Ken Block took advantage of a late race restart at MCAS New River to clinch his second win of the 2015 Red Bull Global Rallycross season, beating Patrik Sandell who looked all but set to take the second win of his career as the series celebrated 4th of July weekend in style by taking over a Marine base for the biggest event of the season.
Block’s win, his second out of four this season, puts him back into the championship lead and joint second on the all-time main events win table with five.
Earlier in the day Block took victory in Semi Final A by passing Steve Arpin on the dirt with two laps remaining. There was drama in the opening stages of the race on though as Block made contact with Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross’ Tanner Foust on the first lap, taking the two-time series champion out of the race.
The contact saw the Daytona winner’s left rear wheel and suspension torn completely from the car, ending not just his race but his whole weekend early.
Joni Wiman was the other driver to advance from the first semi-final with Sverre Isachsen and Nelson Piquet Jr. going into the Last Chance Qualifier.
In the other semi-final, championship leader Sebastian Eriksson carried on his fine Daytona form by taking the win, ahead of Sandell and Brian Deegan with Austin Dyne and Bucky Lasek getting a second chance in the LCQ.
For the second weekend in a row Foust’s team mate Scott Speed endured engine issues which kept him out of semi-final B. He later failed to take to the track for the LCQ, bringing a dismal end to a tough weekend for the Volkswagen outfit.
With both Beetles out of action, Isachsen, Piquet, Dyne and Lasek all automatically advanced from the LCQ to the main event.
In the final, Block never looked like challenging for the victory until Brian Deegan brought out the red flags and the race was restarted with the remaining cars starting from their original grid positions.
At the first start Block made a poor getaway, leaving him to battle back through the field as Sandell took off and began to build a lead over Joni Wiman.
However with four laps remaining Austin Dyne was fighting with Deegan for position when the two made contact. Deegan, making his first points-paying start this season, came off worse. He first hit a tyre bundle before clattering into a solid concrete wall on the start finish line, bringing a halt to proceedings.
When the race resumed, Block didn’t make the same mistake he made the first time around, launching into a clear lead as Wiman and Sandell battled over second place.
As Block tore off into the distance, the two Swedes continued to fight for position until Wiman’s engine gave way on the final lap, handing second place to Sandell.
Second for Sandell, who looked guaranteed to win earlier, is the Bryan Herta Rally Sport driver’s best result of the season; something which could be considered unusual given that he has often been near the top of the speed charts so far this year.
Nelson Piquet Jr. took the final podium place in his Stars and Stripes-clad SH Racing Fiesta, capping of a phenomenal week for the Brazilian who clinched the inaugural Formula E title in London last Sunday.
Austin Dyne and Steve Arpin completed the top five with the Subaru duo of Sverre Isachsen and Bucky Lasek in sixth and seventh.
Despite his blown engine, Joni Wiman was classified in eighth, one place ahead of team mate Sebastian Eriksson who dropped out of the final with suspension issues just after the restart.
The Red Bull GRC circus reconvenes in three weeks’ time for the second double header event of the season in Detroit, America’s spiritual home of the automobile.
The series’ strong Ford contingent will all be looking to take victory the manufacturer’s home event and with three out of four events this year being won by the Blue Oval it’s certainly not out of the question.