by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter

Images via Jason Swoboda

Honda’s presence in North American stage rally dates back a number of years, as some of the brand’s brightest minds have campaigned everything from the Civic to the CR-Z in the Rally America National Championship. This year, Chris Sladek took over the driver’s seat of the Maxxis/HPD Rally Team Fit, and kept up the team’s winning tradition by earning multiple class victories on the way to the 2018 B-spec title. Today, we get to know Chris a little better—stay tuned to meet his co-driver, J Sharps, tomorrow:

What made you want to start rallying?

I had always enjoyed rally since I was a kid but my exposure was mostly limited to TV and video games. I grew up on racing games but it was the rally games that I could always come back to without getting tired of them. The challenge of rarely seeing the same turn twice kept things interesting and eventually I realized WRC existed. Seeing the raw driving skill that the drivers displayed was incredible and of course the speed they achieved really appealed to my inner adrenaline junkie. It wasn't until I started working at Honda that I realized it was something I could actually participate in. Needless to say I was hooked from my first stage.

When was your first event and how did you do?

My first event was earlier this year at 100 Acre Wood. We won the B-spec class and finished seventh in 2WD!

When was your first memorable result—win or podium—and how did you get there?

Probably not very original but the 100 Acre Wood podium was for sure my most memorable result. That event had everything I could have hoped for, especially at a first event. The roads were fast and challenging, I had one of our veteran co-drivers (J Sharps) keeping us running like a well-oiled machine, the B-spec class battle was close the entire event, and the new to me Honda Fit ran flawlessly and was the perfect car to get my feet wet.

Who is your usual co-driver, and when did you two start rallying together?

My first three events I actually had three different co-drivers, but J Sharps has become my usual co-driver this season. Our first event together was 100 Acre Wood.

What’s your favorite event on the Rally America schedule?

My favorite event on the schedule is Southern Ohio Forest Rally. SOFR is essentially our home rally being only about an hour away and the roads are incredibly fun to drive.

Do you have any pre-event routines?

Besides the usual pre-event car checks, I focus on a regular exercise routine and keep myself well rested. The longer I can avoid fatigue in the car, the longer I can focus on racing at my best.

Which other drivers in your class do you respect the most?

The first is Doug Gekiere. Doug and I have been in close competition all season and it's always a fun day when we get to battle it out on the stages. Second is Tracey Gardiner. It's incredible how much she cares about the sport and the people, without her help I don't think I could've made it to Rally Colorado.