Red Bull GRC in DC

For two hot August days, Red Bull Global Rallycross set up a track at Washington D.C.’s RFK Stadium for some intense competition. In Volkswagen’s stomping grounds, it was once again sponsored by the German car company with two Beetles in the mix driven by Tanner Foust and Scott Speed. This year, the track was moved to the north side of the stadium, adopting part of the track left over from the ill-fated American Le Mans Series (ALMS) Cadillac Grand Prix in 2002. With the dirt jump added back in, the 1.577 km (.980 mile) track was designed with nine turns and the signature joker lap right after the jump. Gone were the issues with the jump experienced in Detroit, but the older asphalt of the RFK Stadium lot broke proved a little problematic with the GRC cars tearing around. Some new pot holes were kicked up early on in practice on Friday.

Much to the disappointment of the many fans sporting Subaru Rally Team gear, Bucky Lasek and Sverre Isachsen were conspicuously missing from the entry list. The field was rounded out, however, by the addition of Pat Moro in his Chevy Sonic; in Ford Fiestas were Logan Gomez from Indy Lights, and Jeff Ward with Chip Ganassi Racing (in place of Brian Deegan, running in select GRC races). With some of the usual suspects not competing, it was surprising – and to his credit – that Nelson Piquet Jr. showed up to play on the East Coast after just arriving on the West Coast for 2016 Formula e testing. Muito bom, Nelson, muito bom.

Patrik Sandell won in D.C. in 2014. After July’s double header in Detroit where Ken Block won Saturday and Patrik Sandell won the Sunday race, eyes were on the two Ford Fiesta drivers. But being VW territory, Scott Speed (with three P2 finishes in 2015) and Tanner Foust (one win in 2015) were going to be very very competitive. It’s rallycross, and anything can happen – heat 1A was won by Jeff Ward putting in a blistering pace.

GRC Lites saw a few new entrants in Blas Zapag with Rhys Millen Racing, and Joachim Hvaal with Olsbergs MSE in the mix. Alex Keyes won his second race over Oliver Eriksson (P2) with three 2015 podiums and Miles Maroney (P3), fresh off of two podium finishes in the Detroit double header. Maroney is now the new Lites points leader.

Back to Supercars: Sandell won Semi Final A and Piquet Jr. taking Semi Final B. The last chance qualifier had Scott Speed, Joni Wiman, Jeff Ward, Sebastian Eriksson, Logan Gomez and Pat Moro all fighting for the last spot in the final – and ultimately knocked Moro and Gomez out.

Winning the final in his first GRC first place finish was a jubilant Piquet Jr., who has placed P2 and P3 in previous races, and is the inaugural Formula e champion. Sandell and Block crossed the finish line in second and third after him, all three celebrating with donuts. Ken Block is now leading by 41 points and has placed on the podium in five out of 7 races so far this year, with three wins.

Next up on the GRC schedule is a double header in Los Angeles September 12 and 13th. Sponsored by Subaru Tecnica International, Dave Higgins will join his rallycross teammates for the two races, and Travis Pastrana will also return to compete in the City of Angels. No doubt the Ford Fiestas and the VW’s will bring it in the second half of the 2015 GRC season.

Red Bull Global Rallycross Mid-Season Update

As the Red Bull Global Rallycross is heading to Washington D.C. – presented by Volkswagen – this weekend, there have been some exciting mid-season developments from the series.

It was announced earlier in the week that both Dave Higgins and Travis Pastrana will be competing in the September Los Angeles double-header alongside their Subaru teammates Bucky Lasek and Sverre Isachsen. Higgins is currently unstoppable on a rally winning streak, most recently taking the podium at the New England Forest Rally in Maine this past July. Pastrana is right on his tail, too, having taken P3 at the same really – this despite missing a stage with mechanical issues. It will be very competitive on the course in California with four Subies on the course – watch out, Ford.

