Tag Archives: Subaru PUMA Rallycross Team

Global Rallycross Mid-Season Review: Subaru PUMA Rallycross Team

After a frustrating 2012 season that saw Subaru PUMA Rallycross Team score only one podium in 19 starts between four drivers, the goal for 2013 was to be a more competitive team overall. Though bad luck has still plagued them this season, there’s no doubt that Sverre Isachsen, Bucky Lasek, and Dave Mirra are more competitive this year than in the last one.

Subaru’s season started a round later than the rest of the paddock, making their first starts at X Games Munich after missing X Games Foz do Iguacu and being unable to compete in the rain-cancelled X Games Barcelona event. The first Munich race ended in disappointment, as no Subarus made it into the main event.

Things appeared to turn around when Isachsen made it to the main event in the second Munich race, but the race ended in frustration yet again when Ken Block turned Isachsen around with less than half a lap to go in the final. The incident cost Subaru a sure-fire fourth place finish, but the speed that Isachsen demonstrated proved that the cars were more competitive than last year.

Both Isachsen and Lasek made the main event in New Hampshire, making up for a left front hub issue that prevented Mirra from building upon his spot atop the charts in the first practice session. Isachsen finished sixth, while Lasek would have scored a top five run if not for damage that caused his motor to quit working just short of the finish.

Bristol was another up-and-down weekend for the team, with neither Mirra nor Lasek making the final. But Isachsen made up for it by charging into the first turn, coming out of the carnage second, and preserving fourth place despite a damaged exhaust.

X Games Los Angeles will be the real test of just how far Subaru has come. Mirra is X Games’ all-time leading medalist, while Lasek has swept the past three skateboard vert competitions this year. Isachsen may stand the best chance of medaling among the three, but a strong showing would go a long way towards establishing the team as a bona-fide contender for victories down the road.

Photo credit: QBA/QNIGAN.com

Lasek Making Strides Towards the Front with Subaru

2012 marked Bucky Lasek’s first season of Global Rallycross competition, racing alongside three-time European rallycross champion Sverre Isachsen and stage rally and X Games veteran Dave Mirra with the Subaru PUMA Rallycross team. By all accounts, it was a learning year, as the popular skateboarder-turned-race driver got acclimated with a brand new form of motorsports.

Fast forward a year and a half, and Lasek has quietly developed into one of rallycross’ most interesting drivers—and perhaps a dark horse pick to score strong finishes as the year progresses.

“I think I’ve just been more aggressive,” said Lasek, who currently ranks 13th in series points. “I think being patient and not making mistakes was my big issue in the beginning part of my driving. I’ve raced cautious up until now, but it’s time to pick up the pace. The car is more reliable and more drivable now, so it’s just a matter of time before we get some top fives.”

In the past five races in which he’s competed, Lasek has made it to four finals. That’s as many as teammates Isachsen and Mirra, two drivers with far more experience in the sport, have made combined. Lasek was also on the way to his first-ever top five finish at New Hampshire before terminal damage to the motor prevented him from finishing the event; he was scored in eighth at race’s end.

“Something sheared my drive belt,” he noted. “I’m not sure what it was, if it was something that flew in or maybe a hit that I took. But something sheared the drive belt, and I lost the motor with two laps to go.”

As for Bristol, the most unique feature of the track is its steep banking in the corners. But Lasek, who has spent a portion of 2013 testing stock trucks on ovals, may be better suited than most drivers for the challenge—and with it may come that first top five.

“From what I’ve learned about banking, you don’t even realize it’s banking,” he explained. “You just take it flat out—it’s like you’re driving a straight line down the straightaway. I think transition points are going to be key, coming off the banking and going onto the banking.

“Lines, momentum, braking zones, all that stuff is basically what we’re looking at. If you look at the steering wheel, it’s barely turned.”

Photo credit: Matthew Kalish

Spotter’s Role Crucial to Global Rallycross Success

One of the key differences between stage rally and rallycross is the absence of a co-driver, as the courses are short enough to be easily memorized without pace notes. But with the addition of other cars on track, racing side by side, drivers still have a voice in their ear during the race: that of the spotter.

For Subaru PUMA Rallycross Team, David Higgins has filled the role for the past two years, predominantly serving Dave Mirra in 2012 and Bucky Lasek this season. Himself an accomplished driver, having won four rally championships in the United States and a bronze medal at X Games Los Angeles in 2011, Higgins’ understanding of the sport is a crucial element to his team on race day.

“I come on the events with the drivers to be another pair of eyes from a driving coach point of view, to be able to see what’s going on,” Higgins explains. “(I’ll) look what other cars are doing, look when another team or another driver is doing some lines a little bit faster. Then I can relay that back.”

