Each season, Red Bull Global Rallycross drivers help fans experience the sport through new lenses by completing a series of blog posts about everything from their training routines to their on-track experiences. Throughout the 2017 campaign, Red Bull GRC and NESN Fuel will bring you insights from Supercar rookie for Bryan Herta Rallysport and Weston, Mass., native Cabot Bigham.
The 2017 Red Bull Global Rallycross season is more than halfway over and the competition is continuing to improve. There is a myriad of small driving techniques that I need to master before being a serious title contender. In my last blog I mentioned the steep learning curve from GRC Lites to the 650-horsepower Supercar. Throttle modulation, quick/precise reflexes and extreme heat tolerance are just the tip of the iceberg. Thankfully, I have a very supportive team that wants to succeed just as badly as the next. Which brings me to my blog topic: the advantages/disadvantages of a single-car race team.
The positives manage to outweigh the negatives; I prefer to use the word “challenges.”
One advantage with a single-car team is that all of the focus is placed on the driver. Every media question, setup change and result is directly associated with you. In my situation, this helps because I have so much to learn in such a short period of time. Multiple sets of critiquing eyes and advice expedite the learning curve substantially.
Another massive positive is the fact that I can develop my HAM brand. It is a lot easier to utilize the team’s social media channels when I am the only driver they promote. This allows me to directly access followers and race fans and give them the suuuuper sick gear they deserve. But in all seriousness this is very crucial.
As a driver in the professional level of motorsports, you must stand out from the rest. I chose to make a pun off of my last name. With the help of my friends at CoForce, I was able to put a logo to the HAM brand and start merchandise production. Now I am known as “The Big Ham” throughout the paddock and even to the announcers, further launching my brand into the GRC demographic. With another teammate, I don’t think I would have gained as many awesome and supportive fans this year.
Ultimately, you have to look at your long-term goals, mine being to sign with a factory team. GRC is a very unique series that grants us access to a young demographic within the ages of 18 to 30 years old. These factory teams can see the value in a young driver with a solid brand and following. As a signed driver you essentially are a brand ambassador.
There are some drawbacks to the single-car team as well.
Firstly, there is no teammate competition. In my racing experience, I have always functioned better with a teammate. Not only are drivers extremely competitive with other teams, we genuinely want to beat each other across the line … even if we wear the same fire suits. This inner-team competition is powerful and motivates everyone to be on the limit at all times. I see this with Olsbergs a lot.
They are a team that runs three supercars, which requires … well, three drivers. Despite the language barrier, all three drivers seem to have each other’s best interests until they hit the racetrack. They are friends off track, with true Spartan-style competition on track. I like this dynamic a lot because as a driver you can really sense that energy in the paddock.
Other disadvantages include less space for parts. A bigger team will usually need another trailer for car transportation and the increased demand in spare parts. Global Rallycross is a very “contact prone” races series, which requires enough parts to rebuild a car completely at the track. The Bryan Herta Rallysport crew does a fantastic job of fitting all the necessary parts and media hospitality in one semi-trailer and one smaller trailer. If I wasn’t so excited to break car parts we would be totally fine!
Alas, we have had situations where parts are not available to us, ultimately hurting our weekend performance. This is not an issue of my team’s competitive talent, but more a mixture of less cars equals less parts, and less cars equals fewer trailers.
Like anything else, this is a learning process and it is essential to have such a solid team in my corner. We are a team that can and will finish on the podium. At this point in the season we have not found the results Bryan Herta Rallysport deserves. Despite this, we have grown as a team exponentially faster than I could have anticipated. Each race I hope to bring a better version of myself with everything that I have learned from the previous race. Can’t wait to meet more members of The Ham Clan in Indy next weekend.
See you there,
The Big Ham
All photos via Red Bull Content Pool