Global Rallycross (GRC) goes into a new season this upcoming weekend, and that means it's time to take a look at what we could expect. While rallycross has been popular in Europe for decades, it's a new sport in the US and this season of GRC will be the fourth season. It is the highest level of rallycross in the US and features drivers from all over the world!

Guide: 2014 Global Rallycross Championship

Photo credit: ESPN

There aren't many differences between the World Rallycross Championship (WorldRX) and GRC. The cars are based on the same rules, but often based on different production models. The tracks are more stadium-based, and usually not permanent as the classic European tracks. This means more loose gravel, better quality tarmac and less variation. Sometimes it could be more spectator friendly, and you could fit more people inside the stadiums. The joker lap is also included here, but with a different approach than you see in WorldRX. Instead of being slower, the joker lap is faster in GRC. Not by much though, as it's only the inside line of a hairpin instead of a different track section altogether. It will still encourage tactics and make passing a regular thing.

Guide: 2014 Global Rallycross Championship

Photo Credit: Speedhunters (Larry Chen)

Now while a WorldRX may seem complicated for outside viewers when looking at the heat sessions, GRC is a bit simpler. You have a qualifying that determines grid positions for the semifinals where the top two drivers go on to the final. The drivers that don't make it into the final through semifinals get another opportunity through a last chance qualifier. In total there are four semifinals and one last chance qualifier bringing ten cars to the final. The fastest driver in the semifinal will have the best grid position in the final. A win in the final gains 20 championship points, becoming 16th gets you 1 point. The top two cars from each team also receive manufacturer points.

The start has a lot of focus in GRC. Often you see a long straight between the start line and the first corner. Combine high speeds, unexperienced drivers and a tight first corner and you get a lot of action. Some say that this is destroying the racing, but other think that this will bring attention to the sport. I'm not really sure myself.

Guide: 2014 Global Rallycross Championship

Photo credit: SportBusiness

With X-Games concentrating on the US, all of the international events from last year are gone. Left are nine events in the US and one in Barbados at the Top Gear Festival. As I said earlier, track layouts don't change much, but you should go watch if they visit your area.

Round 1: Top Gear Festival, Barbados – 18. May

Round 2: X-Games Austin, Texas – 7. June

Round 3: Washington, DC – 22. June

Round 4: New York, New York – 20. July

Round 5: Charlotte, North Carolina – 26. July

Round 6: Detroit, Michigan – 3. August

Round 7: Daytona, Florida – 23. August

Round 8: Los Angeles, California – 20. September

Round 9: Seattle, Washington – 27. September

Round 10: Las Vegas, Nevada – 5. November

Guide: 2014 Global Rallycross Championship

Photo credit: ESPN

Since rallycross is such a new thing in the US, most of the drivers are gathered in from other motorsports. Some even come from sports that don't have anything to do with rallycross. Some are well known all over the world, some only in the US and a few in Europe. Like in WorldRX, some teams are supported by car manufacturers, others are private teams. Because of no tradition for rallycross, local drivers are less likely here than in WorldRX. Give it a few years and we'll see more of them, hopefully local grassroot series could start up as well. Well, let's take a look at the teams:

Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross:

Drivers: #34 Tanner Foust, #77 Scott Speed

Car: Volkswagen New Beetle/Volkswagen Polo

Guide: 2014 Global Rallycross Championship

Photo credit: Team, via Chris Leone

Bringing the Beetle back to top level rallycross is the Volkswagen Andretti team, with well-known drivers Tanner Foust and Scott Speed. The car has more in common with the Marklund Motorsport Polo than the old rear engine fossil, and will be competitive from day one. Foust might be the best rallycross driver from the US, being a former GRC-champion and event winner in EuroRX. Speed is a former F1-driver that has turned to NASCAR and now GRC. He won two races last year and might do so this year as well.

Subaru Rally Team USA

Drivers: #11 Sverre Isachsen, #81 Bucky Lasek, #199 Travis Pastrana

Car: Subaru Impreza WRX STI

Guide: 2014 Global Rallycross Championship

Photo credit: Lars Gange, via Chris Leone

The name Sverre Isachsen should ring a bell if you've followed European rallycross for the past ten years. The Norwegian is triple European rallycross champion, and might be the most experienced driver in the GRC. Isachsen is always spectacular with a rough driving style, so we may see the entrepreneur in the penalty box a bit more often than other drivers. Bucky Lasek is a skateboarder when he's not doing GRC, but with experience only from the past two seasons he'll be lucky to get on the podium here. Travis Pastrana will only compete at the X-games, but will be a podium candidate there.

