Red Bull GRC Needs a Win in DC as Much as the Drivers

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Today the newly re-branded Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship kicks off it’s first “normal” USA event in Washington D.C., and it is going to be LIVE on NBC.  Not NBC Sports mind you, but the main NBC network (tune in at 2PM Eastern/ 11AM Pacific).  They have promised

 

So why does Red Bull GRC need a win?  After a successful event in Barbados the series next stop was X-Games Austin that was quite honestly utter crap.  A combination of poor track design, multiple delays from hot headed drivers causing red flags, and some of the worst commentary I’ve ever heard for a motorsports event made for one of the worst showings GRC has had since it’s inception.  By the way ESPN, if you are listening, please do not use Toby Moody ever again.  He knows nothing of rally cars and can’t even keep the drivers’ names straight (mixing up Tanner Foust and Travis Pastrana?  Really?).  That isn’t to say there weren’t a few good moments that came out of Austin such as Bucky Lasek’s smooth driving that garnered him his first medal in a rally car.

 

What Red Bull GRC needs to showcase today is GOOD RACING.  I put that in caps because we don’t want to see crash after crash after crash followed by red flag after red flag after red flag.  I’ve been a strong critic about track design after last years’ issues.  This year GRC has been so excited themselves with their new “portable” tracks that they even posted a week ahead of time what the D.C. track looks like.  I must say it looks mighty impressive, however the key will be whether it leads to a combination of passing opportunities and yet no red flags.

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To add to the pressure, this will be Red Bull GRC’s first live event they’ve done on their own with their now standardized racing format (X-Games was tweaked slightly).  A few keys to success will be in how they manage to do the following:

  • Give commentary that is informative and fun without sounding stupid (should be easy to eclipse X-Games coverage).
  • Adjust and fill time if there is a red flag
  • How quickly they resolve issues on track
  • Fit all of the weekend’s heats + final into a single hour show (oh and there is GRC Lites too!)
  • Make it an overall good “show” that people will want to tune into for the next round.

 

I’m actually quite excited about this event as I think Red Bull GRC has a chance at redemption.  If all goes well today and at successive events, I’d say it might be time for the Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship to say sayonara to X-Games and ESPN.

 

Here’s a press release of today’s event.  Tune in and let me know what you think.

IN BRIEF: Scott Speed looks to make it three straight Red Bull Global Rallycross Supercar victories at Volkswagen Rallycross DC, the first standalone event of the series’ 2014 season. Held outside of RFK Stadium, the event marks the first major motorsport event in the nation’s capital in over a decade.

TUNE IN INFORMATION:

  • Sunday, June 22, 2:00PM ET on NBC (live)
  • Tuesday, June 24, 2:00AM ET on NBCSN

SPOTTER GUIDE: Click here

LAST RACE: An altered race format and six-car final at X Games Austin led to an interesting lineup, with established stars like Tanner Foust, Ken Block, and Brian Deegan giving way to Nelson Piquet Jr., Austin Dyne, and Bucky Lasek. Speed, who had won every heat of his on the way to the main event, claimed the holeshot and earned his second X Games gold, with Lasek and Piquet Jr. taking their first-ever rallycross podiums.

DRIVER CHANGES: All 12 full-time Red Bull GRC drivers will compete this weekend, with the majority of those vehicles running unchanged from the previous two events. The lone exception is Nelson Piquet Jr., whose SH Racing Rallycross car will change from #07 to #75 as part of a sponsorship program. Of the registered point-scoring drivers from X Games Austin, only Brian Deegan and Pat Moro will not compete this weekend.

THE TRACK: The half-mile RFK Stadium course features 10 turns and a 75-25 split between pavement and dirt surfaces. Drivers will take a lengthy straightaway into a wide hairpin off the start, while the series’ signature jump and gravel section precede a technical yet roomy final part of the course.

LIVING UP TO HIS NAME: Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross driver Scott Speed comes into his sponsor’s event riding high. Not only has he taken both victories so far this year, he’s also earned six of seven possible heat victories for a total of 110 of a possible 112 points. The series points leader will continue to campaign the Polo for the near future, while the definitive Red Bull GRC Beetle, unveiled earlier this weekend, will debut later this year.

