Tanner Foust will be looking for redemption when Global Rallycross Championship action resumes at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday. The two-time defending series champion narrowly missed the podium last week at New Hampshire Motor Speedway when he crashed on the final corner, handing the win to Ford teammate Toomas “Topi” Heikkinen.
The Bristol Motor Speedway round will also mark the second event in the race to the Sylvania SilverStar zXe Cup. The four-round sub-series within the Global Rallycross Championship offers a $20,000 bonus to the driver who scores the most points at the four speedway races. Last week’s GRC round at Loudon, N.H., was the first of these, and so Heikkinen has the initial points lead.
However, Foust is very capable of fighting back. He scored his first podium of the season in Munich two weeks ago and has proven in recent years that’s he’s a rare American rallycross contender on the world stage. In addition to his pair of U.S. championship wins, he has finished in the top three of the European Rallycross Championship two years running. But upstart Heikkinen is on a roll, having scored a podium at each of the four GRC rounds so far this season. Just 22 and one of the youngest regulars in the field, Heikkinen has a healthy lead in the championship standings.
The schedule is tight for teams in the U.S.-based series, which returned to American shores just a week ago after a world tour that included scheduled rounds in Foz do Iguacu, Barcelona, and Munich. With little time to prepare vehicles between races, the cars in the series could be showing some wear and tear and so mechanical reliability will likely be a factor this weekend. Although a typical rallycross weekend sees only about 13 miles of competition, the cars are built to the edge and they race hard damage from contact is common, while the engines and transmissions in the 600-horsepower machines must be rebuilt regularly.
Slated to return to the series this weekend is so-called “British Bomb” Liam Doran, who drove his brand-new Prodrive Mini to his first win of the season in Munich, but missed the first U.S. stop in New Hampshire last week. American gymkhana pro Ken Block, who has shown promising speed on the faster U.S. track configurations, is also expected to be a contender at the first-ever Tennessee stop.
Sitting this one out are Travis Pastrana and Nelson Piquet Jr., both of whom will be contesting the NASCAR Nationwide Series round this weekend at Chicagoland in Joliet, Ill. Subbing in the No. 199 Dodge Dart for Pastrana is Russian driver Timur Timerzyanov, the defending European Rallycross Champion. Timerzyanov made his 2013 series debut in Munich two weeks ago, scoring a 10th-place finish in the same car.
GRC Lites competition, a spec series that debuted in New Hampshire last week, is also on the schedule for Bristol this Saturday. The Lites cars are about half the horsepower of the top-class Supercars and are intended as a development vehicle for up-and-coming rallycross stars. Joni Wiman, a protg of two-time WRC champion Marcus Grnholm, took the inaugural win in New Hampshire.