Nearly two dozen drivers showed up to the Global Rallycross track on the Las Vegas Strip to test GRC Lites for the first time on Friday, less than 24 hours after GRC held its season finale event. Drivers with experience ranging from go-karts and dirt late models to the 24 Hours of Daytona cycled through a pair of Lites cars with coaching from season runner-up Sebastian Eriksson and fifth place driver Alexander Westlund.
The fastest time of the day belonged to Indy Lights and Grand-Am veteran Gustavo Yacaman, who posted lap times comparable to current series drivers. Yacaman, as well as most of the other drivers on site, raved about the 300-horsepower Lites vehicles.
“This was the first time I drove four wheel drive, or anything with a handbrake,” said Yacaman, “but I found it very nice to drive. The car is very nimble—it drives very similar to a go-kart. The jump was the first time I’ve ever jumped in a race car, so that was pretty cool. I’m just looking forward to racing against someone else with these cars. It’s very, very cool.”
Stage rally drivers adjusted quickly to some of the differences in the GRC Lites cars. Besides differences in power and grip, the car required some changes in driving mechanics, including the adjustment to a sequential gearbox rather than standard shifting.
“I drive Super Production, so I haven’t really had any experience driving a sequential,” noted Brenten Kelly, an instructor at DirtFish Rally School and Rally America competitor. “That was one of the issues that everyone seemed to have at first. Second, the grip that we had out there was not what I expected—it reacts a bit different.
“The cars feel amazing, it’s just getting comfortable in that car will make it a lot better. I found in the beginning that it was working well to use the brakes to turn the car, and then after thinking about it a bit I realized it was actually slowing me down quite a bit. On the tarmac it didn’t perform the same, but on the gravel I think you could get away with a bit more of it.”
“(The car) is pretty cool—it handles extremely well,” added Winston De Wardt, a fellow DirtFish instructor and the first driver of the day. I’m a little finicky with figuring out downshifts with it, but it’s just getting comfortable with it. It was really just finding what it’s capable of and how hard you can push it.”
Even a handful of drivers without lengthy backgrounds in racing got in on the fun. Kit Cope, a veteran mixed martial arts fighter best known to the GRC world as Ken Block’s personal trainer, even stepped into one of the Lites cars, as he hopes to set up a ride in the series in 2014.
“The car is super peppy,” explained Cope. “It takes a little bit of getting used to in that the shift points are really high. That was only second time I had driven a sequential, and only the first time I had driven tarmac. Everything else that I’ve done has been dirt, so (I was) picking rally lines instead of natural racing lines, and the apex is way later in the rally line.
“It just took a little bit of getting used to as far as changing surface and changing cars goes. The car is super cool. It picks up when you want it to pick up, it revs super high—it’s so much fun. You can’t have a bad day in a race car!”
But one of the biggest names to test a GRC Lites car was Andreas Bakkerud, who stepped into the Lites car in the afternoon after much of the testing was finished. Bakkerud, who had been in Las Vegas as a spectator, finished fourth in this year’s European Supercars championship as a rookie, taking two victories along the way.
“First and foremost, it’s very nice to drive,” Bakkerud commented. “I was surprised—it was very fun and the cars are equal, so you can find the best driver. It has less horsepower, but it has the performance we are looking for. This was the first time I drove it and it was good fun.
“It was strange—but it was strange in a good way. I need to struggle with it to go faster, and that’s a good thing.”
The full list of drivers who appeared in Friday’s test session, along with their car assignments and driver coaches:
- Winston De Wardt, Logan Gomez, Brooke Kawell, Gustavo Yacaman, Nicolas Bedoya, Mitchell Williams, Shelby Anderson, Chandler Campbell, Parker Thompson, Bill Musgrave—#21 AEM Infinity GRC Lites (coached by Sebastian Eriksson)
- David Barteld, Adam Yeoman, Kit Cope, Brenten Kelly, Burt Jenner, Matt Coffman, Christopher Hill, Rafael Cassol, Alejo Fernandez, Brianne Corn, Nicholas Rodriguez, Andreas Bakkerud—#99 Royal Purple GRC Lites (coached by Alexander Westlund)
Photo credit: Andre Consorte