Dave Higgins | Craig Drew rallying to a win in the 2015 New England Forest Rally

Travis Pastrana | Chrissie Beavis competing in the 2015 New England Forest Rally

While Dave Higgins has been tearing through forests in a Subaru, Rhys Millen won Pikes Peak this past June 2015 in an electric car. After Hyundai pulled sponsorship from Rhys Millen Racing after the 2014 GRC season, Millen decided not to compete in the series for 2015. But now he’s hinting strongly, in figurative all caps really, on social media that he just might bring the Hyundai out of retirement and rejoin the competition in LA. In fact, he’s begging people on Instagram to start a rumor that he will be racing in LA, so here you go, Rhys. Here’s a reminder of what his GRC Veloster sounds like:

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Rhys Millen on the GRC podium in Los Angeles 2014

Back to this weekend in D.C. – all eyes will be on Tanner Foust and Scott Speed in their manufacturer’s home territory. Foust just finished third at FIA World Rallycross in Trois Rivieres August 7. Speed took P2 in both finals of the GRC double-header in Detroit, so the Beetles will be primed to give some fierce competition to the dominating Ken Block – but don’t overlook Patrik Sandell who won the second day in Detroit, and also won last year in D.C.

Tanner Foust, GRC-Detroit, 2015

Supercars Podium Sunday

If you’re in the US, keep your eyeballs on NBC Sports for the Supercar live broadcast Saturday August 15 at 3:00PM EST, and he Supercar Lites will be shown Wednesday August 19 at 4:30PM.

Gallery: The Desert Dingo Class 11 Beetle

As one of three automakers supporting drivers in Red Bull Global Ralllycross, Volkswagen brought a special display of racing and off-road vehicles to the Detroit doubleheader July 25-26, 2015. Scott Speed and Tanner Foust both compete in VW Beetles with Andretti Autosport. While the record-setting Jetta Hybrid LSR and Jetta TDI Cup Car were both pretty cool, they didn’t catch the eye quite like the Desert Dingo Class 11 Beetle.

Desert Dingo Class 11 Beetle

This isn’t the actual 1107 – according to the Desert Dingo blog, it’s currently being prepped for Vegas 2 Reno – but it’s 1115 wrapped with the same graphics and dubbed 1107B. No matter – the air-cooled 1.6L four-cylinder 1969 Beetle is beyond cool. With some changes to the engine and transmission, 1107b is equipped with desert racing tires and Bilstein suspension to handle tough off-road desert races such as the Mint 400 and Baja 1000.

If you’re going to GRC in Washington DC August 15, be sure to check it out as it will be there as well. In the meantime, here’s a full gallery.

Red Bull Global Rallycross Detroit Double-Header

It may seem like a no-brainer for a series such as Red Bull Global Rallycross to bring their bombastic brand of motorsport to the traditional center of the American automobile, Detroit – but after a few failed attempts, they finally made it happen. What’s more, the .757 mile course – one of GRC’s longer, faster courses – was set up on Belle Isle, incorporating part of the Grand Prix track which IndyCars more commonly zoom around. The counterclockwise course wrapped around the fountain in four turns, with the Joker Lap a quick turn around the fountain’s north side on the inside of the course loop. After traversing the jump, drivers headed into the dirt hazard at turn 8 – then a fast straightaway to gradual turns 9 and 10 to finish. Across the Detroit River loomed the Ford-funded, General Motors-owned Renaissance Center.

GRC does the D.

This season, instead of using truck loads of packed dirt, the trademark jump was constructed with scaffolding and wooden planks. Arriving for practice on Friday, things were a bit tense as workers rushed to complete the already behind schedule jump. Things got a bit more worrisome when practice began and whole planks had to be replaced after being torn up and broken by the cars on each run. Dirt was packed onto the jump entrance and exit for smoother, more solid transitions, but GRC Lites qualifying was eventually cancelled to get the jump truly race-ready.

Deegan Debris Trail

Lasek Inspects Jump

The jump was in much better shape for the first of two days of finals on Saturday. A muggy day threatened rain, but thunderstorms were thankfully avoided. 18-year-old Alex Keyes was a favorite in GRC Lites, and Brian Wong was stepping in to represent Rhys Millen Racing in Detroit. 16-year old Austin Cindric – slated to race a Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX in the upcoming Pirelli World Challenge in Mid-Ohio – held on in the final to place third, while Californian Miles Maroney came in second. GRC Lites rookie Tanner Whitten, supported by DirtFish rally, took first place.

