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Since earning the 2014 Red Bull GRC Lites Championship, Mitchell de Jong has been a rallycross fan favorite. Just as his momentum in rallycross was gaining speed, Mitchell left the series for professional and personal reasons. Even though he took a break from behind the wheel, he was there in the GRC pits helping out behind the scenes. Fans could spot Mitchell in the paddock at various rounds, giving them the chance to say hello and ask the inevitable question, 'when will you be back behind the wheel of a rallycross car?' They have anxiously awaited to hear the news they have been wanting to hear for two and a half years: Mitchell is back!

Fans had a feeling something was in the works when Mitchell competed last season in the final round of Red Bull GRC in Los Angeles in a supercar. Then returned behind the wheel of an Olsbergs MSE car in the three round series of Rally X on Ice back in February and March of this year. The California native had never raced on snow and ice before yet managed to claim the title proving what his fans already knew which is, Mitchell is a natural behind the wheel. RX360 had the opportunity to talk with Mitchell about his upcoming season with Red Bull GRC, his hiatus from Red Bull GRC, and winning the championship in RallyX On Ice in Norway back in February and beginning of March this season. RX: How and when did you reconnect with Olsbergs MSE? MdJ: Toward the beginning of 2016 we started getting in contact with everyone with the team. I would go to the races and help spot and just help out. I took it slow and kept working toward the goal and helped as much as I could.

RX: Then you got the chance to race in RallyX On Ice. Being a Southern Californian guy, how did you prepare for that? MdJ: There wasn't too much preparation I could do. Fortunately, I already had some experience in the Lites cars in the past. Driving on ice and snow is fairly different and I just tried to go there with an open mind and learn as much as I could. It was a lot like driving on thick gravel, which was good because I was kind of used to that during my off-road days. It did come a bit natural and was really fun to drive and by far one of the most fun surfaces I have ever driven on. RX: And you had the flu during all of that... MdJ: Yeah, the final round. It was a bit rough. RX: You were competing against other drivers who are accustomed to that type of weather and how to race in it. Yet, you went over there and won the championship. MdJ: Oliver, Sebastian and Kevin Erikksson, helped me a lot. They helped me get the initial idea of what to do during the races. It was great to have them there to compare and run data. I always had someone there to learn from.

RX: How does it feel to be back racing in GRC? MdJ: I'm really excited. The ice racing was actually a really great warm up for the season. I got used to racing close to other cars again. We've had some good tests. I feel ready, the car is really good this year, and they have made massive improvements. I think the chances that we have are really good I'm really excited to be back in a supercar. RX: Do you feel any preseason pressure or is it just pure excitement at this point? MdJ: Typically, in the past I have been one to put a lot of pressure on myself. But what I started doing for the ice racing and things like that is have the attitude of what ever happens, happens. Just stay focused on what I can control, and after that I just do the best I can. It seems to be helping a lot. I'm super excited to race and I'm not too nervous. We will just have to go in and do the best we can. RX: What characteristics do each of you (drivers) bring to the team? MdJ: I think Sebastian is a really quick learner. He is one who can, within the second lap, put down his fastest lap. So he can adapt super quick and is extremely good on gravel. For me, nowadays, I'm more used to driving on tarmac and a lot cleaner and really smooth. I tend to be the one who's more analytical. I think Oliver is kind of the hybrid. We all have things we can learn from each other and keep moving forward. RX: Do you follow other types of racing? MdJ: I'm very much into road racing like Formula 1, some GT3, and other endurance stuff. RX: Off the track, you seem very quiet and calm. Where does the fire and passion come from when you are out on the track? MdJ: I definitely am the quiet type and probably not the most social person. But once I get in and put the helmet on it's like all the other stress is gone and I just focus on the race and enjoy what I love to do. I'm really blessed to be able to do this and I feel really at home when I'm behind the wheel. RX: You're 19 now. What are your plans regarding college/racing/goals? MdJ: I would love to go to college. Right now I'm taking a break to make sure racing goes well and get that sorted. There is always time and I would like to do something with mechanical engineering. RX: Will your family be involved with your racing like they were before? MdJ: My dad might be working with another Lites team this year and my mom will be there supporting me and just hanging out. They will be able to relax and enjoy it a lot more now. RX: Do you prepare for the season with coaches/ nutritionist? MdJ: Oh, yes. I try to eat super clean and eat the right foods a year before the first race. I'm always training throughout the week and stick to my schedule.

RX: So, you're very focused on and off the track. MdJ: Yeah, nowadays you really have to be in shape in order to be on the top of your game. RX: Fans were shocked when you didn't come back for the 2015 season after winning the Lites Championship in 2014. I know that you have had a lot of fans asking you over the past couple of years when you will be returning to GRC. MdJ: Yeah, it's been really tough, but I'm really glad to be back. It's such an amazing feeling.

Fans are also glad Mitchell de Jong is back and look forward to watching him race this season.

Photos by Olsbergs MSE

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