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.
I spent my year going zero to 60 mph in 1.9 seconds, jumping 70 feet and battling wheel to wheel with the industry’s best. Needless to say, I had a life-changing experience. I entered the year struggling to finish in the top seven. The jump from Lites to Supercar was tough with no preseason testing.
Midway through the season, I am racing in Indianapolis, battling for a front row starting position. A couple months later, I find myself at the Port of Los Angles qualifying third behind the Volkswagen Beatles. This year was all about progression. I knew the learning curve was going to be huge. It was a multifaceted test and I believe my performance improved each time I was in the car.
In Memphis, it was tough to contain my excitement. I had only a few hours of experience in the Supercar, but I was about to race against Scott Speed and Tanner Foust. Flash forward a few months, and I am cool calm and collect while the lights go green. I adapted faster to certain things, and struggled with others.
I was forced to learn quickly coming from a single car team. All eyes are on me as I give car information and learn to communicate with my engineers. Staying driven and competitive between races is much harder without a talented teammate.
With limited experience in race cars, it was difficult to anticipate the new challenge. If I could go back, I would spend more time perfecting my competitive mindset. Despite these challenges, everyone at Bryan Herta Autosport was welcoming and professional. They had my back from day one, and I cannot thank the team enough for all of 2017’s successes.
Adapting to the increase in power was a challenge throughout the 2017 GRC season. A GRC Lites car has a maximum of 350 horsepower. The all-wheel-drive drivetrain is parasitical and drops that number to a 290 figure. Naturally, the Lites car must be driven with momentum preservation in mind. Opening up corners and rolling speed is the name of the game.
Supercars are quite different.
They require a ‘point and shoot’ driving style. Characteristics include, charging corners, driving straight to the apex, and staying smooth on the power. I pretended to be walking on eggshells to slow down my right foot!
Timing the lower gear pulls was a challenge as well. High horsepower engines and dirty surfaces induce wheel spin. The supercar gearboxes don’t like to shift in these conditions. So while I was struggling to pull second gear, Steve Arpin and Tanner have already hit third. I found that controlled breathing exercises and extreme patience helped my corner exits.
Indianapolis is when I hit my stride. I remember getting on the plane in San Francisco and thinking, “This is my home race.” The team was in full attack mode come Friday. There was a tangible increase in energy throughout the paddock. Several Indy-based teams were battling it out in the motorsports capital.
My car was strong and fast all weekend. With Bryan Herta trackside, we found great success and won some heat races. We were P2 for the semifinal next to Scott Speed. I was smiling cheek to cheek during my launch sequence, what a dream come true.
The car was on rails and I had full confidence in its abilities. Unfortunately I didn’t find clean space during lap one, and the rest was a game of catch up. I looked ahead to Atlantic City with hopes of reclaiming my podium run.
I did not race the Seattle GRC event, despite throwing thousands of pennies in a fountain. Even though I didn’t run, I had to show up to help my team. I knew it would be tough to see another driver in my car, but it was a great learning experience and I got to meet Austin Cindric! My goal was to stay positive and learn from a different perspective.
I sat in the announcer booth with DJ Johnny (fantastic GRC announcer) and watched the Supercars take the track. We were seated in the best spot, looking over the entire GRC track. I analyzed joker laps, watched starts, saw passing opportunities and even got to announce. It was a VIP experience, so shout out to the hard working men and women at GRC!
It was a crazy year, and I cannot wait for 2018. This lucid dream wouldn’t be possible without the love and support of my family, the ongoing trust from all of Bryan Herta Autosport, Oral IV, Global Rallycross, Brian Keck, Corey Silvia, Myles Somerville, Woodside Priory, and all of my friends and family from the East Coast (this includes Benton and Justin). I am working day and night to return for a strong, competitive 2018 season, so stay tuned NESN Fuel fans and remember to always @FollowTheHam.
As they say in Canada, “peace oooooout.”
All photos via Red Bull Global Rallycross
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