Mid-Season Chat with Yokohama Tire Corporation-Sponsored Off-Road Champs Cameron & Heidi Steele

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FULLERTON, CA (July 16, 2010) – 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. In this Q&A, Cameron and Heidi discuss the season at the midway mark, as well as dealing with sponsors and juggling successful careers.


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 400 race.


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 easier.


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 against.


Question:  After winning a few championships, do you lose your competitive edge?


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 championship?


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 product development?


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.


Question: You both have successful careers outside off-road racing. Heidi, you’re an executive at a healthcare company, and Cameron, you’re a TV commentator. How hard is it to juggle both careers?


Heidi: It’s very challenging to be the vice president of Human Resources for AccentCare while also racing for championships. But there’s one important thing that you have to accomplish in both fields: creating and managing a solid team.  It takes teamwork to win an off-road racing championship and it takes teamwork to run a successful department.


I’ve been very fortunate. My work’s been allowing me to take time to go racing, yet I never really leave my work behind me. I’m always focused on my position at AccentCare, as well as my race program. I think that focus forces you to constantly be on top of your game.


Cameron: I juggle a couple of different careers – marketing, television, off-road racecar driver – and for me, I just try to build a synergy between all those different things.


I’m an off-road racer first and a television commentator second, but sometimes it doesn’t work that way because the X Games have probably been one of the most important things in my life for 12 years.


I used to work on a lot of different race series: IRL, Champ Car, Supercross and Motocross, But as my off-road racing career grows and the sponsors are more ingrained, I’m spending more time getting ready for the races. I haven’t really slowed down my television career; I’ve just decided to choose which ones I want to go to.  So I’ve been very fortunate to be successful in racing and in television and make them both coincide.


I think the same is true for Heidi. The people she works with appreciate her off-road racing and how unique that is. At the same time, the fans, sponsors and people that support her off-road racing think it’s great she has an everyday job. So it’s kind of cool to have both worlds collide for both of us, and be able to have as much fun and be as successful as we are.


Celebrating its 40th anniversary in the United States, Yokohama Tire Corporation is the North American manufacturing and marketing arm of Tokyo, Japan-based The Yokohama Rubber Co., Ltd., a global manufacturing and sales company of premium tires since 1917. Servicing a network of more than 4,500 points of sale in the U.S., Yokohama Tire Corporation is a leader in technology and innovation. The company’s complete product line includes the dB Super E-spec™ - the world’s first tire to use orange oil to reduce petroleum – as well as tires for high-performance, light truck, passenger car, commercial truck and bus, and off-the-road mining and construction applications. For more information on Yokohama’s extensive product line, visit www.yokohamatire.com


Yokohama is a strong supporter of the tire care and safety guidelines established by the Rubber Manufacturers Association and the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration. Details can be found at the “Tire Safety” section at www.yokohamatire.com


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