Tanner Foust: “VARX Is An Incredible Opportunity”
After winning two Red Bull Global Rallycross championships in 2011 and 2012 and scoring a runner-up finish last year, Tanner Foust’s place in the formative years of series history is well set. He led Ford to multiple manufacturer’s championships, earned four race victories, and firmly established himself as the driver to beat on any given race weekend.
In 2014, Foust will take on his biggest challenge yet. He’ll jump to the brand-new Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team, joining Scott Speed in the brand new Rockstar Energy Drink Rallycross Beetle. The move is one of the biggest headlines in an offseason of incredible change for Red Bull GRC, and Foust took some time to explain the decision and reflect on rallycross’ exponential growth over the past few years:
We have to start with the question on everybody’s minds right now: after so many successful years with your old program, what compelled you to make a change in 2014?
I’ve enjoyed working with Ford since we debuted the Fiesta at X Games in 2009 and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished over the past five years: X Games podium sweeps and absolute dominance in the sport of rallycross. But being part of something new with the VARX team is an incredible opportunity. I’m looking forward to an exciting future with Volkswagen and Andretti Autosport.
Andretti Autosport brings a well-established racing history into Global Rallycross, from IndyCar championships to sports car success and event operation. What made joining them the right fit for you, and what are you looking forward to the most about driving for Michael Andretti?
Michael Andretti is the leader of the team and he has an incredible depth of understanding of motorsport — from the marketing and promotion side as well as the competition side. With Andretti Autosport, he has created what I think will be the model for motorsport in the future and I’m looking forward to being part of it.
Volkswagen’s factory WRC program had a lot of success for an upstart in 2013, earning that series championship in their first year with the Polo. What are your thoughts on joining them for an assault on Red Bull GRC in 2014? Does their success elsewhere lead to a greater level of expectation here?
The level of professionalism of the team from Volkswagen is difficult to describe. This is a team of people that conquered the World Rally Championship—the second-largest motorsport in the world—on their first attempt. The level of preparation they bring to this game can’t be overstated. I knew what the Polo had to offer because I’ve been door-to-door with it for two years, and the new Rockstar Energy Drink Beetle is going to be amazing.
Volkswagen isn’t foreign to Red Bull GRC, after having raced in the four X Games rounds in 2013 with a little bit of success. You’ll be wheeling both the Polo and the Beetle this season—how is the development process on the new car going?
We’ll start with the Polo this season as we fast-track the Beetle, which we’re developing from scratch for rallycross. Our cars are being built around our specifications and it won’t be a case of having to adapt our styles to the car this season—the cars are being adapted to us. The team brings an extensive knowledge of the sport, the rules, and lessons learned from the championship-winning Volkswagen World Rally team. It’s going to be competitive from the get-go.
You’ll be working with Scott Speed this year after both of you ran Fords in 2013. What are you looking forward to about having him as your teammate?
Scott is a great teammate for the same reasons that Andretti Autosport is a great team. With his competition background, he brings a different perspective to rallycross. He’s very bold in setting the car up—making big changes very quickly—and very technical in his driving. Even though I have more experience in rallycross, I plan on learning from Scott on a lot of levels.
You’re now the only driver to have competed in every single Red Bull GRC race, so the fact that you’ve changed organizations at all, never mind the fact that you’ve joined Andretti, is a landmark moment for the series. Since you’re the only driver to have been racing here from day one, you’re uniquely qualified to talk about the growth of the sport, not only from the competition standpoint but from everything else as well. Just how different is the series now compared to where it was on day one?
In the United States, rallycross is developing extremely quickly. The cars, the teams and the series are all growing and getting more professional with every round. I’ve been at every rallycross held in the U.S. and it’s hard to believe how much has changed since that first race at X Games back in 2010. Even in Europe, when I ran my first European Rallycross Championship race in 2009, I think I was the first car ever to put a GoPro on my car and put YouTube videos out; now having a camera on the car is mandatory.
The next development in the U.S. will bring us into having more standalone events, possibly some permanent facilities and a more established sanctioning body and rulebook. And now, with new teams and new manufacturers like VARX joining the sport, rallycross looks like it will have a strong future.
Images via Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross (1); Las Vegas Motor Speedway (4)
Photo credit: Matthew Kalish (2, 3)