Maybe it was the Texas heat or specters of bygone gunfighters roaming the paddocks because Red Bull Global Rallycross at Circuit of the Americas was like the Wild West. Tempers flared, cars were broken, a beloved driver finally had his day and one man outclassed the field in every way. It’s time to round up the good, the bad and the ugly of the Red Bull GRC second round.
A star is born and his name is Scott Speed. He’s not a flashy driver but knows exactly how to get the job done. The Andretti Autosport 7 Up Volkswagen Polo breezed along all weekend and confirmed that Speed is everybody’s competition (including his teammate). Joni Wiman was faster by a hair but didn’t make it past the quarterfinals. Still I’m looking at him to give Speed a serious run for his money this season. Subaru’s Bucky Lasek secured his first rallycross podium finish and honestly second-place has never felt so good. It must have been incredibly satisfying for the forty-one year old who has faced an uphill battle throughout this series. Lasek (aka Mr. LCQ) took care of business in Austin and despite getting banged up in the final, he hung in until the very end, like the fighter we know him to be. Another driver enjoying his first podium and X Games medal was Nelson Piquet Jr. The Brazilian has been at the center of controversy because of his repeated collisions with Subaru’s Sverre Isachsen and the question of whether they were intentional or not. Regardless he’s got the talent but must strike that balance between finesse and aggression. That’s easier typed than done, not just for Piquet but the lot of them.
The Red Bull GRC is a thrilling racing series but the high-paced “checkers or wreckers” philosophy is a double-edged sword. Joni Wiman, Pat Moro, Rhys Millen, Ricky Johnson, Sverre Isachsen, Toomas Heikkinen, Tanner Foust, Ken Block and Austin Dyne were all eliminated due to broken suspensions, axels, transmissions and other important bits from collisions; and Foust’s #AintCare award-worthy roll onto its roof. Whether these cars were knocked out or knocked themselves out, it’s hard to look at this list of names and wonder, “Dudes, really?” It’s frustrating because we’re at the point where it’s surprising when the more experienced drivers end a race weekend with their cars intact. That first turn is always a doozy but it’s entirely possible to race to the front without plowing through your competitors. It’s not easy but getting your car jacked up five seconds into a race doesn’t help anybody. Guys and gal, it wouldn’t kill you to let another driver get by so that both of you don’t wreck. There’s a fine line between the intense competition this series is best-known for and the vehicular slugfest the races become.
This is a young series and a bit of trial-and-error is bound to happen but the drivers still don’t know the rules about unnecessary contact? They are mugging for TV cameras and saying, “I didn’t know that wasn’t allowed!” They don’t even try to pretend that the hits are accidental. Car control is second nature to race car drivers but even more so with this group. We’ve seen them all perform well in cars, trucks, karts and on bikes with different surfaces too. I haven’t been handed a rule book yet but know that there is one, and it would (or should) clearly define limits as well as punishments. “This is how we’ve always done it!” and raging testosterone are no longer acceptable excuses for destroying your race car or endangering your fellow competitors.
Not so much ugly but irritating was the obvious misinformation displayed on screens during the TV broadcast. Nelson Piquet Jr. was presented with a Mitsubishi logo and Ricky Johnson with Volkswagen. Both were actually in Ford Fiestas. In Barbados another Ford driver Steve Arpin was coupled with a Hyundai logo. The commentators also made mistakes like who was racing (or crashing) and why penalties were being handed down from race control. Come along now, big-time sports networks.
Shout-outs to the one-offs: Travis Pastrana, Ricky Johnson, Pat Moro, Anton Marklund, Topi Heikkinen and Liam Doran who was a flat tire away from taking home another medal. New Zealand’s Emma Gilmour held her own against the fast field much better than in Barbados, but was still a few seconds off from the final cut. Still this is a tough group and she’s keeping up pretty well. Color me biased but I really want to see her on a podium to get due credit as an ace driver and not the lone female competitor. Another one to watch is Steve Arpin who earned his first podium in Barbados. He simply wasn’t fast enough in the semis but is looking to expand his trophy collection, and will undoubtedly step up his efforts. Austin Dyne did a great job reaching the final in his Barracuda Racing Ford Fiesta. It’s unfortunate that he was taken out of contention by Patrik Sandell but keep your eye on that kid because he’s even closer to a top-three finish or a win.
A Final Word
Round 3 actually began on Saturday June 21, 2014 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. The conclusion will be broadcast live on NBC Sunday 22nd June at 2:00pm EST. Connect with Red Bull Global Rallycross via their official website http://www.redbullglobalrallycross.com/ and social media channels for real time race updates and live-tweeting with fans:
Live Timing: http://www.redbullglobalrallycross.com/timing-and-scoring/
GRC Live Radio: http://www.downanddirtyshow.com/category/grc-live-radio-2/