LAKE ELSINORE, CA (Jan. 15, 2013) – Dozens of drivers from various racing backgrounds all descended upon Lake Elsinore, CA this past weekend to test Olsbergs MSE’s new Supercar Lites concept vehicle. The project, the brainchild of OMSE team leader Andreas Eriksson, has been developed with the hope of creating a strong ladder series to send drivers to the Global Rallycross Championship.
Supercar Lites are designed to be similar to the Supercars, the feature class of GRC, with a few substantial differences. For example, the Lites cars feature a normally aspirated engine in the rear, while Supercars are turbocharged and have a front engine. While the Supercars produce 600 horsepower, the Lites produce only about 300. On track, the Lites chassis exhibits less body roll than a regular Supercar, and forces the driver to master car control.
Lites cars are also “overbuilt,” according to Eriksson, who notes that the first car turned over 300 laps in its initial test in Las Vegas in November without any hint of mechanical failure. The sealed, stock engines are built to last 1,000 kilometers—about a season and a half worth of competition—while the gearbox is built to handle the torque of the Mountune engine “no problem.”
The twelve drivers who tested on the first day were Mike Bonanni, John Chabot, Harry Cheung, Kyle Mohan, and Geoffrey Sykes in the morning, and Steve Arpin, Jim Beaver, Tommy Boileau, Andrew Comrie-Picard, Tom Finnelly, Trevor Snow, and David Sterckx in the afternoon.
On the second day, Erik Bond, Sheldon Creed, Brody Goble, Oscar Jackson Jr., Bret Norgaard, Jourdan Siem, Jonathan Summerton, and Tanner Whitten comprised a sizable early session, while Chrissie Beavis, Betim Berisha, Cody Crane, William Petrow, and Matt Smith ran in the afternoon.
Drivers were given between 18 and 20 laps in the car. During their first five laps, World Rally driver Patrik Sandell served as co-driver and coach; he would then clear the driver to continue for five more before another driver rotated in. On their second turn, many drivers were able to switch cars in order to experience a different setup.
Plenty of GRC competitors were also on hand to observe. Both Tanner Foust and Brian Deegan took laps in the car, while Stephan Verdier and Samuel Hubinette made appearances in the crowd over the weekend. Beyond that, many of the test drivers brought their entourages—from family and friends to driving coaches and representation—to learn about the Lites concept.
For the fans that heard about the test and showed up, an OMSE Supercar was also on hand to take laps. GRC CEO Colin Dyne and Verdier, sixth in points in 2012, both handled the car on Friday; meanwhile, Summerton, who had been bumped up to the Saturday morning session as time allowed, drove during his previously scheduled slot in the afternoon.
Official times were not taken from either session, owing to changing car setups, track conditions, and weather, but unsurprisingly, of the unofficial times that were passed around by word of mouth, Foust was the fastest during his time in the car.
For both OMSE and the GRC, the goal is to have a minimum of 12 cars ready to compete in a support series this season, running alongside the Supercars in the five American-based rounds of the championship. They are also developing plans for five regional races apiece on the east coast and west coast to give drivers as many opportunities to race as possible. For drivers who succeed, the benefits are twofold: they’ll likely earn a shot at testing the Supercars, and they should be well equipped with the skill set to succeed after mastering control of the Lites car.
Photo credit: Chris Leone