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.
On July 9, 2017 the GRC series raced at Indy’s own Lucas Oil Speedway. This 0.68-mile oval was converted into a truly badass mixture of dirt, gravel and everything in between.
We hit the track on Saturday for some media rides and practice. I had just attended a two-day rally school at DirtFish in Seattle, so I felt strong coming into the weekend. My main goals were to stay calm, be the role model for the team, ace my launches and find the perfect car balance on dirt and asphalt. Our day went well and I was very quick in the first rounds of practice.
I remember briefing with my race engineer about some potential car setup changes. He advised me to recall the multiple types of terrain and surface at the track and to find a happy medium, not chase setups for only dirt or asphalt. This was very helpful to me because my learning curve is still large and these cars have many adjustments.
It is easy to become overwhelmed with the possibilities of setup. As I mentioned in my last blog, having a single car team like Bryan Herta Rallysport is beneficial to drivers in my shoes. All eyes are on me, granting me access to loads of advice and feedback before it is too late. We didn’t change the car at all that night.
Sunday morning was slow to start. We had some intense rain showers the night before and it flooded a section of the racetrack. As we waited for our awesome track crew to handle the pooled water, the team and I blasted EDM to stay awake. It sounded like a rave over at the Bryan Herta tent. Finally we hit the track for warm-up and qualifying. I ran some solid laps in the first group, but my time was later beat by the last-run group, pushing me back from fourth to seventh. I was trying not to be discouraged by the order we qualified, as I know the heat races offer much more opportunity.
The heat races went extremely well. I had my best performances to date, starting with a hectic Heat 1 victory over Steve Arpin. That set the tone for the weekend. The two heats that followed were also solid, yielding two second-place finishes. I started P1 for my semi final, but unfortunately heat sunk the clutch. Once I launched, the car bogged and I dropped to fifth, From fifth I worked back to third, but it was too late. My best weekend yet was almost tarnished by a poor launch in the semi final. Nonetheless, I did not give up and was ready to start outside Row 2 in P7.
The final came around and the green lights flashed. I took off and passed Chris Atko immediately, I was going around the outside into Turn 2 when Patrick Sandell spun and smoke from his tires blinded fourth through 10th in the corner. I ended up grabbing some brake to save the car, but came out of the corner dead last. From there it was a game of catch up. Ultimately not where I wanted to finish my best weekend, but I learned about car setup, car placement, and our signature GRC points system. These will all be very useful come Atlantic City in a few weeks.
The second half of the 2017 GRC season is a few weeks away. Atlantic City was not my best race last year, but the beauty of GRC is our tracks rarely resemble each other. I know from Indy that I need to stay calm, cool and collective in the heat of the weekend. My car setup is very good at the moment, we have learned as a team what this M-Sport car can and can’t run. The team and I have all got together thinking of ways to improve the car and our weekend performances.
The recipe is as follows: great car placement into Turn 1, having perfect launches all weekend, being in sync with my spotter and engineer, not over-driving corners and focusing on exit speed, minimizing wheel spin and reading the dirt actively are all ways to get on the podium in this series. It is only a matter of time before we are on those steps as a team, and I cannot wait for that moment. I’ll see you all in AC in a few weeks, until then Ham Clan …
Your bacon-loving driver,
All photos via Red Bull Content Pool
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