Depending on the driver, the role of the spotter can still be significantly varied during a race. As an experienced rally driver, Higgins’ background is significantly different than those of Mirra and Lasek. Their needs in the car, therefore, as just as disparate.

“When I was doing the driving, I had my (Rally America) co-driver (Craig Drew), so we’ve got a relationship, we know what to do,” Higgins notes. “Sometimes, when I was driving the events, I would speak to Craig and I’d say ‘I’m going to try driving this corner a very neat, efficient way, and I’m also trying it a bit more flamboyant. Can you let me know which is the fastest one once we’ve done it a few times?’ So we’d have a pre-structured thing of what we were going to do.

“But since Dave and Bucky haven’t got that level of experience yet, you can’t go out and ask them to drive two laps one way and two laps the other way, because they want to use every lap they can to get the maximum out of that session.

“Even the difference between English terms and American terms—we talk in the same language, but (have a) completely different use of it. So we have to adapt.”

Though he may work mostly with Lasek, Higgins isn’t assigned to a single car within the team. “I’m here to help all the drivers—it just happens to be that I’m with Bucky at the moment. It’s not like a set thing that you can only work with that guy, we’re here to help the team do the best job they can do.”

That was never more apparent than at X Games Munich, when both Mirra and Lasek spun in Saturday’s last chance qualifier and failed to advance. But while fans only saw the two Subarus turned alongside one another, Higgins had been trying desperately to communicate with both drivers behind the scenes.

“There’s not an awful lot you can say in those situations. Unfortunately, when Dave spun and Bucky spun next to him, I was trying to tell Dave ‘tell Bucky to go wide because of what happened.’ But you know you’re having a bad day when your radio goes flat. He couldn’t even hear me! So he ended up parking next to him.”

No matter whose radio he’s using, Higgins notes that it’s important not to overcommunicate with a driver.

“I know from a driving point of view, when you’re driving these cars, you’re very busy—there’s a lot going on. You don’t want to be hearing too much information. It’s more for reminding them when they’re coming to start procedures, if there’s a part of the track that’s wet or dry, or a different line you can take. It’s trying to keep it as simple as possible.

“The benefit of being a driver and a spotter is, you know what you want to listen to, and you know what you need. You can slow a guy down very, very easy by feeding him too much information and making him too cautious.

“I go on the basis of ‘if they can see it, I don’t need to say it.’”

Photo credit: QBA/QNIGAN.com

Teams Complete Weekday Test Sessions In Preparation For X Games Barcelona

With only a single day of track time—including practice, seeding, and the race itself—X Games Barcelona offers a unique challenge to the teams of Global Rallycross: trying to make the car as fast and driveable as possible in the shortest amount of time.

Those limitations inspired numerous teams to head out of the city over the course of the weekend, bringing their cars to various locations in order to experiment and gather data.

The biggest event, staged by Ford, took place at the Parcmotor circuit in Castelloli. Five Fiesta ST drivers, including Tanner Foust, Brian Deegan, Patrik Sandell, and Toomas Heikkinen of OlsbergsMSE and Ken Block of Hoonigan Racing Division, used the time both to shake down their cars and promote the race to the media.

“We were on kind of a large go-kart track that actually worked well for testing tight turns in the rallycross cars,” said Foust. “It was mainly a media event for Ford, and we gave many people rides. We didn’t really change the cars much because it was tarmac and it didn’t really affect how we would run the car here. But it showed us any weak links in the motor package and made sure the cars were running, and it was a ton of fun.”

“I did two days of testing and this media day all combined,” adds Block. “It was a very cool facility. I got to do some testing on a nice little kart track, and it was just trying to keep progressing the setup of what we have on our current car and test some things for launches, that type of stuff.”

“I just focused on myself and finding the speed in the car,” continued Sandell, “because the test was completely on tarmac and (the race) is completely on dirt. We just kept the setup we had from Brazil and tried to get the good feeling from the driver’s seat. I found a really good feeling, so I’m confident.”

But the Ford teams weren’t the only ones who took to the track to prepare for the tight Barcelona circuit. The Subaru PUMA Rallycross team, which will make its season debut on Sunday, sent all three of its cars to Circuit Can Padro.

“(We) took the first part of the day to go through all the cars, all the systems, and made sure everything was okay and ready for race day—that the cars are making full power and doing everything that they should,” said Clint Fast, team manager. “And we spent the second part of the day working on some things that we think are going to be important on this track. We all know that it’s going to be fairly low grip out there. The dirt is quite wet, the circuit is 90% dirt, which for us is a difference from last year, where we were 90% pavement. So we focused in on making the cars driveable in a low-grip situation.”

