Advertisements

GRC Race Review: Foust Takes Win, $25,000 Bonus In Las Vegas

Image via Las Vegas Motor Speedway Facebook

With $25,000, bragging rights, and a nearly insurmountable lead in the championship on the line, Tanner Foust came through with his first win of the Global Rallycross Championship season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last night. By beating Olsbergs MSE teammate Brian Deegan to the finish line, Foust also secured the Discount Tire/America’s Tire Cup, awarded to the top driver in a three-race mini-championship that also included rounds in Texas and New Hampshire.

Foust, who scored two wins in the European Rallycross Championship earlier this season, elected to skip the ERC season finale in Germany in order to go for the $25,000 bonus that comes with the Discount Tire/America’s Tire Cup. While he gave up second in ERC points to Liam Doran, who elected to skip the GRC race and took home the victory elsewhere, Foust extended his points lead to 16 over Deegan and mathematically eliminated the rest of the field from title competition.

Image via Las Vegas Motor Speedway Facebook

In qualifying, Foust, Ken Block, and Travis Pastrana laid down the three fastest times, meaning they would start on pole in their three respective heats. Foust, Sverre Isachsen, Bucky Lasek, Dave Mirra, and Richard Burton comprised the first heat; Block, Rhys Millen, Andreas Eriksson, David Binks, and Pat Moro made up the second heat; and Pastrana, Toomas Heikkinen, Brian Deegan, Samuel Hubinette, and Stephan Verdier made up the third heat.

Burton would not complete the first heat, locking his wheels up before the jump and hitting the safety barrier head on at the edge of the landing pad. Burton was removed from the car via stretcher, complaining of a sore back, but all tests were negative.

Foust and Isachsen advanced from the first heat, Block and Millen advanced from the second heat, and Deegan and Heikkinen moved on from the third heat. Eriksson, substituting for Marcus Gronholm, seemed primed to move on in the second heat before losing control in the final dirt turn and yielding the lead; earlier in that heat, Binks went into the dirt corner too aggressively to lose a position to Millen. Pastrana also failed to advance immediately despite winning his heat, after accidentally taking the shortcut twice and earning himself a 30 second penalty.

Image via Las Vegas Motor Speedway Facebook

The last chance qualifier sent four drivers to the final: Eriksson and Pastrana, who both made up for their mistakes in the preliminary heats, as well as Verdier and Lasek. Verdier rebounded strongly after a poor start left him eighth going into the first corner; meanwhile, for Lasek, it was his first final appearance of the season after a few instances.

For Hubinette and Binks, it was the first time that either of them missed a final all season, greatly affecting their championship hopes. Binks and Mirra had issues in the first corner that left them at the back of the pack, while Hubinette’s Saab suffered mechanical failure.

In the final, Block and Eriksson had issues through the first corner, while the field split the shortcut and gap jump evenly on the first lap. From there, Foust paced Deegan to the end, while Isachsen edged Heikkinen for third. Pastrana suffered an engine failure in the final to take him out early. The biggest gainer in the final was Verdier, who spent most of the race at the back before taking the shortcut late and stealing fifth place.

Image via Las Vegas Motor Speedway Facebook

Last night’s results and points totals were:

  1. Tanner Foust, #34 Ford, 20+1 points
  2. Brian Deegan, #38 Ford, 17+1
  3. Sverre Isachsen, #11 Subaru, 15
  4. Toomas Heikkinen, #57 Ford, 13
  5. Stephan Verdier, #12 Hyundai, 12
  6. Rhys Millen, #67 Hyundai, 11
  7. Ken Block, #43 Ford, 10+1
  8. Bucky Lasek, #81 Subaru, 9
  9. Andreas Eriksson, #3 Ford, 8
  10. Travis Pastrana, #199 Dodge, 7
  11. Pat Moro, #59 Subaru, 6
  12. Samuel Hubinette, #77 Saab, 5
  13. Dave Mirra, #40 Subaru, 4
  14. David Binks, #17 Ford, 3
  15. Richard Burton, #41 Subaru, 2

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

The final results of the $25,000 Discount Tire/America’s Tire Cup are:

  1. Tanner Foust, #34 Ford, 53 points
  2. Brian Deegan, #38 Ford, 50
  3. Samuel Hubinette, #77 Saab, 33
  4. Ken Block, #43 Ford, 32
  5. Stephan Verdier, #12 Hyundai, 31
  6. Travis Pastrana, #199 Dodge, 30
  7. Sverre Isachsen, #11 Subaru, 26
  8. David Binks, #17 Ford, 24
  9. Rhys Millen, #67 Hyundai, 24
  10. Marcus Gronholm, #3 Ford, 21
  11. Andy Scott, #26 Saab, 19
  12. Bucky Lasek, #81 Subaru, 17
  13. Dave Mirra, #40 Subaru, 16
  14. Liam Doran, #33 Citroen, 15
  15. Pat Moro, #59 Subaru, 15
  16. Toomas Heikkinen, #57 Ford, 13
  17. Andreas Eriksson, #3 Ford, 8
  18. Richard Burton, #41 Subaru, 5
  19. Filipe Albuquerque, #99 Dodge, 1
  20. Jimmy Keeney, #418 Subaru, 0

