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GRC Season Review: Brian Deegan, Part 1

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

2011 was a banner year for Omaha, Nebraska’s Brian Deegan. The freestyle motocross superstar and General of the Metal Mulisha expanded his legend on four wheels, winning Lucas Oil Driver of the Year for the second year in a row after taking both Pro 2 and Pro Lite championships. He also came into X Games as a part-time rally driver, having only competed in one 2011 Global Rallycross Championship event, and walked out of Los Angeles with a gold medal in the rallycross final.

That success inspired Deegan to expand his racing commitments even further for 2012, complementing his off-road racing commitments with a full GRC season with Olsbergs MSE. Racing alongside Tanner Foust and Marcus Gronholm on a team absolutely stacked with driving talent, Deegan became the only driver in the series to score podiums in all five races that he counted towards his championship total, eventually finishing second in the championship.

But as easy as Deegan makes it look on a regular basis, it wasn’t easy. In fact, the season started with him missing the main event at Charlotte with clutch issues. In part one of our season review, Deegan talks about learning from that experience, rebounding at Texas, and pulling injured teammate Toomas Heikkinen out of a burning car after his crash at X Games:

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

With first place in the Lucas Oil Pro 2 Series, second in the GRC, and X Games medals in both rally and Moto X step up, where does 2012 rank among your all-time accomplishments? Is it one of your best seasons ever?

I would say this year has been a great season, I would say one of the best. It’s hard to top last year, you know? I won both championships in off-road, rally I wasn’t a full-time competitor, and I just had a great year last year and dominated. This year, I took on more racing, and was able to back up the Pro 2 championship—the Pro Lite slipped away from me with mechanicals, and in the rally car I was able to battle for the championship all the way to the last round, me and Tanner Foust, and ended up second.

So really the only thing that could have been better was first, and I feel like I’ve been able to set a lot of new records. My goal is to win the rally championship next year, so it leaves me something to strive for. I think it’s been one of my best seasons for sure, but I like to think this is the way all of my seasons are going to be.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

This was your first season of full-time competition in rallycross after a few years of running off-road trucks and of course your lengthy motocross and freestyle career. What lessons from running countless racing seasons were you able to take into this year’s challenge?

(In my) first rallycross season, I had to understand that it’s a different form of driving, and I was racing against guys that have raced for so many years in rally cars. There are so many different gauges and techniques to everything in those cars. They’re so much more advanced, they’re like IndyCars, and there’s so much more for me to learn. Last year I learned that you’ve just gotta be perfect, you can’t make mistakes, and that’s rally car. Trucks you can get a little looser, be a little crazier, and it works. Rally car, you just have to be dead on.

Charlotte started off decently, with a third place qualifying run and a win in your first heat. Then you dropped out of the second—what happened and how far off was the crew from being able to fix it in time for the LCQ?

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

That was a real eye-opener for me. The series is so new over here, and a lot of things happen quick—you don’t get a lot of time to fix your car. The one thing I learned, the most important thing I learned in rally car racing, is the ability to make your equipment last, because you don’t have time to fix stuff. If you go out there and trash your equipment, you’re going to go crazy to win the qualifier when you could just settle for second and save your car. Those are the tricks to winning the championship, and that’s what I’m learning now.

I went out and I went so gung-ho crazy that I ended up burning out my clutch, and I had to learn how to not do that. The guys that make your equipment are the guys who last. We almost had the car back together and the race took off, and I missed the main event. Fortunately, for me in that series, they let you drop your worst finish out of all the rounds, and I got to drop that finish, which put me in the hunt for the championship.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

You rebounded in a big way at Texas to take your first podium finish of the season, and you never finished worse than third after that. How important was it for you to rebound right away? And how significant was it for Olsbergs to put three Fords on the podium?

For our team, it’s real important that Fords are 1-2-3. We have a big team of five guys, and I feel like there’s three or four guys that could win the race on our team. The thing is, there’s a lot of pressure behind that on this team because we’ve already been known as the team to beat. And to advance, all the other guys had been advancing so fast, that I had to go out there and show them that I’m one of the best guys, you know? I’m battling with some of the best rally car drivers in the world, and I look back at my season, and I was on the podium every single race (that counted in the championship). No one did that—I was the only guy that did that. So that’s pretty good for me.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

X Games was a tough weekend for OMSE. As someone who’s recovered from injuries and come back stronger than ever from them, did you have any advice for your teammates? What were your thoughts on that weekend?

That was a crazy race. I’ve been to X Games many times and have seen injuries many times, and I’ve dealt with that myself. It’s just sad to see a few of the guys on the team get hurt, and I feel like one of the instances with the crash Topi (Heikkinen had) over the jump was a really bad crash. I was standing there and watched him do it, and I see his car hit, and it’s just the craziest impact. And I went sprinting over there, and I was the first one on the scene. He was just barely getting out of the car, or trying to—his leg was crushed, the car was on fire, and I went over there and carried him out of the car as the car went up in flames. And I sat there and thought, “that could have been prevented.”

There are just certain things that I wish a little more safety had been involved and we probably wouldn’t have seen that type of crashing. But that jump system’s really crazy, there’s no room for error.

Coming up next, Deegan talks about his charge for the championship, including second place finishes at both Las Vegas and SEMA, and how he approached racing against teammate Tanner Foust for the title.

—Chris Leone

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