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01 Oct 2012

GRC: Foust takes Las Vegas

Category: GRC, News Posted 01.10.12 23:11 by

While his ERC opponents raced in their final event in Germany that man Tanner Foust claimed victory of the penultimate 2012 GRC round in Las Vegas.

 

Text: © by Jen Horsey

 

MAIN RACE:

Tanner Foust extended his Global RallyCross Championship lead Saturday night with a decisive win under the lights at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. There were an estimated 32,000 fans in attendance for the fifth round of the Global RallyCross Championship, following the NASCAR Camping World Truck race earlier in the day.

“This was a critical victory,” said Foust after the race. “The title fight is very competitive and to gain three more points on my teammate Brian Deegan puts me in a good position heading into the season finale.”

This was Foust’s first win in the United States this season, although he has two ERC wins to his credit in 2012. He won his first heat in the Rockstar Energy Drink Ford Fiesta to advance directly to the Final, where he got a strong start and held off rival Brian Deegan through the first corner to lead the pack to the finish.

Foust also secured the Discount Tire America’s Tire Cup, a trophy and $25,000 prize purse awarded to the driver who earned the top points tally in three select events in the six-round series: Texas, New Hampshire, and Las Vegas. He and Deegan had been tied in the cup points heading into the Las Vegas round. Foust credits at least part of his victory to having Marcus Grönholm as his spotter on the radio during the race. Grönholm, who did not compete as he continues to recover from injuries sustained in his X Games crash, attended the Las Vegas event as a team advisor.

Second place went to Brian Deegan, in his nearly identical Rockstar Energy Metal Mulisha Ford Fiesta. He proved a strong competitor all weekend but was unable to get around Foust in the final. It was a season-best result for Deegan this year.

Sverre Isachsen scored a first 2012 podium for the Puma Subaru team. He finished in second-place behind Foust in his first heat to become the second car to bypass the LCQ and qualify directly to the final. In the final, he made a late pass on Toomas “Topi” Heikkinen to slide into third. Isachsen had said after practice that he felt his car was finally performing well. He has been working as a Subaru team advisor, in addition to driving. The team has multiple American stage rally titles to their credit, but have only begun to explore vehicle development for Rallycross in the past two years.

It was a big weekend for the young Finn Heikkinen, who has shown promise in America in his Bluebeam Ford Fiesta but never put a good race together this season. He returned to the series after a disastrous crash at the X Games in Los Angeles that shattered his ankle and put in a strong showing to finish fourth.

Rounding out the top five was Stéphane Verdier who, much like Heikkinen, has struggled to deliver on his own potential this season. His Motorcity Veloster has been under development since the beginning of the year and appeared this weekend to be developing good power and handling well. In an excellent strategic move, he took the shortcut late in the Final race to slide into the fifth spot.

Another notable performance saw “Bucky” Lasek finish in eighth place after making his first Final of the year. The rookie Rallycrosser nailed the start – which has been elusive for him this season – and grabbed the holeshot in the Last Chance Qualifier. He lost positions in the race but ultimately earned the fourth-place qualifying position to advance.

The weekend saw another hard crash off the 70’ gap jump. Privateer Richard Burton locked up all four wheels in the 100-yards before the take-off ramp – he later told his mechanics he thought the car wasn’t making enough power to get across the gap and stood on the brakes to try to avoid it – and slid sideways over the edge at a low speed. He came down on the track on his wheels after his Subaru Impreza GD brushed the safety foam and plastic K-rail along the legs of the structure. The Canadian was never knocked unconscious and gave a thumbs-up to the crowd from his stretcher as he was loaded into the ambulance. He was taken to hospital for a complete evaluation where initial X Rays to his lower back came back clean. He is undergoing further evaluation, but is expected to make a full recovery. It initially appeared that the vehicle of Burton is repairable.

Travis Pastrana also had a tough weekend in his Dodge Dart. He won his heat, but was issued a 30-second penalty when he became the second driver in the 2012 season to take the shortcut twice. He came back from the last row in the Last Chance Qualifier to advance to the Final, but was out of contention when he lost turbo pressure and drove out of the race early.

