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Rallycross a hit

Mike King

Rallycross a hit

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BARBADIANS have a new favourite form of motor sport.
It is rallycross and it took Bushy Park and more than 12  000 Barbadians by storm yesterday on a thrilling last lap of the Top Gear Festival.
Not even a spectacular crash that ended the title chances of favourite Ken Block on the first lap of the final, forcing a restart, could dampen the spirits of all those who witnessed the dazzling spins and turns of the Red Bull-sponsored race which signalled the beginning of the new Global Rallycross (GRC) season.
Block’s Ford Fiesta struck the side of Joni Wiman’s fiesta and plunged into the wall along the clubhouse stretch. The charismatic Block walked away unhurt but his car was extensively damaged and  his championship ambitions gone in the twinkling of an eye.
With another favourite American Tanner Foust not making the final after having been disqualified for repeating the joker lap, the final was now wide open.
If the much-heralded names were missing, the intrigue and the thrills were not, and fans got a special treat with American Scott Speed spearheading the riveting final session.
Scott, who had to come from behind to win the heat to secure his place in the final, had a blowout victory in the final, but it was the driving skills and not the results that mattered to the screaming fans.
 The affable Canadian Steve Arpin had the fans roaring with his aerial jumps while the baby of the field 20-year-old Finnish driver Joni Wiman, made a lightning surge over the last few laps and passed the chequered flag in third place.
Wiman was, however, disqualified for reportedly spinning past Brian Deegan on the final lap which meant that the American was able to take his place on the podium.
Top local singer Shontelle presented the medals while the 31-year-old Speed collected a big championship trophy from the Top Gear presenters.
Speed couldn’t contain his delight at delivering for the Volkswagen Andretti team.
“It’s a great start for the team. It was tough. It is good to win and I have really enjoyed being here. I have had a blast.
 “I can’t say enough about how good it has been. This is the best place I have ever been to,” he said.
New Zealander Emma Gilmour, the only female car driver, did not make the final but the 34-year-old from Dunedin said she was delighted to be in Barbados.
Formula 1 race leader Lewis Hamilton had to share top billing with the rallycross unit.
A larger crowd turned up for Day 2, and the 29-year-old Hamilton, the first black man to win the Formula 1 title, did not disappoint, producing searing speed earlier in the day in a riveting exhibition with Block, who impressed all with his skill in rallycross.
For nine priceless minutes between 2 p.m. and 2:09, fans were treated to some “donut dancing”, clever manoeuvres and delightful spins from two men keen to exhibit skills in their diverse motor racing machines.
Hamilton, driving his 2013 Mercedes AMG Petronas, had much more firepower at his disposal and every now and then reminded Block that he was the king of speed, but in terms of pure skill, the 40-year-old American lost nothing in comparison.
The 2008 Formula 1 race champion came back later in the afternoon and scored for Barbados in the entertaining car football match against England.
The local boys had one chance to showcase their worth and it was Roger Mayers driving a Ford Focus who took the chequered flag. Sean Maloney, who led at one stage in his grey mini, had to settle for second best with Josh Reid in a Toyota Starlet, third.
Mark Maloney, in a Mazda RX3, was fourth with Caribbean champion Doug “Hollywood” Gore of Montego Bay, Jamaica, completing the top five.
One of the big hits was the Lotus 101, a former Formula 1 car, driven by Welshman Steve Griffiths, who in the morning session showcased the deafening speed of his high-powered vehicle.
“It was nice to run the Lotus on the Bushy Park track. It has 640 horsepower and weighs 500 kilos, so I thought the Lotus adjusted well,” he said.