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Samuel Hubinette: “(SEMA) Is A Tight Course… There’s A Go-Kart Feeling”

Image via Samuel Hubinette Instagram

“It’s been a pretty intense day,” Samuel Hubinette said on Sunday night after a long day of media commitments and testing in preparation for Tuesday’s Global Rallycross Championship season finale at SEMA. Driving the No. 77 Eneos Oil Saab 9-3 for Eklund Motorsport, Hubinette currently sits third in points, but is looking to bounce back from a difficult run at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last month that saw him miss the final for only the first time all season.

Of course, Hubinette is also a busy stuntman, and he managed to keep plenty busy in the month between races with commercials and the return of an old friend—the Formula Drift Dodge Challenger that Hubinette campaigned last year. We talked about those endeavors, this week’s fun at SEMA, and a little bit of the road ahead next month and beyond:

Last month’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway didn’t go as well for you as hoped—you had some lingering issues and weren’t able to make it to the final. What was going on that weekend, and how do you expect to recover on Tuesday at SEMA?

Coming off of the last event, where we had a lot of issues—it was a pretty tough week last time we were here in Vegas. We had some boost problems that cost us. We were hoping to do well, but with low power we were struggling. So it was just a tough weekend for sure. As for the power, those problems are solved, and with full force, we’re feeling very excited to get back on top and trying to fight for a podium finish. We’re very, very excited.

We had a good test day, made some changes on the setup, did the jump, and the car took the gravel jump very well. It’s definitely a tight little course, there’s a little go-kart feeling, it may not be the best fit for the larger platform cars that we have but at the same time it’s very technical. It comes up to a lot of the drivers’ input, too. It’s going to be quite tricky, even for some of the quicker cars, which I like. It’s going to be a more even place. That’s kind of where I’m at right now from today’s testing.

Image via Samuel Hubinette Instagram

You’re involved in a really tight battle for third place in the championship with guys like Ken Block, Rhys Millen, and Stephan Verdier. Are you going to pay attention to where those guys are at all during the race?

I always just focus on my own performance and try to win the race. I go up to each event and try to be on top of the podium. I don’t even know how many points they are behind, I actually haven’t even looked at it. I know that it’s a very tight battle, but it’s always going to be tight with this crowd. There’s a lot of great drivers and high-end teams that we’re going up against, so it makes it a very fun and challenging competition every time we come out. I’m going to try my best to get the Eneos Oil/Eklund Motorsport car on the top of the podium, that would be a fantastic finish to the year.

We’re seeing the dirt jump for the first time all season at SEMA. How do you like it compared to the metal jump?

I really like the dirt jump after today’s testing. I think we experienced a softer landing, and more forgiving if you make a mistake. Unfortunately we did see a couple of the Ford cars going hard and even rolling over today—David Binks ended up rolling over forward, he crashed the car pretty bad. Luckily enough he’s doing well. But there’s going to be, assumedly, some driver error, not the jump’s fault. I had no problem with the jump. It was a window between 51 and 56 miles per hour, I’d say, that was the sweet spot. In the high 50s, they were landing pretty hard. So you’ve got to keep it in that.

There was a short run-up to the jump, the shortest ever, so I never even got to put it in third gear. That made it a little intimidating because if you make a mistake shifting coming up to the jump, there’s no time to bail. It’s one of the most intimidating parts of the track, but also one of the most spectacular parts of the GRC’s layout, so we’re just going to go hard and hope for the best!

Image via Samuel Hubinette Racing Facebook

Of course SEMA is one of the most prominent events on the GRC schedule, and you get to race in front of a lot of potential sponsors while you’re there. How important is it to score a strong finish to help tie up a deal for next season?

It’s going to be a big event this upcoming Tuesday. We do have the elite of the elite in the aftermarket world here, checking out the different teams and drivers and such, so knowing we’re all coming into a new offseason and new negotiations with our sponsors and potentially upcoming sponsors. It’s definitely going to be a great opportunity to perform well here, get some of those decision makers excited, and get ink on the contract before they change their mind! (laughs) So some of those scenarios are going to happen.

Are you any closer to a deal for the 2013 GRC season than you were the last time we spoke?

It’s still in the works where I’m going to be next year, or how things are going to turn out. We haven’t made any final decisions yet, so I can’t say any more than I am working on different types of opportunities, and we’ll see where I’m going to end up.

One of the things that you got to do during the time between races was a commercial for MacAllan Whiskey. We saw some pictures on your Twitter account of that. What did they put you up to?

I get to do a lot of commercials, stunt driving, so that was a very exciting day. We shot a viral video, commercial, for MacAllan and it’ll be coming up in the next month online, so watch out for that. We did some cool stunt driving, there was a helicopter moment, and that’s all I can say! I think if they cut it right, it’s going to be quite entertaining and fun to watch for sure. And it’s good whiskey too, for sure!

Image via Samuel Hubinette Instagram

We also saw you take your Formula Drift Challenger out for a spin in the past couple of weeks. Will that car be seeing any action anytime soon?

Yeah, we prepped the car this last week and got it ready to go out for a little test run. It runs amazing! It’s been sitting for the last six months in the Stack Performance race shop in LA. I would say look out for some announcement about where I’m going to take the car in the next adventure. I can’t announce it yet, but there’ll be a press release coming out very shortly.

SEMA has always been a big event for you, and you’ve made appearances for your sponsors there in the past. What will you be up to at the event this year?

I’ll be signing some cool posters for Magnaflow, hanging out there for a couple of hours on Wednesday afternoon between 2:30 or so and 3:30. I’ll also be at the Eneos booth on Tuesday, between noon and 1:00, signing autographs and giving out free swag, so look them up too if you’re at SEMA and come hang out.

Once you’re done with SEMA, will you be getting right back into stunt driving or will you be taking any time off?

I’m getting back into the swing of stunt driving. I already have a couple of weeks of work lined up in November after SEMA. All those commercials are coming through, so I’ll be working pretty hard on that. I’ll also be working on upcoming season for Global Rallycross. And of course, hanging out with my family, my daughters and my wife, so I’m trying to find a good balance there.

– Chris Leone

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