Marcus Grönholm takes first day victory

Teams are preparing to return to tough, multi-car rallycross competition on Saturday after an exciting first day of flat-out action at Irwindale Speedway that saw two-time World Rally Champion Marcus Grönholm emerge with the Day 1 win.

“I used to ride motocross, so I know a little bit how to fight – elbows out,”Grönholm said Friday. “Tomorrow is going to be interesting when we get more cars on the track.”

The first-ever Global RallyCross Championship event saw a field of top drivers in two-wheel and all-wheel drive competing head-to-head on a mixed dirt and tarmac course featuring a massive, 70-foot gap jump never seen before outside of X Games competition.

Grönholm put on an impressive performance in Friday’s Day 1 racing, piloting his 550-horsepower Best Buy Ford Fiesta to the all-wheel drive win after a tight final round where he bumped doors with Swedish rallycross pro Michael Jernberg’s Skoda Fabia. Jernberg finished in second place, while third place went to three-time X Games Rally gold medalist Tanner Foust in his Rockstar Energy Drink Ford Fiesta.

“Today’s head-to-head bracket racing was amazing and it had people holding their breaths until the final corner,” said Foust. “Tomorrow is going to be even better.”

These competitors will have a new driver to contend with on Saturday. BMX pro Dave Mirra will line up to compete in his new Subaru WRX STI rallycross car. The Subaru Rally Team USA driver sat out the first day of competition, with the team opting to perfect their vehicle for Day 2 highlight action.

Saturday will see as many as five vehicles racing together on the tight course. Drivers will be looking to start strong and stay out front as they navigate multiple hairpins and the gap jump, while battling race traffic. It will be aggressive, non-stop racing all day long.

Among the notable guests expected to be on-hand to watch Saturday’s contest are Monster World Rally Team driver Ken Block, motocross pro Kyle Loza and NASCAR driver AJ Allmendinger. Although they won’t be competing, these stars will be cheering on the action trackside and Allmendinger, who tried out the Best Buy Ford Fiesta in a practice session earlier this week, will assist in introducing the final race Saturday afternoon.

Top drivers including Travis Pastrana and Brian Deegan have described rally car competition as “action sport, with a roll cage,” and Friday’s competition lived up to that reputation. In a spectacular crash, Colorado driver Jimmy Keeney flipped his Subaru WRX STi while attempting to claw back lost time over Hyundai driver Marcus Dodd in his rallycross Veloster. Keeney emerged unharmed and said he hoped his privateer team would be able to find the budget to rebuild and return to the series later in the year.

For his part, winnerGrönholm said he was enjoying this new racing experience. In addition to two World Rally Championship titles (2000, 2002), the legendary Finnish driver also won the 2002 Race of Champions and earned the Nations’ Cup at the contest in 2006. He also took on the 2009 Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb in a similarly prepared Ford Fiesta.

Drivers in the Global RallyCross Championship are vying for a chance to win the first-ever series title – and a chance to earn an invitation to X Games 17 Rally competitions held in downtown Los Angeles this July. Two-wheel drive entries also have a shot at a prize purse to benefit grassroots competitors.

The two-wheel-drive category saw young driver Dillon Van Way take victory in his Ford Focus over former all-wheel drive X Games driver Matthew Johnson, who debuted a Mazda RX8 at this contest. Third-place in the two-wheel drive category went to veteran competitor Randy Zimmer in his Mazda Miata.

Fans tuned in to watch the action live on Facebook and ESPN3 where coverage streamed all day long. Full race coverage will air April 17 on ESPN2 (check local listings). The series has a multi-year programming relationship with ESPN, with Global RallyCross Championship broadcasts slated to follow NASCAR Nationwide and NHRA shows on ESPN and ESPN2.

In addition to the fierce door-to-door rallycross competition at Irwindale, drivers will also be available for autograph sessions and a vendor midway will offer further entertainment for fans.

Tickets on Saturday are just $20 and are available at Gates open at 10 a.m. Fans can also find the series on Facebook ( and Twitter ( to sign up for a chance to win tickets and other prizes.

The RallyCar organization sanctions the Global RallyCross Championship events. Competitors in the Global RallyCross Championship may also elect to score points in the U.S. Rallycross Championship.

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