Rally – Red Bull Global Rallycross Media Day

Cropped Red Bull GRC Logo

Wow, what an incredible day.  I got the amazing opportunity to represent OpenPaddock.net at the launch of the newly re-branded Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship at their Media Day in Los Angeles, California.  The location for this media event was at the Port of LA, where after passing by mile after mile of shipping containers my route diverted me to a more scenic drive lined with palm trees and even passing by the historic USS Iowa battleship.  Finally at the end of the road was a large lot with media tents and barriers configured into a short track where I knew I’d get one of the most thrilling experiences of my life.  As I walked up to the makeshift desk to sign in, I found that I was surrounded everywhere by banners showing the new Red Bull GRC logo.  It was obvious Red Bull wanted everyone to know that they are fully involved.

20140402_104748

The day was filled with interviews and press releases.  It seemed fitting that OpenPaddock.net was there considering all the announcements coming from IndyCar related teams.  We had already reported a few weeks ago that Andretti Autosport was entering into the Red Bull Global Rallycross fray in a partnership with Volkswagen to create a pair of new GRC Super Beetles driven by Tanner Foust and Scott Speed.  Andretti isn’t just bringing Volkswagen as a manufacturer entry.  Andretti Sports Marketing the media arm of Andretti Autosport announced that they have joined forces with Volkswagen of America to bring professional motorsports back to Washington, D.C.  ASM will be hosting the 2nd round of the Red Bull GRC at RFK Stadium, the home of the Washington Redskins.  As the CEO of the Red Bull GRC Colin Dyne told me in our audio interview, “Global Rallycross will bring racing to the people.”  You don’t get much more “to the people” than Washington, D.C. or maybe New York City.  And to that note, Red Bull GRC Round 3 will be exactly that, in New York City.  No word yet as to the exact location or if ASM is behind the NYC event, but looking at the schedule it appears the concept of portable race courses that can be brought to the cities is bearing fruit.

 VW GRC

One of my interviews was with a young driver by the name of Austin Dyne who is partnering with former Indy 500 winner Bryan Herta and sponsored by Barracuda Networks.  Austin has competed in a number of different forms of racing over the years including regional NASCAR racing.  Last season he ran a few rounds in the new GRC Lites and fell in love with the sport.  This year Austin Dyne is fully committing to GRC and already making the step up to the full spec GRC Supercars.   He’s still learning, but will have a very capable Ford Fiesta GRC that can mix it up with the best of them.  In fact the car he’s using previously belonged to Scott Speed who won the opening X-Games Brazil round last year.

Austin Dyne & Bryan Herta

Also along IndyCar related teams was seeing Tim Cindric the President of Penske Racing announce his involvement.  Tim’s son Austin Cindric mostly known for his USF2000 exploits, is going to share a GRC Lites car with former Pike’s Peak champ Blake Fuller under the GO PUCK/Nightrain Global Rallycross Team banner. I missed out on an interview with Austin, but will be excited to see how he performs.  At the age of only 15, Austin Cindric will need a lot of seat time to increase his driving experience, but as with anything even remotely related to Penske there is huge potential here.

Cindric & Fuller GRC Lites

In addition to these new entries coming from the world of open wheel, there were also some returning faces to both GRC Supercars and the GRC Lites for 2014.  Most notable for the Red Bull GRC in 2014 is the return of Hyundai.  Back in 2011, Rhys Millen of Rhys Millen Racing had developed the then new Hyundai Veloster into a rather capable Global  Rallycross machine.  Although it never made it to the top of the podium and had some mechanical issues early on, the potential of the platform was evident.  Unfortunately, last year Hyundai pulled out of all motorsports in the USA leaving Rhys with only the ability to enter a couple of events as a privateer.  That has all changed for 2014 though and Hyundai seems to have realized their error in pulling out of motorsports..  With the opportunities brought on by Red Bull as the title sponsor for GRC and the NBC television package, Hyundai is fully backing Rhys Millen Racing once again.  Rhys has had a long standing relationship with both Red Bull and Hyundai that includes a record breaking Pikes Peak Hill Climb and Formula Drift championships.  That relationship allows him to be one of the few to have the title sponsor’s livery grace his machine.  With the manufacturer commitment, Rhys has made some significant changes to the handling of the Veloster Turbo, hear about it in my audio interview with him below.

RMR Veloster Turbo

Rhys Millen Racing isn’t just attacking the Red Bull GRC with one Veloster Turbo.  It will be a full 2 car team effort with the second seat going to the first female Red Bull GRC driver, Emma Gilmour.  Emma who is a fellow kiwi comes from a strong rally background where she has come in 2nd overall in the New Zealand Rally Championship 3 years in a row .  Rhys thinks that not only does Emma help attract a specific market segment, but she also has the talent to be truly competitive.  Watch out boys, she just might school you.

