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 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

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

Stephan Verdier: “(SEMA) Is Going To Show What Rallycross Really Is”

Image via Rhys Millen Racing Facebook

Only nine drivers in Tuesday’s Global Rallycross Championship finale at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas will have competed in all six race events this season. Stephan Verdier, currently sixth in points with the No. 12 Disney XD/Motorcity Hyundai Veloster for Rhys Millen Racing, is one of those drivers. After competing on all five tracks this season and looking at the SEMA layout and entry list, Verdier is especially excited to be competing in the season finale.

“This time, for once, we have what looks like a real rallycross track,” Verdier said over the phone on Thursday. “There’s left and right turns, there’s a lot of dirt, not just one corner. We’re back to the dirt gap, which is going to be easier on the cars. We have some whoops with water—we’re a little worried about the whoops, we don’t have trophy trucks, we have rallycross cars, so they don’t work really well over whoops, but we’ll see how big they are. And the water, it’s supposed to be jumping into water, so it should be interesting. But I think the track is really cool.

“Personally, I think if we cannot race on an oval, then a parking lot is the best for us, because we can build exactly what we want. And if there’s 2,000 people showing up, it’s going to look packed.”

SEMA marks only the second purpose-built rallycross track of the season, following July’s event at X Games. But not having to share the stage with other action sports, or TV time on ESPN, means that the event will follow a different schedule.

Image via Global Rallycross Championship

“The ambiance is going to be more like X Games, but we’re our own event, we’re on our own schedule, we don’t have to answer to anybody,” Verdier added. “So I think it’s going to be more relaxing. The cars are made for that kind of track, so I think it’s going to be much better.”

The fact that dirt dominates a portion of the track in a way it hasn’t since X Games is also appealing to Verdier as a great equalizer among the drivers. “When you bring in dirt, you bring the chance of drivers making mistakes,” he noted. “If you made one braking mistake (in qualifying on the tarmac), you go tenths slower than the other car, and you go from third place to 13th place. The dirt gives you a little bit more room to make mistakes and not be affected by much, but it can also let you be a bit more focused on the dirt. I think having that much more dirt is going to bring the field much closer to each other, and pretty much everybody’s going to make a mistake one time in the race somewhere on the dirt.”

Although stars Travis Pastrana and Marcus Gronholm will not be competing in Tuesday’s event, Verdier still believes that fans will be treated to one of the strongest fields of the season. “Travis is not there, but we have Bryce (Menzies) back,” he noted. “Liam (Doran) is going to be there. Except for Travis not being there, I think it’s going to be one of the strongest fields except for X Games.

Image via Global Rallycross Championship

“It’s great to have Timur (Timerzyanov) come over, the reigning (European) champ. It’s going to be interesting to see him in a Ford, he’s been driving a Citroen. So jumping into a Ford is a big difference, especially when you have four other Fords with the same spec—it’s going to be harder for him. But I think it’s going to be really exciting! It’s a big field, a big race to finish the season. It’s great to see Liam coming back. I’m excited to see all these guys. I wish Marcus (Gronholm) would be back, that would’ve been (the best), but I think Timur would be beside Marcus.

“I think you’re going to see lead changes and battles that you don’t really have with tarmac or the previous races, where it was pretty much the start and that was it. People are really excited about it. I think it’s going to show what rallycross really is.”

– Chris Leone

GRC Insider: Meet Timur Timerzyanov

Photo credit: Kirsi Tikka

While Marcus Gronholm won’t be running in the Global Rallycross Championship season finale at SEMA on October 30, Olsbergs MSE and Best Buy Mobile have come up with just about the best possible replacement driver available for the No. 3 Ford Fiesta: current European Rallycross champion Timur Timerzyanov.

American fans aren’t likely to recognize the native of Tatarstan by anything more than his car’s distinctive livery. But rest assured, Timerzyanov’s GRC debut has been well earned; he’s been one of the strongest drivers in the ERC in each of the past two seasons, competing against many GRC drivers in the process.

