“William Clay Ford was a visionary and helped shape the automotive world,” said Global Rallycross CEO Colin Dyne. “We are proud to carry the Ford name in our series. Our thoughts are with the Ford family at this time.”]]>
Coming off of their third straight GRC championship as a team, Olsbergs MSE were happy to move Wiman into the Supercars class for 2014, where he will compete with some of the world’s biggest rallycross stars. In an exclusive interview, Wiman talks about his perfect Lites season, joining OMSE, and if he has any expectations for his rookie Supercars season:
You’re getting ready for your first season in a GRC Supercar after winning the inaugural Lites championship last season. What are your initial thoughts about moving up for 2014?
I’m really excited. Everything went pretty well last year and I’m really excited to get going. I’d like to thank Marcus Gronholm for all his coaching, and of course Olsbergs MSE and Andreas Eriksson especially for putting me in the car this season.
Last year you did something that a lot of race fans have never seen—you won every single race in the GRC Lites season. What was the key to your success in that class?
By winning the first race in New Hampshire, I think I had the most confidence, so everything just went perfect from there. I also think the experience from go-karts and formula racing helped me quite a lot, because the car is a car that you have to drive really smooth.
You also made an appearance in a Supercar in Sweden late last year. How different is the larger and more powerful Supercar compared to the Lites car?
It’s not that much different. The power is incredible, and that means you have to use the brakes differently. I would say only the braking and the power are the biggest differences. The Lites car prepares you quite well for the Supercars.
You’re joining Olsbergs MSE for this season, the team that won the first three GRC championships and helped Ford win multiple manufacturer’s titles. How important is it to you to be with them?
It’s a really big thing. I feel like I’m on the best team and with the best people, because they have quite the passion for rallycross. They really want to build the sport, and they really want to build my own career as well.
Patrik Sandell will be your teammate this year, as he returns to OMSE for his second season. Have you two talked much in the offseason, and how can you help each other?
We have talked a few times now. Patrik is quite experienced on the rally side, and I have experience on the formula side, so I think we’ll be a good team and we’ll really be better off (with one another).
Out of the 10 GRC races taking place this year, where are you looking forward to racing the most?
For sure, Barbados will be cool! I’ve heard about the event and it’s really cool. And of course X Games is quite big for me. I know I don’t have experience in the Supercar there, but that’s a big race I look forward to.
As the inaugural Lites champion and now a Supercars driver you’re proof that the class is a great way to develop young talent. Where do you see the Lites class going from here?
I think that the future for Lites is really big. Now everybody sees that it’s a really big step to the Supercars. I’ve said to everybody that’s asked about the Lites, that it really prepares you well for the Supercars. It’s an amazing car.
Finally, have you set any expectations for yourself in your first season as a Supercars driver? How do you think you’ll compare to the rest of the field?
My expectations aren’t so big—I just want to learn the car as quick as possible and get through to the final in the first races. Then from there stuff will come together, and the quicker we can compete the better. But I don’t want to say that I will be in first place right away because that’s not realistic.
Photo credit: Jan Tore Brustad (1, 3); Matthew Kalish (2, 4)]]>
While Hunt’s experience is primarily in stage rally, he sees rallycross as an opportunity to further build his impressive young career in the future. With that in mind, he traveled to California this week to take part in an open GRC Lites test session with Olsbergs MSE. In an exclusive interview, he talks about putting together the opportunity, the many differences between the Lites car and a stage rally car, and what it would mean to race in GRC:
For US fans who might not be familiar with you yet, tell us a bit about your background and your career so far.
I haven’t been doing motorsport for that long—I grew up doing tennis in New Zealand and a bit in Australia from a young age. When I was about 18 or 19, I didn’t really want to do the dream of being a professional tennis player anymore, and I had an opportunity to go to the States on a tennis scholarship. My dad used to race, so he was pretty keen at getting into rally, and at 21 I bought my first rally car.
Six months later I won a scholarship to do the New Zealand Rally Championship with Rally New Zealand, and I haven’t really looked back since. I’ve done the New Zealand Rally Championship for the last four or five years, and won the 2WD championship twice. Last year was our first year in a 4WD drive car, and we were up on the podium in five out of the six rounds, and had a rally win, so that was really good for our first year.
How did this opportunity come about for you?
I know a guy really well who knows David Ridden, David Ridden got in touch with Mark Smith in New Zealand, and asked who from New Zealand was good enough to come and test one of these cars, and my name got put in there. I had seen some proposals from Olsbergs MSE and David in Australia, and that’s how this deal came about. It’s a pretty awesome opportunity to come over here and test a world class car, a proper race car, and I loved it, it was awesome.
