Global Rallycross Attacked By Volkswagen
Jumping in with both feet, Volkswagen has taken the Global Rallycross Championship (GRC) by storm. Of course, the German automaker has a long, storied history in motorsports, but it enters as young blood in a form of racing that might seem foreign to quite a few people.
Is Global Rallycross Like Rally Racing?
Yes and no. There are some similarities to traditional rally racing, but Global Rallycross is faster and quite frankly more entertaining to watch. Don’t get me wrong, rally racing is great fun, but if you haven’t caught a GRC event before, you should make it a point to watch one.
Global Rallycross mixes rally racing and supercross. It was created in England specifically for a better TV experience. Fire-breathing little hatchbacks with all-wheel drive and loads of power scream around a tight track. There’s lots of contact during the different heats.
Up to ten cars are on the track at a time, so contact is inevitable. The average Global Rallycross track only has nine turns. They’re not horribly spread out at between a half mile and mile long. That means you can easily see all of the cars at the same time. Drivers deal with a mixture of dirt and tarmac surfaces. A 70-foot tabletop jump is especially entertaining.
The Joker Lane Is Wild
You should also understand the joker lane. It’s a small stretch with an extra lane. Drivers must take it at least once during each heat. This alternate pathway bypasses the tabletop jump. The catch is it adds about two seconds to their lap time, but not taking it means time in the Penalty Box.
Instead of a red flag or restarting races for infractions, offending cars go to the Penalty Box. Officials hold the drivers in the 50-meter area for a set time, depending on the offense. Punishable activities include skipping the joker lane, jump starting, or driving too rough. If there’s a problem too late in a heat, GRC officials just add to a driver’s total time.
It’s Good To Have Red Bull Sponsoring
Red Bull is the main sponsor for Global Rallycross. If you follow motorsports at all, you know Red Bull is a huge force with deep pockets. That’s been helpful with spreading word of the sport and funding races. Without Red Bull, there’s no telling how successful GRC would be at this point.
Volkswagen’s GRC Partner
Volkswagen didn’t go it alone in the GRC. Instead, the company partnered up with Andretti Autosport, which was founded by Michael Andretti himself. Andretti Motorsport has a solid track record, literally, netting championships in Pro Mazda, IndyCar and more.
The VW/Andretti GRC team debut race was in May of 2014. Things got off to a rocky start. Instead of the Beetles that it currently uses, the organization had a couple of modified Polos. One car had mechanical issues. The other driver was caught up in a red flag incident for his second heat. Neither one made it to the final.
Thankfully, that didn’t set the tone for the team’s season. In the end, the two drivers came in third and ninth for the Driver Championship. Volkswagen was second for the Manufacturer Championship.
The two modified Beetles were supposed to have debuted at the race in D.C., but complications pushed that back. Without their new machines, the drivers claimed the fifth and sixth spots overall. In the next race, the team captured the checkered flag
Finally, in September the Beetles were ready for competition. One driver was able to push his car to first place finish. The other had engine problems, but did well considering, earning sixth place overall.
The 2015 Season
With a season under its belt, the VW Andretti team was ready to make some tweaks. Instead of the 1.6-liter TSI engine for the Beetles, the cars were upgraded. Instead, the 2.0-liter TSI was the new weapon of choice.
The other big change was the addition of Tanner Foust. He was a veteran of GRC racing, capturing three first place finishes in 2014 alone. He also was the champion in 2011 and 2012. It looked like VW would be far more competitive in its second season.
In the first race, the two Volkswagen drivers landed in second and fifth place. There were ups and downs to the season. Among the challenges were penalties, mechanical issues and unlucky breaks. Staying strong, the team was able to capture the first and second spots in back-to-back races, finishing the season strong.
Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross claimed the first and second positions for the Driver Championship. Again, for the Manufacturer Championship the team was second.
The 2016 Season So Far
While the 2016 season is still wide open, Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross has been enjoying a strong start. The drivers currently are in the top two spots. As a manufacturer, VW is number one. Of course, everyone is taking aim at the team, thanks to the outstanding 2015 season.
In the Phoenix double header for the start of the season, the team captured the top spot in both finals. It also claimed fifth and second places for the two finals. The season so far hasn’t been without its challenges, but the team has pushed through. For example, in Daytona both cars were damaged, but the mechanics fixed them overnight, and the drivers were able to win first and second. It’s that kind of grit that characterizes the Volkswagen team.
Volkswagen has two drivers right now, both of them from the United States. One is Tanner Foust, who’s behind the wheel of #34. Among his impressive list of accomplishments are several world records, like the incredibly cool Hot Wheels Double Loop Dare, so you know he has ice in his veins.
Foust has captured the indoor speed record on Top Gear USA, has won a round of the European Rallycross Championship (something other American has done), and has done the Pikes Peak Hill Climb.
Scott Speed has an appropriate last name. He was the only American in Formula 1 from 1994 to 2014, but is even more accomplished when it comes to rallycross. In his past three years of GRC competition, he’s won no less than three races.
Among his impressive resume is a gold medal in the XGames, 8 top-ten finishes in 13 different NASCAR series races, and time spent as a Redbull Toro Rosso Formula 1 Driver.