Joni Wiman talks about his run to Red Bull Global Rallycross title

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Joni Wiman, 2014 Red Bull Global Rallycross champion. Credit: Olsbergs MSE.

New Red Bull Global Rallycross champion Joni Wiman is back home in Finland, but recently took the time to do an e-mail interview with MotorSportsTalk. You’ll hear more from the 21-year-old dynamo on Thursday, but this post focuses on how Wiman managed to emerge with the title following a fierce finale in Las Vegas earlier this month.

“Is this really happening?”

You figure that was what was going through the mind of Joni Wiman as he stood on top of his No. 31 Red Bull/Bluebeam Ford Fiesta ST while Ken Block – the man he just beat for the 2014 Red Bull Global Rallycross championship – saluted him by doing donuts around his fellow Blue Oval driver.

Such was the conclusion of last week’s GRC season finale in Las Vegas. Block did what he had to do by winning the race, but Wiman’s second-place finish was enough to give him the title by five points.

“I can’t feel my legs right now,” a happily awestruck Wiman said once he climbed down from his Ford.

The 2014 Red Bull Global Rallycross season finale from Las Vegas will be broadcast this Sunday, Nov. 16, at 1:30 p.m. ET on your local NBC station. It will also be streamed online and on your mobile device through NBC Sports Live Extra.

That happy daze must have continued until Wiman returned home to Finland. There, he says, was where his accomplishment set in.

“Everyone was jumping and cheering and it was exciting,” he said. “But it’s only been now that I’ve had a chance to relax and do nothing here at home that I have slowly started to think about it and I’m starting to realize what just happened.

“Winning the championship was quite a lot over my expectations and it feels unreal to be able to do it in my first year.”

Wiman did not take a single race win and did not seize the points lead until the next-to-last race. But a season-ending stretch of four consecutive podium finishes was enough to make him the victor of a championship battle that went to the final race in Vegas between himself, Block, and a pair of former F1 and NASCAR racers in Scott Speed and Nelson Piquet Jr.

Block, Speed, and Piquet all had the GRC points lead at some point this year, but were unable to keep it. Coming out of the Los Angeles doubleheader, Block had jumped to the top over Piquet but in that aforementioned next-to-last race in Seattle, a mistake in the final caused him to finish ninth.

Wiman, on the other hand, finished second to take the lead from Block going into Vegas. There, a pair of heat race wins allowed Block to get within 10 points of Wiman before Piquet suffered a gearbox problem in his semifinal that kept him out of the Last Chance Qualifier.

With Piquet’s season over, it was down to Wiman, Block, and Speed in the final. And out of all three of them, only Wiman could control his destiny: A second-place finish would lock up the title.

The race began with a crash involving Speed and Bucky Lasek in Turn 1. But both men were able to get back to the line for the restart, and while Block quickly blasted off to the lead, both Speed and Lasek were able to get past Wiman and knock him to fourth.

The championship was slipping away. So, on the fourth lap of the 10-lap final, Wiman took matters into his own hands.

Instead of waiting for a call from his Olsbergs MSE spotter/manager, Jussi Pinomaki, to take the joker lap – an on-course shortcut that drivers can only use once per race and can thus serve as a major strategy device – Wiman went for it himself after noticing jostling between Speed and Lasek ahead of him.

“I was expecting to wait for the call from Jussi, but Bucky and Scott were fighting a bit and Bucky made a mistake in Turn 3 that allowed Scott to get really close to him – and I got really close to Scott,” Wiman recalls. “That’s when I thought: ‘Maybe now is my chance.’ I was in a good position to take the Joker already. The line was open. Jussi didn’t have time to say it but I went for it anyway.

“I actually made a mistake on the loose gravel going into the joker that cost me half a second or so, and then I was pretty scared because I saw Bucky on the main lap and he was already making the left-hand turn after the jump before I’d even turned in for the hairpin. I thought for a split-second that he might come out in front of me, but it was enough and I made it. That was a relief.”

Wiman had gone from fourth to second, the position he needed to win the title. Eventually, he pulled away from Speed and Lasek but after initially trying to reel in Block – and only gaining a tenth or two per lap for his trouble – he realized that it was best not to push his luck.

