The faithful fans that stayed at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Global RallyCross event expecting some excitement and action weren’t disappointed in the heats at all.The first heat included Marcus Gronholm, Ken Block, Dave Mirra and Richard Burton. Gronholm in his Best Buy Ford Fiesta and Block in his Monster World Rally Team Ford Fiesta took the joker on the first lap while Subaru’s Mirra and Team 41’s Burton decided to wait and go over the jump. The jump had been a topic of conversation for two days. In the end, it’s more of a “hill” and not a gap jump although Ken Block tried to make it a true flying jump on the second lap.
Gronholm led from the start and continued to lead despite Burton being stopped on the track in front of him and then clipping a barrier. He need not worry as Ken Block, who was on his heels, didn’t get the grip he needed in the water with three laps to go and hit a barrier breaking a steering arm and ending his heat. The race was stopped at that point with the finishing order of Gronholm, Block, Mirra and Burton. Block vows to be back before the end of the night. The second bracket heat saw Gronholm easily taking the win without any pressure from Mirra, who also advanced to the final.In the second grouping of heats, Subaru’s Sverre Isachsen created a jump start during the first heat and was sent to the back of the line for a restart. Tanner Foust in the Rockstar Energy Ethnies Ford lead Stephan Verdier in the Motorcity Disney XD Hyundai Veloster through the joker lap. Pat Moro had problems from the gun and limped his car around to get off the track. Sverre Isachsen blasted through the joker in the second lap and, as he joined the leaders he ended up in second place, ahead of Verdier. They continued around the course in that order to finish with Ford taking another heat win.
The second heat of this group saw Tanner Foust take the heat without any real pressure from Stephan Verdier who finished in second as the track started to cool off. Isachsen didn’t get off the line well; he jumped off the line and seemed to break something in the gearbox. He would finish fourth.The third grouping of heats included Travis Pastrana who is doing a double; the Nationwide race earlier in the day and now the RallyCross event. He took the line in the new Dodge Dart. Alongside Pastrana was Brian Deegan in the Rockstar Energy Metal Mulisha Ford, David Binks in the Best Buy Ford Fiesta and Tim Rooney in the PMR Motorsports Subaru. The gun went off and Deegan and Pastrana rocketed off the line into the joker. Deegan hit the second turn and slid a bit in the water and Pastrana, “got in the inside of Brian” and the two bumped off each other. Pastrana, for the third time today, slid into the infield with a broken steering arm where he stayed until the finish of the heat. With three laps to go, Binks took the joker lap and closed the gap on Deegan. Rooney took the joker on the last lap, but neither were a match for Deegan in the end. Ford notched a third heat win.
The next time this group met, saw Pastrana was back on track with a fire in him and some moves from his NASCAR racing. While Brian Deegan had some issues with his transmission, Binks over cooked it into the corner where Travis went wheel-to-wheel and door-to-door with him to capture the lead. With Deegan out, Pastrana took the win to get into the final.
The last grouping of heats saw Toomas Heikkinen and Samuel Hubinette take the joker in the first lap, which seems to be the magical way to get around the track. They finished in that order with Rhys Millen in the RMR Hyundai in third and Andy Scott of Scot-Eklund Racing in a Saab in fourth and Bucky Lasek in his first RallyCross rounding out the group after a spin in the infield.
The next time the group met, sparks flew and everyone was going flat out to get into the final. The win went to Samuel Hubinette in the Saab after a pass using the infield grass to go by Toomas Heikkinen with Andy Scott in the third position.
Into the final: Gronholm, Mirra, Foust¸Pastrana, Binks, Verdier, Heikkinen and Hubinette. The rest go to the Last Chance Qualifier.
Report by: Donna M. Tocci
Report by: Donna M. Tocci