2011 saw Timerzyanov join the series full-time with Kenneth Hansen Motorsport, driving a Citroen C4 in all ten rounds of the championship. That year, he took his maiden ERC victory in Belgium on the way to a third place finish in points. Only current GRC regulars Sverre Isachsen and Tanner Foust beat him, while he beat a field that also included Toomas Heikkinen, Liam Doran, and Andy Scott on a full-time basis.

This year, Timerzyanov missed the first round of the ERC season due to visa problems, but he made up for it with two wins in the next three races to take a seven point advantage over Foust into the halfway point of the season. He then won four consecutive races to score a maximum of 80 points in the second half of the season, putting the title out of reach.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Timerzyanov ended the year with 148 points, the best champion’s score since team owner Hansen had 151 in 2008. However, Hansen also had an extra championship round in which to score points.

For the majority of the field who have raced against Timerzyanov, they won’t expect anything other than one of the best rallycrossers in the world to show up. The added challenge for the field is that Timerzyanov will be driving a Ford Fiesta, the most prolific car in the GRC this season with three wins and 10 podiums. But Timerzyanov will have to adjust to the tighter layouts of American rallycross, which also include the gap jump that many European rallycross fans dislike.

If American fans want to know what to expect from the Tatar on Tuesday, they have to keep in mind two things. The first is that the best driver in the best car usually wins, as Gronholm did in both Charlotte and Texas and Sebastien Loeb did at X Games in a Hansen-prepared car. The second is that, save for the jump, this track is the most similar to European rallycross on the GRC schedule. Timerzyanov is almost a sure bet to be standing on the podium at SEMA—and don’t be shocked if it’s on the top step.

– Chris Leone

ERC Champion Timerzyanov To Drive For Gronholm At SEMA

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

According to an update posted to the Best Buy Rallycross Facebook page, injured driver Marcus Gronholm will not return to Olsbergs MSE’s No. 3 Ford Fiesta for the Global Rallycross Championship season finale at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas on October 30. In his place, 2012 European Rallycross Championship winner Timur Timerzyanov will drive the car.

Timerzyanov took six wins in nine starts this season, scoring race victories at Austria and Hungary in the first half of the season, and winning four in a row at Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Finland. He scored 148 of a maximum possible 160 points, beating second place Liam Doran by 44 points and third place Tanner Foust by 48 in the championship.

Besides in the ERC, Timerzyanov’s Hansen Motorsport-prepared Citroen DS3 also competed at X Games with Sebastien Loeb behind the wheel, scoring a dominant race victory. Kenneth Hansen, who prepared the car, is the 14-time FIA European Rallycross champion and scored podium finishes in over 70% of his career ERC events.

Timerzyanov will join Foust, Brian Deegan, David Binks, and Toomas Heikkinen at Olsbergs for the event.

– Chris Leone

“Drop” Scores Set Up GRC Championship Battle Between Rockstar Teammates

Image via Olsbergs MSE Facebook

Through five races of the Global Rallycross Championship season, Tanner Foust’s 16-point lead over Olsbergs MSE teammate Brian Deegan may seem like an insurmountable lead to overcome. In effect, it is—for Deegan to steal the championship from Foust, he would have to win October 30’s round at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, while Foust would have to finish 12th or worse, depending on bonus points.

Luckily for Deegan, and for the GRC, that won’t be the case. As drivers are allowed to drop their worst scores of the season, and as the GRC begins to factor those scores into the championship table after the fifth round, Foust’s points total has shrunk from 83 to 72, and his lead from 16 to only six, meaning that he and Deegan will both enter the final round of the championship with a mathematical chance at winning the title.

After dropping each driver’s worst score, here are the top 15 drivers in the current championship table:

