Vermont SportsCar (VSC) faced a challenging weekend as Nitro Rallycross returned to Glen Helen Raceway in Southern California for the fourth round of the debut season of its all-electric Group E class.
The team was looking to keep its momentum rolling from a dominant victory their last time out, at ERX in Minnesota. Glen Helen – a short, all-dirt course with a dramatic gap jump over the joker lap and multiple passing opportunities for the series’ spec 1000 horsepower FC1-X electric race car – was the site of a Vermont SportsCar podium sweep last year.
This time around, things looked to be starting in similar fashion. Travis Pastrana, driving the #199 Power Plus VSC Group E machine, topped timed practice before winning his qualifying seeding heat. Meanwhile a heavy impact with a wall in practice meant Pastrana’s teammate Conner Martell was on the back foot early on.
In battle qualifying Martell enjoyed a thrilling fight against Andreas Bakkerud making a late race pass for the lead before he de-beaded a tire on a jump landing, halting his progress. Check out that thrilling race here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkuKkQe2I5I
Pastrana also fell at the first hurdle in the Battle Bracket, despite trading best sector times throughout his race with Oliver Eriksson. With both VSC drivers making an early exit on Saturday’s Qualifying brackets, all attention turned to Sunday.
Sadly, luck wasn’t on the team’s side on Sunday, either: Pastrana spun out of his first heat, his car unable to restart after the incident, while Martell was an early challenger in his heat until gearbox issues forced him out of contention.
Both drivers moved on to the Sem-Final where Martell was in a position to advance until his gearbox issues once again reared their ugly head and worsened, putting his entire afternoon in doubt. Meanwhile Pastrana retired after clipping a wall and damaging the rear of his car.
That meant Pastrana and Martell would just need to start the LCQ to book their trip to back of the grid in the Final. However, the lengthy repair on Pastrana’s car after sustaining damage in the Semi-Final meant he missed the start of the LCQ by mere seconds, and race officials deemed him too late. Unfortunately, in order to enter the Final the regulations stipulate Pastrana was required to at least start the LCQ, which he did not – therefore his day was over with no ability to enter the Final. It was an unfortunate and dramatic turn of events for the series’ star driver.
Martell, having limped through the start of the LCQ with a deteriorating gearbox, ran the Final stuck in 2nd gear, leaving him out of contention but still able to salvage some championship points with a 7th place finish.
“This weekend was a really hard weekend for the team.” Martell said. “I binned it in practice on Saturday, the team worked their butts off to get it fixed, we went out for qualifying with a car that was pretty decent and we had really good pace. We both just had really bad luck. I blew up a gearbox and it wasn’t really something that could be fixed at that point. We did learn some things and we’ll move on Phoenix now.”
Halloween spooks hopefully fully banished, the team moves onto the next event at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix, AZ on November 11-13, where two full championship rounds will take place.