Gearbox Magazine would like to introduce you to Brian Klausen from Denmark. Brian is a member of the Viking Autosport club, rallies a 1985 Golf GTI, and took a little time to talk about getting started in rally, single day events, and rallying on a budget.
What’s your name? Where are you located? What do you do for a living?
Brian Klausen, live in Denmark in Scandinavia. Not too far from the Danish capitol Copenhagen. Apart from being a dad and a husband, I’m team leader for a bunch of IT-consultants, in a smallish IT consultancy company based just north of Copenhagen. So basically a computer guy.
What got you interested in rally?
Well, I have always been into basically anything with an engine. I’ve been motocrossing for the better part of 10 years, started when I was 12. Also homemade go-carts, mopeds, lawnmowers, whatever with an engine had my interest when growing up. So naturally when I was old enough to get my drivers license, I got a car. Went to a lot of car races, shows, etc. – and dreamt a lot. Then 9-10 years ago I was at a local car show, and the local rally club was handing out flyers for their introductory course for what was then known as “Maneuvering stages” (sorta directly translated).
That is the entry level type of event for rallying in Denmark. It’s something like your autocrossing, only with a twist of stage rally, in the way that we have 10-12 different (short) stages at different locations – so we have transit and stuff like that too. You can enter in a street car + some minor safety equipment, but we also have classes for full out rally cars.
Anyway, I grabbed my daily at the time – a Seat Ibiza Cupra II 2.0 16V – and a friend, and we turned up. Turned out we did pretty well… even beat a 250 horse Impreza by a second.
Tell us about your rally car/truck. How long have you had it?
1985 VW Golf GTI 16V. Port and polish, slightly warmed over cam, MegaSquirt ECU. Toyota ITB’s on homemade manifold, etc. Bilsteins in front, GAZ in the rear, 11” brakes, 4.64:1 R&P + a ton of other small things.
Bought it bog standard back in late 2003.
Did you buy your rally car or build it?
What challenges did this cause? What benefits did you realize as a result?
Part of the fun for me is building it. Originally I planned on showing others that you didn’t have to make a big dent in your pocket to go racing. So the “LB” in LB Rally Team was originally short for “Low Budget”. I’m still extremely conscious of cost, but the budget isn’t as (extremely) low as it was in the beginning.
So naturally I built my car – and with the type of events I started out with, a rolling build is quite possible. As for challenges – well – I’ve used a LOT of time. Both in terms of man hours, but also it has quite literally taken years for me to get it to where it is. Going to an event always had priority over upgrades. Seat time is important.
The benefit has been that I’ve been able to upgrade over time, not needing to come up with a lot of money at once. Then of course I know the car inside out. But mostly I’m very satisfied when we do good at the events, and I can say that I made it ALL by myself on a limited budget. That is a very nice feeling.
Tell us about a time when you stuffed the rally car (or maybe had a nasty off).
I’m a way conservative driver, so I don’t really have that many situations to talk about. But the worst was right after getting the damn paint job I’d been wanting for several years… you can hear where this is going right? Anyway – it was wet, concrete surface, think I may have messed something up with the tire pressure or whatever. Regardless I stuffed the car right into an iron pole. Smack in the middle… quite a bit of damage to the bodywork for what the accident was.
The car could actually drive afterwards. Radiator wasn’t leaking, engine was running, all was actually good, except the lights where quite a bit out. I could’ve pressed on regardless, but somehow didn’t feel like it. Since then I’ve become more… shall we say: “interested” in winning… so if that had been at the last event, I would have continued.
Tell us about a time when you narrowly avoided a DNF. How did you press on regardless?
