GRC Instant Reaction: SEMA Show

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Here are some observations from the Global Rallycross Championship season finale at the SEMA Show on Tuesday night. The race, which took place in a Las Vegas Convention Center parking lot, featured some of the best side-by-side action of the year:

    • The starts of the two heat races on Tuesday were particularly difficult, with incredible glare from the sunset and loose, dry dirt that left a dusty haze around the .6-mile rallycross course. Conditions improved as the night went on, when the sun was no longer in drivers’ eyes and the dirt settled in, but that didn’t stop the first corner from hosting significant beating and banging each time out.
    • That bumping at the start of the first heat cost Brian Deegan dearly as he attempted to catch Tanner Foust for the championship. In the squeeze on the first turn, Sverre Isachsen got into Deegan’s right rear, puncturing the tire and removing Deegan from heat win competition. Between heats and after the race, a frustrated Deegan expressed his displeasure with Isachsen, alluding to repeated incidents and the potential of payback down the line.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

    • All week, it was abundantly clear that Ken Block had the fastest car in the field, bar none. Block posted the fastest time in seeding, won his Monday heat, and came out swinging on Tuesday as well, winning his second heat by a solid margin over Samuel Hubinette. By doing so, he also earned the ever-important pole position for the main event, offering him a huge advantage going into the first corner.
    • In his second start of the year, this time substituting for Travis Pastrana, Bryce Menzies was every bit as aggressive as one would expect out of an off-road champion. He did an incredible job pressuring Hubinette in Tuesday’s heat race to finish third and transfer into the final, although he ran into problems there after contact with Bucky Lasek. Pastrana sounded like he wants to give Menzies a full-time GRC ride for 2013, especially as he focuses on NASCAR.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

    • With Deegan in the last chance qualifier, Tanner Foust saw an opportunity to steal a bonus point and extend his championship lead from six points to seven heading into the final. He had no problem doing so, getting the hole shot over Timur Timerzyanov and Stephan Verdier in his heat race and leading the entire way. In fact, Foust seemed more relaxed than usual all night on Tuesday, confident in how far he had extended his championship lead.
    • Timerzyanov, the defending European champion, had an up-and-down debut in the GRC. He rebounded from a hard landing on the jump on Sunday to win his heat on Monday, but Tuesday’s heat was a different story. He didn’t make any friends by pushing Stephan Verdier off course and blocking Rhys Millen from getting by after spinning off of the jump on the final lap. Timerzyanov, who finished eighth in the final, is the kind of aggressive driver that GRC fans would love to see more often, but no doubt the competition was frustrated with him.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

    • Give all the credit in the world to Brian Deegan for what he did on Tuesday. By coming back from a flat tire to win the last chance qualifier, he made it to the main event, albeit starting from the back row. He languished in the back for the most part after taking the shortcut early, but when Block’s mechanical issue caused the final to be restarted after six of eight laps, it gave him a second chance. He jumped from ninth to fourth with an impressive restart and climbed to second by race’s end.
    • Block’s mechanical failure in the final was especially upsetting—not only for fans of Block looking for him to take his first rallycross win, but for everybody watching his intense battle for the lead with Foust. Block would get the hole shot in the final, but Foust eventually squeezed by halfway through. Everybody was looking forward to see if Block could find a way to retain the lead when he had to pull off and exit the race.

Image via Rhys Millen Racing Facebook

  • Rhys Millen Racing said a bittersweet goodbye to its four-year racing relationship with Hyundai on Tuesday. They were only able to put one car in the final, as problems for Verdier in both the heat race and last chance qualifier precluded him from making it, but Millen drove his heart out as he attempts to secure manufacturer backing for 2013. Surprisingly, as consistently fast of a driver as Millen is, this was the first podium of his GRC career, and he earned it by passing Hubinette for third.
  • It was only fitting that the top four drivers in the results at SEMA were also the top four drivers in the standings. Foust, Deegan, Millen, and Hubinette ranked 1-2-3-4 in Tuesday’s main event, and that’s basically how they ran in the championship as well. The only difference is, while Millen and Hubinette tied in points with 63, Hubinette wins the tiebreaker by virtue of a best finish of second compared to Millen’s third.
  • ESPN promoted next year’s Global X Games schedule throughout yesterday’s broadcast, listing events throughout America and Europe. Living up to its “global” name, the GRC is reportedly coming along for the ride in at least some of the events, such as the ones in Brazil, Barcelona, and of course Los Angeles. The question remains, however, what the rest of the schedule and field will look like for 2013. It may be a while before we have answers to those questions.

