Would you pour a vat of sticky ketchup over your head to get to talk to a racecar driver? How about run through the streets of Atlanta in your underwear (for a good cause)? No? Lucky for us we have Ryan Eversley who is willing to do those things instead. We caught up with Ryan and asked him about his 2015 season with RealTime Racing driving the Acura TLX-GT , what to expect in 2016, and a couple of things he holds near and dear to his heart. Read on to see what he had to say!
Ryan, thanks for being with us today! First of all, congratulations on your drive with BAR1 Motorsports at Daytona. Tell us about the experience.
RE: Thanks. A guy I coach in a different series, Adam Merzon, and I have been trying to do as many big races together as we can. We got to do Petit LeMans two years ago in PC (Prototype Challenge) class then we put together the 24 hour race with BAR 1. It was pretty cool to wake up at six in the morning and see you’re in second and in the hunt for a watch. That’s something you really relish as a driver. We ended up having a mechanical issue that set us back but we had a good time.
So I understand you lost 3rd gear?
RE: Yeah and we had a few other issues during the night. We had the radio come unplugged and land in the pedal box when I was driving. That was a lot of fun. We lost the starter motor about three hours in so anytime we had a spin, got hit by somebody, or stalled we either had to get bump started or push started. These are things that happen during that race. I go into it every year assuming I’m not going to finish but have been fortunate enough to [finish] every time. We had fun out there, it just wasn’t our year.
It looked like the
(Grand Touring Le Mans) cars were giving the PC cars a hard time on parts of the track.
RE: Basically, Daytona is one of the worsts track to drive a PC car because it’s so straight. We do really well in the slower rolling corners and on the brakes but the problem is the [prototype challenge] car has poor straight-line speed. If you go to Sebring with the same cars you’ll easily be a couple seconds quicker than a GTLM car.
As someone who follows you on social media if there were one word I’d use to describe your 2015 it’s:
. You’ve been busy pouring food all over yourself, busy running around in your underwear, oh and I guess you also drove some racecars! What’s your best word to describe 2015?
RE: 2015 was probably the best year of my life, professionally. Being able to join Acura and RealTime and fight for the championship in the Pirelli World Challenge Series was phenomenal. All I ever wanted was to grow up and be a factory racecar driver so to be able to team up with Acura/RealTime is a lifetime goal that I’ve already achieved. I also got to race with HART (Honda of America Racing Team) in the Continental Tire series driving the Honda Civic Si where we won a race at Road America, which was great. On the personal side, my friend Sean Heckman and I did the Dinner With Racers podcast series that we did really well with. Plus we were able to raise money through the Cupid’s Undie Run for the Children’s Tumor Foundation. My dad always said “better to be busy than bored” so I guess I’ve taken that to heart.
And, importantly, it looks like you had a ton of fun doing it so that’s great.
RE: Yeah I try to enjoy life as much as possible. One of the things you learn when you’re dealing with charities is you can’t take life for granted. I’m also very fortunate to be teamed up with Acura, RTR and Honda Performance Development; Everyone seems to appreciate my personality and my sense of fun. I never get told not to say certain things or act a certain way and that’s really commendable because some factory drivers tend to be robots and I appreciate that Honda lets me be myself.
If you could, reflect a little on your first season in the Pirelli World Challenge series. Did it meet your expectations and does it feel like a big step forward for your career?
RE: It definitely met my expectations and maybe beat my expectations a bit; I didn’t expect to win a race so quickly. On one hand I’m signing up with RealTime Racing which is the winningest team in the series so that’s like signing up for the New York Yankees knowing you’re going to be put in a situation where winning is possible. On the other hand it’s a brand new car so you don’t know where you’re going to be in terms of development. With that in mind, to come home with a win at St. Pete, finish 5th in the rain at COTA (Circuit of the Americas), and finish 6th in the championship in front of a lot of good factory drivers and teams was fantastic. http://www.realtimerl.com/
What was the highlight of the racing season?
RE: The highlight would be winning at St. Pete for sure and to do it with HPD Project Leader Lee Niffenegger. He’s the guy who believed in me and gave me my shot with Honda and Acura. To be able to repay him that weekend with that pole and that win was probably the best day of my life.
Watching every race it seemed to me like the
GT needed a BoP (Balance of Performance) adjustment that it never got. Did you and RealTime Racing feel this way, too? What specifically do you think it needed?
RE: The series has a tough job doing BoP. In our case, we had some unique performance characteristics being the only AWD car in the field which obviously was an advantage on the standing starts, corner exit, and in the rain. We were the only car built to the old PWC GT lower downforce rules. This didn’t affect us as much on the street courses, but was highlighted on the normal road courses. As the season progressed, we were allowed to make changes that reduced our aerodynamic deficiency to the FIA GT3 cars. If you look at the results from the last few weekends we were certainly on the pace and fighting closer to the front. For 2016, our configuration was mandated to be nearly identical to the GT3 cars which means 2WD and lower weight.