Testing the GRC Lites car isn’t your first rallycross experience this season. What have you done with the sport this year already?
About a month ago, we had a massive show in New Zealand called the 4 & Rotary New Zealand Nationals, and they always try to have something different to please the crowd in between looking at the cars. So a few of us got together and put on a show for them—it wasn’t really a race event or anything, we just did shows throughout the day. And we had jumps where one car could go under while the car jumped over.
I loved it—just being able to be inside an arena, where I think they had 30,000 people watching, it was a whole new experience. Going forth in rallying, I think it probably is the way of the future. (Rallying) is a bit like where in motocross, you have a car going past you for a few seconds, while rallycross is like supercross, where it’s in front of everyone and you have the whole crowd cheering you on. It’s a pretty awesome experience. And I love doing jumps—I’ve ridden quite a few motorbikes, and I still do, so I love jumping things!
How big of a difference was driving the GRC Lites car compared to your Subaru in NZRC?
The first massive thing was the cars that we drive back home, you drive on the right hand side of the car, and obviously here it’s a left hand drive car. That was a huge thing in and of itself, when you go to change a gear in a left hand drive car, and your left hand goes for the window or the door! So I really had to try to adjust to change gears with my right hand.
It’s just a whole different view from the car. Your apexes are different. Even though you think it’d be pretty straightforward, when you grow up on driving on one side of the car your whole life it’s a big difference. The other thing is that it’s a really good car—the chassis and the whole thing was a lot stiffer. It’s like a race go-kart more than a rally car. I’d never really driven anything with a sequential gearbox before, so that was pretty awesome. I’d love to put one in my Subaru!
Were any current GRC Lites drivers present at the test? Did any of them make any demonstration runs?
Yes—Mitchell deJong was there, and Austin Dyne was there. DeJong did a run in between all of us doing some runs, to kind of show us how to drive it. I think myself and the guy from Aussie (stunt driver Jack Monkhouse) were fastest, just from what David Riddon was doing on the stopwatch. I don’t know how the Olsbergs team would want us to drive it, so I kind of drove it like a rally car, quite a lot sideways. But after seeing Mitchell drive it, in my next few runs, I kind of drove more tarmac racing lines. It was interesting and it was a beautiful day in California, but hot—too hot for us Kiwis!
What would it mean to you to be able to become a full-time GRC Lites driver?
It would just be a dream come true. So many kids grow up with the dream of being professional. If I was able to keep all my sponsors back in New Zealand to do the New Zealand Rally Championship and have a drive over here, I’d go for it, you know? It would be an awesome experience—you meet a lot of new people, and you’d put your name out there with a brand.
I’m a young fellow from New Zealand who’s trying to make himself go a bit further, so it’d be an awesome experience, even if I got to do a few rounds, or if I got to do the full championship. I think there are a lot of people from New Zealand that would be watching, and there would be a lot of media attention for something like that. Hayden Paddon from New Zealand just got a World Rally drive for seven rounds for this year, and something like this, with rallycross being the way of the future, would go over crazy back home.
When will you be back in action next?
The New Zealand championship opens on the 10th and 11th of April, and I think it’s also the first round of the Asia Pacific championship. So that’s cool—it’ll be an international rally, and there will be competitors coming from around the world coming to that. That’s always a really good rally, and the teams coming always make it a really good weekend, so I’m really looking forward to that.
Photo credit: Scott Johnson (1); Riddos Consulting (2, 4); James Southern/OversteerTV.co.nz (3)]]>
“I’d say so far, so good. It’s difficult to judge that when you don’t have other cars out there putting down lap times, but from my feel perspective, it is honestly a lot better (than last year’s car). So I’m cautiously optimistic,” Speed said.
Numerous Volkswagen Motorsport technicians were on hand working with Speed and Foust, as were members of Marklund Motorsport, which built the cars last year. Volkswagen Motorsport is coming off of a successful 2013 season that saw the team win the World Rally Championship with driver Sebastien Ogier, while Marklund earned multiple top five finishes in four X Games appearances in 2013 with an all-star list of drivers that included Carlos Sainz and Buddy Rice.
Speed confirmed that the goal of the test was to develop a plan for the brand new Beetle, which is scheduled to make its debut after the GRC season opener, but the work done on the Polo will prove beneficial as well.
“The people from Volkswagen (were there) to come with a plan for the Beetle,” he continued. “In any case, it has inherently made the Polo a lot better than it was, and now they’ve got a really good idea on exactly how they want to design the Beetle and get it going.
“There’s no question that the Polo is still very much an intermediate ride for us, just to get us by until the Beetle gets here. But the effort that has gone into it is super valuable for us.”
