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Five Minutes: Rhys Millen – Updated with PPIHC On-Board Video!

Check out this new on-board video of Rhys’ run up Pikes Peak.  Includes commentary all the way up the hill that really gives the viewer some amazing insight into the race and what the driver is thinking about on their way up the hill.  Great video!!

And here’s the interview I did with Rhys at the Formula Drift finale at Irwindale:

Here’s how great my life is — I’ve had the opportunity to race with and against some of the best drivers in the world.  And not many are more talented than this guy.  Rhys Millen, of the New Zealand Millens, is one of the most diversely accomplished drivers of the modern era.  With wins or championships in several disciplines, including Drift, rally, Rallycross, Off Road, and the big one, Pikes Peak.  Why is Pikes Peak the Big one?  Because that’s where I raced against him, of course.  Got to race against his Dad, Rod, at Pikes Peak, as well…but that’s a story for another day.

I was fortunate enough to make it down to this years Formula Drift Finale at Irwindale Speedway, and at the end of a very long 36+ hour day for me, had just a few minutes to speak with Rhys between the fan autograph session and his last, late night practice session Friday night.

We originally shot this interview on video, and it was AWESOME…except for the fact that it looked like crap and sounded horrible.  I have since remedied that problem with the acquisition of a new mic and camera light, but for this interview, it just wasn’t to be.  So instead, here’s the transcript of that interview.  Enjoy!

ML@S:  Here with Rhys Millen at Formula Drift Irwindale.  We have just a few minute with Rhys before he heads back out on track for his last practice session of the night before the finals tomorrow.  Rhys, I’d like to ficus on two things for the next few minutes. Number one, allot of big highs this year.  A few wins already this year in Formula drift, and of course the big victory and overall record at Pikes Peak.  Tell me what it takes to put together a season like this.

Rhys:  The season has been incredible.  We’ve had a diverse program.  In rally cross I’ve got to go in and drive a car that has allot of punch, and allot of grip, and then come here to drift where there’s a totally different mindset on how you race the car and setup the car and approach the entire event.  Then at Pikes Peak — same car, different setup — and a completely different type of driving.  So it’s been a challenge for me all year long, and a big challenge for the team, but we’ve been able to excel at all three disciplines.  Even with the unfortunate news a few weeks ago that Hyundai is pulling out of all motorsports in North America, we’ve still been performing well.  Number one qualifier here, a win in Las Vegas, and winning Pikes Peak…it’s just one of those things. The marketing people make different decisions.

ML@S:  So, where do you go then, from this?  Clearly, that’s the highest of highs, winning the overall at Pikes Peak and bringing the record back to the Millen family, to then just a couple months later finding out that your primary sponsor is moving in an other direction.

Rhys:  You know, I wish I had those answers right now.  The gloves are on and we’re still fighting, but right now I’ve got nothing.  Nothing for the team, for myself or for the program for next year.  We’ve been talking to other manufacturers, trying to pull things together, but it’s very late in the game to try to do that.   We have some supporters that are willing to stay with us, and have committed to stay with us.  But unfortunately those are associate sponsorships and aren’t quite enough to do what we need so we can perform the way we want to perform.

ML@S:  When you lose all of that…I’m not saying that you’ve lost it…but when you have to take a step backwards like that, does it feel like you’ve gone back to the beginning of your career where you have to look at all your options and try to figure out just how you’re going to get anything going for the next year, and what you’re going t drive…?

Rhys:  Yeah…I think it’s…number one, I think it’s a shock.  I kind of expected maybe some changes or dropping of one program, but not a complete end to the whole slate.  It’s very humbling.  You think you’re doing well, and all of a sudden  you have nothing.  It kind of tunes you up as well.  It forces you to work harder, reinvent yourself…repackage yourself and re-sell yourself.  I’ve been able to do that successfully before and I’m positive that we can pull it off again.  We may have to sit out for a year, but I’m sure it won’t be the last people see of me at Pikes Peak, Rallycross, or here at Formula Drift.

ML@S:  Absolutely!  Lets end this on a positive note.  What I think allot of people want to know — what I want to know — is after working so hard, for so many years at Pikes Peak, when you got to the summit this year and you heard your time and you knew that you’d beaten Romain by just hundredths of a second, tell what that was like.

Rhys:  A very emotional feeling…it was [long pause]…we had two attempts at the overall, in 2010 and 2011, and last year in 2011 we fell just shy to Tajima…we had an issue with the car, and without that we would have been right at his time, or maybe four or five seconds faster…but he had a slight issue, as well, so who knows…to come back this year and step back to a class that is…is not where I wanted to be, but we still could perform…that was a little frustrating.  But every time I enter a competition and get in the car, I’m there to win.  To win overall…it was an amazing feeling.  I wish it was in the Unlimited car…It kind of took a little bit of the edge off it…but still, you know…check that box!  It was Amazing!

ML@S:  That’s great, and it was a great win.  Thanks, Rhys, for taking the time to hang out for a few minutes!

Rhys:  Anytime, Ken, thanks!

ML@S:  There it is, kids…five minutes with Rhys Millen.

 

Written by Ken Stouffer

Ken Stouffer

I've been around some form of racing since I was a kid. First hanging around Ascot in Southern California. Then, after moving to Texas as a teen, I got hooked on drag racing and did that for almost fifteen years. In between I have raced Dirt bikes and Quads.
2011 Marked my 8th and final year racing up Pikes Peak: Five in the Pro Quad division and three in Time Attack. Future racing plans are in the works, but until then I'm at the track shooting for My Life at Speed as much as I possibly can.

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