Global Rallycross drivers Tanner Foust and Ken Block talk about finding the perfect racing line. Where does a driver sacrifice time to make up time elsewhere? How does the car feel when they’ve hit the right angle and car setup? Hear firsthand from the stars what it takes to hit the sweet spot on track.
Toomas Heikkinen’s dominance of this Global Rallycross season has been well documented, with his five consecutive victories and seven consecutive podiums the biggest story of the 2013 season. In that span, Heikkinen has also opened up a dominant lead in the Sylvania SilverStar zXe Cup, bringing him to the cusp of a $20,000 bonus to be awarded on September 22 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
In Saturday’s Sylvania SilverStar zXe Global Rallycross at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Heikkinen won the third race of the program, beating Tanner Foust and Sverre Isachsen in a repeat of the X Games Los Angeles podium.
It was Heikkinen’s third win in three zXe Cup events, the others coming at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 11 and Bristol Motor Speedway on July 20. With 63 points, he holds a dominant 20-point lead in the four-race chase.
Ken Block, who had entered Saturday’s event only nine points behind Heikkinen, maintained second place in the standings with 43. He and Heikkinen qualified first and second, and each won both of their heat races, setting up a great challenge in the final. But a broken hose clamp at the start of the main event forced Block to pull off immediately, relegating him to eighth place.
Four drivers—Heikkinen, Block, Tanner Foust, and Brian Deegan—remain mathematically eligible for the zXe Cup in Charlotte. Foust finished second in Atlanta, chasing down Heikkinen until a flat left front tire with three laps to go mitigated his chances. Deegan ran third for most of the final until a mechanical failure ended his race after five of 10 laps.
Full Sylvania SilverStar zXe Cup standings, after three of four races, are as follows:
- Toomas Heikkinen, 63
- Ken Block, 43
- Tanner Foust, 42
- Brian Deegan, 42
- Sverre Isachsen, 40
- Patrik Sandell, 37
- Steve Arpin, 24
- Scott Speed, 23
- Dave Mirra, 23
- Timur Timerzyanov, 21
- Bucky Lasek, 19
- Bryce Menzies, 13
- Travis Pastrana, 10
- Liam Doran, 8
- Henning Solberg, 7
- Nelson Piquet Jr., 7
ATLANTA, GA., August 6, 2013 –Toomas “Topi” Heikkinen may hold the lead in the chase for the SYLVANIA SilverStar® zXe Global Rallycross Cup challenge after winning the first two races, but it will undoubtedly be a tight competition as some of today’s best rallycross drivers attempt to knock Topi out of the No. 1 spot in Atlanta. Drivers like Ken Block, Brian Deegan and Patrik Sandell are hot on Heikkinen’s tail in point standings and anything goes as drivers prep for the third of four races for the SYLVANIA zXe Cup series.
New to GRC in 2013, the SYLVANIA zXe Cup and its $20,000 prize will go to the driver that earns the most championship points in four of the series’ U.S.-based events this season. The first of the final two races for a shot at the SYLVANIA zXe Cup kicks off this Saturday, August 10, at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast live on ESPN 2. The last race in SYLVANIA Automotive Lighting’s four-race chase takes place in Charlotte on September 22.
Heikkinen perhaps has been the biggest surprise, setting records in the overall GRC series and taking home his second gold in the X Games. But drivers like Ken Block and Brian Deegan are not trailing far behind and have been on the podium in recent races. Patrick Sandell and fan favorite Tanner Foust have consistently posted strong results and are notable competitors entering into this next race.
On the manufacturer side, Ford has swept the podium in both of the first two SYLVANIA zXe Cup races. While it may not sit well in garages of the other teams, it will add some flavor to the competition in Atlanta.
“It’s impressive that Topi swept the first two races in the chase for the SYLVANIA zXe Cup, but we’ve also seen some heated competition. GRC is so unpredictable that there is certainly some vulnerability for Heikkinen in that no. 1 spot,” said Joe Verbanic, Sales and Marketing Director, SYLVANIA Automotive Lighting. “Nothing intimidates these drivers, and I’m expecting they will lay it on the line in Atlanta as they position themselves for the finals in Charlotte.”
To see photos from each event and follow the point standings battle for the SYLVANIA SilverStar® zXe Cup, visit\www.facebook.com/SylvaniaAutomotive or Racer’s special SYLVANIA-sponsored Global Rallycross news section. For more information on SYLVANIA Automotive Lighting products, visit www.sylvania.com/auto.
