With seven winners in 12 rounds, the 2015 Red Bull Global Rallycross season will go down as one of the most competitive in the series’ short history.
Ken Block, Sebastian Eriksson, Patrik Sandell, Nelson Piquet Jr., Joni Wiman and title rivals Scott Speed and Tanner Foust were all victorious in a season which will also be remembered for being the year that Olsbergs MSE and Ford’s dominance of the category finally came to an end.
It was Volkswagen’s year. The Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team went in to 2015 with high expectations, not just inside the organisation, but from fans and observers alike who expected the WRC and IndyCar dream-team crush the opposition.
After Volkswagen and Andretti’s emergence in 2014, the 2015 season saw an increased presence of teams from the IndyCar field. Chip Ganassi Racing joined the fray with Bryan Herta also stepping up his involvement to run two full time entries.
Further team changes saw Subaru make sporadic appearances throughout the year while they developed their new WRX STi while fellow 2014 race winners Rhys Millen Racing withdrew from a full-time, two-car assault after losing factory Hyundai funding at the end of 2014.
The competition level had stepped up. And along with the return of powerhouses Olsbergs MSE and Hoonigan Racing Division, the series was set for its most explosive year to date.
Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross may have been the early season favourites but it was not until the second half of the year when their true colours shone through.
While they were enduring a shaky start to their second Red Bull GRC campaign (the first full year with the Beetle GRC), Ken Block was gaining a reputation as the man to beat, scooping three wins out of a possible five in the first part of the campaign.
He got his season off to the best possible start by following up his 2014 season-ending victory in Las Vegas by finishing first on the streets of Fort Lauderdale in the opening round.
Although starting his weekend in the barriers after a daring over manoeuvre on Scott Speed in his heat failed to pay off, Block built a convincing lead in the final as Scott Speed and Nelson Piquet Jr. followed home.
It was the perfect beginning for the 2014 runner up, the same can’t be said for 2014 champion Joni Wiman who ended up missing the Fort Lauderdale final on medical grounds after sustaining a back injury early on in the event.
He was back for rounds two and three at Daytona, which came after a non-championship round at X Games in Austin, Texas where Scott Speed clinched his third gold medal in as many years.
For Block, he wasn’t to make it three wins in a row as Tanner Foust and rookie Sebastian Eriksson shared the spoils at ‘The World Center of Racing’.
Bryan Herta Rally Sport’s driver Patrik Sandell, who had a difficult time in Ft. Lauderdale and at X Games, began the first main event on pole but contact with Block on the opening lap took both out of contention and allowed Foust to leapfrog from the second row of the grid to a commanding win ahead of Austin Dyne and Eriksson.
The second went to Eriksson after he too took the lead on the opening lap, heading home Block who returned to the podium, and Steve Arpin who was awarded the position post-race after an on track collision with team mate Jeff Ward who was standing in for the absent Brian Deegan.
Eriksson didn’t just leave Florida with his first piece of silverware after just three Supercars starts, the young Swede took an eight point lead in the championship as the Red Bull GRC circus moved onto MCAS New River for the first ever motorsport event on an active military base.
With the event taking place on Independence Day it was only fitting that the top spot on the podium went to an American driver, and it was non other than Ken Block who won ‘Race the Base’.
It was very nearly a different story though. Sandell looked set to win, having a sizeable lead early in the final after Block struggled at the start. A red flag for a heavy crash for Brian Deegan however would reverse the roles, allowing Block to take his second win of the season and the championship lead once more.
Block made it three from five at the first part of the Detroit double header next up. Again, Sandell was a sure bet for victory until bad luck, this time a mechanical failure, struck once more.
For day two of the event it was Block’s turn for some bad luck while Sandell roared off into the distance to take a long-awaited second career win.
An overly ambitious move by Block took out Foust and Sandell, bringing out a red flag. While Foust was taken out of contention on the spot, Sandell and Block survived, with the latter being moved to the back of the grid for the restart.
Sandell followed up his Detroit triumph with second place in Washington DC, finishing behind Nelson Piquet Jr. who took his first career win in what was a reverse of last year’s DC result. Block extended his championship lead in DC with a third place finish despite finding the RFK Stadium parking lot circuit tough.
Next up was the penultimate double header event in Los Angeles. It was here where the season would turn on it’s head.
