Subaru Rally Team USA Completes 2016 Red Bull GRC Season in High Spirits
The final double-header round of the 2016 Red Bull Global Rallycross series got underway Friday at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, California. Subaru Rally Team USA is fielding three WRX STI Rallycross Spec Supercars piloted by Chris Atkinson, David Higgins and Japanese rally legend Toshi Arai. With a dramatic course set against the Port of LA and the Pacific Ocean, it’s a scenic venue, which will see intense action as 12 cars face off for 12 laps during the final races. Being a double-header weekend, a final will take place on both Saturday and Sunday.
Friday’s schedule focused on track practice as well as qualifying runs with Chris Atkinson 4th fastest in his Subaru WRX STI. David Higgins was close behind Atkinson, while Tosi Arai racing in his first ever Rallycross event was quickly gaining speed as he adjusted driving techniques.
All three Subaru Rallycross Spec WRX STI race cars ran flawlessly and SRTUSA feels fully prepared as they head into the weekend’s hectic schedule.
David Higgins put on an impressive performance 8th at Red Bull Global Rallycross in Los Angeles finishing 6th in the final, while teammate Chris Atkinson also had a great result finishing directly behind in 7th. The action was non-stop as the three SRTUSA cars battled for start position and overall results throughout the day. The weather was typical of southern California, with a light breeze and temperatures in 26.7℃.
During the semi-final, Chris Atkinson advanced directly to the final with a solid third place finish. David Higgins ended up in the last chance qualifier (LCQ), which he dominated from the start and won handily. During the final, David Higgins nailed the start and fought off hard charging competitors including a mid-air attack during the massive jump. Higgins was not fazed even slightly, and drove a professional clean race matching Atkinson’s finish from the last GRC Round in Seattle in 6th overall.
The Port of Los Angeles serves as the shortest track of the 2016 Red Bull GRC season at .699 miles. However, thankfully drivers have plenty of passing opportunities which Chris Atkinson took full advantage of Saturday. During the 12 car final, Atkinson had a poor start and briefly found himself at the back of the pack as the large group of cars began charging around the Port of LA. Putting years of experience to good use, Atkinson started picking off competitors one by one, and by the time the checkered flag dropped, Atkinson in his #55 WRX STI was in 7th place.
The final day of the 2016 Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship wrapped up 9th at the Port of Los Angeles. Chris Atkinson in the #55 WRX STI put on a brilliant performance during qualifying and secured the fastest overall time early Sunday. A testament to how far SRTUSA has come and definitive progress towards reaching the top of the leaderboard.
The heat races and semi-final were not as successful with all three SRTUSA cars ending up in the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). In a charged group racing around the 0.7 mile course, multiple points of contact between competitors caused issues and ultimately forced Japanese rally legend Toshi Arai to the back of the pack thus he did not advance.
For Sunday’s final, Chris Atkinson and David Higgins were positioned towards the rear of the twelve-car starting grid, on row 2 and 3 respectively. Despite this, David Higgins’ quick thinking and clever driving managed to almost immediately position him 5th and the veteran rally champion held this for the bulk of the race. However, on lap 9 of 12 Higgins was bumped from the rear while approaching the takeoff for the jump. As the three cars soared through the air, Higgins was out in front but at an off angle. During touchdown, his right rear corner hit hard immediately flattening the tire forcing him to slow. Meanwhile, teammate Chris Atkinson had steadily progressed and finished Saturday’s final 7th overall, while Higgins ended up 9th.