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2012 GRC Primer: Meet The Tracks

Last year’s Global Rallycross Championship featured four tracks on the schedule – Irwindale Speedway, Old Mill Adventure Park, Pikes Peak International Raceway, and the traditional streets of Los Angeles that comprise the Rally Car events at X Games. This year, save for X Games, that entire schedule has been scrapped.

Thanks to a deal with Speedway Motorsports Inc., the GRC will expand to six venues for 2012, five of which will be SMI tracks. The season will open at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 26, before making stops at Texas Motor Speedway on June 9, X Games on June 30 and July 1, New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 14, and a venue to be determined on September 1, before closing out the season on September 29 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

But new tracks mean new track layouts, as the GRC cars won’t simply be running the ovals like a typical NASCAR event. Most of the track layouts haven’t been released to the public yet, meaning that fans may not have any idea what to expect. To get a better idea, we placed a phone call to Stephan Verdier, driver of the No. 12 Motorcity/Disney XD Hyundai Veloster for Rhys Millen Racing, who explained the changes in this year’s composition.

“Charlotte, Texas, and New Hampshire – since we’re using the ovals, the layouts are about 90% the same for those three races,” Verdier said. “X Games, I would assume that X Games is going to be the same as last year. I don’t think they’re going to change it. They might, but I would assume it’d be the same. Then Vegas and the TBD, wherever we’re going will obviously be different. But the layouts should be pretty much the same for the whole season except for X Games.”

However, Verdier noted, the new schedule also poses challenges for teams as they look to prepare their vehicles.

“The big difference is, we were expecting dirt. And except for maybe X Games, and maybe another one at Vegas will be on dirt, but we don’t think the other ones will (have any dirt). We know for sure Charlotte won’t have any dirt, and it might be a work in progress with GRC to try it and slowly bring dirt back. So that was the big challenge for us, outfitting our cars for 100% tarmac.

“It’s a big difference in the tires – we’re using the Cooper rallycross tire, which is made for dirt and gravel, so when you go to a track that’s fully (paved), the tire is too soft for it. So there’s going to be tire degradation. The good thing is, we’re all going to be on matching tires, so that’s even on that side, but before it was just all-out.”

Part of the change came from working with SMI, which is partnering the GRC with NASCAR and IndyCar race weekends. “I think it was really hard for NASCAR, for us to say ‘Oh, we’re going to put dirt on your track,'” Verdier noted, “so trust me, we won’t make the oval dirty. NASCAR probably can’t handle us bringing dirt to a track. But I think they’re going to work it out, and hopefully we can get some dirt in.

“But we’re going to have something called the car wash, a section where they’re going to spray water on the ground, so that’s going to help on the tire temperature. Running through that every lap is going to cool down the tires, and it’s going to make the track a little bit slippery in that section too. So it won’t be dirt, but it’ll be some other slippery stuff.”

As for the most exciting part of the track, the 70-foot jump that made rallycross an X Games staple, Verdier confirmed that it would return, albeit in slightly altered form. “Instead of being dirt jumps, they’re going to be ramp to ramp, so they can transport the jump around. Which is a good thing, because now we know we’re going to have the same jump at every track. The same angle, everything is going to be exactly the same.

“The difference is, now, last year when you made a mistake by nosediving into the landing, it wasn’t that big of a deal because you were landing on soft dirt. Now you’ve got to land on a ramp.

“There are a lot of unknowns for everybody, but I think it’s going to work out and be pretty cool.”

– Chris Leone

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