FOZ DO IGUACU, Brazil – Gold, Silver and Bronze wasn’t enough for Ford Racing in the X Games Global Rallycross Championship opener as Fiesta swept the top five spots here in Brazil.
GRC rookie Scott Speed earned Fiesta its first win of the season in the OlsbergsMSE Fiesta ‘Star Car.’ He qualified second overall, won his elimination heat, and then made a dramatic last turn pass for the victory.
“It feels unbelievable to win here in Brazil,” said Speed, whose versatility behind the wheel has seen him compete in Formula 1 and NASCAR. “I can’t say how happy I am for my team and the OlsbergsMSE guys that put in all the effort. This was such a new thing for me, so I didn’t know what to expect. To come out here and win is just great. It was a hard race, I definitely got bumped around, and I really thought it would be much easier racing. To win by taking the joker lap on the last corner to pull ahead is really spectacular.
“The first time I drove the Fiesta rallycross car was when I got here to Brazil. The learning curve was difficult, but thankfully it just fit my driving style, which is really good. This has been such a great experience. These cars are the most fun cars I’ve ever been able to drive, and I’ve driven a lot. I really hope that I can continue doing this type of sport.”
Second-year OlsbergsMSE driver Toomas Heikkinen dominated both starts of the final GRC race and led five of the six laps after the final restart. The Bluebeam Fiesta ST took the joker (required shortcut lap) in the first lap, but was eventually passed by Speed on the final lap.
“In the start of the first final I took a risk by taking the first corner on the outside of the field,” said Heikkinen. “That strategy ended up working in my favor because I took the lead from there and avoided the crash on the inside line.
“After the restart of the final, I kept the same strategy and was first off the start line once again. My strategy was to take the joker lap first to gain extra space from the car behind me and it seemed to work because I led every lap until the last. I am very happy about the X Games silver medal and worked hard to get here. Overall, it was a great weekend for me and I am looking forward to continuing success this season.”
GRC rookie Patrik Sandell piloted his OlsbergsMSE Fiesta ST to a third-place finish, securing a Ford podium sweep. Sandell finished third in his elimination heat, forcing him to compete in the last chance qualifier (LCQ) in which he earned second. In the final, Sandell held fourth until ultimately passing teammate Steve Arpin, to earn his first X Games bronze medal.
“I came to the final on the very last opportunity in the LCQ, I was quite disappointed with myself to not qualify better but I learned quickly,” said Sandell. “To go all the way to third from last is just fantastic and I am very happy. We had a restart of the final after a crash, so I just tried to be smart and not drive crazy. It was good to do so well in my first attempt in this series and I can’t wait to get back in the car in Barcelona next month.”
With Steve Arpin in Fiesta and Brian Deegan in Fiesta ST, OlsbergsMSE fielded the top finishing cars.
“It is really nice to have five cars in the top five and three on podium here at our first X games,” said OlsbergsMSE Team Principal Andreas Eriksson. ”The restart was unfortunate because I wished for a 10-car final not a six-car. Tanner’s car was fine and ready to go so it’s hard that he missed the final, but I am pleased all of my drivers and cars did so well.
“Scott Speed was the surprise of the day. He did great and was smart. I learned a lot from Scott and his style of racing. It was lucky that the track was so slick because that really suited his driving capacity.
“I am very happy for Topi to finish second. He came to Brazil and with two days of practice, improved and kept learning. That is always the direction I want my drivers to go and I am happy for him. The sport needs young blood like Topi so it’s great to see his improvements have a success like today.”
After four heats and one LCQ, the GRC final began with a field of 10 cars. By the first corner of the first lap, a crash occurred damaging multiple cars and forcing the early retirement for Fiesta ST drivers Tanner Foust and Ken Block.
Foust, the defending two-time GRC champion, won his elimination heat and advanced to the final before his Rockstar Energy OlsbergsMSE Fiesta ST was forced out of the competition.
“At the start of the first lap in the final there were multiple crashes and I was hit by it seems like everyone,” said Foust. “My wheels and tires went crazy and the race was red flagged. They said in the drivers meeting today that if you had to work on your car you could not re-enter after a red flag. It’s a bummer because I only had about eight minutes of track time in Brazil, just at lot of practice. I’m just glad that there are four of these and this isn’t the only X Games this year and I’ll have another shot.”
Debuting his Hoonigan Racing Division M-Sport built Fiesta ST, Block set the fastest practice lap on the first day. After finishing second in his heat, Block advanced to the final but was also forced out of the competition early.
“Because of qualifying I wasn’t able to get the starting position I wanted,” said Block. “Even if I won my heat today, I still wouldn’t have the optimum starting position so starting on the second line just one car over from the inside was actually a decent starting position. I knew that all I needed was a good launch and then get through the gears, get to the inside and basically follow the number one seed around on the inside. Everything went perfectly to plan. I got a decent launch, got up right where I wanted to be off the dirt, and all of a sudden my car started spinning the other direction. I was turned by one of the cars behind me, the wrong direction and into Tanner and either Deegan or Travis. Unfortunately, one of the impacts there into one of those cars broke my steering so within 100 yards I was out of the race. It was a big bummer because I did everything I could to try to have a good weekend. My team did an incredible job getting me prepared and getting the car perfect.”
The Global Rallycross Championship is back in action at X Games Barcelona on May 19, 2013 in Spain.