We hit the dirt with Crazy Leo Urlichich to see how drivers can learn how to control their car on loose surfaces like a pro.
To book your own training, visit Race Lab
We hit the dirt with Crazy Leo Urlichich to see how drivers can learn how to control their car on loose surfaces like a pro.
To book your own training, visit Race Lab
Alternating between blizzards and spring-like temperatures, it’s certainly been an interesting winter in the U.S.’s Northeast. For 2016, the winter rally in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania was run by the Sports Car Club of America in its inaugural RallySprint event. SCCA brought the RallySprint name back in 2015, renaming the annual event to the Waste Management Winter RallySprint. The “rally light” format runs events on private property with no public transits, reducing costs and liabilities to organizers and competitors while providing an important step between autocross and full stage rallies. It’s a great test run for driving teams and their crews as well volunteers, providing a taste of what it really takes to compete in championship stage rallies. Waste Management also hosts the first two stages of the summertime STPR full stage rally.
Overnight temperatures were below freezing. The 18 starting teams made their way from Parc Expose in the Wellsboro center to a still-frozen but thawing Waste Management property. As the first stage began, dispatches over the radio indicated that cars were quickly falling victim to the icy and muddy course. Alan Edwards and Daniel Baker slid off course into a ditch, then were extracted in a damaged but still driveable 2003 Dodge Neon.
“The first stage was very slippery as most of the road was still frozen from the overnight temperature, and four cars slid off the course. We wanted to make sure out day didn’t end after only a few miles, so we were cautious. But then, as the road began to thaw, not only did it become muddy and wet, but the rocks started to come to the surface as the gravel started to get chewed up from the cars. We ended up with four flat tires and a broken wheel before the end of the event, but we just kept going and our Subaru ran great,” said Jon Kramer after his overall win with co-driver Jason Smith, #777 1993 Subaru Impreza.
As each of five stages were run, the temperatures went up into April weather and the course went from icy mud to thick mud and puddles. No gorgeous shots of snow-spewing cars at this winter rally. Three stages were run in one direction over the same 13-mile gravel road. In mid-afternoon after the third stage the muddy cars headed to service, then back out for the last two stages in the other direction.
Because of the beautiful weather the spectator area was full, the crowd watching the competitors head up a straight-away over a fan-pleasing jump.The final stage saw the sun set and the remaining ten cars finishing as the moon rose. The Dodge Neon was the last car out driving the course – and at a normal speed – but finishing the final stage is no small feat. Hardcore.
Full results with gallery following:
Speculation confirmed! The 2016 announcements just keep on coming. After spotting Bucky Lasek chasing the Subaru Rally Team across Maine and New Hampshire at the New England Forest Rally in June 2015, it was announced today that Lasek will make his rally debut at Sno*Drift Rally. His co-driver will be Craig Drew, who teamed with David Higgins in 2015 for their sensational Rally America winning sweep.
“Rally has always been one of the gnarliest forms of racing to me and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I can’t express how grateful I am for this opportunity and experience,” explained Lasek. “Sno*Drift will be a bit of a challenge for me as I have very little experience driving in the snow and with pace notes. Luckily I’ll have champion co-driver Craig Drew along my side to guide me and help me get me to the finish.” Higgins will be at the winter rally to coach Lasek in his first rally.
Lasek has driven for Subaru in Red Bull Global Rallycross since 2012, earning three podiums and a “Sportsman of the Year” award for the 2014 season. He will enter Sno*Drift in Super Production class with a Subaru WRX STI.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary, Sno*Drift will take place January 29-30 in northern Michigan’s Montmorency County, covering 130 miles in 17 snowy, icy rally stages – without studded tires. The first event on the Rally America calendar, the rally attracts a deep field of top national and international teams. Previous years overall winners have included Travis Pastrana / Christian Edstrom (2010), Antoine L’Estage / Nathalie Richard (2013), and repeat wins by Higgins/Drew in 2012, 2014, and 2015. More event information can be found on the Sno*Drift Rally site and Rally America.
