Toomas “Topi” Heikkinen rewrote the record books again on Saturday when his victory at the Bristol Motor Speedway made him the first Global Rallycross driver to win three consecutive races. It also makes five podium finishes out of five races this season and puts him 34 points ahead of his nearest competition in the driver’s championship standings.
The win didn’t come easy, though. The infamous track at the Bristol Motor Speedway, the world’s 8th largest sports venue and legendary NASCAR site, introduced steep-banking, 30-degree turns to the varied rallycross terrain of concrete, asphalt and gravel, along with a straight shot into the infield and chicanes that led to a long tabletop jump in the backstretch. The complex track led to nearly half of the nine-car field not completing the final race.
After seeding 7th, Topi started in 5th position on the main starting grid when he failed to win his qualifying heat for the first time this season. But, riding on the wave of his recent success, Topi wasn’t deterred. “I didn't have the best start to my day and did not qualify well, but I got a good start in the main, which is what matters,” said Heikkinen.
When the starting lights of the main event turned green, Ken Block grabbed the lead on the opening stretch, but he didn’t hold it for long. Block, who recorded Saturday’s fastest heat time and started in pole position, got caught up in the buildup at the first banked turn. Out of that chaos, Topi flew from the pack and took a commanding lead early in the race. “I just tried to get a good start on the grid, and after that I chose the tight line on the inside corner,” explained Heikkinen. “That made the difference.”
Topi exhibited masterful skill behind the wheel, and accomplished what very few drivers have done this year by leading the race through all ten laps. With Block hot on his trail, strategy and focus were key for Topi. “I took the joker lap in the middle of the race because I heard Ken Block may be catching me by the last few laps. Then I heard he was two seconds or so behind me, so I just tried to stay focused on keeping the right line to stay ahead.”
With another win to his name, Topi heads to Los Angeles for the sixth race in the GRC circuit and the final X Games event of the season – as well as a return to the scene of the fiery crash last year that left him battered, but not beaten. In the year since the crash, Topi’s proven that he’s a comeback kid to be reckoned with, and he'll enter the August 4th race leading the GRC championship and looking for redemption.
Watch the GRC Round Five: Bristol race footage on ESPN.com