Mitchell DeJong. Photo: Chris Tedesco/Red Bull Content Pool

Red Bull GRC: Honda, OMSE reveal restructured lineup

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The Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE team will have a significantly altered lineup for Red Bull Global Rallycross’ 2017 season, with three Honda Civics running this season, announced Thursday during the “Project CARS 2” Rallycross preview event in Los Angeles.

Sebastian Eriksson stays on for his third season with the team, while he’ll have two GRC Lites champions stepping up for their first full-time campaigns in Supercars.

Young American Mitchell DeJong, who won the 2014 title, will have his first full year back after a couple years largely outside the cockpit. DeJong made his Supercars debut at last year’s season finale at the Port of Los Angeles in a third car.

Meanwhile Oliver Eriksson, the 2015 GRC Lites champion, will make his Supercars debut in the third car. Oliver Eriksson is the youngest son of OMSE team principal Andreas Eriksson, but not related to Sebastian Eriksson, who now has ascended to the lead driver role within the team.

Joni Wiman, the Finn who peaked in the series with the 2014 Supercars series title, will not return for a fourth season. He won his first Supercars race at Las Vegas in 2015 but endured a tough season last year in the first year of OMSE’s partnership with Honda.

There’s also another name we wondered if we’d see here, and that’s 2009 Formula 1 World Champion Jenson Button, who doesn’t have a confirmed race program for 2017 but had been rumored to run selected races with Honda. He’s tested at Sebring earlier this year, and was announced to race a McLaren M23 chassis at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in August.

“Coming off Honda’s maiden campaign in Global Rallycross in 2016, we are ramping up for the 2017 season with a great blend of skill and experience, in addition to talented newcomers,” said Susie Rossick, assistant vice president of Honda Automobile Marketing. “The Honda Red Bull OMSE Civic team is excited to be back on the track and is committed to increasing its time on the podium.”

“It was an epic 2016 for us representing Honda Racing,” added Andreas Eriksson, CEO and Team Principal of OMSE. “We hope to not only climb onto the podium a few more times this season, but to learn more about the Honda Red Bull Civic Coupe’s true capability. It’s an aggressive machine and we have aggressive drivers who are eager to bring home great results.”

Red Bull GRC’s season premieres at Memphis the weekend of April 29-30. Qualifying airs at midnight ET on April 30, on NBCSN, with race coverage the same day at 1 p.m. ET on NBC.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.