El Blanco (aka: Aslousen Oberstierskin, Michael White) is a Vendor Relations Manager for an IT firm in Camden, Maine, USA. Are you ready to get pumped about rally? Are you ready to press on regardless? Make the jump to our first ever SAAB rallyist interview!
What got you interested in rally?
Speed… and the ability to control where none should be possible. I always dug car and mechanical stuff, but I really liked being able to be in control. Classic, huh? And I don’t know when it was, but I read some Road &Track article about rally and they talked about rally drivers being the most talented because every corner, every surface, every stage was different and new. I dug on that.
Tell us about your rally car/truck. How long have you had it?
Current ride is a 1984 Saab 900. It’s the second rally car I’ve built, and it’s brand new. NEFR 2010 is my first event in it. 1st car was an ’80 Saab 99.
Did you buy your rally car or build it?
What challenges did this cause? What benefits did you realize as a result?
I wanted to build this car instead of buy because I knew what I wanted. I knew what worked last time , and what didn’t. I also derive some sick-assed pleasure from scraping tar from the bottom sides of vehicles. Challenges? Well, this time I have a family and house and real job. The 1st car took 8 months to build, this one took 4 years.
Tell us about a time when you stuffed the rally car (or maybe had a nasty off).
I tend to stuff the car friggin’ around like a week before an event… however, we were in a Canadian winter event, at Perce-Neige, feeling the red mist on a long straight. What I thought was damp gravel coming into a 90 left was actually polished ice. We didn’t have a chance. 4th gear in a Saab is still pretty fast. We went straight at T, so deep in, I thought it was going to be spring before we got out. The crazy, awesome Canadians drug some HUGE 15ft sections of trees out of the woods and pried us, foot, by foot up out of the hole we’d dug and back on the road. Simply awesome!
Tell us about a time when you narrowly avoided a DNF and how you managed to press on.
Maine Forest in like 2000. Wicked rough rally, very dry, super dusty, like 95 degrees. We lost our tailpipe on the first long stage. Then we broke it a little further forward, then we lost a wheel in transit, then we broke a shock, then our entire exhaust. In the course of a 30min service my crew was somehow able to find a piece of pipe, and a welder, make a header collector and a pipe sticking out the side of the car. Our best finish ever…in the loudest car in the entire field!
What’s the most rewarding part of being involved in rally? The most challenging?
Everyone says it, but it’s the people. Most of my closest friends are from the rally community. And they all get it. We all wax and wane, cars come and go, people phase out or phase in, but the friendships remain… that and all the hot chicks and sponsorship loot.
How many events did you enter last year? Is that trending up or down? Why?
No events last year, so I’m trending up!!!
What kind of cash prize structure would entice you to enter more rallies or push the car harder?
MaxAttack is as good as I’ve seen it…although with the kind of field they’ll have at NEFR, money deeper down in the finishing order would be nice. True contingency and series sponsors would really help. Gotta say… getting 15% off of brake pads or some headphones isn’t going to help me make it to the next event.
How important are car classes? What class/region do you race in?
How many competitors in your class at each event?
Well, you know what, I am racing the guys sitting before and after me on the road and the buddies I have in the field. Classes are nice, but overall… bragging rights and free beer to the “winner” is what rally was built on… I’d like to keep it that way.
What do you think about recce vs pacenotes vs blind rally?
This will be my first event with notes… I’ll tell ya in a few weeks!
Spectators: Dream come true or worst nightmare? Why?
This may not be a popular answer with everyone, but we suck (as an organization) at making rally cool for spectators. We make them ride buses, stand on crappy corners, herd them, yell at them to get behind the super strong yellow tape. Issue? Our messed up legal system has removed the ability for spectators to self govern and be taught the right way to do it. “Back in the day” you got a map, maybe an old route book, a tank full of gas, some sandwiches, beer and if you were lucky, a scanner and you made your own event following the rally. You found the crossroads, you looked for the vantage points, you hiked through the woods..and you know what? With very – and I mean VERY few exceptions… shocker here – nobody got hurt. And people were responsible (to a point) for their own actions.
Not so now.
How do you get local gearheads involved in rally?
Take ‘em for a beat run… they’re hooked.
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?
Organizers need help and support from the series in the way of an overall big $$ sponsor. I see the trials our local organizers go through – for what? So I can go play in the woods? Smaller interest groups in our county lobby and advocate for more than we rallyists do. Wut up wit dat?
How do you help out at rallies when you aren’t racing?
I do like to work events… even though I’m usually grumpy that I’m not driving… but I do like giving back.
If you could enter any WRC event, which rally would that be? Why?
Sweden or Finland. Love snow and damn those Finnish roads look sweet.
Your favorite Group B car?
Lancia Delta S4… just super bad-ass.
We’ve all got a rally hero. Who’s yours?
Got a few.
John Buffum, Colin McRae, Stig Blomqvist.
Do you have a local rally club? Tell us about it! (If not, why not?)
The New England rally community is one, big dysfunctional family… ’nuff said!
How often do you get together with other rallyistas to talk shop?
The interweb has made that a weekly, international occurrence.
Tell us about some people who have made your rally dream a reality.
My wife Suzanne, my family and my friends who put stupid drive time in so they can come work on my car.
Brett, John Groo, The Breck’s, Luke, Andrew, Ted, Carl, Hanh Nguyen…Thank you!
El Blano would also like to thank his generous sponsors for their help.
YachtingSolutions.com – An industry-leading yachting services provider.
MaineIndoorKarting.com – Maine’s safest, fastest, and most thrilling karting facility.
Sebago Brewing Company – Maine’s premier restaurant and brewery.
Thank a volunteer (or group of them) here.
Workers and organizers.. Ted Goddard, John Buffum, Greg Healy, Ted & Lise Mendham, Kathy Moody, Tim O’Neil, Anders Green, these are the people making it happen. Hats off!
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from your time in the rally community?
Beer…beer is good and is meant to be shared.
It’s a shame Aslousen Oberstierskin aka: El Blanco, aka: Michael White, aka: that guy with the bad ass Saab lives all the way up in Maine. We at Gearbox Magazine (based in Phoenix, Arizona) would really love to rally with this cat. If you’d like to get to know El Blanco – look him up on Facebook!
What about you? Agree with what Michael has to say about Max Attack prizes, spectators, or beer? Leave us a comment. Let us know! Thanks for reading!