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Tommy Boileau: “Testing With Olsbergs Was A Humbling Experience”

Image via Tommy Boileau Facebook

For future reference, race fans, make sure you remember the name Tommy Boileau.

At just 18, Boileau has accomplished more in his teenage years than some drivers will accomplish over their entire careers. One of the fastest rising talents in American road racing, he’s converted his impressive resume into opportunities as both a race driver and driving instructor.

The biggest opportunity of Boileau’s young career came on November 1, when he joined an impressive crop of nine drivers at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to test rallycross cars for Olsbergs MSE. Four would test the same SuperCars that OMSE fielded in this year’s Global Rallycross Championship, while Boileau and four others would shake down OMSE’s new SuperCar Light. On Monday, he would talk to us about his career so far, driving the new vehicle, and taking in the sights and sounds of Las Vegas:

First things first—we do this question the first time we talk to anyone because we like to hear it better in your own words. Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you come from, and what you’ve accomplished so far in your career.

I started racing when I was eight years old—I started in go-karts and did that for about five years, and I won a few championships doing that. When I was 14, I decided to try to make a move into the full-blown race cars, so we talked to the SCCA and NASA, and NASA allowed me to begin racing with them at the age of 14. So we did that, ran a spec Miata my first year, became Rookie of the Year with them that year, and raced one more year in a BMW in NASA. Then I moved on to the SCCA my next season at 16, became Rookie of the Year, won a divisional championship, and became National Driver of the Year with the SCCA in my first year racing with those guys.

Image via Tommy Boileau Facebook

After that, I did a few IndyCar tests between there, trying to get familiar with some faster stuff, and then last year I acquired my FIA Grade B professional racing license. It’s an international license that allows me to race anywhere in the world. I’ve also just recently become an instructor for the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving at Pikes Peak International Raceway.

I’m a third generation driver on both sides of the family. Both my mother and my father raced, as well as both of my grandfather. So I’m a third-generation American race car driver on both sides of the family. That’s a pretty cool thing—it’s definitely been in my family for a long time and I hope to carry on the tradition of racing.

When did you get the call to test for Olsbergs at Las Vegas? How did that come about?

It was probably about a month ago, a couple of weeks before the test. I had met all of the guys from OMSE at the PPIR Global Rallycross race here in Colorado (in June 2011). I had kind of gotten to know them and hung out with them quite a bit, and they actually invited us out to do X Games with them. I was also coaching a few guys at X Games for some driving. So we hung out with them there some more, and just talked to them on and off for I’d say about a year. Then, just a few weeks ago, we got the call asking if I was going to be at SEMA, and if I was, that I should bring my gear, because they wanted me to test in the new car for them.

Photo credit: Bob Boileau

Did you do much driving in a rally or rallycross car before you got to the test?

Yeah, I did. Once I got the call I kind of sniffed around town, and one of our good friends, Scott Crouch, actually has a rally car that he just did the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in. So I went up to Boulder, picked up the car, and brought it back to Colorado Springs. I did probably 60 or 70 laps worth of testing on a dirt track out of PPIR, and got pretty familiarized with some of the off-road driving as well as driving a four-wheel drive car, because it’s not something I have as much experience doing. So I figured I’d kind of get familiarized with that before I’d go out and have my big opportunity.

You weren’t the only one testing either of the Olsbergs cars—who else was there shaking things down?

There were five young drivers testing in the Lights car—myself, Tanner Whitten, who’s an oval racer, and two of Andreas (Eriksson)’s sons were out there testing, as well as another European rallycross driver.  Those were the other four drivers in the Lights car alongside me.

Image via Tommy Boileau Instagram

Then the four drivers testing in the SuperCar were stunt driver Terry Grant, he was just doing some shakedown stuff. There was Patrik Sandell, who’s a WRC driver who won in one of the World Rally categories driving for Red Bull. IndyCar driver Simon Pagenaud was out there testing as well, and that was pretty cool because he’s always been one of my idols, so getting to hang out and talk with him was definitely a cool opportunity. And then the fourth driver won the Super 1600 category in European Rallycross this year, Andreas Bakkerud.

It was definitely a humbling experience as well—just to have all of these guys that have done so well in rally cars and all other sorts of driving disciplines, to be out there and see how I compared with those guys in their own little world of rally, coming from a 100% asphalt and road racing background. It was really cool, and they were all super nice guys, I got to hang out and talk to them. It was a great experience.

We saw that you were testing the SuperCar Light, the new Olsbergs project. It’s a pretty new car—what was driving it like? How did driving it compare to some of the other cars you’ve raced before?

Photo credit: Bob Boileau

It was a really fun car to drive, if nothing else. It did take a little bit to get used to, coming from a rear-wheel drive, pretty mild, medium-horsepower background. The all-wheel drive was definitely a new thing for me to get used to, just because the front tires are gripping, so wherever they’re pointing it’s trying to drag you in that direction. That was a little hard to get used to, but once I got the hang of it, the sequential gearbox and everything, it was a blast to drive. It was pretty similar to some of the shorter wheelbase stuff, but if I could compare it to anything I’d say it was like a go-kart with 300 horsepower, I guess. Really quick reaction times, and you’ve got to be up on your game and stay ahead of the car for sure.

What was the test course like? Was there any dirt at all or was it just pavement? Was the course challenging or straightforward?

We were set out in the drift lot, the parking lot for the bullring (at Las Vegas Motor Speedway). It was a pretty short track, probably about a half mile test loop. We were doing about 30 second laps out there. It was probably about two thirds asphalt and one third dirt.

Do you know what Olsbergs’ goals were with the test? Have you heard anything about the bigger picture for 2013, such as a series of the Lights cars, and how interested are you in being primarily a rallycross driver next year?

Photo credit: Bob Boileau

Yeah! I don’t know the full intention—I know they were trying to run a bunch of laps on it to see how well the equipment is going to withstand taking beatings, I guess. From what I understand, they’re running the car next year alongside the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship, but I do believe their intention is to have a feeder series for the Global Rallycross Championship as well, just to bring younger drivers up through the ranks and into the sport of Global Rallycross, to grow that brand. And after driving the car, I definitely enjoyed it and would love to have another opportunity to get behind the wheel. If I could have a full season racing in one of those cars, that would be amazing.

Finally, you got to spend much of the week while you weren’t testing taking in the GRC finale and SEMA show. What were some of the highlights of your Vegas trip?

We did all kinds of fun stuff. It was actually my first time at the SEMA Show, as well as my first time in Las Vegas, so the first night we got there we kind of just walked up and down the Strip, walked about five miles just taking in the sights. And then going to the SEMA Show, that’s another whole experience taking that in, because it’s so immense. So I got to see a bunch of cool cars, like the McLaren MP4-12C, and then just getting to walk around and see all the people—I got to meet Rutledge Wood from Top Gear, who’s definitely a cool guy, and I love watching Top Gear, it’s probably my favorite show. Just walking around and meeting all the people was definitely a great networking opportunity, especially for a young race car driver to meet all the important faces and get your name out there.

I also met Conor Daly—he’s definitely been an inspiration to me. He’s only a few years older than me, but he’s over there running all the stuff that I’ve always dreamed of doing, getting to test some of the F1 cars and stuff like that. So being able to run into him, just hanging out at a dinner, was definitely cool.

Tommy Boileau’s website is GoTommyGo.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @TommyBoileau34 or like his Facebook page.

– Chris Leone

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