Red Bull GRC – Season Kicks Off This Weekend in Ft. Lauderdale

The Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship kicks off this weekend on the streets of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  We’ve been excited about the new 2015 season for a couple of reasons.  For one, the finale last year was simply epic with the young Finn Joni Wiman (pronounced “yon-ee”  “Vee-man”) of Olsbergs MSE coming out as the champion narrowly beating out chief Hoonigan Ken Block.  The other reason is that the series showed remarkable improvement as the season went on with ever improving track designs and better racing between drivers.  If this season is anything like the second half of last season, you’ll definitely want to tune in.

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Although the track in Ft. Lauderdale is fairly short at only 0.42 miles, they smartly placed the joker in the first turn which allows the groups of cars to split up preventing massive T1 incidents.  Although not terribly interesting by design, this track does have long enough straights to offer passing opportunities, it just lacks the amount of dirt I think most of us like seeing.  That said, I think this weekend’s race is going to have some great battles.

 

Ken Block is known for typically topping the qualifying and heat races, but competition this year is likely to be quite stiff.  Andretti Autosport’s Tanner Foust and Scott Speed will be hot on his heels in their Super Beetles, as will be last year’s champion from Olsbergs MSE, Joni Wiman.  Nelson Piquet Jr. got off to a great start last season, will that happen again?  The big unknowns for this weekend is how much an improvement we’ll see from Steve Arpin and Brian Deegan under the new Chip Ganassi Rallycross team banner.  And Subaru Rally Team USA is debuting their new 2015 WRX STI GRC car.  Will the new car be more competitive than last year’s model which already has a win under its belt?

 

Don’t forget to follow the GRC Lites as well.  Tim Cindric’s son Austin Cindric is now driving under the OMSE banner and is a proven talent, but he’ll be facing a big challenge from teammate Oliver Eriksson who’s been competing in Europe as well as the Red Bull GRC Lites.  There is also the bevy of young Mazda Road to Indy talent in the GRC Lites that could shake up the field.

Official press releases below:

 

RED BULL GRC RACE PREVIEW: FORT LAUDERDALE

IN BRIEF: The 2015 Red Bull Global Rallycross season kicks off with a brand new event in Fort Lauderdale at the Bahia Mar Resort. Scott Speed will look to win his third straight season opener, while Joni Wiman will hope to kick off his championship defense on a high note over such competitors as Ken Block, Tanner Foust, Nelson Piquet Jr., and Bucky Lasek.

TUNE IN INFORMATION: Sunday, May 31, 3PM ET on NBC and liveextra.nbcsports.com

NBC Sports Group will be offering live streaming of the Global Rallycross Fort Lauderdale race through the NBC Sports Live Extra app via desktop, mobile and tablet.

TICKETS: Click here

EVENT SPOTTER GUIDE: Click here

2015 SPECTATOR GUIDE: Click here

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LAST RACE: Ken Block won the battle, but Joni Wiman won the war in Red Bull GRC’s 2014 season finale in Las Vegas. Block dominated the weekend to win his second race of the season, but Wiman, despite going winless all year long, earned just enough points with his runner-up finish to steal the championship.

DRIVER CHANGES: Click here for a 2014-15 silly season recap detailing driver changes since last year’s finale in Las Vegas.

THE TRACK: Click here for full details about the brand new .420-mile course at the Bahia Mar Resort.

SEASON OPENER TO TAKE PLACE IN FORT LAUDERDALE FOR FIRST TIME: Fort Lauderdale will host its first Red Bull Global Rallycross event this weekend, the second Florida-based event in the series’ history after a debut run at Daytona International Speedway last year. The event will kick off a busy month to start the 2015 season, with the non-points event at X Games Austin following next weekend and a return to Daytona in three weeks’ time.

NEW VEHICLES PROLIFERATE SUPERCAR GRID: After the 2014 season, many of Red Bull GRC’s top drivers swapped out their old rides for fresh machinery, whether or not they changed race teams in the offseason. Subaru Rally Team USA has replaced Bucky Lasek and Sverre Isachsen’s hatchback WRX STIs for the newer model sedan, while Steve Arpin, Brian Deegan, Austin Dyne, and Patrik Sandell will all join Ken Block in M-Sport Ford Fiesta STs. While the Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross squad retains Beetles for Scott Speed and Tanner Foust, this year’s cars have swapped out the 1.6-liter engines for 2.0-liter powerplants.

ERIKSSON, GONZALEZ JOIN SUPERCAR GRID: Sebastian Eriksson of Olsbergs MSE and Victor Gonzalez Jr. of Rhys Millen Racing are the two newcomers on the 2015 Red Bull GRC Supercar grid. Eriksson, the 2013 GRC Lites runner-up, spent last year racing Supercars in Europe and coaching Lites drivers worldwide. Gonzalez, the first Puerto Rican driver to ever compete in NASCAR, will be making his rallycross debut in the event.

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QUOTES: A selection of quotes in advance of this weekend’s Red Bull Global Rallycross Fort Lauderdale:

Steve Arpin, #00 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford Fiesta ST: “We’re back at the race track, it’s 2015—we’ve got a great race team and great partners, an incredible race team in Chip Ganassi Racing. We’re back to racing, and it’s awesome. I’m just happy that we’re here! The track is shorter, it’s tight, it’s going to be interesting, but it’s going to be the same amount of interesting for everyone. So we just need to do everything we can—there aren’t many places to capitalize on a short track like this, so we’ll just need to be on top of our game in those places where we can.”

