The second round of the 2016 Kansas City Region SCCA RallyCross Championship season drew the largest field of the young program’s history, 29 competitors. Saturday morning at the Thunder Valley Sand Drags in Grain Valley, MO brought perfect weather for RallyCross with light winds, sunny skies, and temperatures in the upper 60s and lower 70s. This great weather came at the end of a week of sporadic rains and storms. The rain earlier in the week created potentially fast conditions, but also created conditions prime for the development of ruts. While safety stewards Greg Cheney and Mark Hill did have to work harder than normal to maintain a safe course, the surface held up remarkably well.
The competition was just as fierce as it was during Event #1 back in March. The battle for championship points added to the drama during this past weekend’s RallyCross as competitors sought to gain ground or stretch a lead. The battle in Stock AWD was made more interesting by the addition of two new competitors in the class, Alexandre “Alex Z” Zugazagoitia in his 2006 BMW 330XI and Marten Barnett in his 1999 Subaru Impreza. Nefty Bloom began the day laying down fast times as he did during Event 1 and took the early lead. Marten was the closest to Nefty after Run 1, leading Alex in third place by 1.687 sec. Lawrence Duty struggled to stay clear of the cones, collecting one during his first run and two during his second. At two seconds penalty for each one, Lawrence was facing an uphill battle for the remainder of the day.
As the morning progressed, Alex would find more and more pace in his AWD BMW and would overtake Marten on Run 3. As Nefty stretched his lead out to 7.156 seconds over Alex at the lunch break, Alex in turn would lead Marten by 3.247 sec. The afternoon session saw some dramatic changes. While Nefty continued to pull ahead of the field during Run 5, Alex suffered a serious bobble, crossing the line with a 59.599, while Marten laid down a blazing time of 55.690. That was enough for Marten to take possession of second place. Run 6 would change everything. Both Nefty and Marten missed gates on course, a ten-second penalty. Nefty saw all of his work during the morning evaporated in a moment as Alex would assume the lead. The gap between the two would fluctuate over the next couple of runs, but Alex would maintain a 0.450-sec advantage going into the final run of the day. Alex turned in the fastest time of the day in the class with a 52.313. Nefty answered with an even faster time of 51.701 which was just enough to leap ahead of Alex and take the victory by a mere 0.162 sec. The victory allowed Nefty to tie his championship rival, Lawrence Duty, for the points lead.
The other significant battle of the day was in Prepared FWD, a class that saw two National RallyCross champions do battle. Right from Run 1, Jim Rowland, showed everyone why he’s a a threat at every RallyCross event he attends with his 1992 Nissan Sentra SE-R. Jim ran away from the pair of Fiesta STs piloted by Greg Cheney and Doug Patterson. Patterson could not avoid the cones, collecting four seconds in penalties during the morning session, while Cheney ran clean but ultimately could not match the pace of the vintage Nissan. Greg tried to stay in touch with Jim, but he was losing nearly a second per run. By the lunch break, Jim had a 3.065-sec lead over Greg and a 7.691-sec lead over Doug.
The afternoon session, like in Stock AWD, saw a huge shake-up in the standings. Greg would have a slow Run 5 and collect a cone penalty which allowed Doug to close the gap to his Fiesta ST rival. Doug also ran a pace that bested Jim’s time for Run 5, and continued to lay down fast times throughout the remainder of the afternoon runs. Jim, who came to the afternoon with a commanding lead, saw that gap evaporate as his Nissan developed fuel pick-up issues in the last three runs. While the Fiestas were laying down times in the 49-sec range, Jim was struggling in the low 50s. After the penultimate Run 8, Doug overtook Greg for possession of second place, but was still 0.741 sec behind Jim. In the final run of the day for the class, Doug put down a 48.493, which was a little less than a tenth quicker than Greg’s 48.588. Jim’s fuel starvation issues continued and his final time was a 54.978, allowing Doug to overtake Jim for the event lead and the victory. Doug’s win on Saturday ties him with Greg in the Prepared FWD championship.
The battles during this event highlight the difference between Solo and RallyCross. Yes, in both types of competitions, it’s one car at a time through a course defined by cones, but RallyCross scores the cumulative time, rather than the best time. This means that to win at RallyCross, consistency and endurance matters. As a driver, one has to be fast and clean each and every run. One sloppy, penalty-laden run can be the difference between coming home victorious and coming home in last.
Our next event is on Saturday, July 16th back at the Thunder Valley Sand Drags. With two classes locked in a tie for the championship lead, it should be an amazing event. You can register at MotorsportsReg.com beginning on June 16th at http://msreg.com/KCRX2016-3.
The rest of the 2016 season schedule and the full results from RallyCross Event 1 are on our RallyCross Schedule and Results page. Thanks again to all who came out for a fun and successful day, and for helping our RallyCross program grow.
(Photos courtesy of Patterson Prints, LLP)