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

The overall point standings are now as follows:

  1. Tanner Foust, #34 Ford, 83 points
  2. Brian Deegan, #38 Ford, 67
  3. Samuel Hubinette, #77 Saab, 55
  4. Ken Block, #43 Ford, 51
  5. Stephan Verdier, #12 Hyundai, 51
  6. Rhys Millen, #67 Hyundai, 48
  7. David Binks, #17 Ford, 45
  8. Marcus Gronholm, #3 Ford, 43
  9. Travis Pastrana, #199 Dodge, 41
  10. Sverre Isachsen, #11 Subaru, 39
  11. Andy Scott, #26 Saab, 38
  12. Bucky Lasek, #81 Subaru, 28
  13. Dave Mirra, #40 Subaru, 27
  14. Liam Doran, #33 Citroen, 27
  15. Toomas Heikkinen, #57 Ford, 21
  16. Sebastien Loeb, #72 Citroen, 21
  17. Pat Moro, #59 Subaru, 18
  18. David Higgins, #75 Subaru, 10
  19. Andreas Eriksson, #3 Ford, 8
  20. Richard Burton, #41 Subaru, 5
  21. Tim Rooney, #47 Subaru, 4
  22. Bryce Menzies, #99 Dodge, 2
  23. Filipe Albuquerque, #99 Dodge, 1
  24. Jimmy Keeney, #418 Subaru, 0

– Chris Leone

Advertisements

Foust, Block, Pastrana Lead GRC Qualifying At Las Vegas

Image via Olsbergs MSE Facebook

Global Rallycross Championship points leader Tanner Foust posted the fastest qualifying in the seeding session for tonight’s event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, sponsored by Sylvania Silverstar zXe.

Foust was one of three Ford drivers in the top five on the seeding chart, posting a lap of 25.447 seconds in his Olsbergs MSE-prepared Fiesta. Ken Block’s Monster World Rally Team-prepared car placed second with a lap of 25.640 seconds, while the remaining Ford in the top five belonged to Toomas Heikkinen, who ran a lap of 25.685 seconds in his first race back from injuries suffered at X Games.

First posted on Sverre Isachsen’s Facebook page and now confirmed by the track, full qualifying results are as follows:

  1. Tanner Foust, #34 Ford, 25.447 seconds
  2. Ken Block, #43 Ford, 25.640
  3. Travis Pastrana, #199 Dodge, 25.651
  4. Toomas Heikkinen, #57 Ford, 25.685
  5. Rhys Millen, #67 Hyundai, 25.712
  6. Sverre Isachsen, #11 Subaru, 25.747
  7. Brian Deegan, #38 Ford, 25.825
  8. Andreas Eriksson, #3 Ford, 25.932
  9. Bucky Lasek, #81 Subaru, 26.175
  10. Samuel Hubinette, #77 Saab, 26.275
  11. David Binks, #17 Ford, 26.295
  12. Dave Mirra, #40 Subaru, 26.355
  13. Stephan Verdier, #12 Hyundai, 26.365
  14. Pat Moro, #59 Subaru, 27.245
  15. Richard Burton, #41 Subaru, 30.509

Going by the seeding patterns of previous GRC events, and noting that there will be three heat races once again, here are the projected heat lineups for tonight’s events:

  • Group A: Tanner Foust (1), Sverre Isachsen (6), Bucky Lasek (9), Dave Mirra (12), Richard Burton (15)
  • Group B: Ken Block (2), Rhys Millen (5), Andreas Eriksson (8), David Binks (11), Pat Moro (14)
  • Group C: Travis Pastrana (3), Toomas Heikkinen(4), Brian Deegan (7), Samuel Hubinette (10), Stephan Verdier (13)

– Chris Leone

GRC Insider: Different Goals For Different Drivers To Finish Season

Image via Las Vegas Motor Speedway/Photo credit: Jeff Speer

One of the nuances in this year’s Global Rallycross Championship is the ability of each driver to drop his worst result from the championship standings. Factoring in the drop race as of right now leads to a major shakeup in the points, as our article from earlier in the week showed, bringing some drivers back into the fight but hurting many others.

For David Binks, factoring in the drop now causes him to plummet from fifth in the championship to a tie for eighth. “That doesn’t really appeal to me,” Binks sighed when informed of the rule. “I mean, I didn’t even know anything about that. It sounds like ways to make certain people that haven’t done very well do better. Unfortunately, I’m just David Binks from England, and I haven’t got much say in it. If that comes out, it’ll be a shame, but what do you do? I didn’t realize they were thinking of doing that.

“At the end of the day, if that’s what happens, that’s what happens. But at the minute we’ve got to focus on keeping that car at the top. To be honest, we’ve only finished two events properly where the car’s still running. Yeah, we’ve got the points and moved up there strong but we’ve just got to get the car to the finish line, keep it up at the top and get some luck. (Teammate Brian) Deegan’s had great luck this year, and some of the other drivers have had some great luck, so it’s probably due me to have some. We’ll see where it goes.”

