Quick Stats: Evan Lysacek, 2010 Olympic figure skating champion
Daily Driver: 2011 Audi R8 (Evan's rating: 8 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Other cars: see below
Favorite road trip: Chicago to Los Angeles
Car he learned to drive in: 2003 Infiniti I35
First car bought: 2003 Infiniti I35
With the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia just three months away, the figure skating world has been abuzz wondering whether reigning gold medalist Evan Lysacek will be able to fully recover from injuries in time.
The U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January are the qualifier for the Olympic team, and since Lysacek was the first American man to win Olympic gold in the sport since Brian Boitano's 1988 win, it's no wonder fans are rooting for him to be able to defend his title.
When Lysacek isn't training in Los Angeles, he is busy going to events for sponsors including Ralph Lauren and traveling the world as a sports envoy for the U.S. State Department.
After a recent grueling day of training, Lysacek spoke to Motor Trend about his cars. We found out that if Lysacek had gone with his early childhood passion, the world might not have seen him on the ice, but rather on a racetrack. But when he was growing up near Chicago, he says he didn't know how to get into auto racing.
"Honestly, I don't know if I've ever been as excited for an interview as this one, to get to just talk about cars," he tells Motor Trend. "I've been obsessed since I was a kid. When I was a kid I had thousands and thousands of Matchbox cars and I played with them all the time, and then I graduated to those model cars that you could build. I was so obsessed with Formula 1 racing. My parents thought I was going to be a race car driver because I was that into it."
Lysacek still follows F1 and watches races on TV. "It's my favorite. I'll cancel everything," he says. "I'll call in sick to training. It's the only time I'll do it, is when there's a race on. It's been fun this season to watch."
As a kid, the highlight of Lysacek's year was going to the Chicago Auto Show annually with his dad and being able to sit in all the new cars. "They give you the little pamphlets about all the new cars and I would take them home and read through all of them. Anytime I had to do a school project or talk about what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always said I wanted to be a race car driver. But I think it's a hard sport to get into. I don't know where you would even begin for a kid who wants to get involved in the sport."
Luckily though, Lysacek's Olympic gold medal and success on the ice has given him the opportunity to buy and sell cars and drive some of the best supercars.
For daily driving, Lysacek switches between a black 2011 Audi R8 and a black 2013 Mercedes-Benz G63.
2011 Audi R8
"I drive it hard. I drive it like it's an F-150 truck. I stuff it full of all my skating stuff. It's been a great, very reliable car for me," he says. "I like it a lot. I'm into a very tough aesthetic, so I like the black wheels. I'm not into fancy. I'm not a fancy guy -- I like a very tough looking car."
Lysacek got a white R8 a year after winning gold at the Vancouver Olympics and later swapped it for his current black R8, which he had customized at Platinum Motorsport in Los Angeles.
"I've always had black cars and I loved the way the white one looked with the black carbon-fiber side blades," he says. "I went on a skating tour across the country and then I did 'Dancing With the Stars' right after, so I was working all the time. After that it was like, 'Man, I earned this car. I'm getting whatever car I want.' So I chose that. Like anything that's not totally you, I think I got sick of it and then I got the black and I love the black, it's so stealth."
There are some things that he doesn't like about the R8. "The gearbox is a tad jerky driving in the city, with all the stop signs I have to go through, but overall performance is great," he says, of the R tronic transmission. "It's plenty of power for me. It's a smooth enough ride and a quiet enough cabin. A lot of those exotics or supercars, they're pretty loud. This engine is somewhat tame, although I have a custom exhaust on it, so it's a little louder than your average one."
A couple of years ago, Lysacek regularly commuted from Los Angeles to Lake Arrowhead, which is about two hours away, so that he could train at a higher altitude. He loved the hairpin turns driving the R8 in the mountains.
"Everyone else had trucks up there and I was the only crazy that would drive up in my R8," he says. "It was the highlight of my day to finish a long training session and be able to rev it up back down the mountain."
Besides driving the Audi hard through the mountains, Lysacek likens his R8 to an F-150 because he's able to pack in all his skating equipment. "I carry a lot of stuff with me through out the day -- I have my skates, my skate bag is big, I have tons of warm clothes because it's freezing in the rink and there's just a lot of paraphernalia that comes along with being a skater."
2013 Mercedes G63
Lysacek also loves his newer ride, a G63. "I drove the G55 they had before and I've had a lot of Range Rovers in my lifetime. I always preferred the Range Rover to the G-Class, until this latest model. Then I drove the new Range Rover and this new G63 and I really, really, really love it. It's still a very stiff ride. It's extremely fast, but for people who drive in the city like me, there's an Eco button, so you're not guzzling gas way that the old one does. But then if you want to light it up, put it in Sport mode and it is a beast."
He said he always thought the G-Class was a very cool, very tough-looking vehicle. "The styling is great," he says. "The new engine is absolutely awesome."
But he won't give it a perfect 10 because "you need to have a chiropractor on speed dial when you drive it too much, because it's very bumpy."
Lysacek's love for all things automotive is well-known among his friends. "I'm their go-to car guy. If they want to go car shopping, I'll go with them. I've had a lot of cars and I would buy and sell them. I think there's a lot cheaper hobbies I could get into than buying and selling cars," he says. "But I've always loved them."
One of his sponsors is Ralph Lauren, and in 2011 Lysacek flew to Paris to see Lauren's cars on exhibit at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs. "It was incredible, and gave me a new appreciation for the sculptural element of a car," he says. "Each one is meticulously restored to perfection."