Tanner Whitten

Lites Podium Saturday

Fresh off a second-place overall finish the previous weekend at the New England Forest Rally in Newry, Maine, Ken Block maintained his momentum to win his first round heat. Patrik Sandell, racing in a Ford Fiesta, led the final until he ran into some mechanical issues. Block took over the lead for the top spot on the podium in his sixth career win, and Scott Speed prevented a Ford trifecta with his Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross Beetle wedged firmly in second between Block and Sebastian Eriksson (driving a Red Bull Olsbergs MSE Ford Fiesta) in third.

Ken Block

Supercar podium Saturday

Sunday was hot, hot, hot, and primed for some shaking up. The Lites heats saw some carnage, ultimately knocking four cars out of competition. There was some tight competition between Miles Maroney and Alejandro Fernandez, with Maroney besting his previous days podium to come in first. Fernandez placed second, and Austin Cindric once again took third.

GRC-Lites-MIles-Maroney

Lites Sunday Podium

Sandell was back with a vengeance, winning the Supercar semi-final. The entire field, in fact was even more competitive than on Saturday, and a first-round pile-up in the final rendered Tanner Foust’s Beetle too damaged to continue. The final was started over with Sandell shooting to the front, as points leader Block incurred a controversial (to him) penalty for rough driving. Sandell jubilantly won the race, with the rest of the podium not changing at all from Saturday; scrappy Scott Speed with his Beetle still sandwiched in second between the Ford Fiestas of Sandell and Sebastian Eriksson.

Foust's Dead Beetle

GRC-Sandell

Supercars Podium Sunday

Detroit marked Red Bull Global Rallycross’s mid-season, and heads next to Washington, DC August 15, 2015. Patrik Sandell won in DC last year – so it will be interesting to see if he can do it again this year. Or, will the dominant Ken Block come back to win his seventh GRC victory? Will the VARX Beetles edge the Fords off the top of the podium? Can the scrappy Subaru Rally Team, well, rally and regain the competitive edge they honed last year, and we saw glimpses of in MCAS New River? The competition is itchy – tune in this August. 

 

Higgins and Drew Dominate at New England Forest Rally

For the 25th anniversary of the New England Forest Rally based in Newry, Maine –  and encompassing rally stages in both Maine and near Errol, New Hampshire – speculation was high. Subaru’s rally team –  Dave Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew – were so far undefeated this season, but some formidable competition was posing a serious challenge. Would the streak continue to win the championship with Adam Yeoman (2011 Rally America Rookie of the Year) and Jordan Schulze, the inimitable Ken Block with Alex Gelsomino, Dave Sterckx with Renaud Jamoul, Nick Roberts / Rhianon Gelsomino, and team mate Travis Pastrana and Chrissie Beavis in the mix?


Higgins and Drew

In short – yes. And there was some bad rally juju for the others along the way. After hanging tight in second place, FY Racing’s Yeoman and Schulze were out after Stage 10 with a ball joint failure. Sterckx and Jamoul had a flat on day one and lost three minutes, then on the second day – in stage 11 of 13 – lost another two minutes to an electrical issue, knocking them out of podium contention.

As early as Stage 2, Pastrana / Beavis were facing some disappointment; the car had some frantic repairs on the side of Route 5 heading to the start of the stage, arriving around four minutes late. They couldn’t continue, however, and after a couple of donuts for the fans and marshalls hanging out at the start, it was back to service for the team – Pastrana saying that they would definitely be back on Saturday to start Stage 4.

Pastrana Donut

Block and Gelsomino weren’t without their own challenges. Block struggled with some engine issues, and had to finish the sixth stage with a throttle pedal zip-tied together after losing a disagreement with a bank. Roberts / Gelsomino had a flat in Stage 1, rolled in Stage 2, then the engine lost power in Stage 5 and they couldn’t continue after stalling on the way to service.

NEFR-Block

NEFR_Roberts-Gelsomino

Ultimately, Higgins and Drew handily maintained their winning streak coming in first overall to win the championship, with Block / Gelsomino in second, and Pastrana / Beavis making up some incredible time for the third place.

