X Games Munich RallyCross gold medalist Toomas “Topi” Heikkinen earned his second consecutive Global Rallycross Championship victory Thursday night with a dramatic pass of Tanner Foust on the final turn at New Hampshire Motor Speedway as GRC racing returned to the United States for the first time this year.
Foust — the two-time defending GRC champion who is winless in 2013 — looked to be on track for a wire-to-wire win after a convincing hole shot. But Foust locked up his brakes going into the final, hairpin turn and crashed into the guard rail to allow Heikkinen to pass him for the lead. Patrick Sandell and Brian Deegan then moved into second and third, respectively, at Loudon, N.H.
The joker “shortcut” had a twist for this GRC stop. In the season’s previous RallyCross races at the X Games, the joker lap was a shortcut that drivers could take once per race to make up ground on the field. In New Hampshire, it was a longcut. The longer joker lap didn’t factor into the heat races as Block, Heikkenen and Foust won their respective heats going away.
But in the final, the joker lap provided a good amount of drama. Sandell nearly passed Foust for the lead when Foust took the joker lap early in the race. Then Sandell was forced to take it on his final lap, seemingly putting him out of contention for a podium spot until Foust’s crash opened the door for him, Heikkinen and Deegan. Heikkinen was right behind Foust going through the joker turn on the final lap and put pressure on his teammate that potentially contributed to Foust’s final-turn crash.
Deegan wasn’t the only multi-sport competitor on hand for the Loudon GRC stop. X Games legends Travis Pastrana and skateboarder Bucky Lasek also made it to the start line of the finals, along with Foz do Iguacu RallyCross gold medalist, NASCAR and former Formula One driver Scott Speed by taking the top three spots in the last chance qualifier.
Pastrana, the defending 2012 New Hampshire Motor Speedway GRC winner, was coming back from a two-race hiatus from GRC because of conflicts with his NASCAR Nationwide Series racing schedule. The day got off to a tough start for him as a slow seeding run left him at the back of the field for his qualifying heat and excessive mud under his car forced him out of his heat and into the LCQ. Pastrana looked like he had momentum after winning the LCQ but mechanical issues in the main event derailed his bid for a repeat win at New Hampshire.
The Global RallyCross season started with three international races at X Games events in Foz do Iguacu, Brazil, Barcelona and Munich. Speed won the race in Brazil, but the Barcelona race was canceled because of heavy rain and rescheduled as part of a double dip at X Games Munich. Liam Doran, who didn’t race in New Hampshire, and Heikkinen each walked away from the Munich races with an X Games gold medal. Heikkinen, who’s medaled in all three X Games RallyCross events this year, also left Germany as the season points’ leader with 55 — a record start for points in the short history of GRC.
The race marked the debut of GRC Lites racing giving aspiring GRC racers a chance to showcase their talents.
The GRC season continues July 20 at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tenn., before making a fourth X Games stop of the season Aug. 4 in Los Angeles.
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