“When Jussi said it was clear behind me, I started to think about the championship and I pulled it back a little to bring the car home,” he said.

Block took the checkered flag to cap off a strong weekend for him. But the night belonged to Wiman, who became the fourth consecutive GRC champion for the Olsbergs team.

Leading up to the weekend, Wiman had wryly noted in pre-race interviews that he had just turned 21 and that there were many ways of celebrating such an occasion in the city they were in. But after taking the title, he reports that nothing occurred in the post-race party that had to “stay in Vegas.”

“Of course, it would have been inconvenient to be in Las Vegas with a championship win if I hadn’t turned 21 so I’m definitely glad my birthday happened before this race,” Wiman concedes. “But it was really a normal celebration for our team, and with the family and friends who were there to support me. Even if I wasn’t 21 yet, we would have found a way to celebrate together.”

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Anaheim 2: Ken Roczen is consistency’s king

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Strength is found not only in outright wins, but also through consistency, which contributed to the rise of Ken Roczen in the SuperMotocross Rankings after Anaheim 2.

Roczen ended the 2022 Supercross season with the knowledge that he urgently needed change, so he declared himself a free agent, signed with Suzuki during the offseason and set upon 2023 with renewed determination. It worked. Roczen is one of three riders in the 450 class with a sweep of the top five and that consistency has given him the lead in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings.

SuperMotocross Rankings Anaheim 2
Like Babe Ruth pointing to the outfield wall, Ken Roczen pointed his way to the Power Rankings lead. – Feld Motor Sports

This formula rewards riders who compete at the front of the pack at the end of the Mains, in their heats, or in last week’s case, the three motos that make up the Triple Crown. Roczen has improved his overall performance each week with a fifth in Anaheim 1, a fourth in San Diego and his first podium of 2023 in Anaheim 2. Can he keep the trend alive with a first- or second-place finish in Houston?

A fall is all it takes sometimes. Last week, Eli Tomac tumbled hard when he pushed wide on the exit of a turn and jumped on top of a Tuff Blox. He remounted after that incident in Race 3 of the Triple Crown, but could only manage a 13th-place result in the moto. It could have been much worse and resulted in an injury, but coupled with a sixth in the overall standings at Anaheim 2, it pushed him down a spot in the SuperMotocross Ranking.

Along with Roczen (and Chase Sexton), Cooper Webb swept the top five in Supercross’ first three rounds. He is knocking on the door of a win and it won’t take long for him to ascend to the top of the box. Webb has two victories in Houston and each of them came during a championship season.

If there is a more determined rider than Jason Anderson, get out of his way. His path to the front of the pack is not always lined with primroses since he often has to pass multiple riders with whom he has had a run-in during his path, but the SuperMotocross Power Rankings are concerned only with raw results – not intention – and Anaheim 2 was Anderson’s best race of the season. He earned his first top-five and first podium with a second-place finish that was aided by a moto win.

MORE: Triple Crown format shakes up A2’s finishing order

Dylan Ferrandis has also been a model of consistency. Last week his Triple Crown effort of 4-6-5 gave him an overall finish of fifth. That came on the heels of a fourth-place result in the season opener and a sixth in San Diego. With no result worse than sixth this season, the numbers add up quite well.

Sexton’s position just outside the top five this week is entirely attributable to his last-place result in the San Diego heat. The SuperMotocross Rankings looks at the past 45 days, so that will affect him for a while, but if he continues to ride like he did in Anaheim 2, he’s going to climb quickly despite that albatross around his neck.

450 Rankings

This
Week
Driver Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1. Ken Roczen 84.63 3 2
2. Eli Tomac
[2 Main; 2 Heat wins]
83.25 1 -1
3. Cooper Webb 82.25 2 -1
4. Jason Anderson
[1 Heat win]
80.63 5 1
5. Dylan Ferrandis 78.75 4 -1
6. Chase Sexton
[1 Main; 3 Heat wins]
77.75 9 3
7. Justin Barcia 67.88 6 -1
8. Aaron Plessinger 67.63 8 0
9. Adam Cianciarulo 67.25 7 -2
10. Joey Savatgy 61.00 11 1
10. Marvin Musquin 61.00 12 2
12. Malcolm Stewart
[1 Heat win]
58.75 13 1
13. Christian Craig 56.13 14 1
14. Colt Nichols 56.00 10 -4
15. Dean Wilson 47.50 15 0
16. Tristan Lane 41.00 18 2
17. Grant Harlan 40.67 19 2
18. Justin Hill 40.57 16 -2
19. Logan Karnow 36.50 20 1
20. Alex Ray 36.00 21 1

Supercross Points


The 250 West riders get a couple of weeks off before heading to Oakland for the rescheduled Round 2 and several of them need the rest. Tough weeks for Cameron McAdoo and RJ Hampshire forced them to lose ground in the SuperMotocross points to Jett Lawrence at a time that could prove to play mental games.

Lawrence also had his share of issues at Anaheim 2, but overcame early falls in the first two motos and finished no worse than sixth. Considering that he dropped to the tail of the field in Race 2, that was a remarkable accomplishment and he entered the final race with a shot at the overall win. He narrowly missed that mark, but still has not finished worse than second in three rounds. His lead in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings is safe.

Cameron McAdoo rode with injury in all three Triple Crown motos, so his sixth-place finish was a moral victory. Cameron McAdoo, Instagram

McAdoo said it best in an Instagram post this week: “Woke up feeling grateful that I’m relatively healthy after my big mistake during qualifying yesterday. We made the decision that it would be safe for me to race so I did everything I possibly could to get through the night ending up [sixth overall]. We will work on getting healed up in these few weeks off to come back strong for Oakland!”

With results of 8-7-5 in the Triple Crown and his combined sixth-place result, McAdoo lost significant ground to Lawrence in both the points’ standings and our Power formula. The Oakland race is going to be critical if he wants to stay in the championship hunt because the series will have a long break before returning in Seattle for Round 11. No one wants to sit with negative feelings for that long.

Mitchell Oldenburg has quietly amassed some impressive numbers. His name has not been called a lot during broadcasts, but he has not finished worse than seventh in any of the first three rounds. Themes develop during a season and weekend – and for the moment, this one revolves around reliability. Oldenburg finished 5-4-6 in Anaheim 2 which means he has consistently amassed SuperMotocross Power Rankings points.

Stilez Robertson won his first race of the season in Moto 2 of the Triple Crown. Coupled with a third-place finish in the final race, he leapfrogged Hampshire and Enzo Lopes, both of whom had disappointing outings. He stands fifth in the points’ standing mostly due to a ninth-place finish in the season opener, but each race has been progressively better and that is a good sign.

Sometimes, all it takes is a taste of success. Prior to Anaheim 2, Levi Kitchen’s best Supercross finish was a seventh earned in this year’s season opener. He scored a ninth at Minneapolis last year, but that was not enough to put him on the radar. This early in the season, one strong run can sway the SuperMotocross Power Ranking significantly, but Robertson has earned his way into the top five. More importantly, he’s going to be the object of interest when the West series returns to Oakland.

Next week the 250 East riders mount up in Houston, Texas before they head to Tampa, Florida. The Power Rankings will combine the two divisions, so the riders below are likely to shift dramatically.

250 Rankings

This
Week
Driver Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1. Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat wins]
89.13 1 0
2. Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
77.63 3 1
3. Mitchell Oldenburg – W 77.00 5 2
4. Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat win]
76.75 6 2
5. Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main win]
73.75 12 7
6. RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat wins]
70.00 2 -4
7. Max Vohland – W 69.29 8 1
8. Derek Kelley – W 63.75 10 2
9. Enzo Lopes – W 63.25 4 -5
10. Pierce Brown – W 61.29 13 3
11. Phil Nicoletti – W 59.25 7 -4
12. Dylan Walsh – W 56.00 9 -3
13. Cole Thompson – W 51.00 11 -2
14. Robbie Wageman – W 50.75 15 1
15. Anthony Rodriguez – W 49.00 14 -1
16. Ty Masterpool – W 47.50 16 0
17. Kaeden Amerine – W 47.50 16 -1
18. Dominique Thury – W 47.00 18 0
19. Austin Forkner – W 43.00 20 1
20. Derek Drake – W 42.33 21 1

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Ken Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage