T'was a dark and stormy night in Sin City, an eerie afterglow of Halloween lingering in the damp desert air, when rallycross' biggest names commandeered a lot alongside the famous Las Vegas Strip and broke from the annual SEMA Show hustle and bustle to settle a score.
Rain fell, winds howled, somehow the fans stuck around, and through it all pierced the crackle and roar of dozens of anti-lag-laden, redline-pegged, fire-spewing, fully throttled, 700-hp turbo fours thrusting Subaru, Ford, VW, and Hyundai sport-compacts over jumps, around corners, occasionally into walls and fellow competitors, and ultimately through the weekend's FIA-spec tarmac/gravel/dirt racecourse until a new Red Bull Global Rallycross champion was crowned. And it didn't come easily.
The 2015 GRC season consisted of 12 events in just five months, spanning the U.S. and stretching as far away as Barbados. It was a busy season, and if you've ever seen the condition of GRC cars after an event (check the images in the gallery below for more of that), you'll have an understanding of how rigorous it can be on racers and teams. Crowd-favorite Ken Block and his league of Hoonigans led the points chase through the first seven rounds of this year's competition with five podiums—three of them wins—before encountering a string of bad luck in L.A. and Barbados double headers, clearing the way for VW's Scott Speed and Tanner Foust to basically dominate the subsequent four races (with a little Brian Deegan in the mix). But with Ken Block having won the previous two years' Vegas bouts and still within striking distance, an upset was ripe for the staging.
The successes our favorite action-sports crossover drivers have achieved in the GRC (and related endeavors) prove their impressive level of aptitude and adaptability for motorsports. Especially Block, who has improved his GRC standings each year since 2011, remained in the top five since 2012, and lost last year's championship by only five points.
But there's something to be said for the dominance of career wheelmen who find their way to the GRC. Scott Speed's racing resume reads like a list of the world's top series, with involvement in Formula 1 (as a full-time driver), IndyCar, Formula E, NASCAR, and more. He even won his first-ever rallycross event, the 2013 X Games. If Block's driving style could be characterized as "powerful," "aggressive," and "fearless," Speed's might simply be "measured" and "consistent." And after having amassed only two wins this year, and barely making the podium in Vegas, those two qualities earned him the 2015 championship title.
So who did win in Vegas? Let's add one more adjective: "prodigious," which may perfectly describe Mexican-born Finn Joni Wiman. At only 21 years old, he's the guy who beat Block by five points last year to take the Supercar championship title in his rookie season, after winning every one of the six races he started and the championship in Lites competition the year prior. Despite his fifth-place finish this year, if there's anyone to keep an eye on in the future, we're betting it's Wiman – if Block or Speed don't put him in check first!