If you’re in the racing business, finding the hottest of hot shoes is an ongoing process. You are always keeping your eye out for the next great talent to come along. Or, if you want to be more proactive, you can more or less grow drivers the way baseball players are made using the farm system.
This second option is just what Fiat is up to.
Specifically, it’s FIAT (which is in all caps, cause that stands for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino, not cause I’m shouting at you) and Hoonigan. And Hoonigan is just one word now, it’s not “Team” Hoonigan, or Hoonigan “Heavy Industries” or something like that, no, just Hoonigan. You know, sort of like Kanye or Cher or Bono, something mononymic and irritating and artlessly annoying.
Hoonigan is that racing outfit started and run by Ken Block that competes in the World Rally Championship, Global RallyCross Championship, FIA World Rallycross Championship and Rally America, but is best known for Block’s gymkhana videos of him sliding a rally car around on deserted streets. It’s not only what these guys are best known for, it’s what they’re best at doing. All of their entries in actual, real racing result in mid-pack finishes at best, and embarrassing crashes more often than not.
But – and this is the important part – the kids love it. And since if you were to ask your average occupier of the coveted 15-to-34 age demographic who, oh, Sebastien Loeb is, you’d get a blank stare, but mention Block, and you get something starting with, “Brah! Ken Block is TOtally … ” which is just what Fiat wants: young eyeballs coveting their products.
To that end, Fiat and Hoonigan are teaming up to find the next great driver/Hoonigan personality with this year’s competition. Yes, “driver/Hoonigan personality.” I’ll let my unbridled disdain slide for the moment on that phrase. The people they suss out will be put through a number of driving challenges in various Fiat models. They start with the 500 Abarth (fun), go through the 124 Spider Abarth (even more fun), and ultimately end up in a 124 Abarth Rally Car (the funnest of all!).
Figuring out who the finalists will be is down to a bunch of “celebrity drivers and team captains, including Rhys Millen.” Besides that horrid back of the hand to Millen – a racer who should need no introduction – I’m guessing the celebrity drivers will lean more on the celebrity side than on the driver part, but who can tell at this point.
The winner will be announced this coming September and you can follow the competition as it happens on Fiat and Hoonigan’s social channels (clicks! likes! eyeballs! dollar bills for Zuckerberg, Brin, Page et al).
I know what you’re thinking. You’re saying to yourself, “Hey, I got some righteous tats and I like, totally kill on Instagram, and now that I think about it, my last three posts have totally been trending. Maybe being a race car driver would be cool. Hey, maybe I could be like that guy, Lewis Kardashian or Kim Hamilton or whatever his name is. Yeah, race car driver . . . I like the sound of that, brah!”
If that’s you, then Fiat and Hoonigan would love to hear from you. Drivers who feel their skills are worthy can submit a video explaining why they should be chosen for the challenge series.
And, keeping with the fine, age-old tradition of racing, you can even buy your way in. If you go out and buy yourself a 2018 Fiat 500 Abarth or a 124 Spider Abarth, included with the purchase is the opportunity for you to attend an Abarth Driving Experience at no additional charge. Fiat and Hoonigan are sure to notice you there.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. His forthcoming new book The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me will be available soon. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz