14 March 2011

Interview - 5 Minutes with Eric O'Sullivan

If you are familiar with the Drifting world, the name Eric O’Sullivan will be a very familiar one. With some incredible accolades to his name from all over the world Eric truly has put his stamp into the International Drifting scene. Early steps up the ladder was with winning the Prodrift Ireland series in 2007 and then popping over to the UK to take the JDM Allstars Championship the following year.

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Eric at the JDM Allstars Wembley event in 2008.

Success in Europe resulted in an invitation to compete stateside in the Red Bull World Drifting Championship alongside big name drivers such as Tanner Foust and Rhys Millen. After impressing the right people on the International stage it wasn’t long before he scored a drive competing in the USA ’s Formula D Championship winning him the Rookie of the year award in 2009. In recent news it has been announced that Eric will be pushing hard throughout the 2011 season piloting the Gardella Motorsport Pontiac Solstice. Before the hectic FD season begins The Corolla Brotherhood got in touch with Eric to talk about the car that started it all, the infamous F20c Powered AE86!

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Full attack at JDM Allstars.

CB - Hi Eric, first of all congratulation’s on the news of Driving for Gardella in the 2011 season. How did teaming up with Gardella come about?

Eric - Hey and thanks !. Gary Gardella was actually one of the first people I met at my first Formula Drift event in Long Beach 2009 through a mutual friend of ours. I had a look around the then newly built Pontiac Solstice his team had built and realised straight away that these guys knew what they were doing. I got to know Gary pretty well over the past couple of years and when he mentioned that he may be looking for a second driver for the 2011 season I jumped at the opportunity and entered the driver search he had announced. I made it to the final 3 selection alongside Chelsea Denofa and Pat Cyr and ended up winning the seat in February, its certainly a dream come true for me.

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How the now famous 86 sat before the many transformations began.

CB - You are probably most well known for your Drifting in the F20c Powered AE86 Levin winning numerous events, again proving how successful a well set up 86 can be. What was it you enjoyed the most with your AE86?

Eric - I have always really enjoyed how easy my corolla is to drive and also how reliable its been for me. Since I built it from a bare shell everything was exactly where I wanted it and once I figured out a set up it was so comfortable for me to drive, it just felt so natural. It also never really gave me any problems over the years.I could turn up at the track, take it off the trailer and drive the crap out of it all day and only have to worry about changing tyres and putting fuel in it. We've had some great times at some great tracks.

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Pulling some great speed at the famous D1 exhibition match held at Silverstone.

CB - That 86 was probably the first I had seen successfully running the F20c S2000 engine swap, what made you carry out this swap instead of popular SR20 swaps for example?

Eric - I've always been a big fan of naturally aspirated horse power and in particular Honda engines. Before I ever learned of drifting I had several Honda's so I knew how reliable they could be and what sort of power they were capable of making. At the time I was running my car with 20 Valve engine I was buying a lot of parts from Gabriel Tyler in Techno Toy Tuning who had just finished building his F20 powered corolla. I spoke to him about how the car drove and what the engine fitment was like so when the time came to build my car into a serious competition car I already knew what route I wanted to go down with the engine. That was late in 2005 just after the D1 exhibition match in Silverstone and it ended up taking me almost a year to finish the build.

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The same car in it's most recent, Trueno front end guise. Looking amazing sitting on the TE37V replica wheel from Rota.

CB - We have noticed you have recently finished building another AE86, can you give us a quick run through the spec of this car?

Eric - The black Trueno I have now is actually the same corolla I've always had since early 2005. When it finally returned from the Red Bull Drifting World Championships in Long Beach it was in pretty bad shape. I hit the wall at that event and damaged the left front and rear along with a couple of wheels and some suspension parts. That was the summer of 2009 and since I was driving the Subaru in FD that season I didn't really have the time or the money to repair the car until the summer of 2010. Instead of repairing the front and finding more levin headlamps I decided to cut the front off, fit an MCN sport fibre glass Trueno bonnet with moulded in headlamp covers and a Driftkits.eu trueno front bumper and kevlar wings. Since there was some damage to the rear also I changed the CBY arches for Driftkits.eu Kevlar complete over fenders to match. Other than that its the exact same car I've been using since the end of 2006.

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Eric on the International stage at the Red Bull World Drifting Championship.

CB - The AE86 holds such a strong following all over the world, why do you think this is?

Eric - I think the corolla has so many loyal followers because of its simplicity, its fun driving experience and its ability to defeat many more powerful cars in the hands of the right driver. To many people its simply an underpowered little toyota but to anyone who enjoys driving, who really considers themselves a driver it can be so much fun and so fast through any corner. Its also very basic and can be improved and modified very easily into a fully competitive track car with the right knowledge .

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Driving the rockstar/hankook Subaru in Formula D.

CB - Back to Formula D, there are so many strong driving personalities in that Championship. Who is you favourite to drive against and why?

Eric - My favourite driver to run against in Formula Drift would probably be Freddy Aasbo. Freddy is a great guy, such a personality and drives with a similar style to me. He's seriously fast and carries huge angle which means its a lot of fun to compete against him. Unfortunately with Formula D being so competitive these days there's a lot of tactics involved. Some drivers are very into ' throwing out an anchor ' when leading to try and mess up your run so its nice to run with someone I'm familiar with that I know I can trust to just go out there and drive the doors off their car. If I'm beaten by Freddy I know its because I just wasn't fast enough !!!

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Promotional material as Eric Takes his place at Gardella Racing for 2011.

Thanks for taking the time out of your schedule to speak to us, The Corolla Brotherhood & our readers are all totally behind you in the 2011 Season with Gardella Motorsport and can’t wait to see you on the podium!

Also thanks to the great Ross Ianson from Doristars for letting me use some of his photos and Eric for sending me a few of his own photos. Other photos sourced from Urbanracer.com

James.

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