For the first time ever the Red Bull Global Rallycross held an event at the Daytona International Speedway. It was hot! Not just the action on the course but the weather itself was actually incredibly, ridiculously hot, but despite that the race teams, drivers and officials toughed it out for a spectacular weekend of racing and I’m not just saying that because I was there. The NBC broadcasts have done a great job of showing us the final races and bringing GRC to the masses. However a heck of a lot more goes on than can be stuffed into one hour of TV time plus commercials. For one thing, you’re going to see the last four supercar races and highlights of the Lites final on TV. In actuality, there were thirteen races in all over two days at Daytona, which doesn’t include practice and qualifying. Throughout the entire two-day event Jarod DeAnda and DC provided commentary, announcements, a sprinkling of comedy and heavy dose of enthusiasm. When they weren’t talking, a dj provided lively music to boost the excitement. There’s something very cool (and slightly twisted) about watching cars racing live to the sounds of The Prodigy, Beastie Boys and others.
The event was fairly small by comparison to the other races held at this famous venue. After covering the Rolex 24 and attending the spectacle that is the Daytona 500, I was surprised by how little space the entire event occupied but that’s actually part of the Red Bull GRC’s charm. For an automotive spectacle featuring world-class competitors and all the hoopla you imagine that accompanies a motorsports event, it still managed to feel intimate, due in large part to their open paddock policy. Your ticket includes access to the garage area (aka paddock) where cars are worked on and drivers hang out between stints. Of course there’s a barrier so it’s not like you can walk right up to Ken Block’s Hoonigan Division Ford Fiesta for selfies, but there’s something pretty thrilling to be mere feet away from these impressive machines. Seriously you can go spend all day in the paddock and watch crews work on the cars if you want; but then you’d miss out on the racing and you definitely don’t want to do that.
The rocket-like launch of those GRC cars is astounding and since they all start out as production cars, you can’t help but chuckle a little because you’ll never see a Fiesta or Polo on the roads with that kind of acceleration. They’re small and quick, swiftly maneuvering around each other, as opposed to the passing freight train of drafting stock cars this speedway is used to seeing. The noise level wasn’t too bad either. I didn’t even look for my earplugs. The race circuit used the winding part of the road course and completely ignored the high banks. This isn’t a bad thing because 31° banking is to be respected. Despite that this was the longest track we’ve seen yet this season and gave the cars enough length to really cut loose. One of the surprising things you’d find is how ferocious the racing is on day one. Trust me, the crowds may be smaller depending on the day of the week but it’s totally worth taking the afternoon off. Only four or five cars race at a time but you’d swear it was the finals. A collision between Joni Wiman and Sverre Isachsen caused tempers to flare but Wiman still captured the pole position for Day 2. Rhys Millen had a scare when his Hyundai Veloster Turbo Rallycross car caught fire giving him a DNF in his heat. Up until then, he was in the lead and driving like a man possessed. The team changed the engine that night and he won the next day’s Supercar Semifinal 1A leading to an unbeatable final round. Millen took home his very first Red Bull GRC victory and reminded his rivals that the fans don’t call him “Mad Skills” for nothing.
Soaring temperatures and no cloud cover whatsoever made the whole event feel like it was being held in the sixth level of hell. That’s the one in Dante’s Inferno where heretics are trapped in flaming tombs which is a fitting allegory for the obscenely high in-car temperatures drivers endured. However some fought the allure of their air conditioned trailers to meet fans. An exhausted Bucky Lasek stood at the Subaru paddock on Friday night meeting folks and signing autographs. I was especially surprised that he wasn’t just being accommodating but actually talked to people who came to see him on an individual basis. He truly appreciated the support he’s received over the years. Lasek proved more than worthy by finishing third in the finals and earning the second podium finish of his Red Bull GRC career.
After the race on Saturday afternoon, the sun was still beating down like we owed it money and most of the crowd moved from the stands to the paddock to hopefully meet their favorite drivers before the day was done. Drivers were hanging out with other behind-the-scenes folks who were finally getting a chance to unwind after hustling and bustling for two days. There was a very and I mean very, long line of people waiting to get autographs signed by Ken Block. It was very surprising to see little kids standing patiently in the blazing sun to meet him. A little thing like heatstroke won’t get in the way of meeting the leader of their tribe. Rock on, Hoonigans! Block’s second place finish puts him in forty points behind Nelson Piquet Jr. on the championship standing which is striking distance to snatch the title away from the Brazilian who’s pulling double duty in the FIA’s Formula E series.
