Defending Red Bull GRC champion Joni Wiman adjusts to “target on his back”

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So what can defending Red Bull Global Rallycross champion Joni Wiman expect for his second year in the championship?

An understanding of the words “target on his back,” to start.

“Yes, you can say I have a target on my back,” the Olsbergs MSE driver told MotorSportsTalk at Red Bull GRC media day in Long Beach.

“But everyone will take me more seriously this year at the start of the season.”

Indeed Wiman needed to get his feet wet when he first entered the series.

MORE from MST: Wiman discusses run to 2014 title; what’s next in 2015

He only began the year with one podium from the first six races, but ended on a tear with four in a row to end the season.

Heading into Sunday’s season opener at Ft. Lauderdale (LIVE, 3 p.m. ET, NBC), the team has concluded testing for the preseason at Charlotte Motor Speedway this week. Wiman looks forward to seeing how the 2015 package for OMSE and the Red Bull/Bluebeam Ford Fiesta handles.

“Of course it is a lot easier to have more experience about the car,” he said. “We have kind of a new car. Updated engine. So we should be even more competitive this year than last year.”

This year will be Wiman’s third racing in North America. He won the GRC Lites title in 2013 before being promoted up to GRC Supercars last year, where he doubled up on the championship.

While he enjoys rally courses in his native Finland, he is still comfortable racing in the U.S. and has acclimatized well.

“It’s so much different than in Europe, or Scandinavia,” he said. “This will be my third year. It’s so much easier to get around here. From the airport to customs, we don’t have that over there. Now it is just like going to Sweden, my neighboring country.”

Wiman will have a rookie teammate this year in the form of a driver from his neighboring country, in Sebastian Eriksson. Eriksson will look to emulate Wiman as a rookie GRC champion.

Austin Cindric and Oliver Eriksson will be in OMSE’s two GRC Lites cars.

Meanwhile Wiman knows repeating will be difficult given the depth of field, and is unsure how 2015 will play out.

“Of course it is exciting and it is a new thing, I have never won a (main) championship, so I don’t know what to expect.

“But I think it’s awesome that big names and teams are starting to find the sport. That’s what all of us want, to build it up.”