Rhys Millen once again came out victorious at the Las Vegas round of Formula D competition. We caught up with Millen for a few questions after the event
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OMGDrift: This was back to back Vegas wins for you, although the course was totally different. As a driver, how was the track difference to you as far as whether or not you preferred one to the other, and what were the demands of each?
Rhys Milen: Last year’s layout was more traditional of what I’d call a technique track, meaning high speed entry with a handbrake sort-of entry. Here is more of a driver’s track. You leave the line and your hands are on the steering wheel and your foot is on the throttle the entire course. There’s no real check up to say, no real games you can play – you have to be committed from the very first corner. And we proved in the past this car has incredible slide grip, and we backed that up again with back to back victory here in Las Vegas. And the car is just so tremendous to drive. Everyone’s like, “wow, that car puts out so much smoke,” but it’s because we have so much torque out of this Hyundai engine, some 750 ft/lb of torque, and that we run a gear speed that is 10-15 mph higher than anyone else. But it’s very controlled inside the car. Because you have that torque, you have that response, and you can just be very smooth and place the car pretty much wherever you want.
OMGDrift: And this is the same car with which you just set a world record at Pikes Peak?
Rhys Millen: This is the same chassis and same engine combination and drivetrain; nothing has changed. The focus points to make this car form a drift car into a time attack car are brakes, setups for suspension for tow and camber, wheel and tire combination, sway bars, and aero, front splitter and rear wing. But shock settings, spring settings, engine, transmission settings, are identical from drifting to setting a world record.
OMGDrift: What’s the mentality difference going into a Formula D event over, say, something like Pikes Peak? Where does your focus shift?
Rhys Millen: In some aspects it’s very, very similar. Both are kind of sprints. You have to be very, very aggressive from the very first corner, and just let it all hang out. So you have to come out of the hole just on fire. But the focus point here is that you have to be so aggressive with the way you drive the car. There (Pikes Peak), it’s almost like you’re aggressive with braking, with throttle inputs, but you have to be very very smooth to be fast. You watch a video of Pikes Peak and it almost looks boring, but trust me, it’s very committed around every corner, something you really don’t get the energy of out of from the video. You come here, and there’s the dynamics of the cars sideways, changing direction, close proximity to the walls, and although we’re doing speeds up there of nearly 140 mph (at Pikes Peak) and here we’re maybe only doing 80, this looks like 180. So, your mindset, you just need to be calm, focused and I think throughout my career that’s really what’s been beneficial to me is experience, being focused. It’s as much of a mental game as it is physical. And if you don’t get rocked, and you’re solid, you can pretty much count on a good victory.