Driver of the Month June 2020 – Ken Roller
Name: Ken Roller
City/State: Philadelphia, PA
Profession: Public Accountant / Auditor
Daily Driver: 2004 Forester XT / Septa Regional Rail
Current AutoX Car/Class: 2002 Subaru Impreza WRX, Street Touring Hatch.
Family: Two highly supportive Parents and the youngest of three boys.
What was your first car? My 2002 Subaru Impreza Wrx
What was your favorite subject in school? Math / Business. What can I say, I’ve always been a numbers person.
What was your first exposure to motorsports and at what age? My first Motorsport was an SJR SCCA Autox event at Bader fields summer of 2016 when I was 21. Rowing throughout high school and again for La Salle University’s D-1 rowing program while in the 4 year MBA didn’t really leave much “free time” for other motorsports.
How did you get started in Autox? I was convinced to come to an AutoX event by Brett Dunn the day after competing and winning my age group for the Shoreman 1/4 Ironman in 2016. Showing up with severe dehydration and fatigue I had a blast and knew I was hooked.
What did you drive during your first AutoX season? My wrx in ASP (even though it should’ve been properly classed in DSP at the time)
What do you credit your quick progression to? First and foremost I have to thank Alex Meramo. He pushed to attend other regions events, turn wrenches on my car, convince me to basically redesign my entire setup from the ground up, bounce course / setup ideas off of, drop hammers on me while I’m under a car, and even convince me to go to attend nationals for the first time. Additionally, I have to give credit to all the Philly, SJR, and NNJR members who welcomed me and have helped me over the past season to progress and become a better driver.
What do you wish someone had told when when you first started? I drove my first season (4 events) on General G-Max AS-03 all seasons not knowing any better. I wish someone would’ve told me about 200tw tires when I started.
How many AutoX cars have you owned, Make Model? Just one faithful WRX
What made you choose your current autox car? It was my first car and only car at the time so options were sort of limited.
Who is your biggest influence in the sport? Everyone I come into contact with influences me so I don’t think there is one single person who I can solo out as the biggest influence. Since I’m still relatively new to the sport, I try to be open minded and take advice from everyone. The big take away I’ve gotten over the year is that if you are receptive to feedback, everyone can influence you.
Funniest autox story, if any? For the SCCA Solo National Tour: Finger Lakes Region event I had an intercooler coupler hose clamp fail after my first run on the second day. Sadly it was the hose clamp that holds the intercooler piping onto the turbo which is only accessible with the smallest of hands. Reaching in and yanking the clamp out to install a new one with every surface I touched was scorching hot. I had several people using their water sprayers to spray down my hands while I was trying to replace the clamp. I successfully changed the clamp after only getting a few dozen 2nd degree burns. Ironically after fixing that issue I later discovered the throttle body coupler delaminated and was causing my car to have the straight line speed slower than an FRS. Somehow I managed to hold onto a 3rd place finish while having about 100hp less and the car running in limp mode. Stupid STH intercooler coupler rules…
The scariest moment as a driver? Driving to my first NNJR event at MetLife, while on the NJ turnpike a car hit the median and was currently sitting half into my lane. Without much time to react I swerved to avoid the car missing both the accident and the car in the next lane by inches. Later I had to go buy some new shorts.
In the past year or so, what have you learned to help improve yourself as a driver and car prep? I learned how to properly tune / adjust my shock setting and tire pressures accordingly. Prior to this year I felt like I was turning knobs and not really understanding what I was doing. Now that I understand the shocks functionality more I feel I am more confident turning knobs and getting the desired changes.
Do you left-foot brake? Why? I haven’t been left foot braking in the past simply because I wasn’t that good at it, but after left foot braking in iRacing, I plan on utilizing LFB in the 2020 season to get the car back into boost a fraction of a second sooner.
Do you use a data logger/Video, if so how has it helped you? I’ve used a single go-pro mounted on the driver side of the car. It help me understand just how far / close I am to apex cones. In 2020 I plan on using Solo-storm to gain some more data to analyze off course of my performance.
