Tanner Foust (Ford Fiesta) made it two-for-two, winning the AWD final of Rally Car’s second rallycross at New Jersey Motorsports Park on October 3. Dave Mirra (Subaru Impreza WRX STI) placed second ahead of Liam Doran (Citroen C4). Matthew Johnson (Ford Fairmont wagon) scored an upset win from Dillon Van Way (Ford Focus turbo) and Josh Wimpey (Volkswagen Golf GTI) in the 2WD final. Both finals were run in the rain under cool and cloudy conditions.

The entry for round 2 was approximately 20 cars, split evenly between all- and two-wheel-drive. Some of these were rally and race regulars who were looking for an entertaining weekend’s competition, especially in the 2WD ranks. But there were also some very serious teams who were obviously hoping that European-style rallycross would succeed in the U.S., and determined that if it worked they would be a part of it.

One of the most notable of the serious entries was Olsbergs MSE of Sweden, who once again brought a 2010 Ford Fiesta in Rockstar energy drink colors for Tanner Foust. Three-time European rallycross champion Jussi Pinomaki came over to drive the team’s second car, a 2006 Fiesta. As we have indicated previously, Olsbergs MSE has been a winner in both the ERC and X Games, and the cars were built specifically for this form of the sport.

Equally serious was Subaru Rally Team USA, who brought WRX STIs for regular drivers Travis Pastrana and Dave Mirra. The rally cars that the team used a few weeks ago were superseded by the cars used in the X Games, re-fitted for this application. After qualifying, Pastrana told us that his car was excellent – it would only require a few tweaks in the handling area, such as improved turn-in.

Speaking of serious, fans in New Jersey were treated to the sight of the Kenneth Hansen Motorsport Citroen C4, driven by Liam Doran, which had just finished third in the European series. After the final round of the ERC in the Czech Republic, the C4, Doran, and several of the mechanics had been shipped over by air, in order to assess the new U.S. championship. As is the case with Olsbergs MSE, the car was purpose-built for this form of racing, and the team knows what needs to be done.

We were pleased to see drift and hillclimb regular Rhys Millen back at a rally-type event, and he was obviously pleased to be back. Millen, with support from Hyundai U.S., had arranged for the use of an ex-World Championship 2002 Hyundai Accent WRC for this event and the final round of the series. He admitted to the hope that sponsorship can be extended into 2011, and that the car can be further developed.

On the 2WD side, first-round winner Josh Wimpey was back, as was Dillon Van Way – who hadn’t been able to fully demonstrate his team’s potential in round 1 because the Focus had been bunted out of the feature race during a first-lap altercation. Those two would obviously be among the class front-runners. But one entry which would have been easy to overlook was the Nitro Circus-backed entry of Matthew Johnson in a Ford Fairmont station wagon. We asked Johnson, a veteran AWD competitor in rallies, about the choice of vehicle. He explained that he didn’t have a car for the rallycross series, and a friend “with a sense of humor” offered him the Fairmont, with 348-cubic inch small-block V-8, which had served previously as a track car.

Saturday’s practice and qualifying sessions were conducted under sunny and mild conditions. According to the clocks, Van Way (1:17.964) was faster than Wimpey (1:23.051), perhaps proving that a good turbo-car can take NJMP course faster than a good non-turbo. On the AWD side, Dave Mirra (1:08.196) was minimally faster than Foust (1:08.475) with Doran third (1:12:209). Unfortunately for Doran, the red car also suffered a serious engine failure after very little track time (thus minimal time to set up the car), and the Hansen team was forced to conduct a very time-consuming power plant change, substituting the engine originally selected for with one which had less power. Meanwhile, Pastrana missed Saturday’s driving entirely because of a scheduling conflict – he was participating in the World Big Buck Hunting Championship.

Sunday’s heat (qualifying) races were run under an overcast and light rain. The small fields (only three to four of the cars each time) and changeable weather conditions made it hard to draw conclusions about the significance of each race, but they were dramatic. In one, Foust capably held off Pastrana for four laps. In another, Van Way caught and passed Wimpey for the win. And in two races toward the end of the period, Doran, his car finally looking right, walked away.

Light rain had changed to moderate rain by the time that the 2WD cars lined up on the grid for their feature event. Johnson got a good start and managed to take over first place on the initial lap, then drove off to win. Conversely, Van Way missed the upshift from first to second gears, and was suddenly near the back of the six-car field. For the remainder of the distance, Van Way worked past the others, closing up to seven tenths of a second behind Johnson on the final lap. Wimpey placed third

It was equally rainy when the AWD cars lined up. Mirra got the jump at the light, and pulled away from the field – a lead which, Foust asserted, would not be bridged in the five-lap race. Most of the others were scapping for second, although Millen told us afterward that he was holding back enough that the inevitable accident would not take out his car.

That accident happened on lap two, when Doran made contact with someone, damaged a suspension arm, flattened a tire, and ran into a crash barrier. Apparently he was blocking the course, because the officials promptly red-flagged the race. By this time Pastrana had parked in the grass for the day, the car overheating because the radiator had filled with mud. The drivers (other than Pastrana) headed back to the paddock for a bit of maintenance, ranging from refilling the washer fluid for Foust to getting the car’s front end un-dented for Doran.

On the restart, Foust got the hole shot, and according to Mirra it was Tanner who was uncatchable this time. Mirra was second initially, then third when he got the car sideways and Doran passed, then second when Doran got sideways and he repassed. Pinomaki placed fourth, several car-lengths behind Doran, followed by Millen.

Final Results, 2WD:
1. Matthew Johnson (Ford Fairmont)
2. Dillon Van Way (Ford Focus)
3. Josh Wimpey (Volkswagen Golf GTI)
4. Eric Vlasic (Nissan 200SX)
5. Kyle Gagliardi (Mazda MX-5 Miata)
6. Randy Zimmer (Subaru Impreza)

Final Results, 4WD:
1. Tanner Foust (Ford Fiesta)
2. Dave Mirra (Subaru Impreza WRX STI)
3. Liam Doran (Citroen C4)
4. Jussi Pinomaki (Ford Fiesta)
5. Rhys Millen (Hyundai Accent)
6. Christopher Duplessis (Subaru Impreza)

Story and photos by Thomas Barker

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