It seems like only yesterday we were talking about the first GRC round in Brazil, and here we are on the cusp of the second round in Barcelona. The Catalan capital has made use of pre-existing infrastructure from its role as Summer Olympics host city in 1992. Of course, the X Games is on a smaller scale. However just like in Brazil, Spanish athletes will get a chance to grab the spotlight on an international stage and TV audience. For now, we’re concerned with the variety of gentlemen who’ll be getting into some very powerful little cars and tearing up the dirt track at Estadi Olímpic de Montjuïc.
The Current Top Dogs Are Mostly Pups?
The only recognizable names in the Driver Championship Standings’ top five are Toomas Heikkinen (2nd) and Brian Deegan (5th). Heikkinen makes up for what he lacks in experience with aggression, while Deegan has proven to be not only a steely but very smart driver. Neither of them has ever nor should ever be underestimated. Scott Speed, Patrik Sandell and Steve Arpin complete the group, with Speed atop the list having twenty-one points. Mind you, this was after the first rallycross competition ever! I’m very curious to see if this was just a fluke or if are we witnessing a changing of the guard.
Those heavy hitters I mentioned are further down the page and barely holding on to double digits. Oddly enough, the big names and young upstarts are all in Rallycross Fiestas, so the head honchos at Ford are probably quite pleased to see that their domination of the Manufacturer Championship is solid. Another brand is jumping back into the fray as the Subaru Puma Rallycross Team will make their first appearance in this round. Still rocking zombie cat artwork, these Subaru WRX STI’s and their drivers have high hopes to make more of an impact on the Global Rallycross Championship than they did last season.
Breaking The Law, Breaking The Law!
Tanner Foust, Ken Block, Buddy Rice and Travis Pastrana didn’t make it through the final round because a new GRC rule prevented their return to the starting grid after repairs during a red flag. (Not that a couple of them didn’t try.) This time around, the organizers have taken it a step further. According to ESPN, in the case of a red flag, “teams will not even be allowed back into their pit boxes” so any refueling and tire changes will have to be done in the open where officials can keep a close eye on their activity. In addition, some teams (apparently) suggested that with some fancy arithmetic, a driver can purposely false-start the race early enough to serve time in the penalty box and upon release, still maintain a time advantage over the rest of the field. As a result, “a really early start is grounds for disqualification from the heat.” I’m not sure how they’re going to actually do discern what really early is, and disseminate justice but I’m pretty sure that somebody’s bold enough to push that envelope.
The Dudes from Dakar
The Brazilian round saw some local legends trying their hand at rallycross with less-than-stellar results. Spain’s contributions are in the form of seasoned rallyraid competitors, and one of them is a living legend. Nani Roma will be piloting All4 Racing’s Mini Cooper Works, while Carlos ‘El Matador’ Sainz will be behind the wheel of Marklund Motorsports’ Volkswagen Polo. X Team Racing has brought their Mitsubishi Evo to Europe for another Dakar warrior, Brazil’s Guilherme Spinelli to race. Their prowess on terrain with a dearth of grip may give them a huge advantage in this race, where the course is 90% dirt. However, rallycross is rough and I’m not sure that they’ll do that well. Thrashing a powerful vehicle over sand dunes and mountains is great, but this is like MMA with cars. There’s a fine line between rubbing, racing and crashing that often gets blurred, at turn one.
A rallycross star was born in Brazil. A lesser-known Sprint Cup driver went down there to try it out and shocked everybody, including the NASCAR community back in the USA. Scott Speed turned silky smooth driving skills into X Games gold and he’s coming back to see if lightning can strike twice; but I don’t think the heavy hitters are going to let that happen. Although the new drivers had a taste of victory and are hungry for more, the established drivers will put up one heck of a fight to avoid choking on any upstart’s dust, or anything else for that matter. Do I have any predictions? Of course I do. I predict mayhem. The race will air at 11:00 am EST on ESPN; but I recommend that you DVR the entire block of X Games in case there are delays, because you don’t want to miss a minute of the action.
Full Driver Entry List
- Nani Roma, #4 Mini Cooper Works, All4 Racing Mini
- Sverre Isachsen, #11 Subaru WRX STi, Subaru PUMA Rallycross Team
- Guilherme Spinelli, #12 Mitsubishi Evo, X Team Racing
- Patrik Sandell, #18 Ford Fiesta ST, OlsbergsMSE
- Steve Arpin, #32 Ford Fiesta, OMSE2
- Liam Doran, #33 Mini Cooper Works, LD Motorsport/Prodrive
- Tanner Foust, #34 Ford Fiesta ST, OlsbergsMSE
- Brian Deegan, #38 Ford Fiesta ST, OlsbergsMSE
- Dave Mirra, #40 Subaru WRX STi, Subaru PUMA Rallycross Team
- Ken Block, #43 Ford Fiesta ST, Hoonigan Racing Division
- Toomas Heikkinen, #57 Ford Fiesta ST, OlsbergsMSE
- Scott Speed, #77 Ford Fiesta, OMSE2
- Bucky Lasek, #81 Subaru WRX STi, Subaru PUMA Rallycross Team
- Anton Marklund, #92 Volkswagen Polo, Marklund Motorsport
- Bryce Menzies, #99 Dodge Dart, Pastrana Racing
- Travis Pastrana, #199 Dodge Dart, Pastrana Racing
- Carlos Sainz, #303 Volkswagen Polo, Marklund Motorsport