Image via Las Vegas Motor Speedway Facebook/Photo credit: David Allio

Deegan himself isn’t too concerned with the title fight, even though the “drop” rule closes him to within four points of championship leader Tanner Foust. “I’m going to try to win the last two races,” he said. “That’s what I’m here to do, and I feel like that’s what I’m going to go to the track to do. That’s what I do in all the other series I try to race; I’m here to win. So there’s no strategy besides just going out and trying to be the fastest guy.”

Samuel Hubinette, who currently ranks second in points, is excited about the opportunity to challenge for the championship, but says that no overall championship, not even the $25,000 Discount Tire/America’s Tire Cup to be awarded this weekend, will change the way he approaches a race. “A little extra bonus money doesn’t hurt, but I’m not thinking about that,” he admitted. “It doesn’t change my driving style, I’m always going out to try to win and that’s the same if I’m not making any money.”

Meanwhile, Stephan Verdier provides a cautionary tale for drivers hoping to take advantage of the drop event. Verdier looked to eliminate his underwhelming X Games performance while adding a strong finish at New Hampshire to keep himself in the championship hunt, but after making contact with Liam Doran in the final, a strong run wasn’t meant to be.

“Before New Hampshire I wasn’t concerned,” Verdier said, “(but) now when I look at it I don’t think I can win (the championship). Now, I don’t care about the other people. What I want to do is, I want to win a race. That’s my number one goal, and I don’t care about the points. I don’t care who’s going to be around me. I don’t care about any of that stuff, I don’t care about the championship, my number one goal is to win a race.

Image via Las Vegas Motor Speedway Facebook/Photo credit: Jeff Speer

“I mean, it was around from the start that we’re allowed to drop one event. So that’s why at New Hampshire I was really bummed that I made that stupid mistake, because my goal wasn’t to do a podium or a win, it was to do a good result. And we lost our chance to do a good result, and drop X Games as our worst result. Now I’m going to have to drop X Games and keep New Hampshire, which doesn’t help me. So that’s why my mindset from New Hampshire was to go after the championship more than anything else, but now my mindset is just to win.

“I need to convince my sponsors that it’s a good thing to stay, I need to have a seat for next year, so my goal is to win races.”

– Chris Leone

GRC Insider: Hubinette Pushing For Championship Despite Team Shakeup

Image via Samuel Hubinette Racing Facebook

Coming off of a second place finish in New Hampshire, Samuel Hubinette ranks second in Global Rallycross Championship points heading into Saturday night’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Though he’ll be competing in the same No. 77 ENEOS Motor Oil Saab 9-3 that he has all season, it will no longer be under the banner of Scott-Eklund Racing.

“What’s different now is that I’m running with Per Eklund only, not Scott-Eklund anymore,” Hubinette said via phone interview on Thursday. “It’s only Per Eklund with me. So there have been some changes due to, I guess, some internal issues. But I’m still in the same car, same sponsor, same mechanics, so I’m very excited about this upcoming weekend.

“It’s been great having Per working with me. We’ve been communicating really well. He’s been really helpful.”

Per Eklund Motorsport campaigned Toomas Heikkinen in the 2011 European Rallycross Championship, while Eklund himself won a Swedish national event last September in the 9-3 as well. Owing to the split, Eklund will only campaign a single car for the final two races of the season. Despite the disadvantage of losing a teammate, Hubinette admits that there are definite positives to the downsizing.

“You know, the reality is now all focus is going to be on my car, and actually the second car is now spare parts for me,” Hubinette added. “Now I have more parts and the crew is only focused on my car. It turns out to be not a bad deal for me.”

Image via Samuel Hubinette Racing Facebook

With the team unrest settled, Hubinette can focus on closing the gap between him and points leader Tanner Foust. He currently has 50 points, while Foust leads the championship with 62, but his focus is single-minded: taking victories.

“I’m going out to win, that’s always what I’m doing, and then we’ll see what happens with the rest. It’s a tight battle for the championship now, and we get to drop one event too, which mixes it up a little bit. As of now, I’m second, which is cool, and we’re very proud of that achievement knowing that we shook hands on the Thursday before the Charlotte event, the night before, and went out there and had no experience in the car.”

With that in mind, however, Hubinette won’t dodge the possibility of bad luck, which took away two potential podium finishes at Texas and X Games. He suffered part failure in Texas, while Sverre Isachsen’s incident in the X Games final reset the field while Hubinette ran second; on the restart, contact dropped him to a ninth place finish. The 17 points that he theoretically lost in those events would put him in the championship lead.

Image via Samuel Hubinette Racing Facebook

“Staying away from bad luck is a lottery,” Hubinette admits. “I’m just thinking positive and doing my best to stay away from contact with other cars. But we’re talking about Global Rallycross. It’s six laps and everybody wants to get into the first corner first, so anything can happen. I’m going to do my best to get a good start and have a good qualifying lap so I can be up on the front row.

“I’m confident, but bad luck can happen to anyone. You don’t know the future—it can happen to all of us. You can’t predict an engine failure or gearbox or tires or someone running into you from behind, like happened to me at X Games when Ken Block ran into me from behind. You just have to stay positive and do your best, and hope for some luck too. If you have the combination and do some flawless runs, then you can be on the podium.”

