Long Road to the Top For Isachsen, Subaru Teammates

Image via Subaru Rally Team USA

For Sverre Isachsen, last week’s third place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was three things in one: a season-best result, a return to form for the former European champion, and most of all, a relief—not just for him, but for the entire Subaru PUMA Rallycross Team.

After months of frustrating returns for the high-profile squad, Subaru placed two of its three cars in the final for the first time all season at Las Vegas. Bucky Lasek placed eighth in his first main event of the season, while Isachsen finally snapped a string of bad luck with his podium finish.

Plagued by mechanical failures and accidents in the first four races, Isachsen had been one of the most high-profile disappointments of the season until this weekend. The prevailing thought before the season was that the top driver in Europe for the past three years, working with the best team in American rallying for the past half-decade, would produce a championship-caliber season in his first year of focusing on GRC competition.

Image via Subaru Rally Team USA

That, of course, hasn’t been the case. Isachsen’s car inexplicably missed a beat in the Charlotte last chance qualifier to knock him out of a transfer spot. The next three races saw him suffer incidents, twice in the final at Texas and X Games and once in his heat race at New Hampshire. X Games was especially disappointing, as a daring move from the outside lane at the start of his heat enabled him to take the lead into the first corner and hold it for his first heat victory of the season.

But Isachsen reportedly claimed that his car was working properly for the first time all season at Las Vegas, and his performance showed. He beat teammates Lasek and Dave Mirra for the second transfer spot in his heat, survived the first-corner melee in the final, and passed Toomas Heikkinen late in the six-lap feature to claim third place.

Image via Subaru Rally Team USA

For Lasek, simply making it into the final was a huge achievement after a season of learning what it takes to race cars competitively. The skateboarding legend has kept his cars clean for most of the season, save for a high-profile aborted jump at Texas, but for the most part he’s been running at the back of the pack.

Lasek ended up in the last chance qualifier at Las Vegas, but his ability to avoid incidents contributed to his first final appearance. Mirra and David Binks took one another out in the dirt corner, Samuel Hubinette’s car suffered a flat tire, and Pat Moro’s privateer Subaru was no match for the faster factory car, leaving the fourth and final transfer spot to the Maryland native.

Image via Subaru Rally Team USA

The next goal for Subaru is to place all three of its cars in the final at SEMA on October 30. That means turning around Mirra’s season after only two final appearances—a contact-abbreviated run at Charlotte and a start-and-park at New Hampshire due to damage suffered in his heat race. He actually took the jump once at New Hampshire on only three tires, leading to lopsided airtime and a potentially scary situation.

It’s been that kind of season for Mirra, and up until last weekend, the same way for Subaru. But after finally getting the podium monkey off of their back, don’t be surprised if they build off of their momentum in the season finale.

– Chris Leone


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