But those numbers don’t tell the full story by any means: Doran made only five starts in 2013. At that pace, he would have earned 106 points had he run every race—putting him in firm title contention in such a scenario.
The season started off with frustration for Doran, who would race a Citroen DS3 in Brazil before switching to the MINI in Barcelona. While the DS3 earned the top seed in its lone event, contact in his heat race and a stall in the last chance qualifier left Doran a dismal 13th in Brazil; then, undriveable conditions forced the cancellation of the Barcelona round, where the smaller MINI would have been well suited to take the victory.
Then the series headed to Germany, where Doran had ended his 2012 European season with a victory. And he headed there with a vengeance: he earned the top seed in the first leg of the Munich doubleheader and held off a hard-charging Ken Block on three tires to earn the victory. He followed it up with a silver medal the next day.
After skipping New Hampshire, Doran returned to action in Bristol and Los Angeles. He earned the second seed in Bristol, but Patrik Sandell beat him for the bonus point in both heat races and the MINI took on too much damage in the final. In Los Angeles, Doran drove with an injured wrist suffered in Gymkhana Grid competition, where he took his third X Games medal of the year; he beat Sandell for the bonus point in the heat, but contact with Ken Block and Brian Deegan in the final ended that race early for him as well.
That was all. Doran didn’t race in Atlanta, competed in Europe during the Charlotte race weekend, and did not put together a deal to race alongside Dave Mirra in the new Prodrive MINI in Las Vegas.
Three X Games medals and two wins in Europe prove that Doran is one of the most talented rallycross drivers in the world. Whenever he shows up, he’s a threat for a podium finish, or a victory. The question is which races he’ll be seen entering in 2014.
Photo credit: QBA/QNIGAN.com (1, 3); Alison Padron (2)]]>
Four drivers—2013 series champion Toomas Heikkinen, 2011 X Games Los Angeles gold medalist Brian Deegan, two-time series winner Scott Speed, and Vegas Finale victor Ken Block—are present on the 34-driver bracket. Voting will take place through the next month, with the winner crowned in early January.
Be sure to vote on Ford Racing’s Facebook page by clicking here. If you want to set yourself voting reminders, here are the matchups to pay attention to, and their dates:
Photo credit: Matthew Kalish]]>
When all was said and done, Sykes’ first rallycross season saw him rank tied for sixth in series points. He earned his first podium, a runner-up finish, in the season’s penultimate race at The Dirt Track at Charlotte.
Initially, Sykes’ results suggested a struggle to adapt from touring cars to multi-surface racing. While he ran three US Touring Car races before the GRC Lites season began, eventually earning the championship in the GT class, he made it to the final only once in the first four races of the season, finishing fourth at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The month of August was exceptionally tough. Sykes had to overcome missing the final at X Games Los Angeles, his home race, and barely missed the main event at Atlanta Motor Speedway. But those setbacks galvanized the team, leading Sykes to respond with his second place run in Charlotte and another main event appearance in Las Vegas.
When all was said and done, Sykes’ 66 points tied him with Austin Dyne in the championship standings. When things were clicking, as they did in Bristol and Charlotte, Sykes was a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, he was frequently working from a disadvantage established in seeding: his average placement of 8.2 forced him to come from behind in every race. While Sykes averaged an improvement of two positions per race from start to finish, better timed runs could have made his race weekends slightly easier.
For 2014, there’s no doubt that Sykes will be looked at to run toward the front of the field. With a year under his belt, familiarity with the car, and the fire to improve upon his 2013 results, he’ll be a driver to watch next season.
Photo credit: Matthew Kalish]]>
That may have been true, but Arpin is no stranger to loose surface racing—he was a champion snowmobile racer and top dirt modified driver in the early stages of his racing career. Those skills translated into eighth place in the championship standings, a respectable run for a driver who spent most of the past few years chasing his stock car racing dreams on pavement.
The start of the season proved to be the brightest highlight: Arpin survived the first turn at X Games Brazil to finish fourth. He made six of nine main events, missing the final in only the first Munich race (third in the last chance qualifier), New Hampshire (falling out with mechanical troubles), and Los Angeles (not making it to the grid). While he had the advantage of OlsbergsMSE equipment beneath him, he also competed in a year-old car.
In fact, when Arpin made it to the final, it was usually because he had a top six car beneath him. He finished in the top six in the second leg of the Munich doubleheader, at Bristol, and at Charlotte, a home race for the Canadian transplant.
While accidents took Arpin out of the finals at Atlanta and Las Vegas, and may have left him frustrated on track, he stood out off track as one of the sport’s friendliest and most amicable drivers. Always entertaining fans, he was chosen to make appearances on behalf of the series—including a visit to Children’s Hospital Atlanta alongside Tanner Foust—and finished third in Fan Favorite Driver of the Year voting as a testament to his personality.
Beyond that, Arpin’s sense of humility endeared him to both his teammates and mechanics.
“It’s been such a cool year, such a cool experience, and I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many great people,” Arpin said after racing in Charlotte. “It’s just been such an incredible experience all year long.”
It’s an experience that he’s keen on continuing in 2014. Rest assured that the fans will be incredibly pleased to see him back behind the wheel.
Photo credit: Matthew Kalish (1, 3); Alison Padron (2)]]>
It wasn’t a bad season by any means; Westlund was a consistent driver who usually kept out of trouble and made it to the final each time. In Bristol, he earned a solid third place finish, which would prove to be his best run of the season.
Los Angeles may have represented Westlund’s best chance to earn another podium finish. Though he jump started in his heat and had to transfer through the last chance qualifier, a black flag to Sebastian Eriksson allowed him to climb to third place in the middle part of the final. Unfortunately, he hit concrete with his left front on the final lap and fell all the way back to sixth with a busted steering arm.
For Westlund, Las Vegas represented an outside chance to climb from fifth to third in the championship, but another stint in the LCQ left him in seventh in the final, finishing behind both Mitchell deJong (third in points) and teammate Kevin Eriksson (fourth).
While Westlund’s fifth place finish in the championship may have been a great job for a young driver in his first season racing four-wheel drive cars at this level, the will of the racer is to never be satisfied. In Westlund’s case, he’ll be thinking about coming behind both of his Set Promotion teammates in the championship standings and working to improve upon those results.
The good news? He’s got the same sort of consistency behind the wheel that helped teammate Joni Wiman earn all six race victories this year. He’s also one of the series’ youngest drivers, meaning he’s got plenty of time ahead of him to develop. And if he maintains the same level of activity he had last winter, running numerous rallies on snow, he’ll only develop faster.
In short, don’t be shocked if Westlund is next year’s breakout GRC Lites driver. The ingredients for success are all there.
Photo credit: Matthew Kalish (1, 3); QBA/QNIGAN.com (2)]]>
But in 2013, Isachsen got a much better chance to show off his skill. After spending much of the season developing the Subaru in 2012, he became a perennial top-five contender this season, earning two podium finishes and seventh in the series standings, the top driver not running a Ford Fiesta.
The season started with much of the same frustration that Isachsen had seen in 2012. His team skipped X Games Brazil, suffered through the rainout in Barcelona, and X Games Munich was no better: after failing to score points in the first race of the doubleheader, he was punted from fourth place by Ken Block in the second event to ruin what would have been a much-needed strong finish.
Fortunately for Isachsen, things only got better from there.
New Hampshire saw the #11 car come home sixth, while a strong start in Bristol allowed Isachsen to overcome damage to his car and finish fourth. Though he jumped the start at X Games Los Angeles and had to yield the lead, Isachsen’s third place represented Subaru’s first medal since David Higgins earned one in 2011; he would follow it up by equaling the result in Atlanta six days later, even after having to go through the last chance qualifier.
A controversial spin by Nelson Piquet Jr. in the LCQ in Las Vegas nearly ended Isachsen’s season on a sour note, but GRC officials removed Piquet from the final and reinstated Isachsen, allowing him to take fifth.
“I’m really happy because the officials see what is happening,” Isachsen said after the race. “They made the right decision.”
For 2014, Isachsen is even more optimistic, as Subaru will roll out a new car for him and teammate Bucky Lasek that has drawn upon their past two years of competition.
“I’m 110% sure (we will be faster), because the new car is really fast,” Isachsen promised. “We will work on the car the whole winter, and we have had two days of testing already. The car, compared to the old one, it’s almost black and white.
“We have made a big step in the right direction, and I am really looking forward to the next season. I promised Ford that they will need to fight really hard next season to catch me!”
Photo credit: Matthew Kalish (1, 3); Alison Padron (2)]]>
It’s been quite the year for Sandell, the 2006 Junior World Rally champion and first-year rallycross driver. Between his first GRC experience and the end of his rookie season, he joined top team OlsbergsMSE, earned two podium finishes, ranked as high as third in points, and eventually ended the season in a respectable sixth place.
2013 started on a high note, as an elated Sandell snuck into the final at X Games Brazil via the last chance qualifier, survived a first-turn melee, and eventually placed third. It was the first of six finals he would make over the course of the season, with his best finish coming at New Hampshire, where he placed second.
Unfortunately, a handful of missed opportunities prevented Sandell’s season from reaching its maximum potential.
Damage early in the Bristol final prevented him from building on his two heat wins there, limiting him to fifth place. Not long after, accidents in the last chance qualifiers at Atlanta and Charlotte relegated him to 11th and 13th place results, dropping him from the top five in points. After overcoming the 12th seed in Las Vegas, Sandell was primed for a good finish to end the season before falling short of the checkered flag and ending up seventh.
The good news was that Sandell didn’t lose any more positions in the standings, and was one of only a select few drivers to boast a top six position through the entire year. The bad news was that he couldn’t capitalize on Scott Speed’s DNF to regain his top five ranking.
It’s hard to identify a driver in the GRC paddock who is more positive than Sandell, whose switch from stage rally to rallycross has come with both ups and downs but has never left him lacking in optimism. He should challenge for victories once again in his second season; after proving his speed from the get-go, competitors should be wary of Sandell as a contender in 2014.
Photo credit: Matthew Kalish (1, 3); QBA/QNIGAN.com (2)]]>
When all was said and done, Eriksson came home fourth in the standings. He was one of only four drivers to make it to every final, alongside Set Promotion teammates Joni Wiman and Alexander Westlund and series runner-up Sebastian Eriksson. He also earned a season-best third place finish in the season opener in New Hampshire.
Unfortunately, despite that show of great talent and potential, bad luck kept those results from being any better.
Eriksson won two heats in 2013—one at Bristol and one at Charlotte—but couldn’t finish strongly in either event. In Bristol, contact on the first lap heading out of the gravel section put the #39 car on its roof. Charlotte was even more heartbreaking: Eriksson broke into the lead early and looked like he would break Wiman’s incredible winning streak, until a flat tire saw him plummet to a season-worst seventh by race’s end.
Four points behind Mitchell deJong heading into the season finale in Las Vegas, Eriksson had a shot at stealing third in the standings. Then the disadvantages of having a well-used car finally came forth: his engine blew in his second heat, his crew had to mount a new engine at lightning speed, he had to advance through the last chance qualifier, and he couldn’t advance past sixth place in the final. Since deJong maintained fifth, the extra position eluded Eriksson in the standings.
2014 will be an important year for Eriksson as he looks to further develop his career. There’s no doubt that his racing pedigree and skill behind the wheel have him poised for a long and successful career, and eventually a ride in Supercars; the only question is if his luck will catch up to his talent next year.
Photo credit: QBA/QNIGAN.com (1, 2); Tom Donoghue (3)]]>
It took a single race for the open-wheel and stock car transplant to find the top step of the GRC podium, as Speed took the gold medal at X Games Brazil. Originally enlisted to appear solely in Brazil as part of a one-off deal, Speed’s performance impressed so many that he was given a deal to compete in all nine races.
The highs were high: a second win at The Dirt Track at Charlotte, a home race for Speed and his family, and five heat victories over the course of the season to go with his gold medal.
But the lows were similarly low: missing the final in Munich and Bristol, a struggle to make it to the final in Los Angeles, and pulling off early in the Las Vegas season finale when most of his rivals conceded that his road racing skills made him the driver to beat.
“In these things, you can be fast—we were pretty fast at Bristol but we didn’t even make the final—so you’ve got to be lucky not to get in any crashes,” Speed said after his second victory of the year. “We stayed out of trouble and got lucky (in Charlotte).”
Lucky or unlucky, it’s hard not to be impressed with the way Speed adapted to yet another form of motorsport.
Interestingly enough, while the majority of his background saw him compete on paved tracks, Speed’s two race victories came on tracks that were almost completely comprised of loose surface material. But his road racing background shone through on the speed charts, as a third seed in Los Angeles and second seed in Las Vegas proved that he could adapt smooth racing lines and tire management to rallycross.
It will be interesting to see if Speed can replicate his initial success in 2014. While two victories and fifth place in his rookie season are nothing to be ashamed of, any driver to make his way to Formula 1 won’t be satisfied with anything less than a championship trophy on his bookshelf at home. So should be Speed in 2014.
Photo credit: Larry Chen (1); QBA/QNIGAN.com (2); Matthew Kalish (3)]]>