They’re best known as two of the top drivers on the Formula Drift pro circuit, but three-time FD champion Chris Forsberg and Dylan Hughes are always game to drive anything on four wheels. That’s why they teamed up with Slime to build the ultimate UTV and put Slime’s new 2-in-1 Tire & Tube Sealant to the test in one of off-road racing’s most fun challenges: this week’s NORRA 500!
In the conclusion of this multi-part interview series, we explore how Chris and Dylan have prepared for the unique logistical challenges of desert racing, jumping back and forth between NORRA and Formula Drift, and where they’d like to race next. Watch the build and the race at slime.com/roadtobaja!
Chris and Dylan, you guys go way back in working together on all sorts of projects in FD and elsewhere. The NORRA 500 is obviously a little different because you’re dealing with a multi-day, multi-stage race event. There’s a very coordinated plan there in terms of car sharing that obviously you’re not dealing with in a Formula Drift event where you’re running about a minute at a time. It’s a sprint race versus an endurance race. I mean, how unique is it to completely have to change that mindset? And what’s gone into sort of the planning and the logistics of that thus far, both in getting down there and planning behind the wheel?
Chris Forsberg: The biggest thing is ripping this thing in a whole new territory, and the testing was great for getting that thing up in the air. Like Dylan was saying, I got to do a little bit of Baja action four or five years ago. We were in a buggy, and so that was the only time I really had a long duration on my own in a rig without, like we’re saying, having the trailer right there. So seeing how you have to basically handle the terrain and not push 110% and just making sure that you’re getting through and finishing is what we’re going to have to just really restrain ourselves with. Drifting is the exact opposite—it’s 110% for 30 seconds. With this it’s just staying within your limits, trusting the equipment, and making sure that you’re not making the wrong decisions.
So, that’s the one thing we’ve just been really, really focusing on. Like Dylan said, we haven’t talked about it, but we both pretty much have the same idea of this is really going to be about not getting ahead of ourselves, which is exactly the opposite of what we’re totally used to. So, yeah, definitely excited to go rip that thing. But, got to be smart at the same time.
Dylan Hughes: I think with the driving side of it… I’ve learned this from Chris over the years—watching him go as we won two championships together, me being a mechanic on his team and him being an absolute psychotic drift driver—I think that you have to develop a mental switch. In drifting, it’s a lot of hurry up and wait, which I’m sure it is like any other racing. But a lot of it is just like, you go out, you do your morning practice, you’re feeling good, everything’s sweet. You get out of the car, you have lunch, you have a driver’s meeting, you sign some autographs, you get back in the car. You ready to go? Yes. Okay, cool. Oh, just kidding. Commercial break. Wait, sit in the car, back in the car for another 10 minutes. Okay. Now go, perform at your best. I think that one of the most difficult things is just turning it on like that, at the flip of the light switch being able to turn on the aggressiveness and the adrenaline. We’ve been able to develop that over the years in drifting, which obviously Chris has got it mastered and I’m still figuring it out.
But there’s the mental switch of just being able to turn it on, and the switch of just being able to adapt to whatever to type of driving you’re doing. When I was instructing at DirtFish Rally School, we would have all wheel drive cars and we would have rear wheel drive cars, and they were 100,000% different cars to drive on the gravel. Depending on what car you were getting in, you had to literally turn and switch your head. It’s like, okay, we’re rear drive, so we’re going to have lots of steering wheel input. You have to be careful on getting back to the throttle too early or it might make you loop, and kind of tiptoe around it a little bit with the rear drive cars. The STIs on the gravel were just a complete opposite. They’re just point and shoot cars. You turn in, the thing’s full broadside, you mash it, it will stop your rotation and you exit the turn. So, totally different types of driving. I think that luckily enough for both of us, we have this mental switch where we can be like, “Okay, we’re going to flip this dial over to longevity. Let’s make this rig last. Let’s make this thing to the end.” Kind of like that tortoise and the hare like I was talking about.
As far as the prep goes for actually going down there, we have several guys coming down with us. We have a truck and trailer that’s going to be chasing us around. And to be honest with you, we don’t exactly know where our checkpoints are going to be yet, but we are hoping that it’s going to be some sort of loop so that we can kind of do a loop and come back and like meet at the same spot at the end of the day. But that doesn’t mean that we’re not going to have to go and fish this truck out of a ditch way down somewhere else in this loop. We do have a lot to learn in that aspect because, let’s be honest, we’ve never done this before. We’ve been doing some research online and trying to figure out what’s going to be the best for us, and reaching out to Justin at Cognito has been a huge help as well.
So the logistics side of it, the team side of it, is something that I would say we potentially are the most unprepared for. But that’s not to say we’re going to flop on that by any means. It’s just a lot of moving parts, and when Chris and I are in the truck we’re not going to be able to handle it. So you’re relying on other people, there are a lot of variables coming into this, and we’re kind of new at it, so fingers crossed it goes well, I guess. But we’re prepared. We have a great crew of guys coming down, and we’re thankful for them, so it should be good.
This event drops right between the final two rounds of the Formula Drift season, and obviously you guys have been full bore in that. The NORRA 500 comes between the return to Long Beach and the finale at Irwindale, which is your biggest event of the year. How much fun is it to be able to fit an event like this in between two of what are already your biggest events of the year in your day jobs?
