Smack Talk with Jason Tipple!
Over the course of the winter Mike Hearne has had an opportunity to sit down with Jason Tipple two-time National Champion to learn a little of his personal history. We hope you all enjoy a more in depth look at one of the more vivid ‘characters’ in the Solo world.
MH: How and when did you get involved with autocrossing?
JT: I started autocrossing in 1992 when I drove by a local autocross being run by the OSU Autocross Club. I waited to make some fun runs after the event and I was hooked from that point.
MH: What was your 1st autocross car?
JT: My first car was a 1986 Volkswagen Jetta GLI. I spent the winter prepping the GLI for DSP and ran it with the OVR SCCA in 1993.
MH: How many cars have you run and in what classes?
JT: A 1986 Jetta in DSP, a 1995 Probe GT in GS, a 1992 Nissan NX2000 in CSP, a 1983 GTI in DSP/FSP, a 1989 Civic SI in STS, another 1989 civic SI in STS then CSP then SM then EP, an Evo 8 in ESP, 2 S2000’s in BSP,a 2007 Solstice GXP in AS, and a 1999 Civic in FSP.
MH: Have most of the cars been FWD? Is FWD your preference and why? Do you have any experience driving AWD or RWD? If so what were the differences between them?
JT: Front wheel drive for the most part. The reason was mainly due to the cost of prepration front wheel drive was easier to build for me. As noted above, I really enjoy driving rear wheel drive and all wheel drive also. All of the cars that I ran for the most part had really high spring rates so they “felt similar” to me.
MH: How long did you have the Raleigh and Velma Boreen Rabbit?
JT: I purchased the GTI from the Boreen’s in 1996 and ran it for 5 years. It remains one of my favorite cars that I have owned over the years . My best finish at Nationals was 8th in the Rabbit.
MH: You’ve won 2 National Championships in an STS Civic and a FSP Civic. Why do you like Honda’s?
JT: It really kind of fell into place, I traded my Volvo 240 wagon to Mike Feher for the first Civic SI that I used to win Nationals with. I like the fact that parts are readily available and the fact that they are very reliable. The Civic had 170k on it when I won with no motor work what so ever.
MH: Compare and contrast the difference between the STS Civic and the FSP Civic.
JT: The spring rates are much higher for the FSP car, but honestly the FSP car is an evolution of the STS car. Both Civic’s have the same suspension geometry and the sway bars are close in diameter. As for power, both had the typical bolt ons with similar power to weight ratio.
MH: What ever happened to your STS Civic?
JT: It was sold after nationals in 2001 and has been sold 3 times since. It has won nationals 2 times and trophied every time since.
MH: What are your plans for 2009? (Car you plan to drive; National events you plan to attend)
JT: I am planning on running the 1999 civic in FSP at the Cecil, Georgia tour, the Peru, Indiana tour, the Toledo,Ohio Pro, the Arkansas Pro and Nationals, as well as several testing days in Peru for Nationals.
MH: What do you do for a living?
JT: I am the estate manager for Bobby Rahal as well as the fueler for the ALMS Rahal Letterman Racing GT2 BMW M3. I have worked for the Rahal’s for 14 years.
MH: How did you get hooked up with Bobby Rahal in the first place?
JT: I worked for Bob Fergus, an older gentleman who used to vintage race cars. I worked for him for 6 years doing car prep and auto detailing. Team Rahal was using Bob Fergus’s body shop for painting the Champcars. I got to know the painter well and ended up helping him more than working for Fergus. The rest is history.
MH: Do you get any support from RLR?
JT: I have access to the shop and several of the guys at the shop help with parts fabrication from time to time so its a big help for sure.
MH: Jarrad Rahal used to participate at National level Solo events. Did Bobby ever spectate? How hands on were you to help Jarrad?
JT: Mr. Rahal was at the Solo II nationals in 2007 in support of Jarrad, who finished 11th that year. I built the car with Jarrad’s brother Graham for his 18th birthday. I drove with him on and off for two years. It was a well prepped car for BSP and it was a shame that BSP ran first heat the two years that it went to nationals against the Evo’s.
MH: Does Bobby have an opinion about Solo? If so what is it?
JT: Bobby actually ran a couple of Solo II events back in the 70’s in the Chicago area. So I think that he realizes the importance of Solo II for the grassroots level. I think that he really enjoyed watching Jarrad run his S2000. What made it nice for him was its low key and no one bothered him since he was there for Jarrad.
MH: What is Realspeed?
JT: Realspeed is my autocross race team founded in 2001, Fred Robertson, Nick Newcome, Mike Perakis, my wife Kristin Tipple and myself are all involved in the vehicle prep, special part fabrication and car setup for friends and fellow competitors.
