Monday, June 24, 2024

TRANSCRIPT: TCF Interview with Sara Price

On 12 May, The Checkered Flag sat down with Sara Price to discuss her Sonora Rally National Car/UTV win, which clinched free entry into the 2024 Dakar Rally, and her very eventful two weeks of racing in Mexico that included Sonora, the Mexican 1000, and Dos Mares 500.

The full transcript of the interview is available below. Some text has been altered from the actual dialogue to improve readability and remove verbal pauses.

An article covering the interview can be read here.

Transcript

TCF: It’s been about two weeks since Sonora and a lot has happened since then, but has it fully sunk in yet that you’re going to be racing at Dakar soon?

SP: Oh yeah, it’s fully sunken in and as you guys know, making the commitment is a huge one itself, but now it’s putting the pieces of the puzzle together in order for us to make it happen. Either which way, I’ll break the bank account to make it happen, so we’re going.

TCF: You basically finished top two in class for most of Sonora, but were there any sort of difficulties you might have faced along the way, like a stage that was particularly hard or something coming up with the car?

SP: I think Sonora as a whole, there was a lot of changes. A difficult thing was because we were in the national class, meaning we used a different rally system than the FIA classes, so we actually had to be about sixty meters closer to our waypoints. All the FIA classes took off before us, so a lot of their lines missed those waypoints, so we had to be on point with our waypoints no matter what because we could be on a road to the left of a fence but our waypoint’s through the fence on the right, so we have to definitely be on our “A” game in order to hit our marks and be on point. It was very important to do so but the main thing was keeping the car together. In rally racing, it’s definitely a longevity thing in the attrition rate.

TCF: Last year you didn’t finish because you were involved in this massive crash (with Sebastián Olarte), so how was it to bounce back from that, to go from that to winning this year?

SP: Yeah, last year we actually had a head-on. A bike had missed a turn and then they were going backwards in their own dust and I was trying to make that turn and we just hit, and it was the scariest moment of my life to be honest, to think that I hurt someone or potentially worse. But he was all good, he is awesome. He’s a trooper and he actually raced this year and I got to see him, so that was pretty cool.

But yeah, to come back from that, I’ve had some unfortunate luck at Sonora over the years, so this year, to turn my luck around my first year with Can-Am, doing it in the X3 for the first time, absolutely it was amazing. I can’t say enough about the unit and the team that I brought down there. I had Alsup R&D down there and their whole crew and I just was blown away with the camaraderie we had within our team and this little, small but mighty team and it obviously showed in the results.

TCF: On the topic of Can-Am, this is obviously your first year with them and you’ve already done a lot with them already. How have they helped you with transitioning into a new manufacturer?

SP: Can-Am has been absolutely amazing. The professionalism, the quality of people, equipment, just the way they handle themselves has been such an amazing thing to do with them. I can’t say enough. Even when I need parts last minute, like I got signed by Can-Am at the beginning of the year, I had three weeks to prepare for King of the Hammers and I had parts in two weeks. That’s unheard of, and that does not happen with the OEM.

It’s been honestly incredible, and their support from the side of racing, you have Simon (Belzile), you have the R&D department that works closely with me and us to make sure we have the best equipment and teach us about it. It’s been incredible. I’m very grateful to be a part of the Can-Am family and I’m absolutely loving it. Maybe my missing link was Can-Am and then also my team I created this year because now we’ve kind of been unstoppable and I’m so proud of it.

TCF: So you’ve had a busy couple of weeks with Sonora and then NORRA and then Dos Mares. How was it racing through 3,000 kilometres or so of desert basically every day for two weeks?

SP: It was crazy. It was 3,000 miles too, not kilometres, which I’m like, it’s crazy. I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, we went that far.’ It’s been absolutely amazing and I leave on Monday again to go back down to Mexico to go do Trail of Missions with all the factory Can-Am racers, so I’m going to hop back in my race car that I just raced 3,000 miles in and we’re about to go do it all again just for fun this time, so no racing.

It’s been unbelievable. One race after another and it was non-stop. We had one day of rest in between Sonora and NORRA and it wasn’t really rest, it was pretty much make it happen to get to NORA and tech and get everything done. And then to do Dos Mares, we’re already there, why not add another one to it? We didn’t even trailer our car to the starting line. We went from Cabo in the race car, total rally style, and drove it to the starting line of Dos Mares. We just kept it going.

TCF: You had Jeremy Gray as your co-driver for Sonora and then his daughter Saydiie for the Mexican 1000. How was it getting to work with that family and win alongside them?

SP: That family is absolutely amazing. Jeremy has such a pedigree behind him and knowing what he knows about the Can-Am platform as well as the navigator, so it’s been great having him because he’s so knowledgeable when it comes to the mechanics, how to drive them to keep the car alive, and he’s just such a great human being. To have him in the right seat and the way he is just always so enthusiastic and nice and motivated, it’s just been great.

And then, yeah, last minute, all of a sudden, Jeremy was already going to NORRA with (Mitchell) Alsup, and so I didn’t have a navigator and I decided to go last minute as well. I was like, ‘Okay, so who’s going to ride with me?’ And he’s like, ‘Let me call my daughter.’ She’s only sixteen years old, and that girl has such a bright future ahead of her, she absolutely killed it. I’m blown away with her. She reminds me of my best friend and my navigator mainly, who is Erica Sacks who owns Waypoint Nav, and I was like, ‘You talked to me just like Erica does.’ I was like, ‘That’s impressive.’

