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Belgian Rallycross Star Sheds Light on M-Sport’s GRC Involvement

Image via M-Sport Facebook

Image via M-Sport Facebook

Though his name is not well-known on this side of the world, Belgian rallycross star Michaël de Keersmaecker is a fixture in the European Rallycross Championship, having finished fifth in that series this year on the strength of numerous main event appearances. According to the ERC24.com Facebook, de Keersmaecker has shared some information about the European series for next season after meeting with M-Sport and new ERC promoter IMG, best known as the organization that handles promotion of Formula 1.

Included was an interesting tidbit about the M-Sport rallycross program for 2013. “M-Sport is doing a full GRC programme with a new car for Ken Block, who is also set to use a Wildcard three times [in the 2013 FIA/IMG RX series],” de Keersmaecker wrote. “M-Sport is currently not planning to appear in European Rallycross, but a future RX programme in Europe is possible.”

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Block, who finished fifth in the 2012 Global Rallycross Championship, switched from Subaru to Ford in 2010. He won two Rally America events and one Canadian Rally Championship event in 2012, adding a silver medal at X Games along the way. Block’s three Wildcard appearances in the reworked FIA Rallycross Championship, sponsored by longtime Block backer Monster Energy, will be his first in European-style rallycross, which does not feature jumps as the GRC does.

M-Sport had been rumored to put emphasis on rallycross for 2013 after Ford’s announcement that it would no longer provide factory support for the World Rally Championship after this season. But the team secured backing from the State of Qatar, enabling it to contest the WRC with four cars for next season, and that is where its priority will remain. However, longtime M-Sport driver Petter Solberg may be considering a rallycross ride for 2013; in this Jalopnik interview, conducted last week, Solberg would only say “we’ll see…” when asked.

—Chris Leone

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Ford’s “Tournament of Ovals” Allows Fans To Vote For GRC Drivers

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Five of Ford’s Global Rallycross Championship drivers are currently taking part in the brand’s Tournament of Ovals, a Facebook competition in which fans can vote for the most popular driver to represent the American brand.

34 drivers overall are represented in the six-round bracket, which kicked off on December 1 with a play-in round that featured Olsbergs MSE’s Toomas Heikkinen beating World Rally driver Mads Ostberg for a spot in the first round. He joined teammates Marcus Gronholm, Brian Deegan, and Tanner Foust, as well as Monster World Rally Team driver Ken Block, in the bracket by virtue of the victory.

Ford separated its bracket into four divisions, representing its NASCAR, NHRA, and sports car (Grand-Am and V8 Supercars) divisions, with the fourth division representing all other series. As such, there’s no chance at an all-GRC final; however, at least one GRC driver will make it into the second round.

Here’s a schedule of voting matchups, which change nightly at 10PM ET:

  • December 2: Brian Deegan vs. Justin Pawlak (Formula Drift)
  • December 4: Ken Block vs. Toomas Heikkinen
  • December 6: Tanner Foust vs. Chris Duplessis (Rally America)
  • December 8: Marcus Gronholm vs. Vaughn Gittin Jr. (Formula Drift)
  • December 12: Block/Heikkinen vs. Foust/Duplessis
  • December 16: Deegan/Pawlak vs. Gronholm/Gittin Jr.
  • December 20: GRC bracket final
  • December 23: GRC bracket winner vs. sports car bracket winner
  • December 26-31: Finals

—Chris Leone

GRC Insider: November Off-Season Roundup

Image via Rhys Millen Racing Facebook

Image via Rhys Millen Racing Facebook

November may be the first week of the Global Rallycross Championship offseason, but that doesn’t mean that its drivers are all taking time off. In fact, this past month has seen many of the series’ stars taking on a diverse slate of responsibilities that have seen them travel across the world.

