Patrik Sandell: “I Want To Build My Career With OMSE”
During the 2013 Red Bull Global Rallycross season, his first as a rallycross driver, Sweden’s Patrik Sandell experienced plenty of successes as he made the transition from a successful stage rally career. In his series debut, he earned an X Games medal in Brazil on his birthday, and he followed that up with a runner-up finish at New Hampshire on the way to an impressive sixth place finish in points.
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)