– Chris Leone


Subarus Come Up Big In GRC Season Finale

Image via Subaru Rally Team

After a long and frustrating season of on-track incidents, mechanical failures, and continued car development, the Subaru Puma Rallycross Team and drivers Sverre Isachsen, Dave Mirra, and Bucky Lasek came into the Global Rallycross Championship season finale at the SEMA Show looking for a strong run to finish the season.

Finish strong they did—both Mirra and Lasek advanced to the final directly from their second heat races, scoring season-best finishes of sixth and seventh, respectively. Meanwhile, Isachsen cracked the top 10 in points, only a single point behind former Subaru driver Travis Pastrana.

Image via Subaru Rally Team

Mirra’s event looked to get off to a difficult start after a spectacular fire took him out of his first heat race on Monday night. But safe, conservative driving enabled him to avoid the troubles that Brian Deegan, Pat Moro, and Isachsen faced in the second heat, and he brought the car home in the fourth and final transfer spot. In his third final appearance of the season, he managed to avoid trouble once again to come home in a respectable sixth.

Lasek finished third in his Monday heat race and followed the same strategy as Mirra to transfer into the main event. It was Lasek’s second consecutive appearance in the final, after making the first one of his career at Las Vegas last month. While he didn’t finish in the final, he still managed to outlast European champion Timur Timerzyanov, off-road champion Bryce Menzies, and Ken Block to take seventh place.

Unfortunately, Isachsen was unable to join his Subaru teammates in the final after failing to finish both of his heat races and the last chance qualifier. However, by adding five points to his 35-point total, he managed to total 40 on the season, best among the team and enough to surpass Andy Scott for the final spot in the top 10.

The Subaru team will now focus on further developing its WRX STi model in preparation for the 2013 season. Isachsen will once again spearhead the charge, as the three-time European champion will begin the second year of his three-year contract with the team. Lasek and Mirra are expected to return as well.

– Chris Leone

Foust Defeats Star-Studded Field For Second Consecutive GRC Title

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

For the second year in a row, Tanner Foust took home the Global Rallycross Championship crown in an Olsbergs MSE-prepared Ford Fiesta by beating a similarly skilled teammate. Last year, it was Marcus Gronholm who took home second place; this year, it was fellow Rockstar Energy driver Brian Deegan.

Foust scored a total of 94 points this season, including 22 in Tuesday night’s season finale in the SEMA Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. He took race wins in the final two events of the year, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in September and SEMA. Deegan took 84, with five consecutive podium finishes to end the year.

Samuel Hubinette and Rhys Millen, two of Foust’s former competitors in Formula Drift, tied for third place with 63 points apiece; Hubinette had a best finish of second at New Hampshire, while Millen’s best run of the year was a third place at SEMA. Ken Block finished fifth with 58 points after winning two heat races at SEMA but falling out of the final due to an oil fire.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Here are the final championship standings:

  1. Tanner Foust, #34 Ford, 94 points
  2. Brian Deegan, #38 Ford, 84
  3. Samuel Hubinette, #77 Saab, 63
  4. Rhys Millen, #67 Hyundai, 63
  5. Ken Block, #43 Ford, 58
  6. Stephan Verdier, #12 Hyundai, 52
  7. David Binks, #17 Ford, 45
  8. Marcus Gronholm, #3 Ford, 43
  9. Travis Pastrana, #199 Dodge, 41
  10. Sverre Isachsen, #11 Subaru, 40
  11. Andy Scott, #26 Saab, 38
  12. Dave Mirra, #40 Subaru, 35
  13. Bucky Lasek, #81 Subaru, 35
  14. Toomas Heikkinen, #57 Ford, 33
  15. Liam Doran, #33 Citroen, 30
  16. Pat Moro, #59 Subaru, 22
  17. Sebastien Loeb, #72 Citroen, 21
  18. Bryce Menzies, #99 Dodge, 12
  19. David Higgins, #75 Subaru, 9
  20. Andreas Eriksson, #3 Ford, 8