From Red Bull:
Red Bull Global Rallycross Race Recap: Daytona International Speedway
IN BRIEF: After competing in the series since its foundation. Rhys Millen finally won the first race of his Red Bull Global Rallycross career at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday. Millen held off a hard-charging Ken Block for the victory, while Bucky Lasek crossed the line third for his second podium of the season.
HEAT RECAPS: A hot and humid Friday set the stage for a weekend of rough-and-tumble action. Five drivers took heat victories, with polesitter Joni Wiman the only driver to sweep his heats; the other four went to Scott Speed, Patrik Sandell, Ken Block, and Steve Arpin. Tensions were high after side-by-side action over the jump, with an intense battle in Heat 2B between Wiman and Sverre Isachsen leading to a shouting match in the pits.
In the first semifinal, Wiman’s first-lap stall allowed Bucky Lasek and Rhys Millen to get around him, with Millen eventually taking the win, while Austin Dyne outlasted the field to win the second semifinal. Tanner Foust challenged Dyne for the lead, lost control of the car, and hit the tire barriers trying to avoid Dyne’s braking, but recovered to beat Ken Block for the final transfer spot. Block won the LCQ over Wiman, Isachsen, and Speed.
MAIN EVENT RECAP: A clean start in the final allowed Millen to get out to the lead and stay there, but the main event was by no means short of action. Battles between Dyne and Block saw Dyne holding onto second place before contact and a resulting tire rub knocked him out of contention. From there, Block spent the entire race trying to chase Millen down, but simply ran out of laps.
Behind them, the heat and contact between drivers scrambled the field. Dyne and Speed each fell out of the race after completing six of eight laps. Nelson Piquet Jr. fell to the back of the pack with a broken radiator due to early contact, while Joni Wiman completed the race on only three tires. The heavy attrition rewarded drivers who found ways to stay out of trouble, including Lasek, who used the joker to climb into third and stay there.
After the event, Red Bull GRC officials found unapproved equipment on Millen’s vehicle, though a full download of the vehicle’s data showed that the equipment was not active or collecting data. In response to the infraction, the series penalized Millen 50 points and set forth a fine. Under series rules, the team is allowed to appeal the penalty.
UNOFFICIAL RESULTS: The results from Saturday’s Red Bull Global Rallycross Daytona, the sixth round of the 2014 Red Bull Global Rallycross season:
Rhys Millen, #67 Hyundai/Rhys Millen Racing Veloster Turbo
Ken Block, #43 Hoonigan Racing Division Ford Fiesta ST
Bucky Lasek, #81 Subaru Rally Team USA WRX STI
Patrik Sandell, #18 Olsbergs MSE Ford Fiesta ST
Sverre Isachsen, #11 Subaru Rally Team USA WRX STI
Tanner Foust, #34 Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross Polo R
Joni Wiman, #31 Olsbergs MSE Ford Fiesta ST
Nelson Piquet Jr., #07 SH Racing Rallycross Ford Fiesta ST
Austin Dyne, #14 Barracuda Racing Ford Fiesta
Scott Speed, #77 Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross Polo R
Emma Gilmour, #27 Hyundai/Rhys Millen Racing Veloster Turbo
Steve Arpin, #00 Royal Purple Racing/OMSE2 Ford Fiesta
Pat Moro, #59 Chevrolet Sonic Racing/PMR Motorsports Sonic
QUOTES: A selection of quotes from Saturday’s Red Bull Global Rallycross Daytona, the sixth round of the 2014 Red Bull Global Rallycross season:
Rhys Millen, Driver, #67 Hyundai/Rhys Millen Racing Veloster Turbo: “To my team, really, is where I need to tip the hat. We had a test on Monday and changed some of the front differential settings. And the suspension that we had upgraded the car to all year had a mis-machined part internally, so that was sent back to the manufacturer on the break from Charlotte, so we updated the suspension. The car put a huge smile on my face on the test on Monday, up the street here. It was the first time all year that we had a track this long, all the other tracks the past three races have been short and condensed, with 30-second laps. I was gritting my teeth with the power that Ken makes and the way that some of the other guys have been going all year, could we still stick it to them? And we were very surprised with where we were. How amazing the car brakes and how well it turns in tight corners is what we focused on, and that was the recipe to get the job done here, but not without some clean driving by (Block and Lasek). Bucky and I had a great battle, and Ken and I in the final there. I saw him in my rear vision more than I was looking out the windshield. So hats off to these two guys as well.”
