2017 New Year’s Resolutions for Red Bull GRC Stars
From the confetti cleanup in city streets across the globe to the busiest gym day of the year, who doesn’t love January 1? A new year represents a fresh start for us all, whether we’re subscribing to the idea of “new year, new you” or just trying to make a couple of small changes here and there.
For Red Bull Global Rallycross’ best and brightest, it’s no different. Our drivers, teams, and manufacturers are all looking ahead to the start of our 2017 season as another opportunity to hit the track and go for victories. But for some, the new year’s resolutions might be a little more specific than “just win, baby!” So let’s get inside the heads of some of our biggest names and see what’s on their mind for the new year:
Half the GRC Lites field: Double the horsepower, double the fun
That’s right—it’s that time of year where our top Lites drivers are well within the search for Supercar rides for 2017. 2014 champion Mitchell deJong and two-time race winner Tanner Whitten moved into the big cars in the Los Angeles finale, but they’re not the only ones who could make the jump. The past two series title winners, Oliver Eriksson and Cabot Bigham, both deserve consideration, as do names like Miki Weckstrom, Alex Keyes, Alejandro Fernandez, Colin Braun, and Blake “Bilko” Williams. If half of them moved up, we’d see the strongest Supercar rookie class of all time.
Subaru Rally Team USA: Keep the momentum building
A late start to the 2016 season gave the ever-popular Subaru squad more time to get competitive, and they kept building and building upon that foundation. Chris Atkinson’s addition to the team in Atlantic City saw them crack the top six in qualifying for the first time, while Atkinson and David Higgins both avoided the last chance qualifier in Seattle with strong semifinal runs. Atkinson proved the speed was there with a pole in Los Angeles, so the next step is obvious: get back on the podium, and take another victory!
Honda: Crack the top step of the podium
Expectations were high when a four-time Supercar champion team (Olsbergs MSE) and one of racing’s most iconic manufacturers (Honda) partnered up in 2016. They combined for some solid performances, including a double podium in Seattle and five trophies overall, but one thing was lacking: a main event victory. 2014 Supercar champion Joni Wiman and 2015 runner-up Sebastian Eriksson helped develop the new Civic Coupe quickly, but with the kinks mostly worked out by year’s end, it’s time to take the next step and give the new car its maiden victory.
Brian Deegan: Start strong…
In Deegan’s first full-time Supercar season since 2013, he finished third in points—but if not for some early-season struggles, he could have made it a bit closer. Wins in the first three last chance qualifiers of the year only meant that he was stuck near the back of the grid in the main event, and it took a massive effort to claw his way to third in the Phoenix opener. He only finished outside of the top five once in the subsequent eight-race stretch, but leaving Dallas over a race out of the points lead meant he spent most of the year playing catch-up.
Steve Arpin and Patrik Sandell: …finish strong!
Sandell and Arpin both won early in 2016, with the Swede taking victory in Dallas and the Canadian surviving a treacherous Daytona final. But both had crucial late-season moments that contributed to them falling out of the top three. For Sandell, the heartbreaker was Seattle, where he essentially kissed his championship hopes goodbye as the only driver to miss the final. Arpin, meanwhile, suffered an early puncture in the second Los Angeles final that dropped him to 10th; that, combined with teammate Brian Deegan’s victory, allowed Deegan to leapfrog Arpin for third in the standings. It’s proof that even one bad race late in the year can negate even the biggest of victories.
Tanner Foust: Buy a lucky rabbit’s foot
Let’s be real: the 2016 Supercar standings shouldn’t have been close. Foust held the lead in eight of the first nine finals of the year, but only won four of them. An incident in Daytona, engine trouble at Marine Corps Air Station New River, and a puncture in Atlantic City cost him a combined 90 points; tack on another 10 if you count a wide first corner in Dallas that dropped him to third. He lost the championship, in the final round of the season, by only six. Mistakes happen, and parts break, but it’s hard to fathom that a driver who won 27 of his 30 heats in 2016 didn’t go home with the championship.
Scott Speed: Don’t change a thing!
Sure, not everything went exactly to plan: a spectacular fire in Daytona that forced the use of a backup car and a hood-raising incident in Seattle are testament to that. But for the second year in a row, Speed simply made fewer mistakes than everybody else. With podiums in six of the final seven races, and an aggressive drive to recover fourth place in the Seattle round, he was an unstoppable force on the charge to the front of the grid. He also won three straight finals to become the first Supercar driver to do so since 2013. In short: Speed knows that he’s good enough to overcome any early-season trouble, and as long as he doesn’t panic if it happens again in 2017, we could see Red Bull GRC’s first back-to-back-to-back champion.
Photo credit: Larry Chen, Louis Yio, Alison Padron