Hubinette also admits that overcoming the other Swedish-based team—Olsbergs MSE, which fields Ford Fiestas for Foust and the other three drivers in the top five in points—will be a great challenge.

“I think I have some tough competition—the Ford Fiestas have been running good, they were developed for years with Andreas Eriksson and they’re much lighter cars than the other cars in the field, including my car. The weight disadvantage that I have doesn’t help me in small hairpin corners when you’re coming out real slow in first gear, that’s when they basically leave you and you have to make it up in some other place. So it’s a challenge having a much heavier and bigger car. I’m just going to have to drive smart and try to make it up where I can.

“(But) I’m definitely fired up, it’s really cool to have the ENEOS Motor Oil rally car up in second place in the championship chase.”

– Chris Leone

GRC Mid-Season Break: How Drivers Spent Their “Summer Vacation”

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

Two and a half months is a long time to go between race weekends in the middle of a season, but that’s exactly how long it’s been since the last Global Rallycross Championship event all the way back in July. Luckily, since then, the athletes of the GRC have been finding plenty of ways to keep themselves busy. Here’s a list of highlights:

  • Points leader Tanner Foust has scored finishes of second, sixth, and sixth in three European Rallycross Championship rounds, climbing to second in that championship. In the meantime, he’s also been promoting new episodes of the American version of Top Gear, while starring in the “Life in the Foust Lane” web series on behalf of sponsor Rockstar Energy.
  • Besides doing stunt work in multiple car commercials, Samuel Hubinette took part in the Targa Newfoundland Rally from September 8-15, finishing first in the small displacement class and second in the open class. He told us about his summer in a recent interview:

    After New Hampshire I flew straight to Sweden with my family, spent a couple weeks there. I was actually supposed to stay there longer, but then I got some commercials back in California. So I flew back early with my family and worked on a Porsche commercial, a Golf commercial, and a Hyundai commercial.

    Image via Chrysler Twitter

    Then I flew out to Newfoundland and got to do the Targa Newfoundland Race, which was awesome, with Fiat USA. I competed for them, which was pretty cool, in the Fiat Abarth, (and it) was awesome. And I had Jen Horsey as the co-driver, our TV host for Global Rallycross. With her next to me with a lot of experience, I got up to speed very quickly. With her getting up to speed, we did really well. Actually, in the open class, where we were up against rally cars with overdrive and 500 horsepower, we ended up second in the class with a 165 horsepower car.
    I think we tore it up pretty good up there, and for me it was a great challenge to learn something new, which I always wanted to try out, and I give a lot of respect to the rally guys out there for listening to the notes and not knowing how the roads are. It was awesome, and it was good to stay behind the wheel in the downtime, which I got to do because we had the two month break between GRC events. So that was helpful for me.

  • Brian Deegan is currently fighting for the championship in the Pro 2 class in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, where he’s taken four wins in 14 starts. Last weekend at Las Vegas, Deegan took finishes of seventh and fourth in the two main events.

Image via @GronholmM

  • Marcus Gronholm continues to recuperate from serious injuries suffered in his practice crash at X Games. According to comments in a press release from his sponsor, Gronholm is feeling well but cannot be cleared by his doctors to compete again until October at the earliest.
  • Returning home to England during the break, David Binks competed in the Suzuki Swift Rallycross Championship round at Lydden Hill on August 26-27, coming home sixth overall. He told us about the experience:

    I’d been back home, and it was great to see the family and friends. I’d been driving excavators and doing all sorts of things while I’d been back just to keep myself occupied, and doing some fitness things. But I just needed to get back in a car. I sort of needed that adrenaline rush. And back in England, this Bank Holiday is the biggest weekend in British rallycross.
    I’ve still got an old Supercar, a Mitsubishi Evo 9 Supercar that I used to race back in 2008-9, but I didn’t want to wheel out an underpowered supercar. So I thought, “Well, what else can I drive?” I rang the guys that run the Suzuki Swift championship and said “Have you got a car?” They said “Yeah, we’ve got a car, do you want to drive?” And I said “Yeah, I’ll come out and play.” So we went out and played in that, and it was good. It’s not a quick car, but it’s good fun.

  • Ken Block has been competing in numerous stage rallies across the globe, scoring wins in the Canadian Rallyé Defi from September 8-10 and Rally America’s famed Olympus Rally last weekend. Block also ran as high as 10th in the World Rally Championship event in Finland before a broken control arm bracket knocked him out on the third day of the event.

Capture via Audi “Return to Snake River Canyon”

  • Audi kept Stephan Verdier busy during his break, taking him to the fabled Snake River Canyon to perform stunts in a commercial that launched the new RS5—literally, into the canyon—and became an immediate internet hit. Verdier, who was featured prominently in the video (a practice uncommon for most stunt drivers in commercials), also did some work as a driver coach for the brand in the following weeks.
  • Andy Scott competed in his own roving tour of rallycross in Europe, competing in three ERC events and the marquee French round at Circuit de Loheac in a Ford Focus for Tony Bardy Motorsport. His best finish came in France, where he placed a respectable sixth; he’ll head to Germany this weekend instead of Las Vegas for the ERC finale.
  • Perhaps no driver had a better “summer vacation” than Rhys Millen, who set a world record in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb and launched a new racing specification, Formula Cross. Millen’s 9:46.161 run in the Hyundai Genesis beat second place Romain Dumas to the summit by less than a second, while his Formula Cross vehicle takes all of the excitement of riding an ATV and adds an unprecedented level of safety for a four-wheel off-road vehicle.
  • Travis Pastrana competed in a handful of NASCAR Nationwide Series and K&N Pro Series East events, landing a one-off ride with the esteemed Roush Fenway Racing at Richmond in early September. But Pastrana’s most high-profile event might have been the launch of Nitro Circus 3D, the full-length movie version of his popular MTV show that features the action sports collective performing a number of stunts.

