Who’s the man? Ken Block is the man for taking the Red Bull GRC round one in sunny Ft. Lauderdale. Unfortunately heats weren’t televised but the competition was fierce and a mere prelude to the semi-final, Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ) and final races. Regrettably defending series champion, Joni Wiman, was still waiting for MRI results after a hard landing on the metal table top jump; and ended up on the side lines. If we know anything about the Finn is that he’ll make his presence felt in the next round but more on that later.
Block shared the podium with Scott Speed and Nelson Piquet Jr. respectively. The Brazilian driver gave Block a hard time during Semi-Final B in a Ford vs Ford battle, which continued through to the final. However Scott Speed was undeterred in his resolve to keep the Volkswagen Beetle among the front-runners. It’s interesting to note that the podium was occupied by drivers with backgrounds in F1, NASCAR, Indycar and WRC. Wow.
The duels (yes, plural) between Austin Dyne and Tanner Foust were easily the most exciting part of the TV broadcast. Rookie-no-more Dyne refused to let Foust pass by no matter what the two-time champion did and Foust did plenty. It was a wild, panel-stripping brawl on wheels that typifies this series. Who knows if this is the beginning of a season long rivalry? At the very least we’re reminded Foust isn’t afraid of the rough stuff and learned that Dyne won’t be intimidated.
On the rookie front, Olsbergs MSE has drawn from GRC Lites once again to partner Sebastian Eriksson with Joni Wiman. (That’s what a development series is for, right?) Much like Wiman last year, the young Swede was rather fearless on track, trading paint with the series’ big names and getting some penalty “loving” from race control after Semi-Final A. We highly recommend you keep your eyes on Eriksson, as surely the other drivers have him in their sights as well.
The GRC Lites division was off to a flying start as well. Although these cars have half the horsepower by comparison to the Supercars, that doesn’t mean the racing is any less exciting. In fact, these drivers are just as or often more aggressive than the “big dogs.” The grid is an interesting mix of experienced drivers from different backgrounds and teenagers raring to win everything which shows. Among them you’ll find a legacy driver like Oliver Eriksson, son of rallycross veteran and Olsbergs MSE boss, Andreas Eriksson. As well as Nur Ali who’s teamed with Rally Ready Driving School which is owned by Pikes Peak racer and our good friend, Dave Carapetyan. Geoff Sykes is on the hunt for his first GRC Lites victory this season and has a bigger, better camp this year, thanks to Tim Bell Racing.
Although the Supercars division has returned to an all-male line-up this year, GRC Lites has two female competitors: Jackie Heinricher and Colette Davis. The latter was involved in a rather unexpected accident during the final round. I say unexpected because surely nobody expected a car to end up between the table top jump and retaining wall, but it happened. It had been a good debut for Davis, as she made Red Bull GRC history by leading a lap in her first heat race! She was unharmed and understandably perturbed by this now infamous “welcome to rallycross.” Ultimately three teenagers indeed took top honours: Austin Cindric (16) in first place, followed by Alejandro Fernandez (19) and Oliver Eriksson (16). GRC stars of tomorrow? You betcha.
After drivers hopped over to Austin for X Games 2015 where Scott Speed, Steve Arpin and Sebastian Eriksson took home medals for rallycross, the series returns to Florida for a double header at Daytona International Speedway. Red Bull GRC cars will be taking it to the limit on a 69% pavement // 31% dirt track that measures just under one mile. Fans will be treated to an open paddock that’s spread out much more than last year’s set-up and we recommend that you hydrate, hydrate, hydrate because temperatures are soaring.
Tickets are still available for online purchase from Daytona International Speedway’s official site but not for long, so get yours now! Autograph sessions will be on both Saturday and Sunday afternoon but please stay connected to social media just in case the schedule changes. Also don’t forget to download the official spotters guide. In case you can’t make it, don’t worry because the Supercars event will be televised live on NBC, Sunday June 21st at 2:00pm EST. GRC Lites will air on NBC Sports Network, Friday June 26th at 2:00pm EST. Set your DVRs, My Life at Speeders because there will be many “I-need-to-see-that-again” moments. Trust us!
Official Website: http://www.redbullglobalrallycross.com/
Live Timing: http://livetiming.net/grc/