Thursday, 20 November 2014

EXCLUSIVE: Joni Wiman Interview

2014 saw a new name on the Red Bull Global Rallycross roll of honour as Joni Wiman took the title in his first season in the top supercars category, following on from his dominant GRC Lites championship in 2013.
This week I caught up with the Finnish driver to talk about his rise to the top and his successful 2014 season.

Joni Wiman Interview

Dominik Wilde: In what was a very strong year for yourself, what would you say were the highlights?
Joni Wiman: Definitely winning the championship at the end of a very competitive season was the best highlight. But there were a lot of great experiences for all of us on the team this year. Since it was my first season in Supercars, the highlights started the first time I got behind the wheel to race at the season opener in Barbados.

Dominik Wilde: Going into Vegas, you had the championship lead but a very quick Ken Block right behind you. How did you approach the final event of the season and how did you keep your focus to ensure you took the title?
Joni Wiman: There were four drivers in the running for the title before the Las Vegas race. On the team we did the math ahead of time and I knew before I got there that as long as I finished second in the race, I would win the championship. I stayed focused on that.

Dominik Wilde: Although you had more top fives than any other driver, you didn't win a race. What will it mean to you to claim your first race win, considering you're already a champion?
Joni Wiman: I won all the Lites races last season but my first Supercars win is still to come. The feeling when you win a race is amazing. It’s the next achievement in my career that I have to look forward to.

Dominik Wilde: What did your mentor, Marcus Gronholm, say to you when you won the championship?
Joni Wiman: I spoke to him when I got back home to Finland after the race and it was a very good feeling to know that he is proud. He has put so much work into helping with my career and it has been amazing to bring this championship home.

Dominik Wilde: After a fantastic season in Lites last year, many expected you to be strong in your first year of Supercars, but how did you think you’d fare in 2014? Considering the high level of driver in the field, did you expect to be a championship contender right away?
Joni Wiman: This was my first Supercars season and I had never driven against most of these drivers before this year. I wanted to go into the championship with an open mind and with realistic expectations. At the first race, in Barbados, I saw that I could be competitive and I would have been very happy to finish this season in the top three. Winning the championship was much more than I could have expected for my rookie season.

Dominik Wilde: Of course, you're the first driver to be champion of both GRC Lites and Red Bull GRC. How do you think this year's Lites champion, Mitchell De Jong will fare in Red Bull GRC next year?
Joni Wiman: Racing in Lites is really good preparation for Supercars. The Lites cars only have about half the horsepower of the Supercars, and they are naturally aspirated, but they handle in a way that is quite similar. And, of course, the racing format is almost the same. I don’t know what Mitchell plans to do next season but the experience he’s had in Lites means that if he does decide to race in Supercars, he should be competitive.

Dominik Wilde: What about you next year, will we see you defending your crown in Red Bull GRC in 2015?
Joni Wiman: It’s too soon to think about 2015. Right now, I’m enjoying the off-season break and we’ll be able to start talking about 2015 plans in the new year. 

Dominik Wilde: Now although you're a back-to-back GRC champion, you have background that includes racing Formula Renault in Europe, how did you end up racing in the GRC in America?
Joni Wiman: It was a struggle sometimes to find the budget to be competitive when I was racing Formula Renault in Europe and that became frustrating. I was about ready to quit racing altogether in 2012 when Marcus suggested I give rallycross a try and helped find an opportunity for me with Olsbergs MSE to run the brand new GRC Lites championship in the United States. Andreas [Eriksson, team owner] is very committed to developing young drivers and after a good season in Lites last year, he gave me the chance in Supercars.

Dominik Wilde: Open-wheel and rallycross are worlds apart, so how did you adapt to such a different discipline when you first started in rallycross?
Joni Wiman: It seems like they’re worlds apart and for sure the cars are very different. But winning races on tarmac is about smooth, consistent driving and in that way, my open wheel background was very good preparation for driving in rallycross in America where the tracks are narrow and mostly tarmac.

Dominik Wilde: We've got a big off-season ahead of us now, how will you be spending it?
Joni Wiman: Right now, I’m enjoying the winter in Finland and thinking about the holidays with my family. But it will be back to training, spending time in the gym, and testing in preparation for 2015 before I know it.

Images - Larry Chen, Garth Milan, Alison Padron, Joni Wiman, Bluebeam, OMSE, Red Bull GRC, Red Bull Content Pool

No comments:

Post a Comment