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Red Bull GRC 2016: Phoenix Race Preview

© by Larry Chen / Red Bull Content Pool

We’re going to the desert, My Life at Speeders! Red Bull Global Rallycross kicks off its 2016 season with a double header weekend at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Arizona. GRC Lites took to the 0.929 mile track for practice and heats on Friday May 21st. There nothing light about this class as it features some of the most exciting on track action in the series.  Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s Alex Keyes came out swinging but he had tough opposition from Miki Weckstrom. The Finn looks to make his mark for Olsbergs MSE X Forces which has a habit of producing supercar champions. We’ll see how they shake up the grid in the coming months.

The Supercars weren’t idle either with practice and qualifying. The times were close but ultimately Tanner Foust topped qualifying with Patrik Sandell and Joni Wiman close behind.  Foust has been on a mission to secure a third championship after back-to-back wins in 2011 and 2012; in addition to his Top Gear co-presenter duties. (By the way, Top Gear Season 8 airs Tuesday nights on the History Channel 9pm EST. Set your DVRs!)  It would be his first title for Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross who currently enjoy the championship due to team mate, Scott Speed.  (Honey Badger vs Honey Badger)

The 2016 Supercars drivers are a formidable group to say the least, despite series departures by Ken Block and Nelson Piquet Jr.  Block will focus on the FIA World Rallycross Championship along with former Olsbergs MSE man, Andreas Bakkerud, in a second car.  Piquet Jr. was a busy guy last season, juggling Red Bull GRC and FIA Formula E. This year he’s swapped out one of those motorsports balls, and will focus on the FIA World Endurance Championship while defending his FIA Formula E championship.  According to http://www.thecheckeredflag.co.uk/ he may yet return to the series.

Jeff Ward now pilots the SH Rallycross car, after proving himself to be a fierce competitor with his handful of starts last year instead of Brian Deegan for Chip Ganassi Racing. Deegan has returned with a full-time commitment to the series with his sights firmly set on the championship along with teammate, Steve Arpin. The Canadian former NASCAR racer is known for his sparkling personality but got into his fair share of scraps last season. Don’t let that smile fool you. Push and he will push back – hard.

Another driver who has come home to the Red Bull GRC is Rhys Millen. He’s one of the hardest working men in motorsports and Hollywood. (What a combo!) However Millen is also known for bringing his A-game to the rallycross circuit and not beyond showing his rivals what “Mad Skills” look like.  Austin Dyne also makes his home in California and has evolved from driving for a team owner to driving for himself. Dyne was undeniably one of Red Bull GRC’s most talented Supercars rookie drivers. His displayed that same confidence last season, and we’ve come to expect great things from the young man. However the burden of responsibility for a race team is no small thing, and now we’ll see how he handles a new pressure.

Red Bull GRC: Phoenix 2016
Austin Dyne in the #14 Ford Fiesta ST for AD Racing at Phoenix (Photo Credit: Larry Chen / Red Bull Content Pool)

Perhaps Dyne’s first act as team owner is to help his rookie teammate get acclimated. Despite six Indycar seasons, Sebastian Saavedra gets his first taste of rallycross competition this weekend. Unfortunately, the car has spent more time in the paddock than they would have liked.  The Colombian driver tweeted yesterday, “They found the problem.. Big hole on exhaust. Oh engines need water too ha. #LongNightAhead #LovelyMotorsport” We hope all is sorted out in time for him to have some fun on the track.

Dyne’s former teammate, Patrik Sandell, continues to rally(cross) on with Bryan Herta Rallysport. The Swede started out in the World Rally Championship before joining the legendary Olsbergs MSE team. Sandell’s in his second season with yet another Red Bull GRC team that brings a distinguished Indycar pedigree into this burgeoning sport. Despite some blows he finished the season with four podiums, including a Detroit win. Sandell’s been delivering the goods since his first rallycross event in X Games Brazil so 2016 should be no different.

Red Bull GRC: Phoenix 2016
Sebastian Eriksson in the #93 Honda Civic for Honda Red Bull OMSE at Phoenix (Photo Credit: Larry Chen / Red Bull Content Pool)

The Olsbergs MSE team is synonymous with success. Four out of the past five Supercars championships have gone to the Swedish team: Tanner Foust (2011-2012), Toomas Heikkinen (2013) and Joni Wiman (2014). Sebastian Eriksson was the runner-up last year and Wiman was fifth in the standings, so both Olsbergs cars ended up in the top five. It’s not a win but still, not too shabby. The same drivers return but the team has made a huge change.  For the first time, they will be in Honda race cars. The Red Bull Civics started out as production model 2016 Honda Civic Coupes; but they have been transformed into lean, mean, high-flying rallycross machines by the Olsbergs MSE mechanical team and Honda Performance Development. Volkswagen got their championship in year two. Can Honda get theirs in one? (No pressure, guys.)

We’ve been quiet about the fan favourite Subaru team with good reason. They won’t participate in the Red Bull GRC 2016 season. Not yet, anyway. Gotcha! (dodges flying digital objects) Norway’s Sverre Isachsen will be at the next race weekend in Dallas, Texas while Bucky Lasek competes at the X Games. Both drivers are carded for the double header at The Base on Independence Weekend. So it looks like they’ll miss the double header at Daytona International Speedway, which might not bode well for Subaru’s place in the Manufacturer Championship. However Subaru says, “The Subaru program will intensify its technical efforts to target winning the series’ Drivers and Manufacturer’s championships in 2017.” Vermont SportsCar and STI have big plans for the Subaru WRX STI GRC Supercar. Hang in there, Subie Lovers.  Chevy Sonic hero, Pat Moro, is also to compete this season but we have no solid information as to when.

Red Bull GRC: Phoenix 2016
Red Bull GRC Supercar and Lites Entry List/Spotter Guide. (Photo Credit: Red Bull GRC) Download Link: http://redbullglobalrallycross.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/2016-RBGRC-SPOTTER-PHX-FINAL-2.pdf

A Final Word

Tickets for this weekend’s event are still available for online purchase. However you can watch an in-depth recap show on www.redbull.tv or via the Red Bull TV application. The Saturday show airs at 4:00 pm ET, while the Sunday show airs at 5:30 pm ET.

“Red Bull TV is available as a pre-installed channel on Samsung Smart TVs and Apple TV, and as a free, downloadable app on Amazon Fire TV, Kindle Fire, Xbox360 and Xbox One devices, Android, and iOS, allowing fans to watch Red Bull Global Rallycross no matter where they are worldwide.” – Red Bull GRC

Don’t worry if you only have access to more conventional means. The Supercar events will broadcast on Sunday May 22nd at 2:00pm ET on NBC Sports Network. GRC Lites will be on Wednesday May 25th at 4:30pm ET, also on NBCSN.

If you want your updates hot off the presses, then click over to Red Bull GRC on social media for immediate updates, but look out for spoilers!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RedBullGRC
Instagram: http://instagram.com/redbullGRC
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RedBullGRC
YouTube: http://youtube.com/redbullgrc
Tumblr: http://redbullgrc.tumblr.com/
Snapchat: @redbull_grc

Written by Marsha Haneiph

Born and raised in the twin island republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Marsha aka "One Opinionated Woman" has been a race fan from childhood. Despite a soft spot for rallycross, she finds interest in all forms of motorsport and enjoys learning about exciting, new varieties. Her personal blog 'One Opinionated Woman' focuses on fitness, food and fast cars.

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