Cole Keatts Closing in on First GRC Lites Podium
Of the numerous GRC Lites sophomores making major strides in 2017, Olsbergs MSE’s Cole Keatts has may have made the biggest leap forward.
The Lewiston, Idaho native jumped straight into a Lites car from Junior 2 off-road karts last season, posting a season-best finish at his home race in Seattle but spending much of the year getting acclimated to rallycross. But if his first season was about learning how to race in a new series, his second year has seen him put key lessons into action.
Keatts won the very first heat of the season in Memphis, added three more between New England and Indianapolis, and currently sits seventh in points. For reference, that’s higher than Alex Keyes, a five-time Lites race winner, and Alejandro Fernandez, one of the series’ most experienced drivers.
“I didn’t really understand any car control (as a rookie), but I’ve been learning from the best,” Keatts explained of the differences between his first two rallycross seasons. “In Memphis, we got our first heat win, and we built off of that. We had a really fast Olsbergs car in Canada, but we ended up losing a coil wire. Still, I’m really happy for this year.”
Earlier this month at Lucas Oil Raceway, Keatts posted a career-best fourth place finish after winning his second-round heat. While he’s seen success in both individual rounds and doubleheaders this year, the 16-year-old admits partiality to the single-race events, like Indianapolis.
“Singleheaders are easier on the team and drivers,” he explained. “You don’t have to work all night to get your car back from a final, especially if you have to qualify the next day, and it’s way more relaxed. You can focus on one thing at a time. You aren’t rushed to the second heat and the final—you can take it back, regroup, and every night, go over data to see where you’re losing and gaining. Then you can just take it from there.”
With five rounds left on the schedule, Keatts is learning from the right people to help him crack the podium before the checkered flag falls in Los Angeles. Team owner Andreas Eriksson, the creator of the Lites platform, has current Lites points leader Cyril Raymond, as well as 2014 and 2015 Lites champions Mitchell deJong and Oliver Eriksson, on his driver roster. Sebastian Eriksson, meanwhile, was the 2013 Lites runner-up and a Supercar race winner in Louisville this year.
“My teammate is the leading in the points—I’m trying to learn from Cyril, and my Supercar teammates are teaching me things,” Keatts said. “I’m happy where we we’re at, and I know we can get that final going; it’s just trying to put it all together and get luck on your side.
“I’m really happy with what we have done, and we’re going to keep pushing. The results aren’t there as far as wins, but we know that we have the pace.”
Photo credit: Louis Yio