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GRC Season Review: Bryce Menzies, Part 2

Photo credit: Atiba Jefferson/Red Bull Content Pool

Photo credit: Atiba Jefferson/Red Bull Content Pool

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image via K&N Filters

Image via K&N Filters

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Chris Tedesco/Red Bull Content Pool

Photo credit: Chris Tedesco/Red Bull Content Pool

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Garth Milan/Red Bull Content Pool

Photo credit: Garth Milan/Red Bull Content Pool

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

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

—Chris Leone

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GRC Season Review: Bryce Menzies, Part 1

Photo credit: Dan Busta/Red Bull Content Pool

Photo credit: Dan Busta/Red Bull Content Pool

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

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

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

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

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

Image via Race-Dezert.com

Image via Race-Dezert.com

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

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

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

Photo credit: Alex Huff

Photo credit: Alex Huff

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

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

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

Image via K&N Filters

Image via K&N Filters

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

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

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

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

—Chris Leone

GRC Season Review: 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 Insider: Projecting The 2013 Schedule, Part 2

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Yesterday, we offered predictions on the likelihood of a series of NASCAR-related dates appearing on the 2013 Global Rallycross Championship schedule. Today, we resume that series by projecting potential dates in connection with IndyCar, as well as a predicted 2013 schedule:

  • April 20: Streets of Long BeachDue to the Global X Games round in Brazil taking place on the same weekend as the Grand Prix of Long Beach, this event will not happen in 2013.

    Chances of appearing on 2013 schedule: Off

    Conflicts with European Rallycross Championship: None

  • June 7: Texas Motor SpeedwayNo promoter outside of X Games went further to hype their track’s GRC event in 2012 than Texas’ Eddie Gossage, who even crafted a microsite to familiarize fans with the track layout and drivers alike. Gossage, whose marketing platform for this month’s NASCAR race was called the “Wild Asphalt Circus,” likely sees rallycross as an extension of that ideology and would like to bring it back.

    Image via Ford Racing Facebook

    Chances of appearing on 2013 schedule: Likely

    Conflicts with European Rallycross Championship: None

  • June 14: Milwaukee MileMilwaukee appears on this list because of the incredible job that Andretti Sports Marketing did in promoting 2012’s IndyFest after a year’s absence. With ASM promoting SEMA just as well on short notice, it would be no surprise if another of their events made it onto the GRC schedule in 2013. However, without a built-in motorcycle track like New Hampshire had and with an extended pit wall that stretches into turn one, conceiving a layout would be a challenge.

    Chances of appearing on 2013 schedule: Unlikely

    Conflicts with European Rallycross Championship: Hell, Norway (June 15-16)

  • August 24: Sonoma Raceway

    Image via Subaru Rally Team

    Sonoma had been a rumored destination for the GRC in 2012, as track owner Speedway Motorsports Inc. had scheduled an event date for its IndyCar weekend. Though Liam Doran’s website had listed Sonoma on its schedule, this race ultimately never came to fruition. The track has not come up in discussions since.

    Chances of appearing on 2013 schedule: Unlikely

    Conflicts with European Rallycross Championship: None

  • August 31: Streets of BaltimoreIf Andretti manages to put one of their IndyCar events on the GRC schedule for 2013, this seems like the more feasible one. Not only did ASM do another fine job of saving this event from massive debt, Baltimore’s streets offer far more versatility than Milwaukee’s oval for a rallycross event. It could also provide an opportunity for interested IndyCar drivers, including Simon Pagenaud, a chance to cross over and do both races.

    Chances of appearing on 2013 schedule: Possible

    Conflicts with European Rallycross Championship: None

  • Image via Ford Racing Facebook

    October 18: Auto Club SpeedwayBetween the time that the September 1 race was cancelled and the SEMA date was announced, most teams believed that the GRC would head to Auto Club and run alongside the IndyCar season finale on September 15. In fact, Brian Deegan even stated that he looked forward to running this race during post-race interviews at New Hampshire. Combined with the end of the IndyCar season, Auto Club could provide an effective lead-in to the finale at SEMA.

