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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

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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: 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

Tommy Boileau: “Testing With Olsbergs Was A Humbling Experience”

Image via Tommy Boileau Facebook

For future reference, race fans, make sure you remember the name Tommy Boileau.

At just 18, Boileau has accomplished more in his teenage years than some drivers will accomplish over their entire careers. One of the fastest rising talents in American road racing, he’s converted his impressive resume into opportunities as both a race driver and driving instructor.

The biggest opportunity of Boileau’s young career came on November 1, when he joined an impressive crop of nine drivers at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to test rallycross cars for Olsbergs MSE. Four would test the same SuperCars that OMSE fielded in this year’s Global Rallycross Championship, while Boileau and four others would shake down OMSE’s new SuperCar Light. On Monday, he would talk to us about his career so far, driving the new vehicle, and taking in the sights and sounds of Las Vegas:

First things first—we do this question the first time we talk to anyone because we like to hear it better in your own words. Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you come from, and what you’ve accomplished so far in your career.

I started racing when I was eight years old—I started in go-karts and did that for about five years, and I won a few championships doing that. When I was 14, I decided to try to make a move into the full-blown race cars, so we talked to the SCCA and NASA, and NASA allowed me to begin racing with them at the age of 14. So we did that, ran a spec Miata my first year, became Rookie of the Year with them that year, and raced one more year in a BMW in NASA. Then I moved on to the SCCA my next season at 16, became Rookie of the Year, won a divisional championship, and became National Driver of the Year with the SCCA in my first year racing with those guys.

Image via Tommy Boileau Facebook

After that, I did a few IndyCar tests between there, trying to get familiar with some faster stuff, and then last year I acquired my FIA Grade B professional racing license. It’s an international license that allows me to race anywhere in the world. I’ve also just recently become an instructor for the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving at Pikes Peak International Raceway.

I’m a third generation driver on both sides of the family. Both my mother and my father raced, as well as both of my grandfather. So I’m a third-generation American race car driver on both sides of the family. That’s a pretty cool thing—it’s definitely been in my family for a long time and I hope to carry on the tradition of racing.

When did you get the call to test for Olsbergs at Las Vegas? How did that come about?

It was probably about a month ago, a couple of weeks before the test. I had met all of the guys from OMSE at the PPIR Global Rallycross race here in Colorado (in June 2011). I had kind of gotten to know them and hung out with them quite a bit, and they actually invited us out to do X Games with them. I was also coaching a few guys at X Games for some driving. So we hung out with them there some more, and just talked to them on and off for I’d say about a year. Then, just a few weeks ago, we got the call asking if I was going to be at SEMA, and if I was, that I should bring my gear, because they wanted me to test in the new car for them.

Photo credit: Bob Boileau

Did you do much driving in a rally or rallycross car before you got to the test?

Yeah, I did. Once I got the call I kind of sniffed around town, and one of our good friends, Scott Crouch, actually has a rally car that he just did the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in. So I went up to Boulder, picked up the car, and brought it back to Colorado Springs. I did probably 60 or 70 laps worth of testing on a dirt track out of PPIR, and got pretty familiarized with some of the off-road driving as well as driving a four-wheel drive car, because it’s not something I have as much experience doing. So I figured I’d kind of get familiarized with that before I’d go out and have my big opportunity.

You weren’t the only one testing either of the Olsbergs cars—who else was there shaking things down?

There were five young drivers testing in the Lights car—myself, Tanner Whitten, who’s an oval racer, and two of Andreas (Eriksson)’s sons were out there testing, as well as another European rallycross driver.  Those were the other four drivers in the Lights car alongside me.

Image via Tommy Boileau Instagram

Then the four drivers testing in the SuperCar were stunt driver Terry Grant, he was just doing some shakedown stuff. There was Patrik Sandell, who’s a WRC driver who won in one of the World Rally categories driving for Red Bull. IndyCar driver Simon Pagenaud was out there testing as well, and that was pretty cool because he’s always been one of my idols, so getting to hang out and talk with him was definitely a cool opportunity. And then the fourth driver won the Super 1600 category in European Rallycross this year, Andreas Bakkerud.

It was definitely a humbling experience as well—just to have all of these guys that have done so well in rally cars and all other sorts of driving disciplines, to be out there and see how I compared with those guys in their own little world of rally, coming from a 100% asphalt and road racing background. It was really cool, and they were all super nice guys, I got to hang out and talk to them. It was a great experience.

