What do the Star Wars Millennium Falcon and a Pirelli World Challenge GT car have in common? They’re both machines that RealTime Racing’s Ryan Eversley has dreamed about driving. With one of them checked off the list and a promising career ahead of him, he just might get to drive the other one day, too.
We recently had the opportunity to speak with Ryan after coming off of an exciting rain race at COTA and his first-ever GT class win in St. Pete. Read on to find out what Ryan had to say about his win, how he came to be part of RealTime Racing, the TLX-GT , and of course Twitter.
First and foremost, congratulations on your first GT win! Tell us about it and how it feels.
RE: Thank you! It’s probably the most gratifying result I’ve had in my entire career. I’ve been fortunate enough to win in the Continental Tire series in the ST class, but there you’re sharing the car with another driver and the competition, although very tough, isn’t quite as high-profile as the Pirelli World Challenge. So to be able to beat guys like Olivier Beretta and Kevin Estre, Johhny O’Connell, Andy Pilgrim, and on and on is the best result I’ve ever had.
It’s really cool just to hear you mention those names in the context of beating them.
RE: Yeah exactly, so to be able to get the win with the new Acura TLX program and in my second race as the ‘new kid on the block’ it was just the perfect, perfect weekend.
Tell us how you came to be part of the
team this year.
RE: When Acura gave HPD the go-ahead for the two-car TLX GT program they picked RealTime since they’re one of the best teams in sports car racing. So obviously PD was going to get one of them because it’s his team and he’s one of the winningest drivers in the country in all of sports car racing. But honestly, at first I didn’t realize there was a second car. Apparently every driver you can think of was calling HPD about the opportunity except me. I had formed a relationship with HPD through the Continental Tire series so I had Lee Niffenegger, who happened to be the project leader for the TLX GT program, come to Daytona for our [Continental Tire] ST race in January 2014. He pulled me aside and asked, ‘Why didn’t you call about the TLX GT?’ I said, ‘Well Peter Cunningham is already driving that car.’ He said, ‘No we’re going to have two of them and you’re the only guy who didn’t call that should have.’ So as the year went by and the car progressed I kept talking to Lee about it and they decided to give me a test after Petit Le Mans at Mid Ohio. It went well, I got along with everyone. Plus everything about them was so professional, nothing goes without being double-checked, and everything is clean and new. After that I knew I really wanted to drive for these guys because it’s how you dream a racecar and race team would be. So about a month later I was at SEMA working as a spokesman in the Continental Tire booth and they called me from the Honda booth and asked me to come over, saying the president of HPD , Art St. Cyr, wants to shake hands with you. So I went over and he shook my hand and said, ‘You’ve got the job.’ I couldn’t believe it. I walked over to Peter who was signing autographs in the HPD booth and said, ‘I guess you heard?’ and he said, ‘Yeah. I guess you heard too!’
You came up in racing the way very few have, through crewing for professional race teams. How has being on the support side of racing helped your pro career?
RE: Yeah, just as little background for your readers, by 2001 I was working out of Road Atlanta for a team called Archangel Motorsports as basically a shop grunt cleaning wheels, sweeping floors, and picking up trash. I started turning wrenches, learning more and more, and eventually became a mechanic on prototype racecars. So I know what the crew is going through just like when, as a mechanic, I would have a new driver to work with. How he treated me as a mechanic set the tone for how I was going to work with him. We had some drivers who treated us like if it weren’t for you he wouldn’t even be there and then there were others who felt like they didn’t even need to know your name. So it helps me in two ways. First, I have a good sense of what the car is doing mechanically so if there’s an issue I’m more inclined to shut the car off or bring it back to the pits right away instead of trying to get a good lap time and make myself look better knowing it’s going to take the guys working on the car extra time to get it fixed. Second, knowing how hard all of those people work to get me out there safely and as fast as possible makes me appreciate them even more.
Does your experience with prototypes help you or hinder you at all driving production-based racecars?
RE: Those cars [prototypes] are so much more sophisticated and have so much more capability. Given enough time in one of those prototypes, I think I could do as well as anybody but I’ve spent so much time in GT cars that it’s kind of my forte. Last season at Petit Le Mans I literally jumped out of our Honda Civic Si that we won the race with, ran from victory lane to the other side of the paddock, hopped into a LMPC car, and qualified dead last! But that’s one of the things I love about sports car racing, you could be driving a front wheel drive Civic Si one session, an hour later a 500hp prototype, then two weeks later an AWD TLX GT at your Acura test and if you can adapt to all of those things it makes you that much of a better driver.
You’re driving a car that started as a FWD-based luxury sport sedan and going up against the likes of Ferrari and McLaren. How does that feel as a driver? Is it a David and Goliath scenario?