Chris: It’s funny—in my mind I just kept thinking, “Oh, the race is after our season, it’s just after Irwindale.” And then we look at the schedule, it’s like, oh, wait no. It’s like two weeks before. So it’ll be crazy to kind of just fully change the scope for that week and then get back into Irwindale. But once you show up to the track, like when we get to Irwindale it’s just going to switch back on. But, yeah, it’ll definitely be a pretty funny feeling coming back from Baja thinking that we have to get ready for Irwindale. So, that’ll be kind of interesting, but our car is ready to go and we’re all set on that side of it. We’re just focused on our trip to Baja right now.
Dylan: Yeah, it’s one of those deals. It’s going to be an action packed couple of weeks. It’s going to be pretty gnarly. I have a feeling we’re going to be kind of sore physically after the Baja race. I think that it’s going to be fairly taxing on our bodies, but we’ve got a little bit of time before Irwindale and just love having an action packed couple of weeks. I mean, this is what we live for. We want to go racing, we want to go fast, and we want to do cool stuff. So the fact that we even get these opportunities to go run Formula Drift on a full season this year, which has been awesome, and go down and run Baja. Personally, I just want to do cool stuff. So anytime we get to build a rig and go and dip our toes into something slightly different, which in this case is Baja racing for us, I’m so about it. Anything that we can do that is different, cool, and fun.
Chris and I have had a great time putting this project together over the past couple of months. Anytime we get to work on a project together, it’s always a good time, whether it be the laughs along the way, or obviously the driving is always fun. But, Chris and I have a really special dynamic where I think that we work really well on camera. And I think that we work really well as a driving pair as well. So, I don’t know. I’ve got a good feeling about it. I think we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with out there in the desert and who knows where this could take us. I mean, maybe this will be a thing for us from now on, where we do more of this. I’d be down.
If all goes well, are there more desert events that you want to hit? Is there more desert racing that both of you guys want to do, whether it’s with this build or anything else? What would you guys like to do if this one goes well?
Chris: I mean, I would like to get through this race and we’ll see what’s next. But for real, I’ve always had an interest in off-road racing. I’ve always thought it was cool, which is why we wanted to do this project. This is like our kind of segue into it. I mean, as long as everything comes back safe and sound, yeah, I guarantee we’ll want to enter another one here in the future. Just fitting in the schedule and seeing where it all works for all of us and where the rig can get to is the only other variable. But outside of that, yeah. I mean, I’m feeling it, I’m into it. Some of the most fun I ever had was pre-running for that Baja race we did a few years ago. So, if it’s half as fun as that, yeah, I’ll be to do it again.
Dylan: Maybe we could just be a professional pre-runners, Chris. We just go there and see the course and hang out with the pros. And then we just watch the race from our couch, you know?
I mean, who knows where it could go, honestly. We’re down for whatever, we’re drivers, we’re builders. I mean, at this point I kind of feel like we can do whatever, but like Chris was saying, let’s get this rig back, see how it went, and then we’ll kind of go from the there. Maybe we show up to a (King of the) Hammers event, maybe even just to spectate, but bringing the rig out there would be cool and going to hang out. I don’t know, you never know, but like I said, don’t get too far ahead of ourselves. We’ll just we’ll focus on this and then we’ll see what happens.
Chad, I think the guys have got a video series for you, Pro Pre Runners.
Chad Ellman, Slime Marketing Manager: That sounds great. I love interacting with these guys, it’s just so fun. We’re just excited to partner and be able to watch them race in such a joyful way. And they just bring so much energy and joy into their sport and that’s really fun. And that’s why we wanted to partner with them. That’s what the Slime brand does. We help people do the things they love doing, whether it’s riding a dirt bike or mowing their lawn—that’s the stuff they like doing, and we want to make that easy for them. So it’s been great to work with them, and I’ll actually be going to Irwindale because I want to watch them race in their drift cars. So we’ll do that as well, and I’ll see you guys down there.
Dylan: Right on. We look forward to it. I think you’ll have a good time at Irwindale and thank you to you as well, and Slime of course. We had a great time, when we came down, you gave us a whole factory tour and went inside the freezing room and got a bunch of demos, and you guys have been nothing but great to us. So, huge thank you to you and Slime as well, Chad. We’re pretty stoked. We’re feeling lucky.
Chad: Yeah. When Dylan mentions the freezing room, we do a lot of our R&D right out of here in San Luis Obispo, California. And we have this room that gets down to -40º C and it gets way hot. So, we can test our sealants at really low and high temperatures. So, we cool that thing all the way down and all just jumped in and close the door. We all wanted to get out of there pretty quickly, but we can put our sealant in tires and spin it and make sure it performs.
I would say when you asked what the favorite episode was, that was mine, when they came to visit here. And then we took it out on the dunes. We took the UTV so that everyone in the building could see it and we took it out, and while we were putting it back in the trailer, I say, “Chris, can I sit shotgun with you?” He’s like, “Sure.” And I thought we’d just cruise it back. Next thing I know, I’m like whoosh, drifting it through the parking lot. And so, I would say that was my favorite episode for sure! I was like, “I feel like this is really fast, but I feel pretty safe. This doesn’t seem right!” It was pretty fun. Anyway, I can’t wait to see how we do here in NORRA. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
Images via Slime