Hailing from Nashville, Hooman Rahimi showed up to his first MDU event in a nearly stock Nissan 350Z. The year was 2011, the venue was the now-abandoned (partially) Nashville Superspeedway, so it wasn't far from home. He didn't have a cage and therefore couldn't technically compete, only qualify. Because so many drivers had difficulty linking the course, he finished sixth without even reaching the bracket. Not a bad (or ideal, frankly) start to a Pro-Am competition, but sixth place is sixth place.
He showed up to round one in 2012 with a cage, this time able to actually compete. Though it wasn't a stellar season, he was becoming a regular at events, improving at each round.
Rahimi would earn his first podium at round one of the 2013 season, falling to Brian Peter in the finals but walking away with second place.
Rahimi would be in attendance for the first Streets of Detroit event, one of the most talked about drifting events in the U.S. at the time. By round four, his current catchphrase, "I'm Only Hooman," would be seen for the first time on the windshield of his car.
The following year, Rahimi would bring the increasingly battered 350Z out for another season. Throughout 2014's five-stop series, Rahimi would never podium but nonetheless was out at each event continuing to hone his driving skills in the still largely stock Z33.
Rahimi showed up to the third and final Streets of Detroit round in 2015 with a major change to the same car - an LS swap. Fitting, given the Motor City location. For those of us who had been listening to his straight piped VQ for years, it was most definitely a welcome change.
As with any major change, the power bump took a bit of getting used to. However, the car was making the fastest passes with the most smoke it ever had. Things were only getting better for Rahimi from here.
At round four, after half a decade of competing in MDU, Rahimi scored his first victory by defeating Nick Thomas in the finals.
Now motivated more than ever, Rahimi came back to MDU for the 2016 season, eager to progress even further and earn the Pro 2 license. For the first time in years, Rahimi showed up with car that didn't look like it had been rolled down a mountain.
Though he didn't make it to the podium for round one at Gateway, he scored a second place finish at round two at Lucas Oil Raceway Park.
Rahimi followed up that podium up with another, this time taking third at Kil-Kare Speedway.
Though he didn't end up on the podium at the final round at Dominion Raceway, he earned enough points to be awarded his Pro 2 license for 2017.
In his first year of Pro 2, Rahimi didn't qualify in Orlando or Texas but finished in the top eight at Atlanta. He didn't attend the Seattle round.
Rahimi's 2018 Pro 2 season was full of struggles. His trailer broke down on the way to round one at Irwindale and his car broke in Atlanta.
He'd get a bit of redemption during round three at Gateway, a track he'd driven on so many times before in Pro Am.
After qualifying sixth, he'd face fellow ex-MDU competitor and Pro 2 license earner Andrew Lewis in top sixteen, taking the win and moving to the great eight. His next battle against Travis Reeder would not be in Rahimi's favor, and Reeder would go on to win the round. The final round in Texas would be where his "tornado" wall hit occurred, keeping him out of the competition.
So far in 2019, Rahimi qualified ninth in Atlanta, bowing out to Andy Hately in top sixteen. He did not make the top sixteen cut at Gateway.
I caught up with Hooman at Atlanta to discuss his come up through MDU and get some words of wisdom for the next class of Pro 2 hopefuls.
NQ: What did you learn after your first year of Pro 2 that helped you better prepare for the second?
HR: I think it's a matter of knowing how all the little things function and being ready to go. The reality is we get so little practice time that it's kind of like you need to be setup for the track you've already driven, and that's the advantage you have going into year two. It's not necessarily something you're doing at the track, but since you've driven it once, you already have some setup idea. Like Orlando my first year I could not get into third gear and was having trouble on the bank. The following year, I changed my gearing and was like, “oh, I've got it now.”
NQ: Did the old touring style of MDU help with the logistics side?
HR: I've learned a lot about towing, loading, unloading, setting up, getting prepared, all these kinds of things. One of the hardest things about drifting is the prep. Some drivers are going to experience that, but it's not the end of the world. You can learn those things. That's not like a skill where you'll never figure it out, you'll just have some hardships along the way.
NQ: In your first year of Pro 2, did you have any realizations about the expectations versus reality?
HR: Cost is obvious, like you go in knowing it's going to be expensive. The thing you don't realize is the track time at FD events is so limited. If you go into FD events thinking you'll get the same seat time as pro-am events, you're gonna have a bad time. Knowing that from the beginning can help you transition a little better. These events are setup so differently. At pro-am it's pretty much hot track until qualifying or comp, then you get into the comp and it's a little bit looser. Then there's this level where pretty much if you're not where you're supposed to be, you lose. I think that and maybe just staying positive. That's probably the hardest thing, especially if you have poor results.
NQ: How's it been driving with an increasing number of former MDU drivers?
HR: We're driving harder and pushing harder, but at least for me, I'm having a good time with friends. I've been driving with these guys for forever and I enjoy driving with them because the more we get to drive the better we all become because we're all progressing. I think that's the beauty of the sport is where we are in Pro 2 today is where Pro 1 was maybe four years ago as far as level of cars and driving. I think that's the coolest part.
NQ: What advice do you have for the drivers competing in the shootout this year?
HR: If they drive a shit ton of events, and I mean a shit ton of events outside of pro-am in all kinds of cars, they can get the experience they want. If they're relying solely on pro-am to get that experience and coming into it the first time with a built car, it's going to be a harder learning curve to get past that. For me personally, I think that's one of the things that worked the best was having the underpowered, stock-ish car that you had to work with to get everything right. It made me learn not necessarily faster, but correctly. One of the best things I feel I have learned is to be consistent, and being consistent in Pro 2 is a big thing. If you're not consistent, you don't make it.