Advertisements

GRC Season Review: Bryce Menzies, Part 2

Photo credit: Atiba Jefferson/Red Bull Content Pool

Photo credit: Atiba Jefferson/Red Bull Content Pool

When Bryce Menzies made his Global Rallycross Championship debut at X Games, it was also the first time that he’d made the switch from desert and short course truck racing to rallycross. Driving a second Dodge Dart alongside Travis Pastrana, Menzies finished 14th in his one-off ride at X Games.

But after wrapping up the Traxxas TORC Series’ Pro 2 championship for the second year in a row, Menzies got the call to drive for Pastrana once again in the GRC season finale at SEMA. This time, however, he’d be driving for a team whose prospects were completely different than at X Games. Pastrana took a popular win at New Hampshire, but he also elected for season-ending shoulder surgery after the Las Vegas round, meaning Menzies would be the team’s only driver.

In part two of our season review, Menzies discusses racing his way into the main event at SEMA, his appearance in the Red Bull Kluge video (see above), and what he has in mind for 2013:

On TV, Travis talked about the difference in the car this season before and after testing, and he gave you a ton of credit for helping develop it. Did the car feel significantly different at SEMA than it did at X Games?

Yeah—Travis took the car from X Games, and they tested with it a bunch and made it a lot better. I think with those cars you’ve got to change with every single track you go to. You’ve got to change the setup. And I think with me and Travis, two drivers, you always have a better shot at hitting the right setup. We’re trying both ends of the spectrum, and then we’ll come back and talk to each other and figure out what we like and what we didn’t.

Throughout the year, it’s a brand new car, the Dodge Dart’s first season, so we’ve just been making a bunch of changes trying to get notes on what the car likes on asphalt and on dirt. So from X Games to SEMA, the car got a lot better, probably 70% better, so it’s just going to go even farther from there, and I’m looking forward to next season.

Image via K&N Filters

Image via K&N Filters

Your battle with Samuel Hubinette in the second heat was one of the most exciting head-to-head races of the season, and you managed to advance directly into the final. What was your strategy in trying to pass him?

That heat race was one of the great ones that we had. We felt that we had some speed, we made some changes for that heat races that really helped the car. Going into the heat race, you just want to make it into the final. I felt like we were faster than Samuel but there’s no reason to push and try to wreck us both out. When you’re in those battles, you’ve gotta find a way around and not bully someone too much into hitting each other and smashing into each other. It’s a lot of strategy—when to use the joker, when to take the regular route. I think that’s what I’m still learning about rallycross. I’m trying to figure out ways to pass and use strategy and set up the cars. We’re still trying to figure that out, but it was a really good heat race for us.

When you got to the final, in the second attempt, you had a spin on the first lap. Did an issue from the first attempt at the final cause that? Is there anything you would’ve done differently in either attempt?

In the final, one of the things is that I really need to work on is the start. In Global Rallycross, it’s a huge key to winning these races to get off the start. I struggled a little bit there, and once you get in the pack it’s so hard to pass and make moves on guys, so that’s probably one thing that I would’ve liked to do a little bit better. And then you get up front a little bit better and run with the good guys. That’s one thing we’re going to work on this offseason, and hopefully bring back ready for next year.

Photo credit: Chris Tedesco/Red Bull Content Pool

Photo credit: Chris Tedesco/Red Bull Content Pool

A couple of weeks ago we saw you appear in the Red Bull Kluge video. When did that shoot take place and what was the process like?

At Red Bull, they’ve been working on the Kluge video for a while. They came up to me about it, I saw it all on paper, and it came together in October at El Toro Airbase. And what cooler event can you get 15 huge athletes together and make this huge event happen? I think it’s up to 12 million views now.

It was an all day process. I was in the truck for over eight hours, just for that little clip of mine. But when you’re making those movies, or shoots like that, that’s kind of what takes place. I’m just super lucky to be a part of Red Bull, and they always push the limits, try new stuff, and do some cool stuff with all their athletes. It was a really cool video, and I’m glad that everybody’s liking it.

Finally, we noticed during Pastrana’s interview that he showed interest in running you full-time in the series next year. Assumedly you’re running a full schedule of desert and short-course events next year, but is a full-time GRC ride something that you would consider?

Photo credit: Garth Milan/Red Bull Content Pool

Photo credit: Garth Milan/Red Bull Content Pool

You know something, once I got in the GRC car, I fell in love with it. It’s so much fun. I’m working with my sponsors and Travis Pastrana’s, talking back and forth and trying to figure out if we can make it work. I’m also running a full desert season and a full short course season, so I just want to make sure it’s right for me and if we have enough time to do it. So we’re in the process of talking about it. I really want to get back and show that our team is capable of winning races, as Travis did. At New Hampshire, he put that thing on the box. So it’d be really cool to get back, get in that car, and try to make it a two-team deal next year. Hopefully we’ll be out there at the first race!

Bryce Menzies is on both Twitter and Instagram at @BryceMenzies7, as well as Facebook. For more on Bryce and his other racing endeavors, be sure to visit the Menzies Motorsports and Red Bull websites.

—Chris Leone

Advertisements

GRC Season Review: Bryce Menzies, Part 1

Photo credit: Dan Busta/Red Bull Content Pool

Photo credit: Dan Busta/Red Bull Content Pool

Having made a name for himself by winning both the SCORE Off-Road Championship and Traxxas TORC Series’ Pro 2 Class in 2011, Mesa, Arizona’s Bryce Menzies decided to add another challenge to his already busy schedule in 2012. When fellow Red Bull driver Travis Pastrana needed a driver for his second Dodge Dart at X Games, Menzies jumped at the opportunity, stepping into the No. 99 Red Bull/Discount Tire car with limited seat time.

He demonstrated enough skill in that X Games run that when Pastrana elected to undergo shoulder surgery before the Global Rallycross Championship season finale at SEMA, Menzies was the only choice to replace him. Again, Menzies stepped into the car and transitioned nicely, this time appearing in his first GRC final round after a strong showing in the heat race.

