Mario Roman rolls through the Texas Hill Country, wins Red Bull Override

Red Bull Override Roman
Sean Berry / Red Bull Content Pool

Endurocross found a new home at the Rally Ready Driving School in Dale, Texas with the Red Bull Override, but the results were the same with Mario Roman easily outpacing the competition.

For the past two years, the event was run at Rocky Ridge Ranch in Decatur, Texas. With the change of venues came a new layout and challenges. Instead of a six-hour enduro, the riders took to the facility with a daytime qualifier on Saturday, where both amateur and professional riders rode into the forest in intervals, a six-lap night race on an internal course and an hour-long finale on Sunday. Also on Sunday, amateurs had a 45-minute race.

In total, 73 riders raced the course when the professional and amateur divisions were combined. Professionals were required to go through the difficult “Override Routes” that the amateurs could choose to skip. Each lap took the riders about 10 minutes to complete. The top three completed six laps on Sunday’s final hour-long race. As a point of comparison, Supercross and Motocross races last 15 – 20 minutes without natural obstacles.

Red Bull Override Roman
(Hard enduro uses the natural terrain to create one of the most intense forms of racing in the world. Sean Berry / Red Bull Content Pool.)

The sport is known as hard enduro for a reason. The natural terrain comes into play and course designers spend several days walking the property to find the most challenging sections available that include steep hills, fallen trees and brambles.

Most riders hit the ground several times during an event.

That was not the case for Sherco Racing factory rider Mario Roman. He took the course by fire, easily finding his path through the Central Texas terrain and neutralizing the hazards with a high degree of trail IQ learned in his time in the sport. He swept the three Red Bull Override races.

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“It’s not only about riding, you have to look at where to go,” Roman told NBC Sports after the race. “Choose the line and be smart; it’s one of the best strategies in this sport.”

While some riders struggled with the course, returning to the pits mud-caked with ripped sleeves, the top riders rode shoulders above. Roman fared much better in the woods and had some choice words for the setup.

“Last year was six hours, nonstop, in a very technical place and this year is like in a flat property with some muddy roots and across some rivers – deep lines, but still not as hard as we are used to racing in other events,” Roman said. “Anyway, I tried my best.

“I had fun in the two-hour qualifying race.”

(Steep hills added to the challenge of the 2021 Red Bull Override. Sean Berry / Red Bull Content Pool)

The course served its purpose, leaving some riders wanting more and many struggling to keep up. At the end of the day, the cream rose to the top. Ryder LeBlond, 21, was able to run the closest to Roman throughout the weekend. He swept the second-position in all three events.

“Overall the weekend went really well,” LeBlond said from the podium. “I was able to battle with Mario a little bit yesterday. Today I just really didn’t have anything for him, he was just a little bit faster than me.”

After the first day, the direction of the course was switched to add variance for the rider and spectators.

Roman picked up on the nuances of the course change faster than the other riders, finding his rhythm and pulling away from fellow front-runners LeBlond and third-place Pat Smage a couple laps in. Quinn Wentzel was in the hunt for a podium spot pressuring the winner circle until falling off pace on lap five to finish fourth.

Red Bull rider Didier Goirand rounded out the top five. Ryan Sipes finished seventh.

(A trip through the stream was one of the obstacles professionals and amateurs had to navigate. Sean Berry / Red Bull Content Pool)

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).