BUCK YEAH: A native of nearby Dundalk, Maryland, Bucky Lasek comes to the third Red Bull GRC event of the season as the de facto hometown favorite. By winning silver at X Games Austin two weeks ago, Lasek earned his 20thcareer X Games medal and became only the second driver in X Games history to win medals in both motorized and non-motorized events.

CHAMPIONSHIP SHAKEUP: X Games Austin represented the first time in Red Bull GRC history that Ken Block, Tanner Foust, Brian Deegan, and Travis Pastrana were all unable to advance to a main event. As such, the point standings have seen a shakeup; three of the drivers in the top eight in points (Nelson Piquet Jr., Austin Dyne, and Joni Wiman) are running in their first full Supercars seasons, while only two drivers in that range (Brian Deegan and Bucky Lasek) have competed in more than a dozen career Red Bull GRC events.

QUOTES: A selection of quotes in advance of this weekend’s Red Bull Global Rallycross event at Volkswagen Rallycross DC:

Bucky Lasek, Driver, #81 Subaru Rally Team USA WRX STI: “This is really cool. I used to come up to DC and skate with my friends and the locals here, like Andy Stone and Pepe Martinez. And to be back here racing, there hasn’t been much racing in DC in years. I think what we bring to the table is the most exciting racing there is, so I think it’s going to be a great few years of racing here.”

Austin Dyne, Driver, #14 Barracuda Racing Ford Fiesta: “The track is really cool, it seems like it’s going to be the future for our kind of tracks, and hopefully the racing is really good here too. Definitely the start is going to be good with how much room there is until the hairpin—sort of like Barbados, but I think even better the way this track is, how the straightaway has that kink in it and the little bump. I think it’ll hopefully spread us out and not cause a big wreck like we’ve seen. I think there’s two good spots for passing, but we’re going to have to see in practice how that is. And the jump looks fun. It’s a tight track, but it definitely has room, and it seems like it’ll be fun.”

Rhys Millen, Driver, #67 Hyundai/Rhys Millen Racing Veloster Turbo: “The track is solid, it has a good foundation. Although I feel some things could be changed to make for better racing, the track itself is going to be a great spectacle for the fans that are going to come out here. Areas that are wider and have more gravel on corners, I think, create more opportunities for passing, and more opportunities for mistakes to be capitalized on—which is going to make for even better racing. This is round one of GRC standing alone, and what you’re witnessing straight away is an amazing presentation, so I’m excited. If this is the birth of what’s to come for the remainder of the Red Bull Global Rallycross championship, it’s going to be an exciting rest of the year.”

Joni Wiman, Driver, #31 Olsbergs MSE Ford Fiesta ST: “I would say we’ve got the speed for sure to get up front. This is a very technical track, and you really have to think all the time. We have a really tight schedule, so you have to keep the car in one piece. The start will be everything here.”

DRIVER POINTS:

1.     Scott Speed, 110

2.     Nelson Piquet Jr., 83

3.     Brian Deegan, 70

4.     Steve Arpin, 69

5.     Patrik Sandell, 52

MANUFACTURER POINTS:

1.     Ford, 170

2.     Volkswagen, 121

3.     Subaru, 83

4.     Hyundai, 45

GRC Lites Race Preview: Volkswagen Rallycross DC

IN BRIEF: The second race of the GRC Lites season sees the series take on a purpose-built track on the site of RFK Stadium. Volkswagen Rallycross DC will see Red Bull Global Rallycross’ development class take on the same challenging course as the Supercars.

LAST RACE: Mitchell DeJong lived up to his billing as a preseason title favorite at X Games, winning every session in which he competed to become the first driver not named Joni Wiman to win a GRC Lites race. The only two-time GRC Lites medalist in X Games history beat Olsbergs MSE teammate Kevin Eriksson and Austin Cindric to the gold.

SPOTTER GUIDE: Click here

DRIVER CHANGES: The entire GRC Lites driver lineup from X Games Brazil returns, with the exception of Mark McKenzie and Colton Herta, whose vehicles will not compete.

