What's it like to sit alongside a GRC ace? Anne Proffit found out in Bryan Herta Rallysport's Ford Fiesta, as she took a ride with Patrik Sandell in San Pedro....
For the first time, Red Bull Global Rallycross GRC is ending its season with a pair of races along the Pacific Ocean at San Pedro, California. The past few years the series has coincided its closing race with the SEMA show in Las Vegas, but decided that it was too difficult for fans to enjoy the finale, with all the ancillary events happening simultaneously.
The Red Bull GRC Port of Los Angeles race is a two-day event, October 8-9, with no fans on-site for Friday practice and qualifying.
However, prior to practice, Red Bull GRC opened the 1.07-kilometre (0.699-mile) course for media rides, on a track that is 71.9 percent pavement and only 28.1 percent dirt. There are eight turns with the large jump in the final part of the dirt segment.
This lucky journalist had the opportunity to ride with Bryan Herta Rallysport’s Patrik Sandell, 34, a Swede who currently holds fifth place in points and has the opportunity to move forward. With a win at Dallas earlier in the season, he’s just 16 points behind Brian Deegan and 42 behind Steve Arpin, both with Chip Ganassi Racing. (The title will go to either Tanner Foust or Scott Speed, both driving for VW Andretti Rallycross.)
See a trend here? All three teams mentioned also race in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Also present in the Supercar class are SH Rallycross (owned by James “Sully” Sullivan of KVSH). Honda joined the series this year and has three entries in this race, for which it’s the presenting sponsor.
In order to ride in the 600-horsepower Ford Fiesta ST, the passenger has to, of course, sign a waiver, then dress in a fire suit, wear a balaclava head sock, helmet and HANS device. It took the team BHR a bit of time to rearrange the six-point belts in the car as this journalist weighs just under 100 pounds.
Once belted in, we moved to the staging area, where we had to sit for a bit because track improvements needed to be made. It’s hot inside the racecar and it wasn’t possible to turn my head in any direction. Nor could I talk with Patrik because he was wearing his earplugs to talk with his spotter or any of the other members of his team during the two-lap excursion.
Before we went out, a team member kept me company and let me know that, not only does the small but muscular-looking Ford have 600 horsepower, the single turbocharger emits 70 pounds of boost. We talked about setting up the car with gearing adjustments, shock settings – normal stuff for any racecar that has to run on both tarmac and dirt.
There isn’t much a driver can learn while taking journalists for a ride around so short a lap, but Patrik Sandell did make a full-acceleration launch onto the course and it was sheer delight from there. I got bounced a bit, even with the tighter-than-tight belts, but couldn’t – still can’t – wipe the smile off my face.
It’s a very dirty track and flying over the jump was pretty darn amazing. The segue from tarmac to dirt and back again made for quite a bit of drifting through the turns – in other words, tons of fun. Sandell said he was glad the organizers got rid of the over-under bridge that existed the past two years.
“The track is very narrow and tight, space is very limited, and so qualifying will be super-important,” he remarked.
“If we can work well before qualifying and then have good launches, that’s kind of 70 percent of the race."
“Everyone is so fast and within tenths of each other,” he explained. “If we can just get ahead in the start, it’s easier to keep that position, rather than passing."
Saturday’s schedule includes heats, semifinals and finals, with similar scheduling for Sunday. These two races will decide the Supercar championship - the manufacturer’s title already belongs to VW Andretti Rallycross - but for Patrik Sandell, the objective is to move up the drivers’ standings for himself and Bryan Herta Rallycross. This journalist is hoping her super-fast chauffeur succeeds in his objectives.