Ken Block, Driver, #43 Hoonigan Racing Division Ford Fiesta ST: “The points thing is really important—I had a bad beginning of the year, so I was kind of moving up in points. I needed to come here and have a good finish, and hope that the other top guys struggled, and that was exactly what happened. Coming into today, I had a good position in the semi, I just needed a good start, hopefully get away from everybody behind me and make it to the final, and unfortunately the points leader decided to take me out in that semi. I went out and won the LCQ on three tires—I had to race the last two laps and fend off Joni with a de-lined tire that scared the hell out of me on the fastest part of the track, going sideways at 120! We started in the final from the third row and ended up in second place, and being able to try and chase (Millen) down was a ton of fun. Rhys drove amazing, he had a good car setup this weekend and I was stoked to see that. It was fun trying to catch him—I was catching him every little bit, every lap, and it just was not enough. I didn’t have enough time at the end the race. But it was fun, I enjoy racing with these guys, and I’ve been racing with these guys a long time, so I’m stoked to be on the podium with them.”
Bucky Lasek, Driver, #81 Subaru Rally Team USA WRX STI: “Everyone probably says this, but I guarantee that we have the hardest working team in the paddock right now, getting this car to be where it is. It’s awesome to see one of the Subarus get on the podium just about every race now, and we’re fighting for wins now. So hats off to my team, I love them, and also my friends and family for their help and support. Daytona was awesome—a fun track, really fast, that really showed what these cars are capable of. It was awesome to just battle clean, take some good lines, and these guys are top notch. So to be able to race with these guys and be competitive is an honor.”
Tanner Foust, Driver, #34 Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross Polo R: “The track was very challenging to learn for me. It took me all day (Friday) to get on pace, and it changed a lot with the wet conditions in qualifying. But ten cars on this track was a lot—it seemed like you were fighting for parking spots at the mall for half the race. Somehow, through the dust, I ended up in third place on the inside of Bucky, but some contact put me in a half spin, and then it was just demolition derby behind me. I ended up limping to the finish with the right rear wheel literally not attached to the car at all. But somehow I still finished sixth.”
Joni Wiman, Driver, #31 Olsbergs MSE Ford Fiesta ST: “I was pretty nervous before the semifinal. I knew I had a chance to win it, but in the second hairpin I stalled the car for a while, and I didn’t get it started directly, so I think I was last coming out of that corner. It was not the thing I hoped for—I’m just making too many mistakes for the moment. In the final, I got hit in the back of the car on the first lap in the hairpin, and then a lap after that the hairpin was a tight place and I almost lost the car there. Bucky was right there, and he had nowhere to go. I know I have the speed to win the races, but as I’ve said there are too many mistakes by myself. I think I could have won it today, but everything started from the semifinal.”
FAST FACTS: A collection of facts from Saturday’s Red Bull Global Rallycross Daytona, the sixth round of the 2014 Red Bull Global Rallycross season:
This was Rhys Millen’s first career Red Bull Global Rallycross victory in his 21st career series start. He became the fifth different winner in the 2014 Red Bull GRC season, as well as the 11th different podium finisher. Hyundai also earned the first win in its history as a Red Bull GRC manufacturer.
Millen also became the second team owner in series history, behind Olsbergs MSE’s Andreas Eriksson, to earn podiums in both classes of Red Bull GRC competition on the same day when Tyler Benson earned a third place finish in Saturday’s GRC Lites event.
Ken Block earned his third podium of the 2014 Red Bull GRC season, as well as his third consecutive podium finish dating to Volkswagen Rallycross NY in July. He also jumped from fifth in Supercar points to second. Block’s win in Heat 2A was his eighth heat victory of the season, which leads the Supercars class.
Bucky Lasek earned the second podium of his Red Bull GRC career in Daytona, both of which have come this season. Lasek’s first podium of the year came at X Games Austin in June. With Sverre Isachsen’s fifth place finish, Subaru Rally Team USA placed both of its vehicles in the top five of a Red Bull GRC event for the first time this season, and the first time since Atlanta last August.
With an eighth place finish, Nelson Piquet Jr.’s four-race podium streak was snapped. However, he maintains a 40-point lead in the series championship.