    Chances of appearing on 2013 schedule: Possible

    Conflicts with European Rallycross Championship: None (season over)

  • TBA: Streets of Fort LauderdaleAndretti Sports Marketing has been pushing both IndyCar brass and Fort Lauderdale government for a potential street race in the city in October 2013 to coincide with a large gap in the series schedule and popular boat show. Were that to happen, a GRC event could serve as a prime support race, offering fans a championship battle as the likely penultimate round before SEMA. If this race happens, Auto Club likely would not, and vice versa.

    Chances of appearing on 2013 schedule: Pending IndyCar deal; if deal comes through, likely

    Conflicts with European Rallycross Championship: None, if in October

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

With all of these dates and the NASCAR ones likely in play, it’s no shock that the GRC is taking a while to finalize its 2013 schedule. So which events look like they’re going to make it?

This calendar consists of nine dates, the majority of which do not contrast with European Rallycross Championship rounds. The only one which would pose a problem is September 27 at Las Vegas; the ERC calendar ends on September 28-29 in Germany. However, if the GRC follows IndyCar to its championship round at Auto Club Speedway on October 18 or heads to the proposed Fort Lauderdale event, there could be no conflicts on the schedule.

  • April 21: Foz de Iguaçu, Brazil (Global X Games)
  • May 12: Barcelona, Spain (Global X Games)
  • June 7: Texas Motor Speedway (IZOD IndyCar Series)
  • June 30: Munich, Germany (Global X Games)
  • July 13: New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NASCAR Sprint Cup Series)
  • August 4: Los Angeles, California (Global X Games)
  • August 31: Streets of Baltimore (IZOD IndyCar Series)
  • September 27: Las Vegas Motor Speedway (NASCAR Camping World Truck Series)
  • November 5: Las Vegas Convention Center (SEMA Show)

—Chris Leone

GRC Season Review: Ian Davies, Part 2

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

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

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

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

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

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

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

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

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

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

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

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

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

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

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

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

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

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

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

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

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

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

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

—Chris Leone

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

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

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

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

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

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

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

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

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

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

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

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

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

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

Image via Ken Block Facebook

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

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

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

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

—Chris Leone

GRC 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 Insider: Nine Races In 2013

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

According to a source with knowledge of the situation, the 2013 Global Rallycross Championship schedule will consist of nine rounds, rather than the eight previously alluded to in national broadcasts.

Four of the rounds will follow the Global X Games series as previously announced. Those events will take place in Foz de Iguaçu, Brazil on April 18-21; Barcelona, Spain on May 9-12; Munich, Germany on May 27-30; and Los Angeles, California on August 1-4. The Winter X Games rounds in Aspen, Colorado and Tignes, France will not appear on the schedule.

What is currently less certain is where the series will run its five standalone events, all of which will take place in the United States. A return to the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, scheduled for November 5-8, is likely given the success of that event.

Though the official list isn’t finalized, it reportedly features a return to some NASCAR tracks as well as IndyCar tracks, suggesting that there could be more city street races in the GRC’s future. While the source did not name any venues explicitly, some of the more successful events, like Texas and New Hampshire, would fit into current gaps in the schedule. Andretti Sports Marketing, which promoted the SEMA event, also runs IndyCar events at Milwaukee (set for June 15 next year) and Baltimore (September 1), and would like to stage a race in Fort Lauderdale, Florida next season as well.

—Chris Leone

GRC Season Review: Samuel Hubinette, Part 2

Image via Samuel Hubinette Racing Facebook

After three consecutive final appearances in the first three rounds of the Global Rallycross Championship season, Samuel Hubinette entered July’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway as the only driver to win a heat race at all three events. He also ranked fifth in points, only 15 behind leader Tanner Foust, and seemed ready for a breakout performance after mechanical issues robbed him of solid finishes at Texas and X Games.

It would come immediately, with a well-earned second place run at Loudon. Though Hubinette’s streak of heat victories ended in New Hampshire, the podium run had him and his No. 77 ENEOS Oil Saab 9-3 crew thinking about a challenge for the championship. Those dreams would evaporate after a painful weekend at Las Vegas that saw him miss the final due to boost issues and a flat tire in the last chance qualifier, but Hubinette would rebound with a strong run at SEMA to secure third in the championship.