Rhys Millen & Emma Gilmour

That isn’t the end of the Rhys Millen Racing effort in GRC  though as he is also sponsoring a GRC Lites driver by the name of Tyler Benson.  Tyler raced a couple of Lites events last year to just get his feet wet and is making a full commitment this year. He’s a well grounded young kid with a good head on his shoulders and together with Rhys Millen mentoring him could be a future star in the sport.  Check out my audio interview with Tyler Benson and you’ll see why he’s one of the most down to earth drivers that many fans can relate to.

Tyler Benson GRC Lites

Also returning isGRC Lites driver Mitchell Dejong.  Last season Mitchell was one of the few that seemed capable of keeping up with last year’s dominant champion Joni Wimen.  Wimen moved up in class to the Supercars while Dejong continues to improve his racecraft in the Lites series.  Mitchell Dejong has had quite the career for such a young driver already with multiple Torq series championships where he dominated in buggies.  After seeing the GRC at X-Games, he knew this is where he wanted to be.  Look to see Mithcell Dejong at the front of the field all season in the Lites, which is probably why his car gets the Red Bull livery this year.  I have an audio interview with Dejong below.

Mitchell_Dejong

My last interview of the day before things wrapped up was with X-Games star Bucky Lasek.  Bucky has been driving for Subaru Rally Team USA the last two seasons, and I must admit that I myself first saw him as just a popular name to add to the list to draw in viewers.  Bucky however is very serious about driving and as he proved in the second half of last season, has improved immensely and can be competitive.  Bucky goes into detail on how Subaru is more committed than ever for the 2014 Red Bull GRC season with a new chassis, new engine, and many other changes coming soon.  Check it out in the audio interview.

Hangin with Bucky Lasek

Midday at the event were the official press announcements that gave us a bit more detail of what we’ll see in 2014.

GRC on NBC

An official from NBC was there who stated that their commitment is through 2015, but told Colin Dyne the CEO that he “won’t be getting rid of NBC that easy.”  NBC is not only airing most events live on their primary network, but is also offering live streaming via NBC Sports Live Extra for web, tablet, and mobile viewing.  All episodes will also be available for streaming after the live airing has completed.  For commentary they are adding Townsend Bell to the broadcast booth, a great pick in my opinion.  Townsend also drove at the Germany round last year and did okay despite having never driven a GRC Supercar before then.  This will give him a bit of extra insight into what drivers experience as they battle the first turn or try or try and see through a hail of gravel spray.

 

Other announcements included USAC as the new sanctioning body for the series and Yokohama tires being the new tire supplier.  Yokohama will have a bit of a challenge making a single tire that can grip well on both tarmac and gravel.  No word yet as to whether there will be tire compound options drivers can select from or whether or not there will be a wet tire option as well (last year they were just able to put cuts in their tarmac tires for wet/mud).

 USAC_logoYokohama_Logo

2014 RED BULL GLOBAL RALLYCROSS SCHEDULE ON NBC

Date

Coverage

Network

Time (ET)

Sat., May 24

Top Gear Festival – Barbados*

NBC

1 p.m.

Sun., June 22

Red Bull Global Rallycross – Washington D.C.

NBC

2 p.m.

Sun., July 20

Red Bull Global Rallycross – New York

NBC

2 p.m.

Sat., July 26

Red Bull Global Rallycross – Charlotte

NBC

2 p.m.

Sun., August 3

Red Bull Global Rallycross – Detroit

NBC

2 p.m.

Sat., August 23

Red Bull Global Rallycross – Daytona

NBC

3:30 p.m.

Sat., September 20

Red Bull Global Rallycross – Los Angeles

NBC

5 p.m.

Sun., September 28

Red Bull Global Rallycross – Seattle*

NBC

2:30 p.m.

Sun., November 16

Red Bull Global Rallycross – Las Vegas*

NBC

2 p.m.

*Denotes tape-delayed presentation

 

Finally at the end of the day came my ride-along.  Mitchell Dejong is the one that drove me around the all tarmac racecourse in his 300HP Lites car.  Although the course was short, it had all the elements including an off-camber elevation change in a sweeping left hander, fast straights, and tight hairpins.  Sadly my GoPro video of it was corrupted and I’m still working on finding a way to recover it.  I was extremely impressed with the power of the Lites car, and can’t imagine how violent the Supercars must be.  What amazed me the most was the lateral load the car could handle without losing grip.  I had my seatbelts so tight I could hardly breathe and yet the cornering ability of the car still had me sliding around in my seat!  It was a thrilling ride to say the least!  This exact location will be where the LA round of the Red Bull GRC will be held, albeit with a much larger track that includes jumps.

 

I have to extend a huge thanks to Red Bull and their media team for inviting me to such a spectacular event.  Red Bull means business and are proving that the Global Rallycross Championship is moving to a whole new level.  2014 is set to be a breakout year  for the sport as it attempts to go mainstream and with what I saw at Media Day, I have no doubt that it will be successful.

 

One comment