PELHAM -- Like most young, cocky guys, Sean Sosik-Hamor fancied himself a superior driver, until he began competing in autocross racing events, maneuvering his car though a mile-long series of cones at speeds reaching more than 100 mph.
"I thought of myself as an excellent driver like every schmo does and then I got into these events and realized I knew nothing about vehicle dynamics," he said. "My car was just good enough to save me from myself and dumb mistakes I made on the road."
Sosik-Hamor has moved past driving around orange construction cones. Four years ago Sosik-Hamor formed Trunkmonkey Racing, an up-and-coming pro-rally racing team that recently moved from Haverhill, Mass., to Pelham. It involves a group of friends he found through the online New England Subaru Impreza Club,
The 30-year-old systems administrator at Pepper Computers in Lexington, a self-proclaimed ubergeek, did not grow up with a need for speed -- it just kind of found him.
"My wife married a nonmotorhead, 100-percent computer geek who knew nothing about cars," he said.
"One day he just got it into his head that he was going to start racing," said his wife, Kelly, rolling her eyes.
So he bought a sway bar that sat in the couple's Haverhill living room for what he claims was three months, but she is convinced was more like a year, with the intention of installing it on his Subaru Impreza Outback Sport.
"Finally one day I told him to install the sway bar or throw it out," recalled Kelly.
Install he did. That was in 1999 and Sosik-Hamor hasn't looked back since, competing in 10 to 15 amateur events each year including motorcross, autocross and ice-racing events, as well as pro-rally events like the Maine Forest Rally in Newry.
At this year's pro-rally events, held July 20 to July 22, Trunkmonkey Racing finished third in class for the River Valley Rally and second in class at the Bethel Rally.
Sosik-Hamor and his navigator Andrew Hobgood plowed through a series of logging roads in the deep woods of Maine at speeds exceeding 100 mph during the fully off-road competition. Hobgood's job is to yell out instructions to the driver as he does his best to keep the 3,000-pound machine on course.
In Maine 60 cars entered, but only 45 made it though to the end, relatively in one piece.
"These cars get destroyed out there," laughed Sosik-Hamor.
In order to move up from motor and autocross events to pro-rally events, Sosik-Hamor and his team of 13 had to outfit the Subaru Impreza with a roll cage, solid race seats, full harnesses, and hazmat-spill kit, among other amenities, in order to meet the strict rules of Rally America.
"Everyone on the team is just as important as myself and the navigator," said Sosik-Hamor. "You can't do this without a dedicated group of friends."
He would not dream of racing a vehicle other than a Subaru, a fierce loyalty born before the thought of racing even entered his mind.
It was 1999 and Sosik-Hamor had recently landed a good job and was excitedly looking to purchase his first new car.
Around that time, his dad, Bob Hamor, was eating lunch at a Chili's restaurant "somewhere in New Hampshire," when a woman driving a Subaru Impreza Outback Sport mistook the gas pedal for the brakes and slammed her car through the front door and window of the restaurant.
"She made her hood my dad's new table and then backed out" said Sosik-Hamor. "The car was still drivable and I figured that anything that can survive that and still run must be good."
That painful experience for his dad led to the purchase of the Subaru that ultimately ended up ornamented with the infamous sway bar.
When he really got into rallycross racing, obsessed with watching the Speed Channel, he quickly noticed that the Subarus, built as high-performance racing vehicles in Europe, always finished at the top of the rankings.
That explains the love of all things Subaru, but what exactly is a trunk monkey?
"A trunk monkey is a trained monkey that jumps from side to side to automate weight transfer during spirited driving maneuvers," deadpanned Sosik-Hamor.
The concept of the trunk monkey began as a joke six years ago, born out of Sosik-Hamor's frustration with know-it-all punks on the North American Subaru Impreza Owners' Club Web site.
Rumors were running rampant about a turbo Subaru coming to the U.S. After months and months of reading one ridiculous post after another, Sosik-Hamor posted a message declaring that there was indeed a turbo Subaru on the way and it would come complete with a trunk monkey.
"People started buying stuffed monkeys to put in their cars," he said. "And then on Super Bowl Sunday 2003, a production company called R/West began airing trunk monkey commercials for Suburban Auto Group."
Today, Sosik-Hamor and his team are focused on finding businesses who want to sponsor the team and possibly a local landowner, maybe a farmer with an empty field or someone with equestrian trails willing to let them practice on their land, while enjoying their adventurous hobby.
"It really is a great outlet to beat the crap out of a car one or two weekends a month and then just drive calmly to work on Monday morning," he said.
For more information about Trunkmonkey Racing, visit www.trunkmonkeyracing.com.
Have a story idea? Jennifer Amy Myers can be contacted at 978-970-4649 or by e-mail at email@example.com.