MaxAttack! raised the level of two wheel drive rally racing in the United States for the past few years. Thanks to the generous support of our sponsor during those years, Danza del Sol Winery in Temecula Valley, California, the Rallysports Group of America (RSGA) paid out a cash purse of $15,000 USD per year to be divided amongst the fastest teams competing in the MaxAttack! events.

Interview with Andrew Havas

Andrew Havas is one of the more colorful personalities in US rallying, as well as one of the fastest drivers around. In a borrowed Honda Civic, Havas beat 14 other drivers to claim the first MaxAttack! Triple Challenge victory at a tough Oregon Trail rally in April. Havas has graciously agreed to answer some questions for the readers of max-attack.com.

Q: When did you get involved in rallying, and how did that come about?

I became involved in rallying in a rather roundabout way. My brother Chris and I had always known about rallying, having English roots. Being Mini enthusiasts (I still have my ‘67 Cooper S) it’s not hard to see how we learned of the sport. Heck, we were doing “rally turns” in our hand-me-down Volvos at pretty tender ages! It wasn’t until years later that things got a bit more direct. I was trying to get Chris to come road racing, and found him an old Golf II with a cage in it for $500… A few weeks later he called to say he was building a rally car. No surprise he was influenced in that direction, living in the shadows of Burlington, Vermont, which has become a hub of US rally activity. As I got more involved helping my brother at rallies, it was all a very natural progression from there.

Q: You have been involved in other forms of motorsports, such as hillclimbs and circuit racing. What is it about rallying that excites you more than other forms of racing, and are there driving skills from the other forms of racing that have helped with your rallying?

It started out with autocrossing, then smaller hillclimbs in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, and then I got my circuit racing license in 1990. I did a bunch of regional races in my old CRX, and finally got an old Formula Ford and won the 1996 NARRC Championship. It’s all great fun, but rally is more dimensional. What I mean by that is, road racing is almost two-dimensional… It is its own beautiful art form, but rallying adds much more: loose surfaces and with it a much more complicated driving style, sliding, jumping, daytime, nighttime, as well as winter and summer conditions. There is also a much bigger psychological difference. In rally, there is no car on the track beside you to gauge your relative performance. It’s all you versus your mind. And the physical endurance aspect is much greater, as are the logistics of coordinating your team. And there is the element of nature, and the unexpected on top of all that. You’ll see more amazing sights on a rally that you’d never see anyplace else, let alone road racing. I really enjoy the whole experience. For me, rally brings together everything I’m passionate about: building my own cars, then driving my creations as fast as I can, pushing my limits of endurance, often in settings so beautiful it’s hard to describe. I have this paradox that really twists things: love of nature, environment, and motorsport all mixed together. You just don’t get that from any other discipline other than rally.

As far as driving skills from other kinds of racing, for me, it’s easy to go from tarmac to gravel, front to rear to 4 wheel drive… It’s more about developing a feel for what you’re driving and figuring out how to go fast.

Q: You are always a crowd favorite in your orange Havspeed RX-7. What other cars have you driven, and what is it that keeps you excited about the RX-7?

Thanks, that’s really the best compliment you can get, isn’t it?! I’ve only ever driven Peter Watt’s old Suzuki Swift, which was my first-ever rally (Rallye de Quebec ’98), and he still reminds me about the spaghetti dinner my co-driver puked all over (and in) it. Cascade Autosport gave me a drive in their EVO VII when it was in Group N spec, and let me tell you, that was simply awesome. We did Dryad/Shitepoke in 2005, and finished second overall on old tires, not checking times, just having fun… Because he was busy working for Cascade at Oregon Trail earlier this year, my pal Derik Nelson handed me the keys to his 140hp 1988 Honda Civic G2 car, and told me and my co-pilote to run it in G5 and demoralize the big horsepower opposition, so we did.

The Mazda is just classic, what can you say? It’s simple, good, clean, wholesome, old-school rally fun.