Worst autox advice you ever received? “You should buy some Toyo R888R’s, instead of those Bridgestones.” Luckily I didn’t make that mistake.
Best autox advice you ever received? Alex Piehl – “Physically walk the course until you are able to mentally walk the course.” This is considered the the single best advice I received because it made me understand how important course walks are. Having an understanding of the course is a huge majority of what makes someone competitive at autox. Much like rally co-drivers providing commands, you need to know where you are going before you get there. Whether you have the ability to “figure it out” on your first run or need three to four course walks to have a solid plan of attack, all upper tier drivers I’ve talk to can almost recite the entire course before their first run.
How do you approach your course walks? Typically I walk 3-4 times till I can mentally walk the course. I physically walk it as if I was in the driver seat of my car taking mental notes of what cones are true apex cones and what cones are distractors. I often times look backwards during the course walk to get a better idea of car placement at speed. Lastly if there is a sector i don’t understand, I ask around since most people are more than willing to share their thoughts on course strategy. Having a game plan going into your first run is a must especially at events where you only get three runs.
What is your primary goal for the 2020 season if there is one? My ultimate goal would be to win a jacket at nationals. At the end of the day, all I can ask of the 2020 season is to become a better driver and leave nothing on the table. No matter the results in 2020 as long as I am improving and learning I will be satisfied.
The most fun autocross car you’ve ever driven? Sadly I don’t really have much experience in any other car besides my own. I will say look out for ESP prepped Mazda Speed 6 “Old Greg” in the 2020 Season
Least fun car you’ve autocrossed? My wrx when it was making zero boost due to intercooler coupler failure. Felt like I was driving with an anchor out.
If you could pick anyone’s AutoX car to run at Nationals? Being a Subaru fanboy I would have to pick Dan Stainback’s SM STI.
What would be your ultimate car build for AutoX? Yet again being a Subaru fanboy I would build a closed deck EZ30 turbo 1999 Impreza coupe in SM with an sti drivetrain swap.
Do you play any online racing sims? Do you feel this helps in the real world? As of the end up March 2020 I purchased a rig that I currently use for iRacing. For me, my biggest issues in the real cars is throttle management and smooth steering inputs. Utilizing the sim provides me the ability to dozens of different cars with different steering and throttle characteristics which I feel will partially translate into autox.
Your sim build, tell us what you have? My sim rig is far from anything special, if anything it is slightly comical. A cheap 50 wheel stand, a Logitech G920 wheel, pedals, and shifter displaying on a 22 inch View Sonic monitor in a 35 year old chair. My Pc is a off the shelf Skytech Blaze II with a Ryzen 5 2600, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 TI, and 8gb of RAM.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? (this question is always good to look back on.) In 5 years, with regard to my career, I see myself working as a controller for a mutual fund, or a PE fund. With respect to autox and other similar motorsports I see myself as someone who wants to grow the sport while maintaining active and competitive mindset (ideally with one of those nice red jackets). I want to pay forward the help, support, and knowledge that many individuals have put forth onto me. With out the help and support I received, I would not be the driver I am today. I encourage all members to support their fellow racers no matter their talents or abilities. At the end of the day we all come from different backgrounds, different upbringings, different lifestyles, but we all have the same passion.
Websites/Forums/Podcast you check daily? Besides for the typically Facebook scroll, I try to find valuable articles on NASIOC.com to help improve my build.
What trophies or titles have you achieved? 3rd Place in STH Solo National Tour: Finger Lakes, 2nd Place in STH at the 2019 Solo Nationals, 2019 SCCA Solo Rookie of the year.
Food? Nothing beats fresh high quality sushi
Drink (alcoholic)? Hornitos Silver Tequila
Vacation Spot? Down in the Florida Keys with my grandparents
AutoX Site? The Lincoln concrete is an amazing feeling