GRC Instant Reaction: Texas

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Another race, another victory for Marcus Gronholm, as the two-time World Rally Champion scored his second consecutive victory in this year’s Global Rallycross Championship by taking the Hoon Kaboom at Texas Motor Speedway. Tanner Foust and Brian Deegan completed a sweep for the Olsbergs MSE-prepared Ford Fiestas, while the top 12 in points coming out of the event earned automatic berths in X Games. Here are some post-race notes:

  • The biggest question mark of the weekend was the new gap jump, and it caused its share of problems for most competitors. Travis Pastrana destroyed the front end of his car in practice, while Dave Mirra missed his heat race due to damage. In one heat, Andy Scott, Jimmy Keeney, and Pastrana had a scary moment involving a late pass and a mid-air traffic jam. But the wildest jump-related incident of the week came in the second last chance qualifier, when Bucky Lasek tried to pull off the jump too late and ended up driving his car on top of a temporary barrier. Lasek compared it to a 50-50 grind in his other chosen professional sport, skateboarding.
  • Pastrana, fresh off of an interview with us (read this piece on his relationship with Discount Tire and this one on his chances before the Texas round), had to practice his team’s second car on Friday, meaning that new teammate Felipe Albuquerque didn’t get into the car until qualifying. In his last chance qualifier, Pastrana misjudged the second hairpin coming out of the jump and eventually pulled off. It’s been that kind of season thus far for Pastrana, who earned an automatic X Games berth by tying with Lasek for 12th in points.
  • Subaru’s new three-car rallycross team had its own struggles, as for the second race in a row only one of its drivers made it to the final. This time, it was three-time defending European champion Sverre Isachsen, rather than Mirra; unfortunately, he crashed out in the first of three attempts at running the main event and was listed 10th in the running order.
  • For the second race in a row, Toomas Heikkinen, the aggressive, young Finn, received a disqualification, this time in his last chance qualifier. Pastrana had been discussing Heikkinen’s aggressive driving at Charlotte before the race, at one point tweeting “I hope he knows what he started.” In short, Heikkinen hasn’t made many friends this year.
  • Image via Ford Racing Facebook

    The makeup of the final at Texas was very similar to that at Charlotte, with Ken Block’s Ford replacing Pastrana’s Dodge, Isachsen replacing teammate Mirra as noted, and Brian Deegan replacing teammate Heikkinen. More surprising, however, was the fact that both Scott-Eklund Racing Saabs and both Rhys Millen Racing Hyundais returned to the final, especially when RMR’s Stephan Verdier placed last in seeding; Verdier won his last chance qualifier by virtue of all other drivers pulling off of the course and finished sixth in the final by taking care of his car (read more on Verdier here).

  • Despite having no factory support from Saab (read an interview with technical director Per Eklund on the team’s makeup here), Scott-Eklund may be one of the strongest teams in the series with owner-driver Andy Scott (read an interview with him here) and Samuel Hubinette, who only announced a full-time deal with the team in the past week. Hubinette was actually stalking Gronholm for the win in the final before mechanical problems with three laps to go relegated him to seventh, while Scott hit a tire barrier after taking the jump in the second of three attempted final starts and was placed ninth.
  • Other than Scott-Eklund, it’s clear that the GRC’s privateer teams (all Subarus) stand relatively no chance at being competitive this season. Richard Burton didn’t make the trip to Texas with his Gumball STI team, while Jimmy Keeney’s Michael Crawford Motorsports car was a non-factor all day. Pat Moro elected not to bring teammate Tim Rooney to Texas, focusing on one car, but the result – three points – was the same as in Charlotte.
  • Gronholm, Foust, Verdier, Millen, Hubinette, David Binks, Scott, Deegan, Mirra, Isachsen, Block, Lasek, and Pastrana earned automatic invitations to X Games by virtue of comprising the top 12 in points (Lasek and Pastrana are tied for 12th with 10 points apiece) after the first two rounds. In the Discount Tire/America’s Tire Cup, the three-race mini-championship within the GRC, Gronholm, Foust, Deegan, Millen, and Binks comprise the top five.

– Chris Leone


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