Click the video above for an on-board view of Scott Speed’s test session at Eurocircuito de Lousada.
Images via Scott Speed]]>
Red Bull GRC combines the best elements of circuit racing, off-road racing, and rally competition. The series features heavily modified 600-horsepower production-based cars built for fast-paced heat races with huge jumps – some up to 70 feet. The tracks are a combination of dirt and asphalt with multiple obstacles and surface transitions. Top drivers in the series include Tanner Foust, Scott Speed, Bucky Lasek, Travis Pastrana and Nelson Piquet Jr. All competitors will race on specially designed Yokohama ADVAN® race tires.
“This is a major move for us,’” said Andrew Briggs, Yokohama director, product planning, marketing and motorsports. “GRC is a rapidly growing motorsport with global appeal to a young, passionate fan base, making it an ideal platform to showcase the technology, strength and competitiveness of Yokohama.”
Colin Dyne, CEO of Global Rallycross, said, “Yokohama is world-renowned for its full line of tires and rich motorsports history. We’re glad to have Yokohama aboard and look forward to an exciting season of rallycross racing.”
The 10-race series starts May 17-18 in Barbados and ends November 5 in Las Vegas. GRC details are available at www.global-rallycross.com.
Yokohama Tire Corporation is the North American manufacturing and marketing arm of Tokyo, Japan-based The Yokohama Rubber Co., Ltd., a global manufacturing and sales company of premium tires since 1917. Servicing a network of more than 4,500 points of sale in the U.S., Yokohama Tire Corporation is a leader in technology and innovation. The company’s complete product line includes tires for high-performance, light truck, passenger car, commercial truck and bus, and off-the-road mining and construction applications. For more information on Yokohama’s extensive product line, visit www.yokohamatire.com.]]>
Earlier this week, Fernandez announced that he would race for Olsbergs MSE in GRC Lites, continuing his rapid ascent up the motorsport ranks. In an exclusive interview, he explains what attracted him to the sport, the benefits of working with Rice and OMSE, and who he plans to compare himself to in his first season:
What exactly drew you to joining Red Bull Global Rallycross and the GRC Lites series?
The close competition. I’ve always liked rally since I was young, and since the X Games started I’ve always watched (that and) the GRC series. I’ve always liked the series because it offers at least half tarmac and half dirt, and the jump is always fun. So I really like the setup and the competition. And the series is also a spec series, so it can really show what the driver can do. The other aspect I like is the exposure—being able to compete at X Games is really incredible, and I’m really excited to be able to do that.
For those who don’t know much about you yet, can you tell us about your karting background? How has karting prepared you for this step into rallycross?
I am a national and regional champion—I won an IKF championship last year in the PRD Senior class. I’ve also claimed podiums in national events and have traveled around the United States in karting. Karting has helped me take the steps towards GRC because I believe, and a lot of other professional drivers believe, that if you can learn karting, you have all the abilities you need to become a better driver. I believe that karting has taught me everything I need to succeed, or at least is the fundamental background that I need to get up to speed.
You’ve been working with Buddy Rice as part of his karting program. How long have you two worked together, and how has he helped you develop as a driver?
Since I started racing in karting, I’ve been with Buddy, so basically for my entire career in racing. To have him by my side with me is really important, because he’s taught me so many things and he’s eased the learning curve tremendously. With the knowledge that Buddy has, and the experience he has, he knows what I need to do to get faster.
You went to a few races last year before signing on for this season, but you’ve only been testing the car somewhat recently. Did the car drive like you expected it to from what you saw on race weekends?
Actually, I thought the car was easier to drive than what I had seen! I thought the car was really good—it handled really good, it was fast, and it was really easy to drive. I’m really excited to be able to start the season off with it in Austin.
You were also able to work with OMSE’s Brad Manka, the Lites Crew Member of the Year last season, during the test sessions. What did he teach you during the test session?
Brad taught me some of the fundamental things in the car, like the shifting points and how to get the car to rotate through the corners. He also helped me with some of the components inside the car, how it handles, the specs of the car, and how it was developed.
There are a handful of drivers returning to GRC Lites from last season. Are you going to start comparing yourself to them right away, or are you going to run your own pace to start and worry about the results later?
I look forward to judging myself against Mitchell deJong and Kevin Eriksson. They both finished well throughout last season, and I think they’re both really good drivers. So when we start the season, I look forward to seeing how we do, seeing if we can one-up them, or how I can work harder and improve.
Have you set any goals for yourself this season, knowing that it’s your first in rallycross?
