Pastrana Back on the Podium in Calgary
Vermont SportsCar (VSC) returned to the podium in the all-electric Group E class as the 2022-23 Nitro Rallycross season continued at Stampede Park in Calgary, Alberta.
It was Nitro Rallycross and North American Rallycross’ best-attended event to-date, with over 20,000 people heading to the track over the weekend. However, due to Chinook winds and uncharacteristically high temperatures in Western Canada, track conditions were less than ideal, necessitating a format change in order to preserve what was left of the snow and ice-laden track surface.
That meant that the majority of Sunday’s multi-car heats were eschewed in favor of another head-to-head Battle Bracket, followed by a ‘Super Final’ for the top four drivers from the bracket, and a consolation final for the remaining five. The format change also meant that no championship points were awarded for the weekend.
In Saturday’s Battle Bracket, Martell scored an opening win against Oliver Bennett before missing out to Kris Meeke by a mere 0.3 seconds after holding the upper hand for much of that contest. Pastrana meanwhile ran Andreas Bakkerud close but ultimately lost out to the Norwegian.
End results on Saturday weren’t reflective of the team’s pace and strong starts, but Sunday was better still, starting the day fifth (Pastrana) and second (Martell) in timed practice.
This time both drivers got a bye through the first round to the quarters, with Pastrana’s first race coming against Fraser McConnell – winner of Saturday’s bracket.
Pastrana broke with convention to joker early-on, taking advantage of stronger conditions that McConnell wouldn’t enjoy when he took it a lap later, a move that would eventually help him win by 0.4 seconds. Pastrana then took on series-long rival Meeke, who made the better start and led from lights to flag.
Martell”s first Sunday race came against regular season points leader Robin Larsson. Martell overcame an initial deficit of a quarter-car length, battling hard into the first chicane and forcing Larsson to back down, something from which he wouldn’t recover.
Next up was eventual event winner Kevin Eriksson, but thanks to an unfortunate jump start for Martell, the result of the race was decided before it began.
Nevertheless, as semifinalists, both VSC drivers were in the final four of the bracket which got them a spot in the main final.
As the field all struggled to get off the starting grid, the VSC drivers both starting on the second row, Pastrana immediately set about fighting with Meeke once again for third behind polesitter Kevin Eriksson. Martell meanwhile collided with a barrier early on and broke his steering, resulting in a fourth place finish.
“I knew going into the joker, I knew going into the tunnel it’s all tarmac so it pushes you into the wall,” explained Martell. “So I went super-wide, pulled the handbrake, and when I did, I grabbed traction with my inside tires where no one has gone yet and I just pulled it in and hit those big yellow poles.
“So it was a bummer and instantly the steering broke and I had no chance but those guys drove well.”
Pastrana’s race was a clean one with an eventual third place position behind Meeke and race winner Eriksson.
“It was tough conditions,” said Pastrana. “We didn’t have quite as big a jump or as wide of a track but I really really appreciate [everyone] coming out and we got that Ken Block Forever car up on the podium.
“These guys have been flying all day, but this one is for you Ken.”
The Nitro Rallycross season will conclude with a pair of points-paying rounds at California’s Glen Helen Raceway on March 17-19.
With 108 points still on offer, Pastrana remains in the hunt for second in the points. He currently occupies fifth overall, behind Larsson, Bakkerud, McConnell, and Oliver Eriksson, with two event wins to his name. Martell, a further 23 points back from Pastrana, also remains in mathematical contention for second overall.
Great article and photos! The tribute to KB is great. He will truly be missed! The website is vastly improved as well, good job! Time to get my orders in!!