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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 Insider: November Off-Season Roundup

Image via Rhys Millen Racing Facebook

Image via Rhys Millen Racing Facebook

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

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

    Image via Brian Deegan Instagram

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

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

—Chris Leone

GRC Holiday Shopping Guide

Image via HPI Racing

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

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

—Chris Leone

GRC Season Review: Andy Scott, Part 2

Image via Hazel PR

The first two races of this year’s Global Rallycross Championship established Andy Scott as a serious contender for strong finishes and even race wins. Though the privateer Scott-Eklund Racing Saab 9-3s were some of the largest cars in the field, Scott and teammate Samuel Hubinette had unparalleled straight-line speed thanks to the engineering of Per Eklund.

Though many teams brought more funding into the championship, Scott’s experience paid off in a big way with a surprise fourth place finish to open the season at Charlotte. After a second consecutive final appearance at Texas, it was clear that the No. 26 team was prepared in every way to challenge for the GRC title. Through four of six rounds, Scott was comfortably in the top 10 before a shift in priorities caused him to finish out the European Rallycross schedule.

When all was said and done, Scott finished 11th in GRC points, one point out of the top 10, and ranked 14th in the ERC despite only running half of that schedule. In the second half of his season review, Scott discusses the ups and downs of the second half of the season, from his incident at X Games to bringing a disabled car home a respectable sixth at New Hampshire, and where he hopes to be in 2013:

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

X Games was of course a high profile race weekend for you, although it didn’t end the way you wanted it to after the incident with Travis Pastrana. Did you two ever discuss what happened there? I know we’ve talked about the incident and your point of view before, but have your thoughts changed on it at all?

I had a discussion with Travis in New Hampshire before the event there. Travis gave his version of events; obviously he was in front, so he couldn’t have seen what was going on behind. I gave my version of events, and Travis was very professional about it. He took it as a racing incident and that was really it. It was good to talk to Travis and clear the air on the position, but we both left after that discussion and it’s been put to bed. I’ve not really gone back and reconsidered it.

You had a rough start at New Hampshire given the contact with Ken Block where it appeared that both of you were going for the same space. But you managed to push through the LCQ and even survived the entire final. How difficult was it to drive the car given that it was disabled?

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

It was really difficult, as the results show—I didn’t have any pace at all, and the only reason I got the finishing position I did, I think, was because of other cars breaking down and not finishing. We managed to get the corner back on the car, but we didn’t have any time to (fix) the geometry or anything. The car was handling like a complete pig, but we’d run out of time, we just had to get back on the circuit. Thankfully, we had four wheels and they were going around. But we had no quality of setup and no handling at all. It made for very interesting driving.

Your focus shifted away from the GRC after the lengthy break in the season. What, if any, context are you able to give us on that decision?

I couldn’t get an agreement with Per to run the car for the rest of the season. It broke down at that point. I was disappointed to only have done four of six races, I was really looking forward to finishing the series, but things broke down between myself and Per, so it wasn’t possible to continue. Obviously I’m disappointed because I finished one point outside the top 10 after only having done four races, so I was pretty gutted about that.

Image via Hazel PR

You came back to the ERC at the end of the year and took a top five in the A Main at Germany. In the end, in two partial schedules, you were one point out of the GRC top 10, as you mentioned, and 14th in the ERC. Are you satisfied with your results overall?

I think there are highlights of the season where we’re very happy. It just shows you, you can’t expect to be in the top 10 in two very competitive championships when you don’t complete all the races. I’m happy with the way the year had gone, I’m just upset that we didn’t finish—the intention for the year was to do the full GRC series and then to supplement extra races in ERC when we were home. So the plan did change halfway through the season, which is never good for anybody. But we’re satisfied with parts of the season, we’re dissatisfied that we didn’t go the distance in GRC.

Have you given thought to the 2013 season and where you’d like to be?

Yeah. We’ve got a lot of experience gained from 2012 and there’s no closed door at the moment. We’re talking with a lot of different people with all sorts of options, GRC and ERC. Until we see dates for GRC it’s hard to say whether we could do both championships, but I’m not done with GRC yet. If we can pull the budget and the team together, we’ll be back. But we’re not discounting doing the full ERC series either. It comes down to what partners we can find and how we put it all together.

Follow Andy Scott on Twitter at @AndyScottRX and be sure to like his Facebook page

—Chris Leone

Foust Defeats Star-Studded Field For Second Consecutive GRC Title

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

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

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

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

Image via Ford Racing Facebook

Here are the final championship standings:

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

– Chris Leone

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

Stephan Verdier: GRC Las Vegas Race Recap

Image via Rhys Millen Racing

Stephan Verdier scored his second top five finish of the Global Rallycross Championship season by bringing home the No. 12 Disney XD/Motorcity Hyundai Veloster in fifth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in September. After qualifying a disappointing 13th and making his way through the last chance qualifier, Verdier started on the back row for the main event and made his move on the final lap, saving the joker lap for the end of the race and passing multiple cars in the process.

