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.

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.