Verizon IndyCar Series reigning champion, Josef Newgarden, has said that he would love to another crack at rallycross after having made his debut in the discipline last weekend at RallyX on Ice. The American raced for Olsbergs MSE in the Supercar Lites entry at the event in Norway and reached the semi-finals in his Team Penske liveried car.
Newgarden spent the first day of the weekend getting acclimatized to racing off-road, on the ice and under a roof. The second day saw Josef take to the track with rivals. He managed to race well enough in qualifying to get into the semi-finals, where he would finish fifth in his heat. Despite not making it to the finals, Newgarden loved the experience and claimed that it had given him massive respect for the regular rallycross drivers:
“It’s been amazing to have the opportunity to come over and try this,” said Newgarden, “It was very difficult – I take my hat off to all the regular rallycross guys. I think they’re phenomenal at what they do.”
The rallycross car and event format is a far cry from Newgarden’s usual home. His only prior experience of racing with a roof over his head came last month when he raced in Race of Champions in Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, Josef embraced all of the unique challenges of the event:
“Race day itself was tough,” Newgarden added, “The track was really technical and it became very rutted the more cars ran, so the deeper we got into the weekend, the more precise you had to be and people don’t realise just how easy it is to put it into a snow bank if you go off-line.
“I got so nervous and even at the end, I was still trying to figure out how to keep it in-line. Normally it’s very easy for me in an open-wheel car to do that, but with this thing, you’re full hands on deck – you’ve got to be working the wheel, the throttle, the brakes and the handbrake at all times. When you stop doing that, the car stops reacting. Man, it makes you work for it!
“Thankfully, I had a wonderful coach in Oliver Eriksson [Newgarden’s Olsberg MSE team-mate], and I finished with probably my best run of the day in the semi-final, which was encouraging. I just need to take a couple more steps and then maybe we can return next year and do a little bit better – I certainly still have a lot to learn. The experience has left me determined to come back because I really want to master this.
“They put on a great show, and hopefully we can bring this series to North America and I can do a couple more races – that would be great for us. I’m so happy that Team Penske let me come over. I had a total blast!”
With his RallyX on Ice debut now out of the way, all of Newgarden’s attention moves to the upcoming season-opener for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series. The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be the first race of Josef’s title-defending campaign. The race will take place on March 11.