The second round of the 2012 Global Rallycross Championship took place at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend, again in front of a Nascar crowd. And again, Marcus Grönholm maintained his winning record with another clean sweep of qualifying and heat wins before taking maximum points in a dramatic finale, just as he’d done at the previous event in Charlotte.
Marcus led from pole to win his heat, fighting off Travis Pastrana and Andy Scott.
He then joined the first- and second-placed drivers from each of the following three heats as well as two Last Chance Qualifiers. The final grid of ten featured Tanner Foust, Sam Hubinette, Brian Deegan, Scott, Sverre Isachsen, Rhys Millen, David Binks, Ken Block and Stephan Verdier. The six-lap final would include a 30ft jump on every lap, just as in the heats.
The first run was halted by red flags after Isachsen’s Subaru stalled on the jump ramp on lap four. However, it wasn’t the only time the red flags would appear, but the third re-start saw Grönholm dive for the shorter “joker lap” off the line, while his opponents, Foust and Deegan, stayed on a full lap, opting to play their “joker” later.
The strategy and the Finn’s committed pace saw him open and maintain a lead to the flag, giving Marcus his second successive victory in two weeks and a maximum points score.
"What a tough day. I knew at the start that Texas would be different to Charlotte, and it would take a lot more heart to win here. But we did it and it is a great feeling. The seeding and the heats seemed pretty straightforward but the final, with guys like Tanner and Brian, meant I needed to find something special to stay ahead of them. The first and second starts weren’t perfect, so I was fortunate when the red flags came out twice. On the final start, it was perfect, we kept it all together and got over the line first.
“I must thank Best Buy and OMSE, everyone did a brilliant job this weekend. The only thing I want now is physio – I’m not the only one with a sore back after all the jumps, but I hope it made a spectacular show for the fans," said Marcus.
Behind Marcus, Tanner Faust was second, with Brian Deegan, Rhys Millen and David Binks making up the top five to finish in the Hoon Kaboom feature race.
Aside from maximum points, the win ensured an automatic invitation for Grönholm to take his Best Buy Mobile Ford Fiesta to the X Games in Los Angeles on June 30.
"X Games is definitely a highlight of the Global RallyCross season, racing on the roads around the Staples Centre in downtown LA is incredibly cool but only ten of us can go, so it was really important we won today," said Marcus.
Less happy was Monster World Rally Team driver, Ken Block. He appeared poised to move into first place at the start of the GRC final, despite having started on the third row of the grid.
Unfortunately, Marcus Grönholm made contact with Block’s front right corner as he was turning in to the first corner. The fellow Ford driver damaged Block’s suspension in the collision. Yet three laps into the final, with Block fourth overall, Isachsen stopped in front of the 40ft jump and brough out the red flags. At the restart, where Block had to return to the third row of the grid, Block suffered a tire failure after landing the jump, knocking him out of the competition.
The second red flag allowed Block to change the tire himself and re-enter for the third attempt at the final. However, Block’s luck ran out on the first lap when the damaged suspension finally broke after landing the jump.
“Obviously I’m disappointed at how today went,” said Block. “I qualified fourth overall, so thought I was going to have a great weekend. Unfortunately, I didn’t pan out that way and I ran into some bad luck, as well as damaging contact with a Ford teammate that eventually took me out of the race. But that’s racing. I’ll be back for X in a few weeks.”
Top Ten points after round 2 of 6
|1. ||Marcus Grönholm (Ford) ||42 points|
|2. ||Tanner Foust (Ford) ||36 points|
|3. ||Stephan Verdier (Hyundai) ||26 points|
|4. ||Rhys Millen (Hyundai) ||24 points|
|5. ||Sam Hubinette (Saab) ||23 points|
|6. ||David Binks (Ford) ||22 points|
|7. ||Andy Scott (Saab) ||21 points|
|8. ||Brian Deegan (Ford) ||20 points|
|9. ||Dave Mirra (Subaru) ||14 points|
|10. ||Sverre Isachsen (Subaru) ||12 points|