Our friend Dave Carapetyan of Rally Ready Motorsports from Texas made the transition from hardcore punk singer to rally car racer with the grace of a pupae metamorphosing into a butterfly. Not to say that Dave is a butterfly. Let’s think of him as a man who sits inside a giant metal cheetah that guzzles high octane gasoline and exhales at ear-mincing volumes as it devours rough ground and long distances at pant-shitting speeds. Trumbull spoke with Dave just days before he took home his third consecutive Pikes Peak victory in the Open division on June 27.
Dave, we met a long ass time ago. Why were you in Massachusetts to begin with?
I was in a band from 2000-20002 called The Snobs… we were a skate punk band out of Austin, Tex., with a lineup of all 13-year-olds that played like some combination of Negative Approach and Government Issue. We were heavily influenced by early Dischord bands, old Austin bands like the Big Boys and even the modern youth crew goofballs. It was in 2002 just before our summer tour that I came to Boston to visit my friend Sweet Pete from the band In My Eyes and my friend Bill, who had played bass for us briefly but had just moved to Boston to poke some joke of a girl.
How did you become a rally car racer?
I got sick of the lack of sincerity and the bullshit associated with hardcore and music in general. After the Snobs broke up, I started recording but got sick of having people fuck me over and weasel out of $20 here or $50 there when I was already cutting outrageously good deals. I’ve always been obsessed with anything fast and especially anything with wheels, as I got a bit older it was a natural progression, I guess. It started with working at a friend’s shop who built street race cars and drag race stuff, but I wasn’t interested in having a cool car — I was interested in cool driving. Nobody gives a shit about the baseball bat, they just care about how far you hit the home run, you know? As far as motorsport, rallying is by far the most intense and difficult kind of racing on the planet. It’s you and a co-driver on a dirt road you’ve never driven, going as fast as you possibly can based only on descriptive notes about the road you’re hearing as you’re flying up on it at 100 mph. How cool is that?!
You live in Texas. Do you love Texas? What is the best Texas movie? band?
In the rally world I’m known as Texas Dave and boy howdy, I love my dang ol’ state. When I was in The Snobs, it was all we could do to avoid the image Matt was trying to create for us, but I’ve learned now to love and embrace it. It’s a pretty good gimmick, too. There are way too many Texas movies to count but I dunno I guess if I had to pick it would be something that truly embodies Texas film culture like “Slackers” or “Dazed and Confused.” No idea what band, I don’t really keep up with the local music scene. I guess I’ve always been a pretty big fan of The Offenders.
Do you live on oil land? Do your cars need a lot of oil? What’s the deal with oil?
By George, I sure wish I lived on oil land! My life would be much easier, that’s for certain. All cars need a lot of oil, race cars, I suppose, consume more in terms of liter per mile, but I run my race cars for less than a couple hundred miles a year so they don’t need all that much. The stuff I use is called Motul 300V and it’s $20/quart and I change it every 50-100 miles or so. Sometimes, more, at races like Pikes Peak. It’s an ester-based synthetic though so it hardly counts as dino juice.
How are rally car racing groupies?
Surprisingly, they do exist. I don’t know how they are because they’re mostly on the internet and even if they did exist in person, I’ve got way too much going on at a race and way too cool of a girlfriend back home to be fucking around with that mess.
Have you ever crashed?
There are two kinds of rally drivers, those who have rolled and those who will. Somehow in six years I haven’t rolled but I’ve had my fair share of smashes, crashes and bashes. It’s entirely inevitable that if you expect to remain competitive you’ll be on the limit. Driving on the limit means you’ll often be under and over the limit resulting in nothing less than spectacular automotive destruction. I have yet to write a car off entirely, though.
Tell us about the racing school you are opening.
