Driver of the Month – Evan Schickel
Name: Evan Schickel
City/State: Brooklyn, NY
Daily Profession: Structural Engineer at a consulting firm
Daily Driver: 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe. Incognito!
Current AutoX Car/Class: 2004 Mazda RX-8 in STX
Family: The oldest of three and soon to be married.
What was you first car? A 1997 VW GTI VR6 that was absurdly low on fancy wheels with more rear camber than front.
What was your favorite subject in school? Computer Science, Math, and Physics. I’m a nerd.
Did you get any tickets as a teenager? Somehow not until my 20s!
What was your first exposure to motorsports and at what age? I have two memories from around 7-9 years old. My cousin took my brother and me to Raceway Park to watch his friends make passes. I distinctly remember telling his friend that his 156 mph trap speed was slow. The other thing I remember is going to the flea market at the old Giants Stadium and dragging my parents to watch the autocross in the other lot. That was my first brush with the SCCA. Then in junior year of high school a friend brought me to an SCCA meeting at the Elks Club (or something like that) and I’m almost positive I talked to Tony Crea about my GTI.
How did you get started in Autox? During my freshman year at the University of Connecticut I joined the car club and met Nick Barbato, who was a senior at the time. I believe he started autocrossing soon after graduating. We stayed in touch and he would keep telling me I needed to come to an event and try it. It wasn’t until 2010 when I had my third car (a 1997 BMW 328i with some fun mods) that I got around to trying. My first event was with CART CT in a postage stamp lot (video!) and despite the painful course I had a blast. Nick told me that it wasn’t real autocross and begged me to come to Devens for an SCCA event, so I went on September 25, 2010. Nick instructed me and by the end of the day I had kind of figured it out. The course had a fast slalom into the finish with lots of room, and on my last run I came out of the slalom a bit sideways and stuck the finish. That was all it took, I was hooked. The next spring I moved to NYC so I sold both the GTI and the 328 and bought…
What did you drive during your first AutoX season? A 1991 Mazda Miata. I did light prep for STS with 195 Toyo R1Rs and a Ground Control + Koni kit. I couldn’t afford nor wanted to deal with running Hoosiers. I went to all of the NNJR events for the second half of the 2011 season, and then ran the entire 2012 NNJR season. I had a great points battle going with Maciek Samsel when I got T-boned by an old lady who ran a stop sign. Maciek kindly offered to let me finish the season co-driving his car, and I went on to win the class championship.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started? That if I wasn’t careful I’d end up spending all my money avoiding cones in a parking lot.
What made you choose your current autox car? I’ve had a long-time crush on the FD RX-7 but the market for them had already started to climb. The RX-8 is the best chassis I’ve ever driven and offered the rotary experience I wanted. It’s competitively classed in STX, DSP, and SM, and I wanted to stick with the same car for a few seasons to learn about setup and get myself truly dialed in with it.
Who is your biggest influence in the sport? It’s tough to name just one person. Nick Barbato for introducing me to the sport, instructing me at multiple events, and urging me to stick with it. Perry Aidelbaum for seeing something in me, allowing me instructor runs in a wide variety of cars, encouraging me to get more involved with the region, and pushing me to attend national events. Danny Kao for always being a reminder that this is about having fun.
Funniest autox story, if any? Give me a beer and I’ll tell you three.
Scariest moment as a driver? Spinning Adil Abdulali’s GT4 in a fast sweeper and ending up near paddock.
In the past year or so, what have you learned to help improve yourself as a driver and your car setup? In the past I’ve never made changes to a car during or even between events. I guess I was lucky that the cars’ setups I drove were close enough, but I always focused on my driving. This year I have Aaron Shoe as my co-driver and we have been making lots of changes to the car both during and between events. Not being afraid to try something different is really important, even in the Street classes.
Do you left-foot brake? In your opinion how has this helped you? Nope. I’m great at it when I’m sim racing, but I don’t like it in the car. I prefer to push my left foot into the dead pedal to keep my hips locked in the seat.
Do you use a data logger/Video, if so how has it helped you? Yes, I run SoloStorm with a GoPro, though I don’t often look at data during an event because I’m busy keeping the engine and tires cool.
Worst autox advice you ever received? “You don’t need to lift/brake for that.” Maybe THEY don’t because they aren’t carrying as much speed as you.
Best autox advice you ever received? Cut distance. Always cut distance.
How do you critique yourself after a run? I identify two things to do better on my next run, and then think about whether I want to make a change to the shocks or front bar. It’s too easy to overthink things.
What is your primary goal for the upcoming season? To be the 2019 STX Solo National Champion!
The most fun autocross car you’ve ever driven? John Vitamvas’s DSP BMW 330ci.
Least fun car you’ve autocrossed? SSC.
If you could pick anyone’s AutoX car to run at Nationals? John Vitamvas’s SM Mazda RX-8 2.5T.
What would be your ultimate car build for AutoX? An electric A Mod car.
What trophies or titles have you achieved? 2018 DSP Solo National Champion. 2015 BS Pro Solo Champion. 2015 & 2017 NNJR Driver of the Year.
Websites/Forums/Podcast you check daily? Facebook…
Drink (alcoholic)? Moscow Mule
Vacation Spot? California
AutoX Site? Crows Landing