Meet the Co-Drivers: Mike Brown
Mike Brown // Lone Tree, Colorado // #194 Open Light
Racing has always been a family sport, and rally is no exception. In the Rally America National Championship, it’s a pair of brothers who currently lead the championship pack, with Mike Brown reading the notes and helping keep his brother Dave on track. As the Brown brothers prepare to enter their home event, Rally Colorado, with the points lead, Mike talks us through his side of the journey so far:
What made you want to start rallying?
I never really went out there to hunt down a co-driver spot. I knew the sport. I really liked the sport. And just from watching it from when I was a kid I learned the co-driver “language”. One day my brother (Dave) approached me and asked if I wanted to co-drive for him. He provided me the opportunity and later said that he knew I would be a great co-driver. We started doing Colorado hill climbs, then 100AW in 2017, and everything snowballed from there. There was no stopping the Brown brothers. Now, we are both first in the nation and setting all-time firsts for an Open Light car in Rally America. The passion for speed was by birth.
When was your first event and how did you do?
100 Acre Wood in 2017 was our first stage rally. 14th overall and eighth in Super Production. At that time, Super Production and Open Light cars were all grouped together in the same class, so it wasn’t a fair fight for anybody running a non-turbo car. My brother had never driven a stage rally. I had never even seen a time card before receiving it, and then my brother almost ran us into a telephone pole on the Super Special. Just finishing that rally was more than we both could have dreamed.
When was your first really memorable result—win or podium—and how did you get there?
Rally Colorado 2017. It was the first time an Open Light car won first overall in Rally America. I didn’t know how to act. I was Ricky Bobby trying to figure out what to do with my hands. How do I stand on the hood? How do you open a bottle of champagne and spray it? You just don’t practice that sort of thing.
Interesting side note: we never checked times or knew where we were placed at any point in the rally. Our goal was to race our race and finish. At the end, my brother came up to me as other cars were continuing to finish and told me we were first. I was stoked about finishing first in something! I didn’t believe it. I asked him, “first in class?!?” Dave said, “No. First overall.” At that moment, I could not comprehend our accomplishment.
How did we get there? Dave and I grew up as competitive brothers. Our years of riding dirt bikes, 4-wheeling, and racing bikes together give us a very similar view of the road. We read the road the same way. Reading a road is very difficult, but we have been doing it together since we were four years old on dirt bikes. Hard work, great family support, and the desire to go fast have made us successful.
Do you prefer to work with a single driver or multiple drivers?
If Dave is driving, I want to be his co-driver. Period. New opportunities may open up for either of us in any global rally series, so that could change. Regardless, we will always fully support each other. But Dave and I are locked in for the 2018 Rally America series.
What’s your favorite event on the Rally America schedule?
Rally Colorado! We live in Colorado, so that has to be the best one. The forests in Ohio were pretty cool though.
Do you have any pre-event routines?
Prepare, prepare, and then prepare again. As has been said before, the race is the easy part. It’s everything that you do before the race that is hard. A proper co-driver can spend weeks preparing for a race.
Which other co-drivers in the sport do you respect the most?
Rhianon and Alessandro Gelsomino. They are some of the biggest supporters of rally racing in North America and run fantastic rally schools from beginner to elite via Oz Rally Pro. I was privileged to attend their Elite Co-Driver Academy. They’re wonderful people, great mentors, and now great friends.