STEVE ARPIN: "THIS IS MY BEST YEAR YET"
RX360 first met Steve Arpin back in 2013 at the Las Vegas round of Global Rallycross Championship which is now known as Red Bull Global Rallycross. Steve stood out back then as one of the nicest, most approachable drivers in the paddock. Since that time, we have watched Steve develop skills needed in the discipline of rallycross and have watched him continue to work and fight his way closer and closer toward the championship title.
Not only is Steve one of the more personable drivers you will ever have the pleasure of meeting, he has also become one of the GRC fan favorites due to his approachable demeanor and his fire-in-the-belly determination to reach the top of the podium. With one round left to go in the season it's obvious that Arpin and his team seem to have found the right combination allowing them to earn seven podiums so far this season.
RX360 had the privilege of talking with Steve right before Round 10 or Red Bull GRC in Seattle and here is what Steve had to say about his season so far....
With one more round to go, could you sum up your season so far?
"I think It's been a typical race season. It's just exciting, it's frustrating its surprising its demoralizing, its absolutely the most incredible time you can have in your life all wrapped up into one season. That's what makes motorsports so awesome. It's been a whirlwind for us and we are obviously having a great year. Its no secret that this is my best year yet and definitely a break out year for Loenbro Motorsports. We've exceeded our own expectations. We knew what we were capable of but we weren't sure in the off season how we were going to stack up against the rest and how everyone else was going to progress. We knew what we did to prepare but its just one of those things that you don't know until you show up at the first race. We are pleasantly surprised with where things are at and I think the most exciting part is that we know we have a long way to go for improvement and we know exactly what it takes to get there."
There was an incident between you and Cabot Bigham in Atlantic City where some words were spoken between the two of you. Did you get that resolved?
"That was an accumulation of things. Its one of those deals when even the nicest, happy go lucky, calm guy gets pushed over the edge and that was one of those times. I regret handling it the way I did. That being said, it was in the heat of the moment and I promise it will never happen again. basically what happened was, it was the third time this year. The second time that he turned into me at a time where we were essentially gong straight where if I wasn't there he would have missed the corner and cut my tire down. It was a contact that made absolutely no sense and it is essentially what I was frustrated about. But the big story is that with all the help we've tried to give him this year, getting him acclimated to the supercar side of things. We've really opened up our hauler and our data and video and other things to him and for him to turn around and race us like that...it was just one of those deal where I had finally had enough."
Do you tend to excel on the dirt or the asphalt sections of the track?
"I think it's definitely the asphalt. I think people think that because of my dirt racing background that the dirt sections of the rallycross course should be my strength but ultimately the asphalt sections that we race on are a lot more like what I raced on the dirt side of things growing up. the dirt sections in rallycross are loose gravel with all wheel drive race cars that you're essentially sliding and powering your way through the dirt sections. Dirt racing growing up for me was oval track, racing on perfectly prepared race track that would essentially turn black from the amount of rubber that was put down on them and was a lot like asphalt oval racing. So essentially my biggest weakness in this sport is the dirt section. It's something that I focus on and work each and every week and try to get better. Where we tend to excel is the asphalt section."
Do you study the mannerism/habits of other drivers you're in direct competition with?
"One hundred percent. You have to. The competition has gotten so strong in this sport. You look at guys like Scott Speed, Tanner Foust and Mitchell de Jong and some other guys. We were so much faster at the Atlantic City than Sebastian Eriksson, we should've took it but he never made any mistakes and there weren't many places to pass. So as far as preparing for a race and preparing for each individual event , it's a moving target because you have to study exactly where each others weaknesses are out on the race track just to be able to know when and where to capitalized and be able to make passes. That being said, that is a moving target from race to race. People develop their cars for the weekend, fix their set ups and get better and that moves their strengths and weaknesses around so that's something that you really have to keep an eye on through the weekend."
When you come in from the track, what kind of information are you relaying back to your mechanics?
"I think that is one of the biggest strengths we have as a race team. We're not a big group of guys so we are an incredibly close group of guys. And the trust that we have for each other is so strong. The moment we cross the finish line I'll be on my radio. You;ll see a lot of pictures from the interior shots of my car and I have a track map up on the dash,. It's kind of funny and people will always joke and say, 'what do you get lost out there, ya need to know where to go'. It's actually a numbered map that both my crew chief and my spotter have the same map in their note books. So the moment we cross the checkered flag I start running through and referencing each corner number and what the car is doing. Every aspect of what the car is doing from the moment I turn in and initiate my turn in to the moment I start I start rolling out of the gas to applying the brake pedals, to what the car is doing when I'm not on either the gas or the brake and just rolling to how the car is rotating and what I need the car to do or stop doing or its doing too much of. or a big part is making sure that there is speed and drivability and race ability. In rallycross, being a sport where anything can happen, you have to make sure your car is incredibly drivable and maneuverable in traffic. So a big part of what we do like in practice, is simulate being out there with other cars and simulate having to change my line abrubtly in order to make a pass. Passing that information along to my crew chief and the team so they can make the proper changes to accomplish the feel that I'm looking for is ultimately what we do all weekend. One of the things you'll notice is that first practice we really not up on the board that much we are always further back. We do things different where we start it out by really trying to get a drivable race car and a raceable car that I can put the car anywhere I want and we don't even worry about the speed to begin with and once we have that feel that we are looking for then we will start working on speed for the second practice or sometimes it takes us all the way to qualifying till we get to that point. That's why you'll see we have those tendencies in practice to be a little further back at the onset."
Do you prefer a lot of feedback from your spotter or minimal chatter?
"One of the coolest things is that once of the team owners of Paul Leach is my spotter. We have a relationship going all the way back to dirt racing back to 2006 or 2007 when we first met each other. There are some races when he doesn't say all that much and there are other races when he won't stop talking the entire race, like Atlantic City he never stopped the entire race. I love information but I hate talking and I've had spotters that say a lot of words but there isn't whole lot of information coming through. I love a spotter that can really communicate and basically paint a picture of everything that is going on around me in as few words as possible but as clearly as possible. Obviously when its a tight packed race like in Atlantic City, there is a lot going on the entire race so he's talking the entire race. He's basicly keeping me in check and keeping me from over driving the car and just working on our weakness and continue doing what we are strong at."
Do you follow any other rallycross series from around the world?
"Absolutely. I watch every WRX race. One of our little traditions at the shop is after a WRC or WRX event we all bring our lunches and pile into the office and start pulling up all the highlight videos from all the different rally races from around the world. It's a lot of fun but there is a lot to be learned from it too. Obviously its a relatively new sport here in the states but its a legendary sport around the rest of the world and there is a lot to learn from those guys over there."
Would you prefer more permanent tracks here in the states or do you enjoy the surprise and challenge of a new track every time?
"It's a double edge sword. One of the coolest parts about our series is that we can take the tracks to the people and being able to have race tracks in places like Louisville, Kentucky this year , Dallas last year and what we do in Los Angeles at the end of the year. Its so cool to have the opportunity to do that. As the sport grows it obviously would be great to have more of a foundation and some entry levels for more weekly series to give people the opportunity to get into rallycross racing. However, not at the level you have to be in to be in a GRC series like the Lites and supercars because it's such a big investment. Obviously as the sport grows it would be awesome to have more permanent tracks to be able to create a weekly series but at the same time we have to be careful not to lose focus on what some of the strengths are of the series and some of the coolest parts of the series that we have right now."
Learn more about Steve by visiting his website at: http://stevearpin.com/
Photo credit: Larry Chen/Red Bull Content Pool (Header, 1 & 2)