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Millen Puts GRC-Spec Hyundais Up For Sale

Image via Rhys Millen Racing Facebook

After ending its partnership with manufacturer Hyundai at the finish of the 2012 racing season, Rhys Millen Racing has announced that it will be putting its two Global Rallycross Championship-spec Hyundai Velosters up for sale on January 1.

The two cars have competed in the past two seasons’ worth of GRC competition, and have seen Millen, Stephan Verdier, Marcus Dodd, and Robbie Maddison behind the wheel. Millen finished third and fourth in the past two GRC championships in the primary car, while Verdier took the second car to sixth in points after joining the team this year.

The two RMR-prepared Hyundais made 11 combined starts this season, making nine main event appearances and scoring two podiums in the season opener at Charlotte and season finale at SEMA. Those results were good enough for second in the manufacturers’ championship, beating Subaru for the position by 19 points despite running two cars compared to Subaru’s three.

RMR is also offering a 2001 World Rally Championship-spec Hyundai Accent that had been purchased for rallycross spares.

—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: Stephan Verdier, Part 2

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

Coming off of a disappointing X Games, Stephan Verdier was determined to mount a charge for this year’s Global Rallycross Championship. Armed with the knowledge that drivers could drop their worst race of the season in the final standings, he looked forward to attacking the second half of the championship armed with the new engine that he had been waiting for all season.

When teammate Rhys Millen took off the New Hampshire round of the season, Verdier took the team’s lead Hyundai Veloster up north in hopes of scoring another solid finish, before returning to his own car for the final two races of the season at Las Vegas and SEMA. Through a series of ups and downs, he would come out of the season with a sixth place finish in the overall standings.

In the second part of Verdier’s season recap, we talk about developing the car through the final races of the season, fighting through mechanical errors, and the contact that we didn’t see on TV during the final round at SEMA:

You mentioned at the track that you were driving Rhys’ car at New Hampshire. You qualified fourth and you managed to win the last chance qualifier, but you had an incident with Liam Doran that knocked you out of the final. How disappointing was it to fall out of that event?

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

Yeah, that’s the one I was devastated because it was 100% my fault. Like you said, we were driving Rhys’ car for that event, and the car was super fast because it had the new engine. And the first heat, Sverre (Isachsen) lost control and pushed me in the tires, so it kind of took me out of a chance to advance to the final, but I won the LCQ against Ken and everybody, and won it pretty easily. So the car was there, my driving was, everything was perfect, and that was the race—in the season, we knew everyone got to drop one race—I knew “I’m going to drop the X Games as my one race for the season, I just have to do a top six, five at New Hampshire.” And that would set me really good for the championship.

So I knew in the final I just had to do a good job. I didn’t need to win, but I did such a good job in qualifying that I was like “I gotta win, I gotta win.” Unfortunately, I made a huge mistake into the braking zone, overshot my braking, and hit Liam. The hit by itself didn’t take me out—what happened is we popped the alternator belt during the crash. The car was great, everything was good, it’s just the belt popped out and it shut down my engine, which was a shame because the car was driving straight and there was no damage structure-wise on the car. So it was 100% my fault.

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

That was the first time in the season that I made a drivers’ mistake, so it definitely devastated me. Because we drove all the way to New Hampshire, brought everybody here, and I just made a big mistake. That was a bad one, and it cost me a lot in the championship if you look at the points.

Las Vegas was a solid rebound event for you, with a fifth place finish, but it seemed like you hung around the back for much of the final and took the joker on the last lap to get that result. Was it easier for you to just hang back and run clean laps that weekend?

Yeah. Las Vegas was the first time in my car, my chassis, with the new engine. The car was fast, but the times weren’t there. I couldn’t understand why, especially compared to Rhys, with the testing the week before… I knew I should have been close to Rhys’ time, and I was pretty far behind. So I couldn’t understand what in my car was so much slower. We were struggling to find what was wrong with it, and it was down to my driving style.

Image via Las Vegas Motor Speedway Facebook/Photo credit: Jeff Speer

So I started to change my driving style and go closer to Rhys’, which was a lot more handbrake than me, and at Vegas I thought that worked for our chassis. So I started to change my style in qualifying and it didn’t work for me. I was really inconsistent, it just wasn’t working for me. So I went back to my regular style, was better, but the times still were not there.

When we went to the final, I knew I was going to have to have a tough time fighting with the top guys, so I (decided to) hang back and let them fight each other, and just do good, clean laps. And the speed of the car was a little bit off the top times, but I was able to get a pretty good result, I got fifth.

In the weeks after we found out what the problem was—the master cylinder for my front brakes went bad. So when I pushed the brakes, more went to the rear. Almost 60% went to the rear and 40% went to the front. So the car was still balanced in braking, because the way our cars are, the rear brake and center differential would do the braking for the front wheel. So the car was slowing down in a straight line, it was really balanced, but my braking distance was a good 50 feet longer than Rhys’ car. I realized that when I saw the temperature of the brakes and we looked at the data. And the funny thing is, we changed the piston for SEMA, and guess what? The car was half a second to six tenths a lap faster! (laughs)

Image via Rhys Millen Racing

So I was disappointed that we didn’t figure it out at the race, and I wish we would (have), but that happened. It was really good coming out, getting to SEMA, and knowing that my driving was fine, everything was fine, we had an issue on the car that we didn’t catch. And we were three tenths a second slower than Tanner (Foust), when the race before we were one, 1.3 seconds slower the race before.

You had high hopes heading into SEMA, but you had a rough Tuesday night. We saw you make a lot of contact with Timur Timerzyanov in the heat race and then some issues in the LCQ as well. Did that contact break anything in the car? What happened there?

When we went in, we pretty good, but the thing is there was so much dirt that all the times were really close to each other. So we actually qualified sixth, but if you look at the times, apart from Ken (Block)—who had a magical lap time—the other best time was Tanner’s, and we were only three tenths of a second behind him. When we looked at the data, lap by lap, I made three little mistakes in three corners, and if I looked at my data for what I normally do in those corners, we lost three tenths in that lap. So the car had the speed of doing the same time as Tanner, it was just me who made the mistake. But we were still three tenths of Tanner’s time, which was the closest we’d been the whole season.

Image via Stephan Verdier Facebook

So I was really excited—the car was working perfect, we had a new suspension on, everything was working the way it was supposed to. We went on the Monday night heat with Timur, we raced each other, touched each other, but there was nothing big, but what was really encouraging is, I was able to keep up with Timur for the five laps. On the first lap he was able to put maybe a second on me, but after that he couldn’t put any more time on me. In some sections I was catching up on him. That was perfect. The car was there, we’re not touching anything, we’re going to have a good race for the next day.

Unfortunately, in the first heat on Tuesday, I was lined up on the outside, which is the worst place on that track to be lined up, even if you’re on the front line. The outside position is worse than if you were in the second line on the inside. I got a pretty good start—not great, but decent—got second in the first corner. Then I made contact with Timur, but nothing big, he went in front. Then Liam, behind me, I don’t know if it was payback or what, but hit me in back of the car really hard, and he bent my exhaust when he did that. And the car couldn’t accelerate.

Photo credit: AJ Grasso

By doing so, not only did he punt me in the back, but also he went on my inside and kept pushing me on the outside, and he pushed me wide so I took the hay bale out. And he kind of forced me to take the joker. I didn’t have a choice, I had to go for the joker, which in hindsight was good, because with my exhaust bent, I had no power. I was flat out on the gas and the car was going 10 miles an hour.

Timur was behind me, and he kept pushing and bumping me because he didn’t know I had a problem. I would have done the same thing if I was in his spot. He actually came over after the race and apologized for it. So I had to bail out of driving because the car wasn’t going anywhere. Timur didn’t do anything, he didn’t break the car, he didn’t cause me to stop, I just stopped because the car was too slow. The problem was Liam, he bent my exhaust. That was the big disappointment for that (heat).

After that, we went back to the pit, and I told the guys “the car’s not running, I don’t know what it is.” So we thought we had an exhaust pipe that blew out. But when we were working on the front of the car, we walked to the back of the car and saw the exhaust pipe was bent. We worked on the back of the car and spent the 15 minutes we had between heats trying to change the whole exhaust system. We had to take out the rear differential to change it, and they managed to do it on time.

Image via Stephan Verdier Facebook

The problem is, the whole RMR team was working to get my car back on time. Even Rhys was working on my car, doing the pressure, cleaning my windshield, everybody was there. And nobody saw while we were working that they were putting water on the track. So we lined up for the LCQ, had a pretty good spot in second on the front line, and nobody saw or tells me that the track is wet. The Ford guys knew about it, but the Subaru guys didn’t know about it either.

So we did the start—I had a perfect start, I was second, right next to (Brian) Deegan. We touched doors, banged doors in the corner, but it was fine. Then I got right behind him, saw he was going for the joker, and decided I was going to go for the joker too, because the first two cars advanced—I didn’t need to win, I just needed to be in the top two. So I went into the dirt like if it was dry, and as soon as I turned I realized “we’re in trouble,” because the car didn’t turn. It was like pure ice. And the car slid hard into the jump, and when I hit the jump I broke the subframe on my front suspension.