As a competitor, I’d always like to win, but my realistic goals would be podium finishes throughout the season. My ultimate goal is to be the champion, but it’s a long championship and a lot of things can happen. As you said, it’s my first season. Anything can happen, but as for my goals, I want to have some podium finishes, win the championship, and hopefully move up to Supercars through the ladder system that GRC has.
Images via AF Racing]]>
“I’m extremely excited to compete in the Lites series because of what GRC has to offer,” said Fernandez. “I like the competitiveness, how it’s a spec series and how that really puts an emphasis on the driver and not so much on the car. The ability to be able to travel to all the venues GRC will be attending this year is an extremely surreal feeling for me, as it is my first year out of karting.”
Fernandez, a native of Bogota, was born on January 26, 1996. After racing in BMX events for many years, he switched to karting in 2012 and quickly became a competitive racer in the SuperKarts! USA ProTour, Challenge of the Americas, and won the 2013 IKF PRD Senior championship.
In only two short years, Fernandez has become one of the top drivers on the Buddy Rice Karting team. “I have, for the past two years, worked with Alejandro in building his skills and ability in racing,” said Rice, the 2004 Indianapolis 500 champion. “While our involvement was in the motorsports area I can say I saw true sportsmanship displayed. In addition to his conduct I witnessed a determination to obtain excellence in all his endeavors. His respect and regard for other participants was truly outstanding as well. Alejandro is confident, diligent, and intelligent.”
“I’ve gotten to know Alejo, and he’s a good kid,” said OMSE’s Brad Manka. “I’m pretty excited for the opportunity to watch him graduate from karts to cars, and to do it with GRC Lites in particular.”
Further details on Fernandez’s GRC Lites program will be released in the near future. For more information go to http://www.afracing126.com.
Images via AF Racing]]>
“I had so much fun driving on the ice track, and I learned a lot,” said Dyne. “It’s crazy to be on a frozen lake testing, and amazing how much grip the studded tires have on the ice!”
Dyne worked with Olsbergs MSE principal Andreas Eriksson and fellow GRC Lites driver Kevin Eriksson to hone his skills on Kall’s ice track. Kall Auto Lodge is also the home of Flatout Sweden Rallycross School, led by GRC Supercars veteran and 2013 X Games medalist Patrik Sandell.
In 2013, Dyne made his rallycross debut in GRC Lites, finishing sixth in series standings on the heels of an impressive runner-up finish in Bristol and appearances in four of the six main events. On two separate occasions, he competed in both GRC Lites and stock car events on the same weekend, making the Lites final in both cases.
Images via Austin Dyne Instagram]]>
But goals are much higher this season for the 2006 Junior World Rally champion. While he will return to Olsbergs MSE for a second season, teammates Toomas Heikkinen and Tanner Foust—who finished first and second in series points—will not be back, and with their departure comes an opportunity for Sandell to establish himself as a leading force in the series. In between stages of the Andalucia Bike Race, in which Sandell is competing this week, he discussed refining the details that will help him run up front consistently in 2014:
You had an impressive debut season in Red Bull Global Rallycross last year, with multiple podium finishes—including a third place in your first event. How much are you looking forward to returning to the series, and what are you looking to improve upon from your rookie season?
2013 was my first year in both GRC and rallycross, and I really learned a lot last year. We had some podiums, but we had some bad luck, and some situations where I caused the bad luck. I learned so much last year, and over the winter I’ve been focusing on what went wrong last year, the small details. I think that in my second season I’ll be much more competitive than I was last year, and that I will be one of the guys fighting for the title.
You’ve been very busy in this offseason, perhaps more so than any other driver. What have you been up to between last year’s season finale and now?
I do a lot of events and different driving schools with my company, Flatout Sweden. So I’m more or less in the car every week, in snow and ice conditions, over the offseason period. I would say I’m one of the drivers who has done the most driving in the offseason period. I’ve done that for the last year, and it’s a good way to me to keep driving.
I’ve also been focusing a lot on my physical training. When I’m standing on the start line in Barbados, I want everything to be perfect—I don’t want to think that I should have done a bit more physical training, or that I should have done a bit more driving. I want everything to be top notch, and to be ready for the fight.
OMSE is going to look very different from the way it did last year, with some of your former teammates off to different organizations. How do you think that will affect the team dynamics this year? Do you look at that as an opportunity for you to move up the ranks?
It’s absolutely an opportunity. It’s really good for everyone, good for the sport, to have new manufacturers come in, and I think that will put the series even higher than last year. The focus from each team will be to win even more than last year. Last year, it could be (seen by fans as) too much of an OMSE championship, because Andreas (Eriksson) had so many cars. But this year, I think it’s more fair to everyone, and the focus from Andreas and everyone on our team will be to defend the Manufacturer’s Championship. I think that will be the main focus, and to reach that, again, I think we will need to focus on the small details. We want to beat the guys that were on our team last year!