Like it’s pretty cool. Me and Erica, years and years and years in the seats next to each other, and so to have someone get thrown in there at such a young age and be so confident and on point is huge.

TCF: On the topic of co-driving, you did some yourself with Mitch Alsup at Dos Mares. How did that compare to driving?

SP: [laughs] I could say I’m not… I don’t like the navigator seat. Mitchell absolutely killed it in the driving seat. He did in the navigator seat too. He’s all around great from navigating to me and then also driving.

But I was just so worried. It was a night race so then I’m just trying not to make sure I don’t get sick or if I’m starting to get sick, I need to take some Dramamine to make sure we capitalise on it. So yeah, it was a rough navigator seat for me, but I think we did okay. We did pretty good, so I still had my wits about me. I did a good job, but I feel like I could have been a lot better, but I was just so worried about getting sick.

TCF: If I’m not mistaken, you did Dos Mares without sort of any preparation or pace notes or whatever. Does that make the experience even more difficult for you?

SP: Yeah, we had nothing. Like we legitimately didn’t even have fuel stops. We technically did have fuel stops, but we didn’t really have them planned and so we missed all of them, and so we had to just keep stopping and asking people for fuel. We stopped probably ten times, which I guarantee you we probably would have won if we would have had our programme a little more dialled for Dos Mares.

But yeah, we ended up getting second. We definitely didn’t have anything planned when we were on the starting line. Mitchell just looks over at me and he’s looking through the notes and he goes, ‘Sara, these are in Spanish. We don’t speak Spanish.’ So then we were kind of like, ‘Oh my gosh.‘ I have a full dictionary, like I started writing down notes in my Notes in my phone and I was going to save it to the back of my screensaver so I could just hit it and it would give me a key like, ‘Dere means right’, like, ‘IQZ means left’. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, how are we going to do this?’

We ended up getting notes last second, like as we’re lining up to take off. A fellow American team came over and was like, ‘Hey, we got notes for you.’ I was like, ‘Thank you so much.’

TCF: Looking ahead, you’re going to be the ninth driver to have raced in both Extreme E and Dakar. Did you ever have the chance to talk about Dakar with those who’ve done it when you were in Extreme E?

SP: Yeah, actually, Nasser (Al-Attiyah) has always been a big supporter and advocate for me to get to Dakar, so that’s pretty awesome. The others, they all know how much I’ve been wanting to go to Dakar. It’s such a big deal for me, and they all say like, ‘Hey, they need an American female over there to represent America and they’re lacking that and they’re missing that.’ They see it. It’s just the hardest thing is the disconnect from America to the European racing. It’s very hard to know the people there because obviously we’re not there. There’s just a huge disconnect that makes it very difficult to be an American to race that race.

But now, it’s starting to open doors, starting to get a little bit more accessible. I switched to Can-Am because I knew you had to be in a Can-Am to race Dakar and to be competitive, and that’s been my goal and they know that from the start. It’s been an amazing journey so far, and I’m super stoked to have all this support from the people that currently do race Dakar.

TCF: Speaking of racing in other series, you’ve obviously run in a bunch of different disciplines like motocross, Stadium Super Trucks, Baja, now rally. Even though they’re all different styles of racing, do you feel that this diversity in your résumé has helped you get to where you are today?

SP: A hundred percent. I’m always up to racing something new and challenging myself to learn to get better and better. I’ve raced all sorts of different disciplines and all sorts of different kinds of vehicles. One thing for sure is I’m really quick at adapting and so I can get into a new vehicle and have a pretty good pace off the bat, and I think I’m a very smart driver as well as smooth and aggressive. Those three make for a good recipe as long as I keep my aggression under control when it comes to longevity stuff.

TCF: Looking ahead, what’s your plan for preparing for Dakar? Like do you have any specific races scheduled for it or testing overseas planned?

SP: Right now, we’re still trying to put the puzzle together, so it’s securing a team first, which team I will be on, and then after that it will be training, lots of training with Jimmy Lewis. So Jimmy Lewis is where I’m going to be living at. Just trying to secure a team, secure a navigator, if it’s going to be Sean Berriman or if it will be Jeremy Gray, and go from there.

TCF: What do you see as your goal for Dakar? For now, is it just to finish or are you aiming for a certain run?

SP: I think overall, Dakar is a whole ‘nother monster, right? Go in there your first year, you got to stay humble. I think going there and finishing is the goal. That would be the ultimate goal. Hopefully have some good stages in there that can highlight that we belong up front, that would be a cherry on top of the whole thing, but that is definitely the goal is first to finish and then after that, just go.

TCF: It’s probably too early to think that far into the future, but what else do you see yourself racing after Dakar? If given the opportunity, would you like to race for the world championship or anything of that nature?

SP: Yes. I want to do the World Rally-Raid Championship, that is the goal, as well as Dakar, so that’s the ultimate goal. After that, I don’t know. I honestly can only think about maybe going back to Baja in a Trophy Truck or having my own team of some sort, but yeah, that’s honestly the ultimate to do the World Rally Championship.

TCF: Before we wrap this up, is there anything else you would like to add?

SP: Uh, no. Just all my sponsors, thanks to them and everyone supporting and our incredible team that we’ve built. It takes everyone to kind of make this all happen. I’m just super grateful and happy that we have such a good fan base and such a good group of family and sponsors.

Interview on YouTube

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