  • Two GRC competitors took part in this year’s Baja 1000: defending race champion Bryce Menzies in a SCORE Trophy Truck, and Liam Doran in a Baja Challenge vehicle. Menzies finished eighth overall, while Doran’s team, led by Rodrigo Ampudia Jr., finished fifth in class. After leaving Baja, Doran participated in the Monster Energy Rallycross Experience at Lydden Hill, giving rides in his ERC Citroen DS3.
  • Series champion Tanner Foust has had a busy month, mostly filming new episodes of Top Gear America with co-hosts Rutledge Wood and Adam Ferrara. He also took time to shake down his signature edition 2013 Ford Focus ST at former GRC venue Irwindale Speedway, as well as making a sponsor-related visit to Homestead-Miami Speedway for NASCAR’s Ford Championship Weekend.
  • Foust hasn’t been the only GRC driver doing work on behalf of Ford, however, as Ken Block helped Ford reveal a brand new 2014 Fiesta ST at the Los Angeles Auto Show by drifting through Universal Studios. It’s not the first time Block has taken his car through Universal, though; it’s where Gymkhana Four was shot. Ford also revealed that Octane Academy, its competition featuring Block, Foust, Brian Deegan, and Formula Drift competitor Vaughn Gittin Jr., would be broadcast on NBC Sports next year.
  • Image via Brian Deegan Instagram

    Image via Brian Deegan Instagram

    Deegan has been embracing his role as a supportive father, helping son Haiden’s (“Danger Boy”) racing career and riding alongside him when he can. Deegan also announced an appearance at a Monster Jam event at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, MN, driving the Metal Mulisha monster truck.

  • Two-time Formula Drift champion Samuel Hubinette announced that he will return to his iconic Dodge Challenger on December 8 for Red Bull Drift Shifters on Victoria Street in Auckland, New Zealand. Hubinette will join defending Formula Drift champion Diego Saito and up-and-coming driver Matt Powers to take on a field of New Zealand’s finest.
  • Speaking of New Zealand, Rhys Millen returned home to compete in the Silver Fern Rally in a Group B-spec 1984 Mazda RX7. The car, which had been built by Mazda’s factory rally team for the World Rally Championship, had actually been driven by Rhys’ father Rod in the 1985 British round of the WRC. Unfortunately, transmission failure eliminated Millen from the rally at Stage 23.
  • Finally, Travis Pastrana’s shoulder surgery didn’t prevent him from taking part in this year’s Big Buck Hunter World Championships in New York City. Pastrana and Team Whiskey Throttle were among dozens of players to compete for $50,000 in prize money, but having to shoot left-handed certainly didn’t help this year’s New Hampshire race winner; Pastrana came home 58th in the field of 64.

—Chris Leone

GRC Holiday Shopping Guide

Image via HPI Racing

Thanksgiving has come and gone, which means only one thing: it’s time for a month’s worth of Christmas shopping. While Global Rallycross Championship fans won’t find a centralized online store with which to make their Christmas lists, it’s not too difficult to find merchandise for most of your favorite teams and drivers. Allow us to be your guide:

  • You shouldn’t have any problem at all finding a good assortment of Ken Block gear, whether in the DC Shoes store or the Hoonigan online shop. DC offers a strong assortment of Block-themed shoes, while Hoonigan’s go-to product, the “Ain’t Care” shirt, showcases Block driving in the GRC finale at SEMA with the inside of his car on fire.
  • The folks at Puma have greatly expanded their line of Zombie Cat merchandise, celebrating the Subaru Puma Rallycross Team. Fans of Sverre Isachsen will be happy to notice a lot more blue in the mix, as there are now T-shirts available in all three drivers’ colorways, while fans can still pick up the Halloween-themed shoe.
  • Olsbergs MSE gear is available to fans in Europe, but the cost of both the hats and shirts themselves and shipping to America may be a bit prohibitive. OMSE drivers Tanner Foust (through Etnies) and Brian Deegan (through Metal Mulisha) have their own online stores as well. Deegan also lends his name to a line of shoes through DVS.
  • Rhys Millen Racing has plenty of options to choose from, including T-shirts, hats, hoodies, and more. Of course, if you’ve got enough money lying around, you can also buy yourself a Formula Cross ATV to joyride around in.
  • Travis Pastrana’s online store, also through DC, features tons of Boost Mobile-themed gear from his foray into NASCAR. Interestingly enough, though, there aren’t any Red Bull or Dodge-themed products available; there is, however, some Rockstar-themed gear. Speculate at will.
  • Finally, if you’d like to indulge your inner rallycross superstar and have some money to burn, you can buy remote-controlled versions of two of the top cars in the series. Atomik RC manufactures Brian Deegan’s Ford Fiesta in 1/18th scale, as well as his trophy truck and dirtbike. HPI Racing makes a 1/8th scale version of Ken Block’s Ford Fiesta HFHV in its Gymkhana Five livery, while Hot Wheels makes a scaled-down version of its own featuring a fantasy livery inspired by the Gymkhana Four car. Traxxas, meanwhile, manufactures its own rally vehicle in both 1/10th and 1/16th scales; more creative fans can repaint the body to better reflect their favorite driver’s car.