2013 SYLVANIA SilverStar® zXe Cup Point Standings after the Second of Four Events
- Toomas Heikkinen – 41
- Ken Block – 32
- Patrik Sandell – 31
- Brian Deegan – 30
- Sverre Isachsen – 25
- Tanner Foust – 24
- Steve Arpin – 16
- Bucky Lasek – 14
Photo credit: Matthew Kalish
IN BRIEF: X Games Los Angeles will represent the fourth and final opportunity for Global Rallycross drivers to earn medals in 2013, as the event closes out its lengthy history in Southern California before moving to Austin next year.
TUNE IN INFORMATION:
- Sunday, August 4, 5:00 PM ET on ESPN and ESPN 3
ENTRY LIST: Click here for the full entry list.
LAST RACE: Toomas Heikkinen became the first driver in Global Rallycross history to win three consecutive races when he won the Sylvania SilverStar zXe Global Rallycross at Bristol Motor Speedway on July 20. Heikkinen beat Ken Block and Brian Deegan to the finish, while the lapped cars of Sverre Isachsen and Patrik Sandell rounded out the top five.
DRIVER CHANGES: A season-high 18 cars will compete at X Games Los Angeles, including three drivers—Rhys Millen and David Sterckx with Rhys Millen Racing, and Stephan Verdier with Verdier Racing—who will make their season debut. Travis Pastrana will return to the series, enabling Timur Timerzyanov to drive the second Marklund Motorsport Volkswagen Polo alongside the returning Anton Marklund.
THE TRACK: The layout for X Games Los Angeles at Irwindale Event Center is much different than the one that GRC used in its inaugural race at the track in 2011. The eight-turn course begins with a sweeping banked turn, as in Bristol, before ducking into the infield and negotiating a tight dirt section.
HIGH-PROFILE DEBUT: Sunday’s race will mark the Global Rallycross debut for DRR-SH Racing, a partnership between IndyCar teams Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and SH Racing. Dreyer & Reinbold has fielded IndyCars since 2000, while SH Racing was a partner in Tony Kanaan’s Indianapolis 500-winning car this year. They will back Scott Speed and the #77 Ford Fiesta Star Car alongside OMSE2.
THREE FOR THREE: In the first year of multiple Global Rallycross competitions at X Games Events, three different drivers have won gold medals in the three events so far. Scott Speed won at X Games Foz do Iguacu, Liam Doran won at the first X Games Munich race, and Toomas Heikkinen won the second Munich gold. Heikkinen is the only driver to win medals in each event, taking silver at Foz do Iguacu and bronze in the other Munich race.
QUOTES: A selection of quotes in advance of Sunday’s Global Rallycross event at X Games Los Angeles:
Anton Marklund, Driver, #92 Marklund Motorsport Volkswagen Polo: It’s the first time I’m in the US, and it has been a great experience so far. This is the biggest event you can do in a rallycross car, so I’m very excited to be here. I’ve been very quick at the other events. I had second place in Brazil before the red flag, and then I had a puncture, and I was fourth in Munich, so the speed is there. I just need to be a little more lucky, and I’ll have the podium finish—that’s my goal for this race, to finish on the podium.
David Sterckx, Driver, #14 Rhys Millen Racing Hyundai Veloster: I’m here to do a good impression. I’m hoping to be at least in the middle of the field. That will be really good, considering the knowledge I have of the car and GRC. Everything is new (for me)—rallycross is new, GRC is new, the car is new, the team is new. So there are a lot of new things.
Bryce Menzies, Driver, #99 Pastrana Racing Dodge Dart: I’m really looking forward to this race. My first race for Global Rallycross last year was this race, so coming back to it I feel a lot more confident. We’re still struggling a little bit with the cars, but we’re getting there. We’re pushing the cars more and starting to figure some stuff out. We jam pack it all into one day on Sunday—we’ve got practice, then qualifying, then heat races, so it’ll be one busy day. But I’m really looking forward to getting back into the Dodge Dart, and hoping to put it back on the box this weekend.
Dave Mirra, Driver, #40 Subaru PUMA Rallycross Team WRX STI: I’m just excited to be out here in LA, competing in the Global Rallycross event, and hopefully I’ll bring home something substantial. I’d love to get back in the medal count again—it’s been a long time, but hopefully our Subarus are good and put on a good fight.
- Toomas Heikkinen, 96
- Brian Deegan, 62
- Tanner Foust, 61
- Patrik Sandell, 60
- Ken Block, 58
- Ford, 186
- Subaru, 60
- Dodge, 59
Photo credit: Matthew Kalish
2013 has been an up-and-down year for Ken Block and the Hoonigan Racing Division team, but there’s one indisputable fact about the #43 Ford Fiesta ST: it’s incredibly fast. That speed has enabled him to rank fifth in points, including second in the Sylvania SilverStar zXe Cup, through the first half of this Global Rallycross season.
