Finnish driver Toomas "Topi" Heikkinen secured the 2013 Global Rallycross Championship on Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway despite finishing behind Scott Speed and Brian Deegan in the SuperCar final.
"It's been a great year. Now we get the championship with the one point that we needed. But I'm still looking forward and want to win the last one. Of course I want to be on the podium still -- that's what I'm looking for, and that is our goal," Heikkinen told global-rallycross.com.
Aggressive driving on a technical course turned the day into a demolition derby, with smash-ups involving many of the top racers in nearly every heat.
"I love bumper cars, don't get me wrong … but this was straight-up bumper cars," Travis Pastrana said after crashing out in the first lap of finals and forcing a red flag on the course, a day after crashing out in his NASCAR Nationwide Series race in Kentucky. "It's just been an extremely disappointing year in general."
Speed won his second final of the year to go along with his victory in his first RallyCross competition at the season opener in April at X Games Foz do Iguaçu.
"We were pretty solid all day. In these things, you can be fast -- we were pretty fast at Bristol but we didn't even make the final -- so you've got to be lucky not to get in any crashes. We stayed out of trouble, got lucky, and were able to win again," Speed told global-rallycross.com.
Heikkinen blew a front right tire in the first qualifying heat and was forced into his first Last Chance Qualifier of the year. Bucky Lasek's car was T-boned in a separate crash but still managed to finish second in Heat 2A, just behind Ken Block, to guarantee his spot in finals.
There were bigger dust-ups in Heat 2B, with Pastrana's teammate Bryce Menzies losing his entire front right wheel assembly and Patrik Sandell blowing out his right rear tire. Speed and Pastrana advanced to the final. Dave Mirra finished third after taking a penalty for a jumpstart in the Mini RX that Liam Doran had been racing in previous GRC events this year. Doran skipped the GRC race this weekend because of a conflict with the European Rallycross Championship.
Heat 3 saw the most devastating crash of the day, as light contact with Deegan sent his teammate, Tanner Foust, careening into the barrier and flipping over onto the roof of his Ford Fiesta, which had to be removed from the barrier with a crane before a restart.
All that drama made for an LCQ stacked with some of the biggest names in rallycross and yet another bit of bumper-car action as Foust ran Mirra off the side of the course right after the start. That move earned Foust a black flag, and he, Menzies and Sandell ended up in a pile at the end of the first lap. Steve Arpin, Stephan Verdier and Heikkinen advanced to the final, while Mirra and Foust advanced to a terse exchange of words.
"The driving that just happened right there in that last heat was ridiculous," said Mirra, who had been the top racer in practice earlier in the day. "Tanner, I've lost a lot of respect for his driving. That is not how you drive. … it's not demolition derby. Where's the gentleman's racing? It's unbelievable."
Foust, whose car was partially being held together with duct tape for the LCQ, admitted fault and apologized.
"I feel so bad, especially, to be honest to Mirra, because he was really killing it this weekend," Foust said, noting that something wrong with his car must have gone undetected after getting it upside down in the earlier heat. "I know he's so excited to be driving and I feel terrible that I took that away from him."
The final was as full of mayhem as the rest of the day, with Pastrana crashing out and forcing a red-flagged restart. Speed got the early lead after the restart ahead of Deegan and Ken Block, who had trouble later in the course and ended up getting lapped by the leaders. Sverre Isachsen drove off the course, ending his day. Deegan managed to hold onto the second spot despite knocking over a course marker, and Speed held his lead despite losing his front bumper during the race. Heikkinen steadfastly worked his way up to a third place finish.
Heikkinen, who hasn't missed a podium all season, also picked up $20,000 for winning the inaugural Sylvania SilverStar zXe Global Rallycross Cup for earning the most points at the rounds in Loudon, N.H., Bristol, Tenn., Atlanta and Charlotte.
One event remains in the 2013 GRC season on Nov. 7 in Las Vegas. Plenty of time for everyone to put their cars back together, but first-time champion Heikkinen now has an insurmountable lead over 2011 and 2012 champion Foust and Deegan in the overall standings.
Finnish driver Joni Wiman won his fifth consecutive round of the GRC Lites class, followed by Geoff Sykes of the United States and Sebastian Eriksson of Sweden.
Global Rallycross Championship Round 8, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Sept. 22, 2013