We saw that you were testing the SuperCar Light, the new Olsbergs project. It’s a pretty new car—what was driving it like? How did driving it compare to some of the other cars you’ve raced before?

Photo credit: Bob Boileau

It was a really fun car to drive, if nothing else. It did take a little bit to get used to, coming from a rear-wheel drive, pretty mild, medium-horsepower background. The all-wheel drive was definitely a new thing for me to get used to, just because the front tires are gripping, so wherever they’re pointing it’s trying to drag you in that direction. That was a little hard to get used to, but once I got the hang of it, the sequential gearbox and everything, it was a blast to drive. It was pretty similar to some of the shorter wheelbase stuff, but if I could compare it to anything I’d say it was like a go-kart with 300 horsepower, I guess. Really quick reaction times, and you’ve got to be up on your game and stay ahead of the car for sure.

What was the test course like? Was there any dirt at all or was it just pavement? Was the course challenging or straightforward?

We were set out in the drift lot, the parking lot for the bullring (at Las Vegas Motor Speedway). It was a pretty short track, probably about a half mile test loop. We were doing about 30 second laps out there. It was probably about two thirds asphalt and one third dirt.

Do you know what Olsbergs’ goals were with the test? Have you heard anything about the bigger picture for 2013, such as a series of the Lights cars, and how interested are you in being primarily a rallycross driver next year?

Photo credit: Bob Boileau

Yeah! I don’t know the full intention—I know they were trying to run a bunch of laps on it to see how well the equipment is going to withstand taking beatings, I guess. From what I understand, they’re running the car next year alongside the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship, but I do believe their intention is to have a feeder series for the Global Rallycross Championship as well, just to bring younger drivers up through the ranks and into the sport of Global Rallycross, to grow that brand. And after driving the car, I definitely enjoyed it and would love to have another opportunity to get behind the wheel. If I could have a full season racing in one of those cars, that would be amazing.

Finally, you got to spend much of the week while you weren’t testing taking in the GRC finale and SEMA show. What were some of the highlights of your Vegas trip?

We did all kinds of fun stuff. It was actually my first time at the SEMA Show, as well as my first time in Las Vegas, so the first night we got there we kind of just walked up and down the Strip, walked about five miles just taking in the sights. And then going to the SEMA Show, that’s another whole experience taking that in, because it’s so immense. So I got to see a bunch of cool cars, like the McLaren MP4-12C, and then just getting to walk around and see all the people—I got to meet Rutledge Wood from Top Gear, who’s definitely a cool guy, and I love watching Top Gear, it’s probably my favorite show. Just walking around and meeting all the people was definitely a great networking opportunity, especially for a young race car driver to meet all the important faces and get your name out there.

I also met Conor Daly—he’s definitely been an inspiration to me. He’s only a few years older than me, but he’s over there running all the stuff that I’ve always dreamed of doing, getting to test some of the F1 cars and stuff like that. So being able to run into him, just hanging out at a dinner, was definitely cool.

Tommy Boileau’s website is GoTommyGo.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @TommyBoileau34 or like his Facebook page.

– Chris Leone

Heikkinen Poised To Break Out In 2013 GRC Season

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Olsbergs MSE driver Toomas Heikkinen missed two of the six rounds in this year’s Global Rallycross Championship after a spectacular crash in practice for X Games left him recovering from a broken left ankle. After recovering in time for the final two races of the season, the 21-year-old Finn showed promise that left fans wondering what might have been this year, but hopeful for his GRC future.

Heikkinen closed out the season 14th in points with 33, only two points behind Dave Mirra and Bucky Lasek, both of whom competed in all six events. He scored 25 of those points in the final two events, by virtue of a fourth place finish at Las Vegas in September and a fifth place run at SEMA on Tuesday. Only three drivers—Tanner Foust with 43, Brian Deegan with 36, and Rhys Millen with 26—scored more points than Heikkinen in the past two races.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

For the season finale at SEMA, Heikkinen could only muster the 11th fastest time in seeding, but his successes came when it counted—in the races themselves. He finished between Foust and Millen in Monday’s heat, and he scored the last transfer spot in the last chance qualifier behind Deegan. Then, as other drivers beat themselves and their cars up in the final, Heikkinen managed to navigate past the damage and scored his second top five finish in a row.

All in all, Heikkinen made it to the main event in three of his four appearances this season, the lone exception coming at Texas when he was disqualified in the last chance qualifier there. He also won the second heat race at Charlotte, giving him a direct transfer and front row starting spot in the final there.