That would have been the national finals a few years ago. We had driven a long way to participate, and on the first stage a coolant hose blew AND the ignition started to cut out. I was gutted to say the least… we made it to the finish of the stage and then got out. Turned out the ignition was just a lead that had popped off – easy fix obviously. The coolant hose was for the heater – not such an easy fix, but the heater was expendable, so we decided to try to re-route the hoses, just bypassing the heater with the hoses (complete or in pieces) that we had. After tinkering for 20 minutes we’d come up with a solution, and we were back in business. At the next stage the car felt incredibly slow, but didn’t sound wrong in anyway – just really sluggish. At the finish of that stage I had the window down and noticed the distinct smell of warm brakes. Couldn’t believe it – it hadn’t been that bad… ½ a mile down the road I realized we had been driving the entire stage with the handbrake partially engaged… from then on everything went smoothly, but we’d lost too much time on the first stages to really finish well.
What’s the most rewarding part of being involved in rally? The most challenging?
Like I mentioned with regards to building the car – I particularly enjoy when we do good, and can literally say that it’s all thanks to me. I’m the one driving, building, inventing, fabricating, researching… everything except co-driving obviously… When all that comes together in a good result, I’m very pleased. There is basically no one else that takes part in the effort, so no one can say anything to take the result away from me. There’s no “yeah, but you got that trick engine by this or that über engine guru” or whatever. It’s all me: my sweat, ideas, abilities, talent, etc.
That also tends to be the challenging thing about it though… I don’t really know how to let go. Also, balancing the home life with the wife and my 1 year old daughter is a bit of a challenge. But the missus is super patient – thanks a lot honey!
How many events did you enter last year? Is that trending up or down? Why?
7 or 8 I think – 2009 was a bit of a slow year for us. 2008 was worse though. 2010 has seen us at 5 events so far, and we have plans for at least another 5 to 7. Keep in mind though, that the events in Denmark are way shorter than in America, and thus much cheaper, closer to home, etc.
Also, a lot of the events are our autocrossing-rallying-hybrid that I mentioned earlier. Much, much cheaper. Out of the events this year, there are at least 4 rallysprints, and 1 proper stage rally – though almost everything here in Denmark is one day events.
What kind of cash prize structure would entice you to enter more rallies or push the car harder?
To enter more, it would be something that wouldn’t give you a price for ranking the highest. Like one of our rallysprint series where a tire brand is sponsoring the series. Everyone at the event running their tires, are entered in a draw for gift cards. That’s a nice feature.
Anything about pushing harder would need to not directly be about finishing closer to the top. My budget is way too limited for me to get close to anything there. So I don’t care much about those prices.
How important are car classes? What class/region do you race in?
How many competitors in your class at each event?
Very important. To get high number of participants you need to accommodate all levels of ambition and economic possibilities. Car classes help with that.
The Golf is currently in Group H, but that has been discontinued, though already built cars are allowed to continue using the rules of Group H. However, we are thrown in with the Group DK-cars, which basically mean that you can do anything. Thus we get our butts handed to us – this is also due to not even using the Group H rules to the fullest in the beginning. Remember – we are on a budget.
I have most of the parts in place for moving the car to Group E, which is sort of the “warmed over” class. “Proper” gearboxes are still allowed, as is some engine work. But some of the really expensive stuff is prohibited. Just need some time for the change.
What do you think about recce vs pacenotes vs blind rally?
Can’t really say as I’ve only done recce. I’ve tried a short recce where we got pacenotes beforehand – sort of like a starting point. But I don’t have that much experience with it, so I can’t really say.
Spectators: Dream come true or worst nightmare? Why?
Dream come true – absolutely. Over here they tend to be very well behaved, clever enough to think about where they stand, etc. Also it just gives a very particular sensation when you drive along a crowd and you know they are looking at you.
How do you get local gearheads involved in rally?
I have a fairly active web site (www.lbrt.dk) – lots of info there, with emphasis on the cheaper solutions that work. I want to tell people that through dedication you can do a lot, without denting your pocket too much.
Also I try to be as outgoing and open as possible to the newcomers. Help them out if they mention that they have this or that problem, etc..
Finally I’m very active on a couple of internet car forums where I do my best to tell about the excitement of rallying and how to get started. You know – to heighten awareness.
What do you see is the most critical issue needing addressed by the rally community today?
How would you address that issue if you were in charge?