Photo: United States Olympic Committee
First car bought
Since Lysacek was always busy training when he was a teenager, he couldn't take drivers' ed. He didn't get his license until right before he turned 18 and was getting ready to move to Los Angeles.
Most of Lysacek's early driving experiences were in Los Angeles "on these crazy streets and freeways here" he says, in his 2003 Infiniti I35.
"I was very practical. I looked at everything when I was buying my very first car. I looked at BMW, Mercedes, and then I drove an Infiniti I35. It was like, I can get every option," he says. "This was when navigation was a really big deal. I filled it up with my stuff, drove it across the country, moved to L.A. and drove it and just ripped around L.A. in that little car. And somehow it held up, thank God."
Lysacek bought the Infiniti with prize money he won from skating competitively since he was 13. "My parents were very strict. They never gave me one penny of it; they put it away in savings," he says. "Finally when I was turning 18, they said, 'You can take a small amount and choose what car you want.' They gave me a serious budget. So that's why I was trying to get the most that I could for my money."
Lysacek's mom drove from Chicago to Los Angeles with him after he graduated from high school. He had three days to get to California in time for summer training camp.
"We were pushing it. We were trying to make it to Salt Lake City. Somewhere in Colorado, we saw a sign that said, 'No gas for 50 miles,'" he says. "This was a brand-new car. I had maybe driven it a couple weeks and I didn't know what the range was or how to find it on the digital system on the car. I thought, I'm sure I have 50 miles left. After about 30 miles the car ran out of gas."
"At the time my mom was driving and she was like, 'I have a great idea, let's go as fast as we can and pass as many of these truckers, because we're going to have to flag them down, so the more people we pass the more chances we have to flag someone down.' So my mom was ripping it at 100 mph across the state of Utah and finally we ran out and she was right."
They were stranded. The sun was setting. They got out and started flagging cars and someone stopped to pick them up. "My mom was like, 'Evan, you have to come get gas, what if something happens to you. It's not safe to be parked by the side of the road!' I said, 'No mom, I'm not leaving my car!' he laughs. "I wouldn't leave my car, so I sat there in the car and waited while they went and got gas and came back."
Favorite road trip
Lysacek has enjoyed many road trips. He says that drive from Chicago to Los Angeles was exciting because of he was starting a new chapter in his life to seriously train for the Olympics.
But he also loves the drive to Lake Arrowhead. "Highway 18 is totally hairpin turns. You'd think you're driving in the Alps in Europe," Lysacek says. "So it was fun for me. I enjoyed that and appreciated being able to drive on that road everyday. But it did get a little tiring, if you're exhausted after training."
He started high-altitude training at Lake Arrowhead at the end of 2011, in preparation for the 2014 Olympics. The altitude helps with lung capacity and builds stamina. "It goes so quickly, four years. So you're always preparing, gearing up," he says.
The drive he finds most relaxing is cruising up Pacific Coast Highway to visit friends in Malibu. "I can have rolling hills on my right side and the ocean on my left and roll the windows down and hear the waves and the ocean breeze," he says. "That is a very relaxing drive to me."
Lysacek's typical day as an Olympic figure skater can vary from a short seven-hour day at the rink, to a long 12-hour day that begins at 7 a.m. And it's usually six days a week of training.
"The training is brutal. I am the only one that's there that early and I train with other really high-level skaters. In the rink adjacent to ours in the building, the L.A. Kings train," he says, of the Toyota Sports Center. "The Lakers train in the same facility as well, so I'm surrounded by really great athletes throughout the day. So there are great athletes there to push me."
On the ice, Lysacek's hope is to "outwork" the competition. "That's always a motto and a goal of mine," he says. "So sometimes it's just sheer hours that I'm putting in."
But being an Olympic champion means he has a lot of other obligations. "Most weeks, I'll train all week and on Friday night I'll take a flight out and go work somewhere, whether I'm working for a sponsor or doing a speaking engagement, or knocking a photo shoot out."
After a weekend of work, he flies back to Los Angeles in time to start training on Monday morning. "It's sort of balancing two careers—one is obviously the athletic side of it and the physicality of what I do. Then there's the other side of it that's more of the business side, working with sponsors, photo shoots, and other obligations. I work with the U.S. State Department as a sports envoy, so there's times I'm traveling in an official capacity for the government. There's a lot going on."
Even though figure skating is one of the most popular winter Olympic sports, Lysacek says most people don't know what goes into being a figure skater.
"The truth is, it is a brutal sport. What it takes is brutal; the strain on the body is brutal; the mental toughness that's required is incredible," he says. "It is a difficult sport -- I would say among the toughest."
Despite speculation on whether the torn labrum in his left hip can properly heal in time for him to qualify for Sochi, Lysacek keeps busy. He has at least one international competition to enter before the end of the year and continues to train for nationals in January.
Lysacek recently debuted the Ralph Lauren Closing Ceremonies uniform, which went on sale for anyone to buy Nov. 15 at RalphLauren.com. He also taped a touching video with his mom, along with other Olympians in Procter and Gamble's "Raising an Olympian" film series for the company's Sochi 2014 "Thank You, Mom" campaign, which can be seen online.
Lysacek is also actively supporting Citibank's Figure Skating in Harlem program, which combines figure skating and academics to help empower girls in New York City's underserved areas and by clicking on the link, Citibank will donate money to help reach Lysacek's goal of raising $50,000.