Steering to Victory

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Austin Dyne burnouts at the starting line of the race.  He finished in 8th place.

Red Bull Rallycross skids through the Port of Los Angeles

By Mario Lopez  Travel Editor, Photos by Christopher Orozco  Advertising and Distribution

Gasoline permeated the air,  the buzzing of the revving engines sharp needles through our ears. The ripples of the sea sway through the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro.  Scents of salt and local  food trucks mix together in the breeze. Anxious fans waiting in the stands and  eager onlookers lean on the rails of the S.S. Lane Victory, the  cargo ship that served as the backdrop for the 2016 RedBull Global Rally Cross (GRC).

Upon entrance, we were bombarded by sponsors. There was Volkswagen, Honda, and the father of cars, Ford.  They were displaying their latest models and offering branded merchandise for interacting with them or answering their rigorous survey. The lines for the food truck were building up, and the excitement could be felt through the motors rumbling. 

This was our first time here, but the GRC has been a full time racing series since 2009. “You know the gist of it is that you go to anywhere and build a track and you can do it in a parking lot or you could go to a speedway or you could kind of do both,” a representative from OMSE, one of the auto racing teams, explained to us as we got a behind-the-scenes look at the cars and the crew behind them.

You could see what she meant just seconds into it. We were watching some sweet drifting and cars flying in action-packed racing on a port all while the sea shimmered just a few feet from the tracks.  The GRC has the makings of a sport that can grow to have a larger following. The sports has refined its structure over the seven years its has been existence and also has the ability to set up shop in any city with a large enough lot to place a course. Several events  aired ESPN and NBC recently and people are starting to take notice of the race series’ rise.

Not only are big manufacturers part of the sport, but certain personalities from other action sports—such as Dave Mirra (BMX rider), Bucky Lasek (Skateboarder), Brian Deegan (Freestyle motocross), Scott Speed and Nelson Piquet Jr. (both Formula One and NASCAR drivers)—bring their own following.

After I ran along the course between swigs of RedBull and arm pumping,  I  was taken on a small tour of the OMSE camp on site. We were immediately advised not to take pictures of the supercar engines and to erase any picture if any taken. The supercar competitions are as much about the parts as it is the drivers. Whereas, the lite car races are focused on the drivers’ abilities alone.

“LMC builds and sells the lite cars, so every lite driver is in the same type of car, same engine, and etc,” said the guide. “This is normal in most spec series or lite series, ladder development series.” This fairly new Lites division, introduced in 2013, is an important developmental division for young drivers that eventually go on to compete in the supercar division.

I was able to score an interview with driver, Oliver Eriksson, who is only 17-year-old and was last year’s first place champion in the lite series. His first ever Rally Cross was back in 2014. This year he had the chance to repeat, but ended up in 4th place in the final race on Sunday, leaving him only one race standing from the repeat. Placing in 3rd place would have put him and Cabot Bigham both at 452 apiece in the standings, with Eriksson having the tiebreaker and being able to make history as the first ever back to back lite division champ. 

When we asked him how he celebrates a win he answered with, “Wings at a wing bar,” when he places on podium. What about a last place? “I’ve haven’t been in last place, I’ve never known that.” Finishing in second place is not bad, so enjoy your wings, young man. If you are up for an adrenaline rush, fast cars, some fun-fueled action, the occasional crash, then you want to be here at the RedBull Global Rally Cross. 

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A member of the Dyne crew makes some last minute adjustements. Even the smallest modifications affect car performance.

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Alejandro Fernandez prepares for the Lite race. GRC Lite is a farm system for up and coming stars in the racing scene.

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