Bucky Lasek, #81 Subaru Rally Team USA WRX STI: “I think we’ve got a lot to look forward to with this new car. We tested every aspect of it, we tried to break everything we could possibly break, and I think we did a good job! I think what we have now is basically a car that is ready to be proven. Just to see it all come into place, I’m really looking forward to the first race. It’s a short track that might not show all that the car has to offer, but I think this track would be able to bring out the weaknesses of the old car. To be able to show the strengths of this new car on a course like this, I think that’s going to be a big statement.”

Austin Dyne, #14 Bryan Herta Rallysport Ford Fiesta ST: “We just need to be really smooth and really tidy. You can’t make a lot of errors here. It’s small, but it’s not too skinny, so you have a little room lift-wise. If you’re smooth and tidy, you should be fast.”

Sebastian Eriksson, #93 Olsbergs MSE Ford Fiesta ST: “It’s quite short and narrow with the concrete blocks around the track all the way. You need to drive quite safe, to not risk anything to break the car. It’s a lot of laps in the final, so you need to keep the car in one piece.”

Images via Beyond Marketing Group (1); Chip Ganassi Racing (3)

Photo credit: Larry Chen (2)

 

 

 

GRC LITES RACE PREVIEW: FORT LAUDERDALE

IN BRIEF: GRC Lites’ third season kicks off with a new event in the city of Fort Lauderdale this weekend. With a record-tying ten entries, including six newcomers to the class, Lites is poised for its finest season yet.

TUNE IN INFORMATION: Wednesday, June 3, 4:30PM ET on NBCSN

NBC Sports Group will be offering live streaming of the Global Rallycross Fort Lauderdale race through the NBC Sports Live Extra app via desktop, mobile and tablet.

TICKETS: Click here

EVENT SPOTTER GUIDE: Click here

2015 SPECTATOR GUIDE: Click here

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LAST RACE: Mitchell DeJong set a record with his seventh win of the 2014 GRC Lites season in last year’s finale in Las Vegas. Andreas Bakkerud, making his GRC Lites debut, finished second, while Austin Cindric placed third.

DRIVER CHANGES: Click here for a 2014-15 silly season recap detailing driver changes since last year’s finale in Las Vegas.

In addition to the changes here, Duncker Felix Jr. will substitute for Alex Keyes in this weekend’s event, while Miles Maroney will join Felix as a teammate at Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.

THE TRACK: Click here for full details about the brand new .420-mile course at the Bahia Mar Resort.

LITES CLASS BOASTS RECORD-TYING FIELD: Ten drivers will compete in this weekend’s GRC Lites event in Fort Lauderdale, tying last year’s record at X Games Austin. Only four of this weekend’s drivers—Olsbergs MSE teammates Austin Cindric and Oliver Eriksson, AF Racing’s Alejandro Fernandez, and DTV Solutions’ Geoff Sykes—have competed in a GRC Lites event before.

STANDALONE TV PACKAGE FOR LITES IN 2015: For the very first time, GRC Lites will have its own race broadcasts in the 2015 season, airing in the week following the event on the NBC Sports Network. The first Lites broadcast will air on NBCSN on Wednesday, June 3 at 4:30PM ET. Leigh Diffey and Anders Krohn will call the event.

NEW TEAMS ENTER GRC LITES: DirtFish Motorsports, River Racing, and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing will all make their first GRC Lites appearances in this weekend’s event. Dreyer & Reinbold, which will enter two vehicles, has competed in IndyCar events since 2000, while DirtFish Rally School has served as a previous Red Bull GRC event host and vehicle sponsor. River Racing, which will run in cooperation with Bryan Herta Rallysport, is a new racing organization.

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QUOTES: A selection of quotes in advance of this weekend’s Red Bull Global Rallycross Fort Lauderdale:

Tanner Whitten, #15 DirtFish Motorsports: “I think the whole course layout is going to be really exciting for the fans that come. It really has that kind of Monaco Grand Prix feel to it, especially in the hairpin coming towards the jump. I’ve never hit a jump before, so it’ll be a learning experience for me! From what I’ve seen of the course, the passing opportunities are going to be in turn three, because there’s a really tight hairpin into an off-camber tracking point. It’s really going to be all about getting that car pointed so you can cut underneath on the long straightaway into the next two corners. I think it’s going to be very, very interesting to see how the Lites cars adapt to the tight course. It’s going to be all about attrition, being really careful with your equipment, and taking care of your stuff for ten solid laps. With how tight it is, the start is going to be very crucial.”

Oliver Eriksson, #16 Olsbergs MSE: “The track is really narrow, and the concrete walls are making it harder to have speed. But I think that just staying cool, staying out of trouble, and finding the right speed will be crucial all week to winning.”

Miles Maroney, #24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing: “The first thing I noticed about the layout is that it’s quite short. It’s predominantly pavement, so as somebody who’s never driven on dirt before, that’s good news for me. The jump should be interesting—I’ve been told that’s the easiest part, but I’m not sure about that! I’m excited. I don’t really have any circuits like this to compare it to, so I’m going in with a fresh approach. It does look like the laps are going to go by quick, and it should be busy, but I’m excited.”

Photo credit: Chris Leone