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Q&A With Big Easy Bandits on Their Navigator Supremacy

In Bullrun’s eleven years of rallying, we’ve only seen two teams ever win the prestigious Bullrun Navigator Award two years in a row. The first was accomplished in 2011 and 2012 by Seth and Tony of Team Hudson. The second occured in 2013 and 2014 by Billy and Ricky of Team Big Easy Bandits. DSC_1166 copy We took the opportunity to ask Billy a few questions about his 2014 victory and how he managed to pull off taking home the Navigator Award two years in a row. If we asked most people about how they prepare for Bullrun, we’re sure we’d get get the usual: buy the fastest car, get the best electronics, bring plenty of cash for tickets and bail money, etc. All of which are important, but from Billy’s perspective, that’s the easy stuff. You have to be a lot more conniving to place in the top three! Here’s exactly how Billy did it! Take note Bullrunners! DSC_1277 copy

Q&A with Billy Blatty and Ricky Chancey

1) Describe your victory in 2013 and how you accomplished your first-place Navigator win.

BILLY: In 2012 we took a painful second place to Team Hudson, but that loss spawned a new strategy for 2013. Our preparations after our loss in 2012 started on the plane ride home with the second place belt on my lap. Balls out, all day 7 days in a row is the bull in the china store approach. We much more enjoy the game of wits. Some Bullrunners still haven’t grasped that you can’t win the rally by speed. Obviously you can’t win Bullrun driving slow. It’s the perfect balance of driving, ingenuity, imagination, and balls of steel. Seth and Tony drove fast, all day every day. A couple of small adjustments and calculations were all that we needed to become the unstoppable, unbeatable Big Easy Bandits.

2) After your victory in 2013, explain how far you and Billy were willing to go to take home the 2014 Navigator Award.

RICKY: I can tell you,  no matter what the situation, we always play to win. But Billy had a huge appetite for the victory this year. More than any other year for sure. Partly because, prior to the win this year I was the winningest Bullrunner in Bullrun history, having won it in 2010 without Billy. But this year was even bigger than that for him. What Billy has said to me on many occasions, is he wanted back to back 1st as well. The only team prior to this year was Seth and Tony. He wanted it bad, and there wasn’t much that was going to stop him from achieving that.  But Billy achieved an even great feat that no one has ever seen, and I don’t suspect it will ever happen again. He finished the fuckin Rally on his own. Navigating and Driving and still won the top spot. In all my years of doing Bullrun the odds of that well exceed, Winningest Bullrunner, or back to back 1st. That’s nothing short than amazing and I can’t tell you how proud I am of him

3) For 2014, you accomplished yet another first-place Navigator win! What special weapons and tactics did you use to your advantage?

BILLY: The strategy we came up with in 2013 was somewhat a precursor of the strategy we used this year. The most important weapons: ability to use non-digital maps proficiently, smart driving, and of course my personal favorite, psychological warfare! Again, this year we began the rally with a massive disadvantage; my 2013 ML 63 that we won with last year in was totalled 10 days prior to the rally. That means not only did we lose the car, we lost all of the advanced electronics in the car as well. Therefore, we decided to turn our disadvantage into part of our strategy.

For the first 3 days, we traded out rental cars from Avis and took alternate routes away from the pack. The effect was accusations of cheating and an intense scrutiny on what we were doing. As long as my competition was focused on us, they weren’t focused on the things they needed to do to place ahead of us, like finsing the best possible routes out of a checkpoint. This strategy also allowed us to use decoys and ghost cars. Our competition never knew where we really were. Sometimes they thought we were 5 miles behind them, when in fact we were on an alternate route 10 miles in front.

On Day 4, I decided to settle in with the Camaro SS, the fastest standard rental car available as we knew the terrain heading west would offer less alternate routes, and more expanses of open highway – that meant a necessary change in strategy from diversion to an ability to keep up with the faster cars on the endless miles of straight-always. And of course there was the radar gun. Bobby from Team 007 is a former cop, and had a radar gun he was using against us and the rest of the competition. So we had to get dirty! I stole Bobby’s radar gun while Ricky distracted him on a “heated” phone call from New Orleans. Now Bobby couldn’t come out and blame me for stealing something he denying having, now could he?

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4) How did Ricky’s departure from the rally affect you and team Big Easy Bandits?

BILLY: Ricky had to leave on Day 3 of the Rally. I wasn’t quite sure what that was going to mean for the Bandits. We were probably a few points behind at that point after a couple of disappointing road blocks. But, when the sun came up on day 4, it was business as usual. Our advantage as Bandits is consistency. The strategy was already in place, I just had to implement and execute it without my partner. It wasn’t easy both driving and navigating without that dynamic of having my regular Bullrun partner, but I pushed ahead with the Bandit spirit.

