Speed Secrets: Four Wheels With & Without A Motor—An Interview With Bucky Lasek

Features, Racing I By Ross Bentley I October 01, 2013
Bucky Lasek is a legend in the skateboarding world (anyone with 72,000 Twitter followers and 50,000 Facebook fans must have accomplished something!), and no wonder: He’s won 13 X-Games medals, including 4 gold this year—at the age of 40 (sorry for telling the world, Bucky). Ironically, he won those medals competing against kids younger than his own children.
I’ve had the good fortune to coach and spot for Bucky in the Global Rallycross series, where he drives for the factory Subaru team. I’ve been around and worked with many elite-level athletes in my own career, and Bucky is one of the best. His focus, his desire to improve, and his natural athleticism are what set him apart.
Bucky has adapted to rallycross much faster than most people will ever know. When you consider that he typically gets fewer than a dozen laps of practice before his couple of qualifying laps—and then it’s right into the races—it’s amazing that he’s battling with guys like Ken Block, Tanner Foust and Travis Pastrana (all of whom seem to live in a car!). From my perspective, it’s what he brings from skateboarding that allows him to just jump in, mix it up, and adapt so quickly.
Ross Bentley: You’ve driven a wide variety of vehicles, from open-wheelers to your Subaru Rallycross car, and a number of production-based race cars in between. Do you have a preference for one over the other, and if so, why?
Bucky Lasek: I don’t really have a preference – they are all very different in their own way. I’ve always liked to test myself and by jumping in all these types of race cars, I’ve been able to learn so much over the years.
RB: What do you like most about rallycross?  
BL: The fast race pace, along with the mixed surfaces and power that these cars have.
RB: Which is more difficult, winning gold medals in skateboarding or racing in GRC?
BL: This year, winning gold medals seemed to come pretty easy due to the fun approach that I took towards competing! Racing has been a bit more of a struggle with developing our cars and luck just not falling in our favor. It’s been tough, but we see the light and the future looks great for our team. 
RB: What have you been able to take from skateboarding to apply to racing cars?
BL: I bring consistency, balance, focus and the confidence to find the limits.
RB: What has been the toughest driving technique that you’ve had to learn to race competitively in GRC?
BL: The cars push badly if you do not get them rotated early enough and pointed, especially on the loose surfaces. The toughest thing in the beginning was learning to judge my entry speed with braking—scrubbing speed—but still carrying momentum with the car sideways in the loose surfaces to get a faster, more direct exit. All-wheel-drive cars get a better and faster drive out of the corners the sooner you get the wheels pointed straight and on the gas.
RB: You’ve recently won an open-wheel series at Sonoma Raceway, showing your versatility as a race driver. What driving techniques do you use in rallycross that don’t apply to road racing (and which ones do)?
BL: In rallycross, I use a lot of the pendulum or Scandinavian flick technique to rotate the car. I can’t see me finding much use for this in road racing except for maybe a victory lap! A technique I use in both worlds would be sharing the pedals (applying left-foot-braking along with right foot gas). This helps settle the car whether it’s because of a push that’s occurring or it’s just to assist in planting the car better in some of the high-speed turns.
RB: I suspect you set up your skateboard based on how you want it to feel and respond, without an engineer. But in rallycross, you have an engineer. How difficult has it been to translate how you want the car to perform to the engineers who do the set-up? 
BL: The most difficult thing has just been getting seat time in the car (due to the little amount of practice that we are given), to make the kind of changes that are needed. We normally get one day prior to the event, which is about 20 minutes of seat time just for shake down. That’s where we go over the whole car, checking everything and making sure it’s in running order. We then get maybe 5 to 10 laps of actual on-course practice which is where we are forced to make the changes we may need, just before going out for qualifying. So the pace is fast and the race weekend is over before you know it.
RB: The key to being a smooth and fast driver is to look way ahead. How similar is that to what you do on a skateboard?
BL: It’s very similar in ways – turns are like tricks. You have to be precise, consistent, and prepared well ahead for the next one.
RB: I would imagine that in skateboarding your kinesthetic sense is critical – feeling where your body is whether on the board or in the air. Obviously it’s different in a car because you’re strapped in – but how different? How do you "feel" what’s going on with the car? 
BL: I’m very aware when it comes to my body and its balance and I believe that transfers over into my car’s suspension. This is why knowing and relating to how suspension is set up is very important to me.
RB: What was the biggest push that took you from skateboards to cars?
BL: I’ve been into cars ever since I was young; I played with and rebuilt Hot Wheel cars! I used to bust them apart and build my own using Krazy glue, modding them the way I liked them. This led me into building and customizing my own personal cars to attend track days and racing schools on the weekends with my friends back at Summit Point raceway in the early 90’s. It wasn’t until years of shifter karting and seat time in numerous cars (which was around 2005), that I started getting a bit more serious about where I wanted to be in motorsports.
RB: This is your second season in rallycross. What’s been the biggest surprise? The biggest challenge? The most fun?
BL: The biggest surprise and challenge would have to be the short amount of time I’ve been given to actually spend in these cars. Racing and jumping these cars on all the mixed surfaces have by far been the most fun I’ve had behind the wheel of any car.
RB: As a successful athlete in wheeled sports (both motorized and non-motorized), what advice do you have for either amateur racers or track-day-drivers who want to get better as quickly as possible?
BL: Get a kart and or a cheap car to race if you don’t already have one… Seat time, seat time, seat time and most importantly stay grounded with all that speed!
RB: Skateboards, cars… What’s next?  
BL: Fabrication is another hobby of mine.
RB: What question has never been asked that you would like someone to ask you?
BL: Would you like a few million dollars of unearned fortune?
RB: What question do you wish people would stop asking you?
BL: Do you still skateboard?
Exerpted from Ross Bentley’s Speed Secrets Weekly. For more tips and additional articles on the art and science of racing, click here to subscribe.

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