Images by Matt Kalish/ GRC.
Series favorites Ken Block, Tanner Foust and Travis Pastrana scored the top three spots at an exciting 2013 Global Rallycross championship season-ender in Las Vegas.
Block took his first-ever rallycross win under the lights of the Las Vegas Strip on Thursday, a redemptive finish to a frustrating season that has seen the Gymkhana star post top practice and qualifying times and win multiple heat races, but repeatedly find himself caught in crashes during the main event.
?We were top qualifiers all year, and won more heat races than anyone, but we couldn't get any luck,? said Block after the race. ?I couldn't be happier, especially for all my sponsors and my very, very hard-working team.?
It was the driver's third Global Rallycross podium of 2013, but he has never brought his Hoonigan Racing Ford Fiesta ST across the line higher than second place.
The top result was a triumphant capper to a big week for Block, who finishes the season third in the championship. He hosted a sneak preview of the latest installment of his wildly popular online video franchise on Tuesday night in Las Vegas. Gymkhana Six is slated for release on Nov. 11. Together, Block's collection of Gymkhana videos has chalked up more than 250 million views.
?The Global Rallycross championship continues to grow and develop and I'm really stoked to be part of the series,? he said.
Foust earned a second-place finish after he was tagged with a jump-start infraction in the final.
?I was trying to time the light off the start,? said Foust. ?It always looks like a huge jump start when you're a car length ahead going through the first corner and I thought I had it.?
But, after multiple tape reviews of the start, officials ruled that Foust had jumped the light and black-flagged the Rockstar Energy Drink Ford Fiesta ST into the trackside penalty box to served a stop-and-go infraction. He lost his lead and emerged into traffic that he said felt like ?a war zone,? but the driver was able to fight back through the field to finish the 10-lap race behind Block.
The two-time defending champion, Foust scored four podiums in 2013 to finish the season in the runner-up position, surrendering the title to teammate Toomas ?Topi? Heikkinen. The young Finn's dominant performance this season saw him score five wins and a podium at every round but the Thursday night season finale, where he brought his Ford Fiesta ST across the line in fourth.
Heikkinen also had to serve a stop-and-go penalty after bumping doors with third-place finisher Pastrana. Heikkinen fought through traffic after being released back into the race but he was unable to overcome the deficit to extend his podium streak.
?The season overall was really great for us,? said Heikkinen. ?I hope to be back next year to do it all over again.?
Pastrana's third-place result was a much-needed boost for the American, whose exuberant donuts at the end of the contest topped even the winner's. A crowd favorite, the action sport superstar has had a frustrating season in motorsports this year.
Although his Dodge Dart was fast out of the box and scored a victory in its 2012 debut season, the team hadn't made a return to the podium since. While other teams have made big steps in vehicle development, the Pastrana Racing efforts saw the driver finish the year with a disappointing mid-pack ranking in rallycross.
Pastrana has also struggled this season in NASCAR. Despite a promising start to the NASCAR Nationwide season in a Roush Fenway's No. 60 Ford, he has fought to find a rhythm in the sport.
The Global Rallycross season finale, held on the strip under the gaze of the Sphinx at the Luxor hotel, saw the realization of the potential of this developing series, which launched in the United States at the start of 2011. It was standing room only and fans that packed into the venue Thursday night " many still wearing their credentials from the SEMA aftermarket show that is in town this week " roared their appreciation for the non-stop action.
The course, which featured the series' signature dirt jump, was technical, offering plenty of passing opportunities. Wide corners and curbing discouraged what has become a recurring problem of a pile-up in the first corner as hungry and aggressive drivers fight for the hole-shot advantage, and both the Last Chance Qualifier and Final saw tight pack racing from flag to flag.
Even so, the contest wasn't without controversy. Several drivers explored the fine line between acceptable racing contact and overly aggressive banging in what is a notoriously rough-and-tumble motorsport. Notably, Sverre Isachsen and Nelson Piquet Jr. were both penalized for moves in the Last Chance Qualifier. Piquet Jr. was forced to surrender his position in the final race to the Norwegian driver after an on-track slam.
It was an exciting end to the series' third season, and a week that saw the announcement of a 2014 title sponsor in Red Bull and the addition of motorsport sponsors Lowe's Kobalt and Napa Chassis to teams.
The 2013 season saw nine well-received races around the world, a new champion crowned and the next generation of stars climbing the ranks in the development GRC Lites series " which saw a dominant win by young Marcus Gronholm protégé Joni Wiman. With a 2014 calendar announcement expected in the coming weeks that promises more events like Las Vegas, next season is sure to build on this year's growth.