Saturday, 23 August 2014

'I'm so excited' - Rhys Millen confident going into the second half of the season

Rhys Millen returned to full time Red Bull Global Rallycross competiontion in 2014 and since the opening round of the season in Barbados, the New Zealander and his Rhys Millen Racing Hyundai outfit have shown steady progress.

With the break between Charlotte and Daytona, Millen and his team carried out further development work on their pair of Hyundai Veloster Supercars, development which gave them the fastest car when Red Bull GRC came to Florida.

However, Millen's strong showing on the first day of the event came to a firey end in a dramatic final heat which saw both him and championship contender Scott Speed fail to complete the full distance.

I spoke to Millen just after the final Friday race and despite the issues, the experienced racer was nothing but positive.

Rhys Millen Interview

Dominik Wilde: First of all I have to ask, what happened in the last heat?

Rhys Millen: (Laughs) It was really something that happened right before qualifying. There was an issue with a cam belt cover bolt backing out and it cut the cam belt. so as a safety we changed the cam belt prior to qualifying and finished it literally minutes before we had to get out there. But by design on the engine we had to leave the cam belt cover off and in doing that we got out and went straight into the heats but we risked picking up a stone and basically the car was sweet right until we got into the lead and it must have picked up a stone threw the cam belt off, obviously when that happens pistons meet valves and it gets real ugly fast so the engine basically dies on the front straight-away.

Dominik Wilde: Will it be okay for (the semi finals) tomorrow?

Rhys Millen: No (pointing to a wooden crate with a new engine inside), that one's going in, a new engine.

Dominik Wilde: So will that leave you tomorrow then? Will that leave you behind?

Rhys Millen: The dissapointing thing is in qualifying we proved we had the fastest car here but they took that away from us. We were beating on (Scott) Speed who was quicker than (Ken) Block and we got by Speed  cleanly, so arguably we have the fastest car here. unfortunatley now that gives us back of the row pick on the first heat which just makes our day really ugly tomorrow.

Dominik Wilde: This weekend you've shown that you have the fastest car and the team's been gradually improving throughout the year; what have you guys done to keep getting quicker and quicker to be in the position that you are in at the moment?

Rhys Millen: You know, the stupid thing is nothing's really changed on the car from the start of the year on setup, it's jut getting the combinations right. I've been biting my tongue driving this car with setup issues for the last three years. We finally got the funding support from Hyundai that we needed to run two cars this year and it's enabled us to go testing and develop the cars. We finally got the front differential setting correct and the suspension is, bar none, the best suspension but unfortunatley the first five races for the season the was a machining issue which was making the suspension hydraulic off the jumps and through bumps. 

We had a bit of grace time inbetween Charlotte and here, all the suspension went back to the manufacturer, it was diagnosed that was the issue. All resets were repaired and now they're back in the car and they're working. 

So, realistically, I'm driving nowhere as hard but the car is performing how I've always invisioned it would. We are down on front straight-away speeds by eight to ten miles per hour on Block, but we're turning faster laptimes.

Dominik Wilde: So with the second half of the season ahead, would you say that there's definitely more to come from you guys?

Rhys Millen: Oh I think this is just a taste, I'm so excited with how the car's going. The team morale is, everybody's positive, we knew we had it as a combination, we just needed to find the combination in the car and to come to a track here (in Daytona) that's now a minute long, not 30 seconds and be on the sharp end, yeah it's going to be really exciting come Long Beach, Seattle and Vegas.

Dominik Wilde: One last question a bit a way from the racing, you're also well known for your Pikes Peak attempts and your stunt driving, which one of the three do you get the most enjoyment from because they're all very different aspects of driving. So which one would you say puts the biggest smile on your face?

Rhys Millen: (Laughs) You know, probably the biggest challenges give you the biggest rewards and I'm looking at it right now, this car here. It's no bigger pleasure than getting beat up and jusst working so hard as a team and as a driver to find that right combination, to balance that car and to get it to work, so it's the hardest work but it's the most rewarding. Come to stunt driving, you're going to get paid two,three times as much as what I get paid out here racing but it's just sliding a car, crashing a car and having fun. The effort that you put in nowhere matches the rewards that you get out. 

So yeah, it's a fine balance. I'm not the type of person who likes to sit on a beach and collect a paycheck, I'd rather clean the beach and get a paycheck.

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