Playing the Long Game: How Joni Wiman is Winning the Red Bull GRC Championship

By David Park | 2014-03-10

Playing the Long Game: How Joni Wiman is Winning the Red Bull GRC Championship

Rallycross fans can't help but feel a sense of déjà vu seeing Joni Wiman lead the championship standings as the Red Bull Global Rallycross series heads to Las Vegas for the final race of the season. After all, it was just one year ago when another young Finnish upstart, Toomas “Topi” Heikinnen, was heading into the last race with the lead.

2013 was the Year of Topi, when Heikkinen won five consecutive stages, stood on eight straight podiums and collected four X Games medals (two made of gold). His dominance was so outright that Vegas ended up being more of a victory lap than a final hurdle.

For Wiman, Sin City will be a far riskier proposition. A mere 12 to 29 points separate him from a trio of competitors who can just as easily win it all under countless circumstances. Only a victory or runner-up finish will secure Wiman the championship – easier said than done, considering he’s yet to win a race this year.

That’s right: the points leader of the series has yet to win a race. How is it that Joni, so much like Topi in youth, homeland and precociousness, could also come to the brink of a championship by taking such a radically different route? What changed between then and now? Perhaps the answers can be found by looking at the new points system.

Finish 2014 Points 2013 Points Change in Value
1 50 20 1.5
2 45 15 1.65
3 40 15 1.67
4 35 13 1.69
5 30 12 1.5
6 25 11 1.27
7 20 10 1
8 15 9 0.67
9 10 8 0.25
10 5 7 -0.29
11 1 6 -0.83
12 1 5 -0.8
13 1 4 -0.75
14 1 3 -0.67
15 1 2 -0.5
16 1 1 0

When comparing this year to last year, it quickly becomes apparent that the new point system was designed to reward excellence, a “never give up” attitude and consistency. A victory this season is 1.5 times more valuable than it was in 2013, while anything below 9th place is worth considerably less than before. Oh, and the 65% gap in points between 1st and 10th place last year seems small next to the 90% chasm this year. Most intriguing of all, 2nd, 3rd and 4th place gained more value than any other position from the previous season – even 1st place. Only one driver has made the best use of these changes.

At the start of the season, few would've predicted that a rookie would end up being the most consistent driver in the circuit. Yet Wiman is tied for the most 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finishes, boasts the highest average points per race and more Top 5 results than anyone else. Scott Speed, on the other hand, has the most race wins but not a single Top 4 result otherwise. It’s quite telling that if the points system hadn't changed this year, Speed, who is fourth in the standings, would be the current overall leader.

Wiman

Round Result 2014 Pts 2013 Pts
1 5 20 12
2 17 1 1
3 3 40 15
4 4 35 13
5 4 35 13
6 7 20 10
7 2 45 17
8 3 40 15
9 2 45 17
Totals 281 113

Block

Round Result 2014 Pts 2013 Pts
1 10 5 7
2 11 1 6
3 7 20 10
4 3 40 15
5 1 50 20
6 2 45 17
7 3 40 15
8 2 45 17
9 9 10 8
Totals 256 115

NOTE: Heat results excluded.


Piquet

Round Result 2014 Pts 2013 Pts
1 4 35 13
2 3 40 15
3 2 45 17
4 2 45 17
5 3 40 15
6 8 15 9
7 12 1 5
8 9 10 8
9 4 35 13
Totals 266 112

Speed

Round Result 2014 Pts 2013 Pts
1 1 50 20
2 1 50 20
3 6 25 11
4 9 10 8
5 5 30 12
6 10 5 7
7 1 50 20
8 6 25 11
9 6 25 11
Totals 270 120

NOTE: Heat results excluded.

Instead, the one to watch in Las Vegas will be Wiman. The understated rookie has surprised everyone with a sense of patience and foresight that belies his age. He has quietly drafted a carousel of points leaders all season, long before making his move with three straight podium finishes in the last three races. The strong results launched him to the top of the Supercar standings just weeks before his 21st birthday. More importantly, he’s peaking when it matters the most. The challenge will be there on November 11; all that’s left for Joni to do now is stay consistent.

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