2014 saw Michell deJong sweep the Red Bull GRC Lites championship to take all but two race wins throughout the season, he also made an immediate impact in Europe, dominating the RX Lites race at Lydden Hill against series regulars.
For 2015 deJong makes the step up to the main Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship Supercar class with the Olsbergs MSE to partner 2013 Red Bull GRC Lites and 2014 Red Bull GRC Supercar champion Joni Wiman, theCheckeredFlag.co.uk recently caught up with him ahead of the series media day.
Aside from the championship win, one of the races was part of the 2014 Summer X Games in Austin at Circuit of the Americas this proved to be a major highlight for deJong’s season.
“I’d have to say, winning the Gold medal in X-Games was literally a dream come true for me. When I was eight years old, I watched Travis Pastrana win the Gold in the inaugural X Games head to head rally event, beating World Rally Champion, Colin McRae and at that point, I was hooked.” he said
[quote]“Being able to participate in X Games was incredible in itself, so taking home the Gold medal was an unbelievable experience.”[/quote]
Despite the domination in 2014 deJong admits that he never too things for granted, “Anything can happen at any time so I never allow myself to get too comfortable. I take each race as they come and try to focus on them individually.”
While 2014 had a clear winner in deJong, the 2015 series may prove harder to pick a winner from the start of the season, we asked who would pick up the championship crown this year.
“That’s a tough one to call, because the drivers are so diversified, coming from different disciplines. But that’s what makes rallycross so fun to watch. The tracks and terrains are always different and you just never know what you’re going to get and there’s never much time to prepare for it. Like I said, anything happen.”
deJong remains grounded in his success; his team mate for 2015 took the Supercars title off the back of a Lites Championship victory but despite this the 17-year-old Red Bull athlete remains realistic.
“It would be an awesome feat to be able to bring home the title for the Olsbergs MSE/Ford Team; but to do that I first have to make it to the final, so that’s what my initial focus will be on.”
[quote]Staying out of trouble seems to be key in Rallycross. Let’s face it, the Supercar class is a UFC cage match on wheels![/quote]
The step up to the main event brings a new car and a new challenge, deJong has already had some seat time in Sweden in the new car but is hoping to get more before the season gets underway.
If you saw deJong prior to a race you would probably think he is just like any other teenager, headphones on listening to music while looking online at videos… but this is how he prepares for a race.
“I like to just tune out the world, put on my headphones and relax. I always take time to watch videos of my track sessions from the day as well.”
Asked if he would be making any more appearances in Europe this season he admitted “Ever since I raced at Lydden Hill, I’ve really wanted to compete again on European soil so I’m hoping for the chance again, but unfortunately, there is nothing planned at this time.”
While deJong is happy with his current offroad exploits and fully focused on the task in hand we could see him on a race circuit in the future.
“I’ve always raced in multiple disciplines to try and stay sharp and smooth. My immediate goal is to win races and championships in rallycross. I’d also love to get back into road racing, that’s where it started for me, in karts.”
Another discipline that deJong excels in is online racing, and is very often topping the results on iRacing, “This year I joined Foracer Coanda Simsport and promptly entered the 24 Hours of Daytona race teamed with three others and took the overall win in the top split.
“Two weeks ago, I entered the 2015 iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series at Sebring as a rookie. I wasn’t expecting to qualify on pole, to be honest, but it happened. I got a good start and then for the first 3/4 of the race I had my teammate right on me, within a second for 40 laps, so it was really intense.
“Fortunately I was able to bring home the win and I’m still super excited about it. I really want to give a shout out to Leo Bodnar Electronics for their amazing products.”
The Red Bull Global Rallycross season gets under way on 31 May at Fort Lauderdale and theCheckeredFlag.co.uk will be reporting on the full season.