Do you think the series regarded a non-GT3 homologated car as a lower priority given the high-profile teams and cars the series has attracted?
RE: GT3 is really just a sticker they put on the side of the car. We built our car to the World Challenge GT standards, and never went to Europe and did the FIA BoP test because we didn’t have to. The cost of doing that is very high and there was no point because we were grandfathered in under the rules. The only difference between us and the other cars is we were all-wheel drive When it rained or came to the standing starts I think we had an advantage but we were also the only car out there that was seeing real tire degradation where they’d go off after 40-45 minutes. You talk to guys like Mike Skeen and they were able to push 110% all the way to the checker while we had to manage tires.
About halfway through the season you were tapped to fill a spot with
in the Continental Tire Sportscar Series. What was it like going back and forth from the all-wheel drive
to the front-wheel drive Civic Si? How do you adjust your line, braking markers, and on throttle points compared to the TLX-GT?
RE: It was massively different. I’ve done so much racing in Civics in the Continental Tire series it’s like putting on an old pair of shoes, it’s GT racing that’s more of an adjustment. The GT car is built to the nines and is able to take a massive beating. I go out in that thing [TLX-GT] and I’m told just bring it back in one piece but don’t leave anything on the table. You can go out there and hit every curb and not have to worry about missing shifts or over-revving the engine because it’s got so much technology built in; basically you go as hard as you can. Then when you race the Civic Si in the Continental Tire series you have a lot of street car suspension pieces and it has to be driven at that eleven tenths level without hurting the car. In the ST (Street Tuner) class car, if you hit a curb the wrong way you might blow a shock out or if you miss a shift it’ll hurt the car. Also in the Continental Tire series there are pit stops and driver changes so there’s strategy involved and you can kind of pick your battles whereas in the World Challenge series it’s a sprint race and every lap is like qualifying right until the checker. So while they’re two different schools of thought on a racecar the goal is the same: get the most out of the car you possibly can.
Will we see you behind the wheel of the #93 Civic Si this year?
RE: I don’t believe so. My good friend Chad Gilsinger is driving with another fantastic racecar driver Michael Valiante. The reason I was asked to do that last year is because Michael’s DP (Daytona Prototype) commitment wasn’t allowing him to do two series. When the DP drive didn’t renew for him this year that opened the door back up for him to come back and I totally get it because it’s his ride and his team. I’d love to hop in the #92 car alongside Steve Eich or Kevin Boehm if either of them had a conflict but as of now nothing on the horizon for Continental Tire.
But if the phone rings, you’re there?
RE: Yeah if anyone wants me to drive a Honda, Acura, or PC car (because they’re not backed by a particular manufacturer) I’m there.
Several months ago on Twitter you mentioned some “super secret” testing you were doing for Honda/
. We also now understand the
was converted to rear-wheel drive for 2016. Was that testing the rear-wheel drive TLX-GT?
RE: Hmmm. I did get to drive the Honda Civic street car before it came out so that’s probably it. I was doing some comparison testing on some other models for them on the street car. We also did some testing with the TLX-GT . The guys at HPD have been doing everything you can think of to get some extra power and speed out of this car.
What are your thoughts on the rear-wheel drive TLX? Is the BoP more favorable?
RE: We will be homologated under the GT3 designation and our performance will be evaluated by the SRO Technical Department who run the Blancpain GT3 series in Europe. So not only do I think my car will be as competitive as it needs to be I think other cars will be, too. If that’s the case you’re going to see a hell of a show because we’re going to see many different winners, great fighting on track, probably some off track [laughs], but it’s good for everyone. I’d like to see us have a top 5 car week in and week out.
Do you think the circuits that benefited the all-wheel drive car benefit the rear-wheel drive car the same way?
RE: I’m not really sure what to expect there. Last year we were good at street circuits and in the rain but PD and I are pretty good in the rain anyway. So yeah we lost the all-wheel drive but we also lost the weight so our tires are going to be in better shape for each run, we’ll be able to lean on them a little bit harder throughout. We’re losing a little bit in one regard but gaining a little bit in another so we’ll see how that plays out on different circuits.
As fans we like standing starts. Are you glad they’re gone?
RE: Yeah. I had a complete advantage because of the all-wheel drive but I think it was difficult because not all of the cars are built to do standing starts and not all of the drivers are used to doing them. One mistake or mechanical failure and you could have a massive crash like we had at several events. If you look at where the last GT car sits on the grid and you did a standing start with just him and the pole sitter and consider how fast he’d be going by the time he gets to that pole sitter, assuming he stalled, and you’ve got a closing speed of like 130MPH: you’re going to send someone to the hospital. At certain tracks I could say OK like at COTA or at Miller where the front straight is really long and wide but we shouldn’t be doing them at places like Mosport. If you look at my in-car from Mosport I had four wheels on the grass and I was thinking to myself, ‘Are we really doing this?’ I get that it’s fun to watch, but I’m guessing that 45 minutes of yellow isn’t and I don’t want to see my friends or me get hurt because of it.
