Wednesday, September 16, 2015

GRC: Global Rallycross

I like watching GRC (Global Rallycross).  I don't watch much TV, but I do watch GRC when it's on.  Here are some of the reasons why.

GRC is challenging for the race team.
Since the course changes for each race, they must prep the car different (but this is the same for most autosports).  The crew must often make big repairs between stages.  If a car crashes during a race, the crew will be racing to repair that immediately after the race so the car can run in the next stage.

GRC is challenging for the driver.
The race courses are very short and tight with little room for error and little time to make up for mistakes.  The dirt and gravel introduce a new challenge since traction is lost on areas where the dirt spreads out.  At Los angeles 2015 this resulted in a narrow route without dirt along one stretch where the cars had traction.  Drivers who could not fight their way into that channel ended up on the outside and had no traction, causing some of them to crash.  The race start and the first corner are crucial.  This results in a crazy fight for position immediately after the start, almost always with lots of "contact".  

It's exciting for the audience and tv viewers.
The event audience can see the entire course, not just one small section as in F1.  The course is not a simple oval.  There are left and right turns.  Although Los Angeles 2015 had only 1 right turn, resulting it extreme tire heating on the right side. That introduced a new challenge for the drivers: preserve the tires.  There are no pit stops, so you can't change tires during a race.  Some rules infractions are punished by placing the driver in the back row on the starting grid for the next stage.  Each race is short and there are no commercial interruptions in the TV coverage during races.

It's got some Interesting driver personalities.
Ken Block:  Former shoe brand manager.  Ken is currently the top dog in GRC and he's an extremely skilled driver.  Ken's also famous for his many Gymkhana urban drifting videos on youtube.
Tanner Foust:  Top Gear USA host (yeah yeah, he has plenty of racing experience too; sorry Tanner).
Joni Wiman:  From Finland, Joni is one of the youngest racers in GRC.
Jeff Ward:  Seasoned racer (Indy cars, Lucas off-road series, and motocross), he's a racing natural and demonstrated that in the Washington DC GRC race.
Scott Speed:  Former F1 and NASCAR Sprint car racer.  He's not the most flamboyant, but he's very good.
Bucky Lasek:  Former skateboarding champion and Dirtfish alum.

They can create race courses almost anywhere.  Last year's Las Vegas race was in a casino parking lot.  It's like pop-up racing.  The next race is in Barbados on October 3.  They're often televised in the US on NBC.

Anything can happen in GRC.  The leader can crash and lose the race.  Any crash can interfere with the other drivers and change the race standings.  Crashes don't require multiple cars; there's plenty of solo car spinouts around the dirt sections where the car ends up smashing against the perimeter barrier.  Contact is allowed.  If the driver in front of you is going too slow, then you simply push them out of the way.  This is one of the few auto racing formats where the PIT maneuver seems to be allowed.

Simply put, GRC is a lot of fun to watch.  

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