Red Bull Global Rallycross Race Preview: Top Gear Festival Barbados
IN BRIEF: After an extreme makeover in the 2014 offseason, which has seen everything from drastic changes to driver lineup to a significant reworking of the schedule, the newly renamed Red Bull Global Rallycross is ready for its greatest season yet. The fun begins in sunny Barbados, where Red Bull GRC serves as a featured event in Top Gear Festival Barbados.
TUNE IN INFORMATION: Saturday, May 24, 1:00PM ET, on NBC
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LAST RACE: The 2013 GRC season ended with a bang in Las Vegas, where Ken Block finally capitalized on one of the fastest cars in the series by producing a thrilling victory over an all-star podium of Tanner Foust and Travis Pastrana. The win propelled Block to a career-best third place finish in series points.
DRIVER/TEAM CHANGES: The offseason has seen a significant reworking of driver lineups and the addition of multiple new teams. Below is a list of highlights:
- Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross have expanded to Red Bull GRC for 2014, hiring two-time series champion Tanner Foust and two-time race winner Scott Speed for their two VW Polos. A rallycross-ready Beetle will debut later this season.
- Olsbergs MSE has added defending GRC Lites champion Joni Wiman to partner with returning driver Patrik Sandell.
- SH Racing Rallycross has moved into full-time competition after a one-off appearance at X Games Los Angeles last season, hiring Nelson Piquet Jr. to drive full-time.
- Rhys Millen Racing will return to full-time competition, with Millen and series newcomer Emma Gilmour in the team’s two Hyundai Velosters.
- Barracuda Racing, led by Indianapolis 500-winning owner Bryan Herta, will campaign Austin Dyne in the same vehicle that Scott Speed took to victory twice last season.
A handful of drivers, including Ken Block, Brian Deegan, Sverre Isachsen, Bucky Lasek, and Steve Arpin, will return to the same vehicles that they raced with last season.
THE TRACK: The Bushy Park Circuit in Barbados has been renovated extensively in preparation for this weekend’s event, with a few key additions made to ensure the track will produce a compelling Red Bull GRC event. At 0.801 miles, the eight-turn rallycross course is longer than many of the series’ previous layouts, and features a purpose-built dirt section that breaks away from the paved road course just before the final corners. The joker lane at Bushy Park breaks away from the jump, giving drivers the opportunity to gain between one and two seconds per lap.
WATCH THE THRONE: A vacated championship crown will see a new title winner crowned at the end of the 2014 Red Bull GRC season. Perennial favorite Tanner Foust hopes to build on his 2011 and 2012 titles and a runner-up finish last year, but Ken Block and Scott Speed have each proven that they know what it takes to win races and compete for titles as well. Expect Brian Deegan to be a threat to win every time he’s out on the track, and don’t write off championship dark horses like Patrik Sandell, Nelson Piquet Jr., and Rhys Millen, either.
ADD ‘EM UP: Red Bull GRC will introduce a new point system in Barbados that places extra value on heat races, as well as an added emphasis on appearing in the 10-car final. Highlights of the system include a point for each driver to start a heat race, as well as three points for a heat winner and two for a heat runner-up, and 50 points for the race winner, with decreasing points awarded in intervals of five for the remaining top 10 drivers. All other drivers will receive a single point at the finish of the events.
STAR POWER: With the “Top Gear” moniker comes serious attention, and as such it’s no surprise that a who’s who of the racing world will be attending this weekend’s events. Top Gear hosts Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond will all be in attendance, as well as current Formula 1 points leader Lewis Hamilton, longtime F1 team owner Eddie Jordan, and fellow automotive personality Tiff Needell.
BURNING RUBBER: New series partner Yokohama makes its Red Bull GRC debut in Barbados with a brand new tire compound. Stringently developed over the past year, the new tire features a significantly different tread pattern that allows drivers to gain extra time in paved sections of the track. After preseason test sessions, where many drivers have expressed excitement for the new tires, the driver to adjust the quickest will have an advantage over the competition going into the main event.
ROOKIES RULE: Three drivers will make their Supercars debut in Barbados. The first two, Joni Wiman (Olsbergs MSE) and Austin Dyne (Barracuda Racing), are graduates of the inaugural season of GRC Lites; Wiman swept all six events last year while Dyne earned a runner-up finish in the series’ second race. Meanwhile, Emma Gilmour’s (Rhys Millen Racing) weekend of firsts will see her not only making her rallycross debut, but also becoming the first female driver to ever compete in Red Bull GRC. Nelson Piquet Jr. (SH Racing Rallycross) will also run his first full Red Bull GRC season after a limited 2013 schedule.
QUOTES: A selection of quotes in advance of this weekend’s Top Gear Festival Barbados, the first of 10 rounds in the 2014 Red Bull Global Rallycross season:
Ken Block, Driver, #43 Hoonigan Racing Division Ford Fiesta ST: “To start off here in Barbados is amazing—everybody loves motorsports here, it’s really fun to meet everybody and hang out. Some days I say it’s a dream come true, but it’s really much more than that. I get to come over here and race an awesome Ford Fiesta race car, hang out with dudes like Lewis Hamilton and all of the other GRC driver, and see the hosts of my favorite TV show in the world. So it’s a cool day! I’m stoked to be here, and hopefully I’ll be on top of the podium on Sunday.”
Scott Speed, Driver, #77 Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross Volkswagen Polo: “So far so good. We looked really promising in practice, so expectations are high right now. it’s good to see more cars here, and more competitive cars here, so that’s good for the series. It’s been awesome being here in Barbados. This has been an awesome place to kick this off, and I wouldn’t mind doing this every year.”
Rhys Millen, Driver, #67 Rhys Millen Racing Hyundai Veloster: “This is a fantastic opportunity. I’m sharing this partnership for a ninth year with Red Bull, which is an incredible, long-lasting relationship for any athlete. To carry over relationships from drift and be successful there, and to have won semi-finals races here and finish on the podium, we’re looking for a strong championship. But more than anything, we’re looking to develop this program with new cars and new products that will make us more competitive.”
Steve Arpin, Driver, #00 Royal Purple Racing/OMSE2 Ford Fiesta ST: “It’s just so cool to be here in Barbados at the Top Gear Festival. For them to invite Red Bull Global Rallycross to be here at this event is really cool, and it’s a step forward for rallycross and the impression that we’re giving on the rest of the world. We’ve got an awesome race track here—we’ve got elevation changes, high speeds, tight corners, we’ve got everything you can ask for. My Royal Purple Ford is really good—we had an issue at the start of practice, broke an axle, but we were able to get it fixed, the guys worked their butts off and we got it fixed for a quick last run. So we had one run at speed, and I think we ended up in the top five lap times overall, so I was happy with that. So hopefully we’re just going to creep our way up the leaderboard. The car is really good, I just need to dust all the cobwebs off and get back in the swing of things.”
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.