Fort Worth, TX – Hoon <hoon> noun : a derogatory term used in Australia and New Zealand, to refer to a anyone who engages in loutish, anti-social behavior. In particular, it is used to refer to one who drives a car or boat in a manner which is anti-social by the standards of contemporary society, that is, fast, noisily or dangerously.
This definition perfectly describes the delightful madness that is the Global Rally Cross series. Table top ramps, full 180 hairpin turns, a car wash, 120mph on straightaways, a special joker lap, a chicane and a seventy-foot gap jump called, “The Beast”, that goes right over one of the switchbacks. All this while executing “Fast and the Furious”-style drift moves in $400,000, 600hp cars that go zero to sixty in under two seconds. It’s a course that the Duke Boys would have designed and Roscoe P. Coltrain would have crashed spectacularly on.
Extreme sports stars Travis Pastrana and Dave Mirra headlined a field of seventeen drivers for the inaugural Hoon Kaboom Texas at Texas Motor Speedway. The course was laid out over the front straightaway and looped back along what is usually pit row for NASCAR and IRL races.
The race works as follows: The cars are divided into four heats. Each heat consists of four laps around the track, one of which has to be the joker lap (which is a shortcut through the infield). The joker sounds easy, but the entrance to the shortcut is right after the car wash that douses the cars’ tires with water, making the tight left turn difficult to hit without spinning out (as a few drivers did). The top two finishers from each heat move directly into the final and all of the other drivers are entered into two last chance qualifiers (LCQ). The winner of each LCQ earns redemption and a spot in the six lap, ten-car final. Extreme? Perhaps. Fun? Absolutely.
The big names Pastrana and Mirra went to the LCQ after the first two heats, while rally veterans Marcus Grönholm and Tanner Foust impressively won their heats. Independent team Scott-Eklund Racing also had a good showing as both of their drivers, Scotland’s Andy Scott and American Samuel Hubinette, made it through to the final.
Pastrana led his LCQ heat early, but spun out in one of the hairpin turns and had to withdraw from the race. Dave Mirra was in the same heat, but could not catch up to winner Ken Block. After the race, Pastrana described his unsuccessful LCQ run, “I got the jump on (Ken Block) heading into the first turn. That put us in great position until I overdrove the hairpin and looped the car.”
In the first running of the final (yes, there was more than one), Tanner Foust was quickest off the start and had the advantage in the short race. Marcus Grönholm, however, had other plans and immediately took the joker lap to grab the early lead. Brian Deegan snatched the lead right back with a second lap joker run and the pair ran 1-2 through the third lap.
It is at this point that things got seriously weird.
Sverre Isachsen didn’t have the power to make the jump over The Beast on the third lap because he over-braked when another driver passed him at the last second. He stalled his car and rolled halfway up the ramp, then rolled back down before coming to a stop right at the foot of the ramp. Race officials waved a red flag and took some time to move Isachsen’s Subaru off the field. They took even more time to decide that instead of a restart based on each car’s position at the time of the red (logical), the best course of action was to let all of the drivers pit and to start the race over from scratch (quizzical).
So the final started for a second time and Grönholm again elected to take the joker on their first lap. He lead the race through the third lap when Andy Scott lost control coming off The Beast and crashed into the barriers. Red flag, complete restart from the beginning. Again. The public address announcer did his best to fire up the audience and put a positive spin on the multiple restarts (“WOW, FOLKS!! EVEN MORE BONUS RACING!!”), but the lukewarm response from the previously noisy crowd gave the impression that they were more than a little confused.
The third (and thankfully last) attempt at a final ended up being fairly anti-climatic. Markus Grönholm once again took the early lead when he elected to take his mandatory joker run on the first lap. He built a huge lead and by the third lap, the only question was if we would, in fact, finish the race and finally declare a winner. The checkered flag did get waved, but the winner later admitted that, “…the restarts and the jump made things very difficult.” Grönholm has now won the first two races of the Global Rally Cross season and looks to be in good position to land one of the automatic X-Games entries that goes to the top twelve points leaders at the end of the season.
The Global Rally Cross was a lot of fun to watch, but the odd restart rules give the race an air of competitive uncertainty. Motor sports fans want exciting races and on that level, the GRC delivered (and then some). But fans also want to know that the proceedings were fair and the champion deserving. And it is in this regard that the young racing circuit has the opportunity for improvement.