The 2017 Red Bull Global Rallycross will go down in the history books as another championship triumph for the class-leading Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team, but the reality is quite different – it wasn’t the whitewash we’ve become used to in recent years.
Unlike previous seasons where VARX started slow and ended virtually unbeatable, this year they began on top, but the rest of the field weren’t too far behind.
Privateer operation Loenbro Motorsports emerged as unlikely title challengers, beating the multi-car factory teams from Honda and Subaru, while the other single entry privateers, Bryan Herta Rally Sport and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, also showed well on occasion.
The season began in Memphis, Tennessee, continuing the Red Bull GRC tradition of kicking off the season in a brand new location.
The event proved to be pretty routine for VARX, with Tanner Foust leading home reigning champion Scott Speed by 0.4 seconds. Steve Arpin began what would be an impressive podium run in third, while Mitchell deJong blew away the cobwebs of over a year without a competitive outing by finishing fourth – the top Honda runner.
It was looking like it was going to be a case of ‘who could stop Volkswagen’ again in 2017, but by round two in Louisville, Kentucky, the order was shuffled as Sebastian Eriksson gave Honda not just their first Red Bull GRC win, but their first top-level rallycross win ever. The Volkswagens could only manage third and fourth, behind Arpin.
The third and fourth rounds of the season took place in Thompson, Connecticut – the first double header event of the season. Foust returned to the top step of the podium for the first event, but it was Arpin who triumphed in the second, ensuring he went to his first-ever home race on top of the points.
The Canadian didn’t just have the points lead, he also took a second straight victory in Ottawa, but tyre issues meant it was Foust once again who won the second Canadian race.
After a pair of double-headers, Red Bull GRC made its long-awaited first visit to Indianapolis. The home event of no fewer than three teams (VARX, Herta, and Lites frontrunners Dreyer & Reinbold). After playing the bridesmaid for the opening part of the season, Speed made use of his somewhat predictable summer upturn in form. He won in Indy… and the next two rounds as well.
While Speed was enjoying a dominant hat-trick, Foust’s season was unravelling. Two dire races in Atlantic City led to him loosing the points lead, and despite the veteran returning to form in Seattle, sweeping the double header event in the Pacific North West, the damage had already been done. Meanwhile, Arpin had been quietly banking the points and the podiums. The stage was set for a three-way championship fight in Los Angeles.
Well, on paper it was a three way fight. Arpin needed a miracle to take the championship, while Foust would need to beat his team-mate, and ensure Speed hit trouble to take a third title.
He managed the first part, with Speed driving conservatively all through the season finale, taking no unnecessary risks knowing he already held the advantage. Ultimately Foust’s Atlantic City slip and Speed’s strong three-race run in the middle of the year proved to be the defining run of events in the 2017 season.
Speed ended up taking the title by just 19 points, with Arpin a further 64 points back in third after he enjoyed his finest season to date.
After winning the second round of the season, Sebastian Eriksson had a bit of a quiet season, but he still managed to finish first out of the three drivers from the Olsbergs-Honda stable. DeJong finished in the top five in two thirds of the races in 2017, and looked certain to take his first Supercars win. Ultimately the 2014 Lites champion couldn’t find the top step of the podium.
DeJong’s season was somewhat reminiscent of Eriksson’s in 2016 – despite taking the most podiums in the team, a few hiccups in the final third of the season prevented him from finishing top in the team. Oliver Eriksson was the final Honda driver, taking sixth in the points. It was a solid season for the 2015 Lites champ, but much like how a win eluded deJong, Oliver Eriksson couldn’t find his way onto the podium.
Subaru enjoyed a resurgent season in 2017, with the new driver line-up of Chris Atkinson and Patrik Sandell combining to take five podiums for the team – their first top-three finishes since 2014. Ultimately, inconsistency and a lack of pace prevented them from taking stronger results – in fact, 2017 was the first year Sandell didn’t claim a race win since 2013 – but they built a great platform to build on for next year.
After ditching his own outfit for a partnership with IndyCar and GT stalwarts Rahal Letterman Lanigan, Austin Dyne enjoyed a return to form by taking three top fives over the course of the year. Fellow M-Sport Fiesta runner Cabot Bigham hate to wait right until the end of the year for his best result – fourth place in LA – but that performance came after he was benched in Seattle in favour of former Lites frontrunner and current NASCAR driver Austin Cindric. Cindric matched Bighams fourth place in the second Seattle round.
Final Points Standings
[table id=2668 /]
*Austin Cindric ran a part-time schedule.
Red Bull GRC Lites
The 2017 Red Bull GRC Lites season was about one man, and one man only: Cyril Raymond.
The Frenchman headed to the US as Lites champion in Europe, a feat he also managed to repeat this year, but in his first season in Red Bull GRC the Olsbergs driver was untouchable.
Raymond only finished off the podium three times all year. In fact, he only finished outside the top-two three times. That form included six wins, four of which came in a row in Thompson and Ottawa.
His nearest challengers, Conner Martell and Christian Brooks, shared the other wins between them, but the pair were separated in the final points after Martell was sidelined from the second Seattle race due to injury.
Final Points Standings
[table id=2669 /]