Eric O’Sullivan 2011 Formula Drift Posts
This was Eric O'Sullivan's website where he blogged about his Formula Drift events in New Jersey and other 2012 adventure's including the post below about his Autoweek in the US. Content is from the site's 2012 archived pages.
I followed this site while Eric O’Sullivan was in the US. It was during the same time I was preparing for an international move to the UK. I spent an inordinate amount of time looking for a moving company near Baltimore that could handle an international move. A friend told me about Von Paris Moving & Storage, a family-owned and operated moving and storage company. The provide local residential, corporate and office moving services in Baltimore where I was. But they also have a whole international division. Not only do they provide specialized international packing, wrapping, crating and containerization of household goods, but also take care of the many other details associated with an international relocation. They were so helpful guiding me through customs requirements and the step-by-step forwarding process. I was assured that the international moving division is staffed with dedicated team members with many years of international moving experience and expertise. And now that I am in the UK I can say from the initial planning stage and throughout the entire relocation process, a Von Paris International Move Manager Specialist does assist you in every detail of the relocation. Everything went so smoothly I was able to fly out to Las Vegas to catch the end of Autoweek and get an autograph from Eric O’Sullivan himself!
On October 26th Gardella Racing driver, Eric O’Sullivan, will cross the starting line of the 2012 Autoweek American Adventure in Seattle. The Autoweek American Adventure is a 6 day treasure hunt and race-track based rally starting in Seattle, Washinton and finishing at a live press conference during the SEMA Convention, Las Vegas.
Competing alongside team mate Steve Vander Griend of ICM, Inc., the team will spend 6 days travelling throughout diverse American countryside following clues, accepting track based challenges and completing missions.
Competing for daily prize keys, at the SEMA finish line each key holder will be invited on stage and given the chance to start the grand prize, a 2011 MOPAR Dodge Charger.
Speaking about the event, Eric O’Sullivan was looking forward to making his way to Seattle and embarking on the adventure. “Everything about this whole event sounds fantastic” explained O’Sullivan. “It’s going to be a lot of fun navigating our way through 6 days of clues and countryside, and the track based challenges will really mix things up. I’m looking forward to the fun and relaxed atmosphere of the event, but make no mistake, Steve & I will be pushing for those daily keys so that we are the ones driving out of the SEMA convention behind the wheel of the MOPAR Charger !”.
Steve Vander Griend from ICM, who will be driving with Eric, has spent the last few years collecting data from various sources that center on ethanol as a fuel. Recently, ICM conducted testing at a facility in Detroit that also gained support of two OEM’s in which ethanol was simply added. When asked about the AutoWeek American Adventure Rally, Steve said “I am looking forward to the challenge and thrill of this rally and the chance in scenery will certainly be appreciated. This will be a great opportunity to not only promote ethanol but learn more about a sector of America that appreciated style and performance on the road.”
The car chosen for this event is a 2006 Dodge Daytona Charger, a vehicle which was the first of several vehicles Flex Fuel US certified with the EPA for being a FFV. This car not only handles very well, it performs even better when ethanol is in the tank.
2012 Blog Autoweek Posts
My Autoweek American Adventure
On October 26th I traveled to Seattle to take part in the Autoweek American Adventure presented by Mopar, a 6 day road rally that would eventually take us to Las Vegas and the incredible Sema show.
Our fuel partner here at Gardella Racing, Ignite Racing Fuels , had contacted us about taking part in the adventure with Steve Vander Griend from ICM Incorporated. ICM Inc. is North America’s leading ethanol process technology provider and has become a global leader in clean energy technology . What Steve doesn’t know about ethanol isn’t worth knowing and he had decided to take part to help raise awareness of ethanol and the various ethanol blends that are available today. E85 is what most of us have probably heard of and is what we run in the Gardella Racing Formula Drift vehicles in the form of Ignite Green 108. From a performance point of view E85 has all the qualities to help an engine run cooler and generate more power when tuned correctly but more of the fuel will be required. When it comes to daily driving and the general public on the road a fuel like E30 with 30% the ethanol content can deliver some of the advantages of an ethanol fuel while not causing the vehicles fuel consumption or gas mileage to suffer. This is some of the information Steve and I hoped to spread amongst the the broad range of competitors on the rally that were all very much ‘ car ‘ people in one form or another.
The vehicle we were using was a 2008 Dodge Charger with a Hemi V8 that belonged to Flex Fuel U.S. The charger was fitted with one of the company’s ethanol conversion kits that could sense and adapt to any blend of ethanol we added to the fuel tank. Interestingly enough, when the kit was first tested the charger generated 90 more horse power on E85 so I was hoping we wouldn’t have too much trouble finding some ethanol pumps on our trip !.
We began early on Thursday morning at the Le May auto museum in Tacoma, Washington. Although unfinished we were given a tour of this amazing facility which will be one of the largest automotive museums in the world. Not only will it house the vast Le May family collection of vehicles but there also many other activities and initiatives including Club Auto, where members can store their collector cars in an area of the museum which also has a bar and social area that they can hang out and relax whilst admiring their vehicles.