  1. Tanner Foust, #34 Ford, 72 points (drop: X Games, 11 points)
  2. Brian Deegan, #38 Ford, 66 (Charlotte, 1)
  3. Samuel Hubinette, #77 Saab, 50 points (Las Vegas, 5)
  4. Ken Block, #43 Ford, 49 (Charlotte, 2)
  5. Rhys Millen, #67 Hyundai, 48 (New Hampshire, 0)
  6. Stephan Verdier, #12 Hyundai, 46 (X Games, 5)
  7. Marcus Gronholm, #3 Ford, 43 (X Games/New Hampshire/Las Vegas, 0)
  8. David Binks, #17 Ford, 42 (Las Vegas, 3)
  9. Travis Pastrana, #199 Dodge, 40 (X Games, 1)
  10. Andy Scott, #26 Saab, 38 (Las Vegas, 0)
  11. Sverre Isachsen, #11 Subaru, 35 (New Hampshire, 4)
  12. Liam Doran, #33 Citroen, 27 (Charlotte/Las Vegas, 0)
  13. Bucky Lasek, #81 Subaru, 25 (Texas, 3)
  14. Dave Mirra, #40 Subaru, 24 (X Games, 2)
  15. Toomas Heikkinen, #57 Ford, 21 (Texas/X Games/New Hampshire, 0)

Image via Olsbergs MSE Facebook

In the recalculated standings, Foust suffers the most by far. No other driver has had to drop more than five points from their score, while he gives up 11 points scored in a sixth place finish at X Games.

Deegan’s worst round came at Charlotte, where he finished a disappointing 16th due to mechanical failure, but also earned a bonus point for winning the first of two heats. In another stroke of luck for the Metal Mulisha founder, bonus points are immune from the drop, meaning that he gets to keep the heat win in the standings while dropping the poor overall finish. No other driver is affected by the rule.

On the other hand, Rhys Millen’s decision to skip New Hampshire no longer cripples him in the standings, as he maintains fifth place and only ranks two points behind Samuel Hubinette in third. In fact, any driver between third and ninth place in points could rank third overall at the end of the season with a strong SEMA finish and a little bit of help from the other drivers in the mix.

That list includes a lot of high profile drivers. For example, if seventh place Marcus Gronholm returns from injury at SEMA, a third win of the year would undoubtedly be a huge boost; meanwhile, if ninth place Travis Pastrana can shed the bad luck that has plagued him for most of the season, making up the 10-point difference shouldn’t be impossible. And if Ken Block manages to cap off a whirlwind year that has seen him take three North American rally victories and two top-10 finishes in World Rally Championship events with a rallycross win at SEMA, he’s guaranteed third place in GRC points.

– Chris Leone

What We Learned: GRC at Las Vegas Showcases New Faces Up Front

Image via Olsbergs MSE Facebook

The penultimate round of this year’s Global Rallycross Championship at Las Vegas Motor Speedway shook up the field in more ways than one, producing some new drivers in the top five and a serious shakeup in the points standings.

Sure, the winner wasn’t a huge surprise, as points leader Tanner Foust extended his championship advantage from 12 points to 16 by beating Brian Deegan to the finish line. But the struggles of certain other drivers were a bit surprising—both David Binks and Samuel Hubinette failed to advance to the final for the first time all season, while Travis Pastrana finished last in the final for the second time this year.

Undoubtedly, Vegas produced a mentality of “forget everything you know about the championship so far, except that Foust is the class of the field this year.” But what, specifically, should fans take out of round five of the GRC schedule? Here are the three biggest lessons we learned:

Image via Sverre Isachsen Facebook

Sverre Isachsen is back. The three-time defending European Rallycross champion seemed like a natural fit with Subaru, which has the top stage rally team in North America and whose partner in Vermont SportsCar would also be building its rallycross WRX STi. Of course, that wouldn’t be the case, as a heat win at X Games proved the lone highlight in a season fraught with mechanical failures and on-track incidents.

That all changed at Las Vegas, when Isachsen had his most consistent race of the season and took a long-awaited podium for the Zombie Cat squad. After placing second to Tanner Foust in his heat race, Isachsen turned a strong start in the final into a third-place run after passing Toomas Heikkinen late to break up an all-Ford podium.

Image via Olsbergs MSE Facebook

Toomas Heikkinen is learning. In his first race back after hitting the edge of the jump at X Games, young Topi was determined to score a strong finish. After earning disqualifications in both the Charlotte final and Texas last chance qualifier, he had only scored eight points, far behind any of his Olsbergs MSE teammates, who held four of the top five spots in points heading into Las Vegas.

