Rob Weir is reserved and focused, with a wry smile and a twinkle in his eyes – especially when talking about rally, rallycross, and other motorsports. Those conversations encompass his years at Subaru and with the Subaru Motorsports teams as well as his own experiences behind the wheel.
Weir started working for Subaru in 2006, and he eventually managed dealer and brand events in the Midwest. Last year, he took over as the motorsports marketing manager for Subaru, which makes rally and rallycross his everyday job.
While that sounds like it’s continual excitement and racing romance to those who love motorsports, Weir has a rough road to follow just to get to a parc expose or paddock. With budget in hand, he has to wrangle the most intimidating lineup of drivers, race-prepared cars, and racing technicians available. Plus, he serves as negotiator to align appropriate partners and sponsors.
On the flip side, Weir needs to make sure all Subaru racing fans know when and where the Subaru Motorsports teams are competing before the events, then how they did as follow-up.
The great majority of Weir’s work has nothing to do with flying over crests in a rally car or banging into the first turn in a rallycross heat race. He has a long way to go behind the scenes before a wheel is turned.
Q&A with Rob Weir
Q: What does your job as Subaru of America [SOA] motorsports marketing manager entail?
A: As the head of the Subaru Motorsports program, I manage all aspects of our motorsports and performance marketing efforts. The main stuff is overseeing Subaru Rally Team USA [SRT USA] and Subaru Rallycross Team USA. I also manage contingency programs for Sports Car Club of America [SCCA] and Rally America.
At events, I routinely meet with our racing teams, members of the media, and organizers. While at the office, I’m issuing press releases, coordinating marketing efforts, and distributing social media content.
Q: What are your expectations for SRT USA and Subaru Rallycross Team USA for 2014?
A: For this year, David Higgins and Craig Drew will defend the Rally America Manufacturer’s Title. I’m really encouraged with the development of our rallycross program, so our goal will be winning events.
Q: How have you been involved with motorsports in the past?
A: Prior to joining Subaru in 2006, I was an account executive at Ford SVT [Special Vehicle Team] and Ford Racing, through a marketing agency. In 2011, I purchased a Subaru Impreza rally car and began racing on my own.
Q: How does being a rally driver in your own right influence decisions about team drivers and Subaru Motorsports overall?
A: When you compete in a certain motorsport and become accepted by the team community, you gain useful knowledge about other competitors and their abilities. Running my own rally team helped me respect how important it is to have the right people on your team, both drivers and crew. I get interest from talented drivers from around the world, so the knowledge I’ve gained as a competitor helps me sort out the best potential drivers and crew. Competing also helps you better understand competition strategy.
Q: What is your favorite motorsports event?
A: My favorite event has to be Rally in the 100 Acre Wood. The stages are fast and usually forgiving, so you see most competitors pushing themselves out of their comfort zones to carry as much speed as possible. I had a great time running the event in 2012 and 2013. It’s a fun rally for beginners and pros, and it has some great spectator areas for fans.
Q: Tell us about your own rally car and your experiences with it.
A: After attending rally events for a few years, speaking with other teams, and doing plenty of online research, I began casually looking for a rally car to race. I decided it was best to buy a used one rather than build my own.
In January of 2011, I spotted a 1996 Subaru Impreza coupe rally car on an online forum. It was essentially a 2.5i RS, prepared for Open Light Class, which was all-wheel drive and no turbo. I was lucky that the car was in my town; so I drove it home. The car was in pretty poor shape, so I didn’t rush to go racing. I spent countless evenings and weekends rebuilding the car to my expectations.
By the spring of 2011, I began competing in SCCA RallyCross. Those events helped me learn car control on dirt and shake down any weak components on the rally car.
I entered my first Rally America event in October of 2011 – the Perryville Farm and Forest Rally – with Matt Nichols as my co-driver. On the first stage, in the first tight turn, I spun the car at about 50 mph. We ended up backwards in the middle of the stage, but didn’t hit anything. Matt kept his cool and got us back on pace. With that stage behind us, we started gathering more speed and eventually took the overall win, at my very first rally!
Matt and I took 1st and 3rd at the 2012 Sno*Drift Regional events.
Matt became really busy with his career, so I had to seek out a new co-driver. Starting with the 2012 Rally in the 100 Acre Wood Regional events, I partnered with Dan Norkus, an F-15 crew chief for the U.S. Air Force. Dan and I have taken five regional podiums in six events since then.
I experienced a lot in a relatively short time. Victories, defeats, a DNF, mechanical troubles, adverse weather, great road trips, and making many friends in the rally community.
After keeping up a fast pace, I got the itch to compete in Open Class. I was working hard on my own to impress my sponsors, and they rewarded my success by stepping in to build an STI-powered drivetrain for the rally car. Converting the car was a major task, and sometimes I wanted to quit working on it. But once I competed in it, I was really happy with the performance and our results. I plan on entering a few events in 2014.
Q: What do you like best about rally?
A: For me it’s the perseverance and the overall experience you get either racing or watching the sport. Rally isn’t for quitters. You have to be prepared and think on your feet when things get challenging. The competition can last over days, so you have to endure that as well. It’s a great sport to watch, especially if you love the outdoors. It’s a bit of racing, road trip, and hiking all mixed together to watch it.
Q: What do you like best about rallycross?
A: Rallycross is exciting, because it combines high-horsepower, all-wheel drive cars with a mix of rallying and door-to-door action. You get both dirt sections with jumps and tarmac sections with fast, sweeping turns. It’s also a great spectator venue because all of the action is in one place.
Q: What does Subaru participation in these forms of racing bring to SOA?
A: Subaru has always been performance-minded in every car it builds. What separates us from most other brands is that a production WRX STI isn’t far off in racing ability, compared to a rally or rallycross STI. Our job is to validate the performance abilities and deliver some excitement for our fans. The WRX and the STI were born from rallying, so the cars already have rally capability engineered in their souls.