Red Bull GRC: Speed’s pole highlights Friday at New River

Photo: Tony DiZinno

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. – Scott Speed dominated proceedings in the opening day of Red Bull Global Rallycross action at MCAS New River, and has secured the pole for the first of two races at this weekend’s doubleheader round (Saturday, 5 p.m. ET, NBC).

The driver of the No. 41 Special Operations Warrior Foundation Volkswagen Beetle GRC led a Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross 1-2 in qualifying after also pacing practice earlier in the day. Tanner Foust in the No. 34 Rockstar Energy Drink Volkswagen is second.

Daytona Round 4 winner Steve Arpin is third in the No. 00 Jacob Company Ford Fiesta ST for Chip Ganassi Rallycross, however the likable driver suffered a late session mechanical issue that saw his car brought back to the paddock on a flatbed. Joni Wiman and Sebastian Eriksson in the pair of Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE Civic Coupes were fourth and fifth with Austin Dyne completing the fast six in his AD Racing Ford.

It was an abnormal day for Patrik Sandell, the usual pacesetting Swede stuck back in seventh in his No. 18 Kobalt Tools Ford for Bryan Herta Rallysport.

Conner Martell of DirtFish Motorsports has the GRC Lites pole for the first race of its two races. Oliver Eriksson is second ahead of Alex Keyes.

In other thoughts from the day at New River:

Spoke with a few U.S. Marines for a post later this weekend. In brief, the Marines are thrilled Red Bull GRC is back for an encore at New River after a successful debut event last year.

Also caught up with Oliver Eriksson, the GRC Lites points leader of Olsbergs MSE X Forces. The 17-year-old is enjoying a good start to his 2016 season after winning last year’s division title.

Craziest thing I noted today, also on an Olsbergs MSE front? The Hondas have a crazy lean on the right rear BFGoodrich tire through the kink, Turn 1, compared to the remainder of the Supercars. Both Wiman and Sebastian Eriksson are almost tilted at a 45-degree angle on the right rear tire and it’s spectacular to watch; it’s also completely counter to how the Fords, Volkswagens and Subarus look through there. With this being a predominately left-hand turn track, the load will be heaviest on the right side BFGs this weekend.

Jeff Ward of SH Rallycross/DRR in his No. 07 MET-Rx Ford said he was closer to the pace in qualifying than he has been, albeit still back in eighth. Ward says he races better than he qualifies so he’ll be hoping to improve on Saturday. Ward sustained some cosmetic right front damage after landing hard on a jump earlier in the day, but the crew fixed it and got him back out for qualifying.

Watched the action from three different grandstand vantage points today, one outside the final double apex left-hander, one right at start/finish (this is for VIP guests only) and one at the kink. All three offer really good viewing opportunities and will be a treat for Marines, fans or VIP guests who will be in attendance.

You can view the stand views in order, below.




More tomorrow.

Ford Mustang GT3 test has Austin Cindric dreaming of Daytona: ‘I want to drive that car’

Cindric Ford GT3 test
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Austin Cindric wasn’t the “mystery” test driver behind the wheel of the new Ford Mustang GT3 at Sebring International Raceway, but the Team Penske driver desperately wanted to be.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, an amateur sports car driver himself, made the big reveal via a Tuesday tweet that provided the first video evidence of the GT3 Mustang on track.

“I’ve watched the video in question about a million times,” Cindric said Wednesday during a Ford Performance Zoom news conference to promote NASCAR’s first road course weekend of the season at Circuit of the Americas. “Definitely exciting times for sure. I want to drive that car. It suits my experience level and also the relationships that I have.”

Ford will enter the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next season with its GT3 Mustang, entering a two-car factory effort (that will be managed by Multimatic) in GTD Pro and making customer cars available in the GT Daytona category.

That increases the likelihood of seeing more NASCAR drivers crossing over to IMSA. Cindric has been the only full-time Cup driver in the Rolex 24 at Daytona the past two years, but Ford Performance global director Mark Rushbrook has said the GT3 Mustang will provide more opportunities.

Ford has used its GT4 Mustang as a NASCAR driver development tool in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with Harrison Burton and Zane Smith combining to win the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in January.

“We’re excited about the Next Gen car and the new architecture there and the similarities between that car and GT3 and even GT4 cars,” Rushbrook said at the announcement of the Ford GT3 program in January 2022 at Daytona. “We think it’s a great opportunity and to do be able to do that in a 24-hour race and get NASCAR drivers even more time is something we need to consider taking advantage of that opportunity.”

Given his sports car background, Cindric probably still would be in the Rolex 24 regardless. He has eight IMSA starts since the 2017 season opener at Daytona, racing a Lexus RCF GT3 and Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GT category. The 2022 Daytona 500 winner made his second LMP2 start this year with Rick Ware Racing.

But Cindric’s preference naturally would be in a Ford, particularly with sports car racing enjoying convergence and crossovers in both GT and prototype racing.

“It’s an exciting time in GT racing, just as it is now for prototype racing with a lot of new regulations and manufacturers building new GT3 cars,” he said. “And also the opportunity with WEC (the World Endurance Championship) and Le Mans and how that all lines up for that category of car. It’s definitely an exciting time. I want to be as much of a part of that as possible.”

Though those odds seemingly will increase with multiple Ford entries in the Rolex 24 field next year, Cindric said NASCAR drivers still have to put in the networking to land rides as he has in recent years.

“Now how (the GT3 Mustang) relates to specifically NASCAR drivers and how often they want to be in the Rolex, could it be an influence? Absolutely, as far as the tie-in with the manufacturer,” Cindric said. “But the challenge and the drive and the logistics of getting an opportunity for a race like the Rolex 24 will be just as challenging as it always is to find your one-off ride for the race. At least from my experience, that’s what I still anticipate.”

It turned out the “mystery” test driver wasn’t from NASCAR (Farley revealed the driver to be 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Joey Hand after a fan asked whether it was Joey Logano).

But Cindric believes there could be more Cup drivers — and perhaps himself — behind the wheel of Mustang GT3s in the future.

“There’s definitely more of a pathway than I think there would be before as far as Ford drivers are concerned,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to drive that thing. It’s obviously a great looking car. That’s the first box you’ve got to check. And it’s cool (to have) a guy like Jim Farley, no doubt he’s a racer just as much as he is steering the ship for Ford. It’s cool to see he’s just as excited as the rest of us about it.”