Scott Speed took his first heat victory since X Games Austin when he won Heat 1B in Daytona. He is now tied for second in the Supercars class with seven heat wins this season.
Pat Moro and Sarah Burgess gave Chevrolet its first multi-car entry in a Red Bull GRC event when both drivers showed up to compete in Daytona. However, Burgess did not compete in any sessions after qualifying. Moro completed the event and finished 13th.
Nelson Piquet Jr., Austin Dyne, and Scott Speed remain the only three drivers to have made it to every Red Bull GRC main event this season.
UNOFFICIAL DRIVER POINTS:
Nelson Piquet Jr., 245
Ken Block, 205
Scott Speed, 190
Joni Wiman, 188
Steve Arpin, 170
Patrik Sandell, 159
Sverre Isachsen, 142
Tanner Foust, 140
Bucky Lasek, 130
Austin Dyne, 114
Brian Deegan, 85
Rhys Millen, 70
Emma Gilmour, 27
Pat Moro, 5
UNOFFICIAL MANUFACTURER POINTS:
GRC Lites Race Recap: Daytona International Speedway
IN BRIEF: For the second time this season, Mitchell DeJong completed a perfect race weekend in a GRC Lites event when he swept the action at Daytona International Speedway. DeJong was untouchable all weekend in Daytona, leading first-time podium finishers Alejandro Fernandez and Tyler Benson to the line.
HEAT RECAPS: With a five-car field, all Lites drivers were able to compete against one another in all sessions. Both heats ended with the same results, as DeJong led Geoff Sykes, Alejandro Fernandez, Tyler Benson, and Blake Fuller to the finish.
MAIN EVENT RECAP: DeJong and Sykes were neck and neck into the first corner, but series officials reprimanded Sykes with a stop-and-go penalty for jumping the start. From there, the battle was clearly for second, as DeJong’s sliding driving style allowed him to turn incredibly fast laps compared to his competition. Fuller ran second briefly, but Fernandez was able to make the pass for second and Benson used his joker lap to perfection to take third.
UNOFFICIAL RESULTS: The results from Saturday’s Red Bull Global Rallycross Daytona, the fifth round of the 2014 GRC Lites season:
Mitchell DeJong, #24 Olsbergs MSE
Alejandro Fernandez, #126 Olsbergs MSE/AF Racing
Tyler Benson, #60 Rhys Millen Racing
Blake Fuller, #79 C4 Motorsports
Geoff Sykes, #6 DTV Solutions
QUOTES: A selection of quotes from Saturday’s Red Bull Global Rallycross Daytona, the fifth round of the 2014 GRC Lites season:
Mitchell DeJong, Driver, #24 Olsbergs MSE GRC Lites: “Being able to race in this venue is really cool. The track was very high-speed and flowing, but also had a lot of tight and technical sections, so you really had to put all your corners together to make sure you didn’t make any mistakes. But it was an awesome track. For me, I always want to win races, so that’s my main focus. I just want to keep pushing and trying to win as many as possible. I haven’t really thought about the championship too much, but it would probably be a good time!”
Alejandro Fernandez, Driver, #126 Olsbergs MSE/AF Racing GRC Lites: “I’m feeling really happy right now. We managed to get a podium, the first one of the season. The track was really awesome—it was really fast, and the dirt section was really tricky, and I love how the track had everything. It had fast, sweeping corners and it had transitional corners. It had tight corners where you might have used the e-brake, or where you really had to load the car, but I used the e-brake because I thought that was a bit more fun. I really liked the track, and I’m really happy that we got second and on the podium.”
Tyler Benson, Driver, #60 Rhys Millen Racing GRC Lites: “We definitely had to earn it. We fought and battled all weekend, in crazy heat, with the car overheating. The dirt was just so slick and the car was just not happy about it. It was definitely a struggle, but we fought hard and we finally earned it. It feels good because it definitely wasn’t handed to us. We had to battle and play catch-up, and that’s what we did. I think we took the joker on the second to last lap—I was just watching the guy in front of me and waiting to pull the trigger, waiting until I was close enough until I knew that by taking it I’d make the pass. And I knew once I made the pass that I wasn’t giving it up. So I just waited and waited, and by being patient and watching certain points where he was, gaining ground each lap. Once I got close enough where it would make a difference, I pulled the trigger.”