After running the Baja 1000 once again, Menzies sat down with us at the Menzies Motorsports shop to talk about how busy he’s been this year, differences in driving style from short course to rallycross, and debuting on the big stage of X Games:

You just scored a top-10 finish in this year’s Baja 1000 a couple of weeks ago. You won your second consecutive Baja 500 and the TORC Pro 2 championship, you made your rallycross debut at X Games, and you even took Tim Lincecum for a ride around Firebird Raceway in the trophy truck all the way back in March. How much fun has this year been for you?

Yeah, we’ve had a really busy year, but it’s also been a lot of fun. I’ve been lucky to be able to run desert, which I started out in, into short course, backed up our Pro 2 championship and won the Baja 500 again. We really were focusing on the Baja 1000 and it just didn’t play out as we thought—we came away, I think, seventh overall. It’s just been a fun season.

Image via Race-Dezert.com

Image via Race-Dezert.com

And also we got to jump into a rally car. I probably got the call about a week before X Games to drive Pastrana’s second car. I didn’t have too much seat time, but once I got into the thing, I knew it was a blast and I had to do it. It was so much fun. I just needed some more seat time, trying to get figured out all-wheel drive compared to two-wheel drive, what I’m used to. And then they called me back and I got to drive the last event out at SEMA. We made some pretty good adjustments, I got a little more seat time in the car. We ended up third in one of the heat races, and then in the main we broke so we didn’t have the best luck. But hopefully next year (I’m) looking forward to getting back in the Global Rallycross car and trying to do a little bit better in it.

We know you’re a relative newcomer to rallycross, and that desert and short-course truck racing has been your forte. But you’ve seemed to catch on pretty quickly. Are there a lot of aspects of your truck driving style that adapt well to rallycross?

From short course to rally, you’ve got to be super aggressive, and I think that’s one of the things I kind of lacked going into Global Rallycross. The car is all-wheel drive, so you have to drive like, Pastrana was telling me, you have to drive the crap out of them. You’ve got to drive them to the limit. In the Pro 2, which I race in short course, you (need) a lot of finesse, you’ve got to be really smooth. So just trying to transition myself from driving one to the other, taking my aggression a lot higher in the rally car and driving a lot harder, was a little hard for me at the beginning. But I think I slowly was figuring it out and getting a little hand for it. Hopefully, just getting some more seat time, I’ll be up there on the podium with that thing.

Photo credit: Alex Huff

Photo credit: Alex Huff

You debuted at X Games in the Dodge Dart in what was a hectic weekend for you and the team. Regardless of all of the drama and bad luck on race day, did you enjoy the X Games experience?

Yeah, you know, X Games is something I grew up watching on TV. When I got the call to drive the car at X Games, it was unbelievable. There’s a lot of added pressure going into it—just the hype of X Games, and knowing I’d be racing it—so the goal was just to go in and have fun, and take the experience as what it is. I had a blast, and you couldn’t ask for a better teammate than Travis Pastrana, X Games ace. When you think action sports, his name comes up. I had a great time there, I just wish we both would have done a little bit better, but we took it as we did and had a lot of fun doing it.

When you made your rallycross debut, you were racing alongside Travis Pastrana. At SEMA, though, you were replacing him. Did that affect the way you approached the week’s race events at all, without having a teammate?

Image via K&N Filters

Image via K&N Filters

Coming into SEMA, I got in the car and I’d driven it at X Games, so I knew we had a good shot. We did some testing with the car, and being the only driver because Travis was hurt put a little more pressure (on). We knew we needed to do good not just for the team, but for all the sponsors that back the team, like Dodge, Red Bull, and KMC. We wanted to really put on a good show and I felt after qualifying—we didn’t qualify that good, but we made some changed to the car, softened up the suspension a little bit, and we came away third in the heat race. So we had high hopes going into the main.

But in rallycross, anything can happen. We went into turn one and me and Bucky (Lasek) got into it, and I got a flat tire, which broke the front drive also. So it didn’t turn out that good, but we also made some progress looking into the next year, that we do have the speed, and we’re capable of winning these things. We’ve just got to get the thing to play out and come into our hands.

Tomorrow, Menzies talks about how his races went at SEMA, the Red Bull Kluge video, and what he hopes to do in the 2013 season.

*A previous edition of this article said that Menzies had won the 2011 Baja 1000. He placed third in that event.

—Chris Leone

GRC Season Review: Pat Moro, Part 2

Image via PMR Motorsports Facebook

For Pat Moro and PMR Motorsports, the 2012 Global Rallycross Championship season represented an uphill battle. Running older equipment on a shoestring budget, positives were few and far between early in the season, especially when the team missed X Games for financial reasons.

But not long after, the No. 59 Subaru WRX STi, the result of PMR’s technical work and the marketing help of Michael Crawford Motorsports, began making strides towards competitiveness. Moro finished 12th in New Hampshire and 11th at Las Vegas, and was fast enough in its first heat race at SEMA to suggest that a main event appearance shouldn’t be too far off.

In the second part of our season review, Moro gives his overall assessment of the season, while also hinting at his 2013 plans:

You finished 16th overall in points, with a couple of strong heat and LCQ performances. Given the limited budget you had to run with, are you satisfied with what you were able to do? Or are you more frustrated that the budget didn’t allow you to be more competitive?

Image via Michael Crawford Motorsports Facebook

I’m not really too satisfied with the performance—I think that we’ve had to be very cautious with everything. It’d be great if we secured a bigger budget moving into next year, that would be the biggest difference. I think that it’s a little rough to say, but we didn’t have the budget to do testing any of the dates before the races. We’d like to secure enough (of a) budget so we can go there a little bit ahead of time and do some. You hear about everybody else doing testing at this place or that place two or three days before the event and we just didn’t have the budget to do that. I think that’s a key part in making us run better.