If I could have any job and still be able to race at the level I want to race at, I’d teach. Unfortunately, they will never pay teachers enough and I’ll never have the time to do that. I love mentoring and teaching and working with people. I don’t really like sales, which is what I’ve been doing for a while. I’ve built a pretty good resume racing for the past few years with two consecutive wins at the biggest hill climb in the world [make that three - Ed.] and a handful of good results rallying, so when an opportunity came up for me to build some rally roads at a race track here in town, I took it. A few hundred hours with a bulldozer and a few hundred hours in front of a computer and I’ve got the facility, curriculum and website… Now it’s just time to dial it all in, get the funding to put a top layer on the roads, buy a dozen cars and get to teaching people the coolest sport in the world. The curriculum is neat, as I’ve made it so anyone at all can walk away improved in whatever they do. Whether you’re a regular joe schmoe looking to improve your driving skills for the wild highways, a road racer looking to learn how to control a car beyond the traction limit, a rally driver looking to learn and hone in their skills, or an off-road racer looking to learn how to actually drive, haha.
Can Trumbull become a sponsor for your car? I don’t have any decals but I could tag your shit. Who are your sponsors?
Anyone can be a sponsor with with right amount of $. I’d be co-sponsored by Tampax and Depend and wear a giant tampon suit for the right amount of money. I’ve got a few good people helping out this year. Harris Hill Road, Magnus Motorsports, AWD Tuning, Evolution Dynamics, Torque Solution, a whole plethora of gibberish to you, I’m sure.
Do you ever bring snacks or drinks in the car with you during a race? what about music?
Snacks always… usually lots of granola bars, Clif Bars and water or Gatorade. I’ve never listened to music while driving but I have been known to drop some early 2000s hardcore on the regular before getting in the car.. A Life Less Plagued, Background Music, Days of the White Owl, etc.
What are your favorite cars? For: Rallying, daily life, balling, Formula 1
For rallying I love the Evolution. It’s a ridiculously sick package right out of the box, I think much more than the Subaru. I recently have become infatuated with the idea of rallying a ’69 Camaro, however. Too much power, not enough traction and super silly sideways fun. Plus it would make old men really, really angry to watch a ’69 get the shit beat out of it. My daily driver switches between our ’07 Ram 3500 Mega Cab and an ’88 Suzuki Samurai. I don’t really give a shit about going fast on the street. Although, the Samurai may not be a street car for long, my buddy and I are talking about building it for the Raid De Himalaya where you race Suzuki Samurais through the Himalayan mountains for 2,000 miles. Just need to figure out how to get a car to Nepal. Formula 1, I’m all about the underdogs… Brawn from last year was unreal, Force India puts on an absolutely stunning show given their resources… I even get down with Red Bull.
Are you down with NASCAR?
Motorsport is about automotive evolution. It is the proving ground for road car technology and the birthplace of idea and concept. All modern safety systems, fuel economy, brakes, engines, transmissions, everything in a modern car was born on a race track. For a group of hillbilly country bumpkins to be running a steel bodied chassis with suspension geometry from a 1962 Chevy Impala running carbureted v8s and fighting any technical changes or modernization for over 50 years to call what they do RACING just pisses me off.
Can anyone become a rally racer? What does it take to be one? Who is the best out there right now?
Anybody who can write the check can get in a rally car. You have to start in two-wheel-drive, naturally aspirated cars, and after a season you can run anything you’d like. It takes a lot of money and even more commitment, persistence and most importantly, passion. Anybody can do a rally, it takes serious commitment to come back at it year after year, especially if you’re not making $300K a year and can just throw money at it. Most of us are making next to nothing at our real jobs and are busting ass to try and make it to one event a year. To run the whole national championship in the Rally America series in the Open class without even being particularly competitive would cost between $150-200K. That’s for six races.
As for the best out there, Sebastien Loeb is the best in the world and the best of all time. He drives for Citroën World Rally Team and has won the driver’s championship every year since 2004. He’s looking good to do it again in 2010. He revolutionized the way people thought of rally driving. In the past it’s always been a sport of flat-out and sideways, with massive slides everywhere. Loeb’s style is much smoother and more conservative to the naked eye, but he is faster mile for mile than anyone else, and has an unbelievable level of consistency. Domestically, Travis Pastrana has dominated the Rally America championship every year since 2006, but this year he will be taken down by some new blood. As great of a driver as Travis has become, the majority of his dominance lies in his resources. He’s driving a $250,000 Subaru with a factory budget and all the private testing, training and resources he needs to be the best there is. Nobody else in the States has that level of resources.
