Report By: Neil McDaidAtlanta, Ga., August 10, 2013 – Finland’s Toomas Heikkinen continues to be untouchable in the 2013 Global RallyCross Championship, as he runs out front unchallenged in his Bluebeam OlsbergsMSE Ford Fiesta ST for the entire final. Toomas has now unofficially clinched the 2013 Drivers Championship, which we expect will be made official at Charlotte in September thus capping off a fantastic year for Heikkinen and Ford Racing.
Heikkinen who had cruised to victory in his heat race earlier in the day lined out on the front row for the final where he was flanked by fellow Fiesta drivers Ken Block to his right and Tanner Foust to his left. With the track configuration for Atlanta, it seemed that the middle lane was working best for most in the heat races in an effort to avoid the first turn shenanigans, as always Heikkinen made good use of his lane choice.
Foust and Heikkinen launched hard off the line and were neck to neck heading into the first right hander and onto the gravel section, once again Topi would shine taking the perfect line and gaining the advantage on Foust.
Foust and Heikkinen would come together again going though the first left hander, but again the Finn would prevail and maintain the lead.Although there are few that can question the speed and ability of Ken Block on the Global RallyCross tracks, Ken himself can’t seem to get the monkey off his back when it comes to the finals. Ken set fastest times in both qualifying sessions, and posted second fastest to Heikkinen in qualifying, after recovering from a spectacular roll I might add. Ken’s lack of luck in the final continued, Block would stall on the starting line, Ken would eventually get the Hoonigan Racing RX43 Fiesta going but he retired shortly thereafter. Although Ken has yet to take an outright victory in the GRC, he has medaled at XGames Munich and has also made the podium in Bristol.
Back to the front and it was all Heikkinen, chased by Foust then Brian Deegan, both Heikkinen and Foust opted to get the joker out of the way on the first lap, while Deegan took the long way around. From there it was Déjà vu as Heikkinen sailed off the front, although Foust keep pushing and closed the gap on a few occasions, he never at any time had Heikkinen on the ropes and under pressure.
Heikkinen, Foust, Deegan, Speed and Sandell are all run out of the OlsbergsMSE shop in California. One would assume that all the Ford Fiesta ST’s are equal, but if I recall correctly, Marcus Grönholm’s Fiesta always seemed to have a little more than the rest last year.Again not to taking anything from Topi, but his car seems to have that extra little sprinkling of fairy dust, Topi was able to pull away from Tanner with ease on the front straight, and why not, Heikkinen is after all the official OlsbergsMSE team driver.
Subaru who had seen more downs than ups in Global RallyCross in 2013, have finally found their “a” game, the cars are much quicker than in prior events and the drivers are embracing the change.
Dave Mirra, who has qualified for his first GRC final in 2013, was all over Brian Deegan in his heat race, and won the LCQ with a last lap pass. Mirra was taking names on the first lap of the final until he was barged off the track by Scott Speed while sitting in fourth place, thus ending what could have been a podium finish. Speed was issued a black flag for his actions while Mirra slid though the grass to scramble back onto the track.
Dave Mirra’s teammate Sverre Isachsen would overhaul Scott Speed for forth before the end of the second lap. Brian Deegan who had been running strongly in third place, pulled to the side of the track on lap 6 with engine problems, therefore conceding third to the Subaru’s Isachsen.Off the front it was business as usual for the young Finn Heikkinen, who has taking the Global RallyCross scene by storm in 2013. Tanner Foust, who had little or no answer for the speed of Hekkinen, would get a left front puncture on the closing laps; Foust had to turn his attention to protecting his position from the hard charging Sverre Isachsen who was closing the gap for second.
It really hard to take anything away from Tomas Hekkinen, his dominance over the rest of the field in the Global RallyCross has been remarkable. Yes he has had a lot of luck in the first turn, but I have so say his lines are razor sharp and he stays committed no matter what’s going on around him.
“It was quite a different race for me since I am now trying to win the championship,” said Heikkinen,. “I had a really great start in my Ford Fiesta ST in the final race, took the joker on the first lap, and was able to keep the lead.”
“I have come such a long way from last season,” said Heikkinen, “I am confidant once again in the race car and think that I have the best car out there. It is always a battle, but I am very happy to be on top right now.”
The runner-up finish was the second straight for Foust in the Rockstar Energy OlsbergsMSE Ford Fiesta ST and third podium appearance this season.
“This track was really a difficult track and it once again came down to how you did on the start and avoiding collisions in the first corner,” said Foust, “Second never feels great, but I am glad to be on the podium again.
“Topi had a great start. I thought I was gaining on him, but with three laps to go I got a puncture on the front left tire,” continued Foust. “I didn’t realize I had a puncture until I went through the water and was instantly sideways at the top of fifth gear going 100 mph. That’s when I knew there was something wrong and from then on it was a matter of managing the position in second and keeping ahead of the rest of the field.”
For the Subaru Puma team, their hard fought battles throughout the earlier rounds of the 2013 GRC have finally started to pay off, the teams number one driver Sverre Isachsen has now finished on the podium in the last two rounds. “I’m really happy right now. Today was extra good, because we had to go through the LCQ, and in the final I was completely last on the grid” said an elated Isachsen after the final. “So it was even better for me personally to fight, and it was really a hard fight the whole way, of course. Third place this weekend as well is perfect. If you come to the final, everything can happen.”
Dave Mirra was able to overcome been barged off the track on the first lap and clawed his PUMA sponsored Subaru back to forth overall. Mirra spoke regarding his final, “I got spun in the corner after the jump, but I fought back. Things happen in rallycross. I was very, very happy with my pace—I know in the LCQ I was reeling people in the that section, the whole dirt section, so I felt like I showed that I could drive at a fast pace. The crew really, really work hard to get that car dialed, and I’ve been sitting back waiting. Now that it’s here, it’s fun to go out and drive a car that you know is reliable and fast, and you know that you can put some times down. I’m very excited. The Subaru PUMA Rallycross Team did really well. They’re awesome, they work hard, and they get the credit—then I get the car and get to drive it. It’s pretty awesome.”
I for one had some high hopes for the Pastrana/ Dodge Team coming into Atlanta, the team has been going through many of the challenges with the car that like Subaru had been experiencing, were looking for a turnaround at Atlanta. They had called on the services of WRC driver Henning Solberg to team up with Russia RX Champion Timur Timerzyanov to fill in for Pastrana and Bryce Menzies who both had conflicting commitments this weekend. Unfortunately the cars was not on the same plan, booth Solberg’s and Timerzyanov cars gave trouble throughout the day, yielding yet another disastrous outing for the Dodge camp.
For the teams coming off back to back racing weekends, three weekends for Ken Blocks crew [New England Forest Rally] they will be looking forward to a little breather before heading to Charlotte Motor speedway in September. From what we understand, GRC will not utilize the actual speedway this year, but will use the dirt track which is adjacent. For more information and tickets, check out www.global-rallycross.com
GRC ROUND 7 FINAL RESULTS
1. Toomas Heikkinen
2. Tanner Foust
3. Sverre Isachsen
4. Dave Mirra
5. Timur Timerzyanov
6. Brian Deegan
7. Scott Speed
8. Ken Block
9. Steve Arpin
10. Henning Solberg
11. Patrik Sandell Sandell
12. Bucky Lasek
Sources: Global RallyCross / Ford Racing
Sources: Global RallyCross / Ford Racing
Matthew Kalish- GRC /