Saturday, October 1, 2011

Rally America

Behind The Scenes

Q&A with Travis Hanson, Super Production Champ

Thursday, September 29, 2011
Super Production (SP) Class driver, Travis Hanson from Littleton, NH, had a sensational 2011 Rally America season making rally history as the highest finishing SP driver to date. On his way to a third place overall finish Hanson became the first SP driver to win an event overall at the season opener Sno*Drift Rally in Atlanta, Michigan. Hanson stayed on top of the Rally America National Championship leaderboard until he ceded the lead to Subaru Rally Team USA’s David Higgins, who eventual took the 2011 Rally America National Championship.

Travis Hanson and his co-driver and father, Terry Hanson, have been a perennial favorite with fans and fellow competitors year-after-year. We recently caught up with this dynamic driver after he got some much needed rest to reflect on this past year’s accomplishments, and took a look at the 2012 season which is only a few months away.

RA: You made some significant strides this year in your car preparation over the last few years. What did you do differently to improve the reliability of your car?

HANSON: Over the past 3 years we have worked to make our car as reliable as possible. In a series of only 6 races there is no room for mechanical “Did Not Finishes”. There has been a lot of trial and error building up to the reliable car that we have now. We have blown up motors, had troubles with brakes and had electrical problems. So I guess you can say that we finally sorted out the car.

Our pre-event preparations have made a huge difference this year as well. When championship points are on the line we have to make sure we have the best chance of finishing the race! That means really taking care of the car between events and being proactive to mechanical issues. It might cost more money to replace a part or take up more of your time, but the alternative is a possible DNF with no championship points, and a broken car that will still cost you time and money.

RA: You also didn't replace a single panel on the car this year, yet you were able to finish near the top of the leader board at every event? How did you do that?

HANSON: Consistency was something that I have struggled with. I have always felt like I had the speed to be competitive, but had a hard time finding the finish line. This year was different. Ultimately I think it came down to me not wanting to repair the car any more. After X Games in 2010 where I rolled the car, I never wanted to do body work again, haha! But really, I have lead the SP Championship before and lost due to inconsistency.

There is no room for errors; you have to finish if you want to win. Overall I have just been patient this year and let the races come to me. It was very hard to lead the overall Championship for the first half of the season. I never wanted to place a wheel wrong, and I guess I did pretty well. All eyes were on me and it’s a lot of pressure to continually do well at every event, but finishing top 5 overall at every event was nothing short of miraculous. It was a dream season that will be hard to replicate.

RA: Have you seen your driver profile and recognition increase since becoming the first SP driver to win an event overall? Do you have any funny or memorable fan memories from this season?

HANSON: Yes. There were so many people at events that came up to me to congratulate me on a job well done. Everyone knows that we are a small family team that is self-funded and they appreciate our grassroots background. Everyone loves the underdog story! I have been told I am a true ambassador for the sport and for all grassroots racers out there. Honestly some people consider me “famous,” but I think of myself as just a regular guy who does regular things.

RA: You've had incredible success with your father as your co-driver the past few years. What does he do to elevate your game?

HANSON: To be able to compete with my dad this year has been an amazing experience. People tell me all the time that they would never be able to do Rally with their dad; too much fighting or bickering and probably crashing. The fact that I did so well in the Championship and did it with my dad is the best part. Years from now I might not remember who I was competing against or how I did at a particular event, but I will always remember the time I spent with my dad inside that rally car.

RA: What was the most memorable moment you experienced this season?

HANSON: The Sno*Drift Rally had to be the most memorable moment of the year. Sno*Drift was the very first event I attended (with my dad) and the event that was closest to where I grew up. Sno*Drift is also my favorite event!

To say that winning Sno*Drift was a dream of mine is an understatement! I was not expecting to be atop the podium at the end of the event, and in a Super Production car! Once we were leading the event I was so nervous that I would screw up and crash out that I never really had time to enjoy it. It never really sunk in until the awards ceremony where we received a standing ovation as we accepted the trophy. I will never forget!

RA: What are you doing this Fall and Winter to keep busy and remain on top of your Rally game?

HANSON: Since New England Forest Rally I have done nothing to the car, or really anything Rally related. I went on a “real” vacation that didn’t include Rally and just spent time with family, friends and loved ones, new and old. It has been extremely nice, but I am starting to think about racing again. I still have to work on the Rally car a lot and I would like to start working on myself. I want to start working out and getting back in shape. If I want to get to the next level I will have to do more than just show up and drive a car, I am going to need more mental and physical capacity.

RA: Are you making preparations for the 2012 season? If so, what do you want to accomplish now that you've set the SP bar higher?

HANSON: I don’t have a great plan for 2012. I am unsure what the future will bring. I don’t have people knocking my door down to give me sponsorship dollars, nor do I expect anyone to do that. I have to get out and do some more marketing myself and see what becomes of it.

Knowing that I did so well this year with the SP car I would like to raise the bar for 2012, but I’m not sure what that means just yet. Of course I would love to run at the top in Open Class, but that requires a lot more commitment in the car and out! I hope to have some great announcement in the coming months, but we will have to wait and see.

Photo 1: Mike Proulx/WorldRallySport