Kocandrle to be all wheel driven at Pines

Posted on 02. Nov, 2010 by in Canadian Rally Champs, Features, Rally News

If you've been to an Eastern Canadian rally, chances are you've seen it. A Suzuki Swift driven like it's got four times the horsepower and twice the drive wheels, on the ragged edge. Driving that Suzuki has been Peter Kocandrle, who will be at the wheel of a different car at the 2010 Rally of the Tall Pines. The move to another car is one that Kocandrle has been considering for a while. “I've been toying with getting into an open car, even thought about renting a car to do Pacific Forest Rally,” said Kocandrle in a recent interview. “I don't want to be someone who stays in two wheel drive so long that I can't adapt, but I know I still have more to learn too.” Already, the young driver seems to have cheated an inordinate amount of skill out of the time he has put into competition. A closer look at his background, and one begins to understand just how that skill has developed. A former ski racer, and now conditioning coach, Kocandrle came to driving with a sense of speed and an eye to keeping grip on a slippery surface. He also had the advantage of a gravel laneway at his home. “I remember after driving around the laneway, practicing, I'd go and rake the gravel so my dad didn't know what I'd been up to,” laughs the driver known as “Petey K.” From there, Kocandrle tried his hand at rallycross, and eventually bought a Suzuki Swift, one of the ten built by Four Star Motorsports at the start of the 1990's. This car was no coincidence. Kocandrle, having grown up north of Milton, Ontario, had already been working at the Georgetown based rally shop, soaking up whatever he could learn from the owners, Frank and Dan Sprongl – Canadian and North American rally champions many times over. At his first national event – his third rally ever – and with a new co-driver, Jimmy Brandt, The young driver put the Suzuki firmly into eighth place in a starting field of 43 cars. “We passed more cars in this one event than I have in the last five or ten years added together,” said Brandt, who hails from Michigan and had been competing in the US prior to joining Kocandrle for the last two seasons. “Upper Old Hastings was the first stage. During recce I had asked Peter what his goal was for the event. 'To finish' he said. This was to prove a masterful understatement... Things got progressively faster and faster throughout the day. I was checking the scores but didn’t share too much with Peter in order not to get him too cocky,” said Brandt of their first event together. “All this from a 1300 cc, non-turbo, with a whopping 76 bhp. Truly amazing.” Since then, the pair have enjoyed mostly success, though the pace has taken it's toll on the car. The Swift has been fitted with a dogbox transmission and is pushing the boundaries of what is possible in car preparation. As he drives closer to the limits, Kocandrle has occasionally found them, the results shown in bent panels here and there. For the 2010 Rally of the Tall Pines, the Swift will get a break, as Kocandrle steps into the Hot Bits VW Golf R32 owned by Peter Reilly. The Golf runs in open class, complete with a turbocharged engine, all wheel drive and big brakes. The change in car is a one off deal for now, and is the result of a comment Kocandrle made while at Four Star. “I was at Four Star having lunch, and said I wanted to get into a four wheel drive car and see what I could do.” Also sitting at the table were Frank and Dan Sprongl. Later in the day, Dan made a call to Peter Reilly, suggesting that the two businesses partner to put Kocandrle into Reilly's Golf. “They called me and asked how would I like to drive the Golf for Hot Bits and Four Star at Tall Pines. I said yes. We all know each other, so it was easy,” said Kocandrle, during a test day where he was able to try out the Golf for the first time. “The car is a big change, it just goes,” said Kocandrle after his first few runs in the VW. “I really have to adapt to the powerband, and the brakes are good, though you really have to get on them. I also have to approach corners differently, staying out really really late.” During the test day, Kocandrle had a chance to learn from both Reilly and Frank Sprongl. Meanwhile, Flatovercrest.com sat down with Robin Fleguel, Reilly's business partner, who explained the motivation behind the offer. “You see guys working on the car and driving and trying to generate support all at the same time. It's overwhelming. We're hoping to take over a lot of that so they can focus on rallying.” said Fleguel, who also arranged for Alex Kihurani to co-drive. “These guys are a unique combination of young and experienced. It'll be great to see what they can do.” The decision to have Kihurani in the car came out of a desire to have someone with more all wheel drive and open class experience, and Kihurani has it. Also known as Rallybrat, the young American got involved with rally early, hitching rides to events as a teenager before moving into the right seat. Since then, he's co-driven for Subaru Rally Team USA's Dave Mirra and 2010 Rally America Rookie of the Year Joseph Burke. “It's a one event deal for now,” said Fleguel. “We're considering continuing next year, and we'll take a look following Tall Pines. It's fun, not many people have done this sort of thing before.” The team is officially looking for a top ten finish, though it's clear to see that there's a more ambitious, though unspoken goal. This may be a new deal, and a new team, but make no mistake, there's no shortage of experience. What has come together is a great example of the collaborative nature of rallysport. Make sure you come to the Rally of the Tall Pines, and in the mean time, see what Kocandrle has done with his Swift by checking out his You Tube channel.

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4 Responses to “Kocandrle to be all wheel driven at Pines”

  1. mark

    04. Nov, 2010

    Petey, this is simply amazing. You’re going kill it broo! Best of luck

  2. MattD

    04. Nov, 2010

    Way to go PK

  3. Lance Webb

    05. Nov, 2010

    I am predicting big things at Tall Pines. PK will be the one to watch. Mad skills!!!
    Good Luck PK

  4. Pete Pollard

    06. Nov, 2010

    cool

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