—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

Ian Davies: “Ken Had Driven Two Laps With The Inside Of The Car On Fire”

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Ken Block was far and away the class of the field in the Global Rallycross Championship season finale at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas. He posted the fastest qualifying time, won both of his heat races, and started on pole in the final. After a year of trials and tribulations, it looked like this was finally going to be the race that saw Block make it to victory lane.

But, as chief mechanic Ian Davies explains, “it’s motorsport.” In other words, it’s not just about how well the mechanics set up the car, or even how well the driver drives it—there’s a non-human element as well, the ability of parts to withstand the stress that comes with a rallycross event. Unfortunately for Block, as shown in the video above, the car began to smoke on the second lap of the final, eventually turning into a terminal fire that ended his day.

Here, Davies explains how the weekend went in his own words, from Block’s late arrival to the track to just how much of the car the team saved by telling Block not to finish the race:

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

You guys were running lap times at SEMA that nobody else could even touch. Not even some of the ERC competitors who were there were that fast, and points leader Tanner Foust was a good three tenths behind all race. Did you make any specific changes in car setup to better suit the track?

I think our whole car suits that type of track. Our car was designed for that type of track. The idea of European rallycross is some gravel, mixed with asphalt. What we’ve been seeing at the NASCAR circuits has really been one gravel corner with a lot of straight line asphalt stuff. I just think that our being based on a World Rally car, certainly the gravel aspect suited us, and we were able to get the car to handle very well on both surfaces. We were quick through the gravel, but certainly—I was talking to Tanner (Foust) there, and he was saying that Ken’s line, he was able to hold a line through turn one that nobody else seemed to be able to hold.

So, you know, we do set our car up for individual circuits. We set our car up for that circuit, having looked at it and walked it, but Ken dialed in. Ken was in the UK doing a Monster gig the weekend before, so Ken actually didn’t arrive until Monday. He didn’t have any of the free practice on Sunday, and he got into things quite quickly.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

It was pretty apparent to everybody that you guys were the class of the field. How confident were you after qualifying that this was finally going to be the weekend where you came out on top?

Yeah, I mean, it was ours to lose, wasn’t it? We’d won everything. We were quickest in seeding, we won both our heats, we were on the right side of the grid, we have a car that gets off the line on par with the others. We knew if we could get into the first corner first, that you could almost stack everybody else behind you. It was just looking like it was going to be our day.

Unfortunately, it’s motorsport. You’re never sure of that win until the checkered flag. After about three, four laps, what happened was, we found out since that we had an exhaust problem, an exhaust crack. And you’ve seen the flames that come out of the rear of that car when it jumps. That flame is going down the exhaust system, came through and ignited, got the transmission tunnel hot, and ignited the paint on the inside of the tunnel. There are certainly pictures out there of the fire inside of the car.

Ken was on the radio, and it just wasn’t safe for him. He drove several laps with it burning his leg, and he just had to pull over. It wasn’t safe to continue.

Image via Ken Block Facebook

In other words, when Foust finally got by about halfway through the race, it wasn’t a clean pass on a fully-functioning car.

Yeah, we had this problem after about two laps from the start. So Ken had driven two laps with the inside of the car on fire and his breathing was becoming an issue. The breathing of the paint inside such a confined space was giving him a huge issue, and he wanted to know if it was safe for him to continue for a couple of laps, and it wasn’t. It was the right decision.

The damage to the car is minimal at the moment—there is some wiring work that needs doing over the winter. If we had carried on we could have lost the entire car.

I was confident that SEMA was going to be our race. I was confident that Vegas was going to be our race, how we performed. It’s rallycross. We have learned a tremendous amount this year as a team. We never stop learning. We work as hard as, if not harder than any other team out there in doing what we do, analyzing and trying to sort of take the small steps forward sometimes. We always go forward; we never go backwards.

