Red Bull Global Rallycross resumes this weekend at Bader Field in Atlantic City, N.J. (Sunday, 3 p.m., NBC) with the longest course this season (1.102 miles), and one which could play into the hands of Honda Red Bull Olsbergs MSE drivers Sebastian Eriksson and Joni Wiman.
Eriksson was the top rookie in last year’s season and finished second in points; Wiman captured the 2014 series championship. But it’s been a learning year for both drivers and the Andreas Eriksson-led team this year with a brand new car.
With a longer course that features faster corners, Eriksson rates the new Honda Civic Coupe’s chances of getting its first final round win (they’ve won heats before) a bit higher.
“It should be a fast track. I like that,” Sebastian Eriksson told NBC Sports. “The engine has good power and we’ve had good starts and launches all season. Since it is a fast track, that will suit our car better. It’s a bit longer. Smaller cars do better at hairpins. But at a fast track, our car is best.”
Wiman added, “Just looking at the track map, I can tell we are really going have a blast in the Civic this weekend. It looks long and fast and I think that bodes well for us. Sebastian [Eriksson] and I are eager to be on the top step of the podium and represent Honda, Red Bull and the entire Olsbergs MSE team.”
Eriksson expanded on how much the team has grown with Honda this year throughout this development campaign.
“The season is shorter this season than before; it started later and finishes earlier,” he said. “So for us with a brand new car, we tried to develop between races. We try to find as much as possible.
“You need to remember, the car was brand new! We started with the build very late – it was a January build for three cars. There was not a ton of testing. But we have gotten better and better. The last race was really good. We found some improvements before this time off. We hope to be competitive, and fighting for the wins.”
Eriksson also hailed BFGoodrich, which has taken over as Red Bull Global Rallycross’ tire manufacturer this year.
“The BFGs are much better. Grip-wise, it is about the same. But the Yokohamas only had one lap before falling off. Now here, it’s faster on all the laps. That makes the racing more fair. Everyone competes at the same level at the time.”
In his second year in Supercars, Eriksson’s learned a lot. He admitted he made a lot of mistakes last year and while driving better this year, hasn’t had the luck he had in his first go-around.
“I think I’ve grown a lot. I made a lot of mistakes last year. I should have been able to score more points even than I did,” he said.
“We’ve had a lot of struggles this year with the car… too many DNFs in the finals, with three of them. And you lose a lot of points. All the points are in the final. In this series, you need a solid finish every race and we haven’t had that.
“Daytona was the best result-wise as you said (two third places), but in New River, we really had the pace and we had the semifinal win. Should have started from first row in the final because they canceled it because of the rain. I was positive we had the pace.
“In Washington, both Joni and second in semis. But I had the puncture. It has been a lot of bad luck. We have more speed than we have shown.”
Eriksson said growing with Honda has given him a much greater insight into their love and passion for racing. He had a chance to explore Honda Performance Development headquarters in California earlier this month.
“The thing that Honda that is so cool is it might be the only brand in the world that builds their brand and cars around racing,” he said.
“It feels almost like racing is in the first place and building cars is the second. They have a lot of tradition on both two and four wheels. IndyCar, Formula 1 and Motocross, and road racing. And now here in Red Bull GRC.
“It’s clear racing is big in the Honda family.”