MH: Are you excited for Lincoln as the 2009 National Solo site?
JT: I am! I think everyone is from what the site has to offer. Although I did enjoy running at Heartland Park. I thought that it really brought out the greatest in the driver in the fact that car placement was everything, because if you were off line the run was shot.
MH: Describe your driving style.
JT: Aggressive with no regard to the cone count, Ha Ha!
MH: Do you left or right foot break? Which one and why?
JT: Heavy left foot braking use. I try to use it as much as you can on the street, off ramps really work well, even on automatics, and I do it every day
MH: Do you modulate brake and gas at the same time?
JT: Yes, I use it to control mid corner front stability and car placement.
MH: How long did it take you to master left foot braking?
JT: It took about 4 events to realize what the brake pressure needed to be for proper modulation and proper control.
MH: What is the major benefit to left foot braking in autocrossing?
JT: For me the advantage of left foot braking is the ability to control the car when entering into a corner.
MH: Do you think it makes you noticeably faster?
JT: I feel that it does but honestly I have been left foot braking for the last 10 years, so its hard for me to judge what is faster. When I drove Eric Stemler’s SM Evo I tried to right foot brake but ended up reverting back to left foot braking. We were consistently right on the same times every run and he doesn’t left foot brake, but he was more familiar with his car than I was.
MH: What are some of your weaknesses and strengths as a driver?
JT: I would say that one weakness is not being able to put together 3 clean runs when it counts. My strengths are the ability to maximize the potential of the car in the first run. I would like to be able to run at the limit all the time but its difficult to push like that each and every run.
MH: Do you prefer asphalt or concrete?
JT: I enjoy both but prefer concrete, the grip is amazing.
MH: I’m just getting started as a Solo competitor. What would be your 3 pieces of advice to help me improve?
JT: I think that for a new driver starting out, the most important thing is to drive as much as you can. I think that its paramount to find someone with more experience to shadow and learn from them. I also think that setting up a car and learning the sport of autocross is very difficult for many people and this can lead to people getting disheartened when they don’t see the progress that only comes with time behind the wheel.
MH: Who have been some of the people along the way that have contributed to your success?
JT: I have been very fortunate to be around people like Mike Feher who really helped me out when I started. The Boreens, Mike Burgess, and Mark Sommer were a great group of people to learn from as well.
MH: Who do you think is the best in Solo?
JT: I would have to say its almost in a class by class basis. There are so many good drivers. John Thomas as an example. I am interested in seeing the Prepared cars on concrete again, as you know the PAX times have been messed up for 3 years.
MH: How so?
JT: Well I don’t think we have seen what those drivers and their cars are really capable of due to the conditions in Topeka.
MH: Do you like to make lots of changes to a car’s setup or do you stay with a consistent setup?
JT: I really like to leave the car alone as much as possible, when Kristin drives the car or Nick drives the car there are no changes between runs, we have worked very hard to make the car as balanced so there are no surprises when anyone drives our car.
MH: What have you learned about car setup?
JT: I have learned what needs to be done quickly between runs to change the dynamics of the car to extract the most out of each run.
MH: What equipment do you use (shocks, tires, brakes, ect) and why?
JT: I use Koni 2812’s, Carbotech brake pads and Hoosier tires. I have tried Hawk pads, endless, performance friction, Kuhmo tires, and none are better than Hoosier, Koni, and Carbotech in my opinion. Also, the customer support is awesome for all the suppliers listed above. I use Pure Tuning (in Toledo, OH) for dyno tuning and engine building, Lee Grimes at Koni shocks, and King Motorsports for parts.
MH: If you were in charge of the SCCA for a day what would you change about how Solo is run?
JT: I would really like the Pro solo program to be more well received by people. I think that the Pro Solo program is the truest form of autocross, because it’s a lot of runs and a relaxed atmosphere.
MH: Who are your heroes in Solo?
JT: Mike Feher a true talent, Steve Wynveen one of the most technically trained drivers out there, Eric Stemler, a crazy car builder, Danny Popp, a raw talent, and my wife for being able to get in any autocross car and be fast, a truly remarkable feat.
MH: What is your most memorable moment while autocrossing?
JT: I would have to say winning FSP last year (2007), I was really beginning to doubt my ability to run at the top of the competition on both days, but I was able to pull it together and run a bit slower due to the previous 2 coned runs to win.
MH: What is the appeal of autocrossing for you personally?
JT: I think that running is only part of the appeal, I have found a group of friends that are all over the country that I get the chance to spend time with and they are great friends that I can count on for anything.
Photos courtesy of Jason Tipple & http://www.gotcone.com
For copies of photos email me at david @ evorticity.com