Meanwhile, Marklund Motorsport and Global Rallycross newcomer Carlos Sainz had their own test session in Lleida in order to prepare for Sunday’s race. Primary driver Anton Marklund served as one of Sainz’s engineers on the test and was pleased to report significant improvements.

“We were trying to get better suspension and more of the power in the ground in that test,” explained Marklund. “It was all gravel, and it was pretty loose, so I think it will be like here. We had two longer corners and a lot of hairpins. What we were without was the jump, but the car was jumping pretty good in Brazil, so I think the car will fit to this track.”

Marklund also praised Sainz, the two-time World Rally champion and 2010 Dakar Rally victor, on his ability to bring the car up to speed. “He has so much time in a rally car, and he’s so experienced, that he can really teach both me and the team a lot of stuff. He has worked with and developed the Polo WRC, so he knows how to get the car quicker and quicker.”

Subaru PUMA Rallycross Teammates Look Forward To X Games, 2013 Season

The stars of the Subaru PUMA Rallycross Team—Sverre Isachsen, Bucky Lasek, and Dave Mirra—are no stranger to conquering tough competition. Mirra and Lasek have a combined 41 X Games medals, including Lasek’s gold in Skate Vert on Thursday, while Isachsen has three European rallycross titles.

But Global Rallycross is a whole different animal for this three-headed monster, who come into Sunday’s event at X Games Barcelona looking to carry over lessons learned from 2012. Yesterday, we looked back at last season and the improvements the team has made in offseason testing; today, they look forward to X Games and the rest of the season:

You’ll be making your season debut in Barcelona as part of Global X Games. How do you feel about racing internationally in Global Rallycross for the first time?

Bucky Lasek, Driver, #81: It’s a big deal, X Games Barcelona is our first race of the season and it’s going to feel awesome to get back in our cars again.

Dave Mirra, Driver, #40: Super excited. I can’t wait to see how my new Subaru STI will perform. Not to mention we will be in Spain. Unbelievable.

Sverre Isachsen, Driver, #11: It’s awesome to drive for Subaru PUMA Rallycross Team in Europe also. Rallycross is huge in Europe, and I think the races in X Games will be very popular. My dream is a World Rallycross Championship with GRC, X Games and the European Rallycross RX Championship in few years.

You’ve been at the top of your sport before, and you’re no stranger to winning big events. How do you feel about having extra chances to win medals at X Games? Do you make a bigger deal about running those events?

SI: I have the same approach to every race, and try not to think about the size of the event. But, of course, I know that the X Games is a big deal, and a gold medal from X Games would fit nice among my three European titles. But I also hope to be able to fight for the GRC driver’s title this season.

DM: X Games has always been the biggest deal throughout my career. I have always taken X games very seriously in BMX and I do the same with racing. If I can win another rally medal that would be so sick.

BL: As an action sports athlete X Games has always been like the Olympics to me. I’ve had a great start this season in winning Gold (in Skate Vert) in Brazil, and really look forward to carrying that momentum into Rallycross. It’s going to be an exciting year.

As far as the rest of the schedule goes, where are you looking forward to racing the most this year?

BL: I can’t pick one spot over another due to how much I just love to race, I have friends coming out to just about every race so they all are going to be fun.

SI: X Games in Los Angeles is always fun, and there are some new and interesting tracks on the calendar. To race at the “World’s last big coliseum” at Bristol Motor Speedway will be awesome.

DM: I’m really looking forward to the global stops, Barcelona and Germany. What an opportunity!

Finally, have you set any goals for this season? Where do you expect to be at the end of the year?

DM: I will always have a goal to be competitive. With our newly updated Subaru Rallycross car, there is no doubt we will very satisfied at the end of the season.

SI: Last year was a learing year for us. This year I hope to fight for podiums in most races, and who knows. Maybe we can end the season on top?

BL: My goals are simple, podiums and finishing the year within the top 7. Check your mirrors…..

For the first part of the interview with Subaru PUMA Rallycross Team, click here.

Race Preview: X Games Barcelona

The first round of the Global Rallycross season at X Games Foz do Iguacu saw surprises at every corner, resulting in a series newcomer taking the win and many new drivers scoring strong finishes. Now, the drivers and teams of the sport attempt to get into a rhythm for the rest of the year as they enter the second event of the year, X Games Barcelona.

Like in Foz do Iguacu, the Barcelona track will be mostly comprised of dirt, with a concrete frontstretch. The clockwise figure-8 layout features cars jumping over another section of the track, giving fans the high-flying action they expect from Global Rallycross.