Myself and Steve lined up for the start mid pack and got our first envelope with our instructions for the day. Inside the envelope each day were clues and riddles which when figured out led you to a specific location. You usually had to take photos as evidence or collect something from each site to earn maximum points as well as posting as much as possible on specific twitter, youtube and flickr accounts to earn the maximum social media points each day. All of which has to be done within a specific time window whilst not breaking the speed limit which was monitored by an Autonet gps and wireless unit fixed inside each vehicle.At the end of each day the team with the most points would win a key that could potentially start a 2011 Mopar Charger that was being offered as the grand prize. There was a lot to keep track of and it did take us almost a full day to really figure out the details but it was the same for most of the teams that were newcomers and we certainly weren’t the slowest !.
Our first clue sent us around Tacoma looking for a giant steel feather before hitting the highway and heading for Portland. After picking up another envelope and grabbing some lunch in the city we figured out the clues and hit up two more locations in the area before heading west towards the coast . We found route 101 and headed down the coast into Newport and the Hallmark hotel for the night. I honestly didn’t expect to find such beautiful beaches and coastline this far north and although it wasn’t exactly warm the view from the comfort of my room looking out onto the pacific ocean was amazing !.
Another early start on Friday had us continue down the coast to our first stop at the sea lion caves for a quick photo with the locals. There wasn’t many sea lions about on the day however so we improvised with a sculpture out front before continuing on our way with another envelope. The clue brought us to Winchester Bay and the massive sand dunes for our first time based challenge, finding 5 treasure chests hidden in the dunes using a seriously vague treasure map and a vehicle of your choice !. Myself and Steve opted for two quads instead of a two seater buggy and headed off into what is the largest amount of sand I have ever seen. Huge dunes for miles with mile markers at the side being your only clue to where exactly you were. We decided to split up and after about 40 minutes of searching around, ( drifting, jumping and generally acting like lunatics !!! ) on the quads we headed flat out for the car park and the finish line. We had trouble finding a couple of the treasure chests so we weren’t the fastest but we got it done and probably had more fun than anyone else out there.
At the finish line we were given our next envelope which told us to open the five packets we collected at the chests and assemble the pieces inside into two separate jigsaw puzzles, talk about one extreme to the other . With the puzzles assembled we had the option to take to the national forest and find several waterfalls or go to a number of towns and find monuments. To the waterfalls we went and deep into the Umpqua national forest to locate and photograph what would be some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever seen. With a tight time window, the hiking required to get to a couple of the falls wasn’t much fun but we found ourselves running with a couple of the other teams and having a laugh along the way.
Once that was done we hit the road for Klamath falls just as the sun began to disappear and ended up at Running Y Ranch and resort for the night. Yet another top class hotel that could hardly be enjoyed since it had been a long day and we would have an early start again, sleep time.
Day three began under darkness at a group meeting where the winners of the first and second days keys were announced, neither of which belonged to us. We lined up for the start once again and received the most cryptic clues yet, it took us the best part of a half hour in the car park of the hotel to figure out where we were going. We left Klamath and headed for California, stopping in the town of Weed ( honestly ) and at the Sun Dial bridge along the way. Our next stop was Thunderhill raceway for our second time based challenge which unfortunately wasn’t on the track but around an autocross style course on one of the skid pads. Being in a heavy Dodge Charger and having to compete with the likes of Conor Daly in an Audi R8 and Graham Rahal in an R35 GTR I wasn’t expecting to be the fastest so I switched off the traction control in the charger and had some fun. Unfortunately the ESP system never fully turned off so there was a limited amount of fun had but after both myself and Steve did our timed laps we were allowed a couple of laps on the road course before grabbing some lunch .
Being near wine country, our next clues sent us to three different vineyards without a tight time window to worry about. We left the track and soon found ourselves in a convoy with a few of the teams on what is easily the best road I have ever driven, Highway 29 through Robert Louis Stevenson state park to Calistoga. With the other semi Irish lad Conor Daly behind me in the R8 we certainly left our mark on the road and plenty of passers by before descending into Napa Valley and our first vineyard stop.Not being much of a wine man, we took our photos and got through the vineyards quickly before heading for the Hilton in Santa Rosa for the night .
Day number 4 and we gathered for breakfast and another meeting, the key from the previous day was awarded to Team car for Sale, Graham Rahal and Chris Berry who earned maximum points including being the fastest on the autocross challenge. Our envelopes contained no clues but instead the exact address of RPM Motorsports in Sacramento where we were expected around lunch time. Being back in a more urban area meant that we could finally visit an E85 pump and fill up the charger en route to the go kart centre.
RPM Motorsports is a huge facility with two substantial indoor kart tracks, plenty of viewing areas and a restaurant overlooking the action where our lunch for the day was served . All the teams had one member assigned to one of the specific tracks for a ten minute qualifying session which would determine your grid position if you were quick enough to make it to the final. I managed to be fastest on the Monster Energy track closely followed by Graham Rahal but unfortunately Steve narrowly missed out on a place in the final over on the Hitman Energy Shooter Track where Conor Daly was the boss !.