As we did after the New Hampshire race, we’re going to let Stephan himself take us through his Vegas race weekend, from practice to the post-race breakdown:

(Vegas) was a pretty good track. It was still kind of the same stuff we’ve been around the whole season. The problem is, we didn’t see the dirt until the actual heat. We were all concerned about it, but actually, the dirt was perfect—I hope they use the same dirt for SEMA, it was kind of low grooved. The only kind of challenging part was the shortcut, because it was so narrow and there was a pretty big concrete wall at the exit of the turn after the jump. That was the only section that was really tricky, the rest was pretty straightforward.

(Losing time from practice to our qualifying run) wasn’t really a setup change, it was in my driving. During the practice, I was driving the car through the shortcut and a lot of the drivers were E-braking the car into the gap to take the corner. So during the practice, we were always in the top three fastest cars. But Rhys (Millen) was doing the E-brake, and he was a couple of tenths faster than me. I was told that the top guys, like Tanner (Foust) and everybody, were doing the E-brake.

Image via Stephan Verdier Facebook

So I decided to do the E-brake during the qualifying, which was a big mistake because twice I pulled the E-brake during the gap and my engine let down. So I pushed the car to get the RPM back up, and I couldn’t get the momentum of the car and the brake in the turn right. I did it twice in three laps and it failed twice. So on the third lap, I’m like “I’m just going to drive the car like I always did,” but I was way slower than I was doing in practice. That’s what kind of messed me up.

It wasn’t a problem with the car setup, it was just me trying a different technique of doing that turn. It worked for other drivers, but it didn’t work for me. And what kind of made me mad is, after qualifying I knew I was slow, but I looked at everybody else, and everybody except for Rhys and Travis (Pastrana) drove the car like I was in practice! (laughs) So Rhys and Travis were the only ones using the E-brake. I should have stuck with what I know! It was my mistake. I should know better.

You always want to try new stuff if the fast guys are doing it. You say “okay, well, that’s the way to do it.” But I shouldn’t have changed it for qualifying. I would’ve done better than what I did. It was pretty bad because it put me in a big hole for the race. I was really struggling during the race to catch up with everybody else on the back of the grid.

The third heat is always the worst one. The first heat, the difference in time between cars is really big from the fastest to the slowest the way the system is made. Normally in the third heat, all four cars are really close in times. So the third heat is the one you don’t want to be in because everybody is as fast as you are.

Image via Rhys Millen Racing

And the thing is, the way they lined us up, they put five cars in a row, but they couldn’t put five cars on the tarmac. So the fifth car would have to start on the concrete, which was me. I knew I was going to get destroyed on the concrete. Going into the heat I was like “we’ll have to go straight into the LCQ unless something bad happens.” The funny thing is, we’d been talking about being on the concrete—maybe if I false start, they’ll have to set me on the back row. I can choose where I can be on the back row, and at least I’ll be on the tarmac. It’s better to be on the tarmac on the back row than on the concrete at the same line as everybody else. But I decided “nah, I don’t want to play games, I just want to do it.”

Sure enough, I was all excited for the start, and I reacted at the orange light instead of the green light! (laughs) I saw the orange light and I went for it, and I was like “(expletive)!” So I false started.

At the drivers’ meeting, they told us if you false start, we’re going to wait until the first corner. And if the person who did the false start regrouped at the end of the train, then we won’t red-flag the race. As soon as I did it, I backed off and waited for everyone to pass me, but nobody left the line! It was such an early false start that Travis and I think (Toomas) Heikkinen went, but (Brian) Deegan and Samuel (Hubinette) didn’t go. So they red-flagged the race.

They put me in the back, and they asked me if I wanted to be behind Travis or Samuel. On the inside, I was sure that Travis and Deegan were going to go at it pretty hard, and I thought there was going to be some carnage there. So I said I’d go behind Samuel, and Samuel’s pretty consistent on his starts. I lined up behind Samuel, and sure enough, I don’t know what he did—I think his car had a problem—but I almost ran into him at the start because he didn’t move!

Image via Rhys Millen Racing

It was a good heat. I think I ended up third at the first corner because Travis went wide and I went behind Topi. I made up some time in the first two laps on Topi, but when he took the joker he was about to make up some time back on me, he was faster than me, and I never caught him.

At the start of the LCQ, I was in the position that I wanted. I was right in the middle of the track, off the concrete, at the first line. And the guys around me, I knew I could be faster than them, so if I had a good start, it should’ve been a piece of cake.

The way we do our launch is we have to push a button on the steering wheel, and keep the button pressed until we get the car moving forward in gear. What I did is, I got everything ready as soon as we got the green light to (go) normally, and also release the button on the steering wheel. I was pushing the button and my reflex released the button too soon, and the car went off launch and just stalled! (laughs) I thought the engine was shut down, and as I was looking the engine by itself was fired, luckily, so I didn’t lose too much time. I was able to stay with the group, but I had to restart the push to start button to get fired and I went from the front to the back. So we had to go for it!

