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Red Bull GRC Memphis: GRC Lites Round 1 Preview

April 28, 2017
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IN BRIEF: Racing alongside their Supercar counterparts, a deep GRC Lites field will attempt to make some noise in the 2017 season opener at Memphis International Raceway. With the past three Lites champions now racing Supercar, the sport’s future stars have their eye on a promotion for 2018—and a strong showing in Tennessee will be a good start to the process.

TUNE IN INFORMATION:

  • GRC Lites Round 1 Finals: May 2, 5PM ET, NBCSN

DOWNLOAD THE APP: App Store | Google Play

TICKETS: Click here

EVENT INFORMATION: Click here

SPOTTER GUIDE: Click here

LAST RACE: Dreyer & Reinbold Racing driver Cabot Bigham was under the gun coming into the season finale at the Port of Los Angeles as the final driver on the main event grid. But when a first-lap incident knocked out fellow title rival Miki Weckstrom and sent points leader Oliver Eriksson to the back of the pack, Bigham carved his way up to second place, and then inherited the lead when teammate Alex Keyes fell out of the race. Eriksson climbed back to fourth, but it wasn’t quite enough: Bigham took the win and the title by five points, or a single finishing spot.

DRIVER CHANGES: The 2017 GRC Lites grid will see a number of changes from last year:

  • Defending series champions Dreyer & Reinbold Racing expand to three full-time cars with the addition of Christian Brooks and Travis PeCoy from AF Racing. While Cabot Bigham moves up to a Supercar, Alex Keyes will race the full season after scoring two wins in seven starts last year.
  • Much as it did in Supercar, Olsbergs MSE has retooled its GRC Lites driver lineup for 2017. Cole Keatts returns to the team, while French driver Cyril Raymond will look to back up last year’s European Lites championship with a GRC Lites title as well.
  • DirtFish Motorsports promotes James Rimmer to full-time status this year, where he will join two-time 2016 winner Conner Martell in the chase for the elusive championship.
  • CORE autosport returns to its original driver lineup from its 2016 GRC Lites debut, with Colin Braun partnering team owner Jon Bennett.
  • AF Racing will return with veteran Alejandro Fernandez for the beginning of his fourth Red Bull GRC season, but also adds off-road and sports car veteran Burt Jenner to the team.

THE TRACK: This weekend’s layout is a 1.18-mile, 11-turn course featuring a mix of steep banking, multiple paved and loose surfaces, and signature Red Bull GRC elements including a 70-foot jump! Click here for more information.

GRC LITES KICKS OFF FIFTH SEASON: Since its debut in 2013, GRC Lites has established itself as the premier development series for young rallycross drivers in the world. Each of its four all-time champions have moved up to a Red Bull GRC Supercar, while more than half of this weekend’s Supercar field can claim experience in the Lites car in various events across the globe. The class boasted six separate winners in 11 rounds in 2016, with no driver claiming more than two victories.

DREYER & REINBOLD GO FOR BACK-TO-BACK TITLES: Open-wheel mainstays Dreyer & Reinbold Racing have found a home in GRC Lites, with nine race victories in 23 rounds over the past two years. After taking last year’s driver’s championship with Cabot Bigham, and after scoring more points than any other entry with Alex Keyes and Tanner Whitten sharing its famed #24 car, DRR moves Keyes back into a full-season ride this year to mount its title defense. Joining him will be Lites sophomores Christian Brooks and Travis PeCoy, as the team expands to three full-time cars while boasting an all-Californian driver lineup.

GRC LITES SHAPING THE FUTURE OF SUPERCAR: Not one, not two, but each of the past three GRC Lites champions will begin their first full-time Supercar seasons this weekend in Memphis. 2014 title winner Mitchell deJong and 2015 champion Oliver Eriksson will campaign full-season entries for Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE, while Cabot Bigham moves up to Bryan Herta Rallysport instead of defending last year’s crown. The vacancy means that the series will crown a new champion this year—and earning the honors could be a big step towards joining the three former champions in a Supercar for 2018.

QUOTES: A selection of quotes in advance of this weekend’s Red Bull Global Rallycross Memphis, the first round of the 2017 Red Bull GRC season:

Christian Brooks, #44 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing: “Definitely the first thing I noticed was the first corner had a huge bank. It’s going to be a fun factor in the race. Not a lot of us are used to it. I was looking at this track and it really reminded me of Seattle last year, and we would have had a pretty good result there if I didn’t make a mistake. I think it’s going to be a good race. The track looks cool and I’m excited to go out there.”

Cyril Raymond, #13 Olsbergs MSE X Forces: “It’s my first time in the USA, and I think it will be a good challenge for me. This is the best team for me, and I am here to win the championship because I think I have the capacity to be on the top. I don’t know the level of this category in USA, but I watched a lot of YouTube movies on this championship and I think it will be hard. The track is very different—there’s a big banking, and it will be my first time on that. There’s a big jump, and it’s a big difference than from Europe. I’m very excited to start the season now.”

Travis PeCoy, #3 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing: “It should be a real fast track. The banking looks real big, and the track map shows that the straightaways are pretty long. I’m seeing a lot of fast corners, big braking zones. There could be a lot of opportunities for passing. Rain will definitely make the track more slick. We have rain tires to help it out, but being lighter on the wheel and smoother on the throttle will keep it fast. That’s our strategy if it rains.”

Red Bull Global Rallycross Memphis

Event Info: Click here // Tickets: Click here // Volunteers: Click here
Download the App: App Store // Google Play
Play Fantasy Challenge: Click here
Supercar Finals: April 30, 1PM ET, NBC // Lites Finals: May 2, 5PM ET, NBCSN

Photo credit: Louis Yio (1, 3-4); Larry Chen (2)

Categories: GRC Lites | Race Previews