The Global Rallycross Championship (GRC) 2013 season came to a close last night and went out with a bang, crash, pow, kaboom! There was wall-to-wall action throughout the TV broadcast on ESPN2 that not only thrilled audiences but confirmed to all, that of the many adjectives you could use to describe the GRC, “boring” isn’t one of them.
Trouble With The Kerbs
A parking lot across from the Luxor Hotel was converted into the race course, with the city lights shining all around. It was a very pretty asphalt circuit (inspired by Formula 1?) with a single dirt jump and joker shortcut but had an interesting addition of raised kerbs “to discourage drivers from cutting the course,” as described by ESPN’s Jen Horsey. While great in theory, the reality was that some drivers got high up on two wheels, while trying to negotiate the turns at sped. This led to some fancy-pants driving in practice, but all kinds of melee during the races.
Brian Deegan and Patrik Sandell went into a wall during their second heat, but the Swede was able to finish behind Toomas “Topi” Heikkinen. Deegan’s car sustained damage and joined Pat Moro in the LCQ. Stephan Verdier skied his car into Bucky Lasek during Heat 2C. In the same race, Travis Pastrana drove on the ragged edge, as his rear-end swung out many times. However it wasn’t enough, as Ken Block got by him and took advantage of clean air for the win. Rhys Millen kissed the wall and then ran over a kerb which damaged his Hyundai Veloster’s left rear. Scott Speed won that one with Bryce Menzies finally escaping the LCQ club with his performance.
Another Wild LCQ
We’ve nicknamed the GRC’s Last Chance Qualifier, the Loco Crazy Qualifier, and this one more than lived up to the moniker. Bucky “El Coyote” Lasek’s car didn’t make it off the start line, which is a plight that the Puma Subaru Rallycross Team faced many times this season. His fellow Rockstar Energy Drink driver, Brian Deegan tried to pull a move that we saw in the last season finale, where he passed the field in one fell swoop. Unfortunately, he ended up getting swooped into a tire wall by the other Subaru driver, Sverre Isachsen. At the very next corner, Rhys Millen traded paint with Pat Moro who drove the lone Chevrolet Sonic. Simultaneously, there was contact between Nelson Piquet Jr. and Isachsen, who ended up off the course. The Brazilian soon got the lead from Stephan Verdier before going up on two wheels, which wowed the crowd.
Rhys Millen clawed his way to the front and pushed to stretch his lead as much as possible. Behind him, a vicious clash was taking place between Piquet Jr. and Isachsen, that exploded in the final lap with major contact between the cars. Isachsen was coming across the X Team Racing’s Mitsubishi Evolution’s nose, when Piquet (it would seem) kept his line pushing the Nowegian out of the way…and into a wall. At first, the GRC race officials didn’t see anything wrong with the maneuver, but Isachsen made it his personal mission to make sure that they saw things his way. The rallycross veteran was successful in making his case, but ESPN’s Alyssa Roegnik reported that he would face a fine for his reaction to their initial ruling.
This isn’t the first time that Isachsen disagreed with a ruling, as he was quite vocal about a black flag against him in the Atlanta fixture. The end result this time was Piquet Jr.’s elimination what would have been his very first GRC final, and validation for the Brazilian team that has struggled all season long. In an interview with GRC/ESPN’s Kate Osbourne, Piquet Jr. quietly explained his lack of understanding for what aggression level is permissible for rallycross drivers. We’re pretty sure t-boning somebody isn’t ok, but then again, the officials didn’t see wrongdoing in the first place. Perhaps this particular incident will affect next season’s rule book.
The Stars Came Out To Shine
Would it be presumptuous to describe this race as everything we hoped it would be? Well, more like everything we’ve come to expect from a GRC round. The cherry on top was Ken Block winning in grand style, after a fiery battle with Tanner Foust. An unfortunate camera angle didn’t allow TV audiences to see the countdown lights at the beginning, but Foust took a trip to the penalty box for jumping the start. A quick side note here: Tanner Foust is frighteningly good at starts and knows just how to make his Ford Fiesta ST take off like a bat out of hell, so this penalty was surprising. However, this was when Block got his chance to haul tail like there was no tomorrow…and boy did he ever!
In a GRC season that has been completely unpredictable, this finale had plenty of shockers. Quite frankly, every Heikkinen victory was a surprise this season, despite his eight podium finishes with five consecutive wins, championship and newly minted legendary status – but not this time. The big stars came out to win and thrilled the standing room only crowd, not to mention the TV viewers! It was every man for himself and no mercy for anybody. There was enough action, drama and controversy to have fans tweeting, posting and hashtagging straight through the off season.
“Go big or go home” seems to have been everybody’s motto this season, from the organizers, race teams and the growing army of fans. So this Las Vegas finale was a most appropriate way to bid adieu to 2013 and clean the slate for 2014 because next year, the GRC is going to have wings. We absolutely cannot wait, will keep our eyes peeled, because here at My Life at Speed, when we know, you’ll know.