Photo: John Rettie
Live television cannot wait for anyone, so by the time the course was ready, there was only time for one round of eliminations; the two leading drivers would advance straight to the main event. SPRXT driver Dave Mirra was in the first heat, but he failed to finish the four-lap race. In the second heat, SPRXT driver Bucky Lasek finished 3rd, which meant he would have to join Mirra in the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ).
The third heat turned out to be one of the best races all day, as SPRXT driver Sverre Isachsen powered his way into first place at the first turn and held off Brian Deegan, last year’s gold medal winner, to take the heat win and advance to the finals.
The fourth heat saw Higgins easily capture 2nd, ensuring him a spot in the final race. Sadly, luck was not on the side of either Lasek or Mirra. Neither was able to win either of the two LCQ rounds.
Without a joker lap to even out the field this year, each race was won by the driver who managed to get through the first corner in front of the pack. After that, there was virtually no chance to pass anyone on the tight course unless someone made a mistake.
And so to the final main event: Nobody was betting against Loeb. Sure enough, he was able to power into the first turn ahead of the other seven cars. Isachsen was caught up in the scrimmage of four cars right behind and got the edge of his front bumper ripped away. Half a lap later, after coming over the jump, he was tapped again, causing his steering to break. His race was finished. Because his car was blocking the track, a red flag was thrown.
On the restart, Loeb again powered into the lead on the first corner, and he never looked back, winning by a comfortable margin. Higgins was the sole Subaru running by now, but he had been hit from behind. It was not long before he came to a halt on one of the wide sections. He had to sit forlornly, watching the remaining five cars pass. By the end of the event, the paddock looked like a wrecking yard. Just about every car having suffered damage during the race, except for Loeb’s.
Although there were no medals for any of the four SPRXT drivers, the team had won at least one heat and proven that the WRX STI is competitive against the best of the European cars and drivers.
View more images from the event here.