Future Stars: Cole Keatts
Still a teenager at the time of his GRC Lites debut, championship-winning off-road driver Cole Keatts has established himself as one of Red Bull GRC’s top American driver prospects since debuting with Olsbergs MSE X Forces last season. Get to know the Idaho native:
First time behind the wheel of any vehicle: Probably in off-road stuff, because that was my first kind of racing, but even back in my hometown, on the farm, I was driving equipment since I was six years old! But my first time in a racecar, I think, was going into 2013 when my dad bought a little Junior 2 kart and we raced that in Utah.
First full season of racing and results: It went really well! We finished in the top five in points, and then the next year we went out and won the championship. We got that kart up to speed quickly!
We had one of the best karts out there, and we were running with some good competitors. We found top step three times my rookie season, and we were on the podium four more times. So that really helped, just to know that we had to be really consistent like that. Once I got into that second year, we never missed one podium—we were consistently on the top step or second—until the final round, when I took the championship.
Driver I idolized growing up and why: Once I started on the off-road side, it was pretty cool to watch Brian Deegan and Bryce Menzies. Those are the two coolest guys out there in Pro 2, and they’re killing it out there! Getting to know Brian personally and getting to hang out with Hailie, Haiden, and Hudson has been really cool.
Those are the two coolest guys to watch in off-road, but the whole Olsbergs MSE team in GRC has been pretty amazing, too—Joni Wiman, who has won the championship, Sebastian Eriksson, who came in second and took a lot of wins too, and my teammate Oliver Eriksson. It was really cool to have a season with him. He helped me a lot, and we really worked well together.
Track I always wanted to race on and why: The coolest track I’ve raced on now that I have a year of GRC under my belt was Daytona—it’s really cool to say that I’ve raced on that track. I didn’t get to race in Barbados, and I wanted to because everyone said that was a really cool track, but the NASCAR track in Indianapolis is somewhere I’d want to race.
First GRC Lites race and results: Phoenix was interesting, because I had only gotten three Lites test sessions under my belt. It was a whole different ballgame compared to off-road, but to be at the same track and facility where my off-road races were was cool. It went pretty well—we didn’t have the results we wanted, but we got a lot of learning in. When I had my first heat, I knew these guys were seriously here for wins, and we would have our work cut out for us. So we just kept working hard there!
Pre-race rituals: I normally do them for rallycross, just because you’re always going. Oliver and I would do a lot just to start getting hyped up, bouncing up and down, running back and forth, doing jumping jacks. We’re just getting our brains active, getting ready for that straight seven minutes of just hard driving.
Most memorable moment in racing career: Taking the Junior 2 championship was probably the best moment I’ve ever had, because you’re proving yourself. Three years ago, no one had ever heard the name Cole Keatts—I come from a small town of Lewiston, Idaho, so it’s pretty cool to be a hometown kid and come down and show all the California kids that we’re here to race, too. So when I took that championship and stood on the top step, it was pretty cool to say I could win, too.
Race I’d like to have back and what happened in it: The first one that comes to my mind is in North Carolina when we had a rainout. You can’t change the weather, but I had gone straight into the main event from second place in my heat race. So we knew we were in the main event, and it was going to be my first one, so I was super excited. But Mother Nature decided to pour on us. So that’s the one I’d really want back!
2017 goals: It’s going to be a crazy year! I’m going to be racing four or five cars next year between GRC Lites and off-road. I have a Yamaha UTV I’ll be racing, a Modified Kart, a Pro Lite, and the Lites car. When we get in the UTV and Mod Kart, we’re pretty sure we can win the championship, and for my final year in Mod Kart I want to go out on top.
For GRC Lites, it’s the best competitors out there, and everyone’s going for the top step. Every hundredth of a second counts! We’re going for the podium for sure, and we’re just going to be trying to keep it smooth.
Photo credit: Louis Yio (1, 3-4); Larry Chen (2)