The other thing is, we really have to look after the equipment with the little budget that we have. And that kind of affects it. You know, with a factory ride, you can pretty much just leave it all hanging out, and then everything’s fixed. If we lose a motor—we have a spare gearbox and stuff, but if we lose a motor, then we’re done for that event. So we have to be very cautious of that. And I think that affected our performance a lot.

I think that the last round we should have been in the main. I felt like we should have been into the main in New Hampshire, but like I said, there were some growing pains that we were going through there. I feel that we’ll be stronger in the future, and a consistent player into the main.

Image via Michael Crawford Motorsports Facebook

We saw a couple of major accidents by other privateer teams in the final two rounds of the season. You’ve said you’re pretty confident with the jump, but did you ever stop for a minute and rethink that in the wake of those incidents?

It’s really never been a problem for me. I just try to look at it as, I have a little bit of experience on motorcycles, so I think once you’re committed to that jump, you have to fully be committed. I would say that those accidents were situations where those guys weren’t completely, fully committed to that jump, and I believe that they somewhat panicked. Once you commit to doing it, you have to be fully committed and just do it.

In my opinion, on the jump, everybody’s so worried about that crucial speed. I don’t think it’s the crucial speed as much as jumping is a feel thing—you try to do it from the seat of your pants. But it’s never really been a concern for me. Maybe I’m not smart enough to think that much ahead! (laughs) But I think the jump is something that we’ve done (for) years and years at X Games, and to me it’s a little bit old hat. It doesn’t mean that we can’t make a mistake on it, everybody can make a mistake, and it’s an unfortunate thing.

I hope those guys recover from it well and it doesn’t deter them from coming back. But for me, you commit to it, you do it, and you don’t think any more about it. The more you think about it, you psyche yourself out.

Image via Michael Crawford Motorsports Facebook

The GRC obviously grew and expanded over the course of the season, and the series looked different in the finale at SEMA than it did in the opener at Charlotte. Overall, how do you think they handled race promotion and safety this year?

I think all the guys at GRC did a really good job with communications this year. What I don’t think everybody remembers is that those guys have a huge job that they’re doing and there’s so much that they need to look after. With everything there’s always growing pains. I think that as far as safety goes, if that refers back to the accidents that have happened this year, the thing is so new that there’s always going to be stuff that’s unforeseen, or that needs to be looked after. They have made adjustments, and I think they’re always looking for adjustments.

But I think when you look at the safety, you look at a European rallycross car, which was never meant to do the jump, or meant to be in the tight confines that we are putting these cars in. I think these cars, with the GRC stuff, will progress, be a little bit stronger, and progress in the safety features of the car. But everybody that’s really had some big crashes has come away—I wouldn’t say unhurt, but for the type of crash that they’ve had, they’ve come away pretty good, in my opinion. I think that they’ve definitely looked at it.

Image via PMR Motorsports Facebook

I think the guys at SMI, when we went to New Hampshire, did a great job of putting on a great show, and I thought they did a pretty good job down there at Texas. And they started to implement the dirt. When we started the season at Charlotte, we didn’t really have any dirt, and we went down to Texas and didn’t have any dirt, but we had the jump. And it’s progressively gotten better every event. And I think the more obstacles that you put in with these cars, you’ll see what they’re really capable of doing. But when we went to Charlotte, you didn’t even see a quarter of what the car can do, compared to later in the season, when they started to show a little bit more of their capabilities and they got to be way more exciting to watch.

Finally, what are your thoughts on the 2013 season? Are you planning to build a new car or bring back this year’s model? What are your thoughts on the schedule for next year with the Global X Games rounds?

Image via Michael Crawford Motorsports Facebook

The Global rounds sound great. There’s still a big question of who’s going and who’s not going. Those dates are approaching very fast. Our plans for next year are, we’re planning to build a new car. We’re still trying to secure the money, the sponsorship to finish the build of the car, we’ve actually already started on the car. I really don’t want to say what kind of car it is at this time, but we have started on a new car. It’s just, if we can secure enough money to complete the car. If that would be ready for the first couple of Global Rallycross (rounds) or not, I’m not sure. It depends on the finances of the whole thing.

But we feel that the current car is too big of a car, too heavy of a car, and the H-pattern gearbox is not going to make it a competitive car. It’s a decent car, but the plans are starting with a new sheet of paper, so to speak, putting the new car together, and making it something that’s very competitive with the Fords.

Pat Moro can be found on Twitter @59moro. PMR Motorsports maintains a Facebook page, Twitter @PMRMotorsports, and website. Michael Crawford Motorsports, which provided a marketing partnership for Moro in the second half of this season, can be found on Facebook here.

—Chris Leone

GRC Season Review: Pat Moro, Part 1

Image via PMR Motorsports Facebook

Running a competitive team in the Global Rallycross Championship isn’t the easiest of tasks, even for a factory-supported organization. But Ohio’s Pat Moro, a longtime Rally America competitor and two-time Production GT champion in that series, is attempting to do just that with his privateer team, PMR Motorsports.

Campaigning the No. 59 Subaru WRX STi in five of six GRC events this season, Moro carried the backing of S4 Optics earlier in the season before entering a marketing partnership with Michael Crawford Motorsports later in the season. Las Vegas and SEMA saw PMR representing brands like Venom Energy, In-Vest USA, and VP Racing Fuels, all while posting some of its most competitive runs of the season. Despite running with a fraction of the budget that the top GRC teams possess, Moro’s team appeared to be on the verge of breaking out.

In the first part of our season review, Moro discusses switching to rallycross from stage rally, succeeding in the transition to the mechanical jump, and making the most out of his team’s finances:

Image via PMR Motorsports Facebook

You’ve been competitive in stage rally for years, but this year your focus was completely on rallycross and the GRC. When did you decide to make that switch, and how different are the cars you’re racing now from the ones you prepared for Rally America?

These cars—we have two cars that we pretty much put together originally for rallycross, because in stage rally we’ve always done the production-based class cars. That’s one of the issues with going to X Games, we’ve always qualified in a production-based car, (instead of) an open class car or a rallycross car. We actually built those cars two years ago and then made some other changes to the cars to make them more competitive for rallycross.