Beyond the battle for the top three podium spots and the chance to spray some champagne, there was a whole lot of other things going on at NEFR. Lucy Block, married to some guy named Ken, drove an Ford Fiesta R2 with the best livery this side of the Martini-inspired Porsche.

NEFR-HeyLucy

porsche-guh

M-Sport partnered with partnered with Team O’Neil to introduce some new Fiestas to the American market with Ramana Lagemann driving a Ford Fiesta R5 2000cc, and  Brendan Reeves piloting the R2 1000cc. Ken Block is also in an M-Sport, the Fiesta HFHV.

NEFR-Ramana

Another surprise entry to NEFR was Colombian Gustavo Yacaman, better known for driving a Ligier LMP2 in the FIA World Endurance Championship. While he competed in GRC Lites in 2013, NEFR was his first stage rally, racing in a 2WD 2009 B-Spec Honda Fit.

The New England Forest Rally is held in otherwise serene forests on either side of the Maine and New Hampshire border chock full of beautiful views, thick pine trees, lots and lots of mosquitos, deer flies, and the looming spectre of a wayward moose. Fortunately, there are way more spectators than mooses, and it gets quite crowded from the Parc Expose to the final stage. Congratulations to all winners, both national and regional – and congratulations to the New England Forest Rally for 25 years of success.

Formula D at the Jersey Shore

Formula Drift barreled into the Jersey Shore for Round 4: The Gauntlet the last weekend in June for one of the Wall Stadium Speedway’s most popular annual events. Chris Forsberg has been on the podium the past three years in Wall, but was facing fierce competition not only from this year’s podium finishers Fredric Aasbo, Ryan Tuerck, Ken Gushi, and Odi Bakchis, but some impending thunderstorms and the notorious 30 degree banks of the 1/3 mile asphalt oval.

FDNJ_Forsberg

FDNJ-Odi-drift
In previous years, the competitors at Wall ran on a figure eight design with a tricky crossover but after complaints – one being that the competition took too long – the course was amended for 2015. The drivers began on a straightaway going clockwise, then hit the outer clip around along top of the turn; came out of the turn down the embankment to the first inner clip, then again around the inside of the opposite turn. Coming out of clipping zone 2, they would hit a second inner clip, then head into the third clipping zone to finish.

FDNJ_track-overview
The new layout saw a lot of dramatic spins and crashes in practice as well as in competition. 2013 Formula Drift Champion Michael Essa got a little too cozy with the guardrail, and a crash between Tuerck and Brandon Wicknick left Tuerck’s frs unable to drive off the track after a big fireball, and had to be loaded onto a flatbed for repairs.

FDNJ_tuerck_wicknick

FDNJ_essa
Due to the predicted rain, Formula D organizers moved Saturday’s final 16 to start an hour earlier than originally scheduled with a shortened break. Despite intermittent sprinkles, Wall’s old school stands were full of dedicated fans and the wet track offered even more challenges to the drivers. One disappointing aspect was that the bad weather limited drifting’s trademark plumes of smoke from the cars. The rain started to pour during the final eight – Gushi vs. Tuerck, Forrest Wang vs. Dean Kearney, Aasbo vs. Chelsea DeNofa, and Masashi Yokoi vs. Bakchis. Bakchis struggled with the downpour and Yokoi made it past him to the final four against Norwegian Fredric Aasbo, while Tuerck won against a very game but battered Ken Gushi to meet Kearney in the final four. Tuerck made the podium in 3rd place, and a podium finish for Kearney was certain – but had to face Aasbo first. Kearney and Aasbo were incredibly competitive in their final runs, with some tight exacting tandem passes.

FDNJ_Kearney_Assbo-tandem

FDNJ_AasboKearneyWait

Aasbo came out on top, Kearney placing second. Still, fans stuck around, and everyone got soaking wet in the rain for the presentation of the trophies – the champagne spray almost made redundant by the summer showers.

FDNJ_Kearny-Aasbo

FDNJ-Podium
There are six more rounds in the Formula Drift schedule, and if you’re in the region, don’t miss Round 8 in Montreal September 6-7, 2015.

