The Red Bull Global RallyCross season kicked off in sunny Ft. Lauderdale, with several of the world’s best drivers coming together to rub fenders, slide through corners and catch breathtaking airs off a ramp not suited to the fragile-spirited.
The monster 210 ft. jump actually managed to claim one of the GRC’s top drivers before the weekend’s final events began. Defending series champion Joni Wiman underwent an MRI for back pain resulting from an impact from the track’s massive jump. Because of the urgent nature of the MRI, Wiman didn’t make it back to the track in time his semifinal race and was relegated to the Last Chance Qualifier, which he also missed, informing media upon returning from his MRI that he wasn’t able to race.
The racing throughout the final day was furious, with a mix of seasoned dirt drivers favoring hard sliding into corners, and road coursers like Scott Speed and Nelson Piquet Jr. choosing to try to keep their front-ends forward in the corners.
Speed, of Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross, started from pole for Semifinal A. Steve Arpin, of the newly formed Chip Ganassi Racing, drove his Ford Fiesta ST to the front going into the first turn of the race, and held on to a comfortable lead to capture the win.
Speed consistently challenged the Sebastian Eriksson Ford for 2nd throughout the race, but was beat to the line. After the race, Race Control switched Speed to 2nd.
Semifinal B saw the internet sensation and veteran driver Ken Block jump out to an early lead, though he was bumped through the entire first turn by SH Racing Rallycross’s Piquet. Block managed to hold on and drive his Ford Fiesta to an easy victory over Piquet and Bryan Herta Rallysport’s Austin Dyne, filling out an all-Ford Top-3.
Tanner Foust took an uncontested victory in the Last Chance Qualifier after a disappointing 4th place finish in Semifinal B, and the top drivers prepared to battle in the final event.
In the Final, Scott Speed requested the inside spot on the second row instead of his assigned outside spot in Row 1. The choice proved to be a good one, as the inside line helped him get a good start into Turn 1. Despite his best efforts,however, hanging with polesitter Block proved too hefty a task for Speed. Textbook driving put Block out in front of the pack, and when the leaders crossed the finish line, second place Speed was 3.2 seconds off the winning time. Piquet finished in third.
The best battle was for a hard-fought fourth place, where Foust redeemed himself and beat out Dyne, who bested him in the semis.
Arpin jumped the start from first row and had to serve five second stop penalty, taking him out of contention.
After the win, Block ripped seemingly endless donuts, reminiscent of his famous Gymkhana stunt driving videos.
“It;s a great way to start the season off. I just tried to keep good lines. Scott drove great all weekend, and so did Nelson,” Block said. “Racing these two talented tarmac drivers was very tough. They really pushed me and our team all weekend. It was a lot of fun.”
“Last year, I ended up on my roof in the final trying to battle back for the lead, and this year I was trying to be a little patient and a little smarter.”
Red Bull Global RallyCross Round 2 of 12 is scheduled to take place June 20-21 in Daytona Beach, FL.
Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons