In this week’s iteration of Better Know A Driver, we caught up with Hooman Rahimi, who’s not only been competitive in the Midwest Drift Union series for the last few years, but in numerous other series across the country as well.
SMASHED: How did you get into drifting?
Rahimi:I always had a passion for sliding. There was something about that feeling that kept me pushing for more. When I was 16 and stupid I had a naturally aspirated 1991 MR2 that I would go to parking lots and do donuts in and eventually I learned to power slide and it got super addicting. Eventually I went through a few cars and began spending many nights while still in college searching for parking lots that were empty in the middle of the night between exams and studying and use it as a stress release. I always felt comfortable in my car while drifting. It was my zen place. I practiced a lot. I spent a lot of time just learning how to keep the car in drift. I eventually figured out how to make an MR2 drift fairly decent, which is a victory in itself. I went to a few events, asked around how to stop sucking, got pointers, and never looked back. I went through a few cars. I went to my first event in a Turbo MR2 and one day I got my hands on a ’00 GT Mustang. I immediately thought to myself, are you kidding me? This is so much easier! I couldn’t believe how easy it was to slide the car compared to the MR2, then I moved on to an ’05 Mustang and had the same thoughts. It was amazing how much easier this was compared to the older body style. Then I test drove my current Z and took it to a Tennessee Drift event and once I drove it there I knew this was the chassis I was going to stick with for a while.
SMASHED: For years you ran a fairly stock setup, and this year you switched to LS-power. What prompted the change and how has the new setup worked for you?
Rahimi:My philosophy on drifting from day one was always if I am not out-driving my car I am not going to upgrade it.’ I felt like if I could learn how to drift and adapt to bad tires, bad suspension, low power, etc., I would be able to drive a lot better when I upgraded it. I drove my Z stock for a good while and added parts one by one. As stuff broke I upgraded it, as I needed adjustments I bought the proper arms for it, as I needed more control I added suspension parts. I kept the stock motor because I told myself until I keep it full throttle for every part of the track then there is no reason to have more power. Gateway was one of the biggest things that helped me learn how to stay floored and never lift just so I can make that long straight. I started competing in Pro-Am and there was a disadvantage with the difference in power between cars but the gap was not huge. Eventually everyone started going crazy and upgrading their cars with more power, better tires, better suspension, and some better cars. Many battles I was in I would start off behind just because they were faster. I knew I could never be competitive with those cars without more power. I chose the LS7 because I wanted a high RPM, high torque motor. I am a big fan of driving; I am not a fan of tinkering with my car at the track. If I went turbo or a supercharged VQ I felt like I would have a lot of reliability issues and not enough power. I wanted a setup where tire changes would be the extent of my pit work. This setup is amazing. The power is always there, the car is reliable, and it sounds amazing. I still have a lot to learn with this new setup but I feel like the learning curve isn’t that high. I am working on tire setup mostly as this amount of power is a balancing act between grip and tire wear. (A tire sponsor would help here *wink wink*)
SMASHED: Your car has gained notoriety for its bruised and battered condition, even having a replica made in Forza. In an age where so many people are throwing on expensive body kits and focusing so much on the car’s appearance, what’s been your reasoning to basically leave the car as-is over the years?
Rahimi: It is actually pretty simple. I drive because it is fun. The appearance of the car does not make it more fun. It might even make it less fun because you are afraid to mess it up. All of my upgrades have been for function not form. Do I love the way some of these cars look? Of course. But when I think about the costs of something that has no benefit to the performance of my car and think about how many more tires that is, or how many more events I can go to, I decide to go with more events and more tires.
SMASHED: Many drivers I’ve talked to over the years have stated they enjoy driving with you because of your consistency. They say they never have to worry about running into you or vice versa. What do you feel contributes to this consistency?
Rahimi: Seat time and motivation. I try to drive as much as possible when I am at each event. I bring tons of tires, and drive every second the track is hot. I try to hit my marks, focus on putting down a solid run, and driving my best every time I am out there. Every run I try to get closer, go faster, and be smoother. Starting with the MR2 really helped because that car is very twitchy and you can’t make a lot of mistakes.
SMASHED: It’s not unusual for you to be running multiple series at the same time. I feel like it’s been MDU, Streetwise, State of Drift…maybe more, and on a limited budget at that. Does it ever get exhausting?
Rahimi: It is and it isn’t. Getting to the events and prepping the car are exhausting but it is all worth it in the end. If it wasn’t as fun as it is I don’t think any of us would spend the time and money to get to these events. I used to only drive to the local events, and now when an event is only three hours away I feel like it is almost in my backyard.
SMASHED: What’s your current goal in the sport?
Rahimi: I want to be the best of the best and make money while doing it. I would settle for breaking even while doing it.
SMASHED: What’s your biggest motivation to get help you reach those goals?
Rahimi: Being in that moment of zen. Feeling the drift and wanting to stay in that moment for as long as possible.
SMASHED: What is/are some of the biggest hurdles you’ve had to overcome to get where you are now?
Rahimi: I think funding is the biggest hurdle I deal with. There is really no money in this sport, especially at this level. If people really knew how much this costs they would call us crazy. I still think I am crazy every time I buy a batch of tires and look at the bill. I just placed an order today for $3,400 dollars in tires. It may last me a few events. I hope to find a way to change that soon.
SMASHED: What advice do you have for those just starting out in the sport?
Rahimi: Take your time with each upgrade, do one at a time, and get seat time before you do anything. Learning how to drive a low powered and awful handling car is more effective than dumping tons of money into your pro build because you don’t know how to drive it and think the problem is the car.
SMASHED: Anything else we should know about you?
Rahimi: If you ever see me at the track say hi. I am happy to give advice and answer any questions anyone has.
Hometown: Nashville, TN
Current city: Nashville, TN
Car: ’04 Nissan 350Z
Suspension: Tein Super Drift Coilovers, SPL arms, PBM angle kit, and more…
Wheels: Stock/junk yard spares
Years drifting: Pro-AM Since 2012, My first event ever ~2006
Day job: Automotive Industry
First drift car: 1991 MR2 turbo
Favorite track: Nashville Super Speedway