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Story #79Florida International Rally & Motorsport ParkStarke, FL

It’s a very small world. How you treat people and how you interact with your customer is an integral part of whether your business is successful or not.

What do the military and rally driving have in common? They make up the two primary elements of the small business The Florida International Rally & Motorsport Park, or The FIRM. Founded in 2012, The FIRM consists of 400 acres used for rally courses, advanced driver education, military training, and special events or team-building experiences.

Rally refers to a form of sprint-style auto racing on a mixed surface racing circuit, first popularized in Europe. The FIRM is one of only three driving schools in the U.S. that offers true European-style rally training, and their six courses make up the core of what they do. The diverse and challenging terrain also makes it ideal for military training, the other primary element of The FIRM’s business. Their International Security Academy offers high-speed vehicle training, and their property is also home to a shooting range.

“The philosophy of rally driving serves very well as the basis for the military training and car control,” says Managing Director Sean McDaniel, who got his start with the company as a military course instructor. McDaniel, who formerly worked for the Department of Defense, abides by the golden rule that “your reputation and character are everything, so manage them carefully.”

For The FIRM, having a good reputation is the lifeblood of the business, and has afforded them numerous opportunities when it comes to new clientele on both sides of the business. He cites getting a call from the FBI as one of his proudest moments. “I remember the words verbatim. He said, ‘we’re looking for driver training, and from what I hear, you’re the best place to go.”

“That’s what we strive for,” says McDaniel. “To be the absolute best driver training school that exists in the world. What I really want is to help build this company into something that it deserves to be.”

 

Photos by Kike Arnal

  • Rally students and instructor Bryn Walters teaches a class at The FIRM for future rally competitors.

  • The FIRM’s office/sales manager Kim Rist communicates with driver Bryn Walters over the radio.

  • Managing director Sean McDaniel and lead driver Bryn Walters test new tires for a Lamborghini at The FIRM’s racetrack.

  • Josh Brown, operations manager and driving student at The FIRM, behind the wheel of a 4x4 during a practice on one of the off-road courses.

  • The FIRM’s managing director Sean McDaniel. McDaniel joined the company in 2012 as an instructor of one of the venue’s military courses before taking the company reins.

  • The FIRM’s managing director Sean McDaniel and operations manager Josh Brown check the engine of one of the rally cars.

  • During a practice break, instructor Bryn Walters takes advantage of a dusty car window to show a student how to maneuver on the skid pad at The FIRM.

  • The FIRM’s office/sales manager Kim Rist gets a dust bath during a student practice at the skid pad. Of Rist, managing director Sean McDaniel says, “She basically takes care of everything here. She’s my right-hand girl.”

  • A rally car slides on the track during a student practice on The FIRM’s skid pad.

  • The FIRM’s main office, located on their 400-acre secured property in Starke, Fla. The venue is home to dozens of miles of paved, gravel, and off-road tracks, six rally course stages, and more.

  • The FIRM’s managing director Sean McDaniel and lead driver Bryn Walters test new tires for a Lamborghini at the racetrack.

  • Managing director of The FIRM, Sean McDaniel, performs a jump with a rally car. Rally refers to a form of sprint-style auto racing on mixed surfaces that was first popularized in Europe.

  • The off-road rally track at The FIRM. The venue is home to dozens of miles of paved, gravel, and off-road tracks used for rally driving and military training.

  • A 4x4 drives up an artificial hill on the off-road rally track at The FIRM. The ISA on the side of the SUV stands for International Security Academy, which offers military courses on high-speed vehicle dynamics, survivability, close-quarters combat, and a shooting range.

  • Rally student and instructor Bryn Walters operates a 4x4 vehicle on the off-road track at the Florida International Rally & Motorsport Park (The FIRM).

Business Details

Proprietor: Sean McDaniel
7266 Airport Rd. Starke, FL 32091
PH: 352-473-2999 / Website
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