FAST FACTS: A collection of facts from Saturday’s Red Bull Global Rallycross Daytona, the fifth round of the 2014 GRC Lites season:
Mitchell DeJong earned his fourth win in five GRC Lites starts this season in Daytona. He set a class record with the seventh podium of his career, while his tally of nine heat victories leads both Red Bull GRC classes so far this season. DeJong’s 273 points are the highest total of a driver in either class as well.
Colombia’s Alejandro Fernandez earned the first podium of his Lites career by finishing second in Saturday’s race. He is the first Colombian podium finisher in Red Bull GRC history.
Tyler Benson’s third place finish represents the fourth consecutive event where he has either set or tied his personal best result. Benson’s podium made Hyundai/Rhys Millen Racing, which won the Supercars event with namesake Millen, only the second team in Red Bull GRC history to earn podiums in both classes during an event, behind Olsbergs MSE.
Sarasota native Blake Fuller finished fourth in the first event of his GRC Lites career. His result represented the best finish for C4 Motorsports since Austin Cindric’s third place run at X Games Austin.
Geoff Sykes’ pair of runner-up finishes in heat races represented his best heat results of the 2014 GRC Lites season. Sykes earned a second and third place in his two heats in the first three events of the season.
UNOFFICIAL DRIVER POINTS:
Mitchell DeJong, 273
Kevin Eriksson, 207
Alejandro Fernandez, 162
Geoff Sykes, 145
Tyler Benson, 137
Austin Cindric, 97
Oliver Eriksson, 82
Nelson Piquet Jr., 75
Atila Abreu, 72
Pedro Piquet, 43
Blake Fuller, 37
Colton Herta, 16
ABOUT RED BULL GRC: Designed to produce the fastest and most exciting racing in motorsports, Red Bull Global Rallycross pits small production-based cars against each other in door-to- door racing featuring dirt, asphalt, and tabletop jumps. With enhanced engineering and safety features, the cars produce 600 horsepower and can accelerate from 0-60 miles per hour in less than two seconds, and can also withstand 70-foot jumps and other vehicle contact. For more information visit www.RedBullGlobalRallycross.com.
A Final Word
This weekend is the double header at the Port of Los Angeles, which makes it a home race for Rhys Millen who’ll look to maintain momentum after his win at Daytona, Tanner Foust who’ll be driving the much-anticipated Volkswagen Rallycross Beetle aka Rallybug, and Geoffrey Sykes who’s fighting for his first GRC Lites podium this season, while Temecula’s own Mitchell DeJong is chasing his fifth win in 2014! Kevin Hansen, son of rallycross legend and team owner, Kenneth Hansen will make his GRC Lites debut. He’s already off to a good start in the heats along with Kevin Eriksson and will definitely add some spice to that class.
A familiar face returns to the Supercar division as Travis Pastrana will be in the mix with the Subaru WRX STI. Regardless of the outcome, it’s always good to see him in the Red Bull GRC and with the way Subaru has been improving this season, his chances are more than good. The most dangerous man this weekend will probably be Scott Speed. He was visibly livid to have crashed out of the final in Daytona and lose another spot on the championship standing. Although he’s still in a Volkswagen Polo for these two rounds, Tanner Foust’s to be precise. So far he’s already taken two heats for round 7 and there’s no way he’ll squander this opportunity to regain ground especially with only fifteen points separating him from Block.
The very best way to experience the Red Bull GRC is in person. This is a series that goes out of their way to ensure fans feel appreciated, which is probably why it’s considered “the fastest growing form of motorsports in the U.S.” Don’t just put it on your motorsports bucket list for someday, go now while you can…and ticket prices are affordable. Two-day General Admission tickets for adults are USD $38, $10 for kids ages 6-12 and kids under 5 are free when accompanied by one ticketed adult. Parking is $10 per car. This is a great deal which as aforementioned includes paddock access. Go to http://rbgrcla.com/ and get out there for a great weekend of racing while meeting the best drivers in the sport. Tell them My Life at Speed sent you!
The GRC race will be televised live on NBC, Saturday September 20, 2014 at 5:00pm EST and on Saturday September 21, 2014 also at 5:00pm EST. Don’t forget to connect with Red Bull Global Rallycross via the following links:
Official Website: http://www.redbullglobalrallycross.com/
Live Timing: http://www.mylaps.com/en/events/red-bull-global-rallycross/196022
If you’re attending the race, keep your ears open for Instagram contests where you could go home with Red Bull GRC merchandise. Next stop: DirtFish Rally School in Seattle and we’ll be seeing you there!