MAVTV kills it with wicked onboard Indycar footage

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By all accounts, last weekend’s MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway was a barn burner. Some are calling it the best Indycar race of all time. Except for some of the drivers, who are whining, but the whiners are the guys who are typically, well, whiners.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to watch it live and forgot to set the PVR, but that doesn’t matter, because the gang at Indycar and MAVTV freaking rock!

Behold fifteen minutes of the best open wheel racing coverage that you have ever seen.

Related gallery: 2015 Honda Indy Toronto

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James Hinchcliffe named Grand Marshall of Honda Indy Toronto

The Mayor of Hinchtown at the 2014 edition of the Rolex 24 at Daytona

The Mayor of Hinchtown at the 2014 edition of the Rolex 24 at Daytona

The guy who might just be the most Canadian man in all of sports, James Hinchcliffe, has been named as the Grand Marshall of the Honda Indy Toronto, happening this weekend on the city’s waterfront. As most readers will know, Hinchcliffe was seriously injured in a crash during practice for the Indy 500. While his rehab has been going faster than expected, the driver from Oakville, Ontario has been dodging the question “will you be in Toronto?” until today.

hinchtown

Actually, while down at the track today, a couple of people said that Hinch was seen at the track this morning. I was excited to hear the news that he has been chosen as the grand PooBah!

Earlier this week, James sat down with our mutual friend Todd Lewis from Sportsnet to talk about his rehab.

Honda Indy Toronto press release

TORONTO,ON, June 11, 2015 – Organizers of the 2015 Honda Indy Toronto are pleased to announce that local Canadian race car driver and mayor of Hinchtown, James Hinchcliffe, will serve as the Grand Marshal for the marquee Verizon IndyCar Series race taking place Sunday, June 14. Hinchcliffe was recently medically cleared to travel to Toronto.

Hinchcliffe will perform the standard Grand Marshal duties that include giving the famous “drivers, start your engines” command to start the afternoon Verizon IndyCar Series race on Sunday.
“We are very excited to have James as Grand Marshal,” said Charlie Johnstone, President of the Honda Indy Toronto. “Although he is unable to race, it is important to us, and to him, that he is involved in the race in some capacity, being as this is his home town event.”

Hinchcliffe will not be racing in this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series race in Toronto due to injuries sustained during an accident that happened on May 18 during a practice round for the Indy 500. This will be the first time that he will not be racing since he joined the series in 2011.
“I’m looking forward to being back home in Canada and attending the Honda Indy Toronto with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports this weekend,” said Hinchcliffe. “It will be a strange feeling for me not lining up on the grid this year, but being the Grand Marshal is a role I’m honoured to fulfil and I’m excited that I’ll play a role in the proceedings on Sunday.”

Hinchcliffe is expected to make a full recovery from his injuries and is highly anticipating his return to racing.

Free Fan Friday returns to the Honda Indy Toronto

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Honda Canada press release

TORONTO, ON (June 9, 2015) – For the sixth straight year, the sights, sounds and speed of the Honda Indy Toronto will be free for fans to enjoy on Friday, June 12, 2015. Fan Friday is made possible through the generous support of the Ontario Honda Dealers Association (OHDA) and Toronto race fans. In exchange for a voluntary donation to Make-A-Wish® Canada, Fan Friday promises a jam-packed schedule of on-track action, and off-track stunt shows, contests, autograph sessions and other entertainment from gate open to close across the event site, providing something for everyone.

“Our ongoing partnership with Make-A-Wish for Fan Friday is a big part of the Honda Indy Toronto,” said Kevin Pearson, president of the OHDA. “This is all about putting fans in the middle of the action in support of a great cause. We hope fans give generously to help make wishes come true for children with life-threatening medical conditions across the country.”

Honda Canada is a proud supporter of James Hinchcliffe, the only Canadian driver in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Given James’ recent injuries and the outpouring of support for the ‘Mayor of Hinchtown’ leading up to his hometown race, race fans will have the opportunity to sign a giant ‘Get Well Hinch’ card throughout the weekend for a minimum $2 donation to Make-A-Wish.

Fan Friday gets bigger and better at Honda World every year with track-side fun and games for the whole family including free popcorn, snow cones and candy floss, golf practice swing and hockey slap shot zone, face painting, racing simulators and an opportunity to have your photo taken in a real Indy car. With no reserved seating on Fan Friday, attendees will have access to all grandstand sections on a first-come/first-served basis.

