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Stephan Verdier: “(SEMA) Is Going To Show What Rallycross Really Is”

Image via Rhys Millen Racing Facebook

Only nine drivers in Tuesday’s Global Rallycross Championship finale at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas will have competed in all six race events this season. Stephan Verdier, currently sixth in points with the No. 12 Disney XD/Motorcity Hyundai Veloster for Rhys Millen Racing, is one of those drivers. After competing on all five tracks this season and looking at the SEMA layout and entry list, Verdier is especially excited to be competing in the season finale.

“This time, for once, we have what looks like a real rallycross track,” Verdier said over the phone on Thursday. “There’s left and right turns, there’s a lot of dirt, not just one corner. We’re back to the dirt gap, which is going to be easier on the cars. We have some whoops with water—we’re a little worried about the whoops, we don’t have trophy trucks, we have rallycross cars, so they don’t work really well over whoops, but we’ll see how big they are. And the water, it’s supposed to be jumping into water, so it should be interesting. But I think the track is really cool.

“Personally, I think if we cannot race on an oval, then a parking lot is the best for us, because we can build exactly what we want. And if there’s 2,000 people showing up, it’s going to look packed.”

SEMA marks only the second purpose-built rallycross track of the season, following July’s event at X Games. But not having to share the stage with other action sports, or TV time on ESPN, means that the event will follow a different schedule.

Image via Global Rallycross Championship

“The ambiance is going to be more like X Games, but we’re our own event, we’re on our own schedule, we don’t have to answer to anybody,” Verdier added. “So I think it’s going to be more relaxing. The cars are made for that kind of track, so I think it’s going to be much better.”

The fact that dirt dominates a portion of the track in a way it hasn’t since X Games is also appealing to Verdier as a great equalizer among the drivers. “When you bring in dirt, you bring the chance of drivers making mistakes,” he noted. “If you made one braking mistake (in qualifying on the tarmac), you go tenths slower than the other car, and you go from third place to 13th place. The dirt gives you a little bit more room to make mistakes and not be affected by much, but it can also let you be a bit more focused on the dirt. I think having that much more dirt is going to bring the field much closer to each other, and pretty much everybody’s going to make a mistake one time in the race somewhere on the dirt.”

Although stars Travis Pastrana and Marcus Gronholm will not be competing in Tuesday’s event, Verdier still believes that fans will be treated to one of the strongest fields of the season. “Travis is not there, but we have Bryce (Menzies) back,” he noted. “Liam (Doran) is going to be there. Except for Travis not being there, I think it’s going to be one of the strongest fields except for X Games.

Image via Global Rallycross Championship

“It’s great to have Timur (Timerzyanov) come over, the reigning (European) champ. It’s going to be interesting to see him in a Ford, he’s been driving a Citroen. So jumping into a Ford is a big difference, especially when you have four other Fords with the same spec—it’s going to be harder for him. But I think it’s going to be really exciting! It’s a big field, a big race to finish the season. It’s great to see Liam coming back. I’m excited to see all these guys. I wish Marcus (Gronholm) would be back, that would’ve been (the best), but I think Timur would be beside Marcus.

“I think you’re going to see lead changes and battles that you don’t really have with tarmac or the previous races, where it was pretty much the start and that was it. People are really excited about it. I think it’s going to show what rallycross really is.”

– Chris Leone

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