Tanner Foust: On Track With 'Top Gear's' Ace
August 5th, 2013 12:21pm EDT
They don't make people much cooler than Tanner Foust.
As one-third of the hosting trio on History's Top Gear, he provides the speed and style, whether he's driving a sharp new sports car, a bus or a cringe-inducing Yugo. Yet that's just his side gig. Tanner's day job is being one of the elite auto racers in the world. He holds a pair of world records, is a two-time champion in both Global Rallycross and Formula Drift, and has multiple X Games gold medals. And when he's not doing that, he's done stunt work on such blockbuster movies as Fast & Furious and The Bourne Legacy. Basically, if it's got four wheels and a seat, Tanner can do something amazing with it.
So what is it like to be Tanner Foust? BFTV caught up with the superstar at Ford Racing's media day just before the start of X Games Los Angeles.
Firstly, you have to learn to manage a lot of simultaneous demands on your time. "They all seem like pretty long days," he admitted, going over a multi-page printout of his schedule just for the two days he was competing in X Games events. "And then Top Gear wanted me to fly out [Sunday] night to go shoot somewhere else. That was ridiculous." How does he keep up with everything? "I don't know how it works out," he quipped. "I just try to not be late."
When it comes to the big picture, "I've been good this year about really focusing on the season," he added. "I'm really crossing fingers that I'm able to start working this job into a bit of a seasonal thing. Because when it's racing season and Top Gear season at the same time, it's hectic. That can be seven days a week."
Indeed, ask either of his fellow Top Gear presenters where Tanner is at any given moment, and even they probably can't tell you. He could be anywhere in the world, since he's competing in both US and European Rallycross events this season, in addition to contending at the X Games and filming TV episodes. But it's oddly fitting that the guy that makes his living at top speed has a hard time being able to slow down.
He is once again tackling all sorts of unique challenges as part of the upcoming new season of Top Gear, which will begin airing on History next month. "There was some fire, potentially. There was water. There was earth, and sky. We touched all gamuts," he revealed. "It's been a wild season. We've done some cool things that I really have always wanted to do." That's saying something about the series that once devoted a whole episode to finding things that Tanner couldn't do.
On Top Gear, Tanner is an effortless host. He's charming, knows how to explain things in a way that even the newest driving enthusiast can understand, and never seems to mess up his hair. But when the focus is on racing, he becomes an entirely different beast. Tanner didn't get to the top of the racing world on his sense of humor and good looks. His accomplishments are based on skill, constant effort, and yes, even a little bit of luck.
Asked if he would judge his success at the X Games purely on whether or not he took home a medal, "[The] results are kind of luck based in the first corner," he said. "So even when you do get a medal, it almost feels not that satisfying. Because it's like, 'Oh, well this guy crashed everybody out of the way for me so I just went and I won.' But still that'd be nice.
"The qualifying, though, is something I work really hard to try to be good at," he continued. "A lot of the competitors are faster, especially the WRC-based cars. That pressure to step it up on qualifying days is pretty big." He put those words into action on Sunday, when during his Rallycross seeding heat, he suffered a flat tire - and not only still finished the qualifying period, but also clocked the second-fastest time amongst his group, just three-tenths of a second behind the leader.
Moments like that are a testament to the competitor that Tanner is. He knows that he can drive with the best, and that is exactly what he expects of himself every time off the line. He'll keep going under less than ideal circumstances. He's not afraid to fight another driver for a spot, even if it means making contact. He's not the kind of athlete who will ever be accused of phoning it in.
Anyone looking for proof of that needs to look no further than Saturday, when he competed in the X Games' first-ever Gymkhana GRID event. After a strong start in his first quarterfinal heat, Tanner struggled against Liam Doran in the semifinals, but never let up and got through to the final, where he went head-to-head against his Ford Racing teammate, Patrik Sandell. This is what happened next.
With that victory, Tanner not only added to his legacy by becoming a four-time X Games gold medalist, but he also made history as the first-ever winner of X Games Gymkhana GRID. The following day, he'd earn a silver medal in Rallycross.
It's a pretty enviable resume, moreso when you consider that he also has the admiration of those in the sport (the X Games announcers have nicknamed him "Golden Child") and is one of the most popular drivers currently racing. Between the success, the attention, and getting to drive a car that goes from zero to 60 in less than two seconds, no one could blame him if he developed a sizeable ego.
Yet that's not who Tanner is. While he takes pride in his accomplishments, he also respects the talent of his competitors and admits to his mistakes, such as how this GRC season hasn't turned out the way he'd like it to, even though he's still third in the overall standings. Get to know him on a personal level, and you'll find him to be approachable, forthcoming, and just as charming as he comes across on TV.
Having gotten to collaborate with him a few times while working on Top Gear, this writer can say he's not only someone whose talent has earned my respect, but somebody kind and genuine, that I've come to think of as being like a big brother - if I had a sibling who tried to break the indoor speed record.
Perhaps the biggest component to being Tanner Foust is sheer love of the drive. Even with all he's done over a relatively short professional racing career, he still describes himself as "a student of driving," and he's particularly passionate about his particular sport, and what it can do to positively affect other people.
"Rallycross is a sport that's been going on for 40 years in Europe and here in the States just for about 4 years, and it's a sport that I think is important," he explained, "It's one of the most challenging driving sports, for its own unique reasons, but it's a sport that's important, because it shows how cool small cars can be.
"And as much a PR line [as] that sounds like, I've really made it my mission statement the last couple years to do something about 16-year-olds not wanting to get a driver's license," he continued. "It's a phenomenon in this country that's scary to me. It's really scary that it can be more important for a 16-year-old to get a new phone than get a driver's license. It's a critical thing. It's a part of being free.
"I have had a really fun go at it, will continue to for a long time. It's been my central passion my whole life and it never gets old," he added. "And I know, especially in this country, that there's a lot of people in that same boat. Hopefully the goal is that people think driving's fun, and they want to take ownership of their craft of driving, their skill set, and get better at it."
But what about his own accomplishments? Surely, with the world records and the gold medals and the championships, he's done more than enough for one lifetime, right? "No way," he told us. "I feel like there's a lot left to do. As far as definite goals, I'd like to see this Rallycross thing through, see it grow in the States. I'd like to get maybe back into road racing a bit. And try some racing I've never done - the Paris-Dakar race is on the bucket list, Daytona 24 Hours is on the bucket list...There's a long bucket list."
Add those goals to an already lengthy resume, and by the time he's officially retired - if he retires - who knows what Tanner Foust will have done. Maybe he'll even take over the racing world. Maybe he already has.
Top Gear returns to History in early September. In the meanwhile, you can keep up with Tanner via his official website (tannerfoust.com) and by following him on Twitter (@tannerfoust). His next racing appearance will be in Round 7 of the Global Rallycross season in Atlanta on August 10.
(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.
Photo Credits: History, ESPN