Photos: Tony DiZinno

Red Bull GRC: Ridealong, initial MCAS New River observations

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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. – Red Bull Global Rallycross kicks off its fourth race weekend, and Rounds 6 of 7 of its season, this weekend at the MCAS New River in Jacksonville.

Quick thoughts on New River itself and the setup of the event will follow below before Friday’s activities:

With the Las Vegas week between Red Bull GRC and the SEMA Show my only past reference last year, my first thoughts about coming here is that it’s good to be here for just a GRC-only event – where time isn’t split two ways between the two events.

This is a big weekend for the series and initial thoughts are that with it being on the same weekend as last year, there is a bit of awareness among Marine personnel and in the area that the event is happening.

Sunday is open to the public and free of charge. Saturday is also free, but only open to DoD holders and their sponsored guests.

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A couple interesting story lines going into the weekend are Volkswagen’s reliability, after its challenging weekend in Daytona albeit one that ended with a 1-2 finish on Sunday for the Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team, and the return of the Subaru Rally Team USA for the first time this year.

Our weekend race preview is linked here.

BF Goodrich brings an impressive setup to the races with its tire engineers, technicians and other staff. BFG has joined the series this year.

Photo: Tony DiZinno
Photo: Tony DiZinno

Had a quick walk through of the Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE setup and display on Thursday. What a setup. A former F1 transporter houses a portion of the OMSE team, which has three of its Honda Civic Coupes – the two GRC Supercars for Joni Wiman and Sebastian Eriksson plus a test/show car which is housed alongside.

Then there’s the three GRC Lites cars – branded as Olsbergs MSE X Forces – for defending class champion Oliver Eriksson, Miki Weckstrom and Cole Keatts.

It’s not that the other setups are bad – they’re not – it’s just they’re traditional and you can see that Andreas Eriksson leaves no stone unturned over at the OMSE setup.

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Full setup.
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GRC Lites cars.
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Honda Civic Coupe Supercars.

Another crazy cool, gnarly setup? That would be the one at SH Rallycross/DRR, which has a custom inside to its transporter for Jeff Ward’s No. 07 MET-Rx Ford Fiesta ST, for the team owned by James “Sulli” Sullivan.

Patrik Sandell. Photo: Louis Yio
Patrik Sandell. Photo: Louis Yio

Red Bull GRC offered Marines and media ride-alongs yesterday in the 600-horsepower beasts. Thanks to a last-minute availability, one opened up for me as well in the later stages of the session – so big thanks to them for that.

It’s quite nice to have a comparative point, having also had one at Las Vegas last year with Sebastian Eriksson, and Patrik Sandell in the No. 18 Kobalt Tools Ford Fiesta ST for Bryan Herta Rallysport (shown right at Daytona: Photo credit: Louis Yio) brought his A-game on Thursday.

It was good to know again how intense and violent the launches are, and with that as a reference, I knew to throw myself back in the seat on purpose before Sandell launched. That meant I knew how to feel and sit back in the seat when Sandell launched.

Again, the sub-2-second launch from 0-60 is insane!! It’s just fantastic. You feel the walls and the tire barriers coming at you but again, because you’re riding with a Swede, you know it’ll be fun and authentic.

Here was the best part: on the second lap, we caught up to Austin Dyne’s No. 14 AD Racing Ford. And then we got peppered with dirt. Hard.

I couldn’t freaking see… and neither could Sandell.

And we kept going. Faster. Harder. More incredibly. And powered out.

I asked Sandell this morning how the heck he could see. “I couldn’t! It’s all feel.”

All told, another incredible experience.

Austin Cindric is here, and despite being “close” to driving this weekend, the talented 17-year-old teenager won’t be. It’s about a four-hour drive for him from his North Carolina home to New River.

He’ll be coaching and setting up with his OMSE colleagues from last year this weekend.

A street party kicked off the weekend on Thursday night, with a driver autograph session followed by a crew wing eating contest at Buffalo Wild Wings. Several Red Bull GRC cars were there as well.

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Friday is a practice and qualifying day. It’s raining a bit, and will be intermittent throughout the day.

More to follow at the end of the day, today.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.