With a tumultuous racing schedule in 2016 that includes three Formula Drift events, a pair of World Rallycross races, and a full plate of Red Bull Global Rallycross (GRC) action, Tanner Foust has his hands full in 2016… oh yeah, he also does a TV show you may have heard of.
In his first Formula Drift appearance at the recent Round 2 event at Road Atlanta, Foust qualified seventh and advanced to the Top 8 round. He defeated Kyle Mohan and Kenneth Moen before coming up short against Alec Hohnadell, who finished fourth overall on the day. So Foust was hungry as he focused on the Global Rallycross opener in Phoenix two weeks later. And he ate his fill.
Foust and his #34 Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross Beetle chewed up the competition, winning both races of the season kick-off doubleheader. The first volleys of the 2016 season were fired at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park where man and machine were pushed to the extreme. The desert sun was unforgiving, and the heat elevated temperatures inside the cars well past the century mark as the track’s 1,300-foot long straightaway and sustained 120-mph top speeds put big-time stress on engines and other mechanical systems.
On Saturday nerves were raw as the teams prepared for battle, not really knowing what they had going into the first full-speed, door-to-door combat of 2016. Foust wasted no time, and left no doubts, taking the checkered flag in both his heats and the semifinal, earning pole-sitter status going into the final. Foust picked his place on the grid over VW teammate Scott Speed. Foust got the jump and Speed maneuvered into second, and it looked like a V-Dub one-two finish for the first few laps.
Unfortunately, late race mechanical gremlins surfaced in Speed’s Beetle. The Volkswagen was smashed in the front left of the car and the course’s jump proved its undoing, with Speed fading from contention. This opened the door for Patrik Sandell to grab the runner-up spot in his #18 Bryan Herta Rallysport Ford Fiesta ST and Brian Deegan to fill out the podium in third. It was good to see Deegan podium as he starts his first full season in Global Rallycross since 2013 behind the wheel of the #38 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford Fiesta ST.
The teams woke up Sunday morning with an entirely new perspective as Foust had laid down the law like a boss the previous day. The V-Dubs were fast again, and in a déjà vu repeat of Saturday’s festivities, they took the top two spots on the grid by sweeping through the heats and the semi. In the final, when the green light flashed, the Andretti Rallycross VWs clawed in and launched to another one-two start with Foust on point. From the first lap, the real race was for the final step on the podium.
After all the Joker Turns were taken there were two in contention; Sebastian Eriksson’s brand-new Honda Civic Coupe, and Sandell in his Ford. These racers were coming at it from polar opposite starting points. Eriksson ended his Saturday on fire with a DNF in the final, while Sandell had made the podium and was in line to make top three finishes in both races of a double for the first time in his career. Impressively, Eriksson and his Civic prevailed, giving Honda its first-ever podium in just the season opening weekend. So the future is bright for fans of the ‘H.’
With this dominant weekend, Foust, twice a Global Rallycross champion, became GRC’s all-time winner. “Getting out front is critical in rallycross and I definitely had the starts all weekend,” said Foust. “But all credit goes to the Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team whose hard work in the off-season and amazing effort here in Phoenix this weekend is what got us these wins. It’s a great feeling for all of us on the team to start the season this way. I want to thank all the fans who came out here today on a hot Sunday—it’s unbelievable to see everybody come out, and I saw a lot of repeat customers which is awesome. It’s great that it looked pretty straightforward from the outside, but behind the scenes team absolutely thrashed before the semi-finals. They did an hour and 20 minute job in under an hour to change the transmission. We literally used every single minute that we had, drove right out and took the semi-finals so that was all Volkswagen Andretti right there. So thank you guys very much—that was an epic thrash.”
The Red Bull GRC crazy train is on the rails and steaming toward its next stop. The 2016 season will continue at Fair Park in Dallas, Texas on June 4th.
RED BULL GLOBAL RALLYCROSS DRIVER POINTS:
- Tanner Foust, 125
- Scott Speed, 100
- Patrik Sandell, 94
- Steve Arpin, 81
- Brian Deegan, 79
- Sebastian Eriksson, 67
- Joni Wiman, 41
- Jeff Ward, 41
- Austin Dyne, 36
- Rhys Millen, 34
- Sebastian Saavedra, 3
RED BULL GLOBAL RALLYCROSS MANUFACTURER POINTS:
- Volkswagen, 10
- Ford, 7
- Honda, 7