By Patrick Rall
This past weekend’s debut for Travis Pastrana and the 2013
Dodge Dart rally car did bring about a win in a the second round of heat races
but due to some dirty driving by Finnish Ford driver Toomas Heikkenen, Pastrana
and the Red Bull/Discount Tire Dodge Dart were forced to settle for a
disappointing 9th place finish.
Pastrana started the first event of the 2012 Global
RallyCross season strong, turning in the 4th fastest lap during
testing as the new Dodge Dart rally car ran a lap of 34.999. This time was only slower than series regular
Marcus Grönholm (Ford), Mopar drift driver Samuel Hubinette (Saab) and European
rally champ Svere Issachsen (Subaru).
The Dart got its first race action of the season in heat 1C
of round 1 when it lined up against the Ford Fiesta’s of Brian Deegan and David
Binks along with the Subaru WRX STi of Tim Rooney. Pastrana got a great start, heading into the mandatory
“short cut” right behind X Games rally champ Brian Deegan. As Pastrana entered the wet hairpin turn in
second place behind Deegan, the Rockstar Engery Drink sponsored Ford Fiesta
rally car locked up the brakes and the Dart hit the driver’s side of the Ford
hard – breaking the steering assembly and rendering the right front wheel
inoperable. Travis was forced to coast
into the infield area of the track where he sat watching as Deegan went on to
win that heat race. To add insult to
injury, those who watched the whole event on ESPN3 likely saw the Charlotte
Motor Speedway track crew lift the Dart onto the roll back tow vehicle – only to
have the car slip from the chains and fall off of the truck.
However, after some time in the garage area, Pastrana’s team
was able to repair the Discount Tire/Red Bull Racing Dodge Dart for the second
round of heat races. In round 2,
Pastrana was able to run the first few laps well, running in second place when
Brian Deegan’s Fiesta broke the gearbox.
As Deegan’s Fiesta rolled slowly down the banked straight of the CMS
Rally course, Pastrana blasted past and never looked back. His win of the heat race in round 2 secured
his spot in the field of 10 cars for the final race of the night.
Unfortunately, early in the final race, Ford driver Toomas
Heikkenen ran hard into Pastrana as they entered the same wet hairpin where the
Dart wrecked in the first heat race of the night. The impact from the rear shoved the Dart
rally car hard into the wall – tearing the right front wheel nearly free of the
vehicle. Pastrana managed to limp his
car back around to the area where the field started before pulling out of the
way. Pastrana technically finished last
(10th) in the final event of the night but after wrecking Pastrana, Samuel
Hubinette and Dave Mirra, the Global RallyCross officials disqualified Heikkenen
so rather than finishing 3rd, he was sent to 10th. That didn’t do Pastrana much good but at
least there was some justice for the way that the Finnish driver conducted
himself during the race. RallyCross
always has a certain level of physical contact between the cars but Heikkenen
literally wrecked every car that he passed – almost wrecking Marcus Grönholm in
the first turn of the final race.
Marcus Grönholm went on to win the race, followed by Tanner
Foust (Ford Fiesta) in 2nd and Stephan Verdier (Hyundai Veloster) in
3rd. Former Viper drifter Sam
Hubinette finished 5th in his Saab entry after being wrecked out of
the 3rd place by Heikkenen late in the race.
The Dodge Dart rally car piloted by Travis Pastrana will be
back on the track on June 9th at Texas Motor Speedway.