Chat with Yokohama -sponsored off-road champs Cameron & Heidi Steele
Yokohama Tire Corporation-sponsored
off-road desert racers Cameron and Heidi Steele are chasing
championships again. Known as off-road's "Power Couple," the Steeles are
both going for repeat championships: Cameron's gunning for his third
straight in Unlimited Truck in SNORE (Southern Nevada Off Road
Enthusiasts), while Heidi's a three-time titlist and defending Class 6
SCORE (Southern California Off Road Enthusiasts) champ.
Question: How's the season going so far?
Cameron Steele: It's part of racing to take hard knocks and I'm taking
them in 2010 so far. We've led a number of the races, including the
SCORE San Felipe and Laughlin races, but had some problems finishing.
Heidi Steele: This has been a great season for me overall. I've had some
tough races, but great results. I'm second right now in the SCORE series
and was second in the Baja 500. I've also won the legendary SNORE Mint
Question: Surprises so far?
Cameron: Crashing the truck at the Mint 400....before the race. That was
a huge curveball, but a testament to the team: they got the truck ready
for the next day and we went racing.
Heidi: There haven't been a lot of surprises for me, fortunately.
Question: How tough is it going for repeat championships?
Cameron: Anytime you win a championship, you have to be both good and
lucky. The combination of people we have around our team and the Geiser
Brothers truck and the Yokohama tires have given us the ability to win.
But winning it a third time is proving to be really tough this season.
Heidi: It is really difficult going for another championship because
you've got a lot of pressure. There's more competition in my class. I've
got a stock motor and I'm up against guys that have race motors, so it
makes it a lot more challenging for me. Fortunately, I've got all the
right equipment, including my Yokohama tires, and so that makes it a lot
Question: Do you find after you've won a championship that you've got a
big bull's-eye on your back and everybody's shooting for you?
Cameron: I feel like I'm wearing a bull's-eye all the time, whether I've
won or not. Everybody's out there to win. Honestly, I don't care what
anybody else thinks. I'm just there to be beat all the guys I'm racing
Question: After winning a few championships, do you lose your
Heidi: I actually think that winning championships helps you gain a
competitive edge. It's all the seat time that brings you the skills you
need to continue to win championships. However, if you don't have luck
on your side, you could have a bad day and lose.
Question: So what are the keys to a championship?
Cameron: Don't let any black cats walk in front of you, don't pull on
Super Man's cape, don't tell any lies and say your prayers. Seriously,
it's everything from superstition to good pre-running to outright luck
and a great team. For me it's just always being forthright and going out
and doing the work and making sure you're prepared. My mom always said,
'Luck is when opportunity meets preparedness.'
Question: Is having a good sponsor a major component to winning a
Cameron: We're really fortunate to be sponsor-funded and have people
that support what we do. I think anybody who wants to go in any type of
racing needs sponsorship support.
For us, it's everything from companies such as Yokohama tires and the
support they give us, to Currie Enterprises. Some people may not
recognize the smaller names that support the teams, but as far as I'm
concerned, we can't do without our sponsors. Not just from a financial
standpoint, but also from having the equipment it takes to win. All the
companies who've spent so much time and money developing the products
are an integral part of what we do.
Question: How do you deal with sponsors?
Cameron: Different people have different ways they deal with their
sponsors. Some are just out shopping for the most money they can get.
They grab the sticker, they slap it on their car, and that's their
sponsor for that year.
For me, I've been racing for Yokohama for 20 years. They are more than
just someone who helps us fund our race program and develop tires -
they're a partner. We talk about different strategies together, we work
with the marketing department, and we work with the company to decide
what's best for the overall program. Yokohama's ingrained in me: They
are part of my family.
Question: So it has to be a real working relationship, not just about
money and product?
Cameron: Yes. Any time you're working with a company in any kind of
sponsorship situation, there are a lot of different aspects. They're
going to know what's good about you and what's bad about you. And I
think the best part about our relationship with Yokohama is that
they've known me since I was a 16-year-old kid racing in the deserts.
I've raced in most of the categories in off-road, from bikes to limited
buggies, unlimited buggies, limited trucks and trophy trucks. Yokohama's
been along for the ride, so they know what I need. I know what it takes
for Yokohama to develop their products so it's a good synergy.
Question: How closely do you work with sponsors such as Yokohama on
Cameron: For us, Yokohama's been pretty awesome. They don't just send a
tire out and say, 'Here you go. This is what you get.' Every single
race, we have Paul Algarin from Yokohama who comes out and works with
us. We also get engineers to come out, as well as folks on the corporate
side. They want to see what we actually do and get ingrained in the
dirt. Sponsors really need to be at the races and Yokohama has always
been there with us. It helps with tire development.
Heidi: I'm able to use off-the-shelf Geolandar tires on my race truck
and they have brought championships year-after-year. I feel pretty lucky
because these are the same tires the general public can buy.