In this week’s edition of Better Know A Driver, we caught up with Rob Carlsen, a new face to Midwest Drift Union for 2015 but one who made a lasting impression. His super aggressive driving style coupled with the wild look of his 240SX cemented him as a fan and media favorite.
SMASHED: How did you get into drifting?
Carlsen: I grew up living in a valley at the base of the ski resort. Every day I had to drive a mountain pass, canyon road or the road up to the ski resort. Snowy conditions were my favorite. Later, I got invited to watch a drift demo at the Miller Motorsports Park. After watching for 10 minutes I knew that it was something I had to do. I went back to my small shop and started looking for a chassis to buy that I could build into a drift car.
SMASHED: You made your MDU debut in Detroit this year and established yourself as a very hard charger in the series, seemingly going flat out all the time. Even your first run at your first time at Gateway, which is a tricky course to master, looked like you’d driven it a hundred times before. What lead to this style of confident driving?
Carlsen: I try and scope out each course before actually running it, then recreate the car setup as compared to similar tracks I have ran. Banked corners, track conditions, temperature and layout all have a factor on adjustments to suspension settings and tire pressure. Knowing that I took these measures allows me to make every run count. It is weird how it happens but, sometimes your first run is your best run. I enjoy charging at a course. It brings the most excitement. The ongoing struggle to be faster with more grip and control is never ending.
SMASHED: Your car has arguably some of the most interesting aero of any car competing in MDU. What’s the story on that?
Carlsen: My car may look silly to most. Yet if you look close, you will see hundreds of hours in R&D thanks to Mike at Figs Engineering. If you noticed, my full skid plate under the car provides downforce for front grip. It’s a needed counter to the massive amount of rear grip the car has. The rear diffuser provides a negative pressure behind the car. This not only keep the cabin clear from tire smoke but also flows 22% more air through my side mount radiators. From the wing mounts to the cage design, every form has a function. Now it’s time to do V.2 and dial it in.
SMASHED: What would you say your ultimate goal is with drifting?
Carlsen: My goal is to have fun. My competitive nature pushes me to be the best. So I strive to compete at a pro level.
SMASHED: What’s your biggest motivation to reach those goals?
Carlsen: I decided I wanted to be a driver at the age of 30. It still amazes me what I have given up to make this an option. The support from my friends and family keep me motivated. I am also stubborn, so I do not see myself giving up or being deterred.
SMASHED: What is/are some of the biggest hurdles you’ve had to overcome to get where you are now?
Carlsen: I think I share some of the biggest hurdles I’ve overcome with other drivers that I’ve met. I did not come from a background of racing or even a family or friends that race. So there have been no hand-me-downs. You need more than just a car to race! You need tools, trailers, tow rigs, extra parts, etc. It takes a while to get a quality setup….or it takes a lot of money.
SMASHED: What advice do you have for those just starting out in the sport?
Carlsen: Seat time is the most important! It does not matter what you are in. Go-kart, auto cross in your mom’s Town & Country or a single cam KA. Seat time is important. On the other hand, don’t let someone tell you where you have to start. I started in an LS-swapped S14 and I loved every minute of it. But realize no matter where you do you start you do have to learn all the techniques of a fast car and a slower a car, a high horsepower car and a low horsepower car.
SMASHED: Anything else we should know about you?
Carlsen: This is my passion. If you need help, feel free to ask. I am pretty sure if you look in the dictionary, the word drifting means “struggle.” I love the struggle. The struggle is real.
Hometown: Eden, Utah
Current city: Rosamond, California
Car (year/make/model): 1997 Nissan 240SX
Engine: 6.2L LS3
Suspension: FEAL 441
Wheels: Motegi Touge
Tires: Falken Azenis
Sponsors: FIGS Engineering, Magnuson Superchargers, Feal Suspension, Hotwire Auto, CP Carrillo, ACT Clutch, Techline Coatings, Nuke Performance, Seibon Carbon,
Years drifting: 2.5
Day job: Comedian
First drift car: 1997 Nissan 240SX
Favorite track: PARC (Pat’s Acres)