In Denmark I feel that the “red tape” and paperwork you need to get done to go racing even in your street car, is prohibitive of getting new comers into the sport. There is a ton of introductory courses, marketing, etc. going on from the clubs – but the stuff that has to be done at the sanctioning body is a bit much in my opinion.
How do you help out at rallies when you aren’t racing?
Not enough I’m afraid… but just volunteering for crowd control, etc. If I’m out spectating I always bring my camera and make sure to upload and share with the community. As a driver I appreciate it very much when others do the same to me.
If you could enter any WRC event, which rally would that be? Why?
Heh – good question. I haven’t EVER thought about that. But I would think something with smooth sweeping gravel roads. I’m thinking Portugal or Finland or something like that. We have too little gravel in Denmark, and the experience is great.
Your favorite Group B car?
Oh – there’s a few. I can’t name just one. But generally I have a weakness for the more quirky, or outrageous weird ones. Some of the favorites are: Opel Ascona 400 – just because my first car was an Ascona with most of the 400 bodykit on it (not the arches though – could afford wheels to fill them). I’m somewhat of a Peugeot/Citroen fan, so the Peugeot 205 T16 is on the short list too. MG Metro 6R4 too for just being ridiculous. But I think that the top of list belongs to the Ford RS200. Ever since I was a boy I have been in love with that car.
Though it’s not technically a Group B car (as I understand it), I feel I have to mention the Lancia Stratos too. That is my all-time favorite rally car. It is every bit as bonkers as the Group B cars. Twitchy, hard to drive, fast and outrageous styling – what’s not to love? Like the RS200 I have loved that car since I was a boy.
We’ve all got a rally hero. Who’s yours?
Hm – tough question. I’m not much into idolizing. But former European Champion in the privateer-cup Henrik Lundgaard is a person I admire quite a bit. Of course he being Danish and winning the European Championship in his Toyota Corolla WRC is quite a feat and calls for my admiration. He also seems to be a genuinely down to earth, nice guy.
Internationally I’m at awe by Sebastien Loeb – he’s just a rallying machine. Petter Solberg on the other hand seems much more “human”, and I can really relate to him. He’s passionate about the racing – but only human so makes mistakes both on stage and at press meetings, etc., but stands by those mistakes. I like that about him.
Do you have a local rally club? Tell us about it! (If not, why not?)
Yes – everyone does. That is due to the way the Danish sanctioning body (DASU) has organized itself. To get a license to rally, you have to be a member of a motor club, and only motor club’s can be organizers of any type of event, whether it’s rallying, circuit racing, or whatever. So here it’s a given.
I’m a member of one of the biggest rally-oriented clubs in Denmark – it’s called Viking Autosport, and is based quite close to me. This club is extremely focused on creating both for-club-members-only-events, as well as larger more open events. I think that is what has drawn so many people to be members of it.
Generally I get the feeling that nothing is impossible in that club. We’ll just do it, and I admire that from the guys that do all the organizing.
How often do you get together with other rallyistas to talk shop?
No very often – it’s mostly online.
Tell us about some people who have made your rally dream a reality.
Jens Villumsen was the guy who held the introductory course originally. He helped out when I needed a co-driver. He gave me firm, but good advice when building the car, etc. – just a very big help in the beginning. He’s the number one reason I got into it, and most importantly stuck at it. He made sure that I didn’t make decisions that led to dead ends, or at least made me aware of when I did so I knew. To those who know John Vanlandingham, Jens is much the same. No bullshit – a bit of tough love – but basically aimed at keeping you in the sport, to have as much fun as possible.
Thank a volunteer (or group of them) here.
It has to be Per Sørensen and Palle Bjørnsten from Viking Autosport. They do tremendous work in our club with organizing, helping out, etc. – and still find time to participate themselves.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from your time in the rally community?
It takes time and dedication – you can’t give up. Be patient and it’ll come to you.
Is there anything else rally-related you’d like to talk about, but hasn’t been asked?
Most probably – but I think we’ll leave it at this.
Gearbox Magazine would like to thank Brian for taking the time to share some of his stories with us. Does any of this sound familiar to you? Leave a comment below! We’d love to hear about it.