The Global RallyCross Championship concluded its second full season this past week on October 30, 2012 with the running of its final race of the year in Las Vegas, Nevada. With first and second place in the overall driver standings separated by a mere handful of points, the overall Championship was on the line that night as Ford teammates Brian Deegan and Tanner Foust lined up to decide who would walk away with the hero's hardware.
Ford was already assured of taking home the manufacturer's title for the 2012 Global RallyCross season, but Tanner Foust's position at the top of the series leader board was not nearly as secure. If Deegan were able to finished first, and Foust unable to secure a better-than-fifth-place position out of the field of ten that would make up the evening's final heat, Tanner would not be able to post back-to-back GRC championships.
The drama was quite real throughout most of the evening, due to the unusual format that Global RallyCross makes use of to decide who makes it to the final, points-scoring event. In order to make it into the last heat a pair of qualifiers are run, with the top four from each earning their spot. The remaining cars run in a last chance qualifier that then awards two more positions in the final field, for a total of ten cars.
The close quarters racing that is GRC makes for no sure thing when it comes to counting on starting the last heat of the night, and this was exactly the case in Las Vegas where Deegan found himself on the outside looking in after having a tire come apart during the first run group. That mechanical mishap put him in the last chance qualifier, where he rose to the occasion and came in first (with Toomas Heikkinen snagging the second spot). Foust guaranteed himself a start in the final by dominating the second heat of the night.
When the anti-lag systems had been fired up and the field of 10 blasted out of the starting gate to decide the championship, it looked like Deegan's hopes were finished by the end of the first lap. Foust pulled again and his teammate was blocked by traffic, keeping him from jockeying for a strong position to fight back from in the middle of the pack. Then, when it seemed as though Tanner had his second consecutive championship sewn up, Ken Block's Ford shunted off the course just ahead of the launching point for the 70-foot jump and proceeded to catch fire, forcing a red flag with only two laps to go. After clearing Block's car from the track, officials made the surprise decision to re-run the entire eight-lap heat instead of just the two remaining laps - essentially handing Deegan a second chance to snatch victory from the jaws of second place.
Deegan and Foust certainly gave the crowd what they were looking for, as each driver jumped out ahead of the surviving cars to take first and second place in the field. Try as he might, Deegan just couldn't get ahead of his comrade in arms, and after eight hard-fought laps he found himself just behind the championship leader - second in the race, and second in points.
With only 11 races in the books - despite two full seasons - Global RallyCross is still just a blip on the radar of many American motorsports fans. A number of new promotional efforts, better financial support, and outreach initiatives scheduled for the 2013 season, however, could be enough to catapult GRC past the tipping point and help this exciting series enter into the popular consciousness of racing enthusiasts in the United States.
Photos courtesy of Chris Bormann