Honda to match fan donations
[Read more…]

2015 Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally

The first weekend in June saw a return to Wellsboro, Pennsylvania in much warmer weather for the 39th running of the Waste Management Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally. Held over two days, the entire rally covers almost 422.6 kilometers (262.6 miels), 192.2 kilometers (119.4 miles) of  competitive stages split between dirt roads on Waste Management property Friday and public roads in state parks on Saturday. Drawing 70 regional and international teams, STPR is the fifth of eight Rally America Championships held in 2015. Past winners have included Subaru Rally Team’s David Higgins/Craig Drew, as well as Ken Block/Alessandro Gelsomino.

Parc Exposé

Parc Exposé

After a sunny Parc Exposé Friday morning, the teams left The Green in Wellsboro and headed to the Waste Management stages 1 – 3. Last year, a jump near the spectator area was added, and it did not disappoint… the spectators, anyway. It’s a sad thing to hear a driver tell his kid, “Tell mommy we’re coming home a day early. We broke the car.” Car 157 (Super Production 2008 Subaru STI Tomasorally) driven by Tomas Solnicky with co-driver Ray Vambuts bounced on landing off the jump and spun in a huge cloud of impenetrable dirt. When the dust settled, the car was off the course and unable to continue, though driver and co-driver were fine. All in all, 62 teams finished the 14.3k (8.9 mile stage.) By the time Stage 3 came around on the same course, 61 teams started and 54 finished.

Just before landing and spinning off course in Stage 1.

Just before landing and spinning off course in Stage 1.

All teams and volunteers then returned to the Tioga Fairgrounds for Stages 4 & 5. These “Super Special” stages see two cars on an almost half mile dirt course at the the same time, taking two spins around a twisting route and ending on a straight-away in front of the filled grands stands. The weather had other plans, however, and a violent thunderstorm blew in and stayed. After a constant downpour with too-close-for-comfort lightning, the evening Super Stages were cancelled.

Team umbrella, heading over to shield another car being repaired from the rain.

Team umbrella, heading over to shield another car being repaired from the rain.

Thunderstorm that ultimately caused the cancellation of Friday's Super Special stage

Thunderstorm that ultimately caused the cancellation of Friday’s Super Special stage

After an early morning Parc Exposé in town, 61 teams headed to Stage 6 – and 56 finished. Stage 7 saw William Petrow and Raphael Orlove – already out of contention and driving for exhibition only – roll over after taking a turn wide and clipping the embankment on the edge of the course. The Broken Motorsports 1992 Nissan 240SX came to rest off the embankment heading down into some brush, but media and rally volunteers pushed the car back on course and they sped off.

Pushing car back onto course after rolling onto roof.

Pushing car back onto course after rolling onto roof.

Service in Germania saw many teams frantically fixing limping cars. Robert Pepper, driving a 1991 Porsche 944S2 with co-driver Mical Davis, said his team had been up all night with about 20 minutes of sleep fixing the transmission, which was left with a hole the size of his fist after Friday’s stages. “That’s rally.”

Germania Service

Germania Service

The carnage continued from stage to stage, and by the start of the 14th and last trail stage, 46 cars started and 43 survived. The weather was spectacular on Saturday, so competitors headed back to the fairgrounds to meet the fans then complete the Super Special stage. The still-muddy course saw a few spins and lots of flying dirt, especially when Pink Curl Racing in the 2006 Mustang (Paul Cacioppo and Niall Burns) faced off against the crowd-pleasing Gary DeMasi and Stephen Kurey in a 1985 Ford Ranger. The Mustang just about made it to the end, but the 2WD swerved and got stuck on a berm. Ultimately, Subaru Rally Team’s Dave Higgins and Craig Drew faced off against FY Racing Team’s Adam Yeoman and Jordan Schulze for the podium. Overall rally winners were Higgins and Drew continuing their winning streak for their 11th win in a row, the FY Racing Team in second, and Nick Roberts with co-driver Rhianon Gelsomino taking third for Nick Roberts Global Rally Team.

Podium

Podium

Full gallery: