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Gronholm Leaves Texas With X Amount Of Momentum

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, June 11 2012

Finland's Marcus Gronholm a Texas winner.

FORT WORTH, Texas – It’s on to the X-Games with a bang and a some back therapy for Marcus Gronholm and Tanner Foust, following their 1-2 finish in the inaugural Global Rallycross Championship Hoon Kaboom Texas at Texas Motor Speedway.

Gronholm, winner of the series opener at sister track Charlotte Motor Speedway two weeks ago, was dominant throughout Hoon Kaboom on Saturday. The Finn earned the top seed in qualifying, won his heat by seven seconds and cruised to nearly a nine-second victory over runnerup Foust in the 10-car final. Defending X-Games gold medalist Brian Deegan finished third to give Ford Racing a podium sweep for the Fiesta.

“It was perfect. We had two restarts, which was really hard for the car and for the tires and it was really hot inside the car as well – like a sauna,” said Gronholm, driver of the No. 3 Best Buy Mobile/OMSE Ford Fiesta.”But I had a good restart in the last one and I could do my race and no had contact with nobody. Nobody was pushing me at the end. That was fine.”

The race was contested on a man-made course incorporating TMS’ pit road, a portion of the frontstretch and the Legends Car track in front of the main grandstand. The course featured a metal-to-metal jump that each competitor was required to take on every lap.

“The jump is not so easy to judge the speed, and the downhill is really hitting hard for the car – and my back as well,” said Gronholm, 44. “So you have to make it smoother next time for this race.”

The final was interrupted by a red flag for a stalled jump attempt by Sverre Isachsen in his Subaru on Lap 4 of the scheduled six. A third restart saw Gronholm dive in for the shorter Joker Lap off the line while Foust and Deegan stayed out on a full lap. A committed pace allowed Gronholm to maintain his lead to the checkered flag.

Only six of 10 drivers completed the Main event, won by Gronholm in 4 minutes, 33:950-seconds. Rhys Millen of New Zealand, driver of the No. 67 Hyundai Rallycross/RMR Veloster, was fourth. David Binks of the United Kingdom was fifth in the No. 17 Best Buy Serve/OMSE Fiesta, followed by Frenchman Stephan Verdier in the No. 12 Motorcity Disney XD/RMR Hyundai Veloster.

“What a tough day, I must say,” said Gronholm, winner of the World Rally Championship with Peugeot in 2000 and 2002. “I knew at the start of the week that Texas would be all different to Charlotte and it would take a whole lot more heart to win here. But we did it and it is a great, great feeling.

“The seeding and the heats seemed pretty straightforward, just keep your nose clean and stay out of trouble. But the final, I knew with guys like Tanner and Brian that I’d need to find something special to stay ahead of them. I had a bad start first time round and maybe not a perfect start for the second time, so I guess I was fortunate that the (red) flags came out twice. On the final start, it was perfect, we kept it all together and got over the line first.

“I must thank Best Buy and all the guys at OMSE – everyone has done a brilliant job this weekend. The only thing I reckon I want now is some physio. I am not the only one with a sore back after all the jumps today, but I hope it made a spectacular show for the fans.”

Foust, who also competes in the European Rally Championship, spent last weekend racing in a forest in Hungary. In comparison, the ambient temperature here was in the mid-90s and track temp was over 100 degrees when the appropriately named heat races started at 3:30 p.m.

“This was the hottest race I’ve ever done in a rally car, and re-doing the final it was pretty amazing,” said Foust, a 38-year-old resident of Dana Point, Calif. “I have the utmost respect for the guys in NASCAR that run these tracks for 600 miles in this temperature. The conditions were really hard not just on the drivers but the cars. These cars, it’s a rubber band that’s wound pretty tight. These things are running from 10 mph to 120 mph then back to 10 mph a few times each lap. So it generates a lot of heat. My car was running very, very hot and I was pushing it hard.”

Like Gronholm, Foust said the metal-to-metal jump likely made an impression on every car and driver.

“I know Marcus and I both are probably a little shorter,” said Foust, driver of the No. 34 Rockstar Energy Etnies Ford/OMSE Ford Fiesta. “I hit the jump too big and cleared the landing ramp _ which was a really bad idea _ and then scraped the concrete. I stretched a ligament in my mid-back, got checked-out. I didn’t have to pay for the massage, which also was nice, did leave a tip.

“I think there was some damage to the car and I barely limped it across the line. But Marcus was unbeatable, every one of the three races that we did. He deserves the win.”

GRC and Speedway Motorsports, Inc., will take the series to New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway later this summer. Foust hopes the upcoming X-Games Los Angeles 2012 will continue to build momentum for the “stadium-style” tour.

“I’m lucky enough to race the European Rallycross Championship, and this is a sport that’s been going on in Europe for 40 years,” Foust said. “This is the first time we’ve had it in front of a great new crowd in the U.S. It’s one of those very cool sports that Texas Motor Speedway and SMI and ESPN have put under the spotlight. The X-Games have been great exposure for the sport. I think this one was Texas-style with that jump, for sure. We’ll see how it goes for the next round.”

Gronholm, winner of the prestigious World Rally Championship with Peugeot in 2000 and 2002, was asked to rate competition in that series with the drivers in Global Rallycross.

“WRC is so much different but the competition is very good here _ Tanner, Deegan, my teammate (Binks) _ they really drive hard,” said Gronholm, whose father, Ulf “Uffe” Gronholm was a two-time Finnish rallying champion killed during a practice run for the Hankiralli in February 1981. “I feel there is good competition. And (Travis) Pastrana and (Ken) Block _ they are fast, but they hit the walls quite often.”

Gronholm exited Texas with a six-point lead over Foust, 42-36. The top 12 in GRC points following Hoon Kaboom Texas earned automatic berths in the Rallycross competition for X-Games Los Angeles 2012, scheduled for June 28-July 1.

“X-Games is definitely one of the highlights of the GRC season,” Gronholm said. “Racing on the roads around the Staples Center in downtown LA is incredibly cool and only 10 of us can go, so it is a really important prize we have won today.”

Global Rallycross Championship drivers who have qualified for the X-Games Los Angeles 2012 with car number in parenthesis, country, team, car and points:

Marcus Gronhom (3), Finland, Best Buy Mobile/OMSE, 2012 Ford Fiesta, 42

Tanner Foust (34), USA, Rockstar Energy Etnies Ford/OMSE, 2012 Ford Fiesta, 36

Stephan Verdier (12), France, Motorcity Disney XD/RMR, 2012 Hyundai Veloster, 26

Rhys Millen (67), New Zealand, Hyundai Rallycross/RMR, 2012 Hyundai Veloster, 24

Samuel Hubinette (77), USA, Eneos Oil, 2010 Saab 9.3, 23

David Binks (17), United Kingdom, Best Buy Serve/OMSE, 2012 Ford Fiesta, 22

Andy Scott (26), United Kingdom, Scott-Eklund Racing, 2010 Saab 9.3, 21

Brian Deegan (38), USA, Rockstar Energy Metal Mulisha Ford/OMSE, 2012 Ford Fiesta, 20

Dave Mirra (40), USA, Subaru Puma Rallycross/VSC, 2012 Subaru WRX STi, 14

Sverre Isachsen (11), Norway, Subaru Puma Rallycross/VSC, 2012 Subaru WRX STi, 12

Ken Block (43) USA, Monster World Rally Team, 2012 Ford Fiesta, 11

Buddy Lasek (81), USA, Subaru Puma Rallycross/VSC, 2012 Subaru WRX STi, 10

Travis Pastrana (199), USA, Dodge Red Bull Rallycross/Pastrana 199 Racing, 2013 Dodge Dart, 10

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, June 11 2012
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