After a ninth, a seventh, two second places and a brace of non-finishes, Scott Speed returned to the winner’s circle for the first time since LA 2014, taking two out of two on the West Coast while Foust returned to the podium for the first time since his Daytona win with a third place behind Speed and Brian Deegan on day one and a second on day two. Block meanwhile had to settle with missing out on the final on the first day and retiring from the final on the second day.
“I appreciated the good luck when it was there but when it went bad it went really bad which really sucked,” Block told The Checkered Flag following the LA rounds, “on the second day I got in the final and got up to second place in the first lap and then the propshaft broke, I was pretty gutted when all that happened.”
Despite that, he went to the next two rounds in Barbados with a chance at the title. That was to vanish quickly.
VARX once again dominated with Foust winning twice and Speed following him home on both occasions, but the attention was firmly on Block who rolled spectacularly out of the final, and championship contention on the first day. It was the second year in succession that the ‘Head Hoonigan in Charge’ ended up on his roof in the Caribbean and his luck wasn’t about to change on day two, despite having his car repaired overnight. He failed to finish the final, completing just five out of eight laps.
An all Volkswagen title showdown in Las Vegas was set.
Scott Speed needed just an eighth place finish to claim his first Red Bull GRC championship. Foust, although in second and Speed’s only challenger mathematically, remained very much an outsider.
A conservative Speed cruised home in third place in the terrible weather conditions, securing the crown as Olsbergs MSE went on to secure a season best one-two finish in the final, 2014 champion Joni Wiman signing out in style with his first ever Supercars race victory ahead of Sebastian Eriksson.
Foust could only manage ninth place after an early race shunt. The lowly finish in the final race of the season relegated him from second to third in the final standings with Eriksson’s Vegas podium promoting him to runner up spot in his first year in the series.
Race winners Nelson Piquet Jr. and Joni Wiman rounded out the top five in the points, ahead of Steve Arpin who only managed one podium all year, but didn’t miss a single final.
Despite his early season heroics, Ken Block eventually finished the season in seventh place, one spot ahead of Patrik Sandell who, like Block, would have no doubt been higher up the table had luck gone his way.
Austin Dyne finished as the lowest scoring full time entry in ninth place, but the fact that he was a championship challenger for much of the season highlights the strong competitive nature of the season.
Final Points Standings
|Scott Speed||Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross||456|
|Sebastian Eriksson||Olsbergs MSE||400|
|Tanner Foust||Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross||388|
|Nelson Piquet Jr.||SH Racing Rallycross||380|
|Joni Wiman||Olsbergs MSE||370|
|Steve Arpin||Chip Ganassi Racing||357|
|Ken Block||Hoonigan Racing Division||345|
|Patrik Sandell||Bryan Herta Rally Sport||328|
|Austin Dyne||Bryan Herta Rally Sport||277|
|Brian Deegan*||Chip Ganassi Racing||229|
|Sverre Isachsen*||Subaru Rally Team USA||136|
|Bucky Lasek*||Subaru Rally Team USA||88|
Deegan, Isachsen and Lasek did not participate in every event.
Victor Gonzalez Jr., Jeff Ward, Travis Pastrana, Liam Doran, Pat Moro, Andreas Bakkerud, Logan Gomez, Rhys Millen, David Higgins and Brian Wong were all ineligible for points
16-year-old Oliver Eriksson added to Olsberg’s collection of titles with something of a surprising GRC Lites title victory.
He went in the final race of the season trailing team mate Austin Cindric in the points. Cindric however got tangled up in a first lap collision that took him out of the race, handing the title to Eriksson.
The pair shared more than half of the season’s victories between them with Eriksson winning in Daytona (I), Los Angeles (I) and Barbados (I) while Cindric prevailed in Fort Lauderdale, Daytona (II), Los Angeles (II) and Barbados (II).
Son of Team Penske’s Tim Cindric, Austin, may have won more, but it was Eriksson’s superior podium record (Three second and third places to two) which edged it in the end.
Miles Maroney finished his first GRC Lites season in third place with a win in the second Detroit race and four further podiums while Alejandro Fernandes finished in fourth, albeit winless.
DirtFish Motorsports’ Tanner Whitten took fifth in the final standings with a win in the first Detroit race. Alex Keyes meanwhile took sixth.
The 18-year-old Californian missed the season opener in Fort Lauderdale and failed to start Detroit II but still took home a brace of wins at MCAS New River and Washington DC.