There was some carnage in the first corner, so I was able to come out of it in third place, and I think I stayed third the whole way. I didn’t lose time and I didn’t gain time, I kind of got lucky on that one. Even by finishing (better than) third, I think it would’ve moved me one row further in the final, and the way the final worked out I had the perfect spot. So it might have been a good thing that I stalled it!

Image via Rhys Millen Racing

In the final, I knew I was in the back. I knew I could get Bucky (Lasek) off the start. The way the track was, I knew there was going to be carnage on the first corner. So I decided to wait on the start and (make sure I didn’t) hit anything. The start was good—it was an awesome start, actually—and like I predicted there was big carnage at the front that opened a hole for me to move in (fifth) place coming out of it, to go for it.

Then I saw that all the top guys went for the joker first all together. And my car, I wasn’t really on pace with everybody that weekend. I was always three or four tenths a lap slower than everybody. I think that was my driving—it could have been the car, but I thought at the time it was my driving, too. So I thought “I’m just doing to do clean laps and let those guys fight each other at the front, and just drive myself and do clean and consistent laps.” So that was my strategy, and that’s why I fell in the order.

I followed Lasek for a while because I think he took the joker first too. I saw I was making time on him, but I wasn’t getting slowed by him. So I stayed there because nobody’s paying attention to you during the last lap. And the way I look at it is, if I don’t have the speed, the pure speed to keep up with the top guys and to beat them, then it’s better for me to just do my consistent, medium-average speed lap. And hopefully the top guys just fight themselves, they fall in pace because they’re fighting each other, and I can gain on them.

Image via Rhys Millen Racing

So it worked out that we ended up being fifth. It was kind of a disappointing weekend. I was hoping to do a podium, especially coming from New Hampshire when we saw how fast the car was. We did testing, and I was really fast in testing, but suddenly we got to (the race) and how slow was my car?

We found an issue with the brakes—the front brakes were not working. I was doing most of my braking with the rear wheels. Looking at pictures from the event, my rear wheels were glowing red, and my front brakes weren’t even red! Normally it should be the other way around. The problem is, it sounds stupid, because how come you can’t notice it as a driver? Well the thing is, because we run mechanical center discs, when you go to brake, even if you have too much rear brake, the center disc is what’s braking the front wheel. So my braking was being done by my rear wheels and my center disc, and nothing for my front wheels. So the braking wasn’t as short as it would’ve been.

Image via Rhys Millen Racing

After the race, we looked at the data from my car and Rhys’ car, and Rhys was so much deeper than me on braking. Normally I’m the one that goes deep. He was so much more confident going into the corners. So we checked, and the front brake was failing on us. We figured that out, but it was after the race, so hopefully we’ll go testing (today) and see if there’s a difference. That was the only thing I could see on the car having an issue.

I think that’s why the strategy was if I’m slow, stay in last! (laughs) It was frustrating, because I was hoping to do really good, but I wasn’t on pace. But the brakes are fixed, I think that was the issue. And the good thing is, the upcoming event (at SEMA) is mostly dirt, and we’re really good on dirt. So it should be better. Hopefully!

Verdier currently ranks sixth in points with 46. He can finish as high as third in the championship with a strong performance at SEMA on Tuesday. Check back as we get closer to the event for Verdier’s outlook on the GRC season finale.

– Chris Leone

GRC Insider: Pastrana To Skip SEMA Round, Menzies To Rejoin Series

Image via TravisPastrana.com

Last week, Travis Pastrana’s absence from the official Global Rallycross Championship entry list for the October 30 season finale at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas sparked curiosity in fans of the sport and series. On Tuesday, fans received confirmation that Pastrana would indeed miss the race, but not for the reasons suggested previously.

According to ESPN, Pastrana underwent surgery to repair both the rotator cuff and labrum in his left shoulder two days after the Las Vegas round of the championship on September 29. Pastrana cited frequent shoulder dislocation during races as an issue, noting that it led to many of his accidents over the course of the year.

Pastrana’s goal is to be fully recovered by February in time to start the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series season. He is currently listed on the K&N Pro Series East entry list for a race this weekend at Greenville Pickens Speedway, but the revelation of the surgery, plus its four-month recovery time, suggests that he may skip that event as well.

At ninth in GRC points with 39, Pastrana is far out of the championship running, though a strong finish and a little bit of help could have mathematically elevated him to as high as third. Instead, he’ll stick with that score and risk falling out of the top 10, resting on the laurels of a dominant win at New Hampshire as proof of the competitiveness of his No. 199 Red Bull/Discount Tire Dodge Dart.

Image via Las Vegas Motor Speedway Facebook

In Pastrana’s place, Bryce Menzies will take out the No. 99 car that has run alongside Pastrana’s main entry twice this season. Filipe Albuquerque drove it to a 16th place finish in Texas, while Menzies made his rallycross debut at X Games and finished 14th.

This year, Menzies’ focus has been the Traxxas TORC Series, in which he scored the Pro 2WD championship this season with six wins in 14 starts. He also took the win in the Trophy Truck class in this year’s Baja 500, best in a field of 36 trucks and ahead of such legends of the sport as B.J. Baldwin, Rob MacCachren, and Robby Gordon.

– Chris Leone