be_ixf;ym_202111 d_29; ct_100
Day two images of Ken Block from round one of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, Round One - Race day

Meet the other Head Hoonigan in Charge: Q&A with Team Director Derek Dauncey

Nov 172016

As the saying goes; success isn't something you achieve by accident, but rather by preparation. In motorsport especially, this couldn’t be more accurate.  

The 2016 FIA World Rallycross Championship is zeroing in on its season ending event in Argentina in just under a fortnight’s time. While for each team in the paddock, simply completing the full 12-stop tour of events represents a huge effort, there is one squad that will arguably have more cause than most to reflect on a job-well-done this year.  

Since the season began, high-up in the Portuguese mountains in April, the Hoonigan Racing Divison Team has successfully fielded two new and untested cars - and scored an incredible run of results including two wins and four podiums. What’s more it currently sits fourth in the Team’s standings. Not bad for a season that was largely chalked up as a development year.

Beginners luck? Not a chance. The team has been led on track by the combined talents of Ken Block and Andreas Bakkerud, and also boasts world-class back-up in the form of engineers from M-Sport, Ford Performance, as well as in-house support staff. All working around the clock to keep the drivers on point, and the wheels on the pair of 600bhp Ford Focus RSRX turning. Overseeing the whole operation is a huge task, and one not to be underestimated.

Enter Derek Dauncey. With a life long career in off-road racing behind him, including the running of Mitsubishi’s World Rally efforts during the Makkinen era of championship wins, there are few better qualified to take up the management reigns.  

What’s more, Dauncey has been teamed up with Ken Block since the Head Hoonigan in Charge started rallying nearly a decade ago. At well over 6-feet tall, 51 year old Dauncey cuts an imposing figure in the service paddock, and we jumped at the chance to grab his thoughts on managing a team of over 30 race-personnel, this year’s championship, the dynamic between Ken and Andreas, and the team’s goals for 2017.

For the un-initiated – what’s your role in the team?

My official title is Team Director in Hoonigan Racing Division. What that means is I oversee the teams strategy and direction in terms of performance, support, logistics, planning and budgeting. So a bit of everything really; trying to keep the show running along so to speak.

What’s your background in motorsport? 

I was very lucky to have been working in motorsport for 30 years now. I was with Mitsubishi for 15 years – with (Kenjiro) Shinozuka, and then with Makkinen in the works team. Richard Burns, [Francois] Delecour, Marcus Grönholm – the golden era of rallying really. Winning four drivers titles, as well as manufacturers titles; I was there with it all at the right time.

Outside of the championship win, what’s been your favorite memory so far?

It was all an adventure really – we did Asia Pacific Championship, the Hong Kong to Beijing rally –now you’d never be able to go and drive through China like we did then. We [the team] did all of the World Championship rounds, and of course World's toughest rally the Safari. It enabled us to travel to every part of the World, which was phenomenal. With the rally America victories, I’ve been a part of 16 titles; it’s incredible to look back on.

How has it been working with Andreas? 

Andreas first came to me at the end of the GRC season in Las Vegas two years ago. He actually approached me and asked what it would take to get into one of our cars. Funnily enough we had already been watching him. The whole deal to put a programme together with Ford took around 15 months, so Ken and myself had time to assess drivers. We thought that Andreas would be a good fit for the team, and we definitely thought he had the talent. We looked at a lot of drivers with a huge range of experience, but kept on coming back to the same person thinking we could help him, and that he would fit very well with our mindset and the direction we wanted to go in. To be honest – what a super guy to have on the team. He works very hard, he’s a really pleasant guy to get along with, and he’s very very hungry for success. It’s all exactly what we wanted. Again we are trying to keep peoples feet on the ground. His pace and his attitude is very good, we need to refine a few areas, but I’m confident that our two drivers can push for a manufacturers title next year.

What’s the dynamic like between the two drivers?

From my point of view it works very well. The thing with Ken is that he’s been an extremely successful businessman, so there’s no pressure internally on himself. That allows him to concentrate on the performance he puts in driving the car. It’s a great balance having Andreas complement that coming from almost a pure racing background. The vision both of them have leaves very few areas untouched. Having the young gun in the team alongside such an experienced person as Ken is fantastic. They get on together really well socially. You don’t have to look far to see friction between teammates in other sports, and it never gives a good feeling within the team. With both drivers we have a very good open and positive attitude, and we all really enjoy what we are doing! If you can get that balance right, with everyone from the mechanics, engineers, and catering people, working together towards one goal – to win – then you are in the best possible position; and I genuinely believe we have that.

What’s the strategy for the last race and beyond?

At the start of the year I had an idea about what we wanted to achieve in terms of positions and finishes. We’ve completely surpassed that, so it’s almost a sense that anything on top is a bonus. We’ve had two wins, two seconds and two third place podiums. We podiumed four times in a row between Norway and France. In fact in France we had both cars in the final, which is always the important milestone over a race weekend. As I said before we’d like to push for as high a position in the manufacturers title teams Championship as possible and having both cars in the final bags you a ton of points – which is what its all about.