DUBAI - Rob Harper, Randolph County native, chose to take a leap of faith for the sake of his passion and received world-record-breaking titles in return.
Rob, son of Robie Harper and Shelia Ocheske and brother to Dawn Rooks, lived in Roanoke until he was 6 years old, moved around a bit, and returned to Roanoke for some time before graduating from Handley High School in 2009. Harper then attended Auburn University for three years majoring in mechanical engineering before "leaving to take an opportunity in the racing industry," says Harper. Little did he know this would be the opportunity of a lifetime.
Harper currently, as a driver and tuner, holds the record for the fastest AWD vehicle in the world, which is also the fastest Nissan GT-R in the world with a 6.582 second 1/4 mile at 232 mph. Harper says, "Although there are several shops around the world trying to chase our record, we have continued to hold the title for nearly two years by continually improving our own time." Harper also previously held the record for the fastest vehicle ever in a standing half mile, which was 248 mph, and he also has a handful of other class specific-type racing records.
When asking Harper exactly what he does, he informs, "I calibrate engine control units, which is also called tuning, on high-performance cars and race cars. I'm also the general manager of a performance shop and racing team based in Dubai, called Alpha Logic Performance, which specializes in modifying supercars. I also consult for numerous performance shops around the world."
Harper currently lives in Dubai, which is located in the United Arab Emirates, a country in the Middle East, that's time zone is nine hours ahead of Alabama's. Harper also has a home in Alpharetta, Ga. However, he does make the occasional stop to his hometown of Roanoke to visit his family. In fact, family is exactly what sparked his passion for cars.
Harper says he has always been interested in anything mechanical, and he especially was able to take heed on his passion when growing up and working on heavy equipment and trucks with his father, Robie. "As I approached driving age, I became more interested in cars and racing," explains Rob, "after I started driving, I was always looking for ways to modify my car and become involved in different types of racing."
Harper says he became involved in the industry first as a hobby. "I built a relationship with a local performance shop called Z1 Motorsports in Carrollton, Ga., which specialized in the type of car I had. While in college at Auburn, I modified cars for friends in my spare time to make extra money, which later led to a part-time job at Z1 on the weekends in Carrollton," explains Harper.
"With a little over a year remaining for a mechanical engineering degree at Auburn, I was offered a management position at Z1. At this time, the economy was bad and most of my graduating classmates were having trouble finding jobs, so I took the chance and accepted the position in a field I loved." Harper later accepted a position as general manager at another performance shop in Alpharetta, which specialized in supercars, and this is where he became introduced to international customers - an introduction that would drastically change the course of his life.
"My first visit to the Middle East was at the beginning of 2015, and immediately the amount of demand for the work I do was apparent," says Harper. "Later that year, I started my own company, Rob Tuned LLC, which was focused on consulting and engine calibration around the world." Harper says the demand overseas continued to grow and reached the point where in mid-2016, he became a general manger at Alpha Logic Performance and officially moved to Dubai.
Harper gratefully states that, "This career has led to some great things. I've been able to help hundreds of people achieve goals and win races. And aside from just racing accomplishments, in the past four years, I've traveled to 21 countries and have tuned cars in over 50 countries remotely."
Maybe Harper's secret to success is that he isn't a big fan of career goals, an idea that seems to be unheard of by many in today's world. "I feel like when you make your goals too specific, you end up setting a limit for yourself at that goal, and that can close your mind toward other opportunities." Harper continues, "My only real long-term goals are to make sure I'm always better tomorrow than I am today and continue to go faster." This philosophy seems to be working well for Harper.
Harper closes with a word of advice for our younger generations and the pursuit of their goals. Harper's advice is to "Find something that you are passionate about and focus on it. Learn as much as you possibly can about that subject and become an expert in the field. Education is no longer limited by our immediate surroundings or what we study in school. Anyone can become an expert at anything with the information we have at our fingertips."
With Harper's advice in mind, there truly is no limit to what we are capable of. How truly neat to have someone represent Randolph County so astoundingly - and worldwide. With your mind on your passions and your foot on the pedal, you may just reach your destination faster than expected. In fact, you may find yourself starting out in a small town with a population of roughly 6,000 and moving to another country with a population of 3.2 million. Never put a limit to your speed!