We pretty much figured at the beginning of last year that we were going to start focusing on rallycross and drift away from stage rally, which was a hard decision for me to make because stage rally has always been a pretty near and dear thing to my heart. We figured that this is the avenue that’s going to have the most growth for us and the direction we needed to go.

Image via Michael Crawford Motorsports Facebook

Some of the sponsorship on your car this year appeared to come over from the Michael Crawford Motorsports organization. How and when did that partnership come about?

We ran into (MCM) at Texas and talked a little bit, and it kind of came about last minute. It’s not really a full done deal by any stretch of the imagination. They brought a little more of a marketing side to us and not so much the technical side. It’s more of a marketing partnership than on the technical side yet because pretty much anything we’ve done we do in-house. So far the technology has been all stuff that we have.

You actually ran two cars at Charlotte, one for you and one for Tim Rooney. Was there any benefit from a data-gathering standpoint to running a second car in the season opener?

Actually, we found out that with the limited budget that we had, it’s probably better for us to back down to one car. We’re not spending twice as much money to get the other car up to the same things that we’re trying, so we found out that it’s beneficial to back down and concentrate on one car than it is to try and run two cars with the budget that we have.

Image via PMR Motorsports Facebook

Texas marked the debut of the mechanical jump, as opposed to the dirt jump that we saw at X Games and other GRC events in the past. Did you have to make major adjustments from using one surface to the other?

You know, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal at all, because your trajectory is pretty much the same. When your car leaves the ramp, you’re pretty much just a passenger at that point. The only thing that was a little bit different was the dirt absorbs the jump a little bit better when you land on it, so it’s a little bit smoother of a landing. It’s a little bit harder (on the ramp), but it was no problem to adjust to it at all.

The question arriving at the SEMA event was, what speed do you have to hit the jump at now that we’ve gone back to dirt? Pretty much all that stuff stays the same. So for me, at least, it wasn’t a big change for me to go from the dirt to mechanical, and the mechanical back to dirt. I thought it was pretty similar for us.

Image via PMR Motorsports Facebook

We’ve seen you compete at X Games plenty of times before, but this year it was the only round of the championship that you missed. Why weren’t you there, and was it frustrating to skip a major event like that?

That was more of a financial situation there for us. An opportunity came available for us if we sat back, it became a little bit better financially for us to not be there. It was a little frustrating because obviously you always want to be there and competing, but it worked out and gave us a lot more strength for the end of the season. It gave us money to finish out the season a little bit stronger than what we had.

It definitely seemed like the car was a lot faster in the second half of the season. Were there any significant changes that you made to the car as the season progressed?

Image via PMR Motorsports Facebook

A lot! Being that we had a limited budget, we don’t really have a budget to be doing testing. So all of our testing is actually at the event. When we were at New Hampshire, we thought we had some things figured out—there are a lot of things to learn about the rallycross car compared to the stage rally cars. These cars were a measuring stick, but we made a lot of changes from there.

The biggest change and the biggest help, I have to give some credit to Garrett. They came on board, stepped up, and helped us out with their engineering and some different stuff with the turbos. So at the last round the car was pretty competitive, a lot closer than it’s been at any of the other events. I have to give credit where it’s due. Our guys are understanding the car more, and the more we log that stuff and play with those numbers the better it’ll get.

I think the biggest difference in competitiveness with the car right now is we’re running the H-pattern gearbox, and everybody else is using a sequential. So I think that’s our biggest downfall right now.

Coming up, Moro discusses the second half of his season, going back to the dirt jump at SEMA, and his thoughts on the 2013 season.

—Chris Leone

GRC Season Review: Brian Deegan, Part 2

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

With a pair of third place finishes at Texas and X Games, Brian Deegan managed to recover quickly from missing the main event of the Global Rallycross Championship season opener. Texas saw him complete a 1-2-3 sweep for Olsbergs MSE and Ford, while X Games saw him beat all of his teammates to the finish line.

But Deegan really turned up the heat in the second half of the season. Beating teammate and points leader Tanner Foust to the line at New Hampshire put him third in the overall standings, as well as tied with Foust for the Discount Tire/America’s Tire Cup heading into Las Vegas. Soon enough, the entire season was reduced to a head-to-head battle between the Rockstar Energy-sponsored teammates; Deegan, despite having far less seat time, took the fight to Foust all the way to the end, coming out of the season second in points with runner-up finishes in the final two rounds.

In the second part of our season review, Deegan talks about when he realized he could win the championship, overcoming adversity to finish second at SEMA, and his goals and expectation for the 2013 season, both for himself and the series:

New Hampshire marked your third podium in a row. You came out of there third in points, one point off of second, and still well within the championship race thanks to the drop rule. Was that when you felt like you really had a shot at winning the championship, or did you feel that way earlier in the year too?

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

I would say New Hampshire was one of the points where I was like “yeah, alright, you’re in the game. Kind of a dark horse, the underdog, and just go out there and lay it down, go for the win.” I had some things going on where I came in late and didn’t get a day of practice, so that put me behind the ball. But I just drove consistent, didn’t do anything crazy, and I drove my pace. I feel like if I just drive my pace, drive my skill level, that’s a good, easy third place all day long. And if I push a little harder, and everything goes right for me, I have a shot at the win. So I really just played it smart there, drove my pace, and ended up third. But it really started crossing my mind (there) that, “hey, you’ve gotta start winning some races and getting in the mix if you want to win this thing.”

The last two races were very much looked at as a head-to-head battle between you and teammate Tanner Foust, both for the championship and the Discount Tire/America’s Tire Cup. Looking at things that way, did you learn anything about racing your teammate in Vegas that you tried to apply to SEMA?

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Yeah. At Vegas out there, we had a good race. I feel like Tanner’s always consistent, and that’s the hardest thing to beat, but he did have a few races that he didn’t have such good outcomes because he gets a little too aggressive sometimes and he drives the wheels off the car. But you’ve gotta know, he’s always going to get a good start and he’s always going to be in the game. He’s always going to be a front runner, so he’s a hard guy to beat, you know? I think with all the time that guy has in a car, you know, he’s probably like how I feel when I get on a dirtbike. I don’t have to think, it just happens. And he’s a tough guy to beat, because he’s got a lot of seat time.

