I watched Kyle go out for his second stint and completely nail the dirt section sliding the car back and forth with ease…1st gear was the key! As I watched Kyle click off his five laps I anxiously awaited his return so I could once again slide into the driver’s seat of this awesome machine and try out this new tactic for the dirt section. I went out on track for my first lap, hit the dirt section in 1st gear, grabbed the handbrake, and it was like magic, the car came alive in the dirt. Now with the dirt section down, the rest of the lap came together. I was exiting the dirt much quicker and picking up more speed down the back straight. As I got more comfortable with the car the speed came with it. I pushed a little harder each lap but as I kept inching closer and closer to the giant cones which made up the course the image of a bill for fiberglass repair would flash into my head reminding me to keep the driving at 70%.
|Getting the car to rotate in the dirt section required some e-brake, but Mike would also have done some tweaking to the car's front differential.|
I went out for my final three laps and further extended my comfort level with the car. As I was getting out of the car for the final time Olsbergs MSE boss Andreas Eriksson said to me; “You’re getting faster every time you go out.” A smile came over my face while in my head I thought, “Rip up that waiver I signed earlier and I can turn it up a few notches if you want.” I didn’t say that though, instead I blacked out and can’t even remember my response. It was probably something stupid.
After all was said and done, I can honestly say that it was one of the most fun experiences I have ever had behind the wheel of a car. Much of it had to do with the car itself which was easy enough to drive with confidence, but finicky enough to keep you on your toes. It was very mechanical feeling in every sense from the brand new, not broken in sequential gearboxes to the aggressive differential engagement front and rear.
The power delivery from the naturally aspirated 2.0L 4cyl is very linear and predictable, but it’s the AWD system and low curb weight which makes the acceleration really something phenomenal. The suspension is soft compared to your typical time attack or road course car which I assume has to do with the nature of a Global RallyCross competition course complete with massive jumps and other features we didn’t have on our test course. Despite the relatively skinny street tires and a track created on a dust covered parking lot, the braking on the cars was phenomenal. Under hard braking, the soft suspension gave the cars a bit of dive transferring much of the weight to the front tires allowing the rear of the car to rotate around quite nicely when trail braking. The fact that the engine is behind the driver instead of over the front tires also makes it to where that dive doesn’t easily overload the front tires either.
|Mike was all smiles after the test, and his hair was still perfect. Who thinks he would be a winner in the GRC Lites class?|
If I had any gripe about the cars as tested was that the differentials were a bit too harsh for the street tires, especially in the front. On both cars, I felt that the front differential’s engagement was overpowering the rear’s causing the front end to wash out if you had too much steering angle when you got back to the gas, especially in the dirt section where overall grip was dramatically reduced. Basically you had to rotate the car more before you could steer with the throttle. If it were the other way around I think drivers could get on the gas earlier without sacrificing so much mid-corner speed especially in the larger radius turns. Between the two cars, this problem was more prevalent in the Eriksson car which most everyone reported to be more prone to understeer.
|Kyle Mohan has competed in Formula Drift for nine seasons – his car is the one that doesn't have a V8 – and he's a newlywed.|
As long as I’ve been a race fan, rally has been one of my favorite forms of racing. The horsepower of the Group B cars and the amazing car control that the drivers had driving down those forest roads, blind corners, and huge crowds lining the courses made it incredible. Growing up in Southern California, my love for rally and road race eventually led me to drifting – the urban version of rally.
Watching Global Rally Cross over the past few seasons, and seeing the success that Formula Drift drivers like Tanner Foust, Stephan Verdier, and Rhys Millen have had in the series has made me want to see what it was like even more. Of course, there’s always the obvious fun attractions – four-wheel-drive drifts on dirt and asphalt and big jumps that make the car fly through the air?
Sure, sign me up.
|Kyle dug into his bag of Formula Drift tricks, using clutch kicks and a lot of e-brake, to get through the track's dirt section.|
After some prodding and pushing by Efrain, who manages my Formula Drift program, I wound up in Lake Elsinore on a very cold morning. It was also my birthday, so I considered it a present to myself.
The Olsbergs MSE SuperCar Lites are beautifully engineered, purpose built rally cars. It was clear that Olsbergs built a car that is perfect for rallycross – it is simple and easy to repair, but at the same time, a very capable machine. The money is spent where it counts. After building and competing with the Nexen / Mazdatrix Mazda RX-8 in Formula Drift for the past few seasons, I can definitely appreciate how the Lites cars were built.