– Chris Leone

Foust Beats Deegan For SEMA Victory, GRC Championship

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Brian Deegan drove a remarkable race in the Global Rallycross Championship season finale at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Tuesday night, advancing through the last chance qualifier and getting a strong start in the final to advance to second. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, as Olsbergs MSE teammate Tanner Foust took both the race victory and the GRC title by winning his second straight race in Las Vegas.

Foust took home his second consecutive GRC title by winning heat races on both Monday and Tuesday and getting the holeshot on the second attempt at the final, never relinquishing the lead. Rhys Millen completed the podium, his first ever podium finish in GRC competition in his last race with Hyundai sponsorship.

Deegan won his heat race on Monday to earn a bonus point, but failed to advance in Tuesday’s heat after contact with Sverre Isachsen knocked the tire off of his car. He bounced back to win the last chance qualifier over Toomas Heikkinen, but still had to start from the back in the final.

Stuck in the back on the first attempt at the final, Deegan received a bit of luck when Ken Block’s oil fire led to a red flag and a restart. Polesitter Block won both of his heats and got the holeshot over Foust in the first final, but Foust passed him halfway through; a lap later, the car failed and Block pulled to the side, climbing out to avoid the fire. He was uninjured.

On the second start, Deegan divebombed from the outside of the third row to come into the holeshot fourth, while Foust, Samuel Hubinette, and Millen held the first three positions. Millen eventually forced his way by Hubinette, who would come home a solid fourth.

Heikkinen rounded out the top five, while Subaru Puma Rallycross teammates Dave Mirra and Bucky Lasek scored season-best finishes of sixth and seventh, respectively. Timur Timerzyanov, in his GRC debut, finished eighth, while Bryce Menzies placed ninth while substituting for Travis Pastrana and Block rounded out the top 10. Stephan Verdier, Sverre Isachsen, Pat Moro, and Liam Doran missed the final.

We’ll have more coverage in the coming hours and days.

– Chris Leone

GRC Drivers’ SEMA Commitments Extend Beyond Race

Image via Tanner Foust Facebook

If you’re looking for some of the other appearances that Global Rallycross Championship drivers and teams will be making at SEMA, here’s a quick guide. All times listed are local, and this list will be updated as we come across:

  • Samuel Hubinette will be signing autographs at the Eneos Oil booth Tuesday at 12 PM. He’ll also be at the Magnaflow booth on Wednesday at 2:30 PM.
  • Travis Pastrana is signing autographs at the Discount Tire location at 475 W. Centennial Boulevard on Tuesday from 11 AM to 1 PM.
  • Ford will showcase a special edition Tanner Foust-inspired Focus ST all week. Foust has also spoken
  • Speaking of Foust, Formula Cross, the new ATV-based rallycross formula engineered by Rhys Millen Racing, has unveiled a special-edition Foust-themed model of their YFC450 car that will be on site for the GRC race. After the event, RMR and the Hoonigan folks will demonstrate the car.
  • Brian Deegan will make an appearance at the Pro Comp booth on behalf of Metal Mulisha on Wednesday at 2:30 PM.

– Chris Leone

Two Heats In Tonight’s GRC Season Finale

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Tonight’s Global Rallycross Championship season finale at the SEMA Show will feature only two heats before the last chance qualifier and main event.

With a field of 14 cars planning to race tonight—and possibly 15, if the Olsbergs MSE crew is able to complete an extensive repair job on David Binks’ totaled No. 17 eBay Motors Ford Fiesta—the decision was made to combine the cars into two heats of seven in order to produce a more exciting show.

The seeding results were as follows:

  1. Ken Block, #43 Ford, 29.168 seconds
  2. Tanner Foust, #34 Ford, 29.535
  3. Timur Timerzyanov, #3 Ford, 29.615
  4. Samuel Hubinette, #77 Saab, 29.791
  5. Sverre Isachsen, #11 Subaru, 29.798
  6. Stephan Verdier, #12 Hyundai, 29.828
  7. Rhys Millen, #67 Hyundai, 29.922
  8. Bucky Lasek, #81 Subaru, 30.033
  9. Brian Deegan, #38 Ford, 30.056
  10. Bryce Menzies, #99 Dodge, 30.224
  11. Toomas Heikkinen, #57 Ford, 30.368
  12. Pat Moro, #59 Subaru, 31.370
  13. Dave Mirra, #40 Subaru, 32.892
  14. Liam Doran, #33 Citroen, DNS

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

The two heats will be as follows:

  • Heat 2A: Ken Block (1), Samuel Hubinette (4), Sverre Isachsen (5), Brian Deegan (9), Bryce Menzies (10), Pat Moro (12), Dave Mirra (13)
  • Heat 2B: Tanner Foust (2), Timur Timerzyanov (3), Stephan Verdier (6), Rhys Millen (7), Bucky Lasek (8), Toomas Heikkinen (11), Liam Doran (14)

The heat races will be especially interesting, as the two championship contenders have been separated and the four drivers in contention for third in points have been split evenly between the two heats. Heat 2A will feature title contender Deegan and third place competitors Block and Hubinette, while Heat 2B showcases championship leader Foust and third place competitors (and teammates) Verdier and Millen.

Coverage begins on ESPN2 and ESPN3 at 8PM Eastern/5PM Pacific.

– Chris Leone

GRC Race Preview: SEMA Show

Image via @wasmotorsport/Twitter

What had been a 16-car field for this year’s Global Rallycross Championship season finale at the SEMA Show has been whittled down to 14 after a pair of incidents in practice, while the fields for tomorrow’s heat races have also been set by preliminary heats run on Monday night.

Neither David Binks nor Jimmy Keeney competed in Monday’s heats after incidents on Sunday and Monday, respectively. Binks hit the edge of the dirt jump after failing to approach it with enough speed during Sunday’s practice, while Keeney missed a shift and also failed to take the jump earlier today. European champion Timur Timerzyanov also suffered an accident on Sunday, but his crew was able to repair the damage in time for today’s events.

Seeding took place earlier today, with Ken Block, Tanner Foust, and Timur Timerzyanov leading the way in three Ford Fiestas. Foust’s lone remaining championship rival, Brian Deegan, would qualify ninth, not the start he was looking for when challenging Foust for the championship tomorrow night.

Following seeding, the series put on a set of four heat races, marking the first time since the season opener at Charlotte that cars would take part in two heats and the first time all season that the heats would take place over two separate days. All four heats were won by Fiestas, as Ford continued its domination of the season thus far.

Image via Ken Block Instagram

In heat one, Block beat Pat Moro and Bucky Lasek, while Foust defeated Toomas Heikkinen and Rhys Millen in the second heat. Heat three saw Timerzyanov beat Stephan Verdier, Bryce Menzies (subbing for Travis Pastrana), and Liam Doran, who had lingering car troubles that prevented him from finishing. Finally, Deegan overcame his mid-pack qualifying run to win the fourth heat, beating Samuel Hubinette, while Subaru teammates Sverre Isachsen and Dave Mirra were unable to complete the heat. Mirra suffered a fire on the initial start.

Tomorrow’s race coverage will begin on ESPN2 and online on ESPN3 at 8 PM Eastern time. Coverage will start with the four heats scheduled to take place tomorrow, followed by the last chance qualifier and main event.

Live updates on today’s event came from Jason Balser and Cami Godoy.

– Chris Leone

Samuel Hubinette: “(SEMA) Is A Tight Course… There’s A Go-Kart Feeling”

Image via Samuel Hubinette Instagram

“It’s been a pretty intense day,” Samuel Hubinette said on Sunday night after a long day of media commitments and testing in preparation for Tuesday’s Global Rallycross Championship season finale at SEMA. Driving the No. 77 Eneos Oil Saab 9-3 for Eklund Motorsport, Hubinette currently sits third in points, but is looking to bounce back from a difficult run at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last month that saw him miss the final for only the first time all season.

Of course, Hubinette is also a busy stuntman, and he managed to keep plenty busy in the month between races with commercials and the return of an old friend—the Formula Drift Dodge Challenger that Hubinette campaigned last year. We talked about those endeavors, this week’s fun at SEMA, and a little bit of the road ahead next month and beyond:

Last month’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway didn’t go as well for you as hoped—you had some lingering issues and weren’t able to make it to the final. What was going on that weekend, and how do you expect to recover on Tuesday at SEMA?

Coming off of the last event, where we had a lot of issues—it was a pretty tough week last time we were here in Vegas. We had some boost problems that cost us. We were hoping to do well, but with low power we were struggling. So it was just a tough weekend for sure. As for the power, those problems are solved, and with full force, we’re feeling very excited to get back on top and trying to fight for a podium finish. We’re very, very excited.

We had a good test day, made some changes on the setup, did the jump, and the car took the gravel jump very well. It’s definitely a tight little course, there’s a little go-kart feeling, it may not be the best fit for the larger platform cars that we have but at the same time it’s very technical. It comes up to a lot of the drivers’ input, too. It’s going to be quite tricky, even for some of the quicker cars, which I like. It’s going to be a more even place. That’s kind of where I’m at right now from today’s testing.

Image via Samuel Hubinette Instagram

You’re involved in a really tight battle for third place in the championship with guys like Ken Block, Rhys Millen, and Stephan Verdier. Are you going to pay attention to where those guys are at all during the race?

I always just focus on my own performance and try to win the race. I go up to each event and try to be on top of the podium. I don’t even know how many points they are behind, I actually haven’t even looked at it. I know that it’s a very tight battle, but it’s always going to be tight with this crowd. There’s a lot of great drivers and high-end teams that we’re going up against, so it makes it a very fun and challenging competition every time we come out. I’m going to try my best to get the Eneos Oil/Eklund Motorsport car on the top of the podium, that would be a fantastic finish to the year.

We’re seeing the dirt jump for the first time all season at SEMA. How do you like it compared to the metal jump?

I really like the dirt jump after today’s testing. I think we experienced a softer landing, and more forgiving if you make a mistake. Unfortunately we did see a couple of the Ford cars going hard and even rolling over today—David Binks ended up rolling over forward, he crashed the car pretty bad. Luckily enough he’s doing well. But there’s going to be, assumedly, some driver error, not the jump’s fault. I had no problem with the jump. It was a window between 51 and 56 miles per hour, I’d say, that was the sweet spot. In the high 50s, they were landing pretty hard. So you’ve got to keep it in that.

There was a short run-up to the jump, the shortest ever, so I never even got to put it in third gear. That made it a little intimidating because if you make a mistake shifting coming up to the jump, there’s no time to bail. It’s one of the most intimidating parts of the track, but also one of the most spectacular parts of the GRC’s layout, so we’re just going to go hard and hope for the best!

Image via Samuel Hubinette Racing Facebook

Of course SEMA is one of the most prominent events on the GRC schedule, and you get to race in front of a lot of potential sponsors while you’re there. How important is it to score a strong finish to help tie up a deal for next season?

It’s going to be a big event this upcoming Tuesday. We do have the elite of the elite in the aftermarket world here, checking out the different teams and drivers and such, so knowing we’re all coming into a new offseason and new negotiations with our sponsors and potentially upcoming sponsors. It’s definitely going to be a great opportunity to perform well here, get some of those decision makers excited, and get ink on the contract before they change their mind! (laughs) So some of those scenarios are going to happen.

Are you any closer to a deal for the 2013 GRC season than you were the last time we spoke?