Image via Liam Doran Facebook

  • Liam Doran ranks third in ERC points, with a best finish of second in the three rounds between Loudon and now. Doran will actually skip this weekend’s race at Las Vegas to finish the ERC season, where he will attempt to wrestle second in the championship away from Foust.
  • Legendary skateboarder-turned-rallycross racer Bucky Lasek took part in the Dew Tour event in his home state of Maryland from August 16-19, taking a pair of silver medals in Skate Bowl and Vert.
  • Finally, Toomas Heikkinen has spent the past few months recuperating from his injuries at X Games. Topi will be back in action this weekend at Las Vegas, driving the fifth Olsbergs MSE Ford Fiesta.

– Chris Leone

GRC Preview: Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Image via Las Vegas Motor Speedway Facebook/Photo credit: Jeff Speer

Despite the absences of Marcus Gronholm due to injury and Liam Doran and Andy Scott to the European Rallycross Championship finale, this weekend’s Global Rallycross Championship event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway should feature a minimum of 15 cars after a short field of 14 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. This weekend’s entry list includes:

  • No. 3, Andreas Eriksson, Best Buy Ford Fiesta, Olsbergs MSE
  • No. 11, Sverre Isachsen, Puma Subaru Impreza, Subaru Puma Rallycross Team
  • No. 12, Stephan Verdier, Disney XD/Motorcity Hyundai Veloster, Rhys Millen Racing
  • No. 17, David Binks, eBay Motors Ford Fiesta, Olsbergs MSE
  • No. 34, Tanner Foust, Rockstar Energy/Etnies Ford Fiesta, Olsbergs MSE
  • No. 38, Brian Deegan, Rockstar Energy/Makita Ford Fiesta, Olsbergs MSE
  • No. 40, Dave Mirra, Puma Subaru Impreza, Subaru Puma Rallycross Team
  • No. 41, Richard Burton, Gumball STI Subaru Impreza, Gumball STI
  • No. 43, Ken Block, Monster Energy/DC Shoes Ford Fiesta, Monster World Rally Team
  • No. 57, Toomas Heikkinen, Bluebeam Ford Fiesta, Olsbergs MSE
  • No. 59, Pat Moro, Venom Energy/In-Vest USA Subaru Impreza, PMR Motorsports/Michael Crawford Motorsports
  • No. 67, Rhys Millen, Hyundai Racing Hyundai Veloster, Rhys Millen Racing
  • No. 77, Samuel Hubinette, Eneos Oil Saab 9-3, Scott-Eklund Racing
  • No. 81, Bucky Lasek, Puma Subaru Impreza, Subaru Puma Rallycross Team
  • No. 199, Travis Pastrana, Red Bull/Discount Tire Dodge Dart, Pastrana199 Racing

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

This event will mark the first start of the season for Eriksson, who scored 37 points in two events last year, while it will mark the first race for Heikkinen since his disqualification at Texas. Millen will also return to the series after skipping the New Hampshire round during the launch stages of Formula Cross. There has been no word on if Pastrana199 Racing will enter a second Dodge Dart as it did in Texas and X Games, or if they will remain a one-car team as when Travis Pastrana took the victory at New Hampshire.

Drivers will also be competing for the $25,000 Discount Tire/America’s Tire Cup bonus, which counts each driver’s results from Texas, New Hampshire, and Las Vegas. Currently, Olsbergs MSE teammates Foust and Deegan are tied for the lead with 32 points apiece, while Hubinette (28 points) and Pastrana (23) are also within striking distance. For an in-depth breakdown of how drivers can win the championship, click here.

Image via Global Rallycross Championship

The track layout is once again .77 miles long, but features some significant changes from the previous NASCAR tri-oval layouts at Charlotte and Texas. The jump is now at the exit of NASCAR pit road, while the shortcut actually takes drivers through the gap jump, as had been the plan at X Games. Dirt also returns, as part of the Legends track within the tri-oval will feature the clayish mixture from X Games and slight banking. For more analysis on the layout from Stephan Verdier, click here.

ESPN3 will broadcast the race live online at 11:30 PM ET on Saturday. ESPN2 will show the race again on television at 6 PM ET on Sunday.

– Chris Leone

Photos: GRC Teams Invade Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Here’s a collection of photos from the drivers and teams of the Global Rallycross Championship as they prepare for Saturday night’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

Image via Rhys Millen Facebook

Rhys Millen Racing may be ending their relationship with Hyundai at the conclusion of the season, but that hasn’t stopped them from proudly promoting that they’ll be the first team to ever run a Hyundai at LVMS.