The question isn’t if Heikkinen will improve on his 2012 results in 2013, it’s only a question of how much. Young, talented, and sponsored, there’s a good chance that he returns to Olsbergs next year, especially after his on-track discipline improved greatly in the final two events. The Ford Fiesta remains the best car in the series, and should only get better if Ford’s rumored decision to expand its rallycross commitments comes through. With a full slate of races under his belt, Heikkinen should have no problem cracking the top 10 in next year’s points, maybe even reaching the top five, and potentially even scoring a victory.

– 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

Two Heats In Tonight’s GRC Season Finale

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Tonight’s Global Rallycross Championship season finale at the SEMA Show will feature only two heats before the last chance qualifier and main event.

With a field of 14 cars planning to race tonight—and possibly 15, if the Olsbergs MSE crew is able to complete an extensive repair job on David Binks’ totaled No. 17 eBay Motors Ford Fiesta—the decision was made to combine the cars into two heats of seven in order to produce a more exciting show.

The seeding results were as follows:

  1. Ken Block, #43 Ford, 29.168 seconds
  2. Tanner Foust, #34 Ford, 29.535
  3. Timur Timerzyanov, #3 Ford, 29.615
  4. Samuel Hubinette, #77 Saab, 29.791
  5. Sverre Isachsen, #11 Subaru, 29.798
  6. Stephan Verdier, #12 Hyundai, 29.828
  7. Rhys Millen, #67 Hyundai, 29.922
  8. Bucky Lasek, #81 Subaru, 30.033
  9. Brian Deegan, #38 Ford, 30.056
  10. Bryce Menzies, #99 Dodge, 30.224
  11. Toomas Heikkinen, #57 Ford, 30.368
  12. Pat Moro, #59 Subaru, 31.370
  13. Dave Mirra, #40 Subaru, 32.892
  14. Liam Doran, #33 Citroen, DNS

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

The two heats will be as follows:

  • Heat 2A: Ken Block (1), Samuel Hubinette (4), Sverre Isachsen (5), Brian Deegan (9), Bryce Menzies (10), Pat Moro (12), Dave Mirra (13)
  • Heat 2B: Tanner Foust (2), Timur Timerzyanov (3), Stephan Verdier (6), Rhys Millen (7), Bucky Lasek (8), Toomas Heikkinen (11), Liam Doran (14)

The heat races will be especially interesting, as the two championship contenders have been separated and the four drivers in contention for third in points have been split evenly between the two heats. Heat 2A will feature title contender Deegan and third place competitors Block and Hubinette, while Heat 2B showcases championship leader Foust and third place competitors (and teammates) Verdier and Millen.

Coverage begins on ESPN2 and ESPN3 at 8PM Eastern/5PM Pacific.

– Chris Leone

Binks, Timerzyanov Suffer Crashes In Sunday Jump Practice

Image via Rhys Millen Racing Facebook

Yesterday, 13 drivers tested their cars in preparation for Tuesday’s Global Rallycross Championship season finale at the SEMA Show, taking jump practice and turning laps around the 0.6-mile, purpose-built circuit in a Las Vegas Convention Center parking lot. The majority of drivers managed to bring back their cars in one piece, but for a pair of Olsbergs MSE drivers, the situation was a bit less positive.

In his GRC debut, Timur Timerzyanov, replacing Marcus Gronholm in the No. 3 Best Buy Mobile Ford Fiesta, took the dirt jump a bit too hard in practice. The European Rallycross champion, who doesn’t face jumps on the ERC schedule, overshot the optimum landing area and put his front bumper directly into the dirt near the base of the landing pad. Though the bumper was torn up and the headlights were both destroyed, Timerzyanov walked away.

Photo credit: Brian Johnson (@rallybri)

Luckily, so did David Binks, after an even larger shunt over the jump in the same practice session. According to Greg Frechette, a mechanic for the currently-inactive Gumball STi team, Binks took the jump too slow, leading to his major accident. Brian Johnson, best known as a co-driver in Rally America, added that Binks got out of the car under his own power and was released from the hospital last night, but that the car is no longer fit to race.

Binks has tweeted that he’s a little sore, but also that he remains optimistic about getting back on track:

Action will continue on track today with the seeding session, and according to the series’ schedule of events, heats 1A-D, returning the series to the two-heat formula it used at Charlotte to open the season.

– Chris Leone