You’ll have Joni Wiman as a teammate this year, as he comes off of a dominating performance in GRC Lites last year. What do you like about the way he drives? What are you looking forward to about working with him?
He’s coming from a completely different background than me. He’s from circuit racing, and I’m from the rally forests, so I think that we can really learn from each other. We have done some talking through the winter and had some meetings, and I think that we will really try to focus on helping each other. The way to get to the final, we will help each other in the heats to hopefully get there with both cars in the front row—that is the main goal. To get there, we will really try to share each other’s ideas and work as a team.
The new GRC schedule features some major changes from last year, including a lot of new venues and a handful of returning ones. Where are you looking forward to racing the most?
For me, everything is pretty new, so I look forward to all of the races. I don’t have many that I look forward to more than the other ones. I’m just so honored to be able to do another season with OMSE, and I’m looking forward to doing another full championship.
Barbados is nice, and for sure X Games will be a really big thing. X Games is always big. I really liked last year that X Games is really huge in America. Before, I always knew it (was big), but I didn’t know how big it was. I think that will be a really big focus for everyone.
Last year Ford ran away with the Manufacturer’s Championship, and you were able to be a part of that. How confident are you that you’ll be able to help Ford win that title again, even with additional manufacturers coming in this year?
I think that for sure it will be even harder this year than it was last year. But I think that we are smart, and we are playing the game together and not as rivals. I think that can really help us achieve that goal. Number one, we need the Manufacturer’s Championship, that’s what everyone wants to do. I really would like to be on the podium in the Driver’s Championship as well, but from the team perspective, the Manufacturer’s Championship is the ultimate goal.
As one of only a handful of drivers to return to the team he ran with last year, do you feel like your established chemistry with OMSE will give you an advantage in early rounds?
I learned a lot together with the team last year—they got to know me pretty good, and I got to know them. So we know the key things we need to work on, and to be able to keep on doing that for a second year is just perfect. Hopefully that will give us an advantage so we can really be fighting for the podium each race.
What I want to do is build my rallycross career with OMSE over a number of years. For example, Tanner did that, and last year Tanner was really, really good. A lot of it is Tanner, but a lot of it is the team, they got to know each other and they worked for the same goal.
Finally, as you look at the upcoming season, how have your goals and expectations changed from what they were last year?
Yeah, for sure! I want to reach higher than I did last year, and I want to be on the podium in each race. For sure, that is what I’m focusing on, and I learned last year what makes the difference between being on the podium and not on the podium. So I will focus on those small details that make the difference throughout the season, and my plan is to be on the podium at each race.
Photo credit: Matthew Kalish (1, 4); Alison Padron (2); QBA/QNIGAN.com (3)]]>
As part of an action-packed weekend of motoring spectacles, the British Grand Prix ace will take to the newly refurbished Bushy Park Circuit to join a host of challenges set by Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond. Hamilton has a natural affinity to the Caribbean region with his grandparents, on his father’s side, hailing from Grenada, just a short hop from Barbados.
Hamilton, whose passion for motor racing began at the tender age of eight, has had an enviable career which includes records for the most consecutive podium finishes from debut, most wins and pole positions in a debut season and most notably was the youngest driver to win the F1 World Driver’s Championship back in 2008.
Hamilton, 29, joins an illustrious list of F1 supremoes, World Champions and race winners to appear at a Top Gear Festival including David Coulthard, Mark Webber, Mika Hakkinen, Jody Scheckter and Eddie Jordan.
“I cannot wait to touch down in Barbados for the Top Gear Festival,” commented Hamilton. “I love the island and have been on the TV show a few times and always have a lot of fun, so I’m excited to experience the spirit of Top Gear at a live event. I can’t wait to see what Jeremy, James and Richard have in store for me!”
Top Gear Festival Barbados is expected to draw tens of thousands of petrol-heads for a thrilling weekend of high-octane motoring action with Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond. The jam-packed schedule of motoring antics will see The Stig and the Top Gear Live Stunt Driving Team take to the track in a series of thrilling stunts, races and challenges.
The Red Bull Global Rallycross will hold the first round of their 2014 season at Top Gear Festival Barbados, which will see some of their hottest drivers compete on the track including Ken Block, Bucky Lasek and Scott Speed. The legendary line-up also includes Tanner Foust, who co-hosts the US version of Top Gear.
Visitors are encouraged to book early to ensure they don’t miss the most exciting new event on 2014’s entertainment and motoring calendar.
Image via Mercedes F1]]>