The Red Bull Global Rallycross championship has become one of the world’s fastest growing motorsports leagues. Red Bull Global Rallycross races take place over sand, gravel, mud and tarmac, or asphalt. These races also feature jumps that catapult cars skyward to catch big air.
Traditional rally car races take place on courses spanning over miles of remote parcels of land. Course layouts are not spectator friendly and only provide brief vignettes of competitors blazing by in a tempest of dirt, mud or snow. Rally car events are much like Tour de France bicycle races where spectators only glimpse competitors once.
Rallycross races are hosted in arena-like venues where spectators can see the entire course from one vantage point. Spectators can witness every turn, every jump and every lap of a race.
Olsbergs MSE, one of the biggest names in rallycross, recently moved its race operations to Charlotte. Now Olsbergs MSE has dual headquarters in Nynäshamn, Sweden, and in the Queen city. The team invited the media out to experience the sport last month during their last testing session prior to the start of the 2015 Red Bull Global Rallycross season.
Olsbergs MSE is renowned as a builder of championship winning rally race cars. The team has won 19 X Games medals with seven of them gold since 2009. Olsbergs MSE has also clawed its way to 45 podiums, 18 wins, and three manufacturer Global Rallycross championships.
Quarterbacking the race car builder is chief executive Andreas Eriksson, a former championship rally and rallycross driver. Jussi Pinomäki, who is a three-time European rallycross champion, supports the team as co-team manager. Ford and MSE have had great success in the rallycross field winning 20 X Game medals with notable wheel men such as Ken Block, Marcus Grönholm, Kenny Brack, Topi Heikkinen, Brian Deegan, Tanner Foust and Nelson Piquet Jr. driving their machines.
The lineup of aces piloting Olsbergs MSE machinery for the 2015 season include Joni Wiman from Pohja, Finland, the reigning Red Bull Global Rallycross champion, teammate Sebastian Eriksson from Hagfors, Sweden, along with Andreas Bakkerud from Bergen, Norway.
Joni Wiman is a cool, but fiercely competitive driver and his rookie teammate Sebastian Eriksson is a precise, and spirited competitor. Andreas Bakkerud is a charismatic Norwegian who is poised to push his powerful Olsbergs MSE Mule to the limit.
The Olsbergs MSE team provided me with the sway opportunity to ride in one of their GRC Supercar race cars. Simply put, Red Bull Global Rallycross Supercar race cars are some of the most powerful and fastest in the world.
Olsbergs MSE cars are heavily modified Ford Fiestas. Their Fiesta Supercars are powered by 2-liter, turbo-charged four-cylinder engines that produce 600 horsepower and 600 pounds-feet of torque. From a standing start, these GRC Supercars can launch to 60 miles per hour in 1.8 seconds. That is faster than a Formula One car. Unlike the street version of the Ford Fiesta, GRC Supercars have all-wheel drive that provides unbelievable levels of grip.
Sebastian Eriksson was my driver for the ride. Simultaneously the acceleration was brutal, violent and exhilarating. The best comparisons I can conjure are from my experiences surfing, and riding in jets. The acceleration in the Olsbergs MSE Supercar was comparable to being pounded by a wave, and punched by jet g forces at the same time. This video captures a little of what I experienced from the passenger seat. Go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0DTCUfxe5g
The 2015 Red Bull Rallycross season kicked off in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on May 31. Preseason predictions were immediately thrown out the window when defending GRC champion Joni Wiman was unable to defend his title. Wiman was injured during a jump and had to take an MRI before race officials would clear him to compete. The ordeal took several hours which caused Joni to miss qualifying, and last chance qualifier.
Overall Olsbergs MSE had another successful weekend with rookie Sebastian Eriksson finishing in fourth position in his first Supercar race. The team swept the podium in the GRC Lites race with Austin Cindric winning, followed by Alejandro Fernandez in second place, and Oliver Eriksson in third place.
NBC is scheduled to carry 11 of the 12 rounds live, with the season ending race being broadcast on the NBC Sports Network. The NBC Sports Network is also scheduled to carry all 12 rounds of the Red Bull Global Rallycross Lites series. For more information about 2015 Red Bull Global Rallycross season which featuring double-headers in Daytona, Detroit, Los Angeles and Barbados, visit www.redbullglobalrallycross.com.
If you have not watched a Red Bull Global Rallycross race, I highly recommend it. The races are condensed competitions that feature wheel to wheel and fender action. Each lap features a lot of bumping and grinding, and cars taking to the air more often than Lebron James.
For more information about Olsbergs MSE and their talent drivers visit their site at www.omse.se.
Larry Cornwell is an automotive journalist based in the Charlotte area.