Los Angeles- Final 12th Round of the Red Bull Global RallycrossMotorsports, Uncategorized | November 12, 2017
For the 12th and final round of the 2017 Red Bull Global Rallycross season, the DirtFish team headed down south to the Los Angeles Harbor! The DirtFish team was coming into Los Angeles after an unfortunate weekend of rally last month in Seattle, but both DirtFish drivers, Conner Martell, James Rimmer and the DirtFish crew came into Los Angeles prepared to give it their all. Even so, the team had some minor struggles throughout the weekend.
Aside from the Ottawa City race, this event was by far the most populated race of the season. Food trucks set up behind the grandstands, manufacturers lined the walkways, and thousands of fans came from the city to experience the final racing day. The track itself brewed excitement- built with multiple 90-degree turns, a slight hairpin turn and a shorter joker lap. High speeds were not going to win the race; finesse and consistency were absolutely imperative.
Meanwhile, James had a much more daunting issue with his car, as it consistently overheated. The mechanics examined the car throughout each practice run, pulling data and determining what could be the cause. Over the course of practice, the crew adjusted the oil pressure and replaced the radiator, but James’s car continued to overheat after each adjustment. The crew decided the #25 car needed a new engine and pulled James from practice early. They worked diligently and swiftly to get a new engine in his car by evening, in preparation for Qualifying the following morning. Coming into the paddock on Saturday morning, the team was prepared and determined to race hard for this final day of the racing season.
Qualifying was first on the schedule. James had a little less time on the track than his competitors with his overheating issues on Friday, but he and Conner went out and put decent times on the board during the first session. They and their spotters knew they could do better, so they decided to go back out to improve their standings. James ended up qualifying 7th, putting him in P3 for Heat 1A. Conner slotted into first by a mere tenth of a second, which put him in P1 for Heat 1B, ultimately setting him up for the rest of the day.
James was in the first round of Heat 1 before Conner. By qualifying 7th, he and his spotter/DirtFish Instructor, Ted Anthony, knew he had to push hard and learn the track if he wanted a podium position, but during Heat 1, he struggled to find his grip in the dirt section, which cut down on his lap times. He ended up finishing 3rd, which put him in the first round of Heat 2. Conner had a great start in his heat and lead the race from start to finish, ending with a short 1.2-second lead.
Coming into Heat 2, both drivers knew they needed to keep improving their times if they wanted to get a good position for the final. James had a good start off the line, battling for first place, but he had issues with his door opening while on the track and was issued a penalty mid-race. Unfortunately, he dropped behind his competition and could not make up the lost time, causing him to finish fourth. Conner had a stellar start yet again and continued dominating the heat rounds. With each lap, he improved his time and understanding of the course, and ended the heat with a 4.2-second lead.
Both drivers were slotted in the same semi-final heat, with Conner in P1 and James in P4. Right off the start, Conner had another excellent takeoff, and James was right behind him. After a couple laps, James pulled into first place with Conner just seconds behind him. Sliding out of the dirt section, Conner ended up door-to-door with James going over the jump, and gained pole position as they turned back onto tarmac. Conner finished ahead of James, and the drivers pulled out a 1-2 finish leading into the final race of the series.
The drivers drove their cars back into the paddock after the semi-final for the crew to adjust any misalignments before the last race. Besides James’s door failure in Heat 2, the cars had a fairly clean race day up to this point, which gave the crew time to perfect last minute details.
With the cars in great condition, they headed out to pre-grid while the tractors and water trucks prepared the track. Conner started in P1 next to Cyril Raymond, and James was right beside them in P3. The grandstands were packed as the countdown began. Right off the line, Conner got another perfect start, jumping ahead of his competitors after turn one. James followed closely behind. Unfortunately, Alejandro Fernandez struck the wall during the first lap and the officials drew a red flag, causing a restart.
The temperature was rising in Southern California as the drivers set back up in pre-grid and waited for the safety crew to haul Fernandez’s car off of the track. After ten minutes of sitting, the Lites cars lined back up at the start, and again, Conner had a perfect launch. After every lap, Conner pushed further and further ahead of the other drivers and ended up finishing with a 3.47-second lead in front of Alex Keyes, giving Conner a perfect sweep of the entire race day. James continued battling for third place until around the fourth lap.
James had contact with Cole Keatts, which broke his front lower control arm, and later had contact while passing Travis PeCoy that damaged his rear tow arm, causing his car to fail him. James had to park off to the side of the track and stay seated until the race was completed for safety reasons instilled by Global Rallycross officials. While he waited, the inside of his car reached high temperatures, causing him to have possible heatstroke. Once the race was finished, the safety team arrived and put him in an ambulance to be diagnosed. After the medics determined that James had overheated, they took him to the hospital to be checked out thoroughly as a precaution. Thankfully, James was released later in the evening with only exhaustion and no real harm.
The day ended up being rewarding yet challenging for the DirtFish team, but it proved that the crew and drivers have what it takes to be a champion team. With every race, James continued improving from the previous heat and stepped up time after time, despite the repeated malfunctions. Conner came into this race having missed an entire day in Seattle, and he demonstrated talent and persistence, finishing first in every event. The crew managed a complete engine swap in one evening and continuously kept the cars in top operating condition throughout Saturday. The DirtFish team had a great season, and we look forward to what’s coming next for our team for 2018!