How many hours a week do you spend on your car?
On average not that many, I’m only doing two races this year so I’m not bouncing from event to event busting ass to keep the car together. With that said, I probably put in over 1,000 hours for our last race, and we’re taking three cars to this race, I’m sure we’ll have 5,000+ man hours to get three cars to Pikes Peak.
Can you explain why you need three cars for Pikes Peak? And what is the “Open” division all about?
No one person needs three cars for one race but your costs decrease exponentially as you add more cars. We can share most of our assets between cars so bringing more cars cuts the per car cost significantly. Three cars breaks down as follows: I drive one car, my buddy is driving a second and we prepped and rented the third. The rental cost helps offset our costs significantly and the sponsors fill in as much of the gap as possible. So our costs increase by say 40% to run three cars instead of one, but our marketing profile and R.O.I. increases tenfold so we have a ton more to offer sponsors. This is turn attracts more sponsors which offsets our costs even further thus creating the formula for ultimate winning! You follow me?
As for the Open division, there are a bunch of classes or divisions on Pikes Peak, the fastest of which is the Unlimited division. If you’ve ever played Gran Turismo on Playstation you might remember the 1,000-hp Suzuki Escudo Pikes Peak. That car is an Unlimited-class Pikes Peak car. It’s a tube-frame chassis with a carbon fiber body and an AWD turbo Suzuki V6 engine. It’s built to go up Pikes Peak and thats it. Just below the Unlimited division is the Pikes Peak Open division.. Another class for cars just built for Pikes Peak, the Open division basically says your car has to appear semi-stock or resemble its factory, street-driving counterpart. Otherwise there are little to no restrictions. You can have a wild tube chassis, you can have all carbon bodywork, you can have a billion horsepower, whatever you want. Given those very free regulations, we don’t have the budget to build a car to be as fast as it could be in the class but we have managed to build competitive cars and take the win in the class the past two years. Eventually, maybe as soon as 2011, we’d like to move to the Unlimited division and focus all our resources on building a ridiculously overpowered insanely fast Unlimited car so I can achieve my ultimate dream to hold the overall record on the mountain.
Can you break down your rally car history, as in all the cars you’ve raced?
I started in 2004 in a Production, or stock class, Acura Integra Type-R. I raced that through 2006 with a few wins, a national championship and a pair of podium finishes at Pikes Peak. In 2007, I bought a Mitsubishi Evo 6.5 which we prepped for Pikes Peak again and took second in the Time Attack division. That car brought me three overall rally wins and my first Pikes Peak win in 2008. In 2009, I bought a Mitsubishi Evo 8 which has become our dedicated Pikes Peak car and brought me a second consecutive win in 2009. For 2010 we traded the Evo 6 for an 05 STi street car… We built that from street car to rally car in six weeks and raced it at the Sno Drift rally in Michigan where we failed to finish. That car is now being rebuilt and reprepped to run Pikes Peak as a rental to a former factory Subaru driver. In June, I’m hoping to win the Open division at Pikes Peak again [A reminder that he did - Ed.] and take the Open division record which has stood since 2000. Thanks to a host of awesome sponsors and an incredibly dedicated and loyal crew, we’re looking pretty good to do that.
Do you have a partner/navigator who rides shotgun with you during races? Can I ride with you in a race some day?
My co-driver, Rob Amato, has been in the right seat for eight years and has spent three of those with me. He moved his family from Rhode Island down to Texas in 2007 and we partnered up with a great deal of success. You can ride with me in a race car anytime but I think I’ve got to stick with my right hand man for the races… He trusts me with his life and I trust him with mine, it’s important to stick with somebody you have a very solid relationship and dynamic with. Although if you busted out a homemade Mortal Kombat shirt, I may be persuaded the other way.