It’s still in the works where I’m going to be next year, or how things are going to turn out. We haven’t made any final decisions yet, so I can’t say any more than I am working on different types of opportunities, and we’ll see where I’m going to end up.

One of the things that you got to do during the time between races was a commercial for MacAllan Whiskey. We saw some pictures on your Twitter account of that. What did they put you up to?

I get to do a lot of commercials, stunt driving, so that was a very exciting day. We shot a viral video, commercial, for MacAllan and it’ll be coming up in the next month online, so watch out for that. We did some cool stunt driving, there was a helicopter moment, and that’s all I can say! I think if they cut it right, it’s going to be quite entertaining and fun to watch for sure. And it’s good whiskey too, for sure!

Image via Samuel Hubinette Instagram

We also saw you take your Formula Drift Challenger out for a spin in the past couple of weeks. Will that car be seeing any action anytime soon?

Yeah, we prepped the car this last week and got it ready to go out for a little test run. It runs amazing! It’s been sitting for the last six months in the Stack Performance race shop in LA. I would say look out for some announcement about where I’m going to take the car in the next adventure. I can’t announce it yet, but there’ll be a press release coming out very shortly.

SEMA has always been a big event for you, and you’ve made appearances for your sponsors there in the past. What will you be up to at the event this year?

I’ll be signing some cool posters for Magnaflow, hanging out there for a couple of hours on Wednesday afternoon between 2:30 or so and 3:30. I’ll also be at the Eneos booth on Tuesday, between noon and 1:00, signing autographs and giving out free swag, so look them up too if you’re at SEMA and come hang out.

Once you’re done with SEMA, will you be getting right back into stunt driving or will you be taking any time off?

I’m getting back into the swing of stunt driving. I already have a couple of weeks of work lined up in November after SEMA. All those commercials are coming through, so I’ll be working pretty hard on that. I’ll also be working on upcoming season for Global Rallycross. And of course, hanging out with my family, my daughters and my wife, so I’m trying to find a good balance there.

– Chris Leone

Ian Davies: “Even A Few Tenths During Qualifying Matter”

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Monster World Rally Team chief mechanic Ian Davies has been keeping busy in the month between Global Rallycross Championship races, both visiting Monster Energy-sanctioned events and dealing with Ford’s withdrawal from the World Rally Championship and his other employers at M-Sport. While he awaited the arrival of driver Ken Block at SEMA from a Gymkhana Grid event over in Europe yesterday, he took the time to talk to us about last month’s race at Las Vegas, setting up the car for the new track, and shed some light into what his commitments will look like in 2013:

After all of the issues at New Hampshire, you guys came right out of the box strong at Vegas by qualifying second and winning the heat race, your first heat win of the season, when Andreas Eriksson spun in the final corner. How important was it to simply make it out of the heat intact after Loudon, and how satisfying was it to take the heat win?

It was very good—it was almost like clockwork right up until the final. The main thing is to try and use your car as little as possible during one of these weekends, so you save your tires, you save your engine life. Our speed was good, our starts were good, again it all went very well for us right up until we went into the first corner in the final. That was a different story.

How much of an advantage is it to be in one of the earlier heat races, take the win, and have extra time to work with the car before lining up for the final?

Oh, it’s a huge advantage! You’re suddenly in control, you’re not playing catch-up all the time. This way, you can have 20 minutes to work on your car, you have a minute to work on your fuel loading, you’re just in control. The whole pit area, the garage, is calm, everybody knows what they’re doing. And you’re looking at other people who are having the nightmares that you normally have, trying to get in the last chance qualifier. Certainly, (we had) the whole calm process of what we did in Las Vegas, having more time. When you’re on a back foot, instead you’re doing catch-up all the time.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

There was a little bit of carnage at the start of the main event, and Ken came out in the back of it. How much work did Ken leave you with when you got the car back at the end of the race?