Scott Speed will return to the #77 Ford Fiesta Star Car from Rdio and OMSE, attempting to back up his gold medal from the first event of the year. In all, 11 of the 15 drivers who competed in Brazil will also be present in Spain, with six new additions to the field.

Key among the new additions are the three members of the Subaru PUMA Rallycross Team, who will be making their season debuts in Barcelona. Three-time European champion Sverre Isachsen, all-time X Games medal leader Dave Mirra, and X Games Brazil vert skateboarding gold medalist Bucky Lasek will each begin their second season of Global Rallycross competition with high hopes.

Also joining the series in Barcelona will be rallying legend Carlos Sainz. The two-time World Rally champion, who ranks first all-time in that series with 196 starts and third with 26 wins, will join Marklund Motorsport to drive a Red Bull-backed Volkswagen Polo. Sainz will race with #303, the same number he used to win the 2010 Dakar Rally with VW.

The other newcomers boast a wealth of off-road experience as well. 2004 Dakar Rally winner Nani Roma will bring his PCR Team Mini, while Guilherme Spinelli will be behind the wheel of a Mitsubishi Evo prepared by X Team Racing.

Liam Doran posted the fastest time in seeding in Brazil in a Citroen DS3, but he’ll bring another vehicle to Barcelona—a former World Rally-spec Mini Cooper Works built by the legendary Prodrive team. Doran has expressed confidence in the new car’s speed; meanwhile, the legendary team looks to add rallycross trophies to its mantle, having already seen success in rally, sports car racing, and Formula 1.

The full entry list is below:

Subaru PUMA Rallycross Team to Make 2013 Debut at X Games Barcelona

Fans of the Subaru PUMA Rallycross team will have plenty of reason to smile this weekend, as the three-car team makes its return to Global Rallycross at X Games Barcelona.

Drivers Sverre Isachsen, Dave Mirra, and Bucky Lasek will all return to the team after a 2012 season that saw the team focus on car development. Subaru finished third in manufacturer’s points, while three-time European champion Isachsen scored a podium finish at Las Vegas in September.

In advance of their return to rallycross competition, all three drivers sat down to talk about the 2013 season:

Last year was a development year for the car and team. What were some of the most important things you learned about racing in Global Rallycross over the course of that season?

Bucky Lasek, Driver, #81: Rallycross definitely takes a bit more of an aggressive driving style. The thing that sticks out the most is how quickly you have to adapt and learn the tracks with so little practice.

Dave Mirra, Driver, #40: Throughout the season last year I learned it really came down to a bit of luck plus having a reliable rallycross car to win.  Every race is so unpredictable.

Sverre Isachsen, Driver, #11: One of the most important things for me was to learn the American tracks. They’re quite different from the ones we drive in Europe, which are permanent rallycross tracks. The ones in the US are mainly built on the front stretch on NASCAR speedways and that was something different, but very fun. It also took some time to learn a new car, after several seasons with another one in Europe. But we showed some really good pace in the last races, and the testing this winter has also been very encouraging.

How much testing have you been able to do in the offseason? How much different does this year’s car feel from last year’s?

Mirra: The team has been working non-stop on the cars in the off-season and we got to test the cars prior to Barcelona a few weeks ago.  So far it feels strong, really strong with some big improvements.

Lasek: I tested our new Subaru just prior to it shipping it off to Barcelona. The car is completely rebuilt and received major changes in the off-season. It feels very different, in a great way, along with being stronger and more reliable.

Isachsen: I had a very good test prior to Barcelona and the car feels better than last year’s. The team has done a fantastic job this winter, and the car is better in every area.

With the greater amount of dirt on the circuit this year, will the car require significant adjustments? Do you have to alter your driving style for the different tracks?

Isachsen: Dirt is what I’m used to from the European circuits, so I look forward to more dirt this season. Of course we will have to adjust the car a bit, but what we do is top secret. Every track requires a special driving style. In rallycross you tend to be aggressive, but it’s better to be more smooth when there’s more tarmac.

Lasek: I think the dirt will benefit the Subaru due to our longer wheelbase and setup.  Much improved suspension is one of the new changes our team cars all received in the off-season so we will be adjusting setups a bit, but that is a normal thing when we prepare for all the different tracks.

Mirra: I’m really excited about the amount of dirt. I’ve done four years of stage rally (with Subaru Rally Team USA) so that can be an advantage for me going into my first race of the season. The only downside is the possibility of dust.

Check back tomorrow for the second part of our exclusive interview with the Subaru PUMA Rallycross Team.