When all was said and done, Heikkinen didn’t disappoint with his fourth place finish. He ran second to teammate Brian Deegan in his heat, and ran in the top three for most of the final after a strong start. His 13 points more than doubled his season total.

Image via Olsbergs MSE Facebook

This year’s is a lost championship battle. Tanner Foust leads the GRC standings by 16 points with one race to go over teammate Brian Deegan. When factoring in each driver’s “drop” event, that gap closes to seven points, but every other driver has been mathematically eliminated.

The two-horse race is still a shame given the caliber of the competition, and the “what ifs” are countless. What if Marcus Gronholm hadn’t been injured at X Games, missing the past three rounds? Or if Samuel Hubinette hadn’t suffered spark plug, turbo, and tire issues on Saturday night? Or if drivers like Ken Block and Travis Pastrana hadn’t started the season with two-point finishes at Charlotte and Texas, respectively? We’ll have to wait until next year to find out.

– Chris Leone

GRC Mid-Season Break: How Drivers Spent Their “Summer Vacation”

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

Two and a half months is a long time to go between race weekends in the middle of a season, but that’s exactly how long it’s been since the last Global Rallycross Championship event all the way back in July. Luckily, since then, the athletes of the GRC have been finding plenty of ways to keep themselves busy. Here’s a list of highlights:

  • Points leader Tanner Foust has scored finishes of second, sixth, and sixth in three European Rallycross Championship rounds, climbing to second in that championship. In the meantime, he’s also been promoting new episodes of the American version of Top Gear, while starring in the “Life in the Foust Lane” web series on behalf of sponsor Rockstar Energy.
  • Besides doing stunt work in multiple car commercials, Samuel Hubinette took part in the Targa Newfoundland Rally from September 8-15, finishing first in the small displacement class and second in the open class. He told us about his summer in a recent interview:

    After New Hampshire I flew straight to Sweden with my family, spent a couple weeks there. I was actually supposed to stay there longer, but then I got some commercials back in California. So I flew back early with my family and worked on a Porsche commercial, a Golf commercial, and a Hyundai commercial.

    Image via Chrysler Twitter

    Then I flew out to Newfoundland and got to do the Targa Newfoundland Race, which was awesome, with Fiat USA. I competed for them, which was pretty cool, in the Fiat Abarth, (and it) was awesome. And I had Jen Horsey as the co-driver, our TV host for Global Rallycross. With her next to me with a lot of experience, I got up to speed very quickly. With her getting up to speed, we did really well. Actually, in the open class, where we were up against rally cars with overdrive and 500 horsepower, we ended up second in the class with a 165 horsepower car.
    I think we tore it up pretty good up there, and for me it was a great challenge to learn something new, which I always wanted to try out, and I give a lot of respect to the rally guys out there for listening to the notes and not knowing how the roads are. It was awesome, and it was good to stay behind the wheel in the downtime, which I got to do because we had the two month break between GRC events. So that was helpful for me.

  • Brian Deegan is currently fighting for the championship in the Pro 2 class in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, where he’s taken four wins in 14 starts. Last weekend at Las Vegas, Deegan took finishes of seventh and fourth in the two main events.

Image via @GronholmM

  • Marcus Gronholm continues to recuperate from serious injuries suffered in his practice crash at X Games. According to comments in a press release from his sponsor, Gronholm is feeling well but cannot be cleared by his doctors to compete again until October at the earliest.
  • Returning home to England during the break, David Binks competed in the Suzuki Swift Rallycross Championship round at Lydden Hill on August 26-27, coming home sixth overall. He told us about the experience:

    I’d been back home, and it was great to see the family and friends. I’d been driving excavators and doing all sorts of things while I’d been back just to keep myself occupied, and doing some fitness things. But I just needed to get back in a car. I sort of needed that adrenaline rush. And back in England, this Bank Holiday is the biggest weekend in British rallycross.
    I’ve still got an old Supercar, a Mitsubishi Evo 9 Supercar that I used to race back in 2008-9, but I didn’t want to wheel out an underpowered supercar. So I thought, “Well, what else can I drive?” I rang the guys that run the Suzuki Swift championship and said “Have you got a car?” They said “Yeah, we’ve got a car, do you want to drive?” And I said “Yeah, I’ll come out and play.” So we went out and played in that, and it was good. It’s not a quick car, but it’s good fun.