Image via Stephan Verdier Facebook

Stephan Verdier comes into Saturday’s race seventh in points. He’ll be looking to score his second podium of the season in his No. 12 Motorcity/Disney XD Hyundai, getting his old car back after racing owner Rhys Millen’s Veloster at New Hampshire.

Image via Sverre Isachsen Facebook

Sverre Isachsen has been enjoying his tour of the United States this year, and Las Vegas is no exception. The three-time European Rallycross champion looks excited to get back on track and take in all that the bright lights of Vegas have to offer.

Image via Olsbergs MSE Facebook

Here’s a familiar sight: the Best Buy Mobile Ford Fiesta campaigned by Olsbergs MSE. But with Marcus Gronholm still recovering from his injuries at X Games, team principal Andreas Eriksson will be the driver behind the wheel this weekend.

Image via Samuel Hubinette Racing Facebook

Gronholm won’t be racing at Las Vegas, but he will be attending the event as a spectator. He’s here with fellow Swedes Samuel Hubinette and Per Eklund, who will try to close the gap in points on Gronholm’s teammate Tanner Foust.

– Chris Leone

Ian Davies, MWRT Chief Mechanic: “You Will Never See One Of My Cars Wheeled Back In The Garage Broken”

Image via Ian Davies Motorsport Facebook

Ken Block is one of the most popular race drivers in the world nowadays, taking his Monster World Rally Team Ford Fiesta across the globe to compete in stage rallies, rallycross events, and gymkhana demonstrations. But every skilled driver has a similarly skilled mechanic backing him up; for Block, that mechanic is Ian Davies, who brings over 20 years of experience to the table in various forms of motorsport from World Rally to touring cars. On Tuesday, Davies chatted with us as the MWRT team crew began the process of readying Block’s car for Saturday’s Global Rallycross Championship event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

Rallycross fans will know you best as chief mechanic for Ken Block, but he’s not your only client. Who else have you worked for in your career, and what are you up to when you’re not working with MWRT?

I do a lot of my work for M-Sport, the company that runs the world championship Ford program, so I’ve been with them for a considerable number of years now as a contract engineer. They’ve been sending me to South Africa and other places around the world doing jobs and it’s just the time I have to fill in between races. I looked after Henning Solberg for many years with as part of an M-Sport project, again, but I’ve also worked with Carlos Sainz, Marcus Gronholm, I worked with the late Colin McRae. I worked with all of these people, sort of as you do in the sport for different races. Recently in the last few years I’ve been working with Mohammed ben Sulayem, who’s an FIA vice president, and actually I engineered him for seven years before taking on Henning Solberg. What happens is, drivers leave the sport, contracts run out, and you get a new directive for a few years.  You know, things change over between clients and everything’s a one or two year contract.

You’ve been involved in a few stage rally victories with Ken and Alex Gelsomino this year, including Canada’s Rallyé Defi earlier in the month and Olympus Rally last week. You’ve also been a part of the silver-medal winning team at X Games. What has been your favorite achievement so far this year?

Image via Ken Block Facebook; Photo credit: Tony Harmer

I think the X Games was my favorite. Because a year ago, before X Games when we started the project, it was a little bit unique to build the hybrid car with the list of requirements that Ken had. It’s no secret we didn’t have the best of X Games in 2011 with some of the issues, the technical issues we had. And I think for us to go away in the last few months of 2011, sorting the spec of the car rates and going to win (Rally in the) 100 Acre Wood has been a major step forward for the team to get some reliability and consistency. And then to go to X Games this year and to get the silver medal I think will be the. I mean, I thoroughly enjoyed last weekend—we beat David Higgins and the Subaru team in Olympus Rally, when there was no championship to go for. It was all everybody had, you know, the championship had already been sorted. So it was a straight shooting, fast weekend at Olympus Rally. To win that by four and a half minutes was a fantastic achievement. But for me personally, I think to go back and lay those ghosts to rest from the 2011 X Games. That silver medal, and on a puncture at the end… Sebastien Loeb is the greatest rally driver that the world has ever seen, and it’s no disgrace finishing second to him.

Ken has a reputation for driving all out, which I’m sure keeps you busy, but what’s it like working with him? What are some of his needs out of the car compared to some other drivers?

Image via Monster World Rally Team Facebook

Two of the most difficult things for me in the transition to working with Ken were one, understanding where the finance comes from, I think understanding the marketing. Ken markets himself and his team in a very unique way, which is why he’s been very successful, so for me understanding that everything that we do is filmed, every test session we do is filmed, has taken a little bit of getting used to. From a driving point of view, Ken is a very flamboyant driver. He likes to entertain the crowd. I think car setup wise, Ken would have the car oversteering all the time because that’s where the show comes from. But I think about balancing that show, coming back and trying to get a car that allows him to be flamboyant when necessary, but also to be very quick—I think about balancing that with Ken Block, which I wouldn’t have to (do) with some of the other drivers because they just want to go. Ken wants to race and win, he’s a very good racer, but he’s also very mindful of the show he puts on, if that makes sense.

You get to do some real fun stuff as part of MWRT, including Ken Block’s Gymkhana 5 video this year. How many of those videos have you been involved with? How long does a process like that take, and how often do you actually work on the car over the course of a video shoot like that?

