As the points race heats up in the Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship, the Olsbergs MSE Ford duo of Patrik Sandell and Joni Wiman are in the top five and optimistic about their chances as they head into the Charlotte round next weekend.
Red Bull driver Joni Wiman scored a fourth-place result in Long Island on Sunday, managing to hold off eventual race winner Nelson Piquet Jr. and win his first heat on three wheels when a hard knock on the bumpy course damaged his suspension.
“I had to keep Nelson at bay and it was a really tight battle,” said Wiman. “When I damaged the car, I knew I just had to keep going. It shows the strength of the Red Bull / Bluebeam Ford Fiesta ST that the car held up and got me to the end.”
The Final was grueling, with tensions high and numerous collisions on course causing two restarts before the race was truly underway. Battling through traffic on the second restart, Wiman shot forward from the third row to keep the pressure on Ken Block for a spot on the podium. He was unable to find a way past on the tight course and finished fourth.
“With a race next weekend, I didn’t want to take too many risks out there,” said Wiman. “I’m happy with the points I got here in New York and the Red Bull / Bluebeam Ford Fiesta ST is in great shape heading into the next round.”
The 20-year-old Wiman swept the 2013 GRC Lites championship and joined Olsbergs MSE in 2014 for his first season of Supercars competition. He scored his first podium at the D.C. round a month ago — a third-place result. The rookie driver has been a consistent contender at every race this season.
For his part, Kobalt Tools driver Patrik Sandell said luck wasn’t on his side in New York. A stumble in the engine kept him out of qualifying and he said he felt off the pace in heat racing. Although he was able to bypass the Last Chance Qualifier and earn a position in the 10-car Final, he got caught in a pile-up that ended his day with a red flag. He scored tenth-place points.
But, after a win in D.C., he remains in the championship chase and said he is optimistic heading into the Charlotte round on Saturday. The course there is expected to be 90 per cent dirt — a surface that plays to the driver’s strengths. Sandell began his career in rally competition; he has achieved over 50 World Rally Championship starts and raced thousands of miles on dirt.
“I’m confident that the Olsbergs MSE team, with its years of experience in rallycross, is going to give me a set-up for the Kobalt Tools Ford Fiesta ST that can win on dirt,” said Sandell. “While other drivers are tweaking their settings next weekend, both of the Olsbergs MSE Ford Fiesta rallycross cars are going to be ready to win the moment they are unloaded from the trailer.”
Olsbergs MSE alumnus Tanner Foust took the win in New York, while Nelson Piquet Jr. finished second in a Ford Fiesta originally prepared for rallycross by Olsbergs MSE and now campaigned by the SH Rallycross team. Fellow Ford driver Ken Block finished third.
In addition to the Supercars contest, seven GRC Lites returned to the series for their third round of 2014 competition. Olsbergs MSE team drivers Kevin Eriksson and Mitchell DeJong finished first and second, respectively. It was Eriksson’s first GRC Lites win.
Pedro Piquet — the 16-year-old brother of Supercars podium finisher Nelson Piquet Jr. — rounded out the podium with a third place finish in his first GRC Lites race. Eriksson’s 15-year-old brother, Oliver, also made a successful Lites debut this weekend, finishing fourth.
The GRC Lites are purpose-built 310 horsepower rallycross racers designed and built by Olsbergs MSE as a development series for the sport of rallycross.