GRC Lites Season Review: Mitchell deJong
At only 15 years old at the start of the inaugural GRC Lites season, Mitchell deJong was still one of the biggest names to join the series in 2013. Having won nine championships in the previous six years, including the previous year’s TORC Pro Buggy title, few drivers could match deJong’s previous racing successes, and he hoped to take that same winning streak from off-road racing into rallycross.
It wasn’t a perfect rookie season, but it was still solid: deJong earned two runner-up finishes and made it to five main events on the way to third place in the standings.
The only real negative portion of the 2013 season came at Bristol, where deJong finished last of the nine competitors after an accident that saw the car hauled off on the wrecker. In response, he earned the silver medal at X Games Los Angeles and equaled that mark in Atlanta, besting Sebastian Eriksson in a thrilling head-to-head battle that many called the highlight of the season.
The head-to-head battle between deJong and Eriksson continued into Charlotte, where Eriksson maintained a place on the podium despite earning a rough driving penalty and deJong could only muster fourth. As such, deJong had only an outside shot at stealing second place in the championship from Eriksson in Las Vegas, but couldn’t quite overcome a second-row starting spot in the final and finished the season with a fifth place run.
Although deJong became the first active GRC Lites driver to set foot in a Supercar, shaking down Bryce Menzies’ car in Charlotte, it seems clear that his desire is to conquer the Lites series before looking to move up. That tenth racing championship in eight years, one that deJong wants to earn as badly as he’s ever wanted to win, could very well come next year; if so, expect him to move up in 2015.
Photo credit: Matthew Kalish