Image via Ken Block Facebook

I did Gymkhana 4 and Gymkhana 5 because they’ve both been done with this car that I designed and built. One was done in the studios last year, and then San Francisco (this year). It’s sort of like doing any other motorsport race or event. On set, we arrive at four or five o’clock in the morning to rig the cameras, and filming normally starts at around eight o’clock. And then they will film a scene, and then there will be a break where either we move venues or reset the cameras. And we tend to do our normal service, the same as we would do in a rally, in that time. So whenever there’s a break, we will change tires, we will check the car, we will fix any body work that may have been damaged or a wheel that may have been bent, because we all know that you strike the occasional curb and do a bit of damage when you’re making these. They’re not quite as easy as most people think. And typically there are five days of filming, depending on if we don’t have many problems. But we do rebuild the car every single evening. When we stop, about seven, eight, nine, ten o’clock at night, we go back to the workshop, we strip the car out, we reshim the clutch, we do the things we need to make the car reliable again for the following day. It’s like doing any sort of race or rallycross or rally.

Different events require different setups, but do they require different parts as well? If so, what do you have to change on the Fiesta to go from a rally event to rallycross, and even to gymkhana?

Image via Ian Davies Motorsport Facebook

We’re actually doing that now. The car arrived from Olympus Rally (Monday) evening. So we’re in the garage here at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and we’re just embarking on our 48-hour changeover. So the radiator is moved from the front of the car and the cooling package goes into the rear of the car, where the spare wheel normally goes. We take in the air from the side of the car, and we have water lines that go underneath the car because they’re not allowed by regulation to go inside the car. Because of the air flow, or lack of air flow, in rallycross, we choose to put the radiator in the rear because the cooling efficiency is far greater than putting the radiator in the front, and also (with) the touching and banging that goes on, it’s much safer inside the car than what it would be in the front. The suspension, we have different shock absorbers, different springs, different arms, and some different bracketry to the bottom of the uprights to change the roll centers. Also we take the co-driver’s seat out of the car, we take out the jacks, we take out the spare wheel, most stuff that we would normally use for stage rally. So it’s about a—it can be changed over in about 24 hours, one working day is what we take for four people to swap it over. But we’re also rebuilding after the stage rally, so we’ve got to go from one to the other and swap back again.

One of the things that we’ve noticed over the course of the year is that the Fiestas seem to be the strongest cars in the series. What about them is so well suited for rallycross?

I think the engine’s very good. I think the two liter Durotec engine that we use is a very good base engine. And I think that’s the first thing that makes a huge difference, having a good base car. It’s quite a small car in the way it’s packaged, so it’s quite nimble. If you look at some of the other cars, like the Dodge Dart for example, it’s a much bigger body than we have. So it makes the car a lot less nimble. Travis did win in New Hampshire, but as a general rule the Fiesta is a very nimble car and the Durotec engine is very strong.

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

The MWRT crew has had to do some heroic repair jobs during GRC events to keep Ken on track this year, with the most impressive one coming at New Hampshire after the heat incident. What was broken on the car, and what were you able to fix between your heat and the final?

(From the end of the heat) we had six minutes if we were to make the last chance qualifier. There were no fenders left at all, they were smashed. The front bumper was smashes, the hood was smashed, the windshield was smashed, and there was a little bit of suspension damage to the front. (But) we’re rally guys. It’s sometimes not pretty, yeah there’s a lot of duct tape, (but) we carry a plastic windshield. It’s a matter of getting out the build conventions, cutting it out quite quickly. It’s all very crude—you might have seen one of our mechanics inside in the drivers’ seat, kicking out the windshield with his feet, getting it out the quickest way possible. And we got the car fixed up and patched up, and as long as the wheels turn in the right direction, then we have to qualify. And at the end of the day, Ken got fifth in New Hampshire, and got some points. Had we had a better start to the season, who knows where those few points may have led us? You will never see one of my cars wheeled back in the garage as a broken car. We will always, always try to fix it on the track and get Ken back out. And we always work and plan for that.

Is it frustrating as a mechanic to have so little time to work on the car when the GRC races themselves start?

Image via Ian Davies Motorsport Facebook

It’s like any motorsport event—you need to adjust. We go to rally and we get 20, 30, or 40 minutes the fix the car, whatever the schedule is. In Global Rallycross, if you’re in the first heat and there’s a problem and you go into the last chance qualifier, you get 40, 45 minutes, it can even be an hour. If you’re in the last heat and something goes wrong, you have six minutes. A little bit is the luck of the draw, we all know that, and we all work to those rules and regulations. It’s also very important for Global Rallycross to keep a compact event. Yeah, we have a stadium mentality. We have people watching, they need to be excited, they need to see the sport in its raw element. But it must happen quickly, and I think that’s part of the interest. I believe that what Global Rallycross is doing is fantastic. Sport in the United States certainly needs what we’re doing here. (Sometimes) you’ve got six, ten minutes, but hey, you know? We work with that.

Finally, the biggest schedule-related news out of the series came very recently when the GRC announced that it would be going to SEMA at the end of October. As mechanics, are you and the MWRT crew especially looking forward to racing at a car show like that?

