Joni Wiman: “I’m On The Best Team With The Best People”
In 2013, Finland’s Joni Wiman did something unthinkable in not only GRC Lites, but all of motorsports—he won every single race on the series schedule. The protege of two-time World Rally champion Marcus Gronholm, himself a five-time winner in Red Bull Global Rallycross, Wiman’s six victories are actually the most of any driver in any class in sanctioning body history.
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)