But come next year, he’s my focus, and I really, really want to become a better driver than him. That’s my goal, and it’s a high goal, I know. But I believe I can do it. I came close this year without a lot of testing or practice. I mean, the only time I ever drove the car was at the races. Those guys get to race overseas, they get to do testing, and for me, I was still trying to figure out what the gauges did at this point. So next year, Ford’s backing me bigtime, and I’m going to have a lot more test days next year. I should come in really ready to win by the first round.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Your Tuesday heat race at SEMA didn’t end anywhere near as well as you hoped, with the flat tire. What happened to cause that, and how did the resulting championship implication affect how you approached the rest of the race?

Unfortunately, (in) these races, you have to qualify first. The start position is so critical. And for me, I started off in my qualifier and had a pretty good start coming in there, and the first turn, the same guy—(Sverre) Isachsen, the guy in the Subaru, does the same thing every time. He comes in the first turn and runs into everyone hoping he can spin someone out and get to the front. He did it to me and ended up blowing my tire off the wheel. And there’s nothing you can do about it when that happens, it’s just racing. I can’t stop what they’re going to do. And it put me out of it.

I just kept a calm head. Everyone was panicking, going “oh no, oh no,” and I’m like, “hey, it is what it is. I can’t change what happened. All I can do is stay calm, get the car fixed, and let’s get out there and win this last chance.” And that’s what I did. I got back up there and won the last chance.

The only problem is, it started snowballing. And once you start snowballing, something like that, now I had to start dead last in the main. Worst spot ever, you know? And for me, I was like “alright, you do the best that you can.” Honestly, all I could hope for was a mechanical from Tanner to win the championship at that point. But I knew he was going to get a good start. He had the best starting position, he did everything he had to do to have a perfect day, you know?

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

So I came in there and came off the start, not a good start, was running midpack. I picked the joker lane way too early. And luckily, after Ken Block caught on fire, they red flagged the race. They tried to say, “oh, no, we’re just going to end the race right there.” I saw the race promoter and I was like “there’s no way you’re ending this race right now. There are thousands of people in the stands, all the heads of all the companies are here from SEMA. This has to end in a climactic finish for the well being of the sport.” And he’s like “alright, alright, let’s go back to the starting line.” I thought alright, a few more laps, but they did a complete restart, and it was a perfect scenario for me.

I got back to the last starting position and said “alright, all or nothing.” I came off the start, and while everyone hit the brakes, I kept gassing it. I went from last up to side by side with Tanner in the lead! (laughs) I watched the tape after that, and it was one of the first turn moves that I’ve ever seen, that I’ve ever pulled off. I came from last up to battle with Tanner, and then I had too much speed. (I) spun a little, broke traction, ended up squeezing the line around fourth place, and came around for the joker lap. Luckily, the top three took the joker—I went long and took the regular lap, they took the shortcut, and I just did the best lap that I could. I came back around and I took the joker that lap, did the joker perfectly, and I came out right by Tanner. A little bit quicker, I probably could’ve got Tanner, at least got beside him, and I came out and got on Tanner, and I drove as hard as I possibly could. I knew to get next to him and get with him to at least rub on him, and he had a car length on me the whole race. I did everything I could to catch him.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

The bottom line is, having to go through the last chance, and these cars—there are a lot of things that snowballed for me with tires going away and the heat in the car—just having to race the last chance and not being able to prep your car for the final at all snowballed on me. And the best I could do was what I did. I got second, and that was all I had that night. I left there going “hey, you did pretty damn good. You really salvaged something there for what you had.” Second sucks, but Tanner’s a good driver, and it gives me a goal for next year.

How close were you to running down Tanner for the lead at the end of the final? Was there anything else you could’ve done?

Nah. Every time I pushed a little harder, would brake a little later, I would slide. And there’s a point that Marcus Gronholm, master of racing, explained to me one day. He doesn’t give me a lot of tips, I just think it’s the Euro style to keep it to themselves, (but) he told me one day, “when you charge into a turn, and your car slides, it’s for one reason: you came into the corner too fast.” And that was exactly what was happening to me the whole race. Every time I would try to go a little faster into the turn to catch Tanner, I would slide and lose time. And so I was stuck in this mode of, “that’s as good as these tires are going to go. That’s as fast as I can go with these tires without sliding everywhere.” And it’s crazy, you know? I’ve learned more and more about tire wear over the last season, and there’s a trick to it. I still have to learn all of those tricks, but like I said, that’s the best I could do with the car I had.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Finally, the series went through an incredible transformation from the first race of the championship to the end at SEMA. There were changes in track construction, the jump, and certainly in safety. Of all of the changes that we saw over the course of the season, what did you think was the biggest improvement the series made? What are your thoughts on next year?

I would say what was good towards the end was the fire safety trucks were more on the track. We finally got a fire safety truck next to the jump, because that 10-15 second delay to get there could be life or death, and those are the biggest changes that I appreciated. Coming next year, I think the guy that owns the series now, that’s a good friend of mine, Colin Dyne—he comes from a racing background. He was into IndyCar, he knows about NASCAR, he’s going to turn this thing into a serious series. It’s going to be really good. And I think the big change next year (is) it’s going to turn into more of an exciting show, and a race. It’s going to be more about the racing, it’s going to be theatrical, and it’s going to just be an awesome show. And that’s what I see it moving to next year, and I’m excited to be a part of it.

Check out Brian Deegan on Twitter @mmgeneral and Instagram @briandeegan38. Also be sure to check out his Facebook, YouTube, and website for all things related to the General.