—Chris Leone

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

Foust Defeats Star-Studded Field For Second Consecutive GRC Title

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

For the second year in a row, Tanner Foust took home the Global Rallycross Championship crown in an Olsbergs MSE-prepared Ford Fiesta by beating a similarly skilled teammate. Last year, it was Marcus Gronholm who took home second place; this year, it was fellow Rockstar Energy driver Brian Deegan.

Foust scored a total of 94 points this season, including 22 in Tuesday night’s season finale in the SEMA Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. He took race wins in the final two events of the year, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in September and SEMA. Deegan took 84, with five consecutive podium finishes to end the year.

Samuel Hubinette and Rhys Millen, two of Foust’s former competitors in Formula Drift, tied for third place with 63 points apiece; Hubinette had a best finish of second at New Hampshire, while Millen’s best run of the year was a third place at SEMA. Ken Block finished fifth with 58 points after winning two heat races at SEMA but falling out of the final due to an oil fire.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Here are the final championship standings:

  1. Tanner Foust, #34 Ford, 94 points
  2. Brian Deegan, #38 Ford, 84
  3. Samuel Hubinette, #77 Saab, 63
  4. Rhys Millen, #67 Hyundai, 63
  5. Ken Block, #43 Ford, 58
  6. Stephan Verdier, #12 Hyundai, 52
  7. David Binks, #17 Ford, 45
  8. Marcus Gronholm, #3 Ford, 43
  9. Travis Pastrana, #199 Dodge, 41
  10. Sverre Isachsen, #11 Subaru, 40
  11. Andy Scott, #26 Saab, 38
  12. Dave Mirra, #40 Subaru, 35
  13. Bucky Lasek, #81 Subaru, 35
  14. Toomas Heikkinen, #57 Ford, 33
  15. Liam Doran, #33 Citroen, 30
  16. Pat Moro, #59 Subaru, 22
  17. Sebastien Loeb, #72 Citroen, 21
  18. Bryce Menzies, #99 Dodge, 12
  19. David Higgins, #75 Subaru, 9
  20. Andreas Eriksson, #3 Ford, 8

– Chris Leone

Foust Beats Deegan For SEMA Victory, GRC Championship

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Brian Deegan drove a remarkable race in the Global Rallycross Championship season finale at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Tuesday night, advancing through the last chance qualifier and getting a strong start in the final to advance to second. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, as Olsbergs MSE teammate Tanner Foust took both the race victory and the GRC title by winning his second straight race in Las Vegas.

Foust took home his second consecutive GRC title by winning heat races on both Monday and Tuesday and getting the holeshot on the second attempt at the final, never relinquishing the lead. Rhys Millen completed the podium, his first ever podium finish in GRC competition in his last race with Hyundai sponsorship.

Deegan won his heat race on Monday to earn a bonus point, but failed to advance in Tuesday’s heat after contact with Sverre Isachsen knocked the tire off of his car. He bounced back to win the last chance qualifier over Toomas Heikkinen, but still had to start from the back in the final.

Stuck in the back on the first attempt at the final, Deegan received a bit of luck when Ken Block’s oil fire led to a red flag and a restart. Polesitter Block won both of his heats and got the holeshot over Foust in the first final, but Foust passed him halfway through; a lap later, the car failed and Block pulled to the side, climbing out to avoid the fire. He was uninjured.

On the second start, Deegan divebombed from the outside of the third row to come into the holeshot fourth, while Foust, Samuel Hubinette, and Millen held the first three positions. Millen eventually forced his way by Hubinette, who would come home a solid fourth.

Heikkinen rounded out the top five, while Subaru Puma Rallycross teammates Dave Mirra and Bucky Lasek scored season-best finishes of sixth and seventh, respectively. Timur Timerzyanov, in his GRC debut, finished eighth, while Bryce Menzies placed ninth while substituting for Travis Pastrana and Block rounded out the top 10. Stephan Verdier, Sverre Isachsen, Pat Moro, and Liam Doran missed the final.

We’ll have more coverage in the coming hours and days.

– Chris Leone