What better place to hold a race on 4th of July weekend than a Marine Corps Air Station! The station of choice for round 6 and 7 of the 2016 Red Bull Global Rallycross race was MCAS New River in Jacksonville, North Carolina (also known as Camp Lejeune).
The event kicked off Thursday evening with the Red Bull GRC Street Party, where teams and drivers were able to bring their cars out for fans to get up close and personal. “It was a great event and it’s always nice when we have the rare opportunity to interact with the fans without all the hustle and bustle of the race day!” said Conner Martell.
Friday marked the first day of competition, with practice taking place in the morning and qualifying in the evening. Conner and the DirtFish team had a little bit of trouble with the alternator during the first session of practice, but once the team fixed it, he immediately began to consistently lay down some of the fastest lap times of the whole field. Next on the list was qualifying, where Conner again layed down the fastest lap time, giving himself and the team the P1 starting position in the heat races the following day.
The teams, fans and race officials were unfortunately plagued with bad weather throughout the entire weekend. Many of the races were postponed and even cancelled because of lightning in the area.
Saturday was the start of the door-to-door racing with two sets of heat races in the morning, then the LCQ and final in the evening. The day started out great for Conner and the team. Heat 1 definitely had it’s ups and downs; the car bogged down on the start, causing Conner to fall back to 4th place by the time the drivers made it to the first corner. Amazingly, Conner was again able to set the fastest lap times by .2 of a second and making amazing passes, while climbing his way back to the top, ending up 2nd. After more great driving and epic passes, Conner finished 2nd place again in heat number two. The two 2nd place finishes gave him a great starting position on the front row for the final, which also meant they didn’t have to worry about going through the LCQ. The final race on Saturday was an eventful one to say the least! It started off with OMSE X Forces driver, Oliver Eriksson, having car trouble and forcing him to retire before the green light, moving the other drivers up one position. Unfortunately, one of the tires on the DirtFish car came off the bead, causing Conner to have to pull off the track. Luckily, the race was red flagged on the next lap because of the ominous weather. That was the end of racing for Saturday!
Sunday was even more eventful than Saturday! Thanks to all the rain from the previous night, conditions were treacherous for the round of qualifying on Sunday morning. Conner didn’t have quite as much luck as the previous day, coming in 7th. The heat races are where things started to become very exciting… Heat 2A and 2B saw a lot of carnage with multiple car pileups right after the start. Unfortunately, Conner was in the middle of the 5-car pileup in heat 2B, which caused a lot of damage to all of the cars involved. When the officials restarted the heat, there were only three cars remaining, including the DirtFish car (even though the left rear suspension components were bent and the tire was pointing the wrong direction). Conner was able to limp the car one lap around the track, automatically qualifying him to move into the final without having to go to the LCQ.
Unfortunately, that would be the last round of racing for the day and the weekend. All of the teams were working hard to get their cars back together for the LCQ and final, but mother nature had something else in mind; torrential downpour made the race officials call off the remaining rounds of racing.
There were a lot of ups and downs for not only the DirtFish team, but all teams involved. The weekend saw two new Lites drivers on the podium, including DirtFish Alumni, Blake “Bilko” Williams! Conner is now sitting fourth in the overall championship points and there are only 22 points separating him and Cabot Bigham, who is still sitting first. Amazingly, there are 58 points separating the top four drivers from the rest of the field. See you in a couple weeks, Washington D.C.!
Photos by: Josh Tons Photography