RE: It is and it isn’t. To take a car that starts as a lower class of car and try to beat Bentley, Ferrari, McLaren, and Porsche is a huge task and it’s been a lot of hard work to get the car to be competitive. But on the other hand a lot of the other teams have ‘customer cars’. For example R. Ferri Motorsport who runs the Ferrari 458 for Olivier Beretta is Ferrari dealer so they buy a new car, get it race-prepped in their shop, and if there’s something fundamental they don’t like about that car it’s going to be very difficult for them to get that changed from the manufacturer. Whereas if there’s something we don’t like about our car we have the backing of Acura and HPD to adjust things the way we want or need them to be. If you look at Cadillac they’re running a similar type of program, they’ve just been doing a little longer in this particular class. So yeah we’re going up against some big brands and fantastic teams, Flying Lizard is out there, Dyson is out there, but RealTime has been just as successful, if not more so, than those teams so I actually think it’s a pretty even fight.
So with that kind of support from Acura and
is there a strong engineering presence every race weekend or are the adjustments that need to be made handled more on the RealTime side?
RE: It’s definitely a collaborative effort. When we went to test at COTA before the season there were about 30 people there and each had something very important to be doing and if you look at the roster of who was at the track I’d say 70% are RealTime employees and 30% are HPD employees but we’re all one team with the same goal. For example to see our RealTime data engineer working with HPD’s data engineer is really cool. Between the two of them they’ve already come up with some things for me that are so smart I didn’t even realize they were possible to do with these cars. When I see all of those smart, talented, high-level people there working to get me and PD out there, it makes me feel really strong about what we’re doing, almost like a whole bunch of big brothers who’ve got your back on the first day of school. For me personally I’ve felt since the first step on this journey that I was their guy, not an outsider, they treated me as equal to PD and that’s confidence-inspiring.
How do you feel about the
platform? Where is it strong and what specific areas are
concentrating on improving?
RE: Maybe in terms of aero I think we’re a little bit lacking. If you look at our car in comparison to the others we’re the tallest car on the grid and we also have the largest frontal area and that’s a characteristic of the car from the manufacturer. When you see it next to the McLaren on the grid the two obviously look very different and that aero difference is something we’re never going to get back. At high-speed tracks like Mosport, for example, those other cars are going to carry more speed. Maybe another area is braking since we’re the heaviest car out there due to the AWD system. After some long, hard runs we can notice it in the brakes. But then our strong points are the AWD and corner exit, we can come off of the corners so incredibly strong and that really helps us run with the fast guys. The other area we’re strong is, again, engineering, where the customer cars are limited. I’ve been working really well with Chris Willis on the car and we have other guys back at HPD ready to support me and PD.
Is your car setup differently in any way from PD’s? If so what are the things you like, more understeer/oversteer, and what differences (alignment, rebound, etc) are used to dial the car in just for you?
RE: PD’s car is the lastest gen., he has the second car, then they’re going to build a third car which I’ll be in. I think the cars are set up very similarly, in fact, exactly the same as far as I know. PD has a different driving style and we saw that right away at the Mid Ohio Acura test last year. He’s much more about exit speed and I’m much more about entry speed. During the practice sessions at COTA we had lap times within a tenth of each other but were driving completely opposite styles, I was relying on more speed coming into the apex and he was better coming off of the apex so when you looked at the lap data it was really funny to see us yo-yoing across each other on the data map.
We really saw you hit a stride during the Sunday at
in the rain and in qualifying at St. Pete. What’s your experience racing
cars? Can you go into detail about how you drive an
car differently than a
car like line, turn-in, throttle application, etc.?
RE: When I went to racing school in 2001 the first two days it poured. So my very first experience driving a racecar on track was in terrible conditions. Since then I’ve had a lot more experience driving in the rain and I’m comfortable with it. It always takes me back to that three day racing school where I had to jump into the deep end of the pool. And what I found out pretty quickly at COTA is just how quickly our car came off the corners compared to the other cars, I knew that as long as I could get next to one of them coming off the corner I could probably hold them off to the outside and take the next apex away so I was able to get by them that way. But overall I don’t drive any differently, last year at COTA when I was driving the FWD Civic Si in the Continental Tire series versus this year in the Acura my line is exactly the same, same braking techniques, etc.
Tying car setup and the
together, what does the fixed F/R torque split mean for setting up the car for various circuits? Is it a hindrance on certain courses over others?