—Chris Leone

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

GRC Season Review: Andy Scott, Part 2

Image via Hazel PR

The first two races of this year’s Global Rallycross Championship established Andy Scott as a serious contender for strong finishes and even race wins. Though the privateer Scott-Eklund Racing Saab 9-3s were some of the largest cars in the field, Scott and teammate Samuel Hubinette had unparalleled straight-line speed thanks to the engineering of Per Eklund.

Though many teams brought more funding into the championship, Scott’s experience paid off in a big way with a surprise fourth place finish to open the season at Charlotte. After a second consecutive final appearance at Texas, it was clear that the No. 26 team was prepared in every way to challenge for the GRC title. Through four of six rounds, Scott was comfortably in the top 10 before a shift in priorities caused him to finish out the European Rallycross schedule.

When all was said and done, Scott finished 11th in GRC points, one point out of the top 10, and ranked 14th in the ERC despite only running half of that schedule. In the second half of his season review, Scott discusses the ups and downs of the second half of the season, from his incident at X Games to bringing a disabled car home a respectable sixth at New Hampshire, and where he hopes to be in 2013:

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

X Games was of course a high profile race weekend for you, although it didn’t end the way you wanted it to after the incident with Travis Pastrana. Did you two ever discuss what happened there? I know we’ve talked about the incident and your point of view before, but have your thoughts changed on it at all?

I had a discussion with Travis in New Hampshire before the event there. Travis gave his version of events; obviously he was in front, so he couldn’t have seen what was going on behind. I gave my version of events, and Travis was very professional about it. He took it as a racing incident and that was really it. It was good to talk to Travis and clear the air on the position, but we both left after that discussion and it’s been put to bed. I’ve not really gone back and reconsidered it.

You had a rough start at New Hampshire given the contact with Ken Block where it appeared that both of you were going for the same space. But you managed to push through the LCQ and even survived the entire final. How difficult was it to drive the car given that it was disabled?

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

It was really difficult, as the results show—I didn’t have any pace at all, and the only reason I got the finishing position I did, I think, was because of other cars breaking down and not finishing. We managed to get the corner back on the car, but we didn’t have any time to (fix) the geometry or anything. The car was handling like a complete pig, but we’d run out of time, we just had to get back on the circuit. Thankfully, we had four wheels and they were going around. But we had no quality of setup and no handling at all. It made for very interesting driving.

Your focus shifted away from the GRC after the lengthy break in the season. What, if any, context are you able to give us on that decision?

I couldn’t get an agreement with Per to run the car for the rest of the season. It broke down at that point. I was disappointed to only have done four of six races, I was really looking forward to finishing the series, but things broke down between myself and Per, so it wasn’t possible to continue. Obviously I’m disappointed because I finished one point outside the top 10 after only having done four races, so I was pretty gutted about that.

Image via Hazel PR

You came back to the ERC at the end of the year and took a top five in the A Main at Germany. In the end, in two partial schedules, you were one point out of the GRC top 10, as you mentioned, and 14th in the ERC. Are you satisfied with your results overall?

I think there are highlights of the season where we’re very happy. It just shows you, you can’t expect to be in the top 10 in two very competitive championships when you don’t complete all the races. I’m happy with the way the year had gone, I’m just upset that we didn’t finish—the intention for the year was to do the full GRC series and then to supplement extra races in ERC when we were home. So the plan did change halfway through the season, which is never good for anybody. But we’re satisfied with parts of the season, we’re dissatisfied that we didn’t go the distance in GRC.

Have you given thought to the 2013 season and where you’d like to be?

Yeah. We’ve got a lot of experience gained from 2012 and there’s no closed door at the moment. We’re talking with a lot of different people with all sorts of options, GRC and ERC. Until we see dates for GRC it’s hard to say whether we could do both championships, but I’m not done with GRC yet. If we can pull the budget and the team together, we’ll be back. But we’re not discounting doing the full ERC series either. It comes down to what partners we can find and how we put it all together.

Follow Andy Scott on Twitter at @AndyScottRX and be sure to like his Facebook page

—Chris Leone

GRC Season Review: Andy Scott, Part 1

Image via Hazel PR

The majority of the teams in this year’s Global Rallycross Championship received a significant amount of factory support, whether from established rallycross brands like Ford, longtime stage rally mainstays like Subaru, or rally newcomers like Dodge. Most of the privateer teams fell by the wayside compared to last season, with one notable exception—GRC newcomers Scott-Eklund Racing, a partnership formed by Swedish rallycross legend Per Eklund and Scottish driver and successful businessman Andy Scott. Both had been successful in last year’s European Rallycross Championship, with Eklund’s car ranking sixth in points with driver Toomas Heikkinen and Scott scoring a podium in the Netherlands on the way to 11th in points.

Though the majority of media focus was placed on the many crossover athletes that have come into rallycross, the veteran partnership quietly put together some strong results despite their lack of manufacturer support. In the capable hands of Scott, the No. 26 Scott Trawlers Saab 9-3 showed incredible speed and competitiveness, winning the last chance qualifier in Charlotte and scoring a fourth place finish to open the season.

Image via Hazel PR

In the first part of a two-part season recap, Scott discusses the differences in American and European rallycross, testing the car before the season, and eventually opening the season on a high note:

After a decent season in the ERC last year, you chose to shift your focus to the GRC this season. Obviously there are some stylistic differences in what we’ve put together in American rallycross, but did you enjoy your four rounds in the series?

Yeah, for sure. It’s a fantastic experience to come over and race in (America), and I think the series has some real great potential. Obviously the circuit that’s made in one hour is a totally different experience than what we’re used to in Europe, with the permanent circuit, and that’s where the main difference comes. You don’t get a lot of car time to get set up at each venue, and you’re (quickly) qualified, into the heats, the last chance qualifier, and the final.

Entering Charlotte, you appeared to do a good bit of testing work with the 9-3, although it was an older model car without factory support. What were your expectations for how competitive the car was going to be? Did it exceed those expectations?

Image via Hazel PR

I was always confident that the car would be competitive. The car had been competitive in Europe, and we made good developments when we brought it over to the US. The unknown quantity was where our competitors laid. But I think it matched the expectations, as we could see with my teammate—Samuel (Hubinette) had some great results as well. I think that, considering our cars were old models and we didn’t have factory support, that the team put together a really good effort there.

