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GRC Season Review: Ian Davies, Part 1

Image via Ian Davies Motorsport Facebook

Any successful racing team requires much more than simply a skilled driver. Behind that driver, there needs to be a skilled crew of mechanics and engineers, tasked with maintaining and improving upon what should already be an incredibly fast car.

For Ken Block and the Monster World Rally Team, the leader of that group is Ian Davies. Davies built the No. 43 Ford Fiesta HFHV that Block uses in various stage rallies, gymkhana events, and the Global Rallycross Championship. He and his crew have backed Block to numerous successes this year, including wins in all three North American rallies at which they competed.

In the GRC, things started on a rough note for MWRT when a major accident at Charlotte kept them out of the main event. But thanks to a major second half turnaround, kicked into gear by a silver medal at X Games on only three wheels, the team rebounded to finish fifth in the overall standings. In the first of two parts, Davies talks about the first half of the season from the mechanic’s point of view:

t’s safe to say that Charlotte wasn’t the optimal start for the GRC season, as Ken had a massive accident that necessitated some quick repairs by you and the crew. How extensive was that damage and what weren’t you able to repair successfully?

Image via Marcus Gronholm’s Twitter

It was known in the team as the “plane crash,” because our attempt to repair it afterwards looked like there’d been some sort of plane crash. But we’re rally guys, I’ve said it before, we’ll always try to get the car back out. I remember from there we changed the rear cross membrane, put a complete back end into the car, and we put a front right hand corner in the car, driveshaft, upright shock absorber, we put an intercooler in it. We put a massive amount of stuff (because of the) front and rear impact together, especially the front right hand corner. And we tried to get it to go back out, but there was some further damage to the inlet throttle butterfly. Ken got the car back out again and running, but the throttle was sticking open, so it was just too much in the time that we had.

Texas ended with another disappointing finish, although this time you at least made it into the main event. At that point, did the bad breaks of the first two races start to wear on the team, or did you think that your luck was due to change?

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

I think you make your own luck. I’m always a big believer in that you make your own luck. We always knew it was going to be a learning curve. I didn’t realize it was going to be quite as steep as it was. One of the biggest lessons in rallycross has been this year, that you get out in front and you stay out in front, because if you can qualify and get your car on the front row of the grid, then a lot of this contact that happens in the middle of the field, you avoid. And that’s what Marcus Gronholm was so good at in those first few races. He did less laps than anybody else, he saved his tires, he got out in front and he stayed in front.

And I think that was a valuable lesson that we learned in those early days—you don’t want to be mixing with some of those people in the back of the grid. It’s the people that have got nothing to lose that frighten you. Because if they come off worse in some sort of a punting match and somebody ends up on the side, they’re not chasing the points and the championship, they don’t have a lot to lose. Whereas, the top three or four guys, generally speaking, are a little bit more cautious because they’re after the points.

Things finally turned around at X Games when Ken scored a second place finish on only three wheels. You’ve worked with many great drivers over your career, won a lot of events, and seen many great drives. How does what Ken did compare to some of the other victories you’ve been a part of?

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Ken was second to the greatest rally driver the world will ever see. Sebastien Loeb has been a nemesis of mine for many, many years, obviously him being a Citroen man and me having worked for Ford since 1997. But you have to admire (him), he’s just an outstanding man. And whether he’s doing Porsche Cup in France, where he’s putting the car on pole and he’s winning, or he’s doing rally, a man to be respected.

So we like to say that we won the X Games, because actually, Sebastien Loeb, nobody was ever going to beat him. We were the best of the rest! It was a fantastic drive. That track—not to take anything away from Ken, it was a fantastic drive from Ken—was very similar to the SEMA track, in terms of that we have gravel and we have streets as opposed to the banked oval circuit. And a sizable amount of gravel, which, again, suits our car. We had a good weekend. And I have to say, after X Games, we were (saying) “maybe this is it. Maybe our season has changed.” I think you’ll see that there was a big improvement in the team after then.

X Games was a fantastic ride for Ken, for the whole team, it was a big effort. There’s Derek Dauncey, the team manager, who does a fantastic job. We have Alex (Gelsomino), who is Ken’s normal co-driver during rallies as Ken’s spotter, because Ken is very much used to his voice. And he spots very well for Ken. He knows Ken, knows the information that Ken wants. It’s a big team effort. And the X Games was, for sure, the highlight of the year.

Coming up next: Davies breaks down the second half of the season, including recovering from Block’s heat incident at New Hampshire and becoming the fastest car on the circuit in the final races.

—Chris Leone

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