GRC opener taken by former world champion
Marcus Grönholm won the first round of the Global Rallycross Championship at Charlotte Motors Speedway in North Carolina last night. Run after the NASCAR Nationwide race and before today’s NASCAR feature event.
Winning start to Grönholm’s 2012 season. © CMS/HHP/RallycrossWorld.com
Grönholm breezed through the heats to make it to the final without any problems. Generally the fastest from the outset, Grönholm’s task was made easier as Richard Burton (Subaru) retired from both heats and Ken Block crashed out of the first heat after his Fiesta aquaplaned – a section of the track was watered by way of compensating for the absence of any gravel in the 100% asphalt circuit. Block’s MWRT crew did not get the car fixed for the second heat, in which Grönholm and Subaru’s dave Mirra were the only finishers.
Travis Pastrana made got his Dodge to the final despite crashing out of the first heat after he tangled with Ford driver Brian Deegan. In the second heat Pastrana passed David Binks’ Fiesta to take the win and go to the final along with the Englishman. Tanner Foust (Fiesta) and Stephane Verdier (Hyundai Veloster) went through the heats without any great trouble, to make the final, as did Samuel Hubinette (Saab) and Toomas Heikkinen, the latter getting his Fiesta into the main event at the cost of Andy Scott who went to the last chance qualifier (B final).
Recovering from the turbo problems that had wrecked his practice times, Scott now battled his way into the main event, Hyundai team boss Rhys Millen going with him into the ten-car final. Grönholm led from the start, repeating the earlier tactic of taking the Joker Lap section at the first opportunity and going on to take a clear win. Pastrana ran strongly in the final until he crashed, ending the event classified ninth after Heikkinen [who finished third on the road but had tangled with Pastrana and Mirra on the way] was black flagged. US-based Swede Hubinette was on course for third place in his excellent run with the second Scott-Eklund Saab until he spun and dropped to fifth.
Foust survived a clash with Heikkinen and emerged with second place, the podium completed by Verdier who kept his nose clean and quietly made his way through the field. Scott also made good progress, bagging fourth place ahead of team mate Hubinette, Millen, Binks and Mirra.
The event was run without the ‘gap jump’ feature which was removed from the track during Friday’s practice sessions when it was discovered that the temporary structure was damaging the asphalt of the speedway circuit. The use of temporary barriers also caused problems for some during the event, Block’s Fiesta uffering heavy damage when he hit them and Foust having damaged his Fiesta in practice on Friday when he too had an off.
Result: 1 Marcus Gronholm (Ford Fiesta VII); 2 Tanner Foust (Ford Fiesta VII); 3 Stephane Verdier (Hyundai Veloster); 4 Andy Scott (Saab 93); 5 Samuel Hubinette (Saab 93); 6 Rhys Millen (Hyundai Veloster); 7 David Binks (Ford Fiesta VII); 8 Dave Mirra (Subaru Impreza); 9 Travis Pastrana (Dodge Dart); 10 Toomas Heikkinen (Ford Fiesta VII).