THE TRACK: The half-mile RFK Stadium course features 10 turns and a 75-25 split between pavement and dirt surfaces. Drivers will take a lengthy straightaway into a wide hairpin off the start, while the series’ signature jump and gravel section precede a technical yet roomy final part of the course.

TEAMMATE TITLE FIGHT: Olsbergs MSE drivers Mitchell DeJong and Kevin Eriksson each won both of their heats on the way to a 1-2 finish in the first GRC Lites final of the 2014 season. After finishing third and fourth in the 2013 standings, they remain pundits’ favorites coming into DC, as DeJong looks for his second straight win and Eriksson chases the first victory of his GRC Lites career.

FIRST-TIME FINALISTS: Three drivers—Austin Cindric, Atila Abreu, and Nelson Piquet Jr.—made it to their first career GRC Lites finals in Austin, each in their first attempt. Of the eight drivers on this weekend’s entry list, only Tyler Benson and Alejandro Fernandez, both in their first full seasons of competition, have yet to appear in a main event.

SUPER SYKED: Coming off of his first race as a privateer driver, Geoff Sykes has been one of the busiest drivers in the GRC Lites paddock over the past two weeks. He spent a weekend in Florida testing his GRC Lites car in preparation for this weekend’s event before heading to Allsports Grand Prix in Dulles, VA for a karting event with other Red Bull GRC stars.

QUOTES: A selection of quotes in advance of this weekend’s Red Bull Global Rallycross event at Volkswagen Rallycross DC:

Mitchell DeJong, Driver, #24 Olsbergs MSE GRC Lites: “I’m really excited. The track and the location looks really cool, and I can’t wait to go and put some laps down on it tomorrow. It’s nice to have momentum coming into the next race, and I’m going to try my best to hopefully make it two in a row.”

Geoff Sykes, Driver, #6 DTV Solutions GRC Lites: “For one, it’s our nation’s capital, so it’s very cool just to be here in the middle of all this. We go from Austin, Texas, to being right in the heart of a city, so that’s one of the coolest things. You look around, you see the Washington Monument, you see all these monuments you just see in history books, so for us that’s pretty cool. The track was built from the ground up, which is another awesome thing—Andretti was really able to set up a nice track for us. And, it’s 75% tarmac, so for me it’s the best of both worlds. I get a nice asphalt track with a little bit of dirt and a big jump. I think it’s going to be a great show, there are lots of passing opportunities, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Atila Abreu, Driver, #51 Olsbergs MSE GRC Lites: “I hope I can see Obama here! It’s a great race, for me it will be my first GRC race that’s not together with another one, so I’m really excited with the event and track. I just walked around and it was really great. There are two jumps—one is a big jump, and one is a small jump at the end of the straight. It looks like a fast track, so it looks like the spectators will have a lot of fun because they’ll have a fast part of the track. The second part is slow and tight, so it’s good to overtake and for good fights. I’m really excited to race here, it’s my first time in DC, so let’s make a great show here!”

Alejandro Fernandez, Driver, #126 Olsbergs MSE/AF Racing 126 GRC Lites: “I’m hoping for big crowds. It’s definitely going to be a cool event, and the track looks really, really cool. It’s more of a (road) racing track than some of the other particular tracks. I’m definitely really excited for it, and I’m hoping to make it so next year, DC is one to look forward to like we look forward to X Games Austin.”

DRIVER POINTS:

1.     Mitchell DeJong, 56

2.     Kevin Eriksson, 51

3.     Austin Cindric, 43

4.     Geoff Sykes, 38

5.     Atila Abreu, 35

ABOUT RED BULL GRC: Designed to produce the fastest and most exciting racing in motorsports, Red Bull Global Rallycross pits small production-based cars against each other in door-to- door racing featuring dirt, asphalt, and tabletop jumps. With enhanced engineering and safety features, the cars produce 600 horsepower and can accelerate from 0-60 miles per hour in less than two seconds, and can also withstand 70-foot jumps and other vehicle contact. For more information visit www.RedBullGlobalRallycross.com.