Red Bull Global Rallycross Seattle was the race that the entire DirtFish staff had looked forward to throughout the entire 2017 season! With this race being the home event of DirtFish Motorsports, the excitement was high. This was magnified by the fact that DirtFish driver, Conner Martell had dominated the previous year, winning Qualifying, both heat races and then totally took the final! There was a lot riding on the weekend and a lot to live up to, to say the least.
For the DirtFish team, everything began the weekend prior to the race by throwing a party at the headquarters in Snoqualmie, Washington. The goal was to promote the team, the Seattle race and one of DirtFish partner’s, Subaru Rally Team USA while giving our fans a day filled with fun times like helicopter rides, rally thrill rides and giving away a bunch of free prizes! The event was very well received by the community and everyone who attended it. We are very lucky to be based out of a community that is so supportive of our company and our brand.
Following a busy weekend, both DirtFish drivers had spent an extensive amount of time preparing for the doubleheader race. Conner and teammate, James Rimmer, were both focused on producing top results for the hometown crowd. Both drivers had the potential to make that happen – one was able to come close to a perfect race, the other’s weekend came to a premature end following a devastating wreck that wouldn’t allow him to finish and landed him in the hospital.
On both cars this weekend were two new sponsors; the number 21 car would be running the black and grey colors of YEBA Clothing (an athletic-wear company based out of CA) and the 25 car was showing off the iconic forest green of Girl Scouts of Western Washington.
Racing began Friday afternoon as the teams made their first laps around the track that the GRC crew had carved into Evergreen Speedway. The initial impressions from the drivers was that the track was fun and very fast. While it didn’t feature the long straightaways that we saw at a few of the previous locations this year, the cars were traveling between 80-90 miles per hour through the banked corner that lead into a straightaway prior to making a 90 degree turn onto the gravel section. Instead of being a shortcut, this time the Joker lap added a significant amount of time to a lap and it featured very tight turns. If a driver made a mistake in the joker, they would really be fighting to keep their position.
The results of qualifying were extremely tight, with the top-six all within one second of each other. Conner was able to find good lines and success during qualifying, finishing in position two just behind rival, Cyril Raymond. Following qualifying, Conner and James went straight into the first round of heat races on friday evening. Both drivers were able to finish in P2 in their respective heat races, which set them up well for the following morning and the second round of heat races.
Following a good night’s rest, the team showed up early on Saturday morning ready for a hard day of racing in front of the hometown crowd and fans. The two DirtFish drivers began the morning battling door-to-door with each other in the same heat race and crossed the finish line in 2nd and 3rd. The semi-final race is when everything became interesting. James ran a clean semi-final and finished with a respectable 3rd place. The same can’t be said for Conner; he was running a very clean race and had a substantial lead over the rest of the field. That was until a part gave out in the gearbox and his car went from all-wheel drive to rear-wheel drive. Conner was still able to be fast on the tarmac sections, but the car was very difficult to control on the gravel sections and he was not able to put the power to the ground on the exit of the corners. He retired early from the race to allow the crew enough time to replace the gearbox before the final race.
Because of his DNF in the semi-final, Conner would be starting in position ten knowing he would need to push hard to move up through the rest of the field. As he was nearing the end of the race, he had moved up a few positions until the second-to-last lap, which is when disaster struck. As Conner was pushing the car flatout around the banking, his right-rear tire failed and the tread delaminated from the body of the tire. This sent him into an uncontrollable spin at over eighty miles-per-hour. Before anyone knew what had happened, the car struck the wall with so much force that the seat brackets bent and the earth-backed wall moved nearly a foot. He immediately told his spotter (and DirtFish Instructor), Andrew Caddell, that he needed medical attention. Once the Global Rallycross safety crew was able to reach Conner, it took them some time to extract him as they were forced to use the jaws of life to pry the door open. He was complaining of pain in his chest and left leg, so he was taken straight to the hospital to be thoroughly checked out by the medical staff. The GRC safety crew and medical staff did an amazing job responding to the crash, removing Conner from the car and assessing his injuries. Thank you, safety crew!
As the entire team anxiously awaited updates on Conner’s condition, the crew began to assess the car and what it would require to be drivable again. Surprisingly, the car really wasn’t in that bad of shape and the majority of the damage was from the jaws of life that were used to open the car. After replacing a few of the damaged parts and taking measurements, they were surprised to find that the frame was only two millimeters from spec. This meant that it could be cleared to run the following day. After a few hours, the team was relieved when word came from the hospital that Conner had been cleared only with major bruising and a possible concussion.
The following day, it was all up to the second DirtFish driver, James Rimmer, to lay down some fast times and come out with top results. That is exactly what he did!
James began the day with a 3rd position in qualifying only a half a second behind the top qualifier. This gave him a good starting position for the first set of heat races, where he had one of the best starts of his career. He jumped into the lead right off of the starting line and was able to hold off Christian Brooks throughout the race. This was only beginning of the best day of James’ career. At the start of heat number two, he had another perfect start and again jumped out into the lead right away. After holding off Brooks and Travis PeCoy for the entire race, he crossed the line in 1st for the second race in a row!
James was halfway to having a perfect day of racing and repeating what Conner had achieved one year earlier; the only upcoming challenges were the semi-final and final races. When the lights went green on the semi-final, you would have thought that James had spent the entire month races practicing starts. He had another near perfect start to jump right into the lead again! While there was a little bit of carnage in this race, James was out in front and held off the other drivers for six laps to win another race. Not only was this semi-final win the first of James’ career, it was also his first heat race win. To go from never winning a single heat race to winning two heat races and a semi-final is extremely impressive and shows what he is capable of.
Unfortunately, that was the end of the good luck for James that day. Carnage in the first two corners of the final forced him to retire from the race. He had a good jump on the start and was battling for the lead, until Travis PeCoy turned in on him through turn one, forcing him to hit another competitor who slipped past him on the inside. James was sitting in position number three heading into turn two when he was hit from behind and spun by another competitor. At this point, he could have continued if it wasn’t for Travis PeCoy hitting his car again, which caused his steering shaft to break.
While the end of both driver’s races wasn’t what the DirtFish team was hoping for, our entire crew and drivers shined in so many different ways – James proved to everyone that he has amazing potential to be fully competitive and the entire team showed how they can all band together when one part of the team is in need. DirtFish has one of the best crews in the Red Bull Global Rallycross paddock and they are another group of people that we can’t thank enough!
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We will be back and better than ever in a month when the teams make their way to the final race of 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
In the meantime, follow us and our drivers on social media to find out what we’re up to between now and then!