Preview: GRC at Pikes Peak

Aaron Kathman/World Rally Sport

Day 1: Super Rally
Day 2: RallyCross

The Global RallyCross Championship is about to hit its peak -- Pikes Peak, that is -- for the final event of the series. Dubbed "Last Chance," this weekend's race is the final opportunity for drivers to earn points toward a coveted X Games 17 invite. Over the two days of action at the Pikes Peak International Raceway in Colorado Springs, Colo., drivers will compete in two events: Super Rally, where two drivers race head to head, and RallyCross, where six drivers take to the course at the same time. The events are this Friday and Saturday, respectively, and tickets range from $5-25.

The Two To Watch
Marcus Grönholm and Tanner Foust both drive for Ford, but the team atmosphere stops there. Grönholm is a two time World Rally Champion, and he dominated the season opener, "The Revolution," in Irwindale, Calif. Foust finished second in that event, and he drove through a separated shoulder at the second stop, "Twin Peaks," in Seattle, Wash., to win both Super Rally and RallyCross. Grönholm couldn't attend Twin Peaks, so he and Foust will face off in Colorado to see who will be crowned champion of the 2011 Global RallyCross Championship.

Subaru Swaps Seats
Subaru Rally Team USA will be back for the final round of the series, but with a different driver at the wheel. Dave Mirra will be sitting out the event while Subaru continues to repair all the damage his car endured at the Twin Peaks event. In his place, teammate David Higgins, from the Isle of Man. Higgins already has a couple U.S. rally titles under his belt: He won in 2002 and 2003 while driving for Mitsubishi USA. Currently leading the Rally America championship, Higgins teaches rally around the world, and he developed the Subaru USA RallyCross car for Mirra. This guy is a force to be reckoned with, and he could enjoy the advantage of surprise.

Metal Mulisha Returns To Rally
Brian Deegan, motocross legend and General of the Metal Mulish, will sit behind the wheel of what is reported to be a freshly built Ford Fiesta RallyCross car for the event. This will be Deegan's first rally competition since X Games 16, when he took two silver medals, but he has been doing a lot of truck racing in the Lucas Oil Off Road Series. Could the perennial darkhorse pull off something special?

Hyundai At Full Strength?
Hyundai has shown they have a good car, perhaps even the best in the handling department, but they haven't got the power to compete with Fords. If Rhys Millen Racing and Hyundai have found the power, things could certainly turn around for the team. Millen's teammate, Marcus Dodd, will also be back, having missed the RallyCross event at Twin Peaks.

Vengeance For Verdier
Stephan Verdier has been the top privateer in the series so far, but he is still looking for that elusive win. At Twin Peaks, Verdier was able to find an advantage by taking a different line into the first corner -- until othe competitors caught on and quickly closed the door. If Verdier can find a new trick at Pikes Peak, maybe he'll find his way to the top of the podium.

Dirt Is The Word
The Last Chance event is sponsored by the video game DiRT3, developed with World Rally Championship driver Ken Block, so it's fitting that the course has more dirt than any other, making up 65% of the course. While the dirt meant little at the first event, it was clear at Twin Peaks that the more challenging the dirt portion of the track, the more demanding the competition. Stepping up the ratio of dirt-to-tarmac for Last Chance will favor drivers who are more comfortable on loose surfaces.

All About The Altitude
Just like people, cars have a hard time breathing when the air is thin, which basically means they can't create as much power as they would at sea level. So what's a team to do? Changes to engine maps will help extract the most out of the little oxygen on hand, but drivers will have to keep things clean to make the most of the power on hand. Big slides may look like fun, but it's the drivers who keep the tires pointed the right way that will stand out -- and probably win.

Round 3 of the Global RallyCross Championships kicks off on Friday, June 17.