RICKY: That was a huge monkey wrench. It completely took the air out of me. Disappointing for me is an understatement. But, I can tell you this: Billy never missed a step. At my departure he told me, “I’m gonna win this thing.” As much faith as I have in my partner, I could have never imagined him accomplishing such a feat. He still had four days left for Christ sake! I just didn’t see it happening, but if anyone could do it, it was him. Losing is not something a Bandit easily accepts. We’ve tasted first loser before in 2012 and it tastes like a big turd sandwich. Billy moved forward, implemented the strategies that the Bandits have used over the years, then drove, navigated, improvised and kicked ass! It’s never been done. He now has back-to-back first. He and I now share winningest Bullrunners of all time; he’s 2014 champion, and the first ever to win it without a partner and finish first. He owns that alone, and I don’t see It ever happening again.

5) Tell me about the key strategies you employed to ensure your victory over Team 007.

BILLY: They had a much superior car and electronics, a very good driver and fierce competitive nature. Their strategy was good, make up for their lack of navigational skill (that often comes from experience) by following the experienced leaders, such the Ben’s, and then over-take them in the final miles or seconds. They were close to impossible to shake after the first few days, so we had to resort to alliances (such as with the Ben’s) and play mind-games to throw them off their game. For example, Team 007 thought Team Dirty was an ally, so they were quite incensed when Team Dirty blocked them in between 2 semis. Granted the effect on time was non-consequential, but the effect on their psyche was notable.

Then came the prank of all pranks, the fake route cards. I had the Ben’s hand them the fake route cards 15 minutes prior to the official launch out of Branson, MO. I took one as well and led them out of the gate, a group of scheming low down cheating’ Bullrunners. Then, I pulled over and told team 007 I had to turn back around to get my “iPad” at the hotel. They sped off to the fake checkpoint using directions from my fake route card. Fast forward as I pulled up to the real checkpoint first with the Ben’s right beside me. The look of utter crushing despair on Bobby and Dharmesh’s faces must have been great when they figured out after 300 miles of driving and circling a stadium looking for the Bullrun flags, that they were not first, but 100% disqualified for arriving to the real checkpoint without a genuine Bullrun route card in hand. Hey, at least I didn’t send Team 007 too far off-course as the fake checkpoint I gave them was only 11 miles from the real checkpoint.

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6) What was the defining moment where you knew you were going to win the Navigator Award this year?

BILLY: When I saw the crushed and broken spirits of Bobby and Dharmesh at the fake route card checkpoint. They tried a similar stunt on Ben and I by stealing all the route cards on the final day. But even though we left 22 minutes after the group, we still finished ahead of them in the Top 3. We knew it would be close with the Ben’s for the remainder of the rally, but we were confident we were going to win if I could figure out a way to manage my fuel consumption, which was dreadful in the SS. I did, however, question, my Navigator Award victory on the final day. Special recognition to Ben for out dirty-tricking the dirtiest trickster. Ben put black duct tape over my license plate on the final leg. I received a ticket and a costly 19 minute pullover for “intentionally” concealing my license plate. Hey man, its Bullrun. Your best friend one leg may be your enemy the next.

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7) If you could have done anything differently, what would you have done?

BILLY: Pranked the Ben’s. They got one up on me by taping over my plates at the lunch stop – the only stop i would have never suspected it, from the team I least suspected it from. It turned my 1st place into a tied 1st place Navigator Award. But to the Ben’s credit, the move was 100% in the Spirit of the Rally, and they earned their place on the podium. I was lucky my mistake didn’t knock me into 2nd.

8) What do you have to say about your co-winners this year, Team The Ben’s?

BILLY: The Ben’s are skillful, great navigators, safe drivers, ballsy, sneaky, and clever. They’re more concerned with the safety of non-rally drivers than their own. Frankly I’m shocked they haven’t been on the podium prior to this. They’re that good.  I couldn’t have succeeded without them this year and I expect them to be the new champs in the years to come.  Also, special thanks to the gorgeous empresses of the highway, the Demas girls of Team Texas, for all their help and Shaun of Team Dirty.  Without Ricky being there to finish with me, it took a team of people to get me up on that podium.

9) If you were able to complete the rally with Billy, how do you think things would have gone differently, if at all?

RICKY: I’ve got to swallow my pride a bit and say, how the hell do you beat first place? I can say he was more hungry for the win than I’ve ever seen anyone. He was determined to stop at nothing to achieve that. Not too many teams have that spirit. His strategizing, adjusting and planning was constant. He showed up to kick ass. So, if I had been along for the rest of the ride, who knows, but he couldn’t have done any better with me navigating for him. I’m proud of him! He gets the title of bad-ass of the year, so top that!