We saw you make a great pass for the lead and win in the last chance qualifier at Charlotte, and then you finished fourth in the final. How significant was it for the team to have those sort of results right out of the box?

That was really important. Obviously we’d sunk a lot of resources in coming across to the US, and Charlotte, when we eventually got there, because as you know the schedule was changed a good few times. It was our first chance to see the pace of the rest of the teams. And we had two cars, right off the sharp end there in Charlotte. It was a fantastic first event for us and I don’t think we could really ask for much more.

Image via Hazel PR

During one attempt at the main event at Texas, you had an incident after the jump that caused a red flag and ended your event. Was there any warning before the landing that there might have been something wrong?

We had several things going on in that race. The damage that eventually put me out, I had no warning of. The jump, the landing was pretty clean, but we had a front suspension failure. It was just obviously a new level of stress on the car that we hadn’t experienced in European rallycross, and it did catch the team unawares. After Texas, we did look at that part and changed it a little bit. We had other issues going on, but none of them were going to stop us from running. It was the suspension failure off of the landing on the ramp that caused the problem.

Coming up in part two, Scott discusses his incident at X Games, taking a disabled car to a sixth place finish in New Hampshire, and his overall assessment of his split 2012 season between the GRC and ERC.

—Chris Leone

GRC Season Review: Ian Davies, Part 2

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

After a second place finish at X Games, the Monster World Rally Team, with driver Ken Block and lead engineer Ian Davies, appeared to be ready to challenge for wins and re-enter the championship race. With three races to go and a drop event available, the goal was to keep making it to main events and scoring enough strong finishes to keep climbing in the points.

But it wasn’t easy. Block had to overcome two major accidents at New Hampshire on the way to a fifth place finish there, with Davies leading the MWRT crew in a pair of extensive repair sessions. In one case, the crew had seven minutes to get the car on the grid to make it into the last chance qualifier.

Las Vegas and SEMA were different stories, as the No. 43 Monster Energy Ford Fiesta HFHV was among the fastest cars on track in both events. But a possible third place points finish was thwarted after mechanical issues at SEMA; Davies has said that Block drove in the final with the inside of the car on fire. Here, he talks about the importance of strong qualifying, coming back stronger next year, and how the series has improved over the course of the season:

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

Tell us about the repair jobs that the team did after the two accidents in New Hampshire. How significant was the damage after rolling in qualifying, and how extensive was the damage after Ken hit the tires in the heat race? 

Going on to New Hampshire, we had a bit of bad luck where Ken was off the side in the braking on that tight hairpin that was wooden, and he rolled the car off the side. And I think that puts a team on a back foot—we worked all night to fix that car to get it back out the following day. (In the heat) he got sort of forced in, or there was nowhere to go, he ended up in the tires with a broken front windscreen, a broken hood, a whole lot of damage then, and again, we were up against it.

I remember we had seven minutes to get the car back on the grid for the LCQ. And the car had no fenders, no front bumper, no hood, no windshield, and seven minutes later, that car was on the grid. I remember one of the Finnish guys, Henrik, one of my mechanics, inside the car in Ken’s seat kicking out the windscreen as we were all trying to cut it out. But seven minutes later, we put him on the grid, and we got fifth place and some good points for that.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

One of the things you’ve said before is that every tenth of a second really counts in qualifying. You had one of the fastest cars on track and were one of only two teams to win all three of your heat races. How important is it to “make your own luck,” as you’ve said, on the way to the final?

It’s just massively important. Every race you do from the time you start seeding is important, because the seeding is only the start of it. It then gives you seeding for the next heat and the next heat, and as long as you keep winning, you get that choice of being in that good position, and getting away is important. We’re sort of a believer that first or fifth is the place to be. To say that we started in fifth place at X Games, behind Sebastien Loeb. And that pole sitter is always going to get away. So depending on how tight the first turn is, or how much room there is going into the first turn, fifth is never a bad place to be, because you know the pole guy, the quickest man out there, is going to get away.

In the first Vegas race, we just had a slight gear change issue which cost Ken a couple of tenths and put us second and not on pole. Again, we knew from there that we’d made a big improvement over the summer, and that we could stay with Tanner (Foust). And luckily, we were able to prove that again at the SEMA race, that we were able to out-qualify Tanner to get that pole position.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Given the bad luck that the team had early in the season—the “plane crash” as you called it at Charlotte, the two accidents at New Hampshire, and so on—do you consider fifth place an acceptable championship result?

I think we should have been third. All we had to do was beat (Samuel) Hübinette in SEMA to have gotten the points to have third in the championship. I think that would have been acceptable given the bad break. I think that SEMA was particularly hard to stomach because it also cost us that podium place in the championship. SEMA was a bitter pill, I think, for Ken and the team because again, we’d been doing so well. But you have to learn the lessons and move on. So we’re coming back next year, and we’re not coming back to make the numbers up, you know? We’re coming back to win the championship. That’s what we intended to do this year, it didn’t go our way, I think we’ve learned a lot, and we will come back next year stronger with an aim to be GRC champions.

After competing in a full season of GRC events, what are your thoughts on the format of the racing, the jump, and the way that the series runs its events as far as safety is concerned?

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

I think the jump is very controversial, (but) if you have no jump, and not a decent gravel section, it becomes a straightforward circuit race. If we’re not careful, it becomes like Charlotte, a 600-horsepower touring car race. I like the jump, I think the jump is good. There’s always going to be a safety question over the jump, and I think they’ve made big improvements this year. We’ve seen a couple of jumps by the privateer guys who have not been so clever in the past couple of races. Fortunately they’ve walked away with not a lot of life-threatening injuries. I know Richard (Burton)’s got some problems with his back but I’m sure that Richard will be back.

