August 31st, 2010
European-style wheel-to-wheel rallycross made its U.S. debut in thrilling style this past weekend in New Jersey with the help of a determined performance by Subaru driver Travis Pastrana in his 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI. Starting from the back of a six car grid after a restart, Pastrana worked his way through the field to finish 2nd overall in the final. Pastrana’s Subaru teammate, Dave Mirra, finished close behind in 3rd overall. The Rallycross, organized by RallyCar (formerly Rally America), was held at the Lightning Bolt course of New Jersey Motorsports Park, a 1.3 mile track which was modified to include three dirt sections. Pastrana’s performance wowed the thousands of fans in attendance and helped create a memorable debut for the sport in America.
Rallycross features wheel-to-wheel racing among production based cars on short tracks that feature a mix of tarmac and dirt. In addition to the dirt sections, rallycross tracks feature a “Joker” lap section that each car must take a once at some point during the race. A Joker lap is a small detour that typically takes the driver a few seconds longer to complete than the standard course lap. It adds a level of unpredictability to the race outcome and drivers must strategize on the optimal time to take the joker lap. Many of the cars competing in New Jersey were rally cars that also compete in the Rally America National Championship with the exception of a few purpose-built rallycross cars brought over from Europe. The sport is extremely popular in Europe, where the FIA’s European Rallycross Championship represents the highest and most competitive level of the sport.
This was an absolute blast, a lot of fun,” said Pastrana. “This series has a chance to be the most epic and the most fun thing that anyone’s ever raced and driven.”
Pastrana and Mirra were 2nd and 3rd quickest in qualifying, which determines lane choice and running group within three subsequent heats. Impressive performances in the heats solidified Pastrana and Mirra in 1st and 4th respectively for the A-Main, the final event.
On the first lap of the A-Main, whilst trailing close to Tanner Foust, Pastrana pushed wide on a tarmac-to-dirt transition and impacted a tire wall. Pastrana was able to continue and his Subaru was undamaged, but the A-Main was red flagged due to the damaged and now mis-aligned tire wall. Pastrana was penalized to the back of the six car grid and the race was restarted, with a new standing start. With just five laps on the 1.3 mile course Pastrana quickly went to work pressuring and passing each driver in front of him with a show of skill and aggression that thrilled the thousands of fans in attendance. Pastrana eventually reached 2nd place and trailed Foust, the race leader by just seconds, but Pastrana had yet to complete his Joker lap and in doing so ran out of laps to continue his fight toward Foust. Pastrana exited the Joker lap just ahead of teammate Dave Mirra who was pressuring from behind, and the Subaru duo crossed the finish line in 2nd and 3rd Overall, with Tanner Foust taking victory.
Travis Pastrana acknowledged the crowd’s intense enthusiasm, “I could literally hear the fans cheering from inside my car! But I had the best seat in the house having to start at the back of the grid and getting to battle everyone out there on this course.”
“My goal was to finish 3rd since I knew Pastrana and Foust had a small edge on my lap times all weekend, and so I stuck to my game plan and had a great, clean run. I’m very happy.” explained Mirra. “I’ve never done anything like this and have very little track experience so I’m happy withmy performance. It will be pretty cool to see the sport grow together with the fans and the cars and everything kind of matching up and going together,” said Mirra.
RallyCar’s U.S. Rallycross Event #2 will return to the New Jersey Motorsports Park October 2-3 and Event #3 will be held November 6-7. Tickets are available at: http://store.njmp.com/store/category/9/157/
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