Marcus Grönholm of Finland won friday's Super Rally event at The Revolution, the first round of the 2011 Global RallyCross Championship, held at Toyota Speedway in Irwindale, Calif. Super Rally features two rally cars on the same course, battling wheel to wheel in a best-two-of-three showdown.
"Today had a difficult start because I haven't driven the car in a while. The start is very important, and I did not have good starts today." said Grönholm, a two time World Rally Champion, after the podium. "You have to just stay on your line, and if you are bumped, you try to go where you want."
During the finals, Grönholm faced off against European rallycross veteran Michael Jernberg. The two were incredibly tight through both heats, bumping against each other in the final corner before the finish, jostling for the lead. Jernberg took second place, ahead of Tanner Foust in third.
"We had a few technical problems today, but we fixed the car," said Jernberg of his Czech-manufactured Skoda Fabia. "The car doesn't have much power in the slow, tight corners, so it is difficult to drive."
Foust suffered car trouble during the semifinals, nearly failing to make the podium at all, but the team was able to fix the car. This allowed Foust to beat his Olsberg teammate Pontus Tidemand, who finished fourth.
"I'm excited. This is the first time two rally cars have been run on the same course at the same time, side by side," said Foust. "The two-lap format doesn't give a lot of time to build an advantage."
As the morning rain and clouds burned off, the track at Irwindale dried up, and drivers found the grip improving. That became vital for the gravel sections.
"There are three acceleration points on the course that happen at low speed on gravel, so you really need to set up for grip on gravel," said Rhys Millen, driver of the Red Bull Hyundai Veloster.
Both Hyundai cars ran well early in the day, but during quarterfinals, both drivers were eliminated.
In the 2WD action, Dillon Van Way took first place in his Ford Focus. Van Way campaigned the Focus to a 2WD Rally America title in 2009, and loved the format of Super Rally.
"I used to race supermoto, and this is basically the same sort of thing, but in a car," said Van Way. "I love it!"
Second place went to Matthew Johnson in a Mazda RX-8. The car is very new to Johnson, who had problems through the day, including a transmission that stuck in second gear.
"That car is like one big fight, you really have to work," said Johnson, who also had steering difficulty through the day.
Randy Zimmer finished in third, in his carbon fiber-bodied Mazda Miata. Zimmer has been building the car over the last 11 weeks.
"It was a long road to get here," said Zimmer. "You really need to be in this series from the start."
Super Rally sees the cars on the same course, but there are two different lines in the middle section: a main line and the "joker," a b-line each competitor must take on one lap of each race. Drivers complete two laps in each race, and the driver who finishes with the best two out of three advances to the next round.
For Colorado driver Jimmy Keeney, the event ended during elimination rounds, when he came up short on the jump, rolling end over end and spinning on the nose of the car. Keeney was examined by medical staff and is okay, but the car was heavily damaged, and can not be repaired before tomorrow's races.
The Revolution continues tomorrow morning, with the debut of rallycross, where fans can watch six cars compete head to head in each race. Drivers will have to fight for position, where even the slightest mistake could put teams out of contention.