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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

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