A suspension failure put an abrupt end to Steve Arpin’s winning aspirations on Saturday.
The Loenbro Motorsport driver and Fort Frances native, who was competing in his first race of the season, was forced to retire on Lap 1 of the first six-lap semi-final.
That ended any hopes of advancing to the final at the second-ever Americas Rallycross (ARX) event, the Dirtfish ARX of Circuit of The Americas (COTA) in Austin, Tex.
Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross’ Scott Speed held off a first lap challenge from Arpin’s teammate, Loenbro/Hoonigan Racing’s Ken Block, to claim the victory.
“After the long offseason, it was great to get back to racing and see the product of our hard work these past six months,” Arpin said in a post on his Facebook page.
“As unfortunate as it is that I wasn’t able to make the final, it was awesome to see the dedication of the entire Loenbro Motorsports organization pay off with a second place podium for Ken Block.
“Thank you to the fans who came out and supported us,” he added.
“We will regroup over these next few weeks and return stronger for ARX Rallycross Canada.”
Speed nabbed the maximum points from the first event held at COTA’s new rallycross circuit and now leads his VARX teammate Tanner Foust–who won the second semi-final and started on the front row of the grid with Speed in the final–by one point in the Championship.
The VARX drivers split their strategy at the start of the six-lap final, with Foust immediately taking his joker lap followed by Subaru Rally Team USA’s Patrik Sandell.
Speed opted to take the standard route and held track position from Block’s Ford Focus RS RX, with the pair not repeating the fight for position that they had in the semi-finals, where Block had moved into the lead for two corners after the start.
In his ARX debut, Travis Pastrana passed his Subaru teammate Chris Atkinson at turn one and was running as high as second, but fell to fourth as Block took his joker and returned to the action in front of Foust, who had been held up behind Atkinson’s Subaru.
The Australian driver dropped to sixth after being passed by Foust and Sandell.
Running first and second, Speed and Pastrana took the joker on Lap 6, with Pastrana coming out fourth behind Foust as the top Subaru driver.
Foust’s third-place performance made it two VARX Beetles on the podium, but the cars that finished first and second in the first ARX round at the Speedmachine Festival at Silverstone in May were split at COTA by Block’s Focus RS RX.
Xite Racing’s Oliver Bennett placed fourth in the second semi-final and missed out on a place in the final.
Conner Martell won the first ever round of ARX2.
Martell made a strong start in the final to take the lead before turn one and cruised to victory.
Top qualifier, Fraser McConnell, ran second with Scott Anderson in third on the first lap, as Christian Brooks–who was given a penalty for contact in his semi-final–dropped to the third row of the final grid behind Alex Keyes and Anderson.
After contact at the joker merge on Lap 5 and 6 disrupted the positions, Brooks finished second and Keatts in third.
McConnell ended up fourth and Keyes was fifth as Anderson was forced to retire.
Matt Carpoff and James Rimmer both had spun-out in the semi-finals and didn’t make the final.
The next round of the ARX Championship takes the series north of the border to Canada for the Grand Prix de Trois Rivieres on Aug. 4-5.