RE: I’ve only driven it on three tracks but they were all very different, Mid Ohio is tight and slower, COTA is fast and sweeping, and St. Pete is lined with walls and very bumpy. So what we’ve done after seeing that scope of conditions is make some minor changes to the diff. and drive ratio but they’re all within a small window. Our AWD system is good and so are the Pirelli tires that we use, we can really lean on them, so between those factors and the diff. adjustments we’re in pretty good shape. I think as we go through the season we’re going to find that street circuits like St. Pete and Long beach favor one setup while tracks like Laguna Seca and Mosport will favor the opposite.
Are those changes easy to make? I know changing the drive ratio isn’t but are diff. changes electronic or physical?
RE: They’re physical changes that have to be made. So when we’re on a tight schedule the crew has the spare diffs. set to what they think we might need for a given circuit so we can change them that much more quickly.
Having gotten off to a good start, what’s your outlook for the rest of the
RE: I’ve been taking every day and every race weekend one at a time. There’s a lot we don’t know about the car yet and we’ve had some delays from part suppliers which has limited testing. But I think it’s going to go well because everyone is working so hard. I know the series is keen on us having a competitive racecar and RealTime and HPD want to get this car to be as competitive as it can possibly be. Right now we’re about an 8th place car and if we can win a couple more races it would be awesome and I’d see us as a contender for top 5 but that’s only until we can get it developed a little more because PD’s guys are going to find all the potential that will make this a winning car.
Well in the meantime we’ll just hope for more rain.
RE: Yeah if you guys can do as many rain dances as possible that would be great!
What’s your favorite circuit to race on?
RE: I have some favorites to drive on just because they’re super fun and sketchy and I have some favorites that are fun because I’ve had great history there. Right now my favorite is whichever I can win at! But really VIR in Virginia is probably my favorite track because I won my first pro race there. Another is Mid Ohio which is where I won my first two PWC races. Another is Road America, it’s such a fast circuit, very European-like, the scenery is beautiful, and the fans up there are just great. Mosport would be on that list for some of the same reasons as Road America. It’s really hard to pick a favorite track but Mid Ohio and Mosport are my favorites for this year’s season.
Driver’s meeting at
, power goes out, @ryaneversley tweets '#LightsOutGuerillaRadio’. That’s when I though this dude is pretty funny and he’s all over Twitter. What is it about you and Twitter that works?
RE: [laughs] When social media really started to come on strong with Twitter and Facebook I figured out immediately that it’s free advertising. I’m in a sport where you could be the fastest guy out there but if you don’t promote yourself or get in front of the right people, teams aren’t going to hire you. If I knock on your door and you know me because I’ve put my “brand” out there versus another guy, that’s an advantage I can have. I know guys who are extremely quick, maybe even faster than I am but they can’t have a conversation with you and you wouldn’t want to go to dinner or have a beer with them. That kind of thing adds up because when you’re on a team with another driver you will be going to dinner with this person, you’re going to be staying at the same hotels as this person; you realize just how much time you’re going to be spending with this guy and if he’s a boring dude you’re probably not going to be interested as much. So I use social media to put my personality out there as well as interact with the fans and it’s honestly been tremendously rewarding. When you go to a track and somebody comes up to you and says I follow you on Twitter you’re always cracking me up, that makes my day knowing I can help somebody engage in the sport and laugh a little bit. If you hang out with me and my buddies on an off weekend that’s just how I am, always trying to make people laugh. I know some guys who can’t turn off their intensity level and that’s what they have to do to be successful and that’s fine, to each his own, but me personally, I don’t see why everyone needs to be so stiff all the time when you can have fun and still get to play with racecars. You only get one life and I don’t want to look back when I’m 65 and say that was cool and all, but it was boring.
From following you on Twitter we know you’re a Star Wars fan. You can drive one vehicle from Star Wars. Which is it and why?
RE: [laughs] This is a tough question for me. Someone recently asked me a similar question. It’s between the Speeder Bikes (Because how cool are the Speeder Bikes?) and the Millennium Falcon because then you get to hang out with Chewy and go on adventures. When I was a kid I wanted a Speeder Bike to go to school instead of having to ride the bus. But at the same time you can only take one person on the Speeder Bike and you can take all your buddies on the Millennium Falcon. So I’m probably going to say the Millennium Falcon so I could be with my friends, but, you could probably fit a Speeder Bike into the Millennium Falcon. So here’s what we do, we get a Millennium Falcon and we put a handful of Speeder Bikes in the back, it’s like if you had a yacht with jet skis on the back, that’s what we’re doing!
Ryan Eversley, on behalf of
Motorsports thank you for taking the time to speak with us, we really appreciate it!
RE: Yeah no problem!
Be sure to watch PWC at Long Beach on April 18th and 19th by visiting http://www.world-challengetv.com/ where you can catch all of the action live. Otherwise tune in to CBS Sports on Sunday April 26th at 3:30PM EST to see the tape-delayed television broadcast.