Ken Block was a close second, Bucky Lasek third at debut event at the superspeedway.
“I’ll be picking up bits and pieces of race cars out there for weeks,” said Joie Chitwood III, president of Daytona International Speedway, after Rhys Millen became the fifth different winner in six Red Bull Global Rallycross races this season, when he took the checkered flag at the inaugural Red Bull Global Rallycross Daytona. Millen, driving for his own Hyundai-backed team, beat Hoonigan Racing Division’s Ken Block and Subaru Rally Team USA’s Bucky Lasek to the line.
Yes, Chitwood and his crew have a little cleaning up to do, but he was happy with the race, a last-minute addition to the schedule to both Daytona at the GRC. On the hottest weekend of the year, the crowd, estimated at maybe 4,500, wasn’t massive but it was more than enough to get Chitwood thinking about the GRC’s next visit to the Speedway – which likely won’t be in August.
The track, just over one mile in length – the longest one yet in the GRC – was built in and around the “horseshoe,” the almost 90-degree right turn that the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona cars encounter after the make the hard left turn off track’s front straight – just passed the horseshoe is where Memo Gidley had that horrendous crash in the 24 this year when his Gainsco Chevrolet Corvette rear-ended a Ferrari that, for some reason, did not pull off the track as it stalled.
The GRC course was 80 percent tarmac, with one big table-top jump in the middle of the horseshoe. The grandstands from the 24 hours were pressed into service, as well as some temporary grandstands. There was no seating up in Daytona’s regular grandstands – you would have needed a telescope to see the action, plus the Daytona Rising construction is ongoing. Plus, Chitwood and Red Bull wanted an open feel to the event – full access to the paddock was available, and fans took advantage.
Friday consisted of qualifying and heats in both the GRC Supercar class – full 600-horsepower rallycross cars – and in the Lites class, which are 320-horsepower spec cars that look like Ford Fiestas, but can be re-badged as whatever you want. Saturday had more heats, the last-chance qualifying race, then the eight-lap Supercar feature.
Millen, still annoyed at having his fastest lap taken away from him on a four-wheels-over-the-line technicality that dropped him from first to fourth in qualifying – started the feature on the pole and was never seriously challenged. Ken Block was second, Bucky Lasek was third, making it a Hyundai-Ford-Subaru podium.
Behind those three, the action was abundant, as polesitter Joni Wiman flattened, then lost his left-rear spec Yokohama slick, but completed the race on his wheel. Scott Speed’s car ended up high-sided after contact, his day over.
Millen overcame a cam belt failure in Friday’s heats that sent his Hyundai up in flames to take the win in his semifinal and earn the top starting position in the main event. A strong start enabled him to jump out to a commanding lead, as Block separated himself from the field to make a late charge from second. In the end, Millen’s gap was large enough to preserve the victory, even as his engine failed on the final lap.
I was gritting my teeth with the power that Ken’s Ford makes and the way that some of the other guys have been going all year, could we still stick it to them?
“It was the first time all year that we had a track this long, all the other tracks the past three races have been short and condensed, with 30-second laps,” Millen said – this track saw laps just over one minute in length. “I was gritting my teeth with the power that Ken’s Ford makes and the way that some of the other guys have been going all year, could we still stick it to them?
“And we were very surprised with where we were. How amazing the car brakes and how well it turns in tight corners is what we focused on, and that was the recipe to get the job done here, but not without some clean driving by (Block and Lasek). Bucky and I had a great battle, and Ken and I in the final there. I saw him in my rear vision more than I was looking out the windshield. So hats off to these two guys as well.”
Block was pleased with his performance. “Coming into today, I had a good position in the semi, I just needed a good start, hopefully get away from everybody behind me and make it to the final, and unfortunately the points leader decided to take me out in that semi.
“I went out and won the Last Chance Qualifier on three tires—I had to race the last two laps and fend off Joni with a delaminated tire that scared the hell out of me on the fastest part of the track, going sideways at 120! We started in the final from the third row and ended up in second place, and being able to try and chase (Millen) down was a ton of fun.
“Rhys drove amazing, he had a good car setup this weekend and I was stoked to see that. It was fun trying to catch him—I was catching him every little bit, every lap, and it just was not enough. I didn’t have enough time at the end the race. But it was fun, I enjoy racing with these guys, and I’ve been racing with these guys a long time, so I’m stoked to be on the podium with them.”
As for Lasek, a comparative newcomer to the sport, he said that the hard work of he and his team is paying off. “Daytona was awesome—a fun track, really fast, that really showed what these cars are capable of. It was awesome to just battle clean, take some good lines, and these guys are top notch. So to be able to race with these guys and be competitive is an honor.”
In post-race inspection, Millen’s car was found to have electronic equipment not permitted under section 14-9.1 of the Red Bull GRC rulebook. Upon further inspection by the Red Bull GRC technical team, it was found that this equipment did not provide any performance advantage. The win will stand, but the team will be penalized 50 points and a fine will be imposed by the series. Millen could appeal.
In GRC Lites, Mitchell DeJong had his second perfect weekend of the season, posting the fastest time in qualifying, winning both of his heats, and taking the main event victory. Alejandro Fernandez and Tyler Benson completed the podium, with each driver earning his best career finish.
Though his four-race podium streak was snapped, Nelson Piquet Jr., whose car suffered a broken radiator, maintained his points lead by 40 over Block, who jumped from fifth to second in the championship. DeJong extended his championship lead in Lites to 66 points over Kevin Eriksson.
Full Supercars results of Red Bull Global Rallycross Daytona are as follows:
1. Rhys Millen, #67 Hyundai/Rhys Millen Racing Veloster Turbo
2. Ken Block, #43 Hoonigan Racing Division Ford Fiesta ST
3. Bucky Lasek, #81 Subaru Rally Team USA WRX STI
4. Patrik Sandell, #18 Olsbergs MSE Ford Fiesta ST
5. Sverre Isachsen, #11 Subaru Rally Team USA WRX STI
6. Tanner Foust, #34 Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross Polo R
7. Joni Wiman, #31 Olsbergs MSE Ford Fiesta ST
8. Nelson Piquet Jr., #07 SH Racing Rallycross Ford Fiesta ST
9. Austin Dyne, #14 Barracuda Racing Ford Fiesta
10. Scott Speed, #77 Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross Polo R
11. Emma Gilmour, #27 Hyundai/Rhys Millen Racing Veloster Turbo
12. Steve Arpin, #00 Royal Purple Racing/OMSE2 Ford Fiesta
13. Pat Moro, #59 Chevrolet Sonic Racing/PMR Motorsports Sonic
Provisional Supercars points through Round 6 of the Red Bull Global Rallycross championship are as follows:
1. Nelson Piquet Jr., 245
2. Ken Block, 205
3. Scott Speed, 190
4. Joni Wiman, 188
5. Steve Arpin, 170