Yesterday’s discussion covered the first half of Hubinette’s season. Today, we’ll talk about competing for the victory at New Hampshire, rebounding from disappointment at SEMA, and what he liked most about the series’ progression this year:

Your podium finish finally came at New Hampshire, when you ranked second. You did a lot of intense battling with Travis Pastrana there, and he said after the race that he felt like you had been a little nice to him, that you could have spun him out and gotten by, but you chose not to race him that way. Was there an opportunity for you to push that you chose not to take?

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

My overall feeling and my goal is to get over the finish line and not push or take too big of risks. In that case, taking the risk to pass him was too great, which could’ve put both of us out of the race, which would have been a disaster. So those kinds of things, it’s better to finish second instead of risking that, because we were so equal. Had he been much slower, then of course I would have tried much harder. But knowing that we were so equal in speed that day, time wise, it would have been very tough to come by him clean.

It’s just not in my nature to try and take out other guys. I think that I might need to step up my game, be a little tougher. I think that there’s an old habit from drifting for years, that you slide next to cars but you’re not supposed to touch them, you’re just kind of next to them and close to them. And that’s kind of in my genes now, having done it for eight years! In rallycross, it is the case to have some contact. So that’s something I’ve been thinking about, that I could actually step up my game a little bit up there, be a little more tough up there.

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

After the two and a half month break, you came into Las Vegas with a different team situation, losing a teammate. But it seemed like nothing went right that weekend, with the boost issues and losing a shot at the title. What were your thoughts after that weekend?

Yeah, at the first Vegas race we had I had a taste of a potential championship, being only 12 points behind Tanner. After that weekend, that was the toughest week of the whole season, because I lost the opportunity to be first in the championship. Pretty much, even second place was tough to reach. But it put me in a different mindset, that there was nothing to lose now, that it was more to go out and have fun, and to secure my third place for the championship.

I felt really relaxed for (SEMA), just had a really had a good time. We got some good testing put in, we nailed the jump right away, the car was set up, had a good feeling out there, and then we got some really cool changes with sway bars and shock adjustments. And all of those small details helped to get the car very drivable on that little type of go-kart track, as it was. Because it was hard to get the car to rotate around those corners without understeer. And there’s a fine line in tuning the car for good cornering and turning, and to having it set up for a good start, because in rallycross the start is just so important. To have a good start—you have a high percentage of winning the race.

Image via Samuel Hubinette Racing Facebook

It was very interesting. I learned a lot. It was great having Per (Eklund), to work with him this season, the legend from Sweden as he is. I’ve really enjoyed it, and finishing third was a big victory for us with what we had.

When we saw the restart in the SEMA final, it looked like you got off the line well. Then we saw you battle with Rhys Millen and eventually he got by you at the end of the first lap. Take us through the start of that race from your point of view.

What happened was, after the start I was in second place behind Tanner going into the shortcut. And he kind of came in really sideways, and almost spun out, and came out (on) the gravel track there. That kind of threw me off, and I also basically lost control and came in too short on the corner, ran over the gravel and put the car almost on the roof. That’s when Rhys got the opportunity to come pass me.

I knew I was quicker than him from earlier lap times, so I was just going to work myself up there and pass him. Unfortunately when I got close to him, I started to get some fuel cuts. The engine started to die on me on the long right hander passing the finish line. So every time I tried to get some contact with him, I got some misfiring from the engine and I had to just stay behind him, because I couldn’t get past him without having this issue happen all over again. So it was just another unfortunate thing.

But the good thing is I still finished third in the championship, which was very important for me. I missed out on the podium, but overall finishing third was what our goal was for the season. I mean, my goal was to win, but our goal at that time was to stay with our third place.

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

Final question: the GRC at the start of the season and the GRC we saw at SEMA appeared to be two almost completely different series, not only in driver roster but also in what the tracks themselves looked like. We saw a lot of improvements over the course of the year—what did you think was the best one?

I think we all support the GRC staff to get it right, and get it right as quick as possible. But for me, I think the gravel jump for the last event was really, really fantastic. I really enjoyed a gravel jump instead of mechanical, steel jump. It’s so much more forgiving on the car, using gravel. I think that they listen to us, and they finally got our group together to have meetings and delivering information to them, that they had to do some changes. Every time we’d walk the track and modify it for the best race that could possibly be done.

Samuel Hubinette can be found on Twitter @samuelhubinette. Be sure to check out his website and 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