There was enough damage… we had to go to the body shop and pull out the back panel, that ended up being pushed in. (We) damaged the exhaust system, the back end of the car was a bit out of alignment. So there was enough damage. It wasn’t (too much), but it was enough damage to put right immediately after the event. It’s a semi-contact sport—it’s not supposed to be a contact sport, but we’d be naive to say it was a non-contact sport. And I think you’ve just got a pack of cars—if you look at the slow-motion camera, at the start line, Ken was first off, and he made a move on Tanner (Foust). And (Brian) Deegan comes in, and it’s just a big squeeze. I think it’s a shame, he got hit from behind, but that’s the track. You’ve got to get off the line and get out of trouble.

I think we had a slight gear selection problem during qualifying, where on our best run the gear cost us a few tenths. It would have put us on pole. Again, it shows the importance of being on the inside, of being on pole, the line that Tanner had. Because there was a lesson that we will take away from that—it is that even a few tenths during qualifying matter. I think we were a tenth or two tenths off pole, which put us off the left hand side of the grid.

Moving on to the race in a couple of days, what are your thoughts on the layout of the SEMA course? Have you made any sort of changes to the car to better suit the addition of more dirt?

Yes, we’re actually still working on the car. Ken’s not here until (Monday) so we won’t use the free practice (Sunday). But yes, we’re a rally team, so we’re not afraid of dirt. Dirt is our thing, we like dirt. So yeah, we adapt to a different suspension setup, a different damper setup, a different spring.

During the next day or so, qualifying and free practice, you sort of work out where the time is won or lost, what your best time is on the gravel section and what your best time is on the dirt section. Sometimes you’re better off setting up the car for the asphalt or tarmac section, because you can make up more time that way, and just letting the dirt the way it goes. Other times it can be a massive advantage in the dirt for you, so you’ll put up with things on the tarmac in order to get good drive on the dirt. The main thing is the dirt is towards the end of the track, so off the start line into the first corner, turn one into turn two and maybe turn three—turn one’s a 90, (then there’s) a hairpin where you come back on yourself and come back on the dirt—it’s looking like we’ll be biased more to the asphalt section for this race. But if you can get the car to do you what you want on the dirt, your chances of overtaking somebody on the inside are far greater.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

The Fiesta has been one of the most consistent cars on track all year. It’s guaranteed to score the top two spots in the title and Ken has a good chance at taking third. Is sweeping the top three spots in the championship for Ford a priority?

I think our priority this weekend has to be getting that extra point we need to get in front of (Samuel) Hubinette to be on the podium, to make it a Ford 1-2-3. I think, should we get on the podium this weekend—or should we gain the points to be third in the championship, let’s not say get third on the podium—then we will not have had a bad rookie season in rallycross. We didn’t have the best of starts, we got to learn a lot, our car has improved massively, and we know we can put it on the front row of the grid. But it’s just a bit of racing. If you stay out of trouble, get a third or fourth place—look at the Subaru, they’ve done a tremendous job this year, coming from nowhere and getting on the podium in the last race. And the situation in New Hampshire, where Travis won out of nowhere. Rallycross is unpredictable in that respect. But our priority this weekend will be, I’m sure, getting that extra point or two points needed to get in front of Hubinette in the championship.

The GRC season ends Tuesday, leading into the rest of the SEMA Show. I know you’ve said that most of the team is sticking around for that, but what else is on your calendar for the rest of the year? Will you be at the WRC season finale in Spain, and are you following Ken around anywhere?

No, I regret to say that my year is basically done when we finish here. But you have to understand that rally season probably starts again at the end of January, possibly in the United States, so we have cars to rebuild and lots of other projects to sort of complete during the winter. And Christmas in Europe will probably take two, three weeks out of the calendar. I will be looking to be back in the United States in the middle of January for rebuild, for upgrade, and for testing of next year’s rally program. So we’ve sort of got a month or six weeks back home—engines to rebuild, transmissions to rebuild, we’re busy enough at the moment.

I’m sure we’re just waiting for the calendars for next year. I think everyone’s sort of waiting for calendars around SEMA Show, and then Ken will sit down and decide what they want to do. But I think that they want to do some of the American rally championship stuff more next year, so the rest of our year will be to get the car ready for the start of next season.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Have you given any thought to the 2013 season yet? Do you have any indication as to where GRC is headed and when, and does that affect any other commitments for the Monster World Rally Team?

