The U.S. Small Business Administration announced they honored Team O’Neil Rally School of Dalton with the SBA 2013 New Hampshire Veteran Owned Business Award. Owner Tim O’Neil, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and five-time US and North American Rally Racing Champion was one of America’s brightest rally stars. At the height of his career with Volkswagen and Mitsubishi, O’Neil withdrew from the competition to follow his passion to teach.
He opened Team O’Neil Rally School in Dalton, New Hampshire, a car control and rally training facility. For the past 18 years business owner Tim O’Neil has trained thousands of everyday drivers, plus professional rally drivers, US government and private security personnel, in advanced car control, rally and winter driving techniques.
O’Neil got his hands dirty early in life at his family’s logging business in Whitefield, New Hampshire. In1977, he joined the United States Air Force and became a Fuel Systems Technician, maintaining F-111s at Canon Air Force Base in New Mexico. It was this experience that laid the groundwork for future success. According to O’Neil, "Working in the Air Force taught me a great deal about work ethic, discipline and pride in one’s work. It made me believe that I could achieve anything I set my mind to." In 1982, he returned to New Hampshire and worked at several car dealerships where he received factory training for a variety of makes. Soon he decided to go into business for himself and opened Franconia Service Center, a foreign car repair shop with 5 full-time employees.
At the same time he followed his passion for competitive driving and began a 15 year motorsports career in stock cars. He won rookie of the year honors in 1982, and was crowned Canada’s Novice of the Year in 1986. After winning the New England Division Championship in 1987, Tim was recruited to drive for Volkswagen and later Mitsubishi. O’Neil went on to win many individual and manufacturer championship events in the US and internationally.
O’Neil’s professional success in rallying led to another passion, driving instruction and coaching. He worked with a number of major automotive manufacturers to teach other drivers advanced driving techniques and introduce new products. He instructed more than 3,000 students at driving schools in the United States, England, Scotland, and Wales, developed the nationally recognized O’Neil Winter Driving Techniques, and coached many drivers to National Championships. His specialties included sport utility vehicle safety and survival programs.
In 1997 O’Neil and his wife Holly opened their driving school, Team O’Neil Rally School and Car Control Center, to teach rally and winter driving techniques. They started small with only a few cars and a small but dedicated staff of three. Within a few short years he was looking for more space. The location was a foregone conclusion: it had to be a place where the weather was as challenging as it was inspiring, the demands on the driver unrelenting, and the rewards of mastering the "art" of driving unmatched. A place where four season training was possible. The site for the school, the Great North Woods of New Hampshire, was a foregone conclusion.
So O’Neil sold his hugely successful auto maintenance business and purchased a 300 acre tract of land in Dalton. Along the way he consulted with SBA’s Small Business Development Center and took advantage of SBA’s Patriot Express loan program, which is designed to streamline financing for military veterans who are entrepreneurs. His business continued to grow by serving the needs of individuals, private security firms, and military for tactical driving techniques in various terrains. Plus he continued to train new generations of rally drivers.
By the summer of 2007, classes were so overbooked that he was turning away customers. O’Neil decided to develop another training area. With the support of TD Bank and NCIC he expanded the "North End" of his operation, hired more instructors, set up more cars for training and hired more mechanics. Today the company has grown into what many consider the premier all-season rally school in the US, employing some 26 people, including instructors, mechanics, operations, and administrative staff.
O’Neil said, "I’m proud to represent all the veterans who followed their dreams to start up their own business and I’m honored to be able to build a business on training security professionals and as times are changing to be able to offer the same type of training to people who are unable to get these skills elsewhere. We have steadily seen the trends change over the past 4 years and we have been working towards re-branding the company to appeal to the mainstream motorist."
SBA salutes Tim O’Neil for his service to our country, his storied driving career, and his success in transforming a passion for competitive driving into a successful business venture. Congratulations to Team O’Neil Rally School and Car Control Center, the SBA 2013 New Hampshire Veteran Owned Business of the Year.