GRC Season Review: Samuel Hubinette, Part 2

Image via Samuel Hubinette Racing Facebook

After three consecutive final appearances in the first three rounds of the Global Rallycross Championship season, Samuel Hubinette entered July’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway as the only driver to win a heat race at all three events. He also ranked fifth in points, only 15 behind leader Tanner Foust, and seemed ready for a breakout performance after mechanical issues robbed him of solid finishes at Texas and X Games.

It would come immediately, with a well-earned second place run at Loudon. Though Hubinette’s streak of heat victories ended in New Hampshire, the podium run had him and his No. 77 ENEOS Oil Saab 9-3 crew thinking about a challenge for the championship. Those dreams would evaporate after a painful weekend at Las Vegas that saw him miss the final due to boost issues and a flat tire in the last chance qualifier, but Hubinette would rebound with a strong run at SEMA to secure third in the championship.

Yesterday’s discussion covered the first half of Hubinette’s season. Today, we’ll talk about competing for the victory at New Hampshire, rebounding from disappointment at SEMA, and what he liked most about the series’ progression this year:

Your podium finish finally came at New Hampshire, when you ranked second. You did a lot of intense battling with Travis Pastrana there, and he said after the race that he felt like you had been a little nice to him, that you could have spun him out and gotten by, but you chose not to race him that way. Was there an opportunity for you to push that you chose not to take?

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

My overall feeling and my goal is to get over the finish line and not push or take too big of risks. In that case, taking the risk to pass him was too great, which could’ve put both of us out of the race, which would have been a disaster. So those kinds of things, it’s better to finish second instead of risking that, because we were so equal. Had he been much slower, then of course I would have tried much harder. But knowing that we were so equal in speed that day, time wise, it would have been very tough to come by him clean.

It’s just not in my nature to try and take out other guys. I think that I might need to step up my game, be a little tougher. I think that there’s an old habit from drifting for years, that you slide next to cars but you’re not supposed to touch them, you’re just kind of next to them and close to them. And that’s kind of in my genes now, having done it for eight years! In rallycross, it is the case to have some contact. So that’s something I’ve been thinking about, that I could actually step up my game a little bit up there, be a little more tough up there.

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

After the two and a half month break, you came into Las Vegas with a different team situation, losing a teammate. But it seemed like nothing went right that weekend, with the boost issues and losing a shot at the title. What were your thoughts after that weekend?

Yeah, at the first Vegas race we had I had a taste of a potential championship, being only 12 points behind Tanner. After that weekend, that was the toughest week of the whole season, because I lost the opportunity to be first in the championship. Pretty much, even second place was tough to reach. But it put me in a different mindset, that there was nothing to lose now, that it was more to go out and have fun, and to secure my third place for the championship.

I felt really relaxed for (SEMA), just had a really had a good time. We got some good testing put in, we nailed the jump right away, the car was set up, had a good feeling out there, and then we got some really cool changes with sway bars and shock adjustments. And all of those small details helped to get the car very drivable on that little type of go-kart track, as it was. Because it was hard to get the car to rotate around those corners without understeer. And there’s a fine line in tuning the car for good cornering and turning, and to having it set up for a good start, because in rallycross the start is just so important. To have a good start—you have a high percentage of winning the race.

Image via Samuel Hubinette Racing Facebook

It was very interesting. I learned a lot. It was great having Per (Eklund), to work with him this season, the legend from Sweden as he is. I’ve really enjoyed it, and finishing third was a big victory for us with what we had.

When we saw the restart in the SEMA final, it looked like you got off the line well. Then we saw you battle with Rhys Millen and eventually he got by you at the end of the first lap. Take us through the start of that race from your point of view.

What happened was, after the start I was in second place behind Tanner going into the shortcut. And he kind of came in really sideways, and almost spun out, and came out (on) the gravel track there. That kind of threw me off, and I also basically lost control and came in too short on the corner, ran over the gravel and put the car almost on the roof. That’s when Rhys got the opportunity to come pass me.

I knew I was quicker than him from earlier lap times, so I was just going to work myself up there and pass him. Unfortunately when I got close to him, I started to get some fuel cuts. The engine started to die on me on the long right hander passing the finish line. So every time I tried to get some contact with him, I got some misfiring from the engine and I had to just stay behind him, because I couldn’t get past him without having this issue happen all over again. So it was just another unfortunate thing.

But the good thing is I still finished third in the championship, which was very important for me. I missed out on the podium, but overall finishing third was what our goal was for the season. I mean, my goal was to win, but our goal at that time was to stay with our third place.

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

Final question: the GRC at the start of the season and the GRC we saw at SEMA appeared to be two almost completely different series, not only in driver roster but also in what the tracks themselves looked like. We saw a lot of improvements over the course of the year—what did you think was the best one?

I think we all support the GRC staff to get it right, and get it right as quick as possible. But for me, I think the gravel jump for the last event was really, really fantastic. I really enjoyed a gravel jump instead of mechanical, steel jump. It’s so much more forgiving on the car, using gravel. I think that they listen to us, and they finally got our group together to have meetings and delivering information to them, that they had to do some changes. Every time we’d walk the track and modify it for the best race that could possibly be done.

Samuel Hubinette can be found on Twitter @samuelhubinette. Be sure to check out his website and Facebook page.

—Chris Leone


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