RallyCross is probably on the top of the list of things that you are not watching that you should be! The Red Bull Global RallyCross championship is the newest auto racing series being formed in 2009 by two guys, Brian Gale and Chip Pankow. The series is a unique division of racing that combines the fast paced action of off road dirt-slinging racing with high speed circuit racing. The result is the most fun, action packed racing you could fund anywhere.
They race modified rally cars similar to those you in the WRC (World RallyCar Championship) in Europe. The races run in heat racing form. An hour of qualifying sets up small groups for heats to determine the contenders in the main event. Each heat and each round begins with a standing start with the cars completing a few laps around a specially constructed temporary course usually at a race course or exhibition center. The top few finishers (usually 2 or three depending on the field) advance to the final.
This creates exciting drama around that position as drivers franticly try to muscle their way past to get a spot in the final. The added twist to the racing is something called a “joker lap” A joker lap is a lap you must take once during each round where you go an alternate path then the actual course. Sometimes it is a short cut, other times it’s a longer way around. So drivers must strategize when they want to take their joker lap to optimize track position. Those who did not advance through the heats can try again in the last chance qualifier (LCQ)
The top two from three heats, and the top four from the LCQ make up the ten car field for the main event that usually is ten laps.
So now that you’re caught up on the rules, here’s how the 2014 Red Bull Global RallyCross season! This year’s championship began in Barbados. Back in May, BBC’s Top Gear head a huge motorsports festival in Barbados and GRC was a big part of the festivities. The first round of the season took place at the Bushy Park Circuit. The track as transformed into a 9 turn RallyCross coarse using a abrasive, ground down coral substance called “Cohina” to serve as dirt. The rest of the track was pavement along with a big jump in the middle.
The early rounds were dominated by Andretti Autosport Volkswagens driven by Tanner Foust and former F1 and NASCAR star Scott Speed. Foust took a bad landing off the jump damaging his right side rims and ripped off his door. This hit cost him the win handing the heat to Speed. Joni Wiman and Sverre Isachsen advanced through heat 1. Scott Speed and Patrik Sandell through heat 2 and YouTube star Ken Block and former F1 and NASCAR driver Nelson Piquet Jr advanced though heat 3.
In the LCQ, Tanner Foust returned to action in his repaired Rockstar Energy Drink Andretti Volkswagen and had an early lead. Unfortunately Foust, the 2011 and 2012 GRC champ, forgot the rule stating you cannot take the joker lap more than once during any given round. Tanner took the shot cut twice and was penalized 10 seconds for this infraction. As a result, former ARCA star Steve Arpin of Canada won the LCQ with Brian Deegan, rookie Austin Dyne, and Rhys Millen advancing to the main. Tanner Foust would miss the final along with Emma Gilmour, the first female to race in GRC.
So it all led up to the Barbados main event. 10 cars, 10 laps around the Bushy Park Circuit in Barbados. On the start it was Scott Speed with the jump but Ken Block got the early lead going in to turn one. The first few corners were fairly clean which is rare for any round in GRC let alone the main. Block, Wiman, and Speed took the joker on the first lap to keep their advantage. The moment of the weekend was soon to follow. Joni Wiman took a look to the inside of Ken Block for the lead.
Wiman immediately clears Block but Ken comes charging back with a crossover move. Block goes too low coming out of the final turn and clips the high inner curbing on the inside. This makes Block’s Ford goes airborne! While in midair, Block door slams Wiman’s car flipping block onto his roof and smashes the outside wall hard. The car comes to rest upside down and slightly on fire. Oil comes shooting out of the overturned Fiesta like a geyser. Ken Block would walk away uninjured thankfully! The red comes out to remove the Monster Energy Ford.
The race restarted still with ten to go since they did not complete one at the time of the red. Joni Wiman got the jump on the restart over Scott Speed. The battle was for the third spot between the Subaru of Sverre Isachsen and the Ford of Nelson Piquet Jr. The two renewed their rivalry that started at the end of last season when Piquet spun Isachsen causing him to not advance to the final at the time. Isachsen blocks Piquet at every turn while sliding sideways, dirt tracking it through the corners. It was exciting stuff behind Scott Speed who easily won the event.
The battle for second was a great one after Joni Wiman was penalized after taking the joker lap twice. Steve Arpin worked his way into the runner up spot. Brian Deegan passed the battling Isachsen and Piquet jr. Wiman was penalized again for 10 seconds for aggressive driving so Deegan earned the final podium spot behind Speed and Arpin. Piquet was fourth with Wiman back to fifth. Isachsen had a mechanical failure the pushed him back to sixth.
The second round of the GRC season took place along with the X Games in Austin Texas last weekend. The most recent race of the year saw some familiar faces returning to the series like last year’s champ Toomas Heikkinen and one of the X games biggest stars ever, Travis Pastrana. Sadly, neither would make it to the final. The course was a section of the new Circuit of the Americas F1 track in Austin with some dirt sections and jumps added.
In the heats, Heikkinen had a mechanical failure taking him out of the competition. Patrik Sandell won that heat and Bucky Lasek also advanced to the final. Tanner Foust the 2011 and 2012 champ wanted to put round one issues behind him with a solid run at Austin but he flipped over on his roof in his heat setting him back once again. In the semifinal, Ken Block crashed out in the first lap. Last years Munich winner, Liam Doran won his semifinal race along with Austin Dyne and Brian Deegan advancing. The other Semi saw an upset with Bucky Lasek defeating Travis Pastrana of the last transfer spot in the semis. Barbados winner, Scott Speed won that race along with Sandell and Lasek advancing.
Controversy ensued just before the final began. Brian Deegan was supposed to be staring in the final but he was disqualified and replaced by Nelson Piquet Jr. At first, it was believed that Deegan cut a corner but the official ruling was that he was too aggressive in his semifinal while racing Piquet. The angry Deegan left wondering how much contact is too much in RallyCross and so did I.
This Austin X Games had a change up in the rules. Only six drivers took part in the final. Speed, Doran, Sandell, Dyne, Lasek, and Piquet started the ten lapper. Scott Speed got the jump on the standing start. Piquet came from last on the grid to third. Patrik Sandell ran into the side of rookie Austin Dyne bringing out the red flag. Dyne was out of the race and Sandell was disqualified. Dyne confronted Sandell in the paddock during the red, showing his anger.
On the restart Speed once again had the lead. Piquet ran second and Doran was under fire by Lasek for the bronze place. Lasek soldered on with a massive hole in the door of his orange and grey Subaru. Bucky Lasek has previously earned 10 X games medals in skateboarding but has never fared well in RallyCross. This would finally be his day. After Nelson Piquet Jr. took the joker lap twice, Lasek went by him during his penalty. Scott Speed easily won his second win of the year. Bucky Lasek earned silver in in the event and Piquet got the bronze after Liam Doran spun on the final turn of the race.
The next Red Bull Global RallyCross race will be June 22nd from Washington DC. It can be seen Live on NBC at 2pm EST.