Tuesday, 23 September 2014

LA double header shakes up Red Bull GRC title battle

The Red Bull Global Rallycross circus moved onto it's home city of Los Angeles last weekend for the series' only double header event of the season.

With two full events in as many days, the teams were faced with challenges they've yet to face this year with the cars taking twice the punishment they would any other race weekend.

Saturday saw a return to winning ways for former championship leader Scott Speed. The Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross driver posted the second fastest time in qualifying before going on to take two heat wins.

Speed's team mate Tanner Foust also took a heat win behind the wheel of the team's new Beetle in what was it's first event. The other three heat wins went to Steve Arpin, Joni Wiman and Travis Pastrana - who made a return to the series in LA.

While Speed got back on form, the first leg of the LA event didn't get off to a great start for his championship rivals Ken Block and Nelson Piquet Jr.

A penalty for Piquet saw him drop to third in his first heat before finishing fifth in his second. Block meanwhile fought back from a spin in his first heat to take fourth before battling through to second in his second heat.

In the final Speed won ahead of Wiman and Block with Daytona winner Rhys Millen continuing his strong run of form with fourth. With both Speed and Block on the podium and Piquet's failure to advance to the final, the top three in the championship went into Sunday covered by just 10 points - Piquet and Block separated only by Block's greater number of wins.

Piquet's championship hopes took another hit when he missed out on the final along with Subaru pair Sverre Isachsen and Bucky Lasek as well as Emma Gilmour.

Tanner Foust's weekend ended early after eight laps of the final with engine issues forcing him onto the sidelines.

"We came into Los Angeles as a team to learn about this new car by putting it out on the track under racing conditions. The results are very encouraging" said Foust. "What happened in the final was exactly the kind of thing you only discover under racing conditions".
On Sunday Rhys Millen was the victor, making it two wins in the last three events for the Hyundai driver.

Wiman and Block were once again on the podium, this time with Block in second. Their combined four podiums were enough to see Ford clich a fourth consecutive manufacturer's crown.

Sverre Isachsen and Bucky Lasek bounced back from missing out on Saturday's final to take fourth and fifth ahead of a wounded Scott Speed. 

Patrick Sandell, Travis Pastrana, Piquet Jr. and Austin Dyne -who was yet to miss out on a final this year - rounded out the top ten.

Emma Gilmour, Steve Arpin and Foust all missed out on the final - Arpin sustained damage in his semi final while Foust sat out after the earlier engine issues that ended the previous day for him.

After coming to LA with a 40 point lead, Nelson Piquet Jr. left LA languishing in fourth, 34 points adrift of Block, who's fourth and fifth consecutive podiums ensured that the ever-improving head Hoonigan left LA top of the drivers standings with 299 points.

"We’ve got two events left and really just have to focus on (Joni Wiman), who’s being really consistent, and watching what he’s doing." Said Block. "We’re trying to be near him or ahead of him, especially for the next event, to hopefully set up a bigger points lead going into the final event."

Joni Wiman's brace of podiums saw him jump to second in the championship, ahead of Speed who battled back from turbo issues which left him slow off the line during Sunday's event.

"It’s so great to be here. To be honest, I didn’t expect to do this well my first year, but of course I’m happy." Added Wiman "It’s everything for me to get a good start on the weekend, feel it out fast, and get happy with the car, and then it’s just rolling on."

The Red Bull GRC series now faces another quick turnaround before they return to the Dirtfish Rally School this weekend for the penultimate round of the season.

Images - Larry Chen, Red Bull Content Pool, Red Bull GRC

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