Everybody is massively excited about going to SEMA. And it’ll be a great platform for our sport, with all the people there, and every person selling something at that SEMA show or showing something is a potential sponsor. As mechanics, all the guys are taking holidays after the race because they want to stay on, actually look at SEMA and spend some time here. So (for) the mechanics, it’s very exciting. You know, SEMA’s a big name around the world, because in the UK, the majority of us are from Europe, the work team, and it’s not really feasible for those guys to pay for a ticket and go to the SEMA show. But we’re here and there’s a race on, so we are very excited about the prospect of the two mixing.

– Chris Leone

GRC Insider: Olsbergs Scoring Most Points Per Entry

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Swedish-based Olsbergs MSE may be loading the Global Rallycross Championship field with up to five cars per race weekend, but its best teams are so strong that they’re scoring the most points per entry of the seven premier teams over the course of the year.

In 16 starts spread over its five teams, Olsbergs-prepared Fords have scored 204 points, for an average of 12.75 points per start. They’ve scored two wins, both belonging to Marcus Gronholm, and seven podiums in that time frame, while only one car (Toomas Heikkinen at Texas) has missed a final event in that time.

Second in the category is the now-dissolved privateer Scott-Eklund Racing, whose Saabs have taken 88 points in eight combined starts for an average of 11. Samuel Hubinette scored the organization’s best finish with a second place at New Hampshire, while both Hubinette and owner-driver Andy Scott added top five finishes to open the season at Charlotte.

Third strongest is Rhys Millen Racing, whose drivers Stephan Verdier and Rhys Millen have tallied 76 points in seven combined starts to average 10.86 points per start. Verdier has the team’s lone podium at Charlotte to start the year, making three of four main events in the process; Millen has scored at least 11 points in each of his three starts, with best finishes of fourth at both Texas and X Games.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

The Monster World Rally Team of Ken Block has scored 40 points this season for an average of 10 points per start, ranking it fourth on this list. Block has seen his share of struggles, including incidents in heat races at both Charlotte and New Hampshire, but turned in one of the most heroic drives of the season at X Games by placing second in the final despite suffering a punctured tire. In fifth place is another Monster Energy-backed team, Liam Doran’s Monster Energy Citroen Rallycross Team, which has only made three starts but scored 27 points for an average of nine per start.

Sixth place Pastrana199 Racing has seen a challenging year thus far, with lead driver Travis Pastrana suffering bad luck in each of the first three events of the season. Pastrana missed the main events at both Texas and X Games, where his team campaigned two cars apiece, and thus scaled back for New Hampshire. In response, he won there, taking the victory and 21 of his team’s 38 total points. Over six starts, that’s an average of 6.33 points per race.

Rounding out this list is the Subaru PUMA Rallycross Team, which has campaigned three cars all season and added a fourth for X Games. Unfortunately, that extra X Games car, belonging to current Rally America champion David Higgins, has scored the team’s best finish of the year, an eighth place in the final. Higgins, Dave Mirra, Bucky Lasek, and three-time defending European Rallycross champion Sverre Isachsen have combined for 74 points in 13 starts for an average of 5.69 points per car per start.

– Chris Leone

GRC Insider: Foust, Deegan Tied For Lead In Discount Tire/America’s Tire Cup

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

Six drivers are within 11 points of the lead in the three-race Discount Tire/America’s Tire Cup, the $25,000 “championship within a championship” that the Global Rallycross Championship will award after the completion of Saturday night’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Through the first two races at Texas Motor Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Olsbergs MSE teammates Tanner Foust and Brian Deegan share the lead in the standings with 32 points apiece. Scott-Eklund Racing’s Samuel Hubinette ranks third with 28 points, while Travis Pastrana holds fourth place with 23. Behind them, three drivers—Ken Block, David Binks, and the still-inactive Marcus Gronholm—share fifth place with 21 points each.

Theoretically, any of these six drivers could walk out of Vegas with the $25,000 bonus.

Foust and Deegan are the likely favorites, given their consistency all season. Foust scored finishes of second at Texas and fourth in Loudon, while Deegan placed third in both events. They’re also the only two drivers in the series to win heats in both events.

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

Pastrana and Hubinette both established themselves as legitimate threats for the bonus at New Hampshire after finishing 1-2 in both their heat race and the final. For Pastrana, the victory was a relief after a series of DNFs in the first three events; for Hubinette, it was the realization of untapped potentials after multiple mechanical failures while running at the front of the pack at Texas and X Games.

For Block and Binks, the road has been a bit more difficult. Each has scored a fifth and an eighth place finish in the two previous bonus events, leaving them 11 points back of the lead. The position must be especially frustrating for Binks, who had been running exceptionally well at Loudon before a broken driveshaft ended his final early.

Two other drivers—Stephan Verdier and Andy Scott—are tied for eighth with 19 points apiece and could mathematically steal the title, but Scott announced on Wednesday that he would not race at Las Vegas. As for Verdier, he’d need a lot of help; to start, either Foust or Deegan would have to miss the final, while the other would have to finish 10th without winning a heat. Beyond that, the other drivers ahead would have to miss the podium in almost every case.

– Chris Leone