When I was racing the wheel was alright, but when I was braking the front wheel moved back into the chassis of the car and locked up. So I did two laps and couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I’d been on the radio saying “what’s wrong with the car?” When I was braking the car the front wheel was undriveable, and that’s when I spun. I took the jump once, got on the front brake after the jump, the front wheel moved back, locked up, and then we spun. I didn’t understand why we spun, so I went back, did another lap, and that’s when the guys realized that the wheel was moving ten inches back and forth. They said “stop, stop, stop, you’re going to hurt yourself over the jump. If the wheel falls off, it’s game over.” I knew that I couldn’t make the final, but that was the end of the season!

You can follow Stephan Verdier on Twitter @stephanverdier or like his Facebook page. Watch on-board clips of his races on YouTube here.

—Chris Leone

GRC Season Review: Stephan Verdier, Part 1

Image via Rhys Millen Racing

Stephan Verdier made the jump from competitive privateer to fully-funded professional race driver in this year’s Global Rallycross Championship, signing with Rhys Millen Racing to pilot the No. 12 Disney XD/Motorcity Hyundai Veloster. It was a big step up from last year’s Subaru Impreza, although he had taken three podiums in that car last season and finished fifth in GRC points.

However, Verdier would have to overcome multiple obstacles to produce a competitive performance in 2012. Most significantly, he would not start the season with the new, high-powered engine that Millen had, and would wait to receive it until X Games. The engine would also suffer delays that would prevent him from racing with his original chassis and the new motor until Las Vegas in September.

But without knowing the delays ahead coming into the season, Verdier produced another podium finish in the season opener at Charlotte Motor Speedway and looked to carry on momentum from there. Today, we talk about the first half of his season, including the highs of Charlotte and the lows of X Games:

After years of competing as a privateer in Formula Drift and rallycross, this was your first year with a factory team as you joined Rhys Millen Racing. You came out of it with a podium finish at Charlotte and sixth in the championship. What were your general thoughts on the season?

Image via Rhys Millen Racing

On the sport of rallycross, I think it was great. We had a lot of issues, but I think overall the sport that we showed to the American fans was a good product. I think it was definitely a success. Me and Rhys worked out great, much better than I was expecting—it’s always hard to do business with a friend, but Rhys was fantastic in the way he handled everything. We had some disappointment during the season with the enging on my car not being ready when it was supposed to, but that wasn’t really anybody’s fault. That was the only big part of it.

I think the Hyundais, the way RMR built the car was great. The car was really reliable. We didn’t have any mechanical issues while we were on track, the few we had were caused by a crash or something. Otherwise, we never had to stop because we lost a tranny or an engine, everything was perfect. That was a success.

On my side, finishing sixth was a disappointment. I wanted to win the championship, but it didn’t work out. On the drivers’ side, I think the one big mistake I made was New Hampshire, when I crashed into Liam (Doran). That was the one that cost me a lot. The rest, I think the season was great, even the last one at SEMA—I think (my run) was bad luck, but it wasn’t my fault or anybody else on the team. But overall, I think it was good! I was pretty happy with the season, I would do it again. If I had the money or the sponsor I would re-sign with Rhys tomorrow! (laughs)

Image via BeyondTheRedLine.org

Let’s talk about that podium at Charlotte. How important was it for you and the team to start the season off on the right foot by coming in third in the first race?

Oh, it was huge. It was huge for me personally, because always when you come as a new driver into a team, you always talk the talk, but you have to prove it. It was even better because my car had the small engine. Managing to get third in that race with a little bit of luck was still amazing. It was the first podium for Hyundai and the team in rallycross, so it definitely (said to) the team, “we have the right equipment, we have the right drivers, it’s going to be a good season.” It was definitely a great start—I mean, it could have been better if we had won!. But apart from winning the race, it was great, especially with the two Fords in front of us. We thought “okay, we can hang tough, and we can keep up with the Fords.” That was the big thing.

You seemed to have some struggles in qualifying at Texas. But you made it through the last chance qualifier and eventually salvaged sixth place in the final. You even kept third in points heading into X Games. What did you have to overcome in that race?

Image via Rhys Millen Racing

In Texas there were some issues with the turbo. They were old turbos from last year, and unfortunately, because we were supposed to have the new engines, we were not planning on using those turbos this year. With the engine being delayed every race, we couldn’t use that it equipment, and it would bite us. So we didn’t have a choice. It wasn’t a good weekend on the qualifying, but we got by the LCQ and did pretty good in the finals.