Besides, it’s the only rally car I’ve got.

Q: What have been some of your more memorable moments in rallying?

All the Charlevoix rallies, especially running third overall in 2001 before rolling out because I was trying to drive on, despite steering one-handed with a broken wrist… The last-minute decision to run in 2002, including a two-week re-shell/rebuild ,working an average of twenty hours a day, then finishing the event first two-wheel-drive and eighth overall, in spite of losing a fuel pump on Leg One and having to take turns clicking the circuit breaker in and out (to get one pulse of fuel per click!) for something stupid like three stages.

Also, our wins in 2001 in Arizona and Tennessee, fifth overall both times with serious fields felt great; Ojibwe ’01, battling back from over a minute deficit the first night to finish just six seconds behind Mike Hurst’s Mustang… That was a Titanic fight.

All on used tires bought from John Buffum.

Q: You were the first winner of the MaxAttack! Triple Challenge event. What do you think of the MaxAttack! series in general, and what does it mean for you personally?

That was memorable for sure. First off, credit to François Morin… That was our first time together, even socially! That was a last minute thing (modus operandi) in a car that I had never driven before. Stage 1 was our shakedown! It’s even more significant if you consider we ran a borrowed, low-horsepower car, with hard tires and still managed to pull out the win.

MaxAttack! was not the impetus for attending Oregon, but it was added incentive for sure. What’s good is that it’s getting people excited to get out there, and seems to make winning two-wheel-drive a bit more meaningful. And since the payout stretches way down the finishing order, it helps more than just a few. For me personally, it’s cool to be the winner of the first ever MaxAttack! event.

Hopefully the series can develop and continue from here.

Q: What is your opinion of the current state of rallying in the US?

It’s on another upswing, I’m encouraged seeing more independent sponsors on cars, but at the same time it always boils down to who’s got the cash to get out there. Hopefully this upswing continues, and results in more viability as far as corporate partnerships with teams goes,

Q: What do you like to do when you are not rallying?

My latest thing is trail-running up a rocky mountain. It’s only 1300 feet in elevation, but over only about 1.5 miles. So it’s pretty steep, and a lot of it is loose rock. My goal for two years now is to be able to run up without stopping. I’m almost to the one-mile point. Also, I like to go mountain biking, but don’t do it enough. It’s good cross-training. I also like to travel all over the place. If I’m stuck in one place too long I start losing my mind (that’s about where I am at the moment).

Q: What are your future rally plans?

No current plans, as I seem to be very broke at the moment (see above). I have a piece of property that I have for some time been trying to get a house and a shop built on, and that has been excruciatingly slow and frustrating. I seem to have spent all my money racing and rallying, and am finding out that building houses and stuff with no money is almost as hard as rallying with no money.

In between I’ve been fixing street cars and doing occasional rally/race/vintage car work (such as the cage in Matt Johnson’s new car) but I’m not making enough to get ahead it seems… It’s a bit of a pickle, a conundrum as it were!

One way or another I must have a proper place to work by winter, whether I build or rent a place, which I’ve been trying to avoid. I see that as key to getting back on track and back to doing more rallies. I was really gutted to miss Rally West Virginia. Working as I am now from a one car garage, I can only work on one thing at a time so getting the rally car in for repairs hasn’t been an option lately.

So, for now, I’m concentrating on changing that scenario. Hopefully there’ll be some more rallies in my future, but probably not until next year, as much as it hurts to say… I’m really unhappy if I don’t have an event on the horizon.

Q: Do you have any words of advice for aspiring new rally drivers?

Go to a very good four-year university and study something like business management, global economic strategies or nuclear physics. Aim for $250k and higher salaries that will lead to CEO level jobs. Stay away from trade skills and other demeaning, outsourceable jobs. That’s the best chance you’ll have (the money) to be a successful rally driver,

I’m not kidding (see previous question)!!!

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, and best of luck with your future rally endeavors.

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