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GRC Power Rankings: Round 1 – Charlotte

A host of new driver and team combinations. A completely new schedule. A field which has, for the most part, only raced together once – at last year’s X Games. Suffice to say, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to put together power rankings at the start of this Global Rallycross Championship season.

But that’s exactly what we’re going to try to do here. Factoring in last season’s performance (though as we’ve said, this year’s schedule is unrecognizable to a GRC fan from last season), European results (one driver shows up high on this list based on three European titles alone), X Games medals (though they’re not as important as you might think), and strength of the car, these power rankings attempt to take every possible variable into account for the upcoming season. But because the base of information is so broad, and the series so unpredictable, don’t be shocked if this list looks foolish at the end of the year.

Without further ado, here are our inaugural power rankings coming into the GRC season:

  1. Photo via Ford Racing Facebook

    Marcus Gronholm – Had he not missed the two rounds at Snoqualmie last season, the two-time winner of the World Rally Championship probably would have taken the inaugural GRC title. After all, he finished on the podium in every race he contested, taking three victories in six starts, and Andreas Eriksson added another win and podium while replacing him, a performance that Gronholm easily could have replicated. Best driver, best car, best team.

  2. Tanner Foust – The Top Gear host will have his work cut out for him if he wants to repeat as champion after winning the first GRC championship. Two wins were fine last year, but with Gronholm almost assuredly on top of his game, he’ll have to match the flying Finn podium for podium. Winning the opening round of the European championship at Lydden Hill is, of course, a nice start.
  3. Liam Doran – Last year’s surprise winner in the head-to-head event at X Games has been shaking down his new Citroen DS3 in the ERC and is pleased with its reliability. Of course, the competition will see him coming this year, but Doran is young, fast, and aggressive enough to beat his rivals on adrenaline alone.
  4. Sverre Isachsen – Like Doran last year, Isachsen is a European rallycross star who could easily come over to America and start putting folks on notice.  In fact, he’s won the past three ERC titles, beating future GRC competitors like Foust, Doran, and Toomas Heikkinen in the process. He went out on a high note; Isachsen won the last four rounds of last year’s ERC to stretch a 24-point lead on Foust for the title. He’s not the best-known name in the series by any means, but underestimating such a strong record in the European championship would be a major mistake.
  5. Photo via TravisPastrana.com

    Travis Pastrana – Pastrana will drive Dodge’s factory-backed Dart, and with both Red Bull and Discount Tire behind him, will certainly have one of the best-funded teams in the paddock. A veteran of many X Games, four-time Rally America champion, and now a budding NASCAR talent, Pastrana’s skills aren’t limited to his dirt bike; if his busy schedule doesn’t wear down his focus, a GRC title could be easily claimed.

  6. Stephan Verdier – Rhys Millen’s teammate in a new Hyundai Veloster, Verdier scored three third-place finishes last season in an older-model Subaru Impreza. Those results leave room for improvement, but with the advantage of a new car, Verdier is a dark horse threat who has the talent to rocket to the top of this list very quickly.
  7. Ken Block – The hoonigan himself is adding rallycross to his already busy schedule of rally proper; when he’s not competing in limited rounds of the WRC, he’ll take on the entire GRC schedule. One of the sport’s most popular (and best marketed) drivers in America, thanks to his status as a co-founder of DC Shoes and representative for Monster Energy, Block should contend for podiums and race wins.
  8. Rhys Millen – Millen ran consistently last year, but failed to score any podiums. Don’t expect that to happen this year – Millen is too good of a driver, and his Hyundai factory support is too valuable. He’s invested in new engines to help improve the Veloster’s horsepower and will sample one for the first time at Charlotte.
  9. Photo via Ford Racing Facebook

    Brian Deegan – A popular winner in the rallycross final at X Games last year, the general of the Metal Mulisha scored two podiums in his four 2011 starts. But with a deep field ahead of him, it’ll be a struggle to repeat.

  10. Dave Mirra – Mirra has been appointed de facto team leader at the new Subaru Puma Rallycross Team, alongside Isachsen and skateboarding legend Bucky Lasek. Isachsen will probably score the team’s best finishes, though, as Mirra failed to score a single podium last season; he finished fifth twice, in the head-to-head race at Snoqualmie and in the rallycross final at X Games.

– Chris Leone

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