GRC STICKS THE LANDING
BFGoodrich brings LA Car out to the GRC Finals
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sun, Oct 23, 2016
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Story by Glenn Oyoung
Pictures by Albert J Wong
What do you get when you drop the shells of today’s sport-compact cars onto purpose-built rally cars pushing 600hp, invite a bunch of ridiculously talented drivers from around the world to pilot them, and make them all mix it up on a course that includes a drag race at the standing start, a dirt x asphalt combo platter, and some airborne door-to-door action?
The answer is not the latest installment of Marvel’s Avengers series. It’s Red Bull’s Global Rallycross (GRC), the sport that landed Stateside as a demonstration in the X Games XVI in 2010 and has since evolved into a full-fledged race series featuring two classes: Supercar and GRC Lites.
Ford, Volkswagen, Subaru, and Honda serve as official manufacturer partners of the GRC for the Supercars class. Unlike the production cars they are based on, the GRC Supercars can do 0-60 in about 1.9 seconds. On the GRC Lites side, purpose-built 320hp tubular space frame cars from Swedish outfit Olsbergs MSE put the field on a level playing. GRC’s new official tire supplier BFGoodrich invited us to check out this year’s finals at the Port of Los Angeles earlier this month.
We’ve all heard the ruminations about the death of car enthusiasm amongst the Millennials, yet when I made my way into the paddock all the signs pointed to the contrary. Throngs of hip and young attendees flocked to get the autograph of their favorite driver and stood around as Supercars and GRC Lites moved in and out of their respective garages in between heats. Across the way, the SS Lane Victory, a cargo ship deployed in WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, was filled with even more spectators in its role as the world’s most unique VIP Viewing Area.
As I soaked it all, it wasn’t lost on me that just three miles from my house the Formula Drift finals were also underway at Irwindale Speedway. From a marketing perspective, the biggest battle of the day wasn’t between Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross teammates Scott Speed and (two-time Formula Drift champion) Tanner Foust. The real showdown may have been the battle for the attention of Millennials.
In that regard both FD and GRC seems to have found a sweet spot. Both series take approachable streetcars, modify them, and put them to the test in extreme ways that are perfect for the attention span of today’s media consumer. The races are short, the cars are loud, and smoke (in FD) and jockeying (in GRC) grab your attention and hold it from start to finish. In the case of GRC, having the global marketing powerhouse that is Red Bull in your corner doesn’t hurt, with races that are literally made for TV – whether it’s NBC, NBC Sports, or Red Bull TV.
This is the first year of BFG’s multi-year agreement to be the spec tire of both the Supercar and GRC Lites classes. BFG’s g-Force 235/45R17 tire is found on every car and the company brings out a rig and a crew of about ten trackside support staff and engineers for every race. It’s a huge investment for the company that is renowned in the off-roading and rally world for its exploits in the Baja 1000, Paris-Dakar Rally, and World Rally Championships.
For BFG and the OEM brands, Red Bull’s GRC series provides a unique opportunity to connect with the coveted younger enthusiast. “It’s really a great opportunity to reach a more vibrant Millennial consumer,” said Peter Calhoun, Motorsports Marketing Manager at BFG and Michelin North America. Competing at GRC gives BFG a way “to be authentic to our brand and credible in a world of competition amongst tire manufacturers,” he continued. “It’s a technical exercise to improve our product in a more dynamic environment than you can create in any laboratory.”
Tom Sullivan, BFG’s Public Relations Manager, noted that BFG’s return to rally cross is part of the company’s wider efforts to reach passionate drivers across all generations. “We are a brand that resonates with older folks, and we’re here to show that we’re not just your dad’s BFG,” he said. “We’re still just as passionate about off-road… but we’re also interested in different platforms. We have a wide product portfolio that will work with drivers of every age group, whether you’re 21 or 71 – and we feel like people who are passionate about performance are here at GRC, and will go to a brand like ours.”
For driver Scott Speed, who clinched his 2nd championship in a row this year driving for Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross, GRC has been “a great home” for the last three years. “I love it, it’s great to be involved in a sport that is growing so fast so quickly,” Speed said. “There’s no question that this is what the youth enjoy watching from a motorsports standpoint, so therefore in my opinion it’s the future of motor racing and the way it’s growing it seems to be carrying that on.”
Judging from the excitement of the spectators, and the smiles on faces of race fans young and old – Speed is right.
ALBERT J WONG'S RED BULL GRC LITES GALLERY ALBERT J WONG'S RED BULL GRC SUPERCAR GALLERY [nggallery id=grc2016supercar]