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24 May 2012

Viking to conquer New World?

Category: GRC, May, News Posted 24.05.12 13:58 by

Three times in a row European Rallycross Champion Sverre Isachsen waves the Old World goodbye to conquer the Global RallyCross Championship venues of the New World.

 

Coming Saturday Norwegian hat-trick ERC winner Sverre Isachsen is going to start his career as a full professional racer for Subaru in the so far only America based so-called Global RallyCross Championship series. The GRC openener will be run at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord (North Carolina) and will have live broadcasting by ESPN. Sverre Isachsen, better known to the Yankees as “The Viking Warrior”, lost his interest in the FIA European Championship for Rallycross Drivers (ERC) after claiming the prestigious title for three years in a row [2009, 2010 and 2011] and was seeking a new challenge. After he had been invited in 2010 to drive for the Subaru Rally Team USA in the X Games 16 in Los Angeles his contacts with the American Subaru representatives were not cut and during the last winter both parties agreed for a three years programme cooperation. This turned the man from Hokksund into one of the very few true factory drivers in the history of Rallycross, although he is not the first [German Jochie Kleint for VW Motorsport in 1978] as claimed by some.

As one of the three GRC drivers for Subaru Isachsen needs to race against American action superstars like Ken Block, Travis Pastrana and Tanner Foust as well as double Rally World Champion Marcus Grönholm from Finland and some other drivers the former Ford campaigner knows well from the ERC. “I’m very excited to get started soon, but it’s hard to talk about my expectations. I’ve tested my Subaru Impreza GR just once yet, and should have another small test before the Charlotte weekend. I wonder if we can be competitive so early in the season, this is very difficult to foresee,” told a tense Isachsen the Norwegian press.

The 41-year-old has, as usual, strong ambitions, but must admit that it may take some time before he can go for GRC gold: “The car is completely new to me, and needs some further development. Into the bargain, the way to walk is quite different from what we are used to in Europe. Some events will run over tarmac only and feature the already known gap jumps as well as the new so-called car-washes [water splashes]. I understood they will irrigate some of the turns, so they get a little ‘censorship’, but there will be no gravel as I am used to.”

The first track is set up on the long side of the great NASCAR oval Charlotte Motor Speedway, the race will be held right after Saturday’s event of the NASCAR Nationwide Series. ESPN is broadcasting the racing on TV in the USA, and the event organisers expect several ten thousands of spectators up the grandstands. “It will be very interesting to see what the NASCAR public thinks of Rallycross. We need to respect that NASCAR and other kind of oval track racing has a long tradition in America and is really huge there. But I also think that the people in the USA will find Rallycross an attractive motorsport, with its short heats, all the close fighting, and the spectacular jumps. The Global RallyCross Championship makers hope to turn it into a World championship later on, but in my eyes for this year the GRC series is holding at least a higher level than the ERC,” claims Isachsen.

For the season kick-off at Charlotte a quite impressive entry list has been published: Subaru sets his jetons on three cars for reigning Euro champ Sverre Isachsen, former BMX hero Dave Mirra and skating legend “Bucky” Lasek. For Ford there will be no less than six drivers in the GRC point chase, five of them under the wings of Andréas Eriksson’s Swedish OMSE squad. Double WRC winner Marcus Grönholm, the “King of Hoonigans” Ken Block, the 2011 ERC runner-up to Isachsen Tanner Foust, the promising Finnish Rallycross youngster Toomas “Topi” Heikkinen, raising Brit David Binks and American action ace Brian Deegan. Extreme sports legend Travis Pastrana is currently the only factory driver for Dodge, but according to a SRT Motorports’ press release the multiple X Games gold medallist will be joined by US-based Swedish drifting star Samuel “The Crazy Swede” Hübinette later on. Korean car manufacturer Hyundai will be represented by Rhys Millen from New Zealand and former French skiing ace Stéphane Verdier. Saab has Briton Andy Scott in the USA, guided by Swedish Rallycross veteran Per Eklund. A few non-factory drivers are lead by Briton Liam Doran (Citroën), who needs to be rated “the dark dog” among the car manufacturer representants.

“The future of Rallycross is to be found in the United States of America, there is no doubt about that. And I will be there to put my brand also on this championship series. We go for a win, as always when competing, although I’m not yet sure where we stand in relation to the other competitors the coming weekend,” concludes Sverre “The Viking Warrior” Isachsen prior to his attempt to conquer Rallycross America too.