Well, you know the rest. While the final race weekend (or week) of the 2015 Red Bull Global Rally Cross Series started off just as well as it possibly could have, it ended up being quite a wild ride in the end.
To set some context, it’s Vegas right?! It never rains in Vegas! I think just about everyone pictures 90º sunshine-filled days when they think of Sin City because it always seems to be that way, no matter the time of year. Well, NOT TODAY! (Or in this case, November 4th. I’m a little late on this blog.) So yeah, race day was filled with freezing temps and heavy rain. We’ll get to that, but first, practice day.
Photo: Larry Chen
As I mentioned earlier, the practice day went really well. We were quick out of the box and had quite a gap on the whole rest of the field. My teammate was closest about 3 tenths of a second back and then the rest were about an additional half a second behind him. Things were looking great for both of us and I was ready to close the season out with not just a strong run, but I wanted to dominate and leave that long mark over the off season. The final practice was more of the same and we sat P1 again to lock the spot in the whole day. Half way there! At this point it makes no sense to hide secrets so the spot that I was killing everyone else was the dirt section just by being patient and not forcing the car to rotate. The dirt was super soft for this event and was getting quite rutted up which I think was throwing a lot of people off and I just figured it out right away and was actually enjoying it. I can’t really blame them, but I was a bit bummed when they took out like 75% of the dirt overnight and changed the section up to make it easier to get through. Anyway, we were still quick but then the skies opened.
Photo: Louis Yio
Everyone expected some rain in the morning and then for it to pass us by the time it came to qualifying and then the rest of the day would be totally dry. With that in mind, as a team we elected to skip the morning warm up, especially when we found out that we wouldn’t be using the jump and instead would be directed through the joker every lap to prevent the water soaked jump from getting totally destroyed. This proved to be a mistake as then the conditions stuck around for longer and then qualifying ended up using the same joker circuit which everyone but us had now been making countless laps on during the warm up. Again, oh well, we were still fast and it was what it was at that point so we just focused forward and now we had to go to work. I still don’t know at this point how he does it, but Oliver blitzed a lap and went P1 as he seemed to so many times through the year, and I think we ended up P3. Fine enough, I knew we had plenty of pace to race for heat wins.
Photo: Louis Yio
A bit after qualifying ended, it became apparent that the rain wouldn’t be going anywhere as we had originally thought. Instead- constant, heavy, and cold rain. With the weather now throwing a wrench into everything, the schedule got shuffled around and we had our two heats now condensed into a single heat race to set the grid for the final. I was slotted into the same heat as Alex (my teammate) so it was a bit of a bummer since it meant we couldn’t both win our heats but at least we could finish 1-2 and that’s what happened. Unfortunately for me finishing P2 meant starting 4th in the final, which eventually meant the outside of the 3rd row as Oliver elected to take the inside line which was much preferred in the rain.
You may, at this point, be wondering why I’ve spent so much time on context/build up and not the final and the results. Well, that’s because the final didn’t last long for me. I got a great start and was bouncing around P2 into Turn 1 but was still stuck on the outside and away from any hope of grip to carry speed around the corner. Ended up slipping back to P3 through turn 1 and then into Turn 2, chaos broke out. I got hit in the right rear on turn in which pitched the car sideways, tossing it near the outside wall which then tightened up exiting the corner. Still trying to gather the car back up from the first hit, I got hit again from the rear which then shot the car back across the track in the other direction, losing another spot as we headed for the dirt. Into the dirt, I once again became the pinball and got drilled from behind, sending me hard into Oliver’s right side. After that, I don’t even know how many times I got hit through the dirt but it was as if I was the ball on a roulette table. By the time we finally ended up leaving the dirt section, it was with a bent front end and any shot at a decent result long gone in the distance. On lap 2 we were forced to retire and that was that. Emotions of those moments are hard to put into words, but I think the best word to get close would just be heartbroken. The silver lining to it all was that our 3rd place in the championship was fairly secure entering the event so we were able to still hold it, but man did I want to bring back another win for everyone at Dreyer Reinbold and end the year on that note. For the team, Alex still was able to grab the win in the rain and pretty much drove away with it, so it was still a great result, just not as great as we had all hoped. The potential for a 1-2 was very real and I’m just bummed we didn’t get a chance to fight for it.
Photo: Tom Donoghue
Fast forward to the next evening and a much drier and warmer situation, the 2015 GRC Awards Banquet. The people involved in this series really are incredible. From the one race volunteers to the season long staples of the series, it’s just a great environment and awesome to be a part of. Throughout the banquet, I found myself on stage 3 times accepting various awards. First, it was the trophy for finishing 3rd in the championship which I thought would be my one time up. Shortly after that, I got to return as I was selected as the 2015 Rising Star which was voted on by all of the other drivers and teams. To me, that Rising Star award means a ton in that it came as a result of recognition from all the people we all, as drivers, strive to stand out amongst. The third time up was Alex and me accepting the Team Impact award on behalf of the entire Dreyer Reinbold squad, which to me was just a confirmation of their incredible effort all year and showed that it was indeed recognized by everyone else as well.
Photo: Larry Chen
Overall, I’m extremely happy to have been a part of the 2015 GRC field and believe that I’ve found a home that I can hopefully be a large part of over the years to come. I couldn’t have done it without the support of Dreyer Reinbold Racing and every single person involved on the team, Brad and Jenn of Wix Filters, Sparco, BLK Wheels, my entire family, and, of course, all of the fans of not just myself, but of Global Rallycross and motorsports in general. At the end of the day this is all possible because of the incredible motorsport fans, and I can confidently say that GRC has some of the most passionate fans that I’ve ever seen among the many paddocks I’ve had the pleasure of racing in.
Thank you all, and I look forward to fighting again in 2016!
The Barbados Treatment
Enjoying a few days before the racing began Well, what a week… While it...