  • Ken Block has been competing in numerous stage rallies across the globe, scoring wins in the Canadian Rallyé Defi from September 8-10 and Rally America’s famed Olympus Rally last weekend. Block also ran as high as 10th in the World Rally Championship event in Finland before a broken control arm bracket knocked him out on the third day of the event.

Capture via Audi “Return to Snake River Canyon”

  • Audi kept Stephan Verdier busy during his break, taking him to the fabled Snake River Canyon to perform stunts in a commercial that launched the new RS5—literally, into the canyon—and became an immediate internet hit. Verdier, who was featured prominently in the video (a practice uncommon for most stunt drivers in commercials), also did some work as a driver coach for the brand in the following weeks.
  • Andy Scott competed in his own roving tour of rallycross in Europe, competing in three ERC events and the marquee French round at Circuit de Loheac in a Ford Focus for Tony Bardy Motorsport. His best finish came in France, where he placed a respectable sixth; he’ll head to Germany this weekend instead of Las Vegas for the ERC finale.
  • Perhaps no driver had a better “summer vacation” than Rhys Millen, who set a world record in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb and launched a new racing specification, Formula Cross. Millen’s 9:46.161 run in the Hyundai Genesis beat second place Romain Dumas to the summit by less than a second, while his Formula Cross vehicle takes all of the excitement of riding an ATV and adds an unprecedented level of safety for a four-wheel off-road vehicle.
  • Travis Pastrana competed in a handful of NASCAR Nationwide Series and K&N Pro Series East events, landing a one-off ride with the esteemed Roush Fenway Racing at Richmond in early September. But Pastrana’s most high-profile event might have been the launch of Nitro Circus 3D, the full-length movie version of his popular MTV show that features the action sports collective performing a number of stunts.

Image via Liam Doran Facebook

  • Liam Doran ranks third in ERC points, with a best finish of second in the three rounds between Loudon and now. Doran will actually skip this weekend’s race at Las Vegas to finish the ERC season, where he will attempt to wrestle second in the championship away from Foust.
  • Legendary skateboarder-turned-rallycross racer Bucky Lasek took part in the Dew Tour event in his home state of Maryland from August 16-19, taking a pair of silver medals in Skate Bowl and Vert.
  • Finally, Toomas Heikkinen has spent the past few months recuperating from his injuries at X Games. Topi will be back in action this weekend at Las Vegas, driving the fifth Olsbergs MSE Ford Fiesta.

– Chris Leone

Photos: GRC Teams Invade Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Here’s a collection of photos from the drivers and teams of the Global Rallycross Championship as they prepare for Saturday night’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

Image via Rhys Millen Facebook

Rhys Millen Racing may be ending their relationship with Hyundai at the conclusion of the season, but that hasn’t stopped them from proudly promoting that they’ll be the first team to ever run a Hyundai at LVMS.

Image via Stephan Verdier Facebook

Stephan Verdier comes into Saturday’s race seventh in points. He’ll be looking to score his second podium of the season in his No. 12 Motorcity/Disney XD Hyundai, getting his old car back after racing owner Rhys Millen’s Veloster at New Hampshire.

Image via Sverre Isachsen Facebook

Sverre Isachsen has been enjoying his tour of the United States this year, and Las Vegas is no exception. The three-time European Rallycross champion looks excited to get back on track and take in all that the bright lights of Vegas have to offer.

Image via Olsbergs MSE Facebook

Here’s a familiar sight: the Best Buy Mobile Ford Fiesta campaigned by Olsbergs MSE. But with Marcus Gronholm still recovering from his injuries at X Games, team principal Andreas Eriksson will be the driver behind the wheel this weekend.

Image via Samuel Hubinette Racing Facebook

Gronholm won’t be racing at Las Vegas, but he will be attending the event as a spectator. He’s here with fellow Swedes Samuel Hubinette and Per Eklund, who will try to close the gap in points on Gronholm’s teammate Tanner Foust.

– Chris Leone