Going into X Games, we were hoping to get the engine for that race, so I was really pumped to go in third place. I thought X Games could be the one where we’d do really good, and secure for us a spot in the top three in the championship. Especially when you have six races, every race is really important. It was definitely an average result, but it translated into a lot of confidence going into X Games.

Of course, you’ve called X Games a disappointment before. It was your worst finish of the season, in 12th place, as you couldn’t quite chase down Liam Doran in the last chance qualifier. What kept you from being competitive there, and why didn’t you push Liam out of the way in the LCQ?

Image via Rhys Millen Racing Flickr

The engine. (laughs) That’s what it was. We were hoping to have the engine for X Games, and we got it about two days too late. It wasn’t enough time to put it in the car and take all the chances, so we had to go to X Games with the small engine. And when you have less horsepower than everybody else, it’s always tough. Being X Games, everybody was pushing 100 percent, pushing the engine to the max.

In the LCQ I was against Liam in the C4, and that car is a monster. I tried everything I could. I was catching up in the corners, I was catching up in the dirt, but as soon as the straight came between the corners he put two lengths between me every time. I was trying really hard to get close and come back to him, on the last lap I was really, really close to being right next to him. There was one turn where he made a mistake. And we both said “how come you didn’t push him?” Well, I tried! (laughs) I was about six inches too far. I tried to touch him or give him a nudge, but it was six inches too far forward.

At that time, that was my biggest disappointment, because I knew then it wasn’t the chassis that held us back. It wasn’t me. It was the engine. We couldn’t compete with the rest of the series because the power wasn’t there. It was really disappointing, but it was one race we wanted to be good at. X Games is the Super Bowl of rallycross for us in the U.S., and that was the first time I didn’t make the final. It was really sad to stay on the sideline and watch these guys driving, but that’s the way it was.

Check back tomorrow as Stephan breaks down the second half of his season and more.

—Chris Leone

Millen Sends Hyundai Out With A Bang In GRC Finale

Image via Rhys Millen Facebook

For Rhys Millen, fielding a competitive car in the Global Rallycross Championship over the past two years hasn’t been a challenge. Driving the No. 67 Hyundai Veloster for his own Rhys Millen Racing, the 2005 Formula Drift champion and Pikes Peak International Hill Climb world record holder finished third in last year’s championship chase and made it to the main event in every race he ran this season.

But one accomplishment had always alluded Millen in the GRC—a podium finish. That changed in Tuesday’s season finale at SEMA, when Millen scored a hard-fought third place result in the last race of a successful four-year relationship with Hyundai.

Previously, Millen’s best finish in two seasons of GRC events was fourth place. He scored that in the rallycross events at both Irwindale and Pikes Peak last year, as well as at Texas and X Games this season. Entering SEMA, Millen ranked fifth in points with 48, his drop event coming in the New Hampshire race, which he skipped.

Image via Rhys Millen Facebook

Millen ran mid-pack on Monday, ranking seventh in seeding and finishing third of the three cars in his heat that day. It was only on Tuesday that things began to pick up, as the Kiwi finished third in his second heat to transfer to the main event. That race was marked by an exciting final lap in which Timur Timerzyanov, running directly ahead of Millen, broke a part landing on the jump; Timerzyanov managed to spin in front of Millen, blocking his way around, and retaining the position at the finish.

At the start of the second attempt at the main event, Millen got boxed in behind eventual winner Tanner Foust and Samuel Hubinette. Millen followed them into the shortcut on the first lap, muscling by Hubinette as they rejoined the main course. On the second lap, Brian Deegan took the shortcut and made it by Millen, cementing the eventual finishing order.

With the first podium of his GRC career, Millen managed to tie Hubinette for third in points with 63, albeit losing the tiebreaker in the final standings due to Hubinette’s second place run at New Hampshire. Millen and RMR will now focus on securing a new manufacturer partnership for the 2013 season and beyond.

– Chris Leone

Formula Cross Honors Foust, Shows Off Subaru At SEMA

Image via Rhys Millen Facebook

During the Global Rallycross Championship season finale at the SEMA Show this week, the folks at Rhys Millen Racing brought two brand-new versions of their Formula Cross bodies to display in the paddock.

The first, a repaint of the Ford Fiesta-based 450YFC that has been demonstrated to rave reviews from drivers and fans alike, featured the paint scheme of Tanner Foust’s championship-winning GRC entry. Foust, a two-time champion in both Formula Drift and the GRC, has competed against Millen in both disciplines, and both finished on the podium in Tuesday night’s finale. Alongside the Ford Focus ST, this was the second vehicle painted in Foust’s honor on display at SEMA.