The final saw me sitting at the back of the pack since they had reversed the grid to make things more interesting !. With only one real passing opportunity on the track a good start was vital so I got off the line and more or less pushed my way up a few places in the first lap.It wasn’t long before I found myself chasing one of the 3 Wide Life boys and eventually making a pass for the lead in turn one.A red flag 3 laps from the end bunched the whole pack together and meant it would be a sprint for the finish with Rahal now sitting behind me in second. I managed to put a couple of back markers between us and held onto the lead taking the win and maximum points for Team Ethanol.
We grabbed some lunch, received our next envelope and got on the road to hit three locations on our way out to Reno, the first of which was the awesome old town area of Sacramento. Like stepping onto the set of an old wild western movie the buildings looked almost untouched from a hundred years ago, never would I have expected to see this a couple of blocks from the concrete jungle of the modern city streets. After our final stop in Reno we were instructed to continue to the end of an unfinished parkway in the middle of no where out in the desert. Nobody quite knew what to expect but it ended up being the highlight of the rally for me, we were going off road racing in full on Baja desert race buggies !. One team member was to try and get the quickest lap around the race course, the other was to to the very same but in miniature form. There was a short course track set up for the Traxxas Slash RC trucks, it would end up being a tough decision for myself and Steve. I was pretty sure I could win on the RC track since I had raced 1/10th scale off road cars for a few years but after discussing it we decided Steve would attack the RC trucks and I would go for the real thing.
With a co driver sitting beside me and talking me through the course on the sighting lap it was hard to believe what these vehicles can do. Deep rutted corners and big rocks weren’t a problem but I was sure I was going to kill myself on at least one of the massive jumps. Approaching the first one at about 50mph it looked more like a wall of dirt but I did what I was told and kept it flat out, slight nose dive and it planted itself back on the ground without any fuss, onto the next one !. I pushed as hard as I dared on my timed lap, got a little out of shape on one of the jumps but put in a decent time in comparison to the rest of the early runs of the day. With most of the teams left to try the course I sat back and watched Steve kick ass in his RC race before enjoying the feast that the Wide Open Baja guys had put on for lunch. We returned to Reno to our hotel for the night confident that we should finally be in the running for one of the precious keys to the Mopar 11 Charger.
Day 5 was Halloween and we had been told to expect a long spooky day in the desert . At breakfast the key for the previous days winner was awarded to Roe Racing, it turns out we had missed it by only a few points. I should have really waited to run the off road course later in the day after it was watered and probably a little faster but there was no way I could wait. In the end my time just wasn’t quick enough to get us the points we needed.
Our envelope gave us clues to find several supposedly haunted locations in the desert, some of which were certainly more than a little creepy like the staircase where the cries of a young woman were often heard !. I made sure we didn’t spend too long at the locations but the final stop of the day was worth a look around. Rhyolite ghost town at the east entrance to death valley was the third largest city in Nevada by 1908 with a population of 8,000. Today it is a scattering of ruins, some of which are very much intact thanks to the volunteers that are working to preserve the biggest and best ghost town in the desert. Our task was to take a photo of the bottle house, a three bedroom house mad entirely of beer bottles !.
Our hotel for the night was The Ranch at Furnace Creek located in Death Valley itself. The scenery on the drive to the resort was like something from a different planet, a completely baron landscape with rock formations you’d expect to see on the moon. It’s pretty obvious how this place got its name. Being halloween there was a party in the bar that night and there was extra points on offer to the team with the best costume. Its not very often Im going to get the chance to be in Death Valley with such a great group of people for halloween so out came the Dinosaur suit and the partying continued late into the night !.
The final day was a much more relaxed affair, we were given instructions to drive to Las Vegas and meet at the Sema show by midday. Everyone met at the huge Mopar booth for instructions on our final challenge and the last chance to win a key to the charger. Hidden at certain booths in the show were 12 laminated A4 size photos of the Mopar Charger, the team that collected the most would win the key. Sounds easy but anyone who has been to Sema will understand just how big this show is and how impossible it is to cover even one of the 3 massive halls in the hour and a half we were given. Myself and Steve split up and began to search but it didn’t take long for me to get distracted by meeting some good friends from the Formula D scene. I didn’t find a single card, neither did Steve so we returned to the Mopar booth to watch The Flying Baldini Brothers win the charger with the key they won on the very first day.
Six days on the road averaging around 400 miles a day meant that everyone was pretty tired and ready to head home, but not before one final party Vegas style !. The rally was an amazing experience and something I would recommend to anyone that loves driving, fancies a challenge and would like to see some of the incredible scenery this country has to offer. Massive thanks to all the Autoweek and USAC people that made it such a fun event and one that I will hopefully get a chance to take part in next year. I made some great friends that I will certainly stay in contact with and hopefully introduce to the drifting world over the off season !.