Two-time World Rally champion Marcus Grönholm on Monday announced that he will race a Ford Fiesta in the first round of the Global RallyCross Championship, scheduled to take place at Irwindale Speedway near Los Angeles on March 25-26.
Grönholm won the WRC title in 2000 and 2002 while driving for Peugeot. During his career, the Finish driver claimed 30 rally wins, 60 podiums and 540 stage wins. He retired after the 2007 season but returned for a short period in 2009 and 2010.
“Rallycross is good fun, with a lot of cars running at the same time,” said Gronholm. “It's quite different from rally but it's excellent to come to the USA and it feels nice to be involved again with the [Ford-based] team.”
In RallyCross, as many as six cars compete simultaneously on a closed course. In contrasts, WRC competitors drive alone through various stages. This means that the strategy for RallyCross is completely different than that of a traditional rally competition.
“The start is very important, so you can't do too much if you miss the start and you're behind everybody,” said Grönholm. “Rally you are alone on the stage and you can catch up on time. In RallyCross, you don't have time and you have to be good from the start.”
Another aspect of RallyCross is the fender-to-fender racing. It is common for drivers to bump and push one another, and Grönholm said he is more than willing to throw his weight around if needed.
“It will be nice. But OK, we have to follow the rules and not push too much,” he laughed. “You can touch a little bit but not too much. I'm looking forward to come and drive again like this.”
The event at Irwindale, called Revolution, will not be Grönholm's first RallyCross event. The Finn has previous experience competing in three such competitions in Europe.
“Maybe I was lucky but I won my first ever [RallyCross] race in Sweden,” he said. “But then I had two other races were I was not very good. In fact I was on the roof in one of them.”
Grönholm will get behind the wheel of a 600hp Ford Fiesta at Irwindale; that is close to twice as much horsepower as the WRC cars that he drove during his career.
“The cars are a bit different. Here there is more power in the cars, much more,” Grönholm said. “Also, the cars are not so easy to drive. A WRC car is much easier to drive.”
The Finn has not driven a Fiesta since he competed in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in 2010. He will have his first opportunity to drive his Best Buy-sponsored car during a test a few days before he takes to the course at Irwindale, which will consist of both tarmac and dirt. It will also include a 70-foot-gap jump.
“I've never jumped over an open gap. I'm a little bit nervous but I hope everything will go OK,” he said. “I don't know what will happen when we are in the traffic trying to take the jump.”
Grönholm will compete against three-time X Games gold medalist Tanner Foust, five-time British Rally champion Marcus Dodd, Dave Mirra and Rhys Millen.
“Tanner Foust will be quite quick. He is quite fast,” said Grönholm when asked who he thought is biggest competition would be.
The three-round championship will visit Irwindale, then Seattle on April 15-16 and Pike's Peak International Raceway on June 17-18