The second body kit was not actually mounted on the kart, but remained on display in the paddock nonetheless alongside the Foust edition. This kit is based on the Subaru WRX STi that Sverre Isachsen, Dave Mirra, and Bucky Lasek use in the GRC, and was selected over a number of other possibilities, from current GRC models to old Group B styles.

Millen took the Formula Cross kart out for some laps on Monday. Expect a video recap from the folks at FC very soon.

– 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

GRC Drivers’ SEMA Commitments Extend Beyond Race

Image via Tanner Foust Facebook

If you’re looking for some of the other appearances that Global Rallycross Championship drivers and teams will be making at SEMA, here’s a quick guide. All times listed are local, and this list will be updated as we come across:

  • Samuel Hubinette will be signing autographs at the Eneos Oil booth Tuesday at 12 PM. He’ll also be at the Magnaflow booth on Wednesday at 2:30 PM.
  • Travis Pastrana is signing autographs at the Discount Tire location at 475 W. Centennial Boulevard on Tuesday from 11 AM to 1 PM.
  • Ford will showcase a special edition Tanner Foust-inspired Focus ST all week. Foust has also spoken
  • Speaking of Foust, Formula Cross, the new ATV-based rallycross formula engineered by Rhys Millen Racing, has unveiled a special-edition Foust-themed model of their YFC450 car that will be on site for the GRC race. After the event, RMR and the Hoonigan folks will demonstrate the car.
  • Brian Deegan will make an appearance at the Pro Comp booth on behalf of Metal Mulisha on Wednesday at 2:30 PM.

– 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: Five Drivers Battle For Third In Championship

Image via Rhys Millen Racing

The battle for this year’s Global Rallycross Championship may be down to two drivers, Olsbergs MSE and Rockstar Energy teammates Tanner Foust and Brian Deegan, but there’s a wide open battle for third place brewing behind them.

Currently, Samuel Hubinette holds the spot with 50 points, but four drivers—Ken Block, Rhys Millen, Stephan Verdier, and David Binks—are within eight points of the position. Theoretically speaking, any of them could leave SEMA with the third spot on the championship podium.

Hubinette will leave SEMA with at least 55 points, given his 50 points plus a drop score of five from Las Vegas last month. The Eklund Motorsport driver has shown an ability to run up front when the car is working well, but the Saab’s durability has proven an issue; mechanical failures took him out of contention at both Texas and Las Vegas. But with another run like his runner-up performance at New Hampshire, which saw him briefly take second in points, third won’t be changing hands.

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

But the drivers behind Hubinette will be looking to steal the spot, and Block is first among them. The X Games silver medalist won his first heat race of the season at Las Vegas to climb to fourth, and will look to put another Ford Fiesta in the top three in points with a strong run at SEMA. He has 49 points, dropping the two he scored at Charlotte.

The next two drivers share a pair of Hyundai Velosters, in what will likely be their final race as the brand ends its North American motorsport involvement. First is team owner and lead driver Millen, who has competed in four of five races this year, scoring 48 points. He’s never finished worse than sixth in his starts. However, he’s yet to crack the podium this year, placing fourth at both Texas and X Games for his best finishes of the year.

Image via Rhys Millen Racing

In his first year as Millen’s teammate, Verdier scored a third place finish at the season opener at Charlotte before struggling to run up front with an underpowered engine for a few rounds. He rebounded with a fifth place run at Las Vegas, marked by taking the shortcut to pass multiple cars on the last lap, though the drop score takes him out of a tie for fourth in points and leaves him in sole possession of sixth with 46. Jumping three spots would mean the world to the former privateer, who has indicated his pleasure with Rhys Millen Racing on multiple occasions this year.

For Binks, third place would mean would mean two things: an Olsbergs sweep of the top three spots in points, and a bit of luck that he’s been desperately waiting for all season. “We didn’t have any luck whatsoever in Vegas!” he exclaimed in our last interview, and such was the case; for the first time all year, he failed to make it to the main event at Las Vegas. Those three points currently serve as his drop score, and he ranks eighth overall with 42 points.

All five drivers are likely to make the final at SEMA, which will feature a depleted entry list with the absence of Travis Pastrana. Third in the championship will likely come down to which of these drivers scores the highest finish on Tuesday. Given the tight and unpredictable nature of the track, that’s going to come down to whoever has the best luck. In the GRC’s return to Vegas, all bets are off.

– Chris Leone