San Diego, CA based southern boy, Matthew Johnson (friend him on Facebook) won the inaugural Global RallyCross Championship event in the two-wheel drive division. “It’s a dream to share space on all of these press releases with a legend like Marcus Gronholm.” It wasn’t a easy weekend for Johnson who started the season running low on time as the first event approached. Having returned the borrowed station wagon that he drove to two wins last fall, Johnson was on the hunt for a new car.

In the final week before the first-ever Global RallyCross, Johnson made a mad dash across the country to pick up his rally service truck and trailer. After a quick turn around and charging back across the country, Johnson had an exciting new vehicle: The Nitro Circus Mazda RX-8. Matthew worked with Jon Rood to dial in the seating position and mount the skid plate to the RX-8 at Roodwerks in Arizona on the way to Irwindale.

As far as racing went, the challenge was apparent. Johnson had bought a rallycar that he’d never driven, and he had hours to make good on a promise he’d made himself. He needed to win, and that didn’t look promising. Throughout Friday’s SuperRally qualifying, Johnson missed practices to prepare the car, learn it, and adjust it. He even ran out of gas once. “This is totally new car for me, and, though it sounds funny, I don’t know a thing about it. I’ve been crawling all over this thing just to get this far. I knew this would be a learning event with the car – but I still want to win,” Johnson said Saturday morning as he worked on the Nitro Circus Mazda.

Johnson had placed 2nd to Dillon Van Way in Super Rally on Friday, but winning looked far away on Saturday. During qualifying, Johnson hit a tire barrier and bicycled up onto two wheels and ultimately the side of the car. The Nitro Circus Mazda slid for 10 feet on its bodywork before returning to wheels. “I was planning to remove the outside mirrors and replace them with a big mirror inside the car because I can’t see out of it well – this saved me a bit of work removing the right side mirror – in true Nitro fashion I suppose,” Johnson reflected after the event.

Sliding on his side without rolling over earned Johnson a new nickname for the weekend: Mr. Spectacular. “Once that started coming from the loudspeakers, I knew I had to perform. I also liked it a good bit,” he chuckled. “Add it to the list of nicknames.”

Additionally, Emile Bouret from ESPN interviewed Johnson several times over the weekend, “Emile always calls me ‘Two Guns’ after a great uncle of mine. Two Guns and my other uncle Shotgun were moonshiners in North Carolina where I was born. Add that to the list, too, and take your pick.”

Despite the momentum that “Mr. Spectacular” brought with it, Johnson had gearbox issues throughout Saturday, eventually running the 3rd heat race stuck in 4th gear. “It was a low point for sure, but Odi at Feal Suspension dug into the gearbox and got it out of 4th so I could compete. Odi completely saved the day and I am really thankful for that,” said Johnson. Feal Suspension also realigned the car and worked with the team to improve the Mazda’s suspension.

In the RallyCross finals, Matthew Johnson, squared up against Friday’s SuperRally winner Dillon Van Way, as well as Randy Zimmer, Lauchlin O’Sullivan, and Andrew Sutherland. Johnson nailed the start and sprinted ahead to the first corner. He led the whole race and managed a five car length gap on Dillon Van Way as they approached the final corner. Johnson took the win, while an error by Andrew Sutherland took out Van Way and allowed for Randy Zimmer and Lauchlin O’Sullivan to pass for 2nd and 3rd.

Johnson hopes to develop the RX-8 significantly before the Seattle and Pikes Peak rounds of the Global RallyCross Championship. He plans to run the rest of RallyCross series including those combined with TORC truck racing events in the Fall.

Fans tuned in to watch the action live on Facebook and ESPN3 where coverage streamed all day long. Full race coverage will air April 17 on ESPN2 (check local listings). The series has a multi-year programming relationship with ESPN, with Global RallyCross Championship broadcasts slated to follow NASCAR Nationwide and NHRA shows on ESPN and ESPN2. “It is a great feeling to have this first event in the books,” said series co-founder Brian Gale. “It is the realization of years of hard work and the amount of interest from sponsors, manufacturers and participants is really encouraging. I can’t wait to watch it on ESPN.”

Watch or embed the ESPN Recap of the Global Rallycross Championship

The Nitro Circus Mazda RX-8 and Matthew Johnson Motorsport are made possible by:
Nitro Circus (www.nitrocircus.com), the merry band of stuntmen and extreme athletes led by Ringmaster Travis Pastrana. As the Nitro Circus Live tour finishes up in New Zealand and Australia, preparations are being made for a live show in Las Vegas. Between shows, the Nitro crew is producing a 3D movie destined for theaters next year.

Braille Battery (http://www.braillebattery.com) Lighter, Stronger, Faster. Braille builds carbon fiber shelled batteries for all motorsports and powersports applications. A Braille battery can contribute to more than a 20 pound reduction in battery weight.

FEAL Suspension (http://www.rallyracingsuspension.com) Feal builds, revalves, and distributes suspensions from RS&SP, White Line, Hot Bits, and their own Feal brand for motocross, auto racing, and offroad applications.

About Global RallyCross
The RallyCar organization sanctions the Global RallyCross Championship events. Competitors in the Global RallyCross Championship may also elect to score points in the U.S. Rallycross Championship.
Teams will travel to the Seattle area April 15-16 for the second round – “Twin Peaks” – to be held in Snoqualmie, Washington.

About RallyCross Management
West Hollywood, CA based RallyCross Management is the owner and organizer of the three-round Global RallyCross Championship and manages invitations and competition for X Games rally events. Working with ESPN, the company will bring the excitement of rallycross racing to millions of households in over 170 countries.

To find out more, including ticket sales, competitor information and registration details:
Visit http://www.global-rallycross.com/
Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GlobalRallyCross
Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GlobalRallyX

Photos
Matthew Johnson on two wheels. Credit: OMGDrift.com
Matthew Johnson leads Dillon Van Way. Credit: Jon DiFrancesco

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