This past weekend, the U.S. Rallycross Series sanctioned by Rally America completed the second of four planned events for 2012. Round 1 saw David Sterckx, Eric Vlasic and Josh Wimpey take class wins in AWD, 2WD-Super and 2WD-Limited respectively, kicking off the 2012 season in southern New Jersey on May 18.
Not to be confused with the GRC series, the U.S. Rallycross Championship is a grassroots level series that is evolving event by event as a brand new motorsport in the US. Taking a peak at the Global RallyCross Championship, we see that their program has been evolving as well with each event and for the time being is focused on having only one SuperCar class for highly funded teams. With less stress and money on the line, the Rally America version has become a playground of sorts for all levels of drivers looking to experience Rallycross to test their driving acumen and the level of car prep it takes to win.
Rally America has the solid support of their chosen venue, the New Jersey Motorsports Park in Milville, New Jersey. They have been happy to help get the sport off the ground since 2010 and have welcomed everyone back again for 2012 with four full rounds of racing.
Here is a quick summary of the U.S. Rallycross series rules. The best lap time between both qualifying laps determines the drivers grouping and order for Heat 1. Winners receive points based on finishing place. First gets one point, second earns two points, etc. The lowest accumulated points earns the better position to start Heat 2 with the same point system moving into Heat 3. Points are summed up using your best two out of three races, which decides the grouping order for the Main events.
With a huge drag race start leading into the first corner, your ability to pick the best lane from the start is paramount in your bid to win. The next important decision that must be made behind the wheel is when to take the Joker lap. Depending on how the course is setup, the Joker lap can either add 2-3 seconds on to your time, or help reduce lap time by the same amount. This is a key feature that helps Rallycross racing stay exciting by changing up the running order each lap.
Round 2 on July 21, used much of the same course we saw during Round 1 having the drivers use part of NJMP’s Lightning course combining various sections that lead drivers off the track onto grassy side cuts before reentering the track. The longer Joker lap features a small jump that lands into a natural whoop section as the cars rejoin the normal track. The field of cars was close to 25 deep, split into three classes.
With only six participants, the AWD class showed your typical mix of Subaru’s and EVO’s. David Sterckx put on a good show in his Subaru chasing Art Gruszka’s EVO around during the final AWD race. Art’s EVO made light work of David’s Subaru in the straight pushing out more than 600 ft-lb of torque using a sequential shift gearbox. However, David’s combination of road racing experience and a highly tuned rally car suspension, allowed him to make up a lot of time in the corners. David eventually got along side Art as he turned left and clipped the nose of the Subaru spinning out and allowing Sterckx to pass into the lead. Art made a quick recovery passing Sebastian Kokoszka and Ryan Wilcox, putting him back into second place. During a post race evaluation, David was given a black flag for his part in spinning Art’s EVO and ended up in fourth place. As of today, it sounds like an appeal for review has been made with a possible reconsideration when the video evidence is made available.
Colin Wooding’s 2WD-Limited BMW shocked the fans as it ripped out a lead off the start even though his car looked like it belonged in a separate “lemons” race. With the 2WD-Limited race underway and Colin in the lead, Rafal Wroblewski and Rich Bodmer followed closely behind duking it out for second and third. Local Milville resident Duane Lewis recovered from an early rollover to compete in the final battling out the remaining places with Ray Morales, a NJ State Trooper and John Concha, both new to Rallycross.
The 2WD-Super class held a few surprises for those familiar with the super quick Swedish 911 of Mikael Eriksson. It was nearly a foregone conclusion that Mikael, visiting from Sweden to compete in the series with a ton of European Rallycross experience under his belt, would take the win. Predictably, Mikael won the drag race start with Peter Farrell close behind in his beautiful RX-7. Dillon Van Way followed behind Farrell alongside Kyle Gagliardi in his supercharged Ford Mustang. Dillon was flying in his Ford Fiesta making up ground hand-over-fist on Peter and Kyle. He passed them on the first lap but then came the crucial decision of when to take his Joker lap. Keeping his head down, Dillon put in several fast laps reeling in Mikael before jetting off to get the Joker done. This proved to be a smart maneuver on Dillon’s part. Mikael took his Joker lap as his last and ended up coming out four car lengths behind the Fiesta giving Dillon his first Rallycross win.
Even at the humble level at which this series currently exists, we saw several great bouts of intense and exciting racing. Although some fans may not agree, these races make me want to restate that a massive jump or other severe obstacles are not necessary to make Rallycross cool in the US. The format works well and leaves us excited for the upcoming races to complete the U.S. Rallycross Championship Series.
Checkout this round up video from Round 1, and be sure to come back for the Round 2 video coming soon.
Words by Matthew Johnson
Photos by LHimages
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