By Erin Crowell
Mostif not everyrally car at the 2010 X Games in Los Angeles will boast big name sponsors, their hoods, panels and roofs plastered with car company and energy drink logos. Among them will be a little white Subaru, number 523, driven by Traverse City resident Travis Hanson. Aside from a few local sponsors, this rally car will be representing itself, with nothing but determination, and a little personal cash, to get it to the finish line on July 31.
Rally car racing, or rallying, involves a driver racing a street legal car along a closed cross-country course, full of hairpin turns, mud pits and hill jumps. The driver who can complete the course in the fastest amount of time, wins.
X Games recently added the sport to its extreme action sports schedule in 2006. Other events at X Games include bmx bike racing, skateboarding, surfing, motocross and freeskiing.
In 2008, Hanson, 25, along with father Terry, were invited to the 14th X Games (also in Los Angeles) as an alternate, meaning the father-son team of T. Hanson Motorsports would have the opportunity to race, ifand only ifanother car were to drop out of the competition.
Luckily for the Hansons, if happened.
One team was practicing and the car jumped one of the 70-foot-gaps (on the race course) and landed on its front, says Travis. They broke the motor and couldnt compete. We were in.Hanson didnt win gold, but did, however, manage to pull an upset by knocking race favorite Niall McShea in the preliminary match up.
Because of their 2008 performance, along with a successful 2010 season, T. Hanson is invited back to X Games this time they wont need to wait for anyone to drop out.
I expect nothing less from Travis at X Games 16, said J.B. Niday, Rally Americas managing director, in a recent press release.
However, that doesnt mean Team Hanson is entirely in the clear. While most, if not all, rally competitors at X Games will have backup in the form of major sponsorships, Hanson is depending on a personal budget, luck and skills to get them to the start line.
As of press time, Hanson was competing in New Hampshire at the New England Forest Rally.
Well race this, and hopefully make it to X Games, says Hanson.
Several months ago, Hanson rolled the Subaru WRX STi, damaging the paneling; and although it was minor, and the team received help from Cherry Capital Subaru and Olsons Auto Body, the event was enough to set back the team in time and money.
I couldnt have paid for all of it by myself, says Hanson.
Rally car racers generally run on a budget of $50,000-$70,000 per race while their team spends just under $5,000, says Hanson.
Other teams buy lots and lots of tires, which are really expensive, he says. I can only buy four for an event while theyre buying 20 or 30.
The team, which includes four to five friends on mechanical support, also travels across country for the races.
It chews up a lot of my time, says Hanson.
Before he got into racing back in 2003, he earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Kettering University. Last year, he conducted research for the Department of Defense, driving vehicles on loose surfaces.
Hanson was laid off last year and now works for a rally school to help counter the costs of his full-time racing career.
Were putting all our eggs in one basket, Hanson laughs. Its all about skill.
Hanson says obtaining a major sponsor would help immensely, but it doesnt mean the team isnt striving to do its best out west.
Its going to be tough this year because theres a lot of teams who have stepped up their game as far as their car improvements and preparation. Ive been pretty limited as far as funding goes, but we make up for it in heart and effort.