Motorcity/Disney XD Hyundai Veloster for Rhys Millen Racing. He’ll face top seeded Tanner Foust, David Binks, and Sverre Isachsen in his heat race. Verdier answered a few questions before tonight’s event:

On getting a strong start to the heat race and beating or shadowing Foust: “That’s the thing, the big thing is the start, being able to pass the jump. If I cannot beat him on the start, because of the way the chicane is, we basically have to fall in line, so after that is going to be tough. There is one more passing zone after the jump, into the left hander, so that’s the only place you can actually pass somebody, and it’s going to be tough. The thing is you’ve got to realize, in the first heat, two people advance to the main, and the goal is advancing to the main. Me and Tanner, if I’m second, my goal is to stay behind him and do some clean laps and check out from the other two guys. If they’re there, then I’ve got to do something to try and pass Tanner. The first heat, everybody knows the plan is to advance to the main, but if I can beat him off the start, that’d be golden.”

On using Rhys Millen’s car for this weekend: “We both have exactly the same chassis, but it’s funny that even though we have the same chassis, it’s always a little different handling wise. His car has a tendency to understeer a little more than mine did, but also it’s got a little bit more oversteer coming off the corner because of the power. So you just have to adapt your driving style to it. It’s a bit more confusing to me because on the inside, the dashboard is completely different than mine, so just to get used to where the RPM lines are and the lights and everything, I needed ten minutes to familiar with the car. But the car’s fantastic. It’s a really fast car. But there’s a big improvement from my car to this one, and that’s what we needed, so we definitely have a competitive car that can win a race.”

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

On the gap jump: “To me, it’s the scariest jump of the season because there’s not a lot of run up to the ramp. Coming from the chicane, you’re turning, going up the gears, you have to look at your dash, there are a lot of things that need to happen in those two seconds, and you have cars behind you trying to pass you too. When we go through the chicane there’s no passing allowed before the jump so there are no crashes. Having the padding at the end of the jump, for us, psychologically makes it easier to jump over it. If you touch it you’re going to get in big trouble, but at least you won’t die from it. Definitely that jump has always been a big feature for the racing, but people don’t realize how technical it is for us to do it. Seeing us do it back all the time, they think it’s a piece of cake, but every time we go over it, it’s like, okay, am I gonna make it? And on top of that, we have to race too. So it’s part of the game, every driver has to go through it, so we’re even. But it’s definitely a section of the track where you have to be really focused and not make any mistakes.”

On the longcut: “The longcut, the banked track is the sand, the longcut is the tar, you go 200-300 feet past the regular line to go around. So it’s good because it’s only maybe a three second difference between the regular track and the longcut. So that way there won’t be a huge gap between the cars. And it’s a longcut, which I like because most likely the first two cars will take the regular track and the last two cars will take the longcut on the first lap. I think it’s going to bring a different dynamic to the racing that we haven’t seen yet, and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

On the crossover bridge: “Yesterday, when they did crash, they crashed by themselves. Now when you have three or four cars behind you, or even eight, nine cars behind you in the final, and people are going to try to pass you in the final, it gets really slippery because we bring the dirt and sand from the other sections in our wheels. And when you do the 180 the sand comes off the wheels and sprays on the wood and it’s really, really slippery. And the way it is, going uphill, you have to do a weight transfer to the left to E-brake the car around. So you don’t have a lot of grip on the front wheel. If you miss and you turn too soon, the front wheel starts sliding, you can’t do your weight transfer, and you slide off into the fence. They put a fence, which is a great thing, but it’s definitely a technical part, and important to pass somebody if they make a mistake. And if somebody bumps you, you’re in big trouble because there’s no way you can stop. Between the chicane and that thing, there’s going to be some carnage today. Hopefully we get out of it in one piece and on the podium! (laughs)”

– Chris Leone

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