ARA Driver Spotlight: Jon Kramer
From professional snow-boarding, to befriending head Hoonigan Ken Block, to rally racing, Jon Kramer has led an exciting life to say the least. Now an official Hoonigan Director of Sales, Kramer follows his boss' steps and moonlights as a regional competitor in the American Rally Association.
Kramer is currently in his tenth year rallying. In that time he's had numerous class and overall victories, and has won two Rally America Regional Championships, all behind the wheel of the humble first generation Subaru Impreza platform.
We caught up with Kramer at Southern Ohio Forest Rally earlier this year for a chat, and to find out how he's enjoyed rallying along the way.
If you've ever had the pleasure of meeting Kramer and experiencing his energetic, fun-loving personality first-hand, you might not be surprised his first foray into rally involved getting roped into some shenanigans with friends.
"Back in the day I had Honda stuff and just did some auto cross, just the usual deal. Then a buddy of mine took me to Rim of the World, the rally out in California," he explained.
"He lied and said we were from a snowboard magazine so we got a press pass, and we got to ride along with a driver on a press stage. I rode with this dude, and he had almost the same car [that I now race], but a turbo, and took me for a test lap and I was hooked."
Also contributing to Kramer getting into rally was his boss, Ken Block.
"I start working for Ken a couple years later at DC Shoes, and he started doing all the Gymkhana stuff."
"I think we just had a lot of things in common, I mean he's a great snowboarder, we're into a lot of the same things, it just makes sense that we crossed paths."
Kramer needed a car to rally, but nothing he had at the time was going to work.
"I owned an Audi 4000 Quattro which I loved but it was a $500 piece of crap and I constantly broke it, and it constantly broke down," he explained.
On trips to the junk to the junk yard for parts, Kramer noticed an abundance of Subarus ripe for the picking, and decided that the best way to get into rally would be to get an Impreza to start with, and from there piece it together with parts from the various sources available.
From there it was a matter of getting on stages, and getting experience. Previous auto cross helped, but stage rally is a whole new game with plenty of teething pains to get past.
"I wrecked at STPR I think [one] year, and someone asked 'hey, what's your team name,' and like, I don't have one, so they just called it the Jon Kramer Really Team and I was super bummed."
"I didn't want it to be about me, these dudes do the stuff," he explained motioning to his crew.
If the wreck hadn't been enough, there was the next event to look forward to, and a car to rebuild before then.
"[The hardest part is] just having the motivation when you roll or when you crash to just rebuild and do it again. It just sucks the life out of you, even getting prepped for a rally when you don't wreck is such a tremendous amount of work."
But as with most things, hard-work and dedication paid off, and Kramer's rally career would start growing to what it is today.
"We ran an event in Wellsboro Pennsylvania, a winter rally there. I won overall there, which I think was my first overall win, and that night there was this crazy like, Judas Priest cover band at the bar, and we were like 'that's it!'"
Thus, Heavy Metal Motorsports was finally christened.
Kramer's current rally car is still an old Impreza, but now with some tricks up its sleeve.
"This is my second rally car," Kramer explained. "It's got a six-cylinder engine out of a 2004 Outback Station Wagon, and I hooked it to an STI six-speed, and that's it!"
"I've got some DMS suspension, and uh, it's a pretty stock engine, I've got like stock cats on there, but it does pretty good."
Kramer has enjoyed a good amount of success in his rally career now, but his favorite event is the ARA season opener.
"I love Sno*Drift, I love doing that event," he said, "I've never had a bad rally there."
"Even today people are coming up to me like 'hey remember that time we pulled you out of the snow,' and I have to say 'yes' but I honestly don't know which one they're talking about because we've wrecked there so many times!" he joked.
"We've had some good times, and we've won overall in regional and in class, we've done really well."
If you're at a rally and you catch sight of a white Subaru Impreza with a black lightning bolt on the side, a camo hood, and flog-light inserts that read, "listen to heavy metal," make sure to say hi, it's one of the series most friendly drivers.