It’s up to people much higher up the food chain than me to decide what we do next year. I think Ken and his management team sit down with the sponsors and they decide where their priorities will be and what they want to do. As far as I’m concerned, my priority is to work on Ken’s cars to make them more competitive in both rally and rallycross for next season. We’ve been usually dominant in the rallies that we’ve been in the United States this year, but we still have a few upgrades that we need to do to make some of the components a bit more reliable. So we intend to do that for next season in rallying.

I’ll be doing rallycross car designs with my thoughts and changes for next season. And I think when Ken comes back to the sponsorship meetings they’ll decide exactly what we’re going to do with rallycross and what they wish to have prepared—to rebuild this car, to build a new car for GRC, that’s up to them—that kind of point of view of getting the design and having the consultation on what we get rid of for next season, what our priorities will be, to make our car even more competitive.

I think it’s going to be the next three weeks to four weeks with our technical partners in deciding what we can do… looking at a lot of video footage, seeing which suspension to go with next season, talking to our electronics people about new products on the market that they want to display inside the vehicle. It’s that sort of time of year, if that makes sense.

Image via M-Sport Facebook

Finally, much has been made of Ford shifting its factory participation out of the WRC and likely into rallycross. You work in both forms, but in particular you’ve been with M-Sport, who are affected by the shift, for a long time. What are your thoughts about that decision?

No it doesn’t. I mean, it’s important, the situation with Ford and M-Sport, but actually when you get to see the closure of the factory in Kent where they laid 4,300 people off, in the UK where there’s 4,170 people left, you can see why Ford couldn’t justify the continuation of a rally car program which is mainly based in Europe, where they’re closing those factories and laying those workers off. From a Ford point of view, Ford have actually ended the sponsorship part of its program with M-Sport as I understand, but its technical partnership continues. So from a technical point of view, Ford will still give M-Sport assistance in a lot of areas, with homologation of vehicles, parts, and design work.

From my point, my relationship is probably with M-Sport more than Ford. I’ve had several meetings with them in the past couple of weeks, and they’ve shown more interest certainly in rallycross in Europe as well. And I think that now their perspective has to shift a little bit in terms of World Rally, it’s probably not their absolute priority, but I think from a rallycross perspective, we will benefit in the next 12 months. But next we have a little bit more time on our hands looking for a slightly different direction for that company.

– Chris Leone

Binks, Timerzyanov Suffer Crashes In Sunday Jump Practice

Image via Rhys Millen Racing Facebook

Yesterday, 13 drivers tested their cars in preparation for Tuesday’s Global Rallycross Championship season finale at the SEMA Show, taking jump practice and turning laps around the 0.6-mile, purpose-built circuit in a Las Vegas Convention Center parking lot. The majority of drivers managed to bring back their cars in one piece, but for a pair of Olsbergs MSE drivers, the situation was a bit less positive.

In his GRC debut, Timur Timerzyanov, replacing Marcus Gronholm in the No. 3 Best Buy Mobile Ford Fiesta, took the dirt jump a bit too hard in practice. The European Rallycross champion, who doesn’t face jumps on the ERC schedule, overshot the optimum landing area and put his front bumper directly into the dirt near the base of the landing pad. Though the bumper was torn up and the headlights were both destroyed, Timerzyanov walked away.

Photo credit: Brian Johnson (@rallybri)

Luckily, so did David Binks, after an even larger shunt over the jump in the same practice session. According to Greg Frechette, a mechanic for the currently-inactive Gumball STi team, Binks took the jump too slow, leading to his major accident. Brian Johnson, best known as a co-driver in Rally America, added that Binks got out of the car under his own power and was released from the hospital last night, but that the car is no longer fit to race.

Binks has tweeted that he’s a little sore, but also that he remains optimistic about getting back on track:

Action will continue on track today with the seeding session, and according to the series’ schedule of events, heats 1A-D, returning the series to the two-heat formula it used at Charlotte to open the season.

– Chris Leone