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X Games Checkpoint: Samuel Hubinette

Image via Scott-Eklund Racing

We’re only two races into this year’s Global Rallycross Championship, and already Samuel Hubinette’s season has elicited the gamut of emotions.

Hubinette comes into X Games fifth in points for Scott-Eklund Racing, having won two heat races and scoring two top-seven finishes in main events. But he also had a chance to score a podium finish at Texas Motor Speedway, shadowing Marcus Gronholm through much of the Hoon Kaboom final before car trouble eliminated him in the race’s closing laps.

“I’m proud that I could keep up with him,” Hubinette said. “What people don’t know is that after lap two of the first heat, I lost power steering. My power steering pump overheated and broke, so I had to run all those extra heats with no power steering and was still managing to keep up with Marcus in a very competitive Ford Fiesta car, so that was pretty cool to see.

“Unfortunately, (on) the end lap, we broke a propeller shaft, so I had to pull off to the side. We don’t know what happened. It could be because of the high jumping we did, the first race put too much stress on the material of the car and they haven’t had those types of jumps before, those vehicles. They came from the European rallycross.”

Competing for podium finishes is a far cry from how Hubinette started the season; until two days before the season-opening event at Charlotte Motor Speedway, “The Crazy Swede” didn’t even have a ride. It was only late on the Thursday night prior to the event that he inked a deal to join Scott-Eklund in their vacant second car, and at that point, it remained a one-race deal.

Image via Scott-Eklund Racing

“Basically, our deal happened on Thursday night prior to the race and the start of Friday,” Hubinette recalls. “We discussed it in the day, but it wasn’t a clear direction that we were going to join, but then at night I found out I couldn’t go with Dodge. So we came up with an agreement basically over an hour we had done the negotiations and shook hands, me and Scott-Eklund Racing.

“And after that, the actual race itself, we discussed the weekend after and agreed to continue the rest of the season in 2012 with ENEOS Motor Oil joining me.”

Though Hubinette may be best known for his tenure in Formula Drift, where he won the 2004 and 2006 championships, and stunt driving gigs in major Hollywood productions, he’s had no problem adapting to rallycross, in which he won a bronze medal at X Games in 2010.

“There’s definitely some difference here because in drifting, your goal is to go sideways the whole time, and basically you are scrubbing off speed going sideways. As well it’s a judged sport, trying to go as quick as possible sideways around your competitors. Here, we’re driving all of the cars with really grippy tires trying to basically avoid going sideways because that’s not the fastest way in there.

“Sometimes you want to get the car with a little oversteer into the corners to go quick, but it’s really important not to go too sideways because you end up overheating the tires and losing momentum.”

Image via Scott-Eklund Racing

Hubinette took last year’s X Games off as a competitor, but attended the race as a spectator. This year, he’ll be competing on a new course, but more importantly, with a new car; his bronze medal run came at the wheel of a Mitsubishi Evo 10, but this year’s challenge will be mounted with Scott-Eklund’s Saab 9-3.

“The Evo 10 was not a purpose-built rallycross car, it was an old rally car that I had borrowed. So it was quite far away from the performance you need to be in the medals of GRC. But still, I was managing to get a bronze medal, so I was very proud. It was the biggest third place I had ever gotten in my life, so that was pretty cool.

“I’m going to try to get on the podium now with the Saab. The Saab is bigger than the Evo was, so it’s a little tough to drive through corners. So you have to kind of aim the car out, try and outbrake other guys the way that they come out of the corners. Specifically, X Games is a very tight track, so it definitely benefits the smaller cars like the Ford Fiesta.”

That being said, Hubinette has helped establish the 9-3 as one of the most competitive cars in the GRC through the first two rounds. Combine that with his skills as a driver, some of which translate from drifting, and he has plenty of reason to be confident in his chances in Los Angeles. “You know, in both drifting and rallycross, you’re going close to walls here, specifically at X Games. In drifting, you go next to walls sideways, so that’s kind of how I see it.

“I know I can be up at the top battling, so if the car holds up I’m gonna be able to compete for the podium.”

– Chris Leone

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