It was bright and sunny but unseasonably cold at the dawn of the 2015 Seed 9 Rally; cold enough to avoid rattlesnakes and desert tortoises. Held annually the weekend after SEMA in Jean, Nevada – thirty or so miles southwest of Nevada – the off-road stage rally was founded in 2003. This year’s entry list was pared down a bit from last year’s entries that included names such as David Sterckx and George Plsek, but the event didn’t suffer for it. The point of this rally isn’t the names, it’s… rally. For the pure love of it.
However, one entry that stood out after covering Formula D this year was 21-year-old Matt Coffman, currently ranking 30th in the Formula Drift 2015 Pro Championship standings. After focusing heavily on drifting for a few years, he got back in a Subaru STI (Super Pro) rally car for Seed 9 with co-driver Blake Lind, who he had only met days before at SEMA.
Based at the Gold Strike Casino in Jean – a crossroads on Route 15 to California with two gas stations as neighbors – the rally boasts twisting, rocky roads through the scenic desert near Red Rock National Canyon, no artificial light, and no transit between stages. The day stages are out-and-back with the Miner’s Dash power stage on the fourth stage. This year marked the return of the Double or Nothing / Nothing or Double night stages that couldn’t be run last year due to bad conditions.
While an annual meeting of Elvis impersonators carries on inside, the rally meetings and service take place in a separated lot by the casino entrance. Because of the forbidding, rural location, there aren’t really any spectator areas set up, but this year two adventurous rally fans from Boston braved the elements to watch from a windy hill.
This year’s rally was fortunately not one of attrition; of the twelve entries, ten finished. Coffman/Lind won overall with a time of 35:25.1, with John Coyne/Doug Nagy about a minute behind (36:33.2) in second, and Brent Lee/John Dillon third overall (45:25.6). Complete results and full gallery below.
No one expected rain in the desert, but rain on the Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship in Las Vegas, Nevada it did. Running concurrent with SEMA, the huge automotive aftermarket convention held the first week of November annually, GRC kicked off with an autograph session Monday night at the SLS Casino. Tuesday’s energetic practice on the 1.31 kilometer (.814 mile) track in the bright sun was the opposite of the muddy carnage that would occur the following day. After Steve Arpin and Brian Deegan’s fastest lap times in practice, Steve Arpin won his first GRC pole.
Returning to the site of the 2013 championship with the pyramid and sphinx of the Luxor Casino across Las Vegas Boulevard as a backdrop, the roughly 80% pavement / 20% dirt track circled its way around and in on itself, winding around a decrepit mid-century motel. For the season-ender, the signature dirt jump was bypassed by the Kobalt Tools Joker Lap, shortening the track by 235 feet (71.63 meters.) The Joker Lap can only be taken once by each driver after the first lap is completed.
The usual suspects were competing in the Supercars class, with the 2015 Rally America champion David Higgins joining the Subaru team in a third car. The familiar face of Pat Moro also joined for his 2nd race of the 2015 season with some upgrades to his Chevrolet Sonic. There were a few new names in Lites: Augie Lerch debuted the new Buhl Sport Detroit team, and another woman – Sandra Hultgren – came along to compete with Olsberg MSE. One unexpected entry in GRC Lites was none other than Stephan Verdier. After competing in Supercars in previous years, he took Harry Cheung’s place as a last-minute substitute for Rhys Millen Racing.
On the morning of race day, weather reports said 50% chance of rain. However Las Vegas is a gambling town, and the odds were not in GRC’s favor. A late afternoon thunderstorm that reportedly brought hail to SEMA at the opposite end of the Strip blew in, prompting a temporary evacuation of the track and the stands. Rallycross is rough and tumble as it is, but the unseasonably cold temperatures, slick track and resulting mud rendered the semi-finals and Last Chance Qualifiers absolutely brutal. Cars slid into walls and each other above and beyond the usual door-banging, leaving Sverre Isachsen, Ken Block and David Higgins all with DNF’s in the semi-finals due to crippling damage. Ken Block did make it to the final.
Scott Speed was in front at the beginning of the final as teammate Tanner Foust spun and tangled with several other cars on the first turn. Last year’s season champion Joni Wiman sped past and stayed in front, ultimately winning the race. His Red Bull Olsbergs MSE teammate Sebastian Eriksson placed second, while Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross’s Speed took the third spot on the podium as well as winning the 2015 Driver and Team Championship.
Alex Keyes placed first in GRC Lites, and echoing the Supercar podium, Oliver Eriksson placed third in the race while winning the season championship. Andreas Wernersson, another new face with OMSE, took second.
At the GRC awards ceremony, Patrik Sandell took home the KMC Sportsman Award, and Ford won the Manufacturer award. The Royal Purple Fan Favorites were Tanner Foust (Supercars) and Alejandro Fernandez (Lites), and after his first year of competing in GRC Lites, Miles Maroney was named the Sylvania Rising Star.
And so begins Silly Season. The very next day at SEMA’s Ford Out Front, Brian Deegan’s daughter Hailie – already an experienced Mod Kart competitor – announced that she’d be putting her hat into the GRC Lites ring. If River Racing’s Collete Davis and newbie-to-GRC Sandra Hultgren return next year, that would make an unprecedented three women competing in the series, which is pretty exciting. Outside of that, there are a lot of questions to be answered; with Volkswagen’s emissions scandal, will there still be a budget for the VARX team in 2016? Subaru experienced maybe not the season they had hoped for – will their team stay intact? Will we see more of David Higgins in GRC as Travis Pastrana becomes more involved with his Nitro Circus – or Bucky Lasek debuting in Rally America? Will Rhys Millen return for a full season? After so many rumors swirling around the internet – will other manufacturers join in the GRC fun? Stay tuned in 2016.
David Higgins and Craig Drew finished the 2015 Rally America championship series with a sweep, something not achieved in the United States since 1987 by John Buffum – who perhaps no so coincidentally happens to be the team manager. Taking place over two days in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the fifteen stage Lake Superior Performance Rally was the eighth and final championship rally of the year, and proved to be historic for the jubilant Subaru Rally Team. They won all but two stages of the rally.
Other teams such as Ken Block / Alex Gelsomino, Nick Roberts / Rhianon Gelsomino, and Subaru teammate Travis Pastrana / Chrissie Beavis who would have given tough competition to the duo were conspicuously absent from the rally. Yoopers Adam Yeoman and Jordan Schule – formidable challengers regardless, having placed second overall at STPR – were on home territory, winning two stages over Higgins / Drew. They finished 1:51.3 behind Higgins and Drew, with Lauchlin O’Sullivan and co-driver Scott Putnam in third for an all-Subaru podium.
The Red Bull Global Rallycross double header in Los Angeles was sponsored by Subaru Tecnica International, and they didn’t just bring two extra in drivers to compete – they brought a whole bunch of rally cars for fans to get close enough to touch.
David Higgins’ 2015 Subaru WRX STI Rally Car is currently a legend-in-the-making. Higgins – along with co-driver Craig Drew – has been winning every Rally America National Championship this year with a blistering pace, leaving competitors such as Ken Block and Subaru Rally Team USA teammate Travis Pastrana in the proverbial dust. The Open Class rally car is kitted out with RECARO SPA proRacer seats, a kevlar fuel cell, and other performance modifications by partner Vermont SportsCar. (To see more of this car in action, check out STPR and NEFR coverage here on the TheGarageBlog.) Higgins also competed in the LA double header with the Subaru team.
Mark Higgins set a new lap record of 19.26 minutes on the Isle of Man’s 47-mile TT course in 2014 in a U.S.-spec 2015 WRX STI with the three-legged IOM emblem on the side. This broke his own former record of 115.36 set in a 2010 WRX STI. Mark, incidentally, is Dave Higgins’ brother.
From 2006-2007, Travis Pastrana and Ken Block both competed in rallies in this 2006 WRX STI, Pastrana besting Block and Colin McRae in the 2006 Summer X Games in this car.
While the livery looks a lot like that of the Subaru driven to victory by Richard Burns 2001, this 1999 WRC99 Impreza has actually never been run in a rally. It was a gift to Burns after placing third on the podium and winning the driver title in the 2001 World Rally Championship with co-driver Robert Reid, winning over Colin McRae (then driving for Ford) and Tommi Mäkinen. He was the first Englishman to win the title. Burns succumbed to brain cancer in 2005.
More views and cars:
At the onset of the Red Bull Global Rallycross double header presented by Subaru Tecnica International, all contenders were looking to narrow the wide gap between themselves and points leader Ken Block by racing their way to the podium. In addition to full-season drivers Bucky Lasek and Sverre Isachsen, Subaru Rally Team doubled their presence with winning-streaking rally driver David Higgins and fan favorite Travis Pastrana all in new STi livery. After disappointingly not making the podium in the Volkswagen-sponsored Washington DC race, Beetle drivers Scott Speed and Tanner Foust were also tweeting smack in the weeks leading up to LA. This literary device, while clumsily executed here, is known as foreshadowing.
Setting up camp once again in the Port of Los Angeles by the aptly named WWII cargo ship SS Lane Victory, this year’s 1.13km (.702 mile) track looked like it would be exciting when it was first announced that in addition to thirteen turns, the standard dirt hazard, and Kobalt Tools Joker Lap, the course looped around the inside featuring a cross-over jump. It was already apparent in Friday’s practice sessions that the two days of racing would be full of dust and door banging, but after Lites driver Alejandro Fernandez hit the wall of the tunnel into a barrel roll – coming to rest on his roof – there would be dramatic spins and related carnage.
Besides the extra Subie drivers, one new addition to Super Cars was Rhys Millen Racing’s Brian Wong. Wong competed in GRC Lites the first half of 2015, moving up to a Hyundai Veloster with twice the horsepower for LA. Millen, who hinted at racing in LA on social media, will race in Barbados in October.
The person to beat was Ken Block, and he did not have an easy day on Saturday. After getting knocked around and out of the heats, his driveshaft broke in the semi-final – then spun in the Last Chance Qualifier won by Travis Pastrana.
In the final it looked like it was going to be Speed with the win, Foust in second, and Isachsen in a hard-fought third place, until a competitive Patrik Sandell edged past the Subaru driver in the last lap. Still, the fourth place finish was the best for Subaru Rally Team this season in what is a development year for them. Sandell is having a great year having come in second in DC and upset Block for the win in the in the second of two Detroit bouts.
The Lites finals were less eventful than practice, and everyone stayed shiny-side up. Olsbergs MSE team battled with Miles Maroney and Alex Keyes for the first two podium spots. Oliver Eriksson took first and Austin Cindric came in second, while Alex Keyes ultimately grabbed third.
Sunday was yet another day of shake-ups. Some particularly aggressive contact by Sebastien Eriksson over the jump drove Bucky Lasek into the wall. The car was taken off course on a flat bed and couldn’t be fixed in time to qualify for the final.
Everyone has a bad week now and then, and this was a heck of a bad one for Ken Block. After taking second in both the heat and the semi-final, contact in the final knocked him down to 9th. Meanwhile, Scott Speed was given the broom after once again finishing first. The General Brian Deegan edged past Tanner Foust for second.
More brooms were need in Lites, as the two Olsbergs MSE drivers once again took the podium – this time with Austin Cindric in first and Oliver Eriksson in third. Miles Maroney fought his way to second on the podium. Cindric and Maroney are now tied for first in championship points.
The Guts and Determination Award had to go to Lites driver Collete Davis. In her first Lites race this year, her car was knocked off the jump, wedged sideways between the jump and the safety fence. She was fine, the car was extracted and she was actually able to continue racing. Sunday in LA, her wheel flew off in a heat, then more car issues forced her into a Sunday drive around the final. Despite the limping car, she hung in there and finished to get her points.
Next up for Red Bull GRC is another double-header at Bushy Park, Barbados October 3-4. As of press time, yours truly won’t be there unless a miracle occurs (yours truly is certainly open to miracles), so catch it all on NBCSN, and I’ll be back with more galleries from the season-ender in Las Vegas.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.