Block posted the fastest seeding times at both New Hampshire and Bristol, enabling him to win each of the past three heat races he’s run. With four heat victories now under his belt, he is tied with points leader Toomas Heikkinen for the most heat wins by a driver this season.
Unfortunately, victory has continued to elude the Head Hoonigan-in-Chief; he was squeezed in the middle lane at the start of the New Hampshire race, eventually dropping to fifth, while the rush to the first corner in Bristol saw Block shuffled back in the order.
The highs of the season so far have come at the first X Games Munich race and Bristol, where Block scored two runner-up finishes. But he suffered a disqualification for rough driving in the second Munich race, due to spinning Sverre Isachsen for fourth place on the final lap. Despite driving all the way from the back of the pack due to a jump start, the error led to Block’s exclusion from the race.
Right now, Block’s 58 points rank him fifth in the series, though it’s easy to wonder what might have been. What if he hadn’t made the mistake against Isachsen, making a clean pass and keeping fourth place points? What if he had one or two more laps in the first Munich race—could he have passed Liam Doran, who had been running on three good tires? What if he had chosen a different lane in New Hampshire—could he have gotten the jump on the start and led from flag-to-flag, as Tanner Foust almost did?
The good news is that, despite how frustrated Block may be with the results so far, his car is one of the best in the series. It shouldn’t be long before luck begins to break his way.
IN BRIEF: Toomas Heikkinen became the first driver to win three consecutive Global Rallycross events when he took the checkered flag at Bristol Motor Speedway, beating Ken Block and Brian Deegan to the victory.
HEAT RECAPS: Global Rallycross returned to a two-heat system in Bristol, with Ken Block winning his heat pair and Patrik Sandell doing the same. But while Scott Speed won the first heat for the third group, a persistent Sverre Isachsen stole the second heat. Toomas Heikkinen, Liam Doran, and Steve Arpin also advanced from the heats; a star-studded last chance qualifier saw Brian Deegan, Tanner Foust, and Timur Timerzyanov advance.
MAIN EVENT RECAP: A rough-and-tumble first lap saw Block lose his top seed and lane advantage to Heikkinen for the second race in a row, though Isachsen also threatened to hold the lead. Heikkinen and Isachsen would make it out of the bottleneck first, though Block would regain second place quickly.
The rest of the race saw what was left of the field attempt to catch Heikkinen to no avail, as Block, Deegan, Isachsen (with a busted exhaust) and Sandell would be the only other finishers. Arpin, Foust, Timerzyanov, and Doran all suffered too much damage to continue beyond the race’s initial laps.
RESULTS: The results of today’s Sylvania Silverstar zXe Global Rallycross at Bristol Motor Speedway:
- Toomas Heikkinen, #57 OlsbergsMSE Ford Fiesta ST
- Ken Block, #43 Hoonigan Racing Division Ford Fiesta ST
- Brian Deegan, #38 OlsbergsMSE Ford Fiesta ST
- Sverre Isachsen, #11 Subaru PUMA Rallycross Team WRX STI
- Patrik Sandell, #18 OlsbergsMSE Ford Fiesta ST
- Steve Arpin, #32 OMSE2 Ford Fiesta
- Tanner Foust, #34 OlsbergsMSE Ford Fiesta ST
- Timur Timerzyanov, #199 Pastrana Racing Dodge Dart
- Liam Doran, #33 LD Motorsports MINI Countryman
- Bryce Menzies, #99 Pastrana Racing Dodge Dart
- Dave Mirra, #40 Subaru PUMA Rallycross Team WRX STI
- Bucky Lasek, #81 Subaru PUMA Rallycross Team WRX STI
- Scott Speed, #77 OMSE2 Ford Fiesta
QUOTES: A collection of quotes from after today’s Sylvania Silverstar zXe Global Rallycross at Bristol Motor Speedway:
Toomas Heikkinen, #57 OlsbergsMSE Ford Fiesta ST: I just tried to get a good start on the grid, and after that I chose the tight line on the inside corner, and that made the difference. Then I didn’t have mirrors on my car! (The win) feels alright, but I still have to concentrate on every race. Like I’ve said before, many times, we have to concentrate race by race. Of course there’s pressure, but I think my gap is quite good.
Ken Block, #43 Hoonigan Racing Division Ford Fiesta ST: Topi came from the second row, didn’t qualify well, didn’t have great heats, and just got through the first turn. It’s just the crapshoot of rallycross. I did everything possible to win, and I just got booted around in the first turn. No matter how much effort you put in, it can still turn out completely the opposite. I’m very confident in what I’m doing in the car—the car is absolutely dialed and my team has worked really hard. The car is working for me perfectly, doing everything I want it to do, and I’m able to find the lines. As long as we can keep doing that, hopefully I can still be in the top range of qualifying, and I’ll keep doing everything I can.
Brian Deegan, #38 OlsbergsMSE Ford Fiesta ST: It was a battle, you know? We had the toughest qualifier. We had (Ken) Block, (Tanner) Foust, and (Toomas) Heikkinen, so it was like a main event. In the second round, we went out there, ended up going with Topi, had a go a few times, and busted up the car. We cracked the frame. I ended up across the finish line third and had to go to the last chance, but the mechanics fixed it up super quick and I went down there. They said to take it easy on the car, so I hung in there, cruised it, and won the last chance qualifier into the main event. That was my first goal. My second goal was, “if I can top three from the back row, I’ll be stoked.” So I came into the start on the inside, battling each other, and it’s kind of who’s the luckiest in the first turn. I came out in fourth or fifth, and I just started being consistent, trying to keep the car alive because it was shaking so bad—I was in survival mode. Guys started falling off, and I got up to third. There will be more wars to battle, X Games is coming up, and that’s the one I want to win. I know I have the speed to do it, it just comes down to a lot of luck.
Sverre Isachsen, #11 Subaru PUMA Rallycross Team WRX STI: I was first for about five meters! That was the difference in the final. But somebody hit me quite hard in the rear and broke my exhaust. So I was in the lead, but the car was not running well. All of the other guys see that we’re coming up now, and trying to push the limit every time. The team is working really hard now, and doing the best we can do with this car. It’s getting better and better in every race. And to stay in the first row in the main is very good.
FAST FACTS: A collection of facts from today’s Sylvania Silverstar zXe Global Rallycross at Bristol Motor Speedway:
- This is Toomas Heikkinen’s third career Global Rallycross victory, and his third in a row. He is the first driver in Global Rallycross history to win three consecutive main events. He is also the third driver in GRC history to score five consecutive podium finishes (Tanner Foust, 2011; Brian Deegan, 2012).
- Ford swept the podium for the third time this season (X Games Brazil, New Hampshire). All four OlsbergsMSE drivers, Ken Block, and Scott Speed have stood on a podium for Ford this season.
- Ken Block finished second for the third time in his Global Rallycross career, and second time in 2013. He also finished second at X Games Los Angeles in 2012 and the first X Games Munich event this season.
- Brian Deegan scored his second consecutive podium finish (both were third place finishes). Deegan now has nine career podiums in 14 Global Rallycross starts, including a win in the second round at X Games Los Angeles in 2011.
- Subaru PUMA Rallycross Team had its most successful weekend of 2013. Sverre Isachsen scored the team’s first heat victory in Heat 2C, and its best finish of the year by finishing fourth. It was Isachsen’s best finish since his third place run at Las Vegas in September of last year.
- For the first time in his Global Rallycross career, Tanner Foust failed to finish in the top six of a race. Foust was scored seventh after the main event.
- Toomas Heikkinen, 96
- Brian Deegan, 62
- Tanner Foust, 61
- Patrik Sandell, 60
- Ken Block, 58
SYLVANIA SILVERSTAR ZXE CUP POINTS:
- Toomas Heikkinen, 41
- Ken Block, 32
- Patrik Sandell, 31
- Brian Deegan, 30
- Sverre Isachsen, 25
- Ford, 186
- Subaru, 60
- Dodge, 59
Photo credit: Matthew Kalish
Check the speed charts in a Global Rallycross practice or qualifying session, and chances are you’ll see Ken Block’s name atop the list.
The GRC Supercars driver, “Gymkhana” video star, and World Rally Championship veteran has a knack for putting down fast laps in the #43 Hoonigan Racing Division Ford Fiesta ST, as he did in yesterday’s practice sessions at Bristol Motor Speedway. Block turned a lap of 28.163 seconds, followed by a provisional time of 28.296 seconds in qualifying—both session bests.
“The track here is one of the most unique tracks I’ve driven on with this type of racecar,” Block noted. “In the last race at New Hampshire, I was able to use what I know of race craft to set the fastest time in qualifying, but looking at this track, all that’s kind of thrown out the window. Finding the fastest spot on the bank coming out of these corners is going to be really, really important. The bank, they claim, is up to 36 degrees in some spots, so what’s going to be quicker—lower or higher on the bank—is going to be really important.”
Block’s goal, as always, is to win; judging by his speed, there’s a good chance that he’ll be back on the front row in Saturday’s Supercars final. After a disappointment at New Hampshire, coming home fifth, he’ll be as motivated as ever to maintain the top spot.
“The main thing about New Hampshire was that we were dealing with water on the track and painted lines,” he explained. “I took a little bit of a risk by taking the middle position on the front row, and I just ended up getting pushed out in the first turn. Unfortunately, that’s just a part of rallycross.
“I had a perfect day until that happened, and it was really disappointing. The main thing is you have to take every little bit of what happens in these events and learn from it. Hopefully I can take the lessons I learned and do better the next time.”
While last week may not have worked out the way he wanted it to, Block’s strategy hasn’t changed all that much in Bristol. One unlucky break at New Hampshire won’t affect his mindset for future events—especially if he keeps landing on the front row.
“A lot of the time it’s about gauging risks,” he added. “That’s what I was trying to do at the start line. What I thought (at New Hampshire) was, I could potentially get a better jump on Topi (Heikkinen), because the middle line was cleaner and had no painted lines or water. But he got a great start, and that’s what changed my entire day!”
Global Rallycross returns to American soil for the first time in 2013, competing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the second year in a row. GRC TV recaps a busy Wednesday in the paddock, as teams prepare for a full day of practice, seeding, and racing on Thursday.
Last year’s Global Rallycross event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was a race to forget for two of the sport’s biggest stars. While Travis Pastrana celebrated his only victory of the 2012 season, Ken Block and Tanner Foust were left wondering what might have been.
“Last year, one of the big issues was that I had a difficult start—somebody shoved me into some very big tires,” noted Block, whose damage forced him to race in the last chance qualifier. “I think that some of the guys that were a bit worse on the starts, like the guy who took me out last year, are not here this year.
“So I’m hoping that we’ll have a better track, and a smaller field with better drivers, and hopefully we have a really good race.”
Block’s chances of winning were slim in the final due to the sheer amount of repairs needed in such a short time, but he still made it up to fifth. Foust, meanwhile, saw a win slip through his fingers after an ill-timed stall during the main event, and fell from the lead to fourth place.
“I had the lead, and on the wood banked corner that goes over the pit wall, I pulled the handbrake,” Foust explained. “It actually locked up all four tires and stalled the engine—not the easiest engines to refire. And Pastrana bumped me enough until I could dump the clutch while he was pushing me, to refire it.
“That was kind of a tough learning experience. I’m not going to let that happen again this year.”
Fortunately for both drivers, the first American event of the season comes at a time where each has built decent momentum. Block scored a silver medal in the first race at X Games Munich, while Foust’s bronze medal in the second event enabled him to climb to third in points. But what will it take for the two drivers to build off of their current momentum?
“It’s going to take me not making a stupid mistake like I did on Sunday (in Munich),” said Block. “I jumped the start—all I did was move a few feet forward and stop—and that was enough to put me in the penalty box. This weekend, for me, is really focusing on eliminating any mistakes and really trying to go for my first win in rallycross.”
“(New Hampshire) was a point in the season last where I put my head down and definitely got after it,” added Foust, “and now would be a good time to do the same thing again this year.”
Photo credit: Matthew Kalish
Global Rallycross may be using the same track layout in both races of the X Games Munich doubleheader, but that doesn’t mean that drivers don’t have to adapt as they go. To wit: Saturday’s event featured a wet racetrack, forcing many drivers to become acclimated very quickly with new tires, a changing track, and a different set of challenges than in a dry race.
“I just had to drive a lot more careful,” said Ken Block, who took the silver medal in Saturday’s race. “It’s just really, really slick. These are tires and situations we haven’t tested for. We only had a short bit of practice and qualifying today, and it was straight into racing.
“It’s something, though, that as rally and rallycross drivers, we have to adapt to very quickly. So the guys, I think, that have more experience with some of those conditions excel.”
Liam Doran won the race in a MINI Countryman, the first time that he was able to compete in GRC in his new car. “The car is good, the track design suits the MINI, and the track conditions definitely suit the MINI, where we’re running less weight and less power,” he explained.
But Sunday’s event, by all indications, will be a dry event, meaning drivers will have to handle the track in a different manner. Anton Marklund finished fourth on Saturday, but he feels that he is even better prepared for a dry track on Sunday.
“We did a lot of changes to the car to get it working,” Marklund said after Saturday’s race, “but we didn’t get the perfect setup anyway. So we have something to think about until tomorrow. But also, I think this setup will be perfect if we have a dry track.
“We have to pick up in the starts, but I think otherwise we have the right driving style and everything. I will have another driving style if we have dry tarmac tomorrow. It will be more like racing lines, not as wide and dramatic.”
Photo credit: QBA/QNIGAN.com