Interview with Autoweek America Adventure Rally Winners

RamZone recently sat down with Sean Roe of Roe and Torrie McPhail (pictured left), the Autoweek America Adventure Rally ’11 overall point-winning team, to chat about their championship road trip. Here’s a bit of what they had to say:

RamZone: Tell us about your background and why you decided to join the American Adventure Rally?

Sean: The oldest memory I have is being a little kid sitting behind my dad’s ‘64 Valiant racecar. I’ve always been around Mopar® stuff, and it went from a hobby into business. My company, Roe Racing started out racing sports cars and became a company that raced Vipers and sold Viper products, and that spread into aftermarket parts for trucks. We test on the racetrack and sell parts, mostly over the web. We ship worldwide every day.

Torrie: I grew up around cars since I was a little kid. I couldn’t wait to drive a car. My life has always been centered driving a car; the first half wanting to drive, the second half driving. My company is called Unleashed Tuning. We do a good amount of business through the Internet, and we collaborate on projects with Roe Racing, which is how we ended up racing together. I bought my first Viper in 2005 and went straight to Roe Racing.

RamZone: What was the race like?

Sean: It’s a combination of the Amazing Race meets One Lap of America meets a scavenger hunt, but at a very intense level. After breakfast you start up your vehicles, pull up in line, get handed an envelope, and a clock starts ticking. All of a sudden you realize you don’t know where you’re going or how long you have, but you know you’re already running out of time. You’re looking at clues for places that don’t have addresses, like stones, for example, so you have to use GPS and mobile Internet to find clues.

We got a system down early. We’d find a place on an atlas, and the end location. We’d map out the day, and see if we could complete bonus missions. We used the internet and asked locals about what we could in between stops – saloons or coffee shops – it’s like multiple choice in a way. They only gave you an extra two or three minutes, and it varied all day every day: watch a 3D movie, hunt around in a bookstore, get a picture with something.

Torrie: There were times when we’d begin in the morning and we’d plan for 45 minutes without moving, while the other teams just took off. People could sit at home and track the event. In the beginning we asked people for clues, but we went just us two after we get the first set of keys. During an eight hour day, there’s nothing to do except try to complete missions.

RamZone: Six days in a car with someone is a long time? How did you pass the time? Any squabbles?

Sean: Driver, trust your navigator. Just because everyone goes one direction, does not mean it’s the right direction.

Torri: You might want to follow, but that could be the wrong direction. Do it all yourselves. It was non-stop the whole time, no time to think. The organizer did a great job of making it exciting.

RamZone: What’s the craziest or most memorable thing that happened on the trip?

Torrie: Mt. Shasta one morning was a pretty site. And the Sea Lion Caves on the coast of Oregon. Everywhere was brand new to me.

Sean: I just looked at the speedometer. But I do remember Mt. Shasta with the clouds around it. But those roads – like the Pike’s Peak hill climb for hours on end – some of the craziest roads I’ve seen in my life. We did get to see some really pretty country from one spot to the next.

RamZone: How’s it feel to be champion?

Sean: The event, because it was inaugural, every day competitors would win a key. And one of the seven keys would win a Mopar® ‘11. So we focused only on what we could do best every day. So some teams would win a car for one day. So we got a trophy cup and a hell of neat experience under our belts.

Torrie: It was one of the most difficult and rewarding weeks of my life.

RamZone: Why did you choose to drive a Ram Truck, especially when other teams chose muscle cars?

Sean: It was a strategy decision to take a Ram Truck. I’m a former racer and I’ve been through season-long bouts. I went into this event trying to be at the front every day. A lot of teams did sports cars. So I tried to speculate what the nature would be: weather, unknowns, detours, cutting around people. Weighing out a Viper versus a rugged 4×4 with beefed up suspension and HEMI®, the Ram won, and didn’t give up much. We actually got ahead of eight to ten teams at one point because people were stopped for road construction, and we went off-roading. I’m tickled that we actually won it in a truck, and the big truck just drove right on by.

Torrie: In the passenger seat, I had plenty of room, which is important when you’re spending an entire week inside in the truck. We were the only one’s not complaining about how cramped we were. The truck just went right on through it, and did great.

Sean: We’re one of the only teams that drove the vehicle to the event ourselves. So it was 7,420 miles round trip – Seattle, Jacksonville, Vegas, and back. That’s a lot of driving.

RamZone: Thank you, gentlemen. Since we know you plan to defend your title next year, we’ll stop there and save your secrets.