I think you treat the jump with respect. I think there’s a speed and we all know the speed. It’s one of those things that we don’t keep to ourselves—all the teams speak to each other. We’re now allowed speedo(meter)s in the car. I think one of the early problems was that the drivers didn’t have any idea of how fast they were going over the jumps, because speedometers were not allowed as part of the regulations for rallycross. Those regulations were changed in order to give us speedos, so that’s made it safer for 90% of the grid, they now actually know what speed they’re going over. The sweet spot is between 47 and 52 (miles per hour).

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

I think both of the Subarus that we’ve seen crash recently would admit that they’ve missed gears or had problems going up the jump. And I don’t really know how you can make it any safer for those people. I think there’s always likely to be accidents off of the jump. But it’s at 47 miles per hour, it’s not at 147 miles per hour. I think the one that (Toomas Heikkinen) had in X Games was particularly nasty, but now they’ve put more shock-absorbent material on those, and the drivers seem to know that if they’re not going to make it, they go sideways over and land in the bottom.

So I think the jump should stay, because it’s the one thing that Global Rallycross has that no other event as far as cars go has. As Global Rallycross has grown, they now can see from designing their tracks and the drivers walking the tracks, where there are areas that people aren’t happy around. I think going with the NASCAR safety teams and the fire people has been excellent. One of the good things about not having standalone events and being part of NASCAR or IndyCar is that those medical facilities are there at those big race circuits.

Ian Davies can be found on Twitter @I_a_n_Davies. He also maintains a Facebook page. Follow Ken Block and the Monster World Rally Team at @kblock43 and @MWRT.

—Chris Leone

GRC Season Review: Ian Davies, Part 1

Image via Ian Davies Motorsport Facebook

Any successful racing team requires much more than simply a skilled driver. Behind that driver, there needs to be a skilled crew of mechanics and engineers, tasked with maintaining and improving upon what should already be an incredibly fast car.

For Ken Block and the Monster World Rally Team, the leader of that group is Ian Davies. Davies built the No. 43 Ford Fiesta HFHV that Block uses in various stage rallies, gymkhana events, and the Global Rallycross Championship. He and his crew have backed Block to numerous successes this year, including wins in all three North American rallies at which they competed.

In the GRC, things started on a rough note for MWRT when a major accident at Charlotte kept them out of the main event. But thanks to a major second half turnaround, kicked into gear by a silver medal at X Games on only three wheels, the team rebounded to finish fifth in the overall standings. In the first of two parts, Davies talks about the first half of the season from the mechanic’s point of view:

t’s safe to say that Charlotte wasn’t the optimal start for the GRC season, as Ken had a massive accident that necessitated some quick repairs by you and the crew. How extensive was that damage and what weren’t you able to repair successfully?

Image via Marcus Gronholm’s Twitter

It was known in the team as the “plane crash,” because our attempt to repair it afterwards looked like there’d been some sort of plane crash. But we’re rally guys, I’ve said it before, we’ll always try to get the car back out. I remember from there we changed the rear cross membrane, put a complete back end into the car, and we put a front right hand corner in the car, driveshaft, upright shock absorber, we put an intercooler in it. We put a massive amount of stuff (because of the) front and rear impact together, especially the front right hand corner. And we tried to get it to go back out, but there was some further damage to the inlet throttle butterfly. Ken got the car back out again and running, but the throttle was sticking open, so it was just too much in the time that we had.

Texas ended with another disappointing finish, although this time you at least made it into the main event. At that point, did the bad breaks of the first two races start to wear on the team, or did you think that your luck was due to change?

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

I think you make your own luck. I’m always a big believer in that you make your own luck. We always knew it was going to be a learning curve. I didn’t realize it was going to be quite as steep as it was. One of the biggest lessons in rallycross has been this year, that you get out in front and you stay out in front, because if you can qualify and get your car on the front row of the grid, then a lot of this contact that happens in the middle of the field, you avoid. And that’s what Marcus Gronholm was so good at in those first few races. He did less laps than anybody else, he saved his tires, he got out in front and he stayed in front.

And I think that was a valuable lesson that we learned in those early days—you don’t want to be mixing with some of those people in the back of the grid. It’s the people that have got nothing to lose that frighten you. Because if they come off worse in some sort of a punting match and somebody ends up on the side, they’re not chasing the points and the championship, they don’t have a lot to lose. Whereas, the top three or four guys, generally speaking, are a little bit more cautious because they’re after the points.

Things finally turned around at X Games when Ken scored a second place finish on only three wheels. You’ve worked with many great drivers over your career, won a lot of events, and seen many great drives. How does what Ken did compare to some of the other victories you’ve been a part of?

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Ken was second to the greatest rally driver the world will ever see. Sebastien Loeb has been a nemesis of mine for many, many years, obviously him being a Citroen man and me having worked for Ford since 1997. But you have to admire (him), he’s just an outstanding man. And whether he’s doing Porsche Cup in France, where he’s putting the car on pole and he’s winning, or he’s doing rally, a man to be respected.

So we like to say that we won the X Games, because actually, Sebastien Loeb, nobody was ever going to beat him. We were the best of the rest! It was a fantastic drive. That track—not to take anything away from Ken, it was a fantastic drive from Ken—was very similar to the SEMA track, in terms of that we have gravel and we have streets as opposed to the banked oval circuit. And a sizable amount of gravel, which, again, suits our car. We had a good weekend. And I have to say, after X Games, we were (saying) “maybe this is it. Maybe our season has changed.” I think you’ll see that there was a big improvement in the team after then.

X Games was a fantastic ride for Ken, for the whole team, it was a big effort. There’s Derek Dauncey, the team manager, who does a fantastic job. We have Alex (Gelsomino), who is Ken’s normal co-driver during rallies as Ken’s spotter, because Ken is very much used to his voice. And he spots very well for Ken. He knows Ken, knows the information that Ken wants. It’s a big team effort. And the X Games was, for sure, the highlight of the year.

Coming up next: Davies breaks down the second half of the season, including recovering from Block’s heat incident at New Hampshire and becoming the fastest car on the circuit in the final races.

—Chris Leone