Andréas Eriksson, who subbed in for Marcus Grönholm in the Best Buy Ford Fiesta, put on a typical show with wild slides through the dirt, but he wasn’t able to translate that to a strong result. He suffered transmission failure between the Last Chance Qualifier and had a collision with fellow Ford driver Ken Block in the Final that meant he scored ninth-place points.

The 2012 Global RallyCross Championship concludes October 30 in a special Las Vegas round held in conjunction with the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) trade show. The event will see teams take on a unique track configuration across from the convention center in downtown Las Vegas.

 

  • FINAL RESULTS SUPERCARS:
  • 1. Tanner Foust (USA) Ford Fiesta Mk7
  • 2. Brian Deegan (USA) Ford Fiesta Mk7
  • 3. Sverre Isachsen (N) Subaru Impreza GR
  • 4. Toomas Heikkinen (FIN) Ford Fiesta Mk7
  • 5. Stéphane Verdier (F) Hyundai Veloster
  • 6. Rhys Millen (NZ) Hyundai Veloster
  • 7. Ken Block (USA) Ford Fiesta Mk7
  • 8. “Bucky” Lasek (USA) Subaru Impreza GR
  • 9. Andréas Eriksson (S) Ford Fiesta Mk7
  • 10. Travis Pastrana (USA) Dodge Dart
  • AFTER LAST CHANCE QUALIFIER:
  • 11. Patrick Moro (USA) Subaru Impreza GD
  • 12. Samuel Hübinette (S) Saab 9-3
  • 13. Dave Mirra (USA) Subaru Impreza GR
  • 14. Dave Binks (GB) Ford Fiesta Mk7
  • 15. Richard Burton (CDN) Subaru Impreza GD

 

 

PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING:

The teams had already got several hours of practice on the course at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last weekend before taking on their qualifying session. The course had a similar layout to previous Speedway events, although a steeper bank on the straightaway ment a sharper transition to the flat apron and drivers experimented to find the best lines – particularly through the hairpin turn and under the gap jump. The angle was severe enough so that several drivers found themselves with flats on Friday during practice after the tires rolled off the bead. Some teams also struggled to find the right speed on Friday for the gap jump. The optimal speed was thought to be about 50 mph after many drivers went long and nosed in by going faster during Friday’s session.

Back in action for the first time since his big wreck at X Games, Toomas “Topi” Heikkinen set the fastest lap in timed practice and qualified fourth. He appeared confident and fearless in his first time over the jump on Friday and he has looked strong and smooth on track and in the air. Walking around the pits, however, is a different story. He was using crutches and it was clear he has not yet recovered mobility in his injured left ankle. A slight modification to his car had introduced a dummy pedal that allowed him to rest his ankle while he’s in the car and facilitates working the brake and clutch without having to flex his left ankle.

Although OMSE chief Andréas Eriksson was driving the No. 3 Best Buy Ford Fiesta last weekend, Marcus Grönholm was also in Las Vegas. He had taken over the radio as the spotter for teammate Tanner Foust – who qualified first on Saturday. Grönholm, who was injured during X Games competition, said Friday he hopes to receive the all-clear from his medical team in the week after Las Vegas.

Ken Block, who has added two more stage rally wins in North America to his tally since X Games (for a total of three this season), also looked strong in practice, setting the second-fastest lap. He followed it up with the second-fastest qualifying time. Block used the same Monster World Rally Team Ford Fiesta in rally, Rallycross, and gymkhana events (although the vehicle is heavily modified during a rebuild before each discipline change). It also appeared the team had made some suspension changes since the last round, and his vehicle was the most stable in taking both the course’s 70’ gap jump and table top feature.

Travis Pastrana, who was looking for a repeat at the top of the rankings after taking his first win of 2012 in New Hampshire July 14, also looked strong in his Dodge Dart. He qualified third.

Rhys Millen qualified in fourth. He also came from a recent competition success in a different racing discipline. He made a record-setting run on Pikes Peak this August in his 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupé, modified for the Time Attack category.

Brian Deegan, who was keen to fight for every point with teammate Tanner Foust last weekend – the two drivers were three points apart in the standings once the allowed drop is taken into account and they also tied for the Discount Tire America’s Tire sub-series, decided in Las Vegas – was fifth fastest in practice and qualified seventh. He has been optimizing his time on the course to refine his lines and looked for the fastest way through the course.