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#NHMSGRC Pre-Race Interview: Andreas Eriksson

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

Andreas Eriksson is the team principal of Olsbergs MSE, the factory-backed Ford team that won the first two races of the Global Rallycross Championship season with Marcus Gronholm. After losing both Gronholm and Toomas Heikkinen to injury at X Games, Eriksson’s operation will shrink to three cars at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, fielding polesitter Tanner Foust, Brian Deegan, and David Binks. Before the race, Eriksson offered comments on today’s event and the aftermath of X Games:

On recovering from a difficult X Games: “We tried to recharge the batteries already by the second day, but I wasn’t really in good shape because Marcus is not only a driver for me, but he’s a good friend also, and it affected the whole team. But when we saw Marcus’ recovery, and that he would be fine, we started to repair all the cars, and Topi’s of course—he had a harder accident, he seemed to be fine also—then it gives you a little more extra motivation to do something good. And we’re on the hunt here. We really wanted to do well at X Games, it was an important race, but in that race we can’t go back to normal routines again and adjust everything and make everything fine. And if we look at an event, if we don’t qualify well, then we have a bad event. And that’s the first key. Now we had good qualifying, and Tanner Foust and Deegan have good positions. I think these guys really want to drive the car now and do it well. For my own sake, it’s more that everything came at the same time, and I need a little space in between to give the mechanics and everyone. It’s hard to run something when you don’t know how to run it, because when accidents come it’s really hard to decide what to do. Do we continue, do we stop? It’s more about the time in between. I don’t think it will affect us much more than that. We were on the podium and we will try to win without Marcus. But maybe that will open some doors for other drivers in the paddock, and I like that.”

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

On the trickiest areas of the circuit: “The direct answer should be the jump, but I’m not really concerned about the jump if we do some safety things to it. But if you race over it, two and two, I’m concerned about the racing situation because people with helmets intend to make bad decisions, but in rallycross we should have a little contact to make the sport interesting. So the jump, in-race, could be dangerous. On this particular track, the long jump is really, really fast. We jump completely flat on the tarmac. It’s really hard against the car and the driver because of the hard landing. But I would say the track is not so hard to drive. I want more harder tracks, I want more difficult tracks, I want more tracks where the difference between a good driver and bad driver or good car and bad car can be compensated by the good driver. In my mind, it’s too much car in this race. And if we can get the races more technical, more gravel, I would like that. Then we could get everything, we would see more action and close races, and I think that’s what you guys need to see. This sport can deliver action above everything else if we do the track that way. But back to the question, the jump is still something you get a little extra heart pulse over.”

On confidence in seeing all three of his cars advance to the final: “(pause) Good question. We have two good positions, but David needs to be second in his heat and it’s a tough heat. Tanner has the pole position, but it’s hard to say. I’m not confident, but I’m doing everything I can to have them directly in the final. But if that doesn’t work out, we need to look at the last chance qualifier to get in. But then, again, you need to have a good position. In this sport it’s not always about how you run them, there’s a little luck also. So we’ll see what happens, but I will do what I can.”

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

On safety improvements since X Games: “They actually listen now for the first time. The good imporvement this week is Tanner and Ken Block put the drivers’ organization together, which means that all the drivers are concerned and everyone is on the same page. If everyone helps together to make this more safe, that is the biggest improvement we can do. Then it’s a matter of time, in 14 days what we can do to make this sport better, but I’m pretty sure we’ll go in the right direction now, and already the safety things that have been done here are the right way. I have a long list still that needs to be done. You can say that I miss European security thinking, but I like American marketing thinking. If we can meet in the middle, we can have something really good. But it’s going in the right direction and it’s the first time since the series started that we did that. Unfortunately we needed to have two big crashes to get people to understand, but that is not unusual. I think if the crashes don’t happen, people don’t understand how dangerous it can be. The cars are extremely different. I don’t think people understand how hard the cars crash when they crash because on a little short distance we can have a speed that is deadly. You know, 0-60 in two seconds, and 60-0 in zero seconds. It’s tough. But it’s going in the right direction. I’m not too worried about the cars generally—okay, it’s hard for me if I need to build new cars—but if we can get the drivers to get out of the cars, sharing to the public we can have crashes, we can have stuff that we can repair, I am happy. And we can get that if they build tracks that people dare to challenge without putting their lives in danger. So if we can put all this stuff together I think you will see extremely exciting (racing). And these cars can hit each other without slowing down. There’s so many things that I want to show the American public. But it has something good to show further on.”

– Chris Leone

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