To your point, it seemed like it took
a particularly long time to deal with the yellows and go green again.
RE: Yeah exactly. It’s because we’ve got so many cars in so many classes out there. Then you have Pro and Am guys among the classes and some of those guys are coming in from series where you don’t do them so it doesn’t take much. Unless all of the cars are purpose-built for it I’m glad we’re going away from it.
You’ve been outspoken about driver ratings. What went wrong and how can it be fixed?
RE: [laughs] Driver ratings are complicated and difficult to fairly implement in modern sportscar racing. If I could do two things I would get rid of driver ratings and mandate better seatbelts and better safety equipment in some of these cars. Basically the only driver ranking system that I can get my head around is the way PWC does it. In PWC you can enter as an Am but if you get to the podium a certain number of times you’re a Pro. Here’s the thing, I understand why they want to have it but the way they implemented it allows people to game the system. In other series they say they want to keep the Am guys who pay to do this as a hobby but then they allow the Ams to race against Pros and it defeats the purpose and is almost disrespectful to the guys who are paying to race in the Am class and the Pros who are trying to make a living doing this. It’s not improving anything, at least not in the United States, so why do it?
What can you tell us about plans to race the new NSX?
RE: I didn’t know there are any plans to race the NSX .
Damn. I don’t either; I was just hoping I could get you to slip!
RE: We are slated to race the TLX and I don’t know when that stops. I know everybody is hot and bothered about the NSX and it’s a badass car but I really love driving the TLX-GT and it’s just one of the coolest looking racecars, I’ll be happy driving it as long as it’s in the series.
Yeah I don’t know how you came up with it but you guys have the coolest livery on the grid, bar none.
RE: Peter knows the guy that designed the liveries; they’re phenomenal. It’s the coolest racecar I might ever drive.
Dinner with Racers; a pretty cool idea for a podcast. Tell us how it came about, will there be a season 2, and ever think about making it a video series?
RE: Dinner with Racers is a project Sean Heckman and I created in our heads about 3-4 years ago. Every year we said, ‘We should do it!’ but then we’d be busy or have some schedule conflict. So this year we got together and said, ‘We’re doing this! We have to see what happens.’ It was a great way to explore some of the creative ideas we have and it turned out very well. Our guests were amazing, they were willing to talk about things we hoped they would but weren’t sure they would (remember I said sometimes drivers can be robots). It’s been really well-received by the fans which is something we were nervous about. We thought if we can get a couple thousand downloads we’d be pretty happy and we’re pretty much at 100,000 downloads now. We’re over-the-moon and we appreciate everyone listening and sharing it. http://www.dinnerwithracers.com/
Season 2. Yes? No? Maybe?
RE: We were really fortunate to have Continental Tire come on board; they liked our ideas and we were fortunate to have them as a season-long partner and would love to re-up with them for season 2. Then we need to make sure we can find the time to do it and give you guys the same product that you liked the first time. People have asked about video but we said that if we do a season 2 it will be exactly the same way just with different guests and maybe broken up into chunks, a few episodes at a time or maybe get halfway done and then take a break just to give us some time to work on our other racing business. I’m confident we’ll do a season 2. Sean and I enjoyed doing it so much and were happy enough with the response that if we couldn’t find sponsorship for it we’d probably do it out of our own pockets because it was such a cool experience.
Boxers or briefs? No you don’t have to answer, we already know from your participation in Cupid’s Undie Run. You’ve been able to use your platform to vocally support Drew Leathers and raise awareness for NF (Neurofibromatosis). What does it mean to you to be able to do that?
RE: It’s probably the most honorable thing someone can do with their notoriety. When I started racing back in 2001 I knew I wanted to do something with a charity but didn’t know who I could help until I finally teamed up with the Children’s Tumor Foundation. It’s nothing like having the means a movie star does but I have a platform and a following so if I can use that to gain some awareness, donations, or support I’m going to do that. It has been extremely rewarding to help families and children and it has been extremely depressing to see people go through such tough times and lose friends to the disease. If we can make one person feel better or save one person’s life or help cure something I honestly think it’s the responsibility I owe to myself because I’m very fortunate to get to do what I do. So that’s why I spend time on social media and around the paddock trying to help the Children’s Tumor Foundation. http://www.ctf.org/
Season opener, March 3rd,
RE: Honestly, we’re probably not going to be that strong at COTA . If we’re competitive I’ll eat my shorts, but I think COTA is going to be a bit of a development weekend. Even though we’ve been testing extensively, we just need to get some more time on the rear-wheel drive setup.Give us until St. Pete to be competitive and by mid-season I think you’ll see we’re one of the cars to look out for.
Ryan Eversley, on behalf of
Motorsports we thank you for your time and wish you a good start to the season!
RE: You bet!
Be sure to check out the Pirelli World Challenge season opener at COTA from March 4th-6th when Ryan and PD Cunningham take to the track and begin to put their stamp on the 2016 season. Live streaming can be found at: http://world-challengetv.com/ and live timing and scoring at http://worldchallenge.growsites.net/