Red Bull Global Rallycross, New EnglandMotorsports | June 06, 2017
What a whirlwind of a weekend for DirtFish Motorsports! This weekend, Conner Martell, James Rimmer and the team made their way to Thompson, Connecticut for the third and fourth rounds of the 2017 Red Bull Global Rallycross season. Following Conner’s two podiums, the teams spirits were high and there was excitement surrounding the entire team. This also happened to be Conner’s home event, so he was very excited to put on a good show for his local friends, family and fans.
Held at the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, the track layout that the GRC course builders put together was definitely one of the best tracks the competitors have seen all year. Since the speedway featured an oval as well as a road course, they had plenty of unique features to work with when designing the layout. A few of the best aspects were a large dirt section, multiple transitions from dirt to tarmac, and two turns from the road course that made up the Joker Lap which was a huge shortcut this weekend. The track combined sections of the rougher oval, the smooth perfectly paved road course, the infield and even a couple of brand new dirt sections to tie all of it together. Many of the drivers enjoyed driving this track because of the blend of fast, technical sections and multiple surface changes throughout the course.
The driving began Friday afternoon with the first sets of practice sessions for the drivers to get a feel of the track and choose the fastest lines through each corner. Following practice, both Conner and James were eager to begin laying down fast times during qualifying, which would start the following morning.
That next morning, Conner and James went out for the first rounds of qualifying. Both drivers qualified in their highest qualifying position since the beginning of the season. This was a huge confidence booster for both of them and put them in great starting positions for the first round of heat races. In Heat 1, Conner and James both had great starts and ended up side-by-side over the jump. You never want to see two teammates make contact in a race, but thanks to one of the other drivers pushing Conner, that is exactly what happened when they all went over the jump. Conner ended up driving a clean race to finish second, but unfortunately for James, the same can’t be said… on the final lap, he made contact with OMSE driver, Cole Keatts and was disqualified from that heat race. James was luckily able to redeem himself by finishing third in the second heat race.
While the track was a fun one for drivers and spectators alike, the dirt sections were extremely rough. This was causing a lot of parts to fail on the majority of the cars. In the semifinal, James’ steering shaft snapped and he wasn’t able to finish. Then, in the final, Conner was driving well and moving up through the positions before his steering shaft also broke. Fortunately, James’ crew was able to fix his car without anymore problems to get him and his car out in time for the final. James ended up finishing seventh in the final, receiving more points towards the drivers championship. Conner’s steering shaft was fixed after the final and the day concluded.
The following day began with some serious excitement and racing between Conner and James; they were racing against each other in the first round of heat races! They both had great starts, but this time, James took the lead. James held onto that lead for the majority of the race, taking the joker lap early and expanding that gap by a good amount. It looked like he was going to walk away with a heat win, but then Conner took the joker on the final lap and just barely snuck by James on the final turn. For them to finish first and second as teammates was a huge accomplishment and it shows what the two young drivers are capable of. During the second heat race on Sunday, Conner had a great battle with European Champion, Ciryl Raymond to finish in second place obtaining a great starting position for the final. In the middle of that heat race, James’ car began cutting the engine power, which forced him to limp the car around the track for the remaining laps. Once the car was back in the hands of the technicians, they discovered a cooling problem that was causing the car to go into limp mode to help protect it from overheating. Unfortunately, the situation wasn’t completely remedied before the start of the semifinal. As James was taking it easy around the track in the semifinal, two of the other competitors had car issues and were forced to pull off of the track giving James a third place finish!
The wet final race on Sunday was much more successful than the previous day for Conner. From the start, he pulled into the front of the pack and was able to make it through the first corner unscathed and moved into the third position. He stayed in that position for the majority of the race before being passed on the last lap by someone taking the Joker to finally finishing fourth. James drove hard, but was stuck at the back of the pack for the majority of the race. He was able to finish in seventh place.
While the DirtFish team didn’t have the success of the two previous races, it was a positive weekend for everyone involved. The drivers know what they can spend time working on before the next race and the cars will go back to the shop for some much needed TLC before they’re off to rounds five and six of the Red Bull Global Rallycross in Ottawa, Ontario in two weeks. Everyone on the team is looking forward to continuing this great season and continued success.
In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for our full recap video later this week and follow DirtFish, Conner and James on social media to see what we’re up to between rounds!