Guide: 2014 Global Rallycross Championship

Photo credit: Lars Gange, via Chris Leone

OlsbergsMSE:

Drivers: #18 Patrik Sandell, #31 Joni Wiman

Car: Ford Fiesta

Guide: 2014 Global Rallycross Championship

Photo credit: QBA/QNIGAN.com, via Chris Leone

The former JWRC champion Patrik Sandell takes on another season in GRC, and now in the Olsbergs team that dominated last year. The results from WorldRX in Montalegre prove that their cars are still very much competitive (2nd and 3rd place), so Sandell could get his first rallycross victory. Joni Wiman comes from the GRC Lites support series where the Finn won all the events. Toomas Heikkinen won the championship last year, and we may see another Finn challenging for the top spot this year.

Rhys Millen Racing Hyundai:

Drivers: #27 Emma Gilmour, #67 Rhys Millen

Car: Hyundai Veloster

Guide: 2014 Global Rallycross Championship

Photo credit: AJ Grasso, via Chris Leone

All the way from New Zealand comes rally driver Emma Gilmour, a woman that has competed in WRC events with decent results. We've seen rallydrivers of both genders adapt to rallycross quite fast, so she should be competitive. Rhys Millen is a veteran driver that has done both drifting and rallying in addition to rallycross, and while he wasn't competing much last year he's back for a full season in 2014.

Single car teams:

Hoonigan Racing Division:

Ken Block will of course participate in GRC this year. His Ford Fiesta isn't run by OlsbergsMSE, but should be competitive nonetheless. While he may be best known for his youtube videos, he will be a serious contender for the title this year.

Guide: 2014 Global Rallycross Championship

Photo credit: Team, via Chris Leone

SH Racing Rallycross:

The second driver with experience from F1 and NASCAR is Nelson Piquet Jr. He tried rallycross last year and while he never really found competitive speed he will make GRC his main target this year. I don't know why, but he may want to beat Sverre Isachsen after what happened last year.

Rockstar Energy Drink Ford:

Brian Deegan is also in for a fourth season in GRC in a Ford Fiesta. He's originally a FMX-driver, but has lots of driving experience coming into this year. He will be looking for a win this year, but I think he needs a bit of luck to put that together.

Royal Purple Racing OlsbergsMSE 2

Another driver using the expertise from OlsbergsMSE is Steve Arpin. The Canadian with experience from Stock Cars is used to tight racing, but he hasn't really mastered rallycross yet.

Guide: 2014 Global Rallycross Championship

Photo credit: Alison Padron, via Chris Leone

BMI Racing:

Sarah Burgess is the second female driver in GRC, coming from the drifting scene and now competing in rallycross. She will drive a Chevrolet Sonic, but will miss the first event in Barbados.

Barracuda Racing:

Austin Dyne steps up to the top class this year, as another young driver coming from GRC Lites, The American doesn't have the same results as Joni Wiman, so it will be interesting to see what level he's at this year.

Guide: 2014 Global Rallycross Championship

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish, via Chris Leone

PMR Motorsports:

Running only a few events in a Chevrolet Sonic, Pat Moro will be lucky to get to a final this year. He's got experience, but a limited amount of events will make finding setups and driving feeling a bit harder.

How to watch:

In short: NBC. If you're outside the US, go find a stream somewhere (give me a shout if you need help). X-games might be a little bit more accessible, and will air on ABC in the US. Most of the events will be broadcasted live, right now the broadcast of the first event will be delayed a week, the two last rounds probably aren't decided yet.

Most of the drivers are on twitter, so you should follow them for additional info. I'd recommend following the official account @RedBullGRC, @rallycross360, @christopherlion and @olsbergsmse.

If you have any questions regarding the Global Rallycross Championship or rallycross in general, be sure to post them in the comments.

To round off this guide, take a look at the season preview made by Yokohama tires: